Monday, 31 December 2012

Third Postal Directive

It's almost like someone's been reading this blog, letter in the Telegraph:
SIR – You report (December 24) that the sale of the Royal Mail may signify the end of daily deliveries at a flat price. In a separate article on the same day, George Osborne, the Chancellor, commendably urges that Britain should pull back from the EU. The two are directly related: the EU's Third Postal Directive will threaten the Royal Mail by removing its protection for letters under 50g.
EU directives have already brought the Royal Mail to its knees. Norway, which is out of the EU in a "pulled back" position, is refusing to implement this directive under its European Economic Area (EEA) agreement. We could do the same if we rejoined the European Free Trade Area we created in 1960 and also signed up to the EEA Agreement.
However, we are in a strong position to negotiate an agreement, which refuses to implement many other of the EU's laws. I commend that course of action.
David Campbell Bannerman MEP (Con)

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Quote Of The Day

From the Telegraph Editorial (my emphasis):
Already the bombardment has started: Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the Council of Europe, this week insisted that Britain must be either completely in, or completely out.
Erm... wrong Council, Van Rompuy is President of the European Council. The Council of Europe is not even an EU institution.

The Marshalling Of Pro EU Forces Continues Apace

Autonomous Mind picks up on an "outrageous lie" by Andrew Gilligan in the Telegragh in defence of our membership of the EU, and in the same paper we have further evidence of the Telegraph setting out the pro-EU case with another scaremongering story:
Senior banking and business figures spoken to by The Sunday Telegraph have revealed growing disquiet at Government plans for a referendum where one option could be an exit from the EU.
One senior banking executive said: “The whole issue has the potential to be very destabilising for the City.
And so on and so forth, cue lots of reasons why we shouldn't leave. But further down the piece we get this rather confusing gem on why the Norway solution is not appropriate:
“Britain can never become a Switzerland or Norway,” the executive said, referring to arguments that the UK could have a trade agreement with the EU similar to those two countries.
“They are very small by comparison and have completely different economies.”
But the UK does have the same trade agreement as Norway already, by virtue of the fact we are both in the Single Market - Norway by being a member of the EEA only. So what's he saying? Because Norway is small and has a different economy then the Single Market which is appropriate for them is not for us? In effect arguing for our complete exit. Such is the desperation to keep us in the arguements seem to be getting less coherent.

But what it does reveal is the amount of significant groundwork being prepared to keep us in even though a referendum is still likely to be years away yet. If the eurosceptic movement, and Ukip, doesn't up its game quickly then we are going to lose, and lose heavily.

40 Years

In his last column of the year, Booker of the Sunday Telegraph has a cracker of an article, well worth reading in full, combining the themes of climate change and the EU noting that 2012 was the year that these long held beliefs are beginning to collapse.

Tuesday will mark the 40th anniversary of our membership of the EU (EEC as it was known then) "the maddest political experiment in history" where there will be much coverage, some of which has already started. As Booker alludes to, fighting such comprehensive belief systems has been a lonely and frustrating business. Oppose the EU, and you are called "xenophobic", "a nutter", or "Little Englander". Question climate science and the insults consist of “climate-change denier”, “anti-science”, a “flat earther”. But all that has changed:
For many of the major stories which have long been followed by this column, 2012 has been the year when long-dominant belief systems and fondly held illusions have been conspicuously falling apart, portending a time of agonising reappraisal when familiar certainties give way to greater realism and painful rethinking.
On Tuesday, for instance, much coverage will be given to the 40th anniversary of the day in 1973 when Britain finally junked “1,000 years of history” – in the famous words of Labour leader Hugh Gaitskell – and threw in her lot with the attempt to create an all-powerful super-government over the nations of Europe. (Gaitskell had shrewdly predicted, in his speech back in 1962, what the Common Market, as it was then known, was intended eventually to become.)
It is 20 years since this column began regularly reporting on the damage that our membership of the European Union (as it was then about to become, under the Maastricht Treaty) was starting to inflict on our national life. In those days, to question our membership was to be dismissed by all right-thinking people as a crank, a nutter, a xenophobe who could not be taken seriously. When at the start of 1992, I first began reporting horror stories about the tidal wave of new regulations hitting so many British businesses with the approach of the Single Market, along with the destruction of our fishing industry and much of our agriculture, we were still locked into that forerunner of the single currency, the ERM (almost unanimously supported, it is salutary to recall, by every political party and right across the media).
Forty years on from our entry into “Europe”, as we see “the project” plunge deeper into the misery and chaos it has brought on itself by its even more hubristic desire to give the EU its own currency, British attitudes to our membership have changed beyond recognition.
Reality has kicked in, which Booker notes must inevitably be painful and bewildering, for those that hung to such beliefs for so long

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Priorities Eh?

L/Bdr Parkinson, 27, lost both his legs and suffered brain damage in a Taliban bomb blast in 2006.
After a gruelling rehabilitation process he has learned to walk on two prosthetic legs and has devoted himself to raising money for military charities.
Diane Dernie, his mother, said the honour left her son "absolutely over the moon". She said he was only informed yesterday morning.

Former Strictly Come Dancing judge Miss Phillips will receive a CBE. She said: ‘I am very pleasantly surprised but mostly absolutely thrilled and delighted to receive such a wonderful honour.’

Also receiving a CBE is artist Miss Emin, who made her name with controversial pieces such as a tent decorated with the names of all of her lovers.
The 49-year-old first courted notoriety in 1997 when she appeared on a live TV discussion about the Turner Prize drunk and swearing.

The same year she exhibited ‘Everyone I have Ever Slept With 1963-1995’ a tent appliquéd with names at Charles Saatchi’s Sensation exhibition and then was nominated for the Turner Prize in 1999 with her My Bed installation.
It divided critics, but made her one of the most famous, and well-paid, living artists in the UK.
In descending order of seniority of honours (my emphasis):
  • Knight Grand Cross or Dame Grand Cross of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (GBE)
  • Knight Commander or Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (KBE)
  • Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE)
  • Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE)
  • Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE)
It speaks for itself.

Openingly Lying Europe

I've noted before on this blog, just over a week ago in fact, that Mats Perssen of Open Europe was deliberately, or at least appearing to confuse the EU, EFTA and the EEA to get in his favourite argument of 'government by fax'.

Witterings from Witney has picked up on another example, and it truly is mind boggling in its inaccuracy. Writing in the Guardian, Mats Perssen assesses the options if we left the EU, naturally he disagrees with all of them primarily because of the so-called government by fax, however following the Switzerland model he writes:
It could potentially work, but because the Swiss option is so complicated – subject to a cobweb of bilateral agreements – it would be extremely tricky. In that two-year framework Britain has under the Lisbon treaty's leaving clause, Britain would basically have no influence over EU laws but would be subject to all of them.
What on earth has the final sentence regarding the Lisbon Treaty exit clause got to do with following the Swiss model thereafter? It is true under Article 50 (4) we are suspended from participation in EU institutions during the 2 year hiatus and we are still subject to EU laws (which we can ignore because by the time any breach reached the ECJ we would be long gone. We've managed to drag Prisoners' votes out for 7 years at least). But this has no bearing whatsoever on how we trade with the EU once we leave. So either the Director of a European Think Tank is really that stupid or the sentence was added deliberately to confuse.

