Thursday 30 September 2010

MPs Shouldn't Blog

So says Tory MP Nadine Dorries...on her blog!
In the article, in which I very clearly define the reasons why MPs should not blog or Twitter...
Nadine then goes on to ask the all important question; "Is there such a thing as Twitter addiction?":
I wonder if very soon someone is going to identify a Twitter syndrome and we get to read about people who have become compulsive Tweeters. Will we hear stories of people who Tweet, oh I don't know, say 50 times a day and need to go into re-hab?
I will put money on that being a Daily Mail story one day.
The more I read her post the more I hope it's a wind-up, if it's not then I truly despair. Is this what the calibre of MPs has come to?

Update: Blimey Nadine's post has caused a bit of a stir here, here, here and here.

Red Flag

Above is the 'Red Flag' moment from the Labour conference this afternoon, and as you can see not many of the Labour members know the words, reading as they are from cards.

A Question Of Timing

On the same day that angry protests swept across European cities - the largest in Brussels, near the EU Commission - saying 'no to austerity measures', the EU Commission presented new proposals for economic governance with particular regard to fiscal deficits:

Finally, because our proposals are directly and immediately applicable to the Euro area countries, therefore addressing some of the roots of the recent crisis of sovereign debt in the Euro area.

We will consider excessive deficits and excessive debts on an equal basis. Debt is as damaging and needs to be addressed more seriously than in the past. To help member states coordinate more effectively their fiscal policies, we propose minimum requirements for national fiscal frameworks to make sure that they are in line with Treaty obligations.

All of which in the present climate will force countries to run more austerity policies. Whoops.

Emergency Bra

Don't ask how I found this but wtf:
'Emergency bra' mixes underwear with a gas mask

The ‘emergency bra’, created by Ukrainian scientist Dr Elena Bodnar, went on sale this week on the internet, costing $30 (£18).

She says it can easily be removed, split into two and turned into a face mask to filter out harmful chemicals.

The bra is described online as "an Emergency Bra, Nursing Bra, Two Face Masks [and] Strapless bra."

Dr Bodnar invented the bra mask after studying fallout from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster in the Ukraine in 1986.

Wednesday 29 September 2010

Quote Of The Day

As Foreign Secretary, [Miliband] was a global player, with all the luxury and intellectual stimulation that the role confers. Immediately after he had left, he could hardly bear to drive past the Foreign Office and be reminded of what he had lost... the transition to second class rail travel and snacks from station buffets was a culture shock.

Instructions From London

From Roger Helmer Tory MEP this rather revealing post:
Back in July we were voting in the Strasbourg Plenary on the proposal to set up the EEAS — the European External Action Service, or EU Diplomatic Service (under the wise and guiding hand of Baroness Ashton). And looking down the voting list, I and a couple of colleagues saw that we were whipped to vote in favour.

It had to be a mistake. As a Party, we’ve always opposed the EEAS, and we opposed the Lisbon Treaty which provided its legal basis (or at least we opposed Lisbon until it was ratified). But clearly we would not actually be voting in favour — would we?

I turned round to our Foreign Affairs Spokesman (at least we still regard EU issues as foreign, even if Brussels regards them as domestic), Charles Tannock MEP (London), two rows behind me, and I shouted “Hey Charles, there’s a mistake. We’re down to vote YES on EEAS!”. To which he replied “That’s right. Instructions from London”.

So which way now for euro-sceptics in the Party (which is most of the membership)? I have written to William Hague requesting an explanation of this volte face, but to date have received no reply.
To his credit Roger voted no, but as he pertinently asks which way now for Tory eurosceptics.? There is a simple answer to that one, but how many of them will listen?

The Ryder Cup

I don't follow golf with much interest, it's notable for being the only sport where I support the USA, even more so now:
TEAM Europe will have a new flag-waving supporter cheering them off the first tee on Friday. José Manuel Barroso - the president of the European Commission - will be speaking at the opening ceremony tomorrow night and will remain on to watch the golf the following morning.

Tuesday 28 September 2010

Ed's Speech

During which Laura Kuenssberg Chief Political Correspondent for the BBC twittered this:

Too little, too late. Especially considering this from the Mail today:

Benefits tourists are set to get the green light to come to Britain and immediately claim handouts totalling £2.5billion a year.

According to documents leaked to the Mail, ministers have been warned that restrictions on claims by immigrants are against the law and must be scrapped.

The European Commission's ruling threatens to open the door to tens of thousands who are currently deterred from coming to Britain.

This Man Is Risking Your Money

The frontpage of German magazine Focus features a picture of ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet, with the headline: "This man is risking your money".

hattip: Open Europe

Sorry I Didn't Read It

Jeremy Hunt, the Culture Secretary has at last apologised for his comments made during the World Cup regarding the Hilsborough tragedy:

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has apologised to relatives of Hillsborough disaster victims over comments he made, relatives said.

Mr Hunt angered campaigners when he suggested that crowd unrest may have been to blame for the crush that killed 96 supporters in April 1989.

He made the comments while praising the behaviour of England World Cup fans.

His excuse?
'I am very sorry I did not read the full Taylor report and I have read it now and I am really, really sorry for my comments'."
So the Minister for Sport admits he never read (until now) the most famous, groundbreaking and accurate inquiry into sporting grounds, which proved to be the watershed not just in football but right across sport in general.

But then I shouldn't be surprised Caroline Flint, Minster for Europe at the time, admitted she'd never read the Lisbon Treaty.

Monday 27 September 2010

Meanwhile... the media continues to salivate over the 'Miliband of brothers', another crisis has been looming quietly but surely in the Eurozone. Despite claims and reassurances that the crisis was over, the markets are telling a completely different story. They have set their sights on Ireland and Portugal; both of which have seen their 10-year bond yields surge to euro era record levels. In effect sovereign debt is, one-by-one, being 'decoupled' and sent off to join Greece on a desert island.

A Fistful Full of Euro's likens it to the Agatha Christie novel; And then there were none (I notice that he wasn't brave enough to use the original title:) this sense the present European Sovereign Debt situation does rather resemble the plot of the well known Agatha Christie detective novel “And Then There Were None“. As told by M. Christie ten people, all of whom have in one way or another been previously complicit in an earlier death are somehow tricked into travelling to pass some time together on a secluded island. Even though the guests are apparently the only people on the island, they are – somehow, and one after another – systematically mysteriously murdered.

In a way which may eventually come to resemble scenes from the forthcoming meetings of the European Financial Stability Facility management board each morning for breakfast one less guest shows up. One by one and little by little, one participant after another becomes overcome by a mysterious and seemingly inexplicable bout of “systemic instability”.
AFFOE even goes onto, inadvertently, to disagree with Ed Ball's analysis that cuts have lead to the current Irish crisis (my emphasis)
In all these cases, including the Greek and Spanish ones, this issue is not simply one of stimulus versus austerity (a false polarity when it comes to the situation on the Euro periphery), the issue is how to restore growth to highly indebted economies, since without growth the debt to GDP ratios will not come down, and the burden of the debt will not be reduced. So more borrowing is not what these countries need right now (other than to aid short term liquidity), what these countries all need is more exports, and no one seems to be very clear how they are to achieve them.
In other words, the crisis stems from not having the flexibility of your own currency. He continues:

Morgan Stanley’s Chief Global Economist, Joachim Fels remains pretty unconvinced by all of this. “Strains,” he wrote in a recent report, have now reached a point where “one or several governments” may soon have to resort to the rescue mechanism. “Neither the European sovereign debt crisis nor the banking sector crisis has been resolved and both continue to mutually reinforce each other,” he said, adding that the EU’s stress tests for banks had manifestly failed to restore the necessary confidence.

