Monday, November 30, 2009

Worried, are we?

The impression one gets about the Conservative Party is that they are worried little bunnies. Having told themselves and anyone within hearing distance that they were the party of the future, of change and hope and were going to sweep to landslide victory next May to sort out all the problems that appeared since 1997 (there being no history before that), they are now sounding a little less certain.

There are indications that you really cannot fool all of the people all of the time and the Cameron agenda is not being accepted in the country. After all, what is in that agenda beyond getting Brown and his family out of Number Ten and getting Cameron and his family in. Enough to vote Conservative? Not for many people as recent local and national by-election results and opinion polls demonstrate.

What would change the game would be the Conservatives presenting the electorate with some positive reasons for being elected: some ideas on the EU would help; general policies on education that would at least indicate how they intend to deal with the most fundamental problem this country faces; a few suggestions on healthcare that would show an understanding of long-term development; that sort of thing. Instead, we get a great deal of whining about ... well, just about everybody.

All bad things started in 1997 and the country was close to utopian existence before that if before that actually existed, seems to be the general party line.

Too bad that many of us recall the situation under the Conservative government, including such details as the Maastricht Treaty and the way it was railroaded through Parliament. (I sat through most of the debates in the Commons and spent some time helping those peers who wanted to pass a referendum amendment in the Lords. The leading one of them was Lord Pearson of Rannoch.)

We can also recall "Baker days" at schools, the destruction of O-levels and the transformation of perfectly good polytechnics into tenth rate universities. All of that happened under the Conservatives.

Enough already. The Tories' other great strategy is to attack the small parties that might attract voters. It has sunk into what passes for brains among Conservative strategists that quite a large number of people are so dissatisfied with the party and its leadership that they might vote for someone else. Or they might stay at home and not vote for anybody. Give 'em credit: it has only taken them three election losses to begin to understand that there is somewhere these people can go.

This is not a particularly intelligent strategy. In the first place, it raises those smaller parties to the same level and encourages people to consider seriously the pros and cons of voting for them.

It conveys and atmosphere of panic, not a good idea just over six months before the general election with several by-elections of various kinds to go before that.

The panic caused by the election of Lord Pearson of Rannoch to the leadership of UKIP is palpable, as the Boss has written on EUReferendum where he analyzes the first of, undoubtedly, many attempts to smear Lord Pearson or, at least, to present him as just another corrupt politician, so you might as well vote Conservative. Or something.

He refers to the rag in question as the Daily Scarygraph, which is a good name but I am old-fashioned and prefer to use the traditional moniker of the Daily Torygraph. This is particularly appropriate as the piece is nothing much but an attempt to bolster the Tories by being nasty about the man they appear to fear most. (Which tells you a great deal about the Tories but then you knew that, anyway.)

The Boss has done all the calculations, which yield pathetically low sums compared with what MPs have been allowed to snaffle. The Torygraph manages not to mention that peers do not get salaries and their expenses are conditional on their appearing in the Chamber. Despite that it is in the House of Lords that detailed scrutiny of Government Bills takes place, not in the House of Commons.

Lord Pearson and his UKIP colleague, Lord Willoughby de Broke, are hard-working peers. From experience I know that presented with briefs and documents they read through them though nobody pays them for the time spent on that. Equally, from experience I know that secretarial and research services have to be paid by the peers themselves with very little help from the House.

Lord Pearson has, on various occasions, paid for publications he thought useful in the debate to be distributed to various colleagues of his. This, too, is not mentioned in that silly article.

Somehow I doubt that it will have the desired result. The problem, as far, as the Tories are concerned is that Lord Pearson is someone many Conservatives feel they can trust. This has nothing to do with all that nonsense about him having "servants" on his estate; this is run as a business and the "servants" are employees.

It has nothing to do with him being upper-crust, which he is not or being involved in some country sports, which is not an upper-crust pastime in the country, especially not in Scotland. It has nothing to do with him being an old Etonian or with being on friendly terms with many political, business and social animals.

What it has to do with is the understanding that with all his various faults Lord Pearson is a man of principle. He is also a man of experience, having built up his own very successful business, running his estate as another business, setting up various charities and organizations that help charities and think-tanks financially.

He has helped Soviet and East European dissidents and victims of Islamist persecution; he was involved in the fight to save country sports and country businesses, particularly those that produce food; he has taken part in campaigns and set up organizations that help disabled children, their families and carers; he has defied all to bring Geert Wilders over to this country and to proclaim the importance of free speech; above all, he has fought the Euro-Monster for many years in the House of Lords, through his contacts in the business world and via determined correspondence with the BBC that is beginning to pay off.

As against that, we have David Cameron. Need I say more?

Still, the battle to ensure that UKIP is seen in a bad light continues. The Times, which was the first one to interview the new leader of the party, is now joining the fight. Today's article is all about UKIP members threatening to leave in droves because of the offer made by the new leader with the agreement of the old leader to Lord Strathclyde: UKIP would not stand in the general election if the Tories make that referendum part of their campaign.

Or something like that, as this was a pretty easy offer. Clearly, the Conservatives had never intended to give a referendum though it might have been more courteous to respond to Lord Pearson.

To be fair, the only people interviewed are the losing candidates, Gerard Batten and Nikki Sinclaire who are not showing themselves to be good losers and why should they. Their comments need to be taken with a very large dose of salt. Anyone else would be able to see that this whole saga is harmful to the Tories as it shows that as long ago as this summer they had given up on the idea of a referendum but continued to pretend.

Yes, but it is a story, I hear some readers say and the Times should be covering stories. Indeed, it should and it does not do so often enough, though it has been more assiduous on the question of "Climategate" than, say, the main part of the Torygraph. (Bloggers are excepted, particularly James Delingpole who ran with the story.)

Meanwhile, to show that those who attack UKIP are not the only mentally deficient members of the party, we have Eric Pickles coming out fighting against .... the BNP. For most of the day ToryBoy Blog led with the story of Eric Pickles, Conservative Party Chairman blasting plans to give the BNP more time on the media during election campaigns. It seems that he reacted to a "consultation paper from the broadcasting regulator Ofcom proposes that minority parties such as the BNP be given more Party Election Broadcasts and that those broadcasts could be shown during peak viewing hours", blasting plans by quangos (and which government made them a significant part of the political landscape?) to give more air time to "extremists".

Does this mean he does not mind more air time to non-extremist minority parties or he would accept more air time for international socialists but not national ones? Does he not realize that by making this point he once again plays the BNP's game? As, of course, does the Sun and that ridiculous organization, Nothing British to which I cannot even bear myself to link. Tim Montgomerie does. The comments on the piece are quite interesting. It seems that even Conservatives are beginning to get restive.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Well put

Iceland's Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, Jón Bjarnason, said at an international conference on coastal fisheries at Biarritz:
Iceland is a small island situated in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean with just over 300 thousand inhabitants. The foundation of our livelyhood lies in our natural resources; we must maintain sovereignty over our most valued assets, our economy, our culture and our future generations are depending on it. We can enjoy wide-ranging international cooperation without being tied up in the EU framework.

Given these circumstances, it is my firm belief that the future of our country is will be much better off outside European Union than inside.
It would be impertinent to add anything to that.

Ten Year Plan

In some ways the EU is more ambitious than the late unlamented Soviet Union was. Stalin had Five Year Plans (sometimes completed in three years), Khrushchev had one Seven Year Plan. The EU has Ten Year Plans.

It might be worth noting that those plans unroll regardless of changes in the national parliaments, elections, the Toy Parliament or even the Commission itself. This is not something that is clearly understood in Britain by politicians, political hangers-on or the media.

We learn from EUObserver that Brussels (as the EU is known not so affectionately in common parlance) is to start public consultation for the next Ten Year Economic Plan.
Still grappling with the fallout from the global financial crisis, the EU hopes the plan will help tackle pressing issues such as rising unemployment and return the bloc to solid economic growth in the longer term.

The final date for submissions is 15 January 2010, after which the commission will then finalise a detailed proposal to be submitted to EU leaders at the European summit next March. "Europe reduced unemployment from 12 percent to 7 percent in the decade to 2008. We now need new sources of growth to replace the jobs lost in the crisis," said commission president Jose Manuel Barroso in a statement.

In line with Mr Barroso's political guidelines for the next five years, the consultation paper points to the importance of greener and socially inclusive growth.
Whatever that last phrase may mean. I note that ComPres Barroso makes no reference to the number of jobs created in the private sector, possibly because the figure is too low to bother with.

EUObserver also adds that this new Plan will replace the old Lisbon Agenda that was going to make the European economy the fastest growing and most advanced by 2010. Mostly it was going to do it by making countries tick boxes on various score sheets. Not surprisingly, this contributed nothing to actual economic growth or advanced technology.

