Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Rubbish

Tory MP Nadine Dorries asked early on in today's PMQs this question:

Nadine Dorries (Mid Bedfordshire) (Con): The American waste giant, Covanta, is proposing to build in my constituency an incinerator about the size of Wembley. Will the Prime Minister give an assurance that decisions about such matters will be made at a local level in future?

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend is right to raise this, and it is right that decisions should be made locally. We want to make sure that all the latest technology for alternatives to incineration is considered, so that we can make sure that we are using the best ways to achieve a green approach.

Decided at a local level eh? Hmm I wonder what's missing from the question and the answer? It's not being decided at all at a local level because the councils are forced to reduce landfill by EU unaccountable bureaucrats and fines.

Building an incinerator is an issue that has plagued my local area, and one where the EU dimension gets ignored again.

Another example of the lack of candidness by our so-called elected representatives.

Not A Word...

Following on from the Sunday Mail's nonsense regarding the EU banning eggs comes a story in today's paper confirming that the Post Office will be sold off:

Postmen are to be given stakes in Royal Mail under radical Government plans to sell it off this year.

Ministers plan to transform the ailing firm into a John Lewis-style trust, like the department store whose employees are 'partners', owning shares and receiving annual dividends based on its profits.

The offer will dramatically undermine attempts by militant trade union leaders to persuade staff to oppose the privatisation, which is expected to be the biggest in Britain for two decades.

Well of course the Tories will sell off the Post Office, they have no choice as it's the result of EU Directives. Great, the perfect story for the Mail you may think, front page; EU plans to abolish our Post Office and unlike the egg story it would be true.

But nothing, no mention at all of the EU in the article. Not a word.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Optical Illusions

hattip:Subrosa

The Germans

No not a football comment, but England Expects posts about growing disillusionment within Germany regarding the EU, specifically the Euro:
A majority of Germans wants to scrap the euro and bring back the old currency, the deutschemark, according to a new poll published on Tuesday.
The Ipsos survey showed 51 per cent of people in Europe's top economy wanted their beloved deutschemark back, with 30 per cent wanting to keep the euro. The remainder was undecided.
The Tap has this comment from Gisela Stuart:
For a generation of German politicians, "Europe" has been a way of slaying the ghosts of the past. This may be understandable, even honourable, but the results have not always been good for Germany or Europe. Chancellor Helmut Kohl overrode the Bundesbank (and the majority of Germans) in the name of "Europe" when the euro replaced the deutschmark. After barely a decade, Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) is facing its biggest crisis and Germany is again under pressure to come to the rescue, in the name of Europe.

In fact, in this instance, the interests of Germany and Europe are the same: Germany should leave the euro.
It's sometimes forgotten that while the British are seen as the most euro-sceptic of European nations, that Germany is not far behind. As I posted here, I worked in Germany for some years and the level of bitterness and resentment towards the EU project was surprising; in particular giving up their currency. They hated it. As Gisela Stuart suggests, the Germans want to be 'good Europeans' in order not to appear too nationalistic for obvious reasons. But with each generation the argument; 'it's not our fault what our forefathers did' gets ever stronger. This is now particularly prevalent when it comes to bailing out Greece and its pensions. They will not continue to pay the EU's bills.

The British moan and shrug their shoulders and carry on when it comes to the EU, but it will be the Germans who will more than likely upset the project first.

A Myth


EU politics is complicated and dull - very dull. I only take an 'interest' because I want the UK to remove itself from the supranational, corrupt and wholly undemocratic structure. One of the side effects though, of the obsession is an instinct immediately as to whether something is, or is not, the result of Brussels' regulations.

And so it proved on Sunday, from the Mail:
British shoppers are to be banned from buying eggs by the dozen under new regulations approved by the European Parliament.

For the first time, eggs and ­other products such as oranges and bread rolls will be sold by weight instead of by the number contained in a packet.

Until now, Britain has been exempt from EU regulations that forbid the selling of goods by number. But last week MEPs voted to end Britain’s deal despite objections from UK members.

The new rules will mean that instead of packaging telling shoppers a box contains six eggs, it will show the weight in grams of the eggs inside, for example 372g.

Other papers, blogs and even the BBC got stuck in with enthusiasm. However my first reaction was; yeah right! But due to other distractions I didn't have time to prove otherwise.
Fortunately the excellent, (sadly pro-EU Blog) Nosemonkey has the details:
Indeed, all you have to do is read the proposed regulation itself (warning: PDF) – which makes precisely no mention of outlawing selling by numbers.

In fact, quite the opposite – Annex VIII makes explicit exceptions for foods “which are sold by number”. (This only slightly amended in the final version, despite the apparent claim in the BBC article that such a get-out had been rejected.)

He goes on to link to this:

Selling eggs by the dozen will NOT be illegal under the terms of the amendments adopted by the European Parliament to EU food labelling proposals. Labels will still be able to indicate the number of food items in a pack, whether of eggs, bread rolls or fish fingers. To suggest that British shoppers will not be allowed to buy a dozen eggs in the future is wrong.

It's greatly frustrating that the media in general ignores the systematical damage the EU does to our country by failing to highlight the relevant EU Directives, even when pointed out in their comments or letters pages, but chooses to go big with a story that can easily be dismissed. It undermines the case.

A not so recent episode of the BBC programme of QI illustrates this point precisely. Hosted by left-wing Stephen Fry, they had a session on so-called barmy EU laws which weren't. The implication clearly meant was that any criticism of the EU is misguided:



The Daily Mail has helped EU-enthusiasts once again in their mistaken criticism, and has also helped the Tories by allowing them to portray themselves as tough on the EU, despite the fact that the article is bollocks:

An attempt by Brussels to stop British shoppers buying eggs by the dozen will be blocked, ministers promised yesterday.

European regulations that aim to ban the sale of a dozen eggs, six bread rolls or four apples go against common sense, they said.