None of this is a surprise, the Greek bailout was only ever a sticking plaster over fundamental cracks - a crisis postponed. A run of terrible data recently has not helped matters either: Irish GDP shrunk 1.2 per cent in the second quarter of 2010, European industrial orders figures slumped and speculation continues that Ireland may have to refinance its debt. As the Wall Street Journal today highlights regarding the bailout in May:

Over the next three days, Mr. Trichet sought a way out of his bind by pushing Europe's leaders to overcome disunity and act. His quest ran into the euro zone's biggest political flaw: There was nobody in charge...[and] four months later, the root causes of the Greek crisis remain: There is no central authority to even coordinate national tax-and-spending policies.

The endgame is clearly near, the Euro cannot continue in its current format. The only question is whether it voluntarily breaks apart - the South Med countries exit - or whether the markets call time and force it apart. Given the EU's glacier like ability to make decisions, and Merkell and Sarkozy's less than amicable working relationship I guess it will be the latter.

But that won't necessarily mean I will be dancing on the Euro's grave. I see its demise as inevitable rather than a cause for celebration. Britain, given its exposure to Eurozone debt will not be immune from the fallout, and the effect on world economic recovery is incalculable.

The single currency will also return in another form, probably I suspect based around the core economies of Germany and France. Moves to harmonise taxation, the first sensible step in currency union, in those two countries are already being prepared. The other countries with their economies broken as a result of the failed Euro experiment will be left to rot.

And nor do I believe that the crisis in the Euro will be the demise of the EU, despite Angela Merkel’s protestations. Like a shark that has to keep moving forward to survive so the EU has to keep on integrating for the same reasons. It will be badly damaged for sure, wounded, but there will be a resurrection - a different strategy - there always is.

It will be a battle won but not yet the war.

Update: Anglo Irish bank has had its credit rating downgraded this morning:
Moody’s Investors Service has today downgraded the senior debt rating of Anglo Irish Bank Corporation Limited (“Anglo Irish”) by three notches to Baa3/Prime-3 from A3/Prime-1, and is maintaining it on review for possible downgrade. At the same time, Moody’s has downgraded the dated subordinated debt held by Anglo Irish by six notches to Caa1 from Ba1 and has assigned a negative outlook…
Update II:
Irish 10-year yield spreads over German bunds are sharply wider this morning, at 0800 GMT, Irish yield spreads had widened to 4.53 percentage points, the highest since the introduction of the euro:
Unless the European Central Bank and national central banks step in "in a sizeable way" as buyers of Portuguese government bonds, OTs, and Irish bonds, Credit Agricole CIB expects these illiquid markets to slide further, "exacerbating the fear trade, boosting bunds."

Sunday 26 September 2010

Democracy Labour Style

While I was doing something infinitely more interesting, Labour's soporific leadership election came to an end, with the winner being 'Red Ed' He won by:
  • losing the MP vote
  • losing the MEP vote
  • losing the party members vote.
Ain't the Alternative Voting system great?

Friday 24 September 2010

Crazy Russians

I suspect there was a Friday liquid lunch involved.

Let 'Em Eat Cake

On the day that the Express reports that:

...Prof Fells insisted consumers are unwittingly paying extra to support green energy through the Government’s Renewables Obligation.

He claimed: “This adds about £80 a year on the average electricity bill of £600. Last year the [EU] Renewables Obligation raised about £1billion and, by the Government’s own figures, this charge will gross about £30billion by 2020 – enough to build five nuclear power stations. Yet unlike nuclear power, wind power is intermittent and does nothing to secure Britain’s energy supplies.

Via EUReferendum I see that the Palace is complaining about higher fuel bills (my emphasis):

The Queen asked ministers for money to heat Buckingham Palace from a fund reserved for low-income families, it has been revealed.

Royal aides pleaded for the cash as they claimed gas and electricity bills had risen by more than 50 per cent in a year - totalling more than £1million.

They complained that the £15million government grant to cover the Queen's palaces was inadequate and her energy bills had become 'untenable'.

The money would have come from £60million of energy-saving grants reserved for cash-strapped families, housing associations and hospitals.

Or perhaps the Queen could have a word with her big-eared eco-maniac son:
The Prince of Wales said today he found the views of climate change sceptics "extraordinary".

He also made an impassioned plea for the country to adopt greener ways as he gave a breakfast television interview.

He warned that living on the planet would be "no fun at all" for future generations unless people took action to combat climate change.

Truly this is the stuff that revolutions are based on.

Sprechen Sie Englisch?

Yes, and only English especially if celebrating the European 'day of languages':
Babel-like EU, with its 23 official languages and over 40 regional tongues, on Thursday marked an upcoming "European Day of Languages" with a speech delivered essentially in English.

The European Commission spokesman announcing Sunday's ode to multilingualism -- highlighting the benefits of languages for small businesses -- kicked off his speech in English, but on hearing sighs at a media briefing peopled by many nationalities tried his hand at other tongues.

His go at German, French, Spanish, Italian and Polish won applause for a good try but grins for below-par pronunciation.

Likewise the statement announcing the multilingual celebration was posted in all European Union languages but the calendar only in English.

Quality Journalism

I don't expect high standards, but you would assume a local sports reporter would know which league the local football team is in:

Update: They've now amended it and removed all the comments pointing out the error.

There is no mistake, there never was any mistake...

Wednesday 22 September 2010

Tories Will Sell Out To EU

So says a great post by the Slog:
The Slog has learned from a number of senior and reliable sources over the last week that the Coalition Government - and the Conservative leadership even without the LibDems to consider - has dropped any and all pretence of fighting Brussels on sovereignty issues: and certainly considers secession from the Union to be completely off the agenda.
Which reflects the sentiments by the Wall Street Journal here, the Slog continues:
Senior backbench Tories three weeks ago were giving me the "Well, it's the Libdems you see" line, but this is clearly not the case. So The Slog is left wondering where all these brave chaps shouting "Aux barricades!" three months ago have gone - into junior government slots, perhaps? - and what happened to the George Osborne who was busy abolishing EU-friendly departments within the Treasury during early June.
A senior Whitehall official communicated to The Slog last Monday as follows:

'This isn't a case of William Hague going native. In private, he sees the EU as a historical fact. It's clear he has done for some years. The idea that he's anti-Europe stems from his utterances of years ago. He does not see the fight as worth it, and to be honest he doesn't give off the air of a man passionate about reforming it either".

Last week a Treasury renegade told us, "I don't know all of it for certain, but I think there was a Party line during the election, and I'm pretty sure it was to spoil things for UKIP. There's certainly been some talk of reining in Europe here, but it's largely inconsequential. The [City] regulatory stuff and the Budget monitoring has gone through without a murmur".
The rest of the Slog's post is well worth a read.

Please when will Tory supporters accept the truth; your party is screwing you sideways.

