Sunday, 31 May 2009

Brown and His Presbyterian conscience

Brown came out of the bunker today to do an interview with Andrew Marr. I had to skip a lot of it as he kept having a me, me, me moment. He did make one astute comment:
What I have seen offends my Presbyterian conscience; what I have seen is something that is appalling
Indeed, a lot of people feel that way about New Labour. Brown does have a tendency to use his background like a trump card or a shield. Though I fail to see why it automatically makes him moral or have a conscience. When it's something he's failed to actually prove.

He used the interview to announce his plans for a MP code of conduct, the BBC say it's:
thought likely to include minimum service commitments to constituents, with those who break it facing possible fine or even ejection from their seats
Why not just choose better candidates? To paraphrase David Mitchell it's like complaining about the pee in the swimming pool, when you've been the one peeing in it. You are not going to claim for silly things if voters will see it, put MP's expenses on-line and get rid of safe seats motiving people to work for votes. Give MPs who perhaps aren't naturally inclined to put people above the party, a push in the right direction. Yet that of course will put Labour at more of a disadvantage in the election, so that won't happen.

Yet perhaps my unease comes from the words Constitution and New Labour in the same sentence. As Brown is also setting up a committee to look at wider constitutional reforms, such as a bill of rights, a written constitution and House of Lords reform. New Labour have a real "gift" of making broadly defined laws that are never used for there original purpose and making things conditional rather than constitutional. This sounds like it could become one more thing to add to the list.

While all this reform is taking place though, where does this leave Sir Christopher Kelly? What happens if his report disagrees with Browns reform ideas? And more importantly when we will see an end to this saga?

Big Ben 150 Years old

big ben
Parliaments clock tower usually just referred to as Big Ben, was completed on the 31st May in 1859. The Times have a very good article on the history of the clock tower, what caught my eye is that the tower's building project suffered long delays and spiralling costs before the clock finally began to tick. A expensive government project, shocking.

Built in Queen Victoria's rein, beneath each of the four clock faces is a carved Latin inscription - "Domine salvam fac Reginam nostrum Victoriam primam" which means "O Lord, save our Queen Victoria the First." It's a striking piece of Victorian engineering as Big Ben is completely clockwork, which is incredible given in this technological age you're lucky to buy a washing machine that lasts a year.

So long may Victorian engineering prevail, leaving Big Ben counting and marking the hours for many more years. As it is a wonderful sight to see and hear, one that always leaves me in awe.

For those interested behind the scenes videos can been seen on Parliaments YouTube channel.

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Labour Censor

Click on image to enlarge

I was on Youtube and came across Labours official videos and channel. Their election broadcast has been up a week on YouTube and apparently only nine people have commented, all of whom want to vote or will be voting labour (see image above). Gonna85 is particularly interesting they said:
I'm supporting Labour on June 4th; real action for people now.
What make's Gonna85 interesting is they only comment and subscribe to Labour videos. They seem to particularly like Ed Miliband:
Ed Miliband is a great member of the party; he cares and listens. This is a prime example of a government listening and caring for people's needs.
There are other accounts that are very Labour focused, rating on videos are also disabled and clearly comment moderation is on. Doesn't that just tell you everything you need to know about Labour, censor those that don't see through the eye of Labour, that don't realise just how lucky they are to have them in government. As my comment won't be posted I'd post it here instead:
I'm not supporting Labour on June 4th; free speech for people now.

Friday, 29 May 2009

UKIP Overtake Labour In The Polls

This election looks to be more a case of how do you like your Labour, well cooked or cremated? The European voting intentions are:

Conservative - 30% (-4)
UKIP - 19% (+13)
Labour - 16% (-9)
Lib Dems - 12% (-8)
Green - 10% (+5)
BNP - 5% (+3)

General election figures:

Conservative - 41% (+2)
Labour - 21% (-6)
Lib Dems - 15 (-2)

They've beaten the lowest Labour record of 23% set in 1981, 2% more and they will become the most unpopular party on record, claiming the title from Majors government, who at their lowest dropped to 20% in the polls. Come on Labour you can do it, you've already started to become the most history making party.

How Appropriate!

The latest MP to be claiming questionable expenses is . . . . . . . Bill Cash! With a name like that, don't say their wasn't forewarning.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

My EU Vote is For

After much consideration, I've decided to vote Green Party at the EU election. Given that many people will like me be feeling disillusioned and at a loss as to who to vote for. I want to give a run down of my reasoning. It may be of assistance to those at a complete dead end, yet I do stress conclude whatever party you like, it's your vote.

I can't bring myself to vote for a main party, until they get the House of Commons in order I will not vote for them. A bad result for all the main parties strongly enforces the "get your act together" message. Given the ballot box has unfortunately become the only thing they will listen and take note of, I will use it to do just that. Hopefully if the results are particularly bad we may get the election this year, the thought of 12 more months of sleazy headlines week after week, no leadership and this ridiculous ability Brown has of burying his head in the sand, is verging on unbearable.

My personal views on the EU are also a part of the reason, the biggest issue I have with the EU is the lack of accountability and the way it's run, there needs to be a clear line drawn as to what's a national and international issue. Given leaving the EU or fully embracing it isn't on the cards, with the main parties that can make that decision, reform is important. I played with the idea of voting UKIP as it would send the message that the EU isn't working in it's present form, yet I feel UKIP will most likely get a lot of votes from general Euroscepticism and protest, I'm not completely comfortable voting in just an Eurosceptic way. Libertas were also a consideration as it's a reform party, but they will be voting on all laws and they've not made clear their ideology or perhaps today they did.

