Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Voice Within The Resistance


Just wanted to let everybody know that I have joined with Lord Elvis and some other like minded bloggers and will be contributing on the new collaborative blog - The Voice Of The Resistance which is the product of The Kings frustration and determined spirit.


This new blog is intended to be a non-sweary blog with a number of collaborators from across the centre-right of the political spectrum all looking to write about and expose the lies, hypocrisy and corruption that emanates from our present Government and their sometimes subversive agents of change.


I am looking forward to adding my own particular style into the mix, and hope that if you visit and link here that you will consider doing the same for this new
and exciting venture.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Recommended Reading

Here is my latest recommended reading list.

Please note, I do not necessarily agree with these posts and articles, however I found them sufficiently interesting to warrant a recommendation:

Behind Blue Eyes asks whatever happened to Gold Top milk?

Brits at their Best recall lessons from Bannockburn.

Henry North London has a video of a folding 3-pin plug.

Mark Reckons wants to make a list of "Classic Blogposts"

And finally, The Telegraph has their list of the 10 most bizarre things left in university halls over the summer holidays.

Enjoy!

Friday, June 26, 2009

European Gendarmarie Force

They are all geared up and ready to crack the skulls of anyone who protests against the EU, probably intended for post-Lisbon disruptions, but if the good people of Ireland stand firm they are ready to roll anyway.

I am guessing that most people reading this have heard of them and have an idea of their remit, but if not get yourself over and have a read of their website. They are a rapid deployment armed police force drawn from 6 nations police forces and available to respond to civil disputes, within and beyond the EU but organised to be answerable to the EU's directions. Their uniform displays the EU ring of stars flag, which as you probably will know was in the last year officially adopted by the EU Commission & Parliament as the official flag of the EU (despite being dropped from Lisbon for making the treaty "Constitutional").

My guess is that they will be quietly deployed in the UK at first, in situations where there will be no trouble what-so-ever, so that as disillusion grows with the EU with so many of Europe's economies struggling they can then be deployed to quosh any dissent under the auspicious notion that they were so well received in their initial postings.

This is something I really hope we in the Blogosphere can keep an eye on and make some noise about because I really do not think there is any situation in which the masses of the UK will tolerate a foreign armed police service patrolling us... It is a recipe for bloodshed.

Let me quote from the EGF Tactical Level Page:

Tactical level : EGF FORCE

Units of EGF during a mission are placed under a defined chain of command. These units can be put either under military command or civil authority, in order to guarantee public security, public order and to fulfill judiciary police tasks.


An EGF force, is not a standing force, and is generated and deployed on an ad hoc basis. It may be a rapidly deployed police force of a maximum of 800 police officers, under a 30 days notice, including a rapidly deployed HQ in the field, for which the core will be provided by the permanent HQ. As the police units that can reinforce an EGF mission are identical to those declared in the framework of the Helsinki capacity catalogue and at the capacity conference held in Brussels on November the 19th, 2001, the total strength of the Force could reach 2300.


The Force will act in accordance with the operational concepts developed by EU in relation to the employement to the so called IPU (Integrated Police Unit) which includes :
  • an operational component, dedicated to missions of general public security and maintenance of public order;
  • a crime fighting component, including specialist in criminal investigation missions, detection, gathering, information analysis and processing, protection and assistance of individuals, traffic control, Explosive Ordenance Disposal (EOD), fight against terrorism and other major crimes, and other specialists;
  • a logistic support component, able to perform all activities related to supplies, restocking, maintenance, recovery and evacuation of equipment, transportation, medical and health care.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Chicken Soup For The Devil, A Tory & The King

I am saddened to read that so many bloggers are down, but the truth is I have had a bout of it myself in recent weeks. The following bloggers are so de-motivated they have said they have thought about giving it up. Lord Elvis has recently reversed his decision, but they all need a hug, so please stop by and cheer them up:

Devils Kitchen

Steve Green

Lord Elvis

There are others, and to all who are down I have written this post just for you.

In respects to Nightjacks outing, I do not know what to say to alleviate the fears that may persist that a newspaper or a fellow blogger may unveil you against your wishes and I have no magic wand that I can use to lift anybodies spirits or make it easier for bloggers to find time around work and family.

But I do know that I do not want to see any blogger give up their blogs through dissatisfaction or because of the fear of what others may do. I am under no illusions of my own blogs size or authority but I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble. That is how I approach each post, and hope that my message is reaching at least some people some of the time.

Like wise to those named, it may seem a bit trite, but it is apt:

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. Your blogs are helping to make our system better, even if it is slowly and incrementally.

I need to borrow others words, for they have stood the tests of time and accuracy.

Furthermore, here are 10 reasons I have come up with off the top of my head as to why you should carry on:

1. Because there is an increase of journalists who openly state that they hate centre-right blogs and bloggers and if you stop blogging that may very well make them, and certian newspaper owners very happy.

2. Because even though this Labour Government is going to get kicked out sometime in the next year, the intellectual battle has not been won, yet. Labours opinion polls are based on Browns Personality more than a shift in the country’s political compass.

3. Because, if you had never started your blogs we might not have had a great Bloggers get together in May in the St Stephens Tavern…

4. … And we can have plenty more of those in the future!!

5. Because, blogs are a big reason why the Libertarian Party has become so well known and played a huge part in the rejuvenation of the Conservative Party – Every blog post counts!

6. Because I like reading all of your blogs and the Blogosphere would be a poorer, emptier place without your contributions.

7. Because thousands of others have visited your blogs and would like to do so in the future!

8. Because, you may not know it now, but there is the possibility that through your blog you may achieve your life defining moment.
9. Because you have made an impact in people’s lives and that is a good thing. New and aspiring bloggers look to establish blogs for ideas and inspiration, I have taken much from reading your blogs.

10. Because when Mr Brown is finally deposed of his office, there will never in your lives be a more satisfying post than the one you will write immediately after hearing that news! Do you really want to miss that opportunity?


Now, take what time you need, but I look forward to reading a lot more from you guys in the future and hope you all are back in front of the keyboard soon.
Update:
21:00: Chicken Soup and hugs needed for Ross & Henry too.

Recommended Reading

Here is my latest recommended reading list.

Please note, I do not necessarily agree with these posts and articles, however I found them sufficiently interesting to warrant a recommendation:

Dungeekin turns all Bill Bryson with a write up of his trip around the UK coastline.

Ranting Stan believes the world has gone mad!

Subrosa publishes a poem sent to her but dedicated to her English friends.

Mark's Any Musings recalls Nightjacks "A survival guide for decent folk."

And finally, Events Dear Boy, Events has details of the cabinet bonus scheme.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Look Inside Cheryl Gillan MPs Expenses - Part 1

As mentioned previously I have been taking a look through my MP’s expense claims and this is the first post with some of my findings. There will be more to come, though the time it takes to sift and sort through everything is going to make this somewhat drawn out. A bit of an intro is in order here, so that on the later posts I can dive right in.

I have no personal or professional conflict or association with Mrs Gillan, except for attempting to get a face-to-face meeting during an organised lobby of Parliament whereby participants sought an audience with their MPs to question their voting intention on the passage of the Lisbon Treaty and urge a vote for a Referendum, or reject the treaty outright. Cheryl Gillan MP was unavailable to meet me, but did write to me after to say that she was indeed voting as I would have hoped.

Why have I undertaken the task of trolling through receipts and expenses?

To start, I am upset by the revelations in the past year about MPs expenses which fits into my view that MPs on a wider scale are not accountable enough and that some are exploiting financial advantages that are available to them because of their positions. Secondly, I like moaning and pontificating, and as someone who wants greater transparency, I feel a tinge requiring me to avail myself upon its availability with the hope of demonstrating the virtue of making the most of these disclosures.

