Wednesday 31 October 2012


"History repeats itself" is one of those clichés that resonates with truth but its lessons are often ignored in practice, akin to "never believe what you read in newspapers" - people still largely always do precisely the opposite.

Conversely many myths are believed as gospel, for example that the line "play it again Sam" was said in the film Casablanca, "Bambi was shot" in the Disney film and that the Tories are Eurosceptic. Thus we have the ungainly sight of Tories tonight getting themselves worked up into a lather by claiming that freezing or cutting the EU budget is some kind of victory for Euroscepticism. Paying the EU billions instead of 'billions plus a bit extra' is a victory it perversely seems.

The other enduring myth is that politics is divided vertically - left & right - whereas in truth it is divided more horizontally - us & them. Politics, a point that is self-evident, is ultimately about power not ideology - who has it and who controls it. In theory democracy is supposed to give power to the people in the form of a threat - the threat to remove those from office if they fail to listen to us so in effect concentrating those who govern us minds. What is apparent is that 'threat' has now become impotent, if ever it indeed existed. And nowhere is it more obvious than tonight's vote on the increase of the EU's budget.

Parliament's historical and ultimate purpose is to control the King's spending - control the money and you control the King. Parliament is supposed to do that on behalf of us; after all it's our money not the Government's. It was on this very toxic issue of power we had a civil war - over control of the King's purse. Yet over time Parliament has morphed from a controller of the King's purse into the King itself with no adequate control on it, apart from a paltry election every 5 years where we the electorate get ignored on the very day after a General Election.

Thus we have had MPs' expenses scandal with the ill-disguised contempt for our money that ensured and the utter failure of Parliament to do its primary scrutinise the budget. The abolition of the 10p tax band was a classic example. A nasty little trick by Gordon Brown that effectively taxed the poorest in society to give a tax break to those better off to win an election. And despite it adversely affecting Labour MP's constituents (and the tax con being picked up within in an hour of the announcement), Labour MP after Labour MP walked through the aye lobby approving the budget without a murmur. Parliament thus failed in its job spectacularly.

Tonight will be yet another example. Despite Parliament's vote we will still pay huge amounts to Brussels, the taxpayer will still be ignored and should Cameron wish it he can ignore Parliament's vote anyway. It's no longer fit for purpose, a film set is all it's useful for.

The Harrogate Agenda is more important than ever. There is a tendency (almost an arrogant one) with modern technology to feel superior to those that have gone before. But the same fundamental issues have always been present - we had a civil war once we can have one again...all it takes is an arrogant disdain for us by those who govern and the old age question of money.

History has a nasty habit of repeating itself.

Tuesday 30 October 2012

Circus Elephant In The Room

Banning circus animals is against EU law.

Discussing the subject in Parliament was and is a waste of time - impotency of our government laid bare.

So Paul Waugh, who reports today's Parliament's proceedings without mentioning that fact, is either lying or is stupid.

hattip: Witterings from Witney

Fit And Proper?

Those that have read my blog for a while know that I have long been following the perils of Portsmouth Football Club So it was with some amusement that I have picked up on this report from the Guardian a couple of weeks ago (my emphasis):
One of the most unhappy sagas in English football's history of club ownership may finally be nearing its conclusion after the Football League declined to approve the bid by the Hong Kong-based businessman Balram Chainrai to take over Portsmouth again.

A central issue the league is known to have considered is whether Chainrai may not pass the "fit and proper person test", now known as the "owners and directors'" test, were he to buy Portsmouth back from a second period in administration in two years.
For those unversed in football governance it's worth noting that not passing the football league's 'fit and proper test' is impossible - it's the equivalent of winning at Mornington Crescent. Being a crook is a requirement, so one has to wonder how crooked Chainrai is to have failed.

It's one hell of an achievement.

Wednesday 24 October 2012

Prisoners' Votes

The Savile scandal has enabled the Tories to try to bury a lot of bad news. One was the backtracking on the culling of badgers and another appears to be a change in stance on the long running saga of prisoners' votes. On the face of it not much has changed, the government have until November 22nd to tell the ECHR how it intends to implement at least partial rights or possibly face compensation claims. Despite that, there has been fierce opposition to the proposals - Cameron said the idea made him 'physically sick' and Parliament comprehensively voted against any measures by 234 to 22 votes.