The rapid coalition pledge that food will stay on sale in the traditional way follows a move by the European Commission to undermine the use of longstanding and universally understood non-metric measures.

It's a fight on two fronts.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Well How Embarrassing


We're out, and deservedly so. I'm sure much will be made about the 'goal that never was', but in truth we were crap. Germany were much more inventive, passed the ball better and quite frankly made it look embarrassing for us.

The so called 'golden generation' have yet again failed to live up to expectations. Supposedly 'good' players are paid handsomely who play well for their clubs yet fail to reproduce their form for their country. I'm sure Fabio will get it in the neck now, but if Fabio (one of the best managers in the world) can't get the best out of this lot then who can?

Bring on tomorrow's papers.

Edit: At least we beat the Aussies at the cricket though:

England weathered a dramatic late collapse to beat Australia by one wicket with five balls remaining and seal the one-day series in Manchester.

The tense victory gave them an unassailable 3-0 lead with two dead rubbers to follow in London.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

It's A Knockout


Now we're into the knockout rounds, and next up it's the Germans. Despite a relatively unconvincing start (rather like England) they're not to be underestimated. England have never beaten a top-level team in the knockout rounds of a World Cup away from Wembley, and not at all since 1966. However nor have Germany since 1990 unless it went to penalties.

An inexperienced German team (of whom 11 players are eligible to play for other countries) against an experienced English team. It's an intriguing contest, hopefully we can emulate the score in the picture above.

As expected some of the tabloid newspapers have put their less than dignified hats on, although the German equivalents are hardly innocent in this area either. Me? I love Germany, I worked and lived there for a number of years; it's one of my favourite of all European countries. And they're not as sensitive to this 'don't mention the war stuff' as we might imagine, though I find the '10 German Bombers' chant to be more than a little tedious.

Germany have always been a country that has beaten us fair and square, so it is only on a football level that I would love England to win. Argentina are likely to be our next opponents should we go through, now that's a different matter...

What!?

I know it's silly season but really...
A "psychic" octopus is said by its aquarium owners to have predicted the country's football team will knock England out of the World Cup.

When consulted, Paul the octopus chose a mussel from a jar with the German flag on it ahead of one in a similar jar bearing the cross of St George.

The two-year-old cephalopod has a record of predicting past German results in this manner, his owners say.

Paul has so far correctly predicted all of Germany's results in South Africa.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Quote Of The Day

"The euro is a victim of its own success

Van Rompuy talking to MEPs yesterday.

Hilarious.

hattip: Dan Hannan

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Now Or Never

Well its the final group game, England must win to progress. (well they could draw then it would all depend on the other result) A stuttering start to say the least, but we've been here before in 1966, 1986 and 1990 with less than convincing starts to a World Cup campaign. We could even top the group today.

I would imagine that not alot of work will be done this afternoon across the country? Me? I have a sympathetic boss. The conversation went something like this:

Me: "Boss can I have the afternoon off?"
Boss (me also): "Of course you can, no problem"
Me: "Great I'm off down the pub at lunchtime"

Ah, the joys of working for oneself.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

David Miliband Tells Capello What To Do

Budget On TV


Throughout the Budget, the above screen shot was typical of the television coverage. I thought where is Cameron? Osborne appears to be flanked by two Lib Dem MPs; Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander.

And then periodically the camera would show this, below:


Cameron is sat right behind Osborne's arse. Surely a coincidence on so many levels, (manipulation of the media is a Labour tactic, the Tories would never stoop so low?)

Quote Of The Day

Harriet Harman on the VAT increase during her Budget response:
"As the Prime Minister himself said on VAT, he said: 'It's very regressive, it hits the poorest hardest'. It does, I absolutely promise you," she said.
Indeed it does hit the poor the hardest, but why do we have VAT? Oh yes the EU. However Ms Harman has voted strongly for more EU integration in the past.

Funny that.

Someone Hasn't Read The Lisbon Treaty

Yesterday Tory MP Bill Cash asked Cameron a question in a debate regarding last week's European Council meeting (my emphasis in the questions):
Mr William Cash (Stone) (Con): The Prime Minister referred to economic recovery. There are currently as many as 30 European directives in the pipeline which will deeply affect our financial regulation and economic governance, nearly all of which are by qualified majority voting and co-decision. There is also the issue of European social and employment legislation. How will my right hon. Friend-and, of course, the Chancellor tomorrow-regain and retain control over those economic issues?
21 Jun 2010 : Column 42

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend makes a very good and reasonable point. There are threats to our competitive position coming from the European Commission and, more particularly, from the co-decision procedure and the great strength that had been given to the European Parliament under the Lisbon treaty. It makes our work harder, I have to be frank. In relation to the de Larosière package on financial regulation, a reasonable compromise was reached, but the European Parliament has unpicked that and made it much more burdensome from the British point of view. Now, there is no alternative to having to fight back to the compromise that we left. It is not a satisfactory situation. One thing on which my hon. Friend and I agree is that the Lisbon treaty was not a step forward.

Co-decision? Er...this was changed in the Lisbon Treaty to Ordinary Legislative Procedure. Cameron I'm not surprised didn't know this, but the long running euro-sceptic Bill Cash? He who can recite the Maastricht treaty off the top of his head? If he doesn't know...well... there's no hope at all is there?

Gulp! Budget Day

The first budget for 13 years where Brown hasn't written it. So hopefully gone, is the deceit, the sleight of hand and the downright lies which have dogged every budget since 1997. Osbourne's budget apparently will do exactly what it says on the tin.

The coalition’s "Emergency Budget" is expected to included tax hikes and hard cuts in government spending. I argued during my election campaign that unless it was one of the most unpopular budgets in history the Government wouldn’t be doing its job properly. The scale of our deficit necessitates such a budget.

All the indications from the 'pre-Budget noises' are that reducing the deficit will be met by concentrating on cutbacks in the public spending, rather than tax hikes. Ushering in a new "Age of Austerity" (whatever that means), no government department will escape the axe, including the NHS, despite Cameron indicating during the election that spending on it would be ring fenced. The NHS will probably lose the services of many managers, and already a planned hospital has been cancelled.

