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

Friday, December 22, 2006

Quote of the Week

Figured we'd leave you with this thought for xmas...

"Members shall at all times conduct themselves in a manner which will tend to
maintain and strengthen the public's trust and confidence in the integrity of
Parliament and never undertake any action which would bring the House of
Commons, or its Members generally, into disrepute."
Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament
Prepared pursuant to the Resolution of the House of 19th July 1995

We're off on hols with a stack of law books and statutes. Back the first week of Jan. Don't forget to vote in our poll - top of the right hand column.

Happy Holidays.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Real Deal

What started off as a simple question to the Citizens Advice Bureau - "I'd like to prosecute an MP for lying" has turned into a real eye-opener. Here's the real deal...

There is a simple fact obscured by a very sophisticated, highly evolved set of smoke and mirrors which lead the casual observer to believe there are healthy checks and balances keeping Parliament (especially Government) honest and accountable. Numerous Codes of conduct, Committees and Commissioners (we've got 'em coming out of our ears). Many of them are staffed by dedicated individuals of the highest integrity - the problem is they all report back to Parliament or Blair - the guys they've been appointed to investigate.

The need for the smoke and mirrors is simple : We, the people, are sovereign.

We elect a set of MPs to represent our sovereignty in Parliament at a general election. Those with the majority form a government and run the country on our behalf. Their obligation is to legislate in our best interests.

That means ;

1) Our transfer of sovereignty to MPs at a general election is based on two things - party manifesto and past performance.

and it follows...

2) We can’t accurately assess past performance or promises if they can mislead us and misrepresent the facts (lying is an un-parliamentary word).

However, as we've discovered…

  • There are no truly independent organs (such as the judiciary) which we can invoke to hold them to account for misleading/misrepresenting to us.


  • A general election - is our only legal means of redress if MPs or Government lie.
So ...

How the hell are we supposed to seperate the good guys from the bad ? More importantly, without the threat of direct redress from the electorate, where's there incentive to be honest ?

These thoughts will be keeping us busy over Xmas.

Our question has shifted focus, but still remains gloriously simple...

“Why can't the electorate prosecute their representatives for lying to them ?"

We’ll be researching hard for some kind of legitimate answer.

Tomorrow will be our last post until the New Year.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Into the belly of the beast...

Parliament really is some kind of alternative reality, a kind of Disneyland in the heart of Whitehall - empty parking meters beckon, Policemen smile beatific smiles, Traffic Wardens are polite/helpful. The combined effect was to totally throw any scepticism severely off balance - and then the weirdness started...

Nothing could've prepared us for the cunning psychological tom-foolery these Parliamentarians employ. We're sitting in reception, waiting for Lord Pendry and a chubby, bald civil servant with predatory eyes, sashays past as if he's on a catwalk. Stopping at the toilet door he turns, to beam at us with a mouthful of gleaming pearly-whites, then minces through, slamming it behind him.

Unsettling. Eh ? And then he delivers the sucker punch...

With clear knowledge that we can hear his every move through the flimsy bathroom door, he unzips and at full volume proceeds to give us a perfect falsetto rendition of "I believe I can fly" by R Kelly whilst emptying his bladder.

By the time he exits, we're visibly shaken. The elderly lady sitting next to us has turned the same shade of purple as her hair. He smiles once more and sashays down a corridor.

If we seem distracted during the interview - it's down to that (and the fact that halfway through the same man pops in to deliver the post).

These Parliamentarians are devious in the extreme. We're out of our depth, swimming with sharks.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Lord Pendry

Lord Pendry enjoys a cigar, is a keen boxer (not averse to dishing out a clip round the ear) and looks not unlike Donald Pleasance.
Having served as an MP for 30 years before moving to the upper house, we figured he'd be perfect to explain why we can't hold an MP to account for lying to us.

We were wrong.

Turns out, our first true Whitehall experience was more than a little unsettling
- we were thrown a sucker punch before we'd even got the camera kit unpacked.

