UK Politics

Seatbelts

On Jo's Journal, there is a post about the seatbelt laws, in relation to comments made by Boris Johnson. She quotes an article:

Oxfordshire MP Boris Johnson has come under fire from a woman who lost her son in a road accident after he described a new law on child booster seats as "crack-brained.”

The Henley MP, who was criticised last month for allowing his two sons to sit together in the front seat of a sports car, condemned the Government for forcing families to install safety seats for children aged up to 12.

This is my response:

Whilst it's always tragic that a misadventure ends in a death, that does NOT imply that any and all steps are taken to avoid those circumstances.

To use a different example:

Should eleven year olds be banned from crossing the road 'just in case'?

If such a law were introduced, would it be described as 'hair brained'?

Should someone whose child died whilst crossing the road be listened to when they 'slam' whoever describes it thus?

Risk is part of life, the issue is, is the cost involved proportional to the risk taken?

If one in a billion is affected, a 1 pound per person cost of offset the risk is too much. If 1 in ten is affected, a 1 pound per person cost to offset is a bargain.

I don't know how many children are involved in car crashes, but there is a cost in supplying all the child seats. At some level the cost outweighs the benefit (a tough call if it's your child - but nothing was stopping the use of a seat before). This is hard-nosed reasoning, but it's true nonetheless.

A thirty pound expenditure in every family to prevent one death is a lot... to prevent a thousand is probably reasonably. But where is the dividing line?

It remains true that for the individual concerned, any price is worth paying, but like it or not, that's not the basis of sound policy when making laws for a large population.

Reading Boris' article, he makes the exact same point:

OK folks: you do the maths. You think how many millions of car journeys are there involving children every day. You might decide that it is still worth installing booster seats for all under 135cm. But with odds like that it should surely be a matter for individual choice and not international coercion.

There are some really nice comments, such as this:

If an MP has to explain why he fought against the legislation then surely the parent who did not put the child in a booster seat, but then blames the lack of booster seat for the childs death has even more explaining to do.

.. and this one

I was standing in the bakery, waiting to buy a cornish pasty the other day. In front of me in the queue was a woman who was probably about 40 years old, but less than 135cm (4'5'' and a bit).

.... she will still be allowed to sit in the front seat, and will not have to sit on a booster. So basically [they've] decided that we don't know how to look after our kids until they are 12.

Boris' Beautiful Apologies

Boris Johnson has such a wonderful way with words, his apologies are so well crafted that sometimes I wish he'd insult more cities and countries.... In a recent article he mentioned Papua New Guinea and has had to apologise:

"I meant no insult to the people of Papua New Guinea who I'm sure lead lives of blameless bourgeois domesticity in common with the rest of us.

"My remarks were inspired by a Time Life book I have which does indeed show relatively recent photos of Papua New Guinean tribes engaged in warfare, and I'm fairly certain that cannibalism was involved.

"I'd be happy to show the book to the High Commissioner but I'm of course also very happy to take up her kind invite and add Papua New Guinea to my global itinerary of apology."

I love the phrase 'blameless bourgeois domesticity'

Sometimes I wish I had Shockwave Flash....

... and musical skill. I can see it now, a large Blair head on a tiny body.

Mournful look from Blair.

A large Gordon steps in from the side....

"We've already said..." (ding ding-da-ding ding)

"Goodbye"

John Reid appears (with various MPs in tow)

In chorus:

"Since you gotta go, oh you'd better Go now go now, go now (Go now) "

Tony: "Before you see me cry..."

... and so on.

It would be a sight to behold! (Backing Blair has some good flash examples, nothing more recent than this though).

Junior members of the government resign

I was shocked to find members of the government standing on principles. Well done to the Magnificent Seven who resigned today in protest at the Blair fiasco. Blair's position has become untenable... and the leaked memo about his final days demonstrated an incredible conceit.

