Tuesday, 30 June 2009
The BBC has a report here and Peter Black comments on the abandonment of the spending review.
Monday, 29 June 2009
I would be interested in receiving a copy of the document so that I can display the relevant parts here.
Saturday, 27 June 2009
Rather than sulking in his tent after defeat in the election for Speaker, Sir Alan has, as chairman of the Commons Justice Committee, immediately acted to improve the timetable for the Bill. He has persuaded the government to leave the clauses which have constitutional implications for the second day of debate, so that his Committee can examine them beforehand and hear evidence, in public, from the Clerk to the House, with all his accumulated wisdom.
Sir Alan summed up: "We can't afford to waste an opportunity, and we can't afford to ignore public anger which, although it started with the expenses issue, has much broader potential. If we go on passing Bills which are not properly debated and if we fail to address issues which the public wants addressed, then that, too, will provoke public anger. So let's seize the opportunity, and let's do it properly." (Taken from an interview for Radio 4's "Today in Parliament", which will be available on iPlayer for another five days.)
Friday, 26 June 2009
What, in particular, is going to happen to the Northern Songs (predominantly John & Paul's compositions) catalogue?
Thursday, 25 June 2009
However, the major motive is obviously the saving of money. "With predictions that a £50bn cut in public services spending is needed by 2020, senior Whitehall figures have indicated that they're open to an increased offshoring of government IT." says silicon.com.
It goes on: "Whitehall already offshores a limited amount of work, including some back office operations under the NHS Shared Business Services Centre run by Steria and the Department of Health. The joint venture provides back office services to more than 100 trusts and offshores about 60 per cent of its work to India.
"The centre's performance has been mixed: despite having signed up one quarter of all NHS trusts, it's also about three years behind its target of having 40 per cent of trusts on board and that is not expected to break even until this year."
On the subject of NHS IT, government recently released the "gateway" reviews of 31 projects in the National Programme for IT, originally carried out between 2002 & 2007. They are summarised here.
Monday, 22 June 2009
Since there is a disparity of views on the matter within our group, it is probable that we will officially maintain a neutral stance.
Personally, I remain persuaded that the authority will be in some financial difficulty if the stock transfer is not approved and am therefore hoping for a "Yes" vote. However, I am worried that the cabinet's heavy-handed approach - I heard again today of council staff being roped in as advocates of transfer, and that the road shows are not as even-handed as they should be - might have a counter-productive effect.
Sunday, 21 June 2009
The fact that local MP, Lembit Öpik, grandson of an astronomer, has been the most prominent advocate of detecting objects on a collision course with Earth and devising a plan for dealing with any which are found, is surely coincidental.
Thursday, 18 June 2009
There is a Wikipedia entry but this unofficial posting tickled me.
Wednesday, 17 June 2009
AFP (formerly Agence France-Presse) reports that a woman judge in Turkey has ordered a wife beater to personally distribute 1,000 leaflets apologising for the act, the Turkish media reported on Tuesday.
Judge Aslihan Limon, 28, in the northern town of Arac served the ruling on Mustafa Kadinci who was accused of hitting his wife and then locking her up after a row.
The leaflet, which Kadinci duly distributed, read: "I apologise to my wife and all the people of Arac for hitting my wife."
The verdict was given under a law on probation which came into force in 2005 as part of Turkey's efforts to join the EU.
There is more of the story here.
Tuesday, 16 June 2009
Bailey's response was that this was a matter of political debate and disputation. I'm sorry? Something which can be objectively measured, subject to the caveats of definition, is only a matter of debate?? BBC News is not shy of lending its authoritative voice to statements such as "Beleaguered Gordon Brown is trying to hold his government together" or "the legacy he will leave to the next Conservative government", statements which are either debatable or speculative. Other facts and figures which have political implications, like money market analyses, are relayed by the likes of Robert Peston. Yet it can't be bothered to do the same work on key indicators in the European debate.
One might draw the conclusion that the news and current affairs department has already been stuffed with Eurosceptic Conservatives in anticipation of a change of government, and a possible change of attitude toward the BBC, much as happened in the late 1990s in favour of Labour as docu-dramas covering the period would have us believe.