We'll be posting the full rub tomorrow.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Quote of the Week

Two quotes this week. The first is from the Forward to The Ministerial Code of Conduct [JULY 2005 ]

"In issuing this Code, I should like to confirm my strong personal commitment to the bond of trust between the British people and their Government. We are all here to serve and we must serve honestly and in the interests of those who gave us our positions of trust."
The Prime Minister

All together now..."The People are sovereign, long live the people, hurrah etc..."

Now check out Page 1, Section 1.4 of that very same Ministerial Code of Conduct

"Ministers only remain in office for so long as they retain the confidence of the Prime Minister. He is the ultimate judge of the standards of behaviour expected of a Minister and the appropriate consequences of a breach of those standards, although he will not expect to comment on every allegation that is brought to his attention."

[Heh, heh, heh . TB.]

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

the Next Step ?

A big thanks for all your e-mailed suggestions. They ranged from the expeditious - "shoot 'em", to the economical - "drown 'em", to the insane - "try to get a law passed".

Bolstered by our first brush with the mechanics of Parliament (in the shape of Sir Philip Mawer) - we've decided to get stuck into the belly of the beast - gently at first, by interviewing some ex- MPs about this tricky business of honesty - and if that's not too scary, we'll head for the big bruisers.

First up is Lord Tom Pendry, a long serving Labour MP (30 years - that's more than you'd get for murder isn't it ?)

...then Martin Bell (O.B.E. and Independent MP who ousted the inimitable Neil Hamilton).

If you've any questions you want us to put to these guys, send us an email .

We'll be posting ASAP.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Beavering down under

We've been beavering away - searching for any kind of law which prevents government from lying to the electorate and gives the people direct legal action. Surprisingly - we think we've come across such a thing in Australia.

The statute we've found takes it's basic principle from the Trades Descriptions Act - you can't make a statement purporting to be a statement of fact, which is inaccurate or misleading to a material extent. The state of Southern Australia have applied this to election campaigns ! Can you imagine what would happen if we had the same law here ?

All well and good - but we still need to establish a contract or obligation between us (the people) and the Government and then get past Parliamentary Sovereignty (technically, Parliament is the highest court in the land, the source of all law etc. etc.) which means they're immune from prosecution.

These guys have been running the show for a while now (300 plus years) and have evolved a highly sophisticated set of smoke and mirrors that gives us the illusion of accountability via self-regulation (for example the independent investigation of MPs). But as we've discovered from the Parliamentary Commissioner - there are some critical gaps ;

  1. There's no independent investigation of Ministers (the Government)
  2. Independent investigation is a beautiful thing, but it ain't much cop if you have to report to the very people you're investigating and rely on them for sentencing.
Fact is, the combination of both these points and Parliamentary Sovereignty means effectively, our only legal redress is at the General Election once every four or five years.

Now that can't be right - if I employ an agent on a 5 year contract and he breaches one of his fundamental obligations (such as honesty to me) - there's no court in the land which would say I'm stuck with the guy until the five years are up !

Our current thinking is starting to smell like we may have found a blueprint for accountability but need to find a way of making it apply to the government, not just elections. The problem is, to legally overcome "Parliamentary Sovereignty" we've got to ask Parliament to vote for it. One of the comments you posted said something along the lines of "asking turkeys to vote for Christmas". We agree - you've only got to check out the interview with Lord Pendry to see how entrenched the notion of Parliamentary Sovereignty is.

I suppose a law banning misleading or misrepresentative statements in elections would be a good start in any case - when we interviewed Professor Conor Gearty (our guru/oracle on constitutional law) he certainly thought so.

If you've any thoughts/ideas - comment or e-mail us. We're gonna need all the help we can get. In the meantime, we'll be digging into the history and context of the statute we've found and trawling through the law libraries here for anything half relevant.

Martin Bell OBE (and ex MP) will have much to say about this - we'll be posting his interview early next week.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Post Mortem - Sir Philip Mawer

If we'd have been able to post an hour long interview I really would have. It was painful trying to bring it down to a couple of salient points. Fact is, Sir Philip's as straight as a die - no bones about it. Between a rock and a hard place, he never shirked from telling it like it is.

Two key points ;

  1. His teeth are the very Parliament he investigates.
  2. There's a ministerial code, but no formalised independent means of investigation and he strongly advocates this.
The question is, where next ?

