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Friday, 15 May 2009

They just don't get it

Watching Question Time last night I saw nails being driven into the coffin of this Rotten Parliament by a Grimsby audience. Margaret Beckett, Theresa May and Ming Campbell were lucky to escape from the podium without being pelted with eggs. What infuriated the audience was their self-justification and the same tired old mantras about 'the system' . Even this audience saw the failure of logic in that one; one pointed out that for MPs to blame the system was synonymous with them declaring that they were corrupt and couldn't be trusted.

They still don't get it.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

10 things to look for in Parliamentary candidates

Many constituency associations and local parties will be considering whether to run re-selections following the disgrace of the Rotten Parliament. May I suggest that in the next Parliament we will need men and women of integrity and principle if we are to rebuild our broken democracy, and that local selection committees should look for qualities other than ideological rectitude in their candidates. I would suggest marking candidates out of five on each of the following:
  1. Have they served in the fighting forces, or in humanitarian or aid organisations in which they put themselves at risk for the good of others?
  2. Have they undertaken or do they undertake voluntary or pro bono work in the local community for the good of others?
  3. Would you trust them enough for them to know something deeply personal about you?
  4. Have they demonstrated their competence over a number of years in a trade or profession, excluding 'politician' or 'political organiser'?
  5. Do they have an established connection with or family, educational or residential history in or adjacent to the constituency?
  6. Do they demonstrate sufficient nous for you to feel comfortable that they can understand complex issues?
  7. Have they shown that they are industrious?
  8. Are they open and inclusive, not 'chippy', and can they fairly represent the diversity of people in the constituency?
  9. Have they demonstrated that they take pride in this nation and its institutions, by having (for example) participated in civic and national events such as Remembrance Day services?
  10. Have they demonstrated probity in their personal life?
And I would reject any candidates scoring less than 35.

Any other suggestions for questions would be welcome .....

New Speaker won't save this Rotten Parliament

The Rotten Parliament extends to all parties and to both houses; the monumental peculations of MPs have for the moment overshadowed the dishonesty of Baroness Uddin and others in the upper house, but make no mistake - the entire Parliament is rotten.

Replacing the Speaker is an act of desperation by MPs eager to find a universally loathed scapegoat in Michael Martin, but a Commons that ditches its sitting Speaker just confirms its own rottenness.

There will be no catharsis until a new Commons sits in new session under a new Speaker.

This Rotten Parliament is dead. A weak and enervated house with an unwanted Speaker hanging around like a ghoul does the nation ill service at a time of national crisis. MPs on both sides of the house should, for the good of the nation, now unequivocally support a general election.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Dutch smoking ban faces revision

Excellent news from Freedom2choose that a small cafe without employees in Breda has successfully challenged the Dutch smoking ban. If the legal appeal stands, the Dutch government is set to modify the law.

In establishments run by the proprietors without employees, both the business owners and any customers who choose to drink there should have the right to make their own choice about smoking. No one is compelled to smoke, and there will be plenty of smoke-free cafes and bars to choose from.

And that what's it's really about - a freedom to make our own choice about these things.

Flight Sergeant James Hyde

Malpas asks on the post below "Some info on your pilot please - when - where".

1391841 W/O J.J. Hyde of St Juan, Trinidad attested on 6.6.41. RAF Volunteer Reserve. Trained at Piarco. Served in the Normandy campaign flying Spitfires with 132 Squadron. His last flight was in 1944. He took off at 1525hrs on 25 Sep 1944, tasked with providing aerial cover during the battle of Arnhem. Killed in dog fight over Nijmegan. Age 27. Probably shot down by a/c of Jagdkorps II, probably I/JG26 or II JG26. Buried in Jonkerbos War Cemetery, plot 17.A.7.


Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Tebbit: Vote UKIP

Norman Tebbit today salved the consciences of the many Conservative voters who will be 'lending' a vote to UKIP on 4th June by saying this was unofficially OK. Actually, he didn't say vote UKIP - but made clear he didn't mean the BNP.

The BNP of course refuses to admit other than white-skinned members and condemns mixed relationships. Personally, I fail to understand how anyone with a modicum of intelligence can define Britishness on the basis of skin colour rather than on the basis of shared values and cultural congruence; even more baffling is their use of a Spitfire on their publicity material. What, one like this, flown in combat by F/Sgt Jimmy Hyde from Trinidad? His mascot looks a bit like Nick Griffin to me ...

A feeble Parliament that has lost its dignity

I can rarely recall a weaker Parliament than this one. Parliament is our check on the Executive, the voice of the nation's conscience, and a strong and self-confident Parliament is a healthy one. A strong Parliament and a strong government is the finest of combinations; not comfortable for the central Statist party organisations, for a strong Parliament consists of independent minded members, but good for the country.

A weak Parliament with a strong government, or a strong Parliament with a weak government, makes bad laws and poor decisions. Right now we have a weak government and a weak Parliament, and with a Speaker who has become the embarrassment of the nation. Labour must bear much of the blame for this. Blair was never a Parliamentarian, being more at home in make-up and TV studio lights. Brown is a thug and bully whose every move has been to weaken and emasculate the Commons. They gave us Michael Martin, a crude Gorbals trougher with little feeling for the potential of the House but with an agenda to encourage individual MPs to take the opportunity of their time in Parliament to enrich themselves.

Philip Johnston, writing in the Telegraph this morning, says much of what I wrote yesterday. He lays the blame at the new breed of 'professional' politician lacking integrity, honour or virtue. I agree. And without the integrity of members, Parliament itself has lost its dignity.

Whilst there is a delicious schadenfreude in watching the painful public embarrassment of so many pompous, conceited and narcissistic politicians, this is actually damaging to us all. The current incumbents of the House can never redeem themselves - only their successors can do that. But they can act now to remove the Speaker, who personifies all the sleaze, corruption, weakness and incompetence that taints this Parliament.