J Clive Matthews, on Liberal Conspiracy, did the arithmetic before polling day. He also quotes calculations done for a few other parliaments. Admittedly, he does not in the end plump for one single figure - that problem of definition again - but he is adamant that it is nothing like the 70%+ claimed by Eurosceptics. Or the BBC could use another outside expert, Alan Butt Philip, who also confirms that the figure is below 50%.
Update @20:45: Liberal Democrat Voice has comment on the rest of the Digital Britain statement.
CEEFAX reports that Gary Speed, Aidy Boothroyd and Paul Tisdale are on the list, but there is no confirmation from the club. I know who I would prefer, but will not name him for fear of putting the mockers on him. What I would say is that the new manager needs to be able to organise the defence. This is not a criticism of the quality of the players, but there have been times when the Swans have been undone in matches they should have won or at least held. Nor is it to say that the marvellous positive passing game should be abandoned.
Huw Jenkins should be praised for not being drawn into a public slanging-match over his clearly tough negotiations over compensation for all the managerial team which is moving to Wigan.
Friday, 12 June 2009
1. A small number of MPs seem to have done something that is a matter for the police and the courts.
2. A larger number of MPs, but still a minority, have done things that are surely not illegal but are to their shame. Their constituents will pass judgment if they dare stand again for election.
3. Some of the MPs named have clearly done nothing wrong or have made a small mistake that has been grossly exaggerated. They deserve an apology from the Telegraph.
4. The majority of MPs have not even been accused of anything, yet seven per cent of people in a recent poll thought all MPs were corrupt. Let us hope that none of those seven per cent ever stand for parliament – who would want them in charge of the justice system?
5. A significant minority of MPs has been campaigning for years to try to clean up MPs' expenses. They succeeded in stopping a backbencher's attempt to exempt MPs' expenses from Freedom of Information legislation. They deserve credit for their efforts.
There is a tendency for cynical people to think they are worldly wise, but they are not.
They are gullible, because they will believe anything bad. There are some in the media who seem determined to create cynicism about politicians. Ask yourself why.
Whatever the final outcome of this scandal, we cannot rebuild our parliament and government on cynicism and disrespect.
We need urgently to identify the honest MPs, regardless of party, and rebuild around them.
S Harvey, Hambrook, Bristol.
Thursday, 11 June 2009
I would add that Cameron's argument about getting rid of tired and discredited governments is flawed, too. In 1992, first-past-the-post actually voted in a tired government, that of John Major.
Wednesday, 10 June 2009
If there is to be a move to preferential voting, it is virtually certain that the Labour cabinet will propose Alternate Vote (a system used in Australia) or AV-plus-top-up, as proposed by the Jenkins Commission. (It should be noted that pure AV, although giving the appearance of choice, does not promise a proportional result; in fact, it can distort more than first-past-the-post in some circumstances.) Neither of these systems challenges members in safe seats, which is surely one of the outcomes the UK public is calling for.
Several bloggers have remarked on the coincidence of outrageous claims against MPs expenses and the safety of their seats. It is a point also made by Vernon Bogdanor in an interview by Lawrie Taylor last Wednesday discussing Bogdanor's new book, "The New British Consitution". In this, he throws out many ideas for democratising Britain, and shows that they work elsewhere.
One idea is "open primaries" on the American model, where registered voters at large can choose before an election which candidate should represent a party, not leave it to party committees behind closed doors. This would help to break the perception of a safe seat being a meal-ticket for life.
I believe that open primaries are not necessary if the country adopts the Liberal Democrat preferred system of election, Single Transferable Vote in Multi-Member Constituencies, but would be essential where the voter has a restricted choice on polling day.
Bogdanor proposes that the voting system should be chosen by a two-stage referendum. (He is favour of referendums where there is a major constitutional issue.) First, we should decide whether to stick with the existing system, or replace it with a proportional one. Then, if the decision were made to change, we should be allowed to choose between the systems on offer. Don't underestimate the public's understanding of these matters, he says; New Zealand changed their electoral system this way, and the change has proved successful.
Bogdanor should be a member of Brown's Commission.
Make Votes Count has joined together with a broad range of civil society organisations and individuals to call for a referendum before the next general election to change the way we elect our MPs. For more on the 'Vote for a Change' campaign, see http://www.makemyvotecount.org.uk and http://www.voteforachange.co.uk
Tuesday, 9 June 2009
The intervention of MPs did not help. Perhaps the London officials regard them as foreigners as well.
