Category Archive: David’s Musings

Impending home & blog move

On 13th February I am moving to Seaham, Co. Durham; the start of a new and exciting chapter in my life. As a result, postings on WfW will understandably be of an intermittent nature as there is much to do, associated with this move, that will take up most of my time in the intervening period.

As readers will understand, it then becomes impractical to continue blogging and tweeting under the WfW banner; especially if I wish to write about local matters (by way of explanation Seaham is part of Easington Constituency – Manny Shinwell’s ‘old home’ – where the current member of parliament, Grahame Morris, has a 15,000 majority. Rest assured I will be introducing myself.). Consequently it is intended that a new blog: Scribblings from Seaham will be born and I sincerely hope that my readership will move with me.

Witterings from Witney will remain on-line for reference purposes and Scribblings from Seaham will commence output as soon after 13th February as possible – notice of the activation of SfS appearing on WfW with a redirection link.

 

 


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Intent – or bluster?

With the election of Alexis Tsipras and Syriza in Greece, a little noticed news report from Reuters (at least from what I have seen) informs us that Tsipras rubbed a few noses in the dirt on his first day as prime minister

Apparently his first act was to visit the war memorial in Kaisariani where 200 Greek resistance fighters were slaughtered by the Nazis in 1944. Next, he ‘received’ the Russian ambassador before meeting any other foreign official; followed by the announcement that radical academic Yanis Varoufakis, who once likened German austerity policies to “fiscal waterboarding”, would be taking over as Greek finance minister. A short while later, Tsipras delivered another blow, criticising an EU statement that warned Moscow of new sanctions.

When one adds into the mix that just days before polling day Tsipras informed a crowd that: On Monday, our national humiliation will be over. We will finish with orders from abroad, while in the background  loudspeakers blared lyrics from the Leonard Cohen song First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin; and it is logical to assume the European Union is in for a rocky ride.

When it is realised that the Greek people are averse to leaving the euro zone and Tsipras wishes to remain in the EU, he gives the impression of bluster – or is it?

He will be attending the EU Council Heads of State meeting on 12th/13th February and whether Tsipras is all buster or not should become apparent when the Heads of State post-meeting press conferences take place.

There are those in the blogosphere who believe that Tsipras is but indulging in what they term ‘ritual chest-beating’ prior to ‘knuckling under’. While one can but agree with the view that the EU will not let the euro or their project be damaged in any way, it should be remembered that no-one can predict the actions of a maverick – and mavericks tend to have a card up their sleeve.

It may be there is trouble – or even a rouble – that has yet to appear over the horizon? We can but watch and wait.


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Mr. Redwood – say that again, please?

John Redwood today pontificates on the perils, as he views it, of devolution – too much of which, he states, undermines the UK. Writing on the subject of devolution to Scotland, he states:

I wanted the parties of the Union last year to say to Scotland ” We would like you to stay. You are most welcome as part of our joint country. We only want volunteers in our union, so of course you are free to leave on fair terms if that is your wish. You know what the union is like. We wish to keep it broadly the same”.

Just who is this ‘We’? Just what is this ‘Our’? Since when was the decision whether Scotland should be granted the opportunity of seceding from the United Kingdom purely that of yours and your fellow politicians? Since when has the United Kingdom been ‘your’ joint country?

In the use of ‘We’ and ‘Our’, Redwood alludes to the belief that Parliament is sovereign, that only Parliament has the right to make decisions which affect those that politicians are meant to serve. No doubt Redwood may reply that his use of those two words was because the political parties were, metaphorically, speaking on behalf of the people – to which one has to ask Redwood just when were the people asked for their opinion; and as they weren’t, just how can he and others speak on their behalf?

Redwood – and those politicians like him – only illustrate, with their belief in parliamentary sovereignty, coupled with representative democracy, why there is a growing divide twixt the electorate and our political class. It is becoming more obvious by the day that people are beginning to resent being dictated to; hence the clamour for more say over their lives – and Redwood also needs to realise that the lives in question are not his property to decide.

The basis of all decisions that politicians take in our name is one of ‘one size fits all’ and Redwood and his ilk need to accept that one size does not fit all – the priorities of the Northeast are different to those of the Southeast, or any other area of the United Kingdom.

In the House of Commons politicians reserve the right to make decisions against the wishes of their party leader as a matter of personal conscience and choice. Where a ruling elite enjoy different and better privileges to the common man on matters of personal conscience and choice, then there can only exist a form of dictatorship – be that dictatorship one elected, or not.

