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Friday, 20 July 2012

Harrogate Conference - Constitution

A little tardily repeated on my part, the next item to come out of Harrogate and reported by Richard North is the issue of a constitution. We are famous of course for having a democratic system that has inspired constitutions across the globe yet we lack one of our own. The unwritten constitution is a mix of ceremonial, feudal remnants, custom and practice and democratic re-invention; on the positive side, it has been flexible enough to accommodate changes in response to changes in society, culture and economic and external conditions, but on the negative side, there is no framework to regulate the relationship between government and citizens.

And this I think was the major drive from Harrogate - to ensure that the government is the servant of the people, and not the other way around. All my attempts to re-phrase an illustrative opening paragraph quoted by Richard have mired in difficulty; you can't get much further than "We, the people of Britain" (excludes the province of Northern Ireland) or "We, the people of the United Kingdom" (immediately implies a monarchical system) and neither overcomes in terms the more federal structure that the UK may evolve towards and which the unwritten constitution seems to be elastic enough to accommodate. 

My own view gravitates towards a new Bill of Rights rather than a written constitution, in which habeas corpus regains the power it once had and the powers of the State are fettered back towards that condition described by William Pitt; "The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the forces of the Crown. It may be frail — its roof may shake — the wind may blow through it — the storm may enter — the rain may enter — but the King of England cannot enter — all his force dares not cross the threshold of the ruined tenement!"

Pitt of course meant civil defiance, not criminal activity. The extent to which successive governments have criminalised civil trespasses - not paying Council Tax or the TV Tax, and today even displaying an anti-Olympics poster in your window is a criminal matter - to the extent that scores of petty functionaries and prodnoses now have the right to smash their way into that place where Pitt's King dare not tread. This must be reversed. 

But what do you think?

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Beethoven treats

Many years ago I was inspecting a disused industrial building in the company of an elderly, very distinguished and somewhat deaf architect; let's call him Sir John. As we emerged from a watchman's door we walked bang slam into the middle of a video shoot; lights, dollies, screens, booms and with yellow taxicabs and red fire hydrants to 'dress' the set as a New York street. They'd just set up the shot with the star, a slight red-headed young woman in hot pants, just five metres away from the door from which we'd so suddenly emerged. She stared at us. Sir John peered back at her, nonplussed. "Who's that?" he boomed, in the way of the deaf. "Ginger Spice" I answered, more loudly than I liked. "Who?" he boomed and I replied, by this time almost cringing in embarrassment "She's a pop singer. Popular ballads and the like. Modern" and every soul on set must have heard; you could have heard a pin drop. "Oh." he said. The disappointment and dismissal in that one word carried for miles. "If it had been Alfred Brendel I might have been interested" and he turned around and re-entered the small door without a backwards glance.

Just a reminder that thank God we've still got VHF radio at least this year and Radio 3 broadcasting Beethoven's symphonies in sequence; I'll make a point of 3, 5 and 6 but 9 is over-exposed and the intermediates lack Wump; I'll plug the gaps with a Beethoven Piano Concerto or two in my own Web 2.0 version of the Proms. Including, perhaps more than once, the Adagio from No 5, to which I can never help singing sotto-voce  'There's a place for us; A time and place for us ..' and this is where I also remember dear old Sir John; he wouldn't have had a clue about West Side Story, either, bless him.

Forget the Holocaust

For a moment, forget the Holocaust. A German court has just upheld a decision that male circumcision in infancy is unlawful, a genital mutilation already condemned when applied to female infants whatever the religious or cultural beliefs of the parents. The court has held that such a procedure requires informed consent; if an adult male child of Jewish or Moslem parents decides to adopt the faith, then he is perfectly free to sacrifice his foreskin as affirmation.

This is the absolutely logical application of individual rights established in the late twentieth century; women were no longer to be the chattels of their husbands, to be tupped whether they wanted to or nay, and children were no longer to be the property of their parents, to be starved, beaten or maltreated at will until their majority. If branding an infant with a cigarette is unlawful, why not mutilating its genitals? 

The outcry from the Jewish lobby has predictably been based not on grounds of moral philosophy, but on the emotive trigger of the Holocaust. It is doubly unfortunate that it was a German court rather than a Dutch or Danish one that condemned the practice. Yet this is the remorseless direction in which European courts must rule; it is only a matter of time before the matter comes before our own Supreme Court. It is the only possible outcome of a social shift that has placed the rights of the individual as supreme in a secular world. 