Predictably the unions are already warning of hits to front-line services and subsequent strikes. Undoubtedly there will be some sort of impact on front-line services, but there’s plenty of scope in the public sector that can be cut without affecting them. The joke non-jobs for instance created by Labour; fruit and veg advisers, politically correct Quangos, diversity officers, weekend explainers, walking coordinators (seriously, I’m not making these up) and so on. Just by getting rid of useless Quangos could cut £13Billion.

Osbourne has an opportunity here, and some are getting excited by possible cuts ahead, but I have doubts as to how far he will seize it. We shall see.

Although Government spending is the main focus there will inevitably be tax rises. Taxes that I expect to see go up are; VAT possibly to 20%, Capital Gains possibly to 40% but more likely 30%, some sort of Bank levy and the obvious alcohol and tobacco (that will be another 2 of my local pubs closing). However, overall spending cuts are more important than tax rises which often generate less revenue the more they are raised and only encourage jobs to go elsewhere thus threatening the fragile recovery.

I never used to watch Brown's budgets, it was largely a waste of time as the details would often take days to unravel, but today I will watch, if only for one simple reason. Amidst all the economic gloom and pain, there is likely to be one amusing sight, that of copious amounts of steam emanating from the Labour benches as they get angrier and angrier while Osbourne wields the knife. Their faces are likely to be a picture. Expect to hear shouted phrases like; 'same old Tories', or 'they enjoy making cuts', or 'they're the party of the rich' and inevitably 'Ashcroft'.

What hasn't changed with the new Government is the leaking to the press. When Cameron said the UK budget should be presented to Parliament first (not the EU) what he really meant was that it should be presented to the UK press first. Whatever happened to Budget purdah, when leaks used to be a resigning issue?

Monday, 21 June 2010

EU Budget Must Be Cut

So says Cameron. From Reuters (my emphasis):
The next European Union budget must be frozen or reduced in recognition of the tough economic times, Prime Minister David Cameron said on Monday.

"The next European budget needs to be, in my view, at worst a freeze and at best a reduction," he told parliament in a debate on last week's EU summit.

"I don't say that because of any particular ideological animus. I say it because we are going to be making difficult budget decisions here in the UK and our constituents are not going to understand if we are making budget reductions in the UK and the European budget is increasing. It just won't wash," he said.

Negotiations on the EU budget for 2014-21 are expected to start this year.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

What's Going On?

In this World Cup most of the big teams have struggled - Spain, Germany, France, England and Italy have stuttered so far. France have even gone one better by going on strike.

Englanditis is contagious it seems.

What Does The EU Do Best?

...blame others and grab power. So says Marta Andreasen in today's Telegraph regarding the EU's insistence on scrutinising national governments' budget plans, including that of Britain. Marta's not optimistic, rightly in my view, that Cameron will hold out against the might of the EU. The whole article is well worth a read but here's her conclusion:

Mr Cameron has grandly declared that Britain would not allow Brussels first sight of the budget and that proposed hefty sanctions against countries breaching deficit and debt limits set by the EU must apply only to the single currency member states.

But don't hold your breath, because he is relying on six flimsy words of the summit statement - "taking account of national budgetary procedures" - to get him off the hook.

I am quite sure that, not just in his heart of hearts but even in private with his advisers, he has already acknowledged that when the next stage of the sovereign debt crisis hits, Britain will be called on to reach into its pockets.

And it will have no choice, because in truth EU integration has already gone that far - and British banks will be among the losers if a country defaults.

From my knowledge of the EU bureaucracy I have little hope that Britain will be spare from this demeaning procedure.

The 'referendum lock' will be another Cameron promise that will be filed under 'cast-iron'.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Parallels

As anyone who has followed the England football team for quite sometime knows, yesterday's result and performance was - well - typical. Yes there was lots of pre-match hype, and occasionally they surprise us by living up to that hype, but we know how it works really most of the time. Lots of talk and optimism, but in the end it's always the same result - a lackluster display and a 'why the hell can't they play like they do for their own clubs?' The rhetoric never matches the substance.

And Rooney despite his 'half-hearted-don't-really-mean-it' apology lets us know what England players really think of their long suffering supporters.

This leads me onto the EU. As highlighted in a previous post any elected UK government, whether it's Tory or Labour, follows the same script. Rather like England it's talk tough - the best for Britain etc - then it begins to fall apart. We give in.

So for all the tough 'referendum lock' talk pre-election, and claiming the first victory in Europe for Tory eurosceptics as predicted, there's a problem:
However, the truce over budget "surveillance" is likely to end within a fortnight when the Commission moves to "fast track" its proposals and bring forward legislation on the plan by September.

One Commission official said: "We are still determined to push for the reforms that are needed. We will take into account the summit today, but we are speeding up the proposals we have set out."

Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, insisted the "economic governance" agenda would continue.

"Nothing has been decided definitively," Mr Sarkozy said. "This is only the very beginning. Things are moving ahead."
And from England Expects:
FROM across the Channel we learn that the EU Commission is absolutely determined to secure the passage of two important new laws that hugely affect our prosperity and sovereignty for the worse.
And from Mary Ellen Synon:
Cameron is new in town, so he doesn't know that's not the way it works. The British have now conceded the principle that other nations have a right to interfere in the United Kingdom's budget procedures. Now Sarkozy and his allies wait for the next European Council in October. There will no doubt be another crisis going on then; if not, Sarkozy and Angela Merkel can declare Spain or Portugal or Greece or Ireland a crisis at the time. Then insist the solution is -- as it always is -- 'more Europe.' Which means, more European control of national economies. That is when the real pressures on Cameron to get going with the EU economic government will start.

