Wednesday, October 31, 2007
MPs have not been given the opportunity to consider all the evidence that could
have been made available. The facts have been shadowed and the report has been
hijacked by those with powerful vested financial interests in the abortion
This is controversial stuff. More on Nadine's blog HERE.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
The real reason, of course, why the government does not want to hold a referendum is the fear that it may lose. It is the same fear that has paralysed Blair on the euro for six long years. It is the same fear that led Peter Hain to camouflage the constitution with comic inaccuracy as nothing more than a "tidying up exercise". It is the same fear which has long restrained New Labour from expressing the courage of its meagre convictions on Europe. And it won't do.
The alternative, now unfolding before us, is infinitely worse: a false assumption that anti-Europeans are democrats, and pro-Europeans are not. By shilly shallying with semantic half-truths about the content of the constitution, and now haughtily dismissing all calls for a referendum, it is New Labour which is, to cite my friend, "playing straight into the hands of the Eurosceptics". By providing the hapless Iain Duncan Smith with a pretext to champion people's democracy, Blair is unwittingly doing more to reinvigorate Euroscepticism than John Redwood could manage in his wildest fantasies. Nothing will do more damage to the pro-European movement than giving room to the suspicion that we have something to hide, that we do not have the "cojones" to carry our argument to the people.
And our argument is strong. The constitution, assuming it emerges roughly in its present draft form, provides ideal ammunition to call the Europhobes' bluff. While it is no mere "tidying up exercise", it is galaxies away from the "blueprint for tyranny" laughably paraded by the Daily Mail...
...The measured modesty of the constitution is precisely what is being obscured by the government's refusal to hold a referendum. In doing so, it has allowed the phobes to shift the argument away from the constitution itself and onto shriller claims about the democratic legitimacy of the whole EU. By forcing the phobes to argue on the substance of the text, a referendum would expose the hollow hysteria of their polemic.
Naive? Perhaps, a little. Inevitably, any referendum campaign is unlikely to be a scholarly examination of the legal content of a complex constitutional tome. It is possible that it will soon escalate into an unconstrained debate about the very place of Britain in the EU - in or out. So be it.
Read the full article HERE. Hattip to LibDem Voice. They know not what they do.
We greatly regret that these talks have been suspended as a result of the
Conservative Party's unwillingness to negotiate on a draft agreement. We had
understood that all parties had thought in good faith that this draft agreement
was the basis of a comprehensive settlement. We will now take time to reflect on
We are disappointed that the trade unions still hold Labour over a barrel. The
unions are running the Labour party from the back seat, giving them control over
Government policy. Labour has rejected a comprehensive cap on donations and
clearly do not want to end the big donor culture which has caused the 'cash for
honours' scandal. Labour just want a backroom deal that gives them taxpayers'
cash without proper reform. This would do nothing to restore public trust in our
We really need to revisit this issue, and David Miliband ought to take a leading part in the discussions.
So a little competition for you. What will tomorrow's embarrassing climbdown be?
UPDATE: Well it's happened today. The government now admits the true figure of immigrants holding down jobs in the UK is actually 1.5 million, nearly double their original figure. It makes you wonder what it will be by the end of next month!
I was one of those who voted against the Communications Allowance
because it marked a big increase on the overall level of parliamentary
allowances. It was not accompanied, for example, by any decrease in the IEP. It
is fair for people to debate whether or not MPs should be allowed to fund web
sites and newsletters from allowances at all. But so long as such expenditure is
within the rules, a change in the regulations applied by the House Authorities
that means that probably most MPs will use the Communications Allowance.
Before the Communications Allowance was introduced, MPs could and did fund such
expenditure out of the IEP, but of course that spending had to be balanced
within an MP's IEP budget against all the other costs of running an office. When
the Communications Allowance came in, we were told by the Department of
Finance and Administration that we must from then on allot any spending on web
sites or newsletters to that allowance and not to the IEP. So any MP who
used to pay for communications from the IEP must now pay those sums out of the
Cue outraged howls from secretaries and researchers who now vow never to read this blog again...
UPDATE: I have been upbraided by a researcher who says I have omitted Facebook from the list of diversions used by him and his colleagues to avoid doing their masters' and mistresses' bidding. Indeed, he sent the message on Facebook, so I rest my case, your Honour!
It has emerged over the weekend that, shortly before the campaign began, there was disagreement in the Cabinet about whether or not Australia should ratify the Kyoto protocols. Malcolm Turnbull, the Environment Minister, supported ratification. Others, including the Prime Minister, did not. The latter view prevailed. The Prime Minister has attempted to support Mr Turnbull. In turn, Mr Turnbull has declined to comment on the issue in public.
Recently, British researchers offered support for Australia’s position on Kyoto. However, it is my view that this debate is no longer about the facts – it is about whether or not one passes the “decency test” on the environmental question, and Kyoto is the leitmotif of that question. From that perspective, ratification – regardless of factual truth or untruth – might be worthwhile, given the potential political gain.
