Thursday 28 November 2013

PMQS (2)

Following on from my post yesterday, regarding the lack of relevance of PMQs my point is wonderfully illustrated by the picture above showing MP Michael Fabricant donning what the Telegraph calls “a magnificent moustache” during yesterday's session.

Despite long ceasing to function as such, PMQs is supposed to act as a check on the executive by MPs, Fabricant's actions couldn't more clearly show the function's absence and in addition demonstrate the contempt held by MPS on how the process should work. Paliament's failures laid bare.

Thus one is inclined to agree, albeit reluctantly, with the sentiments of former Labour party member Dan Hodges when he dismisses PMQs as a joke which makes a laughing stock of our nation:
Perhaps it was the sight of Michael Fabricant sitting on the back benches wearing a giant fake moustache. Or the Prime Minister’s joke about Ed Miliband “loving Engels instead”, a reference to Miliband’s Desert Island discs choice of Robbie Williams song “Angels”, which contains the line “I’m loving angels instead”. Or the fact Labour’s leader didn’t have the wit or wisdom to inflict the mercy killing the pun so richly deserved, and instead spent his own time at the Dispatch Box rambling aimlessly from one issue to another.

Anyway, whatever it was, as I sat there delivering my instant Twitter verdict – “Appalling joke aside, Cameron skated through this one. Ed's PMQ's strategy seems to be to meander from one issue to another. Weird” – I suddenly thought “what is the point?” Not just “what is the point of me sending this tweet?” which would have been a legitimate thought in itself, but: “what is the point of PMQs?” 
What precisely do we conduct PMQs for? It’s certainly not for the benefit of the electorate, who think the whole thing is a farce. In fact, this is one of the problems.
Yet while Hodges identifies a failure in the system he is unable to put forward a suitable solution, blinkered by the Westminister Village as he is, he sticks with the status quo:
If we want scrutiny of the executive we can have it without the festival of banality that is PMQs. John Bercow has shown himself only too willing to drag ministers, from the PM down, to the chamber to deliver statements to the House on the important issues of the day. They give the opportunity for the government to set out their case in depth, for the opposition to conduct a detailed and forensic analysis of Minister’s responses, and for backbenchers of all sides to have their say free from the rabble-rousing that in unleashed at noon every Wednesday.
But as we see on a daily basis the status quo doesn't work either. Parliament has long ceased scrutinising the executive; a mixture of conflicting interests between MPs' representing constituents interests but wanting promotion, that Parliament no longer makes a lot of our laws and the lack of power of constituents to hold their MPs to account.

We need something different, we need the six demands.

Wednesday 27 November 2013

Dead Pensioners

I now rarely watch PMQs, its relevance about as important as Parliament itself. But my attention was brought to the following exchange between Cameron and Miliband today:
Edward Miliband: Here is the reality. This is not a minor policy adjustment—it is an intellectual collapse of the Government’s position. For two months, they have been saying that if we take action to intervene in markets it is back to the ’70s—it is Marxism—but now they realise that they are on the wrong side of public opinion. That is the reality. The Prime Minister must realise the gravity of the situation, as figures this week show that there were 31,000 deaths as a result of the cold winter, with about 10,000 as the result of cold homes. Can he explain how things will be better this winter than they were last?
The Prime Minister: What there will be this winter—and this is a vitally important issue—are the cold weather payments that we have doubled from their previous level. The winter fuel payment will be in place, as will the warm home discount, which helps 2 million people in our country. Last year’s increase in the pension of £5.30 a week will be in place. Every excess death in the winter is a tragedy, and there were 31,000 last year. The right hon. Gentleman might care to recall that when he was energy Secretary there were 36,500.
Edward Miliband: I asked the Prime Minister a very specific question: how are things going to be better this winter than last? The reality is that prices will be higher this winter than last. For the average household, the British Gas bill went up £123 this week. It was also revealed that the profits of the energy companies were up 75% in the last year alone. Why, under his Government, is it acceptable for the British people to pay exorbitant prices to fund exorbitant profits?
The Prime Minister: What is intellectual incoherence is not to address the fact that there were 36,500 winter deaths when the right hon. Gentleman was standing here as energy Secretary. That number was lower last year. What is intellectually incoherent is to promise a price freeze for 20 months’ time when we do not control the global price of gas—that is completely incoherent and a total con.
With all three parties agreeing largely to the same expensive energy policy, PMQs is reduced to two men bickering over who has killed the fewest number of people. Shameful doesn't even begin to describe it...