If John Redwood cares to research the root of the word democracy, one which he is fond of using, he will find it derives from a combination of the Greek words for people and power; consequently, erudite man that he purports to be, he can only accept it is the people that are sovereign, not Parliament.

A link to this article has been posted in the comments section of Redwood’s article with the question: just who do you think you are and what makes you so different from your fellow man?

 

 

 


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2015
01/26

Category:
David's Musings

COMMENTS:
2 Comments »

EU & ‘Transparency’

Today I came across an announcement by TEN-T regarding the upgrade of facilities at Dover and Calais, the object of which was to improve transit of freight between the United Kingdom and the Continent of Europe; ie, between regions within the European Union ‘empire’.

As an aside, if you follow the links (from page to page) it becomes obvious that the EU has a policy of making the same information available on more than one page – but I digress.

As we are informed that the EU ‘contribution’ towards this project is €14,261,536, out of a total budget of €72,027,960, I was interested to ascertain exactly how much of the remaining €57,766,420 was apportioned between France and the United Kingdom, as that would be coming, presumably, from the respective taxpayers.

One of the pages to which I was led was this one - and noticed that on the left hand side was a link to the ‘info sheet’ about this project. In the left-hand column of this ‘info page’ is what appears to be a link to the Coordinator’s Report of the Priority Project: http://ec.europa.eu/transport/themes/ infrastructure/ten-t-policy/priorityprojects/europeancoordinators_en.htm (which is not a link). 

Wishing to see what this said, I cut and pasted this ‘link’ into a fresh page and was informed that the address I used was incorrect or obsolete and that I may find the information I sought here  (emphasis mine).

Now, the European Commission has a policy about transparency and from their website on this subject we learn:

The European Union’s activities today affect millions of European citizens’ lives. The decisions affecting them must be taken as openly as possible.

As a European citizen, you have a right to know how the European institutions are preparing these decisions, who participates in preparing them, who receives funding from the EU budget, and what documents are held or produced to prepare and adopt the legal acts. You also have a right to access those documents, and make your views known, either directly, or indirectly, through intermediaries that represent you.

Leaving to one side for the moment that if I had someone that actually represented my views, rather than their own or that of the political party to which they belonged, I might just do that suggested; but that statement raises some interesting points:

  • If decisions must be taken as openly as possible, and:
  • If I have a right to know how European institutions are preparing decisions, and:
  • If I have a right to know and access what documents are held or produced to prepare and adopt legal acts, and:
  • If I have a right to access those documents and make my views known;

just why the hell does the European Union make it so damn difficult?

As a result I have forwarded a link to this article to the office of the European Commission Representation in the United Kingdom  with a simple question:

“Your answer is?”

Update (11:51 – 27th Jan): A response has been received advising that there appears to be ‘a glitch in the system’ and that my inquiry has been passed to Brussels. I have been assured that I will be contacted and any response will be published on this blog.

Update 2 (19:45 – 27th Jan): A further response has been received:

Further to my earlier reply the link now appear [sic] to be  working. However  the information on how  much funding is coming from UK and France respectively has not yet been reported  (the project was started in mid-2014). We have asked colleagues in Brussels if they have any further information  and will revert to you as soon as we can.

to which I have replied:

I thank you for your efforts on my behalf, however the link, as at 17:33, is not working and if cut and pasted into a new browser, the same result is received as I previously mentioned.

Reverting to my point about transparency and the right to have access to any document relating to a particular project; why are these not collated in one place – for example listed in the side-bar? Why is it made so difficult on any website, no matter what the subject, to access all the relevant information?

As I stated, too often links are followed only to result in repetition of information that has just been read – compare the content of: http://inea.ec.europa.eu/en/ten-t/ten-t_projects/ten-t_projects_by_country/multi_country/2013-eu-21001-p.htm with: http://inea.ec.europa.eu/download/project_fiches/multi_country/fichenew_2013eu21001p_final.pdf -

and the impression received is that the European Union does not wish people to know the full facts.

In this regard, by appearing to make life difficult for a member of the public to ascertain information on any given subject, it could be held that the European Union is in breach of Article 3, TEU, in that it is practicing social exclusion and consequently is thus guilty of discrimination; the irony being that it is the very people – for whose benefit, we are led to believe, the European Union was created – that are being penalised.

Perhaps the man who stated: (a) that discrimination must have no place in our Union, whether on the basis of nationality, sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation; (b) that he is committed to enhanced transparency; (c) that he will work to regain trust in the European project; and that (d), who stated: ‘this time its different’ and that he would work to make this difference a reality, should be made aware of my concerns.