Murky Worlds Part II

From Guido :
The fallout from Cable’s speech seems to be overshadowing Clegg’s big day out at the UN. Once again “the sage” is the LibDem everyone is talking about. Describing those that work in finance as “spivs” has caused some consternation and outrage in the City, but was lapped up in the hall of course. Sky News gave Clegg a hammering over it and he very clearly did not defend Cable’s words. A better line of questioning would have been whether Clegg thought his brother was a spiv, or his dad, or David Cameron’s late father was a spiv, or LibDem’s donors, or David Laws. The list goes on…

Such an absurdly insulting dismissal, that tars a whole industry as criminals, would look dreadful coming from any Cabinet minister, let along one responsible for representing the government to these very spivs. How such a vehement anti-capitalist could be given the brief is mind-boggling. For a few cheap laughs and claps in a hall Cable has done untold damage to the Coalition’s reputation.
Vince Cable's principles are so entrenched that he has resigned...oh wait he hasn't.

Keyword Searches

Just for some light amusement I've had a dig around in my blog stats. A couple of searches sent my way caught my eye:
lemont man commits suicide 9-20-2010
frogy eupro superior
I think a cat walked across a keyboard at that point. And:
bill turnbull is a prat
Not sure what someone has against Bill the weatherman* or indeed why it led them here. But it reminded me of this 'classic' tune (that will help my weird search stats).

*I've just realised I've got my BBC 'Bills' mixed up, the BBC weatherman I was thinking of is of course Bill Giles

Be afraid...

Not unexpectedly, the goal of setting up a European Public Prosecutor, allowed under the Lisbon Treaty, is gathering pace:
The Belgian presidency is stepping up plans to establish an EU-wide public prosecutor in charge of protecting the bloc's financial interests and unifying procedures for gathering criminal evidence, despite reluctance from some member states, notably the UK.
The UK has an opt-in via the Justice and Home Affairs Opt-In Protocol and also a veto:
Under the Lisbon Treaty, an EU public prosecutor's office "may be established from Eurojust," but only if all member states agree.
but (my emphasis):
The idea is not universally popular among the 27 member states. Mr De Clerck admitted that there was "still a lot of reluctance" on this issue in some national quarters, with the UK being "the most vocal." A major objection is that the prosecutor may override national investigators or even order them to start an inquiry.
Rightly so. Unfortunately the 'UK being vocal' is normally the first step in acceptance of EU wishes as per my golden rules:
...experience teaches us, that what really happens with a so-called eurosceptic Tory party is:
  1. Britain claims proposals are unacceptable.
  2. Britain attends negotiations isolated, and so a row ensues.
  3. Behind the scenes lots of horse-trading happens.
  4. Neville Chamberlain David Cameron will emerge waving a white piece of paper exclaiming that they have secured the best deal for Britain.
  5. It later emerges that far more was given away than won.
  6. Said opt-outs will erode over time, especially now EU law is supreme and thus they will leak like a sieve.
  7. Britain will, as a result, be integrated further into the EU supranational state.
And this is precisely what will happen here. My Tory MP when I wrote to him would not categorically rule out opting-in. And the EPP is also a classic example of the so-called Lisbon Treaty 'red lines' leaking like a sieve.

Even if the UK veto's the establishment of a EPP, the Lisbon Treaty still allows for one under enhanced co-operation (Article 280), where if at least nine Member States wish to continue with establishing a EPP they are able to do so. Whilst Britain would largely be protected by its opt-in, this would not apply to legislation such as the controversial European Arrest Warrant and now the EIO. So UK citizens could still be forced to face prosecution in another EU member state - without asking the permission of the UK Government or the Director of Public Prosecutions and without prima facie evidence.

Given the abuses of the Arrest Warrant and that the EIO has yet to take its final form, protection of UK citizens from abuses by the state is on a rapidly accelerating downward trajectory.

Be very afraid...

Murky Worlds

Some degree of fuss is being made about 'overrated' Vince Cable's remarks today ahead of his speech:
Vince Cable is to launch an outspoken attack on City greed and self-interest later as he seeks to soothe Lib Dem concerns about the coalition.
An MP condemning greed and self-interest? It's almost as if the expenses scandal never happened.

Decision Not To Join Euro Was Right

Says, amazingly, a Lib Dem. From the BBC:

Senior Lib Dem minister Danny Alexander has admitted the previous Labour government made the "right decision" in not pushing to join the euro.

The chief secretary to the Treasury, who once helped run the campaign for the UK to adopt the single currency, said he felt "relieved" it had failed.

He's not the only relieved.

"In the current economic circumstances I'm relieved that we are not in the euro...I still think there's a case for that [membership] in the long term, but that's a long way off."He added: "I think that the flexibilities that we have as an economy are helping our economy to recover."

I'll resist from saying 'that we told you so'.

hattip: Derek Bennett

The Strange Death of Tory Euroscepticism

The Wall Street Journal has an article today that adds a little more to the view that Tory eurosceptism is nothing of the sort. I like to 'bang' on about this subject because out of all the main parties, the Tories are the most disingenuous on the issue of Europe and it needs chipping away at. Iain Martin writes:

When David Cameron was leader of the opposition it was the widely accepted wisdom that he would, if he became Britain's prime minister, have the most terrible difficulties with the European Union...[but] absolutely none of this has happened. Why?

Almost unnoticed, his MPs have voted for a list of measures that would a few years ago have triggered full-scale Tory war.

And we know what those are. The Tories (and Tory Bloggers) of course blame the coalition for this and by extension UKIP for 'stealing' Tory votes. But Iain Martin is having none of this:

But that is the myth designed to make Lib Dem leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg feel good. Mr. Cameron had decided long before he failed to win an overall majority at the general election that he was not going to die in a ditch over Europe.

Mr. Cameron also put in a lot of effort into wooing Ms. Merkel and Mr. Sarkozy ahead of the election, reassuring them that he would be a good member of the European leaders' club. This work has continued since he took office.

Indeed, Tory enthusiasm for Europe was there long before the election. Martin spots another myth:

He is aided by having William Hague at the Foreign Office. One of the most enduring myths of public life in Britain is that of Hague as Euroskeptic [sic].

As a fellow Conservative puts it: "William has a couple of years ahead of him doing an agreeable job, and then a lifetime of book signings and profitable speech-making afterwards. He's not going to do anything confrontational that puts all that at risk."

The article concludes:

A subject on which Conservatives fought a civil war has faded into the background. If it is not the death of U.K. Tory Euroskepticism, it looks a lot like it.
Exactly, just because a party has a whacking great label on it saying eurosceptic doesn't necessarily make it so in the same way as saying a food has lower fat doesn't mean it's healthier. You have to look at the detail on the packet, and when you do, as Martin has, you'll find that the Tories are raving, rabid enthusiasts for the project. The facts speak for themselves.

Minimum Pricing

The BBC reports (elephant free of course):
The Scottish government's plans for minimum drink pricing are set to be defeated at Holyrood, despite a last-minute offer to save the measure.
Blah blah blah. We all know the proposal is illegal, but what's interesting so did the Scottish Parliament. They were warned back in March this year that minimum pricing was a breach of EU law:
A European Union court has today ruled against member countries which operate minimum pricing policies.

The Court of Justice of the European Union upheld an earlier opinion that setting minimum prices for tobacco in Ireland, France and Austria is against EU directives.

The move calls into question the SNP's proposed policy on minimum alcohol pricing.

