Friday, 30 November 2012

Leveson Light - Cameron Wins the Day


Door to door salesmen of the world are probably heading today to leafy and salubrious north London and the door of one Edward Miliband. They will be preparing their most lengthy and complex contracts in the hope that it is not just the Leveson report that he is willing to sign up to in its entirety without having read it. And the EU must be rubbing its hands in glee too. Think what they could shove into their treaties and directives if he were the man in charge.

Wallace and his party displayed their usual willingness to think of short term, populist gain yesterday as Leveson delivered his weighty tome. Nick Clegg did much the same, possibly calculating that he could stand up to Dave without having to worry about the consequences. Dave was determined not to allow statutory regulation and so Nick could stamp his feet a little before moving on. That's Lib Dem principle for you.

Cameron on the other hand delivered a bravura and principled performance yesterday. How much easier would it have been to sign up to the judge's contract, to bow to pressure and take the press out of its last chance saloon? Yet he spoke of crossing rubicons and of bulwarks of democracy. He may not have read the full document personally (who could?) but he was across its salient points and willing to sound a note of caution. This was a man keen to govern and make the tough and unpopular decisions. It was Cameron at his most impressive.

Essentially the line from Labour and Clegg was that Leveson should be implemented in full because, well just because it should. Oh and he's a judge. And because the press have been jolly naughty. Oh and Murdoch.  That was the quality of their reasoning. A few bad apples and some public outrage and we throw away 300 years of press freedom. If politicians usually behaved like that we would still be hanging murderers, lynching paedophiles and throwing rotten tomatoes at fools and knaves, or the Director General of the BBC.

Nobody seems to have noticed that the learned one, who refused to take questions - he's a judge after all, they just hand down decisions, they don't accept impertinent questioning - seems to have created a few logical inconsistencies in his report that some are so ready to unquestioningly accept. For instance, how can you have independent self regulation? And how in particular can you have it if it is overseen by Ofcom? If this regulation is underpinned by statute then how is it independent? Once a law began to make its way through parliament all kinds of mischief could be inserted. And what of the possibility that some future government, as they are wont to do, won't amend things, ease some apparatchik into a prominent position, alter a word here or a nuance there and soon we have state regulation by the back door? You would think that a judge would be acutely aware of this kind of administrative creep. They teach it to first year law students.

it is argued by some, including me, that Cameron must bitterly regret having ever set up the Leveson Inquiry. Yet perhaps not. He and his government were vindicated by the report, about the handling of the BSkyB takeover and Gordon Brown was given a much deserved pasting.

But isn't he now in a politically difficult place? Well not really. He is giving the press another chance. Sure there will be anger from the likes of Hugh Grant and Stephen Fry who has already accused him of being too close to Murdoch's gluteus maximus, but that will pass. Some may well accuse him of being that cynical but in fact Cameron actually gave all the appearance of making a principled stand yesterday. Miliband on the other hand looked like an opportunist who has missed his opportunity, Clegg like a man who doesn't appear to know what liberal means. The press will now heave a sigh of relief, create a new independent regulator and be rather kinder to Cameron for a while at least. Not for the first time this week he has pulled off a diplomatic coup. For the first time in a while he looked genuinely prime ministerial. Principle can do that for leaders.



Thursday, 29 November 2012

Clegg's Self Indulgence


We will know very soon what Leveson has said and has recommended about our press. A hint may be that Nick Clegg, ever self indulgent, is demanding the right to make his own separate statement about what the judge says. There are reports that he and Cameron have been unable to reach agreement.

But this is typical of Clegg and the Lib Dem approach to government. They want to be in government but in opposition at the same time. If they want to shackle our press are they going to drop the word Liberal from their name? And, since they are intent on taking the recommendations of an unelected judge and trying to force them through parliament, presumably alongside Labour, are they going to drop the democrat bit too?

Nobody has a mandate to make such a far reaching change to our constitution. Not Leveson, not Clegg and certainly not Labour led by Wallace. Yet that is what could now happen.

This is the beginning of the end of the Coalition.  Is this the end of collective responsibility? Is Clegg going to make separate statements on everything from now on? If so he should do so from the opposition benches. That's what they are for.


Gordon's Annual Speech


Apparently Gordon Brown will be making his annual speech to parliament today. It really is a year since he last did so. Why is it, do we think, that Nadine Dorries provoked so much fuss by swanning off to Australia for a couple of weeks, yet our unlamented last prime minister can treat the institution and his own constituents with such contempt whilst drawing a full MPs salary and prime ministerial pension?

Le Barton Profonde

Clearly Leveson is going to be the major story of the day and I shall write about it, after reading it, tomorrow. In the meantime one cannot pass up the opportunity to watch again and again Joey Barton goes French. Note that he has even adopted a Gallic shrug.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

PMQs 28th November 2012 - The Pre Leveson Edition



It's been a funny week in politics. The government has somehow contrived to do nothing really shambolic, let alone omni-shambolic. Dave headed off to Brussels and got one over on the Eurocrats. He made friends and influenced people. He won plaudits from his backbenchers and commentators were in general agreement that he had done rather well. Of course on Monday Wallace was having none of it. He has flip flopped rather on this issue however. One moment he was a sceptic, the next he was telling Dave that he was sleep walking to a European exit. He of course would do better, although quite how remains a mystery. Perhaps he would take Joey Barton and his new French accent and Gallic shrug along with him to do the negotiating.

Meanwhile, back home, UKIP had a good week just as we head towards the Rotherham by-election to replace the crooked Euro enthusiast Denis MacShane. The burghers of Rotherham, aided and abetted by a so called social services professional and some anonymous lawyers, came to the conclusion that they were empowered to judge people by their political allegiances when determining their suitability to be foster parents. The nation was outraged. Wallace came out, his nostrils flaring as they are wont to do, and called for an inquiry. He expressed the hope that it wouldn't report before the people of Rotherham voted.

Meantime, sensing an opportunity, UKIP expressed their outrage. There was general sympathy, at least in public across the political spectrum. After all nobody ever said that Lib Dems can't foster or adopt, and they are a lot less trustworthy or principled than your average UKIP supporter. It's just that they are more internationalist - their leader speaks lots of languages. He speaks nonsense in all of them, but at least he does so multi-lingually. Almost like Joey Barton.

Then, on Monday, Michael Fabricant, a senior Tory MP in a world where seniority is gained from longevity, expressed the hope that the Tories would do a deal with UKIP at the next election. This was promptly stamped on by the newly confident and newsworthy UKIP leaders and indeed by Number 10, mindful of the fact that Dave once criticised UKIP members as closet racists and weirdos. Does he have a future career in social services one wonders?



And so we came to another PMQs. Both leaders had a great deal they would probably rather not talk about. Sadly for Dave, he doesn't get to choose what to talk about. Not that he lets this stop him.

And this week, as trailed yesterday in the news,Wallace chose to talk about the government's work programme which, it was reported yesterday, has had somewhat mixed results. This was one of those issues on which Wallace tried to be funny but adopted that weaselly voice he most likely used in his school days to try and rile the bullies who are probably responsible for his bog brush hair style. He usually deploys this in the absence of an argument, asserting that the PM is getting red faced and angry. Perhaps, but it doesn't really show up on the tele.


