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Trust People (once an Englishman in Philly)
An Englishman who went to live in Philadelphia only to be amazed on his return at how little Britain seemed to trust people. Now back rambling, ranting and winding up lefties...
Saturday, July 29, 2006
More on Dirty Tricks Dick
He is a "famous resident" of the Black Country for saying controversial things whenever prompted.
Thursday, July 20, 2006
New LD, same old bull
The LibDems never change do they? No sooner has the brilliant Harriett Baldwin been selected as a Conservative candidate in West Worcestershire than the LD cheap attacks begin.
The great irony is that their own candidate isn't from anywhere near Worcestershire himself. Not only has Richard Burt already been rejected by local Lib Dems let alone the wider electorate - they rejected him as their candidate before the last election - but he comes from the Midlands conurbation - he's a councillor in Dudley, where he stood as a candidate for Parliament before - and his wife is MP for Solihull.
Indeed, further examination is even more revealing.
Lorely Burt MP, is described on her own website as "local" to Solihull. Indeed she is described as local to Solihull no fewer than 39 times in her own press releases. Richard "Dirty Trick Dick" lives in Solihull himself. His address is 20 Ashborough Drive, Solihull according to the West Midlands LD website. How can she be local to Solihull and yet her husband is local to West Worcestershire; or is he not?
What is more Mr Burt betrays his rank hypocrisy on his own website. He criticises Harriett Baldwin (most unfairly) for being a "part-time" candidate - something which is particularly amusing given she has not been selected a week - on the basis that she has a job in London.
Check out this link, though. What email address can you contact him at? burtrNOSPAM@parliament.uk I'm intrigued as to how he can get a parliament.uk email address without having a job at Parliament, which as we all know is in the heart of London. Doesn't that make him a "part-time candidate not fit to be MP"?
Indeed, further sleuth work reveals this to be the case. The Register Of Interests Of Members' Secretaries And Research Assistants (HERE) reveals that Mr Burt is either Mrs Burt's (MP for Solihull) secretary or a rsearch assistant for her and notes he is a Councillor in Dudley. Perhaps, to be fair to Mr Burt he can commit full-time to West Worcs, but if that's the case he would have to be neglecting those he represents in Dudley, or failing to do work to justify his parliamentary pass. Is he a taxpayer-funded member of his wife's staff or does he do it out of love or for his local Solihull? And why is he using his taxpayer-funded email address for personal promotion purposes?
What's more, how exactly is Dirty Trick Dick local to anywhere in Worcestershire?
Talk about pots and kettles! West Worcestershire is a fine seat in a fine part of the country. It deserves better than this LD charlatan: Cheap Trick Dick?
UPDATE: Today's local paper makes it quite clear just how inaccurate Cheap Trick Dick's cheap trick is.
I have long been aware that the question of the "diversity" of judges would soon become a battle ground. I've also expressed great concern that the Conservative "Priority List" will hamper the Party's ability to criticise steps to water down the quality of our judiciary in a substantively pointless attempt to reach "quotas" for apparently desirable personal qualities. Indeed, I put it to a senior member of the Party that
Given what a brilliant tool you think the Priority List quotas are for the Party, can we have one for the appointment of judges too?
This represented an awkward conflict of principles which, readers will recall, elicited no coherent answer. I fear the Tories have tied their hands.
On Tuesday the Commons Constitutional Affairs Committee heard the first steps towards such a deleterious policy. Now, I know that by being so critical I am probably scuppering my own chances of appointment to the bench by Tony's Cronies, but hopefully one day I'll have the money to make the requisite loan to the Labour Party or afford a sex-change operation so I'm part of a diversely desirable group. For the moment I cannot hide my frustration with such nonsense.
Baroness Prashar, Chairman of the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC), told the Committe that "We want to increase the pool of applicants to make sure it's more diverse. Ultimately, it's important to ensure that the outcome is also as diverse. It's no good saying we are getting the applicants and they are not being appointed. If that was happening, something would be drastically wrong."
Now, the Constitutional Reform Act, which sets up the independent JAC mandates it to have regard to only one criterion in selecting candidates for the judiciary: merit. To begin to discuss diversity of the outcomes is clearly beyond the remit of the JAC. What should matter is the quality of the output. What should matter is if the best candidates, no matter what their ethnic background, gender or level of physical ability are making it to the bench. If brilliant candidates are not, then you ask questions, then something is "drastically wrong". Until that point to focus on specific characteristics of those appointed, to manage "equality of outcome" rather than just striving for equal opportunities, to be offered purely on merit would be retrogressive, wrong and harmful to the adminstration of justice in Britain.
