Monday, 29 June 2009

Brown Unveils - Building Britain's Future

Building Britain's Future

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Labour's Public Sector Reform

Not just an U-turn this time, but 12 years of deleting to do while we all just pretend it isn't.
We need a power shift from Whitehall ministers and civil servants that currently have the power ... and move it to citizens. (read more)

Saturday, 27 June 2009

To Burqa or not To Burqa

east meets west
France's parliamentary inquiry into a burqa* ban has started a debate on this veil, which has crossed the channel into Britain. Sarkozy said:
The burqa is not a sign of religion, it is a sign of subservience. We cannot accept to have in our country women who are prisoners behind netting, cut off from all social life, deprived of identity.
His comments do reflect the assumption most people would have. Yet does Sarkozy have a point and should we in the UK be having this debate on banning?

The burqa is not specifically mentioned in the Quran, the principle of female and male modesty are. Different scholars adopted different interpretations of the original texts and how much of the male or female body should be covered. There for the religious precedent is for modesty not the form it takes.

In a book I read** the female character describes wearing a burqa as protective, a world within a world. I was always struck by that description. I don't presume it's as simple as protection, it's far more complex including that for some women it's a choice, a sign of devotion. The problem is distinguishing between it being the choice of a woman or of a man.

In a western country wearing one will always be inescapably a political issue, it has too much stigma attached. Nor could a western culture embrace the association it has for excluding women from society. So where do you draw a line? Do you draw a line?

There are situations and environments were wearing one is being asked to be treated as an exception, showing your identity or banks for example, a cohesive society can't work like that, compromise can't be one way. Being able to enforce the rules in place already seems a fair balance. As I don't welcome setting the precedent for our government having the power to dictate on clothing.

Yet the public calls for a ban in this country aren't really about the burqa, as it's just a symptom, a prefect symbol of exclusion from British society in all it's forms. Behind this a much more important debate to have, what drivers it. The increasing fear people have over Britishness being eroded, one manifestation we've seen is the growing vote for the BNP.

Multiculturalism will never work if fears are ignored, it will just become a collection of cultures clashing and will continue to until the loudest voice is heard. A burqa debate could be a spring board to having that bigger one about immigration and culture, as nationalism grows when people feel vulnerable. It is far better that debate isn't just made by people who use it to divide.

* I use burqa as a board term covering all variations of face covering veils for ease.
** A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini.

Manic Media - Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough

It may be just that the Buddhist in me isn't particularly compassionate. But I'm finding the whole hysterical media coverage of Michael Jackson sadder. I've got over 600 articles so far in my Google Reader. With the prospect of hundreds more about; psychological assessment, conspiracies, plastic surgery, skin conditions, the world weeping and the pros and cons of befriending chimps. Lest we forget that he's been played out in the media as a Wacko Jacko for years. Now people say he was miss-understood?

My condolences to his family and friends, but let's be honest about who he was, which wasn't Mother Teresa, curb the frenzy and report on some other news.

You've Got the Love - Florence and the Machine

This is brilliant, I can't stop listening to it like an obsessive compulsive.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Jacqui Smith - Is it cos I'm a Woman?

Jacqui Smith is playing the woman card again, better get my lighter out and bra ready.
She said she had been annoyed by being described as "stroppy" on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme – saying she had never heard a man described as that. "A lot of language that has been used, not only about me but about other women politicians as well, I just don't think would be used about men actually," she said. (read article)
Actually I think a man would be called a lot worst, David Blunkett was. But don't let the anti liberty or being out of your depth issue get in the way of what clearly is disgraceful persecution. I'm going to put down my lighter though.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Parliament Loose Vote on Iraq Inquiry

The Tories used their opposition day to debate and vote on the Iraq Inquiry being heard in public, their motion was defeated 39 votes. This is of course a debate the government should have had in order to set out the remit of the inquiry, yet alas just created a mess of it.

As a nice touch the government added an amendment, welcoming it's announcement of the "wide ranging and independent" inquiry and was won by 54 votes. They certainly "get it".

New Laws On MPs Expenses

Brown and Co have announced a new Parliamentary Standards Bill on MPs expenses. 93 pages of new rules, regulations and requirements, I know the government like bureaucracy yet that just sounds unworkable. The big headline grabber under these new rules is that, MPs who knowingly provide false or misleading information in their expenses, could face up to 12 months in jail or an unlimited fine, this is commonly referred to as fraud which there is already a law for.

There are also fines set out for not registering an outside interest and for "paid advocacy" – asking questions or making speeches for money, fraud as it's commonly known. Though interestingly they don't have to step down after paying the fine and discrediting themselves. Same is applicable to the fraud charge, you not banned from standing as a MP or being one with less than 12 months jail time.

Two new authorities will be setup - "Parliamentary Standards Authority" that's the fees office under a new name and apparently independence. Also a "Commissioner for Parliamentary Investigations", which will have the power to conduct investigations into MPs expenses. Though the only thing wrong with the fees office was the lack of transparency and accountability, just put receipts on-line, MPs won't make claims they can not justify to voters. It will also make people feel empowered, which is something sadly lacking in these proposals.

It just all seems so "New Labour", throw paper work over the problem, create a committee and call it an important name, job done. Yet all the public want is for MPs to be accountable, it's a job not a free ticket to do as you please. If Brown really wanted to be as historic as he announced he was, let people deselect their MPs, be accountable to voters not just once every 4-5 years.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Iran and British Government Reaction

The government's foreign policy makes me despair, I dread them giving a response to international situations, which consistently is just a reaction to events. Iran has been no different.

Their supreme leader calls Britain "Evil" and the government react like it's a "Yo Mama" insult. They've now topped this when today Iran ordered two UK diplomats to leave the country, Brown responds by expelling two Iranian diplomats from Britain. A tic for tac foreign policy, wonderful, I'm sure it won't be used as propaganda in Iran, nor isolate them further. When someone is picking a fight there are times to keep quiet in order not to escalate things, this is one them.

