Friday, March 31, 2006

Tories expected to reveal lenders

It is hard to see how the Conservatives have so easily been put on the back foot by this issue. They never promised to be "whiter than white, purer than pure." Labour did. Labour made much of "sleaze" under John Major, none of which was remotely in the same league as Labour's behaviour in office. To mention them together is like comparing boys playing conkers with contractors swinging demolition balls from cranes.

The Conservatives are not - nor were they ever likely to be after the last election - in power. Many donors gave money in the simple and laudable belief that a functioning democracy needs an effective Opposition. Sadly, they could probably sue the Conservative Party for misrepresentation on that point.

So far from expecting any corrupt advantage from their loans or donations, Conservative supporters had every reason to fear corrupt disadvantage - i.e. Labour denying government contracts (no small matter in such a socialist economy) to those who support their opponents. That is a serious fear - and very telling about the nature of modern Britain.

I regret that the Tories have badgered their donors into publishing their names. They gave money confidentially and in good faith and there was no reason to ask them to change their agreement. At least the Conservatives asked, however. At the first sign of trouble, Labour threw their donors to the media wolves without hesitation - regardless of previous agreements. They have made the business men concerned, some quite innocent (and all saints by comparison with Labour politicians) look like crooks.

No-one will trust either major party again when it comes to political contributions, which is bad for democracy - and leads to the danger of impoverished parties with minimal memberships doing a deal on State Funding which will break their last tenuous connections with political reality.

BBC NEWS | Politics | Tories expected to reveal lenders

State Funding of Political Parties

If those jolly chaps John Prescott and Ken Clarke agree on something, it must not only be wrong but dangerous. Both have spoken recently for state funding of political parties. What rot.

A party is a conspiracy, a caucus, a means of rigging votes. Party whips routinely drive the weak and ambitious through the wrong voting lobbies. As Disraeli famously said, "Damn your principles! Stick to your Party!"

In an ideal world, parties would not exercise such power. Free born men and women would proudly represent the best interests of their constituents to the best of their ability. Every vote would be a free vote. Alliances would form and reform daily, according to the issues at hand.

Of course there is no hope of that. Like minded individuals would form groups and caucuses again if the present parties were banned. All kinds of "campaign committees" would form to fund national election campaigns. Parties are evil, but inevitable. There are no democratic systems without them.

However, there is no magic in the present set of British Political Parties. Once there were Whigs and Tories. Then "Every little girl and boy that's born into the world alive" was "Either a little Liberal or else a little Conservative". After that, came the Labour Party and the Liberals faded and dwindled. Labour's snake shed a skin, which became the SDP, which merged with the Liberal Party to become the LibDems, the more glossily to fade and dwindle. UKIP rose and fell. The Nationalists rose, and please God will one day fall, in Scotland and Wales.

State Funding would stop all that. We would lock in the present set of parties which would lose all interest in attracting members - other than professional politicos. If you think Labour is lost to its electorate now, imagine it with all the money it needed from the taxpayers, with no need for grass roots.

I would be all in favour of limiting political contributions to £100,000 per person per year, to ensure that no political party fell into the hands of big business or big Unions. Where would the parties then get the money? Well, they are essentially private clubs, so isn't that really their problem? Let them look for members, and charge them realistic subscriptions. Let them talk to their voters and adapt their ideas to their voters' desires. Let them use volunteers to man their election campaigns, rather than slick PR men and TV advertising. In short, let them reconnect with "the people" they claim to speak for.

New Labour could never have happened if it depended on grass roots support. Nor could Cameron's New New Labour. It seems reasonable that the political class in Britain should be in dialogue with its party members. If a party can't find enough members to fund its activities, perhaps that says it all about its relevance to modern society.

Lolly for Lordships and state funding of parties both have the same effect; they make party members irrelevant. If the parties had to build memberships to survive, they might find the political apathy of which they so hypocritically complain begin to wane. If the policies presented at a General Election had been forged in party meetings across the nation, not just made up because the focus groups liked them, maybe politics would be worthy of the nation's attention again. Maybe.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

House of Lords Reform

In the wake of the lolly for lordships scandal, all the talk is of reforming the upper house. Who could object? It is, to say the least, an anachronism that our upper house of parliament is partly hereditary, partly selected by the powers that be and partly sold by the seat to fund our political parties. Of course it should be reformed. But it won't, I guarantee, be improved.