Even now there is a lack of understanding what creates a growing economy.
While welcoming the general themes in the paper, Eurochambres – an association that represents European Chambers of Commerce in Brussels – stressed the need for improved monitoring of member state implementation.

"Part of the blame lies with the 'Open Method of Co-ordination,' which leaves implementation to the goodwill of member states," said Arnaldo Abruzzini, Eurochambres Secretary General. "This method should be reviewed in the future 2020 strategy, and include more incentives for member states to deliver on their targets," he added.

The Open Method of Co-ordination is a monitoring system devised in the 1990s, under which member states "peer review" each other's progress in reaching targets. It is frequently cited as an important reason for the limited success of the Lisbon Strategy.

One way to improve implementation levels without the use of formal sanctions is by using the EU budget as a reward system, says Andre Sapir, a senior fellow with Brussels-based think-tank Bruegel.

"I think instead of sticks we need some carrots," he told EUobserver, outlining how member states that reach agreed targets could be rewarded under the EU budget.

"If you want to have a have better EU involvement, there needs to be a redirection of the EU budget towards the fulfillment of the plan's goals in general, and in some areas use some money to reward behaviour," he said.
Who, one wonders, will be contributing to this discussion? Well, there will be the usual NGOs and lobby groups and that nebulous entity, the civil society, which consists of preferred organizations, often funded by the EU, using the money extracted from that patient milchcow, the taxpayer.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Confusion reigns

It is not really surprising that confusion surrounds the derailment of the Moscow-St Petersburg train yesterday, that may or may not have been caused by a "home-made explosive device". 26 people have been killed, around 100 injured and 18 still supposedly missing. Among those killed there are a few high-ranking official but that, in itself, means nothing. This would be the transport of choice for most of them.

There are various accounts from survivors but these are, as is the case usually, conflicting in the evidence they present. Some say they heard a big bang, some say there was no explosion just a sudden braking and derailment.

In the meantime, the head of Russia's FSB, Alexander Bortnikov, has said that traces of explosive material were found by the railway line. He is also quoted as saying that "hidden on the railway line between Moscow and St Petersburg, contained the equivalent of 7kg (15.4lb) of TNT". According to the BBC Russian Service [in Russian], Vladimir Markin, the official representative of the Investigative Committee attached to the Procurator, has also announced that this was a terrorist act and President Medvedev has called for calm.

As the Guardian reports, officials have not yet named whom they suspect of the putative terrorist attack but there is no doubt in most people's minds that the finger will be pointed at Chechnyan rebels and terrorists, though, apparently, a neo-Nazi group that opposes non-Russian migration into Russia proper, has claimed responsibility.

The Telegraph report helpfully points out that, while fighting may have died down in Chechnya, murders and terrorist attacks have increased in number. One has to admit, their list is not particularly useful as it lumps together various crimes instead of tryng to sort out who might have been responsible for what. Then again, the Russian government has never bothered to have a proper enquiry into the Beslan school siege or the Moscow theatre siege.

Because of that and because of the unresolved issues around those apartment block bombings that triggered off the second Chechnyan war and propelled Putin into real power, one cannot help being suspicious, which may well be unfair. My guess is that there are many people in Russia who are suspicious of what happened and are waiting to see the outcome. Others, of course, will have no hesitation in assuming Chechnyan guilt.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Shock news: UKIP is not suicidal

The BBC reports that Lord Pearson of Rannoch, whom this blog and EUReferendum has supported (for instance, here and here), has been elected to be Leader of UKIP. The votes cast were as follows:

Lord Pearson: 4,743
Gerard Batten: 2,571
Nikki Sinclaire: 1,214
Mike Nattrass: 1,092
Alan Wood: 315

Whether that is the entire membership or some could not be bothered to vote remains open to question but, as ever, one can repeat: if you can't be bothered you have no right to complain. Undoubtedly, they will, though.

Naturally, I think this is an excellent move. Pearson will be much better at organizing the party and raising money as well as not putting people's backs up than Nigel Farage ever was. On the other hand, Farage will remain the main spokesman, the known face and very articulate voice of the party. Unless they fall out (and I do believe Mr Farage knows the importance of keeping Lord Pearson and his colleague Lord Willoughby de Broke on side) this should be a good working relationship. One hopes that the losing candidates will not spend too much time sulking in their tents, if for no other reason than that nobody is going to bother to win them round.

Iain Dale has a very friendly and positive posting while Tim Montgomerie contents himself with reporting the news though he cannot restrain himself from posting a silly and irrelevant comment about a peer not having democratic legitimacy. Dear Mr Montgomerie, the leader of a party does not have to be an elected politician; it is when the government is run by them that we have problems. In any case, Lord Pearson has just been elected to the leadership by UKIP members. Most of the comments are the usual silly rubbish.

However, the most interesting development will be reading friendly words from the Boss of EURef about the Leader of UKIP. Woo-hoo!

I wonder if President Obama will mention this

Regardless of what is going on in the world and the debate that will not die about the honesty of scientific research that is feeding the warmist panic, President Obama intends to go to Copenhagen to offer various unfulfillable guarantees. Then he will travel to Oslo (presumably by bicycle and rowing boat in order to show how serious he is about the subject). He will be receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, awarded to him for his achievements in the first ten days of his presidency.

The question is, will he mention what is happening in Iran in his acceptance speech. The Iranian government has confiscated the medal awarded to the Iranian human rights lawyer, Shirin Ebadi, awarded to her in 2003.
Ebadi won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for her efforts in promoting democracy. She has long faced harassment from Iranian authorities for her activities — including threats against her relatives and a raid on her office last year in which files were confiscated.

The seizure of her prize is an expression of the Iranian government's harsh approach to anyone it considers an opponent — particularly since the massive street protests triggered by hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's disputed June 12 re-election.

Acting on orders from Tehran's Revolutionary Court, authorities took the peace prize medal about three weeks ago from a safe-deposit box in Iran, Ebadi said in a phone interview from London. They also seized her Legion of Honor and a ring awarded to her by a German association of journalists, she said.

Authorities froze the bank accounts of her and her husband and demanded $410,000 in taxes that they claimed were owed on the $1.3 million she was awarded. Ebadi said, however, that such prizes are exempt from tax under Iranian law. She said the government also appears intent on trying to confiscate her ome.

Ebadi, the first Muslim woman to be awarded the peace prize and the first female judge in Iran, said she would not be intimidated and that her absence from the country since June did not mean she felt exiled.
Whatever she may feel, if she has any sense at all, she will stay in geographic if not spiritual exile.

The Norwegian Peace Prize Committee is in shock. This has never happened before. Will this year's winner of the prize refer to it, I ask again.

His record on the subject of human rights is not good. His behaviour during the Iranian protests and demonstrations did not make one feel that he valued the ideas of freedom or was, in any way, ready to support those who were fighting for it.

Another test came when he was in China. Would he talk about human rights in the country that is, possibly, the worst offender. Sadly, even Der Spiegel was unimpressed. Then again, they were unimpressed by the entire Obama jaunt in Asia or, indeed, his foreign policy in general.
The White House did not even stand up for itself when it came to the question of human rights in China. The president, who had said only a few days earlier that freedom of expression is a universal right, was coerced into attending a joint press conference with Chinese President Hu Jintao, at which questions were forbidden. Former US President George W. Bush had always managed to avoid such press conferences.
President Bush, the great hate figure of the last eight years, is beginning to be missed by all sorts of people.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Still bogged down with the Conservative History Journal (as well as introducing American visitors to Parliament) but here is some information that readers might like to know.

As it is Thanksgiving Day tomorrow, some believers in Anglo-American friendship, desirous of seeing the teaparty movement spreading to this country are organizing a

Thanksgiving TEA Party in London.

This will be for all who want to celebrate various matters, such as the 1689 English Bill of rights on which the 1791 United States Bill of Rights was largely based; or Anglospheric ideas; or Anglo-American friendship. Or just want to have a good time, eating turkey and whatever else people might bring.

Time: 4 - 8 pm

Place: By Abraham Lincoln's statue on the northern side of Parliament Square. Look out for the Stars and Stripes.

Nearest tube: Westminster on the Jubilee, District and Circle lines.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Instead of an apology

The week-end was taken up by the Bruges Group conference and, on Sunday, the Dogu exhibition as well as wonderful tea at the British Museum. Having a restaurant that is somehow linked to the Demel cafe in Vienna and a Swiss pastry cook gives Traditional English Tea a completely new dimension.