Fortunately, new Tory MP, Jeremy Wright, was up to the challenge.
Was it Lady Prashar's intention that diversity should be reflected in the outcome of a judicial appointments process?
She replied by asserting that there exists no tension between merit and diversity, "But if we find the outcomes are not reflecting the number of applicants, we will then begin to look at what's going wrong, and take the necessary steps."
Mr Wright then cut right to the point: why should that mean anything was wrong? Surely if there was no evidence that clearly meritorious candidates were rejected there was no problem?
Lady Prashar couldn't answer this.
What was the JAC's desired outcome, another MP enquired?
"The desired outcome is that the judiciary actually becomes more diverse," Lady Prashar said.
"More diverse until what point?"
"I am not in the business of setting up quotas, I am not willing to give you figures and numbers."
Clearly, however, the powers that be have them in the back of their minds. Goodbye, merit. Hello, social engineering. Barriers to diversity will restrain quality. Attempts to manufacture it will have the detrimental effect on the quality of Tory MPs but, also, and more importantly, on the bench.
This morning a piece of Soviet Russia dropped through my letterbox. The monthly Ken Livingstone promotion "newspaper", The Londoner, arrived. Flicking through it over breakfast I was staggered by just how eerily similar it seemed to the sort of "Tractor Production Rises" rubbish that people in Belarus must still be blighted by.
My particular favourite page of propaganda was the one littered with assertions that London's crime problem was being tackled, vaunting statistics from a Mayoral-inspired survey which appeared to show that Londoners felt much safer. Bold declarations about the brilliant work of Mayor Livingstone seemed to crop up in every paragraph. Then I turned on the radio. "Home Secretary John Reid faced another blow today as new crime figures showed a sharp increase in robbery just hours after he set out an action plan to revive his battered department....He said the dramatic rise was mainly due to a massive surge in street crime in London, where robbery jumped by 16%...Tony McNulty, police and security minister, said rises had been confined to areas such as London, and the picture overall was stable."
Whatever, Mayor Livingstone. Why can he be allowed to get away with telling us lies with our own money? How much must this tripe cost the taxpayer which could otherwise be spent on social services, or left in the private sector to create more jobs and wealth?
Werther's Grandad Ming flops again
Ming "Werther's Grandad" Campbell was on Newsnight last night for a cringeworthy session clearly dreamt up by his new PR chief to stimulate a change in his perception. Aside from the fact it was painfully counter-productive it's just too late. His public persona is already too well -defined and he just doesn't have the vivacity - despite however great his convictions may be - to shake the negatives off.
All last night's "performance" achieved was to give direct airtime to how poorly he is perceived and to focus on his weaknesses. His team may be surprised at this, but it was always going to be the result. The LD leader was facing a panel of largely hostile floating voters who were invited to air their concerns about him. How is he going to be able to rebut their assertions that he's too old, not energetic or passionate enough, and that he lacks the dynamism of Cameron without weakly pining "No, I'm not"?
The negatives seemed endless as I watched and are certainly too many to list exhaustatively. A hugely damaging poll it appeared he hadn't seen before appearing. A hostile audience with heavy moderation and with no supporters in case of disaster. Ming sat awkwardly in a trendy chair which put into stark relief just how untrendy he is, focussing on an apparent weakness. The accusations regarding his weaknesses he was never going to be able to rebut in a studio (remember Howard before the last election when he was confronted, in a one-on-one interview, with public perception of him? All he could say was he had much more to do. How impotent would Ming have seemed before that audience if he'd tried that one, the only sensible response?)The presenter stood up questioning him as he sat down, like Grandad in the old Werther's adverts.
In fact, as I pondered that he resembled a fairly impotent Werther's Grandad, I realised that was the core of the problem, contradictory, discredited political outlook aside. LDs can declare all they want that he brings statesmanlike poise - even this is seen too rarely - but even Werther's realise the days of Grandad appealing to the public are past. Their new adverts, screened for the first time this week, now feature an all action young middle-aged Dad. Werther's Grandad just doesn't cut the political mustard.
