Friday, 26 February 2010

The Second Reading...

...of Douglas Carswell's private member's bill is happening right now. It appears to be subjected to fillibusting by Tory whip Brooks Newmark, who spoke for an hour before on Sustainable Communities as not to give enough time to the referendum bill.

Douglas' twitters:
My EU Membership (Referendum) Bill. Seems it's been deliberately "talked out"?
Same old Tories, Europhiles to the end.

Update: Kerry McCarthy twitters:
Think Carswell just had go at Newmark outside. Newmark retorted "I cut it in half!" Carswell not happy, won't get to his Bill.

That Tory Lead

Another poll and more bad news for the Tories, their lead is now down to 5 points. This is worrying for Cameron, a point he acknowledges by unusually consulting his shadow cabinet:
The shadow Cabinet — which has been bypassed for most of Cameron’s tenure — is now being consulted. It met for more than two hours on Tuesday — after the Cameroon powwow in Notting Hill — and had, unusually, a proper discussion of the political situation. One member tells me that almost everyone spoke at the meeting. That this is considered news says a lot about how the shadow Cabinet is normally conducted.
James Forysth's article tries to analyze the question of 'why has the Tory lead halved since December?' (my emphasis):
All of the most trusted members of Cameron’s inner circle were there — George Osborne, Steve Hilton, Andy Coulson, Michael Gove — but the atmosphere was not one of jubilation, or even excited determination. The predominant mood was despair. Osborne put their worries into words: What’s going wrong? he asked. Why are we slipping in the polls, even when Brown is so unpopular?
Forysth makes some good points that the Tories have had a bad start to the year, they made some unforced errors, have lost momentum and don't seem to have a focused message:

Rather, it is to do with the campaign. The Labour message is clear and repeated while the Tory one is opaque. One shadow Cabinet member told me this week that he wished the Tories had a slogan as effective as Labour’s ‘a future fair for all’. Candidates report that voters can remember Labour policies but not Tory ones.

Even the party’s own press people complain — in private — about a lack of clarity. ‘Everyone struggles to articulate what we are really for,’ one told me. ‘We don’t really have a message or a purpose.’ When the salesmen believe they don’t really have a product, then they are much less likely to persuade the media or voters.

All true but there's one subject that doesn't get mentioned.

Here's the Tory lead over Labour since 1st January 2009 up to the latest poll, the vertical line indicates the 1st poll taken after 3rd November 2009.

Here's the Tory lead from 1st January to 3rd November 2009 with an added trend line. all pretty stable, the average lead over Labour is 14 points.

So lets do a comparison between 5 months before 3rd November and 5 months after. Below is 5 months before, slight downward trend nothing significant and the average lead is 14 points.

Then 5 months after the 3rd, the trend line shows a marked and significant downward turn, the average lead has dropped to 10 points, and is still falling.

The 3rd November was of course the day when Cameron u-turned on a Lisbon referendum, which caused unhappiness at the time within his own party. It's notable also that 12 days after the 3rd the Tories' lead went down to 6 points for the first time in a nearly year (when the banking crisis hit), at the time it was dismissed as an outliner, but now looks to have been a sign of the trend to come.

Cameron has clearly taken a significant hit over Lisbon, though I still think he will scrape through; when voters' start thinking at the ballot box if they want 5 more years of Brown. But ironically by trying to avoid the EU issue Cameron has made a rebellion in his own party more, rather than less likely, because his majority will be smaller than it otherwise could have been.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Quote Of The Day

"Any closer and they'll start kissing".

David Cameron's jibe at Brown and Darling in PMQs today, after Darling's extraordinary interview yesterday.

Amusingly, just after Cameron said this the camera cut straight to Brown looking 'longingly' at Darling with lips puckered. You can watch it here 9.20mins in.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010


With all the stories of Gordon Brown's alleged bullying swirling around in the last few days I thought a revisit to PMQs from May 2009 might be in order:

Monday, 22 February 2010

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

As others have noted today, the Telegraph reports:
Ken Clarke, the shadow Business Secretary, is to hold secret talks in Brussels with Jose Manuel Barroso to assure the European Commission President the EU has nothing to fear from a Conservative government.
The two-day visit to Brussels, which begins on Tuesday, by the most pro-EU member of David Cameron's cabinet-in-waiting is seen by European officials as a signal that a new Conservative administration will work with the EU executive rather battling against it.
It's all so dreary and predictable that I've not much to add, apart from this from the Spectator (my emphasis):
The new Guardian ICM poll has the Tory lead down to seven points and the party on 37 percent....this poll will heighten the sense of nervousness on the Tory side. Even before this poll came out, David Cameron had called a shadow Cabinet meeting for tomorrow which will be held at CCHQ and is scheduled to last for two hours.
Despite facing the most incompetent and hated Government in recent times, the Tories' poll lead has been on a steady but consistent downward trend since last November.

