Monthly Archives: June 2010

>Four To Go

>Music for me:

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>One For The Money

>Bank of International Settlements

The Tower of Babel

And one for the road – Furtwangler, 1942:

Enjoy it.  If ever there was a misappropriation of music, this is it.

>PMQs: Verdict

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I don’t think there’s much to write home about this week except that it was notable for there being no roll of honour from Cameron.

When Labour was in government it was evident that they didn’t listen to any views other than their own; their heads nodded, their mouths said yes but their actions proved them liars and manipulators. It’s interesting to see them in Opposition after 13yrs because they’re just the same but more vocal and aggressive. They still have their fingers in their ears, they still hear what they want to hear and still think that talking over someone & shouting louder is somehow ‘winning’ the debate. For Labour it’s always about scoring points whilst ignoring the evidence and blaming someone else.

As for the LibServatives, once we’ve all fully recovered from the shock of hearing a pacey and well-articulated PMQs we can concentrate more on the content. It’s not looking good.

The first question today was from Kevin Brennan (Lab, Cardiff West): Is the reason he wants to put fewer criminals in jail to do with cutting crime or cutting budgets?

Cameron: What this govt wants to do is clear up the complete mess of the criminal justice system left by the Labour Party. each prison place today costs £45k yet 40% of prisoners are back in prison within a year. More than half of them are on drugs and around 10% of them are foreign national prisoners who shouldn’t be here in the first place.

Nadine Dorries (Con, Mid-Bedfordshire) asked that local people be given a say on the proposal by an American company to build an incinerator ‘the size of Wembley’ in her constituency.

Harman asked whether the estimated figure of 1.3m job losses as a result of the Budget was produced by Treasury officials.

Cameron: The honourable lady should know [interrupted by Labour heckling, already] … I will give a surprisingly full answer if they just sit patiently. This morning the OBR produced the full tables for the Budget for employment in the public and private sector. This is something that never happened under a Labour government. As shown in the budget, unemployment is forecast to fall every year under this government but it also does show public sector employment and what’s interesting from the tables is you can see the effect of Labour’s policy before the budget and you can see the effect of our policy after the budget. What the figures show is that, under Labour’s plans, next year there would be 70,000 fewer public sector jobs and the year after that there would be 150,000 fewer public sector jobs. The reason is we’ve had the courage to have a two-yr pay freeze. I know we’ve all been watching the football but that’s a spectacular own goal.

Harman was having none of this of course. She was sandwiched between a rather self-satisfied Darling and a somewhere-over-the-rainbow Shaun Woodward who only raised his chin occasionally to intone ‘yeah, yeah, from time to time. Harman persisted in asking why the PM wouldn’t publish “hidden” Treasury documents, she spoke of “abject misery”  [to ‘hard-working families’] and asked how much extra would be spent on unemployment benefit.

Cameron referred her to the OBR, “independent from the government” and told them to stop “chuntering about it”. 

Osborne, who I understand has sinus problems [ahem] hence his unfortunate tendency to look pretty vacant as he catches flies, sprang to life as if in disbelief that anyone could possibly be as thick as the honourable members opposite. The Americans have a word for something that isn’t what it appears to be – ‘cute’ – and that’s what Osborne is. I used to have a ‘cute’ car – it didn’t look particularly fast but you know what stripey, go-faster boys can be like when they see a blond in something unusual. They didn’t know it was fibre glass and couldn’t see what was under the bonnet: it always gave me immense girly pleasure to leave them standing.

Back to poor George – his expression as Cameron explains the OBR to Harman & Co is a picture and I think that’s part of the reason I still like him – he hasn’t mastered the politician’s trick of making a mask of his face.  He’s somehow childlike and open in his facial responses when he’s off-guard. It doesn’t seem to have clicked with him that by sitting to the left of Cameron at PMQs he’s on constant show and I’ll regret the day that it does.