The first job of any EU power grab is to convince the world -- or at least the British -- that an EU power grab does not exist.
So copious amounts of bluster and promises, but we end up where we always do. The truth is the system is in place with vested corporate intests - the FA decided to build Wembley rather than concentrate on youth development - we're impotent until someones stands up and says hold on, this is not right. Until then it's the same tedious script.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Take 2


After a typical stuttering start to their World Cup campaign, England should get back on track tonight. I can't see anything other than an England win (ha ha famous last words) The Algerians looked very poor in their 1-0 defeat against Slovenia.

The German's have been the most impressive team so far, so England really need to top their group to avoid meeting them in the next round. The same problems will remain though, we'll be too predictable in attack most of the time and Heskey is never going to score goals. But there aren't too many other options. Also Terry and Carragher are vulnerable to pace.

I expect us to progress, but can't realistically see us getting any further than the quarters. But there's always hope...

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Fudge

David Cameron meets his other EU colleagues today, promising "positive engagement", but not at the expense of British sovereignty.

Up for discussion, among other things, will the EU's plan to vet the national budget and create the foundations for the total economic governance of all 27 member states.

As the Telegraph reports:

"British diplomats say that if implemented, the proposal would reduce UK sovereignty because it would be Brussels that would set a limit on the public finances and not British politicians."
After Cameron's assurances that any future transfer of power must be subjected to a referendum, today we'll have some indication how much backbone David Cameron really has. I'm not hopeful.

This is also where the Tory backbenchers will find out whether the PM is just good at patriotic rhetoric while stabbing them in the back, or whether he actually has ever meant any of it. (and whether any of them will care)

Personally I have a little prediction. As outlined in an older post, Tory negotiations with the EU (and to some extent Labour's) go something like this:
In other words it will be fudged, but in such a way to appease the eurosceptics, but ultimately means Britain loses just a little bit more sovereignty.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

The Vuvuzela Song

Jesus Burnt By An Act Of God

Oh the irony:
A 60ft statue of Jesus with his arms raised along a motorway was struck by lightning in a thunderstorm and burned to the ground, police said.
I wonder if the statue will be back up in 3 days?

The BBC And The EU

I didn't get a chance to blog about this nauseating article in the Daily Mail yesterday by John Humphreys (I did leave a comment on the site, but it's yet to be published. For some reason the Mail is the hardest newspaper to get comments passed its moderators).

Clearly an attempt to defend the BBC's clearly pro-EU stance, one wonders if anything similar would've been written at all, by a BBC presenter, if it were not for the Greek crisis. Rather like climategate, suddenly there's a panic of; "damn, not everything is as rosy in our left-wing nirvana as we had hoped".

Biased BBC however has a fine critique of the article here:
...[Humphreys] claims disingenuously that it was Margaret Thatcher who signed the Single European Act in 1986, thereby paving the way for "ever closer union". His point here is clearly ludicrously contrived to suggest that everyone, including Mrs Thatcher, supported the expansion of the EU; thus the BBC was right in giving weight in its coverage towards that process.

What he fails to mention, of course, is the bull elephant in the room; that Margaret Thatcher almost immediately regretted that signing, and it gave birth in subsequent years to the powerful growth of the current eurosceptic movement (in the country at large as well as among the Westminster elite) which the BBC has disgracefully under-reported and ignored (again as pointed out by the Wilson report), while characterising those who dislike the process of integration, as left-wing nutters.
Absolutely right, The signing of the Act was the pivotal moment which began the path to Thatcher's downfall four years later. The issue of Europe and Thatcher's stance on it completely split her party (from which it has never truly recovered) and was the single main issue that led to her being toppled, most notably by Geoffry Howe. Given that the BBC probably had champagne out at the time, it's odd that they don't make more of it. B-BBC continues:
...he claims in his preposterous analysis that eurosceptics might finally be proved right by the pressures on the euro triggered by the recent financial problems in Greece. But why on earth has he only woken up to this now? When the euro was launched, almost a decade ago, Today devoted an entire programme to a virtually unqualified eulogy supporting its importance. In the intervening years, the programme has massively under-reported, ignored or ridiculed those who have warned that the vile currency is a Trojan Horse; another wedge designed principally to further more integration and to isolate those who oppose it.
Interesting the contrast now. If you confined yourself to just BBC news and nothing else you would largely be unaware there was problem in the Euro.

Virtually everyday there are news items which the BBC ignores the EU element. Today's example? Here:

A review of the drink-drive limit being published later is expected to recommend that it be nearly halved.

It is expected to say that more than 150 lives a year could be saved by cutting the current limit of 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood to 50mg.

Changing the limit, which has been in place since 1967, would give the UK one of the toughest regimes in Europe.

However the review was commissioned by Labour and it is not certain that the new government will adopt its findings.

What is not mentioned is this from Richard North:
This is an EU initiative. It goes right back to May 2004 when the EU decided it wanted common drink-driving limits. Only, instead of coming out in the open, it is pushing for each member state "voluntarily" to impose harmonised standards, and only then will it issue a Directive, claiming that this is simply to regularise a position that already exists.

The EU commission is well-aware that bringing out a harmonising Directive at this stage would trigger a huge wave of protest and anti-EU sentiment, so it is working behind the scenes, with a threat that, unless the member states comply "voluntarily" it will push for a new law.
It will be interesting to see as the Tories didn't commission the report, whether they ignore it. If they don't, we'll know the reason why.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Real Change?

Before the election there was much comment that the Tories, would bring real change, and that anyone who questioned otherwise would be 'educated' differently.

But then after the election:

David Cameron used the coalition talks with Nick Clegg as an excuse to ditch ‘daft’ Tory policies he secretly wanted to get rid of all along - such as scrapping inheritance tax and getting rid of his pledge to rip up the Human Rights Act, it was claimed last night.

The leader of Mr Clegg’s negotiating team, new Scottish Secretary Danny Alexander, said his Conservative counterparts, led by William Hague and George Osborne, produced a list of Mr Cameron’s manifesto pledges and invited the Lib Dems to strike them out.

