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

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 .

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

MPs Expenses - Arresting developments

Files on six MPs have been passed by the police to the CPS.

We've been here before of course - the police get a case together, hand evidence over to the Crown Prosecution service and....   hmmm. They decide whether to press charges based on whether there's enough evidence to mount a successful prosecution and it serves the public interest. It'll be interesting to see  how this pans out timing-wise with the run up to the election.

Money at Ministry Towers is on Elliot Morely MP taking the fall. The face fits and if you can measure a mans character in numbers - they don't look good as far as integrity goes. In this government he's voted 0.6% of the time against his party (3 of those were MP's home address related issues). Nor does it help that 3 out of the last 7 years he's come joint 1st for claims of the Additional Cost Allowance. He's also voted against capping MPs pay increases at 2.3%, pretty consistently against strengthening the Freedom of Information Act, for the Iraq war but against any subsequent inquiries and of course, was for student top-up fees.

He's been the MP for Scunthorpe since 1987 - the constituents must be delighted with their local party's choice of candidate.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Dismal Dismore MP punishing intentions

Longest-standing member of the Parliamentary Standards and Privileges Committee, Andrew Dismore MP  is the latest to have his expenses questioned. He is not unknown to us.

A constituent asked him to support our "Elected Representatives (Prohibition of Deception) Bill" and he was good enough to answer via e-mail, "Frankly, I think that it is a rather silly Bill, because I do not know of any elected representatives who would knowing make a false statement..."

Good to know the Committee and it's members had it's finger on the pulse then.

His "shock and horror" in the October 2009 letter to constituents isn't entirely unpredictable, "May I firstly start by saying that I have been as shocked and horrified as the public has been, over some of the claims put forward by some MPs."

A little more surprising was his hypocritical assessment of our intentions and our use of the legislative process when referring to our proposed law...

"the Bill has no prospect of proceeding and I think it is simply being promoted as a publicity stunt".

Hmmm. In the letter to constituents of October 2009 you'll find that apparently, we are all indebted to the Labour Party for the uncovery of the expenses scandal - without them, it would never have been brought to light...

"It is only because of the Freedom of Information Act, brought in by the Labour Government, that we are now aware of what was happening."

Er ???  That'd be the same Labour Government which fought tooth and nail through the courts to prevent the Freedom of Information Act being used to disclose the expenses scandal by the Telegraph.

Andrew was gracious enough to forego his secondary home allowance this year and opted to bag the London weighting allowance instead. Using the same cynics measure of our "publicity stunt" intentions to criminalise political deception, we would like to stress that this has no connection to the fact that his transparent and honest secondary home claims would amount to less than his London weighting allowance.

There you go - Andrew's expenses may well be with the public interest at heart, but no good deed shall go unpunished and lest we forget... the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Feel free to e-mail Andrew at to ask him whether he's changed his mind on criminalising political deception.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Gordon admits election defeat

Here's the thing...

If you announce legislation requiring gov't to half the budget deficit and the following day OECD figures say spiraling UK debt is increasing interest payments and the budget deficit... doesn't that mean you're about to pass a law you're going to break ?

Doesn't that mean Gordon's knows full well he's not going to be in government once his "Fiscal Responsibility" Bill is on the statute books ?

Answers on a postcard please.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Brown Love Law

You've got to hand it to Brown, as lawmaking goes, yesterday was something of a high water mark.

How do you square the proposed "Fiscal Responsibility Bill" - a legal obligation for the government to halve the deficit with, for example, the "Children, Schools and Families Bill" which obliges councils to pay for extra tuition when a child falls behind. How do you pay for the latter when legally obliged to do the former.

Answer : "We don't have to."

The clue was in culture secretary Ben Bradshaw's rebuff to criticisms that there was no mention of expenses or a parliamentary clean-up in the Queens speech. Bradshaw simply said government had " legislated to set up an independent regulator... given control of the process away". In other words, it's no longer this government's or Parliament's responsibility.

When the council comes, cap in hand Bradshaw can tell them, "Sorry, we're legally obliged to halve the deficit - you guys are legally obliged to fund the tuition. That's the law. It's out of our hands".

Which all begs the question, what happens if they don't halve the deficit, if the council can't fund additional school tuition, who do you take to court ? Who pays the legal fees ? Where does the money come from to pay damages ?

That'll be the taxpayer then.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Queen Farts

I used to have a female acquaintance who could break wind on demand. Shameless with it. So shameless she could keep a perfectly straight face. Every time some hapless poor sod (for some reason they were always Parliamentary researchers or junior civil servants) tried to chat her up, after he'd finished his riveting tale of Parliamentary intrigue she'd briefly pause, smile sweetly and proceed to fart so loudly it was impossible to pretend you hadn't heard it.

I share this with you because the Queen, at approximately 11.30am today, will do roughly the same thing. If you're not too squeamish you can even watch it on TV. It's called "The State Opening of Parliament" and Her Majesty will be laying out the legislation her government intends to pass...   except it isn't. Everybody knows it, including her. On average, it takes 124 days to get a piece of legislation onto the statute books. There has to be a general election before June, which leaves 70 sitting days of Parliament. Nick Clegg said "It is a waste of everyone's time, and should be cancelled in favour of an emergency programme of political reform. That is the only job this rump of a Parliament is fit for." ? Cameron called it the "most divisive, short-termist, shamelessly self-serving" Queen's Speech "in living memory".

Whatever it is the Queen's going to say..."a legal obligation to halve the budget deficit..."  all of it, aside from being even more meaningless than the raft of message-based legislation we've endured, is...  well... meaningless. Designed purely as puff-piece manifesto-making. The real question is, can she keep a straight face ?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

MPs table motion - no retrospective expense claim repayments

For some reason, it seems some MPs are a little concerned about what the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) will demand of them in the way of re-paying expenses and tabled a motion to the house, led by Graham Allen MP.

“This House notes the appointment of Sir Ian Kennedy as Chair of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) and hopes he carries out his duties in line with natural justice, including adherence to the concepts of reasonableness and proportionality, and without retrospectivity.”