Gavin Hewitt, chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association, said: "Given this latest evidence, the Scottish Government must now recognise the legal realities.

"It cannot introduce a trade barrier in breach of the UK's European obligations by imposing minimum pricing on alcohol in Scotland."
Yet they pressed ahead with it anyway. So the question remains; are they stupid, or continued with the charade so that they can pretend that they still run their own country?

Tuesday 21 September 2010

The Liberal Conservatives

From Iain Dale:
Listening to Nick Clegg's speech I am struck by the fact that I could imagine David Cameron giving more or less exactly the same speech, almost word for word.
It was a good speech, delivered well. The Number 10 team will be pleased.
At least we know where we stand, although this message is still only very slowly permeating through the 'vote blue at all costs' vote.

hattip: Tom Harris

When Is A Myth Not A Myth

From EU Weekly, I spot this website listing all the so-called EuroMyths. Adopting a tone of 'aren't you Brits funny' it's a shame EU Weekly didn't take the time to read them properly because some of them turned out to be true and some of them weren't myths from the start. Take this one for instance:
Euromyth: Car lights must be used during day
There is a commitment by EU member states to equip new vehicles with ecologically friendly daytime lights , though having such lights would not, of course, force people to use them.
So let's see the article the EU refers to:
Motorists must switch on lights during day, EU says.
MOTORISTS may be forced to switch on their headlights when driving in daylight under European proposals aimed at improving road safety.
'May' is not the Times stating a fact, just a supposition

It is also proposing that all new cars be fitted with lights that turn on automatically whenever the engine is started.
And guess what happened in 2008? Directive 2008/89/EC (my emphasis):

(2) In order to increase road safety by improving the conspicuity of motor vehicles the obligation for fitting dedicated daytime running lights on these vehicles should be introduced into Directive 76/756/EEC.

Hmm dedicated lights designed to come on...wait for the daytime! DRLs by their very design come on when the engine is started:

Where fitted, dedicated daytime running lights will switch on automatically when the engine is started.
And I have experience of DRLs. I have a new car with them fitted - in time for EU 2011 deadline - and they come on as soon as I start the engine. Is there a button to turn them off? No. Is there any practical way of turning them off? No. Can I stop them working in any way? No, not without causing significant damage to the front of my car with a hammer. So I am being forced to use lights during the day. So not a myth then.

Let's try another 'myth':

The European parliament votes today on whether or not your romantic text messages and phone calls should be stored - all in the interest of fighting terrorism.

Several new pieces of legislation have been put forward to gain greater control over electronic communications in a bid to curb terrorist activity. The new proposed laws would keep records of your electronic conversations for a number of years.

Information collected from mobile phones, landline phones and internet traffic would be stored so it could possibly be used to trace criminals.

The EU's response:

In March 2006 the European Parliament and the Council adopted a directive aimed at storing so-called ‘traffic data’ - details about the time and place of a communication, as well as the numbers dialled.

The directive does not relate to the content of the information communicated.

But the Swedish paper does not actually say the content is stored; it heavily implies it sure but the substance of what it says is true as the EU acknowledged in its response. Again not a myth.

Here's another:

A European Corporate Income Tax ?

"Chancellor Gordon Brown is heading for a bruising clash in Europe … He will veto plans for harmonisation of corporation tax … Among the proposals that will be blocked is a single 'European Corporate Income Tax', some of the proceeds of which would go straight to the Commission ..."

EU response:

The Commission has not proposed EU tax harmonisation and does not believe it is necessary to fix a minimum corporate tax rate. Member States are free to choose the tax systems they consider most appropriate, provided they respect EU rules. The level of taxation in the EU is a matter for individual Member States to decide. However, the Commission considers that the reform of company taxation in the EU is crucial to achieving the goal of making the Union the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world by 2010. In the longer term, companies must be allowed a consolidated corporate tax base for their EU-wide activities to avoid the current costly inefficiencies of 15 separate sets of tax rules.

Read that carefully and you'll see that it doesn't specifically reject the original report and no wonder:

Since the foundation of the EU, the European Commission has started several initiatives to coordinate corporate taxation. In 1975, 1984 and 1992 it has also submitted proposals for directives that would provide some harmonisation of corporate tax rates and bases, but most Member States were very reluctant to give up some of their sovereignty in the field of corporate taxation, so the Commission eventually decided to withdraw its proposals.
The original report therefore is not a myth but the desire of some EU countries:

...French Economy Minister, Christine Lagarde...confirmed that France and Germany strongly want to move towards fiscal convergence. However, she said that “the main difference is that Germany wants only corporate tax convergence, whilst France wishes to harmonize both people and corporate income taxes”.
And I finish (for now) with this one:

A saucy clip has been published by the EU on You Tube. The clip features couples copulating in a number of different places. Brussels is using taxpayers’ money to get across the message “Europe is hot”. The success of the video that has already been viewed more than 100 000 times proves it yet again - sex sells.

Not once in its reply does the EU state that it's a myth. In fact when you try to view the relevant clip on YouTube this message flags up:

This video or group may contain content that is inappropriate for some users, as flagged by YouTube's user community.

Make up your own mind here (warning NSFW)

All of which goes to show that the Euromyth loving EU supporters are guilty of the same crime they accuse others of; namely a liberal use of the facts.

Monday 20 September 2010

Protect Yourself First

From the Parliament:
Three Belgian Liberal MPs have called for "significantly" increased security around the European quarter in Brussels.

They say feelings of "insecurity" in the area have reached such a scale that higher-profile policing is "vitally" necessary.

One of the parliamentarians, Denis Ducarme, said many people who live and work in the area, roughly stretching from Place Luxembourg to Schuman, had complained about a lack of police presence and a "feeling of insecurity".

He said many of the problems reported to police related to relatively minor incidents, such as pick pocketing and car crime but there had also been cases of muggings and threats of violence.

He said that if Belgium wants to keep the EU institutions, including parliament, and other related bodies in the city "it must provide adequate security".

Dutch MEP Wim van de Camp has criticised security arrangements at parliament, saying more staff are needed to deal with the increasing number of visitors.

Lack of police presence? Petty Crime? Of course they're different they need protecting, us mortals just have to suffer. How things never change!

Axe-Killer John Hirst Takes Offence

Further to my previous post, this from the Telegraph:
How an axe murderer used 'human rights' to change the law, and give the Government a splitting political headache
Apparently this has upset axe-killer John Hirst a little teeny bit:

I feel for him I really hard life must be when the Telegraph commits, shock horror, a 'libel'.

Update: This is my response, I expect the Telegraph to remove it:

Update 2: The Telegraph has wimped out and changed its headline.

MP Referendum Response

I emailed my Tory MP on the 9th September asking if he would sign the referendum pledge. I've had a response and as expected there's not much room for hope, in fact he ignored the question completely and the tone of the email was markedly more pro-EU. It was the usual; 'the UK is better at the heart of Europe' and 'balance constructive engagement with the EU whilst protecting sovereignty' nonsense. More confirmation that Tory policy hasn't changed since 1973.

I'm always wary about putting my MP's replies on my blog as in essence it is a private 2-way conversation between MP and constituent, so I hope you'll forgive me for publishing this paragraph which stood out:
In the past, EU member states have not shown enough determination and consistency in delivering on foreign policy goals; I hope that the European External Action Service will be a strong advocate of the European Union’s collective demonstration of those qualities.
A Tory MP has in effect advocated the diminishing of the role of the FCO. Astonishing!

