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, March 30, 2007

The Miliband Cometh ?

Miliband occupies a special place at Ministry towers. The office being heavily split into predatory female admiration with a deep need to see him prostrate himself and a distinct male ambivalence.

In the quest for an MP to support our bill we've already been turned down for an interview once, but hormonal levels in the office and the article he wrote for yesterday’s Telegraph has prompted us to make another request to find out if he intends to back up his rhetoric and see the light that shines in the Misrepresentation of the People Act. Here are a couple of key paragraphs ;

I'm in tune with the 'I can' generation

By David Miliband, Daily Telegraph 29th March 07

"Politics requires many virtues - organisation, ideas, resolution, luck. But chief among them is the hardest to define: that elusive sense of being in tune with the times. Political parties succeed when they join their values to deep economic, social and cultural trends. I am convinced that a fourth election victory, and fundamental changes to the landscape of Britain, are possible precisely because a more demanding, educated, savvy population want the power and control that modern progressive politics can offer.

Since 1997, Britain has changed in some ways more fundamentally than new Labour promised. It is a different country - richer, fairer, more confident. I also think it is being driven forward by a new spirit. I call it the politics of "I can". The era of "I can" is the culmination of the long decline of deference and automatic authority. It is the late flowering of individual autonomy and control. It is, in other words, one of the founding ideas of left-of-centre politics: to put power in the hands of the people. In the "I can" era, people want to be players, not just spectators. They want to be contributors, not just consumers.”

Should he agree to the interview, it’ll be interesting to see what the female contingent will be wearing for the big day. They are a rum bunch, deviant and predatory in nature. We await his response.

Hat tip to Beau Bo D’or for the image

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Price of Information

The government want to be able to refuse requests under the Freedom of Information Act if they cost more than £600 to process.

FOI requests total £35m to process each year.

Of this £35m, government figures show requests from journalists cost £4m.

Last night, the government put through a communications allowance for MPs. The annual cost ? £6m - which Jack Straw described as a "reasonable and relatively modest sum" to improve the quality of information given to constituents.

So the £6m for MPs to communicate to us is an acceptable cost, but the £4m it costs government to give journalists and news organisations is un-acceptable.

Where would you rather spend your money ?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Straight from the "Yes Minister" manual.

In our
quest to find an MP who’ll support the Misrepresentation of the People Act we keep hearing the same old thing… “give us some examples”, “where are the examples ?”

They’re almost daily for Chrissakes !!! Here's one from the weekend's Sunday Times ...

"Gerry Sutcliffe, the prisons minister ordered his civil servants to draw up a secret list of “negative” officials suspected of being opposed to legislation. Sutcliffe also wanted a list of officials who could be trusted to act as “positive champions” for the plans to privatise the probation service and be used to persuade rebellious Labour MPs to change their minds and avert a Commons defeat.

The e-mail was sent by Rachel Howell, Sutcliffe’s private secretary, on February 1 to senior Home Office officials as he faced a backbench rebellion against the government’s Offender Management (OM) Bill. If it was defeated, it could have threatened Sutcliffe’s ministerial career.

Last week Sir Alistair Graham, the watchdog responsible for overseeing standards in public life, identified Tony Blair’s politicisation of the service as one of the seven “mortal sins” that had undermined public trust in government. Tomorrow, the Commons’ public administration committee will call on the government to introduce new laws to protect the impartiality of the civil service.

Critics say that the e-mail breaches the ministerial code of conduct which sets out that ministers “have a duty to uphold the political impartiality of the civil service”.

It states: “Civil servants should not be asked to engage in activities likely to call in question their political impartiality, or to give rise to the criticism that people paid from public funds are being used for party political purposes.”

When first asked if Sutcliffe had instructed his private office to draw up a list of chief probation officers who supported and opposed the bill, the Home Office said: “It is utterly untrue that he instructed his office to do this.”

However, when confronted with the text of the leaked e-mail, Sutcliffe altered his position. A spokeswoman later said: “There is no question the minister acted improperly or sought to undermine the political impartiality of his private office . . . It is normal to identify those supporting voices for proposed legislation.”

So, initial response was to deny it ever happened. Then, when confronted with the evidence, they changed their tune to, "this is perfectly acceptable behaviour".
The full article’s here.

"Yes Minister" is available on DVD from the Parliamentary Bookshop at Portcullis House.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Bush or bust

Not long ago... our ambassador to the US presented Dubya with a bust of Winston Churchill.

Both Bush and Blair are self-confessed, fully paid up members of the Winston fan club.