Yet the Guardian reports, that the Tories are to set 'cave in', given extra credence that it is being reported while news is dominant by other factors:
The government is planning a draft bill introducing limited prisoner voting rights to comply with the European court of human rights, despite fierce opposition from Eurosceptic backbenchers.

But embarrassed government ministers are likely to defer the hugely controversial announcement until just before a late-November deadline, allowing it to be made after the police commissioner elections on 17 November.
One would like to think this is merely another delaying tactic, though experience with Tories on anything Europe often tells us otherwise:
The political advantage of agreeing to publish a draft bill is that the government would not be seen to be in open defiance of the European court in that it would be taking steps with the court order to introduce legislation on prisoners' rights.

Yet, in practice, a draft bill might take years to reach the statute book, since it would require wide consultation and allow amendment by a joint committee of both houses. The two alternatives are to table a fresh Commons motion, or to publish a bill.
 And it would appear too that Labour are softening their stance
Labour does not favour prisoner voting rights but does not want to be seen to be ignoring the [ECHR].
So Parliament has spoken...and it means absolutely nothing at all. The irony in all of this is prisoners will still be just as disenfranchised after gaining the right as before it.

Tuesday 23 October 2012

Cover Ups Are Like Buses... wait for ages for one and then... Hillsborough, the cyclist Lance Armstong and the current travails surrounding the BBC regarding Jimmy Savile. It was pretty clear from the outset that claims of decades of child abuse on BBC premises wasn't a story that was going to fulfil Alastair Campbell's 11-day rule, despite the BBC's very obvious dragging of heels on an investigation. And so it's proved.

Last night's Panorama programme was a much touted programme by BBC news all day of an investigation of itself. Among other details, it contained accusations that the BBC had a paedophile ring operating on its premises and, as Biased BBC notes; "it really doesn’t get much more serious than this".

Bristling from the News International phone hacking scandal, gloated over by the BBC, naturally the likes of the Sun are indulging now in a little schadenfreude

The BBC is obviously panicking, the scandal is set to taint a great deal of their output, particularly as Children in Need is coming up in a few weeks. Yet so far its response is found largely lacking. Its defence under such scrutiny, for its failures, is interesting as articulated by BBC Director General George Entwistle today:
[Mr Entwistle] added that the Panorama programme pointed to the BBC's health as a media organisation, rather than being a "symptom of chaos", because it showed the organisation's capacity to investigate itself. He said no other news organisation in the world would do this.
That the BBC think this is compliment to its organisation says a great deal about its mentality. I wonder if they would have applied the same logic to banks doing the same over libor rates, or MPs over expenses or News International over phone hacking?

And then, is having a 1 hour programme, moved to a much later slot outside prime time, to investigate another programme's axing of basically a 10 minute segment on decades of abuse that went undetected, really tantamount to 'investigating itself'?

The second part of the defence, one echoed by a recent disgraceful episode of Have I Got News For You was that it was partly at least the newspapers' fault:
Mr Entwistle points out that, for years, no other newspaper or broadcaster carried out an investigation into the Savile abuse allegations.
But they did or at least tried to, notably the News Of The World in 1971, and when the Sun attempted to print a picture proving that he visited the Jersey care home despite denials he threatened to sue.

And it's worth remember that this is the BBC making the accusations, which by its own admission (my emphasis): the largest broadcast news operation in the world with more than 2,000 journalists and 44 newsgathering bureaux, 41 of which are overseas...has an annual budget of £350 million (2004/05).

BBC News is highly respected both in the UK and around the world, from the World Service which reaches a global audience of more than 150 million listeners with hundreds of bulletins in more than 40 languages every day, to the BBC's flagship television news programme The Ten O'Clock news programme on BBC One.

BBC News 24 was launched to be the best UK television news channel. We compete to be the best, with our emphasis being first-hand coverage of the latest breaking news with a commitment to depth, context and intelligent analysis.
And yet despite all that, it was unable for decades to expose a possible paedophile ring on its own premises even though rumours were constant and that it was an open secret. So what is the BBC criticising here - the failure of largely loss-making newspapers for not hacking Jimmy Savile's phone to get at the truth?