Why? Because the House of Commons will never approve a democratic competitor. If the Upper House were elected on some rational basis, it would make no sense for its powers to review and amend legislation to be restricted any longer. Since the early twentieth century, the powers of the Lords have been steadily eroded in favour of the Lower House. If it had a democratic basis they should be restored. If they were restored then it would not be enough for the Executive to control the House of Commons through the party whips in order to function as an elected dictatorship.

I would like to see an English Parliament added to the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly. The members of those parliaments could sit separately as local parliaments and together as the Upper House or Senate. They would be entirely democratic, but on a different electoral cycle. This could be part of a new written constitution for the United Kingdom, which could be entrenched by requiring a two thirds majority of the Senate to approve any amendments.

Full review and supervision of legislation could be returned to such a Senate. No need to exclude money bills or have overriding powers for the House of Commons.

Sensible? Yes. Rational? Yes. Respectful of the national aspirations of the home nations? Yes. Will it happen? Never in a million years! Why? Because the present parties like things the way they are. They like to be able to sell membership in the House of Lords for money or political favours. They like to sweep away ancient liberties without any checks or balances; without even pause for reflection. They may be betraying the nations of Britain on a daily basis, but they like it that way.

Police in cross-party honours probe | the Daily Mail

As I have already blogged, the police in Britain take political direction these days. The present government is in its third term. Only Labour is - or has been for almost in a decade - in a position to confer corrupt favours in return for political donations. That the investigation has been widened can only be a political decision.

Police in cross-party honours probe | the Daily Mail

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Stakes raised in battle of the Blue Peter badges

Finally, a legitimate use for ID cards. In future, Blue Peter badges can be engraved with the recipient's unique ID number. Any funfair about to give a badge wearer a free ride can then check the ID number against the compulsory future ID card.

ID cards won't stop terrorism. They won't fix identity theft, but they will stop the shameful eBay trade in Blue Peter badges.

MediaGuardian.co.uk | Media | Stakes raised in battle of the Blue Peter badges

Loans for peerages: threat of criminal charges

From T Dan Smith to Stalin, Socialism has always - by perverting market processes - led to corrupt abuse of power. PJ O'Rourke shrewdly observed that where buying and selling are regulated by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators.

If I had any remaining faith in the institutions of the British State, I would be pleased that the police had asked MP's to suspend enquiries into the alleged sale of honours by the Labour Party, pending a criminal investigation into corruption. I have already blogged that I suspect several Party officials are due for a "grace and favour" cell in the Scrubs, and would be delighted to cast the police as Hercules diverting a river through the stables of British politics.

However, the higher ranks of the British police have shown themselves under New Labour, to be open to corruption themselves. Senior officers have adapted their policing to the political dictates of their masters. They have even gone so far as to accept illegal orders to operate the murderous "shoot to kill" policy that led to the death of Jean Charles de Menezes. I don't trust the British police to do their job in this respect. I predict that the investigation will terminate without charges. I predict MP's will then decline to reopen their own enquiry as the matter has been dealt with.

The only way justice could be done here would be if we had an effective, aggressive Opposition with clean hands - and a press which would treat this with the seriousness the American press brought to Watergate. Instead, we have an Opposition which has been deftly backed into a corner over the corrupt sale of honours, and a Press which - for whatever reason - is prepared to cover up the Government's rank behaviour.

I am not holding my breath.

Telegraph | News | Loans for peerages: threat of criminal charges

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Big Auntie

I have a business meeting in London tomorrow so have arrived in the UK in time to watch "Sunday AM" with Andrew Marr. As an avid politico, this ought to be a treat - if only to see it on a proper TV and not via a Russian broadband connection. In fact, I am apoplectic.

All pretence of balance in BBC political coverage has been abandoned, it seems. Patricia Hewitt and the Scots "First Minister" spoke officially for Big Brother and reported in glowing terms on increased tractor production in Britistan. Those of us with family and friends who live there may never have seen the tractors, but statistically - comrades - they are there.

In their support, we had luvvies Esther Rantzen (she whose mass perversion of adult/child relationships has destroyed childhood in our country and arguably cost the life of at least one child), and Timothy West. West, a classic luvvy who has never encountered the real world is of course a member of the ruling party.

