Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Ten Predictions for 2010

I hope you enjoyed your Christmas. As expected my time on the computer has been rather limited, mainly due to nagging from my wife; "and I don't expect to see you on that bloody computer all over Christmas". That was me told!

Anyway as the new year is nearly upon us, here are my top ten predictions for 2010:

1. After consulting his giant well-thumbed ACME book of "how to create fake dividing lines and outwit the Tories", Brown cunningly ums and ahs about the date of the General Election in order to try to smoke out Tory Policies. It, of course, backfires spectacularly badly on Brown and the election date is on May 6th anyway as widely expected.

2. Easter Sunday will be on 4th April.

3. Cameron will win the General Election with a 72 seat majority and the biggest swing in history. Brown takes defeat badly and ungraciously.

4. UKIP will win Buckingham and Ed Balls will lose his seat (hopefully)

5. Greece will go bankrupt plunging the Euro into crisis.

6. England reach the 2010 World Cup final and lose 3-2 to Spain. So near yet...

7. 2010 will be one of the coldest on record despite Met Office predictions at the start of the year that it will be a scorcher (well, they're always wrong aren't they?)

8. 19th August A-Level results are released, cue 2 days of frenzied press speculation that the exams have got easier.

9. 31st October the clocks go back and a spokesman for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents announces its Single Double Summer Time campaign to prevent accidents.

10. 8 out of 10 of my predictions will be correct.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Sex Shops Set to Sue the Government

Today's Telegraph reports (not online) that:
"A flood of sex shops and other businesses prosecuted for selling DVDS and videos illegally during the past 25 years are preparing to sue the Government."
This relates to an admission earlier this year by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport that prosecutions under the 1984 Video Recordings Act were no longer enforceable in UK courts because of a technical loophole.

The Act was passed 25 years ago in response to a moral panic over so-called video nasties, epitomised by a campaign by Mary Whitehouse, who showed a compilation tape of (out-of-context) "highlights" to shocked Conservative MPs at their 1983 party conference (The regulations actually had the opposite effect. For example videos banned under this law became a lot easier to get hold of, especially for schoolchildren like me at the time - that's another story though).

One small problem, the then Thatcher Government failed to notify Britain's real Government - the European Commission - under Directive 83/189 (now Directive 98/34), and so this makes any prosecutions under the Act invalid.

As a consequence, a number of those illegally prosecuted are now preparing to claim for damages, including those that sold pornography to children.

What a farce!

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Merry Christmas

Blogging will become lighter and more sporadic over the next week, while I indulge myself with alcohol have a quiet one with the family, so I would like to take this opportunity of wishing everyone a Merry Christmas, and a big thank you for taking the time to read my blog.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

UK Still in Recession

Tucked away on the BBC website today is the news that Britain is still in recession:
The UK economy shrank by 0.2% between July and September, figures show.
Despite Alistair Darling saying in the 2009 April Budget (my emphasis bold):

And my forecast for GDP growth for the year as a whole will be –3 ½ per cent – in line with other independent forecasts.

But because of our underlying strength, the measures we are taking, domestically and internationally, I expect to see growth resume towards the end of the year.

Yeah, Merry Christmas Mr Darling, thanks for nothing!

Monday, 21 December 2009

UK Television Election Debates To Go Ahead

It's been confirmed that the UK will have its first ever televised leader election debates after a deal has been struck between the three main party leaders.

I can't pretend I'm happy, I think this development is an anathema to British democracy.

It creates a presidential-like atmosphere in British politics where no president is ever elected.

A popular but inaccurate criticism of Gordon Brown is that he is 'unelected'. It's true that he has no popular mandate via a general election, but no Prime Minister is ever elected directly by the voters. He achieves that position by winning a parliamentary seat, being part of a majority party and then elected by his party as Prime Minister - all of which Brown has done.

The voters do not directly elect Prime Ministers, as they didn't with; Churchill, Eden, Macmillan, Douglas Home, Callaghan or Major.

Having leaders' debates is a direct challenge to this, as it reinforces the leaders as the priority and and undermines the principle of voting for a local representative.

Why is Nick Clegg being given equal billing? Labour is the Government, the Tory's are the main opposition, but the Lib Dems are far behind with only 63 seats. Not fair. Especially considering their poor record in the local elections this year and that they came only forth in the Euro elections in June.

As Nick Robinson from the BBC puts it:
Nick Clegg will scarcely be able to believe his luck as the first leader of the third party to share top billing with his big two rivals.

Exactly, and what about the other parties fighting the next election, particularly the SNP who are the major party in Scotland, and currently running Holyrood albeit with a minority administration? Surely a legal challenge must be forthcoming?

And then there's the other parties, such as the DUP, Plaid Cymru or even UKIP who are the main fourth party in the UK and came second in the recent Euro elections?

This process discriminates unfairly against those smaller parties fighting for seats at the next election and entrenches further the main parties in parliament, by virtue of vastly more exposure.

All three of them share the same views on many issues such as; the EU, MPs' expenses and climate change - consensus is never good news - therefore the leaders' debates, in my view, are going to achieve the opposite of their intention; diminish democracy even more in this country.

The French Run the EU

So says Ireland's outgoing Commissioner Charlie McCreevy. It's not a surprise of course but it's nice to have it there in black and white.

In a speech on Friday to the Association of European Journalists in Dublin yesterday, Mr McCreevy said (my emphasis bold):

What President Sarkozy's statement tells us is that like many of his fellow countrymen, he does not see the European Commission as a commission for the advancement of European interests, he sees it as a commission for the advancement of French interests.

The influence of France in Brussels is impressive, though. People forget that the Brussels bureaucracy was designed by the French almost as a copy of how the administration in Paris works.
This has over the years given the French a huge advantage in knowing how to pull the levers of power. And if you look around the commission you will see that the French have been masters in getting their key people into some of the most powerful posts.
Time and again over the decades, France's influence has been obvious, from fighting to set up the CAP which initally absorbed 90% of the Community budget for the sole benefit of French farmers, from tricking Britain into giving giving up sovereignty over its own fishing waters and from the farcical situation where the EU Parliament is based in Strasbourg as well as Brussels.