Moreover, the fact that the disagreement has been made public despite a pretty well known principle might be considered by observers to be a sign that, in the face of unpleasant polls, there are some within the Coalition more interested in their own positions than the fortunes of the Party as a whole.
And finally, for my persistent and constructive critic “Howard” – yes, I am biased. I support the Liberal Party. If you want to convey an alternative POV boosting Labor, write it yourself.
Treasurer Peter Costello debated Shadow Treasurer Wayne Swan this afternoon. There had been some to-ing and fro-ing between them before the debate over Swan’s supposed economic conservatism (a claim made echoing that frequently made by his leader, which I’ve ridiculed elsewhere). However, on the day itself things were pretty civilized. There was no killer punch. I’d say that Costello won, but as Mandy Rice-Davies would say, I would say that, wouldn’t I? As I’ve mentioned previously, I think that – barring disasters for one side or another – these debates are pretty much for insiders.
New Newspoll results are in: we’re up 4 points (I say this to satisfy the constant requests for references to polls) – not enough yet, but good.
My answer would be that Labor dominance of the State governments – which (despite the occasional federal foray) run both health and education – makes that problematic. In particular, Labor needs a swag of seats in New South Wales to form government. Polling would suggest that those seats are poachable. But the New South Wales Health system is in a parlous state. NSW Minister of Health, Reba Meagher, is in some trouble. So Labor avoids the debate, for fear of contamination from the State brand.
Plenty of people have challenged my assertion that the Australian media is biased leftwards (or alternatively, simply dislikes this government and wants a change). Well, let’s see what happens: when it was revealed that there had, some time in the past, been abortive cabinet discussion of a policy change on Kyoto, the story ran widely for three days. Today, Kevin Rudd has thoroughly u-turned on Kyoto. It is obviously a bigger story. Coverage thus far is along the lines of “the Coalition says…” rather than the actual “U-turn” story it should be. Let’s see how long it runs.
Video blogging is going to be big. Soon. It won't just be bloggers posting videos of themselves on TV like I've just done above. It won't even be films made by bloggers wearing their pajamas in their bedrooms. At least I hope it won't be. It'll be videos that sometimes make or break the news. With the advent of things like Blip and Mogulus, video blogging is about to take off. One of the big decisions I have to make is how to utilise this new facility on my blog. Ideas anyone?
Monday, October 29, 2007
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Eleanor has been more than a godmother to me and my two sisters. She was such an integral part of our childhood that we can all say she has played a major part in making us all what we are today. I remember all the wonderful daytrips we went on as children. Off we'd troop in her Morris Minor - I still remember the numberplate 00 2163. Hunstanton, Walton on the Naze, Wicksteed Park, Wells-next-the-sea, Gosfield - the memories come flooding back. She never had her own children and has been like a sister to my mother. A kinder, more giving and caring person you could not hope to meet.
To be honest I am dreading seeing her in this state. I've never had to say 'good-bye' to anyone in this way before. The three of us will go together. I suspect a lot of tears will be shed. If you're religious, say a prayer for Eleanor tonight. If anyone deserves to go to heaven, she does.
UPDATE Mon 10pm: Many thanks for all the wonderful messages in the comments. It has been a very traumatic day. I won't labour the details but Eleanor was very peaceful, recognised us all and we were all able to say our thank yous to her and tell her we loved her. Saying goodbye was awful, but I am so glad I went.
The YBF is run by my two colleagues at 18 Doughty Street, Donal Blaney and Shane Greer. They put on a terrific conference with a lineup of speakers the like I have never seen before. The seventy-odd under 30s who attended can count themselves very lucky indeed.
Donal’s work with the YBF is vital in building a wider conservative movement in the UK and has now decided that’s where he wants to concentrate his efforts. He’s leaving 18Ds at the end of the month to concentrate more on expanding the YBF and I really wish him well in his efforts. If this weekend’s conference is anything to go by, he’ll be amply rewarded by the future political success of YBF graduates.
Under the plan, a new English Grand Committee - open only to English MPs - would be established to deal with matters, such as schools and hospitals, relating solely to England. MPs from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland would continue to sit together in the Commons to vote on UK wide matters such as taxation, foreign policy and defence. A Conservative Party spokesman confirmed that the plan was being considered, but said that no decision had yet been taken on whether it would be adopted as party policy. "Ken Clarke's democracy taskforce is looking at the issue and will report back on it, but nothing has been decided yet," the spokesman said... Sir Malcolm told The Observer: "Since devolution there has been a growing English consciousness and that has given credence to the unfinished business of devolution. The issue is not an English Parliament. It is how you reform the way in which the House of Commons operates so that on purely English business, as opposed to United Kingdom business, the wishes of English members cannot be denied." However the plan was denounced as "utterly unworkable" by Scotland Office Minister David Cairns. "Once you breach the principle that all MPs should vote on matters before them in Westminster you get constitutional anarchy," he told the paper.