Marr was pathetic. He allowed Hewitt to dodge every question about the NHS, simply replying with the official lies about increased tractor production.

The one dissenting voice was artist David Hockney. Never was a straw man so unconvincingly set up to be beaten. Dishevelled and eccentric, he tried in vain to make the case against New Labour's health fascism over smoking. Millions are having their personal choices removed "for the sake of their health" and this scarecrow was the best dissenting voice to be found? The BBC was apparently scared even of this minor lese majeste in broadcasting dissent to the Party Line. It engineered matters so that Hockney could not hear the arguments he was supposedly there to refute. In the only telling moment of the whole show, Marr let the cat out of the bag when he apologised - with supposed irony - on behalf of "The State Broadcasting Corporation."

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Freed Kember thanks rescue troops

I am sickened by the sight of pacifist Norman Kember being given a VIP reception on his return to Britain. God alone knows what the old fool's idiocy has cost the British taxpayer, or what dangers it has brought to our men at arms.

His grudging acknowledgement of the role of armed force in rescuing him is typical. I am shocked however that our Army appears to have given his organisation an undertaking not to rescue the old fool unless it could be reasonably sure that none of the murderous jihadists holding him would be killed. Hence, presumably, the bizarre arrangement under which the captured member of the group who gave the information necessary to make the rescue was allowed to telephone his comrades to warn them to leave.

This is at one with Kember's failure to cooperate with British intelligence after his rescue - denying them information that might have been used to protect future targets.

Pacifists like Kember can deny the need for armed force in the world as much as they like. The particular use of armed force he was protesting in Iraq is admittedly not the best example, having begun in political deceit and continued in political incompetence. Kember is not quite as wrong on this point as he was when he and his CND friends wanted us to surrender our weapons unilaterally at the height of the Cold War. They were the useful fools of the Soviet Union and, had their disgraceful campaign succeeded, that notably Christian and peaceful regime might still exist.

When he refuses to cooperate with the armed forces of his nation in protecting others; when he insists on members of hostile forces being protected, then he oversteps the bounds of principled pacifism and reveals himself for the traitor he is. There is no force on Earth so evil, it seems to me, that Norman Kember will not favour it over his own nation.

BBC NEWS | UK | Freed Kember thanks rescue troops

The Budget, unspun

This clever piece on the Adam Smith Institute blog is an "unspun" version of the Budget speech. Brilliant.

Adam Smith Institute Blog

Thursday, March 23, 2006

The Shabina Begum case never had anything to do with modesty

I rarely disagree with Boris Johnson. That his personal presentation rules him out as a Tory leader is a matter of much regret. He's utterly sound, politically. I think he's wrong about this though. I think the school has made an issue out of nothing.

If someone, as a matter of religious observance of a recognised faith, wants to wear particular clothing - be it a Jewish yarmulke, Sikh turban or one of the many variations of Islam's ludicrous and misogynist hijab, then good luck to them. Our civil society should respect that choice. Of course no-one should be compelled to wear religious garb. Nor should those who choose to wear it object to the choices of others or complain about any ridicule their choice may attract in a free, modern, secular society.

Many, perhaps even Boris, are becoming irritated with the Muslims' constant demands that we change our way of life to accommodate them. This story is not an example of that, however. I have no doubt that we will have to draw a line in the sand with Britain's Muslims soon. This is just not the place to do it.

Telegraph | Opinion | The Shabina Begum case never had anything to do with modesty

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

'I saw it was Abby. The rest is a blur'

Such sad stories happen. But the modern twist here is the account of the passing motorist who saw the unaccompanied little girl on her way to her sad end. He thought he should turn back, but drove on because he was afraid of being accused of abducting her if he stopped. He suppressed a kind impulse for fear of being suspected as a sex offender.

I don't blame the man who drove on. I feel sorry for him. He must feel awful about what happened. He missed his chance to do good by saving an innocent life. His fears were reasonable, however. There is a case to be made that the tabloid press has contributed at least as much to the death of Abigail Rae as "Wearside Jack" contributed to the deaths of the Yorkshire Ripper's last three victims.

The law of unintended consequences is little understood in a country where civil society and individual responsibility have all but been destroyed.