In response to his tormentor's jibes, Dave shot back with gusto that his government's actions were cheaper than Labour's and that they should have been apologising for 'leaving people on the scrapheap'. They, after all, had plenty of money to spend but seemed to crystalise benefit dependency rather than tackle it.

More assertions from Wallace followed as he alleged that the ministers had been at it like 'rats in a sack' at a meeting over the failure to tackle growth. Dave shot back with a non denial denial, pointing out that Gordon and Tony were hardly bosom pals during their tenure. And Balls was up to his usual hand gesture games again, presumably having not noticed that the ONS yesterday confirmed that the economy had indeed grown by a full percentage point in the last quarter. Will these low tech visual aids be Labour's sole economic policy  for the next two years?

Labour seem to have decided that winding up the prime minister is fair game. Does Dave get red faced and angry? Maybe so. Maybe it's just that lovely pale complexion of his. And who wouldn't get a bit tetchy every week when having to look at those nostrils and that smug, pudgy oaf  Ed Balls only a few feet away? It's not noticeable to the rest of us that Cameron is losing his cool. It certainly doesn't look that way on television. It may well just be another case of Labour summing things up as they would like things to be rather than reflecting reality. They're keen on that sort of thing. Ask the people of Rotherham.

It was a standard shouty exchange today which revealed nothing other than the puerile state of our politics. They say that who wins PMQs doesn't really matter in the big scheme of things. Today's session exemplified why. Nobody won, least of all anyone expecting some clarity.

Other questions reflected the coming big event: Leveson. Cameron made a number of references to trying a cross party consensus which should worry us all. All will be revealed tomorrow.We can safely bet that a consensus, even if it is desirable, will be a non starter. Labour see this as another way to try and divide the coalition, even some Tories have signed up to regulation to their eternal shame.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Britain's First Amendment Moment


A story emerged over the weekend, a well sourced one delivered by well regarded political journalists, that David Cameron may not after all do as so many are urging him to do and shackle our press following what (they assume) will be recommended on Thursday by Lord Leveson. Cue much frothing at the mouth by those who have been waiting for this moment for 40 years. Cue some last minute campaigning across the media but in particular on the BBC.

It is fair to say that lefties, united in their loathing of Rupert Murdoch, a loathing that long pre-dates the scandals that led to the closure of the News of the World and the arrests of Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson, are incandescent at this story. Why do they so hate Murdoch? Well, it's complicated. But suffice to say he has the wrong kind of power. It's wrong because he so frequently disagrees with them about anything and everything. Oh, and he's a friend of Margaret Thatcher.

But now is their moment of triumph to be cruelly taken from them?

Well let us first state that nobody, not even the prime minister himself whose mind is already said by sources to be made up knows what Leveson is to recommend. We assume, given the make-up of his advisers and the tone of the inquiry he led that he will recommend regulation of the press. He might not of course. The trouble with lefties is that they are so immersed in their own sense of rectitude, their own moral superiority that they cannot conceive of anyone, still less a judge who has led an inquiry and listened to the evidence of Messrs Murdoch, Brooks and Coulson, who could possibly disagree with them. If you want a moment or two of amusement in the next couple of days just imagine the opprobrium that would be poured on Leveson were he to conclude that all we need is a slightly beefed up PCC.



And when you have amused yourself with this thought and returned to reality, ponder this one instead. After his inquiry, what qualifies Leveson, a judge accustomed to listening to evidence and then delivering verdicts and justice to then come up with a solution? His committee of advisers included nobody with tabloid experience. All it did was identify what had gone wrong. Why are his recommendations any better or wiser than those of the hundreds of commentators and laymen who have opined on this issue? Is he automatically qualified simply by virtue of being a judge? Why?

Press freedom and its limits is not an easily resolved difficulty.  Those who want controls dressed up as regulation have a number of agendas, from the protection of their own privacy to trying to redress political balance to pure and simple revenge against newspapers that have revealed their sexual proclivities, made fun of them, exposed their criminal use of public funds or cost them elections. Some have even managed to combine all of those motivations.

But none of these reasons is good enough for a judge, a man devoted, we assume, to defending our civil liberties and the public from the powerful and overmighty, to recommend the ritual disembowelment of our press. Our judiciary is keen, all too keen some might say, to elevate high minded principles as set out in human rights law above public opinion. Now is their chance, via one of their most celebrated peers, to do so in a way that the press will forever be reminded of whenever they criticise judicial interference. Wouldn't it be refreshing if Leveson concluded this Thursday that, though the press sometimes go too far and should be forced to print retractions and apologies with the same prominence of original stories, we in this country benefit from a free press and that to tamper with it would be dangerous and counterproductive. That if anything we should protect the freedom of the press in a U.S style first amendment. That the excesses of the press recently revealed were already illegal and questions should instead be asked about the corrupt behaviour of the Metropolitan Police who had claimed that nothing illegal had occurred.

If Leveson were to make that conclusion all hell would break out from the bien pensants, the sort of people who think they have a right to remove children from parents because of their political affiliations or who accuse anyone who questions immigration of being a racist. These self appointed guardians of the right way to think are outraged that our free press exists and gives a platform to people that they disapprove of, people who question immigration, people who question political correctness or Keynesian economics, people who believe in free markets or that Israel isn't necessarily the evil state they think it is.

But if Leveson were to come to that conclusion he would be right. He would also be a hero. In a way he would at least partially redress the damage done by another of his brethren a decade ago when he brought down the Director General and Chairman of the BBC with his strangely skewed report.

The freedom of the press is bigger than all of us. It is a principle that we ought to defend. We have defended it for centuries. It is why Britain is the country it is. The rights of individuals are secondary to it. But our press must obey the law. Ultimately publish and be damned by public opinion, allowing us to make our own minds up rather than have political commissars decide for us is the central principle at stake here.

The left's instinct is to control as much as they can, to be a kind of thought police. We saw that this week in Rotherham, something revealed by our press. It is our bulwark against those who always think they know best. That is all Leveson needs to say. It is certainly what David Cameron should say in response.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Who's the Governor?



What's this? Two outbreaks of good sense from the establishment in this country in the course of just a week. First there was the new DG of the BBC who is competent, experienced and the best man for the job and now the new governor of the Bank of England is a foreigner who, crucially has previous experience of running a central bank, albeit that of Canada.

But this is a great move. Canada's is one of the few advanced economies in the western world to come through relatively unscathed by the great recession of 2008 to, well, who knows? Canada is the poster boy for those of us who believe that deficits should be tackled rather than ignored. That fiscal and monetary discipline were the solution to our woes and indeed would have prevented them.

One can't help wonder what Mr Carney will think of George Osborne's little ruse of the government using the interest proceeds of QE to pay down the debt. Like robbing Peter to pay Peter. Will he call it what it is, a bit of Brownlike fiddling of the figures? will be worried about our burgeoning debt? Will he stop ignoring the problem of persistent inflation?