So for a moment, forget the Holocaust.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Harrogate Conference: Separation of Powers

I wasn't at Harrogate, but support absolutely Richard North's initiative to get the Reform boat moving. I intend to shadow on here the issues emerging from Harrogate as Richard sets them out on EUReferendum; the first is the separation of powers between Parliament and Government; Richard's synopsis of the key points is HERE.

My own initial view is that the immediate accountability that membership of Parliament imposes on ministers balances the tendency for 'Government' and the majority party in the Commons to be seen as one. It is the Party system, which enables whipping as well as patronage, that is the true villain, I think, coupled with the sheer number of ministers. Reducing the number of ministers on the Treasury benches to about a dozen together with reforms to the party system, rather than removing the government presence in Parliament altogether, is in my view the more advantageous course of action.

But what do you think?

Monday, 16 July 2012

Your VIP Itinerary - Monday 16th

Hi and Welcome to the UK! We are going to make this a trip you will never forget, a magical experience in the hands of London's friendliest people! Here's your itinerary for today:-

13.00     Arrive London Heathrow. Deplane via red-carpet to
13.15     Arrive at Immigration Hall for entry clearance,
19.30     Nearly at the front of the queue, now; be patient
21.30     Clear Immigration; clean Vaseline from your bottom and remove rubber glove accidentally left in rectum
21.45     Board coach for VIP trip to Central London hotel
22.00     Zil Lane on M4 returns to normal traffic. Speed reduced to average of 8mph. 
23.30     Coach manages to park just 300m from hotel; no porters available
23.45     Arrive at check-in sweating and rumpled with a wheel missing from your case
24.00     Kitchens are closed but night-porter offers to get you a microwaved Cornish Pasty from the filling station round the corner for £10

Who will slip the quietus to the LibDems?

Nowhere is the inward-looking self-interested selfishness of the political class demonstrated more effectively than in the whining of the LibDems over constituency reform. Constituency reform is essential if this nation is to maintain the standards of democracy expected of developed nations; as Michael Pinto-Duschinsky has said, the current deviations from the EQ (electoral quotient) in many constituencies are beyond third world standards. We have drifted back to those Rotten Boroughs that the original Chartists - true liberals - fought so stubbornly to abolish. The Parties need to say "Well, it's going to hurt, but we'll have to take it on the chin for the good of the Nation". Instead we get this long dribbly whine from the LibDems coupled with a demand for Lords reform to 'make up' for their losses from democratic reform. 

Listen, you power-hungry little prats. You have no constitutional right to have any place in British politics, you have no moral right to steal my taxes to keep your sordid little club afloat, and you have no legal right to demand the fulfilment of any 'deal' done with any other private club. Constituency reform is necessary for reasons of fairness, equity and democratic health; Lords reform that is intended solely to secure power and privilege for your own terminally-ill Party is corrupt, anti-democratic and flies in the face of every true liberal tenet. There is no equivalence. One is right, the other is profoundly wrong.

With national membership now probably below the key 50k level, dismal electoral propects that put the Party in many cases below UKIP, empty coffers and a party HQ no longer sustained by £1.7m a year of 'Short' opposition money, with little hope of resurgence, it's really time that someone slipped the sharp blade of the Quietus into the dying heart of this political remnant.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Olympicshambles boot boys

Guther, Drayne & Midden
1 Temple Buildings

Dear Mr Smith

We act for LOCOG in the matter of the protection of the Olympic brands. Our investigators have discovered that you run a jewellers shop in Woodbridge, Suffolk, trading as Smiths Jewellers, and have on display in your window on Market Hill labels with the words 'gold', 'silver', 'rings' 'sporting medals' and 'events'.

I must inform you that the display of such advertisements is contrary to the terms of the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006 (The Act) and I herewith serve notice that all such advertisements bearing all such words be removed forthwith from display. I further give notice that a triangular shaped display of wedding bands, when viewed at a height of 2.1m and an angle of 16deg from a position 1m from the frontage of Kennet's butchers, appears to form the symbol of the International Olympics Committee, a protected symbol under The Act, and must also be removed from display forthwith.

Failure to comply with this notice will result in prosecution and officers authorised by the magistrates court will have the power to break into your premises and seize all such offending materials. There is no appeal process. 

Sincerely Yours

Cuthbert Drayne