Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Shortlisted In The Brexit Competition

As described in the above video showing a BBC Daily Politics interview with Lord Lawson back in July this year, the Institute for Economic Affairs launched a competition for submissions on the best way to exit the EU. As an encouragement the competition came with a cash prize of 100,000 euros (rather ironically) for the best submission:
Against [the background of an 'out' vote] competitors are invited to compose a Blueprint for Britain outside the EU, covering the process of withdrawal from the EU and the post-exit repositioning of the UK in the global trading and governance systems,
Naturally, when looking at the list of judges where the concentration of their expertise was largely economically based, there was some reluctance to submit a paper when in reality the primary reason for EU exit is political. The founding father Jean Monnet always made it clear the EU was a political project. Ted Heath described it as a "common market" knowing full well it was a Trojan horse to facilitate political union. The Euro for example is a political project disguised as an economic one - with disastrous consequences.

In this context the primary objective of any withdrawal by the UK is to stop and then reverse the progress of political integration between the UK and the rest of the EU member states. This means that a successful "out" vote will be more a political event rather than an economic one, albeit one with considerable economic consequences.

Thus a twin-track approach has to be adopted. Not only to win a referendum, to negate the fear, lies and "cling onto nurse" tactics which have been used so effectively by, for example, the dishonest Europhile Nick Clegg - but it's also an acknowledgment that political withdrawal will be much quicker than an economic one. Should the UK public vote for a withdrawal from the EU they will be understandably impatient for a relatively rapid exit.

In this spirit as not to delay attainment of political objectives the economic question should be "parked". The primary aim is to deal with political issues while clearing the way for a favourable economic settlement in the future, which given the enormous and fiendish complexities of international economic treaties will take time.

The best way of achieving a reasonably quick political exit while acknowledging the economic difficulties is the Norway option - a ready made solution that allows the UK to leave the EU while remaining within the Single Market. It means no immediate disruption to trade but allows us to exit politically.

This was the fundamental premise of Richard North's submission, written with some help from fellow readers and bloggers. The publication of the shortlist of the 20 best initial submissions to the IEA are made today and Richard North's "Norway option" has been shortlisted. To be shortlisted to just 20 out of 149 entries is an achievement indeed, and an endorsment that the "Norway option" arguments is seen to have merit. Particularly important given our Prime Minister argues against it using a lie.

As I understand it UKIP did not submit an official paper (though some members may have done so independently). It's not unreasonable to assume that this would be their meat and drink; leaving the EU is their raison d'etre. But apparently not. The lack of a credible exit plan from UKIP is a frustration I’ve echoed before.

Revealingly it takes a few unpaid bloggers to be on the shortlist, while UKIP doesn't bother. Being on the shortlist now means writing a full submission of between 10,000 and 20,000 words by 10th February 2014 in order to win the IEA prize. More than anything winning means having the possibility of a document - an EU exit paper - that has "prestige", a document that would be taken seriously by virture of its IEA status.

Any contributions by readers to the final full submission are very welcome here and/or on the Eureferendum forum.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

The Harrogate Demands

A relatively short interview by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair with the Independent, rather cheekily titled "how I became PM of the world" - echoes of Gordon Brown's "I saved the world" - highlights a great deal wrong with how we are governed. It begins with an acknowledgement from Jack Straw that our constitution is fundamentally broken:  
JOHN RENTOUL: Jack Straw said that he thought that the Prime Minister had too much power in the British constitutional system, and I was hoping you would respond to that.
Quite so. The Prime Minister does have too much power because they are only accountable to a small number of people - their constituents and to party members who elect them as party leaders. Naturally this means that MPs of the ruling party, when elected, owe their job and career to the Prime Minister – indirectly if not directly.

Thus proper scrutiny of government cannot take place when there is a conflict of interest between service to one’s constituents and loyalty to one’s government. This is a conflict that Witterings from Witney knows only too well – Cameron in effect has to scrutinise himself. An MP for Witney but also the Prime Minister.

One of Harrogate’s six demands deals with this conundrum by making the Prime Minister directly elected by the people. In essence, and as a consquence, we separate out the executive from the lawmakers (MPs). 