Tuesday 26 November 2013

Scotland And The EU

Today, in what appears to have been a low key affair, the Scottish first minister Alex Salmond launched his government's independence blueprint, calling it a "mission statement" for the future. Yet on first reading not a great deal has changed in the Nationalist's flawed case. The same problems remain as I noted here - there's still no coherent case on the issue of currency for example:
Alex Salmond has been pilloried after unveiling a blueprint for Scottish independence that assumes the English would continue to share the UK’s ‘crown jewels’ including the pound and BBC programmes.
Today's announcement appears to have been nothing more than a rebranding exercise. Certainly on the vexed issue of whether Scotland would remain members of the EU and if they would still retain the UK opt-outs on the Euro are still in doubt. The Referendum White Paper argues:
If we vote for independence, the eyes of the world will be on Scotland as our ancient nation emerges – again – as an independent country. Scotland will become the 29th member of the European Union...
Of course, as we are well aware, it cannot be both an independent nation and a member of the EU. Those two positions are completely incompatible. But crucially what the paper doesn't address convincingly is how Scotland will remain members of the EU on the same terms as it has now.

In Scotland's favour there is a kind of precedent that echoes their potential position and that is the one of Greenland. Greenland as part of Denmark joined the then EEC in 1973, despite 70% of the Greenlandic votes having been against membership in that referendum. However when Greenland gained home rule in 1979 it still remained a full member of the EEC. It wasn’t until it had a separate referendum on leaving in 1981 that it decided to leave. Even then it still has a special relationship with the EU as part of its overseas countries and territories.

Yet the EEC has moved on and we are now post Lisbon, so there is now no real precedent for how the EU should deal with a region of a member state seceding from the European Union, a situation the white paper itself acknowledges:
Article 49 of the Treaty of the European Union provides the legal basis, and defines the procedure, for a conventional enlargement where the candidate country is seeking membership from outside the EU.
As Scotland joined the EU in 1973 this is not the starting position from which the Scottish Government will be pursuing independent EU membership. Article 49 does not appear to be the appropriate legal base on which to facilitate Scotland’s transition to full EU membership.
This though is at odds with earlier comments made by EU Commission President Barosso who is of the opinion that Scotland would have to reapply for membership:
A letter from Mr Barosso to the House of Lords economic committee, which is examining the independence question, also confirmed his position that a new independent state would "become a third country with respect to the EU".
"What I said, and it is our doctrine and it is clear since 2004 in legal terms, if one part of a country - I am not referring now to any specific one - wants to become an independent state, of course as an independent state it has to apply to the European membership according to the rules - that is obvious."

Asked whether an independent country would have to renegotiate its terms, Mr Barroso said: "Yes.".
Ploughing on regardless convinced Article 49 does not apply, the white paper argues that there would be a "continuty of effect":
We recognise that specific provisions will need to be included in the EU Treaties as part of the amendment process to ensure the principle of continuity of effect with respect to the terms and conditions of Scotland’s independent EU membership, including detailed considerations around current opt-outs, in particular the rebate, Eurozone, Justice and Home Affairs and the Schengen travel area.
So apparently all an independent Scotland has to do is pursue membership of the European Union by seeking an amendment to the EU treaties rather than applying as a new member:
The alternative to an Article 49 procedure, and a legal basis that the Scottish Government considers is appropriate to the prospective circumstances, is that Scotland’s transition to full membership is secured under the general provisions of Article 48.
Article 48 provides for a Treaty amendment to be agreed by common accord on the part of the representatives of the governments of the member states.
Article 48 is therefore a suitable legal route to facilitate the transition process, by allowing the EU Treaties to be amended through ordinary revision procedure before Scotland becomes independent, to enable it to become a member state at the point of independence.
The problem is that Salmond with his assertions of "seeking an amendments to the EU treaties" via article 48 is now entering 'David Cameron territory' with his similar claims of trying to achieve the goal of repatriating powers. Article 48 is here - it only allows the EU treaty to be amended by unanimous consent.

This then becomes a paper which assumes the UK and the EU will agree with whatever Salmond demands. Unanimous consent which requires agreement of the UK - that Scotland has voted to leave - and countries like Spain, Belgium and Italy who have their own separatist problems and would be determined not to encourage further such sentiments. One suspects therefore Salmond's chances are going to be close to zero.