Revealingly the BBC's arguments are backed up by articles with a similar tone in the Guardian:
In fact the BBC has an entrenched need to kick itself hard when under editorial attack. Every senior editor has a gene that makes it a major worry if his or her programme isn't leading the media pack when the corporation has apparently done something wrong.
The noble reason for this acute and sometimes embarrassing navel- gazing is the need to protect the BBC's impartiality and integrity.
...and the Independent:
...only by further damaging its own reputation could the BBC even begin the process of mending it. Last night's film was grim and depressing – but it was also very difficult to think of any other organisation, media or otherwise, that would have exposed itself to such a painful self-laceration. It's not over by a long stretch but Panorama may have started to restore some trust.
Good ol' Auntie, nothing to see here...

Friday 19 October 2012

Us And Them

The irrepressible Witterings from Witney has two cracking posts today: one that the Tory chief whip has resigned and has appeared to confirm in his letter that he swore at police despite previous denials that he didn't and that with "Expensegate II bubbling away nicely" our 'esteemed' chancellor was caught in first class with a standard class ticket.

One wonders how long this contempt for us can go on...?

Political Crapbook

I had an email today from a reader querying the link in my blogroll to the lying blogger Political Scrapbook.

A fair point given my previous criticism - so I would like to confirm that my blogroll isn't necessarily a sign of endorsement - I link to a number of sites I don't agree with partly out of interest (know your enemy) and partly because PS (laughably) is an award nominated blog - thus it's one to keep an eye on. On reflection however I'm inclined to separate out my blogroll accordingly between blogs I like and those that are of 'interest'.

My reader's concerns regarding PS are fully justified and ones I agree with: I've highlighted its deception before, it has a habit of quoting private emails out of context and according to the Spectator today it's at it again (my emphasis):
Political Scrapbook ran a post yesterday headlined ‘EX-CHAIRMAN OF POLICY EXCHANGE SAYS SAVILE SHOULD KEEP HIS KNIGHTHOOD’, though the headline now seems to have changed....
[Charles Moore's quote] is not a mis-quote. Strictly, it is accurate. But it does seem to be almost deliberately missing the point that Charles was trying to make...
I hope you’ll agree having read the whole item that the idea Charles is defending Savile is absurd. Instead, he is making an important argument about how everyone crawled to this DJ when he was perceived to have power and how stripping him of his knighthood would be a way for the establishment to absolve itself of having being so uncurious about the rumours about him. This might seem like a small thing to get upset about. But it is this gotcha attitude that is doing so much to dumb down public debate in this country.

PS is a blogger that one needs to keep taking screen prints of, so often does it silently change its posts and headlines. Yet despite its very liberal use of the facts - modelling itself as a left-wing version of Guido Fawkes - it is a blogger that is 'approved' by the establishment. So we end up with a faux disagreement between 'left and right' but the outcome for the rest of us is precisely the same.

I despair at tribal politics I really do, that it causes the likes of PS to distort facts as they see fit because the ends justify the means- like Left Foot Forward (so-called evidence based blogging) which said this:
The House of Commons Library states that only 9.1 per cent of UK laws stem from the EU.
The report referred to statutory instruments only, not primary legislation nor EU regulations which are directly applicable nor other factors - another, quite frankly, lie.

In light of such disdain for facts in comfort of tribalism one wonders why one bothers with blogging, but I suppose keep trying we must...

Thursday 18 October 2012

Hitting The Buffers

In one of those moments that makes your jaw drop (not) Scotland has had to abandon its flagship health measures of minimum pricing on alcohol. Despite the continuous hyperbole from the media and MPs on the benefits of such a scheme, the fact it's against EU law has largely gone unreported except by a few lowly bloggers.

But against EU law it most certainly is:
PLANS to introduce minimum pricing on alcohol in Scotland have been postponed indefinitely by ministers as a result of a growing legal challenge to the controversial move.

The Scottish Government has confirmed it will not be 
introducing the new law until legal action brought against it by drinks producers has been settled.

The decision means that the proposal, which was due to come into force in the spring of next year, has now been put on hold, with no date now available on when it could come in. Similar legal action taken by tobacco firms against a ban on promotional displays of cigarettes is still ongoing, and has now held up new laws by nearly two years already.