Despite some criticisms that it leads to an American Presidential type of system, in truth not a lot changes yet a lot changes. The Prime Minister still appoints a cabinet - the same is done now - but crucially those appointments do not come from those within Parliament. So at a stroke it removes the conflict of interest.

The Prime Minister does not become head of state unlike a President so in that sense all remains the same.

And by having the Prime Minster directly elected removes the current system where they are effectively elected by proxy. How many people vote for a local MP because of a good job they do or because they like, or do not like, the potential Prime Minister of a certain party?

This is a very unsatisfactory position which not only was illustrated most clearly by the party leader debates during the 2010 elections but the oft criticism of Gordon Brown that he was not "elected".

Another intriguing part of Blair's interview was this:
... I think there is a general problem in politics, not just in our system but in Western democracy – I mean, it’s a far bigger topic this.  But, I do think it’s really important.

I advise any young person who wants to go into politics today: go and spend some time out of politics.  Go and work for a community organisation, a business, start your own business; do anything that isn’t politics for at least several years. And then, when you come back into politics, you will find you are so much better able to see the world and how it functions properly.
See what he did there, he is arguing that being in politics - being an MP - means being special. To be an MP means having to "qualify" in other aspects of life.

Essentially it's putting MPs on a pedestal, at 18 you can own property, run a company, raise a family but you can't become an MP...unless you "qualify".

This sentiment ironically from the man who was Prime Minister at a time when the Labour Government lowered the age for standing for Parliament from 21 to 18 in 2006 via the Electoral Administration Act 2006.

Being able to vote at 18 and not being to stand until 21 always caused me a great deal of consternation. Society essentially said you're fit, responsible and adult enough to vote for a criminal, adulterous and lying tosspot like Chris Huhne, but said you're not fit, responsible and adult enough to be able to vote for yourself.

There should be no previous qualification on standing for Parliament – implied or otherwise – and if our democracy worked properly it would not be needed. The people would vote for whom ever they thought appropriate, regardless of age. If you're old enough to vote, you're old enough to stand.

Thus Tony Blair’s words are merely confirmation that it’s all gone wrong.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Take The Morning Off?

With the UK apparently braced for severe storms and heavy rain overnight, former BBC weather television presenter Michael Fish has advised people to take the morning off work:
“These strong winds…are going to be unfortunately at around getting up time and rush-hour time,” Mr Fish told Sky News on Sunday morning.

“So the message we’re trying to convey at the moment is to delay your journey just by two or three hours in the morning and then you should be safe.” 
I'm sure he thinks he means well, but it's interesting that he worked for the government funded Met Office and the BBC - funded under law by virtue of a tax. Both largely immune to the dynamics of an economy.

Conversely of course to those who are self-employed such an option means not getting paid, and to those who run SMEs means employees not turning up to work thus impacting on turnover.

But no matter just take the morning off...

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Someone Hates TBF

Rummaging around the internet (occasionally) I searched for the term Boiling Frog - as you do - this meant I stumbled upon this site.

The author, Tod Kelly, is really really angry about the Boiling Frog metaphor. No really he is...
I really, really hate this metaphor
He continues...
Can we collectively, as a society, take its amphibious body, throw it in a pot, and crank up the fire until it explodes?
Charming, I'm sure...
It’s constantly thrown into political discussions and presented as either a reasoned argument for action or evidence that proves a supposition, despite the fact that it is clearly neither.  Rather, the boiling frog is just a lazy excuse not to have to bother thinking critically about whatever ludicrously hyperbolic comment one can dream up.
But...but even worse he asserts the analogy is not even true...
And if that’s not enough reason to retire the metaphor, there’s also this: it isn’t actually true.  In fact, it’s literally the opposite of true.  As Professor Douglas Melton of Harvard Biology points out, “If you put a frog in boiling water, it won’t jump out. It will die. If you put it in cold water, it will jump before it gets hot—they don’t sit still for you.”
As a rather warm frog myself it’s tempting to get angry at his lack of understanding and compassion for my current predicament, but one must consider that he doesn't live in the European Union so his experience is somewhat lacking. One must never get angry at a chap's lack of awareness, even if one is sitting in a saucepan of water being gently warmed up.

Instead I merely chuckled at his article, like EU Commissioner Barroso did when asked if Cameron could repatriate powers back for the UK.