He may hang on for a while, or he may go tomorrow (which will be spun as 'standing aside so as not to disrupt the good work of the government'). Either way, it really does feel like his last days... the vultures are circling, and I'm reminded of Thatcher, and of Major in 1997...

This government has done more to disrupt the institutions of this country than any I care to think of, from the mess of West Lothian, to tampering with the Lords without a clear sense of direction. From the attempts to remove the right to a jury trial, to 90 days in detention without charge, from ID cards, to the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill.

We have had attacks on free speech (Rowan Atkinson's campaign against the 'incitement' clauses), removal of the right to protest near parliament (witness the woman arrested for ringing a bell at the cenotaph), the presumption of innocence (the police and justice bill allows for tagging without reference to a judge - also asbos are open for abuse). (For more, see the Independent, May 4th, 2006)

No, I won't be sorry to see Blair go. However, I don't hold out much hope that Reid or Brown will be better.

.... and I've yet to see Cameron take a clear and unequivocal stand on these issues.

Tom Watson is a man who's just gone up in my estimation though.

On top of these big issues, this government has become more detached from direct contact. Thatcher gave quite a few interviews, as did Major. They went on 'Question Time' as part of the panel, I seem to recall. A Blair interview is a rarity, he's rarely cross examined, and the country suffers from this - his views aren't challenged.

On an even more petty level, it annoys me that everything is on first name terms. It's 'Tony', 'Gordon', or 'Saddam'.. I'm not best mates with the PM, why should I call him 'Tony'? When I phone my bank, I want to be 'Mistered', I don't want to be best mates with the guy on the other end of the phone.... when did everyone get on first name terms? I blame Tony!

It should be easier to get rid of a PM

The Grauniad has a good article on the fortunes of 'Tony' (when did we start referring to such people by their forenames?)

Much more interesting than "When will Blair go?" is "How has he survived so long?" And the answer is that Blair has not only carried out a kind of imposture, he has hugely benefited from grave systemic faults and deformations in our political culture, and in the process crushed both cabinet and parliament.

... our electoral system distorts the result in favour of the winning party, in 1997 giving Blair 63% of parliamentary seats with only 44% of the popular vote.

He has now empirically made the case for reform as no other prime minister ever has. It is quite impossible to defend an election in which a party wins 55% of seats with just over 35% of the vote.

By no accident, it is now very difficult for a Labour party leader to be removed by the party itself, harder than it was for the Tories to remove Thatcher or Duncan Smith. But there is nothing to stop MPs from voting in the clean, clear light of the Commons against a government which no longer enjoys their support. It really ought to be easier to get rid of an unwanted prime minister than an inadequate football manager.

State Funding

Via MakeMyVoteCount I see that in today's Telegraph Tory MEP, Daniel Hannan, writes on state funding of political parties. All I have to add is 'Bravo!'

Politicians are already seen as remote and arrogant. How much worse would that problem be if they were able to compel money from their constituents by law, instead of having to ask politely?

...state funding allows existing parties to form a cartel against newcomers. Or, to put it another way, it shields them from the consequences of their unpopularity, because there is nowhere else to go.

...perhaps the best rebuttal of the case is the obvious one: what bloody cheek. Caught breaking their own rules, the political parties demand that the rest of the country should pay them with sufficient generosity to remove them from further temptation.

Again, Bravo! I say! Bravo!

Quotes from elsewhere:

There is certainly something very odd about arguing the case for state funding on the grounds that without it you might be tempted to bend the rules. It's a bit like a burgular knocking on your door and telling you that you've an obligation to give him your valuables in order to save him from the moral nightmare of committing a crime.

Personally I hope that state funding doesn't become a reality, and it does worry me that the Conservative leadership has been making noises to suggest it might support the move. Taxing us for the privilege of choosing who taxes us would be absurdity verging on idiocy.