Is it any wonder?

Friday, 19 February 2010

James Purnell Quits

From the Times:
James Purnell, one of the few remaining Blairites with a chance of becoming Labour leader, shocked his party this morning by announcing that he was quitting Parliament at the election.

Insiders said that Mr Purnell had nothing lined up for his life after Parliament.

His departure is another blow to the Labour leadership, because it sends out the message that one of the party’s youngest heavyweight stars sees no immediate future in politics for himself, and probably for his party.
Update: This is unexpected news, and as the Times points out, it sends a message Purnell believes Labour are doomed at this election. For all the talk of Labour closing the gap and a possible hung Parliament, it's interesting that the behaviour of Labour MPs seems to suggest otherwise. What do they know that the polls aren't showing?

The timing is interesting, today is Brown's big speech and tomorrow he launches Labour's election campaign.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Brown Unveils Another Election Strategy

This weekend (my emphasis):

Prime Minister Gordon Brown will unveil the slogan of Labour's general election campaign in a speech at the weekend.

And the BBC has learned he will outline the four main themes he hopes will help Labour to a fourth term in government.

Marvelous, the state broadcaster has learned. No investigative journalistic criticism here, just plain copy writing from Number 10. By a strange coincidence this Sunday there will be this:
and an exclusive serialisation of columnist Andrew Rawnsley's book on the final years of the Labour government.
Is Gordon Brown trying to divert attention away from damaging allegations this weekend? Surely not?! Which indicates that the potential allegations must be 'untrue'.

Victory For Free Speech

I'm not sure why it's taken four months to make the decision, but the PCC has finally rejected a complaint against Jan Moir's now notorious article regarding the sad death of Stephen Gately.

The article itself was published the day before Stephen's mum had to bury her own son, and was liberally sprinkled with homophobic innuendo; describing events leading up to his death as "sleazy" and "less than respectable" and "whatever the cause of death is, it is not, by any yardstick, a natural one".

Given the timing of the article it seemed that Moir's aim was along the lines of; 'here's a grieving mum, let's really lay the boot in for fun'. Not pleasant reading and the article received more than 25,000 complaints to the Press Complaints Commission. Despite the poisonous nature of the column, however, I do agree with the PCC's ruling:
As a general point, the Commission considered that it should be slow to prevent columnists from expressing their views, however controversial they may be. The price of freedom of expression is that commentators and columnists say things with which other people may not agree, may find offensive or may consider to be inappropriate. Robust opinion sparks vigorous debate; it can anger and upset. This is not of itself a bad thing. Argument and debate are working parts of an active society and should not be constrained unnecessarily (within the boundaries of the Code and the law)".
Iain Dale thinks the PCC has 'wimped out' I disagree, the PCC have ruled in favour of free speech, and rightly so. If Moir wants to reveal to the world that she's a deeply unpleasant woman then she should be allowed to do so. We don't have to read it or buy the paper.

Aside from the nastiness of Moir, there was another aspect of this whole unsavory incident that seems to be overlooked - the disturbing bullying nature of Stephen Fry's smug and sanctimonious twitter followers. Would the Press Complaints Commission really have received a record number of complaints, if not for this tweet by Stephen Fry:
I gather a repulsive nobody writing in a paper no one of any decency would be seen dead with has written something loathesome and inhumane.
Some of the subsequent tweets by Stephen's followers, attacking Moir, were clearly competing with her for the 'most offensive comment that could be made' award. So much so, you can almost hear the screeching of tyres as Fry seems to make an embarrassed hasty retreat:
I feel sorry for her because I know just what it is like to make a monumental ass of oneself and how hard it is to find the road back. I know all too well what it is like to be inebriated, as Disraeli put it, by the exuberance of my own verbosity.
And it's not been the only time such an incident has occurred, as one twitter user found out when he had the temerity to say that Fry was boring, which led to him being viciously attacked by hundreds of followers, including Alan Davies.

Free speech is only a crime on one side of the political fence it seems. Moir clearly intended to offend, but she has every right to do so. There was no need for the involvement of the PCC - the best punishment has already been imposed; she is now tarnished, forever known as the woman that wrote that article.

