Sunday, May 31, 2009

There is no way the Lib Dems would get into bed with Brown. Is there?

The talk on the high traffic blogs seems to be all about the latest ICM poll for the Daily Telegraph that has Labour in third behind the Lib Dems for both the Euro elections and the next General Election, which of course leads to the inevitable speculation that Brown will face a challenge to his leadership in the next few weeks.

Personally speaking, whilst coming third will make Brown an even bigger lame duck, I'm not so sure that the leadership will change hands. From what I recall reading on Labour blogs, the rules of the Labour Party are not quite so conducive to leadership challenges as the Tory Party is, and much of the speculation seems to be based on working assumptions about the many leadership challenges we've seen the Tories go through.

More interestingly though, is the report that there will be a snap "fightback" reshuffle which will see Ed Balls moved into the Treasury, and bizarrely an attempt by Brown to bring the Lib Dems on side by giving Vince Cable some sort of Government position on financial matters. Seriously though, and I've not yet looked at Lib Dem blogs, but with the Lib Dems polling so high, would they really want to tarnish themselves by getting into bed with Brown?

Something tells me that the Lib Dems are going to see the results of the Euro elections as their moment and chance to become the second party rather than third. Personally I think that would be a superb thing to happen if it did. We would then have a country that was predominantly on the centre or centre-right and the insane social authoritarianism of the past decade could be put behind us as an aberration.

A church collection and a pink laptop?

Another day and some more expenses. I've said before and I'll say again, there are some that have been cited that I think have been unfairly judged, whilst there are others who are verging on the white collar criminal level. I, much like Danny Finkelstein, think there is a world of difference between a trouser press and a phantom mortgage and that people should judge with some sense of proportion.

The problem is when you read some of these, like with the family court post below, the mind just boggles once again at the sense of entitlement some MPs have with certain things. Today, the Telegraph has revealed that Labour's Frank Cook put a claim in for a £5 church collection.

The claim was rejected by the infamous Fees Office, and, like with the phantom mortgages and flipping the redacting process that was being carried out would not have revealed that the donation was for a church collection if we'd sat and waited.

Now, some might say that this was only a fiver and it wasn't allowed anyway, but you have to ask yourself, what sort of person goes to church and puts a fiver in the plate and then thinks they ought to put a claim in for it. One might, if one was purely partisan, expect such a thing from an evil Tory, but from an angelic member of the social democrat elite?

Speaking of evil Tories though, the Telegraph has also revealed that Tim Yeo put a claim in for a laptop. Big deal some might say, an MP needs a computer so this is surely OK? Well that laptop was, like the picture above, pink, and the £900 claim came just before Christmas.

The implication of those facts is pretty clear, and to think positively of them we have to assume that Tim Yeo has, likes, and uses a pink laptop. I expect the justification will be that it was for one of the females who works for him.

The better team won but we still made history

Yesterday I was gutted. Chelsea were far better Everton but we still managed to make history in two ways even though we lost. The fastest goal in a cup final EVER, and, this is the depressing and also good one, we're the only team ever to lose eight cup finals.

When it comes to FA Cup failure, we are the best.

Nothing more to say.

Mind boggling tale from the Family court

Sometimes the mind quite literally boggles when you read a news story like this. It's a tale from the family courts which, thankfully, are no longer allowed to progress in secret and can be reported.

A mother called Rachel is, quite rightly, taking her case to the European Court of Human Rights, after Nottingham City Court took her prematurely born baby into care and are now trying to get it adopted on the grounds that she was not clever enough to look after the child.

What is more mind boggling is that this all came about when the "official solicitor" (government funded) took over her case because she was judged to be intellectually incapable of instructing her own solicitor. Then, when the council applied to have the child adopted, he didn't bother contesting it even though she instructed him to do so.

Now you might be thinking that perhaps, just maybe, this Rachel really isn't suitable for motherhood because of some sort of learning difficulty. However, according to the report, she had a psychiatric assessment done and she has no learning difficulties and is within the normal range of intelligence for someone who is 24.

Yet, the while the court has now accepted that she's more than capable of instructing a solicitor the adoption process goes on and she has three more months before she will be ordered to never see her child again.

As I say, this sort of thing is just mind boggling. If its not a complete competence failure leading to a child's death by a Council, it's the other extreme of a destroying a family unit on pure conjecture about what might, possibly, maybe happen.

*boggles*

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Prescott shoots the messenger

I've just read another piece on the subject of expenses by an MP who is trying to divert blame on the story to the Telegraph and the media in general. The MP in question, who has cross-posted at Comment is Free is none other than John Prescott, and the article contains the typical obsfucation that we have come to expect from politicians.

Prescott attemtps to argue that the media is in dying need of regulation beyond its self-regulation. He goes on to argue that the Press Complaints Commission is weak and essentially puts forward the thesis that it is a Tory front through the classic circumstantial ad hominen we all know and love.

Then we have a shrill complaint that the Telegraph got the expenses information by paying for stolen property, breaching PCC code and also in effect aiding and abetting a crime. However, the most hilarious part of Prescott's argument is that the Telegraph stories were all going to come out soon anyway because of "Labour's Freedom of Information Act".

Mr Prescott, that is, and you know it, a complete load of bollocks. I won't go as far as to say you are lying because you may just be so stupid that you genuinely believe it to the the case. However, the rest of us know that the information that was going to be released would have had redacted addresses in it. The impact of this would have meant such things as "flipping" would not have been known about, nor things like phantom mortgages.

That means, that of the MPs that have currently said they will step down at the next election, none would have likely gone because all we would know was that they claimed X for Y, rather than they claimed X for Y on a property in Southampton whilst being the MP for Luton. I'm sure Prescott must know this, but like I say perhaps he's too stupid to get it.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Clegg's travel expenses as an MEP?

I've just been out and about at an appointment and was listening to Radio Five Live. Nick Clegg was on and the subject was, as you'd expect, expenses. One caller rang in and asked Clegg about how much he had claimed in expenses during his time as an MEP, and the response nearly caused me to crash the car because of what he said.

Clegg started to explain how, as an MEP, he got quite a few allowances, some of which he didn't take - like the second pension. However, he got on to the subject of travelling and explained how he would fly from East Midland airport to Brussels and Strasbourg. He mentioned how the budget airlines did really good deals.

All sounds good right? Using budget airlines etc. However he then went to explain how the allowance for travelling was stupidly high and he could have flown first class every time on a big name carrier but chose not too. At this point I was thinking, well that's good, not excessive, he only used his travel allowance to fly as cheaply as he could.

Then, and this is the bit that threw me, he said that he was clever and put all that extra travel allowance money aside and used it for his office instead. Now, you may be shocked to hear that, and think it's a bit of a fiddle - after all, its not an office allowance its a travel allowance. However, I've just learnt that travel allowances for MEPs are actually flat rate based on distance to Brussels and Strasbourg; and - this is the scary bit - MEPs are allowed to keep what they don't spend of that flat rate.

So, Nick Clegg, flew cheap (good), but took all the money anyway (bad), and all "within the rules".

How much he must have taken precisely is not known, but its a bit rich for him to be lecturing sanctimoniously about the terrible expenses system in Westminster, whilst simultaneously admitting that when he was in Brussels he used to essentially "pocket the difference" (within the rules natch) from the cost of his flights and his flat rate travel allowance. No?

Update: Apparently the rules are going to be changing for MEPs very soon so they won't be able to keep money that is leftover in their travel allowance.

Update II: From the comments, Gawain Towler notes that Clegg will have also received £4500 a year for office expenses already. Leading to the conclusion that if he had to top it up it must have been a really crap office.

Frost/Brown interview is here

Great mash-up.

From Tory-Politico

Who said.....?