It wasn't just his image, of course, which contributed to such a dire performance. It was the substance of what he said. I was bellowing at the box as, when probed on his tax plans, he came out with this classic: words to the effect of "We would tax those who have benefited most from the long period of relatively prosperous economic stability".
He just doesn't get it does he. Aside from the fact that this proposal seems to run counter to his opportunistic desire to drop the party's commitment to raising top-level income tax to 50p in the pound, the relatively long period of economic stability and the prosperity we have all enjoyed as a result of this is exactly because those who may have benefited most have benefited most. They are the ones who have driven prosperity. They are the ones who have helped deliver it. It then became clear to me that, whatever noises the LDs make about a more genuinely liberal taxation system they remain old dyed-in-the-wool big state spenders and taxers. Ming sees those who do well out of capitalism as taking something which has been provided for them. For Ming the Government runs the economy, hell, it is the economy. He cannot accept that it merely manages aspects of a private economy driven by individuals and corporations. I discovered this morning that Ming's even been this explicit himself. There's even, in his eyes, a consensus around the current level of taxation being at the "correct" level.
How wrong he will be proven on this as well as on the success of his leadership is surely hinted at by this morning's unvaunted news. Britain's public finances suffered their worst-ever June. Government borrowing rose to £7.3bn in June from £6.2bn during the same month last year - significantly higher than analysts' forecasts of £6.5bn. A Ming-Brown consensus on sustained high tax-levels is not the solution, and with Grandad being coy about who he'd support in a hung Parliament, Grandad's bizarre fumbling for the right seems unlikely to help his failing leadership. Performances such as last night just make things even worse.
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Balanced, rational and reasonable about the Middle East?
We will all have seen the images coming out of the Middle East over the last week and felt a profound sense of disappointment that the peoples of the region are so vehemently opposed to each other that violence seems the only way forward. I normally try to steer clear of this subject in polite company, or at least I have done since university when the mention of Israel or the Palestinians was always enough to spark off an evangelical and devout supporter of everything either side ever did.
Today, however, I read this article over at Harry's Place which I have to say is one of the most sensible and balanced pieces about the current crisis which you could hope to find. It recognises suffering and difficulties on both sides at the same time as trying to understand the pressures of the conflict and the fact that discussion of what is occurring is as much a battleground as the bombings themselves. It is this which makes the questionably partisan reporting of certain state news agencies frustrating when it is dressed up as neutral.
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Islamist IS a dirty word
Faisal Bodi makes a brave effort in today's Guardian to defend the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) against recent attacks that it is too radical and that it harbours militant Islamists whose views are entirely incompatible with the liberal democratic society we cherish in Britain. That he feels the need to come to its aid shows a huge U-turn from the former editor of "Ummah News.com" and betrays a weakening in the Islamist cause in Britain.
The gist of his argument, should you not wish to wade through its detail (though, of course, you should) seems to be that the British establishment should embrace the MCB as it's the best way of engaging with Islamists; and engaging with the Islamists is the only way to make peace with militant Islam. Is here right? More to the point, as is often the case in discussions of alliances and hwo much prominence to give to certain mouthpieces, why does this help Mr Bodi's ends? To answer these we have to be very careful as to what we mean by Islamist.
The meaning I prefer, and which I believe is generally recognised, is those who wish to press for and see an Islamisation of Western procedures, principles and actions. Islamist ideologies hold that Islam is not only a religion but also a political system which should govern the social, legal and economic norms of the state in accordance with its interpretation of Islamic law. Islamic law being whatever that elite in charge say it is or should be. There's more on it here.
Bodi criticises the Home Office for weakening its links and efforts with Islamist groups. It should not have begun to build bridges with a more diverse range of bodies trying to represent Muslim communities who don't have such an aggressive and assertive brand of Islam, he says. After all, for all their failings, the MCB and its partners have helped persuade the Foreign Office of the necessity of engaging with Islamists. Why, though, does he see this as a good thing? Islamists are the dominant force for reform in most parts of the autocratic Muslim world, of course... Does he back this up with examples? No. Can he? Probably not, because whereever you look it is Islamists of a more or less assertive nature who are a real threat to the spread of freedom and democracy in the Muslim world. It is the Taliban in Afghanistan who harboured bin Laden on the original al'Qaida camp. It is militant Islamists in India who threaten the rule of law. It is the prospect of an Islamist government replacing the current incumbents in Syria which makes any action against Syria even less appealing. No quarter should be offered to those who wish to impose their views on us at the same time as overtures are made to moderate Muslims to help them reject oppressive Islamism and accept a diverse liberal democracy.