Today and probably tomorrow are taken up by the Conservative History Journal. So, in the meantime, here are a few videos to enjoy.

This is Gene Kelly's debut in For Me And My Gal. Judy Garland was the established star and she wanted Kelly; so she got Kelly and another star was born. Here they are performing the title number the first time. And no, I don't think Garland could play the piano. About the only thing she could not do.

And one more from Babes on Broadway, a Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland film, made in 1941, before the US entered the war after that thoughtless bit of bombing by Japan. The chances of this film being shown ever again are slim because the usual "show in the backyard" in this case is a minstrel show with all the white stars and actors blacking up. However, this song of Judy's to the British children evacuated to the States brings a lump to my throat. And that does not happen all that often. Try to spot the young Rooney, hyperactive as ever but uncharacteristically in the background.

Enjoy them both.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


First of all, allow me to congratulate myself. On this blog and on EUReferendum I said repeatedly, as did the Boss, that Tony Blair was not going to be the President of the European Council and David Miliband was not going to be the Foreign Minister in charge of a non-existent common foreign policy. And so it came to pass. Both stories existed merely in the feverish imagination of the British media and its devoted readers/viewers/listeners, a group that seems to include rather a large number of soi-disant eurosceptics.

That was one reason why I did not sign any petitions or joined any campaigns to prevent Tony Blair from becoming European Council President. The other reason seemed obvious to me but not to a number of people who did sign those petitions and did join those campaigns: it does not matter who becomes the Prez, we do not want anybody.

On the other hand, I do not find myself particularly outraged today. I do not wonder in public whether we asked for a European President because I know we did not and I have known for some time this was going to happen. (As did Daniel Hannan, to be fair, so I do not understand why he is saying these things now.) Bu then, as the Boss has pointed out over on EURef, the media suddenly discovered that there was more to the subject than will-Blair-get-it-or-not just about yesterday.

Nor am I too impressed by he sort of wailing and gnashing of teeth that is coming out of Open Europe, the leading perestroika europhile organization in this country. Their press release quotes Lorraine Mullaly, the Director:
"This whole process has been a stitch-up and a perfect illustration of just how out of touch and anti-democratic the EU now is. 27 EU leaders met behind closed doors over a cosy dinner in Brussels to thrash out who will represent Europe's 500 million citizens on the world stage, without so much as a wink to voters as to what on earth was going on."

"After years of insisting that the Lisbon Treaty would bring the EU closer to citizens, how sad and ironic that the very first big decision was made after a secretive backroom deal which should have no place in a 21st century democracy. This has been EU politics at its very worst."

"Neither Herman Van Rompuy nor Catherine Ashton has any democratic mandate to speak on behalf of Europe's citizens. Most people were denied a say on the Lisbon Treaty which created these posts, and now the jobs themselves have been filled without the slightest input from voters, nor even national parliaments."

"Neither candidate has explained to the public why they should get these jobs. And most people in Europe have never even heard of Herman Van Rompuy or Catherine Ashton, yet here they are to represent us in the global arena. Surely Europe can do better than this?"

"As for the politicians themselves, Herman Van Rompuy is a classic EU federalist who can be relied upon to quietly move EU integration forward. Likewise, Catherine Ashton was instrumental in pushing the Lisbon Treaty through the UK Parliament, which gives a strong indication of the direction she wants to take the EU."
Who is this Europe who can do better than that? And do they mean if someone else had been appointed, say William Hague, then it would have been all right to have an EU Foreign Minister?

Actually, I strongly suspect that to be the case - a couple of different personalities or just people who had personality and Open Europe et al would have lined up pleading for that endlesly elusive Holy Grail, the reform of the European Union. That is why I was so afraid that Vaira Vike-Freiberga, the former President of Latvia and known as that country's Iron Lady might get it. People might have liked and admired her (there is much to like and admire about her) and that would never have done. So, the very good news is that it was the completely unlikeable and unadmirable Herman Van Rompuy who got the job. After all who could be more suitable than the unelected Prime Minister of a country that is falling apart and can be seen as the microcosm of the EU?

I am delighted to say that President Obama has already congratulated the previously appointed Belgian Prime Minister (he did not win any elections to get the job) on being appointed to the European Council Presidency. Can we hear from those Conservative eurosceptics who supported Obama because he was not going to encourage further European integration?
"The United States has no stronger partner than Europe in advancing security and prosperity around the world. These two new positions, and related changes to take effect on December 1 as a result of the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty, will strengthen the EU and enable it to be an even stronger partner to the United States," said a White House statement.
The Guardian gives a summary of President Van Rompuy's career, replete with accusations of europhobia against those who are unimpressed by him but carefully not mentioning that he has not been elected to any political position. The Telegraph is a little more detailed in giving the careers of both nonentities European leaders, pointing out that the new Foreign Affairs Chief Panjandrum, Baroness Ashton, has absolutely no diplomatic or foreign affairs experience.

That, as the Boss has pointed out on EURef, is exactly what was aimed at by the Commission. In the ongoing battle for power between the Council and the Commission, the latter has scored a notable victory. Nay, two victories.

Not good news

Charities, in my opinion, should not be funded by governments or transnational organizations. If they are so funded they are not charities. However, it is the government's duty to protect the lives and liberty of a country's citizens. For the moment, that task as far as British people are concerned rests with Her Majesty's Government that has precious little else to do, there being this far larger and more important government, called the European Union.

Among those whose lives must be protected are young people who are kidnapped and abused as part of a forced marriage and who often have no-one to turn to for help. I say young people advisedly: most of them are girls and young women but there are boys and young men, too. They all need help.

So the news that the Government's Forced Marriage Unit has decided to stop funding the only existing helpline for victims of forced marriages is not exactly a good one.
The Honour Network Helpline (HNV) has had more than 6,000 calls from people fearing for their lives or of being forced to marry against their will.

The government's Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) gave charity Karma Nirvana £43,000 to open the line in April 2008.

But the funding ran out a year later and donations have also dried up.
It is not entirely clear from the story whether funding stopped in April or has gone on till now but is about to stop. Sloppy reporting by the BBC as usual.

We do, however, get the usual platitude from some low level civil servant:
A spokeswoman for the Forced Marriage Unit said: "The government takes forced marriage and honour-based violence extremely seriously, and we remain
committed to working with partners across the voluntary sector to support
And that means what, precisely?

This article in the Independent, mostly about the Forced Marriage Unit issuing guidelines to Embassies and Consulates abroad on the subject of funding of return flights by people abducted into forced marriages, also refers to the slashed funding for the Honour Network Helpline and the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation. I suspect that in this case "rights" mean basic protection. It refers back to an article published a couple of days earlier, so the BBC is about ten days late with the story but, to be fair, other media outlets do not seem to have picked it up at all.

Here we get an answer to my question: the government cash ran out in April and since then, presumably, there was a certain amount of other funding, which is also running out.

The problem of forced marriages is being recognized by MPs and the government but there seems to be no reasonable strategy of dealing with it.
Last year the Home Affairs Select Committee admitted that the known numbers of forced marriages in the UK represented "just the tip of the iceberg" and called on the Government to provide "sufficient" funding for charities that provide emergency help lines and accommodation for victims. Despite this, the amount of cash available from the Forced Marriage Unit for charities specialising in forced marriage and honour violence prevention over the past year was just £65,000. Next year the Forced Marriage Unit's Domestic Programme Fund will be increased to £84,000 but because the grants are only available for new projects, Karma Nirvana and IKWRO have been rejected.
In other words, let's discard an organization that may have acquired some recognition and experience and start up a completely new one. That sounds like a good way of spending money.

The difficulty here is the word charity. Of course, charities should be self-financing. There should be no government money going to charities. So how do we deal with people who are victims of crime that has not been acknowledged or dealt with adequately until very recently?

In response to the second article there was a letter from two Parliamentary Under-Secretaries of State, FCO and Home Office (scroll down). In it they deal with the situation briskly:
The UK continues to lead the world in tackling forced marriage. You yourselves report that the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) is increasing its financial support for UK projects, from £65,000 last year to £84,000 this year.

We scrutinise all funding bids to select those offering best value for money, which meet accountability criteria. This means that not all applications will be successful. You report the Honour Network being under threat of closure for want of government funds; but the FCO and Home Office have received no formal request to fund the helpline this financial year. Indeed, officials have on several occasions offered to meet the NGO which runs the Honour Network, Karma Nirvana, to discuss how we can best work together. They have not, so far, taken us up on this offer. Additionally, while the Honour Network does immensely valuable work, it is not true to say that it is "Britain's only national helpline". The FMU's national helpline handled over 1,600 calls last year (and can be reached on 020-7008 0151, or, out of hours, via the FCO's Response Centre).
Good to know there is another helpline though whether people in those circumstances are likely to call the FCO's Response Centre is questionable and we know that they do not always get much help from the police.