So with a
backward glance at the invasion of Iraq and a nod to the on-coming express train of Iran, perhaps now is a time for them to reflect on one of the great mans many proclamations ;

"Let us learn our lessons. Never, never, never believe any war will be smooth and easy, or that anyone who embarks on that strange voyage can measure the tides and hurricanes he will encounter. The statesman who yields to war fever must realise that, once the signal is given, he is no longer the master of policy but the slave of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events. Antiquated war officers, weak, incompetant or arrogant commanders, untrustworthy allies, hostile neutrals, malignant fortune, ugly surprises, awful miscalculations - all take their seat at the Council Board on the morrow of a declaration of war."

Winston Churchill

Monday, March 26, 2007

Hot waters

Ahhh yesssss....the capture of 15 Naval personnel in Iraqi/Iranian waters.

In the argument against holding our elected representatives to account for lying, much noise has been made by legal types - "Where's the loss incurred because of the lie ? If there's no loss, what are you holding them to account for exactly ?"

When our elected representatives are perceived as anything other than honest, Foreign Affairs are precisely where "the people" suffer "a loss".

Blair says we were in Iraqi waters, the Iranians say bollocks.

It would be nice to think that when the PM says "our lads were in Iraqi territorial waters" you could bet your life they were (after all, that's what "our lads" are doing).

It would be nice to think that in the face of such a clear denial, the Iranian Foreign Minister, Manouchehr Mottaki would feel ridiculous even questioning our PM's integrity.

It would be nice to think the UN and international allies would see Mottaki as ridiculous because he questioned our Prime Minister's integrity.

The foreign minister of Iran can put doubt in our minds, the minds of the UN and our international allies over anything our Prime Minister says for two reasons ;

1) The current governments track record.

2) The Belgrano.

The glory days of Thatcher and the Belgrano come 2nd in our series "Great Political porkies" of our time.

Hours after the Peruvian-brokered peace plan landed in London, Thatcher (cigar in mouth) said to the Argentinians, "If you don't stop that naval vessel coming toward the Falklands, I'm going to blow it out of the fucking water."

The Argentinians replied, "What the hell are you talking about ? We're sailing away from the islands. "

Thatcher said, "No you're not." and promptly blew them out of the fucking water.

In fact the Belgrano was sailing away from the Falklands.

She went on to lie in Parliament and on national TV about the incident.

Clive Ponting, a senior Ministry of Defence civil servant, was increasingly frustrated both by Whitehall's misuse of secrecy and by the way the Navy was using the Falklands experience to try to roll back the 1981 defence review, In July 1984, he gave Tam Dalyell MP documents to show how he and the Foreign Affairs Select Committee that was enquiring into the affair were being misled.

Clive was prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act (later) acquitted but civil service career effectively over.

P.S. Freedom of Information request into the Belgrano sinking was refused in June 2005

Friday, March 23, 2007

The Limitation of Information Act

Well, well, well...

One of the counter arguments we've continually had thrown against "The Misrepresentation of the People Act" is that despite a lack of formal, legal accountability for MPs there are two extremely powerful measures already in place to hold our elected representatives and Government to account.

1) the so-called "Fourth Estate" - The Press/media.

2) the Freedom of Information Act.

Despite charming the pants off us in our interview with him, the Lord Chancellor was keen to emphasise both of these. So we were suprised to hear him at the Lord Williams of Mostyn memorial lecture give the following argument on why the rules governing the Freedom of Information Act need tightening ;

"The Government approaches openness on the basis of improving how government operates, for the benefit of the public. Many sections of the press do not approach it in that way. Instead, many approach it on the basis of what gives them most information exclusive to their journalistic outlet.... The job of the Government is not to provide page leads for the papers, but information for the citizen. Freedom of information was never considered to be, and for our part will never be considered to be, a research arm for the media.... People, not the press, must be the priority. There is a right to know, not a right to tell"
So the problem with News organisations is that they tell people what they've found out from an FOI request.

Perhaps they'd be better off simply ammending the Act to allow you to make a request so long as you don't tell anybody the results.

At least that would have stopped us knowing about the 13 meetings Lord Falconer had with the AEG/Anschutz mob about the millenium dome/super-casino.

P.S. The Independent points out government commissioned research showed journalists account for about 16 per cent of the total costs of central government FOI requests - at a cost of around £4m. If the problem was a purely financial one - couldn't you simply charge the media for their requests ?

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Sir Alistair for the Misrepresentation of the People Act ?

Apologies to HSBC.