I'm very excited by this. It's radical thinking and deserves full consideration. It's not quite an English Parliament but it's as close as we're going to get. So I hope those who believe in an English Parliament will back it, at least as an interim measure.
UPDATE: read The Observer story HERE.
Saturday, October 27, 2007
1. The Head of the UN's economic development commission comes from .... Zimbabwe.
2. The next Head of the United Nations Human Rights Commission comes from .... Saudi Arabia. Cuba and China are also leading members.
Coming soon: Iran to head up the Nuclear Non Proliferation Commission!
I'm on a panel tomorrow morning with BBC Head of News Peter Horrocks. I'll let you know what he has to say on the subject.
Veteran Aboriginal rights campaigner Galarrwuy Yunupingu backed John Howard’s pledge to recognise Aboriginal rights yesterday. In his speech at the University of Melbourne, he spoke of this being “the most serious business we have faced as a nation” and as an issue on which the Prime Minister “trying, on behalf of the nation… to get it right”.
This area has always been problematic for John Howard. As his biographers have stated, he has always believed in integration rather than multiculturalism. At the time that the policy was announced, he talked about how this has been an area with which he has long struggled; it is one in which his background has shaped his views. It is easy to mock his position as electoral jockeying. It will certainly have surprised many amongst both admirers and detractors. Personally, I really do think that it’s the result of a process, a long journey on which his opinions have changed over time.
In any case, if Yunupingu’s speech had been made in praise of Rudd, it would have received widespread coverage – even though it would have been less newsworthy, given the long and understandable affinity between such campaigners and the left. Instead, when an Aboriginal rights campaigner has endorsed the position of one of the most conservative figures in politics, it has been received in all but silence from the media, with only the Australian giving it an outing (apart from The Age, a remarkable home of leftism, which managed to covered the story and reprint the speech without discussing any of the positivity towards the PM). Such is life.
I really do find it strange that no one mentions the fact that Lord Sainsbury has given far more money to the Labour Party than Michael Ashcroft has ever given to the Tories. And where does most of Sainsbury's money end up? Funding Labour's target seat campaigns. The hypocrisy is breathtaking. I will be writing more on this in the next few days as a very interesting document has come into my possession.
Friday, October 26, 2007
And that, Ladies and Gentlemen is the difference between a Conservative and a Socialist. Maybe it was better done verbally...
In the Bush White House, there is a director of coalition relations called Tim Goeglein. His job is to keep the Republican Party and the wider conservative
movement sweet. Cameron could do worse than appoint his own version of Goeglein, whose job would be to liaise directly with the party and hoover up good ideas and suggestions.
To be fair, I shamelessly nicked the idea from Donal Blaney's column on ConservativeHome...
I'm pleased to learn therefore from ConservativeHome that David Cameron is about to appoint George Eustice to this role. George has been Cameron's loyal and very hard working press secretary for the last thirty months. He has now decided he wants to stand for Parliament and cannot do so from the vantage point of press secretary. George has a fine record in campaigning, having been the driver of the 'No' Campaign and Business for Sterling.
As the conservative movement in Britain grows at an impressive rate, Team Cameron likewise need to ensure that the members of the conservative movement, and in particular its leaders, are kept in the loop and feel they have a channel of communication to the Party leadership. The appointment of someone with a role similar to Tim Goeglein at the White House (who is in charge of White House relations with the conservative coalition) will help ensure the broader conservative movement remains if not wholly on side then at least broadly on side, thereby avoiding future misunderstandings and rows.
George was a pleasure to deal with during the leadership campaign and has been unfailingly polite and helpful ever since. I really wish him well in this new and much needed role.
I was told today - and if someone can provide the evidence I'd be grateful - that under the Barnett formula Scotland will actually benefit from the Crossrail project. Bear with me. If the Government commits £5 billion to an infrastructure project in England, it has to whip eleven eighty-fifths of the cost up to Edinburgh pretty damn quick. Seems lunatic and improbable to me, but nothing would surprise me. Can anyone shed any light on it?
Earlier this week I interviewed Peter Oborne about his book THE TRIUMPH OF THE POLITICAL CLASS. This short excerpt (above)looks at the relationship between the media and politicians. In the excerpt below we discuss the rise of the professional politican who has never held a job outside politics.
I must say, this was one of the most enjoyable interviews I have done. Do watch the full interview HERE.
When any astute political observer of the last 25 years hears the name Jack they will undoubtedly remember one of the greatest ever speakers of the House of Commons (1983-1992). Jack was the first speaker the nation observed presiding over the tumult of the House of Commons for he oversaw and fully supported the introduction of television cameras. His was the commanding voice people would have seen and heard for the first time calling “Order Order”.
He was proud of his achievement of coming from humble origins often recounting that when he first entered parliament and was sitting in a small room! he heard someone he knew saying – “God I don’t know what this place is coming to Tom, even my tailors here now”. Tailoring was his trade and he always carried around a silver thimble that his mother had given to him to remind him of his background.