Mr McCreevy hasn't always expressed these views. This was the same man who, although admitting that he hadn't read the Lisbon Treaty, urged the Irish to vote yes in their first referendum:
Anyone who thinks that, as the reality and inevitability of EU enlargement has taken hold, that we can continue to tackle urgent problems without streamlining of the decision-making process is failing to face up to reality.
and on the second referendum:
Voting 'No' would be a gamble too far
It's a bit late now complaining about French influence within the EU.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

This is a joke right?

The Telegraph reports (in tomorrow's paper) that Gordon Brown is drawing up plans for the European Union to become a global warming "policeman", monitoring individual countries' compliance with carbon-cutting targets:
Mr Brown and French President Nicholas Sarkozy now are working proposals for a "European monitoring organisation" that will oversee every country's actions on emissions.
And it gets worse:
The plan emerged after US President Barack Obama suggested that monitoring could be done using spy satellites.
And worse:

[Brown] said: “I will work with President Sarkozy for a European organisation that will monitor the transparency that is being achieved not just in Europe and our own countries, but in every country around the world.

He added: “We’re in favour of transparency; we’re in favour of looking at what’s happening not just in our country and our own continent, but around the world.

Words truly fail me.

EU rules may force Legal & General to leave the UK

In what probably won't be the last such case, today's Telegraph reports that one of the UK's oldest insurance companies - Legal & General - may move its headquarters to outside the EU to avoid new 'extreme' EU regulations.
Legal & General (L&G), the FTSE-100 group, is considering a move outside of Europe ahead of the introduction of Solvency II, a framework which will govern insurers based in the European Union from 2012
Solvency II is a fundamental review of the capital adequacy regime for the European insurance industry designed to standardise single capital requirements across the EU.

It is a replacement for (rather predictably) Solvency I and seeks to update the set of regulatory requirements for insurance firms but, surprise surprise, it has a wider scope.

The insurance industry is not happy, and has warned of the consequences that these new regulations will create:
Last weekend, [Tim Breedon, L&G's chief executive,] told The Sunday Telegraph about his fears of over-regulation.

In an article on the future of the insurance industry, he said: "The risk now is that competition between regulators – at the national, the EU, and broader international levels – will simply bid up the amount of capital the sector is required to carry to levels which are unnecessarily high and which prevent us from doing business.

The initial impact of Solvency II would be to force British insurers to massively increase their capital and reserves requirements. This will lead to some companies exiting, as L&G have indicated, the EU altogether.

For those companies that remain, the money to recapitalise will need to come from somewhere, inevitably leading to falling investment returns, price rises, and reduced cover.

And guess who will more than likely take the burden of the extra costs?
the value of UK pension savings could be cut by up to 20pc as companies passed on the costs to pensioners in the form of lower incomes.
Yep, pensioners.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Italian Constitutional Court sticks two fingers up at ECHR

Just spotted this from Gerald Warner in the Telegraph:
The first blow has been struck against the encroaching tyranny of the European Union and it is a significant one. In fact, one member state has defiantly drawn a line in the sand and signalled that it will not tolerate erosion of its sovereignty. Although it attracted little attention when it was published last month, now that commentators have had an opportunity to analyse Sentenza N. 311 by the Italian Constitutional Court, its monumental significance in rolling back the Lisbon Treaty is now being appreciated.

The Constitutional Court ruled baldly that, where rulings by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) conflict with provisions of the Italian Constitution, such decrees “lack legitimacy”. In other words, they will not be enforced in Italy. Although this judgement related to issues concerning the civil service, the universal interpretation is that the ECHR’s aggressive ruling in Lautsi v Italy, seeking to ban crucifixes from Italian classrooms, shortly before, was what concentrated the minds of the judges in the Italian Supreme Court.

I haven't time at the moment to comment in detail, but this is an interesting development, will it embolden Ireland who also face a challenge to their constitution and also the UK with the ECHR judgment over prisoner voting rights?

One to watch.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Saturday Caption Competition

I'm out and about today watching my football team (probably) lose, so please feel free to add a caption to this:

EU Telecoms Reform

Today marks the entry into force of the EU Telecoms Reform which member states have until June 2011 to transpose into national legislation.

Aside from the fact it will establish another unaccountable supranational regulator:
Establishment of the European Body of Telecoms Regulators BEREC (spring 2010) – Note that a decision on the definitive seat of BEREC will require agreement between the governments of all 27 Member States;'s another example of a potential conflict between UK and EU law.

Currently being steered through Parliament is the Digital Economy Bill, which contains controversial measures that allow draconian internet cut-off provisions without the need for a Judge - and, as usual with this Government, its wide-ranging scope also allows these measures to be used for more than its original purpose of copyright-infringement.

However, the EU Telecoms Reform contains this (my emphasis in bold): explicitly state that any measures taken by Member States regarding access to or use of services and applications through telecoms networks must respect the fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens, as they are guaranteed by the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and in general principles of EU law. Such measures must also be appropriate, proportionate and necessary within a democratic society. In particular, they must respect the presumption of innocence and the right to privacy. With regard to any measures of Member States taken on their Internet access (e.g. to fight child pornography or other illegal activities), citizens in the EU are entitled to a prior fair and impartial procedure, including the right to be heard, and they have a right to an effective and timely judicial review.

So is the Digital Economy Bill compatible? Commissioner Viviane Reding's views on similar Spanish proposals suggests not:
Spanish measures that would allow for the cutting off of internet access without a prior fair and impartial procedure in front of a judge is certain to run into conflict with European law.

Are the Government aware of this? Have they consulted the EU (their track record suggests not)? The Lords will probably water this down a great deal but even so this looks like another waste of time in the making.

Border Control

Immigration comes in at third in voter's list of concerns, behind the economy and crime, so it's no surprise that grappling (or pretending to) this issue is a government priority, often with patchy results.

e-Borders is a flagship Government immigration policy that was relaunched in 2007. It's aim was to log and screen 100 million passenger movements by April 2009 and 95 per cent of all border crossings by the end of 2010.