I would like to add that my MP has always replied promptly to my emails and he was the only candidate at the election count (which included 2 constituencies) to inquire after Nigel Farage's health. But in terms of EU policy he might as well join the Lib Dems - oh wait he has.

Another Medway Council Update

On the 6th September I blogged the following in regard to a less than comprehensive response by Medway Council to a complaint:
I'm currently writing a response, I will post it on here when I can.
On reflection I've changed my mind. I've decided to keep my powder dry. Ciggy busters were apparently organising another 'event' this month and so far nothing has happened and Rachael's twitter account has not been updated since I complained. My instinct is that the blogosphere's reaction has prompted an about-turn, despite us being universally fobbed off by the relevant authorities. The school, council and maybe the police have been taken aback by the reaction. Good.

So if no more ciggy busters' activities take place then, for me, it's job done. If however there are more 'demonstrations' - in the same format as before - then a second complaint will go in referencing my first.

EU Gets Blamed For Something It hasn't Done

Interesting headline from the Express, (by interesting I mean of course it's complete bollocks):
ANGER erupted yesterday as it emerged ministers are to give prisoners, including rapists and murderers, the right to vote in time for next year’s Scottish elections.
Anger yes, understandably. So far so good:
In a move overturning a 140-year-old bar on inmates having a say on who runs the country, the UK Government signalled it will finally concede to a controversial European human rights rulings.
Ministers have unsurprisingly capitulated, though it's taken a little longer than I thought. Still not sure what the EU has to do with it, anyway:
At a meeting of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers last week the UK said it was now deciding how to implement the move.

A Council of Europe spokesman said: “The Committee insists that the UK Government take the necessary measures before the elections in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in May.” A spokesman for Victim Support Scotland said: “There will be victims of crime who will find the thought of prisoners getting the vote particularly galling.
Ok accurate enough but the Council of Europe is not the EU, we're now on paragraph 6 and still no mention of the EU - so why the headline?
The European Court of Human Rights declared in 2005 that a blanket ban breached the European Convention on Human Rights.
Indeed, and then in the penultimate paragraph all is revealed:
Scottish Tory justice spokesman John Lamont said the initial European Court ruling was “unfortunate” but added: “Britain has to comply or face legal action by the EU.” action by the EU? Perhaps John Lamont could elaborate as this is a judgment which has nothing to do with it, or is Mr Lamont getting his Councils mixed up. As he's a Tory I would guess the latter.

Actually I'm fairly relaxed about the mix up. No doubt it will annoy the perestroika elements of the Euro blogosphere but I have more sympathy with Richard North's view:
This is an issue that also gets the Europhiles squibbling, rushing to the defence of their precious construct as they realise that this is an issue that could turn public sentiment against their heroes.

They point out that there are subtleties and complications to the way the legislation is implemented, which means that the EU is not entirely to blame (or at all in the minds of some of the little darlings).

But who cares. This is a propaganda game. There are many things which the EU does for which it completely escapes blame, so it is a kind of rough justice if it gets blamed for things for which it is not entirely responsible.
Quite. And there's nothing like the EU being blamed for prisoners' votes to boost the 'out' camp.

Sunday 19 September 2010

UKIP: A Portrait Of Its Candidates And Supporters

As a UKIP candidate I took part, during the election, in a survey for the University of Leicester. They have just released their findings. There are some obvious conclusions:
Questions on attitudes to European integration confirmed that UKIP is a strongly Eurosceptic party. UKIP candidates are almost entirely united in support of the party‟s central objective: 99% agree/strongly agree that the UK should leave the EU.
I'm not sure why 1% of UKIP candidates stood if they don't believe in EU withdrawal. Anyway there were a couple findings that caught my eye (my emphasis throughout):
Only 36% of respondents place the Conservatives on the right of the political spectrum. On the 11 point scale, 25% of respondents view the Conservatives as Eurosceptic (receiving scores of 0-4), but 58% believe it supports further integration (receiving scores of 6-10). UKIP candidates are, then, both hostile to the Conservative Party‟s position on Europe and highly suspicious of its claims to be Eurosceptic.
With very good reason. And:
The final section of the survey asked about the personal background and experience of candidates. UKIP candidates tend to come from a variety of backgrounds. Respondents have a variety of occupations: 26% have a manager or senior administrator role and 15% are small business owners. More than half of respondents joined UKIP since 2005, with 18% becoming members as recently as 2009. Almost half of respondents (48%) had been members of another political party in the (sometimes distant) past. Of these, over 30% had previously been Conservative Party members and 4% had previously belonged to the Labour Party. Many candidates are also members of campaigning organisations, with the Taxpayers‟ Alliance named most frequently (by 18%).
Respondents also believe that political parties do not respond to the views of their own supporters on the issue of Europe.
There's nothing much that's really surprising, more confirmation what most probably suspected already. The hemorrhaging of support from the Conservatives over the EU issue will continue as long as they try to ignore the elephant, as Witterings From Witney argues here regarding Lord Ashcroft's attempts to explain why the Tories failed to win outright:
In attempting to analyse the reason for Cameron failing to win an outright majority, as is usual with the present day Conservative Party, it is "the subject that dare not speak its name" that is most noticeable by its absence - namely that of Europe.
Given that the Tories were just 16,000 votes short and that UKIP doubled its vote by hundreds of thousands, how long are the Tories going to maintain their 'fingers-in-ears-we-can't-hear-you' strategy?

Wednesday 15 September 2010

A Victory For Common Sense

Southampton lift their photo ban:

SWINDON Town chief executive Nick Watkins has welcomed the lifting of the photography ban at St. Mary's Stadium.

Watkins summed up the decision as a 'victory for common sense' after the Saints backed down from their decision to not allow press agency or newspaper photographers inside the ground, following mass pressure from local and national media outlets.

Ridicule and pressure; it really works. Southampton? They were defeated by Subbuteo.

That Referendum Lock

Sorry for revisiting this subject again, but having given it a little more thought, I wonder if the 'referendum lock' promised by Cameron might turn out to be more useful to the eurosceptic cause than originally anticipated. The bill itself is useless of course, but the fact that it exists gives another very convenient stick with which to beat Cameron and the Tories.

Sooner or later someone is going to have to grasp the nettle of the EU question before the voters do it for them. Meanwhile Cameron has gone down the fudge route - promising referenda that he has no intention of delivering, whilst superficially appearing to have kept his promise. But the problem with fudging stuff is that there are unforeseen circumstances.

I've argued before that our membership of the EU survives largely because of apathy because its insidious actions are hidden. The question of the 'lock' may bring the whole EU issue out into the open. Let's take three scenarios that may happen should the bill pass into law:
  1. Cameron keeps his promise (unlikely I know but bear with me) and the lock is strong enough to be triggered by any transfer of power. This would mean, by virtue of the EU's insatiable appetite for power, a regular referendum every few months. For example since May such a law would have triggered a referendum at least twice; over the European Investigation Order and EU financial supervisors. The British people would have to keep going to the polls over the 'more sovereignty to the EU' question. Even the BBC would not be able to ignore the constant barrage of referendums. Support for the 'out' cause would soar in a very short space of time.