So three cheers for George Osborne doing the right thing. Now, Mr Governor, it's over to you.

Gangnam Style - Evolution In Action

The above video, Gangnam Style, is now officially the most viewed video in YouTube history. And that means that it is the most viewed thing in history.

There are some who argue that the internet and services like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter et al will eventually spell the end of old fashioned media like newspapers and even of television which itself killed off much old media. These days we all want to interact. The days when we all used to gather around our sets and speak of the previous evening watching Corrie, Morecambe and Wise or of who shot JR (RIP Larry Hagman by the way) are now long gone. These days we gather around a virtual water cooler via our computers or mobile phones and we have disembodied conversations about the latest buzz topic, spread gossip about blameless Tory politicians or laugh at cats falling off fridges or small children serving up cod philosophy or some such whimsical matter. This may, some argue, be the beginning of the end of civilisation as we know it.

But here is why I think this is wrong - or at least partially wrong. I refer you to the video above. It's shit. Was he being ironic? I have my doubts. But it doesn't matter whether or not this or any of the contributors to YouTube are being ironic. Those who watch them almost always are. Most people who watched Gangnam Style did so out of curiosity to see what the fuss was all about. I was one of them. Actually I was at least 3 of those 820 millions because I couldn't believe it the first couple of times.

And that is why the internet will never kill off old media. If we only watch this sort of self regarding stuff in the future we will no longer know what is and isn't ironic. Our brains will turn to mush.

And television only has itself to blame. It started the dumbing down process. It let presenters without any noticeable talent on to our TVs just because they have regional accents and look good. The natural corollary of that is Justin Fucking Bieber.

Civilisation will endure. It's just that our species is doomed to split. Evolution will mean that there are those who see the irony and those who will look dumbfounded, Google it and then end up being distracted by a video of a skateboarder impaling himself on a railing. But that's okay. These people will eventually evolve into beings who exist only behind a computer screen. And, though they will watch a lot of porn, that is the only contact they will have with the opposite sex. Evolution always wins in the end.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Interlude

When No Deal Is A Great Deal


Don't expect to hear much from Labour in the coming days as the failed EU summit is pored over. Why? Because our prime minister did rather well. Sure there was no deal, but Cameron came back from Brussels having achieved a great deal without actually getting a deal.

He was not isolated, he managed to get support from several countries, he enraged EU bureaucrats by demanding they accept the sort of cuts to their gravy train they demand of southern countries and engaged the old enemy France which demanded increases to its subsidies whilst demanding we reduce our rebate. Best of all, Britain's negotiating line and our flirting with EU exit seems to have concentrated minds. Germany seems willing to bend a little to keep us from heading for the out door.  

And he achieved all of this, not by being at the centre of Europe as Labour always claimed to be while handing over powers and lots of our cash, but by being awkward, belligerent and unbending. Labour were preparing their soundbites about our being isolated in Europe. In fact it is the Eurocrats who look isolated and out of touch. Their incredulity at the suggestion that administration budgets should be cut and they should work a little longer for their pensions ought to have a piece of art commissioned to commemorate it.

In short our prime minister can be satisfied with his work this week. Taking a robust line worked. Perhaps it is a lesson for the future. Threatening vetos, referendums and exit, especially when we mean it, had the desired effect. Perhaps we should do it more often. Perhaps we should adopt the same stance with the ECHR over prisoner votes. And, since we are demanding some common sense from the EU and winning friends in doing so, why not demand the end of the EU parliament's absurd shuffling between Brussels and Strasbourg? Now that would be an achievement.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Church of England?



Why all this fuss about the Church of England's refusal to allow women bishops? Have people only just noticed that this strange, fusty, antediluvian relic is irrelevant, ridiculous and uses sophistry and circular arguments in order to justify itself and its attitudes?

The only people who are put out by this enduring prejudice are the women who might want to rise to these heights (at least they would stand a fighting chance of looking good in those rather gaudy outfits) and the sort of women who are actually wimmin and become outraged about all such slights, real or imagined. Oh and politicians. They are paid to become outraged on our behalf. It saves us the bother.

This latest decision just confirms how utterly deluded modern religious believers are. They actually believe that they are voting with their consciences rather than perpetuating the kind of medievalism written throughout their silly good book which they are forever ignoring or putting down to different times and different attitudes. What does that say about your sky fairy then?

Even if you are silly enough to be believe in a god, do you seriously think he or indeed she would give a stuff about the gender of priests? And if he does is he worth worshipping?

Perhaps the time has come, in the light of all of this, to question why, in this mainly secular country in which a tiny percentage attend its churches and which is in danger of being overtaken by other faiths or faiths within a faith, to ask why we still have an established church in this country. Why is it allowed such a privileged position in society? Why in particular is it allowed to send male only members to one of the houses of our parliament? How is this even remotely sustainable?

But on one level the church did look remarkably modern and topical this week. It's strange and arcane voting procedure looks remarkably similar to the one Labour used a couple of years ago which saw the loser elected as their leader. That's why they are saddled with that strange little chap with the funny hair and the big nose who thinks he grew up in a school for hard knocks rather than a cloistered and privileged part of London surrounded by Communists who don't very much like working class people.   Perhaps someone should point that out to  Harriet Harman. It might appease her. Okay, probably not.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Tony Hall New BBC DG


In a rare outbreak of good sense and decisiveness, the BBC has appointed Tony Hall as its new Director General. He has been working at the Royal Opera House but previously was a well thought of head of news at the BBC. Of course an outsider of the calibre of Greg Dyke would have been a better bet, but Hall is well known and knows the BBC well. And there is no time for a long drawn out recruitment process.

This is a crisis that needs a strong leader fast and so this is a good choice made under unfortunate circumstances. It would, however, have been a good choice under better circumstances.  He will find the step up to the top job a lot easier than George Entwistle. All this goes to show how wrong that choice was. A disastrously wrong one that Chris Patten should be made accountable for.

Leveson: What He Should Say


The Leveson Inquiry report will be published in a week's time, next Thursday 29th November. Now in the best traditions of British justice it is best that we hold off commenting on it until it is published. That was certainly David Cameron's line at PMQs yesterday, although he has his own special reasons for saying that - just another item in his current inbox from hell, which he will soon no longer be able to kick off into the long grass.

But there is no reason why we shouldn't opine on what the report should say. It should say: Leave well alone, a free press is vital and already under attack from the internet and television, we tinker with it at our peril.

We tend to forget that, before the furore that created this inquiry, last year and the year before we were all up in arms at Leveson's colleagues attempts to create a privacy law. Remember that? Lots of errant footballers and celebrities taking out super injunctions to prevent their extra marital dalliances from making it into the press? Yes there were mutterings from the likes of Hugh Grant, Steve Coogan and Formula One administrators angry at being exposed as being a bit kinky, but we largely shrugged our shoulders at that. It was only the Milly Dowler affair that enraged us. And, it cannot be stated enough, whilst the News of the World did listen illegally, yes illegally, to her messages, it did not, as was alleged, delete any.