On Tuesday, I sat in Westminster Abbey to remember a great family friend. It was a service of thanksgiving for the life and work of ‘The Right Honourable The Lord Weatherill DL 25th November 1920 – 6 May 2007’. Jack was my father’s political mentor. In the Abbey he paid tribute to his great friend remembering his life as a soldier, an MP, Whip, Speaker and later his life as convenor of the cross benches in the House of Lords.
In wartime Jack served in King George V’s own 19th Lancers (an amalgam of three of the original Bengal Lancer Calvary regiments) and as my father said, ‘like all gentle and peaceable men he was the very model of a perfect soldier.”
From war to tailoring and into parliament in 1964 he became the Conservative MP for Croydon. He rose through the ranks of the whips office and when he was deputy chief whip under Ted Heath we heard how the Queen especially looked forward to reading his rather humorous and cheeky takes on what was going on at Westminster. Her Majesty adored him. We also heard how the collapse of the Labour Government in 1979 would not have happened if Jack’s honourable gesture as deputy Chief Whip had been accepted by Walter Harrison (the Government deputy Chief Whip) – he offered to pair with a dying Labour MP even though he was in the best of health - the government fell by one vote. Like Walter he put honour before party.
And that was Jack. He was respected and loved by all sides of the House because of is honour and faithfulness. It was no surprise that he was elected as Speaker in 1983. It was quite a send off for Jack in Westminster Abbey. As his sons Bernard and Bruce said he would not have believed how many people were at the service. Representatives of Her Majesty the Queen, His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales and too many charities too mention. Mrs. Thatcher was there, John Major too and even Douglas Hurd dressed in his robes of clerical office! Tony Benn was there and listened as his great speech on the Zircon affair was recounted. Jack said that it was the best parliamentary speech he had ever heard. Not many people disagree.
More importantly his many grand-children were present. For they were his bliss and rapture unconfined. His entry in ‘Who’s Who’ sets out that one of his hobbies was playing with his grand children. He was a true family man and with his wife Lynn made the Speakers residence an exemplar of family life - welcoming, warm and unpretentious.
Jack told his closest friends that if he was to be remembered it was that his word was his bond. As my father said in the Abbey, “Jack it always was,and that is why we will remember you here, today and always as one of thegreatest parliamentarians of this, or any time”.
Tim Worstall has a nice anecdote about Lord Weatherill HERE.
UPDATE: Actually, it's 41%. That's he last time I believe Michael Portillo, who announced it on THIS WEEK!
Later this morning I will be driving to a secret location in Berkshire where I will be speaking at a
My column in today's Telegraph looks at the challenge Nick Clegg or Chris Huhne will provide for David Cameron.
Earlier this year, I spent a very enjoyable 60 minutes interviewing Nick
Clegg. As we walked out of the studio, I said to him: "You realise you and I
haven't disagreed on anything this evening, don't you?" Quick as a flash, he
replied: "I don't know who should be most worried by that – you or me!" I also
had a similar experience interviewing Chris Huhne. Have no fear, I'm not about
to defect to the Liberal Democrats, but I recount this anecdote to illustrate
that, for the first time in decades, they are about to elect a leader who is
quite prepared to do business with the Conservatives. Indeed, some of us feel
that Nick Clegg is actually in the wrong party.
Read more HERE.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
This afternoon I had the pleasure of interviewing Sir Antony Jay, the co-creator of Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister. Here's a five minute clip. For the full interview, click HERE. The rest is mainly about his views on the future of the BBC.
A Labour peer has admitted taking money to introduce an arms company lobbyist to the government minister in charge of weapons purchases. The case of 'cash for access' in the House of Lords is likely to ignite fresh concern about ethical standards in parliament. The lobbyist paid cash for an introduction to Lord Drayson, the defence minister in charge of billions of pounds of military procurement, according to evidence obtained by the Guardian. Money changed hands with former Labour frontbencher Lord Hoyle, previously Doug Hoyle, an ex-government whip and former MP for Warrington.
The lobbyist, Michael Wood, who trades as Whitehall Advisers, agreed to pay Lord Hoyle an undisclosed sum in June 2005. MoD documents released to the Guardian show that Lord Hoyle then engineered a private meeting between Mr Wood and the newly appointed defence minister. Mr Wood is a former RAF officer who works for BAE and other smaller arms companies to help get them contracts. He has free run of the Palace of Westminster because he has a security pass as a research assistant to another MP. He operates his company from his nearby flat.
Paying cash for ministerial introductions is a practice frowned on at the House of Lords, but not specifically outlawed. 'Cash for introductions' is forbidden by the main lobbyists' trade body, the Association of Professional Political Consultants, but Mr Wood is not a member.
There's a lot more. Read the full story HERE.
The continued mealy-mouthed defence of her by some Labour commentators like Paul Burgin, and Chris Paul is disgraceful and frankly does their party a disservice. There are plenty of Labour campaigners who do not exploit hate to get elected, and instead like many Liberal Democrats and Conservatives, simply work hard in their communities, criticise their opponents for what they do, not who they are, and
get on with what should be the decent public service commitment inherent in the
profession of politics.The Labour party needs to get on with expelling Grell,
something that should not depend on the outcome of her PR-driven appeal
campaign, remind some of their bloggers that the party does not endorse the use
of homophobia or other forms of hate in their campaigning, and restate their
commitment to eradicating prejudice.
