Saturday, 18 April 2009

Erith and Thamesmead like ferrets in a sack

The BBC can't decide how to pronounce Erith; we've had both ear-ith and Erith-as-in-Eric this morning. Whichever, it's a 'safe' Labour seat with a majority, based on 2005 voting preferences, of nearly 10,000 following boundary changes.

There are 73,935 voters registered and the Constituency Labour Party has 279 members - 0.38% of the electorate, bang in line with Labour's national membership (170k members out of 45m electors see this post for electoral stats)

There are eight all-wimmin candidates fighting for the votes of those 279 local members; the Bexley Times profiles them:
Now Georgia Gould, 22, a Masters student at the London School of Economics, will have to battle it out among seven other candidates.

These include physiotherapist and trade union Unite officer Rachael Maskell, who is believed to be backed by Gordon Brown's former press secretary Charlie Whelan.

Ex-Bexley councillor Teresa Pearce is also on the list and was the first Chair of the Erith and Thamesmead Labour group when it was set up in 1994.

Plumstead councillor and language teacher Angela Cornforth is one of two Greenwich councillors in the race.

Her fellow councillor on the list Jagir Sekhon became the first Sikh female mayor in Britain when she became mayor of Greenwich in 2000.

Former Labour candidate for Orpington in 2005 and cancer campaigner Emily Bird is another Unite member in the running. She was born in Eltham and is a former pupil of Crown Woods School in Riefield Road.

She competes against Kensington and Chelsea councillor Marianne Alapini who was the Labour candidate for the Tory seat of Woking last year before withdrawing to run for Erith and Thamesmead. She is originally from Kenya and represents the Colville ward which is on the Notting Hill carnival route.

And former MP Melanie Johnson hopes to return to office after losing her Welwyn Hatfield seat four years ago which she held since 1997.

She was also a minister for six years in the treasury, health and industry departments, where she shaped new laws to take action against loan sharks.
And no surprise they're fighting like ferrets in a sack, with today's selection election postponed because a ballot box at Labour's central HQ has been tampered with.

Now if ever there was a better argument for open primaries than Erith and Thamesmead I've yet to find it. Both Newms and Dan Hannan have long advocated these, and in this constituency the process would give local voters the chance of picking a candidate who meant something to them. As Dan wrote:
The arguments for open primaries are, when you think about them, pretty obvious. They ensure that you have a candidate who is liked by a decent chunk of the constituency, not just by your activists. Those who participate in the selection process come to feel proprietorial about “their” candidate, and have a stake in his or her success: the Warrington South Conservative Association has 200 active new members as a direct result of the selection process. And, of course, the very fact of the primary generates an enormous amount of local media interest, thus giving the candidate a head-start.
It really is time for reform.

Update
=======
Sunder Katwala over at Next Left agrees about open primaries - whatever next!

Friday, 17 April 2009

Sir Paul Stephenson has 8m Londoners behind him

After the shameful neglect and failure in leadership, management and control that quite rightly led to the sacking of Ian Blair, the Met is in need of a firm hand to restore its discipline. Officers who shamelessly flout the most basic requirement to display their shoulder numbers by deliberately obscuring or omitting them must face the swingeing fines from their pay that the Commissioner can impose. Officers abusing the public must forfeit a substantial chunk of their month's salary. Policemen who don't like Sir Paul's orders to wear traditional helmets can leave the force or pay a fine. A fine or reduction in rank are still disciplinary sanctions available to the Met.

Sir Paul has the eyes of London upon him and the support of 8m Londoners behind him. I think he's the man to restore the Met to what it once was - and not an indisciplined rabble of thuggish and offensive bullies. I really, really, hope he proves me right.

Hit them in their pockets, Sir Paul. Fine them to buggery until they obey. Rip their stripes off. We're behind you. Give us back our Met.

Damian Green arrest; why did they lie?