The behaviour of some tabloid newspapers has been abhorrent and there was a cover up. This episode has been cathartic in that sense because it has cleansed the fourth estate of it worst practices and practitioners.

But, as so often, it is now being seized upon by those with another agenda. It's not just celebrities peeved at having their love lives pored over. Ultimately they can look after themselves if indeed the newspapers write anything that is incorrect. Their major peeve is actually that they don't think it is anybody's business. Perhaps they should have an inquiry into the public's prurient desire for tittle tattle and gossip. That might take a lot longer to report. The obvious solution is to no longer seek the limelight or of course don't cheat. I have had extra marital affairs with other people's wives but have found that nobody else cared.

But the major constituency that is now seizing upon this issue is politicians, both of the elected and vast unelected variety. That story in the Daily Mail last week was immediately pooh poohed but, it turns out, it was only slightly sensationalist and conspiratorial. It was largely right. There is a vast network of people, the metropolitan, largely left wing, great and good who have never been elected but exercise vast influence over all of our lives. Yet they are not content. They want more power. They want, in a very nearly literal sense, to become a kind of thought police.

At the moment they have to rely on soft power, the political correctness that afflicts all of our lives. They call it being progressive. But if they could force the press into line it would make all of their lives so much easier. The added bonus would be no more exposes of the sort the Mail published last week. If they thought they could get away with it, through regulation, they would impose broadcast style impartiality on newspapers too. We would all suddenly be reading The Guardian or The Independent, it's the only way they will ever be able to make money.

Is there a case for extra regulation? Not really. Not if that scenario is to be avoided. What the Leveson Inquiry was set up to investigate was already illegal. It remains so. The likes of Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks have been charged with criminal offences just this week.

Yes the PCC can be beefed up. But it should be empowered to protect ordinary people like the Dowlers or those who find themselves suddenly under siege by the press, not the celebrities who are complaining because of their sexual incontinence or desire to enjoy fame and wealth with none of the downsides.  Ultimately the arbiter for the press should be the truth. As long as they stick to that then what right does anyone have to complain? If they don't then the offendees should seek redress, either through the courts or through a PCC empowered to demand proper, prominent, banner headline apologies and compensation.

And let's not forget the last couple of weeks. The BBC and ITV, both heavily regulated, let the reformist agenda down rather by smearing an innocent man and allowing him then to be hounded by the attack dogs of the internet, including famous people who ought to know better. Why did they do this? Because he is a Tory who used to work for Margaret Thatcher.



Yes our newspapers can sometimes go too far but usually they are reined in by professionalism, the law and, if worst comes to worst, public opinion. The News of the World was closed down by good old fashioned public outrage and commercial necessity as advertisers pulled out. The last time newspapers impugned an innocent man was in the case of Jo Yeates' landlord, Christopher Jefferies. They were prosecuted and later sued.

And the newspapers are nothing compared to the lawless internet. They certainly don't name rape victims, or innocent men whose only sin is to be a Tory. The authorities are quick to arrest and prosecute men who make a silly joke about blowing up airports and yet are now pursuing the wrong people. The press is not the problem here. Do these silly celebrities really imagine that their indiscretions will not find their way onto Twitter if the newspapers are muzzled?

Our free press is something to be proud of. It is our protection against the sort of people who think they know best and seek to exert control over us all as a consequence. Their traditional role is to hold the powerful to account, to inform, educate and prick the pomposity of those who exercise power. They are a forum for all opinions. They are vital for properly functioning democracy, that is why countries like China, Russia and dictatorships around the world expend so much energy and treasure controlling them.

Our press is not perfect but then what part of human endeavour is? Certainly not the broadcast media as we have seen only recently. And certainly not government and parliament, certainly not celebrities. Yet now they are conspiring - for that is not too strong a world - to hide their imperfections from us. If they get their way this will even be imposed by, irony of ironies, a Conservative prime minister. This is the biggest issue on the agenda for our embattled prime minister. If Leveson recommends what many suspect he will, Cameron should simply say no. He has no mandate to so fundamentally alter the British way of life in a way that nothing since Magna Carta has done.






Wednesday, 21 November 2012

PMQs 21st November 2012 - The Statesman Lite Edition


Last week, it is widely agreed, was a bad one for democracy in this country, notwithstanding the fact that John Prescott, denied the chance to teach grammar, sound policy and fiscal rectitude to the boys in blue will instead have to return to the House of Lords. Turnout in the Police Commissioner elections was disastrous, although it wasn't notably better in some of the by elections that took place that day either.

There has been much analysis of what went wrong. It wasn't helped by a government that has a tendency to enact policies and then shy away from promoting them. Local democracy was supposed to be a flagship policy. You wouldn't have known it. Few knew who was standing in these elections, let alone their policies because this austere government neglected to fund them properly. Questionable priorities?

And why wasn't the election held last May alongside other elections, including that of London Mayor? Surely that would have been the better option, particularly as the London mayor is effectively also a police commissioner? Why is there so seldom any joined up thinking in this government?

Perhaps to address this, among other issues (not least the overweening uselessness of George Osborne as a strategist) the Conservatives appointed election guru Lynton Crosby at the weekend. You could tell this put the wind up lefties - they immediately started calling him a racist. Perhaps now the Conservative Party's strategy will be coherent and not based on hoping the economy gets better and being nice to gay people. This blog actually supports gay marriage in principle, but I cannot for the life of me see why it is being given so much prominence. Even most gay people don't regard it as a priority.

This is also going to be the week of combat and confrontation with Europe. Hurrah to that. The Commons is to be given a vote on whether or not to give the vote to prisoners. It will essentially be a chance to give the finger to the ECHR in this game of high stakes poker. We raise you elected representatives. Will the ECHR fold?

And then Dave heads off for even higher stakes with the latest budget talks at the EU. Only the EU could dream up a system that means that recipients of money can vote for others to pay more. Which genius allowed that to go through?

What then would Wallace raise at PMQs? Would he pretend to be a Eurosceptic again? Is he a one nation Eurosceptic? Is he Disraeli still or Thatcher? he expressed admiration for her at the weekend. his union friends won't like that. Would he claim, at variance with recent experience, that Labour, at 'the centre of Europe' would somehow be able to get a better deal? Would he advise Dave to deploy the handbag? Or would he try to look statesmanlike and talk about Israel and Gaza?


It's been three weeks since these two faced each other, three weeks when things haven't gone disastrously for the government. It's quite an achievement. And Wallace was on emollient form. He decided to be statesmanlike and talk about Israel and Gaza. It seldom goes well for him when he does this. He lacks the adenoids for being a statesman.

These sessions are rarely of any consequence. Dave and Wallace were largely in agreement. They didn't say it but they seemed effectively to be agreeing that this was sod all to do with us, it's the same old same old, a ceasefire would be nice and both sides need to start talking. Somewhere a bear defecated in a wood and then told a focus group.

But then we saw Wallace's other side - his indecisive one. Statesman? Nah. Now he wanted, with his second set of questions, to stick it to Dave again. The subject? The NHS.