Clegg wasn’t particularly animated in this session, in fact he’s been pretty subdued throughout, as if he’s missing the limelight of the Leaders’ Debates. He allows himself a wry smile from time to time but usually he just looks squashed and glum – the smile never reaches the eyes. I’m surprised because I’d have thought Clegg & the LibDems had more reasons than most to be cheerful. I look at what the Conservatives have watered-down or back-tracked on to date and I think I have more reason than Clegg to wish I was far, far away with a cushy number in Brussels and a haughty disdain for my fellow man.

Harman pointed out that the Treasury had less money coming in and more money going out – she blamed the Budget but that’s how it was with Labour before the election, they just haven’t had to admit it.  I’ve never known a politicial party so relieved to lose a General Election and another so reluctant to win an outright majority.

There was quite a bit of banter, exasperation and footballing euphemisms – “from peaceniks to peacepods”, Darling’s words were thrown back at him, “slotted into the back of the net”.   Keep an eye out for what Cameron disdainfully and ingrammatically called, “the stupidest piece of spending”, ie  a £2.4m refurbishment of Harriet’s own department incl. £72k each on “2-storey meeting pods known as peace-pods”.

Are there any lip-readers out there?  At approx 04.37 in Video 3 when Meacher asks why ‘bankers and the super-rich’ aren’t losing their jobs what does Cameron say to Osborne (my best guess at the moment is ‘wtf is this?’ ) and what’s Osborne’s response?


Is your MP here?

Backbench questions included homecoming parades, debt & deficit, unemployment; prison sentences; student visas;  ‘in-care’ children, Sheffield Forgemasters; Afghanistan withdrawal;  care of our AF wounded ;  paediatric care in the NHS;  hospice funding; the importance of international aid; the bank levy;  the UN’s Children’s Day;  any cuts in Scotland to be brought before the Scotland Committee at Westminster:

Steve Brine (Con, Winchester);  John Cryer (Lab, Leyton & Wanstead); Julian Sturdy (Con, York Outer);  George Howarth (Lab, Knowsley);  Stephen Lloyd (LibDem, Eastbourne); Megg Munn ( Labour Co-op, Sheffield Heeley); Gary Streeter (Con, SW Devon); Caroline Lucas (Green, Brighton Pavilion);  Mark Lancaster (Con, Milton Keynes North);  Kate Green ( Lab Stretford & Urmston); Charlie Elphicke ( Con, Dover) (ruled out of order);  Elizabeth Kendall (Lab, Leicester West);  Robin Walker (Con, Worcester);  Gordon Banks (Lab, Ochil & South Perthshire); Tony Baldry (Con, Banbury); Michael Meacher (Lab, Oldham West & Royton); Annette Brooke (LibDem, Dorset Mid & Poole North); Michael Connarty (Lab, Linlithgow & Falkirk East);  Matthew Hancock (Con, West Suffolk) [one to watch];  Graham Jones (Lab, Hyndburn).

Bercow intervened quite a few times but mainly to tell b/benchers to keep their questions brief.  At the end of PMQs he also ruled that  the Home Secretary had been out of order in releasing key details to the press before they were presented to the House.  Theresa May stood up, “deeply regretted the fact” and apologised to the House.  I don’t recollect the previous government doing that.

Other ‘points of order’ followed which weren’t points of order at all – merely a way of bringing attention to a perceived grievance.  Michael Connarty (Lab, Linlithgow & Falkirk East), to his credit, did raise the question of the still non-existent European Scrutiny Committee.  Apparently there are five Labour MPs lined up to sit on the committee.  Bercow is sometimes his own worst enemy – he plays games with words and is then needlessly upset.  He offered no solution beyond saying that all committees were important committees.  I’m again losing the will to live in the face of politics – who knows when the European Scrutiny Committee will be re-convened?

Videos courtesy of the Daily Politics

>*Reminder: PMQs Live Chat*

>avatar: animated: cat: popcorn
The Daily Politics Live Chat at 11.30am &  PMQs from twelve noon

Live Parliament

>Belgium’s EU Presidency + Update

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As Spain bows out Belgium will take over the rotating presidency of the EU on Thursday. Spain’s six-month presidency has neither affected nor effected very much at all and that’s a good thing in my eyes – the less these faux democratic institutions do, the better.

