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Saturday, 26 February 2011

Aitken, Sheridan ... and Hugh Orde

When it was becoming clear that Ian Blair's tenure as Met Commissioner had about the same prospects as Gaddafi, Britain's top cops, amongst them Hugh Orde, must have contemplated their chance at the post. Orde already had a black mark. earned from a squalid sex scandal in Northern Ireland, and he must have been concerned to ensure no more dirty secrets were exposed in the media. So when the Sunday World published allegations in 2007 that Orde had used PSNI funds to fly his son to New York, he followed the long tradition established by those such as Jonathan Aitken and Tommy Sheridan in not only denying it but using m'learned friends to bully the paper into submission. The Belfast Telegraph reported in October 2009 that Orde had won the largest libel payout ever recorded in Northern Ireland in an out-of-court settlement. 

Except, erm, it was true. Private Eye's online edition reports that a FOI request to the PSNI has confirmed that Orde's son did enjoy free flights at public expense. Sadly, because the libel case was settled out of court, without Orde putting his lies on record under oath, it seems he will escape the prison sentence earned by Aitken and Sheridan for much the same thing. The Sunday World, however, wants its money back - so expect a further high-profile civil case that will bring Orde's dirty washing out in public. 

How fortunate that Orde's position as head of the shadowy and secret ACPO is immune from FOI requests; we have absolutely no right to know just how much taxpayer's money this man  has squandered and is squandering flying himself and his family around the globe. He may be teflon-coated, but that's no reason he shouldn't now be stripped of his knighthood - readers who agree may like to write to Sir Gus O'Donnell, Chair of the Forfeiture Committee, Cabinet Office, 70 Whitehall, SW1A 2AS.    

Friday, 25 February 2011

1688 Not 1968

All revolutions are not the same. Our revolution of 1688 bears no relation to 1789; 1848 no link to 1968. English revolutions are curious things, and generally corrective in restoring our old rights and privileges rather than overthrowing the existing order. Thus 1688 looked back to Magna Carta, and the Chartist movement sought to bring the laws of the Realm back in line with the intentions of the Act of 1689. As Burke wrote:
...that the foundations laid down by the Commons, on the trial of Doctor Sacheverel, for justifying the revolution of 1688, are the very same laid down in Mr. Burke's Reflections; that is to say,—a breach of the original contract, implied and expressed in the constitution of this country, as a scheme of government fundamentally and inviolably fixed in King, Lords and Commons.—That the fundamental subversion of this antient constitution, by one of its parts, having been attempted, and in effect accomplished, justified the Revolution. That it was justified only upon the necessity of the case; as the only means left for the recovery of that antient constitution, formed by the original contract of the British state; as well as for the future preservation of the same government. These are the points to be proved.
Thus it is only a threat to the absolute sovereignty of the Queen in Parliament, a threat so grievous that it imperils the rights secured from Magna Carta to Universal Suffrage, that even justifies thoughts that otherwise would be seditious. And as a reminder that we still haven't quite achieved the goals of 1848, when the Charter called for:
  1. A vote for every man twenty-one years of age, of sound mind, and not undergoing punishment for crime.
  2. The secret ballot. - To protect the elector in the exercise of his vote.
  3. No property qualification for members of Parliament - thus enabling the constituencies to return the man of their choice, be he rich or poor.
  4. Payment of members, thus enabling an honest tradesman, working man, or other person, to serve a constituency, when taken from his business to attend to the interests of the Country.
  5. Equal Constituencies, securing the same amount of representation for the same number of electors, instead of allowing small constituencies to swamp the votes of large ones.
  6. Annual parliaments, thus presenting the most effectual check to bribery and intimidation, since though a constituency might be bought once in seven years (even with the ballot), no purse could buy a constituency (under a system of universal suffrage) in each ensuing twelve-month; and since members, when elected for a year only, would not be able to defy and betray their constituents as now.
It's extraordinary that Labour should still be fighting against number 5, fighting to preserve the corruption and anti-democratic distortion of Rotten Seats some 210 years after the British people judged them foul. 

Thursday, 24 February 2011

How to reverse falling Party membership

The Committee on Standards in Public Life is coming to the end of its evidence phase in the current inquiry into party political funding. It is due to report later this Spring. Many of those giving evidence have remarked on the bleeding to death of the three old parties, which enjoyed memberships of millions in the 1950s but can't even claim a combined membership of 1% of the electorate today. The reasons for falling memberships are complex, and involve many factors, but amongst those factors I had never included that identified by Professor Wyn Jones at the Cardiff session in January. "The Conservative organisation in Wales were Conservative Clubs (sic) which had their roots in the Sunday Closing Act 1881 and the fact that you could have a drink on a Sunday in a Conservative Club" revealed Prof Jones, and clearly we can see a link here between more liberal licensing laws and falling Party memberships across the UK. 