Immigration minister Liam Byrne said at the time:

"We're creating an overseas border control with tougher checks before travellers board a train, plane or boat for Britain. All our tests show it works and there's over 1000 arrests to prove it. Now we need to go further with full scale screening of travellers.

"The electronic-Borders programme will provide a critical aid to security and counter terrorist work. By locking passengers to their identity we will create a new offshore line of defence, helping genuine travellers but stopping those who pose a risk before they travel."
Only one small problem: the EU.

A report released yesterday by the Home Affairs Committee (not yet online) said the policy was likely to be illegal under EU law.

A EU member state cannot ask for more details other than those on a passport, or other identity documents, and this would be infringed by the e-borders scheme.

So, in order for e-Borders to be ruled legal by the EU, the Government has been forced to make a number of concessions, notably that the scheme should be voluntary, thus undermining the entire effectiveness of the whole system.

The Times reports:

A letter from the Commission to the Home Office also made clear that the Government had given an assurance that it would not bar EU citizens from entering the UK.

The letter said that passengers from the EU or members of their family would not be stopped from entering the UK if their personal details were not available to the British border authorities.

The concessions offered by the Government means that it can no longer insist on obtaining the details of passengers and crew in advance of people travelling to the UK.

Of course it's taken the Government 2 years and over a £1billion wasted before it's woken up to this rather obvious fact. But then there's nothing this Government likes better than throwing lots of money away at unworkable IT systems.

As it happens I'm rather pleased it's failed. Not only can this Government not be trusted with data, but the system will inevitable be used for other purposes other than the one it was designed for, like the RIP Act.

But that's not the point, the system should have failed because I changed the Government via the ballot box, not because unaccountable bureaucrats in Brussels say so.

Let It Snow

The news headlines on BBC Breakfast at 8:00 this morning began with the snow, followed immediately of melting glaciers and a report from the 'Global Warming' summit at Copenhagen.

You couldn't make it up.

Thursday, 17 December 2009


Gordon leads Al Gore into a cupboard

Make your own jokes...

hat tip: guido

The BBC and 'Climategate' update III

I wrote to the BBC in November complaining about their lack of coverage of 'climategate'.

I did receive a reply quite quickly which acknowledged my complaint and promised to registered my comment on their audience log.

Despite that, it's clear that not much has changed despite other viewer's concerns- prominent coverage is still being given to Copenhagen and other climate change stories especially on the main television news, so I've written again:
I complained to the BBC on 29th November regarding the BBC’s lack of prominence given to the issue of leaked emails and documents from the Climate Research Unit, which very clearly showed that some of the world's leading climate change scientists, manipulated, altered and made up data in order to try to 'prove' that the climate was changing.

I gratefully receive a reply on 2nd December which acknowledged my complaint and promised to register the comment ‘on our audience log.’ (whatever that means).

My reason for writing again is, despite my concerns about the lack of impartiality, the BBC is still giving prominent coverage across its media platforms to pro-climate change stories, particularly the conference in Copenhagen, even though more and more evidence has emerged recently regarding the integrity of the climate change data.

For example, the Russian Institute of Economic Analysis has released a report suggesting that the CRU has deliberately cherry-picked the Russian climate records, ignoring stations covering 40% of the landmass and choosing only those sites which showed evidence of warming. Even the Met Office’s data is being brought into question.

However, there is virtually silence on the BBC website, News programmes and the News 24 channel regarding this.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that, on this issue at least, the BBC is giving nothing more than a token gesture in dealing with the complexities of this issue and has given up on investigative reporting, which would be particularly relevant in this case as it involves astronomical sums of taxpayer’s money.

The BBC is giving a very strong impression that it no longer cares about being impartial.
You can complain here, I will update with any response I get.

Boris criticised by European Commission

Previously I had speculated whether Boris Johnson will now be under pressure to bring forward his draft Air Quality Strategy, in order to avert a possible £300m fine regarding the UK's failure to comply with EU limits on pollution in London, as per Directive 1999/30/EC.

The Guardian reports today, however, that even this won't be adequate as the European Commission has rejected the draft strategy saying:
"important elements are missing, such as a clear timetable for the implementation of the abatement measures envisaged as well as an estimate of the improvement of air quality which can be expected by 2011".
Boris has complained that the Commission was being "unreasonable" for refusing to consider his proposed strategy on the grounds that it was only a draft document, he may have a point but it now seems in the article that there is an acceptance that a fine is inevitable, it's now just a question of who pays - a battle of the budgets (my emphasis bold):
"I don't think it is right or very likely there will be a fine because it's possible to sort this out, but the cost of the infraction should not properly in my view be borne by this city… if you look at the total volume in pollutants they are very substantially coming outside the greater London authority area. This government has chronically refused to put in measures necessary over the last 10 years for us to be compliant."
Of course it will be the taxpayer who ultimately pays; no taxation without representation? Not where the EU is concerned.

Are they mad?

It what appears to be a vote of no confidence in the US dollar, the oil-rich Arab states have agreed to launch a single currency for the region based on the Euro model. Ambrose Evans-Pritchard reports:
The project is inspired by Europe’s monetary union, seen as a huge success in the Arab world.
Hmm, 'a huge success'? I presume we're glossing over the recent events in the Eurozone concerning Greece, Ireland and Austria; not to mention Spain.

A large part of the reason that the Euro is seen as a 'success', is that it celebrates its tenth anniversary this year, despite a lot of commentators not giving the Euro much of a chance of lasting 10 years at the time of its launch.

The Euro's survival is because it was fortunate enough to be launched at a time when Europe, together with the rest of the world, was about to enter a period of unprecedented prosperity. The good times would paper over the Euro's cracks.

The Euro's deeper problems stem from its fundamental weakness of a wide spread in economic performance and discipline amongst the member countries, which explains why the Eurozone member states are subjected to a number of rules. These rules require for everyone to exercise a high level of economic discipline. The problem is that there is little or no such discipline.