Belgium, on the other hand, has grand plans befitting a founding member of the EU and NATO. For such a small country, cobbled together in 1830, it certainly punches above its weight and any conspiracy theorist could be forgiven for thinking that its raison d’etre is as a vehicle for those two institutions.

Belgium’s ‘big idea’ is to push harder for cross-border economic government and new taxes to support grand ideological projects.

A government ‘source’ said:

“…we can also explore, for example, the financing of European projects via new sources of revenue.  Couldn’t these new types of income at least in part be channelled towards major European-level projects?”

Similar ideas — monies funnelled straight into the bloc’s collective budget, or at least indirectly by different member states towards common goals — have long been advanced, with little success, by the European Commission.

It’s going to be a rocky six months for our Coalition government; I look forward to hearing Belgium’s plans debated in full in our Parliament, on the BBC (primetime news of course) and other media outlets.

I also think it’s high time the European Scrutiny Committee was re-formed – it’s the only Select Committee still awaiting members and a chairman.

All select committees have ceased to exist unless or until the House renominates them following the election.

Full article

UPDATE: The Telegraph has this now.  “Cameron will back down,”  says senior EU official.

Belgian negotiators are convinced that Mr Cameron’s hard line opposition to giving more sovereignty up to the EU, a pledge written into his coalition government’s agreement, will be sacrificed in the interests of pragmatism.

The senior source observed that no EU agreements would ever be possible if all European leaders stuck to the “totality” of their election manifestos. “It is impossible to have compromise with total programmes,” he said.

EU officials have warned British diplomats that the Lisbon Treaty means it will have to compromise on sovereignty because Britain does not have veto for either the budget scrutiny or financial market supervision measures.

Belgium is also ready to pick a fight with Britain over plans for new European-wide taxes to directly fund the EU independently of contributions from national treasuries.

That sounds like a red rag to a bull.  Cameron’s mettle is going to be tested in the coming months – now we’ll see what he’s made of.

>Police & Photographers

>Some police officers still don’t understand that it isn’t a criminal offence to take photographs in a public place and they just seem to be making it up as they go along.   The one in this video, when asked to give a reason for detention, just said the first things that came into his head: (eg ‘you were acting silly’; ‘we don’t need a law’; ‘causing anxiety’).

This incident happened on Saturday at an Armed Forces Day parade.  The photographer was first told it was an offence to photograph a child, then an offence to photograph the military, then an offence to photograph the police and finally that he was a threat under the Terrorism Act.  It culminated in him allegedly being pushed down a flight of steps and detained ‘for his own safety’.

Met Police guidelines on photography

It would ordinarily be unlawful to use section 58A to arrest people photographing police officers in the course of normal policing activities, including protests, because there would not normally be grounds for suspecting that the photographs were being taken to provide assistance to a terrorist. An arrest would only be lawful if an arresting officer had a reasonable suspicion that the photographs were being taken in order to provide practical assistance to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.

There is nothing preventing officers asking questions of an individual who appears to be taking photographs of someone who is or has been a member of Her Majesty’s Forces (HMF), Intelligence Services or a constable so long as this is being done for a lawful purpose and is not being done in a way that prevents, dissuades or inhibits the individual from doing something which is not unlawful.

Jules Mattson, the photographer

>One For The Road

>I don’t usually mix news and ‘one for the road’ but I’m sick of the hype this evening:

Switch off 24-hr ‘developing’ news
‘They’re just tired’

We’ve done to our football team what we’ve done to our country, ie we’ve bought in foreign talent because it’s easier than training up our own.

This is good: We in the UK demand the same rights  because w/wide statistics prove that gun crime goes down when people are allowed to own guns and defend themselves – sorry, I don’t have the links to hand so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

Big breaths (no jokes), Elgar, cello, enjoy: