The Professors passion for "The Science of Deceit" started here...

Employed by the Ministry (in a covert capacity) to help introduce the law ending dishonest politics, you can see his hand all over the posts of past.

Current political circumstances have forced him to reveal himself and as we speak, MPs are signing up to re-introduce The Elected Representatives (Prohibition of Deception) Bill for debate with over 80,000 voters supporting them.

Posts before Jan '08 are purely for the record (with hindsight they make fascinating reading). Posts after May 13th mark the Professor's return.

Meet the Professor

Tuesday, February 09, 2010


Feebly, we're reminded of Hunter S. Thompson. Sent to Zaire to cover the Ali/Foreman fight for Rolling Stone, he had no copy to file, primarily because he spent the night of the fight floating in the hotel pool with a pound and a half of marijuana and sundry chemicals.

Westminster's last 10 days should have been a feast for the Ministry. Grayling caught red-handed misleading on crime stats, MPs facing criminal charges, then attempting to hide under "parliamentary privilege", Cameron denouncing them...  all extremely good grist for the mill, and all pointing towards the need for legal accountability.

Regrettably we've failed dismally in our coverage and can offer no reasonable excuse. Call it Westminster fatigue if you like.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Blair not on trial

Today, and no doubt for the weekend, the front pages will be plastered with "Blair on trial etc. Make no mistake, he isn't. The mother of all democracies is on trial, it's systems, methods and governance.

Blair will say ;
I thought it was the right thing to do.
You elected me to make this kind of decision.
I made that decision.
You elected me again.

If we learn anything from the Chilcot enquiry (and it's remit is to find out exactly what went down with the sole purpose of learning from any mistakes made - nothing more) it's that our system facilitated all that has passed. In the unlikely event that Blair breaks down, cries like a baby and asks for forgiveness it wouldn't change any of the statements above.

Notice an almost total lack of noise from the opposition benches on Chilcot in the last weeks. There's a reason for this, they're elected representatives, they sit in Parliament, they do that to balance, moderate and challenge the government. If they find the Labour party in government wanting it is because they're spectacularly wanting themselves as opposition. The force of their (counter) arguments, their direction, their purpose - all spectacularly wanting. By definition, they are complicit. Lest we forget the expenses debacle. What responsibility do they accept for the emasculation of the Commons, Parliament and Parliamentary process ? What reforms have they proposed ? Have we heard a pipsqueak of lateral thought, the likes of, "the opposition should have the same access to the intelligence documents that built your dodgy dossier before we're asked to vote on it". The status quo will suit them just fine when they're in the driving seat.

As the Ministry discovered, Parliament's lack of legal accountability is at the heart of the matter, if anything should be on trial it is this. Instead, the press shouts "Judgement Day for Blair/Goldsmith/Straw" expecting some weird freaked out confession from a procession of civil servants, ministers etc. As we've seen, the truth is far more banal.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Goldsmith conclusion

Mixed feelings at the Ministry on Goldsmith's Chilcot performance.

He was swayed to believe use of force was lawful by any one member state after being given the run through on how the crucial two or three words of how the UN resolution were negotiated and finalised, taking into account specifically the intentions of the US, France and Russia.

This writer has had some experience of the UN council's chamber (mainly being summarily ejected for impersonating the representative from Fiji) and it's machinations for arriving at resolutions. Inevitably these are drawn up with enough flexibility to make everybody happy. Under those circumstances, it is entirely conceivable that the Bush/Blair interpretation is legit.

That said, both the enquiry and Goldsmith explicitly expressed their frustration at the government for refusing to de-classify the documentation that backs this up. Again, a case of "trust us, it's all in the public interest". You've got to wonder what else those documents contain...  a copy of the Ministry of Truth on DVD for the wittiest answer.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Chilcot. See you in court ?

Blair at the Chilcot thing may make good viewing, but as always, it'll come down to the lawyers.

Straw, Goldsmith, Sir Michael Wood and Elizabeth Wilmshurst.

Goldsmith's timely pre-war change of heart gets the armed forces off the hook - without his confirmation that the invasion was legal, our armed forces would be liable for prosecution (on an individual basis) and no-one would have asked the armed forces to invade - the likes of Colonel Tim Collins would simply tell you to fuck off. No legal basis for war = no war.

All well and good for the services, but what of

Yesterday, Sir Michael Wood (Goldsmith's deputy) told the enquiry he felt there was no legal basis for the war. Sir Michael's former deputy, Elizabeth Wilmshurst was crystal clear on the lack of legality. She's the only civil servant to have resigned over the issue.

Sir Michael's opinion was rejected by Straw on these grounds, documented in his written response ;

1) There's room in the issue for genuine disagreement
2) International law is "uncertain".
3) With legal uncertainties in the past, Straw had proceeded and gone on to win in court.
4) On the Iraq invasion issue, there is no international court of law.

Sir Michael reasoned that because there was no court, it's incumbent on members of the international community to act scrupulously. It would appear Straw's inclination was that in the absence of a court to answer to, the decision was for Blair/Parliament and history will be the judge.