Ultimately, the only reputation Moir destroyed was not Gately's but her own.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Petition To Stop Gordon Brown Insulting The Voters

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to stop describing members of the public who question the veracity of Anthropogenic Global Warming as climate change deniers.
As a relative novice at political campaigning, I would have thought the golden first rule, rather like business, is never insult the customer / voter. Not so Gordon Brown apparently:
"With only days to go before Copenhagen we mustn't be distracted by the behind-the-times, anti-science, flat-earth climate sceptics,"
"Those people who have become global warming deniers and those people who have become climate change deniers are against the grain of all the evidence that has been assembled..."
hattip: EUReferendum

The New Tory Poster

Much amusement to be had, so I thought I would contribute one of my own.

Monday, 15 February 2010

The End Of Common Law III

As I blogged here and here there's an Early Day Motion tabled by Bob Spink, so far only signed by 9 MPs, regarding the appointment of a European Public Prosecutor.

I wrote to my MP asking him to sign it and said at the time that I don't hold out much hope that he will. Sure enough I had a reply today confirming that he won't. I won't publish verbatim his reply - just to say it was detailed in parts and waffle in others, but here's the final paragraph:
I'm sorry to say that I cannot sign this EDM, though I can assure you my colleagues and I will continue to press the Government on this issue.
Hmm, is it any wonder that confidence in the Tories' standing up to the EU is not great.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Losing sovereignty

From the Athens daily, Kathimerini, on the current Euro crisis in Greece:
The economic crisis and the threat of voracious capitalism are forcing EU governments to reconsider fundamental pacts, such as the economic and monetary union agreement. They are forcing them, at long last, to look at the crisis in political terms. Greece, being at the forefront of developments, shows the route that could also be taken by the EU in the future and, at the same time, finds itself in a worse position, for it is surrendering national sovereignty in order to gain some respite.

“We lost some of our sovereignty.” Prime Minister George Papandreou was clear about what happened at the EU summit on the Greek economy. Greece received no money. It was placed under triple supervision (by the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund), it was forced to introduce additional fiscal measures in the future. In return, Greece received pledges of political support which, according to German analysts, is essentially an attempt to prop up the euro and protect the eurozone against speculative attacks.

Over the next three years, i.e. during the implementation of the stability program, Greece will be under the EU microscope. The government will be responsible for reducing the deficit but it will have little room for maneuver: the EU will have the final say over policy, particularly over risky measures to spur growth or curb inflation in light of the coming recession.

It’s hard to say whether the country will fully regain its sovereignty at the end of the three-year supervision.


While UK papers are (rightly) concerned about a possible contribution by the UK to bail-out Greece, it's worth noting that yet again the EU is using a crisis as an excuse to extend its powers, this time under Article 121 of the Lisbon Treaty.

No wonder the Greeks are burning the EU flag in the streets of Athens.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Friday Afternoon Caption Competition

Please feel free to add a caption to this picture of Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy in full agreement on how wonderful Greece is.

The BBC And The Euro

The last 3 days on the BBC Breakfast News programme - during the short economic slot just before 8 - has been dominated, naturally, by the Euro crisis.

A different economist has been wheeled in, each expressing a different take on it. During the interview, every one has been asked the same question regarding Britain's decision not to join the Euro. Not unreasonable in itself, and the answer has been an emphatic no every time, but is it necessary to ask it 3 times in as many days?

I can't help wondering if no is the 'wrong' answer and that the BBC keep asking until they get the answer they want.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Another Quote Of The Day

From Nigel Farage

When people have taken away from them the ability to determine their own futures through the ballot box, then I am afraid that violence becomes the only logical alternative".

A Deal To Save Greece

It looks as though for the time being that a deal has been agreed where Germany and France will help out Greece to save the Euro. There's no details yet, and whether this is just a statement to ease market fears is uncertain.

It's also not clear whether this will involve the UK. Bailing out Greece would be political suicide for Labour for a currency we're not even part of, though if the EU invokes Article 122 of the Lisbon Treaty we would be legally obliged.

Certainly Brown failed to rule out UK help yesterday at PMQs when he was asked twice about bailing out Greece, once by Douglas Carswell. Alistar Darling is quoted today in response to whether UK taxpayers will have to help foot the bill:
At the moment there is no proposal to do that. What we have said is that primarily the first port of call is the euro area and the euro area are very, very engaged in that."
So that's a yes then.

Update: Comment on the PoliticalBetting website:
On the Greek bailout: Do we get to keep the Elgin Marbles as part of the deal?

Quote Of The Day

Imagine if a Tory said this:
"It could be the best option for them to allow that their home is repossessed"
Housing Minister John Healey on Five Live today.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Another Cast-Iron Promise.