Monday, 8 June 2009
In England, one should not write off all Lancastrians as swivel-eyed racists. One of the Conservatives returned in the North-West was Sajjad Karim who, as his name suggests, does not - thankfully - look at all like Nick Griffin. He was a successful and popular (until he switched sides) Liberal Democrat MEP and one wonders how comfortable he will be with the racism and homophobia in some of the parties in the grouping in Brussels which his new colleagues have decided to align themselves with.
While BNP won a county seat in Burnley, in the Euro count Lib Dems topped the poll in Burnley. They had 5422 votes with Labour in second on 4246, Conservatives on 4058, UKIP on 3536, BNP on 3500 and Greens on 1021.
Kenneth Griffith made one of his remarkable one-man dramatisations for TV of the life of Paine. He probably saw in Paine a fellow-member of the awkward squad.
It offers, by all accounts, a disturbing vision. Anyone sailing through this liquid dump will encounter, from horizon to horizon, concentrations of bobbing rubbish, in every direction, for day after day. Most of what is floating is not even visible, because it is plastic which has broken down into microparticles.
This degenerating soup is [...] about the same size as Britain, Ireland, France, Spain and Portugal. It has been created by a giant spiral of clockwise ocean currents, known as the North Pacific Gyre, which carries human-created garbage that is slowly collected and consolidated by wind and currents.The phenomenon has a name: the Eastern Garbage Patch. It was first properly documented, quite recently, by a Californian sailor and ocean researcher, Charles Moore, after he took a shortcut by motoring his yacht through the doldrums on his way back from the 1997 Trans-Pacific Yacht Race. A second giant floating mass, created by the same gyre, has been discovered thousands of kilometres away between Hawaii and Japan. Together they are commonly referred to as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
The whole thing is to be investigated by a Californian research project, using a boat named "Plastiki", made appropriately from recycled PET plastic. The full article is here.
Saturday, 6 June 2009
We're now looking forward to a larger shock in tomorrow's Euro count.
Tuesday, 2 June 2009
He contrasts this with Westminster, of which he has first-hand experience : "virtually every word of our laws is drafted by the Government with the odd amendment passed in the House of Lords where there is no Government majority. The scrutiny process can throw up errors and occasionally creates such controversy that a proposal is delayed or abandoned. But it does not generally offer individual MPs the opportunity to make substantial changes to the law."
The European Parliament has power of co-decision with the Council of Ministers over proposals put forward by the Commission. Since a large part of our law (probably between 40 and 50% - the 85% figure quoted by Eurosceptics is extrapolated from a single year in Germany, it seems) is made in Brussels, an individual MEP potentially has more power than any MP outside the cabinet. All the more reason to choose a party on Thursday which will provide MEPs who know their way around Europe, have a positive approach and will join one of the three major groupings in the Parliament, rather than one on the nationalistic fringe.
Jonathan Fryer's blog points out the dangers of voting Conservative.
Thanks to Liberal Democrat Voice for pointing out the two blog references.
Monday, 1 June 2009
I was immediately struck by the first line of his latest entry: "Six days shalt thou labour and do all that thou art able/And on the seventh day holystone the decks and overhaul the cable", which is one of my favourite couplets by John Masefield. Mr Newton does not attribute it, and I remember the last phrase slightly differently, so perhaps Masefield was himself quoting from fellow-sailors. (Masefield had run away to sea at the age of thirteen before settling in London six years later and starting the career which was to lead to the laureateship.)
Can anyone help with the exact lines and the poem they appear in?
"The BBC report says:
The new code of conduct would be written into the Constitutional Renewal Bill, due to be brought before Parliament later this year."This stands things on their head. It is not the government's job to hold MPs to account. It is MPs' job to hold the government to account.
It is thought likely to include minimum service commitments to constituents, with those who break it facing possible fine or even ejection from their seats.
"Equally, if constituents believe their MP is not adequate level of service then they are at liberty to throw him out at the next election. Besides, what is an adequate "service commitment"? It is highly arguable that most modern MPs are too weighed down with casework to keep a close enough watch on the executive.
"The importation of codes of conduct and "standards" boards into local government has done nothing to increase respect for local councillors, who now seem to be treated - and behave - like schoolchildren. Reporting councillors from other parties for trivial offences now seems to be one of their chief occupations."
Councils, including community councils, in Neath Port Talbot are not immune from this sort of thing.