Either way, the enquiry is specifically there to find out "what lessons can be learned", its legal powers to hold participants to account are essentially non-existent - we should be used to that by now. For those of you who aren't, Monbiot is campaigning for a citizens arrest of Blair (as per Tatchell/Mugabe). It's legal standing has yet to be tested and there's only one way to do that....   you'll find the man you're after at The Queen Elizabeth Centre, Broad Sanctuary, Westminster, London, SW1P 3EE this coming Friday. Probably best not to catch up with him on his way in.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Thank the BNP

Apparently we owe the BNP a very big thank you for breaking the expenses scandal.

In the wake of Harry Cohen MPs £65,000 forfeit being announced last week, the Ministry had a quick look at the complaint and paperwork lodged with our Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.

The complaint was made by a Mr Michael Barnbrook in response to an article he'd read in the Daily Mail on Cohen.

His trail leads to the BNP website ...

"The controlled press continue to ignore the fact that it is the BNP’s Mr Barnbrook who has been the main driver behind the exposure of the entire Westminster expenses swindle"

Friday, January 22, 2010

Straw... don't forget...

The Ministry has had it's run-ins with Straw before...

....and he seemed to be fairly frank in front of the enquiry. Unkind souls have been quick to remind us that on leaving our interview with him we were initially bedazzled, only to find the rhetoric unwound under close scrutiny. These same critics were also quick to remind us of this...

Banning an FOI request for the release of cabinet discussions on the legality of war on the grounds of "serious damage to the work of government... and that outweighs the public interest". Really ? We're taking bets as to whether this makes it onto this years manifesto ?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Catch up

The protracted absence has left us red-eyed and catching up on the last few weeks in Westminster...

Distinct signs of warming to the notion of criminalising political deception from the Lib Dems - it'll be interesting to see if it makes it onto the manifesto - that'd put the cat amongst the election pigeons. Talking of which, pre-election hot air seems to be decidedly underwhelming. Numerous feints at drawing dividing lines have been half-hearted at best - Cameron's "we believe in marriage and will back it up with tax breaks" quickly drew, "you can't afford to" followed by stymied mutterings from camp Cameron of "I suppose not".

The Iraq enquiry trundles on, Blair's turn promises a decent gate but not much more - what can he add to Jonathan Powell's, "we got it wrong". If Blair says the same, what next ? Despite all the post-invasion doubts he still got a mandate in 2005. Maybe we don't really want our leaders to be legally accountable - it'd be too embarrassing to think they were elected into office... repeatedly.

The number £26bn surfaced as the amount government has wasted on IT projects. Ripped off by private contractors ? Actually, by all accounts from friends in the world of IT, a government contract is all well and good but ministers and departments are a nightmare to deal with - last-minute spec-changing etc. leaving you lucky to walk away with your reputation intact. Which reminds me... all quiet on the expenses front - maybe they've forgotten that before we get to a polling booth, before we even begin to try evaluating the intention/logic of election pledges we have to trust the people making the pledge itself...

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Apologies due

Sincerest apologies - it's been way too long. An unavoidable trip to the US / extended investigation into the criminal justice system (more of which later) has kept us ridiculously busy and seeing as Parliament were on holiday....   well. Apologies anyway.

Much news to come. Please bear with us.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

84% crap - Iraq Enquiry, Day 16

Putting figures on "Crapness" is notoriously difficult and incredibly embarrassing - that's why we hate exams. Putting a stat on the difference between "amateurs" and "professionals" harder still.

Sir Frederick Viggers isn't the first person to call the government "amateurs", but he's the first to have done so in such stark terms, and there's a decent stat in his statements to the Iraq inquiry to measure the professional/amateur differential.

100 days was the estimate given to complete an invasion.

It took just 16.

Aside from our military competence was the fact that the very basis for war - the threat posed by Iraq's military machine under the guidance of Mssrs Hussein & Co turns out to have been a sham. The only people they "conned" were HM Gov PLC.

That's an 84% difference, with the supposed "con" perpetrated by the likes of Comical Ali.

When Gordon Brown promises the end of "boom and bust", no cuts in the frontline of public spending, reduction of the gap between rich and poor etc. we'd do well to remember there's an 84% chance that either he's being conned... or we are.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Troops didn't need NBC protection

There's been a lot of  "we weren't allowed to buy equipment until very late in the game" spiel over at the Chilcott enquiry. Sir Kevin Tebbit, permanent secretary at the Ministry of Defence told us yesterday that during the run-up to the invasion, problems arose delivering body armour and protection against chemical and biological weapon attacks.

Well... his paymaster probably wouldn't be very worried about troops not having protection against biological and chemical weapons - if he knew the enemy didn't have them.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Who Cares

Dan Hannan said it all in this piece - as midnight quietly ticked by, so did the UKs sovereignty...

Meantime the Swiss were holding a referendum on minarets we were...  . ? ?


Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Belly Dancing Bercow

Recently appointed speaker John Bercow is perhaps more radical a reformer than any of us suspected. The transcript of last nights Hansard Society lecture, calling for a reconnection between Parliament and the Public, heaps praise on the Parliamentary website, "there is no constraint as to how inventive we can be" etc. The transcribers may have got their links in a twist...

"Finally, in this section, I come to the website. It is simply fantastic and could equally be known as It is a resource which should be the envy of legislatures around the world and a tribute to those involved with it. There is no constraint as to how inventive we can be and every incentive to remain in the fastest of fast lanes of this technology. We must ensure that procedural content can even more easily be found, used and reused. There must be no limit to our vision."

Monday, November 30, 2009

SAY YES academy splits Cabinet

The government have set up a "SAY YES" foundation/academy/joint private partnership trust thing in a last ditch attempt to leave something tangible behind as far as ideology goes.

The academy's has been a long time coming but that's no surprise - the long-established school of thought behind the academy runs along the lines of, "Say Yes, do nothing." has been central to it's implementation. As Peter Mandelson pointed out at the opening ceremony, "promises for the academy have been manifest since "Yes Minister" was first aired. That delay is itself a testament to the enduring strength of virtual positivity. In many ways, we've been waiting for technology to catch up with us. Now that we have virtual worlds, it finally feels like the public are ready to understand the benefits of the virtual positive".

Despite general approval from Whitehall, rumours persist of a cabinet split over particular strands of the philosophy to be taught. Much dissent is said to have come from the complete silence/lack of teaching for the acknowledged sister strand - "Say Yes, do something else".

Final implementation of the school is said to have been prompted by concerns that recent job losses in the private sector will lead to a huge number of unemployed without sufficient skills to enter public service.

A hostile press at the opening ceremony pointed out the taxpayer had had quite enough of time-wasting, "We're now on our third enquiry into Iraq - what the hell do you think you're playing at ?". Lord Mandelson was visibly moved and brought close to tears of joy at the opportunity to address the complaint, "You are of course completely right, and it's with great pride I can announce forthwith an inquiry into this disgraceful waste of resources.".

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Murdoch's Nemesis

There's much to grumble about the BBC - the profligacy, over-management etc. etc...  Murdoch Jnr, despite the backlash had some points in his September attack and there are plenty like Guido witholding their license fee on a matter of free market principal - but we should be careful what we wish for.

Sir Michael Lyons announcement yesterday that the Beeb have no intention of charging for on-line news represents a decent hole in the pay wall Murdoch wants to erect around his papers' on-line offering. Don't underestimate the impact of Lyons' statement - battle lines are being drawn...

The Murdoch press has not been shy to have a go at Auntie - mainly on management pay scales and their expenses. This shouldn't be confused with cutting the organisation's ability to inform whatever the delivery medium. The taxpayer has created an outstanding resource, it's current shortcomings are obvious - the real question is whether they're addressed through free-market principles or transparency and accountability.

Give us the choice to pay our license fee or subscribe to Sky and you could find the BBC crippled before the free market decides it doesn't want news from News International. Talk of a Murdoch pact deal with Cameron & Co is rife and the implications for the BBC with Tories in control are significant. Today we have a right to demand transparency and accountability from the Beeb, that could be lost in the free market.

Our commercial terrestrial stations were happy to take the money and run when a broadcasting license was a license to print money and before the on-line advertising gold rush left them at the starting line. Now things aren't looking rosy they want some of the license fee cash. Free market principles should have driven them to invest in digital delivery - instead they chose to vote dividends. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for voting dividends, but the free market led them to the wrong choice. They won't be the first media industry to find themselves in a critical condition because they were too slow to adopt digital technology. Witness the crumbling record industry after it's spent years fighting digital distribution and effectively preventing customers from cheap, convenient, legal access to their product. The result is a generation of listeners believing they're entitled to free music. The same is happening with video, film, news and information - monetising these things will be a tricky business with casualties along the way.

The same license fee that allows the BBC to quickly adopt an on-line future gives us the right to stomp about a bit if we think they're failing to deliver. The obligation to pay it further legitimises our stamping and shouting, in fact, drives us to it. Without that obligation - the free market simply dictates a don't bother watching and don't pay response - much easier than enforcing transparency, impartiality etc. in quality programming - if you've ever had the pleasure of watching US news (check out the Daily Show on More 4) you'll know how crap, biased unspeakably bad it can be.

Now that Mark Thompson is publishing their expenses, it'll mean big earners at the Beeb should police themselves. Hopefully this will be the first step for streamlining the organisation, making it more accountable, transparent - we shall see. Private corporations have no such obligations - especially if the shareholders are happy. When they're unhappy, we've seen how quickly they turn to the license fee when the free market stops delivering returns - "if you're gonna make us produce balanced news to the regions for a broadcasting license we want some of the fee.".

Murdoch's nemesis isn't ours - if we don't focus our criticism of the BBC, we could well be cutting off our nose to spite our face and .