That's why I've concluded the Greens, one of the pros to the EU for me is the cross boarders policy of tackling environmental issues, the Greens are pushing basically for creating a sustainable way to live. This combined with wanting reform, sorting out the EU gravy train, standing up for civil liberties/rights and they're against the Euro, which means I get a bit of everything that's important to me.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

North Korea Threatens to Attack South Korea

This situation just got stranger, North Korea has declared it is abandoning the truce that ended the Korean war, and will attack South Korea if it joined US-led inspections of vessels suspected of carrying weapons. Why try to provoke as much as this?

A test for Obama perhaps, their hostile intent has always been US facing. Who can tell with North Korea whether he's struck the right note. The international community is still speaking in one voice and more pressure is being placed on China to get involved. It is a concern that if China stop filling the void sanctions create, that civilians will be the only ones suffering. It's a really difficult balance to maintain, given they have no other recourse.

There far are too many unknowns in this situation, but if Obama and South Korea aren't panicking with the information they have. I think it's most likely that something internally is happening, yet due to their scary state controlled news we're not aware of it.

David Cameron = Tony Blair + Worry

One positive aspect to come from this expenses saga is letting us see what party leaders are really like by their response. In doing so it has highlighted for me just how much of a Blair streak Cameron has and that worries me. As there is so much politics at play here and Cameron really does have the talent of making the best of a situation, as hasn't this expenses saga really become his clause 4 moment?

It seems very likely that unless Nick Clegg can really position himself as more of a challenge, Cameron is a Prime Minster in waiting. He will inherit an incredible amount of power New Labour have built up for the state and police to exercise. That makes it so important that he's not a Tony Blair and why I'm not just going to jump on the Cameron is our saviour band wagon.

As I watched Cameron's speech with the so carefully chosen words and actions, while humming "things can only get better" to myself. I pondered his radical plans announced which "give power to the powerless". They do have some good points I don't discredit that, though what I find the most radical, is that we're meant to trust that once in power he'll give power back to us, he's assuming that people have trust left to give.

In some respects Cameron has got the mood right, what he hasn't got right is he's exploiting it, turning reform into an party political issue like this muddies the water and puts pressure on to reforming quickly. Yet it shouldn't be rushed nor should parties leaders be the only ones to have a say, particularly if the tag line is rebalancing power.

What's more important right now and the one thing I see little action on is getting the house in order. This expenses mess needs sorting out swiftly and decisively. Public anger will subside to non lynching levels if MPs were being held to account. After sorting out this chaos in parliament can we move on to the detail, but the public will not get the best deal reforming in this climate.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Jacqui Smith Faces Torture Legal Action

Unbelievable, more allegations that our government are out sourcing and being complicit in torture, several cases now and not one of these cowardly politicians will launch an independent investigation.
The home secretary Jacqui Smith faces legal action over allegations that MI5 agents colluded in the torture of a British former civil servant by Bangladeshi intelligence officers.

Lawyers for the British man, Jamil Rahman, are to file a damages claim alleging that Smith was complicit in assault, unlawful arrest, false imprisonment and breaches of human rights legislation over his alleged ill-treatment while detained in Bangladesh. (read article)
I really don't know what's worst the Bush administration or this disgusting government. Leaving the room when someone is being tortured doesn't make it legal or right, it's just averting your eyes when they're being beaten. If MI5 were acting outside the law they need a green light from a MP. If Jacqui Smith signed this off she is complicit in torture, she should face prosecution. Disgusting, how the hell do they sleep at night.

Update: A bit more information on
Jamil Rahman, a former civil servant, gave a false confession during the torture, in which he said he masterminded the 2005 London bombings.

North Korea - Nuclear Test

Great the nutter has a nuke, Kim Jong II has tested a nuclear weapon. From the data they have on the test, it's an explosion of up to 20 kilotons, which is comparable to the American bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He followed this up today with firing short range missiles into the Sea of Japan.

What's worrying is how volatile the situation and he is, it leaves the international community treading on egg shells. Military action seems very unlikely, given he clearly has weapons and is mad enough to use them. Sanctions have largely been by passed or only effected civilians, no doubt allowing Kim Jong to use it as propaganda. Diplomacy and negotiations to date have only gone so far, before Kim Jong withdraws and does something like this.

The international community response seems to still be the diplomatic one, though Obama is pushing for the one voice together approach. He and the UN/EU may be a good position now to really put pressure on China to include there voice among everyone else's. Their main tactic however may just be trying to keep a lid on it in order to wait out Kim Jong, given he clearly doesn't look well. His son Kim Jong Nam will inherit his position, he seems to be slightly less unstable, and could prove to be open to negotiations.

Kim Jong typically makes a point and steps down from his hostile position, though with a powerful nuclear weapon in the situation, it could push this into a Cold War area. The big unknown here is if he's on borrowed time with an illness he has nothing to lose. The diplomatic approach is by far the best response given it's not a good idea to push people, when you don't know how far you can.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Reforming Parilment - Wish List

It's amazing how many reformist are in parliament now, you would think with such a hunger for change it would have happened so much sooner. So like a MP I'm jumping on the band wagon, this would be my reform wish list:
  • Put our heath care, education and social services outside of party politics. It's too important to play political point scoring with, politicians should be able to put aside party politics and not play god with peoples lives. As half the problem with our NHS is this ridiculous political game that gets played every 4 years, settle on a cross party consensus and don't keep moving the goal posts unless you have good reason.
  • I'm not drawn to an independent fees office, mainly because it will be "independent" only in name. I would be far more comfortable with accountability, publishing on-line their full receipts with only bank details blacked out. It wouldn't be a problem if they were open and honest about their pay and expenses. You're not going to claim for a duck house knowing voters will see it.
  • Cap Prime Minster serving time for two elections, I can't think of one PM that hasn't gone nuts in their third term. Two terms can be damaging enough, so cap it purely for damage limitation.
  • Proportional representation, I'm torn with this as not having an absolute majority would be good for debate in parliament, and the dictatorship that majority governments run the commons under can do so much damage, particularly when combined with the point above. Yet changing boundaries so there are less safe seats and the knock effect of reducing MPs in Parliament, might create more of a mix and less dominance.
  • Open candidate lists, as the recent selection in Erith and Thamesmead illustrates, the party can put who they want, not who's best for the local area, allowing people to have a say will address that.
  • A elected House of Lords, to often it's used as political perk, combined with people that can't be elected just get made a Lord. Yet they have no accountability and they vote on our laws. There is nothing democratic about that.
  • If the Prime Minster resigns call a general election within 6 months. They should not hold that position without facing a public vote.

Derek "Admiral" Conway

I knew it was only a matter of time before my already disgraced, whip withdraw MP was in the Telegraph, and there he is in the Sunday sleaze section. Derek Conway or Admiral Conway as he likes to be known after his martyr speech, in which he compared himself to Admiral John Byng. Honest comparison really, as Byng only served on the most comfortable stations, and avoided the more arduous work. Much like Conway who has happily cashed his cheque, while sitting in a safe seat and doing nothing for his constituency.

So as my local hospital closes down and I pray I don't end up having an accident, leaving me bleeding to death before I reach the next nearest. I realise now it must have been difficult finding time to fight to stop it's closure, in-between shopping on the taxpayers credit card and all that travelling back and forth to Northumberland, 330 miles away from the constituency he's meant to represent.

Some people of course would say he's a thieving, cheating, liar who used the fact he had a safe seat to subsidise his life style and line the family pocket, and I agree completely. I wouldn't mind betting that the Tories shouldn't count on it being such a safe seat now.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

The Memory Palace - Abraham Lincoln

I love history, not text book boring history, but the little quirks and details that make it come alive. I recently discovered a fascinating blog called The Memory Palace which does podcasts on historic figures and events. They focus on American history though inevitably because of that, it overlaps sometimes with British history.

Today's one was on the Booth Brothers, and though I knew John Wilkes Booth assassinated Abraham Lincoln, I didn't know he was apart of a famous acting family. Effectively making Lincoln's assassination like Michael Douglas or Martin Sheen, pulling the trigger when compared to today.

Well worth a listen.

Man Behind Expenses Leak Revealed

We've reached the stage in society where they want to know everything about us, I think we're entitled to know about them (read more)

Can't fault his sentiment, I whole heartedly agree. We own him and whoever it was in the fees office a big thanks for whistle blowing, we wouldn't be in the position of being able to make an informed decision on voting for MPs without their intervention.

Friday, 22 May 2009

Nationalism In The EU Elections

There's an informative article on the Huffington Post. About an uprising of anti EU and nationalist candidates standing for the forthcoming EU election. There is quite a wave of hostility being directed at the EU from all over Europe. Along with an opportunity seen by nationalist parties to cash in on disillusionment and fear. With a lot of talk about BNP gaining seats it worth putting it in context as their election could have a bigger effect.

Elected party members form international groups within the EU, in order to wield influence effectively. 28 is the minimum number of MEPs needed to form a political grouping. If nationalist get 28 seats from all across the EU, that's more power than we should free comfortable with them having. As the article rightly points out, if the Lisbon Treaty is passed they could wield real influence over justice, immigration and foreign policy.

Some MEPs dismiss nationalists as being disorganised, yet clearly there is a reason why Nick Griffin of the BNP is making his move now. The Daily Mail have an article on Austria’s Freedom Party (FPO) and their links with the BNP, Nick Griffin sent a personal message to the FPO after their election win in September 2008.
We in Britain are impressed to see that you have been able to combine principled nationalism with electoral success. We are sure that this gives you a good springboard for the European elections and we hope very much that we will be able to join you in a successful nationalist block in Brussels next year.
The FPO themselves have the support of Herbert Schweiger a former SS officer and Nazi, who said:
Our time is coming again and soon we will have another leader like Hitler
The issues that anger seems to be building upon is firstly the Franco-German team have too strong an influence on the EU model, their vice like grip means other countries then fall into the hierarchy of those that have the loudest voice. This combined with the EU parliament being considered a gravy train and very remote. Clearly for many this makes the EU a waste of time and money.

Fear is also big diver, troubled economic times does lend itself well to stoking the fire of fear. When you're afraid or uncertain it stands to reason you'll want to protect yourself, self-preservation is a powerful driver. Nationalism is perceived as a way to do that, if of course you belong to the group nationalist want to protect.

In Britain with the expense saga we have the added factor of a protest vote. Putting a cross next to the BNPs name is the biggest protest to make. That I'm sure for many will make it appealing. Yet with EU elections a vote isn't just for the BNP, it's also for all the people that form the group they will belong to, the FPO have a Nazi seal of approval.

Which takes the EU full circle, the very beginnings of it are from the idea of "never again". The principle was to overcome nationalism that had dragged Europe into war and conflict, by creating an united and peaceful Europe. It's incredible that in the place that is meant to be an embodiment of that, nationalist parties stand to take seats. Given their laws effect us all in Europe, it shouldn't take divisive nationalists sitting in parliament to reflect on reform. Nor should we in Britain, however angry or frustrated anyone may be, consider a vote for that kind of nationalism a legitimate protest to make.