So we come to the PIIGS. This less than flattering acronym stands for Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain; five members of the Eurozone which are all in much deeper trouble than they are prepared to admit - particularly Greece who have consistently been less than honest about their deficit (Greece was admitted to EMU for political reasons before their economy had been reformed enough to fit with Euro requirements).

The true test, and measure of success, of the Euro was always going to be whether it would survive its first recession intact, but already the cracks are appearing:
So when will Europe’s leaders finally wake up? Everything cannot simply be swept under the carpet forever. One day or another the cracks which have been slowly appearing in the whole edifice will simply become gaping holes. We need sound analysis, we need a will to do something, and we need a plan of action. Simply saying the critics do not know what they are talking about no longer holds water.

It is a straitjacket, preventing those countries from having the flexibility to tackle the financial crisis leaving them with options that will lead to the inevitable 'riot phase', in this long politico-economic experiment known as EMU.

It is, therefore, far too early to see the Euro project as a success; it is essentially a flawed economic strategy based on a political project, as highlighted by Hans Redeker, currency chief at BNP Paraibasfor:
"The Greek crisis has exposed the weak foundations on which the euro is built. The gap in competitiveness between core Europe and the periphery has grown wider and wider. The obvious mistake was to launch EMU without a central fiscal authority and political union, as the Bundesbank warned in the 1990s,”.
Any currency needs political union in order to survive, as Helmut Kohl put it in 1993:
'[European] economic union will survive only if it is based on a political union'
Are the gulf states prepared to go that far? It would seem so:
“We need exactly the same institutions as the EU has created. We need a commission, a court, and a bank,” [Mohammed El-Enein] said.
There really is no end to this supranational nonsense.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Swindon Switch On

In November Swindon Borough Council announced that Swindon will become the first UK wi-fi town, where every resident can receive free wireless access for a limited period each day, at the cost of £450,000 of taxpayer's money.

Today Highworth is the first borough of the scheme to go live.

I'm not sure that it will be successful, and it reminds me of Swindon supposedly being at the cutting edge of Harold Wilson's 'white heat of technology' with cable tv - it didn't quite work out as planned.

However, of course, there's the magic roundabout which in my view is a work of genius.

The BBC and 'Climategate' update II

I'm a bit late to this one I'm afraid, but I've just noticed that last week's Newswatch featured more viewer's comments on the BBC's coverage of 'climategate' - they are still not happy it seems, like me.

I particularly like this one from David Kilbride:
In failing to be open on climate change, BBC reporting does seem to reflect a consensus for the ‘common good’ and a degree of involvement in the campaign and therefore not meet its impartiality guidelines.

In the light of emails suggesting all is not well with the scientific approach in some quarters the BBC Trust may wish to re-look at the specific out of date balance guideline referred to by Mr Black [on last week’s programme]

The BBC's subsequent response indicates strongly that they have given up on investigative reporting, similar to this, and so by ignoring this they are failing in their duties as an 'impartial' state broadcaster.

Interesting to note that a FOI request is still outstanding regarding which scientific experts the BBC used in 2006 to justify its current climate change editorial policy.

If not Lisbon, then Rome

Douglas Carswell, Tory MP will introduce a Private Member's bill today on Britain's membership of the European Union; it's listed 14 on today's Order Paper as the European Union Membership (Referendum) Bill.

I wish him luck, although unfortunately it's unlikely to amount to much, as Carswell acknowledges himself:
Naturally, given how government controls Parliament (as opposed to the other way around), my Private Members Bill faces an uphill struggle to become law. But it puts down a marker.
I notice also on the same Order Paper at 10:

[No debate]
Mr Nigel Dodds
Bill to require the holding of a referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon and to require the repeal of the European Union (Amendment) Act 2008 if the decision to ratify is not approved in the referendum; and for connected purposes.

Update: Both Private Member's bills 10 & 14 were introduced with a degree of dismissive hilarity within the Commons; Carswell's second reading is confirmed as 26th Feb.

Is the Government stalling on Prisoner Voting Rights?

John Hirst, who was convicted of killing his landlady with an axe, has long campaigned for voting rights for prisoners, something which I fundamentally object to, and I would imagine so would a large proportion of the British public.

As part of his fight, Hirst took the the issue to the European Court of Human Rights, but despite winning in 2005, the UK Government has yet to implement the Court's judgment 4 years later, much to the frustration of the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers.

In a recent Interim Resolution, the CoM has not only indicated its frustration at the substantial delay, but also that the next GE election faces a significant risk of failing to comply with the European Convention on Human Rights.

So is the Government deliberately stalling and does it intend to grant prisoner's the right to vote in advance of the next election?

Given that granting voting rights to prisoners is unlikely to popular, any delay would be entirely understandable, Tom Harris MP certainly thinks so (my emphasis in bold):

Do I give a stuff that the Council of Europe is a bit annoyed at the UK for (ahem!) dragging our feet on implementing the court’s ruling? No, not really.
However, the issue of the ECHR's judgment, and the Government's slow response was raised in the House of Lords yesterday, and after some protracted non-answers by Lord Bach, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Ministry of Justice, was this exchange (again me in bold):
Lord Pannick: My Lords, does the Minister accept that one reason for the considerable concern about the extraordinary length of time that the Government have taken to implement a decision dated 6 October 2005 is that they appear deliberately to be delaying this matter until after the next general election? Can the Minister give the House an unequivocal assurance that that is no part and has been no part of the Government's motivation?

Lord Bach: Yes.

So whom to believe?

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Guess who's just arrived at Copenhagen?

President Mugabe arrived on Tuesday in Copenhagen to take part in the final days of the UN climate change talks.

Mugabe is banned from EU states, including Denmark, but under UN rules, Mugabe holds diplomatic immunity and is able to take part in the UN-hosted talks.

Mugabe of course has taken Zimbabwe from one of Africa's strongest economies into the world's worst through authoritarian rule, economic mismanagement and corruption - the perfect symbol of the UN hosted climate change summit in fact.

Political X-Factor?

A record 19 million viewers watched Joe McElderry win X-Factor last Sunday and 10 million voted, earning ITV an estimated £18million.