What is clear is our relationship with the European Union is set to change dramatically in the next decade, likely in the form of a referendum and the Europhile movement are already marshalling their forces. One of those is going to be Open Europe, held up as the token Eurosceptic voice, its purpose is to be anything but. Witterings quite rightly says:
It is important to make the point and in this instance to repeat it, namely that were a referendum to be called, the ‘No’ campaign cannot – and must not – be left in the control of people like Mats Persson and Open Europe
They come pretending to be our friends. To quote the film Goodfellas; "Murderers come with smiles".

Thursday, 27 December 2012

118 707

My blog title refers to BT's 'no frills' directory inquiries service, and I'll come onto the significance of this later in the post.

Ten years ago, 192 (and 153 for international) was the only, and easy to remember, telephone number used to provide a directory inquiries service. Originally free, it did eventually cost 40p a call, yet it provided a simple, quick and efficient service - manned by staff who largely were familiar with the quirks of the many idiosyncratic place names in this country born out of our rich history and heritage.

In 2003, however, that was all to change. 192 was abolished on 24 August 2003 and the service opened up to competition. According to Ofcom at the time the reason was (in answer to question 17):
This is why we have decided to create better value and choice for you by introducing the new range of 6-digit numbers for DQ services, each starting with 118. All DQ service providers can compete on equal terms.
Ah the 'better service and choice' argument, but the real clue for the change is given further on in the answer:
Several other countries have already successfully introduced similar changes to their DQ markets.
We have chosen numbers starting with 118 because other countries in Europe will increasingly be using these numbers for their DQ services. 
What is left unsaid, and was at the time, the reason for the change was EU Directive 2002/77/EC, specifically article 5:
Member States shall ensure that all exclusive and/or special rights with regard to the establishment and provision of directory services on their territory, including both the publication of directories and directory enquiry services, are abolished.
As a result of complying with EU law, what then followed resembled a farce in the UK by Ofcom - the governing body - who quite frankly didn't have a clue. Naturally prices went up and were on the whole confusing, standards plummeted and most of the original copious services faded away as inevitably BT, and obviously 118 118, cornered the market. Not only that, but in order to comply, a coach and horses had to be driven through previous legislation which resulted in the Communications Act 2003.

Ofcom have clear laid out categories within their telephone numbering plan. For example; Freephone (0800), Local rate (0845), National rate (0870) and Premium rate (090). The problem is that national rate has an upper limit of 10p per minute. This meant that for directory inquiries companies they could not make work a service that would be cost effective - it would be an unworkable business model. As a consequence it was obvious in 2002 that 118 numbers would have to fall into the Premium rate category, allowing companies to charge a phone call rate that recoups their costs at the very least.

So Ofcom, eager to comply with EU law, hit on another problem, by forcing 118 numbers to come under the Premium rate category meant being part of the one area of telephone services that is heavily regulated (a reason why many chatline services advertised in national papers are national 0870 numbers because the rules are far more relaxed).

Applying for a Premium rate number in 2002 meant having a 75 page booklet (ICSTIS 10th edition - now known as PhonepayPlus) of 'do's and don'ts', as well as legal responsibilities, thrown at you. These conditions at the time for most premium rate numbers included:
  • Not allowed to be put on hold

  • A maximum cost for the phone call was set - for example 6.2 (a) (Pay for Product Services) [product must not cost] more than £20.00 or (d) terminate by forced release.

  • Premium rate callers must be over 18, for example 5.6.2 (a) Service providers must ensure that operators use reasonable endeavors to prevent persons under 18 years of age from taking part...

  • Children's services had a category of its own and under 6.1.2 (b) the service should only be used with the agreement of the person responsible for paying the telephone bill...or as another example, 6.1.4 (a) Children's services must cost no more than £3.00.

  • There's a maximum price per minute, a maximum which varied service to service - but was set ultimately at £1.50 per minute.

  • Advising you at the beginning of the call how long the call was likely to last and how much it ws to cost for example 6.6.2 (b) include an introductory message, giving the likely total cost of the call...
The rules were, and are endless, but in order to deregulate the directory inquires service they were circumnavigated by Section 120 of Communications Act 2003, which gave Ofcom the power to regulate the Premium rate industry but crucially it did not apply to all Premium rate services (my emphasis) thus letting 118 numbers off the hook:
120  Conditions regulating premium rate services(1)OFCOM shall have the power, for the purpose of regulating the provision, content, promotion and marketing of premium rate services, to set conditions under this section that bind the persons to whom they are applied.
(2)Conditions under this section may be applied either-
(a)generally to every person who provides a premium rate service;
 Ofcom could therefore ride roughshod over existing regulation:
In a classic example of understatement, it cited the example of one man who was charged £350 for a 118 call and connection from a landline in 2009: "Consumer has said that he is upset with the lack of information given by directory enquiries as they didn't advise him of what the connection costs would be and the charge to call them."
Thus 118 numbers were given the freedom to put people on hold - by necessity of volume of calls at any given moment - and charged more the fixed rate per minute, plus no upper limit because that would mean cutting off a phone call with your gran (for example) after exceeding the limit when being put through.

There was also another problem which affected businesses, which was rarely reported. The ability of 118 services to put callers through to a number of their choice, which not only incurred a significant cost but more importantly it posed a telephony security risk.

At the time of the change, one part of my previous job was being a PBX installer and programmer. For those unfamiliar, a PBX is a private branch exchange - a telephone exchange installed in big companies or hotels -one that allows many extensions numbers to be used in one building as an example. (Technology has now moved on and with VOIP (Voice over IP) - the technology behind Skype - the traditional PBX has largely been made redundant, but I digress).

Typically to save businesses money, premium rate and national rate numbers would be barred on such a system. Yet by dialing 118, it allowed company employees to bypass barred numbers by being put through via a 118 service. They could ring up and ask for the number or service in question, costing the company a lot of money in the process.

The reason I mention this is because part of my job involved conducting a cost/benefit analysis of the new 118 services - initially due the incompetence of Ofcom a hugely frustrating process. Ultimately though this actually proved to be dead easy because very few 118 numbers at the time provided the PBX security that was required - i.e a bog standard service. I lost count of the number of 18 year old Account Managers (who I knew I wouldn't see in 6 months time) trying to sell me their product's services  - bells and whistles - that I didn't want and were anyway against company policy.

And that leads me onto 118707 - the title of my blog post. Though the number is not well advertised, 118707 is the BT service designed for businesses mainly for the reasons listed above. In short it's the old 192 service in disguise. Dialing it is like going back in time.

