Friday, 30 July 2010

EIO? Nothing To Fear?

Thanks to the Tory Government choosing to opt in to the European Investigation Order, we can now be subjected to investigations by other countries for crimes which aren't even illegal in this country. A classic example is denying the Holocaust, something which is illegal in Germany, but not here in the UK. The EU Observer says (my emphasis):
In particular, Statewatch, the UK-based civil liberties monitor, says there is no longer a basis for refusal on the grounds of territoriality and what is called "dual criminality" - that the act for which information is sought must constitute a crime punishable in both states.

This would now mean that a person who committed an act which is legal in the member state where the act was carried out could, according to critics, be subject to body, house and business searches, financial investigations, and some forms of covert surveillance, if the act is regarded as a crime under the law of another member state.

For example, Holocaust denial is illegal in Germany and 12 other EU countries but not in the UK, Sweden or Spain - each of which back the new proposals. The EIO could thus in theory used by Germany to someone who denied the Holocaust in a country where to do so is legal.

Use of EU powers like this to prosecute people for actions not illegal in other EU states already has a precedence. In 2008 UK Police arrested an Australian, under the European Arrest Warrant in order to deport him to Germany for denying the Holocaust:

A leading holocaust denier who runs a website insisting the Nazis did not murder millions of Jews will face an extradition hearing tomorrow after being arrested as he flew into Britain.

Dr Fredrick Toben was seized at Heathrow at the request of the German authorities for publishing 'anti-Semitic and/or revisionist' material between 2000 and 2004.

Dr Toben - who claims to be facing a 'witch-trial' - has committed no crime in Britain, where Holocaust denial is not an offence.

But, under the terms of a European Arrest Warrant designed to fast-track extraditions, the Australian citizen can be held in the UK pending possible deportation to Germany - where he faces five years in prison.

The EAW already has well documented abuses attached to it, the EIO will add to this, especially with its lack of safeguards, as Tory MP Dominic Raab points out:

...that there are no proper limits on the nature of the crimes involved – so they could be trivial, or not even offences under UK law...the Order even provides legal authority for European police to carry out investigations on British soil.

It's also not beyond the possibility that other member states could pass legislation that bars criticism of the EU which then could be applied to other member states via these instruments. Don't believe me? Here's yesterday's EUObserver regarding a proposed Italian 'gag law':

Bloggers, podcasters and even anyone who posts updates on social networks such as Facebook all face being slapped with fines of up to €25,000 for publishing incorrect facts, if a bill that journalists' organisations are calling "authoritarian" currently before the Italian parliament is passed.

A provision within the government's Media and Wiretapping Bill will extend Italy's "obbligo di rettifica", or rectification obligation - a law dating back to 1948 that requires newspapers to publish corrections - to the internet and indeed anyone "responsible for information websites".

According to the draft law, bloggers and other online publishers - which lawyers believe includes users of Facebook and Myspace - will be obliged to post corrections within 48 hours of any complaint regarding their content.

If authors do not comply, they face fines of up to €25,000.
Should the Italian Government pass this legislation, then it doesn't take a great deal of imagination to see where this could logically end up using EU instruments.

And the Tories have opted in to only the draft version of the EIO, the final version can end up being much much worse, with no exit being possible. I hope anyone who voted Tory feels pleased with themselves.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

More On The EIO

My frustration at the recent capitulation of the Tory Government (strangely ignored by most Tory bloggers) is so great that it means that I have avoided Hansard for a couple of days. However Ironies Too has a couple of 'wonderful' excerpts here (my emphasis in the text):
Mr John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): Many of us were elected on a programme of no more powers whatever passing to the European Union. Given that the Home Secretary promised us that no sovereignty would be transferred by the EIO, will she reassure us of that by putting into the draft proposal a simple clause that says that Britain can withdraw from the arrangement at any time if it proves to be not as advertised? If we have that clause, we are sovereign; if we do not have it, we are not sovereign. [ Interruption. ]

Mrs May: I thank the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr Skinner) for that sedentary intervention.

I did make that statement on sovereignty in relation to the EIO. We are opting in to the draft directive, over which there will be negotiations in the coming months. However, I said what I said because the order and the directive are not about sovereignty moving to Europe, but about making a practical step of co-operation to ensure that it will be easier for us not only to fight crime, but crucially, to ensure that justice is done.

Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) (Lab): I am disappointed but not surprised by the Government's decision to opt in to the EIO. I was a Home Office Minister some years ago, and even then officials tried push all kinds of things by which more power was taken away from this country. Following the Secretary of State's previous answer, is she saying-let us let the public know the truth-that once we opt in, no matter how much we find that it is not working in our interest or that it is costing huge amounts of money, there is absolutely nothing we can do?
Democracy in the UK is simply not working.

Why I Now Quite Like The Psychic Octopus

My contempt for the so-called 'Psychic Octopus' was expressed here, a feeling made worse by the fact that he had the same name as me. But my views have slightly changed, because apparently the Iranian President is not a fan:
[Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian leader] claims that the octopus is a symbol of decadence and decay among "his enemies"… the Iranian president accused the octopus of spreading "western propaganda and superstition."

Paul [the octopus] was mentioned by Mr Ahmadinejad on various occasions during a speech in Tehran at the weekend. Those who believe in this type of thing cannot be the leaders of the global nations that aspire, like Iran, to human perfection, basing themselves in the love of all sacred values," he said.
Anything that winds up the daft and mad Iranian President must surely be a good thing, on reflection.

UKIP And The Electoral Commission

I'm not sure how Iain Dale has got a UKIP press release before me (a member) but UKIP has won its court case over party donations. The press release is below:
UKIP forum e-newsletter: UKIP wins Supreme Court case
The Supreme Court today ruled in favour of UKIP over a case of party donations.

Between December 2004 and February 2006, Alan Bown, a retired businessman had donated a total of £349,216 to the party. During that time, due to an oversight Mr Bown was not on the UK electoral register which, under the law suggested that he was not a British resident. This was obviously not the case.

UKIP had argued that the forfeit should amount to £14,481 donated after the party became aware of the oversight, as did the initial Court ruling. The Electoral Commission believed that the whole sum should be forfeit.

In a 4-3 judgement the Supreme Court found that the spirit of the law counted more than the letter.

Speaking after the judgement Alan Bown said, "I am pleased and relieved that all this is over. We will now launch a massive UKIP membership drive, through a concerted leafleting campaign".

He went on,

"I feel no animosity towards the Electoral Commission, we understand they have a job to do. I always had confidence that British Justice would play fair. Now I have evidence that this is the case"
Michael Crick has a great post here at the injustices of this case:

Spot the difference(s)

Case A: Alan Bown gave a political party £363,697

1) It was his money
2) He had a business trading in this country, making him eligible to donate money
3) He was not on the electoral register when he donated although he was the year before, and also the year afterwards.

Case B: Michael Brown gave a political party £2.4m
1) It was not his money, he had defrauded it
2) His business was not trading in the UK, so therefore he was ineligible to donate money
3) He was not on the electoral register; neither was he the year afterwards, nor the year before.

Do you see the difference(s)?
Well the main difference is that the Electoral Commission has doggedly pursued the Alan Bown donation, and today won an appeal forcing the party to give up the money, despite a judge previously ruling that the political party that received it had acted in good faith.