Back in Ipswich, it was the compulsory afternoon pub shut-down from 2.30 - 5.00 pm that gave the Conservative Club its best trade, that and the full-size billiards table (yes, billiards - like snooker but with three balls only). It must have been the same the country-over. And suddenly the way in which MPs can reverse falling Party memberships without staining themselves with the odium tax funding is clear; we must restore the old restrictive licensing practices, the afternoon shut-down and the 11.00 pm curfew, and watch the Party clubs revitalise. Of course, an amendment to the Health Act that allowed smoking in clubs whilst keeping the pub ban would give them no excuse for Party memberships not to reach 10% of the electorate by the end of the decade. Simples.   

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Will Israel act like Mubarak, or like Gadaffi?

An excellent piece by MJ Rosenberg on Al-Jazeera analyses why the territories occupied by Israel will take their turn in the Arab Revolt. Now I always have to insert a caveat here; I defend absolutely and without reservation Israel's right to enjoy peace and security within her pre-1967 borders, but her attempt to hold onto East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and the West Bank has always seemed suicidal to me, as well as indefensible. 

The question as to how Israel will relinquish the occupied territories and withdraw back into legal Israel is one that will dominate the media in days and weeks to come; will they be like Mubarak, bow to the inevitable and go with grace? Or will they, like Gadaffi, release the powers of Hell on the unarmed Palestinians?

Time will tell. 

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Labour's unforgivable betrayal

So now we know. Shortly after taking office in 1997, Labour opened Britain's doors to all comers - resulting in some 3,200,000 immigrants flooding into the country, against the will of the people. 80% are non EU, and round here most are Africans - without skills or resources, filling the maternity wards, crowding the buses, suffocating public services. Some 20,000 Africans, mostly Nigerians, have moved to this London borough in Labour's period of misrule. Elsewhere they packed our towns and cities with Somalis, Bangladeshis and Pakistanis. 

Don't blame the immigrants - they're the innocents in all this. Their behaviour in coming here was rational, and you and I would do the same if our positions were reversed. It's not the fault of the immigrants. No, it is Labour who have unforgivably betrayed the people of this country, Labour whose crooked, corrupt and cynical disregard of democratic legitimacy has changed the face of our nation for ever, without our consent. It's Labour who must be made to pay for this treachery - we must not cease our work until this vile and malignant Party has been wiped from the face of British politics.  

Monday, 21 February 2011

The revolt of youth

Take a look at the median ages of the populations of the Mahgreb and Arab nations now in turmoil; most are in the 20s. The median, for any non-statistically minded readers, is the most common value; on a chart of a bell-curve or 'normal' distribution, it's the value of the top of the bell. This is a generation that has grown up with Nilesat and Arabsat, direct-to-home broadcasting, the satellite tuner being as familiar to them as couscous. They have also gone straight from passing news and comment gathered over glasses of tea to extensive mobile phone networks, without the intervening copper cages of the West. And the internet, designed to defeat the 'taking out' of its routing nodes, means they can communicate without borders and largely without restriction. These savvy, urban young people are also more highly educated than their agrarian fathers and grandfathers. And they have expectations. 

What they have in common in their demands is not ideological; this isn't a war of competing ideas. What they want is a bigger say in their nation's conduct, an end to nepotism and corruption and a fairer go at prosperity. Much like our own young people, really. They want the rewards of a globalisation process that depends on the expansion of a global middle-class for economic growth; jobs and salaries, secure homes and consumer goods. The great sadness, and the great threat, is that they've probably missed the boat. 

The twenty-first century will be utterly different from the post-war bureaucratic age we've known in the West;  what it will bring we simply don't know - there are just too many variables, one can't model chaos. We can be sure that we can't stand immune from the tectonic shifts now in motion, and with no assurance that the tensions now manifest in the Mahgreb won't play themselves out here in the UK. All of which makes it even more urgent that we deal once and for all with the corruption of the political class, the denial of popular democracy by a repressive European Union and its domestic dags, and the growth of a fair and equitable society free of Socialist inequalities, distortions and jobbery. 

Sunday, 20 February 2011

King of Tonga in Town?

We of the Yeoman class have never wasted too much time on the Court & Social pages, but I make an exception today with the news that the King of Tonga may attend the royal wedding in a couple of months. I'd be quite happy to greet this large and distinguished gentleman, whose warriors are serving alongside ours in Afghanistan, and whose people, when not enjoying fighting, like nothing more than a hog roast and a game of rugby. It was his grandmother, the massive Queen Salote, who attended the coronation in 1953; when the question arose as to the identity of the diminutive man sharing the Queen's umbrella in the pouring rain, Noel Coward is reported to have replied "Her lunch". Luckily for the Taliban, most Tongans have given up eating 'long pig' these days. 

Long live His Majesty, and may he be very welcome in London. 

Blair's Arab Spring

With credit to David Low