Thursday, 30 April 2009

Jeep Jeep

Now they are Fiats I can't make up my mind whether to have one of these

or one of these

Dr Marchionne has flown to Berlin this evening. Having looked carefully through the Opel catalogue, the choice is still between the two Jeeps.

Over-taxed and Underpaid

Two unacceptable assumptions help mark out New Labour:

that taxpayers should pay what they are asked rather than pay what they must.

that being a member of Parliament is a job of itself, even a career, and that work undertaken by MPs not to do with Parliament and the representation of constituents is to be decried.

At least the Chancellor of the Exchequer has now accepted that we owe it to ourselves to arrange our tax affairs to our best advantage. He mentioned rendering to Caesar.

The second view is something of an innovation. Until the New Labour administration took office business in the House of Commons was arranged precisely so as to permit the earning of one's living elsewhere. It was only the pressure of the wimmin that pushed working hours into a notional working day and fixed weekends firmly free of commitments. But for many MPs the pay is very low - why else is there such a determination to have allowances for being there at all?

£66,000 a year before stoppages is not enough to meet a family's expenses if they do not choose to use state-provided services and subventions. It is a measure of how deeply inflation has bitten that it will barely cover lodging and transport costs for out of London MPs once the costs of a family home have been met, and that many of the expenses offered to help them are fully justified. Much of the outrage being expressed by the general public is that their wages too are not enough and their stoppages are too high. But they do not have expenses provision and are forced onto the state services they find so inadequate.

Abusing expenses, by whatever means and many of those means have been demonstrated recently, is clearly unacceptable. But expecting people to pay more tax then they need, and expecting people not to earn a decent living when they are already limiting their earning power by serving in Parliament is a mean minded attitude springing from long years of high taxation, low wages and the overlarge state.

Conservatives Will Not Vote For Some of the You Tube Measures

The series of votes that begin this afternoon at around 5.30 have been insisted on by the Prime Minister in the face of most serious attempts by his own cabal to deter him. His abusive manner to the Opposition Leaders in making a You Tube broadcast setting out an Executive response to immediately calm public outrage at his ministers' behaviour in exploiting access to a parliamentary expense account, rather than awaiting a Parliamentary response, has been exacerbated. Exacerbated by his personal abusiveness to the Leaders of the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats when they called on him at his invitation, to discuss his proposals. Screaming in their faces that it is their fault for raising abuse of expenses at all in Parliament is not normal behaviour, let alone courteous.

Mr Cameron has now decided that the particularly vicious little political twist in Brown's proposals, that external earnings of MPs should be declared in minute and intrusive detail, which it might be inferred gave Brown his peculiar satisfactions, will not be supported by the Conservative benches. Brown's response is to accuse Cameron of reneging on what had been agreed on his ill-fated and most improper You Tube intervention.

According to reports in the Times there are votes also on:

Whether MPs staff should be employed directly by Parliament

The need to submit receipts for all expenses, rather than those over £25 as at present

Whether an MPs committee should have the right to change the rules on expenses without a vote in the whole house.

It is to be hoped these will be voted down too but the fear that the measures will be withdrawn all together remains. Brown cannot afford to lose in the House two days running.


The vote will not now take place. Sigh.

The Home Secretary Should Have Been Dismissed for Abuse of Expenses Provision if Brown Cared So Much for an Instant Response

It is not that expenses for Members of Parliament are an unreasonable proposition in principle. It is that the possibility of claiming expenses has been abused. When an individual abuses their access to a good and are found to have offended the people who make provision for that good, the immediate response is not to consider the provision and its opennesss to abuse, but to accept the resignation of the abuser.

The Home Secretary and others who have been found abusing expenses provision should have resigned, not been supported by the Prime Minister in remaining in their jobs and retaining their ill-gotten gains. Awareness of widespread abuse has been high for many years, so high and for so long that one wonders if there is not some kick-back to the Party from high and unchallenged expense-claiming, as there is in local government where councillors are expected to claim the maximum and then tithe themselves from that, in support of the Party.

Parliament has a cross-party commission investigating expenses which is to make recommendations which will probably enjoy cross-party support, albeit grudging cross-party support. There is no need for Brown to have pre-empted its conclusions or their consideration in Parliament by appearing on You Tube. He was, of course, trying to pretend that the immediate response to scandalous behaviour by the Home Secretary and others of his Party was not resignation or dismissal but an individual, authoritarian, imposed resolution of a generalised problem.

The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats should wholly reject the watered-down attempt to blame everybody and thus ignore individual Labour minister shame and prime ministerial failure to dismiss them, and defeat Brown again in the Commons today.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Labour Never Did Represent All Working People and Many It Betrayed

This letter in yesterday's Telegraph shocked me, though I should not have been surprised. Angels comes from a long line of conservative trade unionists and supporters of the co-operative movement. There was nothing specifically Labour about either of them at first, and Labour was supposed to be politically representative of the trade union movement as a whole, until the Communist Party of Great Britain set out to infiltrate the Labour Movement and any organisation that might be a feeder to it. My father was one of the last of a trade union membership that was, quite simply, driven out by the communists and crypto communists and their front men and organisations, and their championing of unskilled mass labour.

"SIR - Simon Heffer (Comment, April 25 ) writes that my information that Jack Jones was a Soviet agent “may or may not be true”.

I was his last case officer, meeting him for the final time in 1984 at Fulham, together with his wife, who had been a Comintern agent since the mid-1930s. I handed out to him a small amount of cash. From 1981, I had had the pleasure of reading volumes of his files, which were kept in the British department of the KGB until 1985, when they were passed on to the archive.

Oleg Gordievsky
London SW1"

[At the Labour Party conference in Bournemouth in October 2003, aged 90, Jack Jones received a special award in recognition of his service to the movement. Look at Wiki for Gordievsky]

Craig Murray on Torture

Craig Murray's evidence

Torture Policy in the United Kingdom Under New Labour

Craig Murray's evidence to the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights, given yesterday, is now on Youtube.

As Craig himself notes, he does not intend to speak of the nature of the tortures endured, so there is no need to dive for the volume control. What emerges is a change of United Kingdom government policy, a change made at ministerial level by the then Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, from the policies determined by Lady Thatcher. She had rejected information produced from torture. Straw changed this policy to accepting it.

The reasons for doing so included the argument that rejecting information gained from torture puts at risk the receipt of all information that is part of the information-sharing arrangements with various United States agencies. Why Lady Thatcher's government was not affected by this and rejected information gained from torture, whereas the New Labour government is affected so that torture information is accepted is not clear.

A frightening interpretation offered is that in the period of preparation for the attack upon Iraq a culture of lies was constructed. We know now that Blair lied to Parliament, that lies were told of what intelligence advice had been received on threats from weapons of mass destruction or even their possession by Iraq, of lies about the connection between Al Qaida and Iraq. Because torture's effect, and to a great extent its purpose, is to force from the tortured what the torturers wish to hear, such a culture of lies would be supported by information resulting from torture.

The New Labour regime requires those lies and embraces the means to obtain them. The Conservatives' foreign policy did not require a culture of lies nor was it disposed to accept information evinced by torture. Evidence from Foreign Office training materials on human rights from before 2002 is expected to support the Thatcher stance and its being followed until Straw altered the policy and helped to create a'market in torture' as Craig called it. A representative of United Kingdom security agencies would formally call on torture agencies in Uzbekistan once a year to encourage further cooperation and express satisfaction with what had been done, until Craig ended the practice. The torturing taking place there was just part of the whole torture network which, together with the rendition programme run by the CIA webbed across much of the world and in which the UK was complicit.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Brown Canvasses for Blair EU Presidency in Poland [Blair na śniadanie Tuska z Brownem]

On the next leg of his masochism tour Gordon Brown, Labour Leader and unfortunately still prime minister of the United Kingdom, received what he deserves and seems to be seeking, this time from Poland's Prime Minister Tusk.

Brown, in his now standard body-language shouting down of any other speaker, pretended not to understand despite a first rate real time translation, as the prime minister of Poland explained that sensible and effective bank regulation ensuring they stuck to the rules, and not 'exaggerating with credit' had yielded 12 consecutive years of uninterrupted growth in Poland. The Polish prime minister condemned a culture of debt and pointed out the perils of excessive public borrowing to the man who failed to con the major economies of the world into a potentially disastrous 'fiscal stimulus package' at his 'summit' fiasco in London some weeks ago.

The United Kingdom, now in worse debt than after the Second World War, which it has not been fighting under Brown's Chancellorship or while he is Prime Minister, is now losing the Polish skilled tradesmen who replaced the missing million UK skilled workers who were not educated under New Labour's education policies.

Despite the feeling that you or I might have picked up that the Poles, while displaying their famed courtesy and good manners, were unimpressed by Brown's professional and political expertise, he did not hesitate to offer to his hosts advice on their economy, citing the London 'summit' as how things can best be done. He was then taken on a private tour of Auschwitz.

The Polish press are reporting that the primary purpose of Brown's visit was to press for Polish support for Blair to be President of the European Union (that is assuming the Lisbon Treaty is forced through. The Poles are holding out valiantly against it. ed.)

Monday, 27 April 2009

Crucible of Terror

These are the people on the Afghan/Pakistan border who make these

And these

are what are used to kill them and stop them laying waste a high street near you.

The Labour Party and Brown's Restraint

It is rather hard on the Labour party to end up as Gordon Brown's cage, but where else is he to be kept? The golden bridges usually built to rid ourselves of our enemies cannot be constructed for him - public knowledge of what he is, is now so widespread there is nowhere to bridge to. No one would offer any encouragement to the Labour party to tempt him out of their world and release him any further onto ours.

When they thought to give the man his head and let him be prime minister they hoped it would be for the fag end of Blair's third Parliament and then he would move on to international pastures, leaving them free of his malign presence at last. The more honourable, or perhaps just sensible and realistic among them, thought he should be dealt with by Labour; a solution found within the Party to their home grown monster that had been bred by their own Party system and their failure to cleanse it of its despicable authoritarian underbellied corruption. But self-interest, or selfishness, or simple underestimation of the damage Brown had done stopped them from splitting the Party and giving real meaning to "Anyone but Gordon". Indeed, their policy should have been "Anything but Gordon", including taking the chance on moving forward with building a democratic party they had evidence was widely supported by the electorate as a whole, and going to the country rather than giving way to Gordon and his cabal of bullies.