Not that any of this bothers me of course; my blog title is not a reference to the metaphor it merely reflects the fact I'm an angry Frenchman who lives in the Sahara Desert.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Happiness Is A Warm Gun

As inevitable and predictable as the sun rising in the east, each time new technology emerges what subsequently follows is "moral panic". An irrational fear of the unknown. Naturally such scares sell newspapers – it promotes the idea that essentially we are all desperate to be serial killers, but the only thing that prevents us is the lack of technology. It’s similar to the phenomenon detailed in the book “Scared to Death".

This has been a common theme that exposed itself with massive clarity with the advent of cinema, home videos and computer games.

A classic example was the issue over the content of videos in the 1980s. Campaigner Mary Whitehouse notoriously gave a presentation to MPs in 1983; showed a compilation of highlights of so-called video nasties where many of the scenes of films, she objected to, were taken out of context and edited in such a manner as to create maximum impact. The result of her campaign was the 1984 Video Recordings Act.

It was an example of moral panic, one which culminated in this infamous Sun headline ten years later (pictured below), just after the conclusion of the trial regarding the tragic murder of Jamie Bulger, despite that no evidence existed that the film "Child's Play 3" had any relevance in case whatsoever. The judge had simply made it up:

Another example has been computer games. I always remember that the Daily Mail once had a full page spread complaining about the computer game Goldeneye, a best selling game on the Nintendo 64, inspired by the James Bond film of the same name.

“Die, die, die” was the headline, as it reported that a two year old boy said those words as he played the game. A headline that was shocking I’m sure...until we realised that his hands weren’t big enough to grasp the controller and so play the game properly and that the article was describing level four. Which meant that the 2 year old boy had to know terms like; “install covert modem” and “find data allocation tape” in order to progress through the game to get to level four. Less a problem in society, more an example of a boy genius.

With this mind we come on to new technology such as 3D printers and their potential ability to produce guns, as noted by this headline in Telegraph:
Sir Peter Fahey, Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, told Sky News that the weapons were a “new phenomenon”, but said his officers were determined to prevent them making it onto the streets.
Earlier this year concerns were raised that the printers – which construct everyday solid items using very thin layers of plastic – could be used to make a gun containing no metal parts.
One can see a future "moral panic" in the making. I'm sure that 3D printers can make guns, but to complain is to assume that weapons cannot be made out of other relatively innocuous items.

For example a rocket launcher can be made out of a drainpipe and a model rocket, a weapon can be made out of very hot coffee laced with ridiculous amounts of sugar, a very effective crossbow can be made out of a wooden coat hanger, some wood, a couple of clothes pegs and an elastic band.

As the 1970’s film Scum (3:33 mins) clearly shows, a sock and a couple of snooker balls can also be very effective. It always amuses me that despite extremely strict security clearances and checks in UK airports they give out free newspapers as you board the plane – which can then be turned into a Millwall Brick.

Thus with 3D printers we can clearly envisage and predict another "moral panic" and a Daily Mail front page outlining the dangers of people...having such technology at home.

Nothing ever changes...

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

China In Your Hand?

As Richard North notes the forthcoming announcement of the construction of a giant new nuclear plant at Hinkley represents a staggering escalation in costs. However leaving aside the continuing folly of the UK’s energy policy it’s intriguing that much comment has been made about the fact that it is Chinese, not UK, investment that is involved, as indicated by this Telegraph piece (pictured above):
But others were less sanguine about China possibly coming to dominate Britain’s nuclear industry. “It’s troubling how far the Government is bending over backwards to allow this,” said Paul Dorfman, research associate at the energy institute of University College London.
Que much teeth-nashing - sorrowful that a country which was once at the forefront of nuclear power is now having to rely on Chinese investment to "kick start" our nuclear industry. But as is typical of our increasingly isolationist and "Little Englander" media, it ignores the wider picture. And it misses the insidious, and in this case the subtle, nature of our membership of the EU.

The UK and China have been forging a closer relationship for some time now; and crucially it has been doing so in the process of an increasingly close relationship between China and the UK government to support internationalization of the Chinese currency – Renminbi (RMB).