Telegraph | News | 'I saw it was Abby. The rest is a blur'

We want our money back

Having lived in post-communist countries, I have some experience of corruption. I have been asked for bribes. I know people who have paid them. Some regard them as a tax. Some regard them as a useful degree of "flexibility" in an impossibly bureaucratic system. Friends who grew up under Communism, where the State's involvement in every aspect of the people's lives made corruption inevitable have listened politely but have - I suspect - never believed me when I have told them that generations of my family have been in business in Britain without paying bribes.

I have been running an experiment in this matter for 15 years. I have deliberately set out never to pay even the smallest bribe in my personal or business life. I have encountered much incredulity from policemen to whom I have paid the full fine for minor traffic offences (always imaginary) in order to get an official receipt, as opposed to accepting the usual "discount for cash". Accepting the impossibility of obtaining a driving licence properly in Russia as a foreigner, I have elected to be driven. Life is less convenient. Others who enter into the spirit of the corrupt life enjoy friendly relations with policemen; one friend even has a "season ticket" which allows him to break any traffic laws he likes on a particular stretch of road he uses regularly. Others boast about poking banknotes through car windows to be snatched deftly at speed as they make time-saving illegal turns.

Corruption is not a joke. As a lawyer, I don't believe that laws are good per se. Rather, I agree with Montesquieu who said that "If it is not necessary to make a law, it is necessary NOT to make a law". Laws are, at best, a necessary evil. They always cost something; at best they transparently cost money to enforce and to comply with. At worst they inhibit personal freedoms, waste precious time in our finite lives, or encourage corruption. Since all these costs are compulsory, they are tantamount to money extorted under threat of personal violence. Try not paying your taxes or fines and you will ultimately face physical assault by agents of the State and compulsory detention.

Taxes are legalised extortion. Laws are legalised assault. They should only be deployed when, as Montesquieu said, they are truly necessary. Our interfering State has lost all sight of that test. It is willing to legislate the minutiae of our private and business lives. It is seriously suggested, for example, that Tessa Jowell recently committed an offence subject to a £20,000 fine when she and some colleagues burst into public song at a demonstration, as this was an unlicensed musical performance. I heard a recording, and am prepared to defend her on grounds it wasn't music at all, but you get my drift.

Taxes in Britain are effectively much higher than they seem because of the number of people businesses have to employ to ensure compliance with tax and employment laws. Many of our private sector employees don't serve their employer's customers; they serve the State. Compliance costs lead - when they become a threat to the existence of a business - to corruption.

For the first time in my middle-aged life, I am sensing the existence of widespread corruption in my home country. I know of people in Britain going out of business because of corrupt demands from low level employees of the Health & Safety Executive, for example. These demands come on top of compliance costs, direct and indirect, which are making the business uneconomic.

I don't believe these are isolated incidents. They go to the top. As a lawyer, I know a little about reorganising business affairs so as lawfully to avoid legal or tax obligations. After a couple of decades, while you still need to check carefully what you are doing, you develop a sixth sense about the borderline between lawful "structuring" and crude evasion or fraud.

When Tony Blair's fund-raiser asked businessmen for loans rather than political donations, he and they will have known exactly what it was about. A donation would be public and any benefits the donor received in return would have been a matter of public discussion. A loan would be private, allowing any benefits to the lender to pass without comment. Someone who would might perhaps be embarrassed to be seen to "purchase" an honour or some other benefit with a donation, could bask in the glory of that honour without his family, friends and shareholders realising that it was bought and paid for.

Since the Labour Party has no income but membership dues (precious few) and donations, one wonders how the loans were ever to be repaid. That the Party should be in danger of bankruptcy now that embarrassed "lenders" are calling in their "loans" suggests that repayment was not seriously expected. That loans were solcited with words to the effect that "You would be doing the Prime Minister a favour" strikes a chord with a long-time resident of the post-Communist world. Believe me, if a Minister in the old Soviet Bloc asked for something - anything - with those words, every businessman would get the message immediately. He would understand he was being offered something in return. One has to ask what was going through the mind of the bank or building society manager who awarded the Blairs a mortgage well beyond their ability to repay. Was s/he "doing the Prime Minister a favour" too?

These direct - and crude - examples of sleaze are only the tip of the iceberg. When a Party so organises the constitution that 84% of the nation is governed by legislation passed on the votes of legislators whose own electors are not subject to those laws, is that democracy? Either we are one nation, or we are not. If we are, then we must accept that laws in Scotland and England depend of the votes of all MP's. If Scotland's laws depend only on Scottish legislators, but England's depend on those from Scotland (because the Labour Party cannot otherwise govern in England) that is a corrupt arrangement. It was designed by Labour to favour its electoral heartlands and punish the voters of other parties.