The punchline - "without retrospectivity" is of particular interest. The honourable Mr Allen came joint 1st in 06/07 and 02/03 league table for Aditional Costs allowance claims. Better still, in 07/08, despite spending £800 more than his 1st place for 06/07, 200 MPs managed to spend more than him, resulting in a disappointing 201st place. Despite this, he still managed a very respectable joint 13th place last year for overall costs.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Baby P / Told you so

Don't say we didn't tell you so.

This Baby P/Shoesmith/Balls and OFSTED thing is going to be interesting. Turns out that OFSTED ("We inspect and regulate to achieve excellence in the care of children and young people") hid crucial evidence from the court.

Shoesmith accused Ed Balls, OFSTED & Co of all kinds of irregular (lack of) procedure in making her the scapegoat and deflecting blame from the government. This isn't the first civil servant to point a finger at the government, but this is the first on such an emotive issue. Between the lines, Shoesmith's saying the gov and it's regulatory bodies are bent incompetent and social workers are fighting an uphill struggle to perform a half decent job.

Days after Baby P died, OFSTED had issued Haringay 3 stars in an inspection report on its performance, then, completely reversed their findings. Balls based his sacking of Shoesmith on the second, damning report.

Shoesmith was prevented from seeing OFSTED's report before it was published - unlike Balls who insisted on seeing it and was briefed the same morning. Shoesmith was also prevented from addressing any of it's findings. When her lawyers requested the notes and early drafts were disclosed for the court hearing, OFSTED couldn't find them, then said they didn't exist and then had to eat their words. A hapless new lawyer at OFSTED's legal department responded to a Freedom of Information request for the documents with a cheery "here they are."

Straight out of "In the thick of it".

The judge is so pissed off he's ordered OFSTED to pay all of Shoesmith's additional legal fees at a punitive rate. Nice to know the taxpayer will be footing all the bills then.

Bottom line, at least on the surface of it, is that OFSTED, safeguarder of children, is at least as crap as Haringay and we suspect as much to blame as Ball's dep't for the level of protection kids at risk can expect.

Another nail in the coffin for Government-created, "independent" review bodies.

IPSA eat your heart out.

P.S. A quick look at the IPSA site shows they were advertising for board members. Closing date for applications was 19th October. If there's anyone out there who applied, we'd love to hear from you.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Government can't run a bath

There's been a theory knocking around Ministry Towers that despite the media's love for the soap opera of conspiracies, lies and deceit in politics - all of this manifests itself from an incredibly banal truth... the Government can't run a bath let alone the country.

And now the PM's had to apologise for his letter writing skills...

It's almost inconceivable to think someone running a factory, expressing condolences to a mother for the loss of her son in an industrial accident would be so cack-handed. If you've got crap handwriting, but want to make it personal you'd get a secretary to hand-write, spell and namecheck it, then simply sign. You can't doubt Brown's good intentions - wanting to actually write the thing - but even at this macro-level the  judgement that goes into the execution is way below par.

On a broader scale the poor judgement/execution infects everything it touches. The fees office, inquiries, civil service, public services.

Panorama last night took a pop at the Criminal Justice System - a subject close to the Ministry's heart (and currently under active investigation by sister company, Spirit Level Film). It resulted in Jack Straw announcing a review of "out-of-court" penalties. In 2004 the government solution to over-burdened courts was to give the police power to issue offenders with PND notices - the ability to let an offender off with a fine and caution if they plead guilty. Now the police are issuing them for violent offences - ABA etc. Except half of them remain unpaid and have to be chased up by....   the courts. Cut to police chief explaining the time burden of a PND is half a man hour, versus two and a half hours for sending someone to court.

It'd be interesting to see the stats on offences PNDs have been issued for versus the stats for the same offences brought to court pre-PND. This writer's willing to bet a lunch on the number of unpaid PNDs issued that need to be chased up in court being equal to or higher than the same offences, pre-PND that ended up in court. Anyone out there got a spare half hour ?

Adding insult to injury is the fact it's only a Panorama programme or other media exposure that gets Straw & Co to review the situation.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Westminster Cocks confirmed

Yesterday, we discovered for ourselves what the architect of Parliament really thought of it's members.

If ever you're feeling down over the state of politics today... take comfort with a stroll across Westminster Bridge... On the right kind of glorious sun-filled morning you can bathe in the warm, delicious glow of knowledge that for years, our MPs have been branded by sunlight as cocks 'n balls. Better still, there's nothing they can do about it.

As the sun moves round, the cocks elongate, fatten and contract in a graceful arc next to the Palace of Westminster. Day in, day out.

It is, without doubt, the best middle finger ever given to the establishment. Don't think for a moment it wasn't deliberate. Though the bridge is credited as being designed by Thomas Page it's an often overlooked fact that it's architectural ironmongery (including the genius shadow-casting ballistrade) was designed by Charles Barry - the architect of the Palace of Westminster. The House of Lords was finished in 1847, Commons chamber in 1852. Barry died in 1860, but not before he'd finished his part of the designs for Westminster Bridge - which opened in 1862.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Westminster wives sex strike

Suzy Gale, pictured with MP husband, Roger

It seems the most hard done-by in the expenses "sideshow" have been Westminster wives. The Kelly report recommended no more employment of MPs wives and they've taken umbrage (and legal advice which looks like such a ban would be unlawful).

They could take a lead from the women of Sirt, a 600 people village in Turkey...

In 2001, they'd had enough of lining up at the trickling village fountain to carry large containers of water  home (sometimes several miles) after months of their husbands promises to fix the water system. They decided to go on a bedroom boycott. No water, no shag. Unsurprisingly, after years of complaining, the system was sorted.

This can be a high risk strategy - for example, over the years Guido's "tottywatch" has featured plenty of Westminster wannabe's - but not many wives.

Where this would leave Jacqui Smith's husband is anybody's guess.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Tumbleweed through Westminster

There's that moment in Shooting Stars when Vic Reeves cracks a joke, silence followed by tumbleweed blowing across the studio...

Nobody's laughing at the Kelly report and the silence in Westminster is killing us. Either that or no-one's talking to the lobby hacks. The most they could muster from the expected collective outrage was a letter signed by five protesting wives employed by MPs.

The Telegraph managed to prise some quotes from Parliamentary grandees, Sir George Young gave a decent insight into his mindset, Asked whether members could accept a pay rise in the face of public anger he told the BBC: “If that is what an independent body decides then I am sure the public will endorse it.” We probably will. But it sticks in the craw.