Dizzy Thinks

The major political parties have got themselves badly in debt, can't manage their finances, and, in their self-made predicament, have committed various sins and crimes. So now what do they do? Tighten their belts, spend less, behave honestly, apologize? Not a bit of it ... they work together to claim that tax-payer funding for political parties would make everything better. Aaargh!

David Field

How about: Parties can only spend money that they've declared as having raised, from declared sources. Any member contribution of over, say, £50(?) per year must be openly recorded (and perhaps such donation could be tax-deductible, would beat state funding), no loans except on an openly reported commercial basis.

Parties that can't raise the money from a broad base of member support aren't, by nature, broad based political parties.

Not Little England

Ming Campbell has said that:

... I am committed to open, transparent and broad-based funding of the party. Just as it is wrong for Labour to be in hock to an improbable alliance of trade unions and millionaires and it is wrong for Conservatives to be in hock to multi-millionaires. We Liberal Democrats must show the way by developing a broader base of donations to fund our campaigning.

Source

We can expect, therefore, at least the Lib Dems to oppose moves toward state funding., to do otherwise is to turn against developing a broader base of donations.

This is going on across the world, from New Zealand:

State funding of political parties is wrong because it is fundamentally immoral to force citizens to pay for organisations whose goals and objectives they do not believe in. Would it have been good to force people on the left to pay for Labour and National in 1990, when both parties were pushing economic liberalism? Is it right that the last election result should decide funding to campaign for the next one?

Liberty Scott

Labour is broke, that is why all their lickspittles are banging on in the blogosphere about "democracy funding".

This of course is typical tactics for them. Obfuscate and muddy to draw attention away from the blindly obvios fact that Labour are broke, they have next to no members and have to rob and pillage not only the public purse but also the purse of hard working Kiwis through their unions.

WhaleOil

It didn't take them long, did it?

In the wake of the successful operation against an alleged plot to blow up aircraft, Tony and friends are having another crack at removing little things like habeus corpus, 90 days without trial is back on the agenda. 90 days is six month prison sentence (with time off for good behaviour). Without trial.

Surely if there is enough evidence to keep someone for 28 days, there is enough evidence to make some charge stick whilst more serious allegations are investigated?

A spokesman for Mr Reid said the Home Secretary had been "entirely focused on the current operation" and had "given no thought to what needs to happen in the future".

However, a source close to him confirmed that he, Mr Blair and Mr Brown were "as one" on the issue and claimed that Labour could score a victory over the Tories, who last year voted against the 90-day limit.

Oh, that's why. Party politics, how wonderful. The rights of a British citizen, that silly little habeas corpus thing that is the basis of all of our other freedoms, the essential liberty that no one can just lock us up because they don't like the look of us...

David Winnick MP said:

"Going back only a few years ago, police had just two or three days to release or charge suspects and that figure has repeatedly been increased by Parliament with little opposition.

"The danger is that by increasing it steadily, you get up to 90 days and then people will start saying 90 days isn't enough."

In the same article Liberty is quoted to have said:

"The doubling of the detention limit - from 14 days to 28 - only took effect last month. We should be observing how satisfactory that is before rushing off and demanding a higher limit."

See also: Tim Worstall's post on the issue

In the meantime, it's possible that John Reid, by making sweeping public statements, may have prejudiced a future trial.

The Home Secretary was accused of prejudicing a future trial after he had claimed that the police had caught the "main players" in a plot to blow up airliners leaving British airports.

The Attorney General has privately told ministers and the police that they must be careful not to prejudice a future trial by making sweeping public statements. Lord Goldsmith fears defence lawyers for the suspects could contend that their clients will not get a fair hearing in court if it is implied that they are guilty before any trial.

To my mind, there should be a ban on reporting the details on any accused prior to a trial, in order to avoid prejudicing that trial. If the person is guilty, we don't want them to get off due to this reporting, and if they're innocent then they need to return to everyday life.