The story of renewed funding as told in the Independent article is a little different:
A spokeswoman ... admitted that IKWRO had been unsuccessful in finding extra funding but added that Karma Nirvana were welcome to contact them, something Mrs Sanghera says she has tried to do consistently for six months.
The missing words there are those the BBC quoted about them taking forced marriage and attendant violence very seriously. I do think a little more information is needed as to why the IKWRO have been unsuccessful is needed. And could we the different officials co-ordinate their stories, please?

Not all in

A reader of this blog has pointed out that not all the bits of the post-Lisbon EU are in place. There are the Aaland Islands, Swedish speaking but part of Finland. Their regional parliament has not yet accepted the treaty as it applies to them.

It was not easy to find information on the subject in English but eventually I lit on this somewhat peculiar blog. Granhnlaw says that it is about
The Treaty of Lisbon and EU Law for businesses and individuals. EU politics for the democratic European Union 2.0: the Federal Republic of Europe (or the United States of Europe). By Ralf Grahn.
Anything that talks about the democratic European Union is always a joy to read. Ralf Grahn also urges people to discuss "our common European future". Not sure how many have taken this suggestion up but I am always happy to do so. My idea of a common European future might be somewhat different from Mr Grahn's.

However, he does write about the situation in the Aaland Islands and is suitably annoyed by the uppitiness of the inhabitants. How dare they stand in the way of the common European future? How dare they demand various rights for themselves? Well, maybe there is something in history that urges them to be bloody-minded.

So the situation, as Mr Grahn says on the basis of Swedish language websites is as follows:
On 16 November 2009 the Åland Parliament plenary has tabled the report for debate on 23 November.

Approval of the Lisbon Treaty requires a qualified majority of two thirds of the 30 members in the regional parliament, and the decision concerns the application of the Lisbon Treaty in the Åland Islands, with regard to the areas with autonomous legislation.

The Lisbon Treaty enters into force on 1 December 2009, and it was written on the assumption that it applies to the whole territory of Finland, including the Åland Islands (according to the exemptions contained in the Åland Protocol).

Finland formally ratified the EU Treaty of Lisbon 30 September 2008.
I very much fear that horrid hectoring bullies of the Ralf Grahn variety will triumph and the defiant Islands will sign up. But I cannot help wishing that they would imitate that little village in Gaul that refused to be conquered by the Romans or to be divided into three parts.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


There will be a video later on to cheer everyone up on this grey and blustery day (well, in Britain) but, in the meantime, enjoy this advice to the hapless President Obama on how he should behave when abroad. Try not to drink any tea or coffee while you are reading it or your monitor and keyboard might suffer.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Is something stirring?

A seriously disturbed commenter on ToryBoyBlog has described the Boss of EUREf as “a bitter ex-UKIP researcher” and, without bothering to find out how to spell my name, added for good measure: “His partner is the dreadful helen Samuelly who manages to antagonise anyone she deals with.” As the person in question hides under the name of Better Off Out and gives no website or blog link I cannot tell who it is though I suspect that his or her suggestion that we are paid either by the EU or MI5 (if only!) is libellous. One cannot sue someone who is too cowardly to give a real name and, clearly, Tim Montgomerie and Jonathan Isaby are not responsible for some fruitcake who chooses to comment on their blog. But I thought our readers on this blog might like to know. My response, I thought, was a model of restraint.

The somewhat unpleasant discussion is going on in response to a posting by Tim Montgomerie, entitled The Future of Euroscepticism. I shall refrain from making some obvious comments about Conservatives, euroscepticism, streets, being bitten and recognizing. Mr Montgomerie, staunch Tory though he is, happens to be a member of Better Off Out. (We noted its re-launch in April and updated a few days later.)

The idea of being lectured by Conservatives at this stage in the game on whither euroscepticism is going would be quite infuriating if it were not quite so ridiculously funny. Tim Montgomerie, I am sad to say, compounds this problem by starting his posting with this sentence:
It's been a disappointing few weeks for Euroscepticism and for the Eurosceptic movement but The TaxPayers' Alliance are leading the way in consolidating popular unhappiness at the EU.
None of that is exactly accurate but one cannot blame organizations like the TPA and Conservative Home from closing ranks in the six months before the next election. The truth is that the last few weeks have not disappointed any real eurosceptic or so I shall call them for want of a better name. We expected nothing else from the Boy-King of the Conservative Party. Indeed, this blog and EURef predicted several times that he would duck out of a referendum. We also predicted that eventually the Constitutional Lisbon Treaty will go through.

On the other hand, we are convinced (well, I am convinced and the Boss is coming round) that this was a pyrrhic victory. The dirt and nastiness of the last eight years, which is how long it took to get this treaty through, the bullying and shameless manipulation have all contributed to turn many people’s opinion against the EU. The notion that we might actually come out and survive is gaining ground, if very slowly. What worries the Conservative Party and its outposts as well as front organizations (Open Europe, TPA and others) is that they might not benefit from this change.

The other slight error is the one about the TPA “leading the way in consolidating popular unhappiness at the EU”. Actually, the TPA is reversing the debate by concentrating on financial matters: how much we pay in and how utterly fraudulent is all is. These points have been discussed for decades with very little effect.

Given the general incompetence and lack of honesty in governments and regulatory authorities in this country, other countries and the EU, most people fulminate a bit when having a drink with their friends then shrug their shoulders and move on. It is the other issues, the lack of accountability, lack of democracy, destruction of our constitutional and legal system and the appalling regulatory structure whose aim seems to be purely destructive that rouse real anger in people.

That is why the issue of the Lisbon referendum has become a flashpoint: this was specifically promised by all three (well, all right, both) parties and both, Labour and Conservatives, have reneged on it. No amount of discussion about the cost of it will make up for that. And that makes the last few weeks exceedingly good for real eurosceptics – dead wood is being cleared out.

If Conservative Home, the TPA and such blogs as Iain Dale’s are all cautiously probing the idea of Britain being outside that organization, one can safely say that there has been something of a shift in the debating positions. Mr Dale, incidentally, makes two very good points. In this posting, which is really about a forthcoming BBC programme on what would happen if Britain left the EU, he pours contempt on the europhiliac position that we would be out on our own with nobody trading with us.
Ridiculous. As if European businesses wouldn't want to sell us their goods if we were outside the EU!
Indeed. And I agree with him on Lord Pearson’s comment that “they would be glad to get rid of us”. They would not be all that glad and not just because of the money we put in. As it happens, Britain is one of the most enthusiastic members, always thinking of new regulations that cannot be passed back home and have to be imposed through the EU, as well as implementing rules as soon as it is required and sometimes before.

I also find it amusing that Mr Dale reminds the TPA that their famed new cinema ad is quite similar to an old 18 Doughty Street video.

Well, what of the TPA’s new cinema advert? There are, as it happens, strict rules about political advertising in this country and all the TPA could do is produce what must have been a reasonably expensive ad for their new book, Ten Years On Without The European Union by Dr Lee Rotherham, the TPA’s expert on the EU. The books is free to all who order it, so Tim Montgomerie’s comment about 22,000 ordered already is not all that meaningful. Would people pay for it, is the question.

Anyway, I have not seen the book yet as the TPA are reluctant to reply to my e-mails. (And what do you expect, hmmm? I hear someone muttering.) So I have to go by what they say on their website about it.

The book is a sort of a utopian fantasy about Britain being outside the EU and managing very well, thank you, all the problems that, for example, small business owners faced being the fault of the EU. There are other blogs that deal with farmers, fishermen, MPs and the workforce (there’s an expression from the glorious past). All tell us how wonderfully easy life will be outside the EU.

Well, there is no harm in it. People should get used to the idea that there is life outside the EU though it might be more useful to examine how we get from here to there and to accept that there will have to be many negotiations, agreements and reforms before we can achieve the state of utopian ecstasy. The trouble is that once you start talking ordinary politics people might ask awkward questions. Much easier to present a rosy picture that rather mindless eurosceptics accept and gloat over while the rest of the country continues to shrug its shoulders.

A more interesting point is the BBC. The idea of a programme, broadcast this evening at 8.30 and repeated on Sunday, 22nd at 10.30 (all in the evening) about the very possibility of Britain being outside the EU is intriguing.

The article on the website makes two points that we, on this blog, would find it hard to disagree with:
Up to 55% of those asked in recent British opinion polls say they would support it. But it's hardly ever discussed in polite political society. What is this great taboo? Britain leaving the European Union.

