"If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen."

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

If Eu Have Nothing To Hide, Eu Have Nothing To Fear

Does anyone remember when governments were pushing for the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty the one aspect they emphasised more than others was how the treaty would 'bring democracy closer to the people' and it was therefore "A Good Thing".   A "citizens' legislative initiative"  was to be introduced whereby petitions with over one million signatures would be considered by the European Parliament.  However, as always with this bunch of post-democracy d/heads the devil is in the detail because there are other conditions which at first weren't made quite so public:
  • The one million signatories must come from at least one third of EU nations.
  • Brussels proposes a minimum number of signatories for each participating country. This number "should be degressively proportional to the size of each member state." In other words, a smaller state will need proportionately more signatories than a bigger state.
  • Each petition must first be registered and subject to an 'admissibility check' by the Commission, when at least 300,000 signatures are collected.
  • The petition must concern "a matter where a legal act of the Union can be adopted for the purpose of implementing the Treaties" and it has to fall "within the framework of the powers of the Commission to make a proposal."
  • Signatures must be gathered "within a period that shall not exceed 12 months," after which the process should start again.
And the nail in the coffin of EU transparency and democracy is this:
  • Each signatory of a petition will have to provide a variety of personal data, including name, street address, email address, date and place of birth, nationality and personal identification numbers (passport; ID card; and social security).
I'm dejected:  there only seems to be we happy few who care about it.  I just don't understand the apathy and the apparent willingness to rush headlong and blindfold into a dystopian dreamworld like this.  How long will it be before we're labelled as terrorists and agitators in our brave new world?

Kick 'Em Out

This rotten government spent £207.9m of public money on advertising last year  - more than any other body.  £85m was spent on tv advertising, £52.1m on radio and £47.4m on the press.  It's high time they were shown the door. 
At a time when private advertising is being cut back these thieves of the public purse use taxation for self-promotion and 'know your place' warnings to the public.  We really are a tolerant people. Too tolerant.




Oink Protest: 10am

If you're in the area this morning, MPs Morley, Devine, Chaytor and Lord Hanningfield are appearing again at Southwark Crown Court at 10am.  Full details  and map at:  Sunlight Centre for Open Politics

UPDATE: Thanks to Ollie for the info: They've been excused from court attendance by Judge Geoffrey Rivlin QC. Why?

Monday, 29 March 2010

Quote Of The Day

From Gordon Brown:  "We made it clear a few months ago, and this was a decision that we asked the European Union to make, that there would be no further constitutional and institutional change of that sort over the next ten years.  So we made it absolutely clear that the European Union should not be contemplating further constitutional or institutional change in the way that is suggested.

As far as improving the way the European Union works I think there is a case for that improvement to happen and we will join those forces at work in this task-force to make sure that there is better and improved governing of the European Union, that's what we will do."

We'd better keep our eyes open for attached Protocols and footnotes of footnotes hidden in Appendices then!

He was responding to a question from Gisela Stuart (Lab, Birmingham Edgbaston): "There were reports in the press over the w/end that Angela Merkel is calling for an economic government.  That would require Treaty changes.  If this were to be the case could I press the Prime Minister to a commitment that that would also involve a referendum in this country."

During his statement on the European Council Meeting this afternoon in the House Brown was back on form with the stuttering and false starts - the nutter with the stutter that we all remember.  Cameron was tough, as usual, and Nick Clegg nibbled the ankles of both of them.  Harriet seems to have a cold.  Bercow told the PM to focus his replies (!)

Sir Peter Tatchell (Con. Louth & Horncastle) asked a similar question to Stuart - "... lead to Berlin being able to dictate British tax policy"Brown"That is not the proposal."

Even Dennis Skinner (Lab, Bolsover) was sufficiently moved to stand and praise Brown for keeping Britain out of the euro.

Angus Robertson (SNP, Moray) once again attempted to get the PM to answer his question, first asked two weeks ago at PMQs, whether a No.10 staffer took part in a conference call discussing the suitability of Steven Purcell (ex-leader Glasgow CC) in July 2008.  To shouts of, "Hey, hey," and, "He's running away," Brown scurried, head down, out of the Chamber.  Robertson raised it as a Point of Order, which it wasn't, but at least it once again drew attention to Brown's ability to avoid answering those questions he dislikes: which means pretty much all of them.


Cricket Bats At The Ready

When the children were growing up there was always sports equipment in the hallway, and not always because they'd just come back from a match.  I found the sight of a cricket bat under the stairs quite reassuring and it's a habit I'm thinking of re-adopting in light of this from Exeter Police:
"Officers walked into residents' homes without their knowledge through unlocked doors and windows and left behind 'swag bags' packed with valuable items they found in the homes.
Some residents were at home at the time officers entered but were unaware they were being 'burgled' as part of an anti-crime drive in Exeter, Devon.
Police entered more than 50 unsecured properties in a controversial operation designed to show how easy it is for burglars to get into homes."
A few months ago when this strategy was first aired, I thought the public outcry would make them think twice and bin it but I should have known better.  I look forward to the first prosecution.  Muppets.

Overhaul Of MPs' Allowances

Sir Ian Kennedy, chair of the standards committee, has announced measures to overhaul MPs' expenses/allowances system.  The main points are:
  • Taxpayer-funded second homes will be replaced by one-bedroom rented properties.
  • MPs will not qualify for support if they live within twenty miles of their constituency.
  • Additional support available for those who care for others: MPs will qualify if they have children under five, they are single parents or have children getting additional state support.
  • Cost of cleaning and gardening will not be met.
  • No help with daily commute but cost of trips to constituency on public transport will be reimbursed.
  • Staffing budget to be based on 3 full-time employees subject to a contract.
  • Will be able to employ "connected parties", with safeguards. Only one connected person with agreed contract and no bonuses. New rules will not affect family or partners already working for MPs.
  • 'Winding-up' costs on leaving Parliament will be covered for two months.
  • Resettlement allowances will not be met by the taxpayer.
Let the whingeing begin.