The need to develop international institutions to assist the provision of international responses, when international responses are occurring anyway, has been demonstrated repeatedly since the end of the Second War. Necessarily, these institutions need to be upgraded as finance and economics become ever more interactive across national borders. As do the powers granted to them by nation states, and as do their institutional structures. These are real developments of real importance, not parking provision for political embarrassments. The World Bank stamped on the idea of Brown in office there years ago. While the IMF knows it must change, embracing today's economic realities, giving more power to China and loosening the control of the United States (developments fraught with difficulty and the need for the subtlest of negotiations and interactions) it is no place for a novice. Certainly there is nothing there for anyone from a country that was told in the last few days that its budget is made up of fantasy figures. Or for a country that cannot even begin to qualify for a Flexible Credit Line arrangement demanding “ . . . (iv) a reserve position that is relatively comfortable . . . ; (v) sound public finances, including a sustainable public debt position; . . . (vii) the absence of bank solvency problems that pose an immediate threat of a systemic banking crisis; (viii) effective financial sector supervision.” It is questionable whether criteria (iv) and (v) are met. Criteria (vii) and (viii) are obviously not met.', as Willem Buiter notes. The European Union? Labour's Shame is known there too. There is no international role.

The Labour party must accept its long term care responsibility, it cannot escape it now, however much it must regret not making the cage smaller and more secure when it could still hope to engage the wider centre left movement. There is nowhere to send him except into the kind of rump party oblivion he and the Party he destroyed deserve. The building of a centre left coalition is all the harder now for failing to deal, when the opportunity was there, with a Labour party that grew a Brown as a Leader.

Sunday, 26 April 2009


Hatfield Girl answers 21 questions on Mars Hill blog.

New Labour Old Shame

Scotland is the only country in the United Kingdom that has voted New Labour out of office and, in part, out of power. As such it is very important in the politics of the UK.

The Scottish government opposes the siting of nuclear weapons in Scotland and is receiving increasing support from the general public, who oppose nuclear weapon threat as a means of assuring security, and from the military whose analysis of the role the UK's nuclear weapons capability has played since the Second war is that it is zero in terms of positive effect and enormous in terms of diverting defence funds from really useful weaponry.

The Scottish government opposes the development of nuclear power and, specifically, the siting of nuclear power stations or nuclear waste disposal on Scottish territory. Not least because there are particularly favourable resources for energy generation by every kind of 'green', and normal means in Scotland.

The Scottish government opposes the development of the surveillance state and of identity cards and of a universal state data base on citizens.

The Sottish government has policies for the husbanding and development of all of Scotland's resources from oil to fisheries, including a tourism that celebrates its natural beauty, to using its Scottish diaspora in support of the homeland.

Old Labour's policy for Scotland was to sink its people into the Slough of Despond and exploit its natural resources and client vote to hold up Labour in the UK as a whole. The Scottish National Party and its skilled, intelligent leadership has succeeded in unclenching the NewLabour and OldLabour two-handed grip of the welfare state and demoralisation from the throat of Scotland.

In 1997 people in the United Kingdom thought they had elected a benign, civilised, one-nation administration with their cultural morality and the advance of their living standards, both in terms of the social and the individual wage, at its heart. The continuous defiance by the Scottish government, which is the embodiment of these aims, of New Labour's Westminster regime attempts to throttle it, and the sharp contrast of the Scottish Parliament with the corrupted shambles at Westminster, has made us understand that the Westminster Parliament represents nobody here. It responds to the exigencies of Brussels and, in compensation for its kiss-up, a kick-down into besmirched imperial practice that was abandoned by the Macmillan administration half a century ago.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Government is not a Private Affair

A damning use of language is displayed in the Times interview with Peter Mandelson. He 'speaks of his similarity to Mr Brown. Asked why Mr Brown wanted to lay the past to rest he said:

“Because I know him. I have known him for a very long time . . . there is an emotion, a sentiment which you don’t see, a gift for friendship and warmth he doesn’t always bother to put on public view. He is a private man. You know from the way he has been brought up. It is a bit like me in a way. You don’t show emotions in public. I think we may come from similar backgrounds, similar maternal influences.”'

These are not the proper bases for a work relationship. Every word shows that judgment and decision-taking is in danger of being improperly influenced, overwhelmed, by feeling and expression appropriate to the favour and forgiveness we use in circumstances of private commitment. Private commitment is inimical to public openness and equality of treatment of working colleagues engaged in the undertakings and democratic trust involved in public life.

Mandelson goes on to underline this himself. 'He says that his role in the Blair premiership was,
“draining and invigorating, being part of a transformative experience in which I felt I was a key part and yet, because of the difficult circumstances between the three of us, I was also put at a distance from. I was part of it and yet apart.” No excuse can be offered for permitting the intervention of private feeling to damage work accepted, particularly when it has been given after a very different public presentation of the self, and a very different presentation of others enmeshed in this self-avowedly intensely personal construct.

Furthermore, no effective walls or barriers were set up to exclude the impropriety of expressing these feelings. Mandelson 'agrees that his relationship with Mr Blair was “clandestine”. He was there for Mr Blair “any time, any day” to talk about anything. “But somehow it was as if we were having to operate behind some thin veil.”

Having to operate? It was a duty to act openly and according to long-established work practices. Not to do so admits failure on the very first count of work behaviour, and to personal guilty feelings that should have been rigorously set apart, but were not, and coloured all kinds of actions in much that was done.

'Was that to avoid upsetting Mr Brown?

“Yes. Or others would get jealous or the press would stir things up." Jealous? Stir things up? We are reading of the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and a senior politician incapable of conducting themselves in office other than in terms of their private troika.

" Everyone was divided, the Government was divided, the party was divided, MPs were divided, the media was divided, into camps.”' Precisely so. And to the damage of the country, the body politic, the political system, the work lives not just of immediate colleagues, but to millions.

When we find ourselves with Mandelson parachuted into the Upper House of the Legislature and made Minister for Industry during the worst depression since 1945 because last July he agreed to an invitation to see the Prime Minister after a lunch with the No 10 permanent secretary and then spoke to him for two hours, the distasteful sensation of some kind of 'date' being set up between a long-estranged couple in fraught and destructive emotional pain is reinforced. 'And then ', the language of improper relationship gushes on, 'they talked every day over last summer.'

This is utter corruption. Power ceded in trust by the electorate has been, and in the case of two of them still is, in the hands of self-absorbed feeders on private emotion incapable of disinterested and proper conduct in office.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Ending Brazening it Out

The mechanics of getting rid of this New Labour government are:

For the regime to lose a major vote in the Lower House which is confirmed subsequently by a loss of the following vote of confidence.

For a resignation as Leader of the Labour party and Prime Minister to be forced from the Prime Minister by his Party.

In the first case it is hard to think that a compliant Parliamentary Labour Party will alter its acceptance of anything whatsoever from warmongering, policy agreement to torture and rendition, lies to Parliament, casino financial regulation, economic fold, mass unemployment, the steady increase in inequality since 1997, to the installation of the surveillance state backed by policing that brings shudders of recognition. The PLP is not going to grow a conscience or a backbone.

The second case precipitates a general election, for both internal Party reasons, and for external, political system reasons. On resignation of a prime minister all ministerial jobs become vacant. The ministerial payroll in the PLP is around 50%. Half the parliamentary party would lose its place into the hands of the new, temporary Leader appointed by the Labour Cabinet, and the solidity of the Labour majority would fragment. The external political system would cut in at this point too. There is a conflict between the choosing of a new Leader by the Labour Cabinet who then becomes, ex officio, prime minister when the Labour party is in power, and the role of the Head of State in choosing on whom to call to attempt to form an administration on a Labour prime minister's resignation. The monarch does not subscribe to the one-party state model pressed by New Labour and on a prime minister's resignation will take advice from across the political spectrum, starting with the outgoing prime minister and then from the privy council and from other trusted advisors. When she is advised to call on whoever the Labour cabinet agrees on, the chances of the Labour majority fracturing in the subsequent vote of confidence would be so high other advisors and her own experience would make choosing to dissolve the Parliament and hold a general election very likely.

At this point, the Labour party no longer being in power, Ms Harman would become acting-Leader, as did Ms Beckett after John Smith's death, until a new Leader is elected using Labour's notably undemocratic Party procedures. It can be seen at once that this scenario militates against any delegation with revolver and whisky in hand setting out for No 10.

What then? There is no further disaster that can strike the United Kingdom. Its very unitedness is being brought under severe challenge by the rejection of Labour in Scotland and the Scottish possession of both a party and a political means to break away. The Lisbon Treaty or some further transmogrification of it will drain sovereign powers in the economy and in foreign policy, and in our laws, further to the European Union. To say that there will be a general election in the nature of things by June 2010 is to ignore all these realities that undermine the very purpose of a general election.

It is time to dissolve the current Parliament with or without the current Prime Minister's request and call on another politician to seek a vote of confidence in an administration that can unite the country in enabling democratic choices on what is to be done. In another year's time there will be nothing to be done.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Away With the Fairies

The unreality is confirmed. The budget was presented more like a Queen's Speech embodying the pomp of the Queen in Parliament, than as a working document - a complete and honest report on the country's economy and finances and proposals for the coming period and its vicissitudes.

The figures were manufactured, as we know from comparison with a timely set issued by the IMF. The proposals for dealing with the United Kingdom's collapse were meagre, to say the least, and spoke to very few of the heads normally covered in the budget. Even the labour-swipe at the 'rich' was half-hearted and obviously not deliverable.

The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats were horrified by what was so casually laid bare by a careless Chancellor egged on by a mannerless Prime Minister giving his usual vulgar body-language solo as others spoke. Indeed the body-language said 'why are you wasting my time in this fools' theatre of the absurd when I must be where real decisions about real power are taken by those who matter'. It is as if the seriousness of the economic situation is only as real (or in the Prime Minister's understanding, unreal) as the validity of the United Kingdom as definer of its parameters.

Gordon Brown is so mad, so in thrall to (or enthralled by) his 'global' vision that he quite literally does not see what he has done to our country.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Kenneth Clarke is Now Our Only Hope of Economic Sanity

I couldn't care less who and what George Osborne is. Why is Kenneth Clarke not Conservative shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer?

Enough is enough of loyalty to this or that person. And enough is enough of rows over whether or not the United Kingdom should be, and how far it should be, involved in the European Union and its currency. This country needs sanity, fiscal and monetary sanity, regardless of Party or loyalties, and it needs it now.

I want to hear Clarke, not Osborne, tomorrow. And I haven't the slightest faith in anyone else to lead us out of the desperate straits we are in.

Requiem for a SAAB 2000 Turbo

It is 2 years since my SAAB was driven to the crusher. Silver-grey, metallic aerodynamicism, leather seats, warmed by goodness knows what, house elves probably, that went up and down and backwards and forwards at the touch of the buttons, windows adjusting smoothly, cool, warm and hot air sprayed in any direction I chose, a sound system to sing for, room for a garden and two cats sleeping peacefully beneath the fronds to leave for a new life. All this and well over 200 kms an hour under the right foot with just a flicker of the calf muscles, or put it on cruise. It didn't even use much petrol, and no-one ever threatened to drive into it because SAABs don't just absorb other people's bad driving - they strike back, weight for weight of blow.