The protesters are being called terrorists and traitors, giving the Iranian government any means to reduce or discredit their message is not helpful to their plight. Particularly since Britain and the US are perceived to have rigged elections in Iran before. It is possible to support the Iranian people and the principles of democracy without, counter-productively, involving ourselves directly in an internal political struggle. As the out come of this situation has to be resolved by the Iranians, otherwise it will have no legitimacy, politics and religion are too intertwined in Iran.

It is just unbelievably ironic that when the government shouldn't have followed America's lead in the Middle East they did, now they should they don't.

Monday, 22 June 2009

The New Speaker is John Bercow

Parliament chose John Bercow as the new Speaker, I do think George Young would of united parliament in the way Bercow won't be able to, partly for his political views and partly because he's seen as a politically motived vote. For the public also he won't be able to take moral high ground with his expenses, which is hardly a way to restore trust. Yet it could have been worst, perhaps I was just expecting too much from a parliament who's MPs brought duck houses and tampons.

Conservatives and Their New EU Group

Cameron has fulfilled his pledge to create a new anti-federalist group in the EU, it's called the "European Conservatives and Reformists group". Much will be made of the members that make up this bloc, other parties are calling them homophobic, anti-German etc. Yet the EU has become like an "Eurovision Political Contest". All groups have questionable MEPs, so I wouldn't take issue with that, unless they were really crazy or hateful by EU standards. What I would take issue with is the politics.

The group the Tories left was the EEP, it has members from Angela Merkel, Nicolas Sarkozy and Silvio Berlusconi political parties. This is where the main problem lies, not only as he snubbed them, he has removed himself from the group with the biggest influence in the EU. The gamble he's making is that his group gains momentum and influence. Otherwise they'll be left looking like a nutty fringe group that the EU leaders just dismiss at best, at worst he makes Britain that nutty fringe group.

Which is a big risk, one of the most important aspects to the EU is successfully promoting British interests, whether we like it or not globalisation isn't just going to stop and retract. It's better to put ourself in a strong position and gain from it. Yet what he's doing in some respects does make sense in Britain, having a reform opposition within the EU is a good idea, as rather than reducing the argument to 'pro' or 'anti' EU it's a middle ground. Given that anti EU sentiment won't be drawing back any time soon either, he may of found a compromise, if he pulls it off in both Britain and the EU. Though that's a big "if".

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Speaker of the House Candidates

I've been following the new Speaker story in the press as it's become something of a freak show. Yet the field seems to have now narrowed to three favourites, they are:
  • Margaret Beckett (Lab) - She'll win if Labour want a loyalist in the chair or there was a deal struck with Brown when she lost her cabinet position.
  • John Bercow (Con) - He's a cuckoo, a Tory but a strong New Labour supporter. If they want to look like they're handing over power but are not, he'll win.
  • George Young (Con) - Out of the three he doesn't have the political motivated vote tarnishing him. It won't be a big symbolic change, yet it will a change for the better. He does place great importance on the role of parliament in holding the government to account.
You can't help but be overwhelmed by the how the candidates reflect a new dawn in parliament. Yet MPs may still surprise everyone today in their vote, the others standing are can been seen here. It's a shame more Lib Dems aren't in the running, it would be the most impartial option, along side being a symbolic statement. Partly because the Lib Dems have been a strong voice for reform and partly as it would also make parliament more inclusive. All of which you'd be forgiven for thinking was the point of a new Speaker.

For those interested on the BBC there is a video that out lines - the procedure that will see a new incumbent dragged to the Speaker's chair.

Brown to Reconnect With Voters

In the wake of Browns new PR man Simon Lewis, he's launched a campaign to reconnect with voters. He started with a personal interview with the Guardian and now will appear on Songs of Praise. The message seems to be; sensitive and honest Gordon with his Presbyterian conscience to guide him, will lead the way against the Tories 10% cuts.

Yet the problem they're up against is with a lack of leadership, a confused message and few ideas. He has 2 years of being PM that people will draw on instead and what has he become the figure head of? Lost jobs, homes, taxes, debt, corruption and so on. Simon Lewis is a talented PR man but, you can put lipstick on a pig it's still a pig.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Criminal Trial Without Jury

Banksy's justice statue sketch read more about it here

The Criminal Justice Act 2003 introduced powers to hold trials in the absence of a jury when- there is a danger of jury tampering taking place and additional measures to prevent it would not have fully succeed. In a historic judgement the court of appeal ruled that, the criminal case of the Heathrow robbery will become the first time in 400 years that a criminal trial will not be judged by peers. It feels me with unease.

Trial by jury is not prefect and justice in some cases is dependent on the peers sitting. It has throughout our history been a knife that cut's both ways. Yet the same principle applies to judges. What strengthens the reasons for juries is that those 12 people come from a range of life experiences and have to reach a common consensus. A fair judgement is not just more likely for the accused, but also it places society at the heart of the justice system.

If the law had been that the defendant could wave there right to a jury, it wouldn't be such an uneasy thought. As I do think there are cases were juries would be automatically bias. For example cases involving children. Where the problem lies with this is that criminal justice and civil liberties legislation over recent years, has eroded trust and replaced it with suspicion. The state has tilted the scales of justice.

The right to be judged by 12 of your peers is at the very heart of British law and liberty. It feels me with foreboding that now the criminal court has used this law, they may have opened Pandora's box.

O/T - Torchwood New Series 3 Trailer

I was expecting a bit of a "home movie" than that from Torchwood! *nudge, nudge, wink, wink*

I love a bit of sci-fi, I wasn't griped with Torchwood though until the end of the last series, the writers and actors really seemed to get into stride. They filled in a back story to the characters and the events that lead them to join Torchwood. They answered that question which hangs in the air when I watch, why do these people go around chasing and sleeping with aliens?

The trailer does look to be a promising start to the next series. I hope they'll continue with their own voice though, rather they falling into Doctor Who territory.