While it is appreciated that I am probably wasting my time, we all need a little amusement in our lives.

 


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Down the Greece(y) pole?

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Following the results of the Greek general election, there is speculation that Alexis Tsipras, leader of Syriza, could herald the break-up of the European Union, by threatening not to pay his debts and exiting the eurozone, with his hard-line approach to negate austerity.

The idea that Greece with but a miniscule GDP, under $250 billion and not even one percent of the eurozone, is able to ‘out-gun’ the EU must be considered far-fetched indeed. That Tsipras, for all his rhetoric, could ‘bring down’ what must be ‘the’ policy of the EU, namely that of having a single currency, can but be laughable.

As Bruno Waterfield (Telegraph) reports, Angela Merkel echoes the fear that is obvious to the EU; namely that if voters in Spain and Italy, both countries where elections are expected this year, see that Syriza is able to win major concessions then Europe’s growing populist revolt will become unstoppable – and that just ain’t gonna happen. Waterfield’s article contains quotes by some of the ‘great and good’ within the EU; and Open Europe has others – all of which leads one to believe that Tsipras, instead of getting the haircut he seeks, now has a headache.

Today has seen the ‘Ukip faithful’ taking to the twittersphere proclaiming a similarity twixt Syriza and Ukip in that what Syriza has done in Greece, Ukip can do in the United Kingdom. When considering any similarity twixt Syriza and Ukip, unfortunately one can only come to one conclusion.

The electorates in Greece and the United Kingdom are each being duped by two men who have not thought through that which they propose, consequently having no idea how to bring about that which they seek.

In summary: both have committed the cardinal sin of having no credible exit plan.


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Another Matthew Elliot ‘oops’

It has just come to my attention that Matthew Elliott, Chief Executive of Business for Britain, produces a daily email: EU Briefing who’s up and who’s down. From today’s edition we read:

UP: Road tolls, as EU Commissioner floats EU-wide road pricing 
The woman in charge of transport at the EU Commission, Violeta Bulc, has called for the introduction of a standardised European-wide road pricing system. The idea is in part a reaction to German proposals for a road toll that would be in effect be paid only by foreign drivers using Germany’s Autobahn motorways from 2016. But the idea of EU-wide road tolls levied by the Commission will spark a significant reaction in the UK where proposals for road tolls, given the high levels of taxes on drivers, have always been controversial. It suggests there is either significant political naivety in the Commission or a simple unwillingness to interfere less in the affairs of member states. 
EurActiv 

In respect of the last sentence of the above, there is no such suggestion. Having linked to the EurActiv report, had he read it properly, which he obviously had not, he would have seen that what Violeta Bulc also said was:

There are many options – a fee could be obligatory but it’s also possible to make it optional i.e. that countries decide themselves whether and on which roads they want to levy a road use charge based on kilometres driven. (Emphasis mine)

Had Elliott bothered to follow the last link in the EurActiv report he would also have seen that this proposal is not new and that the last Commission ceased pursuing the idea due to the complexity of the problems that surfaced, including the question of subsidiarity – coupled with the fact that the original proposals were intended to also be non-binding on member states.

The ‘EU-outers’ continually complain when those of the ‘EU-inners’ try to spin that which is not – and it does not help ‘EU-outers’ when one of them (supposedly) erroneously tries to out-spin the spinners.

If one is to précis a news item, it helps if said précis is factually correct?

 


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2015
01/25

Category:
David's Musings

TAG:

COMMENTS:
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Blinkered vision (again)

Tuesday January 20th was Democracy Day on the BBC across radio, TV and online, looking at democracy past, present, and future. The idea behind this was that 2015 marks the 750th anniversary of the first parliament of elected representatives at Westminster and it also sees the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta. In conjunction with the BBC’s event a research paper for the BBC’s Democracy day was produced by The Economist Intelligence Unit.

This paper attempts to set out what needs to be done with a view to negating the ever widening gap between politicians and the people they govern. It makes some important points (page 28: the UK political market is falling; it is out of sync; the system is not working) without any attempt to suggest possible cures to the faults it identifies. The gravest error the paper makes is that it never defines what is democracy and like so many assumes that representative democracy is the only form available. (Intelligence Unit? Really?)

Presumably by coincidence, two articles appeared on January 21st, one by Rafael Behr (Guardian) and the other by Paul Collier (Financial Times); both of whom also take it for granted that representative democracy is the only form available. Behr is of the opinion that while the next parliament is likely to be fractious and unmanageable.,that doesn’t worry him as much as the prospect of a campaign that works as a catalyst for all the forces of fragmentation and volatility. He is also of the opinion that Westminster is not a rancid den of corruption, nor a conspiracy against decent people; that Parliament is flawed but not wicked.