Sacrificed because even then there was a prop-up of the Italian car industry going on. Here it was cleverer of course. Not a cheap bribe of 2000 euros which would have left us all immovably wedded to our beautifully maintained Mercedes, BMWs, Maseratis, Ferraris, you name it. They ruled that we could not reach our houses in our cities in our cars.

No way will I walk when I want to drive my car and its passengers/car contents to my front door. So now we all have teeny, pretty short run vehicles with euro3 or euro4 classification, and we have lwb Landrovers and a spare Panda four wheel drive, and a couple of older mud bespattered vehicles for visitors (and they can walk into the historic centres of the capoluogi) and a van, and an intention to buy another cheap car if there's any shortage of private transport.

Just think of the cost of making all these vehicles that stand in for my beautiful, carefully polished and maintained, pre beastly General Motors, SAAB. All this waste is coming to England too, to keep some person in client state Sunderland on a production line mindless job.

Giving Them Something To Cheer. Tax the 'Rich'

The strong sense of unreality about the budget is emphasized by the reports that world finance leaders will be in Washington on April 24 and 25 for meetings of the IMF and World Bank to discuss among other things IMF lending, and governance reforms at the 'global' institutions. In a letter sent days before these meetings to Democrat and Republican leaders in the U.S. Congress, President Obama has said that U.S. funding is required to combat the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, and makes up part of pledges made by G20 member countries at their meeting in London at the beginning of the month.

It does not, the President argues, "represent a budgetary expenditure or any increase in the deficit since it effectively represents an exchange of assets...The United States transfers dollars to the IMF under the NAB, [New Arrangements to Borrow, an emergency facility established in 1998 that allows IMF member countries to provide credit to the Fund to deal with crises that may threaten the stability of the global financial system] in exchange the United States receives another monetary asset in the form of a liquid, interest-bearing claim on the IMF, which is backed by the IMF's strong financial position, including its significant holdings of gold".

President Obama urged Congress to pass legislation quickly to raise IMF resources, calling the NAB's pool of capital "woefully inadequate" as is its ability to respond to crises in countries hard hit in the current severe economic and financial crisis. "The deteriorating conditions threaten to worsen the recessions in these countries and could cause currencies to collapse," Obama wrote.
"Together, these factors, particularly if they become more acute, will further lower global growth and, as we saw during the Asian financial crisis, they will cause U.S. growth, jobs, and exports to fall even more sharply". (letter cited in the Herald Tribune)

Ostensibly the increase in funding is aimed at emerging market economies, but it is increasingly clear that the United Kingdom will need to be near, or at, the head of the queue for rescue. There is nothing the New Labour regime can do to resolve the contradiction between its grotesque levels of public indebtedness and its political raison d'etre - the maintenance of a client state and itself in permanent power. Nor can it raise anything like the taxes it needs to meet its clients' demands. There are simply not enough 'rich' to attack.

When Obama says there is to be an enlargement of the NAB facility by an overall $500 billion, quite where he gets that figure from is hard to discern. Chinese officials have said Beijing plans to contribute $40 billion to the IMF through a bond issued to its central bank by the Fund, and IMF officials have said Brazil and Saudi Arabia could also contribute. And he hopes if the United States takes a lead other governments might follow.

But this is all being asked for, proposed, expected, hoped for.When they all meet up (again) at the end of the week, the countries that can offer funds are going to require a lot more say first, in who runs the IMF, and the terms on which it acts, before they hand over.

No wonder tomorrow's performance feels like a charade. Waving red boxes, drinking watered whisky, the Chancellor will waggle his silly eyebrows, tell lies about the awfulness of the situation, swipe at Labour's pet shibboleths, and behind him will be the serried ranks of fat, troughing, corrupt, bawling, Labour lobby fodder who have let us all down so badly.

The New Labour regime has no idea what terms and conditions might be attached to their 'de-stigmatised' application for assistance, but they have given the control of our country's budget into the hands of others.

Monday, 20 April 2009

He Sings, He Sings

Nick Drew said...

In the dying of the light
All the dogs of Labour fight,
And the warring factions wait,
Each sequestered in its hate;

Intellectual disgrace
Stares from Gordon’s coward face;
People’s hopes and yearnings lie
Locked and frozen in his eye.

Follow, Guido, follow right
To the bottom of the night,
With your unaffrighted voice
Still persuade us to rejoice.

Darling's Budget is a Pre-ordained Failure

The budget policies being outlined in the trailers are pathetic. What growth can we go for with:

'— £300 million for existing and new council homes to be better insulated;

— £200 million to help Britain to make better use of its island status by pushing the growth of wind turbines, hydro-electric power and other renewable energy technologies;

— A move to kickstart the housing market by offering to underwrite £50 billion worth of new mortgage-backed assets to bring the securitised home loans market back to life;

— £2 billion to help the jobless. There will be more benefits staff, while under-25s who have been jobless for more than a year will be guaranteed a job, work experience or training;

— A boost to North Sea oil companies through tax incentives to explore old or inaccessible fields;

— A “scrappage” scheme under which motorists would be given an incentive of up to £2,000 to buy a new car. The details are far from settled even now, but a plan will be included.

The Treasury has already said it is seeking efficiency savings of £5 billion by 2011. Mr Darling is expected to say that should be extended by a further £10 billion over the following three years. ' (Times)

Home insulation, wind turbines, more state employees to administer the unemployed, Rockall oil fields to be considered (again), subsidised trade-in on your old car, a few extra state employees to be put in the 'to be redistributed' pool.

This doesn't even pretend to be a serious budget. They're going to the IMF - let them do the dirty work clearing up after Brown, at least they aren't the Conservatives, and Labour can say it wasn't their fault, it was a global institution's response to a globally induced crisis. You can hear the arguments now. We are part of the European Union and the Eurozone, even if we do not use the Euro, and subject to its strictures and the Growth and Stability Pact. We have been subject, like all other countries, even while better placed than most to withstand the downturn, to a global crisis and it is right to turn to global institutions for the assistance we need to restabilise our economy and help hard-working families and the young workless. There must be a fairer intergenerational balance of resources - hang on to your hats, your wallets, your savings, your pensions all middle class grown-ups, you're about to lose at least a third of your wealth and probably a half through currency devaluation, gross inflation, pension contract rejection and outright confiscation.

And a nasty rider to all this will be a warning that in such troubled times it is not just economic calm that must be maintained, but political stability while extraordinary measures to achieve a global reordering not seen since 1945 are permitted to work.

Darling's budget, the last in the old economics and politics of the nation state, will fail. It is supposed to fail. It is to be merely the curtain raiser and precipitator of the new progressive order.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Erith and Thamesmead Can Have a Working People's Candidate Without Submitting to Labour Party Shenanigans

There is no end to the awfulness of New Labour. What were they thinking of to restrict lists of candidates for some parliamentary seats to particular sections of the community? Women-only, or any other -only lists are indefensible.

When New Labour refused the candidacy for London mayor to Ken Livingstone in 2000 and used the democratic centralist structures that deface the Labour party to impose a candidate, he taught both the Party and the wider electorate a lesson. An independent candidate is not always and automatically a loser.

Certainly a high profle among the electors is needed and a clear understanding of the kind of policies that the candidate will try to deliver. To be aligned with a particular trend within a mainstream party is important. People in London knew they were voting Labour even as the disliked central Party was expelling him. We had a situation where the Movement chose to ignore their Party authorities.

Certainly it was a shame that he rejoined the Labour party and made himself vulnerable to Party objectives once more, as well as to distasteful Party operatives; and an even greater shame that he let us all down so badly by relying on some even more unpleasant henchmen in his private office.

But the model is there. Candidates do not need to kow-tow to local or national parties and their idiosyncratic, even fetishistic, correctnesses, as long as they are recognizably of a strand of mainstream political thinking.

Some more independent candidates from Earith and Thamesmead, who conform more closely to what electors there want, should present themselves. I'm certain a 22 year old masters student from LSE is not top of their list.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Mr Tomlinson Died From Internal Bleeding, Not From a Heart Attack

Walking home from work on the day Gordon Brown staged a huge demonstration to assert his status as Saviour of the World, Ian Tomlinson was harried, beaten and shoved to the ground by police officers over a period of almost an hour in a series of incidents. He was uninvolved in Gordon Brown's demonstration or in the counter-demonstrations that rejected the message Brown was trying to impart.

The last assault has led to a police officer being cautioned and, the Telegraph reports, 'facing a manslaughter charge.'

None of this need have happened if Brown were a normal human being, let alone a normal politician, rather than a desperate, unelected and deeply unpopular Party Leader attempting to use the power of the state to bolster his standing abroad and in the country. In this he failed utterly. And as scandal after scandal unrolls before our gaze we note further that the man was prepared to risk the injury and death, in central London, of innocent working people, for personal profit.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Show Us All What Sorry Means

If Angels belonged to the Labour party they would be in despair. If the Labour Movement doesn't get its skates on there won't be a Labour Movement shortly. The cowardice of the Parliamentary Labour Party in failing to oppose the Accession of the man now being widely and publicly exposed as a serial bully surrounded by a cabal cast in his image has left the whole Movement staring, as Frank Field said, into the abyss of lack of moral purpose.

Rank and file members of the Party, and supporters of the wider Movement, have reasonable excuse at the moment to declare they had no idea what had taken over their commitment and allegiance. At once they must take all steps to remove this cabal from their Party roles and power. Within the various wings of the Movement forceful expressions of rejection of Brown and his ministers must be made. All and any appointment and election within the Party structure should be determined on the basis of rejecting the current Parliamentary Labour Leadership. There should be a re-balancing of power within the Movement's sections. An emergency Party Conference should be called to determine how to restructure the Party in an egalitarian, democratic fashion. Doubtless others more familiar with the anti-democratic ills of the Labour party can think of further measures.

But if any credence is to be given to those Labour supporters who insist that there is still a moral aim and purpose to their Movement, if many supporters are not to be lost in the distressed drifting away in distaste that is going on wholesale now, there must be widespread and effective signs of fundamental change being engineered. And it must be obvious to all of us, not just behind closed Party doors.

Keep Them in Scotland. We Don't Want Them Back

That's not much of a border to close. Do it now while they're all up in Glasgow facing their hand-picked audience, answering vetted questions, the fearties.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Delighted to Accept the Kind Invitation....

Alex Salmond, Leader of the Scottish National Party and (elected) Prime Minister of Scotland offered to complete the United Kingdom cabinet meeting in Glasgow tomorrow and, together with his Scottish government ministers, inform the UK cabinet on the Scottish economy, the recession, and Scottish economic policy.

The Leader (unelected) of the UK Labour party and thus ex officio prime minister of the UK, Brown, rejected this eminently courteous and sensible gesture; replacing it with an offer to meet, over a mess of pottage, with sundry Scottish Labour party supporters. The mess of pottage is to be supervised by Brown's wife (she who is rude enough to not make her food fads known to her hosts before formal dinners and refuses to eat up, in front of everybody) and will consist in the kind of food that makes the jaws drop resignedly in horror and then go onto automatic pilot - smoked salmon, lamb, salad and blue cheeses supplied locally, which are just as good (as what, one wonders). We are spared the nightmare provenance of the wines.