It illustrates yet again the problems of an ill-prepared independence case. It's difficult to see as a consequence any other option than Scotland voting to remain members next year particularly factoring in the status quo effect. But the lessons, which are so relevant to an EU referendum, are still not being learnt south of the border.

Thus sadly those who campaign to leave the EU are currently doomed to failure.

Update: Captain Ranty is not too impressed either, expressed in his own inimitable way.

Monday 25 November 2013

Falken's Maze

Witterings from Witney highlights a blog from Openingly Lying Europe which promises:
"...a date with the future: what can the UK achieve in talks over its EU membership terms?"
It proclaims...
Open Europe is offering you a front row seat at a simulation of what will arguably be the biggest negotiation round of them all: Will the UK will stay in the EU or negotiate a new relationship from the outside?
Interestingly 'Openingly Lying Europe' was not shortlisted for the IEA Brexit (if it submitted one at all) - but then that would mean submitting a paper which demonstrated the mechanism and means by which we can leave. Its absence confirms once again that it has no wish to do so.

Yet they are "very excited by this date with the future":
Such simulations are commonly referred to as 'war-games', and our event will take place in our specially customised 'war room' in Westminster on 11 December, featuring leading European politicians and experts - many of whom are themselves involved in EU talks.
Such 'war games' consist of what deal will David Cameron be able to strike in Europe?
"Will EU partners grant Cameron any meaningful concessions?"
"Will there be an EU treaty change?"
"What areas can Cameron devolve back to member states?"
"What can he do on issues like free movement of workers or the UK's budget contribution?"
None of this can be achieved. Once again Openingly Lying Europe supporting our membership while masquerading as a eurosceptic think tank.

So given that it refers to 'war games' and 'simulation' one is tempted to reference a classic 1980's film of the same name particularly the famous scene on the futility of nuclear war as demonstrated by the flawed game 'noughts and crosses':

The computer concludes:
"Greetings, Professor Falken. A strange game. The only winning move is not to play. How about a nice game of chess"
The only difference is Joshua, the computer in the film, learnt  - something Openingly Lying Europe is unwilling to do.

Friday 22 November 2013

Breaking The Law?

There are in my view two fundamental objections to the European Court of Human Rights’ judgment on the UK’s position on prisoners’ right to vote.

The first is by allowing an unelected and unaccountable court to effectively act as a legislator as well; telling Parliament what laws it can and cannot pass - against the expressed wishes of the UK population. It is with dazzlingly irony that the judgement doesn’t actually give prisoners’ the right to vote but instead removes that very right from the rest of us.

The second is that the right to vote is not a human right, unlike for example access to food, clothes and medicine. It instead is a contract between the government and its taxpaying citizens. Democracy resides on the basis of the rule of law. As responsible adults we have duty to abide by those laws, even ones we disagree with and in return we have the privileges of being able to make or influence those laws. It should, if it worked properly, allow us to have say in how our money is spent.

Thus if we breach our side of the bargain and break a law we should expect to be removed from the process during a period of incarceration as a consequence of not keeping our side of the contract.

Conversely if we have no means of making law – we simply have no choice- as in a dictatorship run by fear via tanks on the streets then we have a moral right to ignore the law and break it by virtue of the government having not kept their side of the bargain. An example of this is the Arab Spring.

And this leads me onto our membership of the European Union. One of the most insidious consequences of EU membership is it encourages UK citizens to demand that their government breaks the law when we have no moral right to do so. The EU - and this is crucial - does not rule by fear, it rules by our consent.

The UK, by due process via Parliament has chosen to be a member, has chosen to implement EU law and in many ways gold plates such laws, and has chosen to accept EU diktats. Thus Parliament remains sovereign because it still has the right to leave. It simply chooses not to. The fault line in our democracy is between us the people and Parliament, not between us the people and the EU.

The EU is a club we as a country chose to join and as a country we can choose to leave. The basic principles of joining any club are as follows:
  1. Abide by the rules or laws

  2. Change the laws within the context of membership

  3. Or leave
Public opinion is increasingly saying option a) is not acceptable, option b) which Cameron allegedly advocates is not possible as has been pointed out many times, so that only leaves option c). But option c) remains elusive because the UK population has not yet exercised their peacefully, law-abiding right to demand exit via current electoral processes.

