Thursday, 29 November 2012


Following on from the Leveson Report, Newsflash from the UK has nicely spotted this from the European Commission political officer Marie-Madeleine Kanellopoulou, based in the EU's office in Westminster (ex Tory HQ) reported as saying,:
"We are following the Leveson inquiry to see the outcome. In the UK we have to deal with a very euro-sceptical British public and that's not helped by the hostile audience in the British press.
We want to engage with the media, with stakeholders and non governmental organisations.... but repeated mis-representation in the media was making communication of the true facts about EU policy difficult...
We are trying to rebut EU myths in the press but it is not easy because the Press Complaints Commission has a limited remit".
Apparently it's all the newspaper's fault we're Eurosceptic, if only they could make the media more compliant, we'll all be happy Europeans. Funny thing also about so-called Euro myths is the EU's rebuttal of them are ironically myths, we've been here before.

But then this has never been about establishing the truth.


I've received more than a few observations that changes by Google to the word verification process when attempting to comment is becoming increasing more difficult to read ...something I have experienced on other blogs.

I have attempted to play around with the blogger comment settings, but simply removing the word verification lands me with more spam than I can cope with. So in the absence of any practical solution via Blogger, to try to balance the ease of commenting while limiting spam, I'm searching for imbedded third party options.

I have used intensedebate before with mixed success. So if the comments field changes in the next couple of days, but doesn't quite work...bear with me (hello) I'll merely be trying a few things out, sorry for the inconvenience in the meantime.

Update: I've imbedded Disqus. It seems to have removed all other comments on this blog - unless I uninstall it. However it seems to behave much better on Blogger than 'intense debate'. If you want to post anonymous comments simply make the email address up if it requests it - that seems to work.

Any problems let me know, unless obviously the problem is that you can't comment...

A Bun Fight

Today some report by a Lord, a member of the establishment, will recommend legislation by other members of the establishment, to regulate the press - also members of the establishment - who will then moan that fellow members of the establishment shouldn't tell them what to say.

Despite that, members of the establishment known as the press who have for years self-regulated themselves on behalf of other members of the establishment, known as the government, preventing the consequences of many polices entering the public domain, or at least limiting the damage, in publicity terms, will complain that their right to 'bias by admission' should not be regulated by other members of the establishment.

Other members of the establishment, aka Cameron, will defend members of the establishment known as the press because it is in his interest to do so on behalf of the establishment known as the Government.

Further members of the establishment, will gloat in the demise of another membership of the establishment even though they employed a rampant peadophile, and were defended by other members of the establishment. Phone hacking, being a complaint brought about by members of the establishment, will complain that the establishment infringes on their privacy but also uses the said same establishment to further their careers.

But at least the comforting factor is that all members of the establishment agree with membership of another establishment.

Meanwhile the rest of us are fucked....

"You're Stealing Our Votes!"

Dan Hannan is not quite silly enough to actually say it (yet), but the tone of his blog pieces certainly alludes strongly to the above Tory sentiment. However one of the comments underneath has him bang to rights (borrowed from Richard North's forum):
I am a member of UKIP as are quite a few of my old friends from Labour Party days of yore. Funnily enough the only parties that I have ever voted for are Labour, CPGB and UKIP. So much for the notion that UKIP are a party of the right...

People like you are really little more than the dogs who have been given leave to yap a little louder than the rest. All the employers' organisations, as well as the Tory party as a whole, are in favour of the EU. The Tories under Heath took us in, under Thatcher and Major they then marched us down the federal road towards greater political unity. The only party that had withdrawal from the EU in its manifesto was Labour in 1983 and 1987. (Would you care to remind people how you voted in those elections, Dan?)

I joined UKIP because Labour has now been taken over not by the left or the right but by a section of the middle class. It no longer even pretends to represent the urban working class. That said, the Tories are just nasty, so if push came to shove, I would still prefer Labour to them.

Then along you come and tell me that UKIP, my new home, may keep the Nasty Party out of office at the next election... Be still my beating heart...
Quite! After all the couple at the centre of the Rotherham foster parent scandal are ex-Labour. Yet Tory arrogance continues unabated.

They Got There Eventually

The Telegraph eventually notices the elephant:

The European Commission has sent a nine-page legal opinion to the British Government warning that minimum prices are illegal – and that the Treasury should increase duty on alcoholic drinks if it wishes to raise the price.

The legal opinion states that setting a minimum price is illegal under laws governing the free movement of goods.Thirteen European countries, including major wine producers such as France and Italy, are understood to be preparing to take the British government to court to stop the imposition of a minimum price.
One wonders, as this was so obvious, why politicians kept banging on about it when they knew it was illegal? All it does is show up their own impotence:
However, ministers appear to have decided to defy the legal warning and yesterday unveiled proposals to introduce a 45p minimum price for each unit of alcohol. 
Why bother? They will lose...there's enough precedents by the ECJ to show this to be the case. Perhaps this will be one of mythical powers Cameron will claim that he will try to claw back.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

The Judas Goat Strikes Back

Dan Hannan, he who without any sense of shame performed a U-turn so large it was visible from space (changing his views from an EU exit to a renegotiation position within a matter of days, after looking at his payslip) has yet again tried to argue that Eurosceptics should side with the Tories. Despite the massive historical evidence to the contrary - apparently we should still trust the most europhile party going:

The tragedy is that it will come too late. By the time UKIP and the Conservatives accept Britain’s electoral logic, the damage will have been done.
It is now likelier than not that the Conservatives will offer an In/Out referendum. The danger is that my party will do so ambiguously, tardily or unconvincingly. Too unconvincingly, at any rate, for those in UKIP who are predisposed to disbelieve everything Tories say.
The two parties will end up fighting each other at the 2015 general election. UKIP won’t win a single seat, but will cause the Conservatives to lose dozens.
The arguments against the Tories, particularly Mr Hannan, has been made many times before, to the point of watching paint dry, but sadly it needs to keep being reiterated. Here's the Tory record:
  1. Entered the EEC on a lie (read the 1971 internal document FCO 30/1048)
  2. Campaigned in the 1975 referendum for a yes vote, including Thatcher
  3. Passed the Single European Act
  4. Shadowed the Deutschmark in preparation to enter the ERM.
  5. Entered the ERM which directly lead to the early '90s recession
  6. Passed the Maastricht Treaty
  7. Have become, in Roger Helmer's words the most pro-EU government ever, since elected in 2010.
Actions speak louder than words and no amount of rhetoric can cover the fact that the Tories cannot wait to constantly integrate further. Here's what I wrote in November 2011:
To use a football analogy; I have supported my team for over 25 years, in that time I've criticised players, managers and the board but every year I still renew my season ticket. That makes me a supporter not a sceptic. And the same is true of Tories, despite the criticism of some aspects of the EU, when that EU season ticket renewal comes up they gleefully renew. They are supporters not sceptics.
Dan Hannan is our enemy. Bollocks to him - the Judas goat - and to his attempted deception.

No Chance...

If you're going to do a hoax, at least make it plausible. Whatever one thinks of Blair he would know better than to 'campaign for an EU President'. No such position exists - it would be for the President of the European Council - currently held by Rompuy-Pumpy. (The EU has copious Presidents). Van Rompuy's Presidency actually ends in 2014.