I say this to hopefully demonstrate I have not begun looking into these expense and allowance claims for the purpose of unseating Mrs Gillan as MP, or creating damage. I would be doing this regardless of whoever my MP is, and I am simply trying to highlight some of the claims. More generally, as stated on this blog I have repeatedly stated that I am very at the way in which MPs allowance and expense are administrated, and do believe that an exceptional amount of tax payer money has been wasted, squandered, laundered and in some cases out right stolen.

This task has obviously been made harder because of the efforts to censor much of the information. There are items I am going to include that I might not have done if basic information had not been blacked out. If the intention was in part to cause less of a stir by covering certain details, they may find this might backfire my experience is now that it makes it harder to be sure claims are in order.

It is my intention to carry on reviewing other sections of these files, publishing my findings and opinions periodically. Upon conclusion of this review, I then hope to construct an letter that encompasses my findings and concerns and send that to Cheryl Gillan MP so that these can be answered – unless those concerns are already addressed earlier via the official constituency site, by public statement or via this or any other blog.

I hope my efforts can be mirrored by others, and that there is and continues to be some pro-active citizen participation.

During the Telegraph revelations Mrs Gillan only came to notice for a claim made for dog-food for a few quid that was promptly refunded and was blamed on an administrative error, it seems reasonable to me that given the volume of receipts that a small claim for dog food slipped through and that it was appropriate that it be both highlighted and repaid.

I have however found some irregularities, or at least what I perceive to be irregularities; and I have found some things I am unhappy to see have been claimed for. I have been looking through the incidental Expenses Provision (IEP) for two accounting years, 2004-05 and 2005-06. I should add, what I set out below is not the full picture of these periods, there are a few entries I am looking further into before I write about them, (though depending on the results of that may not look nor write further.) There is also the following years claims and as well as the publications for Communications allowance and Additional Cost allowances.

As this post focuses on the Incidental Cost Allowances, we should first define this appropriately as the costs incurred in running an office. There is no statement of principles for claiming in the front of the 2004 Green Book, but for substance here is the list of principles for claims as listed in the latest edition, as set out in Section 1.3 of the Green Book - MPs must (now) adhere to these:

1. Claims should be above reproach and and must reflect actual usage of the resource being claimed.

2. Claims must be made for expenditure that it was necessary for a member to incur to ensure that he or she could properly perform his or her parliamentary duties.

3. Allowances are reimbursed only for the purpose of a Member carrying our his or her parliamentary duties. Claims cannot relate to party political activity of any sort, nor must any claim provide a benefit to a political party or organisation.

4. It is not permissible for a member to claim under any parliamentary allowance for anything that the member is claiming from any other source.
Members must ensure that claims do not give rise to, or give the appearance of giving rise to, improper financial benefit to themselves or anyone else.


5. Members are committed to openness about what expenditure has been incurred and for what purposes.

6. Individual Members take personal responsibility for all expenses incurred, for making any claims and for keeping records, even if the administration of claims is delegated by them to others.

7. The requirements of ensuring value for money is central in claiming for accommodation, good or services – Members should avoid purchases which could be seen as extravagant or luxurious.

8. Claims must be supported by documentary evidence, except where the House has agreed that such evidence is not necessary.

The principles conclude by saying:

These principles recognise that, in the nature of our democratic system, Members will wish to explain their views about policies.

However, public money must not be used to give unfair political advantage to one political party, and for this reason there are specific controls on particular allowances.

The 2004 Green Book can be seen here and the 2005 copy here.

In the 2004 book, Incidental Expenses are defined as such:

Office and surgery accommodation

Equipment and supplies for the office and/or Surgery

Work commissioned and bought in services Communications and travel

Certain staff related costs. (In order to meet these, you must transfer funds into the staffing allowance)

[Please see the detailed guidance in section 5.13.]

Fellstream Ltd

This is the company in which the annual rent payments for the Constituency Office are paid, the payments are made directly between the Fee’s office and Fellstream Ltd.

The rent invoice is submitted once a year, and the fees office then takes care of the payments. There are a number of invoices submitted during each year in addition to the rent charges. Unfortunately many lines have been redacted so it is frequently unclear what is actually being claimed for – I make this point here as it will be relevant to later sections.

The main observations I have about their invoices are that they are handwritten on a blank piece of paper with a simple letterhead. I am not sure that my company would accept their invoices as legitimate for payment, and the given what were are looking into, accepting invoices of such quality leaves room for fraud to easily take place.

An example of a typical invoice is below.


Utilities

During the 2004-05 year, four invoices totalling £325.26 were submitted from Powergen for Electricity; the addresses have been redacted.

During the year, a number of handwritten invoices were submitted for Fellstream Ltd. Because of the redaction it is impossible for me to see exactly what has been claimed for on every line of every Fellstream Invoice but a further £84.20 was paid to Fellstream Ltd for Electricity relating to the rented office. This would appear to be a duplication of charges.

Similarly, there is an invoice for Three Valleys Water for £206.28 dated 14-Feb-04, yet during the course of the year there is one payment visible to Fellstream for the Water Meter of £34.12. Again, because of the censorship on many of the Fellstream lines, it is impossible for me to tell how much was paid to Fellstream for charges on the Water Meter.

In the 2005-06 year the same happens again with redacted invoices totalling £389.79 being submitted from Powergen, yet at least £26.06 is visible on invoices submitted via Fellstream Ltd during the same period for Electricity.

It does not appear that a direct invoice was submitted for Three Valleys Water during 2005-06 year, but at least one visible charge is made via Fellstream Ltd for water charges for £45.99.

Banner

There were consistent statements entered for Banner. Most statements have redacted the itemisation show this would appear to be the principle stationery and office equipment supplier. It is clear that items such as files, folder, staples are being claimed for.

In 2004-05 claims expenditure via Banner came to £1,103.53 and from Office World £339.34. [Total £1,442.87]

In 2005-06 claims expenditure via Banner came to £1,980.02, and £62.98 from Rymans for Ink Cartridges. [Total £2,043]

Though this seems a little high to me, I cannot see any evidence of wrong doing or suspicious claims on the banner stationery statements, perhaps partly due to the censoring but maybe because there is none.

Petty Cash

There is no provision included within the 2004 or 2005 Green Book that allows for the claiming of Petty Cash, and it is not listed as something that can be claimed for. What would be the point of implementing a system of expenses and allowance to keep MPs salaries in check if the system then just hands out regular payments of cash?

Even though it is not included as an allowable claim I have seen some forms state that no more than £250 Petty Cash is available in a single claim. This, is something I will be looking for greater clarification on as these forms would seem to provide a contradiction of the purpose and of the rules set out in the Green Book.

In 2004-05 a claim for £300 in Petty Cash was submitted, and revised to £250 and paid. This was the only claim during this year.

During the 2005-06 year, there were seven claims for Petty Cash totalling £1,450. I think it fair to question why there would be a 580% increase in such a cost year on year when there has been no visible drop-off in claims either in number or value. Furthermore, it is evident that consumable and stationery claims were being made via the receipts entered and the numerous statements from Banner, so where is all of this additional cost required?

Even though there would seem to be a contradiction in whether Petty Cash should be claimed or not, the Green Book is clear that all expenditure should be accounted for and beyond question.

Section 5.11.1 states that allowable expenditure (as set out in later pages) provided it is wholly, exclusively and necessarily on Parliamentary duties.

Given the rules as set out, in my letter to Cheryl Gillan (post review) I am going to ask if Petty Cash books or some kind of audit process has been kept to keep account of these monies.

