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

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Quote of the Week

In anticipation of our interview with the Lord Chancellor we thought this was appropriate...

"There is, I believe, a dissonance between our values as citizens of a liberal democracy and some of our constitutional arrangements. We should not ignore that dissonance. If, for example, we believe in equal opportunity and do not accept that education or jobs should be distributed according to which family you were born into, then why should our legislature include hereditary peers? Shouldn't we have the courage of our convictions, especially when it comes to deciding something so fundamental as our constitutional arrangements?"

Lord Falconer of Thoroton
Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs and Lord Chancellor
Constitutional Reform Speech University College London, 8 December 2003

In effect - dissonance in values between the constitution and the values of a Liberal Democracy combined with "what's good for the geese is good for the gander".

Will he agree that it follows - if everyone outside of Parliament is subject to a healthy dose of statutes regarding misrepresentation of facts, misleading statements etc. our elected representatives should be ?

We'll find out soon enough.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

the Lord Chancellor calls

Questioning the Lord Chancellor was an unexpected by-product of asking the simple question, "How do I prosecute an MP for lying.". Prod hard enough and you expose all sorts of constitutional conflicts - some of them all too convenient for those in power.

For example, we interviewed George Bathurst, the man who reported our right honourable Deputy Prime Minister to the police (over the Super-Casino Anschutz hospitality gig). The Crown Prosecution Service made Monty Python look like a bunch of rank amateurs in their correspondence with him. You see, the CPS reports to the Atorney General. He decides whether prosecutions should go ahead. He also happens to be the legal advisor to the Government and a friend of the right Honourable Tony Blair. The "Cash for Honours" business is going to be interesting for him.

We figured we might as well ask the man at the top, Charles Falconer, the Lord Chancellor. Gatekeeper of the Constitution. Head of the Department of Constitutional Affairs ("responsible in government for upholding justice, rights and democracy").

In true Parliamentary fashion we weren't expecting an answer. Maybe Sir Philip Mawer (Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards) put in a good word for us. In any case, we've had a green light and are getting a date in the diary.

E-mail/post any questions you've got for him. In the meantime, we're busy figuring out our next move.

Naturally, we'll keep you posted.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Beginners guide to the MINISTRY OF TRUTH

Who knew such a simple question would unravel our 300+ year old constitution ?

It started with a phone call to the Citizens Advice Bureau…

"How do I prosecute an MP for lying ?"

The Citizens Advice Bureau weren’t impressed and pointed us to the Parliamentary Ombudsman who were charmingly unable to help.

We figured we might as well see a lawyer and that's when things started to slide...

We argued that a whole bunch of people, from board members, to company directors, financial advisors, manufacturers, advertisers etc. are legally responsible if they deliberately make misleading statements or misrepresent the facts. There are laws in place (passed by the government) which say if they lie, we can pop down the Citizens Advice Bureau, get legal aid and ultimately see them in court.

Turns out, there's no way to prosecute your elected representative for lying.

We asked constitutional academics, Sir Philip Mawer - the parliamentary commissioner, Lord Tom Pendry, MartinBell OBE

They said we can vote every 4 or 5 years at a general election.

Now, if you employed an agent to represent you on a five year contract and they started to lie in your name, there’s no court in the land that would force you to stick with them.

The discovery of a little known law in the state of Southern Australia (which makes it illegal to lie when campaigning for an election) combined with Professor Conor Gearty’s insights and a hilarious attempt by George Bathurst to prosecute the Deputy Prime Minister led us to the daunting conclusion - we need our own law.

But how’d you do that ? Especially a law that the Government won't be too happy to pass.

We asked St.Maurice Frankel – the man (Saint) behind the Freedom of Information Act. He’s the only person we could find who’s done such a thing.

Simple, he said, you need to get an MP to propose your Bill, then a majority in the House of Commons to vote for it. And that’s when the fun begins. Imagine asking your MP ;

“Do you believe in Honesty, Truth, Transparency and Accountability ?”. The answers gonna be… well, we imagine it'll be "of course, they're the foundation of a Liberal Democracy.

Now try asking if they’d help pass a law that gives us the power to enforce those values.

Welcome to...

We’re about to discuss the matter with the Lord Chancellor (Tony Blair's old flatmate and gatekeeper of the Constitution).

After that, if we're serious, we're gonna have to find ourselves an MP.

Watch this space.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Just in - New Lab Logo

Hat-tip to Catherine for sending it in

Thursday, January 25, 2007

One of those easy lessons - How to pass a bill despite the government

The man tells us in no uncertain terms what we're up against.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Freedom of Information Act

Well, we interviewed Maurice Frankel. He's an extraordinary man. Pretty much dedicated the last 30 years of his life to the Freedom of Information Act.

It gives us the same rights of access to Government information that the Americans have had for half a century and the Swedes have had for a couple of centuries - tells you something of the mindset we're up against in the UK.