Who, in their 2005 General Election Manifesto said that the eleventh axiom of economic policy is,

Owners should work, and workers should own.
Answers on a postcard....

Update: Well done to the first comment. Yes that's right, the "far right" BNP consider this very "far left" statement as a self-evident truth.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Libertas girl-on-girl lesbian action?

Highly amusing, but if you type Libertas into Google and hit "I'm Feeling Lucky" you won't end up at the political party's website, but rather a lesbian shopping site called Diva Direct. The book section is apparently sponsored by Libertas, which just so happens to be the name of the UK’s "leading authority on lesbian literature".

I'm now wondering if the girl below from Libertas (the party) has kissed a girl and liked it.

Image sourced from Guido
Via email

One Man and his dog?

Until today I never heard of the United Kingdom First Party which appears to be a splinter-group from UKIP - SPLITTERS!* I have thought just received a leaflet informing me that Robin Page, former presenter of One Man and his Dog is standing for them in the Eastern Region.

Apparently he is committed to only going to the European Parliament when its in Britain's interests to do so. Given that he acknowledges 80% of our laws come from there though, I guess that makes such a commitment little more than rhetoric.

At this point I should probably make a joke about dog whistle politics, right?
* The United Kingdom People's Popular Front would be a better name surely?

Harrow West MP bares all?

I'm renowned for making typos, usually its because I type too fast (90 word per minute) and then don't spell check properly, or occasionally I just mix words up, work and walk seems to be a common one.

Anyhow, I don't have a sub-editor but newspapers do, so was quite amused to see this mistake in the Harrow Times about Gareth Thomas MP and expenses, it notes

He stopped claiming the additional cost allowance, expenses for second homes, in October, and says he wanted to bare more of the cost himself after being promoted to minister of state for trade, development and consumer affairs.
I guess that's what you call true transparency?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Serjeant at Arms says there are thieves about?

Apparently so,

Subject: Security Advice
Importance: High

There are opportunists on the Parliamentary Estate who are trying office doors to gain entry if they are unlocked. Please make sure that you lock your door every time you leave your office.

Jill Pay
Serjeant at Arms.
Who'd thought it? Thieves in Parliament huh? Shocking!... oh wait a second.

If there were zombies in London would the Met tell us?

I ask because the Boston Police, when asked, said they would.

Now, amusing Twittering overs, I;m quite impressed with Boston Police departments openess such as

SUSPICIOUS PACKAGE: One Boston Place, Bomb Squad responding, avoid the area.
Or,

TROLLEY ACCIDENT: Commonwealth Ave/South St, Brighton, 3 persons with minor injuries, expect delays.
Sound nasty huh? Seriously though, a really useful use of Twitter. Shame I don't live in Boston though.

Problem with Excel? Work that wrist!

Quite possibly the funniest workaround offered by Microsoft ever.

Click Image for Readable Version

Quote of the Day

Danny Finkelstein has hit the nail on the proverbial

Robert Mugabe starves his population to death. Nothing. The Janjawid commit genocide in Darfur. Nothing. Gordon Brown bankrupts the country. Nothing. Then someone buys an unnecessary trouser press. Pandemonium.
Funny old Brits huh?

They're taking us for fools

Something has been bothering me about all these MPs, Tory and Labour, who have been found to be royally taking the piss out of the expenses system and thus quitting. Why is it that they're all stepping down at the next election? Why are they not going immediately?

It couldn't be because they need the money for just a little longer could it? Aren't we just being taken for fools by them some more? They're all going to potentially have another 10 months of spending taxpayer money. How is that a punishment exactly?

Dealing with party political leaflets you don't want?

An amusing spot by Croydonian.

Were I to do a similar poster mine would have to read,

"Don't bother putting BNP or Green Party literature through the letterbox. The Beagle behind the door seems only to rip up your leaflets so you're only throwing it away really. Oh yes, and I wouldn't vote for you economically far left illiterates anyway"
Beware the wrath of the sound Beagle!

David Boothroyd busted - and deleted

I'm a bit late to the party with this one, but am highly amused to learn that David Boothroyd has had to resign from the "Wikipedia Supreme Court". David Boothroyd is a Labour councillor in Westminster who comments on a number of right wing blogs including this one. He has an anally retentive insistent on this blog of referring to me by my full name for some reason.

I mentioned this simply because he's had to resign after admitting to having multiple identities on Wikipedia - spending most of his time editing David Cameron's page it seems. He also used his multiple identities to get himself a false identity when he was elected to the Wikipedia Arbitration Committee it seems.

Now, I don't actually have a problem with using multiple identities online. Alter-egos (alts) have been a standard practice bit of fun on messageboards for years. I have been known to argue about politics viciously with myself when thoroughly drunk and bored on forums - sad huh?

Of course that was many moons ago, since when I've only been quite so sad once, using the identity "sockpuppet" in blog comments to wind up Tim Ireland of Bloggerheads when he starting his campaign against their use on political blogs a couple years ago.

To be honest though, on the matter of David Boothroyd, I'm not sure which is sadder. The fact that he felt the need to have multiple identities to let him edit the page of the Tory leader; or the fact that he actually has a Wikipedia account.

I wonder if he wrote his own page in the first place? Personally I think you have to have serious delusions of grandeur to put yourself on Wikipedia. Anyhow, I digress, all hail the Westminster councillor who got stuffed. Couldn't happen to a nicer bloke.

Oh yes, his Wikipedia page is now a candidate for deletion. Infamy doesn't let him stay?

Update: He gone!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Very very serious commentary on North Korea

When I heard the news about North Korea's missile test and some guy from the UN saying,

"The members of the Security Council have decided to start work immediately on a Security Council resolution on this matter, in accordance with the Security Council's responsibilities under the Charter of the United Nations."
All I could think of was this,

JUDITH: They've arrested Brian!
REG: What?
COMMANDOS: What?
JUDITH: They've dragged him off! They're going to crucify him!
REG: Right! This calls for immediate discussion!
COMMANDO #1: Yeah.
JUDITH: What?!
COMMANDO #2: Immediate.
COMMANDO #1: Right.
LORETTA: New motion?
REG: Completely new motion, eh, that, ah-- that there be, ah, immediate action--
FRANCIS: Ah, once the vote has been taken.
REG: Well, obviously once the vote's been taken. You can't act another resolution till you've voted on it...
JUDITH: Reg, for God's sake, let's go now!
REG: Yeah. Yeah.
JUDITH: Please!
REG: Right. Right.
FRANCIS: Fine.
REG: In the-- in the light of fresh information from, ahh, sibling Judith--
LORETTA: Ah, not so fast, Reg.
JUDITH: Reg, for God's sake, it's perfectly simple. All you've got to do is to go out of that door now, and try to stop the Romans' nailing him up! It's happening, Reg! Something's actually happening, Reg! Can't you understand?! Ohhh! [slam]
REG: Hm. Hm.
FRANCIS: Oh, dear.
REG: Hello. Another little ego trip for the feminists.
LORETTA: What?
FRANCIS: [whistling]
REG: Oh, sorry, Loretta. Ahh, oh, read that back, would you?
It's not cynicism, its realism.

Would you have him as a candidate?

:eek:

Click for larger version

Via email

Some other ideas for Parliament?

I see that David Cameron is this morning writing about constitutional refrom to take power away from Downing Street. One of the things suggested is fixed-term Parliament, thus removing the power of the PM to decide when to call a General Election. I'm broadly supportive of that but I think perhaps we could even go further, such as:

Take the fixed-term principle farther and don't have a general election of all seats, but rather split the electoral cycle for the seats into two, or even three?

This would mean that the make-up of the House, majorities, balance of power and the like could shift more easily. The legislative process would also be slowed, whcih is not a bad thing, and it could potentially protect against the super-majority that landslides deliver.