Inevitability, after the celebrations have subsided slightly, there has followed the usual nonsense of suggesting whether this format is a way getting the electorate interested in politics (personally I thought the expenses scandal did a rather good job of that on its own).

What everyone seems to have forgotten, though, is that a similar format was actually tried five years ago for a series on ITV called Vote for Me which was described at the time as a political version of Pop Idol.

So why wasn't it a success?

Well the winner was a taxi driver, and a convicted fraudster, called Rodney Hylton-Potts, with his “cabbie’s manifesto” which included policies such as:

  • the mandatory castration of paedophiles,
  • the repeal of the human rights act,
  • a massive prison-building scheme and
  • an immigration deportation programme to reduce Britain’s population by 20m –

and various other policies which put him right in BNP territory, even the Sun described him as a “swivel-eyed right-wing lunatic”.

The format was swiftly dropped.

Monday, 14 December 2009

49% of Brits 'disenchanted with EU'...

...according to a new survey on teletext

Britain has not benefited from European Union membership, according to nearly half the population, a new survey has indicated.

The latest "Eurobarometer" poll showed 49% denying any advantage in membership and only 36% seeing benefits.
So only just over a third see benefits to the UK's membership, still stubbornly low despite most of the UK's media ignoring the implications of the EU if they can get away with it.

Brown's handshake cock-up

While in Afghanistan, Brown attempts to shake hands with British troops but it doesn't quite go according to plan, as they were already saluting:

It seems remarkably similar to an incident with another Western Leader earlier this year:

I don't think it was a deliberate snub for Brown on behalf of the troops, but more of an indication of how completely clueless Brown is when it comes to our Armed Forces.

Hattip: Guido


There was an extensive item on this morning's BBC Breakfast News regarding the Kraft Foods' hostile takeover bid of Cadbury's.

There was some detailed analysis on the possible impact on Cadbury's, the bid rejection and the possible effect on jobs in Britain, but there was one thing from the reports that was missing - not mentioned at all! Can you guess? (my emphasis in bold)

The European Commission has set a one-month deadline to review Kraft Foods Inc's (KFT.N) $16 billion hostile bid for British chocolate maker Cadbury (CBRY.L) after the U.S. food group notified EU regulators.

The Commission, the competition watchdog of the 27-nation European Union, said it would decide on the takeover by December 14. It gave no further details.

My wife's not bothered though, she prefers Thorntons.

UK faces EU fines over London air quality

Last Friday the European Commission turned down a request from the UK Government for more time to comply with EU limits on pollution in London, which is in breach of Directive 1999/30/EC.

The UK is now facing legal proceedings and the threat of up to £300m fines after the European Commission ruled that:
"air quality plan for this particular zone did not meet the minimum requirements of the Directive for a time extension".

London Mayor, Boris Johnson will now be under pressure to bring forward his draft Air Quality Strategy, which was based on the assumption that an extension would be granted until 2011.

Laura Gyte, Friends of the Earth's solicitor, said:

"The UK has known about these limits for years - we are delighted that the EU has rejected the Government's bid to carry on polluting."

I'm afraid that I can't share in the delight that the elected UK Government, and the elected London Mayor have been overruled by the unelected EU Commission.

Interestingly, Boris Johnson was interviewed on the Andrew Marr show yesterday, during which he mentioned in great detail the cycling initiatives outlined in his Air Quality Strategy, but strangely the involvement of the EU and the decision of the EU Commission on Friday were not.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Is Bercow running scared?

Interesting little snippet in the Mail on Sunday, who claim that the Speaker is looking for a way out of a possible election defeat by UKIP's Nigel Farage:

Speaker John Bercow wants to switch to a new seat with only MPs as his ‘constituents’ so he can avoid a humiliating defeat by former UKIP leader Nigel Farage at the nextGeneral Election.

It would mean abandoning his Buckingham seat for the newly created one called St Stephen’s – the name of the old House of Commons chapel – where, effectively, it would be impossible to challenge him.

He put forward the idea amid speculation that he may struggle to defeat Mr Farage, who stepped down as UKIP leader to take on Mr Bercow in defiance of the custom where the Commons Speaker is not challenged by the main parties.

If the tradition ended, said Mr Bercow, it could be hard for any Speaker to survive for more than one parliamentary term.

Mr Bercow suggested giving the Speaker ‘a separate constituency, known as St Stephen’s, representing a small area around Westminster’.

The Speaker’s original constituency would hold a normal election and choose a new MP, he explained.

‘The Commons can always decide to do that if it wants,’ he told Total Politics magazine. If MPs supported such an idea, he would not oppose it. Ordinary members of the public would not be allowed to be ‘constituents’ of the Speaker’s St Stephen’s seat.

Any Election challenge would have to be made on an individual – not a party – basis, making it harder to unseat the Speaker.

Mr Bercow said: ‘It is both possible and necessary for the Speaker to continue to be a highly active constituency MP.

I suspect I won’t face major party competition – but I will face opponents.’

I'm not sure there would be enough time to get this through Parliament before the next election, and Labour will be unlikely to support a measure that gets the Tories off an uncomfortable hook.

That said this will be a big morale boost for Farage, it certainly gives him more ammunition to use during his campaign.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

In the Dark

Labour MP Tom Harris, publishes on his blog today, an email from an irate constituent which neatly illustrates Britain's current democratic deficit.

Tom's constituent is clearly not happy about the ban on incandescent 100watt light bulbs (my emphasis bold):
I can’t see a bloody thing. It is dark outside and we have run out of light bulbs that have anything other than a glow. I am stuck with a 60watt bulb in a room with a ceiling that an athlete couldn’t reach. Which bunch of well meaning but utterly misguided idiots decreed that to have 100watt conventional light bulbs was bad?
What idiots indeed? He continues:
Without being too hasty, I promise you my vote if you bring back proper, enlightening, illuminating lightbulbs.

Understandably frustrated and annoyed by the ban, he writes to his MP using his vote as the weapon. But what can Tom do?