I have not done a detailed review of the later year yet, but from a quick view Petty Cash claims remain a consistent claim in the following years.

Another Administrative Error?

In 2005-06 there is a claim entered for what appears to be a mobile phone battery, but as the receipt entered shows the amount to pay is £20 as an item valued at £79.99 in credited against an item costing £99.99. However, the claim goes in for £99 despite the receipt confirming only a £20 purchase having occurred. I have not seen a claim for the mention unopened returned product – so maybe the full amount paid was £99.99 – but surely the second receipt should therefore have been entered.




Wasted Money?

In 2004-05 there was an invoice submitted for £450 & VAT from a company called Politico’s Design, there is some redacted sections, but the one itemisation states this fee is for the registration of a URL [which then seems blacked out].
A quick Google search suggests that the registration of a URL can be done for free, and through other websites for charges less than £10.

When I checked out Politico’s Website they list Cheryl Gillan MP the URL as http://www.cherylgillan.org.uk/ but also state that the website is no longer live. Their Portfolio page is here. http://www.politicosdesign.com/project.jsp?ID=15

The Politico’s Design website invoice is dated 24-Oct-04.

There is a second invoice for web design submitted in the same year, this time for £1,500 & VAT submitted via a second company called Palace Computing. This invoice is dated 17-Jan-05 and relates to the still live website: http://www.tellcheryl.com/. However, the Publisher of this website is listed as P.H. Dumville who is a local Conservative Election Agent.

Both Politico’s and Palace Computing boast directors on their websites with close links to the Conservative party. This is not in itself explicitly against any rules, but given the sums should be mentioned at least. I am not sure that this is entirely beyond reproach and questioning.

At this point, I should be clear about another point, neither of these invoices appear to relate to the set up of the current constituency website which can be found here: http://www.cherylgillan.co.uk/type1.asp?id=43&type=1

I do not know why the original website was taken down, or even when it was taken down, but it seems excessive to me for so much money to be spend on two websites that seem fairly simple in design (no offence intended towards the designers on that score) neither of which is the standing website (again of simple design) that prevails in 2009.

Perhaps I will be put right on the point of costs by people more in the know, but for comparison sake let me make an illustration. I have created this blog on the Blogger platform, established a dedicated email account, set up a twitter feed, implemented Google Analytics, registered on various blog directories and have available to me when I see fit the brilliant cover-it-live (live blog) technology all for a competitive £0.00; and I am pretty clueless with IT outside of MS Office.

There may be no case here of rule breaking, but I think this stands out as very poor use of tax payers money.

Work Carried Out

There have been a couple of instances where work has been carried out within the constituency office and claims have been submitted via invoices headed by Fellstream Ltd; so I was a little surprised to encounter an invoice that was not submitted via Fellstream Ltd, but seems to have been paid directly.

Usually in managed premises you arrange for work to be carried out as a tenant for or you have the agent do it, it would not to be seem normal to have some done by different manners, especially with the consideration that all work costs eventually leads back to the Tax Payer. So, I highlight this only because through the censoring of these documents the address where the work was undertaken is hidden, and could potentially be an indication of an invoice for work submitted somewhere other than the Constituency Office, and may be a case where this should not have been claimed as an incidental expense.



From the itemisation we can see that there is work done on shelving, but also work done around a kitchen unit to make room for a fridge…. I have never been to the constituency office, though I cannot imagine that with a small staff there is the need for kitchen units and fridges? And a fireplace? Thus it stands out and I file this under the suspect receipts heading.

I am conscience that this post is getting unattractively long so I am going to finish now, there is more to write about, including a look at the IT equipment and phone charges – but tons more to look through so I will post occasional observations [sans long intro] every few days until I have sifted the lot.

The King Is Back

I missed the post from Lord Elvis from last Friday when he decided to pack in the blogging game in the wake of the Nightjack outing; but I did see the following post from yesterday whereby he declared a change of heart and is to start blogging again. Great news.

Today, Lord Elvis has posted an intriguing post with a call to arms of sorts, it is a nice story, but will be of particular interest to those who have their own blogs. I have already emailed the King to indicate I would like to be a part of his new venture.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Wet Parliament

For many years now, notable Parliaments have earned nicknames, usually telling or mocking by nature but which summarises their term and how they are remembered by. I will list a few examples below, but I was just thinking about what this Parliament would be remembered as.

A few months back, I felt sure that History would remember the Lisbon Treaty stitch-up and deride this Parliaments’ role in it, however, it now seems more likely (to me) that the current MPs expenses revelations will be the abiding memory.

So my suggestion would be the wet Parliament, because of the spit and bile so generally reserved and aimed by the public towards those who sit within and have profited personally so much from this Parliament. I would not believe anyone who told me that there had been a Parliament which came before which ignored its manifesto commitments so egregiously or which contained a group so self-interested.

Anyway, I am sure you can come up with better so let me know in the comments. But for some ideas, here are a few example of previous Parliaments.

The Long Parliament (actually had in part 2 nicknames ) – Was formed by Charles I in 1640 and was formed following the Bishops Wars. It earned its name from the fact that through a unique Act of Parliament it could only be dissolved with the agreement of its members. It sat between 1640 and 1649, when it was purged by the New Model Army of Parliamentarian. Those who sat past this purge sat in what became known as the Rump Parliament.

The Rump Parliament – This Parliament, now free of those who were opposed to the notion of trying the King for Treason but were under effective control of the Army during and after the Civil War until restoration in 1660. It was known as the Rump Parliament as an homage to the hind end of an animal, refereeing to it as a remnant.

The term has been used since on any Parliament which is left over from a Legitimate Parliament.

The Mad Parliament (1258) – was formed during the reign of Henry III of England in Oxford which founded through disaffection with the King then laid out the Provisions of Oxford founding a 15 member Privy council to supervise ministerial appointments, local administration and custody of Royal Castles. The Mad Parliament met three times a year to monitor the performance of the Privy Council.

The Parliament of Devils (1459) – this Parliament was summoned in October 1459 in Coventry and lasted until December 1459 and its main business was to bring charges of Treason against Yorkshire Noblemen during the War of the Roses.

The Parliament of Bats (1426) – Held in 1426 in Leicester, and is so named for the ban on carrying swords implemented by the Duke of Gloucester. As such, members brought clubs and bats.

Recommended Reading

Here is my latest recommended reading list.

Please note, I do not necessarily agree with these posts and articles, however I found them sufficiently interesting to warrant a recommendation:

Daniel Hannan has the apology that you will not be reading in the newspapers today.

William Rees-Mogg thinks Brown will sacrifice the Labour Party for the benefit of the EU and the Lisbon Treaty.

LFAT writes to President Sarkosy's on his considerations to ban the burka.

The Times reports that David Miliband has been branded a "Waste of Space" by the father of a British hostage still missing in Iraq.

And finally, Tony Sharp thinks the BBC have got it wrong keeping Sir Alan Sugar on for the apprentice, and has a suggested replacement.

Monday, June 22, 2009

MPs Choice - Who Cleans Up Parliament?

John Bercow's voting record towards a transparent Parliament:

George Youngs voting record towards a transparent Parliament:


Not a great day for our Democracy

Incapable Of Changing

Not Surprised at all, but the Daily Telegraph has up the story that the Labour Whips are touting for Margaret Beckett as she is Browns Preferred Candidate.

The election of Speaker is supposed to be a free and secret ballot so that the person elected has the support of the whole house and is not beholden to a party for this position. If Beckett is elected with the support of the Whip, she will be the place-person of a discredited and unpopular PM, and unable to draw support from across the House... The main requirement for a Speaker looking to reform Parliament in the wake of the MP Expenses scandal.

I have said before, and I say again: Legitimate reform of Parliament requires a General Election, a fresh Parliament and then a fresh Speaker.

Same old Gordon.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Ireland And The Second Referendum

The fate of Europe, and the direction of the EU rests in the hands of the people of Ireland, again.

It has been confirmed that a second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty will be held in Ireland in October, probably on October 2nd. The second referendum has come about because of the no vote registered by voters in Ireland last year, which has held the whole treaty up.

It is not the first time that Ireland has been asked to vote again after registering the “wrong decision” and it is a disgusting trend that the people of Europe have again registered via the ballot box disapproval for the direction of the EU for that vote to be ignored and later overturned.

The Taoiseach (Brian Cowen) has said that he has won key legal guarantees from Brussels in areas of taxation, neutrality and ethical issues and that these guarantees will be entered as an amendment to the Lisbon treaty post ratification.

But the fact of the matter is that the Lisbon Treaty will not change one bit, not by one word and the Irish will again be told to vote on text that they have rejected. The Treaty cannot be amended without the possibility of legal challenges in those countries that have ratified the Treaty already. The Treaty is a rehash of the earlier European Constitution, which was killed by the voters of France & the Netherlands.

In the presence of concerns from Irish voters, assurances will be given, but they will not carry any real weight because of the refusal to amend the actual Treaty to include such concerns. If Irish concerns were to be correctly addressed, the Treaty would surely have been amended to include these.

I am from the UK, but I spent much time in Ireland last year (preparing for and then getting married there) and followed the original Irish referendum. I hope to through English eyes talk to the concerns that I heard raised in Ireland.

Firstly there is a concern about the Legal Personality granted to the EU. The present relationship is still viewed in Ireland largely as one of co-operation between nations rather than of the EU being a supreme government; but that will change post-Lisbon. Ireland fought long and hard for independence from Britain and there are many that question the wisdom of handing principle control of Ireland to Brussels.

These concerns are increased when we look at Article 9 whereby the European Council changes from an inter-governmental body to that of an EU institution without a direct link to the people of Europe and without any electoral mandate, control or accountability. Article 9 also removes a member states automatic right to have an EU Commissioner and deliberately sets out that the Commission shall be independent from the electorate and from interference from National Governments. It re-asserts the Commission as the Executive Function of the Union and sole competence over has what is termed “Power of Initiative”.

“The Commission shall neither seek nor take instruction from any government or other institution, body, office or entity”

Previously when people have pointed to the gapping democratic deficit in the EU model, pro-EU arguments have centred on National Governments control over appointment of EU Commissioners. This is a poor rebuttal, but even that slim thread of Democratic semblance is to be lost under Lisbon. The EU executive cannot be thrown out by any voters, and as such does not listen to it’s voices, but instead listens to central banks, lobbyists and think-tanks. With reduced participation from member states in this body, the Democratic Deficit grows, and I would surmise to too will voter disenfranchisement with the EU.

Article 48 of Lisbon gives the EU in a post-Lisbon world the powers necessary to amend its own treaties and articles without recourse or accountability to national governments or electorates and without the need for new Treaties. As such, this is the blank cheque that the EU wants for it means that despite any arguments and despite any assurances the EU has power to make laws in any area it sees fit to do so. The EU will in future not require national ratifications to assume control in any area or to legislate however it sees fit to do so. In handing this control to Brussels, the assurances received by the Taoiseach are worthless, because the EU can from now on do what it likes, and can legislate in any way it wants and the Irish Constitution which has required Referenda until now is superseded. That includes tax law and that included legislating on ethical issues, such as Abortion.

UK Red Lines were also secured, these were created so as to give the appearance that the UK Government was safe-guarding UK interests and self-governance. This is of course a myth, a smoke-screen which has served its purpose and is no longer even alluded to.

Michael Connarty MP said on behalf of the EU Scrutiny committee during the UK analysis,

"We believe that the red lines will not be sustainable. Looking at the legalities and use of the European Court of Justice, we believe these will be challenged bit by bit and eventually the UK will be in a position where all of the treaty will eventually apply to the UK. If they can't get these things firmed up, we think they will leak like a sieve."

This is not just hearsay, this is what has happened with every assurance, rebate and red-line that has ever been put into place between the UK and the EU; the ones that are in place still are being challenged bit by bit, disregarded, ignored or in the case of the Working Time Directive, new EU legislation forcing a universal maximum working week is being rail-roaded despite previous assurances to the contrary. This is being done with the explicit and enthusiastic support of Labour MEPs.

See also what the reaction was to the EU flag and anthem, removed from the EU Constitution so as to allow an argument that this treaty was different and “not constitutional” – these have already been through a separate initiative brought into legitimacy via the EU.

The EU always gets what it desires.

EU powers are increased and formally the EU takes control of a number of competencies associated with national governments some of which have not been openly debated. Common policy (i.e. internal EU policy), foreign policy (i.e. external to EU), Security policies, harmonisation of criminal law, extension of the powers to the EU Public Prosecutor, Defence policy, extension to existing trade policies, justice and economic policies.

These powers are surrendered forever, with the only possible recourse to leave the EU altogether to re-establish self-determination. Such action is dramatic and extreme, but is the ultimate consequence following on from decades of prescribed direction and legislation from the EU enthusiasts. Expect sanctions and disincentives to be threatened against those who oppose the EU, for they are its enemy and dissenting arguments are absolutely not allowed. The club has become a bourgeois aristocracy built upon an uneasy cooperation between the corporatist and a broad Socialist extreme. Forget past allegiances, once you become servile to the EU, it is your only master.

The European Council (where nationally appointed Government members meet, such as foreign secretaries on Foreign policy..) will move from a requirement of Unanimity to QMV (Qualified Majority Voting). This is likely to result in the bigger nations being able to asset more control on Council Meetings and initiatives, as the bigger nations control more of the EU budget. Certainly the influence and concerns of a single nation with presence at the council can now be simply disregarded. I am told that the result for Ireland is a net reduction in influence on this particular body perhaps as much as halving their voting influence via the complicated QMV system, but there is a similar loss across the smaller or less influential nations and an increase in the control available to the big 3 nations, UK, Germany & France.

In short the aim had been of the EU Council to find international consensus, this will be replaced under Lisbon with the Council being a function of the EU, not a place for national politicians and leaders to meet. The pursuit of consensus will be replaced with the pursuit of majority consent.

The Treaty on a whole has been drawn up by and serves only those who favour a Federal Europe and strong-arms opponents with the threat of economic loss for non-cooperation (which is debateable, but admittedly more risky in the credit-crunch world). A corporatist bint is held up and falsely presented as pursuing capitalistic aims, as too are social and green issues the smokescreen for pursuit of personal comforts and equality.

Like the rest of Europe the people of Ireland are concerned about the economy. Initially the EU has brought much economic success and business have taken advantage of Ireland being a relatively low cost place to set up their business in the only other English speaking country in the EU. However, the cost of business is going up, and real costs in Ireland have increased. It was noticeable to me on our earlier trips to Ireland in 2007 that day-to-day things were slightly, but noticeably more expensive to the UK. I am not talking about Dublin which like most capital cities is more expensive that the rest of the country. The cost of visiting Ireland increased all through 2008 as the £ tanked against the €.

But having had the opportunity to speak to people in Ireland they are weighing up the EU benefits and those benefits obtained by national initiative. For example, the low rate of corporation tax versus the UK had provided the opportunity for UK based companies to open offices across the water and move their head offices and principle accounting to Ireland rather than the UK. There was an initiative from within the EU to harmonise Corporation Tax across the EU, the cost to Ireland of such EU legislation could sent their economy backwards.

