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Clare Short Resigns Labour Whip

by Gary J Fri Oct 20th, 2006 at 04:53:31 PM EST

Clare Short, the former Labour cabinet member, is fed up with being summoned to see the Chief Whip every week so she has left the Parliamentary Labour Party.

The MP from Birmingham Ladywood, described by The Almanac of British Politics as the "least conventional of Labour's senior women politicians", had previously announced that she would not contest the next election.

Ms Short has been calling for a hung Parliament after the next election. She is criticised by former colleagues because a hung Parliament would imply that some existing Labour MPs would lose theor seats.


(Extracts from the BBC article)

In a letter to Labour's chief whip, the Birmingham Ladywood MP accuses Tony Blair of telling "half-truths and deceits to get us to war in Iraq".

The former Cabinet minister also accused the government of being "arrogant and error prone" and repeated her call for a hung parliament.


"It is my view that our political system is in trouble and that the exaggerated majorities in the House of Commons have led to an abject parliament and a concentration of power in Number 10 that has produced arrogant, error-prone government," writes Ms Short.


Ms Short, 60, also accuses Labour's previous chief whip, social exclusion minister Hilary Armstrong, of using her authority "to stop me discussing the fact that the prime minister engaged in a series of half-truths and deceits to get us to war in Iraq".

Comments >> (1 comment)

Blair (and Brown) speaking

by Gary J Thu Sep 7th, 2006 at 09:51:19 AM EST

Just on BBC News 24

Brown just making a statement to TV

It is for the Prime Minister to make a decision. I will support him. Tony Blair and I have worked together for more than 20 years.

From the diaries, with some form edits. Use as as Blair open thread. - Jerome

Read more... (11 comments, 296 words in story)

Prime Minister Blair to resign 31 May 2007?

by Gary J Tue Sep 5th, 2006 at 12:43:20 PM EST

More news from the frontline of the British Labour civil war (the longest running farce in recent political history).

Dateline London, 5th September 2006.

Straw in the wind 1

A memo, which is said to originate from Blair's allies, is leaked to the press.

It has been suggested the leak came from the Blair camp (who are so out of touch they do not see how damaging it is), the Brown camp (getting ever more impatient) or even from Education Secretary Alan Johnson (well placed to be deputy leader to Brown or a contender for the leadership crown itself if Brown falters).

The memo sets out a grandiose vision of a farewell tour for Blair culminating in a grand rally, so he can end his time in power basking in the adulation of a grateful party and country. This sounds like just the sort of empty but spectacular public relations gimmick that Blair loves.

This is the scenario of Blair going out with "all gun's blazing". Perhaps it is intended to be the classic gangster movie cliche, "you'll never take me alive".

Straw in the wind 2

The backbench Labour MPs (and even one junior Minister) are beginning to formalise their anxieties.

A group of 17 formerly loyal parliamentarians, first elected in 2001, have sent Tony a letter to say it is time to go. Other such letters are said to be circulating, collecting signatures from the Parliamentary party.

My comments and a BBC report after the fold

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Acquittal is not enough - UK to send Y to Algeria

by Gary J Thu Aug 24th, 2006 at 01:08:24 PM EST

Y, an Algerian previously granted asylum in the UK, was acquitted of involvement in the "ricin" plot.

The British state still wants to get rid of Y. They believe things have improved in Algeria, so Y is no longer at risk of being tortured.

Today the Special Immigration Appeals Commission agreed there was no reason not to return Y to Algeria.

Interestingly one of the members of the jury that acquitted Y in the criminal trial is appearing on the BBC to support his staying.


Guardian online article extracts after the fold.

Read more... (3 comments, 275 words in story)

***Term Limits for UK Prime Ministers?

by Gary J Thu Aug 10th, 2006 at 09:37:08 AM EST

Since 1979 the UK has had three Prime Ministers, all of whom served long continuous periods in office. Two of them at least were so out of touch with reality, by the end of their term, that it damaged the national and (less importantly) party interest.