Friday, 19 June 2009

A Redacted New Transparent System

Anonymous Blogging - NightJack

Clive Davies has a post with some useful links about anonymous blogging and articles on the NightJack case. My thoughts on this have been echoed throughout the Blogosphere. It was not in the greater public interest, NightJack should have remained just that. I value the blogs written by police, doctors, nurses and judges, they shed light on an inner world that would be closed off otherwise.

Anonymity is of course also used for reasons outside of professional conflict or safety concerns. From insults to persona's to escapism to honesty, these are what makes the internet so wonderful, it's freedom, the Times has taken a little of that way for reasons purely clouded.

Esther Rantzen On Question Time

Esther Rantzen on Question Time last night certainly seemed like she'd started her campaign to be a politician. Using her pen like a baton to exaggerating her point, littering her answer with empathy to the public, all while looking towards the audience with that slight desperate glint in the eye that politicians on the show have. If she stands for election then surely the appeal is she isn't a career politician, it's an unbecoming virtue Esther, put it away.

Brown Signalling U-Turning on Iraq Inquiry

Only three days after saying the inquiry into Iraq would be held behind closed doors. Brown is opening the doors slightly, while pretending he never said anything as awful as it would be held in private. Quietly passing the buck to Sir John Chilcot heading the inquiry, by saying it was up to Chilcot to consider how the precise format of the inquiry should be structured.

It does make you wonder if Brown or Labour think anything through before making statements. All of this could have been avoided by talking to a broader range of people. Having an inner circle may protect you, but when you're only talking to each other it limits your greater understanding.

There is still however no mention that the Iraq inquiry will cover the torture allegations surrounding the government. Philipe Sands QC has written an article that outlines what is known against international law. It concerns me that this government not only may have been complicit in torture, but they may still be. As Churchill succinctly said:
the use of instruments of torture can never be regarded by any decent person as synonymous with justice.
Surely if "lessons are to be learnt" how intelligence is obtained, given not only it's legal ramification, both in ability to prosecute and our obligations under international law. But also wider influence on foreign policy and moral standing, shouldn't just be swept under the carpet.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Financial Regulation, Regulation, Regulation

Bit of a contrast with what the governor of the Bank of England and Alistair Darling say about the "R" word. Yet this recession illustrates that people need to be protected from the banks and banks need protecting from themselves. This situation of putting foxes in charge of the hen house doesn't work.

Some degree of regulation is needed, what form and how much is obliviously a debate in itself. What I would like to see though is greater protection for consumers, going into a bank is like walking into a tigers den. Credit cards, loans, mortgages, over drafts all at a competitive rate of *6%. Obama has announced plans for a consumer body that would stop 'predatory lending', given this was part of the catalyst for this recession, it makes sense to address that. Yet what does our government do, nothing.

Alistair Darling says "more needed to be done, notably to increase the availability of credit." Why didn't they make that part of the criteria for bail out money? Who on earth signs a cheque for billions without having terms. I guess the same people who made Fred Goodwin a millionaire and a Sir. If the nationalised banks started lending others would have followed suit, if they lowered interest rates on mortgages, other banks would have needed to be competitive. That's one area that would really help out a lot of home owners and people trying to get on the property ladder. Yet nothing.

It really disappoints me that from this recession, so much could be done to improve and stabilise our economy. Like supporting our industry, products have to be made and food has to be grown, it makes sense to me at least to spread the risk and not just rely on financial services. Particularly by supporting industries essential to everyday life. Yet nothing, this will become a missed opportunity.

* Terms and conditions apply 2 months bonus rate only, normal rate 25%.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Campaigners Want Ban On Smoking in all Cars

Must every aspect to our lives be potentially legislated? Ban smoking in all cars because of risks to children, the build up of second-hand smoke and dangerous driving. Don't let the hypocrisy of this campaign curtail it, smoking is clearly worst than pollution. A great use of police time as well, better they were chasing down smokers than drink drivers.

When did it become better to legislate and ban than just informing people in a clear and reasonable way? This is now what they do:
We should make it illegal to smoke in cars when children are in the vehicle. Why on earth would you light up in your car whilst your children are sitting quite happily in the back?
Of course as a smoker I can answer that, I never smoke unless there is a child present to breathe in my second hand smoke, otherwise the car would smell. Communicate don't dictate. It doesn't need to be a law for people to stop doing something, particularly when it comes to harming kids. I'm a smoker not a monster.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Union Tells Labour No More Money

The other day I posted on a story about Labour MP John McDonnell, he said the "left wing" of the Labour party would stand under their own manifesto at the next election, if Brown failed to adopt their policies. The Unison union announced today that they are suspending funding to local Labour candidates, saying:
Unison will only support prospective Labour candidates willing to stand up for its values of public service
Could this be the coup here, with all the fuss cabinet minsters created in their unsuccessful attempt. Was another far more elegant plot taking place. Are the unions moving into position to back a new split party or throw their weight behind McDonnell for leader? As I said in my other post, John McDonnell with financial backing could lead the left wing of Labour into a new party. Though at the very least he can strengthen the Labour in New Labour. Now wouldn't that set the cat among the pigeons.

Alan Johnson is just a personable Brown and after the honeymoon period is over it won't take long for people to see that. Yet McDonnell is a completely different side to Labour, as he doesn't support all the unpopular polices New Labour are pushing for. He could present much more of a challenge to Cameron than Johnson.

BrownWash on Iraq - Update

Following on my emails to campaign groups, general consensus seems to be considering their options. Political opposition from the Lib Dems, Tories and Labour Backbenchers, from the stories today seem to be the first step. The Tories are holding an opposition day debate and hope to defeat the government next Wednesday. Senior military and intelligence officers I'm very heartened to see have condemned Brown's cover up today too.