The no-votes of the French and the Dutch have been ignored, and instead of looking to increase democratic controls and accountability, these are eroded further under Lisbon. The influence of the enthusiastic bloc of large nations on just about any issue will outweigh and overrule national governments and the wishes of any (or even all) of the EU electorate. You don’t need to read too much history to know that every single time such power has been centralised and accumulated by such a central source it is always used to bring misery to those who oppose the direction of that body. Voters are consistently denied a voice, and when, on those few opportunities some voters have been consulted (when it was thought that they would vote in favour for the EU, or where there has been no choice) these votes have been ignored.

As I said above, there is nothing the EU can offer the people of Ireland in a way of protecting concerns over Tax and over ethical issues such as abortion. It is impossible in Europe today to make any assurance or document that challenges the authority of the EU – for it is already supreme, but is greedy for more. As it is supreme, it is free to overturn any assurance it grants, as it has when assurances have been granted in the past. For what it is worth, I do not trust the word of the EU on any issue and any assurances will surely be ignored at a later date. The people of Ireland got the vote that the people of the UK and many other EU countries were denied. They, in the infinite wisdom of an electorate made the right decision by voting no before, and as nothing has changed I hope they vote the same way again.

It is my hope that we in Europe can move away from this 18th Century notion of unifying Europe under one system of governance, and make everything the same. It cannot be done without the implementation of tyrannical instruments and at the cost of misery and usually the loss of many lives. But if you do believe it is possible to find a way to bring about a Union in Europe, the EU in its present form is not the answer, and can never be the answer. There is nothing in Lisbon that changes that for the better, only provisions to the detriment of democratic accountability.

Much like before the first referendum, the assumption was that the people of Ireland would vote yes, but I am not convinced. Real people when presented with the facts have the capacity to consider wider issues and the future. Ireland was right last time, and with nothing new or different to vote on this time will, I believe, vote the same way again.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

A Wolf In Sheeps Clothing

A Wolf found great difficulty in getting at the sheep owing to the vigilance of the shepherd and his dogs. But one day the Wolf found the skin of a sheep that had been flayed and thrown aside, so it put it on over its own pelt and strolled down among the sheep.

The Lamb that belonged to the sheep, whose skin the Wolf was wearing, began to follow the Wolf in the Sheep's clothing; so, leading the Lamb a little apart, he soon made a meal off her, and for some time he succeeded in deceiving the sheep, and enjoying hearty meals.

Appearances are deceptive.

Then...

Wolf resolved to disguise his appearance in order to secure food more easily. Encased in the skin of a sheep, he pastured with the flock deceiving the shepherd by his costume.

In the evening he was shut up by the shepherd in the fold; the gate was closed, and the entrance made thoroughly secure. But the shepherd, returning to the fold during the night to obtain meat for the next day, mistakenly caught up the Wolf instead of a sheep, and killed him instantly.

Harm seek. harm find.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Did Gordon Brown Lie To Parliament?

Mark Reckons and Constantly Furious have appealed for some wider coverage to their posts (which I am happy to do)... I link to their original posts above. I would also encourage other bloggers to spread the word.

Three Line Whip (Alex Singleton) had a piece today which reveals that a Downing Street staff member has said that Gordon Brown was briefed by Damian McBride just before going onto the Andrew Marr show on 31st May 2009.

During PMQ's this week the PM was asked:

Mr. Lee Scott (Ilford, North) (Con): Will the Prime Minister tell the House whether the Government have received any informal briefings from Damian McBride?

The Prime Minister: I have not.

Thus, we can safely surmise that the Prime Ministers pants are ablaze.

Recommended Reading

Here is my latest recommended reading list.

Please note, I do not necessarily agree with these posts and articles, however I found them sufficiently interesting to warrant a recommendation:

The Daily Referendum Blog talks about Labour Scorched Earth approach with ID Cards.

Douglas Carswell MP tells us who is really lobbying for an end to Trident.

Ambush Predator warns of an imminent invasion.

Richard Spring MP and and example of how he is promoting democracy.

Guido started summarising MP expenses revelations highlighted by his readers.

And finally, The Telegraph has started published MP Expenses documents, and is showing some comparisons between their more detailed documents and the Governments heavily censored copies.

Who Do You Want To See Out The Last Year Of Labour Government...

The answer is, Frank Field as per the poll results, recorded below for the benefit of historians downloading (or, uploading?) the old Internet 1,000 years from now.

Gordon Brown - 11% (2)

Alan Johnson - 5% (1)

Jack Straw - 17% (3)

Frank Field - 35% (6)

James Purnell - 5% (1)

Harriet Harman - 5% (1)

Tony Blair - 17% (3)

No one voted for David Miliband or Charles Clarke [in this poll].

Thursday, June 18, 2009

MPs Expenses Release - Petty Cash Is An Allowance?

I thought I would have a look through some of my MPs expenses at lunch-time, but the truth is it would take a lot longer to sort through all of those receipts.


I recommend a bit of citizen journalism, go to THIS link and look up your MP, or any Peer's expenses & allowances and see what they have claimed (through all of the black out.)

It would take me a month of lunch-times to get through Cheryl Gillan MP's expenses, but already it has turned up a few things from a very quick review.

Firstly, when this counts as a legitimate invoice, you can only wonder at the scale of possible fraud that may have taken place on a wide-scale:



More worryingly though, is that it seems that when you are short of a few quid, you can simply claim for some "Petty Cash" as seen on these examples:






I am not sure that Petty Cash how fits into the rules, if it does at all, but it certainly does not seem to be as described in the forms own instructions. It would be nice if my employer could give me some extra money every now and then when I need it - I would be happy to fill out a short form in order to secure it.


I will be clearing some time from this weekend to take a more detailed look I think - certainly I need longer than my lunch-time will permit. It seems that it will need to take people who are interested in making sure that our elected representatives are not ripping us off to give up yet more lunchtimes and weekends to highlight potential dishonesty.


If you are not a blogger and you take a look and see something odd, feel free to email me with the details (and preferably a link) and I will be happy to publish irregularities on my blog, giving due credit or ensuring your confidentiality as you prefer.

Update 14:15 - Having looked through a years worth of claims and receipts (c200 pages), it seems that "Petty Cash" to the value of £200 or £250 comes up regularly, in fact I think every month, but would need to print & reorganise this to be sure. In any case, this looks like a regular income supplement to me, especially considering a lot of "petty items" such as staples are being claimed for separately..... I have spotted a few other potential irregularities that may pan out with a little time and investigation..... But for now, back to my day job!

Update 20-Jun-09: Have spent hours looking through the 2004/05 incidental & staff expenses, there are a lot of questions I now have, and some potential mis-claims evident.... I need to review later years though as some points may be further revealed on later claims.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Nothing New To Say Still

My head is still swimming so nothing new to write about. But I do have a question.

Why are we prepared to pay so much for Tea & Coffee in cafes, restaurants, waiting rooms and on planes, when at the supermarket the equivalent tea bag or few coffee granules costs pennies.

High streets are full of gourmet coffee shops selling a Tea bag in hot water for over £2, when is the credit crunch going to shake us from our addiction for overpaying for this particular vice?

If I make a point of vocally refusing to pay so much, will you also do the same?

Off to the pub, back soon.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Writers Block

I am struggling to find the motivation to blog at the moment, having had my attention pulled away from the blog for a few days I remember what it was like not to worry about having material to post.

Mostly I am just to angry at this Labour government, and having not blogged for a few days those small threads of ideas are not coming to more than splintered bile and crap.