After all the constitutional wrangling and embarrassing referendum results within the EU in recent years, reluctance to talk about this among the EU mainstream may be greater than ever.
They then spend some time discussing the so-called heresy that in the Constitutional Lisbon Treaty there is a possibility of a member state leaving, without explaining that the decision depends largely on other member states agreeing to it. And so it goes, with the usual canards about Continental member states allegedly thinking that it would be a good thing if Britain left, for which there is no evidence; europhiliacs threatening us to a return of boiled mutton and cabbage and so on and so on.

None of that matters. Even if the programme this evening is absolutely dire, what really matters is that the BBC has decided that this subject needs to be aired and the question to be asked is whether Britain can survive outside the EU. The BBC asking that is a little like the Pope wondering whether that chap Luther had a point after all.

We have complained (whined, some people might say) in the past that we have been sidelined and our work not acknowledge while other, grander, better funded and less well researched programmes have been touted by the media and other members of the political class. But we can, severally and together, take some credit for this change in attitudes.

Finally, the best evidence yet: Daniel Hannan, darling of the Tory eurosceptics has written a blog in which he sort of makes the case for Britain leaving the EU. It is, as you will note, complete with one of his usual videos and, well, um, it turns out to be another plug for the TPA and Mr Hannan’s old friend, Dr Rotherham. So, as usual, Daniel Hannan, MEP is treading very carefully. But, at least, he mentions the unmentionable in the heading.

UPDATE: I have now received an e-mail from the TPA, which informed me that they had not got my own missives (entirely possible), offered to send me the book (I said as I had done before that I can pick it up) and thanked me somewhat ironically for giving a "grudging" plug to their Great EU Debate. As the Boss of EUReferendum said to me, even a grudging plug is more than any of our blogs gets for them. Could we join the great debate? Should we rename EURef as The Great Eurosceptic Blog?

Who will rid us?

The Archbishop of Canterbury, who has been having a certain amount of trouble keeping the Church he is supposed to be in charge of together, has been pontificating again. This time, he addressed the TUC Economics Conference (there's glory for you) and explained that he thought higher taxes were a GOOD THING. Whether his audience agreed with him we do not know as the article was written ahead of the event.

Why are higher taxes a good thing? Well, because unlimited growth is neither possible nor desirable, it being one of those things that erode our habitat and our society so clearly we need to control it through taxation.
Dr Williams claimed that the “fantasies of unlimited growth” had led to a “vicious cycle” in which consumers are encouraged to buy more goods, which also uses up limited energy and raw materials.

Instead, he said the economy should be geared towards creating a secure and sustainable environment for families.

As part of this, the archbishop said: “We have to ask about ‘green taxes’ (including ‘green’ tax breaks) that will check environmental irresponsibility and build up resources to address the ecological crises that menace us.

“It is of course connected with other proposals about currency exchange taxation – the ‘Tobin tax’ idea: the point is that we should be thinking about taxation neither as an unreasonable burden on enterprise nor as a simple mechanism of redistribution but as a potentially sophisticated tool for long-term ‘economy’ – housekeeping.

“Taxation builds a habitat – already, quite properly, through state welfare provision, but potentially in other less familiar ways.”
The man seems to be economically, historically and politically ignorant. Resources are not limited in that new ones can be found or invented as they have been for centuries. One of the things that restrains development of that kind is government control and high taxation.

Furthermore, has His Bloviation actually examined what high taxation and the ever growing welfare state as well as the ever growing bureaucracy, which snaffles up a very large part of the tax, have done to this country, its society and its habitat? Truly, he exhibits the infantilism of the Left.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

You are kidding me!

Officials running a fencing competition in Austria did not have a recording of the Israeli national anthem, Hatikva, so they could not play it when the 14 year-old Dana Stralinkov won the gold medal and the 13 year old Alona Komarov won the bronze.

The two teenagers stood on the podium and waited. When nothing happened they started singing Hatikva themselves. The rest of the team, their coach and supporters in the audience joined in.

Let me see: there were 120 competitors from 20 countries. How many recordings were missing? Some, a few or just one? A stupid move, anyway. Given that Israel seems to have had a team with potential winners in it, the chances of having to play Hatikva were high. What did the Austrian officials think they would do then?

Canada stands up for the rights of ALL women

The admirable Phyllis Chesler reports that the Canadian government has changed the rules whereby citizenship is granted to immigrants.
The document is titled “The Rights and Responsibilities of Canadian Citizenship.” According to Canada’s National Post,

“In Canada, men and women are equal under the law,” the document says. “Canada’s openness and generosity do not extend to barbaric cultural practices that tolerate spousal abuse, ‘honour killings,’ female genital mutilation or other gender-based violence. Those guilty of these crimes are severely punished under Canada’s criminal laws.”
And about time, too, you might say and I have to agree.

In the past I have contended that there was no need for special legislation to make honour killing or forced marriage illegal. After all, murder is murder and forced marriage (not arranged marriage, which is a different kettle of fish) involves kidnap, unlawful imprisonment, grievous bodily harm and rape. Why not simply try the perpetrators and those who aid and abet them?

Sadly, this has not worked in Western countries. Ms Chesler praises Britain for slowly beginning to act on these matters but the truth is that until recently hardly anybody was prosecuted for "honour killings", otherwise known as murder of young women; that nobody has been prosecuted for genital mutilation though it is known to be carried out; that forced marriages occur all the time and women who escape from them are handed over by the police to advisers from "their own community", which results in the unfortunate victim being taken back to the abusive family.

It is almost as if giving well-known crimes culture-specific crimes our society washed its hands of the victims and of any concept of law and order. If that is so, we need to name those crimes quite specifically. If those guilty of "honour killing" are not to be tried for brutal murder then we must make "honour killing" a separate crime. We must make forced marriage a separate crime if we cannot put those who kidnap, imprison, maltreat and rape young women (and sometimes young men) in the dock.

As Ms Chesler points out, an old case was recently reopened in Britain with the mother of the victim, astonishingly, giving evidence against her husband. A growing number of girls and young women as well as the occasional young man, run away from forced marriages even when these happen during a "holiday" in Pakistan and Bangladesh, and successfully claim assistance from officials and dedicated organizations.

For all of that, I approve the Canadian government's attitude. It needs to be stated quite clearly that what applies to some, applies to all and Muslim women (it is usually Muslim though there is the odd case of Sikh and Hindu "honour killing") have all the rights that others possess.

When we have sorted that out we must turn our attention to those girls' and women's education.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Curioser and curioser

James Taranto who writes the Best on the Web column in the Wall Street Journal (on the website) analyzes the peculiar decision of putting Khalid Sheikh Mohammad and four others on trial in New York City (I wonder how its inhabitants who tend to suffer from Bush Derangement Syndrome will like that, incidentally) while keeping military tribunals for less important enemy combatants found not in uniform.

His conclusions sound accurate enough:
As Morris Davis, a retired military prosecutor, argued the other day in The Wall Street Journal, under the administration's plan, "the standard of justice for each detainee will depend in large part upon the government's assessment of how high the prosecution's evidence can jump and which evidentiary bar it can clear." Detainees will get a "fair trial" in civilian court only if their conviction is assured. By implication, that suggests that detainees who go before military commissions will get an unfair trial. Presumably the administration would deny this and say the commission trials will be fair too. But if so, why is such a trial not good enough for Khalid Sheikh Mohammad?

The answer seems to be that the administration is conducting a limited number of civilian trials of high-profile terrorists for show, so as to win "credibility" with the international left. These trials will differ from an ordinary show trial in that the process will be fair even though the verdict is predetermined. But people who wrongly think that either military commissions or detention without trial are unjust will not be satisfied with some detainees getting civilian trials--unless, of course, they are simply eager to be impressed by Barack Obama.
In other words, this is President Obama playing at being Candidate Obama and trying to be all things to all men so that they vote for him. We see a similar pattern in what is becoming an almost pathological inability to make up his mind about what he shoudl do in Afghanistan. Hamlet is not a good role model for the President of the United States and its Commander-in-Chief. The man spent two years campaigning when he should have been taking part in debates in the Senate; he spent more money than all other candidates, his Democrat rivals as well as the Republicans, put together. What did he think the Presidency entailed?

This is a serious worry and a problem for all of us in the West as the United States is still the strongest country and its leader, the leader of the free world (somewhat less free than it used to be but not as bad as it was in the seventies). It would be nice to have something better than the protagonist in Roger McGough's poem:
I wanna be the leader
I wanna be the leader
Can I be the leader?
Can I? I can?
Promise? Promise?
Yippee I'm the leader
I'm the leader

OK what shall we do?
Never mind Bush, I might start missing Clinton. Well, maybe not. But more and more do I agree with Glenn Reynolds that another Carter presidency is becoming the best case scenario.