Politics Now Reduced to Quacks

Protester Surveillance Database Illegal

Thank goodness for a little Liberty, in both sense of the word. The human rights group Liberty took the Met police to court for taking photos of protesters, activist, campaigners, to store on yet another database. Lord ­Justice Dyson said there were:
very serious human rights issues which arise when the state obtains and retains the images of persons who have committed no offence and are not suspected of having ­committed any offence.
I would say take note Jacqui Smith and her Met, but she'll no doubt find a way around it. Perhaps a helpful guide above might make clear the different between a "terrorist" and "protester". As she doesn't really seem that clear, I guess it all looks the same way up in that ivory tower of hers.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Brown Election "chaos" - PMQ

At PMQ's today Brown was asked:
Cameron - This morning the Prime Minster said that a general election would cause chaos, what on earth did he mean?

Brown - What would cause chaos, is if a conservative government were elected and caused public spending cuts.
I think I'll pass on taking advice from someone with no democratic credentials. Perhaps he could just continue displaying his arrogance and authoritarian instincts, I don't think we've seen enough of that yet.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Speaker Resigns - Taxi for Martin!

Downing Street has brought itself some time with the Speakers head and Martin gets to leave with the knowledge he's the first Speaker in 314 years to be forced out. Who takes his place however, will give the public a good insight into how parliament intends to proceed.

Martin will also stand down as a MP, leaving the by-election in Glasgow North East a very interesting fight. It's considered a Labour safe seat yet, SNP no doubt will be putting up a fight for it. Nothing will say thanks for devolution quite like the SNP wining that seat.

The saddest aspect to this resignation is that he managed to bring the office of Speaker itself into disrepute. He takes with him the notion that the Speaker is impartial and a leader in the house of commons. Whoever does take over will have to be not only a Betty Boothroyd in confidence and leadership, but almost a saint. In what most will consider a den of thieves, it's going to be a hard sell.

Monday, 18 May 2009

Speaker Martin Statement = Absurd

So this saga continues onwards with no end in sight. Watching the Speaker give his statement you would be forgiven for thinking that he was a confused pensioner, wondering what he was doing in the room in the first place.

He dismissed the no confidence motion put down by Douglas Carswell saying a was an early day motion. Heckling and shouting assured with MPs saying he was wrong. The short story is, for this debate to happen the government need to back it. Let's not hold our breathe then.

This situation has gone now beyond absurd, in so many ways. The Speaker however is one part of a bigger problem. Getting rid of him will be a symbol of intent and right thing to do, given he is in charge of the Fees Office. Yet it will not address the problems at large, this government have been in power too long, they've become arrogant, using parliament as a factory just to pass laws, not debate them, as if it it exists for them not us. That balance needs to be addressed not temporary but permanently.

My worry over calling an election is that the Tories will gain such a ruling majority, it may take 3 terms it reduce it. Thus we could end up in the same position again. That leaves me asking: is our Parliamentary system passed it's sell by date? Clearly some serious changes are needed, accountably to the public I think is at the heart of those changes.

What Makes Us Happy?

There's a very interesting article in the Atlantic about, what make us happy?
For 72 years, researchers at Harvard have been examining this question, following 268 men who entered college in the late 1930s through war, career, marriage and divorce, parenthood and grandparenthood, and old age. Here, for the first time, a journalist gains access to the archive of one of the most comprehensive longitudinal studies in history.
The video below gives an overview with the psychologist involved, the conclusion he makes is endearing. Yet it's the article itself that's quite moving, as it quotes passages of the cases, the men's lives and reflections over 72 years. There's a blog the quotes remind me of called PostSecrets, people mail their secrets anonymously on one side of a postcard. There's something I've always found reassuring in reading people inner thoughts, as Alan Bennett says, it’s as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Michael Martin Showdown

Queen and Goverment - Dissolving Parliament

There have been articles in the press today about the Queen's "dismay" at the current expense saga. A Royal insider says:
Her Majesty has made clear her displeasure at what she has learnt. She is concerned about the effect that it is having on Parliament's standing.
The Queen rarely comments publicly on political issues, yet unless Brown looses an important vote in parliament or has a motion of no confidence passed against him. The Queen is the only person that has the power to dissolve parliament, would she though?

I can't imagine the Queen would be impressed by recent revelations, as she has always been transparent and considered in what she spends. If parliament continues not to take decisive action, she'll inevitably be drawn into the saga, as calls for an election grow louder. I suspect the information leaked does have some foundation because of those factors.

Brown will not want to go down in history as a Prime Minster that had his government forcefully dissolved by the Queen, and ideally she will not want to break with convention and get involved in politics. As people taking sides with monarch or state could potentially become quite a divisive issue. The best compromise will be to give Brown a warning and time frame to act within. Stating she will make a public statement voicing her dismay on her government otherwise. Brown is on the back foot enough for him not to call buff.

Yet this is an issue that should go beyond convention into moral obligation. We can not be ruled by a parliament we have no confidence in. If this saga continues to grow in absurdity, I hope the Queen will exercise her power and effectively press the emergency stop button.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Eurovision Song Contest: 2009

Congratulations to Norway! Nice to see the Eurovision is back to being a song contest, with Norway's entry winning by a landslide. Lord Webber and Jade Ewen's hard work put us at number 5, instead of getting just getting "nul points". Graham Norton took over from Sir Terry's commentary and didn't disappoint, very enjoyable.

The best performance for me was Ukraine's entry, that was some crazy camped up action. Germany's entry had Dita von Teese* in their performance, yet it was the lead singers skin tight, shiny sliver trousers that stole the show, I thought at one point I might have an epileptic fit the way the light danced off them. France's entry couldn't be any more "French", or depressing, I'm glad I wasn't wearing laced shoes. Best part however as I am a little geeky, was they linked live to the International Space Station to launch voting.