So, here are some pictures my wife took of our dog Poppy a few months ago whilst bored (because I was ignoring her, probably too busy blogging)...
























I hope to be back in the right frame of mind soon. If not, I will press the self-destruct button and start again in a year or so.

Recommended Reading

Here is my latest recommended reading list.

Please note, I do not necessarily agree with these posts and articles, however I found them sufficiently interesting to warrant a recommendation:

Behind Blue Eyes asks, where is the anger?

Daniel Hannan says that the EU is in no position to lecture Tehran about democracy.

Archbishop Cranmer questions Ken Clarke's and the Conservative Party's position on the Lisbon Treaty.

The Man in a Shed has a considered piece on the 4th estates role between the Labour Government and the people.

Subrosa brings us the speech from Richard Shepherd from the dissolution debate.

And finally, Dizzy with some 21st Century family communications.

Enjoy!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Catching Up

It has been a busy week, my manager has been over from the US and one of my in-laws has been unwell, so I have had very little time for the news, let alone to post anything on the blog.

I haven't been reading the papers, I haven't seen much news, I missed PMQ's, Question Time, This Week and my regular Thursday live-blog on B-BBC.

I did hear about Ronaldo's move to Real, but that is for another blog.

However, I was looking forward to the prospect of what might occur from the dissolution debate on Wednesday, so I made the occasional two second visit to Sky News and BBC on Wednesday, but these revealed nothing.

I half expected (well, hoped) to hear crowds spontaneously break into applause as a dissolution was announced, but it got to the end of the day and there was nothing in the news about what had happened.

I am struggling to find a comprehensive write up, but I understand that there was a poor turn-out, and by virtue of Parliament still sitting I guess the Government won the vote.

Very disappointing.

Anyway, I did stumble upon this clip from the debate, which is of William Hague in fine form.



I will easing myself back into blogging over the next few days.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Recommended Reading

Here is my latest recommended reading list.

Please note, I do not necessarily agree with these posts and articles, however I found them sufficiently interesting to warrant a recommendation:

It didn't take long, Bruno has the story that the EU now wants to change the way we vote, so we are voting for their grouping rather than our parties, here.

Roger Helmer has found annoyance with yet another EU law, here.

Alan Wallace with the history behind why he hates political parties, here.

Janet Daley says the PM survived by giving in to everybody, here.

And finally, Guido and a rather tasteless remark from Kevin Maguire, here.

Enjoy!

New Poll - Who Would Be Best To See Out Last Year Of Labour?

I think it is a quite straight forward question, though I am sure there more than a few that would like none of the above. This is in the if you had to chose vein and is if all were available & eligible.

The poll is on the right hand side of the blog, please vote there, but feel free to add any questions or points in the comments field of this post.

PM Poll Closes

I asked how you felt the Paralysis at the head of our government and the ensuing crisis would play out in a short poll, here is how you responded.

Gordon Brown Resigns by Monday (8th June) – 7% (2)

Parliament votes to dissolve itself (10th June) – 11% (3)

Re-shuffle fails – 22% (6)

Email plot forces PM Challenge – 7% (2)

Gordon announces Autumn election – 11% (3)

Gordon holds on until June 2010 – 40% (11)

Queen installs new PM and dissolves Parliament before July – 0%

Something else – 0%

The 2 that said resign by Monday were wrong, and I suspect the email plot has died, even if the people behind it might try something else. Last night’s PLP meeting seems to have brought supporters out in front of detractors and with the cabinet largely purged of opponents it seems unlikely in the short term that Gordon is going to get a tap on the shoulder.

I feel the best chance is the vote tomorrow, but without Labour Backbench support it is doomed to fail, leaving a later challenge or the pressure being applied so that a summer or Autumn election as the best chances of being rid before next year.

The late surge on the poll was on Gordon holding out until June, a lot of votes yesterday for that as it became clear that the plotters are either inept or are very few in numbers.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Labour - Wrong Again

I am not a Labour MP so I guess I don't get a say in it, but watching some of the limp debriefings from people leaving the Parliamentary Labour Party meeting, my measure on events is that Labour MPs lack the stomach for a fight. Not something I would want to see from my MP.

This is part of the reason the country is where it is, how often have we seen the Labour Government of the last decade set a direction in which the Parliamentary Labour Party was too frit to stand up an oppose; Iraq, foundation hospitals, various budgets, the abolition of 10p tax, fox hunting, Lisbon, Post Offices, hospital closures, tuition fees etc... Again when they are needed they line up behind the Whip.

There were a few who spoke to the TV news who seem unconvinced, but if Labour does not act now it will end up with the worst of both worlds. It was hard to imagine a sub 22% Labour vote, but they took 15.3% on the EU election... it may not recover from this number. What is a victory for Labour now, a 22% vote tally?

When faced with the gamble of one more year on the gravy train by taking a big risk with Gordon Brown or putting their arguments to the country they chose the the easy option.

It's not just the lack of spirit from the PLP in the face of election wipe out, (15%, it was only yesterday you can't have forgotten already!) it's that we will have to listen to Gordon re-re-re-re-hashing some old initiatives, again in the next few weeks, dutifully reported by our MSM as he attempts to add a lick of paint to mask the damage. We have seen it all before, and we registered our feedback at the ballot box. Yet again our voice is ignored.

What Would You Say?

A thought prevails this afternoon, I keep wondering what I would say if I were Gordon Brown facing the Parliamentary Labour Party.

I am not sure this will be taken as a serious question, but none the less…. if you were, perhaps courtesy of a BBC2 or HBO special plotline transported into the body of Gordon Brown and wanted to win the support of Parliamentary Labour Party back tonight, what would you say? Could you convince them to back you, or would you rely on tactical whipping?

I can’t shake the feeling that it does not matter what he says, because of who he is and how it will be delivered – the substance of any positive message will be lost. It's a shame these meetings happen behind closed doors.

My Thoughts On The EU Election Results

Firstly I should start by confirming, I did cast my vote for Jury Team as I had stated, and I am proud to have done so. I am of course disappointed that they have not won any seats, but I think their presence in the race had a big effect.

With the expenses scandal and the Jury Team running open primaries there has been a working comparison and calls for re-selection in certain wards. I would of course go further and re-iterate my desire for wide spread open primaries (or at the very least Party caucuses). I have read much in the last year on a lot of blogs about the need for more Independents in our legislature and the Jury Team has satisfied those calls and I think will also have an influence on the debate when we finally get a General Election.

Let us also not forget another of Jury Teams big principles, the elimination of the Whip system, which in this Parliament has enabled much unpopular legislation be passed, not leased the Lisbon Constitutional Treaty. We have not heard the last from Jury Team.

Moving up through the parties, I think the Greens did well, both they and the BNP received a straight transfer of votes from previous Labour voters. I am disappointed that the BNP has won seats, but it was bound to happen one day with the PR and Party List system. I cannot bemoan them for getting elected, it is for everyone who disagrees with the BNP to now hold a mirror up to them, their policies and activities. There emergence in mainstream politics means they have to work with the same rules as everybody else, only effective head-on debate and door-step politics will defeat them. It is often said we get the politicians we deserve, and perhaps that will become an apt phrase when reflecting on the BNP and this result.

I suspect the Lib Dems will be claiming that they did OK, but the truth is, they should have over taken Labour given the national mood. By some metrics they were close, but “close” is not good enough. With smaller parties around such as UKIP & the Greens they are not viewed as a sensible protest vote. They can perhaps be heartened that the result suggests their hardcore vote is close to matching Labours at present.