In the Michael Brown case the Electoral Commission has always maintained the political party acted in good faith and need not repay money. Although following the criminal proceedings against Mr Brown they have re-opened an investigation, it has not had yet had any result and they have not managed to say when, if ever, it will.

Oh yes there is one other difference:

This year the Political Parties and Elections Act went through Parliament, and among other things it restructured the Electoral Commission and gave it new funding and powers.

The political party in Case A, UKIP, has no MPs and only three representatives in the House of Lords (where the government has no majority and is particularly vulnerable to amendments).

The political party in Case B, the Liberal Democrats, has 63 MPs and 71 members of the House of Lords (where the Government has no majority and is particularly vulnerable to amendments).

At least those are the difference that I can see. Perhaps you can you suggest others?

I like to think that UKIP posses such a threat to the establishment that 'anomalies' like this are bound to happen.

Five Days

Tonight on BBC 2 is a one off documentary on the 5 days of negotiation to form the coalition government. Nick Robinson has the details here, and aside from a very unflattering photograph of Gordon Brown, is this rather telling paragraph (my emphasis):
There was another factor beyond the personal - the economic context on that post-election weekend. The crisis talks over how to prevent the Greek debt crisis spreading contagion throughout the eurozone were little reported in Britain, but officials in the Treasury and the Bank of England were focused on little else. Their fear was what one official describes as a "perfect storm" if the EU failed to agree a bail-out plan and Britain failed to produce a stable government by the time the markets opened on the Monday morning after the election.
Even the BBC political reporter notices the lack of coverage on EU issues. It must have been bad.

Failed Asylum Seekers Given Right To Work

Reported today by the Telegraph, and others, the UK Government has lost a court challenge to EU Directive 2003/9/EC which allows asylum seekers to look for work if their claim has not been processed within a year:
The dispute centred on the rights of asylum seekers who have already had one application for shelter rejected but then submit a fresh claim - individuals who the Home Office argued were not covered by the directive and were therefore not entitled to seek employment.

But under the European Council's Reception Directive, which the UK Government signed up to the after it was introduced in 2003, those same applicants are entitled to work if the claim is still outstanding after 12 months.
Yesterday, Supreme Justices, the country's most senior judges, concluded the same rules apply to any asylum seeker who has already had at least one claim rejected but has submitted a fresh one.
I like the irony of the Telegraph reporting a case of the UK losing a case against the EU, but deciding that the judges in the Supreme Court are our most senior judges. I think not. Our most senior judges reside here, oh and here.

The Government's position was that the potential for abuse would be greatly increased if they lost the case. Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migrationwatch, said:
"Yet again a European Directive is having unintended and thoroughly unwelcome consequences."
Indeed. Still, we can take comfort in the fact that Cameron is going to get tough on immigration.

NHS Staff Stripped Of Microsoft Office

In this month's copy of PC Pro is the story that since the coalition ended the NHS contract with Microsoft 3 years early, it's meant NHS staff will lose their home copies too:
Tens of thousands of NHS staff are to lose their personal copies of Microsoft Office after being caught out by a confusing licensing agreement.

Earlier this month, the NHS ended its £80 million Enterprise Agreement with Microsoft three years early. The agreement licensed 800,000 desktops across the health service, and offered software discounts to staff.

One discount was via the Home User Programme, which let NHS staff have a copy of Office 2007 for £8.95 for download or £17.95 for a disc. The full version of Office retails at £109.
The move appears to have angered some:
The sudden withdrawal of the Office licence has angered one PC Pro reader, who asked to remain anonymous. “Of course, I should have read the terms and conditions, but let's be honest, life's too short,” he said.

“I suppose I should also have guessed that £8.95 for a copy of Office or £17.95 for a physical disc was too good to be true,” he added, saying tens of thousands of NHS staff could be affected.
Too good to be true? Well it was only taxpayers' money. I'm not sure why the taxpayer is expected to contribute to software on people's personal computers, for what must only be of very limited benefit.

Never mind, I guess they'll now have do what everyone else does; buy it, use a free alternative or discover the delights of a torrent client.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

See No Citizens, Hear No Citizens, Speak To No Citizens

I hope you'll forgive me but I'm feeling a little...erm... angry this morning since another betrayal of our country by the Tories to our Brussels masters. So blogging maybe a bit light for a while.

I did, however, find this post by the very good EU blogger Jon Worth to cheer me up a little. Jon Worth is a passionate European - in the federal sense - a quick look at his profile and you'll get the general idea.

He writes about the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI), an initiative laughably designed to improve democracy within the EU, something that I blogged about here when MEPs complained that the device designed to improve democracy could be used to achieve that very outcome.

Entitled "See no citizens, hear no citizens, speak to no citizens – the institutional approach to the European citizens’ initiative (ECI)", his post - from a hardened federalist - is an absolute gem:

Surely the European Parliament should know a thing or two about democracy? Seems not…
Really? Why the surprise? There's nothing democratic about the EU Parliament as there wasn't about the 'democratically elected' Supreme Soviet. He continues...

So there we have it. Members of the European Parliament, when preparing a working document about the citizens’ initiative, ask whether it should be necessary for elected representatives to support it, whether financial means need to be demonstrated, and then propose to slow down and bureaucratise the process by getting a bunch of “wise men” to advise on the admissibility of an initiative.
It maybe hampered by bureaucracy? Blimey who woulda thunk it? Bureaucracy is the EU's middle name. And...

As if that were not enough they propose no change to the 1 year limit to collect signatures (have either them ever tried to collect 1 million signatures?) and seem to confuse themselves about whether individuals or organisations (legal persons) should be doing the collecting.

Of course they've thought about the logistics of collecting 1 million signatures, that's why they've proposed it - to make it more difficult. Keep up. Jon continues...

...this working document from the EP aims to pour cold water on any notion that participatory democracy, as if that could somehow challenge the house elected by the people.

EU Parliament doesn't want to be challenged? Of course it doesn't want to be challenged by something as inconvenient as EU citizens' views. It's a mere talking shop so it knows very little about genuine democracy anyway.

For all Jon's intellect there's a naive quality about it all that's really quite touching. It reflects similar sentiments by the equally good (now sadly defunct) pro-EU blogger Julien Frisch. And that is the problem with being a perestroika europhile, the system never was intended to be democratic so expecting otherwise means that you are doomed to constant disappointment.

Democracy is best served within the model of a sovereign nation state. But the EU from the very outset was designed to destroy the concept of the nation state (due to the experiences of the WWI & WWII) and to remove democracy and power from the people to bureaucrats. These bureaucrats would, apparently, not only 'know best' but would serve the institution first and foremost. This is not a conspiracy but the open objectives of the EU's founding fathers, particularly Jean Monnet.

The fundamental flaw in Monnet's theory, is that in reality there is only two ways to govern the people; democracy or tyranny. Tyranny is the natural state when unaccountable people are left unchecked with power and money; democracy is the only natural antidote. Making politicians accountable forces them to listen and forces them to behave. It's no coincidence for example that the biggest abuses of the expenses system were by MPs in safe seats.