Osborne/Clarke/Hammond

I've just watched the Osborne press conference and it looks as though my faith in him is vindicated.  Expect the sniping from Labour and the msm to be stepped up a notch!



What I gleaned from it is that 20m workers earning less than £43k pa will receive a tax cut by the simple expediency of raising the Nat.Ins threshold.  It will be offset by cutting an already-identified £6bn waste in govt spending immediately rather than waiting until next year (the latter being Labour's stated option - but if the savings are there to be made now, why wait a year before winkling out the waste?).  This is on top of savings of £7bn announced last year at the Tory Conference = £13bn total.  It must be stressed that all these savings are as a result of cutting dead wood and wasteful expenditure; not one front-line public sector job will be lost.

Cut taxes: cut wasteful spending.  It's a good start and it seems like a winner to me.

As well as raising the NI threshold Osborne also said that defence spending would be protected for the first year while the Strategic Defence Review is carried out.

Channel 4's Ask the Chancellors debate is at 8pm this evening and there will be live blogs/chats galore plus instant audience reaction via the  tv red button.

UPDATE:  This from ConHome:
"The Conservatives plan to start (and expand) an anti-waste programme that the Government does not intend to implement until next year. They have been advised that this is possible by the Government's own former efficiency advisors - Sir Peter Gershon and Dr Martin Reid - both of whom have been advising the Conservatives. They advise that £12bn of savings are possible in 2010* if five areas of spending are tackled:
  1. A halt to new spending on IT projects and cancellation of existing ones that are not going to work;
  2. Renegotiation of all state-private contracts in the same way that the private sector has been renegotiating to cut costs - Philip Hammond said many suppliers that had been talking to the Conservatives said existing contracts were sub-optimal;
  3. Controlling recruitment. Productivity was up 20% in the private service sector but it's fallen in the public sector. As non-frontline vacancies arise they should not automatically be filled;
  4. The brake needs to be put on discretionary spending including travel and office consumables;
  5. Reductions in public sector property costs.
£6bn of these savings will be used to avoid most of the NI rise.  The other £6bn will be re-invested in the NHS, the overseas aid budget AND defence."

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Marrakesh Mandy Marshals The Electorate



Mandelson:   Oops!   Voices silenced - just like that.

Sunday Reflection

Sunday Round-up

Two more whoring Labour MPs
"Adam Ingram, the former armed forces minister, said he could draw on a pool of out-of-work ministers who could be used to harness their government contacts.
Richard Caborn, the former sports minister, said he may be in line for a peerage that would boost his chances of extracting valuable information from the corridors of Westminster."
Details of MPs' expenses suppressed until after GE
NotW backs the Conservatives
More Labour MPs to stand down
Bishops & educationalists speak out on Christianity and sex in schools
The Osborne-bashing continues
What does Hoon know about Dr David Kelly?
More from Moran - "Keith Vaz owes me one"
Lab and Con back GMT change - more EU 'harmonisation'
Mandelson's hubris: pride comes before a fall
Stuart Wheeler to stand in Bexhill
Softly, softly on Islamic extremism doesn't work
Prescott for the Lords?
Unite bosses on the razzle in Bangkok, courtesy of union members
Lane-Fox advocates internet access for Lags-online
One rule for the Generals, one for MPs
A nation of wussies

The 'special relationship' that never was*
The genocide of white farmers in SA
Saudi Arabia implicated in funding Balkan Muslims
Corruption, desertion & drug abuse within Afghan Police
The US and China: protectionism goes global

*The make-up of the FAC - 8 Lab; 4 Con; 2 LibDems
 
Save General Election night count  Check this .pdf to see when your constituency plans to start the count.





Don't forget to sign the Fire Byers petition

Australian GP: 1991

Saturday, 27 March 2010

What Has Europe Done For Us?

More on "economic government" and amendment to the Lisbon Treaty.  In return for agreeing to the deal to bail out Greece, Merkel has called for the Lisbon Treaty to be amended with a mechanism for much stricter EU control over national spending in order to prevent any repetition of the current crisis and she has issued a challenge to David Cameron..

The draft version of the Council's conclusions calls EU leaders to "consider that the European Council should become the economic government of the EU" whilst proposing "to increase [the Council's] role in economic surveillance and the definition of the EU's growth strategy."

What it means is an increased role in economic surveillance leading to the EU intervening in member states' national strategies for managing their debt, or calling for more investment in policy areas that the EU prioritises. It could also mean more surveillance powers for the EU to deal with countries such as Greece.

A task force led by EU President Van Rompuy will now look at all the options that could be used to create the legal framework for an "economic government" - a framework that could potentially lead to EU Treaty changes. Following insistence from Gordon Brown and other countries, the wording of the conclusions changed from "economic government" to "economic governance" in the English version, but the wording remains "economic government" in the French translation of the conclusions. "There is no fundamental difference of view, but rather a sensitivity to certain words which has led to an asymmetrical translation  ...  We all know what is meant politically"

Brown has insisted that Britain will not have to pay for a Greek bailout. However as Britain is a contributor to the IMF & the EU, UK taxpayers' money would be used to aid Greece if the plan was put into practice. This is despite an opinion poll published by IFOP yesterday (motto: "Global strength in marketing intelligence"), showing that only 22% of UK voters are in favour of a bailout of Greece. Across Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the UK, 58% of voters disagreed with a bailout.

Italian PM Berlusconi has also refused to rule out the idea that non-eurozone member states may have to contribute to a Greek bailout, saying: "Since the very beginning, we have all agreed on the need for the EU to act in its entirety, not only through the Eurogroup. Otherwise, what kind of Europe would this be?... the possibility for non-Eurozone member states to offer Greece their own contribution must not be ruled out".