You have to admire Alex Salmond's imperviousness to Gordon Brown's schoolboy rudeness, and juvenile food. Mr Salmond has something to say, and information to gather. Daniel Hannan has shown how a captive audience Brown can be made to listen, while his uncontrolled body language is the best to be hoped for - certainly any words that came from his lips would be of less value.

Unsolicited Mail

This letter is a disgrace. Its content misrepresents what has happened. Its purpose is to establish a false state of affairs. Its presentation is the author's to choose but any normal person would note the lack of care in standard spelling, including the name of the addressee, which is not the writer's to vary, and the failure to ensure legibility.

And what's with the 'Gordon' sign-off. If the writer uses Ms Dories (sic) then he signs off with his surname as well. Perhaps he thinks he is the Queen.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

The Smears Could Be Indicative of a Betrayal of Our Political System and of Our Constitution

How far have the smearing tactics extended to discrediting parts of the political structures of our country to other countries? Has the New Labour obsession with being the only and permanent governance of England, the conviction that they would never cede power again at any cost, led to the smearing of opposition parties, policies, politicians, and aspects of the state's structure?

Brown's cabal has been revealed willing to lie about and besmirch the current Conservative Opposition leader, his wife, and senior shadow cabinet ministers and their families too. But the fear must arise that worse and fouler has been done to any office holder within our political system, defined as fair game by a regime committed to permanent power-holding. And the fear must be there that this has been so since Blair declared New Labour to be nothing less than the political arm of the British people.

Taxation and its Expenditure and Redistribution Comes After a General Elelction

This repugnant letter appears in today's Guardian.

'We write to highlight personal tax avoidance [what sane person would volunteer to pay tax to a violent, brutal, incompetent, bully, ed.] by some of the wealthiest in our country, [many of the poorest no longer being nimble enough on their tax feet to avoid Brown doubling their tax rate, ed.] and to urge the chancellor to take action to close in on personal tax avoidance [what intrusive, impertinent attacks on private individuals and families might be being invited here?, ed.] in the budget [which might divert attention from the utter ruin of the country's finances brought about by Gordon Brown, his immediate (and seriously under-eqipped, both intellectually and technically) advisors, and the highwaymen of the fabian/do-gooding/why do you want to look after your own family the permanent governance by New Labour New Dawn will do that for you, signatories of this corporatist letter, ed.]. Over 15 times as much is lost through tax avoidance [of course we're not going to volunteer our money, ed.] at the top than to benefit fraud [which is a crime. Equating it with hanging on to your hard-earned cash is a wicked elision of law-breaking by benefit theft, and self-defence by assaulted working people against rapacious, permanent anti-democratic 'progressive governance', ed.] at the bottom. If those at the top choose not to pay their fair share [we pay, we pay reasonably amiably, certainly generously, but not to support the world and his wife who won't (or can't because of their pig-awful state education) go to work. Not the people New Labour has thrown into unemployment because of Brown's ill-judged alliance with institutional and state looting, but the life-style choice lazies, ed.] it has grave consequences for everyone. It robs our society of the funds that could end child poverty [rubbish, children are poor because of the enormous tax burden that removes almost 45% of wages before you even get home. Leave us our wages and we won't need other people's money, ed.] or the money needed to increase welfare benefits and help alleviate the conditions which drive the most vulnerable to commit things such as benefit fraud in the first place [going to work would be a better antidote. And if 11 years of 'state education' leaves 40% of the population functionally illiterate and innumerate, perhaps they could get on with at least learning to read, write and add up while they are living on our unavoidable taxes so they could be useful in the workplace or, even, set up a business other than welfare claiming, ed.]

We call on the chancellor to close in on tax avoidance, close in on tax loopholes [Not paying what you do not owe and are not required to yield is perfectly proper. If the individual wishes to make charitable donations that is theirs to choose, and could be encouraged and enhanced by a friendlier tax regime, ed.] and deliver greater tax justice. [what has tax justice to do with taxpayers being required by some secondary level of governance, to hand over to New Labour! (of all corrupt, corporatist, fascistic, authoritarian regimes) more than is required of them legally? If the electorate feels that tax is unjustly unredistributive enough, then put it to the voters, call a general election, go on! Call a general election so that at least we don't have to put up with an unelected prime minister, and we can decide democratically what is a just tax burden, ed.] Measures could include: abolishing the domicile rule; abolishing tax havens; [what do you want? To shut down member-states of the European Union who have rational inheritance taxes that ensure that family wealth is spent on maintaining the family, ed.] taxing investment income equally to income earned through labour; [how can people work after the appalling cheat they suffer from New Labour's 'education' system? Nowhere else in Europe do schools return 11 years' work with zero achievement for 40% of the school age population. There are no excuses. It is a producer-serving system delivered by public sector unions in cahoots with the Labour party and its regime, dependent on the recirculation of taxpayers' money through the public sector unions and into their maw to maintain themselves in power, ed.] introducing a new wealth tax for all those earning over £250,000; [why that sum? Sufficiently high to appeal to the politics of an envy-driven New Labour rump? But not beyond the dreams of avarice? You really are vile in pretending that quarter of a million devalued pounds a year is some kind of immoral nirvana. Any dwelling in a reasonable part of England costs more than £250,000. Your 'no more boom and bust' fraud of a Leader degraded our world to make such a sum the norm for the merely comfortably off, who could pay their taxes but still save their families from state monolith provider institutions, ed.] introducing a new tax on bonuses; adopting a general anti-avoidance rule; [what's that mean? If we don't go like lambs to the slaughter we are criminals just like the rest of any of your client state that is lying about its need or its 'rights'?, ed.] removing secrecy from all British-controlled tax havens and increasing the number of tax inspectors to allow more thorough investigation. [That would get the unemployment figures down a bit except for the unfortunate inability to add up and subtract on the part of your state's graduates, ed.]'

The mind set displayed in this contemptible letter belongs to a world as mythical as all the other Labour myths. There are no wicked capitalists stealing the wages of the virtuous labouring poor. There are utterly corrupt, self-seeking politicians doing so though.

'It is time to close in on tax avoiders [and extend the range of the surveillance state, ed.] recoup public money [no, hard-earned individuals' private income, ed.] and ensure everyone in society pays their fair share [which would be a lot less than is mulcted from us now, ed.]- we urge the government to act. [Absolutely, so do we. CALL A GENERAL ELECTION, AND WE CAN ALL EXPRESS OUR OPINION].'

Signed by: Professor David Byrne, Jon Cruddas MP, Gavin Hayes, Neal Lawson Compass, Sunder Katwala Fabian Society, Professor Ruth Lister, Richard Murphy, Guy Palmer The Poverty Site, Ann Pettifor Advocacy International, Nancy Platts Labour PPC Brighton Pavilion, Howard Reed, Dr Sally Ruane, Clifford Singer The Other TaxPayers' Alliance, Wes Streeting NUS, Chuka Umunna Labour PPC Streatham

Surely We Are At the Bottom Now

Reaching the bottom of the barrel with New Labour is hard to judge. We have had the looting of financial institutions and of the state, and the effective bankruptcy of major banks. We have had economic deterioration over the last 12 years to the point where nearly six million working-age people are economically inactive and over half of that number are likely to remain so for the rest of their lives. Allied with this last is the building of a New Labour client state of holders of state and quasi state 'jobs' and the development of a Third Sector fronted by various former charities that are now New Labour agencies. The uploading of highly personal and private information about diverse sections of the population continues, and such data is often 'lost' into uncontrolled circumstances. We have an imposed Party leader acting as the country's prime minister whose personal character and moral defects are notorious. We have a regime whose members from the prime minister downwards, are profiteering from office while excusing themselves that such iniquitous taking is 'within the rules'.

Yet poll after poll confirms that around 30% of the electorate would vote for Labour as if another party entirely were on offer. It isn't. Those who wish to press for social equalities, and for universal access to education and health care, together with environmentally responsible provision of energy, housing and management of transport infrastructures, as well as husbanding of our natural resources, will not find any means of doing so through Labour. It was the great Liberal and Conservative statesmen of the past who formulated and brought in the health and educational reforms that Labour claims for its own myth in any case. The bully boys, the political thugs, the liars, the exploiters of office who are running, and ruining the country, are the Labour party.

And there is something to be done. The European Union elections must be held, there can be no finagling over them by the Labour regime, as there can be for UK elections. Usually voter turnout is very low, and it will be in Labour's interest if it remains so this time. Losses can be brushed aside - voter apathy identified as satisfaction with Labour rule rather than Labour losses making the monumental unrepresentativeness of Labour starkly apparent. Whenever the opportunity to vote against Labour cannot be with held or subverted it must be grasped enthusiastically for that alone - as a public expression of rejection of Brown and his corruption and incompetence and bullying viciousness.

War, torture, detention without trial, false imprisonment and beatings of demonstrators, killings, social and cultural manipulation and control, unemployment, homelessness, illiteracy, unnecessary suffering and death in the hospitals, the privatisation of profit and socialisation of loss using a crippling and demotivating tax burden, the wrecking of pensions and security in old age. Voting against Labour will end its patronage of all these things and give the opportunity to build a democratic political movement and party of those committed to honesty and fairness in our public life, and respect for privacy and individual liberties in our society.

Monday, 13 April 2009

The Other Face of Using Wives for Downing Street Propaganda

Two-faced is an adjective that can be applied readily to New Labour. And the smear-the-wives of Conservative senior politicians Downing Street plan has its counterpart in the talking-up of Sarah Brown as decency, sensitivity and charming intelligence personified. She, it is hoped, will be the counterweight to Brown's bogey-eating, improperly-dressed, slighlty smelly public persona and the unsavoury details of his private behaviour and character that drift about the media.

She has been thinned-down, dressed up a bit and put in public view introducing 'My husband' at the last Labour Conference, entertaining visiting wives, upping her charity work profile, refusing to eat her dinner in Strasbourg (what did she think might be on offer in Strasbourg of all places; there was no need for such rudeness, a word before hand would have produced an alternative dish).

Sturdily she canvasses in Glenrothes, pictured shaking hands with the silver-haired pensioners on their council house doorsteps while her minders are out of picture threatening to kill any reporter who asks her a question about the by-election.

Sarah Brown's usefulness as a guarantor that Gordon Brown is normal and even likeable underlines the awareness in the Downing Street propaganda machine that equal and opposite propaganda effects can be obtained against opponents by the use of black spin. Except that Sarah Brown has stepped into the arena, a willing collaborator in what her husband does. She is a wholly political figure. An actor, not the intended victim of Brown's closest advisors.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Easter Greetings

I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth. And though worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.

For now is Christ risen from the dead, the first fruits of them that sleep.