China is seeking to replace the US dollar, with the RMB, as the major world reserve currency. To help fulfil the criteria it is doing so with increasing co-operation of the Hong Kong and London financial markets, as noted by the South China Morning Post:
With Hong Kong’s support, London has become the leading offshore RMB centre in terms of payments with Hong Kong and China.  According to the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT), London now accounts for 28 per cent of offshore RMB settled transactions.
Thus China has an enormous vested interest in the health of the UK financial sector. One can imagine therefore that it won't be best pleased to see the increasing efforts of the EU to impose ever draconian rules deliberately designed to damage one of the UK’s most important parts of its economy:
George Osborne has launched an unprecedented legal challenge against European plans for a financial transactions tax.

The move, which will be seen as a further sign of fraying relations between the UK and the rest of the continent, is designed to force the European Commission to reconsider the levy on Europe-related financial activity.
Chancellor George Osborne stood isolated after European Union finance ministers vowed to press on with proposals to curb bankers' bonuses.

He told a meeting of EU finance ministers that he could not back the plans, which he fears could damage London's financial centre.
By cosying up to the Chinese - which is not to everyone's liking - Osborne has a big player on our side when defending the City from EU laws. A big player that is effectively helping to prop up the Euro. A bigger game is being played here.

If one is to be generous we could argue that George Osborne has played a bit of a blinder, however a more realistic criticism would question whether the heavy reliance on the Chinese been so necessary if we weren't members of the EU?

Monday, 21 October 2013

Hot Wired

In light of Autonomous' Mind's excellent post on the stupidity of the media's reporting of our current energy crisis, I had a quick gander at this Hansard account from Thursday 17 October 2013. What's intriguing is the openness of MPs in mentioning the EU when discussing our energy policy in contrast to most media reports.

That is not say though that all of the discussion had a degree of sense. This from Alex Cunningham - Labour MP for Stockton North - in particular struck me (my emphasis):
I think that just 25 people have benefited from the green deal in my constituency so far, but thousands of people across Stockton-on-Tees could have warmer homes thanks to a tremendous project to externally clad their homes run by the borough council and deliverer partner, Go Warm. This has attracted £20 million of investment and 300 jobs. Sadly, a legal judgment means that BT is the only company that can remove the eyelets that support the wires in the houses that are benefiting from the scheme. This is slowing the programme down because of insufficient resources to do the work in a reasonable time. Will the Minister please intervene, tell BT to get its act together, get the work done more quickly and give my constituents the warmth they deserve?
Having dealt with BT for over 10 years in my previous job I can accuse them of many things, but that they are somehow culpable of failing to provide "constituents with warmth" is a new one on me.

Honest Intentions?

For many reasons the President of the European Council, Mr Van Rompuy, is worth mocking not least due to his lack of democratic mandate, which has led to this slightly amusing twitter exchange following Van Rompuy's original tweet.

But if one is to mock him it's probably best to have a fair idea of his official position within the EU. It would demonstrate an understanding of our supreme government if nothing else which is surely 'bread and butter' territory for supposedly "one of Britain's leading political blogsites".

Yet blogger Guido Fawkes – as screen printed above (I generally don’t link to him for reasons outlined here) - describes him as “the EU President”. It seems Fawkes can't even be bothered to make a simple Google search. A pernickety point perhaps but an essential element to fighting an enemy is know what you're up against. As the "Art of War" notes:
So it is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you can win a hundred battles without a single loss.
If you only know yourself, but not your opponent, you may win or may lose.
If you know neither yourself nor your enemy, you will always endanger yourself.
And it is not for the first time that Fawkes has been less than forthcoming about the EU. He began a referendum campaign to try to re-introduce capital punishment, whilst not acknowledging the fact that to reintroduce hanging would be in breach of our EU membership, even though it was pointed out to him at the time.

These details become important when we consider that Fawkes is taken seriously by the legacy media, such as the Spectator, the Guardian and the Telegraph. Should we have an 'in or out' referendum on EU membership, Fawkes' opinion will be sought even though he clearly demonstrates a complete lack of knowledge about the subject. A true member of the Westminster Village indeed.

As Richard North notes we are dealing with children. Although the crucial difference is that children often blurt out brutal honesty in all innocence - sometimes loudly- much to their parents' embarrassment.