Figures published in Wednesday's budget show that the UK's contribution to the EU has increased from last year's estimates. The 2009 budget estimated that the UK's contribution for 2010 would be £5.6 billion. However, this figure has now increased to £6.4 billion and will rise to an estimated £7.6 billion in 2010/11. The £6.4 billion cost this year is more than twice the £3.1 billion the UK contributed last year.

EU tax revenues of €9.2bn under threat from EU's AIFM Directive.  Think-tank, Open Europe, has warned that if national ministers and the European Parliament fail to agree on a proportionate version of the EU's AIFM Directive on hedge funds and private equity firms, it will have a detrimental effect on the wider EU economy. The hedge fund and private equity industries contribute €9.2 billion in tax revenues to the EU economy every year - an amount under threat if the Directive is passed in a flawed form. The taxes raised from these industries in the UK alone are enough to pay for the salaries of over 200,000 nurses.

European finance ministers last week postponed a vote on the Directive, after "a last-minute intervention" by Brown.  Although the postponement gives UK negotiators, industry, investors and others extra time to amend the Directive, there is no guarantee that it will be straightforward. Also, the eventual vote will be taken by qualified majority voting, meaning that the UK can be outvoted. The Directive is likely to come up for discussion again at the next meeting of finance ministers in May or June, landing the Directive at the feet of the next government.

MEPs' call for work-free Sundays to be considered in Working Time Directive revision.  A third of MEPs have signed an appeal to the Commission to consider work-free Sundays in its upcoming review of EU rules on working hours, under the Working Time Directive.

Taxpayers will be faced with £2.1m bill per MEP in 2011. Draft figures for the next EP budget have revealed that each MEP will cost EU taxpayers £2.1 million next year, with the Parliament's overall budget rising by 6.5%. The increase means that the Parliament will breach a 22-year-old pledge that its budget would never exceed a fifth of the EU's overall administrative budget.

EU police agency gains extensive new surveillance powers. Under the Lisbon Treaty, the EU's police agency Europol has gained a wide-ranging capacity to gather criminal intelligence if it suspects EU citizens are involved in any "preparatory act" which could lead to criminal activity. James Welch, Legal Director of Liberty warned: "We have huge concerns that Europol appears to have been given powers to hold very sensitive information and to investigate matters that aren't even crimes in this country.  Any extension of police powers at any level needs to be properly debated and scrutinised."

Ashton accused of allowing France to 'seize control' of new EU foreign service. Several member states, including Britain, are concerned that EU Foreign Minister Cathy Ashton's proposal to appoint a secretary-general for the EU's new diplomatic service will allow the service to be hijacked by the French eurocrat who is expected to land the job. Pierre Vimont, the current French Ambassador to Washington, is the favourite and would be in direct "day-to-day" command of the EU's intelligence, military and crisis response bodies.

€920,000 a year EU "heritage label" for historical and "obscure" sites across Europe. The European Commission has launched a new proposal for an 'EU heritage label' scheme, which would cost €920,000 a year to run. The project is aimed at encouraging awareness of 'European integration, ideals and history.'

Not only...but also:
More EU control over finance
More EU control over taxation
More EU control over transport
More EU agricultural protectionism
EU control over the film industry
More EU control over education
More excessive regulations

All in all, not a good start to the weekend!

H/t: Open Europe, EU Observer and the Bruges Group

Friday, 26 March 2010

Guy News

Chin up:

Friday Post

We owe so much to these men and women:


With many thanks to Cold Steel Rain

The Three Gs

avatars: TV Reporter: Barfing Up Cat

The Grrrr:
Bang go my crosswords as the Times decides to charge.
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, Gene Genie's Quattro is laid to rust.

The Grief:
Ashton cedes mil.op power to France.
"I would urge the man pictured [in the burka] to contact me, in confidence, as soon as possible."
HMRC won't even ring once.
Marrakesh Mandy - car scrappage scheme cost more to implement than it raised.
Lord Martin of Springburn - still a chancre on the face of the people.
US & UK play silly buggers with Israel.
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? How independent is the IPCC?
British digital tv has its finest hour - Islam TV - it's ok to rape your wife.
Isn't this illegal?  BNP candidate constructively dismissed.
Saudi Arabia & UAE naval clash.

The Great:
Daphne Parker - rare as hens' teeth.
Genetic mutation + bad weather = red heads.
Feeling inadequate?  Unadventurous?  Then don't read this.
A 9yr-old miracle.
The world in a grain of sand.
ASA bans another govt propaganda ad.
Cameron says والدتك هي جذابة كما جمل في المؤخرة* to the Muslim Council of Britain.
'Too successful' banker vindicated in High Court.
Let's all emigrate.

Looking through the papers I thought there was room for further sections called  'FFS Leave us alone' or 'Grrrr - and I really mean it this time' but it's the first time I can recall so many positive stories and I thought I'd leave it at that.  Your outlook probably depends on whether you're doped up on Day/Night-Nurse or another noxious substance and possibly doesn't coincide with mine.

* As far as I can remember it's something about your mother and a camel.

The Flaws Of Perception

Q. When is European Economic Government not EEG?
A. When it's European Economic Governance. Apparently.

In order not to offend "British sensibilities" the word 'government' will be replaced by 'governance'. We're back in the EU's wonderful world of semantics in order not to frighten the horses.
"Greece has been labouring under a 300-billion-euro debt black hole with the highest annual deficit in the EU last year, alongside Britain.  A credit-rating downgrade for Portugal - plus ongoing concerns particularly over Ireland and Spain's swollen public deficits - had further increased the urgency to act."
Another change agreed upon yesterday is to drop Merkel's suggestion of the insertion of new clauses in existing treaties to cater for the eurozone/IMF Greek bailout and any future financial turbulence.  Any changes would effectively create a new treaty and that would have triggered the Conservatives' pledge to the British people to hold a referendum.  Unsurprisingly, the intention to insert new provisions and so trigger a referendum was "vehemently opposed by the British".