It was a bit disappointing that production values were so high with the acts, rather than campy, yet given Mother Russia's earlier actions on campness, I'm not surprised. The biggest curiosity that hangs over it all though, is when did Russia or Israel become apart of Europe? Must of missed that.

* She's well known America burlesque dancer, famous for her giant Martini glass routine.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Torture Trail USA

Rachel Maddow an US news reporter, has been following the torture revelations in the US. In the video below she overviews what's known to date against the time frame.

The article referred to in the video can be read here.

Visit for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

I don't know what's worst our government turning a blind eye to this like cowards, or Bush and co actions.

Austin Mitchell's Response to Expenses

Austin Mitchell's letter in response to his expenses, flies in the face of what other MPs are doing. About his claims for ginger crinkle biscuits, bottles of whiskey, gin, Branston pickle and claim for re-upholstering sofas. He said his sofa was:
stained with Branston pickle, whisky, and gin
Which did make me laugh, and using humour to diffuse a situation can work well. Yet I wonder under the present public feeling whether he's either; very courageous or mad to say that?

Voter Intentions Post Expense

Conservative - 41% (-2)
Labour - 22% (-5)
Lib Dems - 19 (+1)
Others - 18% (see how that breaks down)

That's the lowest Labour have been since records began. Anthony Wells at UK Polling says about this result:
It is worth considering that YouGov normally give the Liberal Democrats their lowest ratings - if this poll had been carried out by ICM we might very well be looking at a poll with Labour in third place.
The European voting intentions are very interesting to:

Conservative - 29% (-7)
Labour - 20% (-5)
Lib Dems - 19% (-1)
UKIP - 15% (+8)
Green - 6% (+2)
BNP - 3% (-1)
SNP/PC- 4% (nc)

I'm basing swing calculations on what I believe is YouGov's last poll. Either way it's a big swing towards UKIP, BNP haven't benefited from the expense saga as of yet.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Taxpayer Bails Out Olympic Village

Here we go cheque books at the ready, brace positions Londoners, we'll end up paying for it all. Then they'll make us pay for tickets to get into an event that the public paid for.

The Government’s latest rescue — the third in a year — amounts to a nationalisation of the 2012 construction project and leaves just £585 million for unforeseen expenses.

Ministers approved a further injection yesterday of £324 million into the village, bringing public investment in the project to £650 million. The money will come from the Government’s contingency fund which originally stood at £2.7 billion. (read more)

Question Time

I just watched the best Question Time ever, it was like this:

You can watch it on iplayer.

BNP Party Political Broadcast - Will They Gain?

The BNP's party political broadcast was so bad it was just funny, it reminded me of across between direct line and lawyers for you. They even had a red phone.
Have you been hurt by a politician, thinking about not voting, well we here at BNP we pledge to clean up politics.....
The more serious side to this is, fringe parties do stand to gain from the expense saga. With the BNP being the biggest protest vote to make, how much do they stand to benefit? To date their gains are in Labour heartlands. The Guardian have an article asking what people from Tory and Labour constituencies think about the expense saga, Labour areas were a lot more angry. I particularly like the quote from Clara Clutterbuck in Salford – Hazel Blears's constituency.
She tells you what you want to hear, like Blair. Or shall we put it crudely and say she's an arselicker?
I think the cruder statement works for me. Yet with how angry people are the BNP will look an appealing vote, add to that other parties saying not to vote for them, doubly so. UKIP stand to take the more moderate protest and legitimate Euro sceptic votes. With nationalist parties in Wales and Scotland benefiting in Labours falling support. BNP winning a seat in the EU I'm not so sure about, airing our dirty washing in public may put people off, yet locally is a different matter.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

2002 Advanced Expense Warning

Hat tip to Clive Davies , this is from the Guardian letter section:
Reading Chris Mullin's excellent diaries, A View from the Foothills, I came across this entry from 1 May 2002: "Apparently, under the Freedom of Information Act, by January 2005, MPs' expenses will be subject to public scrutiny, retrospectively. Goodness knows what mayhem that will cause. 'We are in a jam,' said Robin Cook. 'Few members have yet tumbled to the juggernaut heading their way.'"

So they had enough warning to jump clear. Or even do the right thing.

David Seymour
Ponteland, Northumberland

Jacqui Smith Says Britons Should Be Grateful

Jacqui Smith criticised the "current vogue for police bashing'' in a speech at the Police Federation conference. That's an interesting choice of words "vogue for police bashing", is it vogue to strike a citizen, I hope not.
We all saw the pictures on the television. But what we didn't see was all the hard work that went in, behind the scenes, to mounting such a large-scale and intensive police operation
Yes preparations that involved talking up the danger the protesters presented, warning pregnant women not to venture into the City, telling bankers to dress down and generally demonising protesters. Going on to an operation that lend police hiding identity numbers, covering their faces, trying to remove the press, allegedly getting undercover police officers to provoke protesters into violence, finishing up being heavy handed, beating a woman and killing someone. All of which they attempted to cover up.

She goes on to say:
We are lucky in this country for the way in which protest is facilitated and the police play a very important role in that.
Yes we're lucky Jacqui Smith hasn't outlawed it yet. This isn't a few bad apples, this a general mentality in the police force at large, they have far too much power and not enough accountablty. Yet we should be grateful?

Speaker Martin Motion of No Confidence

The MP Douglas Carswell has gained support from both sides of the house and will table a motion of no confidence in the speaker. There are three main obstacles with this firstly, only a small amount of tabled motions are actually debated by MPs. Secondly as the Daily Mail reports, if Martin resigns before the next election he stands to lose a £100,000 'golden handshake'. It would take a huge amount of outrage for the man who allegedly said: "I did not come into politics not to take what is owed to me", to leave. Thirdly the politics of who will become speaker, Tories who stand to win the election, will not want a Labour minster.