At the twelve Conservative leadership hustings in 2005 the press were allowed in to the whole event. Who's the liberal party now then?!
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Anybody with half a brain knows that cars cause pollution. And anyone who is concerned about that will ensure that they buy a car which they're happy with. When I ordered my new car I made sure I knew what the emissions were before I placed the order. The salesman told me that most people now ask the same question and that it wouldn't be long before Audi were forced, by customer demand, to produce their own version of the Prius. They needn't bother on my account, but it proves that customers are, as ever in a free economy, making their own informed choices. What we do not need are do-gooders telling us that we should feel guilty for driving cars. For many people cars are a necessity, not a luxury.
UPDATE: Brownite cheerleader-in-chief and all round man of the people Kevin Maguire blogs about PMQs in a post rather grandly titled MY VIEWS ON TODAY'S PMQS. He can't quite bring himself to say it, but the message was clear: Cameron won
Ricardo Franco Levi, Prodi’s right hand man , undersecretary to the President of the Council, has written the text to put a stopper in the mouth of the Internet. The draft law was approved by the Council of Ministers on 12 October. No Minister dissociated themselves from it. On gagging information, very quietly, these are all in agreement. The Levi-Prodi law lays out that anyone with a blog or a website has to register it with the ROC, a register of the Communications Authority, produce certificates, pay a tax, even if they provide information without any intention to make money. Blogs are being born every second, anyone can start one without a problem and they can write their thoughts, publish photos and videos. In fact, the route proposed by Levi limits access to the Internet. What young person is going to submit to all these hoops to do a blog? the Levi-Prodi law obliges anyone who has a website or a blog to get a publishing company and to have a journalist who is on the register of professionals as the responsible director. 99% would close down. The lucky 1% still surviving on the Internet according to the Levi-Prodi law would have to respond in the case of the lack of control on defamatory content in accordance with articles 57 and 57 bis of the penal code. Basically almost sure to be in prison. If the law gets passed, it’ll be the end of the Internet in Italy. My blog won’t close. If I have to, I’ll transfer lock stock, barrel and server to a democratic State. PS. Anyone wishing to express their opinion to Ricardo Franco Levi can send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
What's the betting that having passed through the Italian Parliament it will then emerge as a Draft Directive in Brussels?
There are several flaws in this argument, the main one being that William Hague has made it abundantly clear to anyone who will listen that he would rather go back to writing books than be Shadow Chancellor. He's quite happy where he is and intends to stay there.
Speculating about a Shadow Cabinet reshuffle only a matter of weeks after the last one isn't particularly helpful. It would be seen as a pretty desperate step, although I suppose the fact that we are in a post 'non-election' situation could be used to justify it. David Cameron is known to intensely dislike reshuffles and he seems to be happy with his team, which has performed well after a dodgy start. To tinker with it so soon would be wrong.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
- Allowing MPs to check emails while in the chamber as long as it doesn't interfere with the business of the Commons
- The final 10 minutes of departmental question times each day will be set aside for "open questions". This will be like prime minister's questions, where no notice is given of what is to be asked.
- There will be a three week gap between a general election and Parliament re-starting, to allow new MPs time to learn the ropes
Now, your task over the next hour is to decide which I agree with, which I don't and which I'm indifferent to. And let me have your views too, as they say in Radioland. At least here you don't have to text!
UPDATE: I am totally against allowing MPs to check emails in the chamber, totally in favour of open questions and indifferent to the three week gap for inducting new MPs. But then, most of you guessed that. In the words of Elaine Paige, you know me so well!
In an ideal world there would be no abortion, but we do not live in that world and never will. Those of us who adopt a pro-life attitude must recognise that we cannot roll back the clock and shouldn't try to. We have to be pragmatic, but that does not stop us trying to understand why the abortion rate in this country is so much higher than in most others, and then doing something about it. The question is, what. The Select Committee of Science & Technology is holding an inquiry into the subject at the moment. Health Minister Dawn Primarolo appears before it tomorrow.
Nadine Dorries, a member of the Committee, has written a blogpost today which is quite explosive. In it, she accuses the vested interests on the 'abortion industry' of manipulating a Select Committee inquiry for their own ends. In particular she highlights the role of the British Medical Association (BMA) and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG). Nadine writes...
