In which I look at phone hacking and the news
In which Clarkson apologises for the 'One eyed' remark.
In which Clarkson is accused of insulting Gordon Brown
"When Gordon Brown called on the British Library to stage an exhibition about Britishness he perhaps envisaged a patriotic celebration of the national identity. " begins the story in The Telegraph. It continues to tell of the new exhibition called 'Taking Liberties' - which is a very British response to such a request from a Prime Minister seeking a publicity tool. It's an exhibition looking at Civil Liberties in the UK, and how they've been slowly but steadily eroded since 1997.
David Davis, the former shadow Home Secretary who recently stepped down from the Parliament to force a by election on the issue of civil liberties, said: "It is an astonishingly good idea but is clearly a snub to the Prime Minister and must be accurately embarrassing for him. Gordon Brown likes to talk about Britishness a lot without understanding that liberty is at the core of Britishness. It is our institutional DNA. Our history and tradition of freedom run longer and deeper than any other country."
Iconic objects such as the Magna Carta, the death certificate of Charles I and Cromwell's Oath of Loyalty from 1857 will be on display among less well known items some of which have never been on display before.
The exhibition will open on the 31st October and end on the 1st March 2009. Be careful what you ask for, you might just get it.
The British Library is at St. Pancras - very convenient for tube and rail connections.
Number 10 has modified their site to use WordPress, and it does look good. At first.
Unfortunately, they're not using the full power of WordPress - I note in particular that comments are switched off for everything at the same time that they're talking about 'dialogue'.
What I find particularly amusing is that the first, most obvious link on their homepage, which promises us "Number10TV" and the ability to "watch the PM’s introductory film." gives this result:
I think the phrase they need is 'Whoops'.
Epic Fail. Says it all really.
Original heads-up from ocaoimh.ie
When starting from scratch (as opposed to migrating a site over from another URL or software system), there is really little excuse for broken links in WordPress, especially when you're paying developers to manage it for you. Hundreds of thousands of people, if not millions, manage it quite comfortably.... and there is especially no excuse for a broken link on something that takes up half the screen on the homepage - the first thing people see.
Update: The 404 has been fixed.
Gordon Brown recently wrote to David Davis to say this:
As you know, Prime Ministers are available once a week at Question Time to debate all the issues of the day, and I was disappointed that you chose to step down as a Member of Parliament in advance of Question Time on Wednesday, 11 June rather than coming to the House to debate with me the issues around the use of CCTV and DNA evidence, and the measures we have taken to protect our national security.
Nevertheless, the leader of your party has the opportunity each week to ask six questions on those issues that caused you to leave his Shadow Cabinet. He has had two such opportunities to date, but he has yet to ask any such question. He has two further opportunities to raise these issues before the 'by-election' on July 10th, and I am sure that if he shares your strong feelings about them, he will not duck those opportunities.
David Davis has replied, with a masterful letter:
Thank you for your letter of 26 June. This is the second time you have responded to me directly, since my resignation from the House of Commons in protest at your relentless assault on British liberty.
First, you gave a speech on 17 June at the IPPR, a favoured Labour think-tank, hardly an environment that allows for the vigorous and open debate we so sorely need. Now, you insist that any questions I wish to ask on this vital national issue be raised within the narrow confines of Prime Ministers Questions, where you have developed the novel practice of asking - rather than answering- the questions.
I note from your speech on 17 June that you genuinely believe in the positions you have taken and stand behind the sustained erosion on British liberty, which regrettably means that the country must expect more to come in the future. Equally, it is deeply disturbing how ill-informed you are about the basic effectiveness of your security policies - from 42 days, ID cards and the DNA database, through to the ineffectual deployment of CCTV at immense cost to the taxpayer.
We need a proper national debate on these important matters - not just set piece speeches to carefully choreographed audiences or the weekly one-liners you deploy at PMQs. If you were serious about debating these important issues, you should have put up a candidate or at the very least allowed your Ministers to debate publicly with me. Having cowered from both options, it is a bit rich to snipe from the sidelines in a serious debate that will proceed with or without you. Even at this late stage, I would be only too willing to adjust my schedule to debate you or any Cabinet Minister in public, if you feel able to relax the restrictions currently in place.
In short, Brown has said "You lost an opportunity to 'debate', but you should have got more support, nah nah ne nah nah." and Davis is saying "Anytime, Any place, Anywhere - bring it on".
David Davis has resigned from the commons to force a by-election in which he'll stand. He will fight the campaign based on his opposition to the 42 days detention without charge and the slow erosion of civil liberties seen under this government.
BBC Political Editor Nick Robinson said it was an extraordinary move which was almost without precedent in British politics.
True, it's an MP taking a stand on principle (cynical, moi?)