We had the pleasure of interviewing Sir G for the Ministry as chair of The Parliamentary Committee for Standards and Privileges.
"I think we've got the balance right... No-one has a greater interest in policing the code, setting high standards for Members of Parliament, than Members of Parliament," May 2007
If there should be resignations over the current state of Parliaments' lamentable lack of public trust he's one of them...

...still, no-one really questioned the headmaster and prefects in charge of maintaining the self-regulation charade. Yet.

There was also the tiniest hint of infighting - Anthony Steen, the Tory MP for Totnes, said he had been “vilified” for putting in receipts for the running costs of his second home while others who have made significant sums by claiming mortgage interest have “got off scot-free”. Yes Anthony, we're all extremely sympathetic. That's what happens when an elected representative doesn't show up for votes on whether expenses should be subject to Freedom of Information requests and indeed all the other FOI votes. We note you were in favour of no lower limit to the receipts MPs should have to declare - but that was on the 30th April of this year - too little, too late. In any case the police haven't started to name names yet.

The press lobby said the feeling of anger was "palpable" and there was a general, "all of us have been punished for the actions of a few".... errr.... yup. That's right. We entrusted all of you to keep the house on the straight and narrow.

All in all it feels like todays' Guy Fawkes romp through Parliament organised by Old Holborn, Guido & Co have something to celebrate... for the moment at least.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

IPSA scam ?

The Ministry can barely contain itself in anticipation of the Kelly report and response from the honourables... but figured it was worth taking a moment to reflect on the venerable institution itself, and in particular, it's desire ability to deliver legislation. We've not been shy in past criticism of "message based legislation", the question is, are we a bunch of myopic anti-establishment hippies (we take offence at "myopic") and unduly harsh on the mother of all Parliaments.

Kelly's findings are delivered to the newly-born Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority.

Here's the Ministry of Justice's announcement for the creation of the IPSA,

"The old system of MPs’ self regulation is to end and a new system of robust, independent and transparent statutory regulation will be brought forward in urgent legislation introduced to Parliament by Harriet Harman and Jack Straw."
Good enough. And Parliament was quick to endorse the intention in the expenses backlash. Let's take a bo-peep at what came out of the grinder. Worth bearing in mind this government's majority. You can read the Bill in full here, for those with less time on their hands, here are some key clauses ;

3 MPs’ salaries
(1)  The IPSA is to pay the salaries of members of the House of Commons in accordance with the relevant resolutions of the House.

4 MPs’ allowances scheme
(5)The Speaker must lay the scheme (or revision) before the House of Commons.

7 Investigations
(4) If, after conducting an investigation, the Commissioner finds that the member was paid an amount under the scheme that should not have been allowed, the Parliamentary Standards Bill the Commissioner must refer the Commissioner’s findings to the House of Commons Committee on Standards and Privileges.

(6) If, after conducting an investigation, the Commissioner finds that the member failed to comply with a requirement included in the code by virtue of section (7), the Commissioner must refer the Commissioner’s findings to the Committee on Standards and Privileges.

In other words, any deviance is reported to... the Committee on Standards and Privileges...  who report and make recommendations to...  The House of Commons.


To get an idea of where Westminster's coming from, here's an example of the amendments that shaped the Bill before it received the Royal assent....  (blue is replacement text, red is deleted)

5 MPscode of conduct relating to financialinterests rulesinterests
(1) The IPSA must prepare rules under subsections (7), (8) and (10) a code to be observed by members of the House of Commons....

Clearly, there's an important distinction between the deleted word "rules" and the preferred replacement "code of conduct".

One clause it's hard to find fault with is ;

10 Offence of providing false or misleading information for allowances claims

(1) A member of the House of Commons commits an offence if the member—
(a) makes a claim under the MPs’ allowances scheme, and
(b) provides information for the purposes of the claim that the member knows to be false or misleading in a material respect.

You'll be pleased to hear that in this regard, Parliament have caught up with the rest of us, or should that read, "duplicated the Fraud Act (monetary gain by deception)". Which MPs are already subject to, and indeed several are going to be prosecuted under.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Premature, premature, premature

When will we learn.

Last Thursday's post was kosher, just a little early. You'll notice from the comments that both Brown and Cameron were dissenters - (we can't testify to the authenticity of the authors, then again, it'd be a brave man betting either knew what was going on in their party).

Meantime, regrettably we're bound and gagged on this for what may be a week or so and we'll return to salivating in anticipation of tomorrow's Kelly report. Weirdly, the press seem a little quiet on this, though the Ministry is given to understand it's contents have been with the printers since the weekend.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Honest Politics at last.

Hallelujah. We've been chasing the main parties for a commitment to criminalise political deception and yesterday got formal word that at least one has come through.

Having been trapped after-hours in the bowels of Westminster more times than we care to remember,  worn the carpets thin seeing Ministers and MPs over the last four years, been berated, ejected and scorned it seems some good has come from the expenses sideshow. There's been a genuine shift from the traditional Parliamentary, "we can police ourselves/get the hell out of my office"... a firm "we're committed to criminalising political deception as per the Elected Representatives (Prohibition of Deception) Bill.

This Minister's almost embarrassed to say it didn't really register until some ten hours later. Brain's still processing the info. Too tired to believe it. Must get some kip. Promise to give full update once the whiskey's flushed through.

Hoping to wake up before Jacqui Smith on Question Time and celebrating properly.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Ministry of Justice Re-offends

You heard it here first, this is an election issue in the making - it may even lead to us saving a few billion a year if we can flush out the truth.

Justice Minister for Prisons, Maria Eagle, had the pleasure of our company last month whilst we tried to get to the bottom of some criminal stats. Seems that Alan Duncan's also bumped into her on the same nausea inducing issue.

The Sun, admittedly, purveyors of strange and wonderful parallel universe, were the only newspaper to pick up on it. Duncan's accused the government of a "shameful attempt" to mislead the public over the scale of re-offending. David Howarth, the Lib-Dem justice spokesman and friend of the Ministry said, "there can be no excuse for the release of confusing or misleading figures".