  2. More likely, the bill will be worded in such a way that it gives legal wriggle room. But can they account for everything? Transfer of powers to the EU occurs in some many forms that the government could be subjected to constant legal challenges (more publicity), similar to Stuart Wheeler's attempts over the Lisbon Treaty. But rather than a manifesto promise this lock will be a promise enshrined in law. What about the ratchet clauses, what if amendments are made to the Arrest Warrant, or the EIO that involve more transfer of powers? The list goes on. It will be a drip drip effect of legal challenges that question Cameron's integrity, not mention if one of the challenges actually win.

  3. It is worded in such a loose way that a referendum is never triggered. Given that 47% want exit from the EU according to a YouGov poll and the latest Eurobarometer only shows 20% trust in the institution, any perceived deception or otherwise will lead in a sharp rise for the 'out' campaign. The watered down Bill would be used as a perpetual 'cast iron' stick every time the EU transfers more power. It will be Cameron's Groundhog Day - every time power is transferred the inevitable cry will arise; "ah but you promised..."
Cameron wants the EU to disappear as an issue, the referendum lock to him is a carrot to keep his eurosceptics quiet, however in doing that he may actually achieve the exact opposite.

Pile Of Nonsense

So says Labour MP Chris Bryant on the European Union Bill which is proposing the 'referendum lock':
The Minister seemed to get his ratchets in a bit of a twist in his written ministerial statement yesterday. First he said that all ratchet clauses would be subject to primary legislation, then that major ratchet clauses would be subject to a referendum, and then, towards the end of his written ministerial statement, he confessed that there is no agreed definition of what a ratchet clause is at all, so his legislation is a pile of nonsense really. Does he not accept that the real danger here is that, effectively, what he is doing is asking the courts to decide when there will be a referendum or when there has to be primary legislation, because they will be deciding what is a ratchet clause?
I guess that's what happens when you're promising to give a referendum which in reality you don't actually want to do. I can't wait for the first; 'when is a ratchet not a ratchet' court case. Now that would be embarrassing for Cameron.

Monday 13 September 2010

EU Referendum Lock Worthless... says Douglas Carswell, here's his post in full:
The government is offering us a referendum "lock", which will guarantee any new EU treaty will require a plebiscite.

Do ministers take us for fools?

This “lock” is worthless – and ministers must know it. Under the Lisbon Treaty (no referendum), the EU doesn't need any more treaties to give itself more powers. That, Mr Hague and Mr Liddington, was kind of the point of offering a referendum in the first place ....

Incidentally, since we promised this “lock”, the EU has 1) established a diplomatic corps, which we voted through the Commons, 2) given Eurocrats control over the City, 3) extended the EU arrest warrant, and 4) agreed to an inflation-busting EU budget increase. We've hardly stopped give the EU more powers since May, have we?

The idea this referendum "lock" stops Brussels from continuing to assume more powers, usually with ministerial acquiesce, is balls. We might have had a changed ministers at the Foreign Office this year, but I can see no evidence of any change in EU integrationist policy.
Absolutely right, but one has to wonder why he remains in the Tory party.


The Wall Street Journal today carries an article by Irwin Stelzer, a director of economic-policy studies at the Hudson Institute, arguing that the EU has 'whipped' Britain 6-0 in the recent negotiations on financial regulation:
Four goals scored by setting up new regulatory agencies to supervise national regulators—one each for insurance, banking and securities markets, another to ensure financial stability...Two more points for pushing through an increase in the EU budget in the face of cuts in member state spending, and for granting Olli Rehn, EU commissioner for economic and monetary affairs, the power to review national budgets and to impose the eurocracy's notion of acceptable deficit limits.
Despite today's Telegraph reporting that the coalition is pressing ahead with a “referendum lock”, Stelzer is clear in his analysis:
Mr. Osborne roared loudly but carried a twig. His boss, the prime minister, promised to fight tooth and claw to prevent any further transfer of British sovereignty to the EU; he now stands toothless and declawed.
In other words, that sovereignty horse has already bolted thus rendering the 'lock' redundant. But it is this paragraph that really stands out:

What is a surprise is that [Lib Dem] coalition partners also aim to cut the City down to size. Leading Tories tell me that the financial sector bulks too large in the UK economy, creating excessive macroeconomic volatility. That view spawns a host of misbegotten policies, including the decisions to raise the effective marginal tax rate to 52%, and to subsidize economic development in low- or no-growth areas of the country. Why anyone would believe it good policy to attack an industry in which Britain has a clear competitive advantage remains a mystery.

At first I thought I had misread that paragraph. But no, leading Tories do actually want to reduce the size of the City which provides nearly 14% of total Government tax receipts, and are happy for a foreign Government to carry out the process for them.

There's only one conclusion left. The Tory party has passed on. This party is no more. It has ceased to be. It's expired and gone to meet its maker...It is an ex-party.

Sunday 12 September 2010

Turkey Takes Another Step Towards EU Membership

The Guardian reports:
Turkey on course for changes to constitution after referendum

Early results indicate support for amendments described by government as key step on path to full democracy

Early returns in a referendum on constitutional amendments suggest strong support for changes that the government says are a key step in Turkey's path to full democracy.

Turkish broadcaster NTV television reports that with 75% of today's vote counted, results indicate 60% of those ballots cast favour the amendments.
Though the Guardian doesn't mention the EU factor, the 26 amendments to Turkey's constitution are in line with some of the EU requirements for membership.

Do You Want To See An EU Police Force In Action?

From the Express:
A French Gendarme was shot and wounded on Sunday morning during clashes between ethnic Albanians and Serbs in Kosovo's ethnically divided city of Mitrovica as European Union police fired tear gas to disperse the violent crowd, a European Union official said.

Karin Limdal, the spokeswoman for the 2,000-strong EU police mission said the policeman was shot in the leg and was out of danger.
It's hard to know via the reports whether the shooting of the EU policeman was accidental or deliberate. If it was deliberate then hardly surprising as the EULEX mission is not a universally popular one:
The European Union's law enforcement mission in Kosovo (EULEX) was on Tuesday (25 August 2009) the target of violent protests by Albanians opposed to the presence of the international community in the country.

Twenty eight EULEX vehicles near a youth centre in downtown Pristina were damaged during the events, organised by the Vetevendosja (Self-Determination) group, which launched its assault in reaction to co-operation between EULEX and Belgrade.
Despite the title 'European Union Rule of Law Mission', it is actually above the law itself. Its 2000 strong personnel, including their families, are immune from prosecution in Kosovo. EULEX has unlimited executive powers over Kosovo's institutions to which it is not accountable; as made clear in the EU Council's decision of 4 February 2008:
Article 3

In order to fulfil the Mission Statement set out in Article 2, EULEX KOSOVO shall:
(h) assume other responsibilities, independently or in support of the competent Kosovo authorities, to ensure the maintenance and promotion of the rule of law, public order and security, in consultation with the relevant Council agencies;
And Kosovo isn't even a member of the EU... yet.

Friday 10 September 2010

To No-One's Great Surprise

The Post Office will be privatised:
The government is to go ahead with the privatisation or sale of Royal Mail.

Business Secretary Vince Cable made the commitment after receiving updated recommendations from the businessman Richard Hooper.

His latest report says the universal postal service can only be maintained by an injection of private sector money and expertise.
In all honesty I can't be bothered to rehearse the real reasons why this is happening suffice to say it is in large part due to this.

