Friday, 23 June 2017

Anti-terror measures stepped up at the cost of day-to-day policing

Amber Rudd's statement to the Commons yesterday made clear that anti-terror operations will be strengthened by giving firearms training to more officers but that no new money would be given to the police overall. The implication is that more front-line policemen and women will be diverted to state security while prevention and investigation of crimes which affect ordinary people up and down the country will be starved of resources.

The fact that both Labour and Liberal Democrat manifestos for the recent general election pledged  restoration of cuts in the police service which have occurred from the noughties onward, while the Conservatives have made no such provision, points up Tory priorities. The Tories are more concerned about the security of the state than the security of ordinary people.

What is worse is that they have given up on the only piece of legislation which offered hope of reform of criminal justice, the Prisons and Courts Bill. Instead, there is a vague promise of making the courts more efficient.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Orla Lowe, did you know about this sharp practice?

I challenge Mrs Orla Lowe, my Conservative opponent in the Neath constituency in the recent general election, whether she knew about the activities revealed in tonight's Channel 4 News. An outfit named Blue Telecoms operating from offices in Market Chambers, Neath, made cold calls apparently pushing people to vote for Conservative candidates in Wales. In itself, this is a nuisance, but not illegal (provided telephone preferences are observed). What is illegal is not accounting for these canvassing calls under individual candidates' expenses returns.

Throughout Wales, and markedly in Neath, Conservative candidates leapfrogged Plaid Cymru candidates and depressed Liberal Democrat votes. Did the Blue Telecoms operation contribute to this, to Conservatives' holding on to Brecon & Radnor, and possibly to Mark Williams' losing Ceredigion?
The Conservative party must come clean about its expenditure. We know Channel 4 will persist until it gets all the answers, and this time there will the party will not be helped by expiring deadlines.

More evidence for declining real wages

There are some worrying graphs here.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Of hung parliaments and the government's bona fides

Graeme Cowie does not post often to his blog, but when he does it is after due consideration. He has recently delivered two magisterial judgments in the field of his special expertise, constitutional law.

In his analysis of the prime minister's position with particular reference to the Fixed Term Parliaments Act and parliamentary arithmetic, he puts right certain journalistic assumptions. In particular, he dismisses the easy assumption that, in view of Mrs May's successful call for an early election, the FTPA changed nothing. He concludes:

The truth is that the old system that preceded the Fixed Term Parliaments Act would have handled this type of situation no better than the current one. It allowed Prime Ministers to escape resignation by appealing immediately and directly to the country, even when an alternative viable government could be formed from the democratically elected Parliament. These decisions are no longer a privilege the Prime Minister enjoys, exploiting in the process the political sensitivity of the Crown. It is instead for Parliament itself to decide.

For a Parliament man like me, that is, when all is said and done, a no bad thing.

He followed this up with a dismissal of the chances of success of a judicial review of Mrs May's "confidence and supply" agreement with the DUP.

I cannot claim to have followed all the thought-processes of a trained legal mind, but I am convinced that the supply and confidence arrangement will not be susceptible to overriding by the court on the grounds specified. Mrs May's position will be safe (for the time being). However, the fact that the Queen's minister and, therefore, her government are dependent for the continuing confidence of parliament on one of the players in the Northern Ireland arena must shade their status as joint impartial guarantors in the formation of a new power-sharing government in Stormont.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

French developments

There is a summary by France24 of the outcome of the French elections which concluded last Sunday. It seems from this side of the channel that president Macron and his LREM party might loosely be described as economic liberals, while his junior partners in the National Assembly, the Democratic Movement, have travelled from centrist conservatism to social liberalism.

I cannot remember a larger majority for change in the Assembly. There seems little doubt that president Macron and his prime minister Edouard Philippe will be able to put through measures to liberalise the French economy. However, the history of the Fifth Republic is studded with instances of extra-parliamentary forces snookering the will of parliament. Expect strong resistance from the trade unions, who will no doubt claim that, because the turn-out in both halves of the parliamentary election was so low, Philippe has no mandate.

Both party leaders are committed Europeans. One can therefore expect a stiffening of the EU27's tough line in the Brexit negotiations which have just opened. Moreover, if Macron succeeds in reducing business overheads, one may expect the French entrepreneurs who migrated to south-east England to benefit from our better business climate to consider returning. So what may be good for the French is not necessarily good for the UK.

[Later] It is not going to be plain sailing for the LREM/MoDem coalition. One of its stated aims of cleaning up the administration has been struck a blow by the allegations of misuse of MoDem party funds which have led to the resignation of the defence minister.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Jo Swinson may well be Liberal Democrat leader - but not yet

I cannot claim to have met Jo Swinson, but, already a busy MP, she came to the 2006 by-election in Dunfermline and West Fife and I overheard her conversation with party workers. She struck me then as a clear-sighted and determined person. In coalition, she was a late call-up by Nick Clegg, first as a stand-in for a Jenny Willot taking maternity leave, but later as a junior minister at BIS. Less tainted than most of the pre-coalition intake (she voted against the rise in tuition fees, for instance), she would seem to be the natural successor to Tim Farron. However, she has early ruled herself out, preferring to stand for the deputy leadership. Admittedly, she still has a young child and a constituency remote from Westminster to look after, but one suspects a long-term plan. There is a hint in her Liberal Democrat Voice statement:

My reflections and conversations about a range of factors have confirmed my conviction that the right role for me now is Deputy Leader.
Four weeks ago today, I ran a marathon.  Training for and running marathons teaches you a lot about planning, perseverance, and resilience. Creating lasting political change is a marathon, not a sprint.

If this parliament runs its full course, the typical Liberal Democrat pattern would be followed, gaining momentum through by-election and local authority successes. However, the chances are that there will be an early general election, when the advantage will still be with the well-endowed conservative parties, before the dire effects of Brexit hit the general public. For this reason, the new leader's reign will almost certainly be seen as a failure in that we will not regain the heights of 2006.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Churchill was right (continued)

After posting Friday's piece, I came across this, which concludes:

I suspect, therefore, that the Tories are now rather like the party they were in the days of the Corn Laws: they represent interests which are hostile to economic progress.  
There is of course nothing original in the claim that landlords’ interests are a block on economic growth. As somebody once said:
Unearned increments in land are not the only form of unearned or undeserved profit, but they are the principal form of unearned increment, and they are derived from processes which are not merely not beneficial, but positively detrimental to the general public…The land monopolist only has to sit still and watch complacently his property multiplying in value, sometimes many fold, without either effort or contribution on his part!
That was Winston Churchill in 1909. Tories like to compare themselves to him. But in one respect at least, they are more reactionary now than he was a century ago.  
Today's Tories might retort that, by 1909, Churchill had been seduced by the Liberals and would not return effectively to Conservative politics until after the Great War. However, there was probably little to choose between the instincts of the Edwardian Churchill and those of the man who, looking forward to reconstruction after the Second World War, agreed to commissioning the Beveridge Report and gave RA Butler his head over the Education Act 1944.