Collier on the other hand, plays a ‘suppose’ game resulting in him believing that the status quo is indefensible; that in forging a new constitutional settlement, the key is to match power to identity; that political authority should be distributed to geographic entities in correspondence to the strength of people’s attachment to them – the result of which is the creation of an English parliament, incorporating a federal system, to redress the obvious imbalances that devolution ‘a la political class’ have caused.

Readers who do refer to the three links above will all realise that the commonality between them is blinkered thought, encapsulating an inability to think ‘outside the box’. When will anyone in the media take the obvious step of considering all the forms of democracy, apply them to the United Kingdom and consider which, if any, would solve the problems about that which they write?

Hell, if amateurs can do it and arrive at a solution, why not professionals?

Afterthought: In selecting The Economist, Rafael Behr and Paul Collier for criticism it would be criminal to not mention this person who, bearing in mind Behr’s closing comment to his article, one might be forgiven thinking she really is from another planet.

 


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A Sad Sunday

It is a sad Sunday for politics and democracy in this country – although one could argue that any other day is – when one looks at the news today and articles by the ‘commentariat’. Dominating political news, it seems, is the defection of Amjad Bashir to the Conservative Party from Ukip, amid allegations and counter-allegations.

Early as it is, where consideration of ‘events Bashir’ are concerned, what seems apparent is that all  news and comment so far appears to be ignoring what are the underlying problems in both our politics and democracy.

Bashir has an article in the Mail which contains a repeat of well-worn statements by those who have fallen out with Farage. Complaining that all Farage wants is power for himself can be countered by the accusation that that appears to be all that any politician wants – why else does a politician seek and accept higher and higher office in their attempts to climb the political ladder?

In another article, this time a report in the Telegraph, Bashir claims Ukip is a party of ruthless self-interest, to which once again the same accusation can be made against any other political party — do we not see this on a daily basis as each party scrambles for power, or to retain power? 

To accuse Farage of treating Ukip as a vanity project for his own dictatorial aims is laughable – is this not what happens every time a new party leader assumes that position? Farage is no more guilty of this than was Blair; or is Cameron and Miliband. Witness how this country has been directed down different and conflicting paths based on the ideology of the party leader in question (see Janet Daley’s column in today’s Sunday Telegraph). All prime ministers, of whatever hue, assume what may be termed dictatorial powers – and they are able to so do because (a) they surround themselves with those who may not necessarily agree with all the prevailing ideology of the time, but who perceive a path to further their own careers; and, (b) they do so knowing that there is squat diddly those they govern can do to counter decisions taken in their name, for a number of years.

Every time there is a defection of a politician from one party to another it creates a frenzy of words, both in the MSM and on social media – and for what purpose while politics and our democracy retain their status quo? Because of this, generally the actual effect of a political defection is akin to tossing a stone into an ocean – the ripple effect is minimal where governance of our country is concerned.

On the matter of Bashir’s defection it seems unclear at the moment whether he will stand for re-election, with one comment on twitter that he will not. If he does not it can be argued that those who voted for him and his party last May are now technically disenfranchised as they no longer have someone to represent them. As a further aside, it could be said that Carswell and Reckless followed an honourable course of action following their defection in the opposite direction – albeit, allowing for the adverse publicity that Ukip will now undoubtedly receive, a course of action that could be held as being a tad ‘reckless’. In respect of Bashir, if he does not stand for re-election, a question: should those that voted for him now withhold any taxation that is bound for the EU on the basis of no taxation without representation? Couple all that with the assertion Bashir has been a member of Conservative, then Ukip and has now reverted to Conservative leads one to assume he is but a personal and political opportunist.

What we are witnessing with the ‘Bashir Pantomime’, coupled with the views of our politicians and the ‘commentariat’ on this, is the fact it is all about the advantages and disadvantages of/to both parties; and not one mention of the electorate and how it affects them – who. to their discredit, seem content to go along with being herded like sheep by the political class and the media, but consequently do no more than bleat when they voice complaint.

We are told that we all have our price - and where politics and democracy is concerned it would appear that, in general, the price of the electorate in this country is pretty low.

 

 

 

 

 


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‘British’ Influence?

One of the supposed ‘hallmarks’ of British character is that we are told he/she always ‘plays by the rules’ or ‘plays with a straight bat’ (to use two cricketing analogies). Extending that further, in my opinion that also means that Britishers can be considered decent and trustworthy – thus always telling the truth. It then follows that in attempting to influence another person, someone British will do so using fact.