On the plus side nobody was expecting that. But that was for the very good reason that it is not in the news. Wallace plucked some statistics about cataract operations out of the air and was outraged when Dave was not across this piece of detail. It was an excuse for him to trot out old lines - have his gag writers gone on strike because of poor delivery every week - about the PM's lack of detail and of being out of touch. About cataracts?

The PM was on rather better form. The break he had engineered for himself had clearly done him good. He struck back at his tormentor and clearly scored some success because Wallace adopted his look of insouciance, the one he probably used to adopt in that school of hard knocks he attended when the bullies rounded on him. Dave thwacked him with some knock about stuff regarding Prescott who had told the electors that his was a referendum on the government's record. They thought it was supposed to be about the police. No wonder people were confused.

More, more cried Tory backbenchers. Dave was happy to oblige and told them about Wallace's impersonations of various former prime ministers and politicians - from Disraeli to Thatcher via Bill Cash. he's done more impersonations than Rory Bremner, said Dave, who clearly hasn't noticed that Bremner has given up. Well, he's a busy man. Or maybe Samantha doesn't like that kind of box set for chillaxing.

It was at this point that Wallace pulled that face. Dave seemed rather pleased with himself, as well he might. This was his best performance in a while. Some have said that this means Dave is finally taking his opposite number seriously as he is showing Blair or Clinton like tendencies. Really? I never really understood why Cameron wanted to be the heir to Blair.

That the Labour leader is shamelessly saying what each individual crowd wants to hear is patently true. But then that was how he won the leadership. Isn't that how all leaders become leaders? But behind him there is no substance as we saw today. He tried to be a statesman today and failed. He couldn't keep it up for a whole session preferring to talk then about what? Europe? Votes for prisoners? No. Cataract operations. These sufferers must be the only people who are misty eyed at the prospect of the adenoidally challenged one's quest for power.

Facts and Myths About Global Warming




COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT GLOBAL WARMING
MYTH 1:  Global temperatures are rising at a rapid, unprecedented rate.
FACT:  The HadCRUT3 surface temperature index shows warming to 1878, cooling to 1911, warming to 1941, cooling to 1964, warming to 1998 and cooling through 2011. The warming rate from 1964 to 1998 was the same as the previous warming from 1911 to 1941. Satellites, weather balloons and ground stations all show cooling since 2001. The mild warming of 0.6 to 0.8 C over the 20th century is well within the natural variations recorded in the last millennium. The ground station network suffers from an uneven distribution across the globe; the stations are preferentially located in growing urban and industrial areas (“heat islands”), which show substantially higher readings than adjacent rural areas (“land use effects”). Two science teams have shown that correcting the surface temperature record for the effects of urban development would reduce the warming trend over land from 1980 by half.
There has been no catastrophic warming recorded.
MYTH 2:  The “hockey stick” graph proves that the earth has experienced a steady, very gradual temperature decrease for 1000 years, then recently began a sudden increase.
FACT:  Significant changes in climate have continually occurred throughout geologic time. For instance, the Medieval Warm Period, from around 1000 to1200 AD (when the Vikings farmed on Greenland) was followed by a period known as the Little Ice Age. Since the end of the 17th Century the “average global temperature” has been rising at the low steady rate mentioned above; although from 1940 – 1970 temperatures actually dropped, leading to a Global Cooling scare.
The “hockey stick”, a poster boy of both the UN’s IPCC and Canada’s Environment Department, ignores historical recorded climatic swings, and has now also been proven to be flawed and statistically unreliable as well. It is a computer construct and a faulty one at that.

MYTH 3:  Human produced carbon dioxide has increased over the last 100 years, adding to the Greenhouse effect, thus warming the earth.
FACT:  Carbon dioxide levels have indeed changed for various reasons, human and otherwise, just as they have throughout geologic time. Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, the CO2 content of the atmosphere has increased. The RATE of growth during this period has also increased from about 0.2% per year to the present rate of about 0.4% per year,which growth rate has now been constant for the past 25 years. However, there is no proof that CO2 is the main driver of global warming. As measured in ice cores dated over many thousands of years, CO2 levels move up and down AFTER the temperature has done so, and thus are the RESULT OF, NOT THE CAUSE of warming. Geological field work in recent sediments confirms this causal relationship. There is solid evidence that, as temperatures move up and down naturally and cyclically through solar radiation, orbital and galactic influences, the warming surface layers of the earth’s oceans expel more CO2 as a result.

MYTH 4:  CO2 is the most common greenhouse gas.
FACT:  Greenhouse gases form about 3% of the atmosphere by volume. They consist of varying amounts, (about 97%) of water vapour and clouds, with the remainder being gases like CO2, CH4, Ozone and N2O, of which carbon dioxide is the largest amount. Hence, CO2constitutes about 0.039% of the atmosphere. While the minor gases are more effective as “greenhouse agents” than water vapour and clouds, the latter are overwhelming the effect by their sheer volume and – in the end – are thought to be responsible for 75% of the “Greenhouse effect”. (See here) At current concentrations, a 3% change of water vapour in the atmosphere would have the same effect as a 100% change in CO2.
Those attributing climate change to CO2 rarely mention these important facts.
MYTH 5:  Computer models verify that CO2 increases will cause significant global warming.
FACT:  The computer models assume that CO2 is the primary climate driver, and that the Sun has an insignificant effect on climate. You cannot use the output of a model to verify or prove its initial assumption – that is circular reasoning and is illogical. Computer models can be made to roughly match the 20th century temperature rise by adjusting many input parameters and using strong positive feedbacks. They do not “prove” anything. Also, computer models predicting global warming are incapable of properly including the effects of the sun, cosmic rays and the clouds. The sun is a major cause of temperature variation on the earth surface as its received radiation changes all the time, This happens largely in cyclical fashion. The number and the lengths in time of sunspots can be correlated very closely with average temperatures on earth, e.g. the Little Ice Age and the Medieval Warm Period. Varying intensity of solar heat radiation affects the surface temperature of the oceans and the currents. Warmer ocean water expels gases, some of which are CO2. Solar radiation interferes with the cosmic ray flux, thus influencing the amount ionized nuclei which control cloud cover.

MYTH 6:  The UN proved that man–made CO2 causes global warming.
FACT:  In a 1996 report by the UN on global warming, two statements were deleted from the final draft. Here they are:
1)     “None of the studies cited above has shown clear evidence that we can attribute  the observed climate changes to increases in greenhouse gases.”
2)     “No study to date has positively attributed all or part of the climate change to man–made causes”
To the present day there is still no scientific proof that man-made CO2 causes significant global warming.
MYTH 7:  CO2 is a pollutant.
FACT:  This is absolutely not true. Nitrogen forms 80% of our atmosphere. We could not live in 100% nitrogen either. Carbon dioxide is no more a pollutant than nitrogen is.  CO2 is essential to life on earth. It is necessary for plant growth since increased CO2 intake as a result of increased atmospheric concentration causes many trees and other plants to grow more vigorously. Unfortunately, the Canadian Government has included  CO2 with a number of truly toxic and noxious substances listed by the Environmental Protection Act, only as their means to politically control it.