Sing along

Friday, 10 April 2009

Boris Pulls it Off

When the Conservative Chairman of the Metropolitan Police Authority accepted the resignation of Mr Quick and agreed the appointment of Mr Yates to take his place he was efficiently carrying out his duties. There can be no hiatus in the leadership of the anti-terrorism units.

The rage this, and its announcement, induced in Downing Street was barely concealed. A terminally damaged New Labour Home Secretary who should have been dismissed over her corruption in claiming expenses, exposed a carefully prepared propaganda exercise moving the role of the Leader smoothly from Saviour of the financial and economic world last week to our ever-alert Guardian from terrrorist threat this week, to failure. Had the Home Secretary received her oh so merited come uppance in a timely fashion she could have been replaced with a marginally less-tainted politician strong enough to contain the blunder, never mind the loss of control over the resignation and new appointment, and Gordon could have had his New Day as sword and shield of the people.

As it is, he is reduced to blethering from Carlisle (of all places, not your first choice for a press conference):

"Let me first thank all of the police forces that have been involved in the arrest of the suspected terrorists...We have been investigating a major terrorist plot and we have got to act early. Our first concern is always the safety of the public. [no Gordon, your first concern is always self-promotion, ed.] It is right that we took the urgent action that we did over the course of yesterday... I have spoken to Bob Quick this morning and...He has apologised [pity you don't learn from Mr Quick's example, Gordon, ed.]for what went wrong yesterday. I have also spoken to Sir Paul Stephenson, the head of the Metropolitan Police, and said we expect this investigation to move forward."

But too late, the story was all about resignation, and appointments, and who controls the police, and inadequate controls on immigration.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

In Whose Name?

President Obama did not speak to the most important people in England - the people themselves. Jealously clutched to Gordon Brown's bosom he was directed from venue to venue, photo opportunity to photo opportunity, all for the greater glory of New Labour and their Leader.

We would have liked to see you and the First Lady, Mr President. We have a wonderful open space with fountains and statues of our leaders of the past. You could have stood between Nelson's lions, high above the thousands who would have been honoured to listen to you,

just as you stood in Prague, before the castle and before the Czech people.

Or you could have filled the Royal Albert Hall, as you did the Town Hall at Strasbourg, with people proud to queue for hours to see and hear you - we do good queueing at the Albert Hall and would have sung you your national anthem and ours - we do good singing at the Albert Hall too.

So why didn't you, Mr President? Why did you lend your prestige and the esteem all Presidents of the United States are held in here, but most of all you with the hope you have brought after the years of war and contempt for world opinion practiced by the Bush presidency, why did you lend all that so narrowly? To an unelected Party Leader, imposed upon the country without benefit of democratic vote. A coward who has starved the UK forces of the means to fight the wars for which your country has asked our help. A liar who has led the United Kingdom to financial and economic disaster. A secretive political manipulator with a vicious retributive streak for all and any who oppose him. A private bully who offers physical and verbal aggression to those who have to work with him. Were you taken in by his sycophancy towards those who bear elected office, and yours of global power, but pushes the clerk from in front of her computer with contempt, and throws phones and staplers in his workspace?

While you were limousined and helicoptered from cabal to cabal the people were being beaten and killed on the London streets. The people were being cornered by violent riot officers who beat those who chanted 'this is not a riot, this is not a riot', even as they were beaten.

You were used Mr President. The abused people should be told it was not done in your name.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Who Pushed Mr Tomlinson to the Ground?

The City of London Police's last high profile investigation was into the death of Roberto Calvi, God's Banker, discovered hanging under Blackfriars bridge in the 1980s. They insisted it was suicide until they conceded it was murder in the face of overwhelming evidence. But it took them some years.

It doesn't inspire confidence in their abilities, let alone their impartiality in investigating some of their own officers' involvement in the death of Mr Tomlinson, caught up in Gordon Brown's G20 demonstration and the counter demonstration, as he tried to go home from work. The Police Complaints Commission should take over as a matter of urgency, at the very least, although a truly independent inquiry is really what should be instituted at once.

The Evening Standard reports that Mr Tomlinson was attacked not once but twice by police on his journey home, stating it is not clear if the same officer was involved both times. As the most important categorisations for New Labour in contexts of social conflict are gender and ethnicity perhaps we could be told the gender and ethnicity, if the name is to be with held, of the officer who landed Mr Tomlinson on the ground in the video we have seen so far.

Beating and Killing People at Demonstrations

The G20 was nothing more than a demonstration by the New Labour regime. A demonstration that they commanded our wealth and could spend it on buildings, cars, receptions, dinners and armed protection. A demonstration that the streets of our city were theirs to open and close as they chose. It had no more validity than other people's demonstration that they did not agree that everyday life in parts of London could be taken over by New Labour force.

Now we see that New Labour kills people to assert its control. Kills and imprisons in the public street. Beats people to death. As Mussolini said on Necessary Violence:

'We do not make a school, a system, or worse still, an aesthetic of violence. We are violent when it is necessary to be so. I tell you that this necessary violence on the part of the Fascists must have a character and style of is own, definitely high-minded, or, if you prefer, surgical.

Our punitive expeditions, all those acts of violence which figure in the papers, must always have the character of a just retort and legitimate reprisal....It is necessary and as long as it is necessary, we shall continue to carry out this hard and thankless task.'

New Labour, New Order.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Votes of No Confidence First in the House and then in the Country

The Labour vote is collapsing completely. Despite the lying expensive pomposity of the G20 meeting the latest poll shows an increase in Conservative support. If New Labour cannot rise a single point after spending so much taxpayers' money on a Labour propaganda campaign, we have proof positive that New Labour cannot shift the desire to have an end to this appalling regime.

Either we are in the first years of an authoritarian dictatorship or the last months of an illicit, undemocratic government profiteering while it can from clinging to office.

There is nothing this government can do but damage our economy, our living standards, our lives, further. A self-seeking rump of Labour clients is dug in denying democracy. The last western European socialist party to reach these levels of corruption in office and despicable governance was under Bettino Craxi in Italy; he died in criminalised exile in North Africa while the Socialist Party of Italy disappeared without trace into the far reaches of political grouplets.

The centre left in the United Kingdom must either move to drive the New Labour cabal from dominance of their party, and from office; or accept 'post democratic progressive governance' (as fascism has renamed itself) and betray their souls. They might be surprised at the renaissance of support around the centre left that two determined votes - on a matter of substance and then, a vote of no confidence, in the House of Commons, precipitating a general election, would bring them.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Regulating Disaster

The television has been on for much of the day. The news gets too painful to bear further watching. Towns and cities of the Abruzzo have been razed. Rinascimento buildings in all their beauty are no match for seismic events of this order.

Much of the house in our village in Tuscany is 13th century with walls so thick there is room for steps and seats at the windows. But last time the ground shook here the building swayed and shifted as if they were Japanese screens. All of Italy is at seismic risk but here the risk is elevated enough to require any new building, or any major restructuring to meet earthquake resistance standards. At the ecohouse walls were lined with heavy meshes and liquid concrete blasted them into place. The roof was left looking as higgledy-piggledy as always but inside was not just thermic isolation but structural beams and ties. Then the original wooden beams, some made from whole cypress trees, and cross beams with the old ceiling tiles between were put back. Foundations were dug into the shale-like rock it stood upon and then the floors re-tiled over the heating ducts. Hypocausts I thought knowledgeably to myself, Romans invented them, had them in St Albans. Mr HG just thought how much more this could possibly cost.

They were right. It would come down in a serious earthquake, but it will not collapse on top of the inhabitants, with choking mud and dust and walls returning into their components in seconds. If ever there were a case for rigid state authoritarianism it is in the enforcement of engineering and structural rules for buildings and in where they may be constructed. Perhaps we could have a Ministry of Demolition and Reconstruction for all the buildings that do not conform to the regulations. That would be an economic project to save the world.

Weep for L'Aquila

But, in an email from a friend who is from the Abruzzo, at least there was this consolation:

'...e' una vera tragedia che ha colpito una zona che ha avuto tre
terremoti assolutamente disastrosi dal 1915, e altri tre nel

se non fosse stata la domenica prima di pasqua il
centro sarebbe stato pieno di studenti che frequentano l'
università e vivono nelle casette restaurate e a loro
affittate, come a siena. la casa dello studente che è crollata
avrebbe avuto una vera ecatombe, perchè ha almeno cento posti
letto. che dire! essendo il posto civile e centrale, credo che
i soccorsi saranno efficienti. questi poveretti avevano una
scossa al giorno da almeno sei mesi, senza poter far nulla, a
meno di non abbandonare la città magari per un anno.'

Our correspondent continues in a chilling reminder that Italy bears its own jonah prime minister:

'ora arriverà l' avvoltoio in elicottero a fare un po' di
propaganda elettorale, con l' aiuto del padre eterno, che pare
gli voglia molto bene. una volta gli italiani si sarebbero accorti che costui porta una jella tremenda. tre crisi economiche ogni volta che vince le elezioni, e ora anche il terremoto.'

Saturday, 4 April 2009

The Universality of Human Rights

Should you wish to think about human rights, as many do in our country today, then bear in mind Lord Hoffmann on:

The Universality of Human Rights

1. The claim of human rights to be universal can no doubt be traced back to mediaeval natural law theory and beyond, but for practical purposes I can begin in 1776 with the Declaration of Independence drafted by Thomas Jefferson: “we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” In 1789 the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen proclaimed by the French National Assembly had 17 articles and said that the “imprescriptible rights of man” were “liberty, property, security and resistance to oppression”.

2. The Declaration was redrafted by the National Convention in 1793. As the monarchy had been abolished and replaced by the Republic One and Indivisible, “resistance to oppression” was no longer needed and was replaced by “equality”. The Declaration included provisions now very familiar in human rights instruments, such as article 7, “The right to express one’s thoughts and opinions by means of the press or in any other manner, the right to assemble peaceably, the free pursuit of religion, cannot be forbidden”, article 19, “no one can be deprived of the least portion of his property without his consent, unless a legally established public necessity requires it, and upon condition of a just and prior compensation” and article 22, “Education is needed by all. Society ought to favour with all its power the advancement of public reason and put education at the door of every citizen.” It also contained provisions of more local and contemporary interest, such as several articles justifying the execution of the King earlier in the year and article 27, “Let any person who may usurp the sovereignty be instantly put to death by free men”, which proved useful in 1794, when the principal authors of the Declaration were guillotined.

3. Jeremy Bentham wrote a stinging attack on the French Declaration in an essay which he called “The Anarchical Fallacies”. He criticised it on three main grounds. The first was that the rights it declared were all against the government but there was no provision for enforcement in a court. The only remedy proposed was insurrection, which he described as an invitation to permanent anarchy: hence the name of the essay. Bentham thought the notion of unenforceable rights ridiculous; the famous phrase “nonsense on stilts” comes from this essay.