Amidst our
quest to find an MP who'll support the Misrepresentation of the People Act, Sir Alistair Graham, outgoing and outspoken chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, has agreed to an interview.

Over the years he's had his disagreements with the PM over policing Parliamentary standards...

HANSARD - 1 Dec 2004 : Column 624

Mr. Michael Howard (Folkestone and Hythe) (Con): On Monday, the chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life repeated the Committee's view that allegations against Ministers should be considered by members of an independent panel, drawn up in agreement with the Opposition, which would be ready to act whenever an allegation is made. That recommendation was originally made in April 2003, and the Prime Minister rejected it. Will he now reconsider it?

The Prime Minister: No, for the reasons that we gave at that time. We believe that it is better, if an allegation is made, to appoint people on an individual basis and not to have a standing panel. That is the right way to do it. In this instance, we have someone of unimpeachable integrity who will examine all the facts of the case and come to a conclusion.

Mr. Howard: Let me tell the House what Sir Alistair Graham, the man appointed by the Prime Minister to chair this important Committee, said a couple of days ago:

    "The Committee was disappointed that the current Government did not take the opportunity to put this mechanism in place, particularly as it provides speedy and independent investigation of allegations against Ministers. Current events demonstrate the continuing practical relevance of adopting these recommendations."

The Prime Minister said that he wanted the highest standards in public life. He appointed the Chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life. The Committee has made clear recommendations. Why has not the Prime Minister accepted them?

The Prime Minister: We did not accept this recommendation because we believe that it is better to appoint people on an individual, case-by-case basis. The right hon. and learned Gentleman talks about the speed of the inquiry's being set up, but the allegations were made on the Sunday in the newspapers, and that day, at the insistence of the Home Secretary, somebody was appointed to examine them. I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman agrees that Sir Alan Budd is a man of independence and unimpeachable integrity. He will have the opportunity to look at the facts of the case and to make those facts known to the public. I cannot see what is wrong with that way of proceeding.

He talks the talk and his press office indicated he was ready to spill the beans on standards and accountability. Will he be in favour of the act ? We're taking bets. Naturally, we'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Clicks’n Pops'n echoes.

Much weirdness at the Ministry.

The new pizza delivery guy seems skittish – furtive eyes and small hands. When we question him even lightly on the Diablo with extra cheese - he clearly knows nada.

Clicks, pops, echoes and whistling on our phones.

Our friends at Spymaster tell us if Her Majesty’s Government (Ltd) wants to hear what we’re up to - there's basically no way we can stop it.

Do we have delusions of grandeur ? Should we be flattered ?

Can you make a Freedom of Information request to find out if you’re being bugged ?

Did the Lord Chancellor’s office buy into our low-grade porn gag and tip off the thought Police ?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Standards without a chair ?

Sir Alistair Graham is the Chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life. It was instigated by John Major in 94 amid the scandals and sleaze that dogged the tail-end of the Conservatives time in office.

Sir Alistair's task is thankless.

He and his committee are the main Parliamentary watchdog for ethics, standards etc. in Parliament.

They report back to the Prime Minister.

They make recommendations to the Prime Minister.

Decisions to act on their reports and recommendations are the Prime Minister's.

Get the picture ?

The Prime Minister is the watchdog's teeth.

On April 24th, Sir Alistair's contract is up. These things happen. Nothing unusual in that.

What's unusual is that no replacement has been found.

Sir Alistair had some thoughts on this in an open letter to the Cabinet Secretary.

"I am extremely concerned that despite raising the issue with you on a regular basis since Sept 2006, no arrangements have been made to appoint my successor... This will leave the Committee without a permanent chairman for what is likely to be a considerable period, and, during a time of unprecedented public concern about standards of conduct in government and erosion in trust in the political process more generally. This risks perception, unfair or otherwise, that this Government places a low priority on the maintenance of the highest standards in public life."

Baroness Shephard of North-wold, a Tory peer and member of the Committee, said, “It is inexcusable when there are police investigating Downing Street to effectively disband the Standards Committee for a period of time by leaving us without a chairman. We have no idea what might be in store but they don’t want any more of us.”

Here are some past statements from Sir Alistair ;

I think it is demonstrated by opinion polls that the public think this
Government is as sleazy as the last. [Tony Blair] has paid a heavy price for
ignoring standards" May 21, 2006

"This is clearly in breach of the ministerial code"

...on John Prescott's visit to Philip Anschutz's ranch, July 20, 2006

Here's what Sir Philip Mawer - Commissioner for Standards said to us re: gaps in the policing of Parliament ;

Naturally, we expect the gov will get around to searching for a replacement. Suggestions on a postcard to TB c/o 10 Downing St.