But such is progress courtesy of the European Union...

Wednesday, 26 December 2012


Last night, the BBC had a Christmas special of the British sitcom Outnumbered, which can be viewed here. I mention this only because a significant portion of it contained a character which was supposed to be a spoof of someone who is likely to vote UKIP - in full compliance with BBC's political viewpoint of course. Confirmed by an interview published last Friday with the actor concerned said:
"I play a very dull man called Norris who's a bit of a banging-on bore - sexist, UKIP-y veering chap".
One could get angry at the obvious institutional bias or take comfort in the fact that the BBC view UKIP as such a threat that they need to parody them in a mainstream comedy on Christmas Day.

First they ignore you etc...

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Merry Christmas

To all my readers, a very Merry Christmas. A big thank you to all of you that have taken the trouble to read and comment on my blog.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Made From Norwegian Wood

As Richard North notes, you can tell that the 'Norway' proposal has put the wind up the Europhiles made evident by the amount of attention that they're paying to it, imbue naturally with BBC bias by omission. By eliminating the apocalyptic economic warnings of leaving the single market that will inevitably be rolled out en masse, Norway leaves only the (untrue) 'fax democracy' argument against leaving the EU. Negate that and they are left with nothing.

Norway, like Lichtenstein and Iceland are members of the EEA and EFTA (with Switzerland being a member of EFTA only). They participate fully in the committees that assist the EU Commission in administering or developing framework programmes and specific programmes:
All in all, Norwegian officials take part in just over 200 committees under the European Commission. The presence of Norwegian experts provides an opportunity to exert influence through direct participation at a time when national points of view are usually still flexible and before positions have become firmly established.
This comes under Articles 99 and 100 of the 1994 Agreement of European Economic Area. Artcle 99 (page 32) states (my emphasis):
1. As soon as new legislation is being drawn up by the EC Commission in a field which is governed by this Agreement, the EC Commission shall informally seek advice from experts of the EFTA States in the same way as it seeks advice from experts of the EC Member States for the elaboration of its proposals.

2. When transmitting its proposal to the Council of the European Communities, the EC Commission shall transmit copies thereof to the EFTA States.
At the request of one of the Contracting Parties, a preliminary exchange of views takes place in the EEA Joint Committee.

3. During the phase preceding the decision of the Council of the European Communities, in a continuous information and consultation process, the Contracting Parties consult each other again in the EEA Joint Committee at the significant moments at the request of one of them.

4. The Contracting Parties shall cooperate in good faith during the information and consultation phase with a view to facilitating, at the end of the process, the decision-taking in the EEA Joint Committee.
And Article 100 says:
...when drawing up draft measures the EC Commission shall refer to experts of the EFTA States on the same basis as it refers to experts of the EC Member States.
Clearly then Norway has the opportunity to have input into the formation of single market rules via the EEA Joint Committee and the EEA Council. Then ultimately Norway, and other members of EEA, has the insurance of a veto as a longstop. It is a right that Norway has already deployed when, in 2011, it vetoed the EU's 3rd Postal Directive (2008/6/EC), as this quarterly report from Posten Norge (Norway's Postal Service) writes:
The postal market in Europe was liberalised with effect from 01.01.2011 in accordance with the EUs third Postal Directive. However, a decision made at the Labour Party National Conference makes it clear that the Norwegian government does not wish to implement the EU's Third Postal Directive. The consequences of a possible veto are uncertain, but the Board of Directors considers the risk of the EU imposing sanctions on Norway Post's activities outside Norway as low.
Contrast this with the UK, who eagerly implemented the relevant EU Directive into the Postal Services Act 2011:
The Bill implements provisions of Directive 2008/6/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 February 2008 amending Directive 97/67/EC with regard to the full accomplishment of the internal market of Community postal services.

This Directive amends Directive 97/67/EC which was previously amended by
Directive 2002/39/EC. References are to the consolidated version of the Directive.
The same EU Postal Directives that have done enormous damage to our Royal Mail service.

And not only has Norway used the veto but it also uses the right as a threat to enhance its negotiating position on a number of occasions. For example in 2011 the Norwegian government considered using its veto against a new EU Directive, then being discussed by the EU Parliament attempting to set a limit to the European banks deposit insurance guarantee. In an interview with the Norwegian newspaper “Nationen,” Norwegian minister of finance, Sigbjørn Johnsen, refuse to accept the upcoming regulations from Brussels (via Google translate):
"[The EU] understand well the arguments we make, and I feel that the arguments go in, but time will tell if we get through", says Johnsen "But yes, the veto is even considered. But our main line is getting through."
However one shouldn't get carried away. The Norway solution is anything but a permanent solution for us - and most certainly it is not perfect. In many ways Norwegians suffer from the same problems as us, ruled by homegrown Europhile politicians, stitch-ups in their Parliament as a result - which make, despite the power of the veto - Norway one of the most obedient countries towards the EU and the EEA:
Norwegian lawmakers and bureaucrats obediently follow directives issued by the European Union (EU), now probably on controversial data storage rules as well, even though Norway isn’t an EU member. The latest example of obedience brought together arch-rivals Labour and the Conservatives, because of their leaders’ desires to avoid an EU veto.
Despite Norwegian public's scepticism about the EU, made clear in two referendum rejections of membership, Norway has incorporated approximately three-quarters of all EU legislative acts into Norwegian legislation as part of the EEA - according to this massive 900 page report commissioned in 2010 by the Norwegian Government as a comprehensive review of Norway’s agreements with the EU. 

Thus the willingness of Norway's parliament to bend to the will of the EU is not because of a 'democratic deficit' as a consequence of Norway being a member of the EEA, as the introductory text claims (page 7):

The most problematic aspect of Norway’s form of association with the EU is the fact that Norway is in practice bound to adopt EU policies and rules on a broad range of issues without being a member and without voting rights. This raises democratic problems.
...instead the deficit lies between Norway's parliament and its own people. Norway has more power over EU regulations in relation to the single market than ourselves, but it chooses by and large not to utilise it. Now doesn't that sound familiar? So ultimately exiting the EU in whatever format we choose still requires a massive overhaul of democracy at home in relation to how we're governed.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

A Raging Success?

I've touched on the subject before of the European Citizen's Initiative, designed as part of the Lisbon Treaty to introduce direct democracy into the European Union (don't laugh).

