Saturday, 12 September 2009

Philip Pullman - Refrain

There is still no better comment on the malevolent sickness in our democracy that forms the base of the posts below than Pullman's. I repeat it in full:

Are such things done on Albion’s shore?

The image of this nation that haunts me most powerfully is that of the sleeping giant Albion in William Blake’s prophetic books. Sleep, profound and inveterate slumber: that is the condition of Britain today.

We do not know what is happening to us. In the world outside, great events take place, great figures move and act, great matters unfold, and this nation of Albion murmurs and stirs while malevolent voices whisper in the darkness - the voices of the new laws that are silently strangling the old freedoms the nation still dreams it enjoys.

We are so fast asleep that we don’t know who we are any more. Are we English? Scottish? Welsh? British? More than one of them? One but not another? Are we a Christian nation - after all we have an Established Church - or are we something post-Christian? Are we a secular state? Are we a multifaith state? Are we anything we can all agree on and feel proud of?

The new laws whisper:

You don’t know who you are

You’re mistaken about yourself

We know better than you do what you consist of, what labels apply to you, which facts about you are important and which are worthless

We do not believe you can be trusted to know these things, so we shall know them for you

And if we take against you, we shall remove from your possession the only proof we shall allow to be recognised

The sleeping nation dreams it has the freedom to speak its mind. It fantasises about making tyrants cringe with the bluff bold vigour of its ancient right to express its opinions in the street. This is what the new laws say about that:

Expressing an opinion is a dangerous activity

Whatever your opinions are, we don’t want to hear them

So if you threaten us or our friends with your opinions we shall treat you like the rabble you are

And we do not want to hear you arguing about it

So hold your tongue and forget about protesting

What we want from you is acquiescence

The nation dreams it is a democratic state where the laws were made by freely elected representatives who were answerable to the people. It used to be such a nation once, it dreams, so it must be that nation still. It is a sweet dream.

You are not to be trusted with laws

So we shall put ourselves out of your reach

We shall put ourselves beyond your amendment or abolition

You do not need to argue about any changes we make, or to debate them, or to send your representatives to vote against them

You do not need to hold us to account

You think you will get what you want from an inquiry?

Who do you think you are?

What sort of fools do you think we are?

The nation’s dreams are troubled, sometimes; dim rumours reach our sleeping ears, rumours that all is not well in the administration of justice; but an ancient spell murmurs through our somnolence, and we remember that the courts are bound to seek the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and we turn over and sleep soundly again.

And the new laws whisper:

We do not want to hear you talking about truth

Truth is a friend of yours, not a friend of ours

We have a better friend called hearsay, who is a witness we can always rely on

We do not want to hear you talking about innocence

Innocent means guilty of things not yet done

We do not want to hear you talking about the right to silence

You need to be told what silence means: it means guilt

We do not want to hear you talking about justice

Justice is whatever we want to do to you

And nothing else

Are we conscious of being watched, as we sleep? Are we aware of an ever-open eye at the corner of every street, of a watching presence in the very keyboards we type our messages on? The new laws don’t mind if we are. They don’t think we care about it.

We want to watch you day and night

We think you are abject enough to feel safe when we watch you

We can see you have lost all sense of what is proper to a free people

We can see you have abandoned modesty

Some of our friends have seen to that

They have arranged for you to find modesty contemptible

In a thousand ways they have led you to think that whoever does not want to be watched must have something shameful to hide

We want you to feel that solitude is frightening and unnatural

We want you to feel that being watched is the natural state of things

One of the pleasant fantasies that consoles us in our sleep is that we are a sovereign nation, and safe within our borders. This is what the new laws say about that:

We know who our friends are

And when our friends want to have words with one of you

We shall make it easy for them to take you away to a country where you will learn that you have more fingernails than you need

It will be no use bleating that you know of no offence you have committed under British law

It is for us to know what your offence is

Angering our friends is an offence

It is inconceivable to me that a waking nation in the full consciousness of its freedom would have allowed its government to pass such laws as the Protection from Harassment Act (1997), the Crime and Disorder Act (1998), the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (2000), the Terrorism Act (2000), the Criminal Justice and Police Act (2001), the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act (2001), the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Extension Act (2002), the Criminal Justice Act (2003), the Extradition Act (2003), the Anti-Social Behaviour Act (2003), the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act (2004), the Civil Contingencies Act (2004), the Prevention of Terrorism Act (2005), the Inquiries Act (2005), the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (2005), not to mention a host of pending legislation such as the Identity Cards Bill, the Coroners and Justice Bill, and the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill.