Obviously the disadvantage of this could be a feeling of constant elecitoneering. However, if only a third of seats were being contested, then a national campaign would just piss two thirds of the country off. It would be counter-productive.

Confirmation hearings for all Cabinet posts.

This would reduce the ad-hoc reshuffle and bring stability to the leadership in Government departments. Sacking someone would no longer be so easy because the Prime Minister would have to consider the fact the replacement would need to be confirmed.

Obivously both these ideas have other positive and negative aspects which I'm sure people will point out. However, it seems to me that the biggest problem we have is what de Tocqueville called the "tyranny of the majority".

If the current way the polls have been going is correct - and putting the impact of expenses aside - then Cameron may well be on course for a serious landslide. Government's with landslide majorities are not, and should not be desirable.

If you have such vast numbers that you don't even need to debatre something properly to make it law then bad laws will inevitably be signed. One look at some of the Bills of the last ten years is evidence of that. Note, when I said "bad laws" I refer more to their framing than the subject matter in particular.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Dorries Blog: When, why and what happened

Yesterday I posted about Nadine Dorries MP's blog being taken down after intervention by lawyers acting on behalf of the Telegraph and the Barclay brother. I would say that yesterday there was a mixed reaction. The reaction appears to fall into four categories.

  • Those that don't care because they think she deserved it
  • Those who think what she said was fair comment whether they agreed with her or not and so think its a bit off.
  • Those who disagree with everything Nadine says vehemently thinking she is batshit crazy but defend her right to be so.
  • And finally those that have seen similar things happen to their own blogs but so viscerally despise Nadine and the right wing blogs reporting it that its easier to question whether any of it is even true through obsessively sad twittering - something that will continue whatever is said.
Anyhow, that covered, this morning I have discovered a little more detail of the exact time-line of events that appear to have taken place on Friday. You will appreciate that yesterday the detail of who did what, when was not fully known.

  • 22 May 2009 @ 20:30: Counsel at Wither LLP contacts the support@ alias for TDMWeb with an email with attached legal letters advising they require urgent attention and action. The letters state that Nadine's Parliametary email address has been copied.
  • 22 May 2009 @ 21:00: TDMWeb - an upstream provider of services to a Bedford based provider, Acidity - emailed a contact at Acidity, stating that they had attempted to contact him by landline and mobile, and that they, TDMWeb, had taken the decision to stop the IIS webserver that managed the subdomain blog.dorries.org. It was not Acidity that stopped the service as I blogged yesterday, apologies for any confusion I may have caused on that.
  • Sat May 23 2009 @ 00:10: Nadine contacted me saying her blog was offline. My initial thought was that it was a server issue that I would look into first thing in morning.
  • Sat May 23 2009 @ 01:30: Nadine is advised of the details of the legal letters by Acidity.
So we have just thirty minutes between receipt of notice and the total takedown of the blog, with the lawyers having chosen to contact Nadine on her Parliamentary address, on a Friday evening in Recess. The complaints against Nadine from the lawyers came in two areas, firstly complaint of false allegations against Telegraph Media Group, and secondly, false allegations against the Barclay brothers.

First, the lawyers stated that Nadine was making a false allegation against the Telegraph, stating that her argument that the Telegraph expose "constitutes an appalling, sadistic torture of individuals [and] a cynical attempt to maximise profit" was false and that they were actually acting in nothing more than the public interest.

The second complaint was that Nadine had made a false allegation that the Telegraph was carrying out "McCarthyite witch hunts" with the "reckless disregard for the mental and physical health of MPs". Again the Telegraph argued it was acting responsibly and in the public interest.

The third issue was that Nadine had said the Telegraph was "embellishing" some of the cases in order to boost its circulation. In other words that the Telegraph had lied about the provenance of some of the information it was publishing.

The final allegation of issue to the lawyers, was that Nadine had falsely alleged that the Barclay brothers were "fiercely Euro sceptic", and also falsely alleged that they had, through the expense stories "set upon a deliberate course to destabilise Parliament, with the hope that the winners will be UKIP and BNP". The allegations were considered defamatory and rejected as "nonsense".

All the allegations were considered a breach of the Telegraph Media Group and Barclay brothers rights, and had to removed and not repeated. As I said yesterday, the Acceptable Use Policy was cited as having been breached, and they advised the service provider of this.

And that, as they say, is that. Make of it what you will.

Comment moderation is on and anything that I arbitrarily consider to be potentially libellous will not be published.

Update: Nadine's blog came back online on Monday night, minus the aforementioned allegations as far as I can see.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

+++ Telegraph Group takes down Dorries blog +++

Some interesting developments have happened overnight. Nadine Dorries has seen the blog part of her website instantly taken down after she made allegations against the owners of the Telegraph Group, Sir David Barclay and Sir Frederick Barclay.

Lawyers acting for the Barclay brothers, Withers, instructed the takedown carried out by Acidity via mail to Coreix last night, citing the Acceptable User Policy. The takedown will be bolstered by the Godfrey vs Demon precendent, where an order can be made and it will be done instantly.

Of course, if the website was being hosted in the USA it would be much harder to order the instant takedown. You'd think though, that if the allegations were moonbat untrue there would just be a "point, laugh and call them ridiculous" strategy rather than ordering a takedown to gag Nadine from saying it.

This is especially the case I would've thought because once Recess is over, Nadine would be free to say such things in the House and be protected by Parliamentary Privilege. By taken her down like this the Telegraph will have fed the very idea of some sort of hidden agenda. Suppression, whether it is of speech that is right or wrong, is usually counterproductive.

Update:

The Independent's leading article has come out in support of Nadine's position on the "witch hunt" : The pursuit of MPs is becoming a witch-hunt. Thet also carry an article by Nadine titled This is a witch hunt – the torture must end.

The Times has an exclusive where the Archbishop of Canterbury echoes Nadine's comments: Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams: humiliation of MPs must stop.

I can't say that I disagree with their sentiment to be honest and, without using the term "witch hunt" this week, I have alluded to the sense of proportion that is being lost over this.

Update II: Interesting to note that the day after Nadine makes allegations that the Telegraph has a hidden proprietor driven agenda to drive votes to UKIP (I repeat this is an allegation not a proven truth), her blog gets taken down by lawyers and then this morning's Telegraph carries not only more expenses scandals but a gushing piece about UKIP.

As I said above, suppression of a theory, however right, wrong, moobat it might be, can and usually is counterproductive. If the target of said theory then appears to act in a way that endorses the theory it ain't going help such theories go away whatever the status of their veracity might be. Conspiracy theories breed conspiracy theories, its how they work sadly.

Update III: There have been some claims made elsewhere that as this is a "single source", the circumstances of this take down are questionable because they are not really known. The circumstances of the take down however were very clear.

Yesterday, after a number of media spots by Nadine, lawyers acting for the Telegraph wrote to Nadine and CC'd the hosting provider stating that the allegation against the motives of the Telegraph were not as alleged. The lawyers argued that the Telegraph had only ever acted in the public interest on the expenses matter. They also stated that the allegation against the Barclay brothers were nonsense but no less defamatory.

From a purely technical point of view, the blog was taken down by someone working at Acidity on the following basis,

due to the nature of this issue and the potential liability that ourselves and our upstream providers face, having been made aware of this complaint, I have taken the decision to stop the blog.dorries.org website in IIS on TWW55.

Please ensure that the blog.dorries.org website is not reinstated on any server/service provided by TDMWeb until the offending material has been removed
The implication appears to be that if the allegations are removed from the content management system, then the blog will be able to go back online with the same provider. By all accounts this is, as is always the case with ISPs, that they're considered the publishers rather than the carriers of actionable content - just as Clive pointed out in the comments below.

