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Saturday, 23 May 2009

In response to Rowan Cantuar

Far be it from me to be teaching theology to the Archbishop of Canterbury, but, my Lord, I think you're misguided.

When this country has been threatened in war, we've held the enemy from our gates with the blood of our young men. To preserve the whole, and when there's absolutely no alternative, a sacrifice of the part is required. Even in Iraq and Afghanistan, wars not of national defence but of political folly, we send young men into battle knowing that some of them - too many - will be killed and others hideously maimed.

The corruption of our Parliament by the political class is every bit as much a threat to our nation and democracy as the armies of a foreign invader. Our future, our security, our survival and our freedom depend on robust democratic institutions of men and women of integrity and a life long commitment to the national ideal. Our nation is of sixty millions. I would reluctantly sacrifice every one of the six hundred and forty six MPs now sitting to save the whole. Yes, even unto death, for even the deaths of those hundreds would be worth it to save the whole.

But we don't even demand the death of a single one of them. Not one will be maimed or wounded. Even as the coffins return from those foreign wars, corrupt MPs will be allowed to retire with fat pensions and gratuities. The Archbishop's complaint is that in the essential work of cleansing our democracy, in this war of Right and Justice, a few MPs may become a little stressed. Oh, OK then, Rowan; we'll live with a filthy stinking cesspit of ordure and corruption that will destroy the nation if left undrained, then. Don't be so bloody silly, man.

In my days we learnt
Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!
Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire.
And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.
But I don't suppose the modern C of E has much time for the Gospels.

After the Rotten Parliament, the Reformation

It was more than insufferable arrogance on Blair's part to imagine himself so clever that he could sketch out major changes to our national political institutions with a mug of coffee on the sofa between TV interviews. In the end it was no great vision at all, but a sort of low-grade bastard managerialism. "Strengthening democracy" like so much NuLabourSpeak actually disguised "Destroying democracy" beneath a zealous and well-meaning but ultimately hollow and specious series of inept changes. The way to fix a Hepplewhite chair with a loose leg is to gently steam open the old glued and tenoned joint, clean it up, and re-glue and cramp it up again. Blair's surgery, like a bodged DIY fix, was like nailing some rough four-by-twos to the chair instead.

After trying to abolish the Lord Chancellor (the only office of state with official precedence above the Prime Minister, a fact of which the foolish and vain Derry Irvine often reminded Blair) Blair's bodging DIY efforts turned to the Commons. Yah. More wimmin. More black wimmin, and beansprouts and alfafa in the canteen, and child-friendly hours, and a Speaker's creche, and maybe replace all that gloomy gothic oak and leather with something bright and cheerful from Ikea. With sofas. And why not let groups of primary school children participate in the votes, and sit on select committees, and replace stuffy old PM's questions with a live phone-in from ordinary people. Yah.

Thankfully all Blair's inanities will suffer the eventual fate of all bodged DIY; some things will be restored to their previous state, a few germs of good changes will be designed and done properly, and it will all take twice as long and cost twice as much than if it were done properly in the first place. The creeping realisation that hereditary peers are generally noble, honest and honourable as well as being skilled, diligent and knowledgeable and that Blair's peers are generally either chiselling little crooks or a pointless slack-jawed waste of red-bench space may even cause us to look carefully again at Lords' reform. Either way, the political class have buggered it up and it will be up to us, or those of us who care deeply, to ensure it's fixed.

Friday, 22 May 2009

An antidote to political sleaze

Just a little corner of London with the Spring's seeding and propagating, potting-up and potting-on ready for planting-out before very long. But out here with the Sun on my head, a mug of tea and a ciggie, the feel of soil on my fingers and the delicious smell of green things bursting with growth all around me, the slime of the corrupt political class just sloughs off. Only four miles from Westminster, but it feels like a thousand.

The V & A is 'on message' again

After a decade in which museums tried to out-do eachother in fawning to a socialist social engineering agenda, is there evidence that they're rediscovering their roots?