Inconceivable.

And those laws say:

Sleep, you stinking cowards

Sweating as you dream of rights and freedoms

Freedom is too hard for you

We shall decide what freedom is

Sleep, you vermin

Sleep, you scum

ACPO, Crapita, ACRO, NPIA, the CRB and the ISA - do they own us?

Disentangling the shadowy relationships between this series of non-accountable semi-private or private bodies is not easy. You have identified in your comments below that both Crapita and ACPO are set to benefit by the new bonanza of fees from the new compulsory PaedoChek® laws - but getting the information is another thing. All information on this topic has previously been blanked by government departments under an FOI exemption, such as this below;
It would not be in the public interest to disclose information that could prejudice the commercial interests of Capita, the CRB’s private partner. The current contract with Capita is due to expire in 2012 and work is now taking place to ensure that the necessary supplier partnerships are in place leading up to this time. Capita consider that release of this information may prejudice their interests when looking to re-tender for the contract.
And don't look to ACPO for any information - it claims FOI immunity on everything. ACPO in fact has its own 'Cabinet' as well as a full 'Council' that makes decisions about criminal records without any reference to our democratic representatives. And did you know that the government recognise that ACPO actually 'own' all the criminal records in the UK? I bet you thought since these had been paid for by our taxes that we, the public, owned them. Wrong. New key players on the scene are ACRO - the ACPO Criminal Records Office, and the ISA - the Independent Safeguarding Authority, who will collect tens of millions in fees for the others. The 'Independent' ISA is run by, erm, an ex-member of ACPO - Chief Executive Adrian McAllister. Here's a summary of how things work;
ACRO was created following an agreement by the ACPO Cabinet. Once ACPO Cabinet had agreed to ACRO’s creation the ACPO Council then agreed that all 43 forces would fund ACRO. Ministers were not consulted on the setting up of ACRO. When set up, ACRO’s purpose was to fill a gap in the ability of the police service overall to resource a range of police activities particularly the need to provide operational support and guidance to all police forces in England and Wales on matters relating to police records on the PNC and the linkages between such records, DNA and fingerprint information.

Your third questions concerned “permission” given by the Home Office for ACRO to use PNC data. Each force Chief Constable owns the information they put onto PNC for their force area. ACPO as a body represents all 44 individual forces in England & Wales and Northern Ireland, and therefore is the representative owner of all PNC records. The National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) manages the PNC equipment and makes this information available, but does not own the actual data. ACRO, as part of ACPO can, and does, have access to all PNC records for the policing work that it provides to forces and other agencies. Its Police Certificates business is charged in a similar manner to other agencies that use PNC data for vetting purposes. This was done to ensure no unfair advantage was provided to any one agency or department.

The Criminal Records Bureau was set up under Part V of the Police Act 1997. This defined its role as the provision of criminal record certificates for individuals seeking employment in the United Kingdom. This remains the CRB’s purpose. The CRB was not consulted on the setting up of the ACRO Police Certificates service.
So you thought you could escape it all by leaving the country, eh? Well, not without a Police Certificate, you can't - issued by, er, ACRO.

King Charles I thought he could subvert Parliament by such mechanisms as 'ship tax' - taxes that could be levied without any democratic accountability. It cost him his head. If you're as disturbed as I am by the words "the ACPO Council then agreed that all 43 forces would fund ACRO. Ministers were not consulted on the setting up of ACRO" - and ask where was the debate in the House, where was the consent of our elected representatives in Parliament to all this, then you are asking the same questions that our forebears asked about three hundred and seventy years ago. It took a civil war to put that one right.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Kiddy Fiddler man on Radio Four

When Statist functionary John O'Brien appeared on R4's 'Today' at 7.09 to defend his 'adult licensing' scheme I thought for a brief moment he was the spokesman for the Paedophiles Alliance; he spoke with that dreadful whiny flat invert tone that to my mind characterises deviants and perverts. After a few moments I realised he was rather a senior State functionary, of the type who use the very same pervert's whine to talk down to the rest of us. Humphrys tore the irritating little turd to pieces, with several million listeners silently urging him on.

Enjoy the six-minute piece HERE

We must cut £500m from State party funding over 2 years

There will be many painful and necessary cuts to public spending over the next few years. Cameron has rightly proposed cuts in direct payments and benefits to MPs and ministers, including the ending of Parliamentary bar and restaurant subsidies. This is fine - but it ignores the elephant in the room. We must cut savagely existing tax funding for political parties.