The silence from the media is deafening and interestingly so far, my comment on the Telegraph site pointing this out was pulled, twice, within 5 minutes, I've not yet been approved on the Daily Mail site despite later comments appearing ok, and my comment on the Guardian site has also been pulled.

I'm too weary to write much more, I'm off down the pub.

That Toy Parliament

If anyone is in any doubt at how impotent our parliament has become, here's the list of debates from yesterday's Hansard, on the topic of Environment, Food And Rural Affairs:
  • Pitt Review
  • Fish Quotas (Thanet)
  • Farm Animal Welfare
  • Circuses (Wild Animals)
  • Food Procurement (Public Sector)
  • Flood Defences
  • Regulatory Burden
  • Mackerel Quota
  • Food Labelling
  • Non-departmental Public Bodies
  • Waste And Resources Action Programme
  • Laying Hens
  • Supermarkets (Food Sourcing)
  • Unsold Food
  • Topical Questions
Out of the above list the following were dominated in Parliament by references to EU legislation or policies such as the Common Fisheries Policy:
  • Fish Quotas (Thanet) CFP
  • Food Labelling
  • Mackerel Quota
  • Regulatory Burden
  • Topical Questions
Then these below are constrained by EU competences, which was not acknowledged in the House:
  • Supermarkets (Food Sourcing); 'Origin Labeling' is an EU competence. Also Tory MP Mark Menzies asked the following question:

    "I thank the Minister for her answer, but if small food producers are to be able to grow and supply the big supermarkets they must be able to develop their business, and one factor that holds them back is regulation and bureaucracy. What steps is the Department taking to strip out regulation in order to make it easier for such producers to grow?"

    Regulation and bureaucracy also comes under the EU where food production is concerned

  • Farm Animal Welfare; This is an EU competence also, the question of de-beak or not de-beak ultimately lies with them.

  • Laying Hens; See above.

  • Circuses (Wild Animals); Banning wild animals in circuses could be challenged under free movement EU rules.

  • Waste And Resources Action Programme; This is part of the Courtauld commitment, aimed at reducing supermarket packaging waste and encouraging recycling, in part fueled by the Landfill Directive.
So that leaves these 5 (mostly) short questions, which do have some EU element about them but are not relevant to the specific questions asked:
  • Pitt Review
  • Food Procurement (Public Sector)
  • Flood Defences
  • Non-departmental Public Bodies
  • Unsold Food
So 2/3rds of all questions and the vast majority of Parliamentary time was dominated by our membership of the EU. It's now nothing more than a living museum.

Quote Of The Day

Words of wisdom this morning from BBC political correspondent Gary O'Donoghue regarding the private detective hiring Jonathan Djanogly:
"...which was hardly a ringing endorsment by Number 10 and as I understand it [Jonathan Djanogly] hasn't even spoken to David Cameron yet."
Which is hardly a surprise as Mr Cameron has other more important things on his mind.

Thursday 9 September 2010

A First?

The Mail reports:
A council's new rubbish bin collection and recycling scheme has provoked more than 6,000 complaints in its first day after residents were issued with five bins.

Officials at Torbay Council in Devon have brought in a system of waste disposal which sees green wheelie bins replaced with a series of boxes.
But the Mail goes onto report (my emphasis)...
Its [sic] said the new scheme would help the council hit the recycling and waste targets set by the European Union.
I've long complained about the lack of candidness regarding EU Directives, so credit where credit is due.

Paul Dacre, the Mail editor, had a close political relationship with Gordon Brown. Now Brown's gone is the above a coincidence?

Email for A Referendum

As promised yesterday, I've sent an email to my MP urging him to sign the pledge. Here's the text in full:
Firstly may I congratulate you, and your party, for the election result on May 6th. I’m writing to you as my MP because, as you’re no doubt aware, a cross party campaign for a referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union has been launched by Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan.

As Daniel Hannan rightly points out, no-one under the age of 54 has had an opportunity to have their say on our relationship with the EU. Since 1975 the so-called common market has morphed into a political project which I believe that the British people did not vote for 35 years ago. Indeed I’ve lost count of the number of those that did vote ‘yes’ at the time who now regret doing so.

As I’m sure you will also appreciate, I am perplexed that numerous promises of referenda on EU issues have been made over the last 13 years but have never materialized, yet next May one will take place on our voting system (AV); a promise which was never included in any of the main parties’ manifestos.

In the last 3 months there also appears to be little resistance to the constant slide towards more EU control; for example opting into the European Investigation Order and agreeing to new substantial EU financial supervision of the City of London.

It is poignant that at the time of remembering 70 years since the start of the Blitz and the Battle of Britain, the question of who governs Britain is as urgent as ever. It is with this thought in mind that I urge you to sign the referendum campaign and call for an open debate with the British people regarding our future within the EU.

Yours sincerely,
I expect a big fat 'no' in response. It always seems a waste of time, but it's worth remembering though that one of the arguments against a referendum by MPs is that no-one writes to them about it (this logic doesn't, of course, apply to the issue of climate change), for example Tory MP Alan Haselhurst in 1991 on the Maastricht debate:
Let us consider what we spend our time doing. The Order Paper shows the various matters that concern us. Our constituency mail bags show us the matters that our constituents want us to consider. We should recognise that we are not dealing with great international issues all the time. I must have had about three letters about the Maastricht treaty, but I had 10 times that number about Sunday trading and similar matters.
And Labour MP Mike Gapes on the Lisbon Treaty:
Many words have been spoken about the great interest in the [Lisbon Treaty] outside the House, but I have had only one e-mail and one letter from my constituents— [ Interruption. ] I am waiting for more to come.
It's also an argument that Tom Harris MP deploys on copious subjects for example:
As for CCTV, I know of no MPs whose constituents have approached them asking for fewer CCTV cameras in their constituencies.
If anything at least by emailing it takes away one of the arguments against a referendum. I will update on any response I get.

Wednesday 8 September 2010

Carswell's Signed...

...the in or out pledge:

I've signed the pledge demanding an "in / out" referendum on the EU.

Why don't you sign up now, too?

For decades politicians and diplomats have managed our relations with the Brussels. I think it is time that we allow the people to pass judgement on the results with an "in / out" vote.

Once you've signed, why not also write to your MP and ask them if they'll sign up as well?

An email is already winging its way onto my MP, though given that last time he wrote this, I don't have much hope of success.

Who Wants To Be A BBC Political Correspondent?

Job requirements; a knowledge of Harry Potter:
Rajini Vaidyanathan is a British political reporter for the BBC. Her varied career has included being political correspondent for Radio 1 and Washington correspondent for BBC News . Outside of politics, Rajini has also reported from the red carpet at the Oscars and spoken to young Israelis and Palestinians about the conflict in the Middle East.

15) What’s the best book you’ve ever read?
Hmm. Harry Potter.
No you're not seeing things, of all the books ever published in the world Harry Potter is the best book that she has ever read.*

*yes I know that there are 7 of them.

hattip: EUReferendum

Now For The Most Important Vote Of All

Yesterday Dan Hannan officially launched his cross party referendum campaign for an in or out vote, something that he hinted at here in August:
If we can have a referendum on whether to have a mayor in Hartlepool, what about one on whether the majority of our laws should be handed down from Brussels?