MYTH 8: Global warming will cause more storms and other weather extremes.
FACT:   There is no scientific or statistical evidence whatsoever that supports such claims on a global scale.  Regional variations may occur. Growing insurance and infrastructure repair costs, particularly in coastal areas, are sometimes claimed to be the result of increasing frequency and severity of storms, whereas in reality they are a function of increasing population density, escalating development value, and ever more media reporting.

MYTH 9:  Receding glaciers and the calving of ice shelves are proof of global warming.
FACT:  Glaciers have been  receding and growing cyclically for hundreds of years. Recent glacier melting is a consequence of coming out of the very cool period of the Little Ice Age. Ice shelves have been breaking off for centuries. Scientists know of at least 33 periods of glaciers growing and then retreating. It’s normal. Besides, glacier’s health is dependent as much on precipitation as on temperature.

MYTH 10:  The earth’s poles are warming; polar ice caps are breaking up and melting and the sea level rising.
FACT:  The earth is variable. The western Arctic may be getting somewhat warmer, due to cyclic events in the Pacific Ocean, but the Eastern Arctic and Greenland are getting colder. The small Palmer Peninsula of Antarctica is getting warmer, while the main Antarctic continent is actually cooling. Ice thicknesses are increasing both on Greenland and in Antarctica.
Sea level monitoring in the Pacific (Tuvalu) and Indian Oceans (Maldives) has shown no sign of any sea level rise.

The above post courtesy of Friends of Science

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Be A Bad European, Dave



It seems that those we laughingly call our leaders have finally cottoned on to the fact that the British people is less than happy with our current situation vis a vis Europe. What do you think was their first clue?

David Cameron, it is said, is finally going to make that much mooted but oft delayed speech on the EU (here's what the excellent Dan Hannan MEP would like him to say). Over the weekend, Wallace (see above) started giving interviews on the subject and yesterday gave a speech in which he accused the PM of sleepwalking towards a European exit. Yes, cried a large percentage of the British people, we wish he would wake up and start running towards the exit, only stopping to ask us in a referendum on the way.

The reason for all of this sudden activity? Well they are many and various and have been brewing for a while, but they can be summed up as a nexus of competing but interlinked factors starting with the implosion of the Euro, our inability to deport foreigners who want to kill us and leech millions in benefits from us, the ever increasing demands for more of our money and interference in issues which ought to be decided at national level. Some of these issues are of course decided by the ECHR which is a separate body from the EU. Except that it's not. It's all linked and all equally infuriating.

And it isn't as if our politicians are unaware of all of this. They frequently express frustration at their powerlessness. They often talk tough about opt outs and negotiating back powers and so on. But it never happens. When push comes to shove they err on the side of staying in the EU. Only now, with the rise of discontent and, more importantly, that of UKIP, are minds being concentrated. Only when politicians are threatened with losing their jobs do they finally get around to listening to the people they purport to represent.

David Cameron, it is said, is a conviction Eurosceptic. This may well be true, although the evidence suggests otherwise. Wallace is most certainly not. He is a man who senses an opportunity alongside a risk and is tacking according to the political wind.

This is what they call leadership in modern Britain. We have a PM who, admittedly, is caught between competing factions. But then that has always been the case whoever has been PM. It goes with the territory. Wallace faces a similar dilemma, albeit one ameliorated by not having to have firm positions on anything. Listen to that speech and he says nothing new. He just claims that he would be able to build consensus in Europe. How exactly? By handing over more of our money for empty promises? By shamelessly signing a treaty without offering a promised referendum on it? That was Labour's record when they were in power.

David Cameron is talking tough about not handing over more money. He is talking tough on giving votes to prisoners. But it is his actions that will speak louder.

And it is hard to understand why he doesn't take a tough line on more money for Brussels. If we simply refuse to hand over more money it would spark a constitutional crisis. The same is true if we refuse to give prisoners the vote. Good. It is about time. It is about time we simply said No. Or Non if you prefer. That usually works better. What would they do? Send in the tanks? No. They would accuse us of being bad Europeans. We already know that. Isn't it time we proved it?

As Cameron heads off to the latest summit poised to say no or non and even to deploy the veto, he will probably be outnumbered. Isn't it time that he pointed out forcefully that a system which allows the recipients of money to outvote those who pay it is absurd, broken and doomed to create rancour, dissent and ultimately schism? Even if we deploy the veto Europe somehow still gets more money from us. In whose nightmarish imagination was that little ruse dreamt up? Were we consulted? Perhaps, like BBC executives, we should go back and find out who agreed to that and why. Or were they looking the other way when that clause was inserted?

Our prime minister does not have to accept this state of affairs whatever he says. He can simply say no. If necessary he can deploy the nuclear option - the in/out referendum. The rest of Europe is half expecting this so why disappoint them? If he did he would have the backing of parliament and the British people. It could of course mean the Lib Dems flouncing out of government. But let's not be overly optimistic. They might balk at that when they see the opinion polls. But if they did it would mean an election on the issue of Europe? What's not to like about that?

This would make Cameron look like a principled leader rather than a man who enjoys a quiet life. Yesterday he claimed that we are in the economic equivalent of a war. The EU was created to try and prevent war and yet is in danger of doing the opposite. It has traditionally been this country's role to point out the folly of the continent's ways and to stand up to bullying autocrats. That task now falls to David Cameron. Don't let us down, prime minister.



Friday, 16 November 2012

Action Needed, Not Reports


This just in from the Ministry of Guesswork and Made-Up Stuff, the lack of capacity at Heathrow is costing the economy £14 billion a year. We are missing out on this colossal amount, the report says.

Reports. It's a lovely official sounding quasi scientific word isn't it. It's also meaningless. Anyone can write a report. But it's the sort of word alighted on by politicians and spin doctors as something that will garner headlines and be brandished by people who want something as proof of their case. Michael Heseltine issued a report just a couple of weeks ago. It was essentially just a chance for him to publish a prospectus for the nation, the sort of thing he used to advance when in power. I suspect he spent the months he was supposed to be doing the research twiddling his thumbs or maybe he just copied and pasted a load of old documents he had filed away for safe keeping and then embellished them with some trendy phrases and issues to make them relevant.

This latest report was actually commissioned by Heathrow itself as part of its campaign to get a third runway. There is plenty of spare airport capacity in the country, it says, but it's also in the wrong place. It fails to mention the fact that Heathrow is also in the wrong place. That's why building a third runway is so contentious. It's not that we doubt the need for a bigger London airport. It's that we doubt a third runway is the answer they claim it to be.

They implicitly acknowledge this in their report. A third runway would solve the problem for a generation they say. A generation? Is that all? They want to demolish homes, cause even more misery and it will only solve the problem for a generation? What then? More reports?

And that £14 billion claim doesn't stack up either. They say it is needed because airlines and passengers prefer hub airports. A third of all passengers fly into Heathrow and then board another plane to another destination. So how do they boost our economy if they never enter the country properly?