Cameron interviewed by the Daily Express (my emphasis):
I was in the Treasury when we were in the Exchange Rate mechanism, and I said to myself: “Never again should we give up control of our domestic interest rates.” If I am Prime Minister and for as long as I would be Prime Minister, I would never take Britain into the euro, full stop, end of story. We should never have got ourselves into the financial mess that we are in but at least we have the flexibility of our own currency and our own interest rates.
All heart-warming stuff, but will he keep that promise? Maybe Cameron has made this pledge in the full knowledge that by the time he becomes Prime Minister, there won't be a Euro left to go into.

Update: I've just spotted, via Iain Dale that Nick Clegg wrote this over a year ago, arguing that we should join the Euro. Hmm I wonder what his view is now? He's been very quiet.


Somewhat unexpectedly, I have been asked to stand as a candidate for UKIP at the next general election (whenever that may be).

I am very honoured and greatly looking forward to it. Although I'm not quite sure what to expect, it will undoubtedly involve hard work and will take up much of my time. The opportunities therefore for blogging will be limited and posting will now likely be erratic. I will try, though, to maintain regular updates during the campaign, and maybe even open one of them twitter thingies.

Meanwhile I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has taken the time to read, and comment on my blog, it's much appreciated. Let's keep on fighting the insidious European Union.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Never Hate Your Enemies... affects your judgment.

Today is another example in a rather long list of Brown's obsession of hating the Tories at every opportunity, by using dividing lines which then have a tendency to backfire.

Today MP's will vote on an alternative vote referendum, Brown's big idea to restore trust in Parliament. It's not hard to see this as another one of Brown's dividing lines; designed purely to portray the Tories as opponents of reform and supporters of the ‘gentleman’s club’ status quo.

If Brown does win the vote today then the Labour script will write itself (delete as applicable); Tories, opponents, for the privileged few, only Labour can be trusted to reform etc.

However, that this could be another fine mess for Brown is obvious. The policy is unpopular with a large number of Labour MPs, and as is evident there are already headlines of rebellion, hardly clever so near to an election.

Any mention of a referendum is a reminder of the one that Labour didn't want, not a sound basis when talking about restoring trust. If Brown does win the vote, there won't be enough time for it to become law, so the voters will asking where their referendum is come election time (if they care).

More importantly it just won't wash with the wider public, and will be seen for what it is, deeply cynical. The charge of; 'you only want to change the system because you are going to lose' will resonant. Public cynicism of everything Brown does was very evident over the weekend.

The only change voters' want is of the government not the system.

Rear Of The Year?

I hardly know what to say:
Harriet Harman, who is known for her staunch feminist views, has been nominated for the annual Rear of the Year award. Twelve nominations have already been received for the Leader of the House by the annual competition's website.
On the one hand, I don't even want to contemplate it, the mental image is too much, on the other hand, it would be hilarious if she won. That would really wind her up.

Anyway, if you must, you can vote for her here.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Power To The People?

Waugh notes today that:
"David Cameron today just unveiled plans to ensure that any petition of 100,000 people would be eligible for debate in Parliament. Any petition with 1 million signatures would result in a bill being tabled in Parliament."
Now I wonder which anti-democratic organisation he got that idea from? As Waugh rightly points out:

Heck, this could even be a UKIP wet dream. Imagine a simple "In or Out of Europe" referendum bill. Despite Mr Cameron's enthusiasm for more 'power to the people' today, the party business managers may suddenly find that there is not a lot of Parliamentary time for such a troublesome item.

Of course, rather like the EU Citizen's Initiative, the actual process will be made as difficult as possible. There will be no bill on a referendum on the UK's membership because Cameron has already said he won't hold one as he knows that he will lose:
I don’t want an ‘in or out’ referendum because I don’t think out is in Britain’s interests.”
Still, it creates more 'power to the people' type headlines and more evidence that we're changing one 'useless New Labour headline obsessed government' for another.

Update: ConservativeHome has its take here. I agree with ConHome that the devil's in the detail and if Cameron goes ahead it will be a brave decision. Personally I think the suggestion will never see the light of day again but in these internet times it's far more difficult not to be held to account.