Labour MP Denis MacShane said he was sure Mr Davis would win the by-election but added "I think this will be seen as a stunt" which showed the Conservatives were "utterly unfit" for government.
Thus spake a man who is avoiding the argument on the issue.
In his resignation statement, he said he feared 42 days was just the beginning and next "we'll next see 56 days, 70 days, 90 days."
But, he added: "In truth, 42 days is just one - perhaps the most salient example - of the insidious, surreptitious and relentless erosion of fundamental British freedoms."
He listed the growth of the "database state," government "snooping" ID cards, the erosion of jury trials and other issues.
"This cannot go on. It must be stopped and for that reason today I feel it is incumbent on me to make a stand," said Mr Davis.
"At least my electorate and the nation as a whole will have had the opportunity to debate and consider one of the most fundamental issues of our day - the ever intrusive power of the state into our lives, the loss of privacy, the loss of freedom and the steady attrition undermining the rule of law," he said
Good luck DD - I do hope that it's a landslide (and can't be argued that it's just the core vote of a safe seat).
This could only be more dramatic if it had been Cameron.
Update: The speech is online (it's a great speech).
The BBC has a list of the Labour MPs who rebelled in the recent vote to allow people to be locked up without the evidence to charge them for 42 days.
- Diane Abbott
- Richard Burden
- Katy Clark
- Harry Cohen
- Frank Cook
- Jeremy Corbyn
- Jim Cousins
- Andrew Dismore
- Frank Dobson
- David Drew
- Paul Farrelly
- Mark Fisher
- Paul Flynn
- Neil Gerrard
- Ian Gibson
- Roger Godsiff
- John Grogan
- Dai Havard
- Kate Hoey
- Kelvin Hopkins
- Glenda Jackson
- Lynne Jones
- Peter Kilfoyle
- Andrew MacKinlay
- Bob Marshall-Andrews
- John McDonnell
- Michael Meacher
- Julie Morgan
- Chris Mullin
- Douglas Naysmith
- Gordon Prentice
- Linda Riordan
- Alan Simpson
- Emily Thornberry
- David Winnick
- Mike Wood
Ann Widdecombe voted for the government bill, as did the DUP.
If I were in a labour held constituency, the only way I'd vote for them is if one of those people were the MP. The reverse goes for Ann Widdecombe (although she is quite popular in her constituency, and I can appreciate that she went out on a limb here as a matter of conscience - she's wrong though).
So, Brown gets his way to lock people up for six weeks without the evidence to charge them. Still, it's one way to get the kids out of the way for the summer holiday...
The arguments used are pitiful, 'the police tell us they need the extra time, so...'. The police, with the best will in the world, aren't going to argue for a shorter time. They're the ones who get it in the neck if wrong, it's a tough job. It is the job of the lawmaker to balance the interest of the individual against the rest of the public. Do we really want to have a society when someone can be locked up for a month and a half because they are a suspect?
It's worth remembering that a Terror Suspect is just that. A suspect. Not a convict. Suspicion is not evidence.
Surely, it would be much less of a compromise to allow for questioning after a lesser charge?
For a millennia the rule has been that one could not get locked up without evidence and a trial. A six week detention, equivalent to a three month sentence (with good behaviour) can now (at least, assuming the Lords don't throw it out) be served without trial.
Strange, how in this 'free and democratic' country, once again we look to the Lords to safeguard our rights.
We never came anywhere near this even when the IRA made a successful bomb attack which threatened the cabinet and nearly killed the prime minister.
Brown is playing the politics of fear, long may his electoral approval slide.
'The Nasty Party' used to be a term applied to the Tories. This is most emphatically no longer the case. Putting aside historical issues for a moment and looking at recent weeks:
The Labour Party is putting out an official leaflet which carries a picture of the Conservative candidate and the question, "Do you oppose making foreign nationals carry an ID card?"
Maybe the Conservative party policy isn't clear on the issue. But Labour (government) policy isn't just about foreign (non-EEC, by the way) nationals. Soon we shall all have to carry ID cards. The government is preparing to collect our biometric details so that it can store them on a database. The ID scheme targeting foreign nationals is simply starting with a soft target - people who don't have votes.
The Labour leaflet in Crewe hasn't been published to open up a debate on ID cards. The government has made it very clear that the introduction of ID cards is not open to debate. This leaflet is about race. It's about fuelling fear and race hatred to hold a vulnerable seat in a parliamentary by-election. The implication of the leaflet is that foreigners are dangerous and only the Labour Party will keep them under surveillance.
Spreading suspicion is dangerous. Mistrust is often a two-way process.