4. Secondly, Bentham criticised the presumption of the authors in declaring the rights of man instead of the rights of Frenchmen. It gave the French, he said,
“The pleasure, the sort of titillation so exquisite to the nerve of vanity in a French heart--the satisfaction…of teaching grandmothers to suck eggs. Hark! ye citizens of the other side of the water! Can you tell us what rights you have belonging to you? No, that you can't. It's we that understand rights: not our own only, but yours into the bargain; while you poor simple souls know nothing about the matter.”

5. As I shall explain later, I think that Bentham was making a very important point about the essentially national character of rights, embedded in a national legal system, but in this case his brilliant invective was aimed at an inappropriate target. The French Declaration, as he pointed out in his first criticism, was not intended to be a legal document or create legal rights. It was a statement of moral and political philosophy. Call it a constitutional mission statement. It used the term rights in a different, non-legal, sense. The purpose of the Declaration was clearly stated in its preamble:
“In order that all citizens, being able to compare unceasingly the acts of the government with the aim of every social institution, may never allow themselves to be oppressed and debased by tyranny, and in order that the people may always have before their eyes the foundations of their liberty and their welfare, the magistrate the rule of his duties, the legislator the purpose of his commission.”

6. Thus the purpose of the declaration was to provide a standard against which the government and its officials could be made subject to political criticism and to state the grounds upon which a government could be justifiably overthrown.

7. Bentham’s third criticism was that even if the Declaration had been legally enforceable, the various rights were stated in terms so abstract as to be meaningless. The practical application of the rights needed trade-offs between individual rights and the general public interest, sometimes between one individual right and another. The Declaration gave no guidance on these points, established no hierarchy of rights, contained no concessions to the realities of government, law and order. Such decisions involve the application of practical and political judgment. “Observe” said Bentham ―
“how nice, and incapable of being described beforehand by any particular marks, are the lines which mark the limits of right and wrong in this behalf--which separate the useful from the pernicious, the prudent course from the imprudent--how dependent upon the temper of the times, upon the events and circumstances of the day.”

8. Bentham praised the traditional reluctance of the English Parliament to enact abstract propositions. Everyone in Europe agreed that in England was a free country; that there was, for example, freedom of speech although there was no law which expressly said so. To say that we enjoyed freedom of speech was a descriptive generalisation of particular English laws which limited the circumstances in which publications were actionable or the government could suppress them. It was these specific laws which gave people their rights. “It is in England, rather than in France”, said Bentham —
“that the discovery of the rights of man ought naturally to have taken its rise: it is we--we English, that have the better right to it…Our right to this precious discovery, such as it is, of the rights of man, must, I repeat it, have been prior to that of the French. It has been seen how peculiarly rich we are in materials for making it. Right, the substantive right, is the child of law: from real laws come real rights; but from imaginary laws, from laws of nature, fancied and invented by poets, rhetoricians, and dealers in moral and intellectual poisons, come imaginary rights.”

9. Again, I think that Bentham was making an important point but was wrong to apply it to a mission statement like the French Declaration. An aspirational and political document can be expressed in abstract and unqualified terms. It is intended to set an agenda for political debate, to provide a standard for political criticism of institutions and officials. For that purpose, it did not matter that there might be differences of opinion over whether, for example, some law was or was not consistent with freedom of speech. On the contrary, the Declaration performed the valuable function of telling politicians, officials, lawyers and the people at large that these were important questions which needed to be considered and debated.

10. Bentham’s criticism about enacting abstract propositions might have been more appropriately directed to the United States, where the Bill of Rights Amendments of 1790 had done just that. That was very definitely not a mission statement but a list of legally binding principles. The first Amendment, for example, said “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances”. “Congress shall make no law”; that was a constitutional limitation on its powers which would have to be interpreted by the courts. And in Marbury v Madison[1] the Supreme Court decided that it was required to review Acts of Congress for compatibility with the Constitution.

11. The United States Supreme Court was, I think, the first judicial body required to give practical effect to the abstract terms of a human rights instrument; to act as mediators between the high generalities of the constitutional text and the messy detail of their application to concrete problems. Did the words “equal treatment” in the 14th amendment mean that a local education authority could or should provide buses to carry children across town to ensure that schools were not in practice racially segregated?[2] Did the words of the Fifth Amendment, “no person shall be compelled in a criminal case to give evidence against himself” mean that a policeman had to warn a suspect that he need not say anything and tell him that he was entitled to a lawyer at state expense?[3] The need to decide questions like these gave the Supreme Court a power to influence American society unequalled by any other judicial tribunal in the world. Until the 1930s, this power seems to have been exercised with considerable restraint. Under Franklin Roosevelt, however, the court’s economic and social conservatism brought it into conflict with both Congress and the administration. After the War, the court sometimes felt obliged to use the Constitution to initiate necessary reforms with which the legislature, through political stalemate or inertia, was unable to grapple. Brown v Board of Education of Topeka[4] initiated a change in the country’s attitude to racial segregation. Miranda v Arizona[5] reined in the lawlessness of the police. The Court’s decisions on abortion, religious observances, hate speech, capital punishment and a range of similar social issues placed it in the forefront of public controversy.

12. Jefferson would have regarded at least some of the provisions of the Bill of Rights amendments as universals in the sense of being founded upon moral imperatives which were applicable to all human beings, truths about the human condition which, as he said in the Declaration of Independence, were self-evident. But the concrete application of these provisions by the Supreme Court, their realisation in practice by bussing school children and making policeman read suspects their Miranda rights, were not at all universal. They were founded on the day-to-day realities of American life, federalism, the American doctrine of the separation of powers, American political culture and legal tradition. They remain so to this day.

13. The result is that in many cases the abstractions of the American Bill of Rights are interpreted differently from very similar abstractions in the legal systems of other countries. For example, most human rights instruments contain protection of privacy from unlawful searches and seizures. But only in the United States is this interpreted as making inadmissible any evidence, however compelling, obtained by an unlawful search.[6] Equally, most human rights instruments protect the freedom of the press, like the First Amendment, and the right to a fair trial, like the Sixth Amendment. But the United States strikes its own balance between these two rights. In the United Kingdom, for example, a publication which creates a substantial risk of prejudice to the course of justice in legal proceedings is a contempt of court.[7] In the United States, as one saw in the O J Simpson trial, it is extremely rare for a judge to be able to restrain any publication about the case.[8]

14. It was not to be expected that the United States Supreme Court would be able to exercise these remarkable powers to universal satisfaction. The passions aroused by the questions it has had to decide are too strong. But the Court has retained more or less universal respect. There are several reasons. One is the generally high quality of the judges. Another is their knowledge of American society. But the third, which I would emphasise, is that they are an American court, created by the Constitution, appointed by the President, confirmed by the Senate, an essential and historic part of the community which they serve. They have a special constitutional legitimacy for the citizens of the United States.

15. The important lesson which one draws from the American experience, and in particular the way in which the U.S. Bill of Rights has been interpreted in the United States, is that, at the level of abstraction, human rights may be universal. The Bill of Rights, like the French Declaration, reflects a certain moral and political philosophy of man as an independent self-reliant agent as well as a member of society. The two instruments have a great deal in common. At the level of application, however, the messy detail of concrete problems, the human rights which these abstractions have generated are national. Their application requires trade-offs and compromises, exercises of judgment which can be made only in the context of a given society and its legal system. Decisions such as whether the abstract concept of equal treatment requires in its practical application the bussing of school children is one which can be made only in a specific social context. Likewise, the decision as to whether the concept of a fair trial requires a complete ban on the admissibility of a statement made without a Miranda warning, or of evidence obtained by an unlawful search or seizure, can be made only in relation to a particular system of trial and with an appreciation of such matters as the prevalent police culture.

17. Until the Second World War the United States was, I think, the only significant country with a constitution containing an abstract statement of what would now be called human rights which was enforceable by the courts. I say, what would now be called human rights, because I do not think that until the War, this was a common form of constitutional usage. American judges, as in England, spoke rather of liberty and freedom, the freedom of the individual from interference by the state. Indeed, it was this narrow concept of American self-reliance and self-sufficiency which formed the philosophical basis of the decisions to strike down some of the New Deal social legislation.

18. After the Second World War, the terms of discourse changed. It was now of human rights and of universalism. Roosevelt’s State of the Union address in 1941, before the United States entered the War, listed the four freedoms he wanted to exist, not merely in the United States, but everywhere in the world. The first two, freedom of speech and religion, came from the First Amendment. But the third, freedom from want, was a new social right born of the Depression and the fourth, freedom from fear, looked forward to disarmament, collective security and the United Nations.

19. In 1946 Eleanor Roosevelt presided over the United Nations Committee which drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Like the French Declaration of 1789, this was a mission statement, not intended to have legal effect in either international or domestic law. Its preamble stated its purpose in terms very similar to that of 1789. The Declaration was to be —
a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of Society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for those rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance.”

20. The French Declaration’s claim to universality rested upon purely philosophical foundations. The claim of the UN Declaration had the additional support of its being adopted by the General Assembly, with 48 countries voting in favour and 8 abstentions. More recently, its claims to universality have been disputed. Some Asian and African writers and politicians say that their countries were not represented at the United Nations in 1948 and that the Declaration reflects a peculiarly Western liberal tradition. Islamists say that it is a Judeo-Christian document. I am not concerned with these disputes. It is also fair to say that the Declaration contains some rather dubious human rights, such as the right in article 24 to periodic holidays with pay, which is no doubt socially desirable but difficult to regard as a fundamental human right. However, in a purely aspirational document, this does not matter.

21. It mattered rather more when the Universal Declaration was used as a model for the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. I do not make any criticism of the drafting of the Convention. It seems to me a perfectly serviceable abstract statement of the rights which individuals in a civilised society should enjoy. At the national level, the precise wording of the document is not important, because the values which it expresses have deep roots in our national history and culture. What matters is how these familiar rights are interpreted in relation to other rights and the business of government. It therefore seems to me perfectly acceptable to adopt the text of the Convention as a United Kingdom constitutional instrument. That is what we did in the Human Rights Act 1998.

22. What concerns me, however, is the mechanism adopted by the Convention for the application of these abstractions to concrete problems. It provided that there should be an international court in Strasbourg to decide whether in any particular case a Member State had complied with its duty to accord the Convention rights everyone within its jurisdiction. Individuals in a Member State could petition the court with a complaint that their rights had been violated.

23. If one accepts, as I have so far argued, that human rights are universal in abstraction but national in application, it is not easy to see how in principle an international court was going to perform this function of deciding individual cases, still less why the Strasbourg court was thought a suitable body to do so. At the time that the Convention was drafted and negotiated, the example of the United States was there for everyone to see. Even supposing that the Convention had reproduced the precise language of the American Bill of Rights, one could hardly imagine a court of judges from various nationalities telling the people of the United States that their courts had applied their constitution incorrectly, or telling the people of other nations that, for example, the balance between freedom of the press and a fair trial should be struck in the same way as in the United States. The examples I have given do not represent some special American eccentricity but only the inevitable differences in the ways in which different countries, each equally dedicated to the abstract values of human rights, will apply those concepts and strike balances between them.