Bearing the foregoing in mind, the supposed ‘think-tank’ British Influence is most definitely misnamed.

First, we had David Hannay, Lord Hannay of Chiswick, former UK ambassador to the EU and UN, posing rhetorical questions on the website of British Influence that have already been answered, coupled with the fact that his answers to his own questions were economical with the actualité, to say the least. Lo and behold, also published by British Influence, is a speech by Oona King given at British Influence’s event Britain in Europe, 2015: Leading or leaving? As with Hannay’s article, so with King as this too contains so many examples of being economical with the actualité as to be laughable; and both are being passed off as ‘gospel’ – and so done with a ‘straight face’.

Purely my view, but I believe both are a disgrace to the idea of ‘Britishness’ where any idea of fair play and truthfulness is concerned – even perhaps their passports should be seized under the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill, as soon as it becomes law. After all, is not part of a nation’s security, its sovereignty – and are they not suggesting that that should be undermined?

 

 


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When is a lie just an untruth?

A short but interesting article appears on the website of Prospect Magazine by A.C. Grayling, Master of the New College of the Humanities, the title of which is: Should it be illegal to tell lies in parliament? – and, by inference, whether such an act should be punishable in a court of law.

In differentiating twixt an untruth and a lie, Grayling maintains that a lie is a deliberate, conscious untruth, the intention of which is to mislead and manipulate; and in the case of the highest court in the land, the court of parliament; and that deliberate and intentional misleading of fellow legislators and the public at large is a profoundly serious matter.

Grayling poses two questions/examples when it may be necessary/acceptable to lie in Parliament:

One clear case might be when matters of national security are genuinely at stake, in such sensitive circumstances that even parliament cannot yet be told what is happening. Suppose an opposition MP asks a question directly relevant to those circumstances, and in reply a minister tells a conscious and deliberate lie. It might be that the lie is never discovered until government papers are opened to inspection decades later. Is this justifiable? In these circumstances the answer might well be Yes.

A second clear case is when ministers wish to do something that they know will meet serious opposition unless they tell a conscious lie that persuades others to give way. If what they wish to do is a matter of policy, choice or preference, rather than something justifiable on the kind of grounds just envisaged, then the lie is obviously unacceptable, and is the type of case where questions about sanctions arise.

For the sake of what follows, perhaps we can assume an untruth results in misleading the audience to which it is given and is due to a lack of knowledge about the subject matter; whereas a lie results in misleading the audience to which it is given, done knowingly – and invariably done for personal or political gain.

In his article Grayling states that there have been egregious examples of, what he terms, untruths told to parliament in recent times and in so doing citing the Iraq war. Others that immediately spring to mind are: Ted Heath (there will be no loss of sovereignty in our joining what was the EEC); the distortion of truth, or lie, contained in the Coalitions ‘manifesto’ about the recall of MPs; more recently Cameron’s distortion of truth on the matter of Norway being ‘governed by fax’.

Bearing in mind my definition between an untruth and a lie, in my mind it is beyond doubt that all the examples offered in the preceding paragraph were deliberate lies.

Another question arises, following Graying’s article: what is the difference between a lie offered to Parliament and a lie offered to the British people? In any event, where the lie is immediately recognised by the people they can do nothing about it for anything between one and five years – and by the time the people do have the opportunity to hold the politician to account; (a) it will have more than likely to have been forgotten and (b) the political class will do their utmost to ensure it has been forgotten.

Politicians are quick to apologise to the house for things that have ‘gone wrong on their watch’, probably/possibly without their knowledge. So why has Cameron not apologised for lying to the people on the Norway ‘governed by fax’ matter, especially when the dossier I handed to him showed that he had. Would not the ‘stock’  of any politician rise with the public where he/she to return and apologise, especially were it shown that he/she had been mis-briefed? As an aside, it may be recalled that in my response to Cameron’s ‘non-reply’ to the charges I made in my dossier I reminded him that for a politician to be called a liar was, I admitted, a serious matter; and that if he felt his integrity had been called into question, then perhaps he may wish to institute court proceedings. Needless to say, to date, nothing further has been heard.

The relationship between the political class and the people must be one based on truth and that must also be one of the basis for democracy to work for the benefit of all. Politicians are in the position whereby they can decide what is the truth, aided and abetted by the mainstream media. If we are to take Cameron’s statement at face value, made on the steps of Downing Street when he ‘assumed’ office then we still have the position whereby the tail still wags the dog – another reason why our current system of democracy is not fit for purpose.


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