UKIP did very well and have on the whole had a good campaign. I may feel a bit foolish for again saying this openly, but I think they could get a few Westminster seats at the next General Election, and they certainly have some momentum from which to build on and a sound platform on their key issue. If they can make the General Election about the EU, and keep the Lisbon Treaty in the news then I do think they can make it a big 4 in UK politics. They may nick a few Tory votes on the way, but I think they will also nick quite a few Lib Dem ones in English regions.

There are some murmurings from the grass-roots about Nigel Farage’s leadership – I think UKIP should back Farage, not least because this is a solid result, but also because he is generally seen as likable generally performs well on TV – I am not sure UKIP have anyone as recognisable who could step into a void and do as well in what could be an impending General Election. The flip side is, if UKIP fail to make an impression in Westminster Elections they could soon be eternally doomed as a single-issue party – a label their rival parties are keen to attach already.

The Conservatives have had a fab night, and we were treated to another great Hannan TV moment when he broke into Dr Seuss. There is an argument that they could have done better, but I think given the temptation to use a protest vote, and their reluctance to speak about the EU in the preceding 4 years and 11 months, that it was a sound performance and there will be some vindication on their decision to leave the EPP grouping, which I think was the right thing to do, if a little late. The Centre right seems to have done measurably better than the centre left across Europe, whether they are in or out of power nationally, so it would be wrong for our Labour party to suggest this is simply another EU election that favoured the opposition party.

I expect that the usual Labour faces are doing the rounds on TV today [I am at work, so no TV…] saying that they do not view this result as a vote against them, but the truth is it is. Firstly, both they and the Lib Dems are wildly out of step with the views of ordinary people on the EU. They of course fear consultation on all issues relating to the EU as they see benefits that suit their politics and make decisions based as such. However, people have voted democratically and much more that 50% of that vote went to EUsecptic, or anti-EU parties. The contempt for Labour that they have and undoubtedly will show by pretending that this is not a direct message is one that now is widely recognised.

Labour are a dying party, then need to amputate a vital limb if they want to survive at all. There is still (to my continued bemusement) general support for the Labour Party, and their policies. There is no confidence however in their leader, one G. Brown. There is no opposition and no opinion poll that doesn’t back the idea of replacing Gordon Brown.

I think it is not an unfair or inconceivable statement that Labour could be relegated to the being the third party of British politics if they cannot reverse their fortunes. Last nights elections confirmed that they are polling half of the Conservative vote and could easily lose competitive battles with the Lib Dems. The Conservatives are now electable throughout the UK again, and have an appealing brand and leader. The Labour Party must break the habit of the last decade of believing they know better that the information they are being told from voters, it is an unattractive and distasteful trait that we have had to observe far too frequently. Labour Councillors were screaming during Fridays count that their experience on the door-step was that national politics was killing their vote. In other words, the Labour Grass-roots were confirming that this was a series of elections that reflect the voter’s mood towards the National Government. This was our vote of confidence. The Government failed.

If there is any semblance of dignity; any desire left to put those they serve above their own personal ambitions then the Parliamentary Labour Party need to move against their leader tonight. They need to leave him with no doubt that they are prepared to put the electorate before their party leadership; if it can still be described as such, the “decent option” should be presented as resignation. If Gordon still in charge by Wednesday, Labour will certainly face the prospect of setting an unwanted prescient of having Parliament vote to dissolve itself; a legacy that may never be recovered from, and not something that will stand as a shining example in the history books.

My final point is not about the parties but about the coverage. The BBC was late in putting a show up which is disappointing. However, the Iain & Hopi show was very good and I shall definitely make a point of tuning in again. Their coverage of the local results was very interesting and quite revealing. I was flipping between Play radio, Sky News and the BBC whilst live blogging over on A Tangled Web – by 2am I was very a very tired man but satisfied with the overall coverage available.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

EU Election Prediction

Here is my national vote split prediction, feel free to leave yours in the comments:

Conservative - 32%

UKIP - 19%

Liberal Democrats - 18%

Labour - 16%

Green - 5%

Jury Team - 3%

BNP - 3%

Other - 4%

I have not got a brilliant record on predictions, but I have not let that stop me.

Should We Look To Have An Elected Upper House? - Part 1

Part 1, The 1911 Parliament Act

With a lot of talk of constitutional reform pinging around the world of politics and the blogosphere I thought I would take some time and make the case for an elected second chamber. This needs to begin with a look at the why the Lords has limited its role in the twentieth century, chiefly the 1911 Parliament Act.

There have been advantages to having an unelected second chamber, and there has been some level headed debate and opposition in reining back on big swings of legislation that came from the House of Commons that were unwise and or poorly constructed. This has become the role of this chamber – to be to revise and advice on legislation submitted from the commons. The argument has been that the unelected Peers will not act in a populist manner, and have protected conventions and the Crown. However, that argument is still dependant on the Lower House being prepared to listen to such revision.

The Upper House though has been weakened over hundreds of years, and subervance cemented ever since the 1911 Parliament Act which asserted the supremacy of the House of Commons by limiting the blocking powers of the House of Lords. This act has affected the way this country has been governed ever since and put nearly all control of our affairs in to one House – the elected house. Parliament was designed to operate as a Bicameral Legislature with the executive drawn (and accountable) from within.

The notion and theory behind Bicameral Legislatures has grown over centuries and there are many examples in history and worldwide of legislatures are more agreeable to the people when it’s legislation is enacted upon with the benefit of the pause, second thought and active revision; and I would add split representation. There also tends to be a trend that in Presidential systems, and systems where the executive is separate from the legislature to two chambers of the legislature, these tend to have roughly equal or counter balancing powers between chambers. Whereas Parliamentary systems, where the executive is in the legislature, one chamber tends to have much greater controls and powers that the other.

Originally most power of Parliament and was in the Lords, but over time, with reforms of the electoral system and occasional unrest power has shifted away from the nobles and the majestic to the peasants and common folk, especially since rotten boroughs were eliminated and 19th Century reforms that allowed more and more people the right to vote. In the last century the power has shifted further towards the commons. In this time whenever the Lords has made challenges to the Commons authority it has eventually been beaten, and often subsequently had yet more control taken away so as to not allow it the ability to block. Such measures have tended to be popular at the time as it is held up that the undemocratic House is blocking the democratic part of the Government.

The evolution of the role of the office of Prime Minister and of Cabinet Government had gently nudged power away from the Sovereign and increasingly the cabinet was being drawn from the House of Commons. Only since Pitt had the need for a figurehead co-ordinating cabinet government been recognised and operated in such a manner, but by 1911 because of gradual constitutional reforms and in broad communications methods and with the requirement to solicit a mandate from a much wider electorate it was expected by the public that the leader of the majority in the House of Commons to execute Government policy as mandated via General Election.

The aforementioned 1911 act was a response to events of the previous two years. At the time the Lords was dominated by Conservative Hereditary Peers, but the Commons was in good balance with and the Liberals had tended to return a good number of seats in the Commons. In 1909 the then Liberal chancellor David Lloyd George had proposed a budget which was named the “Peoples Budget.” The headline of this budget was the introduction of the Land Tax which was targeted at wealthy land owners and was an obvious and deliberate attempt at wealth redistribution. However, The Conservatives argued that the budget would be very detrimental to industry and proposed tariffs on imports [Conservatives were promoting protectionist measures to so as to protect their own wealth]. The budget was blocked by the much larger Conservative majority in the House of Lords, a great many of whom were directly affected by the Land taxes.

The Liberals were clearly upset at a financial bill being blocked in the House and were more in touch with public opinion and built upon the unpopularity of the House of Lords in the January 1910 General Election and promised to reduce the powers of the House of Lords. The Election returned a hung Parliament which allowed the Liberal Party to form a minority Government with the Labour Party and the Irish Nationalists. The Lords finally accepted the people’s budget, but despite the recent election victory the Liberals still had to drop the Land Tax to ensure its passage through the Lords.