If parliament fails to win on Wednesday I don't honesty see why a protest isn't the right thing to do. As it's not whether you agree or disagree about going into Iraq, it's the simple principle of - no more lies. This isn't just about the inquiry it's so much more than that. It's that huge dividing line, one rule for politicians and another for us. It's about this not ending the same way it began, in secretly and lies. To not focus on the wrongs only "what can be learnt" is a Brownwash.

There is a big difference between the Falklands and Iraq, everyone knows why Britain launched the Falklands War. This needs a different inquiry, it is a different situation, no one invaded British territory far from it, we invaded another country. I accept some people giving evidence may need to keep their identities secret, yet why is it beyond anyone to find a balance with a part public and part private inquiry?

Monday, 15 June 2009

Gordon "Liar" Brown in Cover up on Iraq Inquiry

In a follow up to my post on Brown announcing an inquiry into Iraq, he did it today and it will be completely in private, with the extra slap in the face of Sir Martin Gilbert appointed to the committee, a man who compared Bush and Blair to Roosevelt and Churchill. More disgusting lies from this government, 6 years for that, it's an insult to everyone. I guess reform only happens when it doesn't actually amount to change or discredit anyone. Screw you too Brown.

I'm in the process of contacting numerous campaign groups to see if they will be arranging a protest in response. I'll post on any planned once I know.

Iran's Election - Protests and Investigation

It's been quite difficult to work out what's happening, in-between the sensationalist reporting and the state clampdown. Things are slightly clearer today:
Iran's Supreme Leader has ordered an investigation into the disputed re-election of President Ahmadinejad, reversing his earlier decree that the result was fair.
It's understood that he met with Mousavi and agreed to investigate allegations of vote-rigging. Ahmadinejad stance however on this is now very clear:
Elections in Iran are the cleanest. Today, we should appreciate the great triumph of the people of Iran against the united front of all the world arrogance (the West) and the psychological war launched by the enemy.
The worlds press visa's to report on the election run out today, which is a worrying prospect given what the police were willing to do in front of the cameras, let alone what they will do now. Reports coming out of Iran suggest the police have been given orders to use live ammunition on the crowds. A lot will rest on Ayatollah Khamenei (Iran's Supreme Leader) intention, if he uses the investigation to entrench Ahmadinejad position or overturn it. That won't be just limited to Iran, the international community will most likely use it as there reaction guide.

Most people think the chance of the vote or non vote being over turned is remote, though there is a lot of pressure on Ayatollah Khamenei. This is where everyone finds out who really controls Iran and what happens in the next 4 years.

For those wanting information as to what happening in Iran, Twitter is being used by Iranians to report, a channel has been setup to collect it all together.

The Guardian and New York Times both have good live blogs, that are drawing on the MSM and social networking reports.

Anniversary of the Magna Carta

The Magna Carta was signed by King John today in 1215, it's importance is that it subjected the king to the law of the land for the first time in Britain's history. The relevance to today is within this charter of freedoms is Habeas corpus:
No free man shall be seized, or imprisoned, or disseised, or outlawed, or exiled, or injured in any way, nor will we enter on him or send against him except by the lawful judgement of his peers, or by the law of the land.
The principle is essentially no person should be deprived of freedom without due process of law. In short it protects us from the state. Thomas Paine captures the wonderful British cynicism, I like to think was illustrated 794 years ago today and has continued through out our history:
Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Brown to Announce Iraq War Inquiry

At long last Labour are to announce an Iraq war inquiry. It's thought that it will examine the circumstances leading up to joining the US-led invasion in March 2003 and its aftermath. I hope in light of all the torture allegations, it will also focus on Britain's involvement in them, the thought that the government had no idea people were being tortured for 6 years is ridiculous.

An inquiry wasn't going to be announced until August after all British soldiers left Iraq, yet Brown in an attempt to improve relations with rebel backbenchers and those that opposed the Iraq war has bought it forward. The other factor here is by starting it off Labour get some control over it, if the Tories win the election and start an inquiry they have no need not to be completely open and honest. As it won't be them that revelations will be a problem for.

The inquiry itself is expected to be based on the Franks inquiry. This consisted of six senior privy ­councillors who had full access to government papers but who met in secret.

Two things about that are concerning firstly, who will be the six senior privy ­councillors? Secondly if it's to be held in secret, then what's the point? No one wants more secrets and lies from this government. So I hope the announcement expected this week, will reflect the transparency and reform Labour keep banging on about.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Ahmadinejad Claims Victory in Iran's Election

Ahmadinejad's main challenger Mousavi had been widely expected to win by a landslide or at least do well enough to trigger a run-off. It doesn't seem plausible that everyone got it so wrong, particularly with such a high turn out. When people who have never voted before go out to vote, desire for change is very strong. That combined with Ahmadinejad getting more votes in all other candidates home towns, that's really unbelievable outside of Zimbabwe.

Yet perhaps the problem is as Abbas Barzegar article states "Iran isn't Tehran", the poorer working people in Iran always had the deciding vote and their vote was for Ahmadinejad. He positioned himself as a man of the people. Perhaps we looked at this election with too Westen eyes and not enough understanding of the whole of Iran.

Mousavi is to dispute the results and in an article on Tehran Bureau his spokesman says it was a coup and the results were never counted. Mousavi himself has posted a letter calling the dishonesty dangerous.

It's very sad for the Iranians that wanted change and wanted it through the ballot box. It now puts Iran into a hostile situation, both with Mousavi supporters feeling wronged and Ahmadinejad reaction to this yet to be seen. Hopefully he may try to defuse a potential backlash to avert a political crisis. Unfortunately articles and events so far suggest otherwise.