Oh good grief!

It is, of course, good to know that AP employs lots of fact-checkers and produces reports to show up errors. As Mark Steyn tells us the ten journalists worked on the checking and another one wrote a 695-word report. The subject had to be something very serious, indeed. And it was. All these people were working on Sarah Palin's forthcoming book, Going Rogue.
No, the Associated Press assigned 11 writers to "fact-check" Sarah Palin's new book, and in return the 11 fact-checkers triumphantly unearthed six errors. That's 1.8333333 writers for each error. What earth-shattering misstatements did they uncover for this impressive investment? Stand well back:

PALIN: Says she made frugality a point when traveling on state business as Alaska governor, asking "only" for reasonably priced rooms and not "often" going for the "high-end, robe-and-slippers" hotels.

THE FACTS: Although she usually opted for less-pricey hotels while governor, Palin and daughter Bristol stayed five days and four nights at the $707.29-per-night Essex House luxury hotel (robes and slippers come standard)...

That looks like AP paid 1.8333333 fact-checkers to agree with Mrs Palin: She says she didn't "often" go for "high-end" hotels; they say she "usually opted for less-pricey hotels". That's gonna make one must-see edition of "Point/Counterpoint".
Oh my, these people are really scared of La Palin. Here is the list of the six errors those eleven fact-checkers managed to find. Warning: not all of them are earth-shattering and one or two are meaningless.

More on the subject by John Hinderaker at Powerline, who points out that AP does not always quote Palin when attributing views to her.

The only thing AP's and others' of that ilk behaviour is likely to achive will be many more readers of Palin's book. Let us not forget that she is writing about her own experience rather than dreams from her father, mother or third cousing twice removed.

Friday, November 13, 2009

What conclusions can we draw?

Apologies for my absence yesterday. Life intervened. Don't you just hate it when that happens?

I shall ignore the plethora of appearances by Daniel Hannan MEP, who still seems to be the Conservatives' not so secret weapon against UKIP in the struggle for the eurosceptic vote. It did not work in the euro-elections and I see no real reason why it should work now.

In fact, the only bit of news on the British political front would indicate that it is not working and the Conservatives are not really gaining the requisite amount of support. Except that I am not sure that the results of the Glasgow North-East by-election gives any indication of what the overall result next spring is likely to be.

Naturally enough, the Labour Party is crowing. Having been written off completely, they are back and, according to Jim Murphy, the Scottish Secretary, this shows that they can catch up with the Tories and win their fourth election. As Simon Johnson puts it:
But the party’s claims it is a ringing endorsement of Gordon Brown and a taste of things to come when the country is going to the polls need to be taken with a dollop of salt.

To give some context, the area has had a Labour MP for 74 years and Michael Martin, the former Speaker, won up to three-quarters of the popular vote during his 20 years representing it.

Willie Bain, the victorious Labour candidate, also ran an ‘insurgents’ campaign’ by protesting decisions made by the devolved SNP administration in Edinburgh.

Even though it was a Westminster by-election, the decision to go negative worked and is likely to repeated across Scotland next spring.
Glasgow North-East is not exactly a constituency where the Tories were ever expected to do well, except, maybe, by the party's strategic command that seems to have taken leave of its senses. Coming third was all they were going to achieve though barely skimming the required 5 per cent to save their deposit is a poor result by anybody's reckoning.

The other problem is that the turn-out was 33 per cent, the lowest in any Scottish by-election, and those tend to be lower than general election turn-outs anyway.

The media mantra is that this shows disgust with the expenses scandal. That may be true but it also shows disgust with politics in general as well as a dawning realization that it really does not matter against whose name you put that much-valued cross.

How much of the anti-Conservative turn was due to Cameron's prevarications over that referendum, how much to the sympathy with Brown because of the Sun's "persecution" and how much to Glaswegian disgust at the way "our Mick" was treated by those toffs is hard to tell.

A much more interesting problem is that of the SNP, who confidently expected to win the seat. Instead, they were beaten by more than 8,000 votes. That, of course, is the penalty you pay if you insist on running devolved governments - people start resenting you and vote for the one they see as the credible Opposition, in this case the Labour Party.

The SNP is not happy and is accusing
Labour of negative campaigning on "grudge and grievance".
Dear me, how shocking. The SNP would never think or even dream of running a campaign on grudge and grievance (nice alliteration). Dear me, no.

The SNP is also insisting that they can win 20 seats next spring because, presumably, the Labour Party will stop with its campaign of "grudge and grievance". Yes, well, pigs might fly.

So that's the Conservatives losing out and the SNP. The Lib-Dims did even worse, thus proving that the famous disgust with the expenses' scandal has not turned to a pro-Lib-Dim movement. They came sixth with 474 votes and 2.30 per cent of the vote, behind Solidarity.

Apart from Labour only the BNP did at all well. It is true that they lost their deposit but only just and they came fourth, close behind the Conservatives with 1,013 votes and 4.92 per cent. Does this mean that the BNP will become the protest vote collector of choice in urban areas? Again, hard to tell but they do have something to celebrate.

Here are the results in full:

Labour - 12,231 votes (59.39%)
SNP - 4,120 votes (20%)
Tory - 1,075 votes (5.22%)
BNP - 1,013 votes (4.92%)
Solidarity - 794 votes (3.86%)
Lib Dems - 474 votes (2.30%)

Total votes cast - 20,595
Voter turnout - 32.97%
Rejected ballots - 43
Does this get us anywhere? Probably not but expect reams and reams of discussions and explanations, based very often on no evidence whatsoever.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

He was there on video

Not much to boast about by way of politics and politicians on this side of the Pond, I know. There has to be something wrong if the most exciting thing, politically speaking, is the resignation of two Conservative MEPs from the non-existent front bench in the Toy Parliament. As to why they are non-existent, it is clear: there are no parties or opposition or debates in that institution. The legislation is discussed in committees, the plenary "debates" consist of two-minute random speeches by members in different languages and the voting is done in groups according to lists prepared by researchers some time after the "debate".

None of this matters in the long term (or, for that matter, the short term). The fact that the White House now has a particularly cack-handed inhabitant, on the other hand, matters to everyone.

Phyllis Chesler points out that President Obama's address at Fort Hood
did not pronounce the following words: “Jihad.” “Terrorism.” “Islamist terrorism” or “Islamic terrorism.” Early on, President Obama said that “this is a time of war,” (followed by many platitudes). Towards the end, he said something unscripted, something not contained in the speech transcript. Obama said that “these soldiers could not escape the horror of war even at home”– but he failed to name what that war might be and who might be fighting it.
We've come a long way from "Mr President, tear down that wall". And talking of that Wall, it seems that President Obama was there for the twentieth anniversary celebrations, after all. Well kind of. He sent a video of himself, that Secretary of State Clinton introduced. They were lucky. He could have sent an iPod with all his speeches.

As it is, there was only one speech. Powerhouse has the video and a link to Secretary Clinton's introduction. Surprise, surprise, both speeches were about .... no, not about the fall of Communism .... no, try again ..... yes, that's right, they were about Obama.
Both Secretary Clinton and President Obama emphasized Obama's world-historic story. Clinton likens Obama's election to the fall of the Wall. Obama draws the moral of the story. "Few would have foreseen ... that a united Germany would be led by a woman from Brandenburg or that their American ally would be led by a man of African descent. But human destiny is what human beings make of it."

Obama's brief remarks are an exercise in bowdlerization, circumlocution, evasion. Omitted from the remarks, among other things, is any mention of the Soviet Union or Communism, Harry Truman or Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher or Pope John Paul. Obama neither decries the villains nor salutes the heroes of the story. Rather, Obama celebrates himself. He is an agent of destiny. He is the fulfillment of history.
This is a good deal more disturbing than even the suggestion that Sir John Major is thinking of returning to "active" politics (not that he ever disappeared, being always ready to pronounce sapiently on many issues that he himself had failed on as Prime Minister). But then again, Barack Obama twice told the world that his uncle had helped to liberate Auschwitz.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Show time

They don't come much better than this. Glenn Miller's orchestra playing Chattanooga-Choo-Choo, Dorothy Dandridge singing and the Nicholas Brothers dancing. Fred Astaire thought the Nicholas Brothers were among the best and their dance in Stormy Weather (to be posted another time) was the greatest dance sequence in film. Who am I to argue?