Quote Of The Day

Lord Pearson:
"It is safe to say yet again that our membership of the European Union has removed our democracy; it has taken away the right of the British people to elect and dismiss those who make their laws. Our system of representative parliamentary democracy, for which millions have died over hundreds of years, has been frittered away. It no longer serves the people. That is why the time has come to give power back to the people. They deserve it anyway; it is their power and it belongs to them. Before long their anger will overflow if they do not get it back."
hattip: witteringsfromwitney

The Prisoner Voting Rights Saga Rumbles On

The BBC reports that the Barred From Voting pressure group is panicking trying to put pressure on the government to lift the ban on prisoners' votes before the election.
The general election will break the law unless the ban on prisoners voting is lifted, a pressure group has warned.
Unlikely. The validity of 2007 Scottish Parliament election was never challenged despite this similar complaint which was upheld. Naturally John Hirst, he who took the UK to the ECHR over this issue, has picked this up (his emphasis):
The interim resolution is the penultimate stage for resolving the UK's problem. The next stage is that in March, my legal team will make submissions alleging systemic violation by the UK and seek that Hirst v UK(No2) is returned to the ECtHR for a ruling and invoke the final resolution. The Court then lays down in specific terms what the UK must do to comply with the judgment and within what time limit. A failure to comply will result in the UK being suspended from the Council of Europe. Although this is separate from the EU, because it is also a requirement that EU Member States abide by the Convention and ECtHR decisions, the UK will also be suspended or kicked out of the EU.
I think he's getting a little ahead of himself here. It's true that the Committee of Ministers could theoretically suspend the UK's membership and ask it to withdraw under Article 8 of the Statute of the Council of Europe, if it 'has seriously violated' human rights. But is denying convicted criminals the right to vote really a serious violation? Would other countries such as Russia who also don't have prisoner voting rights, vote to suspend the UK? I can think of far worse serious violations by countries who are members of the Council of Europe which has not resulted in their suspension. Italy has not been suspended for failing to implement the Lautsi v Italy judgment. Suspension of the UK from the Council of Europe is very very unlikely, more likely is that political pressure will be placed on the UK to embarrass them into action.

If by some miracle suspension should happen, Hirst then argues the UK will be kicked out of the EU (oh how I wish). No, it's never gonna happen. Ever. For a country the size and importance of the UK to leave would have enormous ramifications, for both us and the EU, and would shake the EU to its very foundations. Given that the Eurozone is currently on a plummet trajectory, the EU is absolutely desperate to try to keep their pet project above water; the last thing they will do is risk complete breakdown by kicking out one of the biggest net contributors, during an economic crisis. The UK being forced to exit is a complete non-starter.

Hirst continues:
I have gambled £20 with William Hill at 20/1 that all or the majority of prisoners will get the vote by the next general election.
I would've saved my money, it won't happen this side of the election for a number of reasons. Labour are, understandably, dragging their feet, they don't want the political implications of this just before an election. Any judgment will not be implemented in a hurry. Then there's the Brown factor. In order to give the likely incoming Tory administration the worst possible handover, Brown has been passing legislation that carefully places time bombs designed to go off at regular intervals throughout the next Parliament; the budget deficit bill, the equality bill, and possibly the AV referendum outcome. What could be better than a potential bust up with Europe, Brown will be desperate for this to blow up for the Tories after the election.

And most important of all it's a question of time. Leaving aside that there's a real possibility there could be an election in just under 7 weeks, a 6th May election requires dissolution on 12th April. The 1078th Committee of Ministers meeting which will consider Hirst's case runs from 2nd March to 4th March. This in effect leaves 5 weeks for the Committee to make a decision, return it to the ECHR, who then have to consider it, then pass judgment and then for Parliament to act on that judgment, all before dissolution. There simply isn't enough time, logistically, or legally for it to happen before the election.

A far better bet is that the Tories (if they win) will cave in to the Council of Europe within 50 days of the general election having taken place; the day after the Tories emergency budget when the headlines will be utterly dominated by the painful economic measures outlined- the perfect day to slip out some other unpopular news.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Euro Notes

Spain's Euro note serial numbers have a prefix of 'V'.

Greece's Euro note serial numbers have a prefix of 'Y'.

Germany's Euro note serial numbers have a prefix of 'X'.

France's Euro note serial numbers have a prefix of 'U'.


The information contained on this blog post is for information purposes only. The Boiling Frog does not hold himself as providing any legal, financial or other advice and does not offer any advice regarding the nature, potential value or suitability of any particular flawed currencies or investments.

Remember Eurozone economies can go down as well as plummet.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Lisbon Strikes! (sort of)

The BBC is reporting that the Government has attempted to prevent MPs, (from both parties) to scrutinise the decision to 'opt in' to the controversial EU-US anti-terrorism data-sharing deal, for the eight week period allowed under the Lisbon Treaty. (Allowed? how nice of them!)

It looks likely that MEPs will throw out the proposed deal; it's not popular in other EU countries. But not only is Britain's special relationship with the US at risk because of our obsession of being part of the 'normally anti-American' French EU, there's a clear desire from this Government to ride roughshod over Parliament.