Monnet believed that bureaucrats in a supranational state, free from the shackles of nationalistic concerns would make judgments that would prevent another war. In reality all it does is provide an environment where they can enrich themselves unhindered, especially true as the real purpose of the EU was to evolve under a cloak of stealth:

Europe’s nations should be guided towards the super-state without their people understanding what is happening. This can be accomplished by successive steps each disguised as having an economic purpose, but which will eventually and irreversibly lead to federation.’

So, yes in an ideal world I would love to see those in power altruistically do the best for humanity, in the same way I wish that my wife didn't have MS. But that's not how life works.

Expecting the EU to become more democratic is like asking the wheel to be less round.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

A Further Loss Of Sovereignty

Open Europe reports:
Home Secretary Theresa May has just announced to the House of Commons that the UK has decided to opt in to negotiations on the European Investigation Order (EIO). It will give foreign police forces the right to compel UK police to seek and share evidence on suspects. This clearly poses fundamental questions about safeguards for civil liberties and the new pressures it will place on police resources.
Let us first give May some credit for giving a statement in person and allowing questions to be put to her rather than issuing a mere written statement (She has done good work on parliamentary scrutiny of EU issues in the past). However, it should also be said that MPs have not previously had the chance to scrutinise the proposal either in the European Scrutiny Committee or in the House.

The truth is that, although May did her best to push the 'nothing to see here line', the Government cannot guarantee how the final directive will look until after negotiations with other member states and MEPs in the European Parliament, which under the Lisbon Treaty now have powers to co-decide in justice and home affairs.

May said that signing up to the directive did not present a loss of sovereignty. But John Redwood made the valid and important point that if the UK doesn't have the ability (which it doesn't) to opt out of the European Investigation Order if it ends up as something "different to what was advertised" after negotiations then this must imply a loss of sovereignty.

The Home Secretary admitted today that there are aspects of the current proposal the Government does not like. This will now be decided by qualified majority voting, meaning the UK is powerless to veto the EIO either if these unwanted elements are retained or if new and unforeseen amendments are added along the way.

This is not to mention the fact that, as a result of Lisbon, the European Court of Justice will have the power to make rulings on how the EIO is interpreted in the UK.
Well what a surprise
. It just confirms what I blogged here yesterday:
And once the UK has decided to opt-in there is no right to opt-out even if the outcome of the negotiations is not acceptable.
We're running out of political solutions.


Formal talks begin today over Iceland's membership bid to join the EU:
Talks will formally begin on Tuesday. The small north Atlantic island, with a population of just 320,000, has aligned itself with many EU laws and is seen as fitting snugly with the slightly more ineffable European 'norms', but negotiations on a few key issues - such as fishing rights and its traditional whale hunting - are expected to be difficult.

This despite that support for EU membership among Icelanders, and indeed their MPs, is rather low.

In addition to potential controversial policy issues, there is also the increasingly negative opinion of Icelanders towards EU membership.

"I don't have the impression from the opinion polls that the Icelanders themselves are very favourable: that's the problem," said France's EU Minister Pierre Lellouche.

A June poll showed that public opposition to joining the EU has risen to 60 percent. In November last year, it was 54 percent.
The EU News From Iceland blog notes this:
Skarphéðinsson has been travelling to various EU countries this summer speaking with leading people about his government's EU application and has probably been giving them a wrong picture of the situation in Iceland including the claim that support has been increasing for EU membership among the country's MPs. The only plauseble [sic] reason why the Foreign Minister is putting forward this claim must be an attempt to calm Brussels over the little support joining the EU has in Iceland.
MPs ignoring the will of the people? Now where have we heard that before?


Another day, yet another Cameron-demonstration of his duplicitous EU loving skills.

The election, as I blogged here, was dominated by the 'I' word - immigration. The subject came up in the leaders' debates and Tory party activists were so overwhelmed on the doorstep, they urged Tory HQ to up its priority in their election strategy.

Cameron had promised to get tough:

Saying he opposed a rise in immigration which would take the population above 70 million, Mr Cameron said that limits needed to be imposed to ensure public services did not become overwhelmed.

“In the last decade, net immigration in some years has been sort of 200,000, so implying a 2 million increase over a decade, which I think is too much.

We would like to see net immigration in the tens of thousands rather than the hundreds of thousands. I don’t think that’s unrealistic.

That’s the sort of figure it was in the 1990s and I think we should see that again.

I’m in favour of immigration, we’ve benefited from immigration, but I think the pressures – particularly on our public services – have been very great."

The coalition introduced a cap in June, but obviously only for non-EU immigrants. So what, one wonders, is David Cameron going to try to do to avoid the population hitting his target of 70 million*, given that we cannot control our borders within the EU? Well today we have the answer. He wants another country to join the EU as soon as possible, thus giving another 75 million extra people the right to settle in the UK:
David Cameron has promised to "fight" for Turkey's membership of the European Union, saying he is "angry" at the slow pace of negotiations.

A European Union without Turkey at its heart was "not stronger but weaker... not more secure but less... not richer but poorer".

Mr Cameron added: "I'm here to make the case for Turkey's membership of the EU. And to fight for it."

Cameron could impose immigration restrictions on new members, but these can only last for a maximum of 7 years. So unless he's prepared to tear up the basic EU principle of free movement of labour (no chance) then he's clearly committed to more immigration. So much for pre-election promises.

And if Cameron wants a glimpse of what Turkish immigration to the UK may look like, he may want to consider this article, which reports that German police have been forced to bring in Turkish Police to patrol their streets in areas of Turkish immigrants:
The police union for the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) stunned Germans this week when it announced it would bring policemen from Turkey to help patrol the turbulent streets of some immigrant neighbourhoods in NRW cities. With this announcement, the state’s police administration is admitting domestic police forces can no longer handle violent Turkish and other youths of immigrant backgrounds inhabiting these quarters.

“It can’t go on like this any longer,” said the union’s chairman, Erich Rettinghaus, in the German national newspaper, Die Welt. “Perhaps it is a good measure. One should try it out. The new NRW Interior Minister is from Duisburg and knows the problems.” According to Die Welt, the Turkish police would patrol the immigrant Turkish areas in their own uniforms together with German policemen.
Which may partially account for Germany's 'double standards' over Turkey membership:
[Cameron] accused ...Berlin of double standards for expecting Ankara to guard Europe's borders as a Nato member while closing the door to EU membership.

The prime minister [said] that Turkey must be made to feel welcome in Europe because it is a secular and democratic state.
Cameron is right in that sense, Turkey is a democratic state; and by being outside of the EU it will remain one.

*It's worth noting that the magic 70 million figure is based upon a projection by the Office for National Statistics, of what would happen by 2029 if the peak of migration to Britain between 2005 and 2008 were sustained every year for the next 20 years. This would require a new Poland joining the EU every three years. Unlikely but with Cameron as PM who knows?

Monday, 26 July 2010

IBM And The EU

The Wall Street Journal reports:
BRUSSELS—The European Commission Monday launched a formal antitrust probe against IBM Corp., one of the worlds largest technology companies, on suspicion that the company has abused its dominant position in the mainframe computer markets.
One wonders, can IBM launch a formal anti-trust probe against the EU on suspicion that it abuses its dominant position as an anti-democratic power?

I suspect not.

Newport Is Great

And this is the original.