It is a situation that sucks, obviously, but unless something is done about it, then if you say something about someone who has the resources to instruct global lawyers against you, then you can be taken down very quickly. As I said though, in this case I think they just help feed the theory they are trying to suppress for those that choose to believe it.

Update IV : Added clarity to initial post noting Acidity did the takedown after legal mails sent to Nadine and upstream provider Coreix.

Friday, May 22, 2009

This is the problem.....

Apparently, the Tory MP for Clwyd West, David Jones, spent £339 on a satnav. Now, excuse the language but, big deal. He's an MP that lives in a rural constituency in North Wales that is full of hundreds of tiny B and C roads that span a mass of contoured countryside. Doesn't he, arguably, need a satnav?

Paul Waugh, bizarrely asks, what's wrong with a five pound road atlas? Well, for a start a £5 road atlas doesn't GPS that, should you breakdown in the middle of Wales when its snowing or the like, you can at least tell someone exactly where you are? Not to mention the safety aspect of a satnav compared to map reading on single lane B or C roads. Oh yes, and no one can know every nook and cranny whatever Paul Waugh might think.

To be honest, this is exactly the sort of thing I was talking about in the Collateral Damage post I did the other day. I have no problem with their being genuine anger and disgust at the MPs who, for example, claim for non-existent mortgages and pocket the money; buy a duck house and claim it back from us or clean a moat at our expense, but a satnav?

There is a air of complete insanity coming into some of these stories, where even something that is justifiable for the job is being highlighted as somehow excessive and the resulting MP is being named and forced into defence or humble apologies over nonsense. Yes, some of them deserve criminal charges, but all sense of proportion is getting lost in frothing isn't it?
Note: Image of Clwyd West to demonstrate the terrain.

'MP Suicide Watch' is nothing new it just might be more widespread

Back at the end of April, the Daily Mail ran a story titled "Love cheat MPs on 'suicide watch' as expense claims threaten to expose affairs". This was before the Telegraph started its stories, but was about the expected July release of information. The paper said,

A Commons source told the Mail: 'The whips have three Labour MPs on suicide watch. That's how serious this scandal is. The whips believe they might kill themselves.'
The Telegraph stories broke the following week, and I made reference to the suicide issue here. By May 20th, the Mail was reporting "Now MPs call in a psychiatrist to deal with the 'stress' of the expenses furore".

I bring this up because the concern over the possibility of "MP suicide" is now in the news again and for some strange reason it's being run as if it is a shocking new revelation or possibility, and is being picked up all over the place, including "David Cameron orders public reprimand for suicide warning MP".

Can someone explain to me how this latest news tsunmai on suicide is working exactly? What's with all these people thinking this is new news? Were they all sleeping when it was mentioned before? On holiday perhaps? Anyone understand how it works, and why is the mention of suicide now, considered far more important and worthy of comment than when it was mentioned before?

Enjoy the long weekend.....

Fingers crossed we may have some good weather for the whole weekend. If you get a chance get outside and take some music. Don't forget the gin and juice.

BBC Impartiality?

Original Image here.

Did Tom Watson praise the Downing Street "resign" petition?

Well sort of, in a way, kind of. Tom Watson told the House of Lords Information Committee that the Downing Street e-petition site was an "excellent" example of the Government communicating online, and that "it allows you to gauge the mood of the nation to a certain degree."

Currently the most popular petition simply calls on Gordon brown to "resign" which one assumes Tom acknowledges is helping to gauge the mood of the nation to a certain degree.

If you havn't signed the petition yet then do so here.

Telegraph promoting the sex trade?

Whatever will Harriet Harman think?

Click Image for Larger Version
Via email

The wonders of Interweb anonymous attack

I wonder if any of the crazies on the left wing blogosphere - like "Enraged of Brighton" or "Disgusted of Guildford", who also get very very angry don't you know about anonymous attack sites and deliberate impersonation, will get equally upset about this?


Will the high-minded importance of not doing anonymous attack things online really be more important to them when the target of such anonymous attacks is someone they're currently attacking? A moral and ethical dillema to be sure!

You'll take note that, unlike them, I shan't being making deliberate insinuations about who is behind it. Rather I'll just pass comment and ponder on whether there will be condemnation, or whether they'll be another theory that it's right wingers trying to frame them again.

Note: Such a theory should it appear will not be a conspiracy theory and if anyone suggests it is, they shall be accused of smearing and making "false claims"™ against those sane people positing said theory. Said theory will also not be allowed to be called "conjecture" even though it will be a flawed inference based on presumptive and defective evidence.

Note II: Should a theory surface I'm guessing it will be almost the same as last time. "Right wingers, set it up to frame them as nasty. " The only difference this time will probably be that I am using the fact that I was innocent last time as cover to actually do it this time (click here for reference).... then again I might be wrong, the anonymous aspect may just be brushed aside with the argument that the account is "fair comment".

Thursday, May 21, 2009

When did Brown decide to change the slogan?

Now here'a little discovery I found particularly amusing. If you pay attention to politics you'll be aware that the slogan dividing line that Brown has tried to create is "real help now" versus "do nothing". They even set a Government website up with the same slogan at realhelpnow.gov.uk.

However, it seems that, perhaps, that wasn't always the planned name, and they were far more optimistic, and then events overtook them. Take a look at the configured name of the web server when you go to www.realhelpnow.gov.uk/404. Methinks they were hoping the situation would be different when they first thought of the idea of an aggregator saying how brilliant they were.

Did hopeless optimism come crashing to the ground resulting in a name change? Expect, if there are any real or perceved "green shoots" the phrase "recovery and jobs" to become the new meme. Don't expect it too soon though.

Divorce settlement and the ACA

This comment from Nadine Dorries does not surprise me in the least,

I wonder how many people are aware, that if you are an MP and divorce, the courts base your maintenance payments to your husband/wife/children on a combination of your ACA and your salary. This is because the ACA is classed as an allowance, not an expense account, and is considered by the court as the property of the MP.
I can understand why the court would consider the ACA like that. If it didn't, then potentially, maintenance payments could be signficantly less than they ought to be.
Hat Tip: Sam Coates

How independent will this really be?

Yesterday I posted pointing out that the solution to expenses was not yet another Quango, and today my worst fears have been confirmed when I read the breifing paper of the proposals from Downing Street. It states that,

The new body would be appointed by Parliament to work independently of Parliament.
So apparently politicians cannot be trusted to self-regulate, but they can be trusted to appoint the people to regulate them? As Guido pointed out yesterday,

We have been here before, the Commissioner for Standards was a political appointment to watch over the integrity and honesty of politicians. When Elizabeth Filkin naively took her job seriously she was hounded out of office.
This is not a proposal to mend a broken system, this is a a proposal to fix the system under the well spun veil of independence.

National Rogue Trader Day

Apparently, tomorrow is National Rogue Trader Day, and the day is not to support them but to bring awareness of these door-to-door crookes. Sadlt the press release is missing something. It says,

Typically, rogue traders may knock on the door offering to tarmac the drive or repair loose roof tiles in return for a small fee.
Whereas it ought to say,

Typically, rogue traders may knock on the door offering to tarmac the drive, repair loose roof tiles in return for a small fee, or ask for you vote in retrun for non-receipt based expenses.
Just saying is all.

Identity Politics - don't you just love it?

I must say that this tale is hilarious. Not because of the crazy litagous nature of some quarters of the US, but more because it perfectly illustrates the problem identity politics has.

In short, a guy from Mozambique, who happens to be white, and who immigrated tot he US and became naturalised, chose to define himself when asked as "white African-American". he was then punished for it because people found it offensive and now he's going to court over it.