That said looking at Blair's speech today, one should not be surprised that he is pitching for the vacant position in 2016. The position of President of the European Council is held for a once-renewable term of two and a half years, which means by 2016, if true that Blair wants to run he would be facing an EU approved incumbent. And that is not his only obstacle. He has others, which prevented him winning last time, namely:
  • Making the European Council a formal EU body in the Lisbon Treaty (meant only as a temporary institution in 1974 - what in the EU is temporary invariably becomes permanent) was a mistake in EU terms. It created a power conflict between itself and the EU Commission (the executive). Thus it's in the EU Commision's interest to ensure that any candidate for European Council does not pose a threat. In the appointment of Baroness Ashton they got it right, in Rompuy-Pumpy less so (still-waters run deep). Like it or not Blair has presence on the international stage, so no way will they allow him to upstage the EU Commission as a consequence. No chance.

  • Then there's the legacy of the Iraq war - deeply unpopular in Europe, cheese eating surrender monkeys anyone? The EU is largely a French project, so again no chance.

  • Also, and very importantly in this instance, Blair is British. We're the awkward partner, the outsider, the one who is not in the Euro the one who are not 'good Europeans'. Given also that a referendum and frantic talk of 'a new relationship' is on its way - around 2016 - that the EU would want a Brit in charge of the European Council aint gonna happen? No chance.
I don't normally give betting advice on this blog, but if Blair ever throws his hat in for 2016, lay against him winning with everything you've got on Betfair. It's easy money - like taking candy away from a kid.

Quote Of The Day

I've done this story to death, so I make no further comment for the time being, apart from highlight this quote from Dr Vivienne Nathanson, of the British Medical Association on Today:
"Alcohol is a dose-related poison, which means that the more you drink the more it affects you."
Really? Now where we be without those daily snippets of wisdom?

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Membership Is 'Our' Choice.

Visionary, administrator, public figure, private adviser, Jean Monnet played a leading role in the conception and creation of the European Community. His constructive ideas and tireless activity have been a constant source of inspiration to those engaged on building a new Europe. Our future freedom, peace and prosperity will owe much to his genius. Edward Heath November 1977.
The above quote helps to demonstrate that our membership of the EU, as I've touched on before, is because our own political class wish it. Ted Heath knew what the project was about and still took us in and eagerly 'picked up the soap' on behalf of our country to do so. No Prime Minister since has taken us out, and instead each, ever since, has engaged in a perpetual war of deception to keep us in.

We are members because this country's political class wishes it even against the sentiments of its own people. It chooses to. The EU never used trebuchets to knock down our castle walls, instead we lowered the drawbridge, invited them in and gave them the best rooms whilst telling them that they could stay as long as they like. Here's an example of my point from the European Union (Amendment) Bill and the Lisbon Treaty: Implications for the UK Constitution (page 27) in 2007-8 (my emphasis):
We conclude that the Lisbon Treaty would make no alteration to the current relationship between the principles of primacy of European Union law and parliamentary sovereignty. The introduction of a provision explicitly confirming Member States’ right to withdraw from the European Union underlines the point that the United Kingdom only remains bound by European Union law as long as Parliament chooses to remain in the Union.
The House of Lords Constitution Committee decided that Lisbon was not unconstitutional because ultimately Parliament could decide to reverse the process should it choose. That we remain members against the wishes of the British people means, in conclusion, the actual fault line lies between us the people and Parliament, not between us the people and Brussels. The need for the Harrogate Agenda hopes to address this fault line.

The EU does not force us to be members and nor will it force us to remain members if we want to leave. They don't force rule upon us, instead our establishment chose to be ruled by Brussels. A crucial difference.

In many ways the signs are that the EU has had enough of us being the awkward partner. The impending treaty designed to try to fix the Eurozone crisis, by virtue of making the next step towards European unity, will essentially exclude us from the inner core. We will be left on the sidelines whether we like it or not. The Independent (a Europhile paper) emphases this point the EU is fed up of us:
Germany and France don’t want a “Brexit”. But, talking to their officials in the margins of yesterday’s failed EU summit, I was struck how increasingly fed up they are with what they see as the UK’s self-centered, peripheral demands as they struggle with an existential crisis. The chances of Britain securing big wins like opting out of the social chapter of workers’ rights are described as “less than zero”. The days when Germany and France will go an extra mile to help Britain may be coming to an end. That is a dangerous moment. Mr Cameron insists he does not want the UK to leave the EU. 
So they'll be glad to see the back of us. And it's with this in mind that we come to EU exit. As Christopher Booker says (my emphasis):
The belief that we can repatriate powers we have given away to the EU is a sure sign that whoever voices it hasn’t really got a clue as to what the EU is about. The most sacred rule of the “European project”, ever since it was launched in 1950, is that once a nation state has handed powers of governance to the centre they can never be given back. The last thing our European colleagues would be prepared to do at present, when all their attention is focused on driving on to ever greater union in a bid to save the doomed euro, is to discuss Britain’s wish to defy that rule by allowing us to opt out of treaty commitments we legally entered into
And this leads me on to Article 50 - the exit clause of the Lisbon Treaty. If we are to leave the EU we have no choice but to invoke it. To leave the EU, invoking it is first and foremost our international legal obligation under the Vienna Convention, because the Lisbon Treaty is an international treaty. It also means that the EU is bound by the same international laws as we are when negotiating an exit.

Just repealing the ECA 1972 (which took us in), and hoping it simply takes us out is no longer possible. In the 40 years hence, much integration has taken place - in the form of many treaties passed subsequently, such as notoriously Maastricht. Clearly then repealing an act of Parliament 40 years ago, based on a so-called 'Common Market' is no longer relevant to us now, too much water (and EU law) has passed under the bridge.

It's precisely because the EU is all encompassing and makes most of our laws that we have to negotiate with the EU an orderly exit. Because if we get rid of one set of terms and conditions by leaving, then clearly we need another set of t's & c's in order to trade from outside, for example; trade, mobile phone roaming, telecommunciations, postage, cashpoint machines, bank transactions, landing slots for aircraft - all of which currently come under EU law. Come out without agreeing essentially a new contract and all of these will cease to happen between us and the EU from day one of our exit. A wonderful situation to be in the current economic crisis!

Yet some still see Article 50 as a trap - a way of keeping us in forever. But not possible, because of Section 3 of Article 50 (page 46) which states quite clearly (my emphasis):
3. The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period.
This in short makes clear that either we agree a settlement with the EU or, regardless of the changes in EU voting in November 2014, in absence of such an agreement we exit by default. The only price to pay is a wait of 2 years. In my view after 40 years, another two years as members with a definite exit date is a small price to pay, rather than the false promises of 'sometime in the future but really never' situation we have now.

As such because there's an arbitrary 2 year deadline in invoking Article 50 we actually shift the balance of power towards us. As an example, the US President. Limited to 2 terms in effect Obama will only serve 2 years de facto now he's been re-elected. Power is intangible; it strolls towards us but runs away. By imposing such an artificial arbituarty line restricting the President to be elected again, via the American constitution, it removes on his behalf the threat of another re-election which drains him of power towards the end of his term - rendering him a lame duck.

And so it proves with Article 50. It puts the EU on the back foot...because the deadline renders them powerless not us. For example (Article 50 (4) page 46)
4. For the purposes of paragraphs 2 and 3, the member of the European Council or of the Council representing the withdrawing Member State shall not participate in the discussions of the European Council or Council or in decisions concerning it.
In other words during the exit process we are banned from further interaction with EU processes. So what? We'll continue to be subject to all EU directives, regulations and decisions with no input, which makes very little difference to what happens now, but crucially we can now ignore them. Due to the time limit - the power drains away from the EU - because there's no way they can enforce any breach. By the time a breach by us, in terms of us ignoring them, is brought before the European Court of Justice, we'll be long gone and outside their jurisdiction.