The V & A was founded as the 'museum of manufactures' and was explicitly aimed at a working-class audience rather than high art, using applied art and science collections as an educational resource. Henry Cole introduced late night opening here in 1858 'to ascertain practically what hours are most convenient to the working classes'. The whole institution was rendolent with virtues of industry, employment, productivity, economic efficiency and innovation - and one-nation Britishness.

So to see the V & A shop featuring not only a reproduction of the 'Keep Calm and Carry On' poster shown here, but a repro 'Britain Can Make It' poster and, erm, a full size poster for Ayn Rand's 'Atlas Shrugged' suggests either someone in retail sales has a sense of humour, or the V & A is discovering its roots.

It won't wash, Nadine

Nadine Dorries is seriously confused. She compares the stable cleaning now going on to a McCarthyite 'witch hunt' that is damaging the mental health of MPs. She also blames successive Prime Ministers for not paying MPs what Nadine imagines she's worth.

I've never heard Dorries describe a Met Police crackdown on burglars as a McCarthyite witch-hunt against thieves, or a DWP investigation into benefit thieves as a witch-hunt against fraudsters, so it couldn't be that she's pleading that MPs who defraud the public are a special case, could it? If so, she can forget it. The public, not the media, have decided that they aren't.

A GP trains full time for seven years and invests over £100k of their own money in their training and education. They earn about £100k a year. They are members of a real profession. MPs need no training, no education, no qualifications except an apparatchik-like and slavish loyalty to their central Statist party and they pretend that they're on a par with the real professions. Politics is not a profession. Paid political office is a vocation. The public, not the media, have overwhelmingly confirmed recently that a salary of £60k - £70k plus genuine expenses is the right deal for MPs. If you don't like it, Nadine, stop whingeing like a schoolgirl and go elsewhere and get yourself another job. There's a queue behind you for the Mid Bedfordshire seat.

A grizzled old contract manager one remarked ruefully to me about an unbearably egoistic colleague of mine that "If you could buy him for what he's worth and sell him for what he thinks he's worth, you could retire on the profit". The same, Nadine, can be said for many MPs now sitting.

Miss Widdecombe, your duty is clear

With John Bercow, a man almost as oleaginous as Ben Bradshaw, and Alan Beith both tainted by peculation and out of the running as potential Speakers, the field is pretty well reduced to Sir George Young and Frank Field. However, our next Parliament may well see a mass clear-out of the corrupt, the venal, the lazy and the bad, and a new Parliament may rightly want to make its own choice of its Speaker. Who, then, to replace Martin on 22nd June?

There is only one sensible choice. Miss Widdecombe, your duty is clear.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Ben Bradshaw's such an oleaginous little turd

An excellent QT this evening in which Bradshaw exposed himself as nothing more than a manipulative lying little hoon. Despite his oleaginous protestations that it was the others who opposed publication of MPs' expenses and he'd always voted in favour of it, just 25 MPs out of 646 voted against the loathsome David Maclean's putrid and shameful Bill.

The list is HERE. Bradshaw's name is conspicuous by its absence.

So no arrests yet, then ....

I always imagined that once the police suspect that criminals know they're being investigated, a quick arrest and search is mandated to prevent the destruction of evidence or creation of false alibis. Still, I expect that law doesn't apply to MPs. How differently might a crime report in my local paper have read if the accused was an MP ...

A joint investigation by Lewisham Council and the Department of Works and Pensions (DWP) has led to the successful prosecution of a woman who defrauded nearly £43,000 in benefits from them.

An investigation by the Fraud Squad has led to the dropping of charges against an MP who defrauded tens of thousands in expenses as 'not being in the public interest'.

Woollon, of Firhill Road in Catford, was found to be falsely claiming Income Support and Housing Benefit by declaring she lived alone when in fact her boyfriend lived with her. She defrauded Lewisham Council of £26,030.54 in Housing Benefit and the DWP of £16,749.80 in Income Support.

Jeff Tune was found to be falsely claiming expenses by mis-declaring where he lived. He defrauded the taxpayer of tens of thousands of pounds.

Tony McNulty, Minister of State of Employment and Welfare Reform, said: "Benefit thieves have to understand that they will not get away with it. Working together with local authorities and the police we have a range of powers to investigate and with the support of the public we bring benefit thieves to justice.