And the establishment cannot cope with option c) so they try to work within option b) with unproductive results. It leads to demands to treat EU membership like an a la carte menu; apparently we abide by the laws we agree with and ignore the ones we don’t. But ironically it becomes a demand that says we wish to remain members - because if we left abiding by EU rules would no longer be a problem.

One can see this a la carte phenomenon by today's Daily Mail article on immigration which made its front page:

This from the same paper that has continually argued for membership of the same club i.e. the EU:
Let the Mail lay all its cards on the table. This paper has no desire for Britain to pull out of Europe [EU]...
Richard North rightly takes apart its report on the detail of immigration - immigration is a fiendishly complex issue, yet what also is disturbing is the Daily Mail (who supports EU membership) implying very heavily that the Government should break the law as the paper cannot bring itself to argue that we should leave the club:
But the threat of big fines from the European Court of Justice was brushed off by almost two thirds of the public.
They said that – even if it meant legal sanctions – the Prime Minister should keep the restrictions in place to ‘serve the national interest’. And 80 per cent of voters say Westminster should retain the final say over who enters the country. 
And even Tory MPs agree:
But, under EU rules, the arrangements must be lifted on January 1. Any failure to do so would be considered a breach of the free movement directive – a founding principle of the EU.

Britain would most likely face heavy fines, but the European Court of Justice – the EU’s enforcement arm – is notoriously slow moving.
Tory MPs believe the 2015 general election may even have passed before a verdict is handed down.
I most definitely don't want to encourage the government to break the law - it should be subject to the same laws as the rest of us - otherwise therein lies a very slippery slope indeed. Instead what such position highlights is sovereignty or more accurately the lack of.

Such sentiments are also expressed in the view, often in newspaper comments, that other countries ignore EU laws so why don't we? Such sentiments are not true - we are not the most compliant state and nor is it correct that other EU nations flagrantly ignore EU law. We can see this by the latest report by the EU Commission on application of EU law (click to enlarge):

As becomes apparent the UK has more infringements than France, yet is still 9th on the list. And also regarding infringment procedures the UK comes 9th (again click to enlarge):

The implementation of EU law is actually rather good across all member states and so it should be, we chose to join we can choose to leave. But while we remain members we have a duty to abide by the law - EU law or otherwise - so any demands to ignore EU law while we choose to remain members carries with it no moral weight.

We simply just have to leave...

Monday 18 November 2013

Whose Betrayal?

Criticising Nick Clegg is rather like choosing the (very easy) 'village cricket option' mode instead of ‘Test’ in the computer game Brian Lara Cricket when playing with England against the Netherlands – you’re guaranteed to win but it's so easy what's the point.

Yet the utterly completely shameless lying statements from Nick Clegg reported by the Telegraph so defies belief it still, unfortunately, prompts a response. The same man who wriggled so much on the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty and backtracked on student fees where he lost all respect among a significant sector of his party's support.

Now the former MEP, Nick Clegg accuses UKIP of "unpatriotic" behaviour for wanting to "drive Britain out of Europe":
“I’m relishing the opportunity to make that patriotic case because I think the view represented by Ukip and large parts of the Conservative Party and Paul Sykes is a betrayal of the national interest and an unpatriotic approach,” Mr Clegg told a press conference in London. 
It's odd that Clegg decides to adopt nationalistic language in order to criticise a party which wishes to maintain the nation state. It becomes even more odd when Clegg thinks not being part of the EU is “unpatriotic”. As he is well aware the EU was born out of desire to abolish the nation state and that apparent populist mechanism commonly known as democracy.

The founding father of the EU Jean Monnet disliked intensely the messy business of the nation state and more crucially democracy. He wanted a more “organised world of tomorrow”. This desire to abolish counties is reflected in the EU “colleagues” language of never referring to their country by name but instead “the country I know best”, as Mary Ellon Synon described at a recent Bruges group conference:
You see, the word "country" is almost never used at the commission. About the only time you will come across the word "country" in Brussels is when you are standing by the baggage carousel at arrivals at the airport. There is always at least one suitcase with a sticker that says: "Europe is my country". Exclamation mark.

No, in Brussels one says "member state". You may imagine it means the same thing as country or state, but "member state" does not. Note that adjective. Member modifies state. Like "wooden" modifies "leg". The noun stays the same, but the essence of the thing is gone.

