Tag Archive: Democracy

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose (7)

Big fleas have little fleas,
Upon their backs to bite ‘em,
And little fleas have lesser fleas,
and so, ad infinitum.

And the great fleas, themselves, in turn
Have greater fleas to go on;
While these again have greater still,
And greater still, and so on.

A childhood rhyme which perfectly illustrates the complexity involved when attempting to discover the origins of law, viz-a-viz local government, national government, the EU and the various United Nations bodies; not forgetting the role played by NGOs, pressure groups, etc.

Readers may recall that on the 1st of this month I wrote about Ed Miliband’s plan to devolve power by means of Combined Authorities and linked it to Hazel Blears’ attempt to create Multi-Area Agreements (MAAs). Of course prior to that we had John Prescott’s failed attempt to create regional government in the North East; and subsequently, with the faux election of the present Coalition government in 2010, the replacement of Regional Assemblies with Local Area Partnerships (same animal, different name).

It will also be recalled by readers that the EU never gives up in its aim of creating a ‘European state’, leaving no stone unturned in the hope of achieving something it has so far failed to do – the creation of a European demos.

It will therefore come as no surprise to see that the idea of regionalisation has reappeared under the guise of creating an Urban Agenda; an idea in which the Committee of the Regions (CoR) and the European Economic Social Committee (EESC) will also have a ‘finger in the pie’.

Today Johannes Hahn, EU Regional Policy Commissioner is asking EU citizens to share their views on an EU Urban Agenda – what form it should take and how it should be put into action. The Commissioner is calling for a wide engagement by stakeholders and city dwellers in a public consultation alongside a formal Communication just published by the European Commission – a document entitled: The Urban Dimension of EU Policies – Key Features of an EU Urban Agenda (Well worth reading – it is only 12 pages).The weight of any views from an individual will no doubt be zilch when those of the stakeholders are also included.

Returning to the subject of fleas – and their order of importance – where the setting of global standards is concerned, with food standards Codex is the top table – and there are many others, all under the aegis of the United Nations. There is also, for example: the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) based in Rome; the United Nations Economic Council (UNECE) based in Geneva; the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) based in Paris; the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) based in Montreal; the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) based in Basel; and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) based in Bonn.

If readers have referred to the formal Communication they will see referenced (among others too numerous to mention at this juncture) the OECD and the UNFCCC. The OECD for example is responsible for The definition of a Functional Urban Area (FUA); and from page 2 we read that the OECD in collaboration with the EU (Eurostat and EC-DG Regio) has developed a harmonised definition of urban areas as “functional economic units”.

Like the Phoenix, a mythical bird that arises from its own ashes, so has the regionalisation meme been reborn, albeit under another name and policy. At this point it becomes necessary to question the origin of Labour’s policy for Combined Authoritities; and in this instance, just for once, I do not digress – you work it out, its not difficult.

It will also be noted that Miliband, like Cameron, is indeed a small flea.

 


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More vacuous journalism

Writing in the Independent, Yasmin Alibhai Brown conveniently supplies yet more ammunition to uphold some of the points made in my previous post yesterday about the deficits in our system of democracy.

She writes about how she feels sorry for politicians who get grief from their colleagues, whips and leaders, pitiless media folk (including me) and perpetually discontented citizens, many of whom can’t be bothered to shuffle off the sofa and cast a vote once every five years.

The fact that politicians get the grief they do is purely down to the political system presently allowed to exist – intensified of course by the lack of separation twixt Executive and Legislature. She writes about pitiless media folk – I would have thought ‘pitiful’ would be a far better term to use; but once again I may be guilty of digression.

One has to ask whether it is any wonder that people can’t be bothered to stir from their sofas to exercise their franchise when only a fool is unable to see the obvious reason why. It matters not who they vote for, they remain hectored, cajoled and ordered where leading their lives is concerned; they have no means whereby they can confront their politicians on a daily basis and demand – or if necessary enforce – change to policies implemented with which the majority disagree.

In this article we get trotted out the old canard that not all Members of Parliament were involved in the expenses scandal, with the intimation that this has been the sole cause of our ‘dysfunctional democracy’. Wikipedia provide a useful reminder of the background to the expenses scandal and its revelations; and while some Members of Parliament and Peers were ‘made examples of’, it is obvious that abuses were widespread with the majority of politicians somehow excused of their actions.