On 8th October 2008 Chris Wright, Director of Security and Intelligence at the Cabinet Office, wrote to Bob Quick in the following terms:
A number of recent leak investigations, including some conducted by your officers, have raised questions about the security of sensitive information in the Home Office. Whilst not all the leaks that concern us merit, taken individually, investigation by the police, we are concerned that there is an individual or individuals in the Home Office with access to sensitive material who is (are) prepared to leak that information. We are in no doubt that there has been considerable damage to national security already as a result of some of these leaks
On 16th April the Director of Public Prosecutions, Kier Starmer, published his report into the CPS examination of the case and said:
The information contained in the documents was not secret information or information affecting national security: it did not relate to military, policing or intelligence matters. It did not expose anyone to a risk of injury or death. Nor, in many respects, was it highly confidential. Much of it was known to others outside the civil service, for example, in the security industry or the Labour Party or Parliament.
Now no one would suggest that the Director of Security and Intelligence is unable to tell the difference between a State secret and a bit of political intelligence embarrassing to a government Minister.

So where, Mr Wright, is your evidence of 'considerable damage to national security'?

Or did you just make it all up?

Mandarins should be charged with wasting police time

The investigation into Damian Green is estimated to have cost between £3m and £5m. It took place because a civil servant, Chris Wright, at the instigation of another civil servant, Gus O'Donnell, told lies to the police. If they hadn't told those lies, the investigation wouldn't have taken place and so much police time wouldn't have been wasted.

The CPS are damn quick to prosecute some half-crazy girl who makes false rape allegations for wasting police time. It's about time they turned their attention to the mandarins for the same crime.

I feel a letter to the Commissioner coming on.

Wasting Police Time - section 5(2) Criminal Law Act 1967

(Archbold 28-224)

The offence of wasting police time is committed when a person

  • causes any wasteful employment of the police by
  • knowingly making to any person a false report orally or in writing tending to:
  • show that an offence has been committed; or,
  • give rise to apprehension for the safety of any persons or property; or,
  • show that he has information material to any police inquiry.

The future for cars is not batteries but coal

The decision by government to invest heavily in electric cars makes about as much sense as selling the nation's gold, or investing in a Betamax factory in 1987. Like just about every major decision this government has taken in the last eleven years, it is wrong.

They simply don't get what people want from their cars. Yes, they may sit for ages at the kerb with only the weekly supermarket shop to stir their tyres, but with the knowledge that at a moment's notice, with a tank of fuel, their owner can escape to the Norfolk coast, or the Highlands. Or cross the channel and just keep going to places wonderful and exotic. A car that will only travel fifty miles and then require overnight charging for the next fifty just doesn't do it. A trip to Scotland would take three days, staying overnight at Travel Lodges in Slough and Doncaster. You might as well cycle there.

No, if oil is running out, the true alternative fuel is not battery power but Hydrogen. Hydrogen will do exactly what petrol and diesel do. And the best part about Hydrogen is that we need never import it; we can make it ourselves, cheaply and easily, even on a domestic scale. From coal. I posted here at length in January on this.

Coal gas - once made in every small town and conurbation in Britain - contains 50% Hydrogen. It also contains 35% Methane, to run our boilers and stoves on. We've got 45 billion tonnes of coal currently classed as recoverable, and a further reserve of 145 billion tonnes in place.

Coal Tar could once again pave our roads and make our soap as oil-derived Bitumen runs out. The North could blossom into industry once again, and we could flip the bird to the Saudis.

The future is bright. The future is Coal.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

I'll maybe catch some Telly tonight .....

French fishermen achieve what the Borders Agency can't

Take comfort that over the past couple of days the flood of illegal migrants crossing the channel in the backs of trucks has slowed to a trickle. A few ragged-arsed French fishermen have achieved what the entire UK Borders Agency have failed to do.

I suggest we employ these diligent and tenacious men in Calais on a bounty system - €1,000 for every illegal they find within the port boundary. It's better money than they make fishing and at a fraction of the risk, cheaper than the subsidy they cost the European taxpayer and they'll actually be doing some good.

Police could learn from Navestock Parish Council

I grudgingly admire the ingenuity of local councils here in London that are saving shedloads of money by giving up mowing the grass in the parks on the grounds that they are creating biodiversity habitats. Suddenly the thought of driving spinning steel blades through Mrs Tiggywinkle's verdant home seems so wrong.