In particular, no one at the podium, from commission president Barroso down, will ever speak of his own country. At the commission, any one in what used to be 28 sovereign states is only ever "a citizen of Europe". Should any eurocrat somehow find he is cornered into referring to his own country, he is trained to refer to it only as "the country I know best".
As a former MEP, Clegg is well aware of this, not least because his own party's MEP's adopt the same langauge, for example Lib Dem MEP Graham Watson (my emphasis):
I salute the efforts of Commissioner Frattini and of the Finnish Presidency in trying to coax and cajole the Member States forward. Mr Rajamäki spoke of breathing new life into the spirit of Tampere. It is desperately needed.

But the fact is that the country I know best threw a spanner into the works when it insisted on having three pillars. Other countries are now blocking the process of repair. Unless we are able to bring in the footbridge - the 'passerelle clause' - we will never have a credible policy in justice and home affairs. We will continue with a policy like a push-bike when what we need is a Ducati.

Member States sit in their medieval fastnesses with the drawbridges firmly up. In the name of national sovereignty they are enhancing global anarchy. Our citizens demand better.
Clegg claims that he "relishes the opportunity" to debate the UK's position within the EU but he obviously means nothing of the sort and it's another example of the unaccountable arrogance. It leaves one pondering that if Clegg et al think the EU project is so wonderful then why do they have to continually lie about it? A project based on a lie by definition is fundamentally flawed.

And it's most revealing that they effectively reveal their desperation to remain members so much that it means they are not arguing with UKIP or Eurosceptics, but end up essentially arguing with the founding father of the EU himself.

Oh the irony!

Friday 15 November 2013

Revolution 9

"No essential loss of sovereignty" said Heath when we entered the so-called Common Market in 1973. But as we now know due to the infamous Foreign and Commonwealth Office paper 30/1048 of 1971 it was a lie - a lie that the former Conservative Prime Minister Ted Heath openingly admitted to 20 years later. The following is an extract from 30/1048:
...the transfer of major executive responsibilities to the bureaucratic Commission in Brussels will exacerbate popular feeling of alienation from government...Parliamentary sovereignty will be affected as we have seen. But the need for Parliament to play an increasing (if perhaps more specialised) role may develop. Firstly, although a European Parliament might in the longest term become an effective, directly elected democratic check upon the bureaucracy, this will not be for a long time, and certainly not in the decade to come. In the interval, to minimise the loss of democratic control...
Those that took this country into the then EEC knew what the project was about and knew they had no mandate with which to take the UK into, but they took comfort largely in two presumptions.

The first that EU was such a wonderful project that when people realised what was being done in their name they would hail it with acclamation. It's partly why Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty is a genuine exit clause, those in the EU think their project is such a fantastic idea they don't believe anyone would want to leave.

The second presumption was that even if the people didn't celebrate the "brave new world" it would be too late for them to do anything about it. Those that took us in were of the view that they would be long retired or no longer with us before the people of the UK came to realise.

The flaws with the first presumption are self-evident - any system that requires establishment by stealth (the Monnet method) is never going to receive the acclamation of the people who have been deceived. The second presumption is also incorrect. It's never too late; no political system can survive without consent, even if the consent is induced by fear. Once popular consent is withdrawn then it's game over.

We see a good example of this with the Stasi. A ruthless, efficient and effective secret police - one of the best that's ever existed - it relied on huge numbers of citizens to be informants, yet once that consent was withdrawn in 1989 it simply collapsed...almost literally overnight.

The FCO's prediction of "the transfer of major executive responsibilities to the bureaucratic Commission in Brussels will exacerbate popular feeling of alienation from government" was unerringly accurate and is coming to pass in a big way in the 21st century.

With this in mind we begin to see the inevitable outcome of that "political error of the first magnitude"...people are starting to withdraw their consent. As noted by Autonomous Mind the Independent has an article that reports that 4 in 10 people are “alienated” from Britain’s political parties and say they will not consider voting for any of them:
Lord (Paul) Bew, the crossbench peer who chairs the committee, told The Independent today: "One particular cause for concern from the research is the number of people, especially young people, who feel disconnected from the political system and political parties."

He said the growth in the size of this group over the last 10 years represents a real challenge to politicians, parties, local organisations and community groups to provide the public with a sufficiently attractive and relevant set of options to choose from.
Lord Bew continues:
That requires public office holders to be seen to be demonstrating the seven principle of public life - selflessness, accountability, objectivity, integrity, honesty and leadership."
I'll leave readers to make their own jokes at this juncture. But the article (and it's by no means alone) does illustrate an important point that the legacy media is waking up to the fact that something has gone badly wrong with the system even if they are reluctant to pinpoint one of the main reasons.