From Cameron's speech, November 2009:
"In this area – Britain’s relationship with Europe – what people want from their politicians is some straight talk and plain speaking.

"They were told we were joining a Common Market and it turned out to be a European Union.

"They were told they would have a say over the European constitution but that promise was broken.

"People are fed up with the endless lies and spin, they just want to know what we can achieve and how..."
Quite.
UPDATE: Merkel still pushing for Treaty change: “I think we will not be able to bypass possible treaty changes, I think we need them.” Knowing that it will trigger a referendum in Britain, dare they risk it?

Castrating Labour



Conservative PPC Anthony Calvert is the first to use YouFund.Me.UK a site which combines US style political advertising with grass roots online fundraising. which aims to simplify the process of donating to candidates online.

YouFundMe founder Jag Singh said "it is about opening up political funding to the ordinary public, because British politics is too dominated by a few big donors which skews politics and undermines the public's trust.

YouFundMe provides the technology platform for candidates to advertise themselves and raise money for their campaigns outside their party structures and outside their constituencies. To donors it provides an easy, secure way of immediately supporting candidates.

Public confidence in parliament and politicians is at a low, YouFundMe offers candidates the opportunity to engage far beyond their usual spheres, make their case and collect donations from people who trust and believe in them."

Tory PPC Antony Calvert added, "The way people fight elections are rapidly changing. What we are pioneering here is a modern, extremely effective way of doing this. Raising money for political campaigns is changing to reflect the way politics is changing. I don't have the benefit of tens of thousands from UNITE, so I am relying on those who want to see change in this country but can, perhaps, only give the odd tenner online.

"If just 1,000 people did just that we would really be able to give Ed Balls a run for his money and bring the fight for Morley and Outwood back to an even financial footing."

With thanks to Ollie at The Red Rag

Thursday, 25 March 2010

FMQs 25 March 2010 - Scottish Parliament




Talk of accelerated capital, recovery stimulus and consequentials was part of this week's FMQs - with a few insults thrown in for good measure.

Andy Kerr was heard calling the FM a 'numpty' and the FM replied by saying Iain Gray was a 'sop'. Both MSPs were asked by the Presiding Officer, (who took to his feet to rebuke the offenders), to retract their insults which they did, although Alex Salmond chose to replace his offensive word with 'placeman'. Rather weak I thought because everyone knows Iain Gray is London Labour's placeman in the Scottish Parliament.

Labour's Iain Gray insisted, from yesterday's Westminster budget, Scotland would be better off. The FM disagreed and various statistics were bandied between the two leaders. What is a certainty is that public spending will be reducing in the coming years.

Ms Goldie, through a FOI request, had discovered that the Scottish government had £4m left, of a £10m pot, from their advertising budget which would be spent this month. She was suspicious the money would be spent more to the benefit of the SNP than the government. I was confused by the First Minister's reply but then it appears so was Ms Goldie.

Mr Scott again broached the subject of pay and bonuses for quango bosses. Once again the FM explained these contracts were signed under the last administration and any changes may incur legal action.

Not much general information in today's session but you may be able to find something of interest if you watch it on Holyroodtv or the BBC iPlayer.

£3.1 Trillion Debt

In his response to yesterday's Budget George Osborne opened this afternoon's debate in good form.  You may not like him, many don't, but I can't see why not - he's got a good brain in his head and I actually prefer him to Cameron.

Anyway, he was good, not as good as some responses (last year's PBR response for example) but he made all the necessary points and was sure of his facts.  Yvette was ... guess what?  Yes, she was pathetic.  Me?  Partisan?

Only three Labour b/benchers were interested enough to turn up with five of the front bench Treasury team.  Cooper despises Osborne - it's written all over her perky pixie face.

First some points from Osborne:

One in five young people can't find work
Recovery is one of the weakest in the G20
Banking system can't finance a recovery
Family incomes are being squeezed
Largest budget deficit of any country in the developed world
Our credit rating is under threat
Confidence is lacking
Manufacturing is shrinking
Exports are falling
Business investment has collapsed
Lifting first-time buyers out of stamp duty is only a two-year measure and costed at £230m by the Treasury while increase at the top rate is a permanent increase.
True unemployment figure closer to 4.2million.
1million jobs created in the public sector in the last ten years.
Of the £270m fund to create 20,000 new university places only 10,000 will be full-time places and only the first year will be funded by govt, the remaining years' funding will have to be met by universities.
Freezing personal tax allowances of 30m people is effectively a tax rise.

Quoted:
Standard Chartered: A do nothing budget that had shades of Nero about it.
Citibank:  There are no proper medium term public spending plans and no credible plan to return to fiscal sustainability.

Osborne will ask the Permanent Secretary to publish details of leaked Treasury tables showing 9% cuts in govt departments, cost of welfare bills and debt interest.

There was a nice exchange between Cooper/Osborne - the look on little Yvette's face was priceless when Osborne corrected her at one point.  She hates him.  He smiled all the way through his reply as if pitying her poor intellect.  She didn't want to let it lie.

Osborne was more courteous to Harry Cohen's intervention on stamp duty than he needed to be in my book.  Cohen, a man who pronounces 'hyperbole', hyperbowl, who compares himself to Churchill and defrauds the taxpayer.  Glad to see his file has been sent to the CPS and I hope he's prosecuted.

Now, the real shocker: Bill Cash made an intervention about the true state of the national debt including PFI, loans to banks, public sector pensions etc.  Said he had received information from the Office of National statistics.  He quoted a figure of £3.1trillion debt. The letter will be placed in the House Library for viewing.

Cash is very good; in his speech proper he expanded on the ONS figures and also touched on the EU (7m illegals in Europe) and over-regulation.  He called for government based on truth, an association of nation states rather than political union.  I hope he's returned at the GE.

This definitely needs a video for anyone who missed it.  Well, for any anoraks who missed it that is.    I wonder how much coverage £3.1trillion debt will get in the msm tonight and tomorrow?  Here's the link to Live Parliament - the video should be in the archives tomorrow and it will also be in Hansard.