Red Lines

The Daily Mail reports that the Tory-led coalition Government are set to allow foreign police forces jurisdiction on British soil;

Ministers are ready to hand sweeping Big Brother powers to EU states so they can spy on British citizens.

Foreign police will be able to travel to the UK and take part in the arrest of Britons.

They will be able to place them under surveillance, bug telephone conversations, monitor bank accounts and demand fingerprints, DNA or blood samples.

Anyone who refuses to comply with a formal request for co-operation by a foreign-based force is likely to be arrested by UK officers.

These new powers would come under the European Investigation Order (EIO), which is intended to compliment the controversial European Arrest Warrant (EAW) and the European Evidence Warrant (EEW) to be implemented by 2011.

The EIO Directive has been proposed on the basis of Article 82(2)(a) of the Lisbon Treaty. This means that the proposal is subject to qualified majority voting so no member state has a veto.

The UK, however has an opt in as part of its infamous red lines negotiated by the previous administration, so it could decide not to take part in the process at all, and let the other member states continue on their own. But no, as the Mail reports, the coalition cannot wait to sign up quick enough:
But ministers have made a dramatic U-turn since joining the pro-EU Lib Dems in government, and the wide-ranging powers are due to be approved later this week.

Whitehall insiders say ministers have been persuaded it has many benefits. In particular, police say they will gain from the fact that the arrangements will be reciprocal, making it easier for them to track suspects overseas.
Ministers have been persuaded? I bet they have, by the Foreign Office whose loyalty is to the bureaucrats in Brussels not to us.

Even worse, not only will the EIO allow any EU police force to start investigations on UK soil, but no judicial authority is needed to verify whether there are reasonable grounds for an offence to have been committed. Even in this country the police can’t investigate on a whim, they need to have reasonable grounds.

But even if Cameron promises (and we know what these are like) that the EIO should be subjected to judicial scrutiny, if we decide to opt in it would be very difficult to amend the draft proposals anyway. There is no guarantee that the EIO would not pass in its current and highly dangerous format. And once the UK has decided to opt-in there is no right to opt-out even if the outcome of the negotiations is not acceptable.

Once again the Tories are shown to be complete Europhiles, as Richard North points out:
But now we have the Tories back again, we can look forward to another leap forward in European integration, just as we do every time we have a Tory government.
Amusingly, and not surprisingly, just before the election, the Labour was accused of wanting to sign up to the same proposal:
Minutes of a parliamentary committee show Labour is quietly backing the idea. Home office minister Meg Hillier said: 'We would in principle support a new and comprehensive instrument based on mutual recognition that covers all types of evidence'.
And the Tory response? Tory justice spokesman Dominic Grieve said at the time:
'In supporting this proposal, Labour is yet again showing its relish for surveillance and disdain for civil liberties'.
The voters outside looked from Labour to Tory, and from Tory to Labour, and from Labour to Tory again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Question Time

Nigel Farage is on tonight with Bob Crowe. Now that should be quite interesting.

In response Denis MacShane, the left wing Labour MP, uses the old classic tactic of smearing to counter opinions he doesn't agree with:
Farage on Q Time and Griffin at the Palace. MEP extremists running the show
Ed West in the Telegraph has a great response here:

He’s referring to the fact that the BNP leader was supposed to be at Buckingham Palace for a tea party today, while UKIP’s most well-known politician, Nigel Farage, will speak on BBC Question Time tonight.

Griffin, certainly, is extreme in some of his views, not just on race but also on economics, his party advocating – among many socialist plans – greater tariffs (just like the Greens, whose economic policies are almost identical).

But Farage? UKIP’s policies are available here, but I imagine MacShane is referring either to their policies on Europe or immigration.

On immigration:

· End uncontrolled mass immigration
. Introduce an immediate five-year freeze on immigration for permanent settlement

· Regain control of Britain’s borders to stop foreign criminals from entering our country

· End abuse of the UK asylum system and expel Islamic extremists

· Introduce a strict new points-based visa system and time-limited work permits

· Triple the number of UK Borders Agency staff engaged in controlling immigration (to 30,000)

And on international affairs:

· Leave the EU and continue in free trade with the other European countries. No jobs will be lost

· Establish a Commonwealth Free Trade Area with the other member countries

· Regain Britain’s currently dormant seat at the World Trade Organisation

· Promote democracy, genuine human rights and free determination around the world

Are these ideas extreme?

Wikipedia describes extremism as “a term used to describe the actions or ideologies of individuals or groups outside the perceived political center of a society; or otherwise claimed to violate common moral standards”.

So what this senior Member of Parliament is saying is that anyone who advocates withdrawal from the EU is beyond the pale of common moral standards, and so their opinion must be worthless.

And yet survey after survey has shown a majority or large minority sharing the UKIP view of national independence. In a Channel 4 poll last June 39 per cent agree with the statement “The UK should withdraw completely from the European Union”, compared to 38 percent who disagreed, and 16 percent who said they neither agreed nor disagreed. Twenty two per cent agreed strongly. Most polls give a similar figure.

MacShane’s not the first, of course; David Miliband said last year that the Tories were flirting with “Euro-extremism” just by advocating joining the more sceptical European Conservatives and Reformists.

But what’s different is that MacShane is a supporter of the neocon Henry Jackson Society, which aims to promote liberal democracy around the world. How can someone hold two such conflicting ideas simultaneously? The very idea of liberal democracy is dependent on the nation-state, and that it arose in England, an independent, unified kingdom since 927, is no coincidence. No nation-state, no liberal democracy.

As Roger Scruton wrote: “Democracy involves the ability to grant a share in government to people with whom you profoundly disagree, including people of another faith. This is possible only where government is secular, and where nevertheless people revere the process of government as the expression of a shared national identity.”

And yet a small group of intellectuals following the ideas of French politician Jean Monnet and Russian philosopher Alexandre Kojève have managed to make what was once universally accepted “extremist”.

Ed West concludes:

If opposing this new empire in Europe makes one an extremist, then count me in.

Hear hear.


It appears that Nick Griffin has been banned from the Queen's garden party:
BNP leader Nick Griffin has been denied entry to a Buckingham Palace garden party over claims he "overtly" used his invitation for political purposes.

A spokesman said his behaviour had "increased the security threat and the potential discomfort" to other guests.
Well yes, it's not unexpected, the Palace was always going to use any old excuse to prevent him from going. The Queen may be a traitor but she's not stupid.

The opportunity of a possible photograph of Mr Griffin with the Queen within the vicinity of Buckingham Palace was never going to happen.

Apparently he boasted about being invited. Which gave the Palace all the excuse they needed. If you're going to be an odious little shit then you have to develop a little more political acumen, and not cry 'free speech' in order to cover up your own inadequacies.

Bingo Wedding?

The Metro reports that:
Britain's first 'bingo wedding' called off by disapproving vicar.

Britain's first wedding to be sponsored by a bingo company is off after the vicar said it would encourage gambling.

Bride to be Suzanne Latta, 28, and her groom Matt Brown, 37, had won £5000 towards the cost of their Big Day after entering a national competition run by Online BingoClub.

But Rev Tony Watts banned the company's orange and blue logo from his church claiming it encouraged gambling.
Is it flippant of me to say that any marriage is a gamble given that 45% end up in divorce?