Likewise, Navestock Parish Council wants to keep its potholes on the grounds that they are a traffic calming measure.

Now if the Police could only find a similar reason for not chasing burglars that would make us all feel warm and comforted by being burgled they'd be onto a winner.

Weasel words about Tom Watson

We all know how email works. You email a colleague to test out an idea or a proposal and if his response is useful you forward it to a third person with a comment. Or you forward a sent email to another colleague with a comment such as 'just seeing how Bob responds to this'. We all do it every day. In such cases party B's emails never contain party C's email addy - but this is hardly proof that party C didn't know anything about them.

Now suppose you're Gus O'Donnell and you've seen the Downing Street email logs that show that party A had forwarded such emails to party C within Downing Street. But party C had taken a public line saying he'd never seen such emails, and engaged m'learned friends to frighten the media if they suggest differently. What would you say in an official statement?

"Tom Watson has made his own position clear" would just about cover it, I reckon.

Civil servants 'sexed up' Home Office leaks

Call it sexing up, call it an economy with the verité, call it hyperbole, call it any one of a dozen euphemisms for lying, but the truth is that our senior civil servants can't stop themselves doing it.

This time they've lied to the Met police about the nature of the leaks allegedly from Christopher Galley at the Home Office. Chris Wright, a senior Cabinet Office civil servant, wrote to the Met saying there had been 'considerable damage to national security' from the leaks. There had not. It was not true. It was a lie. Mr Wright lied to the Met police. How do we know? Because the Home Affairs select committee has published a report that uncovers the facts, and thank God they have.

All politicians are incorrigible liars. It goes with the territory. Combine their inherent inbuilt mendacity with a culture of lies at the top of the civil service and you have a recipe for national disasters such as Blair's Iraq War.

It's not only the culture of greed, self-interest, sleaze and corruption in Parliament that's in need of urgent reform, the top of our civil service is also as rotten as week-old mackerel. They will fight like jackals to preserve the Leviathan central State they have helped build over the past thirty years - and lie, spin, distort, omit and misrepresent the truth to keep it. The time when we could trust a single word the mandarins say is long gone. They are part of the problem.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

McBride story has legs

The McBride story continues to dominate the MSM this morning; top of the news on R4 and leading all the online dailies. But if Tom Watson is hoping for something to turn up that will push it off the front pages, the Sun's editorial will make gloomy news; "McBride is gone. If Mr Brown is sincere about cleaning up politics he will take the next step. And sack the equally poisonous Tom Watson, whose position as Cabinet Office minister is a stain on the Prime Minister’s judgment and his government’s credibility." The Sun stops short of accusing Watson of complicity in the email scandal - cautious perhaps in the face of rumours that m'learned friends are involved on the Minister's behalf.

Dominic Lawson writes in the Indie and concludes with a finding that has been rumbling around the blogs for some time;
The sad thing is that Gordon Brown is indeed, as his friends insist, frequently high-minded and seized with the idea of a life devoted to serving the people. His flaw – and it is apparently uncontrollable – is to believe that anyone who stands in his way is an enemy of the people, and must be destroyed. Instead, it will destroy him; it has already all but destroyed his party.
Rachel Sylvester in the Times echoes Brown's Jekyll and Hyde character;
Mr Brown is in many ways a high-minded politician. He genuinely wants to change the world, with a global new deal and a strategy for combating poverty. The recession has played to his intellectual and ideological strengths. But as well as waving his moral compass, he has always wielded a dagger and surrounded himself with thugs who are not afraid to use it on his behalf. Ministers speak of there being a split between “good Gordon” and “bad Gordon” and when the Prime Minister feels vulnerable it is Mr Hyde who triumphs over Dr Jekyll.
And this is perhaps at the heart of the deep 'psychological flaw' that loyal Blairites warned against. Brown's deeply conflicted personality makes it almost impossible for him to make good judgements. McBride was a Treasury civil servant who overstepped the requirements for political neutrality. That should have set off warning bells. Instead of distancing himself from McBride, Brown embraced him as 'bad' Gordon's hired thug, and he segued seamlessly from 'impartial' civil servant to political SpAd.