When the Prime Minister, without the prior knowledge or approval of Parliament or even of his Chancellor (Finance Minister), gives away two billion pounds of taxpayers' money per year to other European nations, with no advantage for his nation in return, we are entitled to ask the question "cui bono?" and to be alert to future benefits to the man who made the otherwise inexplicable decision.

When local taxes are raised 40% during a Party's reign in its electoral heartlands, and 87% in those parts of the country where it is not favoured, then one is entitled to suspect that the nation's finances are being corruptly rigged to purchase votes.

Britain today is a profoundly corrupt nation. I suspect there is much more corruption than we presently know about. I cannot explain the craven attitude of most journalists to the present Government, for example. I cannot understand why every reference to Labour corruption is set in historical context by reference to stories of similar misbehaviour by other parties - even if the journos have to make unaccustomed visits to libraries to find examples from previous eras. I cannot understand why, during Labour governments, satire in Britain closes down. Why "The Goodies" and "Little Britain" are typical lowbrow comedy during Socialist admnistrations, while "Not the Nine O'Clock News" and "Yes, Minister" are more typical of the BBC's efforts when the Tories are in power. One can smell rottenness, even when one cannot pinpoint the source.

I am depressed that, just when the public may finally sense the costs of Labour's misrule, the Tories have chosen to fight on their enemies' home ground. Dave Cameron may have eschewed "Punch and Judy" politics just when Mr Punch was finally in position to get in a damn good whack with his stick on the crocodile of Labour corruption. Opinion polls suggest (who gets paid to phrase these questions, one wonders?) that the public think Labour is "as sleazy" as John Major's Tories. By breaking with the past, Dapper Dave has lost the chance to make the obvious point that the alleged Tory sleaze related to hundreds of pounds in "cash for questions" and hotel bills, not millions or even billions in extortion and misdirected State funds!

I remain of the opinion that many members of our current Cabinet belong not merely out of office, but out of polite society. Some may even have earned a right to a rather different kind of rent-free accomodation at Her Majesty's expense than the "grace and favour" residences they so enjoy in office.

Telegraph | News | We want our money back

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Special reports | Kick out the slippers and choc biscuits. iPods and surfboards catch the spirit of today's Brits

Call me suspicious, maybe even paranoid, but does it make sense for the Government to include high-tech goods into its "basket" of items for tracking consumer inflation? iPods cost hundreds now, but so did calculators when they were first sold. Now they are low value "give-away" items. Aren't MP3 players likely to go the same way in time? The last DVD player to be made in the US cost something close to $1,000. Now China supplies them to retailers at more like $20.

I can't help but fear that the Government, no stranger to twisting the truth, is manipulating the inflation index. Including goods virtually guaranteed to decline in price serves to offset the costs - such as local taxes - that are rising well in excess of inflation.

Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | Kick out the slippers and choc biscuits. iPods and surfboards catch the spirit of today's Brits

Sunday, March 19, 2006

French labor law protests turn violent

One consequence of the labour code that French students are protesting is the highest youth unemployment in Western Europe. Were it not for Britain providing jobs - many in catering - to hundreds of thousands of young French people, the situation would be even worse.

The "job security" these young protestors yearn for is illusory. There is no security unless you can first get a job. With millions of French employees "placardis├ęs" (given non-jobs with no prospects because it's too expensive to fire them) no employer will hire young people too inexperienced to be useful on terms that they can't be fired if they don't progress.

Opportunity is better than security. Sure it varies through economic cycles, but "job security" tends to intensify those cycles. It is noticeable when I visit Britain these days that a sense of job security has destroyed what was always a very weak service culture. Why worry about customers, when your boss can't find anyone to replace you whatever you do?

We would all have a healthier attitude to our employment; be more motivated and - ironically - enjoy our work more, if our job were a valuable commodity to be looked after, rather than a civil right.