The RCOG Committee which drew up the guidelines, that regulate the abortion
industry is made up mainly of abortion providers, both on a large and small
scale. For example both the BPAS and Marie Stopes who carry out the lions share
of 200,000 abortions per year are advisors to the Committee. Dr Kate Guthrie, is
an advisor – it was she, who when giving evidence to the Science &
Technology Select Committee, said speaking with her RCOG hat on, that she saw no
evidence to change from 24 weeks – and then said on national TV the following
night via the Dispatches programme, that she wouldn’t abort a baby over 20
weeks. When asked was this because it was too much like a baby, she said “I
suppose so.” Militant, pro-abortion groups are also advisors, but in the name of
balance, no pro-life groups. Almost every person on the committee has a vested
financial interest in ensuring that the number of abortions which take place in
the UK remains amongst the highest in Europe.
I believe that the RCOG may have deliberately attempted to mislead the
Science & Technology Committee in its submission. It failed to mention the
Hoekstra study which demonstrates how with good neonatal ntervention, 66% of all babies (that is babies born naturally because there may have been medical
complications not healthy babies aborted) at 23 weeks live. It failed to mention
how in the UK at good neonatal units such as UCH London and Hope hospital in
Salford, 43% of 23 weekers live. Instead it chose to quote a study which
averages out births at all hospitals across the UK, which puts the figure at 10
-15%. The RCOG also failed to quote any papers linking abortion to pre-term
delivery which had been published after 2003 and completely ignored the recent
peer reviewed acclaimed study into foetal pain produced by Dr Anand. The RCOG
also went foolishly further than this and have in a very childish way claimed
they are not aware of Dr Anand on their web page. Dr Anand is the world's authority on foetal pain - it was his work at Oxford in the 1980’s which resulted in all neonates being given anaesthesia for general surgery today. Until he produced his work it was thought that neonates could not feel pain, by measuring stress hormones he proved otherwise. Dr Anand has been published world wide. The RCOG web site stating that they are unaware of Dr Anand is the equivalent of a group of mathematicians asking “who is Einstein?”
She then goes on to question the role of the BMA, which "voted at its conference to support the move to require only one doctor's signature for an abortion to be performed, not two".
Nadine is accusing Dawn Primarolo of coming to the Committee tomorrow having already publicised her evidence in advance. Primarolo is a known advocate of the liberalisation of abortion laws, so I am not sure that this should come as a great surprise to anyone, but if she really has made up her mind on the 20 versus 24 week term limit argument, Nadine has a point in asking why the Select Committee has bothered to have an inquiry.
On the argument in question, my own view is that the law should indeed be changed to reduce the limit to 20 weeks. Medical science has moved on in light years and it is now possible for a 24 week old foetus to be kept alive. We know this because it regularly happens. It also feels pain, as Dr Anand has proven. Those who argue against this and accuse us of having a wider agenda of banning abortion (not true in my case) need to think again and accept the fact that by arguing for an outdated 24 week limit they are arguing for the continuation of licensed murder. Even Sir David Steel, who introduced the 1967 Act agrees.
The other reason the NHS creaks is because no one will own up to the fact that it cannot meet every demand placed on it. When it was created it was meant to provide a comprehensive system of healthcare. No one envisioned to the medical advances that would be made. No one predicted that we would need a body like NICE to ration the provision of drugs. Certainly no one would ever have predicted that the NHS would take up around a sixth of government expenditure.
But it's this expenditure that has proved to be the essence of many of the NHS's problems. Since 1997 expenditure on the NHS has more than doubled, yet the outcomes are nowhere near what one might have predicted with such a rise in funding. Ok, much of it was spent in salary rises for nurses and doctors, but one might have expected at least a 25% increase in productivity. Instead, what we have seen is a target culture which has led to a huge increase in false prioritisation within the NHS. Everything is about patient throughput, rather than patient care. And, I am afraid this brings us back to where we started. Dirty hospitals are a direct result of these false priorities.
Monday, October 22, 2007
Jonathan Levy on the Boulton & Co blog says...
It seems to me that the job of government is not just to grant police powers,
but also to curtail them where they would be disproportionately draconian.
That's probably the most telling sentence I have read on a blog for a long time.
UPDATE Tue 11am: I cannot believe some of the ridiculous comments people have made about this video. Funny that no one has disputed any of the facts in it. It's not being anti Scottish, it's about being pro English and alerting people to the disgraceful amount of money being filtered out of England and given to Scotland. This is a legitimate political debate and the reaction in the comments demonstrate that there are many people afraid of having it. I wonder why that would be then?
And from the archives, South West, South East, West Midlands, Wales, North of England, East Anglia, North West. We'll be doing Yorkshire, East Midlands and the South next.
The Guardian carried a very revealing report today about a case involving a football website where fans of Sheffield Wednesday expressed their views on the owners of the club in a libellous fashion. The Chairman, Chief Executive and five directors of the club have won a High Court ruling forcing the owner of the Owlstalk website to reveal the identity of those accused of libelling them. It's worth reading the whole article HERE but here's an extract...
This ruling has huge implications for blogs and websites and may well force us all to introduce full registration. If there are any libel lawyers reading this, do give us your take on this ruling and how it may affect blogs like mine!
