Saturday, 27 February 2010

What a faith

‘The Roman Catholic Church will wade into the general election campaign next week with a controversial document condemning the loss of virtue in public life.’ The Times 27/2/2010
Would this be the same Roman Catholic Church, which has for years suppressed and covered up the abuse of children by its priests? Would this be the same Catholic Church, who’s Bishops colluded with the abusers by covering up their offences and blaming the victims? Is it the same church that took out insurance against the discovery of their cover up, but then did nothing to root out the abusers for the next ten years in Ireland? Is this the same Vatican who refused to co-operate with the recent Irish Inquiry on spurious grounds of ‘diplomatic recognition’? And set aside huge sums of money to pay off victims and buy their silence? Is this the same church that condemns the use of condoms to prevent the spread of AIDS in third world countries?
Oh! It is. 

Thursday, 25 February 2010

None of the above

At the last count there are candidates from the three main parties standing in my marginal constituency. Having researched them, none of them fill me with optimism that they are capable of grasping, nevermind tackling, the big issues confronting the country.

So what are we constituents to do faced with such an abject bunch of candidates? Many politicians are currently held in justifiable contempt and root and branch reform is urgently needed. It is not a time to elect party lobby fodder. At a time of national crisis it is clear that the more we divide the more we fall.

It is highly likely that voters faced with third rate candidates, peddling vague pledges about the economy, will stay at home on Polling Day. This would be very worrying. It could appear by not turning out that people do not care or cannot be bothered when in fact they feel ill disposed to our rotten system. One solution is to register our displeasure by writing ‘None of the above’ on the ballot paper. Rather than appearing as ‘spoiled ballots’ these votes should be recorded. That way the political establishment would get some idea of how disaffected people are. And then, just maybe they will begin to grasp that we are fed up with petty point scoring from a party political system fighting over the same centre ground.

In future elections and if such votes form the majority then the election in a constituency would be declared void. Parties would then need to hold Primary elections to select more effective candidates. The voters in a constituency would then be actively involved.

It is time to regain some control from the political class and rescue democracy from the mess it is in.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Lies, big lies and New Labour

It has been fascinating to watch the New Labour machine at work. First we get outright denial, then a grudging acceptance that things do get heated and that, “Gordon is a passionate man.” That is ‘passionate’ in the sense of rages and physical abuse of inanimate objects. The machine then goes from rebuttal into full attack mode.

Anyone who dares to contradict the stated line can expect to have their history trawled over but by who? Researchers? The Security Services? Friendly journalists are then briefed. Party wolves descend on the studios to put the boot into the truth and do as much damage to the reputation of opponents as possible.

Remember this is what Brown has been doing for many years – to people who were supposed to be colleagues! Does the name McBride ring any bells? He was not a loose cannon despite claims to the contrary. There are many ‘advisors,’ paid for by us, from our taxes, who exist to threaten, smear, grease and smarm the way for their masters.

What a rotten way to run a country.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Bullying Brown

Only when Brown became PM did the stories emerge of his temper, his rages, and his penchant for throwing objects around. Labour MPs who supported his coronation and derided those who opposed him have a lot to answer for. They knew. They suppressed the knowledge until it was too late. They colluded with madness.

They also sent a message to every tin pot office tyrant and chief exec that swearing and shouting at junior staff is acceptable. For that alone they should hang their heads in shame.

They were aware of the depth and bitterness of the feud between number 10 and number 11 Downing Street. They must have known that it can only have done harm to the country. Still they did nothing. There have been several failed coups – a clear indication of just how much dissatisfaction there is at the heart of government. And now they wait as each week brings the day of reckoning closer. They talk up their chances when in their hearts they know they are doomed.

Senior Civil Servants are queuing up to put the boot into a chaotic and incoherent form of government.  Public appearances at the Chilcot Inquiry supplemented by off-the-record briefings and leaks. The timing feels orchestrated so no doubt there are going to be further revelations. This will continue up until the election.

The Labour Party went through colossal soul-searching in the aftermath of their ’79 defeat. That will be as nothing compared to what is likely to come next.

Many Labour MPs will rue the day they sat on their hands. 

Friday, 19 February 2010

Oh No! Its Winterton

Just when Cameron thought he had got the caring cuddly tories under control yet another soon to be ex grandee comes roaring out of the box. Nicholas Winterton MP, pontificated on the hardship of sharing standard carriages on the train with the likes of you and me.

This is the same MP who along with his wife (MP for neighbouring Congleton) claimed more than £80,000 for a London flat owned by a trust controlled by their children. Funneling public funds to ones children is on the same continuum occupied by notorious cheat Derek Conway MP who paid his children for non-existent parliamentary work. (Why no interest from the police?) The Wintertons have announced they will stand down at the next general election. Several folk from Macclesfield tonight defended him as, “a good local MP,” It makes you wonder what some people have to do to be seen for what they actually are. Judge them by their deeds and how much they took the public purse for.