CNN.com - French labor law protests turn violent - Mar 18, 2006

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Cameron's gambit pays off as Blair is isolated

It is remarkable that the leading Conservative newspaper should think that the Prime Minister is only now losing his moral authority. This is the man who has presided over the construction of a police state in Britain; who misled Parliament and people into supporting the war in Iraq; who has raised public expenditure to record levels to no visible effect (other than the purchase of votes from new public sector workers); who gave away two billion to the EU for no good reason (unless to buy goodwill for himself which may prove useful in a future career); who has lied spun his way into the nation's contempt; whose ministers have signally failed to prove - as he promised - "whiter than white".

And NOW he has lost his moral authority?

Apologies for the lack of activity this week. I am in an internet free zone in France. I was especially sad not to post yesterday - my first "blogiversary". I just wish I could say that freedom in Britain was more secure than a year ago.

Telegraph | Opinion | Cameron's gambit pays off as Blair is isolated

Monday, March 13, 2006

Telegraph | Opinion | New suburbia is an environmental cul-de-sac

I can agree with this gentleman about solar panels (although if they were so wonderful, I suspect homeowners would install them themselves) but I cannot agree about "planning gain." Planning gain is a British euphemism for corruption. It is a mechanism by which a local authority can extract a bribe - albeit for the local community, not a councillor personally - in return for giving a landowner permission to use his own land as he wishes. It IS crazy to build thousands of new houses without adding to local facilities, but one can count on private businesses to provide their services without a bribe. Why can't a local authority, which will receive thousands of homes' worth of council tax, be relied on - unbribed - to provide its services?

That the "right wing" Telegraph should publish such garbage is an index of how far Left the "centre ground" in British politics has now moved.

Telegraph | Opinion | New suburbia is an environmental cul-de-sac

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Liberty and Trust

I have suffered a personal setback. Someone I considered a friend has proved false. The details don't matter. They are the usual sad melange of self-interest and broken promises. For me, the real issue is trust. I am angry with myself for trusting someone who, with hindsight, was obviously a wrong 'un. I will find it hard to trust again. However, I know that if I allow my misjudgment to inhibit me from trusting, that will damage my life. No trust, no friendship. No trust, no cooperation. No trust, no business.

Attitudes to trust underly politics too. For example, it's not that Socialists trust the collective because they are more trusting. Quite the contrary, in fact. They can see clearly that, left to their own devices, many - if not most - individuals will fail to follow socialist principles. If the massive twentieth century experiment in Socialism proved anything, it proved that. They therefore consciously use State power to enforce their principles "for the greater good". Christians may mutter sadly that "if only" everyone would live a Christian life, the world would be a better place. Socialists are more proactive.

Some Conservatives trust State power too. They want the same big gun as the Socialists, but they want to point it in a different direction. They can be identified by their Daily Mail warcry of "It's a disgrace!" when some wrongdoer escapes the righteous vengeance of the collective. Such people are no more attractive to me than the statists of the left.

Libertarians - or "classical liberals" - trust individuals, but not because we are naive. We don't trust them, for example, to act in a distinterested way. We predict that, more often than not, they will act in accordance with their own perceived self interest. Sometimes we can seem rather cynical because of this. Sometimes Left and Right will attack us for approving of - or even encouraging - the negative aspects of human nature. I don't think that's so. We approve of benevolence. We approve of philanthropy. We are just realistic. We believe that if the State's interference is minimal; mainly focussed on arbitration between conflicting self interests, it can achieve maximum benefit for minimum involvement.

In a sense, therefore, I could trust my ex-friend. He perceived his self-interest to require that I be betrayed. So he betrayed me. Were I a better libertarian, and a worse friend, I might have predicted that.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Man jailed for £1m Prescott theft | the Daily Mail

Clearly this gentleman belongs in jail. Any chance, one wonders, of anyone asking awkward questions of the idiot presiding over a system with such lax financial controls?

Man jailed for £1m Prescott theft | the Daily Mail

Blair stands firm over sleaze inquiries

Of course Mr Blair wants ministers accountable to him, not to an independent commissioner for ethics, or to Parliament. A minister who has erred depends even more on the Prime Minister's favour and is likely to respond with more alacrity to his orders.

The minor corruption of ministers is the echo of the greater corruption in our body politic. The Government is systematically creating armies of dependant voters. Those in the burgeoning public sector hold their sinecures at the Prime Minister's whim, just as much as his craven elite of coddled ministers in their grace and favour homes.

We may already have passed the point at which Labour can be unelected. We may have to wait for the bailiffs from the International Monetary Fund and for the extremists of the Trade Union movement to perform once more the unholy pincer movement that began the Thatcher era.