In other news, Labour want to institute a database recording the internet activity and phone calls of everyone in the country 'just in case'. (source)
Jonathan Bamford, the assistant Information Commissioner, said: “This would give us serious concerns and may well be a step too far. We are not aware of any justification for the State to hold every UK citizen’s phone and internet records. We have real doubts that such a measure can be justified, or is proportionate or desirable. We have warned before that we are sleepwalking into a surveillance society. Holding large collections of data is always risky - the more data that is collected and stored, the bigger the problem when the data is lost, traded or stolen.
As an interesting aside, Guido notices that the number of stress related sick days at the treasury has dramatically reduced since Brown became PM.
As I started to note last night when the story was breaking (I was writing about Caroline Flint), the papers are full of a second memo held by Hazel Blears which reveals that there have been talks of featuring Gordon Brown in an 'Apprentice' style TV programme for wannabe politicians. This had the potential to make him 'more popular than Alan Sugar', according to memo.
They have a long way to go. By public Vote, of 84% to 16%, Gordon Brown has become the first sitting PM not to appear in Madame Tussauds for over 150 years.
From the Madame Tussauds site:
In the last week 6333 people registered their votes in a poll to decide if the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, is immortalised in wax here in the World Leaders Zone at Madame Tussauds. By a convincing consensus he is duly voted out of Madame Tussauds, becoming the first incumbent Prime Minister not to be featured in the attraction for over 150 years.
FOR Gordon Brown to be featured in Madame Tussauds – 1025 (16.2%). AGAINST Gordon Brown to be featured in Madame Tussauds – 5308 (83.8%)
Thank you to everyone who voted.
Here is a screen capture from the Madame Tussauds Site:
Dunwoody cannot confirm that the prime minister is an asset. This is despite her being explicitly asked three times, and then having it explained to her that it was surprising that she could not say he was an asset.
Via the Crown
Photographers have taken a pic of a cabinet memo, held by one Caroline Flint on her way to the meeting. One has to feel slightly sorry for her to have her thoughts placed in the public domain like this (with the photograph plastered all over the news sites). (Pic of memo) This is what it says (with some guesswork, which is in italics):
Caroline Flint - Speaking Notes for Cabinet
- Colleagues will know tha (obscured by a sticker with the text 'Papers for Cabinet Meeting 13 May 2008) present.
- Leading house prices ind (obscured) falls for the first time in recent years. Given present trends they will clearly show sizeable falls in prices later this year - at best down 5-10% year-on-year
- House building is also stalling. New starts are already down 10% compared to a year ago. Housebuilders are predicting further falls. Having seen net additions reach roughly 200,000 in each of the last two years, the figure for 2008-09 is almost certain to be well down on that.
- Repossessions are also rising, although we need to remember that the 2007 figure was still only around a third of that in 1991.
- Underlying demand for housing remains high and the fundamentals of the economy are sound. But the market is being affected by the global credit crunch, which is making it difficult for many who would like to buy to do so.
- We can't know how bad it will get. But we need to plan now to put in place effective measures against the risk that it does get worse and to prepare for the up-turn.
- We are continuing to monitor the situation, and take appropriate action.
- The Chancellor and I met some of the largest mortgage lenders recently to continue discussions on what more the Government and the industry could be doing. I have subsequently met a number of the smaller lenders.
- We are playing our part to get the market moving with the Bank of England's £50 billion liquidity scheme. We have also put in place new measures to ensure the small minority of buyers facing repossession receive the support and advice they need. And I will tomorrow announce a package of measures to assist first time buyers.
But it is vital that we show that at this time of uncertainty we show that we are on people's side:
- Last Friday Alastair and I announced a new package of measures to support home owners who may be facing difficulties with their mortgage....
The biggest concern I have with this document is importance attached to the phrase: 'it is vital that we show that at this time of uncertainty we show that we are on people's side'
Surely the most vital thing is to take the appropriate financial decisions. Not to concentrate on spin and PR.
Silly me, for one second I forgot it was 'New Labour'.
Before posting, I had a quick trawl around, and I'm not the only one taking this view. For example, someone calling themselves 'The Hunstman' says:
Instead of reminding themselves of the Party Line on how to keep the ravening mob from the door, might not this sentence have proceeded, for example, thus:
"It is vital that, at this time of uncertainty, that we take bold positive steps to remedy the problem. To that end we should proceed to a programme of tax cuts and radical deregulation designed to breathe new life into the economy so that the worst effects of the housing crisis which our policies have in large part created might be mitigated".
Instead Flint and the rest of the crew take the position that, whatever else happens, they must make sure the public do not think for a nanosecond that they are responsible in any measure for this mess.
The final sentence visible concludes, in bold type, that most importantly: "... it is vital that we show that at this time of uncertainty we show that we are on people's side". You see that is the thing with New Labour politicians, what they care most about is covering their arse. Not that they would think to introduce an emergency growth package as Bush has done in the U.S., or cut taxes to boost growth like they have elsewhere in Europe. No, the most important thing is that they push their disingenuous spin slogan that they are "on people's side".