The ban is the result of EU Eco-Design of Energy-Using Products Directive, Directive 2005/32/EC. No matter who the constituent votes for, the ban will remain.

Tom, and therefore by default his constituent, have been rendered powerless, and the MP is left with the only solutions of lending out light bulbs, if he had any, and publishing the email on the internet.

What a sad state of affairs!

P.S. I'm not sure what Tom's private response was, but it's notable that he doesn't mention the EU in the post itself, although some of the comments pick this up.

Friday, 11 December 2009

No comment...

From the Daily Telegraph today at 13:46

From the Daily Mail today at 13:46

And so it begins...

I had intended this morning elaborating on my previous post regarding foreign ministers being banned from the EU Council meetings, but Richard North beat me to it - it's well worth a read.

Just 11 days after the Lisbon Treaty came into force, its consequences are now beginning to rear their ugly head, and there's a rush to implement the EU Foreign Office before 'cast-iron' Dave comes into office. They needn't worry, he won't kick up much of a fuss.

As always with the EU, let us condemn them by their own words (my emphasis in bold):

[Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt] defended his actions: "The Lisbon Treaty is in place since 1 December and until 31 December I will be very fundamentalist in implementing it."
I don't doubt it!

He explained that since the treaty came into force, relations between member states are no longer considered "foreign policy" but are now "domestic policy" and so EU leaders no longer need their top diplomats beside them.
Confirmation that the UK is no longer sovereign. David Miliband is, apart from his day job of being Eric Wimp, now relegated to just being one of the EU's Home Office ministers.

Foreign ministers may now be invited if "foreign relations" with non-EU states are on the agenda.

How jolly nice of them!

Clearly our brand new country is beginning to emerge - without our consent, and so as a result I thought I would 'celebrate', and mostly cheer myself up, with Mario Savio's inspirational 'bodies upon the gears' speech:

Thursday, 10 December 2009

The EU Bans Foreign Ministers

According to Sky, David Miliband, UK Foreign Secretary, has been banned from the European Council which is meeting for the first time since Rompuy-Pumpy was elected as the permanent President; the surprise of his own officials, he told MPs that he had been banned from coming to Belgium today.

Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, who is the last national leader to chair a summit before Van Rompuy takes over for good, has told national foreign ministers that they are no longer welcome because High Representative Ashton will represent them all when leaders gather.

This has not gone down well with the national leaders gathering here and tonight at their dinner they will discuss whether or not they should be allowed to bring their own foreign ministers in future.

hattip: OldHolborn

For Whom the Bell Tolls

The latest expenses revelations show that Labour MP, Quentin Davies MP, tried to claim £20,700 for a bell tower.

Jesus wept

Ireland’s abortion ban challenge could have far-reaching implications... says the Radio Netherlands Worldwide.

Further to my previous post on the challenge in the ECHR to Irish abortion law, the RNW raises some interesting points:
Ireland’s government contends that the strongly Catholic nation should retain the sovereign right to determine when life begins.
Er...well...yes but Ireland gave up its sovereignty when it ratified the Lisbon Treaty, but we'll let that one pass. Another (my emphasis in bold):
Gregor Puppinck is a lawyer for the Center. He says that the case highlights the conflict between the duties of the nation state and the duties of the European Court. “So the conflict would be between Article 2 [the right to life] and Article 8 [the right to respect private life]”,
I wonder which one will win out in the end?
The case is pivotal in that, regardless of how the Court rules, it will set a precedent regarding the question of whether access to abortion is a basic human right....The case is being watched closely in the United States.

That much is true, but it's interesting that the article avoids the most fundamental far-reaching consequence of them all - that the court is hearing the case at all.

As I wrote here the ECHR is effectively by-passing domestic courts. By even entertaining the arguments is deeply troubling. The plaintiffs have failed to meet procedural requirements to get into court. Article 35/1 of the Convention requires that all possible domestic remedies be exhausted before the ECHR has jurisdiction.

This is not being observed and surely must set another precedent which is outside the ECHR's remit.

It won't be something that we have to concern ourselves for a while yet though:
The Court is expected to rule on the case within the next 12 months.
Don't worry take your time!

PBR reveals UK net contributions to EU will soar

I've just had a quick perusal of the PBR, and as highlighted by the Telegraph, the UK's net contribution to the EU is set to rise from £4.8billion in 2009/10 to £6billion in 2010/11 - page 190, footnote 3.

This is an increase of £1.2 billion and means that Britain's contributions have doubled in just three years.

Truly astonishing, at a time when the UK's finances are in a mess we contribute even more - predominantly as a result of the 'deal' Tony Blair struck in 2005 to attempt to reform the CAP.

Incidentally I'm still waiting for CAP reform, so it's demonstrated yet again that far more was given away than won by the UK Government, now where have I heard that before?

PreBudget Report

I didn't really pay much attention to the charade that was the PBR yesterday for three reasons;

  1. The budget will be an overwhelmingly political one which will utterly fail to respond to the urgent economic crisis that Britain faces.

  2. As always with Brown Darling budgets, the emphasis will be on the next day media headlines, with lots of the important policies hidden away, via a sleight of the hand.

  3. The Treasury economic forecasts will be a nonsense.
Brown's 'clever' budgets often take some time to unravel, although the unraveling time seems to be obeying the law of diminishing returns - this one has already started.

Going by this morning's overwhelmingly hostile headlines, it would appear that the PBR's other aim has failed as well - I particularly like the Sun's headline this morning:

The most notable point for me about the PBR now is the timing of the General Election.

I've tended to be in the 'May 6th' camp; it's the last possible best date for Labour. Labour has to call an election before June 3rd (although Brown could technically extend this) but they would not want the likely disastrous local elections on May 6th to over shadow any GE campaign.

May 6th would also allow Brown to have another one of his set-pieces - the Budget - but after today's poor reactions to the PBR I'm beginning to change my mind.

Can Brown risk another round of negative reactions so near to an election? Coupled with the fact that Labour MP's appear to have largely given up - the Labour benches emptied straight after Darling's speech - and that the expenses saga is still rumbling on, I'm now inclined to agree with Iain Martin, the election is looking more likely to be March 25th.