In the United States the President is not allowed to be elected more than twice. This limits the damage that any individual can do. It also weakens the ability of an able incumbent to do good.

Historically Parliamentary systems have not time limited office holders. Is this tenable any more, now that Prime Ministers have become more than first amongst equals?

Blair seems to regard his cabinet like US President's treat theirs - a not terribly important group of advisers, whose collective view the leader can follow or ignore at his pleasure.

If the Prime Ministership is going to function like a Presidency is it not time for some checks and balances to be introduced?

Suggestions after the fold.

From the front page ~ whataboutbob

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Why cricket is not the national sport of France

by Gary J Sun Jul 16th, 2006 at 09:51:26 AM EST

The origins of the sport of cricket are obscure. However by the second half of the eighteenth century the game was popular with both rich and poor Englishmen, particularly in the south-eastern counties of England.

Aristocratic patrons raised their own cricket teams. They also employed good cricketers to work on their estates and play the game in the hotter months (the first professional cricketers).

One of the leading figures in cricketing circles was John Frederick Sackville, 3rd Duke of Dorset (1745-1799). Dorset himself played in major matches between 1773 and 1783, before he took up a diplomatic career. The Duke became British Ambsassador to France in 1784.

In France, Dorset introduced the game of cricket. This novel play did not immediately catch on amongst the French.

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Blair's fundraiser, Lord Levy, is arrested***

by Gary J Sat Jul 15th, 2006 at 03:16:17 AM EST

Lord Levy, a friend of Tony Blair, serves as his personal envoy on Middle East matters and more significantly is the Prime Minister's chief fund raiser.

Scotland Yard has been investigating a complaint by a Scottish National Party MP that illegal cash for peerages deals have been done.

Arrest is not the same as a charge. However Levy being called in for questioning is a significant development.

It is assumed Lord Levy would not have done anything without Tony Blair's knowledge.

Downing Street has not yet said anything.


Details of English criminal investigation procedure below the fold.

***From the front page - with format edit - whataboutbob

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Chameleon Dave's hug a hoodie campaign

by Gary J Mon Jul 10th, 2006 at 08:43:34 PM EST

David "Chameleon" Cameron appears to be trying to move the British Conservative Party to the left, in some ways. The jury is out on whether this is purely a cosmetic exercise, a cynical attempt to triangulate to the left (as opposed to figures like Clinton and Blair who triangulated to the right) or if Cameron is expressing real beliefs.

BBC report on the speech.

"Tory leader David Cameron seems to have come up with "Hug a hoodie, power to the police".

In a brace of speeches on law and order, Mr Cameron suggests hood wearing youngsters are often the product of their social and family backgrounds.

While anti-social youngsters should feel "painful" consequences of their actions, there is still a need to "show a lot more love".

And, in what is seen as an attempt to balance the message, he also insists the public want the police to be "crime fighters, not form fillers. A force as well as a service"."

For more comments from me see below the fold.

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That was the news that was - 4th July 1806

by Gary J Tue Jul 4th, 2006 at 03:51:06 PM EST

Two hundred years ago today, when eager readers of the Times newspaper were handed the freshly ironed publication by their butler, what exciting news did they see?

Summary below the fold

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British Conservative: Human Rights with Common Sense

by Gary J Sun Jun 25th, 2006 at 07:24:32 AM EST

Tony Blair and David Cameron, in pursuit of their twin goals of appearing tough on crime and terrorism, have recently found judges applying the Human Rights Act 1998 standing in the way of draconian laws. That is precisely what the courts were supposed to do.

The problem is not the judges, it is the politicians who want to do things prohibited by the European Convention on Human Rights.

David Cameron has just made a deeply confused contribution to the debate about human rights law in Britain.


"Mr Cameron said the existing law had "actually hindered" the fight against crime.

He said: "It's stopped us responding properly in terms of terrorism, particularly in terms of deporting those who may do us harm in this country and at the same time, it hasn't really protected our human rights."