I thought they'd use this to first push ID cards again. One might wonder if they already know that they don't have any evidence against one of those arrested, and have worked this out as a way to save face in 25 days time...

One might wonder, but that would be rather cynical. Surely.

YouGov

If you've ever heard of YouGov polls, and wondered who these people are, then follow the link. YouGov are a polling organisation which maintains a panel of internet users. From time to time, they email you a link to a poll, typically they pay 50p for each poll completed - though this can vary. Sometimes they pay more, sometimes it's a 'prize poll' - I don't like those myself (i.e. I've not won).

Whether you're emailed a link or not depends upon your profile, they try to get responses that reflect the demographic of the public.

Each poll is opt-in, there's no obligation. I've been doing YouGov polls myself for a while now, and they're pretty quick to do. There have been a few times where I've aborted as I was unhappy about the questions, but for the most part it's fairly innocuous.

Why am I making this post? Well, if you sign up using this link, I get some credit when you complete surveys (at no cost to you).Well, I'm not going to give them a free plug out of the goodness of my heart, am I? At the time of writing, you get £1 for signing up in the first place, plus any regular payments for completing surveys.

Natwest Three

The Lib Dems have started a campaign about the US/UK lopsided extradition treaty. Essentially the US can extradite a UK citizen without presenting probable cause. For the innocent, this can mean a multiple year trial (as well as expensive defence) in the US. In the case of the Natwest Three, as I understand it the alleged crime would have taken place in the UK, by UK citizens against UK interests. The employers (who are the alleged victims) have not wished to press any charges. As there is a loose connection to Enron, the US want to press charges but have not presented a probable cause to the UK. If the UK want to extradite a US citizen then the same arrangements do not apply. A special relationship indeed.

This case has been on the slow burn for some time now, the esteemed Boris wrote about it back in 2004, but it's in the past few days that it has come to the fore of public awareness.

This treaty was originally presented as a bill which would aide the extradition of terror suspects (also without probable cause, but in these days the concept of evidence seems secondary when we have terror suspects) - and yet it's scope is wider than was originally spun. This is a good case in point why legislation should be tightly drawn and why 'trust us' isn't enough.

In domestic law, the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill is such a piece of legislation. As is the ID card bill. There are also domestic laws designed to punish contain terror 'suspects' - not convicts - which could suffer the same problem.

The bottom line here is this: why should any UK citizen be deported without a prima facae case being made by the USA?

I suppose that this is the special part of the special relationship that we keep hearing about?

Here are the other articles which Boris wrote, (I knew the Boris Plugin for Firefox would be handy!) from May 2005 and July 3rd 2006. This isn't the only case out there, there are others. My issue is not that I think there's no case to answer, I don't have anything like the information needed to make a judgement - and have no opinion on the individual cases.

My problem with all this is that these extraditions are being made to a foreign power without evidence being presented to support the allegation that there is a case to answer. There is a new business setting up to insure executives against the possibility of extradition to the US.

The fact that the treaty is not reciprocal adds insult to injury, but it isn't the main issue - if the treaty were reciprocal it would not make it right.

In parliament, the Lords have voted for a suspension until it is reciprocal, and there has been a debate in the commons - and a protest vote passed at 246 to 4. Not that this is likely to change anything.

Tony Blair has defended the treaty saying that the UK and America have "roughly analogous" grounds for extradition.

It adds a twist to the story that a potential witness has been discovered dead - that should keep people speculating wildly.


Update: Boris has posted an extract from the westminster debate.

Excellent Independent Article

There is a well written article in the Independent today. I would advice everyone to read it.

... And what is remarkable - in fact almost a historic phenomenon - is the harm his government has done to the unwritten British constitution in those nine years, without anyone really noticing, without the press objecting or the public mounting mass protests.

Britain is not a police state - the fact that Tony Blair felt it necessary to answer me by e-mail proves that - but it is becoming a very different place under his rule, and all sides of the House of Commons agree.