Set Us Free

I've only just seen this article, which was published yesterday in the Telegraph written by the indispensable police blogger Inspector Gadget. It's well worth a read in full, here is a sort of summary of what he says:
...of the 144,000 serving police officers, only 11 per cent of us are "visibly available" at any one time to deal with complaints from the public.

I'm not at all surprised, and no real police officer will be. It's because there are, in fact, three separate police forces.

The first is the politically driven caste of senior officers, who – under New Labour – spent their lives rushing to publicise the Home Office's latest wheezes about "Partnership Working", "Community Engagement" or "Citizen Focus".

The second police force is largely made up of people who have never arrested anyone: supervisors, auditors, accountants, diversity consultants, health and safety advisers, monitoring groups and crime managers.

That leaves those of us in the third police force, who do the protecting and serving: the patrol and neighbourhood officers who respond to emergency calls (and many not-so emergency calls); the CID; and the custody teams who deal with prisoners.

Go go Gadget...

A Year On...

...since Swindon became the first Council in the country to ditch its fixed speed cameras.

And despite all the apocalyptic warnings at the time; that the policy threatened to turn Swindon into a racetrack, gave a green light to joy riders and played politics with people's lives, guess what's happened? Er nothing. The number of accidents have remained virtually the same.

This is no surprise to anyone who has studied the Department for Transport reports on the causes of accidents since such data was first collected in 2006. This is a report from 2007 which states:
Failed to look properly was the most frequently reported contributory factor and was involved in
35 per cent of all accidents. This was followed by failed to judge other person’s path/speed and
careless, reckless or in a hurry (both 18 per cent).
And exceeding the speed limit? It is attributed to just 5% of all accidents, meaning that 95% have nothing to do with breaking the speed limit.

So the Tory-led Swindon Council decided to spend the £400,000 allocated to maintain its speed cameras (all the fines go to central Government), by preferring to spend this money on engineering solutions such as; sleeping policemen, better road cambers, and other improvements to Swindon roads.

At the time, instead of praising the council's determination to try to make sensible, thoughtful decisions about how road-safety money should be spent, for the benefit of local residents, Anne Snelgrove* the Labour MP was a very strong critic. She continually parroted the government's line that; "People's lives should not be put at risk by withdrawing from the scheme", despite Government studies which showed that the benefits of cameras were 'over-estimated' and not as effective as speed humps for example in controlling traffic.

Labour's obsession with cameras had less to do with speed and safety and more an ill-disguised hatred of the motorist. Why were other schemes not pursued with as much vigour, like the Home Zone scheme, an example of which can been seen in Swindon near the football ground, as shown below. No cameras, no policemen, no fines but it works.

View Larger Map

It appears that other councils are following Swindon's lead albeit reluctantly:
Oxfordshire could soon become a county with no speed cameras after a council vote to cut road safety funding.

Council leaders want to save £600,000 from their road safety budget - money which would have been given to the Thames Valley Road Safety Partnership.

The partnership operates the county's 72 fixed and 89 mobile camera locations and say they will now withdraw from the county by the end of the month.

The cabinet vote has to be ratified by the full council on Tuesday.

Although supporters of cameras are not going down without a fight (my emphasis):

Over in Swindon, where camera enforcement was ended about 11 months ago, the council says there has been no increase in accidents.

It is, of course, still too early to tell. We do not doubt that the arrival of speed cameras had an impact on driver behaviour. It is evident that drivers do now tend to stick to the limits much more than they used to, particularly where they know cameras are in operation.

It is possible that, over time, some drivers will become less cautious about their speed if they perceive that there is little or no chance of them being caught.

After a year and it's still too early to tell? I think that is what's known as clutching at straws.

So let's applaud Swindon's sensible approach and continue to wish them well. After all it's not the first time Swindon have taken the lead in traffic solutions (It's a little known fact that Swindon has not one but two 'magic roundabouts', the other located in north Swindon at the end of Kemble Drive).

*(Anne Snelgrove once justified her opposition to a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, at a public meeting, by saying that people were 'too stupid' to understand it. Her biggest achievement as far as I can gather was to win MP of the Year as voted by the Kennel Club - I'll let you make your own jokes. Thankfully she lost her seat)

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Just Say No... I-Dosing from the Daily Mail:
How teenagers are getting 'digitally high' from music they download from internet

They put on their headphones, drape a hood over their head and drift off into the world of ‘digital highs’.

Videos posted on YouTube show a young girl freaking out and leaping up in fear, a teenager shaking violently and a young boy in extreme distress.

This is the world of ‘i-Dosing’, the new craze sweeping the internet in which teenagers used so-called ‘digital drugs’ to change their brains in the same way as real-life narcotics.

Oh dear oh dear, we're into serious silly season nonsense here, but I do like this comment in the article:
My son's addicted to it. It's terrible! He's told me he's never going to give it up.

- R Astley, UK, 21/7/2010 11:14

The Burka

To ban or not to ban that is the question. Debate has been vigorous in the last few days on the burka and whether we should ban it, in light of Damian Green's thoughts that such a ban would be “un-British”.

UKIP was the first UK national party to advocate such a ban, and I expressed my concerns about the policy here at the time. But clearly this is a debate which crosses party lines and is not going to go away any time soon.

Instinctively I largely agree with Damien Green. I hold the view that the less a government does or bans the better. Bans normally turn out to be counter-productive and are often enforced way beyond the original intentions. Obviously as part of attempts to make a safer society, then restrictions should apply in areas where facial covering is deemed unacceptable for security reasons, for example; banks, building societies and airports. Also private dwellings and businesses should have the right to refuse to serve anyone in a Burka. But a wholesale ban? No.

I do accept the genuine concerns that surround the donning of the burka. I believe it sets women apart from the rest of society, I’m uncomfortable seeing them in it, but I have no right not to feel like that. Often it is little more than a symbol of oppression of women rather than a fashion choice. Of course some women choose to wear the burka but there’s plenty of evidence that show many are forced to, despite that it isn’t a requirement of the religion. There’s little doubt that the burka is symptomatic of the misogynistic intolerance that Islam, particularly Islamic states, displays towards women.

Other commentators have pointed out that, aside from the sexual oppression and control, it is the perfect way to cover up domestic abuse:

But men can be bad. And fully veiled females cannot be protected from say, domestic violence - for the scars of that violence are never seen.

But would a ban achieve any progress on these issues? I don't think so. There’s, sadly, too much domestic abuse against women, many of whom don’t wear a burka. Last year the police received over 570,000 calls regarding domestic violence - the vast majority non-Muslims. There’s lots of 'ingenious' ways to cover up bruises without wearing a burka, or failing that make up excuses (I walked into a cupboard etc). Banning the burka will not curb domestic abuse.

Yes it's also true that too many Muslim women are forced to wear the veil, but how many women in non-Muslim relationships are forced to cover up their figures by possessive husbands or boyfriends? Such a law addresses a very limited symptom of important issues and one that focuses on clothing rather than on the real problems.

There are always going to be situations when an abusive or controlling partner will force his ideas on his wife or girlfriend. So should the state intervene there too? And this is always the trouble, where you do draw the line? If the burka, then why not the designer goggle jackets, the Guy Fawkes masks, or even the trying to keep out a biting wind by covering your face with a scarf?

And this neatly leads me onto my next point.