The figure in dispute is the rate of re-offending. An absolutely key figure because it tells us how effective we are at dealing with the offenders we pick up. In the 1970's this reached a then unheard of 30% - inducing all kinds of reform. Today the rate, depending on the kind of offender/offence varies between 75% and 90%.

Probation officers' leader Harry Fletcher said: "The Government has changed the way it collates statistics on violent offenders. This could give the impression there's been a reduction in numbers and therefore less threat to the public. In reality, however, the number has almost certainly increased. The effect has been total confusion and uncertainty about what the actual trends are."

Apologies for the fisking but it's not often you get to quote The Sun, "The Ministry of Justice said it was impossible to compare figures because of the different way they were collated. Justice Minister Maria Eagle said the number of criminals who "re-offend seriously" has remained at about 0.5 per cent for four years.".

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Outrage ? errr, actually just a lie.

Dominic Lawson pipped us to the post in today's Independent on something that's been occupying the Ministry for some time now - except he missed the point. Headlined "Jimmy Carr and the pomposity of Outrage" it should have been "Once again the press lie to sell more copies and dupe a few politicians along the way".

Last Friday night, live at the Manchester Apollo, Carr said, "Say what you like about servicemen amputees from Iraq and Afghanistan, but we're going to have a fucking good Paralympic team in 2012.". The Express and sundry Sunday's went for, "Fans stunned as Jimmy Carr insults our Afghan heroes" - apparently they "gasped with shock", were "stunned" and well... you get the picture. Cut to various MPs and Ministers expressing their disgust etc. etc. at Mr Carr  and Dominic Lawson's article saying such "outrage" was pompous.

Except there weren't any stunned or shocked fans, as one bemused reader pointed out in an e-mail, "I was at the Manchester Apollo that Friday and the audience was not 'stunned into silence'. The place erupted in laughter.".

More and more you've got to wonder what these papers are playing at. Sister company Spirit Level Film just interviewed Chris Roycroft-Davis for "The Fear Factory" (an exposé of how UK PLC is manufacturing the fear of crime into the reality of criminals). Roycroft-Davis was The Sun's longest serving deputy editor and leader writer. His insights will hardly be news to most of us, but the straightforwardness was chilling, especially when coming from the man who's penned a career's worth of words in Britain's most highly read daily newspaper. "A newspaper has a duty to it's shareholders." Bottom line. When the consumer stops buying shit, they'll stop peddling it. Except, the various politicians who joined the fray (Bob Ainsworth et al) bought it, and they aren't paying customers.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Ministry loses it's bet

No Griffin walkout so we're down a few quid, but who's counting. If that's a platform for the BNP - give us more.

Admittedly, Griffin got off lightly. Not that it was a shabby performance from the other panelists, but none of them squarely nailed him to a post, drove the points home, boxed him into a corner. Griffin managed to keep his cool and to some degree looked like a victim as opposed to a victim because of his rhetoric and values. Jack Straw never quite hammered and pressed the opportunities when he could have, a more effective rebuttal to Griffin's Holocaust denial explanation would have been "what sort of person, let alone party leader denies the Holocaust in the first place, then says he's re-evaluated his position after seeing transcripts of intercepted radio transmissions". Easy to say that with 20/20 hindsight. Time was short and I suspect more's needed for a thorough dissection of the Griffin animal.

Still, it was interesting to see that despite many political differences, in face of the BNP there's much more the other parties agree, than disagree on - especially when it comes to core values. This could easily have unwound when Straw copped out on Labour's culpability for the BNP getting votes, but Warsi quickly scored points by reigning him in and with the BNP in the room, it felt like Straw wasn't inclined to attempt spinning a way out of it.

Full score to the BBC for standing up to the nay-sayers and providing the opportunity. Evidently there's been no bloodbath or surge of support for the BNP (perhaps a little premature to make a call on the latter) in the aftermath of giving them a platform so perhaps the likes of Peter Hain, Livingstone and Alan Johnson will accept the public's not so stupid as to need their censorship protection from unconscionable views.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

This'll be appointment viewing

Much is at stake here - the rise of fascism, racism etc. versus the ability of Jack Straw, the other panelists and audience to expose the BNP on national TV. Thrown into the mix is censorship, don't give 'em a platform etc. and probably the career of the BBC's Director General. There may be the smallest of chances that Nick Griffin will perform well - the consequences of which are too dire/embarrassing for all to contemplate.

Weirdly, we find ourselves in agreement with Gordon (it's the BBC's decision) Brown . Weirder still is to find ourselves rooting for Jack Straw. Both are in direct opposition to the likes of Peter Hain, Alan Johnson and Ken (chair of the United Against Fascism League) Livingstone - who's words of wisdom condemn the BBC's decision with nanny-state logic...  we must control, censor and legislate - the public are too stupid to think for themselves etc. He told Radio 4

"if anyone is hurt tonight the BBC will bear moral responsibility for that," adding that he felt the broadcaster had "lost its moral compass".
"Unlike any other party, when Nick Griffin speaks or when they get elected in an area, what we see is an increase in racial attacks. It's a long pattern not just with the BNP but with the national front before them. He goes and says his bit ... but for the angry racist it's the trigger that turns into an attack.
"We first saw this when Enoch Powell made his 'rivers of blood' speech there was a huge surge in attacks on black conductors on our buses and that's why you apply a different standard to the BNP to those parties that do not legitimise this sort of violence against minorities."

Err...., No Ken. You get racially motivated violence because some people are idiots and violent with it. If they didn't have a TV show exposing the BNP as idiots to spark violence it'd be something else.

No word from the Cameron benches on support or otherwise for the BBC. Pussies to a man.

There's money changing hands at Ministry Towers over whether there'll be a walkout from one of the panelists. Mine's on Griffin, it'll be his last resort to any semblance of dignity.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Meet the BNP

Much gnashing of teeth at Ministry Towers over the BNP on Questiontime.

In the blue corner we have the Peter Hain ™ world - it's a disgrace, legitimising racism, a platform to prejudice and the traditional "I refuse to pay my license fee".

In the red corner we have, "this is exactly why I pay my license fee".

BNP leader, Nick Griffin,  pelted with eggs wishes his Daddy was there to protect him.
Sadly, no-one knows who his father is.