The club's lawyers asked the judge, Richard Parkes QC, to order disclosure about the identity of 11 fans. But the judge decided some fans, whose postings were merely "abusive" or likely to be understood as jokes, should keep their anonymity. The judge ordered that three fans whose postings might "reasonably be understood to allege greed, selfishness, untrustworthiness and dishonest behaviour", should be unmasked. Their right to maintain their anonymity and express themselves freely was outweighed by the directors' entitlement to take action to protect their reputation, he said. Court orders obliging websites to disclose the identity of users posting anonymous defamatory remarks began in 2001.
Dominic Bray, of K&L Gates, Sheffield Wednesday's solicitors, said: "There seem to be quite a lot of websites that are using their anonymity to make comments about people and think that there shouldn't be any liability for it. But the internet is no different to any other place of publication, and if somebody is making defamatory comments about people then they should be held responsible for it. What these cases do is just confirm that's the law - the law applies to the internet as much as it does to anything else."
Here's the view on the Treaty from Spain. In an editorial in El Mundo of Saturday it was stated "....The new Treaty conserves the core of the Constitutional Treaty......In reality, the Treaty rejected in 2005 by the French and Dutch has hardly been changed..." Couldn't be any clearer! I'm a simple sort of guy. So, in order to clear this up, can someone please set out in simple language the differences (if there are any) between the Constitution and the Reform Treaty so the public can decide. We can't trust the politicos to do this but there must be an independent body who can.
Indeed. Anyone like to help?
David Cameron made a pretty good first of it in the House of Commons in response to the Prime Minister's statement this afternoon.
The Irish Prime Minister says it’s 90 per cent the same. The Spanish Foreign Minister says it’s 98 per cent the same. The German Chancellor says “The substance of the Constitution is preserved. That is a fact”. Why does he think all of them are wrong and he is right? What’s more, isn’t it the case that even his own colleagues don’t believe him. His new Trade Minister, Lord Jones of Birmingham, days before his appointment, said: “This is a con to call this a treaty – it’s not. It’s exactly the same – it’s a Constitution”. His colleagues on the Labour-dominated European Scrutiny Committee say the EU Treaty is “substantially equivalent” to the constitution - even for Britain. They say that pretending otherwise, as the Prime Minister keeps doing, is “likely to be misleading”. Next the Prime Minister says even if it’s a constitution for other countries it isn’t for Britain because of our opt outs and our red lines. Will he confirm the red lines don’t include the EU President, the single legal personality, the vetoes or the ratchet clause? That’s why his Hon Friend who helped to draft the Constitution described the red lines as “red herrings”.
UPDATE: His statement was very short containing the required apology to the House and then maintaining that what he had meant to say was that UK corporation tax was one of the lowest amongst the G7 rather than the OECD!?! Yes ... well - not the sort of 'mistake' that one would expect a Minister on top of his brief to make.
Last night’s tight debate between the Prime Minister and Kevin Rudd, and critiques thereof, dominate today’s media.
John Howard announced a new policy – a climate fund built with the funds gained from the auction of carbon permits, which will subsidise electricity bills for low income citizens. His essential message, that there is a cost to dealing with climate change and that people need to be helped to deal with those costs, is related to the fact that the best way to get people to engage with climate change is to help them to do so more easily, rather than lecturing them – an argument I’ve previously heard expressed well by Conservative blogger James Cleverly and is put really well by Crikey here.
That policy aside, the debate was a recital of a number of lines we’ve already heard – or at least, those of us who watched have heard. Debates such as these, IMHO, are watched almost solely by people who’ve made up their minds already. Certainly, most people will at least read a headline about who won or not (and, like most leaders’ debates in the modern era, this didn’t feature any knockout blows and is being spun both ways) but they don’t commit to sitting down and watching the 90 minutes of to-and-fro. I know that the heritage of such debates is very different in the USA of course, where great things supposedly turn on a candidate’s appearance, or whether he sighed or looked at his watch, but here it doesn’t receive the same focus.
There's a good poll for the Liberals in Western Australia HERE.
There is a meta-debate being conducted at the moment which threatens to drown out the debate proper. More precisely, the debate is about the “worm”, a fluctuating line appearing at the bottom of the screen that allegedly shows how the leaders are performing in the debate, based on the view of a group of people chosen by a TV station.
By agreement, the worm was not to be used in last night’s debate. Channel 9 chose to do it anyway. Their feed was briefly interrupted.
The response? Pandemonium. Accusations that the Liberal Party has been shutting down debate, free speech etc (Tim Blair gives a list of links to all the relevant coverage here). Kevin Rudd drew a parallel with the Soviet Union.
Putting aside the fact that the feed was interrupted by the National Press Club and not the government, the comparison is remarkably dumb, isn’t it? As I’ve said elsewhere, I don’t know why people think that it’s ok to make references to the USSR when they wouldn’t do so about Nazi Germany. Stalin was a tyrant just as evil as Hitler – indeed, in terms of the sheer number of people he murdered, even worse.