Winterton seems to be thick (skinned?) and has lost touch with life in the real world. He is not alone in the House of Varieties. There are many more like him. Many are standing down with no honour and even less respect. It is vital that those of a similar ilk of whatever party who are not standing down should be thrown out at the election.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

See Evil, Hear Evil, Cover Up Evil

Among the many outrageous claims made by Miliband and the Muppets is the one that challenging the security services ‘aids the enemy.’ Nothing like a bit of ‘national security’ to cover up all kinds of malpractice and skulduggery. As the Times said in its leader,
“It is not the acceptance of misdeeds that tarnishes a country’s reputation and gives succour to its enemies. It is that they happened in the first place, and the cover-up that seeks to pretend that they did not.
Mr Miliband and the Government’s lawyers initially cited national security reasons for their attempts to block the release of those seven paragraphs, on the ground that the sharing of US intelligence could lead to such secret information being henceforth withheld. This was a spurious contention at the outset, and at any rate it is now obsolete. The intelligence has been published, and that argument is over. Further censorship on the ground of national security is not only counterproductive, but shameful for a supposedly centre-left government that pays lip service to the notion of transparency.
When Mr Mohamed was first mistreated, the British Establishment chose, studiously, to look the other way. This week, it has stared its misdeeds in the face, and behaved little better.” The Times 16/2/2010

That is not all. Let us be very clear where the real blame for these appalling deeds lies. 
Clive Stafford –Smith wrote in the Guardian,
“The key moment in the whole torture scandal came on 10 January 2002, when an anonymous agent in the field "reported back to London his 'observations on the circumstances of the handling of [a] detainee by the US military before the beginning of [his own] interview'." The officer – perhaps it was witness B, the agent who has become infamous for his interrogation of Binyam Mohamed – obviously had qualms about his responsibility in the face of prisoner abuse.
Overnight, London replied: "You have commented on their treatment. It appears from your description that they may not be being treated in accordance with the appropriate standards. Given that they [the prisoners] are not within our custody or control, the law does not require you to intervene to prevent this." In other words, see no evil, hear no evil.
The villain of the piece was not the functionary, but the person who sat at the desk setting the rules.
….And that policymaker does appear to be a villain. It is not permissible to act the ostrich in the face of medieval mistreatment of prisoners. The Convention Against Torture is explicit that it is a crime to commit "an act … which constitutes complicity … in torture". The courts have long since concluded that British officers were, indeed, deeply enmeshed in the abuse.
The investigation into torture has never been about finding a lowly ­scapegoat to take the blame. We must identify those who set the rules. Once this has been done, we must understand why they strayed so far from our ­principles, and establish regulations to avoid this in future.”

We must also do all we can to get the dirty sordid details into the open before the General Election so that Miliband and the Muppets can be judged initially at the court of public opprobrium and then hopefully in the Old Bailey.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Decisions, decisions, decisions

Overheard at a concert the other night. Three elderly gentlemen were bemoaning the state of the nation. One said, "I can't stand Brown." "Me neither," his friend agreed, "and I am not convinced at all by Cameron." "And as for that slippery so-and-so Osborne," the third one chipped in.

Ho hum.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Blow me down again and again and again

The head of MI5, Jonathan Evans, is facing growing criticism after it emerged that he was the senior spy responsible for most of the 13 cases involving former terror suspects who are suing the government for alleged torture. You know who he is - he was the one alongside Kim Howells and the two wise monkeys (Miliband and Johnson) who protesteth far too much about their innocence at the end of last week.
 And just like Howells, who was in the F.O. at the time, Evans was director of MI5’s counter-terrorism branch between 2001 and 2005 — when the British residents claim they were tortured in foreign jails with the collusion of MI5 or MI6. 
Currently there are 14 cases going through the courts. It truly is amazing how co-incidence piles on co-incidence to damn these establishment pillars. And all because they happened to be in charge when criminal offences are alleged to have been committed.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Blow me down again

Just found out this morning that Kim Howells was a Minister in the Foreign Office at the time the torture allegations began. To suggest that this was in any way connected to the flannel and hogwash he poured out yesterday on the 'Today' programme would clearly be an insult to an esteemed member of the establishment....

Friday, 12 February 2010

Blow me down

MI5 have been economical with the truth. They did not present the full picture to the Intelligence and Security Committee. The Chair of the ISC, Kim Howells, made himself look a bit of a stooge when he attempted to defend MI5 on the Today programme this morning. As this current crop of MP’s cannot be trusted to look after anything but their own interests, it is not really surprising that MI5 chose to withhold 42 documents from the committee. Many MI5 officers must despise their so-called political masters.