Chakrabarti, who once worked as a lawyer in the Home Office, explains: "If you throw live frogs into a pan of boiling water, they will sensibly jump out and save themselves. If you put them in a pan of cold water and gently apply heat until the water boils they will lie in the pan and boil to death. It's like that."

This leads to my favourite quote:

In Blair you see the champion frog boiler of modern times

The article goes on to discuss the Civil Contingencies bill, as well as The Legislative and Regulatory Reform bill:

I realise that it would be testing your patience to go too deeply into the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill, which the Government has been trying to smuggle through Parliament this year, but let me just say that its original draft would have allowed ministers to make laws without reference to elected representatives.

Imagine the President of the United States trying to neuter the Congress in this manner, so flagrantly robbing it of its power. Yet until recently all this has occurred in Britain with barely a whisper of coverage in the British media.

ID cards also get a mention:

George Churchill-Coleman described it to me as an absolute waste of time. "You and I will carry them because we are upright citizens. But a terrorist isn't going to carry [his own]. He will be carrying yours."

Blair and Criminal Justice

The less you intend to do about something the more you have to keep talking about it

Yes Minister: Open Government

So Blair is talking about rebalancing the criminal justice system, saying that the rights of the suspect and the right of the victim must be balanced.

Excuse me, Mr. Blair, I had not realised that the rights of a suspect and a victim were in conflict. A suspect, by definition, is not yet convicted.

Removing protections for the accused is not in the interests of any of us. How does it serve the victim if an innocent man is wrongly convicted? Protections for the accused are vital and necessary. Punishing someone for the sake of punishment is not justice if they are not guilty.

It comes to this: Which is the bigger sin, to risk a guilty man going free, or to risk an innocent man going to gaol?

Wit in the Commons

On 'They Work for You', there was this lively exchange on Thursday:

Charles Walker (Broxbourne, Conservative)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. During his response to my question, the Leader of the House invited me to visit his constituency. As I am a new Member, could you advise me how I could go about organising that?

Michael Martin (Speaker)

The hon. Gentleman should go to the Travel Office and get a British Rail timetable.

(Source)

Terry Waite on The UK

'Not Little England' makes a post inspired by a Terry Waite quote, and also references a Boris Johnson article which I linked to in reference to Brian Haw.

I hope that they don't mind if I quote it in it's entirety...


Terry Waite, Boris Johnson: Blair is letting terrorism win

Terry Waite (of kidnapped and held as hostage fame) in Wednesdays Independent (not online):

I wish more people would take notice of...The gradual and insidious restriction of personal liberties in this country as a result of the hype about terrorism. There is a tendency in this government to be reactive without thinking deeply. We're letting a lot of things slip by. If we allow that to happen, terrorism has won because it's deprived us of hard-fought liberties.

(my emphasis)

Boris Johnson:

I have been talking to Agnes Callamard, who leads a free speech charity called Article 19, and she tells me that wherever she now goes on her missions, she finds a shocking new phenomenon. She has just been to the Maldives, where the government is engaged in active repression of the press, shutting down radio stations and locking up journalists if they even carry quotations from the opposing MDP. When she remonstrated, she was told that any criticism was a bit rich coming from a British organisation, given that the British Government has just passed draconian new measures against incitement in the Terrorism Bill.

It was the same story in Nepal, where torture has been used regularly against opponents of the regime, and where there are similar restrictions on free speech. "A senior government official told us that they were only cracking down on terrorists, in the way that they do in the UK," said Callamard.

picking the exerpt to quote on that one was hard, go read the whole article; when I disagree with him, I respect Boris's writing style. When I agree with him (as in this case)? Brilliance.

It's reading Boris and similar that has led me to conclude that not all the Tories are evil bastards. That's still hard for a part of me to accept. But I'd rather have Boris in Govt than the current shower, at least he values the principles we're supposedly fighting the war on terror to defend.