What we see are the predictions of 1971 coming to pass, however not only were they wrong to take us in they were also wrong to assume it would ever be too late to rectify their mistake.

It's time to eradicate their mistake.

Thursday 14 November 2013


With membership of the EU comes the free movement of people. This is a fundamental principle of the EU. So when we see apparent regrets over immigration from former Labour Minister Jack Straw, who like many in Labour supports membership, we can only conclude his real regret was not to delay the influx for seven years which would have conveniently dumped the problem on Cameron’s lap:
"Other existing EU members, notably France and Germany, decided to stick to the general rule which prevented migrants from these new states from working until 2011. But we thought that it would be good for Britain if these folk could come and work here from 2004”.
This 'blame the Tories' mentality is illustrated neatly by David Blunkett:
[Blunkett] also accused the government of "burying their head in the sand" over the scale of Roma settlement in the UK.
It’s irrelevant whether they came here in 2004 or in 2011. It’s just a question of time, it doesn’t alter the fact we have lost control of our borders, which is completely in line with EU law. Losing control of borders is both Labour and Tory policy. (Incidentally one notes the more sympathetic treatment Blunkett gets over potentially inflammatory language in contrast with Farage on the issue of immigration).

Thus with the opening of our borders in a few weeks time to Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants (the EU seven year limit expires) we get small-minded Westminster squabbling trying desperately to hide the EU elephant in the room. But squabbling is all it is, nothing will be done, no action taken. Our impotency laid bare. Whether we as a country agree with mass immigration or multi-culturalism is not relevant, the crucial point is we weren’t asked.

But that politicians can get away with this is because our so-called fourth estate fails to scrutinise our Parliament properly. Nothing illustrates this better than Peter Oborne in the Telegraph who writes one of the most stupid bone-headed comments I've read in a long time. A man who has been privately educated, went to Cambridge and gloated over his “predictions” of the failure of the Euro in his "Guilty Men" pamphlet writes the following without any sense of irony: 
The decision will be enforced by anonymous officials and jurists. Without intending to, the European Union is turning into the enemy of democracy
Without intending to? How can such stupidity exist? From a paid journalist? One is inclined to bash the bloke over the head with a copy of the Treaty of Rome or better still batter him with a hardback copy of the Great Deception.

What the immigration question highlights though with great clarity is those at the coal face of everyday life have to suffer the consequences of decisions made by those with the money and means to make themselves immune from those very same consequences.

Our system is broken, it's in desperate need of repair.

Monday 11 November 2013

It's Not About Statistics, It's About People.

So caring "Dave" informs us today via the subject heading in the Conservatives’ latest email announcement. The email begins:
A month ago I emailed you about the launch of the Conservative Help to Buy scheme. Since Labour’s financial crisis, hardworking people have been priced off the property ladder because of the large deposits you have to put down. That’s why we introduced Help to Buy - to make it easier to get a mortgage by cutting the deposits you need.
Four weeks on and it is delivering.
And how does Dave assure us that it is delivering? Well obviously by using statistics facts:
1. Over 2,000 people have already been accepted in principle for a Help to Buy mortgage - 75 families every day getting closer to owning their dream home

2. £365 million worth of mortgages are being processed - home sales that may never have happened otherwise

3. There are a third more houses being built now than this time last year.
But as the email concludes, as if to reinforce the point, "this isn’t really about statistics. This is about people".

Sunday 10 November 2013

We Will Remember Them

Today is when we remember those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in defending this nation of ours.