Michael Martin will be the first speaker in 314 years to face this formal challenge to his authority. The last Speaker was Sir John Trevor, who was sacked for taking bribes in 1695. Entertainingly Interestingly as a little back history on Sir John:
...he was memorable for being severely cross-eyed—the affliction was so confusing to members of the House that they were frequently uncertain as to which of them had "caught the Speaker's eye"...

I wonder what Michael Martin will be remember for?

Brown Gets "Extreme" on all MPs' Claims

Interesting that he's announced this again without talking to all parties concerned, and two senior MPs told the BBC:
The committee only agreed to examine the idea of an independent audit, that there was no "firm or final agreement" and would meet again on Wednesday after seeking advice on whether it was possible.
Could this be another saga within a saga?

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

David Cameron - Lib Dems Next

With the lack of leadership within Downing Street at the moment, Cameron could have stumbled on stage drunk today, shouting I've got a whip and I would have been impressed. Tory supporters are claiming a victory for Cameron actions today, yet he didn't have any choice but to limit the damage. In doing so he gains moral high ground over Brown, hopefully rendering the phrase "do nothing party" useless, as I can't bare hearing it much more.

It was good tactics from Cameron, better tactics would've been having expenses rules outlined within the party to begin with. Thus limiting the damage when it all hit the fan. I just hope Sir Kelly's proposals truly address this. With the spot light turning to the Lib Dems, it's getting ridiculous. I do wonder though with the cabinet minsters being as quiet as they are, whether the Telegraph are saving the most damaging for last.

Oliver Cromwell's Speech

I came across Oliver Cromwell's Speech on the dissolution of the long parliament, which was given to the House of Commons on 20 April 1653. It's always striking to me how history can seem like the present, or even why we rarely learn from it.
It is high time for me to put an end to your sitting in this place, which you have dishonored by your contempt of all virtue, and defiled by your practice of every vice; ye are a factious crew, and enemies to all good government; ye are a pack of mercenary wretches, and would like Esau sell your country for a mess of pottage, and like Judas betray your God for a few pieces of money.

Is there a single virtue now remaining amongst you? Is there one vice you do not possess? Ye have no more religion than my horse; gold is your God; which of you have not barter'd your conscience for bribes? Is there a man amongst you that has the least care for the good of the Commonwealth?

Ye sordid prostitutes have you not defil'd this sacred place, and turn'd the Lord's temple into a den of thieves, by your immoral principles and wicked practices? Ye are grown intolerably odious to the whole nation; you were deputed here by the people to get grievances redress'd, are yourselves gone! So! Take away that shining bauble there, and lock up the doors. In the name of God, go!

Senior Tories Expenses - Stephen Fry

More Tories in the spotlight. Their claims are certainly a better class of expense, swimming pools, a moat, country estates, garden renovations, third and fourth homes. I've nothing against people being or getting rich. Yet I do have a problem subsidising their life style choices, when they have more than enough money to pay for manure themselves. What really disappoints me though, is to see David Davies among the line up.

Amid this saga however, Stephen Fry raises a good point about perspective. Though I don't agree with all he says, this stood out:
let's not confuse it with what politicians get really wrong, things like wars, things were people die.
Can you imagine, the kind of Health Service we would have if they showed the motivation for reform they have over expenses?

EU Franco-German Warning to Cameron

It's comments like this from the Franco-German leaders that really harm the EU, Chancellor Merkel said, with regard to withdrawing support from the Conservatives:
France and Germany are the engine of Europe. We refuse to stretch out our hand to those who oppose the Lisbon Treaty but who at the same time talk about enlargement, those who want more have to cooperate. (read article)
It's a shame democracy is so burdensome to them. Given that Britain did not get a chance to vote on the EU in it's present form. I don't take an Eurosceptic position on the EU, though I do want a chance to have a vote on the EUs change in role. It is not democratic to do otherwise.

Rather than the Franco-German leaders complaining about other countries positions, they should look towards getting the basics in the EU working first. Starting with corruption and expenses, then addressing the issue of whether all countries are equal or if some are more equal than others, as their warnings suggest. The EU can not work like that, such a position will just feed Euroscepticism.

Not to mention they really should be more concerned with creating a President of Europe position, with Tony Blairs name in the running.

Monday, 11 May 2009

Speaker Martin - Hypocrite, Amoral and Greedy

When the audacity of these expenses couldn't get worst Michael Martin comes along, to prove why MPs thought it was fine. The man meant to be in "charge" of the commons gave a statement on expenses. He said that MPs should consider 'the spirit of what is right' in their claims. He would know all about that, after all he's only claimed hundreds of thousands on his subsidised life style.

The speaker read his statement from a piece of paper in his emotionless weak voice, that was until Kate Hoey raised a point: doesn't the Metropolitan Police have better things to do than investigate leaks, isn't it an awful waste of money? Good point, why waste police time and more money when you can conduct your own inquiry? Not a legitimate point though for Martin, he became vocal for once about something he does care about, those who criticise him and someone releasing the expense claims before black markers were used on them.

He really does represent what's wrong with the whole system, MPs who are hypocritical, amoral and greedy.

Two Sorry's and Lots of Wrongs

The Telegraph turned their focus to the Tories today. A lot of the Tories claims are similar to Labour; second home flipping, luxury goods brought, trivial claims, rich MPs claiming for things that they could pay for. The Independent have put together the main claims. I lack the motivation to type and comment on them all.