He added: "Why not try and write our own British bill of rights and responsibilities, clearly and precisely into law, so we can have human rights with common sense," he said".

Further comments below the fold.

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Not British, Not Independent, Not a Deterrent

by Gary J Thu Jun 22nd, 2006 at 12:26:40 PM EST

It seems like only yesterday that the Labour Party were tearing themselves apart over replacing Polaris with Trident. But it is now time again to pay a lot of money to the Americans for the illusion that the UK has an independent, nuclear deterrent.

There was never any doubt that Tony Blair would put the money down. He likes high tech, American made gadgets that can be used to make him look important.

However Gordon Brown, who has recently been straying beyond his departmental limits to look very Prime Ministerial in waiting, has confirmed he also wants up to date missiles. After all who wants to only be able to destroy Moscow sixty times over (or whatever the figure is) when new more destructive models are waiting in the arms dealers showroom.

The usual suspects on the Labour back benches are making noises. How 1970's of them.


"Facing demands from nearly 100 Labour MPs for a full Commons vote on whether to spend £25bn replacing Trident, Downing Street today promised a white paper and a "proper debate" in due course.

The call for a vote came before Gordon Brown surprised MPs last night by announcing in his Mansion House speech that he was prepared to replace Britain's ageing nuclear deterrent.

His announcement caused an immediate backlash, with former cabinet minister Clare Short saying it had cost Mr Brown her support for his leadership bid. Other "old" Labour MPs may follow suit".

Promoted by Colman

Comments >> (20 comments)

Panic - sentencing policy in modern Britain

by Gary J Thu Jun 15th, 2006 at 11:08:24 AM EST

I recently posted in a thread about the problems the Irish political system had with updating sexual offences. I explained the dreadful cycle which had developed in British penal policy.

Colman's original diary is at:- http://www.eurotrib.com/story/2006/6/1/44430/56088.

We have a row going on at the moment, which exactly confirms my thesis.

A few days ago an offender was sentenced to life imprisonment for various offences concerning the abduction and abuse of a three year old. The family of the victim were very upset by the leniency of the sentence, because the man would have a chance of trying to persuade the Parole Board that he was no longer a danger and to release him on licence in about five years.

It seems to be generally agreed by lawyers that the Judge acted strictly in accordance with the law and the sentencing guidelines (which resulted from legislation by the present government three years ago). Nevertheless John Reid, the Home Secretary, criticised the sentence.

Tony Blair, who does not want to be out-toughed on criminal law, is busily promising urgent legislation.

Of course the problem is that the prisons are already bursting at the seams as a result of other populist initiatives in recent years. Blair's 'well thought out' policy, invented on the back of an envelope in the past few days, is being interpreted as needing to re-balance penal policy so the most serious offenders serve longer whilst less serious ones get shorter sentences and commumity punishments.

One wonders which class of offenders will be worthy of lesser punishment - burglars, drug dealers? I imagine that will be the cause of the next moral panic.

A subsidiary idea is to reduce or eliminate the discount on sentence for an early guilty plea. The fact that this will lead to more jury trials and the possible collapse of the whole criminal justice system counts nothing compared to a short term newspaper headline.

Naturally policy is being driven by short term response to immediate political pressures rather than sensible, considered ideas which might work in the long term.

For a copy of my previous post and a Guardian article about the current sitiation see after the fold.

Read more... (9 comments, 978 words in story)

The more things change, the more they stay the same

by Gary J Sun Jun 4th, 2006 at 07:06:13 PM EST

A few thoughts on British political history.

10 years ago (1996)

John Major and his Conservative government were crawling towards their appointment with destiny in the 1997 general election. No doubt they hoped things would improve. Instead they kept on getting worse.

A shiny new young opposition leader seemed poised to welcome the new millenium with a great reforming government of the sort Britain only sees a few times a century. To echo the poet 'Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive/But to be young was very Heaven.'

The great hope was of course Tony Blair. I wonder what happened to him?