Fawkes describes his blog as "written from the perspective of the only man to enter Parliament with honest intentions". That maybe true of the original Guido Fawkes but his 21st century namesake is as dishonest as they come.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

A Running Sore

The BBC reports on a temporary victory for those against prisoners’ having the right to vote.
The Supreme Court has dismissed appeals from two prisoners over the right to vote under European Union rules. Convicted murderers Peter Chester and George McGeoch had argued that EU law gave them a right to vote - even though they cannot under British law.
Quoting Mr Europhile himself:
Prime Minister David Cameron told the Commons that the ruling was "a great victory for common sense".
But the BBC rightly acknowledges that:
…[that the concept] is now pretty well established that the UK's blanket ban on prisoners voting is in breach of European human rights law.
Therefore the issue is far from over yet. It matters not how long the UK Parliament drags this issue out, nor how many times it votes against its implementation, it is in breach of the law of our land.

It remains a running sore and a perfect example of the duplicity of our politicians who try to pretend otherwise.

Free As A Bird?

Some maybe aware that blogger Old Holborn was under investigation for posting offensive tweets about the Hillsborough disaster and Denise Bulger the mother of 2 year old James Bulger who was tragically murdered. It now seems that he will not be prosecuted for offensive tweets after the Criminal Prosecution Service said "there is no case to answer".

In some ways one appreciates that common sense has prevailed - Twitter is only a medium with which to express views and opinions which largely should be unhindered by prosecution expect for obvious cases like incitement to violence.

But there for me any sympathy ends for the predicament Old Holborn found himself in. With freedom comes responsibility.  He complained bitterly that his tweets led to death threats against his work colleagues and family. While one doesn’t condone such threats, the only person who put his family and his work colleagues in that position was the man himself.

He wrote those tweets knowing full well they would provoke a reaction. Writing jokes about tragedies where people, particularly young people who have perished, will provoke a reaction. To pretend it won't is dishonest. For example walk into a pub on a Friday night and randomly insult the nearest bloke you can find then you can expect to leave with your nose smeared across your face. Free speech eh? Simply to say “just ignore me” as Old Holborn tries to argue is either woefully naïve or at worst deceptive.

And it is with some irony that Old Holborn who so dislikes authority and the establishment so much mocks a city that has been royally screwed by those very same institutions.
I still have the right to upset a few grief city victim whores 
It makes me wonder which side he truly is on.

Of course he "still has the right to upset" but it's revealing that he does so behind a mask of internet anonymity. It's the equivalent of ‘smoking behind bike sheds’ at school, daring to challenge authority but not quite being brave enough to smoke openingly in front of teachers.

One is reminded of the time that opposition football fans used to, not long after the Bradford fire in 1985, set light to tissue paper and wave it at Bradford fans to mock them - to provoke them. That was its purpose. Offensive it was, free speech it was, but crucially it was only done with "safety in numbers" and anonymity by virtue of being in a crowd. Making such a gesture while being on your own, for obvious reasons, was not going to happen.

Thus if Old Holborn truly cared about testing the limits of free speech then he could take his views about "a city of grief victim whores" to the city itself. Appear on their local radio making his case or even stand along Scotland Road and make his case in public. He won't of course and we all know why.

Rather like Iain Dale he's a coward. Hiding behind a mask of anonymity and egged on by supporters also hiding behind anonymity it's much easier to make these points on the internet.

It's about time the man grew up.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

A Day In The Life...

Three police officers whose "honesty and integrity" have been questioned by the police watchdog will not face disciplinary action over allegations that they lied to try and discredit Andrew Mitchell at the height of the plebgate affair.
So reports the Guardian. It was pretty clear at the time that the policeman's account was somewhat inconsistent, not that means anyone will be disciplined. Interestingly though the former Tory whip states:
"It is a decision which will undermine confidence in the ability of the police to investigate misconduct when the reputation of the police service as a whole is at stake.
Well yes but it's hardly anything new, but the only reason it makes the news in this instance is precisely for the reason he is a former Tory whip. Mitchell continues:
"My family and I have waited nearly a year for these police officers to be held to account and for an apology from the police forces involved. It seems we have waited in vain."
At this point one might consider that those of Liverpool have waited nearly 25 years for police officers to be held to account in one of the biggest police corruption scandals in UK history. A cover up that went right to the top of the political tree and remained so for years. Mr Mitchell's concerns are not police corruption per se but those that affect him directly

As someone who has been stopped and searched under a Section 60 (a policy introduced incidentally by the Tories) more than once and had £20 notes ‘confiscated’ from my wallet because “they could potentially be used as weapons” the disclosure that policemen have; “honesty and integrity” issues comes as no surprise whatsoever.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Sort It Out!