Yet it is also with personal sadness that I can no longer bring myself to watch the coverage of the service at the Cenotaph – to watch politicians laying wreaths, politicians who have continuously betrayed those who have served this country. A betrayal illustrated in Christopher Booker’s column today:
The last occasion when our services were still able to operate in full accord with their proud traditions was the retaking of the Falklands in 1982, only made possible in the nick of time thanks to an array of ships which our cost-conscious defence secretary, John Nott, already planned to scrap. His successor, Michael Heseltine, as a fervent Europhile keen to integrate our defence industry with Europe, set in train the process whereby our helicopter industry came to be owned by the Italians and landed us with the Eurofighter project, a hugely expensive aircraft initially designed to fight a Cold War that soon afterwards came to an end.
In the Nineties, integration with Europe proceeded apace under Michael Portillo, who discussed with the French setting up a joint “carrier force”. But it really blossomed with Tony Blair’s St Malo agreement with France in 1998, leading the following year to the Helsinki Accords. Their intention was to set up a “European Rapid Reaction Force”, to which each EU country would make its own contribution, with Britain’s to centre on those two huge aircraft carriers only now taking shape.
After years of mismanagement under Blair, pouring billions into one botched MoD project after another, under this Government the betrayal has continued. Our demoralised Armed Forces have been deprived of ships, aircraft and men fit for any purpose they might be asked to serve until, as a monument to that betrayal, we are left with little more than those two half-built monster carriers and no aircraft to fly from them. Just as apt might be the fact that we now, thanks to a process Mr Heseltine set in train by flogging off Royal Ordnance, have to rely on the French to provide the nuclear triggers for the American missiles that make up our “independent” deterrent.
Instead of bowing their heads as they lay their wreaths, they should hang them in shame.

Friday 8 November 2013

The "Norway Option"

Above is a trailer for the video of the Norway Option, which can be purchased here. I will be attending a Bruges Group meeting on Saturday (£20 on the door), along with Witterings from Witney, which has a discussion on the best way to exit the EU. Speakers include Richard North, Christopher Booker, Mary Ellen Synon, Professor Tim Congdon, Kieran Bailey (the 15 year old who's made it onto the shortlist for the Brexit prize).

Given the fundamental disagreements between Tim Congdon and Richard North on how to exit, it will more than likely prove to be a lively affair.

Money That's What I Want

As readers will recall I had a 'disputed transaction' with my bank over a number of theatre tickets from an internet company called Seatwave paid for with my card, transactions which I did not make.

When I reported the disputed transaction I subsequently received a letter which initiated the very much anticipated “nothing to do with us” response. The letter stated:
I would like to point out that this transaction has been initiated through ‘Verified by Visa’ or VBV. With transactions like these where VBV has been used as a verification tool, all details processed are fully authenticated against your personal information held with [my bank] before authorisation will be granted

As a result [my bank] do not have any immediate chargeback rights which would enable us to retrieve your funds. We are therefore only able to advise that you continue your dispute with the merchants directly if further resolve is needed.

If I could help you further I would, but unfortunately my hands are completely tied, as in accordance with the operating rules and regulations we have no chargeback claim against the merchant’s banker’s for this circumstance.
Nice try. Clearly there is reluctance to even investigate and instead to try to pass the buck hoping to fob us off. The law somewhat differs. My response sent yesterday was as follows:
Dear Ms xxxxx


Thank you for your letter, dated 30th October, regarding the dispute on our debit card with Seat Wave Tickets debited 28th October 2013.

It is with considerable regret that we cannot accept your explanation that you are unable to reimburse our account due to your hands being tied because it was “Verified by Visa”.

My wife and I did not authorise this transaction. Not only were we unaware of the company Seat Wave Tickets until it appeared on our statement (we had to Google it), but crucially my wife is disabled, thus wheelchair-bound, therefore any trip to the theatre requires liaising with them directly due to disability requirements. This is a situation reflected in our joint account records which show no such transactions with theatre ticket internet sites for many years.

As I’m sure you are aware FCA Rule BCOBS 5.1.11R states:
"(1) Where a banking customer denies having authorised a payment, it is for the firm to prove that the payment was authorised.

(2) Where a payment from a banking customer's account was not authorised by the banking customer, a firm must, within a reasonable period, refund the amount of the unauthorised payment to the banking customer and, where applicable, restore the banking customer's account to the state it would have been in had the unauthorised payment not taken place."
Succinctly put it means that it is for [my bank] to prove we did authorise this transaction, which cannot be proved precisely because we did not. Therefore we consider this an unresolved unauthorised transaction.

Please take this letter as a formal request to investigate further and reimburse our account accordingly. If you are unable to do so then we request that you escalate this unauthorised transaction via normal internal escalation procedures.

We look forward to your prompt reply.
Yours sincerely
The letter was sent by Special Delivery and arrived just before midday today, at around 2pm our account was credited with the full amount.

I have to say it has been resolved a little quicker than I expected. I anticipated I would have to request a 'Letter of deadlock' before taking it to the ombudsman.

It doesn't stop banks trying it on though.

Saturday 2 November 2013

Kicking The Arse Out Of Deja Vu...