And Mr Cameron’s controversial policy guru Steve Hilton was reportedly delighted that the coalition had enabled Mr Cameron to ‘bury the Tory Right-wing’.

And:
More than half of councils are continuing to impose fortnightly bin collections, despite Conservative pledges to crack down on Labour’s ‘bin bullies’.

The result of EU Law.

And:

The European Union will vet the Chancellor's Budget before it is debated by MPs in the House of Commons or seen by the public, under plans agreed last night.

And:

The UK's coalition government has confirmed that it will seek a partial privatisation of Royal Mail.

In its latest coalition agreement document, the government said it would seek "an injection of private capital" in Royal Mail.

The result of EU Law.

And:

We believe that membership of the EU is in the national interest of the United Kingdom. We intend to champion vigorously the interests of the UK and play an active role within the EU on areas of common interest.

And:

The parliamentary expenses regime was in turmoil last night after the head of the watchdog said MPs had been abusing his staff.

And:

Ed Balls has been compared to maverick right-wing MP Enoch Powell after calling for immigration to be drastically restricted.

The Labour leadership candidate caused controversy by insisting that free movement across the European Union should be stopped.

He also accused former boss Gordon Brown of making a 'mistake' by ignoring concerns over immigration policy.

But Education Secretary Michael Gove said Mr Balls had managed to 'outflank' the Tory leader to the right on both immigration and Euroscepticism, ' something not done since Enoch Powell was in this House'.

And finally today, from Douglas Carswell MP:

The last Parliament – or the rotten Parliament, as it is known – proved that there is much wrong with Westminster.

As a legislature the Commons has grown monumentally useless – supine, spineless and run for the convenience of the executive. The so-called Wright reforms were supposed to help instill a bit of backbone into it.

Key was giving MPs, not the government, more control over the Commons agenda, and a new system of private ballots to allow MPs to decide who sits on the various Commons committees.

This may all sound very dull and SW1, but it could have a profound effect on the way our politicians behave. Instead of getting ahead by sucking up to whips, MPs would find it in their interests to do what elected representatives are supposed to do, and hold government to account.

Naturally, the whips don’t exactly like it. If MPs weren't mere cheerleaders for their frontbenches, they might actually start to scrutinise ministers.

Are we today seeing the first attempts at watering down some of the reformist arrangements only just put in place?

First of all, the dark side wants the Business Committee chairman in place for just a year – rather than a full Parliament, as with all other committees. I can only suppose that this is to make them more vulnerable to whips' pressure.

Second, out of nowhere has come a proposal to dilute the membership of key committees expand the number of MPs on the committee. Since when should Commons committees be organised for the convenience of the executive?

The votes on all this tonight are free votes. Hummm…. I wonder which way the pay roll will be advised is "helpful" to vote in this "free" vote.

I know I've reiterated some points from my previous posts in the last couple of days, but it's worth noting that the continuation is not bad after less than six weeks in office.

I can't tell the difference from the previous government, can you?

Update: Just seen this press release from the Council of the EU regarding the EU Citizens Initiative. It reminds me of this promise from Cameron early this year:

"David Cameron today just unveiled plans to ensure that any petition of 100,000 people would be eligible for debate in Parliament. Any petition with 1 million signatures would result in a bill being tabled in Parliament."

Where is it? Surely not a promise broken?

Monday, 14 June 2010

Manifesto Promises

I'm not sure whether Tom Harris, Labour MP, does it deliberately to wind up his readers, but he regularly criticises on his blog the failure of other parties in upholding their manifesto promises, without any hint of irony. For example:

The interesting thing during the exchange was the heckling I received from the LibDems opposite, who shouted: “It’s the coalition agreement that’s important, not the manifesto!”

This is a new departure for democratic government, isn’t it? An assumption that a coalition agreement cobbled together behind closed doors after the polls have closed is more important than the manifestos on which the parties fought the election? Really?

Let’s recap the important figures, shall we?

Number of people who voted after being given the chance to peruse the parties’ manifestos: 29,691,380.

Number of voters who voted after being given the chance to peruse the coalition agreement: 0.

So remind me why the coalition agreement is “more important” than the manifestos? Ah, yes, of course! The New Politics…

Of course this would be the same Tom Harris who voted against a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty despite his party's manifesto promise in 2005 (emphasis mine):

The new Constitutional Treaty ensures the new Europe can work effectively, and that Britain keeps control of key national interests like foreign policy, taxation, social security and defence. The Treaty sets out what the EU can do and what it cannot. It strengthens the voice of national parliaments and governments in EU affairs. It is a good treaty for Britain and for the new Europe. We will put it to the British people in a referendum and campaign whole-heartedly for a ‘Yes’ vote to keep Britain a leading nation in Europe.
I can only assume Mr Harris has his shirts especially tailored in order to accommodate his enormous brass neck.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Oh Please...

...just...er... go away:
A government quango has urged football fans to choose sparkling water and grapes rather than beer and crisps while watching the World Cup.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) which has an annual budget of £135m, has issued four pages of advice on how to make "healthier choices ... while you're feasting on the footie".

It suggests fans "walk to the pub instead of taking the bus" or "use half-time for a brisk walk and some fresh air".
The rest of the Telegraph article or original document is just too depressing to read. We need cuts in this country, the FSA's a good place to start. Bye!

Fraser Nelson On The EU

Fraser of The Spectator and the News of the World, asks can you be Conservative and support UKIP. (A proviso, some of the issues he talks about appear to be related to our membership of the Council of Europe rather than the EU, but his main points still stand).



hattip: Fausty's Libertarian Blog

The Dishonest Election Campaign

I'm not normally a fan of Simon Heffer in the Telegraph, but today's article is worth reading on the dishonesty of the general election, a theme I touched on over the last couple of days. Here's some choice quotes:
The sport of spotting hypocrisy in politics is giving us some fine spectacles these days, such as in the proclamation by Ed Balls, who would be leader of the Labour Party, that we should restrict immigration. One is deafened by cries from justifiably outraged citizens about why Mr Balls, if he feels so strongly about this matter, kept so quiet on it when he was a minister of the Crown, and therefore in a position to do something about it. However, he has some competition...