In the past Parliaments earned themselves memorable descriptors; the Rump Parliament, the Mad Parliament, the Long Parliament, the Short Parliament and so on*. There is only one descriptor for the House now sitting; the Rotten Parliament.

*Also the Good Parliament, the Bad Parliament, the Model Parliament, the Wonderful Parliament, the Merciless Parliament, the Convention Parliament, the Unlearned Parliament, the Fire and Faggot Parliament (of 1413), the Parliament of Bats, the Parliament of Devils, the Barebones Parliament, the Convention Parliament II and the Loyal Parliament. But never, until now, the Rotten Parliament.

Monday, 11 May 2009

The real loss to us all of this scandal

Sir Stuart Bell's panic measure to exempt MPs' future receipts from FOI scrutiny (by placing them with an external audit firm not subject as a public body to FOI requirements) really is closing the stable door after the horse has reached the next county. Sir Stuart voted strongly for trying to keep MPs' expenses secret in 2007 and there's nothing to indicate he has changed his views. It won't work.

And those MPs and ministers who comfort themselves that the lifespan of a news story is eleven days, that this will fade from the public's consciousness and they can get back to normal, are deluded. The Telegraph will have a few more juicy morsels to serve up, and this story has found fertile ground in the public's mind.

Speaker Martin was already a dead Speaker walking before the story broke. His manifest incompetence over the Damian Green affair sealed his lamentable record. He's had four years to institute reforms to MPs' expenses and signally failed to do a thing; indeed, his personal comments that he's determined to get 'what he's owed' reveals his support of a corrupt and venal culture within Parliament.

In the coming days and weeks we will look back on the way our MPs have acted and ask how we could ever have believed this kind of privileged immunity was right. MPs of course have influenced this themselves; their adoption of 'normal' working hours, the Speaker's ditching of his horsehair wig, their assertion that politics is a career like any other and a decade of PR that has portrayed them as just 'ordinary' people who drink coffee out of mugs and do the school-run has succeeded in establishing them as no different to the rest of us. And of course, like the rest of us we now believe they should pay tax, be accountable for their working hours, and lose all the outmoded nineteenth-century privileges that they had accrued.

So the public expectation is a radically revised set of employment conditions for MPs that puts them on a par with company executives, and the public and the popular press sees little wrong with this. Parliament has consistently failed to do its primary job - holding the Executive to account - and too often appears as a cosy club in which, as Peter Oborne had it, MPs have more in common with eachother than with the rest of us. They rubber-stamp Europe's laws, and apart from that, in exactly the same way that company executives issue interminable memoranda about making personal phone calls or abusing the photocopier, they pass only petty and little laws restrictive of our small freedoms. So be it. Let them be company executives.

This is a watershed in British politics. This is proof that we have forgotten what Parliament is for, and forgotten what being a Member of Parliament means. We've forgotten the power with which we entrust them, and which they've surrendered. We've forgotten the personal integrity we demand of them, somewhere between priest and knight, and which they've abased. And most importantly we've forgotten that they're our shield and defenders, our voice and our protest, which they've abnegated for self-interest, preferment and avaricious enrichment. And in correcting their venality, their corruption and their abuses, and turning them into company executives, we will be losing something infinitely precious.

And this is the cause of my anger. It's not 'the system' that's wrong - the system is based on personal integrity. It's the calibre of MPs now sitting in the House, men and women without personal integrity, sans honour, sans virtue, that have brought us to this loss. May they be cursed to the grave for what they've brought our Parliament to.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

So, 'Baroness' Uddin, anything to say?

H/T Old Holborn

Whilst 'Baroness' Uddin can live in a Spitalfields Housing Association property enjoying a subsidised rent at the taxpayer's expense, and lie about living in the flat she owns in Maidstone in order to claim the higher Lord's attendance allowance of £174 a day without so much as a visit from plod, I wonder what she's got to say about a case highlighted by Old Holborn.

Mranil Patel, 41, who works for the Royal Bank of Scotland, has been charged with ‘fraud by false representation’ under new powers created in 2006 and is due to appear at Harrow Magistrates’ Court later this month. If convicted, Mrs Patel faces up to 12 months in jail or a fine of £5,000.

Mranil's 'crime' was to falsely give her mother's address in order to improve her chances of getting her five year old son Rhys into a decent primary school - Pinner Park.

The 'Mail' has the story.

Let's trash these troughing scum

Below are the latest injury compensation rates under the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme - full details are in JSP765 HERE. The rates relate to lengthy tables of the various grades of wounds our armed forces suffer in battle; losing a foot below the ankle in a landmine blast, for example, is number 8, whilst loss of a leg below the knee is number 6. These are one-off payments. The MoD are not much more generous now than ever they were. Of course, most MPs are too busy on the John Lewis website to argue for more generous payments; payments more in line, perhaps, as what they describe as their 'reasonable' additional costs in improving their investment properties running a second home.

Kitty Ussher MP spent £20,000 removing 'bad taste' Artex and doing up her period home. Hazel Blears MP made £18,000 avoiding CGT on her second home. That's almost two nineteen year-old's mangled mine-blasted feet. Stephen Byers MP has claimed £125,000 for a flat owned outright by his partner; a soldier losing both arms above the elbow in an RPG blast on his cardboard armoured vehicle would only get £115,000. Nice one, Stephen.

These MPs are scum. They are thieves. Their avarice, their grasping mendacious filthy peculation of public funds, their troughing porcine deception, their self-serving self-righteous piety and self-justification and their naked greedy despoiling of the honour of our Parliament cannot be borne any longer. Let's trash these troughing scum.