Labour has had the act on it's last 6 or 7 manifestos. Some cynics would say that's a clear indication of manifesto promises versus intent. Labour would counter they weren't voted into a position to carry out it's manifesto promises on all of those occasions. However, they got the juice in '97 and passed the Act in 2000 on the basis of a 2005 introduction (handy that - bridging a general election) on the basis that it would take time for government departments and local councils to prepare.

And here's the rub. Having lived with the Act for the last couple of years they'd decided a couple of amendments are needed (you just know where this is going dontcha ?).

1) Gov't may refuse a request that costs more than £450 to process (if requested of an individual, £600 for a gov. department).

2) You can't exceed the cost limit in requests to one department in a three month period.

That combination is going to put some serious restrictions on access to the media and perhaps more importantly, MPs - who've been reduced to making FOI requests because of the paltry state of affairs in answers to Parliamentary and written questions.

Tomorrow, the man who's done more for democracy than.... well, pretty much everybody.

Curiously, Maurice hasn't been on any honours list - presumably not funded well enough. So Donate now (you might as well, it's tax-free and your hard-earned cash'll end up in Gov't coffers anyway)

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

How to get Turkeys to vote for Christmas

Well, it looks like the closest Bill to what we're thinking of was the Freedom of Information Act 2005. We've been in touch with Maurice Frankel, the man behind getting the bill passed and he's agreed to an interview. If anybody can point us in the right direction, this is the man.

Info on their campaign is at

Click here to see the Act itself.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Searching for Bill

Apologies for a lack of posting. We've our heads up the arse of the statute books - it's not easy you know - finding a bill that's become law in-spite of the government !!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

De-briefing Martin Bell

Bell shares our view that Parliamentary self-regulation doesn't cut the mustard. Even Parliamentary watchdog Sir Philip Mawer (the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards) said there was a gap beyond reason when it comes to investigating our Government, and frankly, they're the guys we really need to be able to hold to account.

More importantly, self-regulation is innapropriate - if we (the people) give our sovereignty to our elected representatives then we should have the right to revoke it under certain circumstances. One such circumstance is when our elected representatives lie (for political gain as opposed to the public interest).

The law we mention in our interview with Martin Bell is current in the state of Southern Australia. The critical section states ;

"A person who authorises, causes or permits the publication of an electoral
advertisement (an "advertiser") is guilty of an offence if the advertisement
contains a statement purporting to be a statement of fact that is inaccurate and
misleading to a material extent."
Not much, but it's a start and sets a precedent - if you publish a lie for political gain it's a criminal offence. When we visited Professor Conor Gearty - the Motherlode of Constitutional law, he advocated the same thing in no uncertain terms.

It would seem the way forward is to get a bill passed - one that makes it illegal for our elected representatives to lie for political gain. One that we can invoke.

The very idea is daunting. How do you do such a thing ?
. No government would pass such a bill. We need all the guidance we can get before seriously considering an attempt. Our intention is to find some kind of equivalent, a blueprint - some Bill that managed to make it's way onto the statute books despite the government.

Suggestions on a postcard please.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Cash for Dinners - Pot Calls Kettle Grey.

Sir George Young MP is under investigation by Sir Philip Mawer, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards. He reports directly to..... the Parliamentary Committee for Standards and Priveledges, chaired by.... Sir George Young MP.

We wonder if his face looked something like this when he found out....

Monday, January 15, 2007

Parliamentary Self Regulation a Blinding Success !!!

Quick update on that stalwart of our Parliamentary Democracy - the notion of self-regulation.

Every Parliamentarian we've interviewed to-date has argued MPs are accountable to the public between general elections via the various independent committees and commissioners that police them.

We've had problems with this concept all along, for two reasons (last week gave us a third).

1) The people give their sovereignty to MPs. MPs represent us. They're obligation to be honest is to us . If they deliberately misrepresent the facts, make misleading statements....tell lies. They're doing it in our name. We should have some direct legal means of redress to hold them swiftly to account.

2) How can we possibly have confidence in a self-regulatary process that allows the accused to be tried by their colleagues, their peers.

and now... "Cash For Dinners"

We're in the ridiculous situation where two members of the investigative body stand accused and have to be investigated by their own committee - Sir George Young MP is the Chairman for Chrisssakes !!. Those accused have had to stand down from the investigation. They're both Conservative, leaving a massively one-sided committee which is supposed to be cross party/apoltical to rule on the outcome.

Self-regulation is in a no-win situation.

If the committee finds them guilty, there'll be shouts of "foul play" - a politically biased judgement.

A "Not guilty" verdict and
see 2) above - we're back to "how convenient, a bunch of MPs find some other MPs innocent".

Incidentally - Cameron's one of the 19 Tory MPs accused. His (current) defence is that the rules weren't clear. So he consulted them ? Really ? Surely if they weren't clear, you'd ask for clarification ?

Rules aside, does he actually think the taxpayer should foot the bill for his party to hold fund-raising dinners ?