Also in this article we are treated to a plea for sympathy from Ken Clarke, who ends by asking whether that which he appears to have suffered is worth all the pain and humiliation. Contrasting with Clarke’s admission that he was unable to succeed in the appointments he has been given, we can but compare the record of Owen Paterson who it is reported took his brief at Defra by the scruff of the neck, to the point where he effected change for the better – and all within two years.

Where Clarke is concerned one can then ask (a), why was he appointed to the numerous positions he has occupied bearing in mind that he was, by his own admission, ineffectual; and (b), presumably because of the power he was able to wield, coupled with the additional salary, it would seem that it most definitely was worth all the pain and humiliation.

That Brown’s article would appear to be no more than an apology for her previous article, to which she links, is obvious to the extent that it is intended as a means to mend fences that she herself knocked down. I have oft made the assertion that it is difficult to discern in whose pocket is who where the relationship twixt politicians and the media is concerned – this article is but an illustration of that assertion.

 


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There in lies the problem

James Forsyth, writing on the Speccie Coffee House blog, has an article in which he writes about the ‘after-shocks’ now becoming apparent post the recent reshuffle. Unfortunately (but then why would he change the habit of a lifetime) Forsyth only scratches at the surface.

The ‘rumours’ about the ‘promises’ extracted by Philip Hammond may or may not be true; Esther McVey may well have done more than flutter her eyelashes at Cameron; and Paterson and Fox may well be planning to ‘rough-up’ Cameron over Europe.

If I were Hammond I would not trust any assurance or promise given me by someone who has a history of reneging on such; also it is often said that any woman who trusts the word of a man is a fool; and it will be interesting, if true, to see just how far Paterson and Fox will go in their attempts to discomfort Cameron.

If friendship does exist among political colleagues then it is a dangerous development because true friendship can cloud decisions that one must take – be that in business, politics or ones private relationships. Should decisions that need to be made, especially in the world of business and politics not be made due to ones friendship for another then it means that the right person for a post will not be appointed in case it upsets a friend.

Forsyth writes that Cameron has severed the emotional bonds between himself and the modernisers who propelled him to power. The question has to be asked, however, is why did those modernisers ‘propel Cameron to power’ if not in the hope that when the time came he would reward them with a push up their career ladder. One is reminded of the old saying: you pays your money and you take your choice. Knowing that were the positions reversed, it is reasonable to assume Gove – seeking to ensure his own political career and hold on ultimate power – would probably have taken the same decision as did Cameron. Much has been made of the fact that Sarah Vine supposedly baby-sat for Samantha Cameron, but then did she so do in order to keep her husband ‘in favour’? Cynical? Moi?

Such is the murky world of politics that we know not about such ‘rumours’; and probably never will. But if such are true, is democracy per se best served by what may only be termed: shananigans? If friendship does exist, to the point where it interferes with the best governance of this country, is democracy per se best served by such? If a group of people can ‘engineer’ one man to be leader of their political party for future personal gain, is democracy per se best served by such?

In an article which appeared in today’s Sunday Telegraph, Owen Paterson writes:

By this I mean the mutually supportive network of environmental pressure groups, renewable energy companies and some public officials who keep each other well supplied with lavish funds, scare stories and green tape. This tangled triangle of unelected busybodies claims to have the interests of the planet and the countryside at heart, but it is increasingly clear that it is focusing on the wrong issues and doing real harm while profiting handsomely.

Perhaps readers have an opinion on whether those whom Paterson castigates are any different to those who ‘engineer’ for their own political ends, while also assuring us that they have our best interests at heart? Can it not be said that they too are focusing on the wrong issues and doing real harm to our country while profiting handsomely?

It is logical to assume that we, the people, will never be totally au fait with the ‘intricacies’ of the political world, be that national or local; and least of all the ‘murkier’ side. Yes, we need ‘governance, but only governance in the sense of managing the affairs of our country in the way in which we want them managed.

There are too many facets encapsulated within said process regarding the management of our country about which we not only know nothing and , as a result, over which we have no control. Bearing in mind that it is the people who  ‘own’ this country (not, in percentage terms, a relatively small clique) and it is our money that keeps them in a lifestyle to which they have become accustomed; has the time not come whereby we need to show just who is the boss?