This writer currently finds himself more and more with the reds. The BNP were legitimised by the electorate - end of story. The BBC didn't do that, the voters did, and the BBC is now giving them a platform to combat the very reason they were legitimised, Peter Hain and his logic.

During befuddled days at university, I was part of a group that monitored racist activity on campus. This involved attending various BNP get-together's, knees ups, concerts (the charming band Screwdriver were standard fare) and meetings. Once you've seen this bunch up close and in action, if the bile coming out of their mouths wasn't so revolting you'd never keep a straight face - and laughing at them would've resulted in a good kicking.

Once you've heard these guys speak, attempt to run a meeting, organise leaflet distribution etc. you'd realise what a complete joke they are. You'd realise that their total lack of ability is a direct reflection of anybody who can square such ridiculous policies and vile rhetoric with any notion of logic, any notion of what it is to be human.

Voters legitimised the BNP for two reasons ;

1) Partly as a reaction to the appalling performance and credibility of the mainstream parties directly after the expenses scandal

2) Primarily because voters have never seen them in direct confrontation with mainstream parties or an audience with a combined IQ over 30.

The Ministry has had it's disagreements with Jack Straw in the past, but having smelt the BNPs breath and got a taste of what they're made of, they're "substance", I'm confident he'll take them to pieces, alongside the audience. Much as I love the sight of Nick Griffin being pelted with eggs, the BBC are doing exactly what's needed - giving them a rope via the opportunity of directly engaging with majority opinion and a semblance of intelligence. Once they've met the BNP, even the very lowest of the lowest fuckwits will question casting another vote in their favour. Mark Thompson, Director General of the BBC understands this. Peter Hain, Alan Johnson & Co do not.

This ticket alone's worth the license fee.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Hypocrite Harman again

Harriet Harman's over a barrel again (the image renders us... well... let's not pause for thought).

The Ministry had the personal pleasure of Ms Harman's company some time ago. Our half hour came to an abrupt end - leaving us wandering the bowels of Westminster un-attended (footage available on personal request). We digress... the interview left us confused as to the nature of the beast - was it possible for a minister to be so... well.. average ? Common sense left the room on her entrance and we were convinced only mind-altering drugs could have been responsible for the twists and turns in her non-logic. Apparently we were wrong.

We should have mentioned this last week (apologies for tardiness) when Harman told MPs: 'We have to judge things by the rules and standards that obtained at the time..." apparently the "court of public opinion" she so famously stood by when going after Sir Fred Goodwin's bonus/retirement package with the threat of retrospective legislation doesn't count for much anymore.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Inland Revenue switch to TNT post ?

Perhaps there's another reason (apart from the obvious) the Royal Mail are choosing this week to strike...

...the deadline for filing your income tax return by post is 31st October.

When your return shows up late care of the postal service do you get to name the Royal Mail as a co-defendant when appealing a late filing fee ? Better still, what happens when you don't get the notice HMRC posted to tell you they're after a late filing fee ? No doubt we're about to find out - to paraphrase Sir Thomas Legg of expense enquiry fame, "talk is cheap, money pays the rent" and right now for GB PLC, cashflow is king.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Taleban Italian Job

The French Military are unhappy, the Italians deny all.

Taking over the usually "quiet" Salobi area of Afghanistan from the Italians, the French quickly found themselves under attack and lost 10 men - only to discover there was a reason for the previous "detente".

The Italians (you can tell by the sunglasses) it seems had been paying protection money to prevent local insurgents from attacking. Once the French had moved in and resumed attacks, quite reasonably the Taleban ("we're businessmen after all") assumed the deal was over with and got back to work - presumably with a view to finding an "accommodation" from the French.

The Italian government have vigorously denied any such underhand activity. Given Berlusconi's current credibility problems (and their infantry's well-known predilection for having 3 reverse gears in their armoured vehicles) they'd be better off spinning it differently and leading from the front,  something along the lines of...


And perhaps they're not wrong. Instead of spending a lot of money sending troops over there, why not cut out the middleman - the Army. Instead of declaring war, simply give the insurgents a few quid to keep themselves to themselves.

Except then they'd have no-one to keep themselves to themselves from.

OK, scratch that. Start the war, get 'em all pepped up, give 'em a few quid to quiet down and then get the hell out. I'm not saying we wouldn't get our hair wet etc. but these are, let's face it, fairly minimal losses versus unending years of war. Perfect exit strategy. Now if we'd've had that deal going in Iraq - the gov. could say they've done the right thing and averted the terrifying threat of WMD's, peace has been restored. Job done. No enquiries, no backlash, no questions of illegal war, minimal casualties and we get to save a few quid.

I pointed this out to a Greek friend with a massive holding in a US arms company - he was underwhelmed.
"The military will never go for it, three months of action and then what ?"
"But at the moment we're paying off the enemy anyway and costing us a lot of money and lives by being over there."
"But if we weren't over there in the first place you wouldn't have to be paying off the enemy ."
"I'm talking about exit strategy. I'm not saying a government shouldn't go in to prove a point, get votes, build morale, keep our boys in tip top condition as well as fuel arms development and provide jobs back home... I'm just saying we should manage the exit strategy in a more business-like fashion. Once it looks like things are gonna be tougher than we thought just pay them off and declare victory."
"Then what ?"
"Keep paying - it's still cheaper"
"Another Black Label ?"
"That'll do nicely."
"Promise to stop this line of conversation ?"
"Absolutely. But you've just proved my point."
"How's that ?"
"We've had a disagreement, you buy me a drink, peace is restored and you get to claim a moral victory. Now, you've just gotta keep buying"

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Question of Honour ? Trust is like virginity.

Hmm, some interesting honourable questions raised by Conservative front bencher Eleanor Laing's repayment of £25k against a capital gain of £180k despite not being asked to repay it.

Eleanor earned 180k free of capital gains tax when she sold two Westminster flats in 2008. She'd told the tax authorities they were her principal residence but had designated them as a second home for purposes of expenses.

So what price honour ? The amount you claimed in expenses over the years, 13.9% of the sum earned or whichever is the lesser of the two ?
Is this an admission of guilt ?
Why hasn't Sir Thomas Legg included the re-payment of capital gains in his recommendations ?
How do you square saying one thing to the Inland Revenue and another to the fees office ?
Is the Inland Revenue demanding payment ?
The Fraud Act makes a material gain by deception a criminal offence... where are the prosecutions ?