When Christopher Galley approached Damian Green with leaked documents the Tories had an exquisite dilemna. Politically partial civil servants ought not, as a matter of principle, to be encouraged by politicians. On the other hand, the leaked documents promised a cornucopia of embarrassing riches. I doubt there's any future for Galley in the Conservative party, as a future SpAd or otherwise. He's proved himself disloyal and incapable of maintaining professional integrity. When McBride exhibited the same traits at the Treasury, Brown should have disowned him. Such men are not to be trusted, not to be elevated into positions of power. They are to be used and discarded. The fallout for Brown from all this is entirely of his own making; 'bad' Gordon's inadequate judgement welcomed McBride as an ally, rather than requiring his Permanent Secretary to put him on final notice for misconduct.

Brown's smokescreen of revised SpAd guidelines cannot hide that it was his own deep psychological flaws that caused this crisis, not inadequate rules.

Monday, 13 April 2009

Electoral fraud will be widespread in June

There is a misunderstanding of voting rights in the UK that extends to some of the most experienced political commentators in the country. Yesterday on 'Any Answers' Jonathan Dimbleby corrected a caller responding to the scandal of fake Pakistani student visas, saying "But they don't have the right to vote". Wrong. Any Commonwealth national in the UK, whatever their immigration or resident status, has the right to vote in both general and local elections. This includes real and fake students, real and fake visitors, those with leave to remain and illegal overstayers. Here in Lewisham it will include 20,000 Nigerians. It is estimated that there are up to 3m Commonwealth citizens of varying immigration status currently in the UK.

In 2001 the Labour government introduced postal and proxy voting on demand. In 2003 and 2004 the Electoral Commission called on the government to tighten checks on postal and proxy voting - and was ignored. The results have been clear to see;
  • On 4/4/05 a judge declared void two local election results in Birmingham because of Labour postal vote fraud and said the evidence of fraud "would disgrace a banana republic"
  • On 8/4/05 a Labour councillor in Blackburn was jailed for stealing 233 postal votes
  • On 14/4/05 the Head of Birmingham's electoral team was suspended following the discovery of 1,000 uncounted postal votes
  • In May 2005 police were investigating 25 cases of electoral fraud in 19 constituencies
  • In April 2006 police were investigating postal vote fraud in Tower Hamlets, six other London boroughs and Birmingham
  • In May and June 2006 police were called to investigate intimidation and vote rigging in Surrey, Coventry, London and Birmingham.
In 2006 Michael Pinto-Duschinsky gave evidence to a Commons Select Committee that there were 3.5m people registered on the electoral register who shouldn't be. In 2007 the Electoral Commission used NOP to estimate the extent of false registrations; in some voting districts, it was estimated that electoral registers were only 60% accurate.

In 2005, Labour ministers told Parliament that electoral fraud was 'very rare'. In 2006 the Electoral Commission received a file from the Crown Prosecution Service that detailed 390 cases of electoral fraud between 2000 and 2006.

In 2008 the Rowntree Trust produced a report 'Purity of Elections in the UK: Causes for Concern' that detailed serious failings and details of electoral fraud. The report found that postal and proxy voting had risen from just 2% of votes prior to Labour's introducing 'on demand' availability to 15% in 2005, with commensurate opportunities for large-scale fraud.

Right now, Labour canvassers are hyping the BNP threat in June on doorsteps across the country, painting a fearful picture, especially for minority ethnic populations. It will be little wonder if such populations then make massive recourse of fraululent votes in response. And everywhere local Labour officials must be turning a blind eye to this, or tacitly encouraging it, or even, as has been proved by their conviction for it in court so many times in the past, orchestrating it. 2009 will be no different.

It is shaming enough that the Boundary Commission has not acted to remove the inbuilt bias from our constituencies - detailed here by me in a previous post - but that this is compounded by widespread Labour vote-rigging and fraud with no government check or balance is deeply corrosive of our democracy.

Update
======
See this South Tyneside blog for details of Labour electoral corruption currently being exposed there ...