Thus article 50 allows Cameron to renegotiate our relationship with the EU, allows him to maintain our trade with the EU with minimal disruption, and by nationalising all EU laws into British ones (with a view to unpicking them later) from day one make the transition from EU member to non-EU member seamless.

That he doesn't is his choice...but it's not ours.

Monday, 26 November 2012

The Closing Of Ranks Continues

With the real possibility of a referendum on our membership of the EU on the horizon what we're now seeing is the blatant about turn of the likes of allegedly eurosceptic Tories such as most recently; Dan Hannan and Boris Johnson. Pretence of eurosceptisim has been replaced by a self-serving need to protect oneself in the possible event that our exit might actually happen (been caught looking at your payslip Dan?).

This was also demonstrated today by Tory MP Michael Fabricant who in a very ill-disguised way accuses Ukip of racism:
Mr Fabricant, a former Government whip, said there are likely to be closet racists in every party, including the Conservatives. He urged the Prime Minister to think about teaming up with Ukip to gain the Tories more than 20 extra seats.
Ironically, the so-called eurosceptics' real colours are being exposed. Anything...anything to protect our membership of the EU. And so it is also with the supposedly neutral Political Betting website run by Lib Dem Mike Smithson. Despite the self-proclaimed sub-title:
Britain's most-read political blog - and the best resource for betting on politics.'s anything but neutral, particularly when it comes to all matters EU. Pro-EU tendencies often infect his posts - dismissing anything EU as not much to worry about. Here's an example:
Has Britain’s membership ceased to be an issue?

Last week my post on the public not really “caring a monkey’s” about the EU caused a little bit of a stir in some places. My argument was simple - we’ve been in the EU for 37 years and Britain’s membership has ceased to be an issue for all but a very small minority on voters.
I quoted the latest MORI issues index where those naming the Europe/EU as the “most important issue facing Britain” simply did not register and did not even rate a one percent figure by the pollster.
There have been times in the past when the response on EU-related matters has been very high but the long-term trend is one of decline to almost zero.
I stick with the point I made. Hardly anybody gives a monkey’s.
Strangely it didn't stop him from temporarily changing his tune when the EU directly affected him and going on a rant:
Why’s the ECJ being so breathtakingly stupid?
Should Britain say it will defy the court?

The story that’s made me most angry today has been the extraordinary decision by the European Court of Justice to stop insurance companies from allowing women to pay smaller car insurance premiums even though they are less likely to have accidents.

This is being stopped on ground of “gender equality”. Andy Cooke on the previous thread had this right:-

What a stupid ruling by the ECJ!

The different premiums aren’t based on sexism, but on demographic differences in propensities to have an accident! Will it be illegal to charge different premiums based on age? Illegal to charge different premiums based on where you live? On how experienced you are? Whether you’ve had accidents or traffic violations in the past?

So millions of teenaged girls will have to pay extra to subsidise teenaged boys. Women will have to subsidise men.

Soon, those of us in their thirties, forties and fifties will have to pay a bit more for the teenaged drivers (otherwise there will be significant age discrimination, surely?)

The ECJ are hardly improving their image - more like reinforcing the stereotype of stupid, out-of-touch politically correct idiots.

Could this be an opportunity for the coalition to have a battle with Europe?
But the march of staying in the EU ideology continues unabated, and Political Betting indulges this by means of its latest post to write an obvious smear of UKIP, despite that political neutrality is surely essential to its advice as a betting site.

This indicates that not only is a referendum coming but that TPTB have sensed it and are closing ranks. They will do anything to rig the result and protect their own. In terms of a referendum on our membership of the EU for eurosceptics the warning has always been there - in essence 'be careful what you wish for'.

Trust In Me?

Reminds me of this clip below...all that needs to be said (and I don't just refer to the Tories)

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Boris Rejects In/Out Referendum

For anyone who has followed Boris Johnson for some time the above news will come as no surprise whatsoever, as I've previously noted here and here Boris is a Europlastic. Boris signed the People’s Pledge for an In/Out EU referendum in March of this year but now that an EU referendum is increasingly on the cards he has backtracked. The Spectator has the interview from 5live:
Pienaar: Would you still want an In/Out referendum?
Johnson: Well, I’ve always said… I think we’ve been now, what is it? 75 was the last referendum on the European Union: I certainly think that if there were to be a new treaty, for instance, on a fiscal union, a banking union, whatever, then it would be absolutely right to put that to the people.’
Pienaar: What about In/Out though?
Johnson: Whether you have In/Out referendum now, you know, in the run-up to 2015, I can’t, I have to say I can’t quite see why it would be necessary. What is happening, though, John, is that… the thing that worries me, and I’m going to be making a speech about this pretty soon, the thing that worries me is basically the European Union is changing from what it was initially constituted to be: it is becoming the eurozone de facto, and the eurozone is not something we participate in, and I think it’s becoming a little unfair on us that we are endlessly belaboured and criticised for being the back marker, when actually this project is not one that we think is well-founded or well-thought through. It is proving to be extremely painful and difficult, and so I think, if the and when the eurozone goes forward into a fiscal, banking union, into a full-scale political union, then I think it is inevitable, given the changes that will entail to the EU constitution, that you will have to consult with the British people about what kind of arrangements they want, and in those circumstances, yes, you should jolly well have a referendum.
Pienaar: A yes/no, In/Out, that’s got to be part of the deal?
Johnson: Well, certainly, whatever arrangements we strike with our partners, I mean, you see, I don’t think it’s as simple as yes/no, In/Out, suppose Britain voted tomorrow to come out: what would actually happen? In real terms, what would happen is that the Foreign Office would immediately build a huge, the entire delegation would remain in Brussels, UKrep would remain there, we’d still have huge numbers of staff trying to monitor what was going on in the community, only we wouldn’t be able to sit in the council of ministers, we wouldn’t have any vote at all. Now I don’t think that’s a prospect that’s likely to appeal. What you could do is think of a new arrangement, new areas of the treaty that we decided we didn’t want to participate in… that is where people are thinking, now, so I don’t think it is, I mean, with great respect to the sort of In/Outers, I don’t think it does boil down to such a simple question.
Well quelle surprise. Boris no longer thinks Britain’s relationship ‘does boil down to such a simple question’.

'Wait 'till Boris gets in', is suspiciously like 'wait 'till Dave gets in'. Worried about the increasing clamour for a straight in/out (which will produce the wrong result) with an impending EU treaty, Tory after Tory after Tory are lining up for a strategy of staying put in the disguise of renegotiation, which as Christopher Booker today rightly points out can't happen unless we exit first.

This strategy has even led to Dan Hannan arguing for exit on November 21st:
Our presence in the EU is the single most common cause of conflict with our neighbours. British withdrawal would make everyone get on better.
Followed by a u-turn a day later, when he argues for renegotiation instead as pointed out by Richard North:
Considering that the [Dan Hannan] is supposed to be a life member of the "Better Off Out" tendency, it is entertaining to see his latest volte face which offers us a complex package of powers to put on the repatriation list, amounting to a partial withdrawal from the EU – which actually means that we remain members.