Carol Ann Duffy - First Official Poem as Laureate

How it makes of your face a stone

that aches to weep, of your heart a fist,

clenched or thumping, sweating blood, of your tongue

an iron latch with no door. How it makes of your right hand

a gauntlet, a glove-puppet of the left, of your laugh

a dry leaf blowing in the wind, of your desert island discs

hiss hiss hiss, makes of the words on your lips dice

that can throw no six. How it takes the breath

away, the piss, makes of your kiss a dropped pound coin,

makes of your promises latin, gibberish, feedback, static,

of your hair a wig, of your gait a plankwalk. How it says this –

politics – to your education education education; shouts this –

Politics! – to your health and wealth; how it roars, to your

conscience moral compass truth, POLITICS POLITICS POLITICS
Politics by Carol Ann Duffy

I like that Ms Duffy isn't just focusing on the Queens birthday's, but she's writing about those things that mark everyone.

Friday, 12 June 2009

New Labour That's Actually Left Wing?

Now this is an interesting development, Labour MP John McDonnell who represents the left in the party. Is talking about "lefties" standing under their own manifesto at the next election, if Brown fails to adopt their policies, these include:
Restoration of trade union rights, more council houses, an end to public service privatisation, scrapping the Heathrow third runway, freezing and then abolishing student fees, scrapping Trident and ID cards and electoral reform.
What's really interesting about this is it throws another hat into the ring, Blairites, Brownies and now Lefties. Though John McDonnell could just set up another party, he's an union man, the unions would be hard pressed not to have a reason to fund him, given how let down they've been by New Labour. By doing this it would take away a lot of Labours grass roots support. The right leaning supporters would just vote Tory, which they are switching to in droves. Even just standing on a different manifesto, he would make a significant dent in Labours support. As he is saying the policies that traditional Labour supporters want.

John McDonnell himself tried to gain enough support to challenge Brown for leadership, in order to have a debate when Tony Blair left about the parties future policies, in effect he was pushing for the party to redefine itself. He thought Brown's leadership had to be grounded in democracy, the party should have elected him, not just crowned him. He's always maintained it was a missed opportunity, not just the Brown switch but New Labours time in office itself.

And he's right, the Labour party needed to redefine itself once Tony Blair left, having that open debate would have saved this mess we're now witnessing. They're just trying to survive every 24 hour news cycle, yet they have no idea were they're going or who they are. No one does any more. Now with potentially three different visions for Labour, it's become like a pinata and everyone has a bat.

Is Bown Getting The Reputation As a Liar?

It's a dirty word liar, in the media and parliament terms like "spin"and "being economic with the truth", are usually words that describe politicians lying. Yet increasingly the unparliamentary word liar is being used with regard to Brown. The real turning point seemed to be his press conference after the chaos reshuffle, where he revoked his Father's words of honestly and stated he had no intention of removing Alistair Darling from the cabinet.

You could almost see the disbelief rise into the air and the press recoil with disgust. Reading the main stream media since has shown a shift in reporting, particularly this investment vs cuts debate. Alienating the press when he needs them to get his message out, wasn't the best thing to do, particularly if the word sticks. Even the Sun are calling him on it and if they come up with a catchphrase he's doomed.

Immigration, Immigration, Immigration

I came across an interesting article on peoples perception of asylum-seekers figures:
Nearly a quarter of people believe there are more than 100,000 asylum applications every year – about four times the annual figure of 25,670, and just 5 per cent of Britons know to within 10,000 how many refugees come to the UK every year, according to a survey carried out for the charity- British Red Cross. (read article)
It's an interesting point as it does become self for filling. Labour really need to get rid of the elephant in the room that is immigration and start talking about it. By not saying anything they carry on the presumption that nothing is being done. Clearly there were high levels of immigration that these perceptions are based on, as anyone that lives outside of the Westminster bubble knows. Yet if the measures they have in place have reduced immigration they need to speak up.

Another factor here is that hostility will go up when people are fearful for their livelihoods, it's human natural to want to protect yourself. Yet that makes it so much more important to talk openly and rationally. Immigration historically has always become the scape goat when times get hard. It does no one any favours saying nothing.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

New Labour to Cull NHS Targets Regime

Do Labour have any of their own policies? Andy Burnham said today:
The new health secretary today promised a purge of the NHS targets regime and a refocusing on a "people-centred" service that empowers patients.
In April 2009 David Cameron said he would:
End Labour’s culture of top-down targets and tick-box adherence. Put power in the hands of people.
It's a bit rich accusing the Tories of having no policies when they're stealing what they do say, while U-turning on policies of the last 12 years, which were shoved down our throats and statistics that were rubbed in our face, in order to pretend nothing was wrong. Anyone that uses or works in the NHS, if they bothered to listen, could of told them it was damaging the NHS.

What really angers me about this belated U-turn is the cost of their "targets" hasn't just be financial.

Irans Election - 2009

Iran elecion
Iran goes to the polls on Friday in an election that could lead to real change, both internally and externally. The main challenger to Ahmadinejad is Mir Hossein Mousavi. He has captured the youth and women of Iran's desire for change. So who's message will win out, the traditionalist or modernist?

There was an interesting Panorama on Iran's election, you can see it on iPlayer.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Brown's Constitutional Changes

Labour are to set about making "constitutional changes", them reforming our constitution does seem a joke. Though at least David Blunkett isn't in Brown's 'National Council for Democratic Renewal', that would be beyond a joke. Yet what reform does Brown propose?

For the Commons he suggests, curbing the power of whips and letting MPs select all select committees, take control of the Commons' business programme, and be given a greater chance to introduce legislation. MPs' expenses will be overseen by an independent body and will cover the Lords too. The House of Lords will also be given new powers to "punish" misconduct.

For the public Sir Tim Berners-Lee will advise the government on how to open up access to official information. MPs' expenses that everyone has seen in the Telegraph will be published on-line. Brown will consider whether to reduce the voting age from 18 to 16.

For a political advantage, the 30-year rule of releasing government information will be changed to 20 years, Labour are bringing out Thatcher.

Brown also supports a written constitution which is where it gets worrying, Jack Straw published a green paper on this in March, it shows the Labour idea of what constitution is. Yet I would support a written entrenched constitution, in effect our constitution in writing. As it would place a different focus when making laws, at the moment our rights are not granted to us by the government. Rather, the government has to justify any right it takes away. Countries with a constitution operate on a different idea, that your rights are granted to you. Given "terrorism" is the magic word that can even take away the right to a fair trial, sadly this has become more relevant under a Labour government, as has parliamentary reform.