Oh dear, oh dear, life is hard

One would not mind hearing civil service mandarins moaning about how dreadful everything in their world had become if one did not know that largely it was their fault; that we are all paying for this; and, in any case, they are ignoring the elephant in the room.

Sir Christopher Meyer, formerly Our Man in Washington and subsequently Chairman of the somewhat pointless Press Complaints Commission, is doing a bit of complaining himself in the Daily Telegraph.

It seems that the “lights are going out in the Foreign Office” and the great British diplomatic service, traditionally held in the highest esteem by all foreigners is no longer so. In fact, the reputation is under threat.

He then goes on to produce a great deal of misplaced nostalgia (British diplomats have never been known for their extensive knowledge of languages, for instance) and complaints about all the things that are going wrong.

There are several things he does not mention. Apparently, it has escaped Sir Christopher’s attention that the Rolls Royce that is our foreign and diplomatic service has been unable or unwilling to negotiate with any kind of credibility within the European Union and its predecessors. Not to put too fine a point on it, those Europeans who are so full of admiration for British diplomats have run rings round them.

There is, as a number of comments have pointed out, no real need for the FCO any more as the EU Foreign Service, in existence for about twenty years, will, post-Lisbon, become the main diplomatic service for all the member states. Britain, thanks in great measure to our brilliant diplomats, is not a sovereign country and, therefore, has no need for diplomats, ambassadors, attaches or any of that paraphernalia.

The only thing we do need to deal with is expats in trouble, the very task Sir Christopher finds demeaning.

As to the politicization of the diplomatic corps, Sir Christopher Meyer was one of those who pushed the process along, as I wrote as long ago as 2005 on EUReferendum.
If we must have ambassadors, a questionable proposition in this day of easy communication, they should not, in my opinion, be self-publicizing glamour boys or girls. The Meyers seemed the epitome of Blairite politics and diplomacy. So, I was not unduly surprised when Sir Christopher proceeded to stab the Prime Minister and the entire government severally and together in the back by publishing a somewhat self-serving (his brilliance as described by himself in his book appears to be undeniable) memoir of his days in the American capital.

Well, now, before we start to laugh too heartily at another problem Tony Blair seems to have encountered, let us have a look at the truth of the matter.

Sir Christopher Meyer is a civil servant, a diplomat. One assumes he signed something called the Official Secrets’ Act at some point in his career but that does not seem to inhibit anyone any more. As ambassador he was in a position of trust and confidentiality. Above all, he is not supposed to engage in open party politicking. Two years after his ambassadorship he is not exactly expected to diss his employer, the British government.
It’s a bit much to have this self-publicist weeping crocodile tears about the … sob … disintegration of the great British diplomatic service.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Nothing in history is for ever

Or in other words, hysterical weeping and gnashing of teeth is of very little use to those of us who would like to reverse the situation or move to another level of historical development. Nothing is for ever; nothing is over not to be retrieved.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Berlin Wall. Here is the beginning:

And here are two pictures from the end, twenty years ago, today. Think about it and start drawing some conclusions.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

"But what good came of it at last?"

As every schoolchild ought to know but probably does not, that is a line from Robert Southey's The Battle of Blenheim. These are the closing lines of the poem:

"But what good came of it at last?"
Quoth little Peterkin.
"Why, that I cannot tell," said he,
"But 'twas a famous victory."

We are all supposed to be celebrating a great victory in the battle over the MPs' expenses and the Taxpayers' Alliance is, indeed, doing so. The establishment of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority and their participating in it (as listed a little way down here) is considered to be a great success in the fight against dishonesty and power-grabbing.

Indeed, they proudly announce that many of their suggestions have been adopted, which is why, one assumes that they are the only right-wing organization (or so they say) to have been asked to participate in the implementation panel of this latest of quangos.

So it is this really such a famous victory? I beg leave to doubt. The TPA has been conducting a robust campaign against quangos, unaccountable organizations, high salaries in the public sector. Well, what is the IPSA but an unaccountable organization that seems to have an open-ended view of how much it will cost.

In this list of Frequently Asked Questions on the official IPSA website, we read the following proud announcement:
How independent is the IPSA?

The IPSA is an independent body. The Chair, Members and Commissioner for Parliamentary Investigations of the IPSA are appointed through an independent, rigorous, fair and open competition.

Sounds wonderful until we realize what that means. It is independent from any accountable body - i.e. it is completely unaccountable.

How will those appointments be made?
The posts of Chair and Members of IPSA were openly advertised in September, and candidates are being considered through an independent and open competition, run by a panel chaired by the Commissioner for Public Appointments for Northern Ireland. MPs have had and will have no involvement in that part of the process.

All those considered to be appointable are put forward to the Speaker who then decides who to appoint. The Speaker’s preferred candidates for each post is then put forward to the Speaker’s Committee, and the Committee is asked to agree them. At the conclusion of this process, the House of Commons will be asked to approve IPSA’s membership, including the chair. They will not be able to cherry-pick from a list of candidates. This is the same process as has been followed for appointments to other roles where independence is paramount – for instance that of the membership of the Electoral Commission.
I call that only relatively open as the appointment is made somewhat opaquely. But the biggest problem here that this appointed and unaccountable body will be running various aspects of the House of Commons, the elected body. What we are seeing is the last vestiges of any power being taken away from that body and being given to a quango. From now on, MPs will not be able to run their own financial affairs any more than they can legislate on most matters. Is this really a famous victory? Why does the TPA think so? Why is it involved in this organization?

Then there is the question of payment, left open for the time being. From those FAQs:
How much will IPSA cost?

The IPSA is under a statutory duty to aim to do things efficiently and cost-effectively. Implementation of IPSA is still at an early stage, with various options being developed. It is too early to say how much IPSA will cost to run as this will depend on decisions which have not been taken. The main cost of IPSA will be the allowances scheme itself and the salaries of MPs.
Yes, well, they all talk about that statutory obligation and not running an expensive operation but somehow the costs mount up. Let us have a look how we are doing so far:
What will the Chair earn? And what will be the arrangements for his or her expenses?

Details of remuneration were made public in the advertisements for the post - £700 per day plus reasonable expenses incurred. It is expected the Chair will work 3 days a week initially, reducing to 1 day a week, and capped at £100,000 for the first year.
That's just the start. We go on to some other insignificant expenses:
When will the IPSA Chair and members be appointed?

The Speaker’s Committee for the IPSA has ratified the Speaker’s nomination of Professor Sir Ian Kennedy (PDF 11Kb) to be the Chair of IPSA. We expect that an announcement on the Members will follow shortly afterwards.

What is the role of the Interim Chief Executive?

The interim Chief Executive will take forward the IPSA implementation programme, working with the Chair and Members on appointment. The ICE will be the accounting officer for the IPSA implementation programme and for the IPSA until a permanent Chief Executive is appointed.

Who is the interim Chief Executive?

Andrew McDonald took up post on 14 September 2009. Andrew McDonald was previously the chief executive of Government Skills, the Sector Skills Council for central government and the Armed Forces. He has been a civil servant for the past twenty years and has undertaken a range of policy and operational roles including the delivery of a construction project, leading a new agency at its start-up and running the constitutional reform programme.

How much does the Interim Chief Executive earn?

The post of Interim Chief Executive is paid in the range £105,000 – £115,000 per annum. This was benchmarked against similar public sector roles and the salary compares favourably.

The post of permanent Chief Executive can only be appointed after the appointment of the IPSA, and will be subject to fair and open competition.
You will be glad to know that they will be publishing their expenses "on a rolling basis".

Somehow, it seems entirely appropriate that the new Chairman of this new quango should be a friend of Alistair Campbell's.

Back in action

I spent the last two days closeted with spooks and ex-spooks at a conference that celebrated either the 100th or the 424th anniversary of this country's security services. A lot of fun was had by one and all but, alas, my attempts to get recruited failed. So, I shall be back in action as blogger and editor of Conservative History Journal this week-end.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Stuck on stupid No. 2

Some time ago we noted on this blog and on EUReferendum [link in the posting] that the Conservatives were retreating from a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty and chattering happily or not so happily about a "wider referendum" on repatriation of powers. Why, in the light of that, anybody was surprised by yesterday's developments is not clear to me.

The chatter is going on. I wrote about Open Europe yesterday. Today it is the turn of David Davis, the great hope, never realized, of the party's more libertarian right wing. His "eurosceptic" credentials are not in a particularly good nick, as he was a fairly tough Whip at the time John Major was pushing the Maastricht through against a good deal of Conservative opposition. (No, oddly enough, there was no referendum then, either, despite it being an enormously important document, constitutionally speaking.)