The point here of course is that this guy is from Africa and now he's American, but because he's not got dark skin its apparently wrong for him to make reference to himself as an African-American, even though he is one.
Hat Tip: Charles Crawford

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Someone got a wind problem?

I am left wondering if someone is farting too much having read this written question,

Mr. Burstow: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission what the House of Commons Commission's most recent assessment is of the efficiency of the ventilation systems in each building in the House of Commons part of the parliamentary estate.
Too many subsidised baked beans?

Nick Brown gives General Election date away?

Someone, in this case the Labour Chief Whip and close friend and ally of Gordon Brown, doesn't understand how Twitter works.

Political Fail of the Century!
Great spot by ToryBear

UPDATE: The Twitter account has just been deleted.

UPDATE II: General thinking is that this account was fake. However, there has been a line put out that the Austin mitchell account is fake too, but it isn't, it's very real.

Can you read that license plate?

The following table comes from a release by the Department of Transport under the Freedom of Information Act, and I thought it might be interesting when put in comparison to Gordon Brown's comments to the Commons Liaison Committee in 2007 when he said that immigrants to the UK, "should be able to speak the English language".

Or perhaps Jacqui Smith's comments in the same year that immigrants "need to integrate into our country, learn English and use our language." She also noted that she wanted to" make speaking English a requirement for all those coming in to the UK to do lesser skilled work and we will be looking at extending this requirement to those who come to the UK to do low skilled work as well."

Joined-up Government huh? The arse says one thing and the elbow does another. Purely as an aside, I was rather tickled by the fact that there were only 20 people who took their driving theory test in Welsh.

It's gets funnier though, the DVLA (that's the people that give out driving licenses in case you didn't know) have apparently translated documents into the following:

Yep, you saw that right - assuming you're not blind - they translated DVLA documents into Braille. They also can't spell Mandarin, and a mysterious new language called "Telephone" is in there. Modems with driving licenses? The Rise of the Machines! Hasta la vista.... baby.
Source Document

Tax credits don't deliver social justice, so scrap them

Have just spotted a rather interesting press release from HMRC about tax credits statistics which says,

The statistics show that the level of overpayments in 2007-08 was £1 billion compared to £2.2 billion in 2003-04. The number of families entitled to end of year top ups has increased as anticipated last May to 1.29 million (£798 million). This is as a result of one of the components of the package of measures announced in the Pre Budget Report 2005 to reduce overpayments.
Did you spot it? See how first of all they're comparing figures today with figures from 4 years ago? It couldn't be because they can give maximum impact of the reduction in overpayments to distract from the fact the system is still so broken it pays out £1,000,000,000 each year when it shouldn't, could it?

There's more in there though. Notice the bit about they've increased the "end of year top ups" by £798 million and that is because of measure they introduced to reduce overpayments? What they;re saying is that they introduced measures to reduce overpayment by introducing underpayment to the system, which, at the end of the year, means people get top-ups to rectify their payments.

This is the classic case of a press release trying to make something that is crap look good. Reading between the lines though it's pretty clear that the tax credit system remains thoroughly broken. Where once it was just paying certain people too much - and then ripping the money back - now it is not only paying some people too much, its also paying 1.29 million people too little, and then having to correct itself.

Here's a radical idea on how to fix it. How about, instead of taking low income people's money through tax, spending a bit of it in order to employ people to process the forms that have to be filled in to get a little bit of back (either too much or too little), why don't they just not bother taking the money in the first place?

To be honest, I've always found Labour support for tax credits utterly bizarre. It doesn't take a genius to see that the system is (a) wasteful of taxpayers money (b) stupidly complex, meaning many don't get the benefits, and (c) when they do get the benefits its so broken that the wrong amounts are paid. Added to this of course it is means-testing, something that Aneurin Bevan fought so hard to abolish, as he said,

"[the] purpose of the Means Test is not to discover a handful of people receiving public money when they have means to supply themselves. The purpose is to compel a large number of working-class people to keep other working-class people.
Admittedly, tax credits are a bug bear of mine. An incoming Tory Government should pledge to scrap them and introduce tax measures that actually take the low paid out of tax altogether. It's always seemed perverse to me that in an alleged progressive tax system the lowest paid have to pay tax, and then, when they get tax credits, they see themselves taxed at marginal tax rates of over 70% when they try to earn a little bit more.

How exactly can anyone from the Labour Party consider that "social justice"?

Update: It may not be clear in this post that I am referring to those tax credits that are given to people who are working, hence references to not taxing them at all. I say this because of a comment that seemed to think I was referring to "tax credits" (which are really just benefits and nothing to do with tax, that are given to those who can't work because of, for example, a severe disability.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Is a quango really the solution?

Dan Hannan has an interesting piece over on his Telegraph blog noting that Gordon Brown's solution for an independent regulator of MPs expenses is essentially palming the issue off to yaQ (Yet Another Quango) and will actually make matter worse.

I must admit, when I listened to Brown banging on about the wonders of an independent regulator, I did find myself thinking "who watches the watchers?". After all, we have all manner of independent regulators already which simply layer yet more political appointees in virtually non-jobs.

Crucially though, as Dan points out, the creation of an independent statutory quango will impact on Parliamentary sovereignty. Surely it would just be better for full transparency of expenses claims by MPs from the moment they are submitted, and other instruments, like recall laws, to make sure the MP is accountable to their electorate?

The solution to expenses is surely not even larger unaccountable Governmental bodies? Is it?

Speaker to make further statement on reform

Gordon Brown is rather hilariously saying that the Speaker will be making a statement about a meeting with all the party leaders. He's then gone on to effectively make the announcement of the changes to allowances. So much for the Speaker making the announcement.

UPDATE: The hacks are restless in this conference. Adam Boulton and John Snow went on the fact that Hazel Blears and other Cabinet ministers have clearly acted wrongly, but they have not resigned, and it looks like they will not be de-selected. One hack pointed out that if he got caught shoplifting and then said "oh I'll pay for it now" it wouldn't matter as he'd still be done for it. Good point.

Windows... goes wrong even without graphics

Quality

Wild General Election Speculation

So I've been asleep all afternoon (working tonight) and have just woken up having slept through Michael Martin's statement. However, I see he says he's going on June 21st. That's just over four weeks away. Brown is seeing the Queen today as always on Tuesday and then he's going to hold an impromptu press conference at 17.30.

Why hold a press conference when you know that no one will be interested in what you say other than on the subject of the Speaker? Unless of course you have something much more interesting to say (he's already trailed his Labour Party changes and they're party political anyway)? Just wildly speculating is all. Of course, it would be kamikaze electoral suicide, so its a silly idea really.

Update: Please note I posted this simply because if it happened I would be kicking myself if I hadn't.

Is Brown going to purge is enemies?

Sky News is obviously running with the Speaker story, but they're also running with the news that Brown has met with the NEC and all Labour MPs that are found to have broken the rules will not be standing at the next election.

Who wants to bet that such an internal rule will be used by Brown to get rid of his enemies whilst his allies get off on some technicality? Stalin purged with violence, I can't help thinking that Brown will try to use expenses as a means to purge his own ranks of rivals.

Le confused?

Is the secret of the expenses scandal Michael Martin's plastic surgey bill?

Hat Tip: Croydonian who is on fire for good spots today.

Speaker to resign - buried bodies to be exhumed?

So the news is out. The Speaker will resign this afternoon. Will he be carrying a spade with him on his way out? Word is, he knows where all the bodies are buried. Should Gordon be worried?

Question of the Day

This one from yesterday in Parlaiment made me chuckle.

John Mann: To ask the Leader of the House how many current hon. Members have redesignated their main home for the purposes of the additional costs allowance on three or more occasions.