Lest we forget.

Parliament Dissolution Vote

Looks like Brown paid his back bencher's off rather well, the Motion to Dissolve Parliament lost by 72 votes.

William Hague's speech was very entertaining and direct, which is some consolation.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Met Police Accused of Waterboarding

Six Metropolitan Police officers have been suspended over allegations of subjecting suspects to "waterboarding" – the CIA interrogation technique that simulates the experience of drowning – during a drugs raid in north London last November. (read article)
What the hell? I don't know who to be more worried about any more. What are the Met doing just letting any nut in, only psychopaths need apply, thank god they don't carry guns.

Think I'd prefer to take a risk with a knife wielding hoodie, over the Met police these days.

BNP Protesters Egg Nick Griffin

Making the BNP martyrs like this is not helpful. Moral high ground is lost by suppressing free speech and physically attacking Griffin. Free speech is a right, you can't pick and choose who gets rights based on personal preference. As unsavoury as what he says is, as much as I loathe what he stands for, let people see him for what he is, challenge him and his policies. All of which can be done without violent means.

The BNP were democratically elected, their support will evaporate if why people voted for them was addressed. Herbert Morrison in a speech at an anti-fascist meeting in 1936, said that:
Fascism appeared to triumph in circumstances of economic decay and dissolution on the one hand and weakness in parliamentary and democratic leadership on the other. When chaos and depression obtained in economic and political affairs Fascism got its maximum chance, not upon its merits, but as a last straw for people who could see no hope otherwise.
Wise man, shame about his grandson.

Monday, 8 June 2009

David Blunkett Injured by Charging Cow

In a remarkable story, Blunkett on his 62nd Birthday went out walking with his guide dog Sadie. When an enraged cow charged at Sadie and trampled Blunkett. You just couldn't make that up.

Iain Dales's Tony Benn Interview

Iain Dale has uploaded a wonderful interview with Tony Benn, which was part of his election coverage. Other politicians interviewed are referenced on his site.

I love Tony Benn he's such a breathe of fresh air. You can always count on him to tell it like it is. With all the lies and spin by the shovelful lately, it's so nice to hear just honest speaking.

Euro Election Results

The EU results can only be described as historically a disastrous and humiliating result for Labour, with a collapse in there heartlands and a lashing from all over the UK. The BNP picked up two seats from them, which means not only will fascists be sitting in the EU, but they now have money to fund them and a platform to speak from. Which is very disheartening, it shouldn't take their election to question why they are getting votes or to challenge them.

Conservative increased their overall vote share by only 1%, though historically won the national vote in Wales, the last time Labour lost an election there was 1918. Just the thought of the popular vote in Wales being for the Tories is incredible enough. In Scotland the SNP just as historically beat Labour by 8%. This leaves Labour second in Scotland and Wales, third in England.

We do seem to be getting into an area of anything but Labour voting. Though the EU results aren't so easy to compare to a general election, given it's viewed in a slightly different way and uses proportional representation. The EU vote has increasing become a referendum on Europe, in the absence of being given one, hence UKIP's high vote and most likely Lib Dems low vote, as they're pro EU. UKIP's success won't translate into a national election, given that people are less likely to vote for smaller parties. So where will those votes go?

A large amount of UKIP's voters are likely to be Tory leaning, given their stance now isn't complete removal from the EU, so that could translate to a large vote share for them. The Green EU support is most likely to move to Lib Dems, which still won't see a lot of votes for them, they really need to start putting up a fight to eat into Labours vote share.

The council elections were a good result for the Conservatives, yet they need more than that to win a majority, they need a landslide. For Cameron to win that landslide he has to convince people, not just focus on peoples dislike for Labour.

However much Labour try to spin this in their uniform voice repeating the party line, over and over again. This was a vote against them through action and inaction, which in the end may be what gives Cameron the landslide he needs, their inability to listen.

Stilettos Against Gordon Brown

Caroline Flint's so called stiletto stabbing resignation was pointed enough, yet she did an interview saying, women in Brown's government were used as:
a smokescreen, a way of making it look like you've got a lot of women around the table without letting them influence anything.
Others in the Labour Party are saying the complete reverse, clearly Flint's angry yet she does have a point when coupled with her "inner circle" comment. Hence most women who are promoted having questionable ability, though oblivious loyalty.

What bothers me about these "Blair Babes" is they set the benchmark for women in politics, which has become more like a competition to make the front bench like some sort of GAP advert, rather than being capable and outstanding. That damages women, as how can people take them seriously or praise their contribution?

Will it be a stiletto that finishes him? Harriet Harman is clearly the one to watch, as Peter Mandelson in the reshuffle was made First Secretary of State, which is an alternative title to Deputy Prime Minister. What is Harman then? Brown clarified by saying she would still deputies him in the Commons, yet he fails to mention that Mandelson can only speak in the Lords. Not at all patronizing.

If Harman had any respect for women and herself she'd take off her stiletto too. It's not good enough to be promoted for just being a loyal Labour woman or sidelined because you're not. Otherwise you might as well just put lipstick on a man.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Total Eclipse of the Heart - Spoof

I just came across this great spoof, Total Eclipse of the Heart by Bonnie Tyler, the ultimate fist clenching power ballad, spoofed into a literal music video.

D Day Landing - 65 Years

d day landings
Today in 1944, thousands of men from the 4 corners of the world landed on the beaches in Normandy. Politicians have tried to turn today into an Obama photo opportunity and political event. By doing so they disgrace the memory of all the men, that fought their way up those beaches, thousands of whom never went home to their families. Today's event should always be first and foremost for them.