The SNP’s flagship health policy was already hitting difficulties after the European Commission ruled last month that it was opposed to it on the grounds it broke free trade laws. SNP ministers have until the end of the year to try and make their case to EC chiefs and avoid a potentially-damaging legal battle at the European Court of Justice.
Ironically this comes after a recent deal to allow Scotland to have a referendum on independence from the UK. Quite how Alex Salmond believes Scotland will be independent outside the UK whilst remaining members of the EU, when one of its flagship policies has been scuppered by laws made undemocratically elsewhere, is beyond me.

But then at least Scotland is allowed a straight in/out referendum; the rest of us get a fudge of a referendum on the EU which includes the fantasy of renegotiation. The contempt for us is nauseating. Our 'leaders' have hit the buffers.

Sunday 14 October 2012

A Stuck Record

Today in the Daily Mail we have Education Secretary Michael Gove (pictured above) demanding that we quit the EU if we 'don't get our sovereignty back'. Apparently he's exasperated that:
The Education Secretary is among a number of Tory Ministers who say they have been shocked to discover the extent of Brussels’ power to interfere in UK legislation. 
Officials say several aspects of Mr Gove’s school reforms have been ‘disrupted’ by the  EU and the European Court of Human Rights.
In 2011 we had this from Oliver Letwin Cameron's Policy Minister:
Constantly being told what you can and can’t do by Brussels is driving Ministers and No 10 deeper and deeper into the Eurosceptic camp.

Oliver Letwin, Cameron’s mild-mannered and cerebral Policy Minister, has become so frustrated by this constant interference that he has told colleagues he thinks Britain should leave the European Union if it won’t give us all the opt-outs the Government wants.

Letwin is not alone in thinking this. In one department, a recent meeting between a Secretary of State and a junior Minister ended with the pair agreeing that the only solution to the problem they were discussing was to get out of the EU.

Cameron’s strategy guru and close friend Steve Hilton is getting fed up with the way Brussels bureaucracy is blocking his agenda for a post-bureaucratic age.
For some reason the tedium reminds me of a certain advert for a brand of domestic electrical appliances in the early '90s

Saturday 13 October 2012

The BBC In A Glasshouse

Have I Got News For You has long passed its sale-by-date of biting commentary on current news (if it ever was that), largely resembling a tired format where the hosts turn up, go through the motions and go home. That said, last night - the start of a new series - was intriguing in how they would confront the current storm swirling around the BBC over Jimmy Savile. He was a guest on the programme a couple of times and the programme was the feature of a notorious (and faked) internet account of an alleged outtake regarding Savile.

You can see the Savile segment in the above clip which is taken from last night's show and the result is nothing short of a major rearguard action in defence of the BBC. To summarise, according to the show, it's all the Daily Mail's fault. Apparently it's merely a symptom of 'BBC bashing'. Even the old standby of "it's Margaret Thatcher's fault" makes an appearance.

Now it is true newspapers are not exempt from hypocrisy in this matter, but printing pictures of a 15 year old Charlotte Church in a bikini is one thing, employing and knowingly covering up for the actions of a paedophile, rapist and serial sex offender over decades is quite another.

What you can hear is the unmistakable sound of closing ranks and (if you'll excuse the pun) covering arses particularly by Hislop and Merton. Reassuringly the audience (who are fans of the show - applying for free tickets as they do) would appear to beg to differ. A few times where one would have expected laughter or applause after the team captain's had said their piece, there was silence. If they think attacking the Daily Mail is going get the BBC off the hook then they have sorely misjuged the mood.

As commented on the show Jimmy Savile hid in plain view, one could say the same about BBC bias.

Friday 12 October 2012

Beyond Parody

Many of my readers will now probably be aware that the EU has been aware the Nobel Peace Prize, for...wait for it (drum roll)...[contributing] to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe".

That the award has been received with much derision speaks for itself - to paraphrase Mrs Thatcher - "you can't buck the facts". 

The Nobel Peace prize has long been discredited, but it may have surpassed itself this time, though worth noting that the decision by the five-member panel, is led by Jagland who is also Secretary-General of the Council of Europe. No conflict of interest there...oh no.

What is evident by this news though is the retreat into an ever decreasing circle of a self-congratulatory bonanza; Harrogate becomes ever more important - we need to realise our own power and pdq. And while Barroso offers a smug, beaming reaction to the news, he ought to be aware that Alfred Nobel's other legacy has a far more immediate, potent and effective outcome.

Still it could have been worse (or more hilarious); the EU could have been nominated for the Nobel Prize for Economics