...Of course the campaign was dishonest. The Conservatives were reluctant to talk about the extent of the cuts they knew would be necessary to restore order. They did not want to frighten people out of voting for them...

...And why ask the public to fill in the blanks? The cynicism of such a policy, where the blame for crucial economic decisions is shifted away from those who are paid to govern, is shocking. Mr Osborne should have worked all this out before he got into Number 11. The economic disaster was no well-kept secret. It is late in the day to judge where to cut; but he had also better start working out where, and how, to grow.
Quite. Asking the public about cuts is just a gimmick, the Tories should just get on with it.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Tell Me When I've Touched The Bone

Following on from yesterday's post, more evidence that the election was merely a pause in government affairs rather than a real change. The Daily Mail reports that:
More than half of councils are continuing to impose fortnightly bin collections, despite Conservative pledges to crack down on Labour’s ‘bin bullies’.
Which is, of course, no surprise as the changes to our bin collections are the result of EU legislation. Not that the Tories or indeed the Mail mention this, though some of the comments below the article are better informed.

Also in the Mail is the report that the Tories have accused Ed Balls of being to the right of Enoch Powell on immigration:
Education Secretary Michael Gove said Mr Balls had managed to 'outflank' the Tory leader to the right on both immigration and Euroscepticism, ' something not done since Enoch Powell was in this House'.
Hilarious if it wasn't so serious, at least though the Mail this time acknowledges the EU dimension:
[Ed Balls'] proposals would require the Lisbon Treaty to be amended - something which Labour had attacked the Tories for wanting during the election campaign.
I'm not sure how Mr Balls proposes to amend the treaty as it would require the permission of all the other 26 nations, which they have often indicated they would not do. A point missed by the Tories when they proposed returning powers from the EU back to the UK.

Most of the papers are running with the story I mention yesterday that the EU wants to vet the UK's budget before Parliament does, despite the UK not being in the Euro:
Mr Van Rompuy and the European Commission have tabled plans that will require all of Europe’s governments to discuss their budget plans with other EU finance ministers and officials before they presented to national parliaments.

“A government presenting a budget plan with a high deficit would have to justify itself in front of its peers, among finance ministers,” said Mr Van Rompuy.

This is such a clear infringement on parliamentary and national sovereignty - the power to set our own budgets how we wish - that that Van Rompuy should be told where to go in no uncertain terms. Below is an extract from an email from my Tory MP when I questioned him over the European Public Prosecutor:
if we win the next election, our first step would be to prohibit, by law, the transfer of further power to the EU without a referendum. Never again should it be possible for a British government to use a Treaty to transfer areas of power to the EU without the British people's consent.

...and that we must never allow Britain to slide into a federal Europe.
Vetting national budgets is a clear transfer of power, so what will Cameron do? Well the signs are not good:
An official insisted that the move would not lead to ‘unannounced dawn raids on national treasuries’.

But he added: ‘The new provisions allow for visits to check on the economic maths, if there are reasons for concern - such as national figures being revised at short notice without obvious reason - or other signals that something may be wrong with the calculations.’

A UK official said: ‘We originally rejected this idea, but we've now discovered just how bad the Greek situation was, and there's an appetite to make sure it doesn't happen again.

'A lot has changed in the last few months, and people are ready to accept some things that they would not have done just a short time ago.’

Chancellor George Osborne last night insisted he was on a mission of 'positive engagement' with Europe.

So more talk tough, act weak. And the EU will come back for more powers, then more, then more ad infinitum. At what point are the Tories going to say no? Well never it seems.

It reminds me of the "you crossed the line" scene below from the British hooligan film I.D. from which the title of this post is taken from. (as you would expect in a film of this nature some robust language in the clip).

Monday, 7 June 2010

Elephants

During the election campaign, I attended a number of hustings meetings as the UKIP candidate.

Though my view of hustings meetings is similar to John Howell MP's in Henley, I thought it was important to try to put forward different views to the three main parties (plus Greens) who roughly are in same area of agreement on many subjects.

During one such meeting I touched on a theme highlighted by Christopher Booker, in answer to a question from the floor.

My view was that there were a number of elephants in the room about which candid discussion was being avoided by the main parties, mainly: immigration, the EU, and the economy in regard to the scale of cuts required. All three of course are inextricably linked.

For me the experience of this election on the doorstep was largely a single issue one. Immigration. Before I began campaigning in earnest I had anticipated and prepared for a number of issues that would likely be raised; notably MP's expenses and the economy. But no. Despite the constituency being a largely rural one, the main issue that was raised above all others was immigration. It was utterly relentless, day after day. Anger over the effect of immigration on housing and schools just kept on coming.

The economy is another crucial area of concern. The scale of the public deficit is, as we all know, unprecedented. We want direct answers as to where the cuts will be. The other candidates talked in single billions, not the tens of billions required. My summary, that if the next budget isn't one of the most unpopular in history then the government won't being doing their job properly, was very well received. The voters aren't stupid. They want frankness. They weren't getting it from the LibLabCon.

And of course there's the EU. "We'll save Post Offices, we'll cap immigration and we'll help local businesses" they argued. With no word about the EU where most of the regulation and power lies about these issues. I often wonder if the largest number of new MPs for a generation know how impotent they really are. I always liked this from Matthew Parris in his Great Parliamentary Scandals book:
You are [as an MP] a little prince in your own constituency. In the House you may be a smaller fish, but still feel you belong to a most important - the most important - club. Your head swells. But your heart troubles you because you know it's not true. You know you are only there because your party association chose you. Few ever voted for you as an individual or ever will. You know too, that your power at Westminster is zero - the whips humiliate you privately - and your influence in the constituency consist mainly in using your headed notepaper to help a pushy handful jump queues in which more patient constituents quietly wait. You know you are a fraud and your position is a fraud.
Parris is right, and though he didn't refer to the EU, he might as well have done.