It was launched officially on, appropriately enough, Europe Day (9th May 2012) with this first petition. So on a continent of around 500 million people, ruled by the EU, how much have they enthusiastically embraced this supposed dose of democracy by the EU? the grand total of 14 current and open petitions, thus averaging a pitiful 2 a month. Still at least the EU is leading the way on democracy.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

"A Powerful Reputation For Accuracy"

So says Lord Leveson, regarding journalists:
During a speech at the University of Melbourne, he insisted there was an important difference between mainstream journalists with "a powerful reputation for accuracy" and bloggers and tweeters who were "no more than electronic versions of pub gossip".
Yet in the last 24 hours has been extensive coverage across the media - using cut 'n paste' - highlighting a video purporting to show a Golden Eagle trying to snatch a young child. The Daily Mail went as follows:

Kidnapper from the skies. The terrifying moment a golden eagle 'swooped down and snatched up a toddler' as he played in the park.
That same link now has headlines that have changed depicting a different story thus pretending it was right all along - because the footage is a fake. So much for accuracy, as this blog in the Guardian points out:
Shame on you, Guardian, for sharing fraudulent video with an unsuspecting public, thereby promoting misunderstanding of birds and fear of nature.
It goes onto detail the reasons why it's clearly a fraud - it obviously isn't a Golden Eagle and the baby looks suspiciously like a doll - before concluding the piece as follows:
All this evidence, taken together, means that this video is a golden teaching moment. It also means that the Guardian blew it by posting this video without including any analysis from a video expert as to whether it's real or ... artificially manufactured. Further, the Guardian blew it by not including comments from either an ornithologist or a birder as to whether this video portrayal is even plausible.
This is irresponsible journalism. By posting this video, the Guardian is actively promoting and reinforcing the public's misinformation and fear of birds of prey, and further alienating the public from nature. Publicly sharing this fraudulent video without any expert commentary serves to undermine the education and conservation efforts of many excellent organisations such as the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the British Trust for Ornithology.
Ouch. Good to see Leveson was such a master of his brief.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Easy To Please

Cameron has given a speech to the Tory 1922 committee, designed to enthuse his supporters who are troubled by incompetence and falling poll ratings. By most Tory accounts this speech seems to have gone down well:
There were plenty of smiles and a sustained period of traditional ‘desk-banging’ for the PM at the end of the committee, but this wasn’t the Big Speech.
Interestingly though Cameron said:
So he tried to cheer them with a promise that the Tories would go into the election with a genuine distinctive argument on Europe, and a genuinely eurosceptic offer.
"A genuine distinctive argument on Europe", given the man is a committed and passionate Europhile...I can't wait to see what great dollop of fudge he will pull out of the hat. The Spectator already allude to the farce that it will be (maybe without knowing it):
The big challenge for Cameron in this speech is for him to meet his party’s expectations without over-promising in a way that leaves him no wriggle room.
The wriggle room will obviously be, trying to pull off the trick of pretending to repatriate powers while keeping the status quo if not more integration.

Sorry but I can't get into this 'desk-banging' nonsense when I'm being lied to. Perhaps it's just me?


As Richard North quite rightly points out with regard to the Andrew Mitchel case:
However, the establishment – and certainly the media – is less comfortable with the idea that one or more police officers may have fabricated evidence, and/or exaggerated events, except that those of us in the real world know this to be a common enough occurrence. When push comes to shove, our boys in blue (and increasingly fluorescent yellow) are no more (or less) reliable than politicians.
Yet it stinks right across the board

Exhibit A:

David Cameron has been mocked for meeting Rebekah Brooks for the first time since the former News of the World editor was charged with offences related to phone-hacking.
The Prime Minister reportedly had a lengthy conversation with Mrs Brooks during a private gathering held by Tom Astor, who is the great-grandson of the Nancy Astor, the US heiress.

Downing Street sources confirmed the encounter took place at a party in Mr Cameron's Witney constituency, but the content of their conversation is unknown.

It comes as David Cameron wrestles with the issue of press regulation after the Leveson Inquiry recommended tighter controls in the wake of phone-hacking at the News of the World.

Exhibit B:

A former chief constable is to lead a new criminal inquiry into the Hillsborough disaster as police officers, the Football Association and a council all face potential prosecution over the 96 deaths. Theresa May, the Home Secretary, said the move, which came as the High Court quashed the original accidental death inquest verdicts, would ensure nobody responsible for the tragedy 23 years ago escapes scrutiny in the families’ search for justice.
 Exhibit C:
The Prime Minister promised police will get to "the truth of the matter", after fresh evidence suggesting an officer may have pretended to be a member of the public and fabricated an account of the incident.
From the same newspaper in just one day, what a fantastically honest establishment we's rotten to the core.

Update - Exhibit D (I'm losing track):

Tuesday, 18 December 2012


It's hard to know what to make of so-called 'plebgate' with so many differing accounts. Taking sides between the government and the police seems an anathema to me. But with more evidence it does appear that the Met have yet again acted above the law:
[Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell] spoke out during a Channel 4 News programme which alleged that a police officer had posed as a member of the public backing the police's story.
None of this will come as a surprise to us 'plebs', used to such actions for years, but there however is a perverse satisfaction to be had that such plod behaviour has reached the upper echelons of government:
Mr Mitchell said: "And it's certainly shaken my lifelong support and confidence in the police.
You don't say...

Shooting Oneself In The Foot

It was easily foreseeable, with the 'positive' coverage over the Rotherham scandal and the recent good news over Ukip's standing in the polls that come with it would be ever more scrutiny. Once you start knocking on the door of the establishment with a view to changing it, then 'the Empire is going to strike back'.

Ukip candidates up and down the land are going to come under far more scrutiny, as are Ukip policies. So it doesn't help when for one reason or another Ukip don't do themselves any favours:
A UKIP candidate has been blasted after calling for the compulsory abortion of any foetus with Down's syndrome or spina bifida.
Which indeed he has:
"...compulsory abortion when the foetus is detected as having Downs, Spina Bifida or similar syndrome which, if it is born, could render the child a burden on the state as well as on the family. "
The 'personal manifesto' released as a Ukip council candidate is an amateurish ranting tour de force that contains a goldmine of quotes for the media eager to shoot the Ukip fox, whether one agrees with his points or not. Thus it's simply not good enough to then state this:
CLARIFICATION TO AVOID CONFUSION AND MISREPRESENTATION: I do not, and UKIP does not, endorse any of these ideas: they are suggestions of matters for the review body to properly consider in light of the stated desire of all political parties to reduce the national debt.
Ukip will be damaged by association, it's inevitable and obvious, and it undoes a lot of work by hard working Ukip members. Ironically he states:
We are far too sqeamish [sic] about attacking our opponents. We must attack them mercilessly, remorselessly and harshly.
Well he's about to find out what it's like to be on the receiving end. And Ukip wonder why they have no MP's?

Dark Forces

Open Europe is a so-called think tank that is often considered by the media as Europsceptic and as a consequence its reports and statements are treated accordingly. However anyone who considers facts more important than a 'narrative' can very quickly come to the conclusion that it is anything but - just read its 'about page'.