There’s a problem with drafting the law. What would be defined as a Burka? In order to be specific, there would have to be pages and pages of definition about what is allowed and what is not. This would inevitably lead to a cat and mouse game where burkas would be subsequently amended as not to fall foul of the law, the law is then amended again and then so is the burka ad infinitum.

To avoid this, the ban would have be couched in general terms in order to allow police to make a judgment. This is the more likely option as any law specifically targeting Muslims would probably be challenged under equality laws.

But this leads to another problem. Giving the law more scope for interpretation usually means that the Police would take the more robust stance allowed, rather than a more hands off approach, as anyone who has been stopped under section 60 (like I have) knows all too well. The RIP Act and Section 44 are other examples.

So expect plenty of Daily Mail type stories of children in clown costumes being arrested for covering their face in public. You don't believe me?

And then there's enforcement. Are the police really going to stop every woman wearing a burka? Are they going to force them to remove it in the middle of the street? That will help wonders with social cohesion I'm sure. What if 500 of them decided to make their feelings known, fully clad, on a protest down Whitehall?

Britain prides itself on being a tolerant society and rightly so. Yes this is sometimes abused - but that's the price you have to pay. To try to prove our tolerance and liberal attitudes by banning things has a fundamental contradiction at its heart.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Doctors And Nurses

The EU law on doctors' working hours must be changed to safeguard patient care, so says a letter in today's Telegraph (my empahsis):

SIR – Dr Vivienne Nathanson, head of science and ethics at the British Medical Association (Letters, July 17), states that requiring foreign medical professionals to sit language exams would breach European law on the freedom of movement of individuals within the European Economic Area.

She goes on to say that safeguarding patient care must be our priority and suggests that the Government must focus on changing British law to empower the GMC to regulate all doctors working here.

Doctors dealing with acutely ill patients will expect to see the BMA giving parallel advice to the Government about the European Working Time Directive. Dangerously low levels of medical cover brought about by the directive have led to much of the demand for foreign locums. Language testing is not the only area where British legislation is needed.

John Black

President, Royal College of Surgeons London WC2.

Will anyone listen? Nah probably not.

Pay As You Throw

The Cyrus Mail is reporting that trials are beginning in the Aglandjia area of its capital city, with the introduction of chipped bins and a 'pay as you throw' system:

RUBBISH bins with electronic spy chips will be provided to Aglandjia residents starting January 2011, as part of a pilot programme aiming at the reduction of household waste.

As part of the Municipal Council’s attempts to find a fair garbage levy system, gradually eliminate dumping sites and minimise pollution of the environment, the ‘pay as you throw’ system proposed also aspires to boost the existing recycling programme

“Everyone considers this system to be the fairest one,” said Andreas Petrou, Mayor of Anglandjia, “since residents will be charged according to the amount of waste they produce.” In this way, the ‘pay as you throw’ program aims to encourage recycling, an act that inevitably decreases household waste.
Of course there's no mention in the Cyprus Mail's article of why this is being done - the EU Landfill Directive. It's not just UK newspapers that are useless regarding their journalism then.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Play It Again, Cam

Labour had a habit in office of re-announcing previous initiatives and policies when in power. The Tories', however, have gone one better - they've re-announced a previous Government's scheme.

David Cameron has launched today his 'Big Society' ideas (whatever that means). Richard North highlights the obvious nonsense that this is, here. But amongst the; 'we-can't-do-it-because-we're-in-the-EU' parts, there's this:
As well as encouraging greater volunteering and philanthropy, Mr Cameron confirmed plans to use funds stuck in dormant bank and building society accounts to enable "some of the most dynamic" charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups to take over the running of public services.
Using dormant bank accounts? Now that sounds familiar:
Gordon Brown has confirmed that hundreds of millions of pounds are to be withdrawn from dormant bank accounts and returned to their rightful owners or given to worthy causes in deprived areas.
Yep, it's the Dormant Bank and Building Society Accounts Bill, passed in 2008.

Edit: Damn just spotted that the marvelous Dizzy Thinks was there ahead of me.

Your Freedom

One subject seems very popular on the Government's Your Freedom website. Can you guess what it is?

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Yeah But, No But...

An interview with the woman who set up the Facebook 'tribute' to Raul Moat. It's some achievement but she manages to make those on the Jeremy Kyle Show sound intelligent by comparison.

hattip: Unenlightened Commentary


The election maybe over, but the disquiet over the Tories' less than impressive election campaign goes on. According to Iain Martin over at the Wall Street Journal, Tory donors are expressing disquiet that significant sums of their money were spent on Tory ads that were never shown:
All [the ads] were designed to show that the Conservatives had changed. The young men in the shower are discussing coming out as Conservatives, and the central characters in the other two ads are also struggling with the idea that they have become secret Tories.
It appears that the ads were shelved as the Tory ‘decontamination phase’ had gone on far too long and people needed more positive reasons for voting David Cameron (insert your own joke here).

Martin goes on to say (my emphasis):
What I do know is that a significant Tory party donor said to me recently that he was reluctant to hand the party another check until he got a guarantee that the next Tory election campaign will be run on a completely different basis from that of this year. He said that if he ran his business in that way — with no clear strategy, multiple chiefs and a lack of strong leadership at HQ — he would expect to go bust pretty quickly.
And now they're running the country. Doesn't that just fill you with confidence?

Saturday, 17 July 2010

I Shouldn't Laugh But...

This story was on today's front page of the Telegraph (I can't yet find it online):
Olympic mascots commissioned to tour schools inspiring children to be more active have been recalled because the actors inside them can barely move.
Oh the irony. The report goes onto say:
Mandeville, the Paralympic mascot, had trouble even waving an arm...
Far be it for me to comment.

P.S. Needless to say this how the BBC website reported the relevant story in their newspaper review:

The Telegraph reports the recall of 2012 Olympic mascot costumes after the wearers struggled to move.

The mascots, meant to tour schools and inspire children to be active, "had trouble even moving an arm".

Update: I found a similar Telegraph online report here, which has completely different text to the paper edition.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Greece Misses Its Landfill Deadline

Kathimerini reports that Greece has missed its deadline, due today, for the demolition of 250 landfill sites:

With the debt-ridden government facing the prospect of daily multimillion-euro fines from Brussels following the expiration yesterday of a European Commission deadline for the demolition of about 250 makeshift landfills, the Ombudsman presented a report highlighting the shortfalls that have created Greece’s waste management problems and proposed possible solutions.
Whoops. I suppose if you're in Greece's position what's an extra couple of million or so a day between EU friends.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Tories Approve Of The Lisbon Treaty

Last night in effect the Tories officially agreed with the Lisbon Treaty by voting on a motion approving of the launch of the EU’s External Action Service. The Minister for Europe told the House:
The EEAS was established by the Lisbon treaty, which came into effect last year. As the House will know, my party did not support either the treaty or the creation of the EEAS, but, as my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary told the House in June this year, the EEAS is now a fact.
Hmm, so we don't agree with it but we will vote agreeing with it? All you need to know about the Tories right there. The motion was won by 321 in favour with 12 against. I think it's worth noting the 12 that voted against:

Bone, Mr Peter
Carswell, Mr Douglas
Corbyn, Jeremy
Davies, Philip
Dodds, rh Mr Nigel
Donaldson, rh Mr Jeffrey M.
Lucas, Caroline
Paisley, Ian
Reckless, Mark
Skinner, Mr Dennis
Tomlinson, Justin
Wilson, Sammy

Caroline Lucas of the Green Party the only surprise for me. Does she have reservations about the EU? If she does, going by the views of the Greens I've met including the candidate that stood against me in the General Election, she would be at odds with the rest of her party.