For the full rub - here's an article in the Times.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Baroness Helena Kennedy QC

We interviewed Baroness Helena Kennedy QC - who famously said of David Blunket, "he takes his lessons on jurisprudence from Robert Mugabe".

Whilst we're busy editing, here's an extract from her forward to the Power Inquiry's investigation into the state of our democracy.

"...The disengagement from politics ... cannot be dismissed as the preoccupation of the chattering classes. Its substance has come from the voices of thousands of people around the country who feel quietly angry or depressed. When it comes to politics they feel they are eating stones. Principle and ideas seem to have been replaced with mangerialism and public relations. It is as though Proctor and Gamble or Abbey National are running the country...

However, the blame cannot all be put at the door of politicians and when the first wave of emotion about political lying and politicians self-interest or ruminations about the fault of the media, a very different public complaint surfaces. The disquiet is really about having no say. It is about feeling disconnected because voting once every four or five years does not feel like real engagement. Asking people to set questions in focus groups or polling is a poor substitute for real democratic processes. Voting itself seems irrelevant to increasing numbers of people: even supposing there is a candidate you like, if you are in a constituency where the outcome is preordained and your favoured choice is not IT there is no point turning out to the draughty church hall and inserting your vote in the ballot box.

It is also about feeling that there is no choice, despite our living in an era when CHOICE is the dominant political mantra – there is very little on offer as the main parties now seem to be much the same. It is about a belief that even Members of Parliament have little say because all of the decisions are made by a handful of people at the center and then driven through the system. Politics and government are increasingly slipping back into the hands of the privileged elites as if democracy has run out of steam...

...People have changed. Lives are being lived in very different ways but the political institutions and the main political parties have failed to keep up...

...The politicos have no idea of the extent of the alienation that is out there. The people round the Westminster water coolers are clearly not having the same conversations as they are everywhere else. Their temperature gauge is seriously out of kilter. When politicians or party managers were asked for ideas for re-engagement, the suggested solutions were almost all about tweaking the existing system, with a bit of new technology here and there. The result is no political space is being created for new politics and new ideas to emerge; a new politics – whether in the form of new parties or the genuine revival of the existing parties – will only be born once the structural problems within the current system are addressed.

What political leaderships seem to misunderstand is that if you want to unite people around a distinct and common purpose you have to draw people in. Too often citizens are being evicted form the processes.

Ways have to be found to engage people. Markets, contracts and economic rationality provide a necessary but insufficient basis for the stability and prosperity of post-industrial societies; there must be leavened with reciprocity, moral obligation, duty to community, trust and political engagement. People in Britain still volunteer; they run in marathons for charity; they hold car boot sales to raise funds for good causes; they take part in Red Nose days and wear ribbons for breast cancer or AIDS...They march against the Iraq war and in favour of the countryside. They sign petitions for extra street lights and more frequent bin collection. They send their savings to the victims of tsunamis and want to end world poverty. What they no longer want to do is join a party or get involved in formal politics. And increasingly they see no point in voting. This is a travesty for democracy and if it continues the price will be high. The only way to download power is by rebalancing the system toward people.

This is the agenda.

Now we need the political will."

Helena Kennedy QC
Member of the House of Lords
Foreword to ‘The Report of Power: An Independent Inquiry into Britain’s Democracy’
The Power Inquiry, February 2006

Friday, March 16, 2007

Freedom of Information Act update

The trials and tribulations of Maurice Frankel, the man (without a knighthood) behind the Freedom of Information Act and part inspiration for our decision to press ahead with
The Misrepresentation of the People Act is once more being put through the government grinder in an attempt to castrate it. The full story is here.

Some of the glorious info we'd be without if we didn't have the FOI is

Some gloriously hypocritical past Goverment quotes on the importance of the FOI Act follow for your delectation. Please note the latest of these is from April '98. It wasn't until seven years later the Act came into effect (despite having been part of the Labour party manifesto for a record 6 times). We're reliably informed by our friends in the civil service that the week before it's implementation their shredders were working overtime ;

"Information is power and any Government’s attitude about sharing information with the people says a great deal about how it views power itself and how it views the relationship between itself and the people who elected it” Tony Blair, speech at Campaign for Freedom of Information Act Awards, March 25, 1996

“We need a Freedom of Information Act that ensures not only a presumption in favour of disclosure, but also that the public interest defence must be available where there is a question mark over the illegitimate disclosure of information by civil servants . . .” Gordon Brown, Charter 88 Sovereignty Lecture, March 9, 1992