More proof is found in the latest Telegragh article by Mats Persson, his description being (my emphasis):
Mats Persson is Director of Open Europe, an independent think-tank with offices in London and Brussels campaigning for EU reform.
The article goes on to lavishly dollop praise onto Cameron as a Europsceptic, for example:
Cameron has therefore upped the game
That anyone could consider Cameron as a Eurosceptic, when the evidence is firmly the opposite, is someone who has attended too many Christmas parties. Mats Persson reveals his true colours. Yet, almost like Jimmy Savile, he hides his deception in plain sight. Thus he supports Cameron (my emphasis:
It's increasingly difficult for him not to frame the issue as a choice between "renegotiation or Brixit" (as opposed to the status quo and Brixit or status quo or renegotiation).
I can only assume by 'status quo and Brixit' he means leaving the EU but remaining part of the single market. How revealing that this is an option he clearly does not support. He goes onto say:
This is tricky territory.
Well yes it is when your game is to try to deceive people on your true intentions, but the key paragraph is this...
Fortunately for Cameron, the UK achieved a substantial victory last week in Europe, winning a safeguard against the 17 eurozone members writing the financial rules for all 27 EU members in the soon-to-be-established banking union. This is vital as Britain is home to 36 per cent of the EU’s wholesale finance market. Inbuilt discrimination against non-euro countries in the EU in this area would amount to “not in the euro but run by the euro” for the UK, meaning both the single market and the case for the UK’s continued EU membership would be severely undermined (as the UK would  be "governed by fax" – a la Norway – anyway).
Spot what he did?

The argument put forward is Cameron achieved 'a real victory' by winning safeguards, with the UK being in the EU. But Persson claims if Cameron didn't achieve that victory (as EU members), then Persson argues we would end up like Norway and its government by fax...even within the EU. But Norway aren't part of the EU. Persson has quite deliberately confused membership of the EU, EEA and a combination of the two, so in effect comparing oranges with apples, all to get his 'government by fax' point in.

These are (via very convoluted arguments) the dark forces we face...all in a desperate attempt to keep us in. That's why the Norway veto argument is so important.

One is tempted to think of a Scooby Doo ending, where we pull off Mats Persson's mask and proclaim in surprise; "why, it's Ted Heath!"

Come in 'agent Open Europe' your time is up.

hattip Witterings from Witney

Monday, 17 December 2012

But Cameron Likes Vetos...

Dear Mr Cameron,

In 2011 you, to much fanfare, told us that you were being strong for UK interests by standing up against the EU:
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.
This was a veto you took credit for, which understandably excited your party (despite that it was a veto built on sand).

But clearly an EU veto, or the promise of one, makes you more popular. So here's an idea. Invoke Article 50, but remain part of the European Economic Area (single market). This is an opportunity that not only can we bring power back to the UK, which you've promised on many occasions, but also gives back to us the power of a veto - equivalent to the one Norway has over EU law, as part of its EEA membership.

Think of the positives of this, not only can you have a significant poll boost which could help you win the next election, you can negate the UKIP threat, you'll have a genuine power of a veto and as a 'Brucie Bonus' you can look statesman like by actually delivering on your promises.

What's there not to like Mr. Cameron?

I look forward to your prompt reply.

Yours Sincerely


Incompetence Gets Praise.

I'm not overly familiar with Bruce Anderson, but he has an article on Conservative Home titled: "Parris and Portillo are wrong to disdain the views of grassroot Tories".

The article itself seems to be a bit of a contradictory mess, which is what happens when you really want one outcome but are pretending not to, as his article seems to indicate. And it's but one example on Conservative Home of the chaos that the Conservative Party currently find themselves in on a number of issues.

One paragraph however stood out:
It is true that a lot of extreme Euro-sceptics are also Euro-bores, who cling to their obsessions with a manic intensity. Kenneth Clarke boasted that he had never read the Maastricht Treaty. Some of the Euro-phobes could recite it backwards. With a fair number of them, one is in Ancient Mariner territory. If you see them coming, you dodge behind a pillar and pray that they have not spotted you. We would all rather have dinner with Ken Clarke than with Douglas Carswell. Few human rights are more important than the entitlement to a good dinner in amusing company.
Well, forgive me for pointing this out, but surely reading and knowing treaties (even backwards) is kind of an MP's job - someone who has been elected to the legislative has the power to pass, amend, and repeal laws and so must, one would assume, be able to read and know law and treaties as part of their job. That it makes them a bore is kind of the consequence of law making - law is deadly dull, as Bismarck once noted (in a comment attributed to him):
Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made.
But no, not to Bruce Anderson, what counts instead is whether they make amusing company at a good dinner (no doubt put on expenses) rather than actually do the job we pay and send them to Parliament for.

Incompetence is therefore regarded as a virtue. No wonder our democracy is in such a mess.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Hope He Loses

Following last night's shenanigans, I'm not really in the mood for a politics post today - normal service will be resumed soon. Just a quick comment really on tonight's BBC Sports Personality of the Year. Hot favourite to win is Bradley Wiggins.

Now I've nothing against the chap personally, and winning a cycle race which paints the line between genius and insanity as thin as it could possibly be is a remarkable achievement - unless of course your name is Lance Armstrong.

But the bluster about this year's Olympics, and sport in general has been about legacy... and what a bloody legacy Mr Wiggins has left us. Encouraging untold numbers to suddenly develop an enthusiasm for cycling, clogging up our roads and pavements - turning most of the UK into a larger version of Oxford. Copious untrained and hopeless cyclists have noticeably inundated our transport network since his win and the Olympics (though of course they have been absent when we had a dose of global warming).

So thanks a bunch Mr Wiggins...hope you lose.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Quote Of The Day

"If parliament is formed from one party as a result of its winning an election, it becomes a parliament of the winning party and not of the people. It represents the party and not the people, and the executive power of the parliament becomes that of the victorious party and not of the people."
I'm currently waiting to be picked up to attend a Christmas bash - one I'm not particularly looking forward to - but hey I'm looking on the bright side it's free food. So I thought I would pose a quick quiz for a Saturday night...guessing who wrote the above quote (and no cheating)

Government By Fax? Norway Has A Veto

Cameron: "I think it is worth understanding what leaving would involve – there is the Norway option. You can be like Norway – and you can have full access to the single market but you have absolutely no say over the rules of that market. In Norway they sometimes call it ‘Government by fax’ because you are simply taking the instructions about every rule in the single market from Brussels without any say on what those rules are."
It was Witterings from Witney that alerted me via email to this Newsnight programme on Wednesday (copy going on youtube later today) in particular this comment (32:12) from Helle Hagenau, who worked as Secretary General in Norway's No to EU in 2001:
“No, we are not governed by fax because the European agreement, the single market agreement, that has a clause when we can veto a directive if we don’t like it; and we have done that.”
In one simple sentence one of the long running and best known EU arguments for remaining members has been nailed for the lie that it is, yet the comment, dynamite as it is, seems hitherto have passed by unnoticed by a large number of euroscpetics.