I did like this intervention during the debate by Denis Skinner:
Mr Skinner: Speaking as someone who voted against Nice, Maastricht, Lisbon and God knows what else, I may have made a slight error on the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority. On reflection, I think IPSA should run the EEAS; that will cock it up.
My local Tory MP voted for the motion, another letter to him on its way then. Not that it does much good. I wonder where I can get some potassium nitrate from?

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Greece Set To Be Fined?

The EU Commission is referring Greece to the EU's Court of Justice for the incorrect application of Directive 2006/12/EC and the Destroying the UK's Weekly Bin Collections Directive 1999/31/EC. The Kathimerini reports:
The debt-ridden government faces the prospect of huge daily fines from Brussels as regional authorities have failed to demolish dozens of makeshift landfills ahead of a European Commission deadline on Friday.

Greece has been convicted twice by the European court for failing to meet European targets on waste management and now faces a penalty of hundreds of thousands of euros per day if it fails to destroy around 250 illegal landfills.

Just the kind of help a debt sodden country needs to get its economy back on track.

Is The Eurozone Breaking Up?

The Bruges Group is hosting a discussion on the Eurozone this evening with guest speakers; Douglas Carswell MP and Professor Tim Congdon. I think I might pop along to that.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010


I've just seen an advert (I can't find it online yet) for the insurance company featuring a woman who proudly claimed that she didn't know the difference between buildings and contents insurance.

Seriously, are these the kind of idiots they are trying to appeal to? Should such imbeciles even be allowed insurance, let alone be let loose in public without parental supervision?

I'm pleased to say that I'm not their favourite customer. My wife has kept her maiden name, so filling in the website with 'miss' and 'married' in the relevant sections comes up with the error; "sorry your status does not match your title".

Ha! We confuse!

The 3 Fs

Whatever one thinks of Peter Mandelson, he is (allegedly) very good at what he does politically. His demolition of Andrew Marr was great telly and a case in point.

His book on New Labour: The Third Man, however, going by the extracts in the Times (from the Guardian*) is a big disappointment:
Senior cabinet members joked three Fs at centre of election campaign should be 'futile', 'finished' and 'fucked'

The disclosure in the Times lifts the lid on an open secret at Westminster over the past year: that the vast majority of members of the former cabinet had believed Brown was leading them to a catastrophic defeat. Mandelson told David Miliband on Remembrance Day last year that Labour could not win with Brown if nothing changed, as the then foreign secretary raised fears of a major defeat.
Is that it? Mandelson in his 'warts 'n' all' book merely confirms what we already knew? That Brown was, and is, unfit for high office.

Thanks but we kinda worked that out for ourselves.

* I don't pay for the Times online because paying for newspapers doesn't mean better journalism, the cover price usually only pays for the paper, the printing and the distribution. Advertising does the rest. It's a point of principle I suppose on my part against nonsense like this.

Food Standards Authority

Douglas Carswell on his blog says:

The abolition on the Food Standards Agency is something this blog has long called for.

I cannot understand how it can be right for the state to nanny and hector us, telling us what to eat. The FSA, for example, spends a small fortune producing patronising posters lecturing us about salt intake.

More problems in Britain today are caused by the creeping infantilisation of society by the state than are the result of poor eating habits.

If we are to have a state-run food policy, I don't see why it should be left to unaccountable quangocrats to deliver it. Let ministers come before the people's tribunes and explain why they think they know best. Forced to justify itself, the case for Big Government is always less compelling than at first it seems in quangoland.

What about scrapping that other FSA, the Financial Services Authority, too?

From an acknowledged eurosceptic there seems to be something missing. The FSA, a relatively new agency - created in 2000, is being abolished because food safety will be regulated instead by another unelected, unaccountable Quango - the European Union.

In the short term, FSA’s functions are likely to be transferred to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) while the EU decides how to implement Article 13.1 of the EC Regulation on nutrition and health claims. As part of that effort the European Health Claims Alliance is holding a conference on Sept 30th in Brussels.

Why Mr Carswell doesn't mention that the EU has competences over our food regulation is a little odd to say the least.


Given the topical nature of gun control in light of a couple of nutters going walkabout in the English countryside, I thought it was worth highlighting this just published Statutory Instrument, laid before Parliament last week and due to come into force on the 28th:
Acquisition and possession of firearms by minors
2.—(1) The Firearms Act 1968(b) is amended as follows.
(2) In section 11 (sports, athletics and other approved activities)—
(a) in subsection (1) at the end insert “; but where the person carrying the firearm or
ammunition is under the age of eighteen, this subsection applies only if the other person is of or over the age of eighteen”;
(b) in subsection (2) after “A person” insert “of or over the age of eighteen”;
(c) in subsection (5) at the end insert “; but where the person borrowing the shot gun is under the age of eighteen, this subsection applies only if the occupier is of or over the age of eighteen”.
(3) In section 22 (acquisition and possession of firearms by minors) for subsection (1)
“(1) It is an offence for a person under the age of eighteen to purchase or hire any firearm or ammunition.”.
(4) In section 24 (supplying firearms to minors), for subsection (1) substitute—
“(1) It is an offence to sell or let on hire any firearm or ammunition to a person under the age of eighteen.”.
The law is being changed so that the age a firearm certificate may be granted in their own name is being raised from 17 to 18. This also applies to the purchase of guns and ammunition specified on that certificate.

Now I doubt anyone will worry too much about that change, but why now? The Explanatory Memorandum makes clear:
Legislative Context
4.1 The proposed Regulations transpose provisions in Council Directive 2008/51/EC which amend Directive 91/477 of 18 June 1991 on the control of the acquisition and possession of weapons. Member States must have measures in force to comply with the 2008 Directive by 28 July 2010.
Ah EU Directives. Not even in gun control do we have complete jurisdiction.

Wellie Wanging

In a tribute to the great British fete tradition of the wellie throwing competition, European dairy farmers have arranged their own version outside the EU Council building (I presume they mean the Justus Lipsius building), according to the Telegraph:
"Several hundred boot-throwing dairy farmers, some in tractors, protested outside the European Union headquarters against planned milk sector reforms"
Personally I think one of these would be far more effective, and if the dairy farmers require assistance on making one, Gerry Adams can be contacted here.

Fewer Than...

The incorrect usage of 'fewer' and 'less' is one of my bugbears (along with 'your' and 'you're') so I was a tad amused to read this in Hansard from yesterday's debate on academy schools:
Tristram Hunt (Stoke-on-Trent Central) (Lab): Is the Secretary of State aware that figures from his department show that academy schools are, on average, teaching one third less GCSEs in history and geography than schools in the maintained sector,

Michael Gove: Like the hon. Gentleman, I am committed to academic excellence, so I should point out that he should have said "fewer", not "less".

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Leaving The EU...