Ah, well, that's enough for today - I'm going back to my Vick's and cough lozenges.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Hoon's Labour's Lost

'No snare like folly, no torrent like greed.'

Geoff Hoon has been told that his services are no longer required on the NATO group responsible for drawing up its new mission statement.
"...given that it is clear the British government no longer supports Mr Hoon's participation, the secretary-general has decided to ask Mr Hoon to end his participation in the group of 12."
It couldn't happen to a nicer chap; it looks as though finding 'hoon work' in the future will be more difficult than he thought.

PMQs: Summary

The Vick's Vapour-Rub Edition:

Not much of a summary this week, I'm afraid - I'm too full of cold and I can't bear to listen to any of them banging on about the same old things.

Tributes paid to Sgt Steven Campbell who died in Helmand on Monday.

Cameron led on the BA strike and goaded Brown about crossing the picket lines at the Treasury.
Clegg asked again about Party funding.
Brown has used this line to Clegg on two previous occasions to my certain knowledge:  'I think he has prepared his second question before he'd heard my answer to his first'.
Ashcroft (twice), Chilcot, Party funding, Liars and Lobbyists, peerages, mephedrone, ('methederone'), index-linked state pensions, in-patient mental health units, personality disorders,
A frail Ian Paisley posed a short and eloquent question and Brown paid tribute to him.

Videos will follow.

The Coffee House is running a very good Budget commentary.





*Reminder: PMQs + Live Chat & Budget Special



The Daily Politics Live Chat at 11.30am &  PMQs from twelve noon

Live Parliament





Some blogs are also collaborating on a live blog/chat of Phoney Budget 2010. Ones linked to in the sidebar are All Seeing Eye, Barking Spider, Corrugated Soundbite, Governmentitus, GrumpyOldTwat and Subrosa so take your pick.

Muppet Politicians

Politicians who blow with the wind, jumping on the AGW climate change bandwagon, should take stock.  They believe every spurious report placed before them and attempt to coerce the rest of us into changing our behaviour based on nothing more than fairy tales.

Who can forget Lord Stern urging us to change our ways and become vegetarians in order to save the planet?  Vegetarians = good; meat-eaters = selfish nazis.

It's no surprise that the UN has now admitted there was a flaw in the original report linking meat-eating to AGW.  There's little wonder that people treat the increasingly exaggerated claims of the ecoloons with scepticism.  Politicians should do the same before they decide to legislate the lifestyles of the rest of us.

People should have one meat-free day a week if they want to make a personal and effective sacrifice that would help tackle climate change, the world's leading authority on global warming has told The Observer

Dr Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which last year earned a joint share of the Nobel Peace Prize, said that people should then go on to reduce their meat consumption even further.


Muppets!

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Something That Bears Repeating

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.

I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.

I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people's gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

Jenny Joseph

I'm Tired

I'm tired of reading the newspapers, tired of listening to tv news, tired of hearing politicians lie through their teeth.  I'm tired of murders, muggings, thugs & dogs, surveillance cameras and drones.  I'm tired of guns, knives, asbos and hearing the word 'feral'.   I'm tired of airport body scanners, id databases, dna-gathering and internet surveillance.  I'm tired of government exhorting us to 'shop' someone to a free helpline or tell us not to be eat so much, drink so much, smoke so much, not to trust so much.  I'm tired of the subterfuge and deceit of politicians taking us for muppets and playthings.  I'm tired of being angry and repeating myself.  I'm tired of feeling like a painted lead soldier pushed into battle by an unseen hand on a game plan board.  I'm tired of their games, full stop.  I refuse to play.

Here's a video I like; it's a lesson in geography:


The painting is by Leighton.

Liars & Lobbyists

Following on from the Dispatches programme yesterday evening and the news that Hoon, Hewitt and Byers have been suspended by the Labour Party (Moran was de-selected by her constituency association some time ago), here are a few more notes:

* See update. Sir John Butterfill, Con, MP for Bournemouth & Chairman of MPs' Pensions Scheme.  Has repaid £17,000 of expenses claimed for his servants' quarters.  Will receive a golden parachute of almost £39k when he stands down at the GE plus his MP's pension.  "I could organise a meeting with a Minister in his office or possibly, if the Minister were interested in getting more briefing, they might come to you...  Can I tell you something very much in confidence?  Well it is quite likely that I will go to the Lords...nothing is certain in this world but ...  that would be nice and it also gives me another string to my bow as far as you're concerned.  Because quite often the right mover and shaker happens to be in the Lords... ..." 6 meetings a year - £30,000+ pa.

Baroness Sally Morgan, Blair Babe, outside earnings of £135k pa  including work for Lloyds Pharmacies.  "As a Peer you've got to be careful that you are not lobbying so there's a kind of,  there's Codes that you have to... ... I can have conversations with people without pushing my client necessarily but I can push a direction of travel on policy... My view is that I'll do anything so long as I'm transparent, reasonably transparent about it..."  Diabetes connection, NHS primary care trusts.

Margaret Moran, Lab, Luton.  Claimed £22k for dry rot repairs on a 2nd home more than 100 miles from her constituency - has repaid £6k.  Golden parachute of almost £55k, plus pension.  "I'm reasonably flexible really I mean particularly if it's something that's sort of you can tell that certain things I go woomph." [sic]  Claimed to have contact with SpAds & Select Committees.  Said she was free to 'work now'.  Has not voted in Parliament since May and not seen her Luton constituents because of "ill health".  Half an hour after the London meeting the investigative reporter telephoned her constituency office and was told she was still too ill to see anyone.