A horse with a very sore bottom?

I haven't been on the boat this weekend. At 7.30 on Saturday morning a van loaded with a tonne of what was supposed to be well-rotted stable manure turned up - a week early. I'd ordered it for the 18th. Hmm I thought. Serves me right for ordering my manure cash-on-delivery from an internet small ad. Just as well I had enough cash in the house.

So this Easter I've been weeding and mulching the garden. But with frightening doubt. The manure is, as promised, dark, black and very well rotted, but there remain intact 'horse apples' within it of prodigious size - about the size of large grapefruit or small basketball balls. The thought struck me that the small ad didn't specify what was kept in the stables - I'd assumed horses, as one does. But if so, there must have been a horse there with a very sore bottom.

But just in case - does anyone know the effects of Elephant dung on an English herbaceous border?

Winners and losers from McBridegate

As the McBride row rumbles on this morning, leading all the national dailies and the BBC's radio news, the big hitters are all throwing in their tuppence worth. Alastair Campbell says he wouldn't have been as inept (his smears had the sting of a poison viper; releasing David Kelly's name to the press with a description of him as a 'Walter Mitty character' led to a death). William Hague demanding Gordon Brown's personal apology, knowing absolutely that it will not be forthcoming. But when the fallout settles, who will have won and who will have lost?

WINNERS

Paul Staines, and the Guido blog. Not only increased traffic and increased influence, but even more leaks will now be directed towards Paul's blog. He has proven he can protect his sources and handle leaks effectively. More scalps to come.

Iain Dale. Iain has cemented his position as the nation's number one commentator on the blogosphere in print and on the airwaves. If this was the US, he would now be running blogging masterclasses for politicians at $10k a pop.

George Osborne. The row is the best thing that could have happened to George in advance of his response to Darling's budget. He's not seen as a hard political hitter, and has kept his wife carefully out of the public eye. Picking on him was like hitting a boy with glasses. The suspenders and corset image also brings to mind Labour's Paul Boateng attired in such fashion in reality, rather than in McBride's twisted imagination - Boateng now being returned from being HM's Ambassador to South Africa to some rumoured electoral role. I'm sure those images will make a reappearance.

UK Blogosphere. Following so shortly after UK bloggers led the agenda by making Dan Hannan's youtube vid a worldwide hit, the blogosphere will be increasingly important in the run up to the general election. As TV and print media are losing more professional journalists the boundaries are being blurred as the MSM is increasingly taking the tip from the web as to the current news agenda.

LOSERS

Gordon Brown. Not for being behind the McBride affair - he wasn't - but for being web illiterate. Gordon doesn't get the web. He's stuck in information 'push' mode when the entire online nation is comfortable in 'pull' mode. This blog competes directly for traffic on equal terms with Gordon's 'official' push-blog, funded with shedloads of cash and the words of Labour's great and good, against one blokey in his study who has never spent a penny on this. When Labour ministers advocate teaching Twitter and Facebook at school it demonstrates how little they understand the way in which this Web 2.0 thing works - it's viral, not curricular.

Ad agencies, spin doctors and political consultants. If there is one thing more obvious than a professional spin campaign, it is a professional spin campaign pretending to be genuine grass-roots or 'yoof' or popular output. Web users are incredibly savvy, and can spot a real from a fake as competently as a Sotheby's assessor. Draper's sheer, utter, unmitigated incompetence in mastering the medium stands for a small army of professional spinners unable to manage a 'pull' information system.

The political class. No-one imagines the Tories are innocent as the driven snow when it comes to quiet smearing of their opponents. The whole world of the political class, the special advisors, the tame journos, their apologists and party HQ managers has been mired in association with this doomed attempt. The political class as a whole will suffer an even further loss of credibility in the eyes of the ordinary public.

And what of voters? What of 'democracy'? Has their lot been improved or worsened by this affair? Well, in the long term this greater permeability, this enhanced access and participation, will be of tremendous benefit to democracy. But it's a Pandora's Box. Beyond all the evils released, all the burdens, all the chaos, there lies right at the bottom of the box something that outweighs all the rest - hope.