Friday, January 12, 2007

Quote of the Week

"Frankly, if we are to regain trust or at least improve levels of trust in politics and politicians, politicians do have to speak honestly, tell things how they see it, not be ashamed when things go wrong to own up to the fact that they've gone wrong. And I think the public give credit to politicians who behave in that way."

Sir Philip Mawer
Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards
Do we give credit to politicians who admit their mistakes ? The hunt is on folks - name that politician. Winner gets a night with Cherie.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

for Thee, the Bell tolls

Martin Bell, the man in the white suit, is someone we trust.

He spent most of his working life in some of the worlds most dangerous war zones so his time as an MP should've been a piece of cake. He served on the Committee for Standards and Privileges (the watchdog for the conduct of MPs) and is one of the few to speak out against the treatment of Sir Philip Mawer
's (the Parliamentary Commissioner) predecessor - Elizabeth Filkin.

"The whispering campaign was not imaginary. It was real and intense. It coincided with her investigations into complaints against Peter Mandelson, John Reid and Keith Vaz, who were not only Labour MPs but government ministers at the time."

We asked him about the reality of MPs regulating themselves, Elizabeth Filkin and the idea of the People prosecuting the government when it lies to us.

To say we were surprised by his answers would be an understatement. We'll be posting the interview tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Story... so far

the Ministry of Truth started life as a simple question ; "How do you prosecute an MP/Minister for lying ?"

We're joking, right ?

If you have a contract with a company or individual and they lie to you, misrepresent the facts or make a misleading statement, you can pop down to the Citizens Advice Bureau and either get out of the contract or hold them to account. You're not stuck with it for another five years. So what if that individual happens to be on the board of Great Britain PLC ... an MP, a Minister ? and you're a shareholder ...Well, ... we wanted to find out...

click on the links to see (or hear) the interviews or, for a compressed video summary, click here]

We started by calling the Citizens Advice Bureau - puerile, even childish I know - and asked them what kind of legal action we could take against an MP. It took them 30 minutes to come back with sweet FA (we've posted an edited recording for your amusement).

The C.A.B. did recommend we called the Parliamentary Ombudsman - who was charming to a fault but frankly not much cop. We were going round in circles so decided to take the offensive and see a Lawyer - "I want to prosecute an MP for lying.". Laugh - she nearly had a sense of humour.

How can it be right that we have no truly independent or legal redress to the guys we elect when they start mis-behaving ? We started some serious trawling on the web and came across two potential rays of light ;

1) George Bathurst - a Windsor based businessman who'd reported our Deputy Prime Minister to the Police under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

2) Professor Conor Gearty (the motherlode of constitutional law and the man who gave legal counsel on impeaching Blair)

Again, it turns out the government had covered their bases . The Police refused to take matters further with George Bathurst in an exchange of correspondence that made Monty Python look like a bunch of amateurs.

Professor Gearty explained in no uncertain terms the why and how our government has twisted Parliamentary Sovereignty into something it was never meant to be. They've tied us in knots. It looked like the end of the road.

Then out of no-where, Sir Philip Mawer (Parliamentary Commissioner who investigates complaints against MPs) returns our call and is willing to talk on camera. We expected government mouthpiece meaningless drivel - nothing could be further from the truth - we were on to something.

At the same time, we found a law in the state of Southern Australia that made it an offence for politicians to lie during an election... something Prof Gearty was strongly in favour of.

Finally, we plucked up the courage to make first contact with our elected representatives and ask them what they were up to. Residual cowardly instincts told us to tread carefully, so we went for ex-MPs. First to play ball was Lord Pendry (a Labour stalwart of 30 years) and frankly, as you can see , an all-round bizarre encounter . We also interviewed Martin Bell OBE (he sat on Parliament's main watchdog - the Committee for Parliamentary Standards and Priviledges).

You couldn't get two more contrasting opinions. Bell is the man who's inspired us to take it to the next level - why shouldn't there be a law against the elected representatives of the people effectively lying in our name or lying to us ? We asked him what he thought our chances were and nearly fell off our chairs at the answer...We'll be posting his interview in the next couple of days.

The question is - what next ? Accept the status quo or try to do something about it ? And even if you want to do something about it - where the hell do you start ?

We spent Xmas scouring for legal precedents like the law in Southern Australia for holding MP's to account and come up with another two. More info on them to be posted as soon as we've had feedback from our legal pros.

In the meantime, keep posting your suggestions and don't forget to vote ! (top of the right hand column)

Monday, January 08, 2007

Hello 2007

Apologies for the extended Xmas break - we've had our considerable noses to the legal grindstone, scouring for precedent on how the hell we hold our representatives in Parliament to account. We've made sterling progress and discovered some potent possibilities - more news on this once we've had some feedback from the professionals.

Meantime, for the un-initiated here's a 7 minute summary of our journey so far featuring Sir Philip Mawer (Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards), Lord Tom Pendry (Labour MP for 30 years), Professor Conor Gearty (the motherlode on constitutional law) and some poor soul at the Citizens Advice Bureau.