Telegraph | News | Blair stands firm over sleaze inquiries

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Panorama | Double tragedy of Stockwell shooting

There is no sign yet of justice in the case of Jean Charles de Menezes. There was a time when a "Panorama" programme about an injustice could have been expected to lead to some result. I hope it may still be true. The comment in this BBC article about the programme does not give much hope; "However terrible those events of that day, they have to be seen in their context."

In a sense that's true. They should be seen in the context of attempts by the government to whip up hysteria about terrorism. Yes, London had been attacked. How many times has she been attacked in the past? The fact that Israel's policy on "shoot to kill" for suicide bombers requires a positive identification or at least the sighting of a bomb belt speaks volumes.

I wait in hope of this incident being named as what it was; a summary execution by a police death squad on the orders of an out-of-control elite engaged in whipping up public fear so as to justify ever-increasing political power. Somehow I doubt the New Labour poodles at the BBC will do that.

BBC NEWS | Programmes | Panorama | Double tragedy of Stockwell shooting:

Sunday, March 05, 2006

A Plot for a Political Novel

If you were seeking corruptly to influence a government, would you bribe a junior minister? Of course not. What could you expect? Would you bribe a Prime Minister? Of course not, it would be too obvious - and dangerous.

Suppose, however, that you spent a Summer holiday with a PM at your villa. Suppose a junior minister and her lawyer husband joined you for a weekend. The PM complained that he was in dire financial straits. Britain is ridiculously puritanical with its leaders. So unlike, say, Italy. "Can you believe, mio amico, that the PM has to pay rent on his Downing Street apartment?". Few people outside Britain can believe that. To be honest, it is crazy. Surely a politician should be able to keep his house, pay his mortgage, and live free in his official residence?

Suppose the PM goes on to say that his position has interfered with his wife's successful business. They have lost money in Britain's booming property market because - to pay the rent on Number 10 - they had had to sell their London house. They could never now afford to buy something like that. It's so unfair. Suppose the PM told his host that he and and his wife were therefore facing retirement without a decent home or the wherewithal to buy one. The obvious way to make money was to write and sell political memoirs, but that had to wait until he left office - and even then his successor would not be happy. How to make money in the meantime? His wife had tried books and speeches, but she couldn't write for toffee and the press had savaged her for her "greed" in charging for the speeches.

Suppose you were that host and made the following suggestion to your guest. "Primo Ministro, let me help you. I will deposit £2.5 million in an offshore account for you with a new company. You can't have such a company or such an account, but I can. Your colleague's husband here is a lawyer, he will organise it. This company will deposit the money with an offshore bank. The bank will receive a fee, and will pay interest on the money at the same rate it charges on mortgage loans in Britain. Then you can take a mortgage loan to buy your house. That loan is "back to back" with the offshore deposit. You will be borrowing my money. The bank will earn a fee. Your colleague and her husband will get a little something for their trouble. They can pay off their own mortgage with that. Everyone wins. It's all completely fair, because your system is so ridiculous and has caused you to lose money by serving your country. And no-one can ever know. What do I want for it? Nothing. Maybe one day, and this day may never come, I will ask you for some favour. Until then accept this justice interest-free loan as my gift."

Suppose then that the go-between political husband - the rank amateur in this high-level group - made some errors of judgement and his little part in the story came out. How desperate would the PM and his advisers be to "kill" that story before further details emerged? Desperate enough to fire her; throw her to the wolves? Of course. But what kind of a reward would that be for her help? Suppose she offered instead to throw her husband to the wolves. He, after all, is a lawyer - unloved by media and people alike. Surely it can be spun that his shady dealings were nothing to do with his politically-savvy, but economically naieve, wife? What journalist will come to his defence? The story will die in seven days. Alistair Campbell always said that no story is a problem unless it lasts more than seven days, right?

Suppose the junior minister loves her husband. She doesn't want him disgraced. Still less does she want to separate. But once the story has died down, she can forgive him and take him back. That will even make some nice headlines - a feelgood story for the rabble.

What do you think? Is this a book you would like to read?

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | Lords defeat Blair over terror bill

Is it not ironic that the unelected component of our legislature is the part that best defends - at present - our democratic freedoms?

Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | Lords defeat Blair over terror bill