Witterings has the details which is worth reading in full, the key one is this from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (6.1.4) - the right of veto:
“According to the principle of unanimity applied in the EEA Joint Committee, all the EFTA states must agree in order for new EU legislation to be integrated into the EEA Agreement and for it to apply to cooperation between the EFTA states and the EU. If one EFTA state opposes integration, this also affects the other EFTA states in that the rules will not apply to them either, neither in the individual states nor between the EFTA states themselves nor in their relations with the EU. This possibility that each EFTA state has to object to new rules that lie within the scope of the EEA Agreement becoming applicable to the EFTA pillar is often referred to as these parties’ right of veto.”
In short if Norway doesn't like the fax it receives it can simply file it in the bin. Cameron has been exposed as a liar, and his key argument against a 'Norway solution' has been comprehensively holed below the waterline.

"Government by fax" is a wholly inaccurate yet powerful soundbite, but now we have powerful soundbite in response - "that's a lie, Norway has a veto".

The importance of this cannot be overstated.

Edit: I've uploaded the relevant clip here:

Friday, 14 December 2012

The EU's P45

Pro-EU blogger Jon Worth admits that the EU hasn't kept peace on the European Continent since WWII:
The EU should have stepped in earlier in the Balkans...
Let's put this into context. The Balkans conflict was a period of concentration camps, ethnic cleansing and more war crimes than you could shake a stick at for the first time since WWII on the European continent. A conflict that ended up with America and NATO trying to sort out. The excuse that "The EU should have stepped in earlier..." doesn't even cut the mustard.

The EU failed in its primary purpose at the first attempt - big time - and for that we are supposed to sacrifice our democracy...?

That Mr Worth sneaks in its failure with so much understatement is a sign of the embarrassing failure...

Fox Hunting

Information has come to light to TBF that Cameron's 'Norway's government by fax' argument is about to be holed below the waterline. In deference to another blogger I'll refrain from the details for the time being...

Keep an eye on Witterings from Witney

The information is also likely to form the basis of a sunday newspaper article this weekend...


Thursday, 13 December 2012

United In Diversity... the slogan of the European Union. Strangely this didn't quite apply when the EU adorned one of their buildings with a 20-metre high banner celebrating winning the Nobel Peace Prize (click to enlarge):

Notice anything odd? Amid all the white European faces, is only one non-white one, depicted in a rather dodgy drawing as thus below:

hattip: Berlaymonster

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

A Winning Strategy

One of the great frustrations for me of the genuine euroscpetic movement is the often lack of a coherent or successful strategy to exit. The consequences of which is self-evident, by virtue that in a couple of weeks time will be the 40 year anniversary of our entry, yet still we seem to be no closer or nearer to leaving. The Green party for example have an MP despite the party polling around a quarter of Ukip's national vote in 2010 who are still waiting for their first. A very long wait it seems for Ukip to be as well.

One of the problems is a lack of acknowledgment in some circles that we have to play the cards we're dealt not what we wish them to be. Simply repealing the ECA 1972  and hoping we can easily undo all that has passed overnight is not feasible. The ECA is not some kind of 'giant red reset button' that will magically takes us to a post EU nirvana. That is not how international agreements are made.

It's precisely because the EU rules and governs a great deal that unpicking a lot of it will take time and patience - and it must be done with the minimum of disruption especially in times of economic turmoil. To save the Boiling Frog you can't simply scoop him out of the very hot water and stick him in the freezer - the shock would kill him - you have to turn the heat off and allow him to cool down within the gradually cooling water.

If we are to rip up one set of terms and conditions (by immediately repealing the ECA) then a new set of terms and conditions must already in be place to cover things like; mobile phone roaming, telecommunications, mail to the EU, passport control, banking transactions, landing slots for aircraft, trade and so on. These things will inevitably take time to agree to. Taking trade as an example, to export to the single market as a non-EU country, a Designated Port of Entry is needed (DPE) to tunnel into the EU's custom union's walls - an example is here regarding fishing:
"List of ports in EU Member States where landings and transhipment operations of fishery products are allowed and port services accessible for third-country fishing vessels, in accordance with Article 5(2) of Council Regulation (EC) No 1005/2008"
Thus without negotiating DPEs for the UK we cannot export to the EU by law outside the single market...all exports from the UK to the EU would literally stop overnight without agreements in place. Not ideal in the middle of difficult economic times.

Such facts will be used time and time again by Europhiles to devastating effect against the 'repeal the ECA' brigade in any future referendum, a referendum which is looking increasingly likely. This argument will galvanise the 'status quo' effect that affects all referendums plus being a potent dose of 'cling onto nurse' scaremongering - ensuring that any referendum will be lost by those that seek EU exit. "Exit will be a disaster" will be the cry, and by advocating repealing the ECA 1972 they will be right, and they will exploit such an argument to the full.

What we need, therefore, is a strategy to negate such views. Within Article 50 - the exit clause of the Lisbon Treaty - we thankfully have one.

Invoking Article 50 is an international legal requirement under the Vienna Convention of Treaties 1969. We are signatories to this act and if we are to remain part of the responsible international community then we have no choice but to invoke Lisbon's exit clause as per Vienna's requirements. Article 50 also allows us under Lisbon to negotiate a new 'relationship' - a new contract - which means when we leave (after 2 years), the exit will be relatively seamless, with minimum disruption.

Article 50 also has the bonus of calling Cameron's bluff. Cameron has no intention of wanting to exit the EU and will rig any referendum accordingly (my emphasis):
"I don’t want an ‘in or out’ referendum because I don’t think out is in Britain’s interests.”
Thus we have pontification from Cameron that he wants to remain in the EU but wishes to negotiate a new relationship (my emphasis):
The Government is reportedly drawing up plans for an in-or-out referendum on EU membership. David Cameron is said to support a looser relationship with the EU but he is ready to give Britons the possibility of leaving entirely to ensure a referendum has credibility.
Such protestations are pure fantasy. That the EU, who have a full blown Eurozone crisis on their hands, are going to listen to Cameron who wants to bring to the table negotiations over bringing back 'maternity leave legislation' to the UK" is someone whose favourite song must be Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. And as Roger Helmer notes, via Witterings from Witney:
Cameron’s idea that he can just show up in the Berlaymont Building and jettison half of the acquis communautaire is so much pie in the sky.”
Cameron knows this of course, which is why he is in favour of proposing it. It's a ruse to try to bring on board (deceive) euroscpetics pretending he can bring back powers, while assuring those in Europe by implication that he doesn't mean it - precisely because they know he can't deliver. It's deception on Cameron's part of the highest order.

But...there is a way of delivering 'a looser relationship' with the EU and remaining part of the single market, and it's one that backs Cameron into a corner - Article 50. We can remove ourselves from EU jurisdiction but by remaining a member of the European Economic Area (EEA) - the common market - it can fulfil Cameron's so-called wishes. Richard North calls it the strategy of "common market and out".