Like much of the country my refuse collections have changed to copious wheelie bins which are collected on different weeks according to type. I currently have five bins in which to sort different items. The reasons for this change have been well-documented; the local council’s priority is to appease the EU rather than their own electorate. This is something acknowleged by my own council (page 10 - my emphasis):
8. Landfill Tax

8.1.1. Landfill tax is to have a ceiling level of £80 per tonne by 2014/15 – although no further measures were added to this existing commitment by the national waste review. Landfill tax is now the main fiscal instrument encouraging the diversion of waste from landfill. In 2011/12 landfill tax, set at £56 per tonne, cost Oxfordshire County Council over £6 million, an increase of around £3 million since 2006/7.
8.1.2. Total expenditure on landfill tax has increased despite overall waste arisings within Oxfordshire having dropped since 2007. Added to this, increased recycling and composting levels have meant that there has been a sharp decrease in the amount of household waste sent to landfill. This has helped reduce the financial impact of the escalating landfill tax rate, but it still remains a significant proportion of the costs of waste management.
I don't disagree with the concept of recycling per se, but personal objections to the undemocratic reasons for the current system has led me to ignore the council's intentions. I don't sort out rubbish - it all goes in whatever bin is due for collection that week. Thus de facto I still have weekly bin collections. In addition I also microwaved the 'chips' that are inserted underneath into the bin's lip.

As insignificant as these actions may seem costing the council money by disregarding recycling targets, thus adding to landfill, forces them to raise extra revenue. The more they have to do this the trickier it is for them to get away with it. One person ignoring recycling demands is an irritation; many ignoring them is a crisis. It's a pretty damning indictment of a country's affairs where political rebellion is conducted via its bin collections.

For around three years the indications were that the council were relatively relaxed about this compared to some, however this week stickers (pictured above) have now started to appear on non-recycling bins, including mine.

A quick perusal of neighbours' bins show that some have stickers and some don't. Those that don't are empty and those that do are only partially empty. Clearly the conclusion must be made that binmen are now manually sorting out the rubbish before emptying the bin into the cart. It's a strong indication that South Oxfordshire Council are now seeking to become tougher on their recycling policies as it "remains a significant proportion of the costs of waste management". One senses a battle in the not-too-distant future.

And it is with some irony that the plastic sticker the council have used telling me to "sort it out" is very likely to be non-recyclable.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Hating Britain?

Apparently Ed Miliband and the Daily Mail have got into a right spat about the former father's political views. The Mail rather bluntly accuses Ed Miliband's father as; ‘The Man Who Hated Britain’. Mr Miliband objects to the attack on his father's legacy.

I have no wish to make a comment on the current dispute other than to suggest if you accuse others of hating your own country, democracy and the attack on British traditions, it's best not to publish stuff like this:
Let the Mail lay all its cards on the table. This paper has no desire for Britain to pull out of Europe [EU]...

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

EU Crackpots?

No matter how widely known and quoted the phrase "never believe what you read in newspapers" is, it often remains a surprise at how regularly the lesson it provides is ignored. This maxim is particularly true - doubly so in fact - when it comes to all matters EU.

Have genuine and hugely damaging examples of EU law and newspapers will ignore it. Throw them a bone of an inconsequential report that shows the EU up as nutters and they lap it up with gusto. Here we have a classic example from the Daily Express.