Michael Connarty, the Labour chairman of the Commons European scrutiny committee, is right when he said:
"It's quite clear that someone is treating this Parliament with disdain and contempt, we are worried that the EU will push these things aside and the government will just fall over and let them do what they wish."
Where are the UK voter's wishes in all of this? What's evident yet again is that part of Britain's problem is not just that it's subservient to the EU but the willingness of MPs and British bureaucrats to bend over and accept whatever the EU throws at us, as some kind of compensation for the rest of the country being Eurosecptic and not being part of the Euro like the good EU citizens that we should be.

Will the Tories be any different? History suggests not.

Thursday, 4 February 2010


It appears that Douglas Carwell had the same 'shout at the tv' moment as me last night:
Last night's 10 O'clock News saw another classic illustration of BBC bias.

Reporting on the looming energy crisis Britain faces, the BBC kept referring to the "failure of the markets" to provide energy. The idea that we are not producing enough energy because of "the markets" is absurd.

The energy sector is one of the most heavily regulated parts of our economy. Energy producers need the permission of officials at almost every turn. Suppliers are unable to supply enough energy precisely because of the rules that force them to shut down power plant, purchase renewables, and jump through all manner of regulatory hurdles.

At no point did the BBC mention that one of the reasons energy bills are rising is because householders are being forced to pay hidden levies - which are then put on to the balance sheets of big corporations.

It is not the free market that is failing to supply us with energy, but a corporatist con trick.

The BBC invited a comment from the regulator OFGEM - who called for more regulation. The BBC invited comment from a government minister - who called for more government. At no point did the BBC consider the view that perhaps it is the regulator and the government that have got us into the sorry mess - and they are the last people we should be depending on to get us out of it.

Although Douglas doesn't mention the EU, it's what he means. He concludes:
No doubt the producer of last night's BBC News is unaware that they were even being biased. That is what is so disturbing.

The Legg Report

There's much excitement and outrage about the Legg Report today, and mostly rightly so. However I get the feeling that some MPs are being unfairly targeted to the detriment of actually cleaning up the system. For example compared to some, my MP - Ed Vaizey - has been rather boring (or to put it another way slightly more honest than most):
Mr Vaizey was paid £790 for a dining table in March 2007, which exceeded the guideline price of £660 by £130.
He was overpaid by £197.42 for mortgage interest in 2008-09.
He was also overpaid by £136.00 for council tax in 2008-09.
Total repayment recommended: £463.42
Total repayments received since 1 April 2009: £2,449.45
Balance recommended to be repaid: £0.00
Although good that he has paid it back, the intention and the sums involved hardly compares to others who have been milking the system so effectively that they can establish a property portfolio at the taxpayer's expense.

Guido is of course loving this, however I think it slightly unfair to report in a blog titled 'porkbusters', that Ed Vaizey has:

appealed to Legg over £30.

The insinuation is clear and it makes me slightly uncomfortable because here are the facts from Ed Vaizey's blog:

As the Sunday Telegraph reports, I have appealed my Legg findings. It's much less of a big deal than it might seem. In May I repaid the cost of my furniture, plus my council tax, because I had inadvertantly claimed for an additional month. Legg found that I should have repaid my council tax, (£136) - I agree. He asked for a small sum towards the furniture (£130) - much less than I had voluntarily repaid. And he identified £197 as a sum I had overclaimed on my mortgage. When I went over the figures, I saw that I had overclaimed, but in my view by only £162. The only way to clarfiy the difference in these figures for the final report is to "appeal", but as I have already voluntarily paid back a far larger amount, I will not be asked to make any additional payments. So I am not appealing as such, merely asking for the figures to be checked so that a final sum can be agreed. To sum up, I have been asked to repay £463, but I have actualy voluntarily repaid £2449.

Minor indiscretions are being lumped in with 'everyone's at it' which has the net effect of ultimately negating the worse cases where some MPs should be in jail. The concentration, rather than a scatter gun approach, should be on those that knowingly exploited the system, like Buff-Hoon who 'only' has to pay £1,151.42 (£1298.03 less than Vaizey) despite being a serial property 'flipper'.

I appreciate my view will be unpopular; I'm no Vaizey fan though and I'll be unlikely to vote for him at the next election so I have no partisan loyalty to express, but I agree with Anne Widdecombe (an expenses saint):

Ms Widdecombe was among those who had contested a demand to repay some money. She says while she has agreed to pay back a small sum of £230, she has been cleared of any abuse of the system.

As part of his inquiry into MPs' claims, Sir Thomas applied retrospective limits under certain categories. Ms Widdecombe said she had been told there was no evidence of abuse because there had been no limit on gardening expenditure at the time she made the claim.