Being a member of the EEA:
...allows Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway to participate in the EU's Internal Market without being members of the EU
The EEA is often seen as a stepping stone to full EU membership, but conversely what is a stepping stone 'in' can also be a stepping stone 'out'. By invoking Article 50 at a stroke the Tories can claim to be exiting the EU, while also arguing that trade won't be affected because we remain members of the single market. It's a winning strategy by facilitating the inevitable slow exit from the EU while negating many of the objections to do so.

It's a danger that Cameron clearly recognises...which is why he is attempting to nip this idea in the bud before it gains traction:

That Cameron is opposed is a very good reason why it has potential as a winning strategy.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Fax And Facts

“And here you will stay, Gandalf the Grey, and rest from journeys. For I am Saruman the Wise,Saruman the Ring-maker, Saruman of Many Colours!"  
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

David Cameron reveals his true colours, in the Telegraph by invoking an old, classic and false europhile argument:
The Prime Minister said that if the UK pulled out of the EU but wanted to keep the advantages of the single market it would be reduced to the standing of Norway, which has to abide by faxed orders from Brussels bureaucrats.
Funnily enough, in November 2012, Nick Clegg - the passionate unashamed Europhile had this to say (my emphasis):
And heading to the exit would be the surest way to diminish the UK.
Because what then?
Become the next Norway or Switzerland?
Advocates of repatriation point to these nations and say they have the best of both worlds:
Access to Europe’s markets...
Without an assault on their sovereignty.

But these countries sit and wait for bills and directives from Brussels...
Duly paying their bit, changing their laws...
But with absolutely no say over Europe’s rules:
No political representation; no national voting rights; no voice at all.
They work by fax democracy:
You find your instructions on the machine in the morning, and you follow them.
They have no meaningful sovereignty in the EU.
One comforting factor though is, that a British PM has had to resort to such tactics is a sign that the question of our membership is about to take a significant turn. It also demonstrates that scare tactics not facts will be used in desperation in order to keep Cameron et al sucking at the teat of the EU.

Untangling A Mess Takes Time

It's not often I agree with Jon Worth, but he has post here that needs reading. It relates to a possible independent Scotland and the relationship with the rest of the UK, and the EU. The point he makes exactly apply to leaving the EU for us as a country - assuming Scotland remain a UK member.

Because we have had 40 years tied to this EU behemoth, means untangling it will take a great deal of time. Simply repealing the ECA 1972 hoping it's 'a giant red reset button' is completely unrealistic:
Scotland is not going to vote to leave the UK, and then become independent the next day. Disentangling everything from energy networks to transport systems, financing to contributions to the BBC is going to take a long period of time – at least 12 months. It is going to be a matter of enormous policymaking complexity. Now I know everyone in British politics assumes negotiations can conclude instantly (Nick Robinson’s 5 days that changed Britain, about 2010, is testimony to that), but I cannot see how separation of Scotland from the UK could possibly be concluded swiftly.
In comparison to that, Scotland applying to join the EU is actually going to be comparatively easy, and most definitely much easier and faster than any previous enlargement of the EU because Scotland is fully compliant with the acquis communautaire anyway. Hence how Scotland can work within the EU can be negotiated in parallel to negotiations with London to leave the UK.
Now there is the small chance that something could go wrong – some country or other could veto Scotland’s entry. But doing so, for a comparatively rich new country that had been part of the EU anyway, is just going to look like sour grapes and anyway some major EU countries, notably France, will be content to see a weakened London anyway, and hence would be on the side of letting Scotland into the EU. Yes, Scotland might have to commit to join the Euro, but Sweden still has that commitment as well, and is it making it happen?
Also look at the UK-Scotland side – what happens if these negotiations were to fail? That a financial arrangement, or a division of military or natural resources cannot be hammered out? Again, this looks to me much more of a headache than an EU accession.
Scotland becoming fully independent does not happen in practical terms by merely repealing the Acts of Union, thus neither does the same happen to us repealing the ECA 1972 in regard to the EU.

Brutal Reality Kicks In For The Tories...

Autonomous Mind has picked up on a report from the Telegraph that the Tory fantasy that is renegotiation for a 'looser relationship' whilst remaining within the EU' is...erm...a load of bollocks, to be quite blunt:
David Cameron cannot just pick and choose European Union laws for Britain despite promising his party a "new settlement", a senior Brussels official has suggested.

The warning came from Cecilia Malmström, EU home affairs commissioner, just days before the Prime Minister prepares to give a major speech setting out his vision for a fresh relationship with the rest of Europe.
It also deals a blow to the Prime Minister's initial efforts to claw back 136 powers related to law and order. This is Mr Cameron's first step towards re-negotiating wider powers over areas such as agriculture, justice and employment laws.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Ms Malmström said it was a difficult process to opt out of a package of laws and then opt back into some of them.
“On each of these opt-ins there will have to be a negotiation and the other member states will have to agree,” she said. Ms Malmström added that it would be complex because “of these 136 laws, many are very connected”.
It's amazing, in a disturbing way, the lengths our political class will go, to try to pretend we rule our own country, or that being a member of the EU involves some kind of Woolworths inspired 'pick 'n mix' option.

Alex Salmond suffers from the same affliction in a slightly different way refusing to be honest about the EU status, or lack of, regarding an independent Scotland:
José Manuel Barroso told the BBC it was “obvious” that if one part of a member state, like the UK, became a separate country then it would have to apply for EU membership.

He rejected Alex Salmond’s claim that talks over Scotland’s terms of membership would take place from “within” the EU, arguing that legally it would be an entirely new state. 
In Cameron's case, it simply isn't feasible to pass various EU treaties via Parliament then try to whinge argue later you don't like some aspects of them. The EU, quite rightly, will simply point to Article 50 (the exit clause in the Lisbon Treaty), basically saying 'if you don't like it you know where the exit door is'.

For the Tories, pigeons are coming home to roost - big time. Here's what Labour MP Hugh Gaitskell, said in October 1962
"The Tories have been indulging in their usual double talk. When they go to Brussels they show the greatest enthusiasm for political union. When they speak in the House of Commons they are most anxious to aver that there is no commitment whatever to any political union."
'Ever closer union' was always going to mean the Tory position of 'in Europe not ruled by it' would over time become laughably less and less plausible. But it seems, in the face of evidence, they would still rather destroy their own party first than admit to the truth.

Death Wish

The actual debate over gay marriage registers on my 'interest-o meter' at around the level of Manolo Blahnik shoes, and the continuing adventures of Kim Kardashian - basically not very high.

It does, however, have the amusing side-effect of watching the Tories pull themselves apart. Not content with destroying their party over the issue of Europe, they seemed determined to put another nail in their electoral coffin by splitting their party again over an issue, that seems to barely register across the country - not surprising given the economic climate, while ensuring that many more Tory members and helpers will leave in their droves. The Tories appear to have a death wish.