“We want to break down the barriers that may make the individual see the State in terms of Kafka’s Castle” Jack Straw, Annual Consitutution Unit Lecture, October 27, 1999

“We promised to make Britain a world beacon by creating a model freedom of information regime . . . Government should adequately and actively take the lead in promoting openness. We should be ready to open our doors, our files, our databases, so that the British people know what is being said and done in their name.” Lord Irvine of Lairg, Speech to the Campaign for Freedom of Information Awards, April 28, 1998

“We remain fully committed to freedom of information, to promoting a radical change across Government in the way Government conduct business, and to a new relationship between Government and the citizens they serve.” Lord Williams of Mostyn, Attorney General 1999-2001, Lords’ debate, February 10, 1999

“The rock on which [partnership between people and Government] is founded is trust and without openness and transparency in our dealings with the British people there will be no trust.” Peter Mandelson, quoted in The Times, November 20, 1997

Hat-tip to The Times for these.

Our interview with the man in the hot-seat...

The "out-takes" and behind the scenes jiggery pokery...

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Misrepresentation of the People Act (Mk 2)

After much too-ing and fro-ing over the mens rea required for an offence we seem to have agreed that recklessness to the truth by one of our elected representatives should constitute an offence and therefore the defences in Section 3 shouldn't include "had no intent to deceive or conceal".

Any further suggestions gratefully received. The revised Act follows ;

The Misrepresentation of the People Act




Ensure honesty, transparency and accountability from

the representatives of the People and their employees.

The obligation for honesty and transparency in matters of government by those elected to represent the People and their employees is absolute. They act on behalf of the People, their sovereignty flows from the people and is conditional upon such honesty and transparency.

S.1 Where an elected representative of the people or an agent employed on their behalf recklessly or with intent to deceive, publishes or causes to be published in their employment in office, a statement or account which to their knowledge is or may be misleading, false or deceptive in a material particular, they shall be guilty of an offence under this Act.

S.2 It shall be an offence under this Act for a representative of the people, or agent employed on their behalf to –

  1. Publish a statement, promise or forecast which he knows to be misleading, false or deceptive in a material particular, or

  2. Dishonestly conceal any material facts whether in connection with a statement, promise or forecast published by him, or

  3. Recklessly publish (dishonestly or otherwise) a statement, promise or forecast which is misleading, false or deceptive in a material manner.

S.3 It shall be a defence for any person charged with an offence under section 2 of this Act to show that at the time of the offence he -

  1. did not know, or could not have been reasonably expected to know that his act or conduct would create an impression that was false or misleading, or

  2. had no part in causing or permitting the publication of the statement or any part thereof, or

  3. could not reasonably be expected to have known that the statement to which the charge relates was inaccurate or misleading, or

  4. took all due care to ensure the accuracy of the statement, or

  5. acted in the interest of National Security.

S.4 Where a person causes any wasteful employment by knowingly making to a person a false report tending to show an offence has been committed, or tending to show he has information material to any police enquiry, he shall be liable for this offence on indictment only.

S.5 A person guilty of an offence of misrepresenting the people under this Act shall be liable upon summary conviction and or indictment and or be disqualified forthwith from standing as an elected representative of the people or their agent.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Peter Bottomley, Round 2

You'll remember from Monday our boisterous allegations to Karen Buck that Mr Blair lied over his voting record on the fox hunting ban.

Peter (amongst other statements over institutionalised lying) kindly points out Mr Blair's memory of events around the Bill for a fox-hunting ban isn't the same as public records.

Some would call this lying.

He also admits a Minister determined to be evasive is a very difficult
animal to hold to account for an MP, let alone a member of the public.

Just as we thought we were going to make a home run... we didn't even get to first base.

So far we've a 100% record. Everyone we've spoken to says honesty's an absolute requirement, admits there's a gap in accountability, but won't bite at the Misrepresentation of the People Act.

We've noticed the portrait of his wife seems to have horns on her forehead. We're assured by our tech bods this a trick of the light - not divine light.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Quote of the Week

"There's a system which I shall call explicitly organised lying by 10 Downing Street. And they will openly say things which are untrue"

"This is the first Prime Minister that I've ever heard of who will apparently say things which are untrue to get away from 24 hours of embarassment."

Peter Bottomley MP
Interview with The Ministry of Truth

We'll be posting the full interview tomorrow

Monday, March 12, 2007

Lie about how we vote ? That's misleading.

Our elected representatives in Parliament are there to legislate on our behalf, in our name. Hence the Misrepresentation of the People Act.