For Dummies:

Note the line 46 seconds in: "A Member State willing to regain its sovereignty must first notify the Council". And there was me thinking that the Lisbon Treaty was merely just a tidying up exercise.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

The Most Important Man In The World

Daniel Hannan has a wonderful example of how a mild mannered modest English genius has undermined the French:

The latest Sarko scandal is, by French standards, a run-of-the-mill affair: wealthy heiress, hidden slush fund, illicit donations, envelopes full of cash. But here’s the difference: French people are now able to read about each new allegation in France. The story has been broken largely by a subscription-only news website founded by a former editor of Le Monde. The Internet has smashed the oligopoly hitherto enjoyed by France’s dowdy and deferential newspapers.

But the obsequiousness of French newspapers isn’t determined by their readers’ preferences. On the contrary, in few democracies do voters express such vehement contempt for their elected representatives. No, the reason that French reporters tend to lay off their politicians is because they have a symbiotic relationship with the government. They enjoy tax breaks and other perks, many of their newspapers are related to one or another of the political parties, and privacy laws are loaded against them.
Web-based news outlets are contributing to the decline of print media in the English-speaking world. In France, where a journalistic cartel has become reliant on political patronage, their opportunity is commensurately greater. Truly the Internet is a wonderful phenomenon.


The Telegraph reports that:
British MEPs have the worst attendance record in the European Parliament. The 72-strong UK delegation attended an average 85 per cent of key voting sessions in the 12 months, the lowest of the 27 national delegations and below France, whose MEPs had an 88 per cent attendance record, and Germany, who MEPs has a 91 per cent attendance.
The attendance is an accurate reflection of the disdain with which the British people hold the EU, as expressed by the low turnout in EU elections. Apparently the MEPs with the lowest turnout belong to UKIP:
The three British MEPs with the worst attendance record are the Ukip MEPs David Campbell Bannerman, Paul Nuttall and Godfrey Bloom, each averaging under 63 per cent
Naturally this is something that the so-called eurosceptic Tories criticise:

A Conservative Party spokesman said: "The three main parties average out in the mid to high 80-plus percentage whilst Ukip only manage 78 per cent. If you just took the three main parties' attendance, the UK would be in the middle of the table." does the 'not entirely' eurosceptic Open Europe:

Stephen Booth, of the Open Europe think tank, said: "British MEPs are paid an awful lot of money to defend the interests of UK voters in Europe but it's pretty difficult to do that if they don't turn up to vote. Helping to fight the general election campaign is all very well but MEPs' first duty is to make sure that EU laws coming out of the European Parliament are good for the UK."

They miss the point. To turn up and engage is to approve of the project. The EU loves nothing more than greater interest from MEPs in the EU Parliament, and voters via a much higher turnout - it all helps them in selling the EU as having democratic legitimacy. The low turnouts are a thorn in their side.

The EU Parliament is a joke and a democratic sham. Obviously there's taxpayer's money involved with MEPs, but in my view this is wasted whether they turn up or not. The voters can't change a government, MEPs can't initiate or abolish regulations, and nor can they form an executive. Even if all the 73 MEPs, the UK is entitled to under the Lisbon Treaty, were voted in as UKIP, they could not via the EU Parliament execute the voters' clear mandate and remove the UK from the EU.

I couldn't care less if the attendance was 0%. It's utterly irrelevant.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Prisoner Votes etc

Witterings From Witney highlights this article from the Express claiming that the coalition is prepared to give prisoners the right to votes.

As I blogged here, here and here, this has been an issue that has been rumbling on for quite some time. I always thought the Tories would give in eventually (we don't really have a choice unless we are prepared to fall out with the Council of Europe - which won't happen) but now that they are in coalition with the Lib Dems, prisoner's votes are inevitable with added cream on top.

What the voters think as always is irrelevant.

Motorway Football

In a traffic jam? Fancy a game?
Motorists hit by long delays on the M60 decided to while away the time with an impromptu game of football.

The match took place on an empty section of the motorway between Prestwich and Whitefield in Greater Manchester.

As bored commuters got out of their cars and vans to stretch their legs, some used jumpers for goalposts on the closed clockwise carriage at junction 17.

Drivers were stuck in queues for more than two hours, but it is not clear if the game went on longer than the usual 90 minutes, or indeed ended in penalties.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Shock Horror... Englishman makes it to the World Cup final. Good luck Howard Webb:
Englishman Howard Webb has been chosen to referee the World Cup final between Netherlands and Spain in Johannesburg on Sunday, Fifa has confirmed.

The 38-year-old Yorkshireman has had a good tournament so far, as have his assistants Michael Mullarkey and Darren Cann, who will join him in the final.

Webb is the first Englishman to referee the final since Jack Taylor in 1974.


Anyone who has read Prescott's biography knows that out of every page pours a hatred of Tory toffs, a disdain for authority as well as a massive chip on one's shoulder. But hey don't let that stop you joining the very establishment you rail against:

hattip: OldHolborn

Display The Flag Or Else...

From the Mail:

Brussels has fined Britain more than £150million for failing to display the EU flag on a string of projects part-funded by Europe.

Several schemes were also penalised for failing to use the flag on their letterheads.

The fines relate to £3.8billion given to the UK by the European Regional Development Fund over a seven-year period.

But don't worry the Coalition's on the case:

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles condemned the ‘over-bureaucratic rules’ surrounding ERDF money.

He said he would be pressing the European Commission to cut back on ‘needless bureaucracy’.

That's ok then.

hattip: EUReferendum

Legal Challenge To The Digital Economy Bill

As I blogged here back in March, aside from the justified draconian criticisms of the Digital Economy Bill, the other problem with it, is that it could be challenged under EU law. This is precisely what is now happening, as TalkTalk and BT are going to the High Court to in effect challenge the legality of the Act. The BBC reports:

BT and TalkTalk are seeking a judicial review of the controversial Digital Economy Act, BBC News has learned.

The two internet service providers want the High Court to clarify the legality of the act before it is implemented.

The act was "rushed through" parliament before the general election, they say.

Both think it had "insufficient scrutiny" and question whether its proposals to curb illegal file-sharing harm "basic rights and freedoms".

In particular TalkTalk and BT are attempting to seek:

clarity as to whether the act conflicts with EU legislation.

It could conflict with Europe's e-commerce directive which states that ISPs are "mere conduits" of content and should not be held responsible for the traffic on their networks.

It may also be in contravention of the privacy and electronic communciations directive, said Mr Heaney.

I simply find it astonishing that a mere humble blogger like myself, with no training in EU law, was able to predict this, yet our elected legislators neither knew nor cared. The coalition's response to the challenge?:
But the coalition government told the BBC it had no plans to change it.

"The Digital Economy Act sets out to protect our creative economy from the continued threat of online copyright infringement, which industry estimates costs the creative industries, including creators, £400m per year," read a statement from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills.

"We believe measures are consistent with EU legislation and that there are enough safeguards in place to protect the rights of consumers and ISPs and will continue to work on implementing them."

We shall see. Leaving the EU element aside from moment, it's interesting that the unpopularity of this Act is reflected by the Your Freedom website which has more than a few requests to repeal it.

"It’s time to have your say. After all – it’s your freedom", the website promises. The coalition attitude to the Act? "We have no plans to change it?"

This listening to the voters marlarky is going well isn't it?