In fact this report makes an excellent case for having an airport elsewhere as many of us have argued. The so called Boris island in the Thames estuary would allow four runways, in an area which would not overfly the busiest city in Europe and would have purpose built, state of the art facilities and infrastructure. This would last, not for a mere generation, but for a century. It would have spare capacity too so that, when it snows or there are delays for any other reason, that lack of capacity at Heathrow would not have a misery inducing knock-on effect for days on end. A new airport would give a real boost to the whole economy, not just the coffers of Heathrow PLC as BAA is now called, and would allow Britain to jump back ahead of the chasing pack, offering destinations to the growing economies of the world currently not catered for due to Heathrow's congestion.

Heathrow is in the wrong place, it is a legacy of the early days of aviation, when flying was for the rich and glamorous or for businessmen. Nobody imagined back then that Heathrow would be the giant dysfunctional monolith it has become. Nobody imagined that we would be able to sit in Hyde Park watching a plane a minute descend over central London into our hub airport. Hub airports are important. But then so are people who live near to them. So is our capital city. The present location of our main airport is wrong, expanding it would be lunacy.

We don't need a report about the future of Heathrow. It is obvious what is needed, all we lack is political will. About that at least Michael Heseltine was right. But there is a way it could boost the economy as it claims. We could bulldoze it when the new estuary airport is built and put tens of thousands of much needed London homes on it.


Thursday, 15 November 2012

Ri Ri Joins the Jet Set



I just want to state for the record, I love this woman. 








Democracy Needs You to Vote Today


Britain goes to the polls today, not just in the Corby by election (see this post) but in elections across the country held for the first time to elect police commissioners.

Just over a week since the culmination of America's vast  and slightly absurd $3 billion electoral jamboree, this exercise of British democracy is going to be rather quieter. Indeed some are complaining they know nothing about the elections and who they should be voting for. They have a point. We would not want our eyes and ears assailed by the kind of constant hectoring advertising that famously made one little girl in America cry, but it would be nice to know who is standing for election. You can of course. The BBC has a website that tells you who your candidate is (although it didn't recognise my postcode) and there are others that do the same, including those of the various police authorities that will soon have new bosses. But the information has to be sought. It isn't handed to you on a plate.

And that is the trouble. We take democracy for granted in this country. Too many don't vote and certainly don't see why they should have to get up off their arses and actually find out who is standing and why they should vote for them. Turnout for these elections is predicted to be ultra low, this despite the fact that these men and women will have more power than most MPs and a great many members of the government. Indeed these commissioners will have hefty salaries to match their responsibilities - reason enough one would think to check them out and vote.

Local democracy is something that is struggling to take off in this country. The reason is the way it is structured. Except in a limited number of high profile cases, most people vote for parties rather than local candidates. Only when an MP is well known or controversial do they rise above this attitude. That is why the London mayoralty has been such a positive move. It turns it into a contest between personalities that people actually know rather than the latest party automaton. It is the closest we get to a presidential contest. It boosts turnout and engages people.

And that's why these police commissioner roles are such a good idea. Those who win tomorrow will be newsworthy. They will control big budgets and will have the power to affect our lives. When the next election comes along there will inevitably be more interest, even if it is of the negative get the rascal out variety.

The government should push through more of this kind of democracy and accountability. That is why we should have elected mayors in all of our major cities. Only that kind of high profile politics will interest the media. These commissioner roles are attracting some interesting and high profile candidates and a large number of independents too. That has to be healthy.

I urge everyone with a vote to exercise their franchise today. This is an important reform and an example of a government trying to do the right thing in the face of public and media apathy. This is something new and we cannot know how things will turn out. But it is a welcome end to the closed door, cosy kind of accountability our police have been accustomed to until now. We are a decade into the 21st century. It's about time isn't it?

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

No PMQs This Week


No PMQs this week. In past years this point in the parliamentary calendar is reserved for a short break as one parliamentary session comes to an end before the new one is opened by the Queen in the state opening.

This year it is happening in May, however. Yet our MPs decided to give themselves a few days off anyway. As far as I am aware only one of them has used the time to go to Australia and appear on a TV show with some creepy crawlies - or Ant and Dec as I believe they are known.

Interestingly these breaks always seem to start on Wednesdays, meaning no PMQs. Funny that. And Dave wasn't here last week either, although he did manage to get back to have dinner with Angela Merkel. Of course the next day he was then shamelessly mugged by that nice Phillip Schofield, who used to talk to gophers for a living. Perhaps in future our PM will decide parliament is safer. After all they can't hand him a piece of card with scurrilous gossip across the dispatch box can they?

If, like Dave, you are missing the weekly parliamentary brawl, you can relive past glories by clicking here. Some of my past reviews have become very popular of late. Join the club.


Let Parliament Decide Qatada's Fate


Remember that episode of The Simpsons in which Homer's picture was used to illustrate the meaning of the word 'Lucky' after he saved the nuclear power plant from disaster by pressing a random button? Well perhaps, in years to come, we should use a picture of the smug nutter Abu Qatada next to the phrase 'the law is an ass.'

The only people who imagine that justice is being done by allowing Qatada to stay in this country at vast expense are the judges who sat on the SIAC panel that came to this latest absurd decision, a few Guardian readers and Shami Chakrabarti of Liberty.

This is not justice, it is an affront to justice, a classic example of judges with skewed priorities and no sense of proportionality whatsoever. The judges yesterday opined that Qatada cannot be guaranteed a fair trial in Jordan, despite all of the promises extracted from that country to the contrary. This is a theoretical possibility with no proof whatsoever. On those grounds we could never guarantee anyone a fair trial - here or abroad. Why is it any of our business how other countries dispense justice to their own citizens? Under other circumstances we would run a mile from such patronising interference. Yet allow a terrorist into this country, arm him with lawyers whose picture should be set aside the word vexatious, and we have the farce which led to his release from prison surrounded by police officers because he is so dangerous.

There is no country in the world that would allow this situation to persist at the insistence of a foreign court dealing in asbtract jurisprudence discrete from the real world. Our own supreme court, then still called the House of Lords, ruled in 2009 that a fair trial in a foreign country does not require us to hold, to the detriment of our own security, a terrorist suspect of foreign extraction. SIAC has ignored this.