There is however a far more important point and it is one of democracy. The issue, which has serious implications for the relationship between the church and state needs serious debate, instead it has been reduced to cynical Tory political calculation for the next election. The voters have seen it for the cynicism that it is:
A ComRes survey published today found that 62 per cent of voters and 68 per cent of Tories believe marriage should continue to be defined as a ‘life-long exclusive commitment between a man and a woman’.

In a further blow for the PM, 65 per cent agree that his plans to legalise gay marriage are ‘more to do with trying to make the Conservative Party look trendy and modern’ than a matter of conviction.
It's also worth noting that the so-called heavyweights supporting Cameron, John Major and Boris Johnson are not elected as MPs. Nor will it stop there, as Peter Bone MP says in the Independent (pictured above):
"If this were a genuine free vote, which of course it isn't, I reckon most Conservative MPs would vote against." He added: "The Prime Minister is absolutely wrong on this. This 'cast-iron guarantee' he has given that no church will be forced to marry someone is obviously false, because the European courts will intervene.

"What will happen when a couple goes to a local church, same sex, saying they want to be married [and] that church turns them down? Off to a European court and, heigh-ho, all churches will be forced to.
But the money quote is this one from Mr Bone:
"It was in no party manifesto, there is no mandate for the Prime Minister to do this; he is absolutely wrong to be doing it now..."
And in one sentence Mr Bone (unwittingly I suggest) has summed up everything that is wrong. The voters' appear to be against it, Cameron has no mandate, yet he will still force this issue through Parliament against the wishes of the majority of the population opposed, topped off eventually with an intervention from European Courts which will expand the consequences of the law. Yet another example of how democracy has gone seriously AWOL in this country.

The antidote to all this is the 6 demands of the Harrogate Agenda. Parliament in its current form is not fit for purpose.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

The Blame Lies Elsewhere

The news is dominated with the sad and tragic death of Jacintha Saldanha - a nurse at the King Edward VII hospital - who took her own life apparently as a consequence of a prank call from an Australian radio station.

It's easy in these circumstances for some to lose a sense of perspective and as a consequence the Australian station in question is taking a great deal of flak, liberally sprinkled it has to be said with a dash of good old 'Aussie bashing'.

Yes, the call in question was crass, juvenile and puerile but given the world wide publicity of the Duchess of Cambridge's pregnancy, and admission to hospital, it was completely inevitable that bogus calls were going to be made to the hospital - to elicit information more than anything else.

But like a magician who uses diversion techniques as part of his act, so it's proving with the hospital in question. Because ultimately it comes down to a failing on their part.

As I've noted here before, Mrs TBF used to work for the Queen, albeit indirectly via the Queen's horse race trainer. One of the first things that was drummed into her was answering the phone and dealing with possible bogus and fake press calls.
  • The Queen never phoned directly. A member of staff (name known) always phoned and one of two things occurred; either a request to be transferred to the boss (and only him) who would then be connected through or, far more frequently, a request would be made to be called back on an approved number at a certain time.

  • In the event of a member of the Queen's staff requesting information, it was done by terminating the call and ringing back on an approved number to give out the information.
Similar techniques were used with mail - by putting a code in the bottom right corner of the envelope ensured that the mail would be read by Her Majesty personally. Such training prevented Mrs TBF from getting caught out when controversy hit the racing yard in question and they were inundated with press attention.

So it begs the question why staff of the King Edward VII's hospital were not briefed in the same way, not only given the high profile nature of the Duchess of Cambridge's condition, but that historically it has been used by copious members of the Royal family including; the Queen, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and Charles, Prince of Wales.

Yet it appears that training or information was not given as a matter of course or if so it was clearly inadequate. Either way it is a failure of the hospital's management. However, like the tricks of the magician, we are persuaded to look the other way:
Lord Glenarthur, chairman of King Edward VII’s Hospital, has now written to Australian radio station condemning the call, in which two presenters pretended to be the Queen and the Prince of Wales.
In the letter to Max Moore-Wilton, chairman of Southern Cross Austereo - the parent company of 2DayFM, Lord Glenarthur said: "I am writing to protest in the strongest possible terms about the hoax call made from your radio station, 2DayFM, to this hospital last Tuesday.
"King Edward VII’s Hospital cares for sick people, and it was extremely foolish of your presenters even to consider trying to lie their way through to one of our patients, let alone actually make the call."
He added that the decision to transmit the pre-recorded call was "truly appalling".
In the sad event of a preventable death I hear the noise of arse-covering.

One Small Problem...

At the bottom of this article by the Daily Mail, about so-called 'Zombie Britain' are these words of wisdom from our beloved Prime Minister on helping to boost our flagging economy:
Competition could be boosted by breaking up nationalised banks and giving customers a single transferable account number, David Cameron suggested yesterday.

The Prime Minister signalled that he favoured the idea of making it easier to switch between banks.
He added that ministers would consider the need to increase choice on the High Street as they sought to return RBS and Lloyds to the private sector.
It echoes a comment made by another Tory MP Andrea Leadsom, a Treasury Select Committee member back in September this year:
...Andrea Leadsom has called for regulators to force banks to allow customers to keep their account number if they switch to a new bank...[she] told the Mail on Sunday that portability would make it easier to switch accounts and would enhance competition. She said it "might take a regulatory push to make it happen".

Her stand follows a poll released by Which? last week, in which 59 per cent said that they would be more likely to move banks if they could take their account number with them.
One small problem.

Here's an EU Commission staff working document from 2005 (Annex to the proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on Payment Services in the Internal Market - Impact assessment {COM(2005) 603 final). It says:
It was decided that legal requirements for the “ portability of bank account numbers ” should not be taken up.
The reason being...? (my emphasis)
The benefit of the introduction of a mandatory rule ensuring the portability of bank account numbers is to facilitate mobility of customers. Currently the cost for changing from one bank to another is very high. Bank account portability is expected to facilitate competition. However, studies carried out in some Member States (UK, NL) regarding this question of portability have shown that the recently introduced EU-wide IBAN-BIC[94] numbering system is not compatible with the portability of account numbers without incurring in disproportionate costs and provoking problems for efficient straight through processing.
The Commission believes that after the considerable investments in the development of the IBAN-BIC numbering systems, time is needed for this system to prove its effectiveness. It would not be appropriate at this stage to impose a modification of the system. Nevertheless, the IBAN-BIC system appears to be a very complicated system and may need to be simplified in the long run. Therefore the Commission advises the banking industry to launch studies in order to create, in the long run, a more simplified numbering system for payments in the Internal Market.
Introducing portable account numbers would mean current International Bank Account Number (IBAN) and BIC standards – which have been adopted by the European Committee for Banking Standards as the standards for the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) formats - would have to be abolished and replaced.

In other words it ain't going to happen anytime soon.