Chris Bryant: It is not possible to provide this information without going through each individual Member's paper records as the information as requested is not held electronically and nomination forms, indicating where a main and second home are located, were only required from 2003 onwards.

The answer could therefore be provided only at disproportionate cost.
I'm surprised Chris Bryant didn't just say "call the Daily Telegraph"

The "how to get Dale" McBride emails revealed

Smeargate is back! Way back in March, Guido went on the Daily Politics and said that there was evidence of Damian McBride advising Derek Draper on how to smear Iain Dale and Guido.

At the time certain quarters of the blogosphere on the Left effectively accused Dale and Guido of making the whole thing up. They were accused of conspiracy theorising for their own self-interest and promotion.

Iain Dale, having been told that this had been going on in Downing Street submitted a Freedom of Information request to find out what was actually said about him and Guido. Now obviously FoIs take time, during which the baying about how Iain was peddling lies in the media continued.

Well now it seems the truth is out and there were no lies. McBride, did use Downing Street email infrastructure to advise Draper on how to smear Dale and Guido. I doubt though that it will be enough evidence for some. Interestingly, the response from the Cabinet Office also brings up more questions about who else might have been involved.

The full letter from the Cabinet Office can be read here.

Compare and contrast

Now here is an interesting little comparison. If you;re an MP you get allowances each year which amount of tens of thousands of pounds. However, if you're in the military and do a six month operational tour you get an allowance too, it is, slightly less though.

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The operational allowance is paid at the same rate for all qualifying locations. The allowance amounts to £2,380 for a six month operational tour, equating to £13.08 per day.
Which is worthy of larger sum? The men and women risking their lives, or the MPs that send them there?
Hat Tip: Croydonian

It was always going to happen...

Last week, Barack Obama caused a bit of a storm, when he decided to reinstate military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay. Then the inevitable criticism and name calling occurred with him being labeled "Bush Lite". I mention this because I just wanted to say "I told you so". When Obama was elected I commented that it would not be long before he became a realist because that is what High Office does to a man.

You can be as liberal (I use that in the American sense of the word) as you like outside of the Oval Office, but once you get in the Situation Room and receive the briefings on the things that you didn't know, the simplicity of campaign slogans become just a tad more complex. I fully expect a similar volte-face on dealing with Iran.

How many chairs will that buy?

If you think kitting out the second home with furniture costs a lot, don't forget the House of Commons. Over the past three years, the House has spent £1,852,405 on office furniture. Meanwhile, renovating the Palace of Westminster during the same period has cost £22,359,000.

I bet the chairs are comfy and the wallpaper looks nice though.

Do you like dags?

For the fear of being called a racist I shall avoid using any derogatory terms, but I have just spotted a response from Tessa Jowell about the provision for those coming to watch the Olympics that made me go "oh God, that's going to end in tears". When asked about caravan provision for Olympic spectators Jowell said,

There are no plans for spaces for recreational caravans in the Olympic Park. However, we recognise that motor home and caravan users may wish to attend the 2012 games and we expect that, closer to the time, the Olympic Delivery Authority will wish to follow up initial discussions it has had with the Caravan Club to explore the potential for games-time integration of public transport provision and licensed caravan sites.
What's the betting that sites are set up, probably along the Thames Gateway on both sides of the river, and whilst some of the users of the site will go home, others may get a license and then just stay, along with a burnt out car and a load of Staffordshire bull terriers?

Saying this, it wouldn't make somewhere like Purfleet look any more or less of a hole. Cynical? Moi?

David Davies: I'll tell you what I've done

No doubt some will rage at this little video of David Davies, the MP for Monmouth, filmed at the Telegraph. However, I think it puts into perspective the way the expenses scandal has snowballed.

Of course, this guy is a Tory, so there will be some out there (mostly weirdo interweb obsessives who do direct action politics rather than the foot soldier leaflet type stuff in a constituency or ward), who consider this a partisan post.

However, as I said yesterday in the "Collateral Damage" post, there are MPs from all sides I think who have been "named and shamed" by the Telegraph who didn't do anything other than be in the wrong place at the wrong time. For the sane amongst the readership rather than the idiotic one or two who makes dumb stupid leaps of insane logic, I'm not just saying this now because Tories have been named.

Many of those Tories that have been named deserve nothing more than to lose their seats and face the full anger of their electorate or in some cases the law. However, as one commenter put it, "the mere mention of an MPs name by the Telegraph is sufficient to condemn them regardless of the facts."

I'm off to trawl Hansard now because I'm sure there must be ample bad news being buried during the last ten days.
Hat Tip: Edinburgh Sucks for the video.

Monday, May 18, 2009

I want to be an MP get me in there?

I may well have just written a blogpost that defended some MPs are talked of collateral damage in the expenses scandal, but that doesn't preclude me making smartarse remarks about it still.

I've just read on the CoffeeHouse that Esther Rantzen is considering becoming an MP. I was, at this point, reminded of the natural law that states whenever a celebrity goes on a celebrity reality show it means they're skint.

Thus, do we have a new law? If you're a celebrity and you're skint then become an MP!

Collateral Damage

All MPs are venal money grabbing bastards out to fleece us, right? If you say yes then I'm afraid you're wrong. It's taken a full week of expenses stories for me to come a slightly different confusion. That is that some MPs are venal money grabbing bastards out to fleece us, whilst the majority of the others are not.

Sure, the ones that have claimed thousands upon thousands of pounds for property where mortgages have been fully paid up already are bastards. Likewise those that have thought the way their garden's look should be paid for by us are bastards. However, has anyone else noticed that in a number of cases, MPs have simply asked the Fees Office what is appropriate for them to claim within a given set of receipts?

In some cases we've had allegations about things being bought and claimed for when in fact they have not - rather a receipt for multiple items was submitted but only certain permitted things were asked to be reimbursed. So I find myself asking, if I were an MP and I was told that I was entitled to claim different allowances, I would be asking the Fees Office what I could claim for. Now, one could argue it should be obvious what is, and what is not appropriate, but I'm now starting to wonder if it really is that simple.

I would imagine, that across an MPs desk comes a hell of a lot of paperwork. I would also imagine that some MPs may very well just send a bundle of receipts and/or invoices over to the Fees Office with a cover letter saying "what can I claim for out of this lot". True, you could criticise them for being lazy, a point I wouldn't disagree. But it seems that the Telegraph questions tend to take the assumption that if a receipt was submitted it was consciously done so with the intent to scam us out of money. Again I;m not so sure it's as simple as that anymore.

There is no doubt that some MPs have been guilty of taking the piss. But in the past week I think there have also been some who quite genuinely didn't. Ben Bradshaw for example, did nothing different to what a married straight MP did, as I noted at the time. Likewise, I actually believe Phil Woolas denial of him claiming for nappies and ladies clothing. I think it's obvious that it was a case of the Telegraph seeing a multi-item receipt and assuming that it was covered in full.

I've already mentioned my view on the issue of Nadine Dorries renting rather than buying a property and coining it through resale capital gain. Her office too though submitted receipts, en masse, as it were, some were paid, other were not.

It seems to me that the "it was within the rules", or "the Fees Office approved it", or the "the receipt was mistakenly submitted" lines are not necessarily weak. It's just that when put in context of the most serious offences - like mortgage payments for non-existent mortgages or moats - they don't wash.

The real problem is that Telegraph's mission to expose the MPs milking it for all its worth are themselves milking the stories for all its worth. The result is that the very worst excesses rightly make the front page, and the other, probably innocent MPs, make the small column coverage inside, by which time the reader is so pissed off they don't stand a chance however honest their defence may be.

The Telegraph needs to start separating the wheat from the chaff a little bit more, the collateral damage could be dangerous.
Note: Yes, I did just defend MPs. Scary huh?

