Friday, 25 April 2014

Forthcoming elections

Our attention is (or should be) on 22nd May and the European Parliament elections. However, in addition to the Indian general election which began on 7th April and will not be complete until after 16th May, there is an important election in the southern hemisphere. South Africa goes to the polls on 7th May. It is an election which the ANC led by Jacob Zuma is expected to win easily, but it appears that the party's hopes of a two-thirds majority in parliament are diminishing slightly. The Democratic Alliance, successor the multi-racial Liberal Party among others, is the major opposition party, but will do well to achieve 25%.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

UK Business response to UKIP posters

British Influence puts the case against Nigel Farage and his multi-millionaire backers better than I could:

Footnote: in his TV debates with Nick Clegg, Farage stated that the House of Commons Library figures understate the amount of EU-dictated law because they cover only primary legislation. However, even if Statutory Instruments (subsidiary legislation) are taken into account, the total is less than half - probably no more than 40%.

Farage presents himself as a disinterested patriot, but it is clear from closer examination of his policies that his aim is to create a Britain with minimal protection of the interests of those Labour voters he seems to be seducing.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

America accedes to terrorist rules

In a week where the head of state of the United Kingdom and many Commonwealth countries shook hands with a former terrorist commander, the United States abrogated international law by refusing to allow Iran's envoy to the United Nations. The United Nations estate in New York City in itself enjoys extraterritorial status by virtue of a long-established treaty with the USA.

Envoy Hamid Abutalebi says he served solely as a periodic translator for the Islamist students who seized the U.S. embassy hostages, and took no part in the violence. CBC News reports that he has since evolved into a moderate figure favouring, like President Hassan Rouhani, a thaw in Iran's ties with the West.

By taking the law into its own hands in this matter, the United States has put itself on the same intellectual level as the Taliban who feel justified in killing Afghan citizens whose only "crime" was to act as intermediaries between military occupiers and the civilian population.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

UKIP shifting its ground

Peter Black draws attention to the misuse of expenses by Nigel Farage among other dodgy UKIP attitudes.

In his article in the Indy this week (the Indy's own report is here), Nigel Farage comes clean, abandoning any pretence that he uses his monthly allowance from the European Parliament for much more than projecting his own image.

All MEPs are giving a fixed allowance of £3,850 per month. They do not have to provide receipts for any of that expenditure [...] I have done nothing illegal - I have always said that I will use all legal means to get us out of the EU, and I make absolutely no apologies for using EU money to do it.

For "EU money" read "tax-payers' money including our own". For a short exposé of how UKIP MEPs earn their salaries and expenses, listen to Chris Davies MEP here - and for what a truly active MEP can do for his country see Chris's c.v.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Half-truths about Cyril Smith

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, who arrived in this country well after Cyril Smith was active in Rochdale politics, would have done well not to take on trust everything the Labour MP Simon Danczuk and the conservative Daily Mail have written about the man. The Indy has not printed my response to her article, so I copy it here:

Whatever Cyril Smith did when he had access to schools and boys homes while on Rochdale council, it should be remembered that for most of that time (1952-1966) he was a Labour councillor. Indeed, he was elected mayor of the town in spite of concerns having being raised with the Labour hierarchy by at least one social worker.

Of course, David Steel is still alive and can be questioned while it is unlikely that anyone in Rochdale Labour has survived from those days.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Nigel Evans

I hope that Nigel Evans will be thrown out by the voters of Ribble Valley in 2015. This is not because of his life-style (sadly, it seems to be all too common in Westminster); certainly not because he is gay - in at least one of his previous election contests, his opponents from each of the other main parties were also gay; but because he is an unreconstructed Thatcherite. It is noticeable that the two people who most prominently leapt to his defence after his acquittal were from that wing of the Conservative party: Edwina Currie and David TC Davies.

Nor do I agree with him that historic sex abuse should not be pursued. The case against Evans may not have held up, but that against Stuart Hall did and several victims will have drawn some satisfaction from that.

But he is surely right to demand that defendants who are cleared should not be out of pocket as a result of being put on trial. As Antony Hook, an experienced criminal barrister, writes on Liberal Democrat Voice:

It is an outrage that the state should prosecute you, you are found not guilty by the jury, but then be left with the costs of your defence.

But MPs have produced this unjust situation. Less than 10 years ago, Nigel Evans would not have had to pay for his defence. He could have been represented on a legal aid certificate that would pay for solicitor and counsel. Those costs would be capped on a fixed fee basis. Counsel’s fee for the three-week trial and preparation would be thousands, not hundreds of thousands, of pounds.

Labour brought in punitive means-testing for legal aid, which the Coalition has kept.

It used to be the case that acquitted defendants who had paid privately could ask for a Defence Costs Order. This meant the state would reimburse their defence costs. Judges had a (rarely used) discretion to disallow defence costs.

Labour’s problem was that having cut back legal aid, public money was going to pay for more Defence Costs Order for innocent defendants who had paid privately. So in the end the right of the innocent defendant to get their costs back was scrapped too.

That is how we have arrived at an Orwellian situation where Nigel Evans, and thousands of defendants every year, are caused huge financial harm even if they are not guilty. They should get their costs back. It is only fair.

But the rules that have been so unjust to Nigel Evans were voted for by Parliament: brought in by Labour and left in place by the Coalition. Some of Nigel Evans’s colleagues who decry their friend’s situation voted for the very provisions that penalise him.

Nigel Evans has friends who will make sure that he is not reduced to penury. He can also rely on one of the best pension schemes around when he leaves parliament. The ordinary man in the street who is mistakenly accused, or is slandered or otherwise suffers a civil wrong for which there is no longer legal aid, is not so lucky.