More years below the fold.

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Update: Imminent Czech election - final results

by Gary J Sat Jun 3rd, 2006 at 06:07:24 PM EST

Update 6-3-06 - 13:00 The Czech election started Friday and ended today at 2pm Czech time, so results should be coming in later. Here's a story from the BBC

Update 2: 17:45 from reader Sargon:

Exit poll: ODS 38%, CSSD 30%, KSCM 12%, KDU-CSL 8%, Greens 7%.

After 3/4 of polling stations' results are counted (Prague and other large cities, which tend to favor ODS, are a bit slower to report the results): ODS 34.3%, CSSD 33.1%, KSCM 13.3%, KDU-CSL 7.4%, Greens 6.1%.

Update [2006-6-3 18:7:24 by DoDo]: The official preliminary vote count is ODS 35.38%, ČSSD 32.32%, KSČM 12.81, KDU-ČSL 7.22, and Greens 6.29 (and 64.47% participation). The official preliminary seat allocation is ODS 81, ČSSD 74, KSČM 26, KDU-ČSL 13, Greens 6 - a perfect 100:100 stalemate between the leftist and rightist parties.

From the diaries ~ whataboutbob

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Is Bush too soft on his enemies?

by Gary J Wed May 17th, 2006 at 03:14:00 PM EST

I have looked at the way the United States brought "civilization" to the Philippines in the early twentieth century. It seems the only difference with Iraq is that modern American troops are not ruthless enough.

Despite the best efforts of the neoconservatives even Bush and his supporters are still infected with liberalism. I suspect only the continued brutalisation of the American people will make them fit to be the stormtroopers of the new world order.

That is why the gradual erosion of liberty at home is such an important part of the master plan for global dominance.

http://www.monthlyreview.org/1103editors.htm A few details of olden times, after the fold.

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Ex-Communist elected President of Italy

by Gary J Fri May 12th, 2006 at 12:54:17 PM EST

According to Wikipedia Italy has a new President. Senator for life Giorgio Napolitano (currently of the Democratic Left, but formerly a prominent Communist) was elected on the 4th ballot. This is the first ballot where a simple majority is sufficient to choose, so a President could be elected without needing support from both political blocs.


This is obviously a significant development in Italian history. I leave it to members more familiar with Italy than I am to say how significant.

Promoted by Colman

Comments >> (14 comments)

An affront to justice

by Gary J Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 02:17:59 PM EST

More news from the ongoing dispute betweeen the judiciary and the Blair government. These judges are just so 13th century in their thinking.

Extract from English translation of Magna Carta (1215)

"JOHN, by the grace of God King of England, Lord of Ireland, Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, and Count of Anjou, to his archbishops, bishops, abbots, earls, barons, justices, foresters, sheriffs, stewards, servants, and to all his officials and loyal subjects, Greeting.


TO ALL FREE MEN OF OUR KINGDOM we have also granted, for us and our heirs for ever, all the liberties written out below, to have and to keep for them and their heirs, of us and our heirs:


  • (38) In future no official shall place a man on trial upon his own unsupported statement, without producing credible witnesses to the truth of it.

  • (39) No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land.

  • (40) To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice".

Guardian report

"A high court judge branded the government's system of control orders against terrorism suspects "an affront to justice" yesterday and ruled that they breached human rights laws.
The ruling by Mr Justice Sullivan came after a challenge to the first control order issued against a British Muslim man, alleged by the security services and the home secretary to have been planning to travel to Iraq to fight UK and US forces.


The judge said the anti-terrorism measures were "conspicuously unfair" and dismissed supposed safeguards of suspects' rights as a "thin veneer of legality". He had to say "loud and clear" that the laws were unfair otherwise "the court would be failing in its duty."

But he said the laws passed had been drafted in a way that prevented the courts overturning control orders.