24. The fact that the 10 original Member States of the Council of Europe subscribed to a statement of human rights in the same terms did not mean that they had agreed to uniformity of the application of those abstract rights in each of their countries, still less in the 47 states which now belong. The situation is quite different from that of the European Economic Community, in which the Member States agreed that it was in their economic interest to have uniform laws on particular matters which were specified as being within European competence. On such matters, the European institutions, including the Court of Justice in Luxembourg, were given a mandate to unify the laws of Europe. The Strasbourg court, on the other hand, has no mandate to unify the laws of Europe on the many subjects which may arguably touch upon human rights. Because, for example, there is a human right to a fair trial, it does not follow that all the countries of the Council of Europe must have the same trial procedure. Criminal procedures in different countries may differ widely without any of them being unfair. Likewise, the application of many human rights in a concrete case, the trade-offs which must be made between individual rights and effective government, or between the rights of one individual and another, will frequently vary from country to country, depending upon the local circumstances and legal tradition.

25. It is a remarkable fact that during the drafting and negotiation of the European Convention, which is chronicled in detail by Professor Brian Simpson,[9] no one seems to have drawn attention to this basic flaw in the concept of having an international court of human rights to deal with the concrete application of those rights in different countries. The Working Party of officials from departments concerned in the negotiations noted in January 1951[10]:
“The original purpose of the Council of Europe Convention on Human Rights was to enable public attention to be drawn to any revival of totalitarian methods of government and to provide a forum in which the appropriate action could be discussed and decided.”

26. In other words, a regional European mission statement like the Universal Declaration. The Attorney-General, Sir Hartley Shawcross KC, was sceptical of its value even as a mission statement:
“I have never attached great practical importance to the proposed Covenant on Human Rights and do not myself think (as some do) that its existence would act as a kind of barrier against the encroachments of totalitarian restrictions. It seems to me, however, that some of the drafting objections are more theoretical than real. No other country engages, or need engage, in any over nice and meticulous comparison of its own municipal laws against its treaty obligations…The most that can be sought in connection with such political manifestos as in effect are constituted by these Conventions on Human Rights is that in substance and principle, if not in every detail, our practice protects the rights laid down.”

27. The Strasbourg court has to a limited extent recognised the fact that while human rights are universal at the level of abstraction, they are national at the level of application. It has done so by the doctrine of the ‘margin of appreciation’, an unfortunate Gallicism by which Member States are allowed a certain latitude to differ in their application of the same abstract right. Clearly, that is a step in the right direction. But there is no consistency in the application of this doctrine and for reasons to which I shall return in a moment, I do not think that there is a proper understanding of the principle upon which it should be based. In practice, the Court has not taken the doctrine of the margin of appreciation nearly far enough. It has been unable to resist the temptation to aggrandise its jurisdiction and to impose uniform rules on Member States. It considers itself the equivalent of the Supreme Court of the United States, laying down a federal law of Europe.

28. I could give many examples, but I shall confine myself to three and keep off the Strasbourg court’s jurisprudence on anti-terrorism laws and deportation, on which there is a case under consideration in the House of Lords at the moment. First, the court’s enthusiasm for the right to silence. Lord Mustill once described this as an expression which arouses strong but unfocussed feelings.[11] He deconstructed it into six separate immunities, each resting upon a different policy and subject to various exceptions. Lord Templeman said of one of them, the right to refuse to answer questions if the answer might tend to incriminate, that it affords protection for the guilty and is unnecessary to safeguard the innocent. Such a right can be justified, he said, only on the grounds that it discourages ill-treatment of a suspect and the production of dubious confessions.[12] In cases in which neither of these dangers is present, English law has for many years had a number of statutory exceptions. Sometimes they take the form of providing that the answer may not be used in criminal proceedings (for example, section 31 of the Theft Act 1968) and sometimes they do not. In particular, as far back as the time of Lord Eldon, the power to examine bankrupts about their property has been construed as excluding the privilege.[13] In 1856 the Court for Crown Cases Reserved held that the answers were admissible in criminal proceedings against the bankrupt.[14] Since the Bankruptcy Act 1883 it has been the invariable practice for statutes dealing with such examinations to provide that the notes of the examination may be used in evidence against the deponent. These rules were extended to the examination of company directors in a winding-up and by section 434 of the Companies Act 1985 to a company investigation by inspectors appointed by the Secretary of State. There is in such cases no question of ill-treatment of a suspect. The examination is conducted in a civilised manner and the witness is entitled to have his lawyer present. The danger of a false confession is remote. Indeed, the main value of such statements in subsequent criminal proceedings is that they sometimes contain the witness’s first thoughts at variance with his later story.

29. That was the background to the case of Mr Saunders, the chief executive of Guinness plc, who was convicted of conspiracy, false accounting and theft in connection with a take-over bid for Distillers plc, on evidence which included a transcript of what he had said to inspectors appointed by the Secretary of State to investigate the affair. In 1996 the Strasbourg Court held that he had been denied the human right to a fair trial guaranteed by article 6. It was acknowledged that article 6 did not mention the right to silence, but the Court said in sweeping fashion that “the right to silence and the right not to incriminate oneself are generally recognised international standards which lie at the heart of the notion of a fair procedure under article 6.” There was no analysis of the right to silence in English law such as Lord Mustill had undertaken three years earlier. There was no discussion of the 200 year old history of similar provisions in English bankruptcy and company law. The Irish judge, who presumably took his researches no further than to see that the Act currently in force had been passed in 1985, said that it was “a post-Convention constitutional departure from the common law.” The usual boilerplate about protection of the accused against improper pressures was reproduced, but there was no explanation of why it was improper, let alone a gross violation of human rights, for Mr Saunders to have to tell the inspectors about his actions during the take-over. The court said that the privilege applied to “all types of criminal offences without distinction from the most simple to the most complex.” The public interest could not be invoked to justify “such a marked departure from one of the basic principles of a fair procedure.” One would imagine from the language of the Court that the inspectors had used thumb screws to obtain the information.

30. The crude terms in which the Strasbourg court held the privilege applicable encouraged other applicants. Most recently, in O’Halloran and Francis v United Kingdom the owner of a car complained that his privilege had been violated because he had been required, on pain of a fine, to say who had been driving his car when it was photographed speeding. One might have thought such a reductio ad absurdum of the Saunders principle would have been thrown out as manifestly ill-founded. On the strength of the Saunders decision, someone had tried the same argument before a Scottish court and then as a devolution issue before the Privy Council. Lord Bingham had disposed of the point politely but firmly. In Strasbourg, the case was solemnly argued before the Grand Chamber. And although the application was rejected, there were two dissenting opinions. In order that you may appreciate the type of reasoning employed in Strasbourg, I cannot resist reading a passage from one of the dissents:
“I understand the reasoning behind the departure from the basic principles of a fair trial in the case of speed violations: namely, that such offences represent hundreds of thousands if not millions of cases, and that the State is unable to ensure that in each of this vast number of cases all the procedural guarantees have been complied with. I repeat: I understand this line of reasoning but I do not accept it. In my opinion, if there are so many breaches of a prohibition, it clearly means that something is wrong with the prohibition. It means that the prohibition does not reflect a pressing social need, given that so many people choose to breach it even under threat of a criminal prosecution. And if this is the case, maybe the time has come to review speed limits and set limits that would more correctly reflect peoples’ needs…It is difficult for me to accept that hundreds of thousands of speeding motorists are wrong and only the government is right.”

31. Next, the Strasbourg court’s enthusiasm for the hearsay rule. In England, there has for many years been debate about its merits in both civil and criminal proceedings. It has been generally thought irrational and an obstacle to justice. In civil proceedings, tentative steps to restrict its application started in 1938 and its abolition was finally accomplished by the Civil Evidence Act 1995. In criminal proceedings, the rule was substantially abolished, after a Law Commission report, by the Criminal Justice Act 2003, but subject to various safeguards to ensure a fair trial. In the recent case of Al-Khawaja and Tahery v UK (20 January 2009) the Strasbourg court has discovered that the hearsay rule is a fundamental human right. Dr Al-Khawaja was a doctor charged with indecent assault on two of his patients. One of them, after making a statement to the police, committed suicide. The judge admitted her statement under the provisions of the 2003 Act but warned the jury that they had not seen the complainant or heard her cross-examined. But her story was supported by strong similar fact evidence, not only from the other complainant but from two other witnesses who had had similar experiences. The jury convicted unanimously and the doctor was given a custodial sentence. The Court of Appeal said that the overall case against the appellant was very strong and they were wholly unpersuaded that the verdicts were unsafe. The Strasbourg court said that there had been a violation of the fair trial provision of article 6. In their opinion, in any case in which a conviction is based “solely or to a decisive degree” on a statement by a person whom the accused has had no opportunity to examine, he has not had a fair trial. It is not clear to me whether the accused gave evidence to contradict the statement but for the purposes of the Strasbourg rule that appears not to matter. This was a case after the Human Rights Act 1998 had come into force and in which the Court of Appeal expressly considered whether the procedure was compatible with article 6. It is quite extraordinary that on a question which had received so much consideration in the Law Commission and Parliament, the Strasbourg court should have taken it upon themselves to say that they were wrong.

32. The last example is about night flights at Heathrow, which sounds about as far from human rights as you could get. In 1993 the government, after a good deal of research and consultation, introduced a change in the regulations about landings after 4:30 am. There were objections from residents in the area and a challenge by judicial review on the grounds of the inadequacy of the consultation, which was finally dismissed by the Court of Appeal. The Secretary of State, in deciding to authorise the new scheme, had to decide whether the general economic interest of the country outweighed the obvious inconvenience to the residents. That was an essentially political decision which his government had been elected to make. In 2001, in Hatton v United Kingdom[15], the Strasbourg court decided by a majority of 5 to 2 that there had been a violation of the rights of the local residents to privacy and family life and by a majority of 6 to 1 that there was a breach of article 13 because judicial review was an inadequate remedy for anyone who complained that such rights had been violated. The residents were of course free to sell their houses and move somewhere else and in some cases the prices they had paid originally must have reflected their proximity to the Heathrow flight path, but the Strasbourg Court nevertheless said that —
“in the absence of a prior specific and complete study with the aim of finding the least onerous solution as regards human rights, it is not possible to agree that in weighing the interferences against the economic interest of the country – which itself had not been quantified – the Government struck the right balance in setting up the 1993 Scheme.”

33. The judges of the Chamber in Strasbourg therefore considered that it was their function under the Convention was to decide whether the elected Government of the United Kingdom had struck the right balance concerning flights at Heathrow. The Government succeeded in obtaining a reference to the Grand Chamber, where the decision on article 8 was reversed by 12 votes to 5 but the Court nevertheless held by 16 votes to 1 (that being Sir Brian Kerr, the UK ad hoc judge) that judicial review had been an inadequate remedy.