After their publication however, David Cameron was the first leader to do something, other than close the curtains and pretend no one was home, he said that:
We have to acknowledge just how bad this is. The public are really angry and we have to start by saying, look, this system that we had, that we used, that we operated, that we took part in - it was wrong and we're sorry about it.
At least he has some understanding of public dismay, makes him come off better than Brown, who three days after the Telegraph reports on expenses and after Cameron's sorry, says to an audience of Nurses:
Just as you have the highest standards in your profession, we must show that we have the highest standards for our profession.

I want to apologise on behalf of politicians on behalf of all parties for what has happened in the events of the last few days.
He is so sorry he waited three days to comment? The man has no idea how to take responsibility, if he stood to be praised though, I wonder if it would've taken three days to speak up.

Paul Waugh has a post that sums up parliament priorities well.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Britain is a More Unequal Since 60s

There's an article in the Guardian that shows under a Labour government, income inequality is higher than at any time during Margaret Thatcher's time in office. The poorest 10% of households have seen a drop in income, yet the top 10% have increased. Under a Labour government? How very lefty of them.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Expenses, Expenses, Expenses

The Telegraph expense "name and shame" campaign doesn't make for pleasant reading. Particularly for a profession that you would be forgiven for thinking, some degree of moral judgement was needed. I could laugh it off if it wasn't for the fact that, what sort of people will want to be a MP, with this bad smell hanging over parliament? It's just self for filling.

There's something so depressing not only about the endless sleazy headlines, but MPs reaction. No one forced them to make the claims they did, they choose to. The official line being echoed by minsters that, claims were "entirely in accordance with the rules" is groundless. I fail to see cat food, nappies, loo seats, iced gem biscuits and tampons as an expense of doing their parliamentary duties. So instead of spinning like they always do, here's a shocking idea, stop blaming a system they created, be an adult and take some responsibility.

What really underlines this for me, what are they even doing for people or for the country? If they gave back more than they took, this wouldn't be so insulting.

Scotland Yard's 'Black Museum'

Scotland Yard’s unofficially named "Black Museum" has items from some of the most gruesome and infamous crimes of London. The displays were created for educational purposes and only police officers have been granted access, until possibly now. Boris Johnson is backing a plan for a "Blue Light Museum" to celebrate the capital’s emergency services.

I know there's an argument of it being disrespectful to the victims. Yet a lot of these crimes and killers are so much apart of our poplar culture now, that I would be fascinated to visit the museum. It's macabre, but it's a side of people that we will never be exposed to otherwise. Well I hope not.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Telegraph To Expose MPs Expense Claims

This will be a political armageddon, they're starting with Brown and his minsters tomorrow. One of the posted taster stories:
Paul Murphy, the Welsh Secretary, splashed out more than £3,000 on a new hot water system for his second home, explaining in a letter to the parliamentary fees office that his water was too hot.
Amazing what is he Goldilocks or perhaps he's just not heard of "cold water", I'm already getting angry.

Rejected Gurkha's What A Mess

The government have made this Gurkha issue like untangling Christmas tree lights, should it really be so difficult?

The UK Border Agency has rejected four out of the five residency test cases, though the government say it has 'no practical effect', as the cases will be re-examined under new rules to be published by the end of July. Which does beg the question of why didn't they just wait to use the new rules, instead of looking like insensitive bureaucrats.

Today's events lest we forget, follow yesterday's meeting between Joanna Lumley and Gordon Brown. Who gave the reassurance that he will personally sort it all out by the end of the month. Consequently this left Phil Woolas "immigration minster", running to the BBC to pre-empt the conference Mrs Lumley had called, to voice her grievances over the situation. Though it seems Woolas hardly managed to calm the storm from the video, as it looks like Mrs Lumley has got her Gurkha knife pointed "somewhere".

This does however raise the question, is this really the way to run this country? Going from one knee jerk reaction to another. Everything about the government dealings with this issue just highlight their incompetence. They should be ashamed that Joanna Lumley showed more political understanding, morals and backbone than the whole cabinet combined.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Come and Get Your ID Card Only £60

Who on earth would volunteer for the privilege of paying £60, to be finger printed and photographed like a criminal? It's almost as puzzling as why, "Jacqui" isn't just spelt "Jackie"?

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Jacqui's Least Wanted People in Britain

Jacqui Smith has published a Home Office list of 'least wanted' people in Britain. You have to wonder if she really thought through the headlines on that.

It's incredibly New Labour though, stopping people with undesirable views coming into the country. Heaven forbid the British public being capable of just not listening to them, or deciding for themselves.

In light of her "least wanted list" however, I'll put forward my own top five, bar the really oblivious politicians who are by default included:
5. Ronald Macdonald - The Macsmell that resonates out of that place is just worrying, animal, mineral or vegetable who knows? Other than the spotty teenage that has no MacHealth and hygiene qualification and is touching the food. Yet what do you expect from a clown that looks like Pennywise.
4. Spammers - I don't want any viraga, herbal remedies, any kind of enlargement or to talk to a woman from Russia on-line. Why are you emailing me?
3. Human Resources - Inhuman resources would be more accurate, or so desperate to not rock the boat and hang on to their job, they'll screw over every employee for the company.
2. Cadbury's gorilla - What has a sliverback flaring it's nostrils while playing the drums got to do with chocolate? Unless the gorilla opens a candy shop and gives out free chocolate, cut the pretentious rubbish and show me the chocolate.
1. People who Spit - A tissue, get one and just blow your nose. There's no need to hack up a large ball of saliva or snot and spit it on the pavement or wall.

European Elections 2009 - Party Pledges

I got my polling card through for the forthcoming EU elections, spurring me into researching the parties standing. Which has been surprisingly difficult just to find a list of who's involved. I did come across a good website in my search for information, EU Profiler, you answer a few questions and it charts your position against the main EU parties.