Surely renting is honourable?

Now that the weekend is over, I thought I would post about expenses stories, just for a change. First of all though, I need to declare an interest in what I'm about to say. Nadine Dorries is not just the Tory MP for Mid-Beds, she's also someone I consider a friend and is the MP in the neighbouring constituency to me, so no doubt whatever I write now will be considered rank hypocrisy by some.

To start with, I should say that I think Nadine's initial blog post on the story may not have been such a good idea because she was clearly very angry when she did it. Many of us have been there, and its very easy to hit submit. However, its the things that have been written about Nadine's housing arrangements this past weekend that have surprised me the most.

This was mainly because I already knew about them as Nadine told me a month or so ago. We had a chat over the phone one evening about allowances and expenses, during which Nadine explained to me that she rented a property in her constituency which included her office for her work as an MP, and this was paid for through the ACA.

She told me that she chose to rent using the ACA because she believed it was wrong to purchase a property on the taxpayer, especially during what was a rising market at the time she became an MP. Nadine felt that making such capital gains as some other MPs had done was not an appropriate use of allowances - an admirable position I felt.

We also talked about how her main Cotswold home, and the family reasons for that. Personally, I can understand why she chose to arrange things that way. After all, it would be good to rip your kids out of school and move them at an inappropriate moment. This I guess is what surprised me most about the reporting of her housing arrangements, because she was brought into the expenses scandal about a situation that, for me at least, seemed beyond reproach.

Added to this, I was surprised to see the Telegraph and others saying that if Nadine spent only weekends and recess at the house in the Cotswold it meant it wasn't really her main home. You see, the last time I looked there were 52 weekends in a year, which, based on a 30 day month across the board is just short of three and half months. Then, if you add the weekdays of Parliamentary recess it takes you well over the six months mark.

Seems to me that the place where your kids live; the place you spend more than half of your year; and, crucially, the place you'll be living if you were to say, lose your seat, is clearly your main home. Of course, the problem for Nadine has been that she chose to keep her personal family arrangements secret, which has led to an assumption about the properties in which she lives and the allowances that pay for one of them.

There are some I would imagine who would argue that if you're in public life then you can have no private life. However, in a situation with children, and a marriage breakdown, then can that argument really hold water? I actually think it's rather sad that Nadine has had to resort to explaining her post-marriage family life to everyone.

It's made especially worse by the fact that she's chosen to use her ACA allowance in exactly the way it was intended, but her desire for a little privacy for her kids, and her ex-husband for that matter, have resulted in her being accused of claiming "second home allowance" when only having one home, which simply isn't true.

As I said at the beginning, Nadine is a friend of mine, so no doubt some will say my judgement is being clouded or I'm being a hypocrite. The thing is though, as I said, I knew about her arrangements and decisions to rent so as to be seen to be coining it at the taxpayers expense, and yet here we are with her being accused of doing just that. Frankly it's seem absurd to me.

Note: In respect of the minibar and hotel room receipts, I'm not going to address them in this post but will shortly because I have a view on them which is actually part of a wider view about how some of this scandal has developed over the past week. Will try and do it at the end of the week as it's kind of a postmortem look at the whole expenses scandal thingy.

Not an Alex Hilton fan

Mind you, he did vote for the third place candidate.

Hat Tip: Spotted by chance by Croydonian and passed on.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Postcards to the Queen?

The left wing comedian Mark Thomas, who can occasionally make a funny wisecrack - but for the most part is your typical campaigning leftie of the kind Nick Cohen attacked in "What's Left" - has started a campaign urging his fan and followers to send a message to the Queen with the postcard below.


I'm not really sure what to say. Can you imagine the reaction if someone on the Right started a similar campaign with say, Tony Benn?

Double standards for Ministers?

Shahid Malik - steps down as Junior Minister because he may have broken internal rules, the Ministerial Code, by failing to declare a benefit in terms of a crazily low, and what appears to be, subsidised rent.

Tony McNulty, Jacqui Smith and Hazel Blears et al - Continue as Junior Minister and Cabinet ministers respectively when revelations suggest that they may actually have broken the law, rather than just the rules.

How does that work then? What was that line in Animal Farm? All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others?

Morley to defend the indefensible?

Last night
We can't wait either. What's it going to be? Amnesia? Clerical error? That the dog ate the "your mortgage is closed" letter?

There's nothing British about the BNP

Conservative Home have launched a site attacking the BNP called NothingBritish.com and have done the following video as well.


The odious white power socialists are hoping they'll get some more votes in a few weeks, so it will be interesting to see whether a campaign like this work. Pointing out the criminal connections of the BNP is worthwhile, but then I imagine some would say the rest are a bunch of crooks too... are they convicted murderers and rapists though?

What's the anger out there really like?

Probably not the greatest of poll measures, but BBC News 24 has a show called Question Time Extra which discusses the show on BBC 1 and talks about the SMS text comments.

This evening's Question Time was, obviously, dominated by MPs expenses. Interestingly they normally receive around 2000 or so text messages. Tonight it was over 5000. The producers also said it was the angriest they've ever seen.

My guess is, as this saga rolls on, it will not be long before we finally have a by-election somewhere.

Postscript: I see Shahid Malik has said he claimed within the rules and won't be paying anything back. I give him a couple of days before a U-turn or a resignation.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

'On HIS side'... I think?

I think Elliot Morley may want to make an amendment to his website. Perhaps along the following lines?


Meanwhile, according to Fraser Nelson at the CoffeeHouse, Morley "fessed up" a few days ago. This might explain why he stopped Twittering two days ago and went to ground.

Hat Tip: Croydonian for the Twitter part.

William Hill say UKIP will thrash Labour and slash odds

From William Hill

BOOKMAKERS WILLIAM HILL believe that UKIP will end up with more seats at the forthcoming Euro elections than Labour. And Hills offer Even money that UKIP - who won eleven seats last time - will get mopre than 7/4 shots Labour - who had 19, with a tie between the two offered at 3/1.'The current expenses scandal could hardly have come at a worse time for the major Parties with the Euro elections on the horizon and we believe there will be a strong protest vote against the bigger Parties together with a hefty stay-away percentage of voters' said Hill's spokesman Graham Sharpe.
The bookie always wins right? They wouldn't be doing this if they didn't seriously think they'd lose a fortune. Would they?
Via UKIPwebmaster comment in previous post

New features and blog weirdness

For any readers out there that get annoyed with trying to read this blog on a handheld device, I have now added a link above that will take you to mobile.dizzythinks.net. The version of the site there is lightening quick and will look like the image to the right.

Additionally, some people may have noticed some weirdness with the blog. Specifically it travelling in time where sometimes all the posts from Wednesday and Thursday disappearing. If that happens hold down CTRL and press the Refresh button. Have a theory why it's happening but can't be sure.

If you want to get a mobile friendly version of your blog, visit mofuse.com. It's free and if you do own your own domain you can point it at the URL they provide. They also have a Wordpress plugin so that your blog autoredirects mobile users if that is the platform you are using.

Update: Ok, have noticed Mofuse is too slow so have redirected the Mobile view fo the blog to Google reader.

Update II: Fixed the speed issues - I think - and slightly customised the mobile view.

Airbrushing expenses?

The following screenshots were taken a few moments ago. Isn't it interesting that the only political party website from the three main parties that even makes a mention of expenses and the "cost of politics" is the Tory one?

I'd at least expect the Lib Dems to be making hay with it - they;ve not been hit quite so hard as the other two - but I'm really surprised Labour has no metnion of it given that Brown went on the BBC the other day to insist he was leading the call for reform. Clearly the website of the party he leads contradicts that lie.





I think the Labour website shows just how out of touch with the public feeling they really are, and, politically speaking, they're just following rather than leading.