It seems from Bodi's article as if that approach is beginning to pay off though. Already the redoubt of defence for extreme Muslims has been shifted to arguing on behalf of the MCB, moderate Islamists, if such a combination is possible, rather than more extreme groups. Fascinatingly, back in 2002 Bodi was slating the MCB on the pages of the Guardian. "The MCB does not have any direct mandate from even a significant section of the Muslim community to represent it". He called the Council "unelected", "shunned" by "prominent regional organisations" and using his article for what the MCB itself described as "abusing his position to maliciously peddle falsehoods and distortions to further a personal agenda". Ignoring the obvious questions about whether such a slippery operator has anything to say of value or upon which we can rely in relation to the MCB, isn't it amazing that Bodi now transforms into its most ardent cheerleader? Anyone would think the worm was about to turn... Islamism is a dirty word. Now is the time to push home our advantage against it and further weaken its malign stranglehold on received Muslim opinion. We're clearly getting better at fighting back when the likes of Bodi have to so change their tune.
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
And so it begins...
Lord Levy's arrest is a terrible blow for this Government (Blair in particular but also Brown) which now clings to the trappings of power and office like a limpet to the base of a trawler. This is a shameful moment for all involved with the Government. The police are to be commended for taking action as they have and for conducting what would seem to be a thorough and patient investigation. Credit is also due to those who have covered this and ensured the issue stays in the public spotlight. None more so than Paul Staines.
Perhaps more disgracing to the country than the mere arrest of Levy, however, is Number 10's response. Asked if he had any reaction to the news that Lord Levy had been arrested, the prime minister's official spokesman said: "I cannot comment on that, it is a party matter."
Is it hell. The Honours (Prevention of Abuses ) Act 1925, under which it's understood his Lordship has been arrested, aims to strike directly at the exercise of public power. This is not about some party fund-raising (though that may well be their feeble defence), but about an entire system under which it appears Downing Street's Labour-promoting operation was given money on the basis that that would grease the wheels which delivered honours.
What's more the Labour Party treasurer, Jack Dromey, made it abundantly clear earlier in the year that the Labour Party hierarchy did not know about the extensive fund-raising being undertaken "in Labour's name" but by and for Number 10.
Levy is and should be considered innocent until proven guilty. There is, however, from details in the public domain clearly rot at the top. It shames our country. It has to stop.
If only David Cameron didn't want to go further towards nationalising parties with more state-funding... He should drop that idea now, and pledge a firm cap on donations from any source.
Sunday, July 09, 2006
It's not gluttony, it's the incompetence
It's come to my attention that Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, who my friend in Hull tells me is always keen on Peking Duck at Labour bashes at his chinese restaurant in the city, has written to supermarket staff thanking them for supplying him with chicken drumsticks. There are apparently photos floating around, courtesy of Simon Lloyd, of Prezza's gushing note praising the Sainsbury's store manager and his "fantastic team" for the drumsticks he served at a dinner party.
"This is just to thank you for organising my order of warm chicken drumsticks.
Please also pass on my thanks to your fantastic team for all their assistance.
Deputy Prime Minister."
Store manager Gavin Pearson said "It was a nice surprise to get a letter from him."
Having also been seen apparently smothering a vegetable curry with baked beans in a Commons canteen it would be easy to criticise and josh Prescott over this. The fact is that thanking staff is something we do too little in Britain any more. This is to his credit. In stark contrast to the way his snout continues to rest in the public trough and his incompetent bungling in so many other matters.
Saturday, July 08, 2006
Getting things done
I don't like making unnecessarily partisan points but I have to say the response by the Tories to this shameful carry-on by the LibDems during the Bromley by-election is exemplary. Well done Bob Neill and the Conservative council on taking action.
Friday, July 07, 2006
Idiots for Labour
Much vaunted dissection of the ridiculous "British Bill of Rights" idea later; for now I thought I'd share this link to Idiots for Labour.