There are many arguing that the rule of law, in this instance, should be ignored and Qatada loaded onto a plane. It is hard to disagree. But perhaps the simple solution would be for parliament to reserve to itself the right to set aside such judgments when they conflict with the national interest. Have a vote to send Qatada away. The government has done all that can reasonably be asked of it and much more. The response has been ever more applications on ever more obscure points of law and courts that protect the interests of one man over the majority. Any government's first duty should be to defend its people from harm. Parliament should be asked to support that duty and send this man out of our harm's way.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Another Blow for the Beeb


Oh dear, things are not going well for the Beeb. In the wake of the Savile and paedophilia scandals that cost a DG his job and licence payers half a million quid, it is now revealed how they came to a decision about their policy on climate change. The panel of scientists they convened was actually full of green campaigners and pressure groups, not to mention various scientists who have been caught out tampering with the evidence. Here's the list:

Robert May, Oxford University and Imperial College London
Mike Hulme, Director, Tyndall Centre, UEA
Blake Lee-Harwood, Head of Campaigns, Greenpeace
Dorthe Dahl-Jensen, Niels Bohr Institute, Copenhagen
Michael Bravo, Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge
Andrew Dlugolecki, Insurance industry consultant
Trevor Evans, US Embassy
Colin Challen MP, Chair, All Party Group on Climate Change
Anuradha Vittachi, Director, Oneworld.net
Andrew Simms, Policy Director, New Economics Foundation
Claire Foster, Church of England
Saleemul Huq, IIED
Poshendra
Satyal Pravat, Open University
Li Moxuan, Climate campaigner, Greenpeace China
Tadesse Dadi, Tearfund Ethiopia
Iain Wright, CO2 Project Manager, BP International
Ashok Sinha, Stop Climate Chaos
Andy Atkins, Advocacy Director, Tearfund
Matthew Farrow, CBI
Rafael Hidalgo, TV/multimedia producer
Cheryl Campbell, Executive Director, Television for the Environment
Kevin McCullough, Director, Npower Renewables
Richard D North, Institute of Economic Affairs
Steve Widdicombe, Plymouth Marine Labs
Joe Smith, The Open University
Mark Galloway, Director, IBT
Anita Neville, E3G
Eleni Andreadis, Harvard University
Jos Wheatley, Global Environment Assets Team, DFID
Tessa Tennant, Chair, AsRia

The BBC has a duty to be impartial. Here it very clearly wasn't. It looks more like an agenda pre-decided and a panel chosen to rubber stamp it. Worse, it then used licence payers' money to try and prevent us knowing who had attended the conference. Surely we have the right to know who is determining policy and how so that we can question it? That's a basic tenet of science. Not according to the BBC.

But now the list has emerged, we know why.

And yes, I know the arguments about impartiality and science, about choosing the one that has the greatest consensus surrounding it, that science is not like politics. But that is a bogus defence. Climate change and the politics that surround it remains a theory with a lot of gaps and little evidence. More than that it has fashioned a series of policies from 'green' energy to curtailing carbon emissions that severely impact all of our lives and the competitiveness of this country. The science is not settled and there are very many questions surrounding it. The climate is changing, nobody seriously argues that it isn't, but the reasons why and our own impact is still a matter of debate. The BBC decided otherwise and then tried to cover up its reasons for doing so. That is wrong.

The BBC remains an institution to be proud of. But BBC News, for all kinds of reasons, has lost the plot. It is old fashioned and fusty in much of its output and yet at the same time all too willing to allow itself to be captured by the latest trendy theory or idea, usually the sort espoused by the few thousand people who read The Guardian, a newspaper so hopelessly out of tune with the rest of the population it has to be cross subsidised by selling used cars. Another alternative of course is a tax we cannot avoid if we want to watch television, although that is starting to change.

Whoever gets to run the BBC after its month from hell will need to address this institutional bias. Even when they appoint a Tory to the chairmanship they end up with Chris Patten.

People of Corby: Vote UKIP and Make History This Thursday



There is a by election this week in the constituency of Corby. The reason? Well, their MP decided to spend more time with her family. And for once this was actually true, rather than a concocted reason for resigning before being dismissed or hounded out. It was just that in order to spend more time with her family Louise Mensch, for it was she, had to go to New York.

Now there was a suspicion of just a smidgen of pique contributing to this decision. There was just a suspicion that she would have rather liked to have spent more time being driven around in a ministerial car and seeing to red boxes. But Dave had extraordinarily overlooked her. And so Mrs Mensch flounced off to be Mrs Mensch. The sistas, along with the good people of Corby, were enraged.



But in fact we should all probably be grateful for Mrs Mensch's decision. She was a lousy MP anyway. And her resignation comes at a propitious time. This week Corby must appoint her successor. The betting is that they will elect a Labour candidate and by a wide margin. But may I appeal to the good people of Corby not to put their crosses (none of that electronic voting, hanging chad nonsense here) next to the identikit candidate wearing the red rosette, one Andy Sawford who is a speaking automaton of the usual calibre and a former aide of Gordon Brown, presumably with the mobile phone shaped scars to prove it. Nor indeed should they place their crosses next to the similar candidates from the other major parties.

No. We have an opportunity here. We have an opportunity not only to punish all of the parties for the quality of the candidates they keep sending for us to vote for, but to send another more important message. In short we have the opportunity to send to Westminster our first ever UKIP MP.

I know that UKIP has this reputation, not wholly undeserved, of being a bunch of right wing nutters and Euro obsessives. But it remains our only party determined to put a stop to the unrelenting disaster that is this country's membership of the EU.



And this by election comes at a convenient moment. The EU is currently, despite its demands for austerity in Greece, Spain, Ireland, Italy et al, asking for an increase in its own budget. The joke parliament of the EU refused to back down on the issue at the weekend and Angela Merkel muttered some stuff about our being an island nation that shouldn't be cut off from the continent, perhaps forgetting that we on this island are the reason she isn't living in the Third Reich.

The other parties, for all of their hints and half promises on the issue of Europe, would almost certainly hand over more money to Europe if democracy didn't keep getting in the way. Indeed we have democracy to thank for the fact that we are not members of the Euro and being told by Brussels that we too should be imposing austerity on ourselves, whilst of course handing over more money to the Eurocrats. They would probably just deduct it from our bailout.

Be in no doubt, Labour would have taken us into the Euro had Blair been able to get away with doing so without a referendum. The obstinacy and good sense of the British people prevented him from that particular legacy. Now he wants to be the European president.

On top of this, at the weekend Theresa May admitted that we would be powerless to stop tens of thousands of Romanians and Bulgarians from heading here, as of right, to live and work. Oh she made some noises about stopping them using our benefits system and the NHS but I think we can all see what will happen on that. The government is making no predictions about how many will come because when the last influx took place under Labour, they got it so hopelessly wrong. This is a disaster just waiting to happen and it is only a year away. Nobody has voted for this. This ridiculous pipedream of Europe's political elite is turning into a nightmare for our working classes. They talk of a living wage but will soon have no choice but to allow yet more low wage workers into the country. It is beyond ridiculous. It is becoming dangerous.

And that is why the people of Corby should reject the other candidates on Thursday and vote UKIP. Enough is enough. We want our country back, or at least the chance to govern ourselves again. One MP will make little difference in parliament but a world of difference in British politics. The referendum we have been demanding for years would be the no brainer it should always have been.  David Cameron's hand would be strengthened as he says no to handing over more money and gets some powers back at the same time. In short our politicians would be told to do as they are told or face the electoral consequences.

Parliament struck a blow for the British public's viewpoint a couple of weeks ago when MPs looked at the polls, listened to their electorates and voted against handing over more of our money. But nothing concentrates minds like losing real elections. And if this one fails there are three more coming up later this month.

So, people of Corby, it is up to you. You can be taken for granted and give Ed Miliband an ill deserved by election win, or you can vote for none of the above and give all of the smug and complacent parties a kick where it will really hurt. Vote UKIP and help make history.