Final word:

Of course these analogies are opportunistic and false, and of course there is no real comparison between Britain and Malaysia, let alone Zimbabwe. Thanks to the goodness of the editor of this paper, I can say more or less whatever I want, provided it is not too catastrophic for circulation. But what Blair fails to understand, when he promulgates this endless succession of new and ineffective Criminal Justice Bills, and when he curtails trial by jury and freedom of speech, and when he enacts all the other potential erosions of liberty that we have seen over the past nine years, is that he is handing a perfect pretext to the despots of the world.

Brian Haw

A closeup of Brian Haw With the recent appropriation of Brian Haw's placards at a cost of over 7 grand (despite his protest pre-dating the authoritarian law effectively banning all but authorised protest in westminster, Boris Johnson has well chosen words to say about the issue.

He refers to Maya Evans, as well as the fact that this government's actions are undermining the civil liberties case with some of the less pleasant regimes in the world. The exclusion zone is mapped here.

UKPoliBlog

For a while I've been wishing there was a website that would provide a summary of UK political news in one place, news that was a) Sorted by Political Party b) Had a range of sources and views c) Focussed upon the UK.

... so I made it myself.

The result is here, all articles are sorted (as well as possible) into one of four columns, depending upon which part of the political spectrum the article is about. E.g. articles focussing on the Labour Party (for or against) go into the first, red, column. The second column is Lib Dem, the third Tory, and the last is everyone else.

It's set up so that others can make posts to the site if they register. New accounts created will only be able to add comments, but it is a one click job to upgrade anyone who would like to try their hand at writing articles.

Factchecking Pollyana

One for Bloglines.... A new site has come online in the last few days, FactChecking Pollyana, a site dedicated to crosschecking the 'facts' in Polly 'nosepegs at the ready' Toynbee's Grauniad column.

For example, the latest post talks of her misquoting a source (and ignoring a quote in the same report that says '86% of Big Britons claim they find it increasingly difficult to trust what they read'.

Should prove to be a good site, assuming that the people administering it can keep up a timely pace, and that they're always careful to cite their sources (hopefully there are a few people doing it in order to split the load).

Blairwatch and the attack on the Human Rights Bill

I've been watching the recent attacks on the Human Rights Legislation with bemusement.

Surely people can see that one hard case isn't enough to overturn such legislation? The history of the bill is that following WW2, Winston Churchill promoted it for Europe, and it was only recently adopted in the UK. Laws should be made coolly, in rational times - tough cases like the Afghan Hijackers rarely make for good laws.

Yes, hijacking planes is not a good thing, and should not be encouraged - but the decisions on individual cases is best left up to individual judges - the media and much less the general public, know all the pertinant facts.

On Blairwatch, they have this to say:

According to a 'leaked' (yeah, right) letter to the latest Home Office bruiser-in-chief, Mr. Blair is apparently urging a watering down of his own Human Rights Act:

That could involve new legislation to overrule human rights judgments by the courts. Mr Blair has asked the Home Secretary, John Reid, to "ensure that the law-abiding majority can live without fear".

I for one would be fearful of an executive that could arbitrarily overturn judicial decisions which in turn are based upon the law of the land.

This is wrong on so many counts - quite apart from anything else it's in response to pressure from, primarily, the Sun. Murdoch's finest tabloid rag is swinging slowly behind the Dave Cameron bandwagon, and the chubby-cheeked chameleon duly obliged them with, effectively, a restatement of the Tory position from the last election (well he wrote it) that the Act would be reformed or scrapped. The Sun's position is rather less subtle:

THOUSANDS of Sun readers have voted to scrap the Human Rights Act...Last night the Government was trying to wriggle out of the shambles. PM Tony Blair and Home Secretary John Reid raised the prospect the law may have to be tightened. But the rattled pair tried to blame judges for Labour's bungle in introducing the 1998 Act.