Thursday, July 06, 2006
Backdoor briefing against Prezza
Had an intriguing chat at a dinner I attended earlier this evening which suggested that very senior members of the Cabinet were now vocally pushing for Prescott to go. My own view is that whereas this is obviously even more humiliating for Prezza (if that's possible) the simple fact he is elected Labour Deputy Leader means there's no way he'll be sacked and no way, as a result, that he'll quit. There should be more in tomorrow's papers about this...
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
Admission time. I have taken to reading the Guardian. Normally I am refreshingly surprised at the quality of much of the writing and the seriousness of the content. Even if it is worryingly earnest at times. I am also, almost without exception, staggered at the wrongheadedness of many of the views expressed.
Yesterday was one such day. I'd managed to plough through most of the journal over my Colmar baguette outside the Royal Courts of Justice when I came across the letters page. Marc Moore is an irrational Scot from Bristol University. Aside from much of his prejudiced blathering there was one passage which raised my shackles.
I suspect that preventing Scottish MPs from voting at Westminster on devolved issues will lead in time to coverage of such issues being removed from Scottish TV screens. Scottish voters will then vote their MPs into parliament on the basis of reserved matters only and the UK will effectively become a federal state. If Scots are relegated to the status of second-class citizens, who face the inevitable prospect of being governed by a prime minister from outside of their day-to-day political arena, then what chance does the union itself stand in the long run?
I suspect that this correspondent was probably one of the numpties who supported devolution in the first place as a way of raising Scotland's profile in the political process - as opposed to the alternative of actually physically raising its profile. That shouldn't be any excuse, however, for crediting the entirety of Scotland with a disturbingly low IQ. Why shouldn't Scottish voters be able to discern between matters on which the Scottish Executive will govern and matters on which Westminster will govern when it comes to casting their vote? The rest of the country does alright when it comes to Council elections for crying out loud. In fact, I'm pretty sure that Mr Moore himself distinguished between matters for one body and matters for another body during the elections for the European "Parliament". Of course, what may actually happen is that Scottish voters elect their MPs on the basis of matters only affecting the whole of the UK, rather than seeking to impose their view on the English. As for his statement that giving the English just the same representation as the Scots have at the moment would make the Scots second-class citizens, rather than just putting everyone on an equal footing... maybe the Scots have a greater chip on their shoulder than the Scousers...
Then another correspondent weighs in:
Legislation such as tuition fees does impact on voters from outside of England. Scottish and Welsh students go to universities in England and will have to pay the variable fee there. It is therefore right for MPs outside of England to vote on an issue that affects their constituents and limits students' options as to where they can study. The Conservatives proposals to exclude MPs from Scotland and Wales voting on certain issues is far more likely to end the union, the very thing Conservatives seek to preserve than the present imperfect yet adequate constitutional arrangement.
And they say educational standards aren't falling. Doesn't he get it? His very argument is a reason why English MPs, say, ought to be able to vote on educational matters in Scotland as well. The system is not adequate when the English have no say on issues affecting them, either because they are reserved to Scotland or Scottish MPs outvote them in Westminster.
Tuesday, July 04, 2006
Sunday, July 02, 2006
Philly Cheese Steak: lost in translation?
Perhaps Geno's has become overly confrontational on this, but surely there's nothing wrong with expecting those able to speak English to speak English and those unable to try?
That said, when I first got to Philly I'm not sure how easily my understanding of "English" went down with American speakers!
Post-penalty reflections on missed semi-finals
-How can Cristiano Ronaldo keep playing in England after such a deeply cynical performance?
-Why didn't Sven publicly admit that taking Theo Walcott was a mistake? It was shown up in the most stark manner yeterday once Rooney was sent off.
-Perhaps we have to accept England will never win a penalty shoot-out. That part of any international match is now such a psychological barrier to fans and players alike yet is also the one which requires the most composure and focus. Perhaps we can never now recover the poise under pressure we need.
-The fans in Gelsenkirchen were brilliant during the game.
-The ten hung on like giants, BUT
-England will never win a competition while we continue to foster an, albeit understandable, bunker attitude. We do not go out because we are cheated, though we often are. We do not go out because we are too honest for the World Cup, though we often are. We do not go out due to bad luck, though we often suffer bad luck. We go out because we are not good enough or don't play well enough. The only solution is to come back genuinely better and genuinely stronger; that requires a stronger coach and with McClaren part of this campaign's set-up I have to say he has a lot to prove.