Despite it being a newspaper that advocates EU exit and despite its chief political commentator, Patrick O’Flynn putting himself forward as a UKIP candidate, it makes exactly the same errors as all the other papers. It appears to be completely incapable of putting forward a detailed and comprehensive case for EU exit. It ignored for example the reasons for VAT on pasties, despite being alerted to it in 2012 on twitter with acknowledgment. So in this spirit we come to the Daily Express's latest tabloid-style EU outrage. It thunders:
MEDDLING Euro politicians have put forward “crackpot” plans to force Britain to give gypsy women seats in the House of Commons.
Undoubtedly quite shocking if true, yet alarm bells always begin to ring when phrases such as "crackpot" and "meddling" are used. The EU does not "meddle", it is part of our country's government. Its job is to make laws for us, a process our country has fully signed up to, albeit without the full commitment of the British people. Unsurprisingly continuing to read on reveals more inconsistencies:
A report outlining a quota scheme is set to go before MEPs and may soon be adopted by the European Parliament.

If it becomes law, all the political parties in the UK will have to impose female gypsy candidates on the electorate and get them into ­Parliament.
For those who have followed the mechanics of EU institutions for some time would have already spotted the 'deliberate mistake'. But with this the Express has no desire to inform its readers, instead it wants to appeal to those who are used to “Parliament” making laws in the UK and who are unversed in the machinery of EU law.

EU lawmaking begins with the executive - the EU Commission - which is the only body that has the ability to propose new laws, and it can only do so with a legal basis that is outlined within EU treaties. The Commission proposes a draft law to both the EU Parliament and the Council which ultimately has to be approved by both bodies. 

This is 'ordinary legislative procedure', formally known before the Lisbon Treaty as 'co-decision' - the main legislative procedure by which EU directives and regulations are adopted. Article 294 lays the procedure here on page 197. The simplest way of describing the procedure is that it has three potential stages, or readings, and eight termination or exit points, for legislative outcomes - five exit points mean the act is adopted, three mean the act is not adopted.

With this in mind we immediately know that any report that goes before MEPs for possible adoption lies well outside the EU legislative procedure - it is not part of the lawmaking process. A quick look at the report itself confirms this:

In other words it is a non-legislative report and is non-binding. Nothing more than a kite flying exercise, which appears to have little support, it's nothing more than a Westminster Hall debate. Interestingly the Express carries quotes from UKIP MEP Gerald Batten:
Ukip Euro MP Gerard Batten said: “This is the start of yet another piece of ideologically motivated crackpot legislation from the EU. 
Only it's not legislation, it's not even close - a UKIP MEP should know this and he should be telling the British public that this is the case - informing the debate for exit. But he chooses not to. Batten continues:
"But if adopted, it’ll put yet more legal obligations on countries such as Britain with generous benefits systems. I can guarantee that when this goes before the European Parliament it will be voted for by a majority of MEPs. Ukip MEPs will of course vote against, but if we want to protect ourselves against the EU then we simply have to leave.”
Again he falls in line with the Express' article, clearly implying that adoption by the EU Parliament will place "legal obligations" on the UK. This is simply not the case, he should know better than this. But I guess this is the same chap who writes a paper that advocates a UK exit without invoking Article 50 - a policy of just ripping up international agreements which would be disastrous...a view that is now against official UKIP policy.

Tories And Democracy

Readers may recall that I stood in May as a UKIP paper candidate where the Tory incumbent lost the seat to an independent by fewer than 100 votes (I got 167). The Tory incumbent took the view I cost him the seat and lost his temper at the count. Such arrogance from the Tory party over UKIP has long ceased to be a surprise.

And 4 months later it would seem he still hasn't come to terms with his defeat. This morning he contacted, as a customer, Mrs TBF at work. During an initially friendly conversation it emerged that he was the Town councillor for where we live. When Mrs TBF mentioned the May elections, his tone changed from one of being friendly to one of indignance;
"Yes, I lost my seat to some independent".
The arrogance of office (or lack of) shines through. My seat? Try the term "the electorate's seat". As for "some independent" well he has a name, a name that Bill Service is fully aware of given he works with him on the Town Council.

Mrs TBF then revealed, rather mischievously I think, that her husband had stood against him in May as a UKIP candidate. The response?
"So it was your husband that cost me my votes"
My seat? My votes? In some ways the exchange was rather amusing - that he's still smarting many months after the election. However it does highlight the failings in a supposed system of democracy which allows an incumbent to remain in place long enough in order to take it for granted, to the extent that any kind of accountability takes him by surprise.