So complete is the conversion that the [he] dares not spell it out openly, relying on puzzled readers to work out the thrust of his ideas which put him firmly in the "fairies-at-the-bottom-of-the-garden" camp, headed towards never-never land. 
Boris Johnson is a fraud, Dan Hannan is a fraud, the whole Tory party is a fraud. No wonder they have never won an election since the passing of the Maastricht Treaty in 1992.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

The Cameron Deception

Following on from the 'Ukip is hated' by Rotherham Council business I spot this from the Telegraph (my emphasis throughout):
The row took a further twist when No 10 was asked about statements David Cameron made during a radio interview in 2006, in which he described Ukip's members as "fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists, mostly". Downing Street said the Prime Minister had not intended people to understand that he thought all Ukip members were racists.
Notice he doesn't actually backtrack on his original comments. Initially he used the word 'mostly' now he says;
 "...had not intended people to understand that he thought all..."
So his original comment still stands as far as he is concerned, but now with the false appearance of a mea culpa

Update: Via Ironies Too, Channel four news presenter, Krishnan Guru-Murthy, via Twitter documents the "utter confusion" of Cameron's position yesterday - a retraction of a retraction.I thought Cameron was supposed to specialise in PR?

No Right To Ask

Below is the audio of Joyce Thacker's interview with the Today programme this morning on taking away children from Ukip foster carers. She reiterates, what I had heard on another BBC news interview, that she has "no right to ask what anyone's political dealings are". Which means - by admission - it has no bearing on the suitability of potential foster parents:

Where Everyone Matters?

Apparently not if you happened to vote UKIP (nice colour scheme btw). Labour run Rotherham Borough Council has decided to have had three foster children removed from a couple's care because they belong to the UKIP:
Rotherham Borough Council said the children were "not indigenous white British" and that it had concerns about UKIP's stance on immigration.

It said it had to consider the "needs of the children longer term".

The unnamed couple told the Daily Telegraph social workers had accused them of belonging to a "racist party".
Rather than base the decision on the welfare of the children, whose foster parents are 'exemplary' and have been approved foster parents for seven years, the decision is clearly politicly motivated. If you vote for a party Rotherham Council don't agree with, you can't foster.

However Rotherham Borough Council's Strategic Director of Children and Young People's Services, Joyce Thacker is unrepentant. You can see part of her interview here on the BBC site. I saw this live and what she also said, which is missing from the clip, is that they are not allowed to ask about political leanings of prospective foster parents. Which means by logical conclusion that it should have no influence in the decision making, yet that is precisely what has now happened.

And it is with some irony that the foster couple in question are ex-Labour supporters.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Prisoners And Power (2)

In effect what has been announced today regarding prisoner's right to vote is an admission that Parliament chooses to be bound by European law - in whatever guise - in this case we can choose otherwise or to leave. Naturally there is legal wriggle room in today's statement to try to reject the proposal while remaining a member of the Council of Europe in form of 'international law vs Parliamentary sovereignty' which is an argument that is legally winnable on both sides.

But ultimately, and most importantly, it's also an admission that Parliament chooses to be bound by international agreements, thus choosing to be a member of the EU (our enemy lies within - Whitehall & MPs). Here's part of Chris Grayling's statement:
However, the Government are under an international law obligation to implement the Court judgement. As Lord Chancellor, as well as Secretary of State for Justice, I take my obligation to uphold the rule of law seriously. Equally, it remains the case that Parliament is sovereign, and the Human Rights Act 1998 explicitly recognises that fact. The current law passed by Parliament remains in force unless and until Parliament decides to change it. As Lord Justice Hoffmann put it in a case in 1999:
Parliamentary sovereignty means that Parliament can, if it chooses, legislate contrary to fundamental principles of human rights. The Human Rights Act 1998 will not detract from this power. The constraints upon its exercise by Parliament are ultimately political, not legal. But the principle of legality means that Parliament must squarely confront what it is doing and accept the political cost.
Last month, the Attorney-General made it clear in evidence to the Justice Committee that
“it is entirely a matter for Government to make proposals but ultimately for Parliament to determine what it wants to do. Parliament is sovereign in this area; nobody can impose a solution on Parliament, but the accepted practice is that the United Kingdom observes its international obligations”
So we come back to power, Parliament is so reluctant to abide by the ECHR ruling because the issue is so toxic because the people wish it so. Mr Grayling said there would be a "political cost" in doing so, But to whom? Not to the MPs who are supposed to represent us.

However we come to the sting in the tail, and what is so insidious in our membership of supranational institutions, Parliament forces itself to break the law it has passed because it is reluctant to repeal those laws it agrees largely with - against the wishes of those it is supposed to represent. Our own people power is not yet enough...

This is why I've been following this challenge with such interest. Exit for the EU or other European courts (established with the same aim as the EU for eventual political union) is not going to be on the back of arguments on tedious EU Directives but toxic issues such as this.

An axe murderer, who made a pot of coffee while waiting for his landlady to die, then with charmless, racist and homophobic arguments was always going to be a gem for tabloid headlines - influential as they are - which adds to the EU sceptic cause. I say ship him out to be interviewed more. (And I'm almost inclined to send Mr Hirst a crate of beer in thanks for his contribution for helping to get us out),

And the Pandora's box on prisoners' voting rights does not stop there, as James Landale at the BBC points out:
I am told that it is not actually the ECHR that is forcing the pace on this. The real issue that is concerning the government is a case sitting before the Supreme Court here in the UK and it is a case that could change the whole debate. George McGeoch is serving a life sentence in Dumfries prison for murdering a man in Inverness.

He is not arguing that the blanket ban on prisoner voting breaches his rights under the European Convention. He is arguing that his rights as an EU citizen are being infringed because he will not be able to vote for in the European Parliamentary elections in 2014.

The draft bill that Chris Grayling will publish this week will refer not just to prisoners' voting rights relating to domestic general and local elections. It will also refer to elections to the European Parliament.

So the hope in the Ministry of Justice is that the draft bill will delay - and ultimately sway - any decision by the Supreme Court on this matter so that Mr McGeoch does not end up with the vote.
And (my emphasis):
And that is an important hope. For if the Supreme Court did allow Mr McGeoch to get his name on the register of electors that would automatically allow thousands of other convicted prisoners around the UK to vote in European and municipal elections.

And many of them would demand compensation for past electoral moments they had missed. And that would be hugely expensive to the government. Ministers can in theory ignore unenforceable compensation orders from the ECHR. But they cannot do the same when the Supreme Court issues what are called Francovich damage orders, in other words, fines for breaking EU law.

So there would be a mess. The government would be forced to rush emergency legislation through Parliament. Compensation claims would come rushing in. So the key test for this Thursday's draft bill is not just what the judges in Strasbourg say. It is also how those judges sitting on the other side of Parliament Square respond.
A problem that will be accentuated by Article 6.2 of the Lisbon Treaty which requires the EU to join the Council of Europe and so come under ECHR rulings.

This is a mess of their making...they asked for it....we didn't, and I have no sympathy for the predicaments they find themselves in.

Oh what a web...

Prisoners And Power

The long running saga that is prisoners votes comes up again today. We, as a country, have to give a decision by 4pm tomorrow to the Council of Europe on how we are to implement voting for prisoners. A statement was due in the House at 12pm and I'll expand on that in a bit. No doubt there will be legal wriggle room to try to kick it into the long grass.

Despite that Parliament have fundamentally rejected the ECHR's ruling before, they are being made to vote again. This brings me neatly back to my post yesterday, not only that the rule of law is nothing without enforcement by power - but that power should be by the will of the people. A similar vote which comprehensively approves of the blanket ban is going to set the UK government on a collision course with the ECHR - a battle over power.