Stephen Byers, former Transport Secretary, former Business Secretary.  "Keep it confidential".  Consolidated Contractors International; National Express; Tesco; Rio Tinto.  Would want between £3k & £5k a day plus expenses.  Blairite.  Says he sees TB 'about once a month' and offered access.  "Depending on how quickly you can get things moving, there's a very good opportunity actually, which is that when the election is called, and this is very soon, we all run off and start campaigning, if we're trying to get re-elected.  The civil servants then spend that month working through all the sort of policy options and it's a great time, if there's an issue where your clients actually want to, to get a regulation changed or some law amended, that's the time to get in to see the civil servants.  Because there's no Ministers around, they've got more time and no one really thinks about that and it's a missed opportunity and I, you know, if I, well I'm giving you this advice now but, is to get in and see them.."  Also said he helped National Express get out of the East Coast Mainline franchise and avoid paying a penalty of £500million to the public purse and boasted of changing labelling legislation to favour Tesco, in concert with Lords Mandelson and Adonis.

Patricia Hewitt, another Blairite, former Health Sec.  Outside earnings of £180k pa from BT, Boots, Barclays and Cinven, the company which owns BUPA (which alone pays her £60k pa for 18 days' work), plus ministerial pension and golden parachute of almost £55k.  "I'm interested in taking on another major Board position ... 2/3 days a month"  Spoke of "subtleties" in working the system (ie loopholes), think tanks and seminars.  Outlined ways to gain access to ministers "without getting trapped by the officials".  Boasted of influencing the Bradley Report on behalf of private healthcare providers.

Geoff Hoon, Blairite, resigned last year, former Defence Secretary.  Claimed expenses for constituency home while renting out his London home and living in a Grace & Favour flat in Whitehall.  Golden parachute of almost £65k plus ministerial pension.  Now reviews NATO strategy (unpaid).  Has added another word to our dictionary: Hoon-Work, which means tracking down lucrative positions in Defence Finance industries.  "I went to see a private equity fund this morning...one of the things they do want me to do is come back and maybe talk in strategic terms about the relationship, if you like between NATO at the higher level and national defence policy, which is the strategic defence review, one down, and how it all fits together so I would be quite happy to do that for your clients.  In a sense I'm devising, I'm developing this policy so [your clients] would get a fairly accurate account of what's going on.  There will be opportunities for American companies in particular to look around at some vulnerable European companies because those companies will become vulnerable as their own governments cut back on defence spending.  I foresee, it's one reason why I'm talking to American private equity firms, I foresee a period where we may well see American companies in effect buying market share in Europe because they will buy up the national champions who are not getting the support they need to continue...  After April, I'm yours."  Daily rate = £3k.

Gordon Brown's spokesman said the PM was "satisfied" that there had been no impropriety on the part of ministers in the Transport and Business departments. "The Prime Minister has seen the statements from the departments and is satisfied that there is no impropriety."   Expect further 'clarification' soon.  Brown may have initially preened himself at the downfall of the Blairite Byers, Hewitt and Hoon but they were Labour Ministers and he is tainted by this, as are Adonis and Mandelson.

Many adjectives could be used to describe this small sample of MPs, Lords and Ladies but this morning further news emerges of yet more MPs breaking Parliamentary rules. Andrew Dismore (Lab, Hendon) has broken the rules more than 90 times, according to the report.

While our Parliamentary representatives squeal all the way home a group of MPs warned that the Ministry of Defence faces a funding black hole of up to £80 billion over the next decade because of poor budgeting and it has emerged that up to 500 soldiers would lose their jobs under a plan to modernise the Army.

With this venal government in charge of defence equipment procurement, any who lose their jobs are the 'lucky' ones.

* UPDATE: Cameron has done the only thing he could and announced in his morning press conference that Butterfill will not be elevated to the Lords.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Live Chat: Liars & Lobbyists + Update

If you're thinking of watching the Dispatches investigation this evening Ollie at the Red Rag will be hosting a live chat at 8pm.

UPDATE:  Speechless really.  By rights Hoon should be finished.  Byers didn't fare much better, Moran is a guilty-as-charged waste of space and Hewitt was very careful in her choice of words.   Hubris, arrogance, bravado, inflated ego, self-promotion ...  WATCH HERE  There comes a point when you just get beyond anger.  Sir John Butterfill (the only Conservative) and Baroness Morgan also showed the seamy side of their characters.  What a shameful bunch of scrotes.
Don't forget to sign the petition

SamCam Preggers

The baby's due in September.  What more can I say?  Congratulations to our next Prime Minister.

EUNavFor, EDA, EEAS

The EU has provided a map of sorts that shows the extent of its current military and civilian operations.  As well as the military forays by EUNavFor into the waters of Somalia, it also shows ongoing mil.ops in Guinea-Bisseau, RD Congo and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

It's the range of  titles, abbreviations and initials that bemuse me: Eupol, eufor, eujust, eupat, euss, eubam, eumm, eulex - it's never-ending.  How can anyone can be expected to untangle this web of organisations or know who has responsibility and is accountable?

Blair Babe Baroness Ashton, as head of the European Defence Agency as well as our Glorious High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, is due to have a busy week as she unveils her strategy for dealing with global developments.  We can look forward to an indepth analysis fully reported by British tv news and press.

They're worse than spoiled toddlers with a new toy as they scramble to position themselves in the growing hierarchy:
Diplomats said there was "such excitement" about deciding where the EEAS should be discussed, with some countries "obsessed" with the GAC format and others preferring the FAC alternative. In the end, it was decided that both formats would be merged for the occasion. As a rule, the High Representative chairs FAC meetings.
link to ops map

It also raises the question: why are the Conservatives ring-fencing the overseas aid budget with an element earmarked for post- conflict resolution  ie repairing infrastructure and restoring local governance, when our shiny new government in Brussels already has it in hand?

Byers & Cash For Influence: Petition

The Sunlight Centre for Open Politics has started a petition re Stephen Byers.
"Membership of the Privy Council is what entitles one to be addressed as “the Right Honourable”. When Stephen Byers was made a member of the Privy Council he swore “by Almighty God to be a true and faithful Servant unto The Queen’s Majesty as one of Her Majesty’s Privy Council … And generally in all things you will do as a faithful and true Servant ought to do to Her Majesty.“ Surely whoring yourself out to change Her Majesty’s Government’s legislation “like a taxi cab for hire” falls outside the terms of this Oath?