But Rudd must have a point in the end, no? I mean, of course dissent’s being crushed in Australia – I know, because I read it in the newspapers. Of course dissent’s being crushed – the momentary interruption of transmission of a debate between the Prime Minister and his opponent on one of the TV stations showing it displays that, doesn’t it?
Sunday, October 21, 2007
* It was inevitable I suppose that Lewis Hamilton would fail too.
* Still, at least the Happy Hammers won! Albeit somewhat fortunately...
* Chris Huhne seems to have made the more impressive start in the LibDem leadership stakes.
* Antony Seldon's new book on the Blair/Brown feud looks to be a cracker if the Mail on Sunday extracts are anything to go by. Our Prime Minister is psychotic.
* Looking forward to watching Episode 1 of new series of Spooks later. Love it.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
Over to you!
Also, who do you think I should include in the book? Essentially, I'll be writing 100 polemical
The book will be published next September. I hope then to do a follow up in 2009 called 100 PEOPLE WHO ARE PUTTING BRITAIN BACK TOGETHER AGAIN. Or something like that.
In June, for example, a group of Norwegian researchers released a study showing
that firstborns are generally smarter than any siblings who come along later,
enjoying on average a three-point IQ advantage over the next eldest—probably a
result of the intellectual boost that comes from mentoring younger siblings and
helping them in day-to-day tasks. The second child, in turn, is a point ahead of
I usually look at surveys and reports like these and look at them from a personal perspective. With respect, I think this one is rubbish. I have two sisters and I readily admit that one of them (I'm not saying which one!) probably has a far higher IQ than me. Indeed, when I think of my friends and relations it is often the second child who is cleverer. Maybe things are different in Norway!
Nick Clegg speaks very highly of Chris Huhne. And he means it. Chris Huhne speaks very highly of Nick Clegg. And he means it too. That'll be sexy then. Two deadly foes swopping lethal blows till it's the last man standing. Not. More like two girlies swopping Barbie accessories. And this saccharinathon will drag on for weeks. Not exactly a ratings challenge to the rugby.
But the telling point came when he was live in the studio and was found out. He couldn't string two words together. It indicated that for the film he had clearly learned a script - either his own or one that was written for him. In a ten minute discussion he hadn't a clue. He couldn't answer a single question put to him. What is the point of that? Wouldn't it have been better to have had a pro-european guest ... (whisper it, possibly even a politician?) who could actually articulate an argument?
It is true to say that every programme gets a dud guest from time to time. It even happens on 18 Doughty Street (!), but on a political programme like THIS WEEK surely we deserve better than a bit part actor who's got absolutely bugger all to say?!
Friday, October 19, 2007
But perhaps we can destroy the tabloid myth that MPs get three months holiday. They don't. Most MPs I know - from all parties - take very little holiday. The majority actually work their constituencies when they are not in Parliament. And perhaps they ought to shout about that a little more!
Norfolk Blogger has more HERE.
Labor’s tax plans have been announced. Conventional opinion suggested that it would have to be out before Sunday, when (disagreements about arrangements notwithstanding) the debate between the leaders will take place. The Treasurer has given our response – it’s “me-tooism” – as 91.5% of it is taken from our previously announced plan. Heavy betting on the cartoons in tomorrow’s papers being of two schoolboys, Rudd and Costello, writing away – with Rudd peeking over and copying Costello.
The closing poll figures and a good week in the media have buoyed us. The widespread e-mailing of a particularly unpleasant bit of old footage of Rudd provides a reminder of the need for attention to, um, not eating earwax in public, if such a reminder were needed.
Ethan Eilon, the Executive Director of the College Republicans in the USA, has been with us today and will be with us for the next few weeks. We are very aware that people throughout the Anglosphere are watching this election – not only because of an interest in Australia’s future, but also for a sense of the direction of Conservatism.
Most of the sensible people in the Green Party favour the latter strategy as they believe it will get them more coverage and make some political headway. There's no doubt that the Greens have some people at the top of their Party who don't frighten the electoral horses in the way that some of their activists do. I'm thinking about Caroline Lucas, Sian Berry, Darren Johnson etc. Later this year there will be a vote among the Party's 8,000 members. In large part, this will determine whether they deserve to be taken seriously in the future. A 'no' vote will consign them to oblivion as the sensible elements may well walk away and find something more rewarding to do with their lives. As someone said on the New Statesman website...
If the Greens can't trust one of their own to lead without forming a
dictatorship, how can they expect anyone to vote for them?
Quite. I have been remiss in not posting the Top Twenty Green Blogs, so I will put that right now. It was compiled by Jim Jepps, who writes the excellent Daily (Maybe) Blog
1. Alice in blogland
2. Sian Berry
3. Tom Acrewoods
4. Transition culture
5. Derek Wall
6. Jenny Jones
7. Gaian Economics
8. Know your place
9. Peter Tatchell
10. The Ecologist
11. Green Girls Global
12. Earthquake Cove
14. The Void
15. Green Ladywell
16. Barkingside 21
17. Green Jelly Bean
18. Coventry Green Party
19. Conserve England
20. Greenmans Occasional Organ