We are constantly told just how important ‘national security’ is yet there clearly are few effective checks on the security services. To rely on placemen like Howells – who must surely have known about the missing documents when he spoke this morning – is a cause for considerable concern.

The Thick of It

Home Secretary Alan Johnson has just been on the radio castigating press reports that the government has been colluding with torture. He backed up the Head of MI5's claim that criticism was helpful to our enemies. Having seen him parrot what he was told to last night in a documentary about the Home Office, I wonder whether he believes this rubbish or is spouting what he has been told by the spooks. Five independent judges are not convinced.

 “Oh what a tangled web we weave,
 When first we practice to deceive” Sir Walter Scott
 “But with practice dearest chums –
 See how easy it becomes” 
 D. Milliband and A. Johnson (apologies Ogden Nash)

The accounts below from Clive Stafford Smith, writing in the Guardian paint a different picture.

 “In a scathing judgment running to 84 pages, the court of appeal has slapped the government down in the case of Binyam Mohamed. As many will recall, Mohamed was seized by the Pakistanis in April 2002, turned over to the Americans for a $5,000 bounty, abused for three months, rendered to Morocco, tortured with razor blades to the genitals, rendered on to the "Dark Prison" in Kabul, tortured some more, and then held for five years without charge or trial in Bagram air force base and Guantánamo Bay. The verdict of the court – comprised of three of the country's most senior judges – underlines the shameful way in which, in this case and beyond, our political leaders have placed their desire to suppress embarrassing revelations above the welfare of citizens.
Yet two years into the litigation, the foreign secretary, David Miliband, still argued that a court would be "irresponsible" to reveal the material – strong language when aimed by the diplomatic service at the judicial branch.
"No advantage is achieved by bandying deprecatory epithets," the judges replied, before passing out a few polite insults themselves. The foreign secretary's intransigence was "irrational" and lacking in "commonsense". With the original high court judges, that makes five independent members of the judiciary against one US-dependent politician.
So what is truly at stake? At its most significant level, the decision focused on a legacy of the "war on terror" that is more bitter even than abusing prisoners: the conflation of national security with political embarrassment. The fact of torture is horrific; but the concerted effort of British and American officials to cover up the torturers' crimes is far more insidious. How can we learn from history, and avoid repeating mistakes, if we do not know what that history is?
This is a high-profile example of a national disease. Because we fear for our safety and cherish our privacy, politicians argue that we will lose both if we do not sacrifice our right to free speech, our "right to know". We should, in other words, simply trust them.” Extracts from an article by Clive Stafford Smith, Guardian 11/02/2010

Miliband and Johnson's actions and ‘trust us’ justifications place the UK alongside totalitarian regimes infamous throughout history. It is a legacy of shame on this governments actions and reflects deep shame on Miliband and his colleagues. Complicity with torture; complicity with rendition; the use of ‘National Security’ to prevent transparency, and all done in our name. 

As Clive Stafford Smith concluded:
 “Suppressing any evidence of government criminality on grounds of national security sets a very dangerous precedent.”  

Thursday, 11 February 2010

The eyes have it

Would you buy a second-hand car from this man? What a journey he has made from young firebrand to establishment stooge who has raised slipperiness and evasion to an art form. He has spun so much and so often he is now trapped in a web of his own making. 

When we needed a statesman we got Jack Straw.

“Chilcot said that from everything the inquiry had heard and read, Straw was the only person to have been kept fully informed throughout. Straw suggested that defence secretary Geoff Hoon was also closely involved, but the point had been made: not just that Straw was in the loop all the way through, but that most of the rest of the cabinet didn't know a lot of what was going on.
Jack Straw made clear in evidence to the Iraq inquiry today that he believed there was absolutely no need for the cabinet to be told of the attorney general's doubts about the legality of the invasion. (my emphasis)
The inquiry has heard that a week before the invasion, on 13 March 2003, Lord Goldsmith, the attorney general, told Straw that he might need to tell the cabinet that "the legal issues were finely balanced", documents released by the inquiry today reveal. Straw, then foreign secretary, advised him not to do so, warning of "the problem of leaks from the cabinet"; the inquiry has heard it was never told of Goldsmith's doubts.” Guardian 09/02/2010

“But this lack of debate in Cabinet did not matter, for “we got lawyers from both sides…arguing in the public prints”, which meant ministers knew there was an argument going on: “We were being publicly bombarded with the arguments.”
Mr Straw’s use of the word “bombarded” is much more revealing than he intended. It conveys not just a sense of self-pity – poor man, to have these arguments raining down on him - but the implication that arguments were something against which the Government needed to defend itself.
Mr Blair established a form of government, which enabled him to avoid necessary arguments, and Mr Straw was his faithful helper in this unconstitutional endeavour.” Telegraph 09/02/2010

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

The Case for Voting Reform

Study the tables from the Electoral Reform Society below and make your mind up. For even more boggling figures try looking at the 80’s and 90’s on their website.