We could of course ignore the ruling, which Tory MP Dominic Raab seemed to be arguing for on today's BBC Daily Politics. But....and it's a big but, that sets a dangerous precedent; it would create a precedent where the government can break its own laws solely on grounds that it didn’t like the unintended consequences of its own policies. We really don't want to go down that route for obvious reasons.

As an aside, the Spectaor makes a good point in relation to this topic of how fearsomely complicated it is to unpick our legal international obligations should we not agree. It's a good example of how simply repealing the ECA 1972 to leave the EU is unworkable and woefully naive:
Withdrawing membership of the ECtHR is a complicated business because many of Britain’s international obligations, particularly those related to the UN, are based on our having incorporated the European Convention on Human Rights into domestic law and our subscription to other international human rights conventions. Subsection three of this article in the European Journal of International Law goes some way to illustrating how complicated the situation is (and how uncertain lawyers generally are about the related academic questions).
In addition to the conventions and declarations of which most us have heard, we have to consider the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights (1966), the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Covenant on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination. And there are almost certainly more.
In many ways, the proliferation of international law reveals how powerful executive bodies have become in recent years; and, indeed, how inscrutably remote they are from representative institutions. The legal complexities associated with the enormous growth in international government are extremely hard to grasp and explain without substantial legal training and practice experience (I’ve tried my best dear readers!). From the layman’s perspective, though, there is an absurd irony, worthy of Evelyn Waugh, in well-intentioned human beings having gone to such lengths to protect rights that the recipients cannot even understand and even resent.
Unpicking this is going to be fearsomely difficult for parliamentarians, whose time is already hard-pressed; but that is not a reason to ignore an important democratic and legal question, and once which extends far beyond the matter of prisoner voting.
Shami Chakrabarti from Liberty was also on the Daily Politics today (I'll put up a link later when it appears) arguing for the prisoners' vote ruling, and thus demonstrating her ignorance at the same time of how a democracy is supposed to work. In effect revealing the desperate need for Harrogate. She tried to argue that Parliament has to abide by the rule of law. This is a concept she struggles with, but Parliament is the law - that's the whole point of it. It makes law with consent of the people via elections (in theory). The current situation means a judiciary body is telling an elected Parliament what laws to pass and what not to pass. Thus the ECHR is not imposing prisoners voting rights on Parliament as she suggests but on the people; in the process removing our own right to vote in effect.

And by doing so it is acting as both a judiciary and legislature without any proper accountability via the ballot box. I think the young Shami Chakrabarti needs to study the theory and practice of the separation of powers; essential for a proper democracy - which is Harrogate demand #3

Shami Chakrabarti doesn't seem to realise that 'elite intellectual arguments' (and I use the term loosely where she's concerned) that effectively remove power from us are historically the basis and causes of revolutions.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012


The main reason I like the 6 demands of the Harrogate Agenda is that it addresses the issue of power and who it belongs to and who controls it. In principle as a so-called democracy we should have the rule of law, but in practice law is only words on a sheet of paper. It only means something, and is only as good, as its enforcement. Without enforcement it means diddly squat. And that comes down to the stark reality of politics - power. This is the vacuum that the Harrogate Agenda hopes to address.

This neatly leads me onto our membership of the EU. One of frustrations with the Eurosceptic movement is the Lernaean Hydra tendency to claim to be part of the same cause but only as a disguise to promote vested interests. It leads to a continuously failed campaign because of the lack of appreciation of the 'united we stand, divided we fall' factor.

It's on the basis of this that much is made that our membership, on the Eurosceptic front for example, of the EU is illegal, politicians are traitors, the Queen should have said no and that the Parliamentary oath has been broken.

So what? Who will uphold the law in that case? The proven europhile Judiciary? What can we do in the event of blatant corruption by judges who make up the law as they go along. Nothing.

Upholding the constitution or indeed any other part of law requires power. Currently that resides with an establishment whose vested interests is to remain within the EU so it's in their interest to ignore. So regardless of how we may jump up and down in protest, they will simply make it up to protect their own interest. In light of that - now what?

The brutal truth is our written, yet famously uncodified, constitution failed. It came across the ultimate test in defence of our country in 1972 and was found badly wanting. It lost, it got chucked out of the competition, it gave up the ghost, it got dicked 6-0 on aggregate, it woke up, looked over the duvet cover and decided it was too cold outside and went back to sleep. It failed...which is precisely why I was born into the EEC and still remain, against my will, an EU Citizen (like the Queen) nearly 40 years later. So upholding the rule of law requires power which we currently don't have. Hopefully Harrogate fills that vacumn.

The other common objection is that we just repeal the ECA of 1972, leave and just stick a couple of fingers up at the EU...but we can't. The ECA is not a giant red reset button which we can just press and revert back to 1971 and forget it all happened. We have had 40 years of international agreements as part of our membership. They apply to us as well as the EU who as they do have to abide by international law.

Therefore countries exiting international organizations are covered by the Vienna Convention on the Law on Treaties. Article 56(1) states:
1. A treaty which contains no provision regarding its termination and which does not provide for denunciation or withdrawal is not subject to denunciation or withdrawal unless: a) it is established that the parties intended to admit the possibility of denunciation or withdrawal; or b) a right of denunciation or withdrawal may be implied by the nature of the treaty. 
The Lisbon Treaty does have a provision for exit via Article 50: Therefore it's covered by Article 54 of the Vienna Convention on the Law on Treaties (my emphasis):
The termination of a treaty or the withdrawal of a party may take place:
(a) in conformity with the provisions of the treaty; or
(b) at any time by consent of all the parties after consultation with the other contracting States.
We are bound therefore by international law to follow the method laid out in 'Lisbon'. Simply repealing the ECA 1972 is not enough and to do so and pretend we're no longer members would breach international law.

Not only that we've had 40 years of the EU's tentacles stretching absolutely everywhere. This, almost amusingly, creates two contradictory positions with those who oppose and support our membership:
It probably goes without saying, that in contrary to both 'positions' above - using simple logic - if the EU doesn't rule us and doesn't make most of our laws, leaving is easy. Conversely if we admit that the EU does make most of our rules, is our supreme government, is in control then leaving, by logical conclusion, is hard and so as a consquence requires protracted negotiations. You can't have it both ways.

Thus for Eurosceptics given that the EU is our actual government then protracted negoations are a necessary reality. Richard North says:
… while some of the europhile claims are indeed nonsense, for a variety of technical reasons, our manufacturing output could be hard hit if we failed to negotiate a sound exit agreement.
This is why, of course, it is vital to promote a negotiated exit based on an Article 50 settlement, tied in with membership of the EEA and the nationalisation of all unadopted EU law and secondary treaties. That way, we can affirm that the day after leaving the EU nothing will have changed.
The main effect our departure would (and should) be to allow us to commence the careful process of transition from being an EU member to full independence – and also to work towards more democratic governance in the UK.
Thus, if the europhiles are going to work on the fear factor, we have all the answers. Given a hearing, we can reassure people that there is no down-side to leaving.
I do often wonder on occasions whether some Eurosepctics think staying in the EU is worth it if they could further themselves a tiny bit in their own political circles as a consequence. The question always comes down to power.