Can't help thinking the Professor is right... "trust is like virginity... you can only lose it once".

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I'm soooooooo sorrrreeeeee-ee-eee-eeee

Extraordinary. It's taken four months, trawls through private diaries, police records, security records, repeated complaints to Parliamentary commissioners and endless requests for information to establish the pathetically obvious...

1) Jacqui Smith's main home is where she lives with her family in Redditch
2) The room she stayed in at her sister's London flat is not her main home.

Ms Smith says the arrangements were the best way for her to deliver value to her constituents and taxpayers... errrr... that would be true if she hadn't pretended the family home was her second home and then claimed expenses on it. She didn't.

That would also be true if she had only been claiming the minimal expenses for her actual second home.

She wasn't.

Surely someone, somewhere in government is clued up enough to know that compounded by Smith's continued delusional denial, when an investigation like this takes four months, they paint themselves as idiots. Come to think of it, even bothering to order an investigation is a sign you're part of the same delusion.

Having established the truth, the question of paying back the money doesn't seem to have arisen in Parliament, the inquiry or with Ms Smith. She was ordered to stand at the front of the class and say she's sorry. Except it's not really a sorry...

"I accept the committee's conclusions and I therefore apologise to the House." isn't anything like being sorry. Having to be told to say you're sorry isn't anything like admitting guilt, anything like contrition, anything like acknowledging the reason the voter is fecked off with the whole "sorry" expenses scandal and completely sidesteps the real questions...

1) What kind of idiots gave birth to a system that allowed you to pretend a room in your sister's flat is your main residence ?
2) What kind of idiots thought the general public would buy into that system ?

Sadly the answer is "The idiots running our country".

Monday, October 12, 2009

Back to School

Aaaaahhhh. Nothing quite like that first day back at school and this term promises to be one of the more exciting. Just when they thought it was safe to go back in the water it turns out some students had returned early for a rooftop protest and more impressively, Sir Thomas Legg has handed in on time his holiday assignment inquiry, "What to do about the expenses thing".

Sir Stuart Bell's comments on Legg's homework indicate we have much to look forward to. Bell sits on the "Commons Members Estimate Committee" and told the BBC yesterday, "He's not respecting the decisions that were made by the fees office in accordance with the rules at the time." - almost entirely missing the point - the rules at the time (as devised and abided by the right honourables) were bent and in any case, when an MP signed off their expenses, they were confirming they "incurred these costs wholly, exclusively and necessarily to enable me to stay overnight away from my only or main home for the purpose of performing my duties".

Another member of the committee said Sir Thomas had been “overzealous, misdirected and has exacerbated a situation where we were hoping to bring closure”. Of course you were hoping to bring closure, sadly, we never got any so an exacerbated situation is what you've got to look forward to.

106 MPs have announced they won't be standing again in the next election.

Much gnashing of teeth/merriment awaits.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Balls into Court

You'll note from recent posts that the Ministry's been dipping it's toe in the Criminal Justice System. This has led to some interesting findings - namely failures in the welfare state to intervene when families are failing and the kids are suffering/turning to crime. More than one of our interviewees was quick to point out that those working in the welfare state are doing the very best they can against a tide of under-funding, stat-driven performance targets, ministers changing policies in response to tabloid headlines...  the list goes on.

Sharon Shoesmith (above), ex-head of Haringay Council was promptly sacked following the baby P case and today is taking the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, Ed Balls and her former employer to court for all kinds of procedural errors in her sacking as well as Ofsted's independent review of Haringay Council - she wasn't allowed to comment on it's findings before publication. She's also expected to claim for Ball's intervention (which led to the lack of procedure in her sacking) being unduly influenced by the media. Whichever way the case goes, the taxpayer will be footing the bill, so a very big thanks to all concerned - but we may get our money's worth...

Indeed, some good  may come of this. Whilst defending her position Shoesmith will inevitably end up arguing she was doing the best she could in impossible circumstances only to have been sacked when the media spotlight required the government to do something. (at which point they ran roughshod over procedure, hit the eject button and both Ofsted and the Government refused to allow her to defend herself or her council).

This writer is the first to confess to being underwhelmed by the performance of most public bureaucracies, least of all Haringay Council whose reputation proceeds them - but having seen what the probation service, prisons etc. are up against it'll be interesting to see what the High Court has to say. It may well be the first time a judge gets to decide whether the blame for our public services' dismal shortcomings lie with the government or it's bureaucrats. Would a win by Shoesmith lead to some kind of a civil service class action throwing the book against the government ? Now that would be interesting.

It also begs the question - if Shoesmith & Co are crap (the commonly held view), and the Gov was justified as well as capable of sacking her irrespective of procedure, what took them so fucking long ?

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

More apologies

Severe lack of posting but we've been busy in Parliament hustling the Bill (staunch progress being made - this could well end up an election issue) and entangled with the Criminal Justice System (it's not every day you bring a tear to a Minister's eye - more to follow on this).

Meantime, this caught our eye - not that we're naturally drawn to a party political stance, just that we figured with all those conservatives huddled together in Manchester they may never get a better opportunity to find a soul mate. Can't be long before we see LabourHarmony playing catch-up...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Iris gets through to Gordon

Friend of the Ministry, Iris Andrews gets through to Gordon - a bit on the manufactured side but a decent result none the less for environmentalists.

Monday, September 21, 2009

A little off topic...

It seems the English Defence League (sort of like the BNP but nicer) haven't quite got the hang of the interweb highway thingy - nor the keywords and tags which automated advertising uses to place adverts on it's site. Of course, there's always the possibility it's readers are lonely single white males looking for love. Bless 'em.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Bradshaw again

Ben Bradshaw is catching our eye once again - he was one of the more vociferous MPs post-expenses scandal promising "the end of self regulation" with the Independent Parliamentary Statutory Authority Act.

No doubt he didn't quite notice his government didn't deliver and has moved on to having a go at the BBC's governing body with this stunning statement...