The Liberals floated proposals to limit the influence from the Lords, which proved very unpopular. So Herbert Henry Asquith took his case to King Edward VII and requested that the King create sufficiently new Liberal peerages to allow his Lords reforms to be passed. The King refused and the Lords voted down the 1910 reform bill.

Asquith did not relent. King Edward VII died in May 1910, and George V agreed that if an electoral mandate was achieved and the Lords attempted to block again he would create hundreds of Liberal Peers to neutralise the Conservatives in the Lords. So Asquith went to the country again, and won, and was able to secure his mandate and formed another minority government.

It was still a tight vote but the 1911 Parliament Act was eventually passed which secured the supremacy of the House of Commons. The provisions under the act prevented the Lords from blocking any public legislation approved by the House of Commons and imposed a maximum of one month delay on any money bill (where taxation is concerned) and a maximum blocking time of two years on any other bill. The Commons Speaker was empowered to designate what bills were Money Bills, and if the block had not been resolved within that month the bill could be sent for Royal Assent without approval from the Lords. On other bills, the Lords could only be circumvented if a Bill passed the Commons three times, though there was a required lapse of two years between second and third readings. [Blocking power was further restricted in the 1949 Parliament Act]

The Lords retained the power to veto a bill in the 1911 Bill that prolonged the life of a Parliament, however the Septennial Act 1715 was officially amended so as to restrict the maximum length of a Parliament from 7 years to 5 years. The Lords also retained the nominal power to veto any bill that originated from the House of Lords and also on any bill that attempts to extend the length of a Parliament.
However, this whole act and tipping of power was enacted as a temporary Bill with this very key preamble:

Whereas it is intended to substitute the House of Lords as it presently exists a Second Chamber constituted on a popular instead of hereditary basis, but such substitution cannot be immediately brought into operation.

So the 1911 Parliament act, which is intended to allow a majority Commons force enact legislation as a temporary measure until the House could be reformed soon after with an elected chamber. This means that 98 years ago, it was agreed by the Lords to do away with hereditary peers.

So why have we not progressed to an elected Lords in the last 98 years? I don’t know, but it is clear that with the reduced power in the Lords, and with the power at hand to the lower house to amend by act of Parliament the Upper House we have, to an extent adopted a unicameral Parliament. This has largely suited the Governing Parties of the last 100 years, but has slowly taken away the some of the required checks and balances that protects a nation’s population and makes effective the legislation possible. Sure the Lords is able to offer some control and advise in terms of revising laws, but it has no real powers over the Government or the House of Commons.

If there was an elected Upper House, with its own elected mandate, legislative equality could be restored to Parliament, and the balance of power and potentially the way the cabinet functions would need to be addressed. There is the potential to have checks and balances put in place that would represent and defend people. I have some ideas for this and will share them at a later time.

I should also say that the reasoning behind much of the reforms I have read about I think I would have backed at the time, as each was based upon strengthening the power to those elected and ensuring passage of popular law. However, the chief failures of Parliament today stem from a centralisation of power. Instead of centralising power, I think we should look to widening and expanding the elected part of Government, so that power can be more evenly distributed - though not by extending an all ready over packed House of Commons but by reforming the second chamber that can hold the Commons to account.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Tractor Stats Is Back!

I have missed this blog so much! TractorStats recycled - David Forward.

Recommended Reading

Here is my latest recommended reading list.

Please note, I do not necessarily agree with these posts and articles, however I found them sufficiently interesting to warrant a recommendation:

Subrosa reveals to us another little Westminster club that we can all be mad about, here.

Edmund Conway tells us about the best economics website on the internet, here.

Tory Poppins and the New World Currency, here.

Witterings from Witney with Straw's Mea Culpa, here.

Tom Harris made a bold prediction (on Tuesday) under the title you heard it here first, here.

And finally, EU Referendum Blog with a demonstration of EU Democracy, here.

Enjoy!

Friday, June 05, 2009

Not A Trace Of Red



























Map lifted from ConservativeHome

Sky News put up a scale +/- graphic as the counts began earlier today, measuring between +300 and -300 seats for all the parties.   They said anything in the -250 region would be meltdown for Gordon Brown, and at present they are looking at -305 - 5 more than they felt was conceivable even in terms of a Labour drubbing.

The Parliamentary Labour Party still holds the key for now, some tough decisions for members over the weekend but a fresh beginning is their only hope to avoid meltdown when we do finally get a General Election.

Gordon Brown Logic

Gordon Brown  is going to listen to what people are telling him...... but will ignore messages via the ballot box

Gordon Brown is going to clean up the electoral system..... by stuffing his cabinet full of unelected peers

Gordon Brown is getting on with the job.... that he has not been elected to do and refuses to seek any electoral mandate for

Gordon Brown is going to act decisively and take the tough decisions...... just as soon as his committee's, reviews and QUANGOS have all signed off on it first

Gordon Brown is restoring unity to Government.....  Whist his cabinet comrades are resigning and briefing against him, including press releases whilst he is on live TV

Vote Labour!


I Think We Are Going To Have To Drag Him Out Of Downing Street

It is clear that Gordon Brown is not going to resign, and that the Labour Party Constitution is powerless to force his removal.

I am not sure that I know how to organise a revolution, but I really feel like marching up to Downing Street, tonight, and showing my disdain and hopefully if others feel the same to force the PM out.

I see Steve feels the same, Should we do it? - Who can make it tonight?

Or should I stay home and get drunk instead? - 

I think I know which.

19:52  - Belatedly checked spelling & grammar

Flint Throws Herself Off Cliff

Last night she was sticking by Gordon.

Today she is releasing press releases as the PM is addressing the nation.  Career ending stuff, unfortunately not for Gordon Brown.

This Government is a shambles!

Hazel Blears
John Hutton
Paul Murphy
James Purnell
Geoff Hoon
Caroine Flint

44 more and we have a leadership challenge.

Update - The Full Letter, from the Times

Dear Gordon

 

I believe the achievements of the Labour Government to date have been monumental and you have played an immense part in the creation of those achievements. 

However, I am extremely disappointed at your failure to have an inclusive Government. 

You have a two tier Government.  Your inner circle and then the remainder of Cabinet. 

 I have the greatest respect for the women who have served as full members of Cabinet and for those who attend as and when required.  However, few are allowed into your inner circle.  Several of the women attending Cabinet – myself included – have been treated by you as little more than female window dressing.  I am not willing to attend Cabinet in a peripheral capacity any longer.

In my current role, you advised that I would attend Cabinet when Europe was on the agenda.  I have only been invited once since October and not to a single political Cabinet - not even the one held a few weeks before the European elections. 

 Having worked hard during this campaign, I would not have been party to any plan to undermine you or the Labour Party in the run up to 4 June.   So I was extremely angry and disappointed to see newspapers briefed with invented stories of my involvement in a “Pugin Room plot.” 

 Time and time again I have stepped before the cameras to sincerely defend your reputation in the interests of the Labour Party and the Government as a whole.  I am a natural party loyalist.  Yet you have strained every sinew of that loyalty.

It has been apparent for some time that you do not see me playing a more influential role in the Government.  Therefore, I have respectfully declined your offer to continue in the Government as Minister for attending Cabinet.

I served six years as a backbencher and, therefore, I am not unhappy to be able to devote myself to promoting my constituency’s interests and to support the Labour Government from the backbenches.

This is a personal decision, which I have not discussed with colleagues. 

 

Yours