By leaving the EU there's no point substituting one bunch of unelected morons (EU) for essentially another (UK). The only reason we're in the EU is because we have never been a democracy in the first place. No country can call themselves that when up to 1928 they refused half the population from the vote. No democratic country would have entered the then EEC in the first place.Ted Heath had no electorate mandate to enter after the 1970 election - the 'Common Market' was virtually ignored as an election issue in 1970 - yet within weeks Heath began Britain's negotiations for entry.

The Harrogate Agenda though by giving power back to us, makes our membership untenable, and it does so by, the first time in our history, giving power to us - the people.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

George Orwell Would Be Proud

EU budget increase can be a 'tool of economic recovery'
This needs no further input from me.

Lies, Damn Lies And More Lies

One almost marvels at the lurid headlines:
Battling [Tory} rebels baying for Britain to leave the European Union, David Cameron faces the near impossible task this week of finding an EU budget deal acceptable to mutinous party members and to exasperated fellow EU leaders.
'The near impossible' bit gives leeway that Cameron can try to plead for a small concession from the EU (which will mean anything but) which will happen in the form of a sympathetic bone chucked at him to keep him happy, and then he'll dress it up as the greatest achievement known to mankind akin to the moon landings.

Last time he had this to say to bored tired newspaper hacks in the early hours of the morning (my emphasis):
PM David Cameron has effectively vetoed an EU-wide treaty change to tackle the eurozone crisis, saying it was not in the UK's interests.
Naturally this translated into 'vetoed'. "Effectively vetoed" means nothing of the sort. If I run a mile a day for 26 days and then say "I've effectively run a marathon" it means in reality I've done no such thing.

We also have to put up with the usual nonsense this week that this is an 'EU summit':
The prime minister's threat to veto the union's long-term budget at a Brussels summit starting on Thursday appealed to the anti-EU wing of his Conservative Party, emboldened after defeating him in a parliamentary vote calling for European spending cuts.
It's not a summit it's a European Council meeting which means any talk of a veto is complete and utter nonsense on stilts. No veto can be applied. Still that so called position will occupy the airwaves.

This lying to us doesn't only apply to just the news, take this from BBC Sport earlier this year as an example...

Swindon Town defender Aden Flint is set to miss the rest of the season with a groin problem.

The 22-year-old has been sidelined for the last two games and will see a specialist on Friday to determine whether he needs surgery.
Groin injury? See that's not actually true. A more accurate description would be he got inebriated in a nightclub, gave the classic 'do you not know who I am?' reaction and was met with a more than rigorous response which left him unavailable to play for weeks. Yet the BBC and other media outlets still listed it as a 'groin' strain'.

We're being lied to.

Monday, 19 November 2012

A warning?

(Reuters) - Opposition Labour leader Ed Miliband vowed on Monday he would not let Britain sleepwalk towards exit from the European Union as Prime Minister David Cameron prepared for tough talks in Brussels this week on a renewal of the bloc's budget.
Given that the vast majority of the British people are against our continued membership, who is Ed Miliband warning? Why is exit a problem? What is wrong with sleepwalking into a better situation? Why are EU budget talks tough? (Just simply say no)

Then comes the contradiction:
"Increasingly we see euroscepticism on the rise among the British public - we see cabinet ministers in this government openly calling for Britain to leave," Miliband said.

"For those of us like me, who care passionately about our place in European Union, we cannot remain silent. I will not let Britain sleepwalk towards exit from the European Union."
Increasingly Euroscepticism is on the rise according to Miliband, but his response is to ignore it and argue for continued membership. In other words - sod off. Their contempt is plain sight.

We need the Harrogate Agenda

The Preservation Society

Today David Davies Tory MP gave a very important speech which I reproduce here in full:
It gives me great pleasure and it's an honour Ladies and Gentlemen to be invited to give a speech on the merits of jam to you as the President of the Jam Preservation Society. It's a society that I've long been proud to be associated with and will continue to do so.

In truth however I don't actually like jam. It's ghastly stuff. I know little about cooking and when I'm hit with a blast of warm air which smells of caramel, mouthwatering, burnt-sugar fruitiness that reminds me of toffee apples, I want to be sick. Who on earth thought of making jam with so much sugar? What a terrible idea.
Even worse is the use of seasonal and organic produce which is locally grown. What's that about? It means that you won't find strawberry jam simmering away in the kitchen in December but have to put up with eating fig jam with rum in August and September. For God's sake.
In summary, I hate jam, I disagree fundamentally that sugar is used in the process but I'm here to emphasis that I'm proud to be a member of the Jam Society which forces people to eat the stuff.
Naturally Mr Davis didn't actually say that, but he might as well have done:
On what powers we should take back and halting the acquis communautaire: "We should seek the repatriation of a whole range of powers to create a new relationship between Britain and the EU.  We should take back all of our justice and home affairs powers.
We should take back immigration powers. We should take back control of social and employment legislation. We should give our government the final say on health and safety legislation.  And we should protect Britain from financial regulation designed to punish the UK’s success.  We should take back all of these things and more, and take them back permanently... But this of itself is not enough.

It is no good simply negotiating away the things we do not like about Europe only to face a future in which EU institutions, backed up by ever more prevalent qualified majority voting, continues to erode our national interest. We need a permanent, universal opt-out that allows us to escape the damaging effects of costly and unnecessary EU laws.
If we do not like a new law, Parliament should be able to reject it. Some will say this is impossible. I categorically disagree."

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Where's Your Big Society Gone...?

Obviously newspaper reports always have to be taken with a slight pinch of salt, however in the Telegraph:
In a speech to the CBI, the Prime Minister will say that the legal right to ask for a judge to review controversial planning decisions will be sharply curbed, declaring: “We urgently need to get a grip on this.
Mr Cameron will argue that the rules are being abused to frustrate economically vital developments and will say a “massive growth industry” of seeking judicial reviews of planning decisions has been fuelled by solicitors and campaign groups.

Many applicants are guilty of “time-wasting” and bringing “hopeless cases” simply to waste developers’ time, the Prime Minister will say. He will outline a number of changes the Government wants to make, including shortening the three-month time limit on applying for a review.

Charges for an application will rise “so people think twice about time-wasting.” The number of possible appeals against decisions will also be cut from four to two.
Hmm strange tone considering what he said just 2 years ago (my emphasis):
David Cameron will announce this morning that he hopes to liberate four areas from the strictures of red tape and central government as he attempts to deliver his idea of the "Big Society".
[Vanguard communities] may have central government budgets handed over to them to administer at street level, attempt to improve local transport links themselves, take over command of local assets such as pubs and community services, have a greater say over planning permission or local transport and, in the case of Liverpool, allow volunteers to keep a popular local museum open for longer hours.
Cameron will say in a speech in Liverpool: "Yes, there will be problems – financial problems, legal problems, bureaucratic problems. Yes, there will be objections – local objections, objections from vested interests. But you know what? We're happy about that. This process is all about learning. It's about pushing power down and seeing what happens. It's about unearthing the problems as they come up on the ground and seeing how we can get round them. It's about holding our hands up, saying 'We haven't got all the answers. Let's work them out, together.'"
If I make stuff up as I go along, treat everyone as though they're stupid and be incompetent can I earn £142,500 per annum?


No not me... but arch Europhile Jon Worth. That post is well worth a read...if only because the blog in general is starting to document the slow decline of someone's misguided ideology trying to cope with living in the real world (Apologies if that sounds a tad patronising).