Subsequently he was Minister of State at the FCO with responsibilities for Europe. What we call demotically, Europe Minister. No worse than others, but certainly no better. Come to think of it, he must have taken a very big part in the negotiations that produced the Amsterdam Treaty.

The Guardian has a piece about him getting all stroppy again. It seems that the entire gifted political staff of that newspaper is incapable of grasping that we do not have a relationship with the EU. We are part of it. If we come out of it and it remains extant, we shall have a relationship.

David Davis's actual challenge is in the Daily Mail and it seems to me to be as much of a damp sqib as his infamous resignation and by-election turned out to be.
What we should do is, in my view, clear. We should have a referendum, not on the treaty, but on the negotiating mandate that the British Government takes
to the European Union.

This has many virtues. It allows the British people to express their view on the future of their nation. Most of all, it gives the Government a formidable negotiating weapon.
He then chatters on a bit about how much the EU hates referendums (unlike the Conservative Party, we assume) and comes to what might be called the substance:
The question should contain four or five specific strategic aims which clearly summarise our objectives.

The sort of things we might include are: recovering control over our criminal justice, asylum and immigration policies; a robust opt-out of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights; serious exemptions to the seemingly endless flood of European regulations which cost the UK economy billions of pounds each year; a recovery of our rights to negotiate on trade; exemption from European interference into trade in services and foreign direct investment rules; and an exemption from any restrictions on our foreign policy.
There's a nice broad selection of subjects to ask people about, all in different sections of the treaty and regulated by different constitutional (may as well use that word as it is accurate enough) rules. You can have a referendum on any or all of them to your heart's content. The question of how and with whom those negotiations should be conducted remains open. And yet Mr Davis, former Europe Minister ought to know the reality of those negotiations. Or did he simply lounge his way through his years at the FCO?

Just to be on the safe side, he does inform us all that it is not an in/out referendum and nobody should even think of that. Especially not the colleagues who must be laughing their heads off.

Nor is he suggesting that we should get rid of the supremacy of European law. Stuck on stupid, again.

This is no time to imitate Obama's supporters

David Cameron's supporters seem determined to become the sort of angry joke Obama's supporters are. They cannot cry racism every time somebody attacks the Boy's politics but there is plenty of shrill complaining. Accusations of mud-slinging, extremism, the usual europhobia (whatever that might mean), unseemly gloating (on the part of UKIP) and party disloyalty (for unhappy Conservatives) are being slung right, left and centre, though mostly right.

I have news for these people. Politicians can and must be criticized and even attacked on political matters; prevarication needs to be shown up for what it is; and very many people feel that they have given the Conservatives their last chance on matters European. Stop screeching and start thinking. Why are you in this mess? How can you get out of it.?

Besides, this is no time to start imitating Obama or the Obamabots. The election results from across the Pond would indicate that the voters are not happy. Republicans have won gubernatorial elections in Virginia and New Jersey, retaking the states by susbtantial margins. The President had campaigned personally in both states. But then, he also went to Copenhagen to campaign for Chicago in the Olympic bondoogle.

In NY-23 an unknown independent conservative not only managed to push the very left-wing official Republican candidate out, but also came within three points of winning the election. Despite the sudden flurry of support from the White House and the former Republican candidate (who showed her true colours and embarrassed the GOP leadership very quickly) the Democrat, Bill Owens, won on a thin majority. A majority is a majority, thin or not, but yesterday's elections are not happy ones for the Democrats or for the man who seems to have believed his own hype. Mind you, as Michelle Malkin points out, this is no time for the Republican establishment to gloat either.

Just to show how very gauche the White House is, in its political image-making, "White House officials insisted that Mr Obama would be watching a basketball game and would not pay any attention to the results coming in". Gubernatorial elections in the United States matter. To display such contempt (whether genuine or not) for the electoral process will annoy the people even more.

This is not a good time for the Toryboys of both sexes to imitate Obama's team. Contempt for the electorate followed by whining and spiteful attacks on all critics is a bad recipe for political success.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Stuck on stupid

As the news comes that President Vaclav Klaus has decided not to save the Conservative Party's bacon I find myself inundated with messages from various Conservatives about the pointlessness of having a referendum once the treaty has become law and not slamming stable doors (or, maybe, closing them after all) once the horse has bolted as well as the need to mover forward. Roughly what they say every time and they wonder why they cannot break the 17 point lead towards the third term of a deeply unpopular government.

The Boss has dealt with the issue of symbolism over on EUReferendum and has been following media reactions. Wouldn't catch me doing things like that.

There is also a great deal of hysteria around with people wailing like lost souls in the way they did when I first became involved in euroscepticism over the Maastricht Treaty. For everybody's information, nothing is ever over; this is not the end of the world; the EU is not the Soviet Union and even that was brought down by people refusing to support it any more.

Nor am I particularly impressed by people's snide comments about Klaus's lack of backbone, being a traitor and being paid off. This usually comes from people who have not done anything much in the fight. Let us not forget that President Klaus held out as long as he could. He found himself opposing both elected Houses of the Czech Parliament and by the Constitutional Court. No democratic president can persist in that sort of opposition.

Meanwhile President Obama welcomed the Constitutional Lisbon Treaty in fulsome terms. To be fair to the man (and you do not often hear me say this) he probably has not the faintest idea what he is talking about. The man who maintained that Austrians speak Austrian and his uncle liberated Auschwitz is unlikely to grasp that Europe is not actually a country and never has been.
Are we about to hear from the Conservative eurosceptics who supported him because he was not in favour of European integration? Step forward Daniel Hannan MEP, with whom I had a fierce argument on the eve of the American election last November. McCain has form, he insisted, whereas Obama would see that European integration was not in America's interests. We must support him. Obama, I retorted, will see what the State Department will show him.

The prize for stuck on stupid must go to that Conservative Party front organization, Open Europe. Their press release is so unbelievably silly and ignorant that it deserves quoting in full:

Open Europe calls on Conservatives to pledge a referendum on EU reform

Following President Klaus' signature of the Lisbon Treaty today, Open Europe calls on the British Conservative Party to now pledge to hold a referendum on reform of the European Union.

The potential election of a new Conservative government will coincide with the opening of EU budget negotiations, where discussions will be held about how much each country should pay into the EU over the period 2014 to 2020.

The UK has a veto over these negotiations, and should be prepared to use it to fight
for a package of reforms which must be fleshed out between now and the election.

This Reform Package should be put to the British people in a referendum, with a question along the lines of: "Are you in favour or against withholding agreement to the EU budget until the European Reform Package has been adopted?"

Tomorrow, Open Europe will publish the first in a series of papers looking at which policy areas the Conservatives should propose to tackle, and how. The first paper will look at EU social and employment policy, which currently accounts for a staggering 25 percent of the total cost of regulation in the UK.

Open Europe Director Lorraine Mullally said:

"Now that Lisbon is a done deal, the Conservative Party must pledge to hold a referendum on EU reform. They must not follow Labour and the Lib Dems and go back on their promise to give people a say on the future of the EU."

"The public are crying out to be consulted. The Conservatives should now announce a referendum on a package of meaningful EU reforms which they should draw up carefully over the next weeks and months. Linking their ideas for reform to the EU budget, a Conservative government could be in a strong position to work with key allies in Europe for a better, more democratic and modern European Union."

"A simple 'manifesto mandate' for these things will not be enough - people want
their long overdue say, and the Conservatives should give them it. A
strong mandate from the people will strengthen the Conservatives' position in
Europe when the time comes."

As fine a piece of muddle and prevarication as you would ever find in politics. Let me try to explain though I know that Open Europe is so sure of its position and righteousness that they tend to ignore any factual argument.

You see, we are not in a position to reform the EU. It can be done only by an IGC with a unanimous agreement to re-write the treaties. Do we really think that the other 26 members will simply agree to some ridiculous reform package that Open Europe and the Conservative Party work out between themselves? What happens if they don't? Go on vetoing the Budget? Where does that get us? We still need an IGC for that reform.

Get used to it. This will be the Conservative Party's line. But a few simple questions usually destroy their smugness. It's alwasy a pleasure to see Toryboys get really annoyed because they are in the wrong.

They should all have a look at Der Spiegel, which is gloating over the collapse of all opposition to the Treaty. In the interests of the narrative, though not the truth they tell us that "in the wake of the court's decision in Prague there has been a widespread relief across the Continent". Not precisely. There may have been widespread relief across the chancelleries of the Continent and I am not sure that even that is true. Some people at the top may have realized that there was a reason why this whole process has been so long and so painful and why none of them have dared to ask the people whether they agreed.

I look forward to hearing lamentations very soon about the gap between "Europe" and "the people", which surprisingly enough will have widened in the last eight years.