We haven’t quite finished with the Honourable Karen Buck MP (Lab) and her voting record. Forgive us, but it’s very relevant to the dust up we had in this interview over a certain Mr Blair.

She wasn’t against the Misrepresentation of the People Act - but feels without evidence of a problem why bother legislating ? She said "legislation for legislation’s sake is one of the problems she sometimes has with the government".

Is she referring to the 18 times she went against the government out of the last 2,163 votes in 10 years (0.8%) ?

Does that mean if we proved more than 0.8% of statements by our elected representatives are misleading, misrepresentative or plain lies – she
would accept this was “sometimes a problem”.

Anyone care to do the Maths ?

Talking of voting records… As you saw, our intrepid interviewer got over-excited and accused Mr Blair of lying about his voting record at General Election time. For this, we unreservedly apologise. Legally we cannot defend this accusation (nor do we intend to – Ed).

Ms Buck says she’s baffled as to why anyone would lie over “something that’s a matter of public record”.

By Ms Buck’s standards,
you only need to have voted twice out of six opportunities to be able to say you voted “against the war in Iraq”. If you accept this measure, we’re of the opinion you’d have voted in at least three of the subsequent eleven votes for an inquiry into the war. Ms Buck didn’t vote for any of them.

So, according to Karen Buck, it’s fine to say you voted against the war in Iraq if you voted in 2 out of 17 votes (6%).

We wonder if this standard would stack
up with the electorate (or in a court of law) ?

Your humble servant would like to propose the following motion for debate ;

"the wording of motions in the House of Commons is deliberately constructed to allow our elected representatives to say they’ve voted one way, leading the electorate to believe this is a statement of principle, when in fact an examination of all the votes on any issue in question may lead us to a very different conclusion." DISCUSS.

As for the fox-hunting ban, the facts of the matter follow ;

In a House of Commons Debate, 9 July 1997, he said "I have voted before in favour of a ban on fox hunting and I shall continue to do so,". The following November, on the 28th, there was a 2nd reading for the ban. He failed to vote at it. The following year, there were 4 votes. Blair was absent from them all.

The second “lie” we refer to was on 30 May 2001, just before the General Election. Blair said to BBC TV’s Question Time, “We had a free vote on hunting… I happened to vote in favour of a ban.”

In fact on the 20th December 2000 he had voted simply in favour of an “options bill” to be read on the 17th Jan.
This Bill gave 3 choices ;

1) A total ban
2) Introduce licensing
3) No change

On the 17th Jan 2001, when the time came to actually vote on these 3 options, Mr Blair wasn’t there.

During the same spiel on Question Time (and elsewhere), he stated the bill to ban fox-hunting was blocked in the House of Lords. I beg to differ, and Peter Bottomley MP also had some fairly strong opinions on this. We’ll be posting that shortly.

In the meantime, we ask you, did Tony Blair lie about the way he voted just before a general election ?

Friday, March 09, 2007

Karen Buck, Iraq, and the Party Whip

Whilst couching the post to our main Karen Buck interview in legally acceptable caveats we figured an investigation into the issue of misleading statements over voting and the voting record was very much in order.

Pay attention at the back. Once you've got through this it's... well... It's important. You'll see.

The Hon. Peter Bottomley MP touched on the party whip issue and its implications for MPs. Karen Buck counters ;

We’d like to clarify some points.

You may hear on your playback what appears to be the interviewer (or Ms Buck) breaking wind. It isn't. Neither is it the sound of the interviewer blowing a raspberry.

2) We’ll leave it to you to decide whether Karen Buck’s voting record leans towards free-thinking or the party whip. The bare stats for the times she went against her party are ;

5 May 2005 to present day : 1 vote out of 329, 0.3%
7 Jun 2001 to 11 Apr 2005 : 16 votes out of 923, 1.7%
1 May 1997 to 14 May 2001 : 1 vote out of 893 or 0.1%

You’ll note she claims in the interview to have voted against the war in Iraq. As our friend Julian at the Public Whip put it.. this is, "not completely correct".

Dear reader, we are now entering the land of the small print...

For a true insight into the nuts and bolts of what actually allows Karen Buck to proclaim she voted against the war in Iraq, now is the time to make an espresso. Then come back to this screen and take it all in. Take it all in baby ‘cos you may find yourself thinking – fuck me, what a load of devious bollocks.

Impartial reporting standards require me to say that you may not.

Now go and get some caffeine you subversive mutha.