"Although the Trust has performed better than its predecessor, I don't think it is a sustainable model in the long term," said Mr Bradshaw, who formerly worked for the Corporation as a journalist. "I know of no other area of public life where – as is the case with the Trust – the same body is both regulator and cheerleader."
Errrr... "no other body in public life" ??? How about Parliament.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Duncan Gone - Professor denies all responsibility

We've been asked before to release the full un-edited version of Alan Duncan's interview with the Professor. Wild accusations have also been made over his "highly controversial" interview techniques and the Professor's rebuttal has been on the public record for some time now.

We'd like to categorically state neither Mr Cameron, any member of Parliament, the Government or the authorities have had sight of the full interview or a transcript. The brief excerpt to be found in the trailer may or may not be indicative of it's contents.

The fact that the Ministry is currently investigating the criminal justice system and Mr Duncan's re-positioning to shadow Prisons Minister is purely coincidental.

'Nuff said.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Apologies due

There's been a distinct lack of posting this week. Fear not, the Professor and the Ministry are alive and well but currently immersed in an investigation of the Criminal Justice system - call it a little something to keep restless minds occupied until our friends in Westminster return from their summer recess.

We're pleased to report the Elected Representatives (Prohibition of Deception) Bill is still in the hands of one of the three main (regrettably un-mentionable) parties for tweaking. We're led to believe if all goes well they'll be putting their weight behind it in due course - especially in the run up to the election.

The next couple of weeks will see intermittent posting before normal service is resumed.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Browns revolting backbenchers

Always nice to see some backbenchers finding their spine - in particular Karen Buck MP.

She's known to us and get's a decent amount of attention on the Professor's DVD, where her statement, "I voted against the war in Iraq" was called into question. Karen was quick to point out she's independent-minded, had voted against her party on many occasions etc. etc.

We’d like to clarify some points.

1) 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%

Today's "Independent" casts her as one of Labours revolting backbench MPs with regard to the government's planned housing benefit cuts for some of the UKs poorest families. "We should not under any circumstances be taking money from the poorest and making them choose between reasonable housing bills and meeting day-to-day expenses".

Let's see which way Karen votes on this one, and we wait with baited breath as to how she subsequently describes her voting record on housing benefits.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Mexico ahead of the curve ?

These are strange days indeed.

Mexico had attempted to de-criminalise marijuana possession in 2006 but the Bush administration effectively nixed the move. On Friday, without fanfare (or US opposition), Mexican President Vicente Fox finally got his way and de-criminalised a whole raft of narcotics for personal use. "We can't close our eyes to this reality," said Sen. Jorge Zermeno. "We cannot continue to fill our jails with people who have addictions.".

The problem's a little more complex than that. Mexico has a serious drug cartel problem - decapitation of informants and policemen who don't toe the cartel line has been very much in vogue this summer. They've also had a problem with the police abusing the legislation - using it as leverage for information, hitting crime stat targets etc. Word is that this one small step is paving the way for full legalisation of drugs.

If Mexico's moving forward, it's almost certainly because things have got so bad they're running out of options.

Meantime, our progressive government, despite numerous (and unanimous) expert advice have re-criminalised cannabis. On the ground we're reliably informed it won't make a difference - there's no way the police are gonna bother charging people for personal use... unless of course they need something else out of you (like hitting a drug offence target).

Which brings us to the poor sod in Kissimmee (Florida) who got locked up for 3 months for possession of breath mints, he lost his job, apartment and car because an over-zealous policeman needed a bust and his field testing kit said the afore-mentioned mints were cocaine...

"A man is suing the Kissimmee Police Department for an arrest over mints. When officers pulled Donald May over for an expired tag [insurance] , they thought the mints he was chewing were crack and arrested him.

May told Eyewitness News they wouldn't let him out of jail for three months until tests proved the so-called drugs were candy...

May was pulled over for an expired tag on his car. When the officer walked up to him, he noticed something white in May's mouth. May said it was breath mints, but the officer thought it was crack cocaine.

"He took them out of my mouth and put them in a baggy and locked me up [for] possession of cocaine and tampering with evidence," May explained.The officer claimed he field-tested the evidence and it tested positive for drugs.

The officer said he saw May buying drugs while he was stopped at an intersection. He also stated in his report May waived his Miranda rights and voluntarily admitted to buying drugs.

May said that never happened."My client never admitted he purchased crack cocaine. Why would he say that?" attorney Adam Sudbury said.

May was thrown in jail and was unable to bond out for three months. He didn't get out until he received a letter from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the State Attorney's Office that test results showed no drugs were found.

"While I was sitting in jail I lost my apartment. I lost everything," he said.
While May was in jail, the police department also auctioned off his car."
Cut to the Magistrates association in the UK "vehemently opposing" proposed government legislation and absolutely not trusting the police with discretionary powers to even issue on-the-spot fixed penalty fines for careless driving.

Mexico, a 3rd world country ahead of the UK ? If it seems like this post's taken a scenic route around the logic (and the world. Ed) - blame the cannabis.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Monkeys wanted, peanuts paid.

MP's evidence and submissions on how to reform the expenses system can be seen in all their glory here. They are deeply indicative of the mindset that led to the scam.

Many of the MP's submissions include the need to increase their own salaries... arguments range from along the lines of Helen Goodman's "selflessness in public life should not mean sacrificing the interests of our children and families” (she's a junior work and pensions minister) to David Blunkett's. “The most logical change would be to bite the bullet and pay MPs the kind of salary they would expect to be paid in equivalent jobs,”.

Andrew Robatham MP said if he had not left the Army, “I would almost certainly have become at least a Lieutenant-Colonel [who] is paid more than an MP and may also receive boarding school allowance, subsidised quarters and other perks”. He suggested “to attract people of quality, ability, intelligence and experience into Parliament” a salary of between £105,000 and £110,000 a year was needed .

...and herein lies the rub... If you asked your employer for a pay rise you'd do so with a pretty good argument for your performance in that position.

So how to measure an MP's performance ? Their job is to represent their constituents in Parliament - holding the government to account, ensuring the country's run to our satisfaction and if they happen to be in the executive, in a ministerial position, there's the additional responsibility of actually running the country.