In this case, the judge said, Charles Clarke had made his decision to issue the order based on "one-sided information", but he was "unable to envisage the circumstances" allowing the court to quash the home secretary's decision. As a result, the judge said, he would have to leave the order in place, even though he ruled that it contravened human rights law".


The Judge has made a declaration of incompatibility under the Human Rights Act 1998. This procedure requires Parliament to reconsider the existing law (which was itself intended to fix the declaration of incompatability about detention without trial).

The law was designed in this way to preserve the fiction of Parliamentary sovereignty. It would be an affront to British politicial tradition if a judge had power to strike down an Act of Parliament himself.

No doubt the response by the Labour government will be to replace one draconian human rights deficient law with another. However at least Blair will have an opportunity to claim that the Judiciary and opposition are still weak on terrorism.

Development in British Politics - Scottish by-election

by Gary J Fri Feb 10th, 2006 at 09:18:31 AM EST

The Dunfermline and West Fife by-election.

There has been a sensational by-election result in Scotland. The contest was to fill a seat in the United Kingdom House of Commons, left vacant by the recent death of the popular Labour MP Rachel Squire.
The Liberal Democrats have won the seat. This is the first time the Lib Dems (or the predecessor  Liberal Party) have ever won a seat from Labour in a Scottish by-election. This may be a political event of long term significance. The Liberal Democrats are strong in most very  rural areas of Scotland, but have made little impact since the 1920s in more urbanised Labour inclined regions.
The election used the first past the post system. For anyone who is not familiar with how that works, the voter writes an x opposite the name of the candidate of his or her choice. The number of votes for each candidate are added up and the one with the most wins. This often produces a winner with far less than the support of half the electorate, particularly in the multi-party politics of Scotland.

Promoted by Colman

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British Conservatives elect young, Old Etonian eurosceptic

by Gary J Thu Dec 8th, 2005 at 10:14:10 AM EST

back from the front page. Edited for form --Jérôme

We now know the result of the poll of Conservative members, to decide the new Tory leader.

David Cameron  134,446

David Davis         64,398

David Cameron is an Old Etonian, and a eurosceptic. This is quite a change from the previous generation of leaders, since Edward Heath in 1965.

Cameron wants the Conservative MEP's to leave the EPP group in the European Parliament. The MEP's are not happy, so there may be some fireworks in the next few weeks.

I thought I would compare David Cameron's pre-leadership experience, with that of previous leaders. I have looked at British party leaders for the last hundred years or so.

David Cameron has less Parliamentary experience than any Conservative leader previously selected. David Cameron shares with Iain Duncan Smith the distinction amongst modern Tory leaders of becoming leader with no ministerial service.

It is difficult to determine the party leader until the 1920's. This is because for the Conservative and Liberal Parties there was no overall party leader unless the leader was a current Prime Minister, the last Prime Minister still actively leading the party or so predominant that there was no dispute. The Labour Party only had a Chairman until its first leader was elected in 1922.

The lists below the fold are for leaders (or Chairmen) in the House of Commons with the exception of H.H. Asquith who continued to be the Liberal leader when he was out of Parliament and in the House of Lords, until he retired in 1926.

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Why do the British prefer cheap food to rich farmers?

by Gary J Wed Dec 7th, 2005 at 11:39:24 AM EST

The reason why the British do not like the CAP, whatever benefits it may bring to the 2% or so of the UK population involved in farming, has deep roots in British history.
Political power was once concentrated in the land owning aristocracy. Together with their relatives and dependents in the House of Commons, the peers normally made sure their interests were well protected.
The Napoleonic Wars were a boom time for the British nobility. The war guaranteed high grain prices. The rents the aristocrats could extract from their tenant farmers were correspondingly high.
The poor, who paid the high prices for bread, had no political power. Parliament, dominated by the aristocracy and the gentry, saw no need to intervene.
After the war, with a depression reducing bread prices, landowners were in trouble. They used their political power to pass the Corn Law.  This placed a floor on prices. The nobility benefited but the general public were forced to pay more than the market price.
Continued after the fold.

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