Norman Baker: Expenses hypocrite

I was really hoping this would happen.

Yes, Norman Baker claimed £7500 a year rent charges for his office which was inside a property he owned.

Priceless!
Hat Tip: Iain Dale

Cameron's Parliamentary Advisor resigns over expenses

BBC News ticker: Andrew MacKay resigns as David Cameron's Commons aide over 'unacceptable' expenses claims

Now, does this mean he has resigned because he's refusing to pay the money back? Has the whip been withdrawn? Guess we'll have to wait for details.

Also now on Sky News. The new "scrutiny panel" met for the first time today, and Camero told Sky that "if [MPs] do not co-operate they will not be able to be Conservative MPs." Wonder if this is what has happened to Mackay?

UPDATE: Apparently Mackay, and his MP wife, Julie Kirkbride, both claimed full second home allowances on two separate properties. Sky have written that,

"The Press Association says Mr MacKay, who is married to Bromsgrove Tory MP Julie Kirkbride, claimed the full second-home allowance for interest on their joint mortgage for a London home until April this year.

But at the same time his wife also claimed the full annual sum for mortgage interest on a constituency home - meaning they appeared to have two second homes but no main home, sources said."
Coining it basically.

How not to be email snooped?

Remember how the Government dropped the idea of a central database which would store all our email/traffic data, and instead said they would seek to have all the information stored by the ISP instead?

Remember also how it then transpired that this was really just an EU Directive and was introduced as a statutory instrument called the "The Data Retention (EC Directive) Regulations 2009"?

Well, Chris Huhne has received an interesting answer from Nick Harvey about whether the service prodivder for Parliament is subject to the data retention under these rules. A reasonable questin I imagine as some MPs might be concerned about confidentaility and/or whistleblower protection if they get leaked something electornically. Apparently,

The internet service provider for Parliament is Colt. The provisions of the UK Data Retention (EC Directive) Regulations 2009 apply to all public communications providers to whom a written notice has been given by the Secretary of State. I understand that Colt have not received such a notice.
Lesson learned? If you don't want the Government to snoop your email then get a service from Colt?

Free lightbulbs for Willets?

You have to admire a business that uses MP expenses at a way of promoting it's business. I've just received a press release on behalf of RS Components saying they;ve offered him "30 free energy efficient lamps" so he won;t need to change any lightbulbs for another 11 years.

It goes on to note that there is a potential tax payer saving of millions if all MP’s lamps are changed. Presumably of course they'd really like them to buy them from them!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Couples Expenses Edition coming soon

There seem to be rumours going around that the Telegraph expenses stories are going to wrap up shortly with the much expected "Couples" addition. I do look forward to see which husband and wife teams in Parlaiment have been screwing the taxpayer. I look forward more to seeing them squirm as well.

You may have read the Bill John, but you clearly don't understand it

I have to say I'm loving John Prescott's latest little campaign about the Equal Opportunities Bill. It's classic Prescott really because it's complete and total tissue of disingenuous bullshit.

According to Prescott the Bill will "effectively scrap the minimum wage." Meanwhile, Alex Ross on LabourList says it allows "employers to opt-out of the Minimum Wage.... effectively abolishing it".

Errr, I've read the Bill and it is about providing an opt-out for employees not employers. It's pretty clear from the Bill, which is tiny, that it gives individuals the right to work for less than the minimum wage if they want to, and gives that person the right to withdraw from the opt-out by writing to their employer with three-months notice.

The Employer, as far as the Bill goes, is still required to pay the minimum wage in those circumstances, so it doesn't abolish the minimum wage, nor does it give an opt-out for employers from it. What it actually means is that someone is legally entitled to the minimum wage but can, if they want, work for less, whilst the employer remains obliged to pay them the minimum wage if they change their mind.

There is even protection for those who are unemployed and seeking a job whereby there is no detriment to national insurance entitlements, nor are they required to take a job for less than minimum wage in order to keep said entitlements . Here is the very short Bill.

National minimum wage opt out

(1) Any person who would otherwise qualify for entitlement to the national minimum wage, as defined in the National Minimum Wage Act 1998 (c. 39), may elect to opt out from such entitlement.

(2) Any election to opt out under subsection (5) must be made by an employee in writing to that person’s employer and signed by the employee and employer.

(3) Any person who has elected to opt out of entitlement to the national minimum wage in accordance with subsection (6) may withdraw such election by giving notice to his employer in writing.

(4) Any notice of withdrawal under subsection (7) shall take effect no earlier than three months from the date that it is given unless such period of minimum notice is waived by the employer.

(5) For the avoidance of doubt, nothing in this Act shall require a person to take employment below the minimum wage and no person shall suffer any detriment to their entitlement to national insurance benefits by reason of their unwillingness to take employment below the minimum wage.
What's important here is to remember the circumstances that this Bill has appeared in. We're in the deepest recession for more than a generation. Small businesses are struggling with the potential of foreclosure. The first place any small business looks is headcount, but in many cases this is a Catch 22. Lose heads and you cannot service the business you have.

The ability for employees to freely decide to take less than minimum wage has the potential to keep small businesses afloat, and even then, with this Bill, the employees can choose not to opt-out and the employer cannot force them too - admittedly they might then go under and the staff lose they're jobs end up on the dole.

Of course, such rational and calm analysis doesn't chime quite so well with the likes of Prescott, as hysterically standing up and sceaming that the Bill will give employers the right to pay people 50p per hour, or that it abolishes the minimum wage. To be fair such hysteria is at best evidence of reading comprehension issues, or worst disingenuous bullshitting.

The opt-out in this Bill is no different to the opt-out we all individually have on the matter of the Working Time Directive. The question you have to ask yourself is, do you want to live in a country that allows you to choose when, where and for how much you work, with the added protection of knowing you can legally force your employer to pay you the minimum wage? Or not?

Perhaps, if Prescott was a serious politician rather than a hysterical rhetorician, he might propose something more constructive that "Stop the Tory Bill". Perhaps a sunset clause that automagically repealed it when the current recession is over?

Don't misintepret me here, I'd be happy for this to become law permanently because it simple doesn't cause the abolishen of minimum wage at all or confer rights on employers as Prescott is arguing. However, if Prescott wants to see himself as serious, he ougt to think about why, especially right now, such a facility of choice to individual employees might in fact be quite useful.

The Tories opposed the minimum wage on the grounds that it would destory business. During the boom it has not. They were forced to "suck it and see" and they sucked and saw. It didn't do what they thought it would. Likewise now, Prescott should think about the bust we're in and suck this and see and perhaps drop the ideological class warefare purity bollocks.

A Bill like this, at a time like this, could well save jobs because it could actually save many businesses. who would otherwsie have to lay off staff completely and close. Would we rather have people on the dole, or people choosing to work for less in the jobs they already have, safe in the knowledge that they can turn around and demand minimum wage from an employer who can do nothing about it? It would not even have to be permanent if a calmer response to it was taken.

Note: No doubt this post will be commented about as proof of the "nasty party" being alive and well. The fact that the campaign claiming it abolishes minimum wage is wrong will be ignored. C'est la vie

Note II:
Before anyone suggests I have no idea what its like to be on low pay, I worked in a supermarket for eight years and lived in a crap flat on a run-down estate, eating value food products, before I got into IT.

Update: It has been noted in the comments, essentially, that I am maive, and this would be exploited by employers. The problem is, as with the Working Time Directive, if after opting-out you opt back in, the employer cannot legally fire you under this Bill.

They have to pay you minimum wage if that happens. The employer has no choice, the employee does. If the employer then creates some excuse to lay you off within three months, makes life Hell, or "manages you out", you have grounds for wrongful or constructive dismissal. It's not rocket science.


 

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