Well now that the election is over, and us 'little people' have had their say for possibly five years, the last couple of days have been an outpouring of honesty (almost).

The economy:

The British way of life will have to change, David Cameron will warn today as he readies the country for the biggest cuts in government spending since the Second World War.

Using some of his strongest language yet, the Prime Minister will give warning that the cuts will affect every person in the country and the effects will last for decades to come.

The coalition Government plans to consult widely before making an announcement, likely in November. Public meetings will be held and people will be invited to go online and tell ministers about their priorities.

Consult widely? Funny how they didn't do that before May 6th when we had the real power of choice via a ballot box. Richard North is right, we're being treated as morons.

And immigration:
The wages of British workers were forced down because the Labour government failed to restrict immigration from eastern Europe, Ed Balls claims today. In a provocative article in the Observer, the Labour leadership hopeful says the party will rebuild trust only if it admits "what we got wrong".
Provocative article? It would have been more provocative if it had been written before the election. But no. No word though how Balls proposes to do this while we remain members of the EU.

And the EU:

David Cameron will face an early test of the Government’s relationship with Europe today when he clashes with the EU President over whether Brussels should be allowed to see George Osborne’s Budget before it is presented to Parliament.

The Prime Minister is likely to turn down the request when he meets Herman Van Rompuy as part of a round of key meetings this week.

This policy of "we don't want a bust up with Europe" is not going well, is it?
Britain has already clashed with EU chiefs in the first few weeks of the new Government, notably over plans for a sharp increase in the EU budget. The proposed 5.8 per cent increase has been described by Mr Osborne as unacceptable when European nations are struggling to cut costs.
And possibly clashing again:

David Cameron is ready for his first confrontation with the European Union if he attempts to stop the international ban on whaling being lifted.

The Coalition faces a multi-million-pound fine for voting to maintain the moratorium if, as expected, the rest of the EU refuses to oppose moves to legalise the slaughter of whales.

Much as the Tories want the EU to go away it won't. We cannot continue much longer with a 'half in and half out' policy. It's either one or the other; a decision made by a referendum. There are so many more issues about to erupt during this parliament that the 'ostrich-non-bust-up-with-Europe' strategy simply won't work. Either they grasp the nettle or it will be done for them.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Apparently I'm Posh

...according to this nonsense in the Daily Mail:

1) Yes. Have been to the ballet in St Petersburg, not a regular thing though. Can't stand opera
2) Yes,
3) No, but is Hackett posh? I thought it was worn mainly by football hooligans
4) I've been known to put the odd bet on a horse, but I don't think that's what they meant
5) No, can't stand the stuff
6) No.
7) Yes, for lunchtime sandwiches, very nice they are too.
8) No
9) Only if she's attractive.
10) No
11) Yes, gallons of the stuff (Earl Grey)
12) No idea, looked it up and found out it's a wine. Refer back to number 5
13) No

So that's four, therefore I'm considered posh, despite originating from Swindon.

The Spite Of Brown

Brown had been determined for sometime to make the next Government's inheritance much more difficult than it needed be. It was inevitable that there would also be some personal pettiness too. However, unlike the childish but rather amusing act by the Clinton Administration which removed the letter 'W' from keyboards in 2000, Brown would be vindictive. And so it's proved:
Gordon Brown's last act was to deprive David Cameron of hundreds of thousands of pounds
Gordon Brown's failure to turn up for the State Opening of Parliament may well have been because he couldn't look David Cameron in the face. Mandrake hears that one of Brown's final acts in the Downing Street bunker was quietly to organise a pay cut for his successor which he must have known would leave him out of pocket to the tune of hundreds of thousands of pounds.
On Brown's orders, the Prime Minister's remuneration package was cut from £194,000 to £150,000, but this was done with such stealth that no formal announcement was ever made.
There won't be much sympathy for the multi-millionaire Cameron especially when he is outlining years of painful cuts ahead. But this was nothing to do with savings or public opinion in light of the expenses scandal. It was just spite.

Thank god he's gone.

hattip: Guido

Thursday, 3 June 2010

PMQs: The Don't Mention The EU Edition

Iain Dale was impressed by Cameron's performance yesterday at PMQs. Well he certainly comes across as more assured and human than Brown, but that's not exactly difficult. Other than that, the substance hasn't changed much since the election. As an example, here's a question from Tory backbencher, Karen Bradley:
Is the Prime Minister aware of the case of my constituent Mr Edmond Arapi, who is facing extradition to Italy, having been tried in his absence? Will my right hon. Friend look into the matter urgently and accelerate the review of extradition cases before Mr Arapi is taken from his family and sent to an Italian jail?
And Cameron's response?
I am happy to look at this case, and I will discuss it with my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, who is working on the issue of deportations. Legal processes have to be followed, but I will discuss this with my right hon. Friend, and perhaps then contact my hon. Friend.
Now if Cameron were to give a more honest response it would go something like this:
There's no point looking at this case, because Mr Edmond Arapi has been fast tracked by the European Arrest Warrant so there's nothing we can do. All of us in this House agree with the EU, so I'm afraid you will need to go back to Mr Edmond Arapi and tell him, even though he's innocent, tough get packing!
And so it continues, Conservative Philip Hollobone:
What will my right hon. Friend be doing to ensure that foreign nationals engaged in terrorist-related activity in this country will be deported back to their country of origin when their evil plots are detected?
Cameron:
I really am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that question. When foreign nationals threaten our country but we do not have the evidence necessary to prosecute them, it is essential for us to be able to deport them back to their country of origin. I have asked the Home Secretary to work with the Foreign Secretary to draw up agreements with as many countries as possible, so that we can deport those people and keep our country safe. All diplomatic efforts, including efforts by me, will be made to ensure that we keep our country safe.
One small problem:
Two men who plotted to kill thousands of Britons in a terrorist atrocity cannot be deported because it would infringe their human rights, a court ruled yesterday.
And:
Up to 3,000 foreign criminals will be released from prison on to Britain's streets without any attempt to deport them, Government papers have revealed.
It pins the blame on an EU directive which rules that committing a serious crime is no longer sufficient grounds for removal.