By their own admission, since 2002, when they were first made aware the expenses "subsidy" had gotten out of hand by Robin Cook MP, they haven't come close to Robotham's requirement for "people of quality, ability, intelligence" - they chose to perpetuate the system by fighting FOI requests in court whilst continuing to take advantage of it and then publishing a "redacted" form of expenses even after the full versions had been exposed by the press. Naturally, those outside of government blamed the government, effectively admitting they'd failed in their job to hold them to account and couldn't hold them to account on a continuing basis. Worse than that, they'd been lying to their employers over the impending revelations whilst fighting them in the courts to prevent the lie being exposed.

Which brings us back to the boss's office and the request for a pay rise... you have to wonder what his Lordship Alan Sugar would've made of the request. This writer's inclination is to only offer a pay rise to their replacement. .

More to follow on Helen Goodman and Robotham's submissions

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Magistrates find Police untrustworthy and Government guilty of deliberate lies

Heh, heh, heh. We've raised an eyebrow in the past when members of the establishment (especially inside Westminster) brazenly said they didn't trust the police or the courts...

It seems they're not alone - and to some degree, the feelings mutual...

The Magistrates Association aren't entirely enamored with the police (or government) either. In fact, in an extraordinary press release they "vehemently oppose" trusting them even with issuing a fixed penalty notice for careless driving,

"Regrettably, recent experience... shows the Police cannot be relied on to use them appropriately or as intended. Once they've been given these powers, the police will misuse them, that is a certainty,".
They then go on to give the government a thoroughly good kicking...
"This is a proposal that places the convenience of the police above what is right in principle..."
and on the government's use of this quote to support their proposals, "seven out of eleven magistrates and six out of ten judges surveyed were in favour" the magistrates responded,
"How these eleven magistrates were selected and precisely what they were asked is not stated. Judges do not deal with careless driving offences except a limited number on appeal. To prefer a six year old unreferenced and frankly meaningless survey to the currently expressed views of a magistrates specialist committee is to seriously mislead the readers of the document about the views of magistrates, and it is difficult to regard this as anything other than deliberate"

You know you're up shit creek when the Magistrates Association accuses the government (in a press release !!) of deliberately lying.

Monday, August 17, 2009

NHS lies beat Obama

©Peter Brooks

There are better places than Santiago to wake at 4am in extreme pain with a testicle the size of a tennis ball (stop giggling at the back).

The UK embassy in Chile found the specialist I needed - he worked in a public hospital in the morning and a private hospital in the afternoon. My travel insurance covered all costs but my bollock wasn't going to wait for an afternoon appointment. The difference between the two was astonishing - not because the staff in the public hospital weren't friendly, competent and eager to help - but their hands were completely tied in the most insane bureaucracy.

The result was me being intimately examined as an example case, quite literally in a side alley at the rear of the derelict warehouse/hospital, by the good doctor and a dozen mostly female medical students as part of their training.

This wasn't altogether unpleasant,
"Hi I'm Carmelita."
"Pleased to meet you."
"May I ?"
At the end of the impromptu tutorial, the good Doctor decided further investigation was needed - a scan, urine and blood tests. This meant at the very least a two week wait in the public hospital plus another week for results, or in about an hour at the private one, with results a half hour later.

My lasting memory of the whole affair (aside from Carmelita and my testicle threatening to turn itself into a grenade) is standing in front of the admissions officer in the most excruciating pain imaginable with the good Doctor translating the complexities, requirements and form-filling intricacies of a public-run bureaucracy whilst a dedicated workforce looked on in embarrassment.

Sounds familiar ? Surely it's not fair to compare the NHS with a Chilean public service ?

Ask an NHS doctor, any NHS doctor, what comes first - the pen-pushers and government targets or their Hippocratic oath ?

The US anti-Obama healthcare lobby have put the willies up their citizens by telling them the "socialist" NHS decides between life and death by committee, on a cost basis... Cut to much gnashing of teeth and Gordon Brown, Cameron etc. twittering how much they love our health service... promptly followed by MEP Dan Hannan joining the fray (criticising the NHS) and Tory health policies coming under scrutiny amid the general tagline of "split in party ranks".

What a load of cojones. Once again, the real issue is completely side-stepped and it's all about headlines.

Gordon Brown and Co can tell us as much as they want that they love the NHS - it's not the point. Actually, what they're defending is the fact that in the UK there's always some form of healthcare to look after you. That's unquestionably something to be proud of as a country and we love the NHS for it. The media has turned the debate into something completely different - grabbing headlines that sell the issue way short. The US media are promoting the lie that Obama wants to introduce a "socialised" public health service like ours. He doesn't. He wants everyone in the US to have medical insurance, centrally administered (like our NI). That'll mean they're insured and give them the choice of where to go for treatment (and if you can't pay the NI, the state steps in).

Currently in the US if you don't have medical insurance you're fucked. In the UK if you've private insurance you get a fantastic service, if you don't - you get the NHS. This writer's had experience of both - in downtown Santiago and in the UK. I don't mean to sound ungrateful - no doubt if the NHS has saved your life you'll champion it - but it's service, speed and treatment limitations can't compare with a privately run hospital. If BUPA were smart they'd give us all a free taste of private healthcare - once you've experienced both, if you can afford it, only the most half-assed dogmatic morons would take the NHS route for their child. Gordon Brown wouldn't even take it for his teeth (Errrr... not entirely sure you can get teeth-capping on the NHS - Ed).

Obama and Hannan are actually positing the same argument - we should all pay the equivalent of the UK's N.I. but then have a choice about which hospital/service we use - public or private.

Naturally, we shouldn't have to choose between the two. In an ideal world the public sector would deliver a service at the same level as the private. Sadly, it simply doesn't. This government has effectively admitted they can't run a bath let alone the NHS in all kinds of sectors (where it suits them - for example prisons) and handed them over to private firms.

The reason they're scared shitless of giving us even a choice with our health is a complex web of emotional and message-based, focus-grouped, vote-driven nonsense and the media is just as guilty. Those who can afford to choose vote with their pockets and head for private healthcare - but the media, lobby groups and resultant headlines have almost certainly put paid to any choice for the majority of the UK. Obama's plans of healthcare insurance for all are now in retreat and having been hauled into the debate, this side of the Atlantic there's no politician with his eye on the prize who's going to criticise the NHS let alone come clean and admit it's a bureaucracy gone mad - you'll only hear that from the doctors.