Being a member of the Privy Council is a great honour, it is the oldest political institution in the land after the monarchy itself, tracing its history back to the Norman monarchs.  Byers’ continuing presence on the Council sullies the institution so, given he is unlikely to resign himself , he will have to be removed."
“We, the undersigned, call on Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith, to strip Stephen Byers MP of his membership of the Privy Council due to his involvement in offering to sell access to the British Government for personal profit.”

Harman, as Leader of the House, is currently making a statement on "paid advocacy and lobbying".

Insulting Our Intelligence

Again.

I know it's just a small niggle in the greater scheme of the mess facing Britain at the moment but I'm heartily hacked off at all these 'celebrity' advisers the government insists on hiring (taxpayer-funded, of course).

The latest to be recruited is that well-known fount of wisdom, Ruby Wax, she of the towering intellect.  She's been providing senior civil servants with workshops in leadership and communication, self-awareness, social awareness, relationship management and audience management.
"Her workshops include clips of interviews with Madonna and practical exercises to highlight the difference between talking at someone rather than with someone. Participants learn to be more aware of their colleagues, clients and partners and how to present a more human face using humour, empathy and honesty."
If these senior civil servants aren't up to doing their jobs without resorting to all this touchy-feely garbage perhaps their time would be better spent polishing up their CVs.  Mind you, in this day and age the more workshops you've attended the better your CV looks.

Many of the poor dears are also stressed out because they're bored at work  so we're paying for stress-relieving advice for them too.  "Breathe in and out heavily a few times and imagine yourself being successful,” it advises workers.  It absolutely beggars belief and they all need a good sound kicking up the derriere at the GE.

Sorry, it's a bit early in the morning for me (mmm, coffee!) but you know what I'm getting at: we elect MPs to represent us, they find it impossible to make decisions so they outsource to committees and quangos and take on celebrity advisers (Sugar, Winston, Vorderman, Hartley-Brewer et al).  Whether it's because they're afraid to take responsibility for their own decisions or they're just incompetent I wouldn't like to say.

There are just too many intervening layers of costly bureaucracy involved in the deliberation and decision-making process.  At a time when state spending has risen to 52% of GDP for the first time, ever, I would have thought these self-indulgent facilitation exercises would be first in line for the chop.

And all that's even before I get started on local authorities, their quangos and advisors, the Regional Development Agencies, and the EU.  Happy days!

Btw questions will be asked in the House later about Cash for Influence that blew up over the weekend.  No time has yet been given but it could fall under Urgent Questions at 3.30pm.  Here's a link to Live Parliament if you're interested.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Ok Go

Sunday Reflection

With thanks to RFB for uncovering this interesting little gem:

Original video removed, this is a replacement:

Sunday Round-up

5 Platoon No 2 Company 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards
Brown caught lying, again
Labour MPs to strike on Budget Day
Byers, Hoon, Moran and Hewitt in cash for favours scandal
Shameless: Moran and Butterfill
Purcell and Haughey: More cash for favours
Spare us from Cable as Chancellor
Blair recalled to boost Brown's election hopes
Blair's ethics questioned as CEO of UI Energy was jailed for bribery
Unite solicited foreign union support before BA strike vote
Islamic cartoon row comes to London libel courts
Government IT blunder costs lives
Bideford residents march to reclaim their town
UAF clash with police
SureStart centre closed because children are 'too middle-class'

Here's something to bring a tear to your eye: the UAF's Weyman Bennett being arrested

Guy News

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Songs Without Words

On Looking For Those Sunlit Uplands...

...and not finding them:

UKIP is the only Party with a credible & challenging profile in the media.  The BNP are marginalised and the Libertarians and English Democrats are too small and too late. I don't know, I'm seriously considering the BNP - if only because of their lack of airtime and the ways in which the media vilify them. Problems need to be addressed and the pendulum is swinging again.

Funnily enough, I don't recollect pendulums like this from my youth. Everyone was integrated and welcome. This nation has rarely been a violent country unless it was Parliament against the people or foreign transgression (Cromwell and 1649 are prime examples as is Peterloo in 1819).

Labour is the true nasty Party: they've used subversive entryism to take advantage of the upheaval of two world wars. They've purposefully created division and fragmentation - another Labour government will mean the final break-up of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and its subsumption into the European Union, despite what our SNP and Welsh friends might wish.

David Cameron has the makings of a PM but he also has the makings of a traitor. Until the Conservatives publish their election manifesto I'll be sitting on judgement.  Until then, the two main Parties and the LibDems are tarred with the same brush. We've learned a lot over the past few years:


The video belongs to someone who's inundated with more Werthers Originals than he can reasonably be expected to suck: Grumpy Old Twat

Feeling Sick Yet?

At weekends I usually like to wind back from politics and find something humorous or whimsical instead - just a little something to lighten life and lift the load. Now, I don't know whether it's just me turning into a miserable old bag and putting a depressive spin on things or whether I'm right to feel sick to my stomach at the state of England. Here's a mini-round up so you can judge for yourselves - it's only a mini because to do full posts on each of them would drive me to the sick-bucket:

This has to be numero uno: Govt benefits staff scam nearly £2m from own department.  Prosecute the b/stards.
Taxpayers' money spent on union salaries.  Grrrr.
The Armed Forces face obstacles to voting  - I've mentioned this one before, it's happened at previous elections so it isn't a one-off.  How difficult would it be to change the system?  Where there's a will, there's a way and all that.
Burnham + 15 other MPs in trouble over Dolphin Square payouts  Burnham's constituents in Leigh in Greater Manchester, you know what to do.
"The Blackburn Resistance" get a slap on the wrist The judge said: "You fancied yourself as a fighter for the cause, but the truth is you were a very low-grade one. It would be wrong to pass a long sentence on someone who is obviously more taken with the vanity than the reality."   It doesn't matter if they're laughably incompetent or not; any threat against the nation should result in a sentence of Life without parole.
100 women take Surgeon to court.  There are too many like him in the NHS: strike him off and, because the Trust is still 'learning lessons', sack them without golden parachutes, stick their contracts and cite incompetence.
One in five workers now need a licence. Is there anyone left who doesn't need a licence or to be registered on a database according to this govt?
Ed Miliband promises radical Labour election manifesto. The 'other' Miliband goes as bananas as his brother: voting age reduced to 16, raise national minimum wage, a People's Bank, free school meals for all (oh, yummy, tapioca & raspberry jam!) but nothing so far about energy, the economy or the environment.