Neither is the Government's desire to deter other foreign nationals from committing a crime in this country.

As a result, the vast bulk of the estimated 3,300 European criminals released from British jails each year - including burglars, thieves and muggers - will simply walk free.

More confirmation that the last election was simply an exercise in rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Cumbria

Watching the tragic news today regarding the shootings in Cumbria has brought back all sorts of memories for me.

In 1987 I was in Hungerford at the time Michael Ryan went walkabout. I didn't come into contact with him or anywhere near him thankfully - I was on the other side of town at a mate's house on Prospect Road. We did hear the guns going off though, it sounded like firecrackers going off, but we knew immediately what it was despite, bizarrely, never having heard a semi-automatic weapon before. But we didn't really have any idea what was going on or the reasons at first for the gun sounds, there was however a really weird experience of silence everywhere before the overwhelming noises of sirens.

I didn't live in Hungerford, I lived a few miles away in a village called Kintbury, but I went to the local John O'Gaunt school where Ryan eventually killed himself (in my English room as it happens which they painted afterward a conspicuous bright green). I had been dropped off in Hungerford for the day as it was the summer holidays, to visit my mate. I was only 13 at the time.

Looking back I had a lucky escape, unfortunately though 3 of my classmates were shot, or shot at. Thankfully they all survived although one lost a leg.

A number of memories stay with me. One was the reaction of my mum when she eventually picked me up late in the evening. Having dropped me off earlier in the day, the first she heard of the massacre was on the local news in the early evening. The phones had been cut off and so had the town, and in the days before mobiles my mum had no idea what was happening and was unable to reach me. Panic is not an adequate word. I was perfectly fine but unfortunately she didn't know that. When she did eventually manage to pick me up I'd never seen her so emotional before or indeed since.

The other thing that stuck me was after all the media had finished and left, how quickly the residents of Hungerford wanted to forget. It was never spoken off again unless they had to. My school never mentioned a word despite a number of pupils being shot. And some of those that lost relatives were made to feel outcasts by the rest of Hungerford inhabitants - they were treated like a stain on the community. Astonishing I know, but there was a clear determination for a very long time that continues to this day to pretend it never happened.

Of course, not long after the tragedy there was all sorts of calls for something, anything, to be done. This led to the stable door action of further gun controls and even the censoring of Rambo 3, despite that Michael Ryan never owned a video nor was a member of the local video store. (I know because I asked Ashley the owner at the time).

I imagine that similar calls will be made after today's events. But I can't imagine how fucked up in the head you must be to want to go around killing people at random or in Michael Ryan's case even your own mother. No amount of regulation, control or censorship can account for that. But something must be done will be the call.

The likes of Whitehaven, Seascale, Boot etc will now forever be on the map. My thoughts and sympathies go out to those who have been injured and to the relatives of those that died. Nothing will ever be the same again.

Booze

Yet again another call for minimum pricing to be introduced on alcohol. Yet again the fact that it's entirely illegal under EU laws is conveniently ignored.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Democracy After Lisbon

Below is a relatively short speech by Professor Simon Hix, on democracy after the Lisbon Treaty, highlighting, according to him, both the positive and negative outcomes.


Despite being a Director of the Political Science and Political Economy Group at the LSE and the author of several books on the EU including; What's Wrong With the EU and How to Fix It, the speech is astonishingly naive.

Take this excerpt from near the end for example, regarding the re-election of Barroso in 2009 :
We didn't see a debate, we didn't see any candidates. Next time round I'm hoping that's not going to be the case because we won't have an incumbent, so there be no sort of deal between a sitting incumbent Commission President and the people he meets on a regular basis who are heads of Government. So you won't have this
pressure amongst the heads of government to support an incumbent. We are likely to see rival candidates for the position of Commission president.

I don't want there to be a direct election of the Commission president, all I want is rival candidates on the table...so we can actually look at what they stand for, what are you going to do for 5 years. Lets have a live debate in EU Parliament...let's have media coverage of their profiles on what they're going to do, so we can ask our political leaders who are you supporting for Commission President and why?

I remember when Bertie Ahern was Irish Prime Minister, Head of the Council when Barroso was chosen [in 2004], and he came to London to talk to Tony Blair and they came out of Number 10...journalists said; "Mr Blair, who are you supporting for Commission President?", He said; "I'm sorry but it's a subject of delicate intergovernmental negotiations".

I almost threw my shoe at the TV. How on earth can you say this? This person initiates legislation and affects our lives as European Citizens. How dare you tell us that you're not going to tell us who you're going to support?
Firstly there's the contradiction that not having an incumbent would hopefully mean more candidates and thus a lively debate, then Professor Hix goes onto reveal an anecdote where that didn't happen in 2004 despite Barroso not being an incumbent.

Then he doesn't believe that the Commission President should be directly elected but concedes that he (or she) initiates legislation and affects our lives as European Citizens. Right, so we shouldn't have any democratic control over the executive that governs our country? I see.

"How on earth can you say this?", Hix continues in frustration at Tony Blair's reluctance not to reveal who he would support.

Well here's a bit of a clue Professor. The candidates don't have a democratic lively discussion, because they don't have to. They're not accountable to us, you see? Do you think the Prime Ministers' debates in the UK were out of goodness of their heart? Of course not. Do think UK candidates traipse up and down constituencies for fun? Of course not, they do it because they have to in order to get elected, because they're accountable to the electorate.

Conversely the job of Commission President relies on support from behind-doors-horse-trading, i.e "delicate intergovernmental negotiations", so having an open, lively democratic debate in the full glare of the media is irrelevant.

Why do you expect any different?