Update: ToryBear has an interesting post that indicates that March 25th could be a likely option.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Ireland's abortion law to be challenged

Today, the European Court of Human Rights based in Strasbourg, will hear a case concerning two Irish women, and one resident Lithuanian national woman, who claim that Ireland's abortion laws violates the European Convention on Human Rights.

Ireland's concerns regarding abortion was one of the key reasons that they voted 'no' in the first Lisbon Treaty referendum. It was precisely these key issues that led Brian Cowen, Taoiseach of Ireland, to seek 'clarification' in order to secure a 'yes' in the second vote.

The clarification only relates to the EU though, the ECHR belongs to an entirely different European organisation; the Council of Europe, so despite being neutral, Ireland is beginning to understand what it's like to fight a war on two fronts.

What's intriguing though, is that cases can only be brought to the Court after domestic remedies have been exhausted and the Irish government's defense is that this has not happened, as highlighted in the Irish times last week;
The Government, however, contends that domestic legal remedies have not been exhausted by the women.
So will the court take on the case, and if so what's the validity of the decision to bypass domestic courts and will this set a precedent?

Certainly an interesting one to keep an eye on.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Climategate petition

Here's the link to the petition; the CRU of course being in receipt of taxpayer's money.

I wonder if it will elicit the same response from Gordon Brown as the last one I signed?

The Prime Minister is completely focused on restoring the economy, getting people back to work and improving standards in public services. As the Prime Minister has consistently said, he is determined to build a stronger, fairer, better Britain for all.

Hattip: Daniel1979

Déjà vu

Further proof, if any were needed, in the FT's interview with George Osborne, that Hannan's First Law: 'no party is ever eurosceptic while in office', is still alive and kicking.

Osborne's interview refers to the news that Gordon Brown has been out-maneuvered a French commissioner is in charge of EU financial services, which poses a threat to the status of the City of London as a financial centre.

On a positive note, Osborne indicates that, at least, he's prepared for the horse-trading nature of EU politics, which so dogged and overwhelmed John Major during the Maastricht Treaty negotiations:
“We have to be realistic at how we play the European game,”
That the FT is one of the most pro-European UK newspapers would account for some of Osborne's softer tone, unfortunately the article is still liberally sprinkled with heard-it-all-before phrases:
“We’re prepared to trade some other things in order to secure Britain’s vital national interests on financial services.”
"a Eurosceptic Conservative government would not become isolated in Europe"
"the overall policy would have to be “deliverable”"
The Tories claim that; 'We won't let matters rest there', is again ultimately exposed as nothing more than an empty promise. The article continues:

He said he would base a Tory minister in Brussels “for the next year or two” to ensure a “much more aggressive Treasury presence” as EU legislation is drafted.

Aggressive presence eh? I bet that has the EU quaking in their boots, because that aggressive presence has hardly been a success up to now, as demonstrated when the UK's finance team recently walked out of the negotiations on financial supervision by the French.

Partly the French's posturing delight over the City, and the snub over CAP negotiations, is because they know a dying, incompetent UK Government when they see one.

Conversely the Conservatives should have a stronger hand to negotiate with, by (probably) having a successful mandate next year, as a so-called eurosceptic party.

Despite that however, experience teaches us, that what really happens with a so-called eurosceptic Tory party is:
  • Britain claims proposals are unacceptable.
  • Britain attends negotiations isolated, and so a row ensues.
  • Behind the scenes lots of horse-trading happens.
  • Neville Chamberlain George Osborne will emerge waving a white piece of paper exclaiming that they have secured the required opt-outs for the City, and that they've got the best deal for Britain.
  • It later emerges that far more was given away than won.
  • Said opt-outs will erode over time, especially now EU law is supreme and thus they will leak like a sieve.
  • Britain will, as a result, be integrated further into the EU supranational state.
It all sounds so depressingly familiar.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

The BBC and 'Climategate' update

It seems that I wasn't the only one to complain about the BBC's coverage of Climategate.

Here's this week's Newswatch, discussing this very issue with two disgruntled viewers as studio guests, which you can see here.

Hattip: Biased-BBC

Friday, 4 December 2009

The climate change panic

I'm the first to admit that climate change science is not my specialist subject, all I just want is a balanced and open debate, which in my previous post I have argued is not happening.

What's intriguing about the CRU email scandal is not only the complete silence from politicians but the response by the climate change advocates. They range from the emotional and aggressive 'because I picked the wrong horse to back'' response to the wriggling.

Prime contender in the wriggling department is Will Heaven in the Telegraph. Nearly a week ago he wrote this article provocatively titled:

Climategate won't make global warming go away, despite what Delingpole tells you

Heaven went onto to say and note the tone:
Imagine a Premier League of cranks and conspiracy theorists. Who do you reckon would top it? It’s a tough call. I think Holocaust deniers would lift the cup, with 9/11 truthers not far behind. But there’s a new lot on the rise, recently promoted from Division One: global warming sceptics.

In the comments he further adds (my emphasis in bold):
I just want to clarify something about my comparison of climate change deniers to 9/11 truthers, which I gather may have caused some offence: I meant it.

Today though the tone is different:

but it’s surely a bad move to strangle the debate.

So we shouldn’t condemn David Davis and Nigel Lawson for questioning policy – science informs, but it doesn’t decide.

Someone's wriggling!

Paul McCartney's visit to the EU Parliament

I've just spotted this on the UKIP site, reference Paul McCartney's visit to the EU Parliament, which I blogged about here.

A couple of phrases amused me:

"I'm not an expert round here" Sir Paul (No? Really?)

"These points aren't my facts" Sir Paul (No they're not, and what about these facts as well?)

"We're a democracy" Jo Leinen MEP (He actually said that with a straight face)

The BBC and 'Climategate'

There are many reasons why I like the BBC; its extensive news and sports coverage, especially on its website, is superb. But - and there is a but - if you hold certain views it becomes increasingly obvious that its sense of news balance is not quite right.