An MP is elected by the people to represent them in Parliament, they represent our sovereignty, we "loan" it to them. Check out the Motherlode on constitutional law - Professor Gearty's interview.

Fact of the matter is, if the electorate wants to hold an MP to account for lying, it has to go through Parliament or to the ballot box (once every 4 or 5 years). When an MP lies (especially if he happens to be a Minister) there's bugger all we can do if without a statute against it - and even then, it's a matter of debate - George Bathurst reported our Deputy Prime Minister to the Police for what was a clear breach of the Ministerial Code and the law (Prevention of Corruption Acts) - but Scotland Yard refused to investigate and Sir Philip Mawer was powerless to act.

Any suggestions gratefully appreciated.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Quote of the Week

"We will oblige parties to declare the source of all donations above a minimum figure. Labour does this voluntarily and all parties should do so."
The Right Honourable Tony Blair
Labour Party Manifesto 1997

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Inspector Mawers (that's enough.Ed) - the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards

If you read up on this whole self-regulation business it looks a bit like smoke and mirrors. Plenty of bodies, committees and commissioners - all independent to a man but all reporting to Parliament or the PM. Nice to be Judge and Jury at your own trial, eh ?

Needless to say,
when Sir Philip Mawer returned our call, it was a bit of a shocker. We never thought in a million years they'd let us near the Palace of Westminster - let alone interview its gatekeeper of ethics and morals.

Turns out Sir Philip's office is round the back of Westminster Abbey. Bathed in divine light, you enter through a hobbit-like gate set into a suitably intimidating wall with Westminster casting suitably ominous shadows.

Passing through that gate would be crossing the line from pissing about on the Internet and sticking our head above the establishment parapet. Were we really gonna tough it out with the guy who politics between Teflon Tony and hauling MPs over the coals ?

Who are we kidding ?

I'd had a curry before-hand and that didn't bode well.

We were in a lot of trouble.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The end of the road ?

It was all too depressingly clearly laid out by Professor Gearty. Basically ...

  • Parliamentary sovereignty originally protected the elected representatives of the people (MPs) from the King.
  • Currently - despite sovereignty and all power flowing from the electorate - the only legal way of holding an MP/Minister/Government to account if they've lied to us is once every 4 or 5 years at the ballot box.
  • There are no other legal routes of enforcing an MPs obligation to be honest, transparent and accountable.
We took some comfort from the Professors observation that MPs "can't go about machine-gunning people they don't like". There's some folks in various distant parts of the world who may disagree.

Outside of the ballot box, our alternatives are ;

  1. The Press/Media
  2. Report the offender to the Police if the lie/misrepresentation/misleading statement happens to be covered by a statute. Then, if the Crown Prosecution Service decides there's been a breach of the statute they may or may not prosecute (see George Bathurst v. John Prescott for how this can pan out).
  3. Complaining to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards - Sir Philip Mawer.
  4. Revolution (see Guy Fawkes etc.)
Despite the fact that the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards - Sir Philip Mawer ultimately reports to Parliament (judge, jury and defendent in your own courtroom does seem very convenient) we figured given the choice between options 3 and 4, we should give Sir Philip a call.

Amazingly, he called back and agreed to a filmed interview. We'll be posting it ASAP.

Monday, December 04, 2006

the Motherlode - Professor Conor Gearty

You can't help but love Professor Conor Gearty, it's his examples of MPs "machine-gunning people they don't like in the street" and the lilt of his accent, but the similarities pretty much end there. He's advised governments all over the world on subjects as wide ranging as Terrorism, Torture and Tony (they turned to him for counsel on locking up our Prime Minister).

We've tried the Citizens Advice Bureau, the Parliamentary Ombudsman, lawyers and even George Bathurst - the man who reported our Deputy Prime Minister to the Police - none of it looks promising, but if anyone can unravel Parliamentry sovereignty and find a way for the public to put a stop to its government lying - the Professor is that man.

Hang upon his every word...

Friday, December 01, 2006

Impeach Blair ? Call Conor Gearty...