Michael Pinto-Duschinsky, our foremost national expert on political funding and therefore completely ignored by Labour's tacky little 'review' by Haydn Phillips, has calculated the current cost of party funding at £1.75bn over a four-year electoral cycle.

This includes Cranborne Money, Short Money, Widdicombe Money, policy development grants to the big parties, the cost of SPAds at national and local level, and free party political and election broadcasts.

The traditional parties can no longer justify their special treatment because of their size; their combined membership is now probably below 1% of the electorate, and gradually abolishing the advantages of incumbency built into the system would allow a fairer and more level playing field for all. It would also strengthen the need for MPs and candidates to forge strong local links and support.

The current £1.75bn to the big parties is wholly anti-democratic in this age of memberless parties and a battle of the brands. Cameron must pledge to halve it during his government's first term - say a cut of £500m over his first two years in office.

Otherwise his 'canteen cuts' of £1.5m a year will just look like the chaff an aircraft ejects to fool homing missiles.

PR test for Cameron - and a solution

With the polls indicating a wipe-out for Labour, leaving them as a rump regional party of the north-east and north-west, desperation is leading the failed party to including a referendum question on PR with the election.

This is outrageous. If Labour now wants to support PR, it should make it a manifesto pledge to hold a referendum if elected; to try to bludgeon both the electorate and Cameron's government in the act of a drowning rat grasping at floating straws is unforgivably partisan manipulation. The aim, of course, is to force Cameron, in the event of a referendum 'yes', to doom himself by refusing to continue with the necessary legislation.

But Cameron has an easy way out. PR is a Statist electoral system with a bias to central Statist parties and against localistic politics. If Cameron means what he says about Localism, he can trump Labour by introducing direct democracy at the local level; not one referendum, but a thousand, together with cuts in existing party funding (see above) and an explosion in local responsibility. If Localism emerges as one of Cameron's electoral pledges, he can go into the election - and Labour's outrageous referendum - portraying Labour as desperate opportunists determined to maintain power at the cost of true democratic choice.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Blair to re-write gospels

Tony Blair yesterday announced the publication date for a re-written gospel that he's penned himself. "I didn't see the point in having four" Blair said yesterday "when they all tell the same story. Also the language is still out of touch with peoples of all faiths; we mustn't let the gospels create a sectarian view that there is only one true religion."

Blair is reported to have written the New Gospel during his many hours in the air, flying between the US and his Mediterranean holiday home. The Vatican reserved its comments yesterday, saying "If Mr Blair is a Catholic, he will submit the manuscript through his bishop before publication."

At his press conference yesterday, Blair said "The originals were written a long time ago, and things have changed a lot since then. Nowadays, for example, we know there's no problem with being rich as long as you express concern about social justice - that's why I've scrapped the bit about the rich man and the camel and the eye of a needle. No-one understands that these days."

The Blair Gospel will be available from Amazon.com and all good booksellers from 1st October at £14.99

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Jonathan Meades tonight

I echo Heffer's recommendation of Jonathan Meades on the Scots tonight at 9pm on C4.

I remember one magnificent throwaway line of his from a documentary on Lutyens; as the camera panned across a complacent faux-Lutyens stockbroker home, Meades commented "Lutyens is documented as having designed thirteen houses during his career, forty-seven of which are in Surrey"

Incomparable.

Trougher Bercow hires snake-oil salesman

The oleaginous John Bercow, who occupies part of the Speaker's chair in the Commons, is to spend £100k of our taxes in hiring a snake-oil salesman to persuade us to love him. Trougher Bercow fancies himself as a sleb, and wants more public exposure; whether this means a judging slot on X-factor, as a contestant in Celebrity Crown Green Bowling, or hosting his own Christmas variety show on the television one can only guess.

As I've said before, this man can only detract from the dignity of his office and that of our Parliament. It behoves each one of us who values our democracy to support Mr Nigel Farage's electoral challenge to this man.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Where are the plods?

The strength of the Met Police is currently over 32,000. There are 32 boroughs in London - the City being the 33rd, but having its own police force. So, that's 1,000 plods for each borough, is it? Is it horsefeathers. If it were, each borough would have, say;

1 x Superintendant
2 x Chief Inspectors
13 x Inspectors
100 x Sergeants
800 x Constables

Allowing for 84 officers of various ranks belonging to specialist squads. Split into three shifts, this would give (allowing for leave and a 5% sickness rate) 3 inspectors, 25 sergeants and 220 plods patrolling the streets of my borough at any hour of the night or day. When the reality is something like 24 plods available on the streets of Lewisham borough at any one time - a tenth of what our rates pay for - one has to ask why.