What he's really saying though, without realising it, is the need for the Harrogate Agenda


In one sense Tory MP David Davis in Telegraph is right, Cameron promising an EU referendum of any kind is going to be treated with disdain by the British people:
Mr Davis told the Andrew Marr programme on BBC1: “Nobody believes it and why should they? The British public have been promised a referendum by the three major parties, and every single one has not delivered.
But this should not be mistaken for 'a major conflict with Cameron' - far from it; it's party positioning over a period of time to prepare for a possible referendum on an impeding EU treaty (and also a manifesto 'promise' in 2015) with a view to rigging it to remain in the EU. The clue is here:
“We’ve got to somehow dramatically change our relationship with Europe – not a little bit of a power here, and a little bit of a power there; we’ve got to bring back lots of powers, we’ve got to change the constitutional relationship.” 
And acutely here:
Any referendum, he said, would put “to the people two perfectly decent options: one is this is the real negotiating strategy, this is what you’re really going to have for the next decade or so; and this is the other option, which is to leave.”
This is no more than official Tory party strategy; to remain in the EU on the basis of a false promise of renegotiation. David Davis says quite openingly "follow our line of renegotiation or there's the 'dreaded leaving option'.

Cameron is a liar 'tis true, but he's not the only one...

Harrogate Spring

"It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit." Harry S Truman.
Yesterday I attended, in Leamington Spa, a follow on meeting from July, in what is another small step in the long road of implementing the Harrogate Agenda. Power is rarely given, it is instead taken, so it must never be underestimated that to do so will be a long arduous process. Yet it is remarkable in such a short space of time how far the movement has come.

One of the main aims of the meeting was to agree and ratify the six demands, demands that seek to give people power over their employees (politicians), a mechanism which for example can effectively sack them for gross misconduct if necessary. Ratification was achieved, with everyone present signing in agreement a master copy of the demands which hopefully will become a symbolic document for prosterity.

Then we moved onto strategy and tactics and a limited form of organisation by the establishment of a Limited Company by guarantee, and creation of internet tools such as a website, social media and Youtube videos. 

However the overriding theme was that this was to be a campaign of ideas rather than one based on personalities. A theme echoed in the room by the sentiment that we hoped to be forgotten in the light of possible success. Ideas are the most potent - and dangerous - which is why most dictatorships around the world censor the mechanisms of distributing them, usually in the form of the arts; books, paintings, music etc. Now, as most vividly demonstrated by China, it's also the internet.

Here we can take our cue from, of all places, the EU. It infects all of our lives yet very few people have heard of its main spiritual leader and creator - Jean Monnet. The EU has become a battle of ideas and not one of party loyalty. Monnet was a man who largely shunned the spotlight yet his legacy is all encompassing...all around us. He once said:
"There are two kinds of people; those who want to be something and those who want to do something"
So what works for our enemies can also work for us

The key with anything political is timing. As demonstrated earlier this week, and which has been there for sometime, is the absolute disillusionment and anger with our political process. Never has been such a vapid hole in our political class nor such ill-disguised contempt. For example in today's news yet again MPs are to debate prisoners' right to vote despite giving a conclusive answer last time. Of course now there's the irony that prisoners could vote for PCCs. Then in today's Telegragh are the thoughts (I use the term loosely) of Ed Milliband (my emphasis):
The Labour leader uses an interview with The Sunday Telegraph to declare that he is a major advocate of reform [of the EU] and says arguments advanced by eurosceptics should not simply be dismissed - because some of them are right.
You can almost hear him spit while uttering the word 'peasant' as he says it.

As with any demonstration of people's anger - the last people to hear it are politicians. When the groundswell of public opinion takes hold and eventually in most cases attacks the capital of any country, and those that reside in it, the attitude of those that govern us is invariably; "bloody hell where the hell did that come from"?

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Legal Challenges?

Today I attended, along with many other like minded people, a meeting in Leamington Spa, seeking and fulfilling the ratification of the six demands of the Harrogate Agenda.

I will post tomorrow my thoughts in detail on the meeting, in the meantime Autonomous Mind has a great post here on his thoughts as part of a live blog.

As an aside this in a small way is the problem we face, from the Spectator:

I quote in full (my emphasis):
On Monday, the government is set to announce its alcohol strategy. It is expected that this will call for a minimum unit price of 40p. As Graham Wilson reports in The Sun, this idea is a personal favourite of the Prime Minister but opposed by several influential members of the Cabinet.

These ministers worry that it’ll be seen as the rich man taking away the poor man’s pleasure. Given the media reaction to the pasty tax and the caravan tax, this is a legitimate concern. They also fear that a successful legal challenge to it, which is a distinct possibility, would do further damage to the government’s reputation for competence.

Cameron himself is attracted to the idea because he thinks it’ll help cut down on binge drinking and by stopping supermarkets from doing cheap offers will help pubs compete. But the problem is it is a blunt instrument. It’ll hit responsible drinkers as hard as irresponsible ones.
A successful legal challenge? Now why would that be a problem? Where would the origins of that legality lie? And why doesn't the Spectator mention it? It's a subject I as a simple lowly blogger have highlighted why on many occasions. Legal difficulties was what it was called nearly 2 years ago.

The Spectator is part of the problem, a part of the establishment and most certainly not on the side of the people. It is not fit for purpose.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Politics In Crisis

The Telegraph reports:
A poor turnout and spoilt ballot papers have left the police and crime commissioner elections in "complete shambles", Labour have said, as David Cameron is forced to insist elected candidates will still have a mandate.
There will be radio silence for a while at TBF Towers as I attend the second meeting of the Harrogate Agenda tomorrow in Leamington Spa. The sooner it's implemented the better...

It's Not Apathy

Aside from the very low turnout another theme that seems to be emerging is the high number of spoiled ballot papers.

Usually with spoiled ballots (or ones not marked correctly) is as a candidate you have to make your views known to the returning officer of 'clear intention' or not regarding the paper in question. Basically agree whether the mark on the paper stands as a genuine vote or not.

Where a vote has not been accurately cast or the clear intention is 'sod off' it is ignored generally. The numbers are usually not that high.

But in this election of PCC's, rather than apathy, the wrong time of year, or voters not used to the procedures (wait for it to bed down) the larger than normal spoiled ballot papers suggests that this is an angry indifference:
According to the BBC, the number of spoilt ballot papers in Coventry was larger than the number of Lib Dem votes.
Some of the comments on the Guardian site are a gem:
I spoiled my ballot in the end...This is not a role that should be party political. The electorate didn't ask for it. And people were given such little information that they didn't feel qualified to vote on it. It was ridiculous."
"Both my husband and I spoiled our voting papers. Utterly shambolic elections."
I spoiled my ballot paper by writing: 'No to Police Commissioners, yes to democracy' on mine. For good measure I listed some bullet point reasons! – Undemocratic, a waste of public money, don't politicise the police. I have always voted in every election since I was 18. I will not stay at home and not vote. I wanted to positively state that I do not approve of the PCC role although I'm sure some will see this as a wasted vote."
It's quite an achievement on Cameron's part to introduce a form of voting that actively annoys people. His incompetence truly knows no boundaries.

Update from Coventry: turnout is 10:54 per cent, 884 ballot papers rejected, many spoiled (3.6% of the votes cast) Lib Dem vote Ayoub Khan (Lib Dem) - 783:

Martin Reeves, Coventry City Council’s chief executive and the returning officer responsible for the Coventry count, said there had been an unusually high number of deliberately spoilt ballot papers.
He said many of the 884 rejected ballot papers had disparaging comments written on them.
"There are hundreds and hundreds of spoilt papers. A lot have been written on and spoilt with comments.
"You always get a percentage of spoilt ballot papers but there are a lot that have been spoilt deliberately."