The running sore that is the Human Rights Act and the European Court of Human Rights means there is more faux outrage from the Tories, and the Telegraph about it:
Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, slams 'unacceptable' interference by Strasbourg judges as one of Britain's most dangerous terrorists claims his rights were infringed
The inteference?
One of Britain’s most dangerous al-Qaeda terrorists is seeking to have his conviction overturned on human rights grounds, The Telegraph can disclose.

[Abdulla Ahmed Ali] alleges the jury would have been prejudiced by media coverage of a previous trial. 
And of course it's "unacceptable" - it goes to the heart of our country's sovereignty and democracy.

In response Mr Grayling goes on to say that the Conservatives will go into the next election promising abolition of the Human Rights Act (HRA). But one asks how abolition of the HRA will defend ourselves against the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) especially taking into account that the Act was passed to help give UK courts a mechanism to remedy breaches of a Convention right, without having to go straight to the Strasbourg court.

So are the Tories proposing scrapping the HRA but staying in the ECHR?  If so this would still leave the Home Secretary powerless to deport individuals in the interest of national security.  Or do they want to pull out of the ECHR altogether? Leaving the Strasbourg court would mean not only the UK is out of step with its international obligations but would also mean having to leave the EU altogether. A condition of EU membership is to be a member of the Council of Europe - thus the ECHR. Leaving the EU is a course of action the Tories will not contemplate.

Naturally we've been here before with Tory rhetoric on ECHR rulings, many times:
Britain may have to pull out of the European Convention on Human Rights entirely in order to extradite foreign criminals, David Cameron says.
And here in (2006):
Mr Cameron claimed existing human rights legislation was hindering the fight against crime and terrorism, at the same time as failing to protect people's civil liberties. 
And here (2011):
Theresa May, the Home Secretary, risks an explosive rift inside the Coalition with an explicit call for the scrapping of the Human Rights Act.
And here (2013):
Theresa May, the Home Secretary, said that "by 2015, we'll need a plan for dealing with the European Court of Human Rights". "And yes, I want to be clear that all options - including leaving the convention altogether - should be on the table."
And here (2010), "it makes me physically ill to even contemplate to give anyone in prison the right to vote" says Cameron.

Not forgetting that "abolition of the Human Rights Act (HRA)" was exactly the promise they went into the last election, then...look what happened in 2010...
The Daily Mail revealed yesterday that the flagship Tory commitment to scrapping the Human Rights Act and replacing it with a British Bill of Rights is to be put on the back burner.
Then we're reminded that Cameron is not opposed to another coalition in 2015...
 Clegg and Cameron 'in secret talks on setting up a second Coalition' despite backbench opposition
So what is it? Repeal the HRA, but remain in the ECHR, leave things the same, or leave the HRA and the ECHR but try to remain in the EU or just leave everything. Who knows? The Tories don't. This is what happens when you first set out to deceive...

Disputed Transaction

Annoyingly, I've just discovered that one of my cards has been cloned and used to buy a number of theatre tickets from an internet company called Seatwave, which I confess I've never heard of until I Googled it.

Given the card used I know it must have been cloned having paid for some petrol at the Tibshelf service station on the M1 on my return from Harrogate - what is it with service stations? It's not the first time.

So now I have to face the irritations of waiting for a new card and for the money to be refunded from my bank. I’ve noticed that since the introduction of chip and pin there has been a greater insistence of the card provider disputing the ‘disputed transaction’ to place the onus on the card holder to prove that they weren’t negligent or fraudulent, despite that the onus is on your provider to prove that you have been:
But, despite clear rules that state banks can only refuse to refund a customer if he or she has acted "fraudulently" or had been "grossly negligent", there is growing evidence that the banks are taking a tougher line and refusing a refund – in some cases for the sole reason the thief used the card with a merchant the account holder had also done business with.
Even in the face of overwhelming evidence that the account holder was miles away at the time, and it could not have been them, some banks have been insisting their customer is liable.
Interestingly the Cairn Hotel in Harrogate tried to insist on keeping my card (a different one) behind the bar when I requested to open a bar tab - absolutely no chance. The barman in question looked a little puzzled when I informed him that to do so would be negligence on my behalf and a breach of the terms and conditions to allow my card out of my sight.

Anyway, like last time, I have informed my bank that should they continue to drag their heels, and especially if it has to go up to the Ombudsman, I will be invoicing them for my phone calls and my time in dealing with it. I charge a reasonable hourly rate.