Thousands of Sun Readers have a keen interest in Big Brother.....

The Sun is also insinuating that the ECHR is the fault of the European Union (it's not, it's the fault of Sir Winston Churchill), that it came in in 1998 (no, 1953) and that the non-deportation of foreigners is due to the Act (it isn't, it's either due to a ruling of the European Court of Human Rights or, of course, Home Office incompetence).

That, indeed, is the nub here. When the Home Office breaks its own laws, or fails to run itself competently, or fails to provide sufficient resources to educate its staff or track terrorist suspects that's not the fault of judges, Liberty, the EU or for that matter the late Sir Winston and the solution can only come from internal reform of the department. For that matter, reform of the UK's foreign policy would help us live free from fear, but I bet Dr. Reid won't be recommending that.

That last point was my issue with the Clarke fiasco, with the cartoon demonstrations, with so many other issues - this government does not need more powers, it never has. It needs to use the powers it had.

A commenter points out that News International (owners of 'The Sun' who are sabre rattling about removing Human Rights) have themselves benefited from the Human Rights Act

Another commenter also refers to Tony Blair signing an anti-animal rights extremist petition. This raises the same thought I had... who's the petition going to? The same commenter says: Secondly, blaming the ECHR is a complete cop out. If the Blair government keeps breaking it with ill considered laws, they should take responsibility.

Quite so.

Charles Clarke uses his current difficulty to promote ID cards

First Charles Clarke's department releases 900 foreign prisoners on completion of sentence (instead of reviewing cases for deportation), but now he's saying that ID cards would have helped prevent the problem. As the great Eric Morecambe would have said, the boy's a fool.

Seeing as he's currently in the news I might mention that Charles Clarke is often referred to online as Charlie the Safety Elephant. Also, Sweaty Baboon. For an explanation of the baboon thing, see this page.

It's also worth reminding ourselves of his other public relation success, in dealing with the families of people affected by the July 7th bombers, people who are his constituents.

Guardian Comment upon Tony Blair's Observer email exchange

Yesterday, we saw an exchange between Tony Blair and Henry Porter printed in the Observer.

Today, there is a rather good comment piece in The Guardian on this exchange.

Blair's genius, here as so often, is to present ends that we would all find desirable, while implying that his methods are the only means of getting there. Anyone who criticises those methods, whether a judge, journalist or citizen, can thus be presented as an opponent who cannot deliver what he is seeking: a just and free society. His emotional appeal is undeniable. His logic is flawed, indefensible and dangerous.

Bang on the mark, this sums it up so nicely.

On the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill the article has this to say:

It is always impossible to know whether the prime minister is being disingenuous, or whether he is genuinely ignorant. Take his defence of the truly alarming legislative and regulatory reform bill currently going through parliament. This was blandly trailed last year as a measure to cut red tape. When it was published, civil servants were astonished to find it was nothing of the sort. It gave ministers the unprecedented power to change laws by order, rather than going through parliamentary procedures. They could, in theory, use it for almost any purpose, including ending jury trials, sacking judges, or making political protest illegal.

The government resolutely refused to limit the bill while it was in committee. It was only 10 days ago, in the face of media criticism and internal Labour unease, that the government finally conceded that they would restrict some of its powers. Yet no one knows whether this is a major climbdown or a minor tactical concession, since the details haven't been published. You would know nothing of this from Blair, who simply misrepresented the bill as something that would not interfere with basic rights. He dismissed anxieties about it as "more than far-fetched".

The Save Parliament Committee have not been able to comment on the concessions yet as nobody knows what they are.

Jenni Russell's article is well worth a read - and I encourage you to head over to have a look at the full piece.

This piece also appears on the 'Comment is Free' pages, where you can read the piece and then comment.

See also: The Independent's summary. The Sun typically takes a view which most charitably be described as 'sympathetic' to Blair. (Note the perjorative language, e.g. 'bleats'.)