The two crucial votes on the war with Iraq were both on the evening of March 18th. The first, at 9.15pm was division (Parliamentary term for a vote) number 117, in which Karen voted for the following ;

“This House notes its decisions of 25th November 2002 and 26th February 2003 to endorse UN Security Council Resolution 1441; believes that the case for war against Iraq has not yet been established, especially given the absence of specific United Nations authorisation; but, in the event that hostilities do commence, pledges its total support for the British forces engaged in the Middle East, expresses its admiration for their courage, skill and devotion to duty, and hopes that their tasks will be swiftly concluded with minimal casualties on all sides....cont'd"

It was understood that if this amendment had been passed, the House of Commons would have repudiated government policy and British forces would not have participated in the US-led invasion of Iraq. That may be the case – we shall never know.

In division 118, at 10pm that evening the actual Vote for the declaration of war took place. 338 Labour MPs voted, including 84 who went against their party, against the government and against the war in Iraq. Karen didn't vote.

Karen's voting record for the war on Iraq looks like this ;

Here's the Public Whip analysis

There's also the small matter
of voting for an inquiry into the invasion of Iraq. If your MP tells you they voted against the war in Iraq, you may expect them to vote for an inquiry into it. In all, there have been 11 votes on the need for an inquiry into
the war.

Karen has never voted for an inquiry.

So when Karen Buck proclaims she voted against the war in Iraq, you tell me if that's an honest statement, a genuine mistake, a mis-representation, misleading or a dis-ingenious lie ?

PS. A big thanks to Julian and our friends at the public whip. They do an amazing job. The next time your MP tells you what they stand for, you may want to check it out at their website.

Julian's full comment on the voting against Iraq guys and the voting for an inquiry is,

You can tell I think it is important to make a distinction between those who are actively trying to get this disaster sorted out, much to the detriment of their careers within the Party, and the ones who might have made a half-hearted stand in a vote three years ago, but appear content to allow the matter to skid for another bloody decade like Vietnam somehow did. It was probably seen as a compromise with the whips to be able to tell the public that they had voted against the war, whilst not actually threatening the Parliamentary majority or sacrificing their ministerial career prospects."

Here speaks a man that gazes into the bowels of Parliament on a minute by minute basis.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Karen Buck MP kyboshed by incoming legal advice/Lord Chancellor does porn ?

Today we were gonna post our interview with Karen Buck MP (Lab). Regrettably, your humble servant got over-excited during his time with Karen (I’m only flesh and blood y’know) and in the sweaty heat of her constituency office I... in no un-certain terms, I accused the Right Honourable Tony Blair of lying (he said he voted for the fox-hunting ban) when I shouldn’t have. His voting record on the ban is here.

We are advised (thank you, that’ll be another £3,000 etc..) that without explanatory
text etc. etc. this accusation is legally risky.

I consider myself suitably chastised (thank you, that'll be another £150 etc.). (Cheap at the price - Ed)

Meantime, we’re concocting the explanatory text and should have the post up shortly - you can decide.

I’m pleased to report yesterday’s meet with the Lord Chancellor went extremely well.

This may have had something to do with us informing reception staff at the Department of Constitutional Affairs that we were a low grade pornography outfit (if only - Ed) and there to film his Lordship. Our pneumatic production lady winked once and smiled at them knowingly - heels click-clacking on the floor as we were marched to the lift.

Falconer tore our proposed Bill to shreds in the nicest possible way. Frankly, we loved him. Had we been a porn unit on location this would've been a soft-focus romantic orgy.

Needless to say, we’ll be posting that interview ASAP.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Bottomley 1 : the Filkin Affair/Committee Life

We've heard much on the merits of self-regulation for Parliament on these pages, primarily from... well.. errr.. Members of Parliament...

Arguments along the lines of - it's speedy, efficient, convenient etc. proliferate.

For your speed and convenience, we give you - Mr Bottomley, Martin Bell... and Sir Phillip Mawer - the 3 degrees of opinion. All on one post.

"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."

For the record – we’re big fans of all these guys.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The MPs : Round 1, Peter Bottomley

Our grey hair count has tripled since we began doing the rounds of MPs. Trying to get support for the Misrepresentation of the People Act has been a learning curve to say the least.

One of our first appointments was with Peter Bottomley. Given yesterday's brief dip into the murky waters of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards and Elizabeth Filkin's time in that position (see Martin Bell's interview yesterday), we felt it worth giving Peter's comments on this subject an air (before we get to the meat of the matter). He sat alongside Martin on the Committee for Standards and Privileges, was at the epicentre of the Filkin controversy and not shy about the issues.