Today sees the launch of a cross-party initiative for precisely such a ballot. The EU Referendum Campaign brings together businesses, trade unions and members of all parties who want a vote on whether Britain should continue to be a member of the EU. We hope people will visit our website – – and sign our pledge.
Naturally I've signed up, and I urge everyone else to do the same.

Mr Cameron is not going to be happy, he desperately doesn't want Europe to be an issue on his watch. But he doesn't have much choice, it's here, it's coming and there's much much more on its way. Cameron's tactics amount to hiding your credit card statement- unopened - in the hope that it will make the debt go away. It doesn't. The only real argument against a referendum, as Hannan rightly points out, is fear of the result.

Personally I think the vote would be closer than some anticipate. There's clearly a lot disquiet about the EU, and this manifests itself via a mixture of perestroika and the nuclear option. Would enough British people be brave enough to press that red button when given the chance? Given that the entire political establishment, the judiciary, the BBC etc all have vested interests in us staying in, every trick in the book will be used; lies, scaremongering and possibly even voting fraud. There's been plenty of concerns over the Irish second Lisbon vote.

Whatever the outcome, a discussion about our membership is urgently needed. And if the referendum result gives a 'wrong' answer, I'll take a leaf out of the EU's book and keep campaigning for a rerun until I get the answer I want.

Tuesday 7 September 2010

Quote Of The Day

From England Expects:
There is no Conservative Party left. They are fully signed up to the European Project and they ahve [sic] no desire to wrest back powers from Brussels. Don't listen to what they say, just look at what they do.
I couldn't agree more, when will the likes of Tory supporters realise this?


Some lather has been generated today regarding this Telegraph report (my emphasis throughout):
HM Revenue and Customs could take direct control of every worker’s monthly pay cheque under plans to overhaul the error-prone income tax system.
Outrageous! All wages in the country will be paid to the government and then we receive a net salary based on whatever the government decides we should be allowed? Rightly disgraceful if true, but...

...note the operative word; 'could'. That's not the same as will.


Instead of employers deducting income tax then paying gross salaries to employees, the gross monthly payment would go to an HMRC-run tax “calculator”, which would then pass the net salary to the worker.

The reform would mean the end of traditional monthly payslips, because employers would no longer be able to tell workers how much tax they had paid each month.

Ah 'would' if true...

The tax authorities are consulting accountants, lawyers and businesses on the plans to reform the pay-as-you-earn (PAYE) system.

Ah consultation, so not yet law then...

The potential shake-up has emerged after HMRC confirmed that inaccurate data means millions of people will be made to pay back underpaid tax, and millions more will get rebates.

Ah 'potential'...

To make PAYE more accurate, Treasury ministers have suggested that employers should provide HMRC with monthly updates on workers’ salary payments and other financial details.

Ah 'suggested'...

Such “real time information” could then be used as the basis of a new “centralised deductions” system that would give HMRC an unprecedented role in workers’ monthly salary payments.

Ah 'could'...

Ministers have asked tax experts to give their responses on the proposed new system later this month.

Ah 'proposed'...

Treasury sources said ministers had made no decision on overhauling PAYE, but insisted the Coalition is determined to make the system more accurate.

Ah 'had made no decision'...

So in effect it's all could, might and maybes. How strange that such a controversial proposal, which would be political suicide if ever introduced, is released at the same time as HMRC admits a cock-up.

Spinning? Media manipulation? I've never suggested that for one minute.

The EU Is Unpopular Because We Don't Like The Voting System

According to Tory MP Daniel Kawczynski during a debate on the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill:
Daniel Kawczynski: My hon. Friend mentioned the elections to the European Parliament. If we are going to change any voting system, surely it should be those elections, in which only 30% of the electorate turn up to vote, because they are very unhappy with how we vote for MEPs. Conversely, in our elections the turnout is 70%. Most people are happy with the way they elect us, but not with how they elect their representatives to the European Parliament.

Mr Syms: I am sure that that is the case.
That's right, the turnout is very low because we don't like Proportional Representation; it couldn't be for any other reason could it?

Here's the turnout at EU elections since the first elections in 1979:
  • 1979: 32.35%
  • 1984: 32.57%
  • 1989: 36.37%
  • 1994: 36.43%
  • 1999: 24%
  • 2004: 38.52%
  • 2009: 34.7%
And guess what system was in place before 1999? FPTP

Jason's Arrest Warrant Hell

Here's Jason McGoldrick's short but horrifying speech about his time in an Hungarian Prison at the UKIP's annual conference:

Only UKIP was prepared to help, and I say that less as a celebration of UKIP and more as damning criticism of the other parties. The British people are being left to rot.

Monday 6 September 2010



In 1992, Heath came back the Oxford Union to speak in a debate about the EU and, at the same time, to unveil a bust of himself. It was a controversial occasion: a group of Eurosceptic undergraduates removed the sculpture to a safe house, and announced that they would return it only if Heath voted for a referendum on the Maastricht Treaty. He was, understandably, unamused.

Medway Council Update

In the nick of time I've had a reply. Surprise surprise they don't uphold my complaint - of course they don't:
Re: Formal Complaint – Rachael Noxon

I refer to your recent email about the Ciggybusters project.

We have checked with the organisers and all the people who had cigarettes taken off of them, and they were actors or willing participants. At no point did any smokers have their cigarettes taken without their permission.

This project, which looks at the dangers of smoking, was funded through a Community Chest grant by A Better Medway – a health campaign run by Medway Council and NHS Medway. Singling out the Tobacco Control Strategy Co-ordinator specifically as focus for your complaint is therefore inappropriate.

This project was something that was arranged and managed by the people that made the film, but neither Medway Council or NHS Medway would have condoned any activity that could cause offence.

The young people making the film, and the adults overseeing it, carefully stage-managed this to make sure that relevant organisations and participants were aware of the event in advance.

Everyone who took part knew what was happening and were not in any way offended. At no point were members of the public approached without their permission.

For these reasons I do not uphold your complaint.

Yours Sincerely
Naturally I'm being fobbed off. The main thrust of my complaint is that a Medway employee was, by encouraging the video (whether simulated or not), potentially guilty of incitement. The subsequent ambiguous statements by the participants since and lack of clarity in the video make this clear. At no point in the reply has this been addressed. Not only a criticism by me but also indicated by this Lib Dem councillor:
To get back to the facts of the case, the key questions were:

1/ Q: Were Ciggy Busters funded/ part-funded by Medway Council?
A: From press-reports, Yes

2/ Q: Were Ciggy Busters's plans approved by the police?
A: From press reports, yes, providing it involved only group members not unsuspecting members of the public.

3/ Q: Did Ciggy Busters involve unsuspecting members of the public?
A: From the statement by Gramenga, Yes

4/ Q: Would a resonable person have approved of Ciggy Busters project methods (surrounding people in the street and snatching their property)
A: No

5/ Q: Would a resonable person think that the actions of Ciggy Busters were illegal, if it was shown that they took property from members of the public?
A: Yes

6: Q: Were the member of the public doing anything illegal themseleves?
A: No - they were smoking in a public place (CHatham High Street)

7: Q: Even if all the people filmed in the video were actors/ members of the group, would a resonable person have approved of Ciggy Busters project methods (surrounding people in the street and snatching their property)?
A: No

8: Q: Do the actions of this group warrant further investigation?
A: Yes
I'm currently writing a response, I will post it on here when I can.