When Adam Price MP wanted the highest legal opinion on whether Blair could be impeached for the invasion of Iraq, he turned to Professor Gearty BCL (NUI), LLB(Cantab), PhD (Cantab) and Barrister for good reason - he advises governments too numerous to mention on everything from Terrorism to Torture and of course Tony .

In an effort to figure out how we can stop MPs from lying we've tried the Citizens Advice Bureau, the Parliamentary Ombudsman, Lawyers and even George Bathurst - the man who reported our Deputy Prime Minister to the Police - none of it looks good. In a last ditch attempt - we went to the motherlode. He agreed to an interview - and we'll be posting it soon. If anybody can find a way this is the man.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

the Man who shopped John Prescott

Reporting the Deputy Prime Minister to the Police is not for the faint of heart - but George Bathurst, a Windsor-based businessman was so pissed off with the Right Honourable Two Jags refusal to answer questions in Parliament (over gifts and hospitality he received from US tycoon - Mr Anschutz - angling to put a super-casino in the Millennium Dome) he decided to do something about it. In our quest to find out how we can hold MPs to account for economy with the truth, we interviewed Mr Bathurst.

If you're expecting some cigar-chomping ego-maniac behind an over-sized desk, you'll be... well... you'll see what we mean...

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

"I write to report offences under the 1916 Prevention of Corruption Act"

...So begins the letter to Inspector Yates of the Yard from a George Bathurst, Windsor-based businessman who reported the Right Honourable John Prescott for corruption over the gifts and hospitality he received from Mr Anschutz - the chap who's wants to turn the Millenium Dome into a super-casino. Prescott, having "not yet" declared the gifts/trip/hospitality, refused and avoided to answer questions in Parliament on the issue. This didn't sit well with Mr Bathurst.

In our quest to figure out how we "hold MPs to account" ("stop MPs lying" would be a phrase too unparliamentary) we tracked down George Bathurst who's agreed to an interview (we'll post this shortly). In the meantime he's very kindly let us have copies of the e-mails and letters between himself and the Special Investigations department at Scotland Yard. If we compressed them into a phone call, it may've gone something like this...

(Click on links to see the original correspondence)

GB - Morning Officer, I'd like to report John Prescott, who, by his own admission, is guilty of an offence under the 1889 to 1916 Prevention of Corruption Acts.


GB -
Look, even assuming all the defences Prescott's given in the press were true, he'd still be guilty under Clause 2 of the Act - a favour was received and the giver was seeking a government contract at the time. Both of these facts are now a matter of public record.

Police - Can you hold ? We'll get back to you in the near future.

[ The sound of tumbleweed being blown across a desert plain... ]

GB - What's going on ? I've been holding for two months and just read in the press that you're not taking this any further ? Have you started or do you intend to investigate this matter or not ?

Police - we've taken legal advice and there's a loophole because of the 2001 Anti-Terrorism Act.

GB - No there isn't.

Police - Yes there is.

GB - No there isn't.


GB - Are we reading the same Act !!? I've got legal opinions coming out of my arse and all of them say there's a clear breach - the loophole you're talking about doesn't count for shit.

Police - Irrespective of the loophole, Mr Prescott has already denied the allegations under questioning in the House.

GB - No he hasn't, he's either refused or avoided answering the questions and the government spin has been proved false by enquiries under the Freedom of Information Act. So both the government and Mr Prescott have lied.

Police - Loophole and alleged lack of denials aside - this simply isn't good use of valuable Police time - it'd take too long to find evidence.

GB - Are you saying without evidence you can't start an investigation and without starting an investigation you can't get any evidence ?

Police - That is the law.

GB - No it isn't. The evidence required under the Act is now a matter of public record - he's admitted he received gifts and he's a Government official - there's automatically a presumption of corruption and the onus is on him to disprove it !

Police - No it isn't.

GB - Yes it is.

Police - No it isn't.


GB - For Chrissakes !!! Have a look at Section 5 of you're own joint memo with the Home Office from July 2004 - I've already sent you a copy !

Police - Sir, we're not taking this any further - we've consulted at length with the Crown Prosecution Service who say there's no point in pursuing this case.