I am grateful that I've never seen the side of war, that the veterans and the generation of D-Day did. As my Granddad's silence when I asked him about the war, always said more to me than words ever could.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Gordon Brown Press Conference

I've been debating what to write about Browns "totally candid" speech. The politest way I can phase my reaction is; shameless, deluded and arrogant. The BBC have the video on-line - for those that haven't seen it yet, have a really low opinion and you'll only be mildly shocked.

He's protecting us from the Tories, he's not walking away, he's getting on with the job, he's listening, he's responsible, his Presbyterian conscience is fully tuned in, he's never thought of calling an election - but he's not arrogant. Reminiscing teary-eyed about words his Minister Father said to him, the son of a manse said:
I remember the words of my father; always be honest, always sort things out if things are wrong and never allow things to fester without taking action.
I could write a whole post just on the hypocrisy of that statement alone. Yet what's his big plan for the future of Britain? He's set up three new ministerial councils - the Democratic Renewal Council, the Domestic Policy Council and an enhanced National Economic Council. Effectively like always, like everything the Labour party does, he's shifted the responsibility to someone else. Like the bunch of box ticking, bureaucratic, undemocratic, fools they are, I'm sure they're come up with some statistics and numbers to justify and convince.

What's really become crystal clear from this saga is that, Brown rules by vindictiveness, lashing out at people as there's only his way, there is only his right and his wrong. The man is so black and white in his out look he's no different to Blair, other than Blair could play the political game and keep a lid on all this rabid backstabbing. Brown is a bloody joke.

Sugar You're Fired!

Click on image to enlarge
The Financial Times has unearthed a letter from Sir Alan in 1992, who has "noted with disgust the comments of a certain Mr Gordon Brown", who he says "doesn't know what he's talking about", I loved the ending:
Labour offers no sort of route out of recession. It's out of date and - as Brown's remark shows - it hasn't done it's homework.
A change of tone somewhat, though Sir Alan's appointment does beg the question, will we be seeing Simon Cowell for Speaker? Piers Morgan for communities secretary?

The Brown Shuffle - Live Blog

Brown sprung his reshuffle today and it doesn't look like there will be a leadership challenge, Alan Johnson thought to be the man with a plan, has become Home Secretary. That's political poison with their current policy, Johnson's only hope is Labour don't last long enough for his new role to do permanent damage.

Alistair Darling stays on as chancellor, he was too much of a risk to move. Brown will regret stringing him along though, as Alistair Darling staying after Brown's lack of support, will fill the headlines with how weak his position is.

John Hutton resigned today. David Miliband, Jack Straw and Mandelson keep their jobs.

Odd one, Sir Alan Sugar being made enterprise czar, whatever that is. Yet I do feel reassured that at least there's someone there to fire Brown.

Yvette Cooper just got promoted to work and pensions secretary, Ed Balls stays as schools secretary. Clearly that was Ed Balls pay off, the wife gets a seat on the front bench.

John Denham replaces Blears as new communities secretary, Denham was one of the Iraq rebels, he's always over looked for promotion, though always promised a cabinet post.

Bob Ainsworth is new defence secretary, which is just a step up the ladder given he was Minister of State for the Armed Services.

Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon has resigned. Who would of though he had any backbone or ability to do the right thing.

Ed Miliband keeps his job as climate secretary.

Andy Burnham is the new health minster, moving from the culture secretary post. This is getting like filling a bucket with a hole in it.

More chaos reshuffling, Caroline Flint has now resigned she said about Brown:
I am extremely disappointed at your failure to have an inclusive Government. You have a two-tier Government - your inner circle and then the remainder of Cabinet.
Tony McNulty resigned, about time.

Ben Bradshaw gets promoted to culture secretary.

Lord Adonis will become Transport Secretary to replace Geoff Hoon. Which out of all today's shuffling is good news for train commuters, he has actually toured British railway network and loves trains. Might not be such good news for road and air transport.

Glenys Kinnock wife of ex-Labour leader Neil Kinnock, will replace Caroline Flint as Europe minister. She's alright, yeah!

Politics home have the press release up on their web site.

Not a bad day for Brown, he's made two peers, had four resignations and hasn't really changed the cabinet, just plugged the holes.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

James Purnell Resigns From Cabinet

Another day, another resignation, this time James Purnell. He didn't leave quite as stylishly as Blears but it was just as damaging. Since I've looked at this saga from the perspective of how to get Brown to step down. What's Brown got to do to stay?

Clearly the most oblivious way is to tap into the public desire for an election, stating an election date within the next few months will take the wind out of rebels sails. As the public would be happy with knowing there is an end in slight, it also makes the forthcoming motion of confidence have less of an impact.

Bury his head, shoulders and upper torso in the sand. The party rules do work in Browns favour, he could brazen it out. Rebels may back down if voters patience shows signs of snapping. Effectively play chicken with them.

Create a big distraction, which will divert attention while he works behind the scenes. Though I can't see what they could use which will be big enough.

He is left with increasingly little options by the day and I really don't see him wanting to go down in history as the worst Prime Minster, who never faced an election. Nor do I see him taking the hit on his ego. Yet something has to give here, it's ridiculous, a completely ridiculous situation.

Today at the Polling Station

Turn out seemed quite high in my area of South East London. Predictions were for a low turn out over all. Yet when my local area starts voting in force it means a) average working families are really angry b) they're going to make it known c) it won't be good for Labour.

BBC are reporting mixed turnout in areas and confusion over folded ballot papers, which UKIP are concerned about, one man said:

They explained you have to unfold it again, right at the very bottom there was another very neat fold that you could not see, folded backwards

It's just as well I bushed up on my origami skills, don't know how I could of managed otherwise.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

June the Forth be With You

I know apathy, cynicism and anger is ripe, but your vote is the one thing parliament can not ignore. Whether it's for issues that are important to you, a protest, tactical, anti EU or pro EU, speak up and use you vote!