The MP said: "Honour has been satisfied and I have sent a cheque off. However, I do think the Legg inquiry has been lazy, incompetent and unreasonable. Why put retrospective limits on some allowances but not on others? He has never answered that argument."

She warned the Legg report - which has audited all expenses claims made by MPs between 2004 and 2008 - was unlikely to put an end to controversy over allowances and a better option would be to end the expenses and pay MPs more.

She added: "It [the Legg report] will draw a line under what has gone on up until now but what we have ended up with is the worst of all worlds. I can see problems developing in the first five minutes [of the new system]. They should have scrapped the allowances and raised salaries."

Bashing MPs is a popular pastime, but given the 'shrug of the shoulders' attitude of British taxpayers towards the ultimate gravy train - where MEPs can become millionaires within 6 months - my view is that a sense of proportion is non-existent and genuine outrage at politician's expenses only goes so far.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Obama Tells Europe To Get Stuffed

In a humiliating blow to the EU (post-Lisbon), Barack Obama has backed out of an EU-US summit, scheduled for May in Spain. even the incentive of the Champion's league final was not enough to tempt him. The New York Times reports:

With President Barack Obama’s decision to skip a United States-European Union summit meeting next May in Madrid, Europe’s egos were badly bruised. José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, the Spanish prime minister, and José Manuel Barroso, the E.U. Commission president, were angry and embarrassed. They saw Mr. Obama’s nonattendance as a snub.

It could signal an emerging shift in the trans-Atlantic relationship, analysts and diplomats believe.

As the United States moves ahead in redefining its role in the post-Cold War era — believing it is high time that Europe took care of its own security — Europe is caught in a quandary. It hankers after a past that relied on U.S. protection, but it wants to break free and become a global player in its own right.

I wonder if the EU is now regretting supporting Obama when he won the Presidential election? It's not as if it's the first snub.

The New Soundbite

Brown's apparent late transformation to changing the voting system is nothing of the sort. He has no intention of changing it, as he knows there won't be enough time to get it through parliament.

It's just another ruse to try to paint himself as the man of change and the Tories as the defenders of the 'gentleman's club' status quo. This became apparent today in PMQs when another soundbite emerged:
"We support the alternative vote , the Tories support the Hereditary vote."
A soundbite so 'good', Brown repeated it quite a few times. Brown thinks nothing of messing about with the constitution if it means another round of Tory-bashing.

Cameron looked rather relaxed about this confrontation and, I suspect, with good reason. This is likely to turn out to be another Brown ACME plan that will backfire. There's plenty of evidence Brown blocked such moves in the past, most Labour MPs are opposed and proposing to change the system so near to an election that you're likely to lose is going to be seen by the voters for what it is - cynical.

Brown's really in for a shock when (if) he has to meet real people in an election campaign.

Votes At 16

The Telegraph reports today on Brown's 'will-never-see-the-light-of-day' electoral reforms:
Unveiling proposals to restore trust in the political system following the expenses scandal, the Prime Minister said that he was in favour of votes for 16 and 17-year-olds following an extensive consultation and as part of wider reforms.
Hmm, votes at 16 eh? Now why does that sound familiar? Brown in November 2009:
"I personally favour giving young people the vote at 16. It is a matter on which we should consult widely with the public, and then we should make a decision."
Oh and in July 2009:

“I personally would like to see the voting age reduced to 16.”

and June 2009:
"I'm looking at the case for votes at 16... We're proposing votes at 16 as an issue that young people should look at themselves."
and July 2007:
"Although the voting age has been 18 since 1969, it is right, as part of that debate, to examine, and hear from young people themselves, whether lowering that age would increase participation."
and February 2006:
Gordon Brown today signals his support for lowering the age of voting to 16 as part of a radical programme to counter widespread alienation from modern politics.
'nuff said.

Another Reason Not To Vote Tory

At a time when the whole global warming edifice is not just crumbling but has been completely demolished with enough C-4 to put a hole in the world, the Conservatives decide to do this (my emphasis):

In a speech to be delivered Tuesday morning, the Conservative’s treasury chief, George Osborne, is set to announce a working group to draw up plans for a Green Investment Bank, with Nicholas Stern–a top climate change adviser to the current Labour government in recent years–taking on a role as adviser to the group, according to Osborne’s office. Bob Wigley, chairman of international telephone directories company Yell Group PLC, will be among those serving on the working group.

The aim is for the Green Investment Bank to provide a mix of government and private-sector cash to invest in promising new technologies, Osborne will say.

I mean, what? Why? Would it be this Lord Stern that the Tories want to hire:

[The Stern Review] contained dire predictions about the impact of climate change in different parts of the world.