“This is an excellent example of our success at tackling benefit theft when we work closely with other agencies such as Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs, the police and our partners in local authorities.”

Bridget Prentice, a Minister of State at the Department of Justice, said: "Unfortunately, it's human nature for people to forget details such as where they live or who lives with them or what they're entitled to, and MPs should not be penalised for having made honest mistakes, even if they have cost the taxpayer millions."

Woollon was sentenced at Woolwich Crown Court on 17 March. She had previously pleaded guilty to two counts of false accounting, contrary to section 17 (1) (1b) of the Theft Act 1968. She also pleaded guilty to the charge of obtaining money transfers by deception, also contrary to the Theft Act 1968.

Charges against Tune of false accounting, contrary to section 17 (1) (1b) of the Theft Act 1968 and of obtaining money transfers by deception, also contrary to the Theft Act 1968, were dropped as 'not being in the public interest'.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Brown's quiet Statist coup

Let's be clear. In a democracy, there's no such thing as an 'independent' regulatory bureaucratic body; such an organisation will always be responsible to the government of the day, its staff will be salaried civil servants, its budget will be allocated by the Treasury and it can be expanded, shrunk, merged, split or abolished at the whim of the Executive. By any other name, it's just another department of State. Its objectives, its performance and its remit are dictated by government. The government will always reserve the power to overule it or dismiss its chief officer. Elizabeth Filkin's independence, you will recall, lasted exactly as long as it took for MPs to force her out for questioning their dubious probity, to replace her with a compliant and pliable placeholder. So let's look at Brown's specious announcement:

"If MPs continue to set their own codes and rules, however objectively they try to do so, the public will always question the transparency and the standards that they rightly demand"

Brown is the Crown's senior minister, not the head of Parliament. He doesn't have a penny to spend except what Parliament votes him. He can't raise a penny in tax without Parliament's consent. The Crown's prerogatives that Brown exercises are limited these days. Parliament's consent is needed for just about everything Brown does. Our system has evolved not because Parliament cannot be trusted, but because government can't be trusted. The direct link between Parliament and the people is our fundamental safeguard and defence against corrupt and oppressive government. It is of fundamental importance that MPs are free to set their own codes and rules; the problem is not Parliament's powers, but the poor calibre of MP in recent intakes. Thieves. Peculators. Liars. The worst of them Labour.

Cameron is spot on; Sunlight is the best disinfectant. Brown sees the crisis as an opportunity for the central State to grab sovereignty from Parliament in a quiet coup, when the real solution is real transparency and greater democracy, more independent MPs, weaker central parties and stronger local mandates.

If MPs surrender their powers to Brown's malignant statist control, they deserve to be put against a wall and shot. They are not just betraying themselves, but every single one of us who holds the franchise.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Martin declines to uphold the dignity of his office

A Speaker passionately committed to the dignity of Parliament and of his office would be gone by now. An honourable man would have bowed to the mood of the house and packed his bags. A man with a modicum of self respect would have made the best fist of resigning that he could. Martin, of course, proved yesterday that he was none of these. So he will be dishonourably evicted from the Speaker's chair, a wee timid cow'ring beastie, mouse not man.

With members arguing on Commons procedures with Martin yesterday, it was Sir Patrick Cormack who gave the house the formula it was looking for. Not that many of them noticed. The Norway or Narvik debate started as an adjournment motion which became in effect a vote of no confidence in Chamberlain's government.

Brown deserted Martin out of nothing but self interest. A change of Speaker may allow his spent and corrupt government to limp on until next year; with Martin remaining in the chair, the pressures for a general election would have been that much greater. However, MPs realise they're all bad dogs right now. Like ill-behaved Spaniels who try with an excess of zeal to atone for their guilty behaviour, the Commons under a new Speaker may well take seriously its duty to hold Brown's government to account, and the floor of the house could become as bloody as a Roman arena as ministers are torn by bad dogs who have just remembered they have a hint of wolf in their ancestry.

The Summer recess cannot come soon enough for Brown.

Monday, 18 May 2009

Diversify into cow futures?