May 2005
Liberal Democrats

 June 2001
Liberal Democrats

The startling fact of the elections in the 2000s has been their low turnout – around 60 per cent, compared to a norm of 75 per cent for most of the post-war period. Labour won both elections with comfortable parliamentary majorities despite, in 2005, a lack of public enthusiasm for the government and only 35 per cent of the popular vote.

The biggest single group of voters in the 2000’s was the non-voters. The % figures
from the charts are based on the votes cast. Labour’s figure for  2005 is actually just over 21% of the maximum vote. They had the support of just over 1 in 5 of the electorate. A very different perspective on a so-called ‘comfortable’ win.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Fraudulent MP’s

The Crown Prosecution Service’s decision to charge three Labour MP’s and a Tory Lord is welcome. But it poses several questions. For instance the case of Elliot Morley seems clear-cut in that he claimed for a mortgage he had paid off. It will be interesting to see what his defence is. If it is to be ‘privilege’ then there is going to be one hell of a stink. As for the others they could all say, “It wasn’t just me.”
What about Harry Cohen who rented out his second home to tenants while claiming money for it? Surely that is as bad? And the MacKay/Kirkbride combo who are married but each claimed 2nd home allowance when they were living together? And the Wintertons? And Hoon? And McNulty? And all the other flippers and fiddlers.

The latest one, Junior Minister Sion Simon, who according to the Telegraph, was caught, “renting his "second home" in London from his sister, Ceri Erskine. MPs have been banned from renting property from family since April 2006. But Mr Simon continued to pay Mrs Erskine thousands of pounds from public funds after the rule was introduced. He apologised and promised to repay about £20,000.”

He is stepping down at the election and says it is because he wants to be Mayor of Birmingham. Oh yeah!

In short, there are plenty of execrable MP’s to go at so why stop at three? And as for the Lords and the European Parliament….

Sick bags all round

When the Roman Catholic Church admitted Anthony Charles Lynton Blair into its mendacious bosom it was truly welcoming a sinner. His long-suspected involvement in pushing through cabinet the sale of an unwanted military air traffic control system to one of the poorest countries in the world (who did not even have an air force) has now been proved.

Then consider his role in putting pressure on the Serious Fraud Office to drop their lengthy investigation into BAE’s Al Yamama arms deal. The £40 billion deal with the Saudi’s, arranged by Mrs Thatcher, with the help of Jonathon Aitken. Just at the exact moment the SFO had gained access into Swiss bank accounts. And just after he had had a private chat with one of the major beneficiaries - the Prince who BBC Newsnight said made over a billion in bribes from BAE.

So we have corruption; we have perverting the course of justice; we have cover up; we have greed and we have at best a supine cabinet that mainly went along with all of this; and yet again we have no one held to account. And there is no sign of repentance. 

Go back to July 1998 and read what he said as a new Prime Minister, "We do, as a new Government, have to be extremely careful ...  that we are purer than pure, that people understand that we will not have any truck with anything that is improper in any shape or form at all."
It is astonishing that there are still people around who look up to Blair and who are prepared to pay him obscene sums of money. It cannot be for his moral compass, it must be for his phone book.

Pass the sick bag – and make it a big one.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

The Wire

Just completed another series of ‘The Wire.’ Venal and corrupt politics tie in with ineffective and corrupt administration in the Baltimore Police, Docks and Schools departments. The outcome is a failing city – all documented with gritty realism in engaging and provocative multi-layered scenarios. All very credible.

Does any of this ring any bells? Day by day we hear more stories about our venal and corrupt politicians. Forget expenses for a minute. Take a look at Network Rail and how it is kept off the public balance sheet and not scrutinised because it is, “A Private Company.”

But, and it is one hell of a but, we pay billions in public funds annually to keep this ‘private’ company rolling. Far more than was ever paid in annual subsidies to the old British Rail. To cap it all the head honchos of this private company pay themselves enormous salaries.

There are too many similar examples. A bit of tweaking with our political system will simply not do. Root, stem, branch, twig and leaf reform is essential. Decent people have to take over. 

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

The Gravy Train Rides on

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the nefarious activities of Harry Cohen MP. He claimed for a second home but rented it out to tenants! Made a fortune. Last Friday he apologised to a ‘scarcely-attended’ House of Commons.
'I'm here to apologise to the House. I do so without proviso.
'There was no intention of wrongdoing on my part, and I am sorry for my assumption that I was eligible to claim as I did, which was wrong.'