Monday, 20 April 2015

Manifestos: green issues

Green Liberal Democrats have issued their statistical analysis of all the general election manifestos:

Party ranking by manifesto keyword count on environmental issues*

Green Party 293
Liberal Democrats 230
SNP 59
Tory 51
Plaed Cymru 47
Labour 45
* NB this reflects how important the environment is to the party - not how pro- or anti- they are (for example, UKIP are opposed to having an environment at all and their opposition leads to a high word count). Nor does it take into account how practical and achievable those policies are. The Liberal Democrats are ‪#‎BritainsGreenestParty‬ precisely because they have a record of success implementing their practical policy ideas.

A campaign that the next parliament should take note of

I am not going to put money on Ed Goncalves winning the Rugby constituency, which looks like being a fight between Labour and Conservative* but his vote share will be an indication of how much the public is still concerned about MPs' troughing at our expense. Ed is centring his campaign on an attack on the expenses culture of Westminster. Even in a party which wants to clean up politics, Ed's platform stands out. Some samples:

If Ed's vote goes up markedly, against the trend of opinion research, then the new roster of MPs will need to take seriously further reforms in Westminster.

*2010 result in Rugby [courtesy of UKElect]
Electorate 68914
Mark Pawsey, Con 20901 44.03%
Andy King, Lab 14901 31.39%
Jerry Roodhouse, LDm  9434 19.87%
Mark Badrick, BNP  1375 2.89%
Roy Sandison, Grn   451 0.95%
Barry Milford, UKIP   406 0.85%
Total 47468 68.88%
Con Majority  6000 12.64%
Con Gain From Lab
Swing from Labour to Conservative of 6.63%

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Leicester child abuse footnotes

Ian Pace has, since my item of two days ago, drawn our attention to a number of counter-precedents. It seems to me that in all these cases the defendant, though impaired, was in a position to instruct counsel which seems to be the legal test. Greville Janner is said to be in the final stages of dementia, requiring round-the-clock care. His family can also call upon the best legal teams to defend their interests, which clearly was not so in the other cases cited. I imagine the DPP had in mind, in addition to the Serafinowicz precedent, the cost to the public purse of a costly action whose outcome was uncertain when she made her decision.

The pdf of the Kirkwood Inquiry, referred to in the Liberal England blog, turned up some intriguing leads. Frank Beck's predecessor John Moseling had a similar background and, as it turned out, similar predilections. It could be a coincidence, or it could be that there was someone already in place in Leicester in 1970 who was ready to provide employment to paedophiles.

Jonathan Calder has added to his blog recollections of the Beck trial and its implications for Janner by journalists who covered it.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Bribery - asymmetric justice

The common law offence of misconduct in public office occurs when a public officer, acting as such, wilfully neglects to perform his duty and/or wilfully misconducts himself to such a degree as to amount to an abuse of the public's trust in the office holder without reasonable excuse or justification. Taking money in return for divulging confidential information is clearly such misconduct and in a recent series of cases triggered by the Milly Dowler case, 21 out of 28 public officials, including police, prison officers, health workers and a Ministry of Defence official have been convicted and jailed.

One would think that the man paying the bribe, procuring the offence of misconduct, would be equally guilty, but the Court of Appeal has disagreed. That was worrying enough, but what disturbed me more was the shameless celebration by the journalists afterwards, like football fans revelling in a win by a dubious penalty. "We were only doing our job" was the mantra.

Clearly the same justification could be offered by our arms salesmen or other businessmen obtaining contracts abroad by bribery. In the Bribery Acts of 2010 and 2012, the UK brought itself up to the standard of enlightened nations. Will the Elveden acquittals will tempt certain British corporations to fall back into their old bad ways?

Friday, 17 April 2015

Greville Janner

The complainants were understandably disappointed, but the DPP had little choice in electing to abandon proceedings against Greville Janner on historic sexual abuse charges. There is no doubt that he is in the advanced stages of dementia. There is precedent. In 1997, a jury decided that a man accused of crimes during the second world war was unfit to stand trial because of dementia. Coincidentally, Szymon Serafinowicz was the same age then as Baron Janner is now, 86. (Thanks to Ian Pace for pulling out a copy of the contemporaneous report.) Then there is the question: if he were to be found guilty, would he be capable of understanding his punishment and so would it be punishment?

What the complainants, and we, should really be angry about is a failing which, ironically, Janner himself complained about in 1997:

Former Labour MP Lord Greville Janner, vice-president of the World Jewish Congress and chairman of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said he was disappointed that Serafinowicz had not been brought to trial sooner.
A 1940s war crimes investigator himself, Lord Janner said: “There was an abundance of evidence alleging individual and mass murders against him. I am sorry that he was not tried while he was fit enough to stand. War criminals have managed to evade prosecution under our system of justice for decades. There were absolutely no reasons why he should have escaped charges for ever.
“The CPS had a huge file of powerful evidence against him. He was accused of individual involvement in more than 3,000 murders.

Investigations into Janner's sexual conduct seem to have begun in 1989, then stopped on orders from above. They were forced to be resumed when the then MP was named in the trial of the notorious Frank Beck. For further detail see , and Andy McSmith's analysis in the Indy. Jonathan Calder's commentary is especially valuable as he is physically on the spot as well as being a news editor for the British Psychological Society.

It could be that Janner was kicked upstairs in 1997 not only to make way for a New Labour-favoured woman, Patricia Hewitt, in Leicester West, but also to head off any political embarrassment.

It is to be hoped that the complainants will have their day in court through the Lowell Goddard Inquiry. Whether the shadowy names hinted at during the Beck trial are also revealed is another matter.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Green record

I had planned to utter a pronouncement on the Conservative manifesto today, but it has proved to be a bit too chewy for a quick judgment. Perhaps something will appear here at the weekend. As to the Green Party manifesto, here is the Green Liberal Democrats' verdict: "its dogmatic and doom-laden approach will simply not gain enough public support till it’s too late".

To my rescue in filling the space comes Michael McCarthy in the Indy with a view on the coalition's record. He looks over "the environmental record of the coalition Government just gone. Its outstanding success has been action on global warming: the passing of the fourth carbon budget, which commits the UK to the toughest regime for cutting carbon emissions in the world. We should note at once, however, this was in essence a Liberal Democrat achievement, brought about by two Lib Dem Secretaries of State for Energy and Climate Change, Chris Huhne (who was outstanding) and Ed Davey (who has been pretty competent)".

However, he adds: "it should be recorded here that Caroline Spelman, [...] Defra Secretary from 2010-2012, seemed to have her heart in the right place, environmentally. Spelman eventually got the chop (partly because she had to take the blame for the forests sell-off fiasco, when the real culprit was the cold-eyed zealot in the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude)." It should be pointed out that there were also massive conflicts of interest. Nothing is black and white in politics, but some practitioners are brighter green than others.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Ronnie Carroll

He was one of the contributors to the sound-track of my youth and yet he has only come to general attention now because his death has triggered a dispute about electoral law.

My single memory of Ronnie Carroll in the flesh was seeing him pass through the ticket barrier at a virtually deserted Manchester Central station while I was waiting for a train returning west. The period of his big early hits had passed and Eurovision was yet to come, so he must have been cashing in by doing the club and theatre circuit. Carroll was still well enough known, yet he was alone and carrying his own suitcase. How times have changed.