But it can be revealed that when the report was printed by Cambridge University Press in January 2007, some of these predictions had been watered down because the scientific evidence on which they were based could not be verified.
This is madness at a time when the political climate (sorry!) is changing, more and more questions are being asked, even the Guardian and the BBC recognises that there's a problem. Not Cameron though, those who do not believe must be re-educated. He appears intent on leaving his core voters behind, but as Labour discovered, ignoring core voters or taking them for granted has a high cost.

Richard North is right when he says that the Tories seem to want to lose the election. The difference between New Labour in '97 and the Tories now, is marked. Faced with an unpopular government Labour's election machine was awesome and ruthless, they wanted power badly and it showed, so much so that they hadn't worked out what to do once they were in Government. Contrast that with the Tories now, who are in a similar position; where's the desire, the coherence? Backtracking on Europe, backtracking over cuts, confusion over marriage tax breaks, pushing through eco-polices against the wishes of his party and the country; Cameron needs to look up the word strategy in the dictionary.

This deeply unpopular and hated government is there for the taking, yet the Tories' poll lead is on a downward trend. Is it any surprise? It seems all we can expect from a Tory government are copious climate change policies and a reason to be thankful Cameron isn't Brown.


Tuesday, 2 February 2010

The Pope

Leaving aside my view that the Pope should quite frankly butt out of Britain's affairs, I largely agree with his sentiments today that people should be allowed to have religious freedom and beliefs:
"Your country is well-known for its firm commitment to equality of opportunity for all members of society.

Yet, as you have rightly pointed out, the effect of some of the legislation designed to achieve this goal has been to impose unjust limitations on the freedom of religious communities to act in accordance with their beliefs."

Only one small problem - Directive 2002/73/EC. The UK has already been warned that its current bill doesn't go far enough and unless it toughens it up, the EU Commission will refer us to the European Court of Justice.

It's not the UK the Pope should be criticising, but the EU.

Update: I just spotted this quote from a Mr Hughes:

...the pontiff should ensure existing EU legislation was applied in the Vatican, rather than attacking equality in the UK.
The Pope doesn't have to ensure the application of EU legislation because the Vatican is not a member of the EU.

Monday, 1 February 2010

In Or Out

Douglas Carswell's private member's bill is published today, second reading 26th Feb.


I'm not a smoker myself (I discovered beer first as my main vice) but my wife is, much to my annoyance. Even so, not only is my wife entitled to choose whether to smoke or not, but the smoking ban has been devastating to the local pubs near me that I used to frequent, but now have closed. This doesn't seem to stop Labour's relentless attack on smokers' liberty:
Measures being considered include removing branding from packets and banning cigarette vending machines, as will happen in Scotland next year.
As is typical with this Labour government these measures have been announced before. What is interesting, however, is that, despite Gordon Brown's pledge to help small businesses, especially acute during this recession, he proposes more regulation in regard cigarettes which means it will be much harder for smaller businesses such as corner shops and newsagents to compete with the likes of Tesco who can absorb the costs. Now I wonder which Labour party Tesco's donate to the most?

Anyway it gives me a chance to play a great clip from Yes Prime Minister (oh how nothing changes)

The End Of Common Law II

The Daily Telegraph today, picks up on the news, highlighted by UKIP's Stanley Booton last week, of the creation of a European Public Prosecutor which threatens the UK's system of common law:
More than 12 years have passed since this newspaper first reported on how the European Union was developing a common criminal and judicial system known as Corpus Juris. Ostensibly, this was designed in the first instance to deal with offences against the EU's financial interests; but it was envisaged that, once instituted, it could be extended to other walks of life, too, and become the template for a European-wide justice system.

This was especially problematic for the United Kingdom, which, together with Ireland, has a legal system that is fundamentally different from the rest of the EU and would therefore be required to adopt a wholly new approach.

Underpinning Corpus Juris would be a new office of European Public Prosecutor (EPP) with a director and deputies in each member state. The EPP would have investigative powers and be responsible for bringing cases before national courts. It would be able to "request" detention without trial for up to six months, renewable for three months at a time, with no maximum limit, and underpinned by the European arrest warrant.

As I blogged here, there's currently an Early Day Motion calling on the Government to resist the encroachment of the EPP.

The Telegraph suggests that this could be the moment for the Tories to put the EU in its place. I emailed my (Tory) MP last Thursday asking him to sign the EDM, as yet I've not even had an acknowledgment.

Cameron doesn't want a bust up with the EU; he hopes the issue will go away (which of course it won't) so in the meantime the Tories will do anything other than put the EU in its place. It's what they've always done.