I've gathered together the information I did find with regard to the key party pledges, in alphabetical order:
  • BNP - Opposed to the Euro, wants withdrawal from the European Union, greater national self-sufficiency, promote trading ties with Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
  • Conservatives - If the Lisbon Treaty is not yet in force they will give a referendum on it, amend the 1972 European Communities Act so that any future EU Treaty would be subject to a referendum, opposed to the Euro, do not want to withdraw from the EU.
  • English Democrats - Referendum on whether to stay in the EU, though they are committed to keeping free trade arrangements by rejoining the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), opposed to the Euro.
  • Green Party - Invest in tackling climate change and renewable energy resources, opposed to the Euro, supports the EU membership though wants more accountability and reform within it.
  • Labour - Does not want to withdraw from the EU, wants further enlargement of the EU i.e Turkey to join, invest in tackling climate change, work to liberalise world trade.
  • Lib Dems - Focus on environmental policies, agricultural expenditure, completion of the Single Market, supports the EU membership though wants more accountability and reform with in EU.
  • Libertas - Supports the EU membership though wants to reform the EU, stop the waste, corruption, return control to the member nations. They have candidates standing in all 27 countries.
  • No2EU - Keep Britain out of the Eurozone, reject the Lisbon Treaty, protect the rights of British workers, defend and develop manufacturing, agriculture and fishing industries.
  • Plaid Cymru - Does not want to withdraw from the EU, wants Wales to achieve full membership as a member-state of the EU, wants a more accountable EU.
  • SNP - Referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, wants Scotland to achieve full membership as a member-state of the EU, fisheries under national control.
  • The Jury Team - Referendum on the EU, take a strong line on corruption and sleaze in the EU.
  • UKIP - Opposed to the Euro, wants withdrawal from the European Union to revert back to European Economic Community, no to green policy taxes.
  • UK First party - Replace Britain’s membership of the EU with a Free Trade agreement, review all EU-imposed legislation scrapping anything that is not in Britain’s interest.
This is to the best of my knowledge the English, Welsh and Scottish parties standing, I couldn't find much information on Northern Ireland ones. Hopefully more information will be forthcoming nearer the election, it's pretty non-existent at the moment.

Further information on your current MEP can been found on the EU website.

Update: The BBC have a handy election page up now. Which covers all parties campaigning and news, you can view it here.

Update 2: Another handy website - Vote Match answer questions to see how you compare to political parties.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Thatcher 30 Years

3o years ago today Thatcher the Marmite of politicians was elected. Her name brings joy and warmth to the hearts of Tories, but outside of them opinions can divide people in an instant, friendships destroyed and born from a single word. On this 30 year mark, what does Thatcher mean to me?

I was born in 1981, so I fall into a generation that wasn't directly effected by Thatchers policy at the time. She falls into the backdrop of my life, if I think back to my childhood I see her as imposing figure in the TV set, as a Spitting Image puppet and remember snippets of conversations that I didn't understand until I got older. Perhaps that leaves me in a grey area, I don't have that deep hatred that comes from feeling wronged.

I can't say Thatcher influenced me with her politics, as I find a lot of her policies to polarised and life isn't that simple. That's not to say she's without effect on me. I do think having a female Prime Minster made me feel legitimatised has a girl growing up. Not in an iconic nor raging feminist way, more that there was something reassuring that a woman could get to that position.

That is the one thing I can take from Thatcher, politics aside, I do admire the fact she was a woman with backbone. I'm glad I have know that in a Prime Minster, given there is a generation that hasn't.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Lady "Two Homes" Uddin

The audacity of this "lady" is incredible. Baroness Uddin claimed allowances intended for peers living outside London although she lives only four miles from the Lords. The flat in Maidstone she brought and claims is her main home, neighbours say has never been lived in. Until coincidentally "Lady" Uddin got a call from the Sunday Times challenging her on the claims.

The very next day her BMW zoomed along to Maidstone, lights were switched on, curtains put up and mat placed outside the front door, which is a homely touch indeed. Her claims and actions pocket her £30,000 a year. Yet it gets better, Lady Uddin's home in London is Housing Association owned. The association’s housing is for people needing affordable homes and the average rent for one is £500 a month. The baroness is claiming more than £2,000 a month for running and maintaining a house in London.

What's the different between a "lady" claiming false benefits and anyone else? The Lady won't be prosecuted.

Jacqui Smith DNA Spy

Up to 1 million innocent peoples DNA will be removed from the database, Jacqui Smith said:
there has to be a balance between the need to protect the public and respecting their rights. Based on risks versus benefits, our view is that we can now destroy all samples.
What she's not saying however is the European Court of Human Rights ruled that keeping the samples "could not be regarded as necessary in a democratic society". She has no choice but to comply. Smith can dress it up all she likes but, she cares about as much for civil liberties as most people care for her.

Yet her dishonesty doesn't end there though, after saying she respects the concerns of people with regard to her mega database and U-turning on it. Agent Smith backhandedly created a program called 'Mastering the Internet'. Like something from a James Bond film MTI, has installed black boxes which gather email and internet information on us. The project has been allocated a budget of £1 billion over three years, so it is well past the "possibility" stage. The Times reports it as:
A huge room of super-computers will help the agency to monitor — and record — data passing through black-box probes placed at critical traffic junctions with internet service providers and telephone companies, allowing GCHQ to spy at will.
One of the firms undertaking the work is American, which is particular interest as under USA Patriot Act the data can be requested by the US government. This worry has been raised before with a US firm being awarded the census 2011. Coincidentally the same company.

Update: GCHQ has issued a statement denying any plans to monitor everyone, saying that the project is intended to "enable the organisation keep pace with developments in internet technology."