In particular the BBC's coverage of issues like climate change - previously known as global warming - and the EU are very much one sided, although I would imagine the fact that the BBC receives funds from the EU has absolutely nothing to do with the latter whatsoever (As always, follow the money).

The Climate Research Unit also receives EU funding and is at the centre of controversy regarding the leaking of over 4000 documents and emails, which show very clearly that some of the world's leading climate change scientists, manipulated, altered and made up data in order to try to 'prove' that the climate was changing.

I've been so incensed by the BBC's (lack of) coverage of the damning and very significant nature of these CRU emails, yet covering the Copenhagen summit in a glorious uncritical way that for the first time ever I wrote a complaint. My main point centered around prominence:
This information of course utterly undermines the 'consensual' science on which the climate change theory is based. Now that the credibility of climate change has been brought into question why has the BBC failed to give this information more prominence?

Surprisingly I received a reasonably prompt response back within three days, so here's the reply in full (my emphasis in bold):

I understand you're unhappy at the amount of coverage that has been given to the Climate Research Unit's hacked e-mails as you feel it has been insufficient.

The story regarding the item on the Climate Change Unit's hacked e-mail was covered extensively on 'Newsnight' on 23 November and has also been reported on the BBC website; you can see the following article and blogs:

I appreciate you may still continue to feel that the BBC favours stories in favour of climate change and feel that this call into question our impartiality and so I've registered your comment on our audience log. This is a daily report of audience feedback that's circulated to many BBC staff, including members of the BBC Executive Board, channel controllers and other senior managers.

The audience logs are seen as important documents that can help shape decisions about future programming and content.

I've no idea what audience log means, the usual procedural tick-the-box nonsense I guess, but intriguingly the response didn't dispute my main point; that more prominence is given to stories that favour the AGW theory.

The first link in the reply utterly fails to mention the content of the emails, but instead concentrates on the hacking. Note also, the continued use of the word 'hacked' in the reply, something the BBC repeats here. There's no evidence hacking was involved, in fact it increasingly looks like a leak / whistle-blower

The BBC is clearly trying to bat this one away as a hacking story, strangely though this certainly didn't stop the BBC reporting in great lurid detail the MP's expenses.

I know it feels like a waste of time and not much will change, I may have been the only one to complain, maybe there were 100's. I try to take comfort in the fact it might have been many more.

One thing I learnt when I, and many others tried, and succeeded, to remove the crooks who ran the football club I supported, it doesn't really matter what form the complaint or protest takes, the trick is always the numbers.

Interestingly on the day I received my reply, the CRU emails were explicitly mentioned for the first time on BBC News at Ten, on Wednesday evening. Not bad for a major story that's almost 2 weeks old.

Update: I've just seen that Al Gore has canceled his talk at Copenhagen. Now why would that be?

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Could UKIP win their first seat?

Benedict Brogan has highlighted an interesting article in the Evening Standard which features an interview with the Speaker's wife.

John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, holds the safe Tory seat of Buckingham, and by tradition the mainstream parties don’t stand against the Speaker.

Usually minority parties don't pose a significant problem to the Speaker's seat, however at the next election it is my view that Bercow is rather vulnerable to Nigel Farage's UKIP challenge.

There have been persistent rumours that Bercow was poised to cross the floor to the Labour Party, his election as the Speaker was largely due to Labour MP's votes and so subsequently he lacks the trust of the Tories.

Added to that, Bercow's wife has announced that she will stand for Labour in the local elections, she then compounds the problem by criticising Cameron in the Evening Standard article:
He’s just a merchant of spin. I think he’s really an archetypal Tory. He favours the interests of the few over the mainstream majority

I would imagine that the fine folk of Buckinghamshire are not going to be happy.

More and more Nigel Farage's decision to stand against the Speaker is looking like a shrewd move.

One line in the article intrigued me though:
But now it's time for her "skeletons", as she puts it. Deep breath.

I can't help wondering whether this is a damage limitation exercise and that she was tipped off about an 'exposure' before Sunday's newspapers.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Prime Minister's Questions

Although I'm an avid watcher of PMQs, it is not my intention to regularly blog about it or give a 'scores on the doors'. Other blogs are much better at it than me.

PMQs is generally a bit of knock-about fun which, depending on how it's reported, is only useful to gauge the political weather: today Brown looked confident, Cameron less so, - partly I would guess, because the Tories have recently declined in the polls since 'cast-iron' Dave's about-turn on the Lisbon Treaty.

My reason for blogging about PMQs today though, is that there is one small detail that irks me no end (and that's an understatement), which was demonstrated again.

Week after week (sadly with few exceptions) Brown leads with tributes to British fallen soldiers. This rightly was heard in respectful silence. Then usually follows a planted Labour question after which is Cameron's turn. He begins with a tribute also and this was again heard in silence.


When Nick Clegg (Lib Dem Leader) rises, jeering starts. Clegg is clearly held in contempt by other MPs and often looks hopelessly out of his depth, and so this is understandable knock-about fun.

But it is obvious that Clegg will begin with his own tribute, as the leader of the third main party, so it should be heard in silence from the start. It was not. The jeering did subside eventually, amid audible sustained sounds of 'shh' by other MPs, but rarely are Clegg's tributes heard in complete silence.

It is a small detail but one that for me speaks volumes about the MP's real priorities.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Quelle surprise

The Lib Dems have just announced that they have abandoned their 'in or out' referendum pledge on Britain's relationship with the EU.

No surprise, because of course this was always a ruse to try to hide the fact they reneged on their 2005 manifesto commitment to a referendum on the EU Constitution.

Any party that invokes a three line whip on abstaining can't be taken seriously.

How's this for arrogance though:

ex-leader Sir Menzies Campbell said there was no "public appetite" for a vote now that the treaty was ratified.

This gulf between the political classes and the voting public cannot last forever.

hattip: Iain Dale

1st December 2009

From today the Lisbon treaty comes into force and the UK government is now officially no longer in charge of its own country.

Our Government is now bound by law to work for the best interests of the EU, not UK citizens.

So to mark this 'special' day I have compiled a video