LabourHome has a copy of the text though all they can say it 'Not much in these speaking notes that hasn't already been speculated in the newspapers.' (what, no comment on the finale of spin, chaps?)
RainerPR links to a few sources, saying:
We know the Labour Government is lousy at keeping secrets, but Housing Minister Caroline Flint dropped a clanger today, unwittingly allowing paps to get a shot of her Cabinet notes which acknowledged the state of the housing marketing in the UK.
Although I think blogger Guy Fawkes is over the top in calling for Flint to be charged under the Official Secrets Act, I do agree that Flint’s closing statement is classic New Labour bollocks: “... it is vital that we show that at this time of uncertainty we show that we are on people's side,” she writes.
What’s required is firm action, not a few clumsily-spun words.
I quite agree.
At the time of writing, the above links to every article that google and technorati produce on this matter.
To make this as complete a roundup as possible, here are some conventional news sources on this issue. As I searched for this, another story started to break about a second leak today. I've mixed these in too....
- The Metro
- The BBC in a bizarre article about Brown doing an Alan Sugar
- The BBC
- The Metro and Brown doing 'The Apprentice' (crikey!)
- The Telegraph and Brown Apprentice (this story is taking over!)
- The Telegraph
- Times Online
- and to finish with some quality redtop action: The Sun
Always nice to reference Blackadder. So, Alistair Darling has sought to dig Labour from a hole of their own making by raising the personal tax-free allowance by £600. Not only does this allow stupid people to think 'Oh good, I'm £600 better off' (when they're not) he's paid for it by borrowing £2.7billion - i.e. the country is going further into debt to dig Labour from this hole - one that anyone with any sense saw coming a year ago.
He is also going to 'lower the level at which 40p tax is paid - so higher earners did not gain from the change.'
Yep, and some more of the middle classes get moved into the top tax bracket.
It's a threshold raise for one year only (they 'aim' to continue the support, but....)
Of course, this is nothing to do with the upcoming by-elections. Oh no. Just as certain tax breaks made as 'one offs' had nothing to do with the general election in 2005. 'A one-off council tax refund of £200 for every household with a member aged 65 or older. Annual winter fuel payment of £200 for over-65s and £300 for over-80s' (source)
On the other hand, it is better to have a government which realises they've cocked up and seeks to put it right - but they've put it 'right' by increasing national debt. They could have saved a lot of cash by removing the expensive and also pointlessly invasive ID card scheme. A scheme which has the appearance of increasing, but doesn't substantially increase actual security. Scrapping this illiberal scheme would have also righted another mistake.
Yes, it's a tax break today (or rather it's removing a tax increase) - but it'll have to be paid for tomorrow.
Ha! Labour's got a hammering in the local elections. I'm pleased. Why? Not because of the 10p tax rate, or because of the continual tinkering Labour has done to our constitution without a clear plan. Not because of the imbalance they've created in our constitutional settlement by giving each part of the UK a degree of self determination except England. Not because of the spin or the lies. Not because of the wars. Not because of the increased cost of living with house prices much higher than incomes.
Well, maybe I'm a little annoyed for those reasons.
Why am I mostly annoyed with Labour?
Mostly because of the way they've systematically undermined civil liberties in the UK. It's been a little chip-chipping away. Detention for 90 days without trial. No? 28 days then... let's make it 42... ID cards (if you have nothing to hide), terrorism bills used on people who shout 'nonsense' or wear a T-shirt in the wrong place, removal of the right to protest in central London (people have had problems having a tea party in parliament square, must have been the protest cake).
All done with the best of intentions, and, as it's to 'help the fight against terror', done in a way that the vast majority won't mind; until, like the proverbial lobster, they find the water temperature has been gradually increased and it has become too hot.
When I grew up, the IRA were regularly blowing places up (yes, I know about July 7, I was in London, that doesn't change the point). Regularly. They blew up central manchester in one of their last acts before the ceasefire. They blew up parades, children got killed. They even blew up the government of the day during their party conference.
The UK never took measures like the current lot feel are necessary. It's Orwellian... keep the populace scared of the 'invisible enemy' and you can keep power....
Gits. They've done more to disrupt the 'way of life' in the UK for the long term than any mis-guided bomber(*).
For that reason alone, they deserve to lose the power they temporarily wield.
Next week on More 4 at 10pm, a documentary called 'Taking Liberties' will be shown This is repeated at 11pm on more 4+1. Please try and watch it.
(*) Yes, it's true that really devastating attacks are possible, dirty bombs and all sorts. However, one can never totally shield against things like that. Even if we choose to live in a full-blown totalitarian regime. Is that truly how we want to live, on the off-chance that it might stop a theoretical risk?
By the way, I'm feeling much better now. It's all good. Thanks for asking (or not).