As Simon Jenkins says in tonight's 'Standard';
The lack of political oversight of London's police has continued for almost two centuries, to the point where the force is in part a private army, working to its own rules of engagement.

Meanwhile the streets of London have been delegated to three uninspiring groups: community support officers paid for by borough rates, private security guards paid for by residents and traffic wardens paid for by fines.

London's streets are mostly policed off the police budget. Londoners might reasonably ask where the Met's exorbitant spending of £3.6 billion actually goes.
Well, I can suggest where all our plods are. I'll bet the real borough structure is something like this;

1 x Superintendant
13 x Chief Inspectors - 6 on specialist squads, 3 on long-term sick, 1 on secondment to Kosovo
32 Inspectors - 18 on specialist squads, 10 only work M-F 9 to 5 on admin and performance indicators, 2 on long term sick
423 Sergeants - 260 on specialist squads, 100 only work office hours and never leave the office, 50 on long-term sick, 10 suspended, 2 acting-up to cover for sick inspectors
120 Constables - 30 on long-term sick etc.

So, for my borough's share of a £3.6bn budget, that's £112m a year in our local tax payments, we've got just 24 plods on duty.

Anyone who imagines that this represents value is insane.

As Jenkins writes;

The public's sense of security begins in the home and in the street outside the home. If those places are not safe, nothing else matters.

This security should rely, as in cities such as Tokyo, on known street officers and police “shops”, operating under a borough commander and a network of local committees.

In every meaningful sense it is these bodies that should “run” the police, setting priorities, responding to crises, paying extra for more protection, comforting victims and, above all, knowing each other.

With the collapse of properly local government, the police officer, alongside the head teacher or the vicar, emerges as one the few leaders of the local community.

He or she embodies a lost civic authority. At least they should work in tandem with elected local figures.

We know what happens when the London police are left to their own devices, as Stephenson and Orde would like. They take the money and run. They need watching all the time.

There is no such thing as too much politics. Oversight is democracy at work. More please.

Von Moltke localists let swing by British left

The older I get the more that small pieces of the jigsaw puzzle slot into place; the latest is a worthy essay in Brussels Journal by Jerry Salyer. Both Anthony Powell's 'Dance' and Waugh exposed in their novels the insidious influence of the left in UK wartime policy; Tito, not Mihailovic and so on.

The same applied to British support - or lack of it - for the Kreisau Group's opposition to Nazism. The group, and Von Moltke, its leader, were de facto Localists - anathema to the Statists of the left who were already determining British policy from within the establishment. "Not the sort of people we want to deal with" was the response - the preference being for a Communist resistance movement. Salyer writes of Kreisau;
Moltke’s most productive work is circumscribed by the Kreisau Circle, so-called after the count’s country estate where Protestant theologians, Catholic priests, and lay intellectuals gathered to discuss Germany’s fate. Moltke and his companions intended that post-Hitler Germany would not repeat the mistakes of Weimar, and sought some viable, humane vision with which to fill in the vacuum left by Nazism’s inevitable self-destruction.

The Kreisau papers describe a decentralized society anchored by organic institutions, in which regional autonomy and an independent local leadership class would impede the ascendancy of any totalitarian demagogue. This decentralist ideal flowed from Kreisau’s Christian orientation, which translated practically into an emphasis upon localism and small communities. Such communities based upon “naturally occurring ties between individuals” – i.e., the organic ties which bind families together and neighbors to one another – were in Moltke’s view the key to a sustainably sane society.
The followers of Burke were eschewed by our enemy within, the real-life Widmerpools, in favour of Hegelian Statists.

Quelle surprise.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Sinister ACPO to oppose Cameron's police plans

ACPO is a sinister and shadowy organisation beyond the reach of any public accountability, its members peer-selected in a corrupt freemasonry of cabalistic power. It feels powerful enough to advise Chief Constables to ignore the ECHR ruling on illegally held DNA, and now they have the statutory right to veto any Chief Constable appointment made by a democratically elected Police Authority. The first task of a Conservative government should be to outlaw the organisation and remove all its privileges.

No doubt that's why ACPO Capo di tutti capi Hugh Orde has come out so strongly against Cameron's proposed democratically elected Chief Constables or Watch Committees in today's Independent.

And just who elected you, Hugh? Or any of your chums in ACPO?