Sadly, the edit room door is locked tight. The bastards drip-feed us the news slower than Chinese water torture.

From what little we've heard (ears pressed hard against the cutting room door) we like the cut of his jib...

"There's a system which I shall call explicitly organised lying by 10 Downing Street. And they will openly say things which are untrue"

"This is the first Prime Minister that I've ever heard of who will apparently say things which are untrue to get away from 24 hours of embarassment."

From a respected, sitting MP - Statements like this make us giddy with anticipation.

To strike gold on our first outing and find a credible MP willing to propose the Act would be too easy, and in any case, if he'd've said YES, we'd know from the smiles in the edit suite.

We've been promised the edit for the "Filkin" stuff tomorrow. The Misrepresentation of the People Act the day after. If either come along earlier - we'll be posting.

Today we have an interview with Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, she sits in the House of Lords, heads up the Power Inquiry (an independent think tank on democracy) and is certainly on par with our resident motherlode of constitutional law - Professor Conor Gearty. Her thoughts on the lack of legal redress we have against our elected representatives when they lie will be seminal - but sadly just "thoughts", whereas....

...Tomorrow we're seeing the man who can put such thoughts into practice - the real deal - Lord Falconer, the Lord Chancellor, Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs. Here's hoping he hasn't seen any previous posts of ours - especially the recently discovered footage of him fooling around when he shared a flat (and a girlfriend - Ed) with Tony Blair.

Irreverent ? Disrespectful ? Moi ?

Monday, March 05, 2007

MPs and the Ministry of Truth

Doing the rounds in search of an MP to support and propose the Misrepresentation of the People Act has got us on first name terms with the staff on reception at 1 Parliament St/Portcullis House ("Hi" to Gary & co) but so far it's hard to tell if it's got us much else.

Suprisingly few, "Get out of my office you time-wasters !", though there have been a couple - we'll be bringing you the highlights (once we've run it by the lawyers).

To date, most seem sane, rational, charming and dedicated individuals who've never really contemplated (conveniently or otherwise) the fact that there's no law enabling us to hold our elected representatives to account for misrepresenting facts/making misleading statements etc. in the same way we can with most companies, businesses and individuals.

However, "sounds interesting" is a far cry from a commitment - and a whole lot faster off the tongue when you're staring into a camera.

Time to remind ourselves of what former MP Martin Bell had to say...

Friday, March 02, 2007

Quote of the Week

"The trouble about a political culture that tolerates and promotes figures like Mandelson and MacShane is it sends out a message that lying is acceptable. Civil servants and others take their lead from ministers and do the same."
Peter Oborne
The Rise of Political Lying 2005 (P. 84)

"Never put anything on paper, my boy, and never trust a man with a small black moustache."
P.G. Wodehouse

UPDATE : “The rock on which [partnership between people and Government] is founded is trust and without openness and transparency in our dealings with the British people there will be no trust.”
Peter Mandelson
The Times, November 20, 1997

Thursday, March 01, 2007

the Party Whip and the Career MP

A good article from yesterday's First Post covering the rise of the Careerus Parliamentarianus - another genotype in the opposite vein to Rogus Parliamentarianus.

MPs towing the party line can at least look forward to the prospect of ministerial and cabinet positions. If you don't follow the party whip you're pretty much stuck as a backbench MP - and without another income/career your job prospects aren't exactly gonna be great.

All the same, it'll be fun asking them to support the Misrepresentation of the People Act ...

Ministry of Truth : Do you believe in honesty, transparency and accountability ?

MP : Absolutely, it's the foundation of our democracy.

Ministry of Truth : Did you know there's no law which requires these from an MP and allows the electorate to legally hold them to account for lying ?

MP : Yes, but there are Parliamentary bodies and commissioners that handle this.

Ministry of Truth : Precisely, they all report to either Parliament or the PM - you can't be judge and jury in your own trial. Even Sir Philip Mawer (the
Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards) admitted there's a gap.

MP : Did he ? I seem to remember his predecessor mentioning that. I think you'll find our system delivers the most honest and accountable government anywhere in the world.

Ministry of Truth : That's not the point. You're representing our sovereignty and there's no form of independent legal redress for us to hold our elected representatives to account.

MP : That would undermine the very basic principle of Parliamentary sovereignty.

Ministry of Truth : Exactly, it's our sovereignty and we've drafted a bill which enshrines the honesty and accountability of our elected representatives in law, it's called the Misrepresentation of the People Act - will you propose it for us in Parliament ?

MP : Is that the time ? Blimey, I've a constituency meeting to get to.