GB - What, Lord Goldsmith's outfit ? Isn't he a personal friend of the Prime Minister ?

Police - We don't have any evidence of that.

GB - It's a matter of public record !!!

Police -
Sir, with a presumption of corruption, the onus of proof is on....


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

So far, so shit.

As far as lying to the electorate goes - it looks like there's no law requiring honesty from an MP. Anybody else (especially a corporation) makes a misleading or mis-representative statement purporting to be a statement of fact, they're knee deep in the brown smelly stuff - any one of us can walk into a Citizens Advice Bureau and take them to court. If you're a shareholder in Great Britain PLC, and one of the directors/board members you've voted for lies - there's bugger all you can do that resembles anything like legal redress.

However, there is a small ray of light...
George Bathurst - a Windsor-based business man instigated proceedings (under the Prevention of Corruption Acts) against the Right Honourable John Prescott over the hospitality and gifts he received from Philip Anschutz, the Guvnor at AEG who wants to build a Super Casino at the veritable Millenium Dome. Prescott's department are handling the future of the site and it appears honourable John failed to declare the trip to Anschutz's ranch or the gifts he received there and subsequently refused to answer questions in Parliament on the issue.

Not only did Bathurst report Prescott to the Police, he's also instigated proceedings against Mr Anschutz in the US. It occurs to us Anschutz may well have a legitimate defence with "that cowboy outfit wasn't a gift, it was a statement."

We've tracked down Mr Bathurst to find out what he's got against two Jags (two shags) and exactly how you go about prosecuting an MP for telling porkies.

Monday, November 27, 2006

the Lawyers

Oh how they laughed. You'd have thought solicitors would be biting your hand off for a piece of this action - but lawyer after lawyer said forget it. We figured they thought there'd be no money in it - we were wrong. In the end, Christian Khan came to our rescue - a medium sized firm who handle civil rights litigation - they said there wasn't much they were scared of and I believe them - as we waited for our interview the receptionist was dishing out over the phone - "Look - have you been sectioned or not ?".

Sadly, our time with them was short, sweet and didn't go as well as we hoped ...

Friday, November 24, 2006

time to find a lawyer

Frankly the Parliamentary Ombudsmans office - lovely as they were on the phone - weren't much cop. They can only investigate MPs if a committee comprising of MPs asks them to - so much for independence. And recommending that we contact Tony Blair to complain about some of his MPs being economical with the truth just isn't gonna cut the mustard.

In the meantime we'll take a look at this Sir Philip Mawer, Commissioner for Parliamentary Standards . His office is wholly funded by the House of Commons, so I suspect any teeth he's got are gonna be false.

I'm starting to get the feeling this whole business of self-regulation isn't quite what it seems. We'll have to check out the Citizens Advice Bureau's second suggestion and find a lawyer - though I can't believe the government would leave themselves open to prosecution in a court of law. They're too slippery, too wily. An independently-minded judge can be a dangerous thing.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

the call to the Parliamentary Ombudsman

The Parliamentary Ombudsman offices were clearly a better work environment than the misery our girl from the Citizens Advice Bureau was living in.

Maybe it was just me.

the Parliamentary Ombudsman

Thought a bit of research before making an arse out of myself on the phone may be in order.

The idea (as with all Ombudsmen) is they're a completely independent investigative body - not politicised in any way. It's powers are set out in the Parliamentary Commissioner Act 1967 and the Health Service Commissioners Act 1993 respectively.

The Ombudsman is appointed by the Queen on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. She (it's currently Ann Abraham) is independent of government and has statutory responsibilities and powers to report directly to Parliament. She may only be removed following a resolution of both Houses of Parliament."

It's governing statutes define who it has the power to investigate. It's a long list and the Committee on Standards in Public Life is on it (the who guys investigate MPs) - you may remember they were set up by the last Tory government as it imploded in its own sleaze.

The Ombudsman could well be the body we're looking for - only one way to find out... We'll be calling them as soon as they're open for business - and naturally, posting the conversation ASAP.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

How do you prosecute an MP ?

We're Citizens, we wanted Advice, we called the Bureau...