Read More
Martin Reeves, Coventry City Council’s chief executive and the returning officer responsible for the Coventry count, said there had been an unusually high number of deliberately spoilt ballot papers.

He said many of the 884 rejected ballot papers had disparaging comments written on them.

"There are hundreds and hundreds of spoilt papers. A lot have been written on and spoilt with comments.

"You always get a percentage of spoilt ballot papers but there are a lot that have been spoilt deliberately."
And 'excuse of the year' award goes to....Jim Cunningham, MP for Coventry South:
"I think we need more polling stations and I’ve thought that for a long time.

Read More
"I think we need more polling stations and I’ve thought that for a long time."

Martin Reeves, Coventry City Council’s chief executive and the returning officer responsible for the Coventry count, said there had been an unusually high number of deliberately spoilt ballot papers.
He said many of the 884 rejected ballot papers had disparaging comments written on them.
"There are hundreds and hundreds of spoilt papers. A lot have been written on and spoilt with comments.
"You always get a percentage of spoilt ballot papers but there are a lot that have been spoilt deliberately."

Read More

Emphatic Victory?

Labour this morning are crowing about two by-election victories in Labour safe seats, with Corby yet to declare. Lucy Powell who won in Manchester Central claims:
"I am absolutely thrilled. It is a really emphatic vote for Labour. That is a clear endorsement of Labour and a major rejection of the Tory-LibDem government."
In a sense she's right, it was an emphatic vote and a major rejection...of all of them. The turnout was a shockingly low 18.16 per cent and is the lowest in a parliamentary by-election since the Second World War. 'None of the above' won by a huge margin. With only 8.4% of people voting for her Lucy Powell has no mandate to govern.

Cardiff was little better which saw only 25.65 per cent of people voting.The vote for PCC's looks unlikely to be any different, with low turnouts expected. Swindon was one of the first to declare - counting overnight - and the turnout was 15.83 per cent:
TURNOUT was very low in Wiltshire’s police and crime commissioner election on Thursday - with only 15 per cent of the 500,000-strong electorate bothering to vote.

Statistics revealed at the count at the Oasis Leisure Centre this morning showed that out of an electorate of 514,854, only 81,477 or 15.83 per cent went to the polls.

In the Swindon borough, 23,669 of a possible 161,238 voters cast a ballot - a turnout of 14.68 per cent - and in the rest of Wiltshire it was 16.35 per cent or 57,808 of an electorate of 353,617.
 Interestingly one of the reasons given is:
“The other real theme I’ve heard coming through is there are quite a lot of people across the country who don’t agree with the concept of police and crime commissioners. They think rightly or wrongly that it’s the politicisation of the police so they’ve protested by not turnout out.”
Not that the lack of mandate will stop any of the main parties grandstanding on whatever results come through later. The real truth would be too much for all them - an emphatic two fingers.

Update: Just seen Richard North has made a similar point. Politics is in crisis.

Thursday, 15 November 2012


It's a point that probably doesn't need highlighting, but the news that the Speaker's wife is in some legal difficulty comes as no surprise. Not only another symptom of the fall in the prestige, and purpose of Parliament, but an outcome that in this case was entirely inevitable.

Michael Martin was ousted as speaker for the first time in over 300 years (created as a life peer afterwards as a punishment), so it is entirely appropriate for the ancient office of Speaker to be brought into such disrepute again as a sign of how far we have fallen.

Complete Contempt

Following my previous post, something I was unaware of until today was that the PCC election is being held using the Alternative Vote. The same system that was comprehensively rejected by the voters. They're laughing at us and can't even be bothered anymore to hide it.

Still, at least we can take some small amusement from the comment below from Tim Montgomerie on Facebook who is "In the eyes of most MPs, Montgomerie ... now one of the most influential Tories outside the cabinet."
Just voted for Angus Macpherson as Police and Crime Commissioner for Wiltshire. Voted UKIP as 2nd preference.

Not Voting

Funny how when I turned 18, the right to vote seemed to be a huge privilege and one I was proud of. I missed voting in the 1992 GE by 2 months but had the opportunity to vote for the first time in the Newbury by-election a year later. It was a privilege which meant I consciously made the symbolic effort to myself of walking to a polling station rather than postal voting or voting by other means.

I've always tried to exercise my right to vote, whether it be a General Election, a local election or even, through very gritted teeth, EU Parliamentary elections. Today though I will break that habit. I will not be partaking in the election of a Police Commissioner. I have shredded my polling card, thus boycotting the process.

Revealingly as politicians' have recently sensed the public discontent about our political processes and lack of accountability, as presciently foreseen by the notorious 1971 FCO 30/1048 document on the consequences of joining the EEC...
...the transfer of major executive responsibilities to the bureaucratic Commission in Brussels will exacerbate popular feeling of alienation from government.
....they seek to confer upon us as a consequence ever more voting: devolution, more devolution, the stitch up that was the AV referendum and Cameron's failed policy of English mayoral referendums earlier this year. The right to put a cross on a bit of paper is a tool used by politicians to pretend they believe in democracy so by implication arguing to give power to the people, but in practice it means nothing at all.

It's the reason most unaccountable institutions use voting on such terms as a means of trying to establish legitimacy; obviously the EU Parliament, the Supreme Soviet and there's a very good reason why referendums are banned in Germany. Voting means nothing without being backed up by real power.

And so we come to another fake 'election' - those of PCC candidates. Conservative MP Nick Herbert, who in the Spectator seems to argue that the solution to low turnouts is have another election which will have a low turnout, says:
What proportion of the vote permits [the BBC] to declare any election a failure? Because Parliament didn’t set one.
Hilary Benn was elected to the Commons in a by-election on a turnout of less than 20 per cent. Was he declared to have no standing as an MP? What about the councils that rule with a fraction of the votes of their local electorate? And forgive me if I’ve missed it, but when did the BBC ever question the legitimacy of MEPs (turnout in 1999, 23 per cent), never mind the European Commission?
Yes, declining voter engagement in all elections is a real issue. But as the former President of the Association of Chief Police Officers, Ken Jones, said on Monday, this is a bigger question, a trend which PCC elections can hardly be expected to buck.
 So then he argues without a sense of irony:
[PPCs] will hold office by will of the people, not the patronage of politicians or the wisdom of an appointments commission
No it won't, the very likely low turnout will ensure the office is not by the will of the people. Not only that, will it solve; lying cover up or even the Police acting above the law? We all know the answer to that one.

So very few positives to this latest gimmick, but oh boy are there negatives. What we will have in return is a politicisation of the Police force. It's bad enough already, as the case of Damian Green shows, but now it will be legitimate. A point illustrated via Witterings:
“This morning a Labour spokesperson said that while Labour initially objected to the role of Police Commissioner being created, they had decided to enter Labour representatives for the post to enable them to hold the government to account for all the police budget cuts. Great.  Not to represent the local people as intended – but to yet again use and abuse a position in order to attack the Coalition.  Just what we need Mr. Oborne ? I thought this article may be a wind-up – but the last two sentences suggest otherwise.”
Inspector Gadget calls it fantasy politics, and rightly so. No-one needs a degree in history to workout the consequences of politicised police force in times of economic troubles.

How long, one wonders, before a scandal erupts, where a PCC of a certain party persuasion is advised by a government of the same party to lean on 'his' police force whose constables are investigating a corrupt MP of the same party?

It's a disaster waiting to happen.