I've searched for good news too:
Stem cells used to rebuild ten-year-old's windpipe in groundbreaking surgery
Anne Moffat (Labour, Leith) faces deselection
UKIP are getting column inches
Farmer saved by his wellies
Wake up and smell the flowers (Nice to see he also likes WH Davies' poem).
I might be back later with pics of several species of small furry animals gathered together in a cave and grooving with a Pict but, in the meantime, will this do?

Truth Hurts

This analysis by Max Hastings has to be one of the best I've read recently from an msm journalist:  A Nation in denial.  He questions why Labour are still in the running for the GE and why the Conservatives have not made the ground expected of them.  The blame, he suggests, lies not solely with the reluctance of political parties to spell out the truth but also with the voters who have a misplaced and unrealisable sense of self-interest

Here's a taster of what he has to say:
"What does it say about the national psyche that opinion polls suggest Labour still has a chance of forming another government?

"Gordon Brown led this country into its worst economic predicament since World War II. We have an unprecedented scale of national debt that threatens a sterling crisis and will burden the country for years to come.  During 13 years of power, Labour has failed abysmally to reform public services, above all education, or to equip Britain to earn its living in the 21st century.

"The Government's latest initiative threatens higher education, the country's only hope of creating a skilled workforce to meet the challenges of the next generation.  Universities are threatened with more than half a billion pounds' worth of funding cuts. The money is presumably needed to finance more NHS cosmetic surgery, asylum seekers' housing benefit or  -  most likely  -  to pay the interest charges on Gordon Brown's horrendous national borrowings.

"Yet against this background of incompetence, fiscal recklessness and neglect of real priorities, millions of people seem willing to give Gordon Brown another chance.  Their motives, I suggest, say more and worse things about such voters than about the shortcomings of the Tories or LibDems.
...
"At every turn, people clamour for a right to a soft option; to receive rewards unrelated to their efforts or performance; to be preserved from any consequence of failure.  It invites derision to suggest that it is good for us as human beings to struggle a bit, to compete, to suffer some hardship, especially in youth, to be denied instant access to whatever takes our fancy.

"The pursuit of self-interest, heedless of the consequences to others, is enshrined as if it was a basic human right.  Those at the bottom of the social pile can scarcely be condemned for their own greed and selfishness when they see the repellent example set from the top.  The herd of snorting, grunting porkers who make up Britain's insanely over-rewarded financial community have done frightful damage to ideals of fairness and social justice.

"You will remember the favourite old schoolroom history story, of the Elizabethan soldier Sir Philip Sidney, mortally wounded on the battlefield of Zutphen.  Declining an offer of water, he urged it on another man, saying: 'Your need is great than mine.'  In similar circumstances in modern Britain, your average town hall bureaucrat, Goldman Sachs partner or shop steward would grab the water for themselves, saying: 'Sorry, mate. My need is greater than yours.'

"This is the spirit of the British times. And it represents a huge obstacle that the Tories must overcome, to win the election on anything resembling a truthful prospectus...

"Gordon Brown has parted company so decisively that he will never rejoin planet Earth. He wants to be in office, but not in power. He craves the title of prime minister, but rejects any vestige of personal responsibility for the nation's fate in war or peace. He has become a psychological mess of frightening proportions..."
There's no mention of the UKIP or BNP effect of course but it remains imperative that one way or another Brown, the Labour Party and the Unions, are kicked into touch at the GE.


Who Needs ID Cards?

At first glance the government's proposal for a 'paperless society'  seems good: quicker, streamlined, tree-saving and cheaper with no more trips to the local job centre, doctor's surgery or finding you've just run out of stamps.  For time-pressed people who have no trouble getting around on the internet it seems too good to be true - imagine being able to book an appointment at your doctor's surgery at two in the morning.

Reality check:

"Tens of thousands of public sector jobs will go".   Go where?  To the dole queue?  Another created public sector job?
"Jobcentres, tax offices, DVLA local centres, passport offices and housing benefit offices will be phased out."  Will the money raised go back into the public purse and be spent on projects that actually benefit British people and lift living standards?
The government's track record on IT projects is questionable to say the least;  they're way overdue and vastly more expensive than original projections.  Has one of them ever come in on time and on cost?
Restricted access: not everyone has broadband or even a computer.
Privacy issues - not only from data theft but the government itself.

Consider this:

"A unique identifier will allow citizens to apply for a place for their child at school, book a doctor’s appointment, claim benefits, get a new passport, pay council tax or register a car from their computer at home...the secure site will be expanded to allow people to interact with their children’s teachers or ask medical advice from their doctor through a government version of Facebook."

A unique identifier, your ISP logged, every movement between government departments tracked and collated.  In theory some government jobsworth in a windowless office in Whitehall could have a red alert when you sneeze.

Tim Berners-Lee, Martha Lane-Fox and the Conservatives are on board.

Like the:
Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000
Anti-terrorism Crime & Security Act 2001
Civil Contingencies Act 2004
Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005
Coroners & Justice Act 2009
in the hands of less than benign government the effects of this proposal could be draconian and have hidden consequences.
Related Posts with Thumbnails