34. I regard all three of these cases, and many others which I could mention if there was time, as examples of what Bentham called teaching grandmothers to suck eggs. In Brown v Stott[16] , Lord Bingham made some wise remarks about the interpretation of an international treaty like the European Convention:
“In interpreting the Convention, as any other treaty, it is generally to be assumed that the parties have included the terms which they wished to include and on which they were able to agree, omitting other terms which they did not wish to include or on which they were not able to agree. Thus particular regard must be had and reliance placed on the express terms of the Convention, which define the rights and freedoms which the contracting parties have undertaken to secure. This does not mean that nothing can be implied into the Convention. The language of the Convention is for the most part so general that some implication of terms is necessary, and the case law of the European court shows that the court has been willing to imply terms into the Convention when it was judged necessary or plainly right to do so. But the process of implication is one to be carried out with caution, if the risk is to be averted that the contracting parties may, by judicial interpretation, become bound by obligations which they did not expressly accept and might not have been willing to accept.”

35. Contrast this with the dissenting opinion in Hatton’s case of Judge Costa, who is now the President of the Strasbourg court:
“It is true that the original text of the Convention does not yet disclose an awareness of the need for the protection of environmental human rights2. In the 1950s, the universal need for environmental protection was not yet apparent…[But] as the Court has often underlined: “The Convention is a living instrument, to be interpreted in the light of present-day conditions”…This “evolutive” interpretation by the Commission and the Court of various Convention requirements has generally been “progressive”, in the sense that they have gradually extended and raised the level of protection afforded to the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Convention to develop the “European public order”. In the field of environmental human rights, which was practically unknown in 1950, the Commission and the Court have increasingly taken the view that Article 8 embraces the right to a healthy environment, and therefore to protection against pollution and nuisances caused by harmful chemicals, offensive smells, agents which precipitate respiratory ailments, noise and so on.”

36. The proposition that the Convention is a “living instrument” is the banner under which the Strasbourg court has assumed power to legislate what they consider to be required by “European public order”. I would entirely accept that the practical expression of concepts employed in a treaty or constitutional document may change. To take a common example, the practical application of the concept of a cruel punishment may not be the same today as it was even 50 years ago. But that does not entitle a judicial body to introduce wholly new concepts, such as the protection of the environment, into an international treaty which makes no mention of them, simply because it would be more in accordance with the spirit of the times.[17] It cannot be right that the balance we in this country strike between freedom of the press and privacy should be decided by a Slovenian judge saying of a decision of the German Constitutional Court —
“I believe that the courts have to some extent and under American influence made a fetish of the freedom of the press…It is time that the pendulum swung back to a different kind of balance between what is private and secluded and what is public and unshielded.”?[18]

37. What grandeur, Bentham would have said. What legislative power the judicial representative of Slovenia can wield from his chambers in Strasbourg. Out with this pernicious American influence. What do their courts or Founding Fathers know of human rights? It is we in Strasbourg who decree the European public order. Let the balance be struck differently, I say, and all the courts of Europe must jump to attention.

38. These thoughts prompt another reason why an international court such as Strasbourg should be particularly cautious in extending its reach in this way. That is because, unlike the Supreme Court of the United States or the Supreme Courts of other countries performing a similar role, it lacks constitutional legitimacy. The court now has 47 judges, one for each member state of the Council of Europe. One country, one judge; so that Liechtenstein, San Marino, Monaco and Andorra, which have a combined population slightly less than that of the London Borough of Islington, have four judges and Russia, with a population of 140 million, has one judge. The judges are elected by a sub-Committee of the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly, which consists of 18 members chaired by a Latvian politician, on which the UK representatives are a Labour politician with a trade union background and no legal qualifications and a Conservative politician who was called to the Bar in 1972 but so far as I know has never practised. They choose from lists of 3 drawn by the governments of the 47 members in a manner which is totally opaque.

39. It is therefore hardly surprising that to the people of the United Kingdom, this judicial body does not enjoy the constitutional legitimacy which the people of the United States accord to their Supreme Court. This is not an expression of populist Euroscepticism. Whatever one may say about the wisdom or even correctness of decisions of the Court of Justice in Luxembourg, no one can criticise their legitimacy in laying down uniform rules for the European Union in those areas which fall within the scope of the Treaty. But the Convention does not give the Strasbourg court equivalent legitimacy. As the case law shows, there is virtually no aspect of our legal system, from land law to social security to torts to consumer contracts, which is not arguably touched at some point by human rights. But we have not surrendered our sovereignty over all these matters. We remain an independent nation with its own legal system, evolved over centuries of constitutional struggle and pragmatic change. I do not suggest belief that the United Kingdom’s legal system is perfect but I do argue that detailed decisions about how it could be improved should be made in London, either by our democratic institutions or by judicial bodies which, like the Supreme Court of the United States, are integral with our own society and respected as such.

40. In saying this, I do not wish to minimise the importance of aspirational international statements of abstract human rights such as the Universal Declaration or the efforts of the international human rights movement which has gained such widespread support throughout the world over the past 60 years. The Universal Declaration provides a recognised standard against which governments may be criticised and are effectively criticised by other governments and international organisations. For these political activities, the Universal Declaration and the human rights movement provides powerful support. But the fraudulent Mr Saunders, the sleepless Mr Hatton and the sexually predatory Dr Al-Khawaja are unlikely to have had their causes taken up by Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International. The practices of torture, extra-judicial killings and detention without trial with which such organisations are concerned do not require a bench of 47 judges with 200 or so assistants to decide that they are violations of human rights. Indeed, it could be said to trivialise and discredit the grand ideals of international human rights that cases like the examples I have discussed should provide the material for an international law of human rights.

41. One might, I suppose, have an international tribunal which declared in general terms that the practices of a Member State were plainly not in accordance with human rights, declaring, for example, that Italy does not have an efficient court system or Russia does not have a fair one. But these are political rather than judicial statements. One does not need a court to pronounce upon them.

42. I say nothing about the enforcement of human rights by courts of universal jurisdiction, such as the International Criminal Court at The Hague. There is much that can be said for and against such a jurisdiction, which is altogether different from that of the Strasbourg court. The International Criminal Court is not concerned with the finer points of Serbian criminal procedure, or whether its limitation period for the recovery of land are too long, or whether there is a human right to sue the police for negligence and other such matters on which the Strasbourg court has assumed jurisdiction to lay down the law of England.

43. I return finally to the doctrine of the margin of appreciation, which I said the Strasbourg court had not taken nearly far enough, and as to which they had not properly stated the principle upon which it should be based. The court treats the margin as a matter of concession to Member States on the ground that they are likely to know more about local conditions than the judges in Strasbourg. In other words, they assume that in principle they are competent to decide any question about the law of a Member State which is arguably touched by human rights but sometimes abstain from exercising this vast jurisdiction on the ground that it is something which the local judges are better equipped to do. What I think they should recognise is that we are concerned with a matter of constitutional competence, that is, whether they have the right to intervene in matters on which Member States of the Council of Europe have not surrendered their sovereign powers. Even if the Strasbourg judges were omniscient, knowing the true interests of the people of the United Kingdom better than we do ourselves, it would still be constitutionally inappropriate for decisions of the kind which I have been discussing to be made by a foreign court.

44. What is to be done? We got into this position by lack of foresight. Can we get out of it? Let me clear about what the problem is. First, as I said earlier, I have no difficulty about the text of the European Convention or its adoption as part of United Kingdom law in the Human Rights Act 1998. It was largely drafted in London, intended to reflect common law understandings of human rights and, interpreted by United Kingdom courts as the American Bill of Rights is interpreted by American courts, would be a perfectly serviceable British bill of rights. There is nothing to be gained by fiddling with the language. Secondly, I think it would be valuable for the Council of Europe to continue to perform the functions originally envisaged in 1950, that is, drawing attention to violations of human rights in Member States and providing a forum in which they can be discussed. Thirdly, I have no objection to the text of the Convention being used as a standard against which a country’s compliance with human rights can be measured for the purposes of such political criticism. Fourthly, I would accept, indeed applaud, the use of this instrument at the political level as a benchmark for compliance with human rights by members of the European Union. The problem is the Court; and the right of individual petition, which enables the Court to intervene in the details and nuances of the domestic laws of Member States. Not only that: the right of individual petition, which was optional until 1998 but is now compulsory, has produced a flood of such petitions which is overwhelming the Court. On 1 November 2008 there was a backlog of 100,000 applications pending, of which 60% were from 5 countries: Russia, Turkey, Romania, Ukraine and Italy. As against that, in 2008 24,200 petitions were declared inadmissible and 1,205 judgments were given. So the backlog represents about 4 years work and is growing. As the figures show, a very large proportion of petitions were inadmissible, but the court has no summary mechanism for dealing with hopeless cases. Every petition properly filled in must go before a committee of 3 judges and then, if admissible, before a committee of 5. In 2004 the Member States signed a 14th Protocol which would enable a single judge to deal with admissibility cases and a committee of three to give final judgments in cases which are “already the subject of well-established case-law of the Court.” This is presumably so that the Court can husband its resources for larger committees to deal with cases which are not the subject of well-established case law of the court. But these cases, where the point is reasonably arguable both ways, are likely to be the very cases in which the court should not be intervening at all.

45. The 14th Protocol has not come into force because Russia has refused to ratify it. I am not altogether surprised. After all, what have the Russians to gain from increasing the turnover of the Strasbourg court? Unless, however, something is done, the court will drown in its workload. At some time the Member States of the Council of Europe will have to sit down and decide upon its future. When they do, I hope they will give more serious thought than they did in 1950 to what exactly it is supposed to do.

[1] (1803) 1 Cranch 137.
[2] Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education 402 U.S. 1 (1971)
[3] Miranda v Arizona (1966) 384 US 436.
[4] (1954) 347 US 483.
[5].(1966) 384 US 436.
[6] Wong Sun v. United States, 371 U.S. 471, 83 S. Ct. 407, 9 L. Ed. 2d 441 (1963).
[7] Contempt of Court Act 1981, sections 1 and 2.
[8] Nebraska Press Assn. v. Stuart, 427 U.S. 539 (1976)
[9] AWB Simpson, Human Rights and the End of Empire (OUP 2001).
[10] Simpson, op cit, p. 777.
[11] R v Director of Serious Fraud Office, ex parte Smith [1993] AC 1, 30-32.
[12] Istel Ltd v Tully [1993] AC 45, 53.
[13] Ex parte Cossens (1805) Buck. 410
[14] R v Scott (1856) Dears & Bell 47.
[15] (2003) 37 EHRR 611

[16] [2003] 1 AC 681, 703.
[17] See Birmingham City Council v Oakley [2001] 1 AC617, 631-632.
[18] Judge Zupančič concurring in Von Hannover v Germany (24 June 2004).