For those still unsure who to vote for I gathered pledges together here. For those that want to tactically vote current polls are:

Conservative - 26%(-1)
UKIP - 18%(+2)
Labour - 16%(-1)
Lib Dems - 15%(nc)
Green - 10%(+1)
BNP - 5%(-2)

It's going to be a close call for third place, so clearly influencing the third place vote or enforcing second place, is the best tactical vote to make depending on your EU views and the area you live.

Hazel Blears Resigns From Cabinet

Hazel Blears resigned from government this morning, just before PMQ's. Credit where credit's due, Mrs Blears left the cabinet in style and with conviction so often missing from Labours front bench.

Yet it leaves this saga turning into Murder on the Orient Express, but to what end? A leadership challenge is being spoken of the most. I'm still doubtful about this idea, Labour are more of a dictatorship than the Tories, so it isn't easy to draw comparisons. More importantly none of them really know what public reaction will be if they change leaders again. Paul Waugh has a post about it being a problem in terms of the party rules to. Although it didn't stop them with Brown, I don't suppose it will stop them without Brown.

My own feelings on yet another non elected PM, is that I'd rather have an election. Partly because Brown didn't face any vote to become PM, both nationally and within his party. I would feel cheated if I didn't get a vote after 2 years. The other side is with Brown leading there is a strong possibility of Lib Dems in opposition. Which will move parliament into a more central governing position. Reducing the state's grip will be important after Labour tightening it to a ridiculous level.

There is a sense of poetic justice surrounding this, the man who divided Labour into Blairite and Brownies finds his leadership undone by those he's stabbed in the back, with the sleazy headlines Labour pledged to rid parliament of and against the back drop of bust he said would never happen. They certainly made their bed, yet the election results are still to come, that will really set the cat among the pigeons.

Update: Matthew Norman has written an entertaining article in the Independent. I particularly liked:
overpowering the scent of Gordon Brown's terminal gangrene, all one can safely do is unleash a barrage of ifs and then qualify them.

Kim Jong II Names Successor

Following on from my other posts on North Korea. It's being reported that Kim Jong Un has been named to succeed his father. He is Kim Jong's youngest son, little is known about him other than he was schooled in Switzerland, has a military background, seems to be slightly more Western interested, though not as much as his older brother who was thought to be successor and he's a heavy drinker. Which is slightly worrying.

Atsuhito Isozaki, assistant professor of North Korean politics said:
Before 2012, North Korea must convince the army and the public that Jong Un is the best successor. To pave the way for Jong Un's leadership, it is highly likely that North Korea will turn recent nuclear and missile tests into his achievements.
It's an original campaign, different from a leaflet through the post.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Jacqui Smith Resigns - Dissolution of Parliament

Britain has lost a Home Secretary any Stasi would be proud of. Herr Smith, the first female Home Secretary and thanks to the really high bench mark she's set, probably the last. Yet maybe now we can get a Home Secretary with some understanding of the words innocent until proven guilty, privacy, right to protest, torture is wrong and we don't want ID cards.

She stands down among the ruins that is fast becoming New Labour, 4 Labour MPs today resigned like rats fleeing a sinking ship or as they would prefer "they want to spend time with their family". However this wasn't the biggest twist to this saga today, the SNP and Plaid Cymru have tabled a motion calling for the dissolution of parliament. Cameron and Clegg are backing the motion and it will be debated next Wednesday.

Can it be won though? Labour have a majority of 63, if Brown can whip the vote he'll win it. Yet this will be after the election results and with mutiny already in the air. If the results are as bad as the polls suggest, he'll be fighting against defeatism on top of it all. Even if he wins the vote, an election just got much earlier than May next year.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Three Days to EU Election - What a Debate It Was

So glad the political parties have gone out of their way to inform everyone about their policies and what a debate it's been, so much fun was had by all. I've had 6 leaflets through the post and no one knock on the door. Which really disappoints me I was looking forward to talking to a politician, so I'm left thinking what did I learn from these leaflets?

From the Tories you would think it was a general election rather than an EU one. Labours looked like a BNP leaflet. The BNP's looked like a pizza menu, I almost ordered an immigrate by mistake. Lib Dems really should go to another graphic design company, the Greens are very green in both sense of the word and Churchill would vote UKIP.

All ready to vote then.

They'll Have to Drag Brown Kicking

Brown has rejected calls to quit saying he wasn't "arrogant" or "unwilling to listen" but:
I think the cleaning up of the political system is best done by someone who has got a clear idea of what needs to be done - and I have.
Certainly a statement that proves his point, even if 69% of people would disagree. Yet what's his proposal to clean up the system, "major constitutional reform" to gain back public trust. That doesn't of course include what people actually want; honesty, transparency and having an election. The man is like an Imperial Leather sticker on a bar of soap, they'll have to drag him kicking and screaming from Downing Street.

Yet does hope lay in the Westminster whispers of mutiny within Labour? Is there really a leadership challenge gaining favour, in effect what happened to Thatcher. Labours main problem is that Thatcher was elected, Brown is already the non elected second switch, it could be prove a push too far switching again. They would have to call an election straight away to legitimise it, yet a new leader would need time to make a mark and repair some of the damage Brown has done, otherwise there's not much point.

Perhaps the Royal Mail debate and vote will prove temping for conspirators to hijack. More than 150 Labour MPs are rebelling against the plans, before taking into account election results and mutiny. The Tories are backing the bill though it would be a very close vote and if Brown lost, a motion of confidence could be called or a legitimate leadership challenge. Though Mandelson has already hinted the showdown could be delayed, it would have been a few days after the elections.

Even with all the headlines and debate surrounding this mutiny, I don't really see a Labour back or front bencher doing it. The current climate is what will protect Brown, voters need to know who will be standing in the election, they need to get parliament in order. Which is why Brown is now singing the tune of reform, and why no doubt he'll drag his feet, if it was just the economy he would not be safe. Labours best option is to trigger an election a little later this year, as that's the only thing they can do that will have a lot of public support. Going 12 months would be political suicide.