If the public wants someone to head their local police force who is neither a Freemason of the old order or of the new malefic Common Purpose, that's their choice - it's their police force - who the Hell do you think you are to interfere?

Don't write Brown off yet

Peter McKay in the Mail this morning, and Damian Thompson in the Telegraph, both reckon Brown won't make it past Christmas. In the next few weeks I expect we'll see a lot of this opinion, but my money's on Gordon bludgeoning his way through to next year and the election.

I think enough Labourites will reckon their best long-term tactic for saving the party is to let Gordon lead it to an ignominious defeat and blame him for everything afterwards; I can already hear the mendacious platitudes about "The post-Gordon Labour party is a very different party, oh yes" and "We lost our way when we gave in to Gordon's demands to be Leader; it's not a mistake the New New Labour Party will make again"

I'll bet Sarah's already chosen the piccy for the Downing Street Christmas Multiethnic Winterval Card, and MPs, who don't come back from their Summer holidays until 12th October and disappear again for the Christmas break on 18th December (or earlier if Harman wishes), will hardly have time to cook up any Parliamentary awkwardness for Gordon.

But I could, as they say, be wrong.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Parties on verge of falling below 1% threshold

A report in the Independent suggests the Conservatives have lost a further 40,000 members since Cameron became leader. They're not alone; both Labour's and the LibDem's members have continued to fall away. My best guess at current party memberships is that the Tories have 230,000, Labour 160,000 and the LibDems 60,000 - about 450,000 between them.

The UK electorate is currently a smidgeon over 45m. The combined memberships of the three big parties are therefore on the verge of falling below a 1% threshold - just one in a hundred electors being a member of any of the three.

As the old mass-membership parties have centralised both policymaking and power and have become consumer brands rather than associations over the last thirty years so millions of voters across the country have deserted them. The campaign language of the parties has become indistinguishable from that of brand marketeers; Mondeo Man and Worcester Woman. Using marketing tools such as ACORN, central parties can target campaigning down to street level.

Enter your postcode at Up My Street and you can get your own street profile; mine reads
Type 15 in the ACORN classification and 1.17% of the UK's population live in this type.

Neighbourhoods fitting this profile are found primarily in London (Wandsworth, Hammersmith and Fulham, Merton, Kensington and Chelsea, Richmond-upon-Thames and Ealing) as well as in Oxford, Cambridge and Edinburgh.

These people live in affluent urban areas, where large attractive houses have often been converted into flats. Whilst many do own their home, the proportion of rented accommodation is relatively high.

People in this type are very highly qualified; one in four have postgraduate and professional qualifications. They work in professional and senior managerial occupations, with many spending very long hours at work.

Most residents are either young singles or couples. There are very few children and those there are tend to be under five, which suggests that young families move on from these areas.

As one of the highest earning types, they have relatively high disposable incomes. They invest in a broad range of products including high interest accounts, ISAs, and stocks and shares. They are comfortable using the Internet to do their financial research.

In the winter, this type is the most likely to go skiing. They will then take at least one other holiday which is usually foreign and often far flung. When at home they take advantage of the range of theatre and arts available to them from living in the city. They also enjoy good food and wine, both at home and in restaurants.

They are interested in current affairs and are very likely to buy a daily paper, which they probably read as they commute to work. They usually choose from The Guardian, Independent, The Times and Financial Times. At the weekend they like The Sunday Times and Observer.

Astonishing, isn't it?

In the wake of the Obama campaign, many political advisors on this side of the ditch have been speculating that the internet, email campaigns and Web 2.0 together with sophisticated marketing tools such as this can win election campaigns. So who needs members? Why is the 1% threshold important?

The answer is this. Membership size is the only thing that distinguishes large parties from small parties. The internet is pretty much free, and offers little competitive advantage to large, established parties. Emails cost nothing, and the Libertarian Party or the Socialist Alliance Party can send as many emails as Labour or the Conservatives. The web site of a party with 5,000 members can work better than a 100,000 member party's - it's down to design, not numbers. And as the playing field becomes increasingly level, parties will become increasingly dependent on large donations from a smaller number of individuals. As party political tribal loyaties dissipate amongst voters, as they are now doing, smaller parties backed by bigger money become viable candidates for election, for office and for power.

The barrier for new parties is brand recognition. Is the political 'market' like Cola, with brand loyalty owed to the incumbent market leaders being all but inpenetrable for new entrants? I don't think so.

And as the market becomes more open to new national political brands, as traditional memberships continue to shrink, what of democracy?