I'm holding my fire on the issue of the Speaker until we hear what he says to the Commons today. Meanwhile, comme Le Croydonian, a brief look across the Manche at cow futures.

Even the most urban of French imagine they carry the soil of their native France Profund on their boots, so when bank interest rates on savings are plunging, what is more natural than investing in cows? What they call Holsteins and we call Fresians - the milk factories of the bovine world - can bring a return of 4%-5% a year after tax, it's claimed.

The English language website inviting British investors to join the, er, herd offers the graphic below to illustrate the returns possible. I can see just one tiny flaw ....

Sunday, 17 May 2009

"Dear Julian ..."

Dear Julian;

I'll pop round tomorrow to use my trouser press if that's OK. Just the two pairs for a few hours.

Can you assure me you've cleaned it properly after using it yourself? One hears such vile tales about odd smells and deposits and the like.



Brown's lying words

Even with his party in the gutter and the people of Britain demanding real change, Gordon just can't help giving nothing but weasel and lying words. He writes in the NOTW:
The bottom line is that any MP who is found to have defied the rules will not be serving in my government.
Ah. So that's OK for Hoon, Mr and Mrs 'magpie' Balls, Blears, Jacqui Smith, Darling, Miliband, Flint, Purnell, Straw and Hutton .... all of whose thefts, as they bleat constantly, were 'within the rules'.

The man has learned nothing from the events of the past week.

"Dear Gerald ..."

Dear Gerald;

If it's OK with you, I'd like to come round and watch my television on 6th June - the England v. Argentina match. Hope you've got the surround sound and other features set up. Don't worry - I'll bring my own beer and fags (so no need to claim those on expenses!) but some falafel at half-time would go down well.

All the best


Maclean gets his

You will understand the satisfaction I feel that the loathsome David Maclean who attempted with the government's quiet assent, to block the revelation of MPs' expenses two years ago, has got his comeuppance. Now let the bugger fear for his seat.

Expenses are only the symptom, not the disease

Those who want to see politics treated as a 'profession' are dangerously closer to their goal today. One loud chorus of voices are calling for the structures of commercial and industrial executives to be applied to MPs; an expenses code, a nine to five working day and no doubt annual performance reviews, with party HQs becoming Human Resources departments, recruiting graduate trainees for a career with 'the firm'. Those who read this blog regularly will realise the revulsion I have for any such move.

Politics is not a profession. Professions are closed shops; their members create barriers to entry to exclude outsiders, and then work to improve their mutual well-being - exactly the opposite of healthy democratic politics. I believe it is largely the efforts of those misguided fools who have sought to treat politics as though it were a profession over the past few decades that have landed us with this mess. The central Statist parties. The 'A' lists. The blow-ins. The rules-based systems. The calls for fat executive salaries and rewards. The self-serving exclusiveness of the political class.

The expenses scandal is just a symptom, not the disease. The disease is a weak Commons undermined both by Europe and by a system of central Statist party patronage; the disease is the greed of a new breed of constituency MPs for place and preferment.

Charles Moore had the germ of it in yesterday's Telegraph. So did Guido.

A powerful Commons, a strong Parliament well-stocked with independent minded MPs, MPs who have entered the House to bring something to it, not to take something from it, must see the saving of our democracy. Unless the three main parties reinvigourate their grass roots by a massive devolution of power from central office they will soon slip below a combined membership threshold of 1% of the electorate. Open primaries will do much to dispose of the inane delusion that politics is a 'profession'. MPs are beginning to realise their future lies with the voters in their constituencies, not with the management consultants in party HQ. Voters will be far less tribal, and will start to look at the person and not just the party.

The Mail reports today that the public overwhelmingly feels a salary of £60k - £70k is right for MPs, and I agree. So a bonfire of the allowances then, and expenses on the same basis as the rest of the nation. And an encouragement for MPs to continue to pursue their trade or profession whilst in Parliament, for this will keep them anchored in the real world while continuing to reward those with merit and discouraging the pestilence of 'professional' politicians .

It's our Commons and they are our representatives. Let's reclaim our democracy from the political class.