Oh, forgive me, I totally forgot: we live under representative democracy whereby those we elect to manage our country are supposed to reflect the views of those who elect them. Silly me.

 


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The Presentation Game

Charles Moore, in his op-ed Telegraph piece yesterday writes that David Cameron reshuffled the Conservative Party out of its best claim to re-election in 2015, for the sake of dubious PR gloss; making the same point as I did earlier. Where the demise of Owen Paterson as Defra Secretary of State is concerned it could be suggested that Cameron, recalling this article, suddenly realized that he had a rebel in his tent; thus the decision to ‘de-camp’ him.

However, David Cameron is not alone in playing the presentation game, one only has to cast ones eyes towards Ed Miliband and the speech he gave today in Milton Keynes. Yet again it is a speech comprising of nothing but ‘sound bites’ – and poorly connected ones too. Miliband says: So many people tell me that they are working 50, 60 hours a week unable to see their kids. We will make life that little bit easier for Mums and Dads across Britain. It is why I am proud to say the next Labour government will legislate for 25 hours free childcare, paid for by a higher levy on the banks. Just how does providing 25 hours free childcare provide more time for parents with their children? This is on a par with the story I covered about his plans to to create a new rail authority to keep down ticket prices and cut taxpayer costs. A great sound bite: keep down ticket prices and cut taxpayer costs; but that does not explain how he can keep fares down and reduce subsidies at the same time.

Presentation has many facets within the world of politics; whether it is giving us more ‘totty in short skirts’ in a Cabinet; presenting eye-catching policies that cannot be delivered; or publicly claiming to find the European Union and membership of it abhorrent while, at the same time, taking taxpayers money to further its aims.

Unfortunately, as the 2015 general election gets nearer, the Presentation Game conveyor belt will contain more and more ‘goodies’ on it – shrouded so we cannot see too much detail – culminating in the ‘star prize’ which will consist of a manifesto through which a horse and cart could be driven.

All we lack is Bruce Forsyth to oversee this entirely superficial programme.

 

 

 


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A libertarian speech

It is not the function of our Government to keep the citizen from falling into error; it is the function of the citizen to keep the government from falling into error.
Robert H. Jackson (1892-1954), U.S. Supreme Court Justice, American Communications Assn v. Douds, 1950

Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one; for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries by a government, which we might expect in a country without government, our calamities are heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer.
Thomas Paine

 

On 9th July 2013 Senator David Leyonhjelm (New South Wales) gave his maiden speech in the Australian Senate, the video of which is a must watch for anyone with libertarian tendencies, especially anyone  who believes in democracy (people power).

Every minute spent listening to his speech (which lasts 21 minutes) is a minute well spent – enjoy.

His comments about taxation and liberty are powerful sentiments – if only we in the UK had a politician who had given this speech.

All of that for which Leyonhjelm campaigns is encapsulated in The 6 Demands because, as he says, politicians should be the people’s servants, not their masters.

 

 


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Will no one rid us of faux eurosceptics?

Still politicians continue this faux idea that any EU Commissioner has a loyalty to his/her own country – the latest politician so doing being John Redwood who maintains that Lord Hill will lead a ‘split life’.

As a comment from Brian Tomkinson points out, by quoting the oath that EU commissioners swear, it means they declare fealty to the European Union and its aims. Just what is it that Redwood and others do not understand, that they continue to try and kid us otherwise?

Redwood writes, in regard to Hill’s appearance before the European Parliament:

They will want him to be loyal to the Treaties Conservatives have opposed, loyal to a federally inclined Commission which we oppose, and keen on the project of ever closer union which the UK cannot accept.

which begs the questions: (a) why then have Redwood’s party gone along with being a member of the EU; and (b), why the hell are we sending anyone in the first place?

Of course Redwood wants the UK to leave the EU, but the linked post above is but another example of a politician complying with the ‘party line’  and a strategy of renegotiation that can never be achieved.

In his wish to leave the European Union, Redwood is wanting decisions made by those over whom we, the people, have no day-today control replaced by another group over whom we also would have no day-to-day control.

Where Redwood and other supposed eurosceptics are concerned one cannot help but be reminded of a famous saying of Groucho Marx:

Those are my principles and if you don’t like them – well, I have others.

 

NB: I have posted this in the comments section in support of Brian Tomkinson’s comment.

Update (21:44) It is noticed that my comment has yet to appear even though later ones do – which leads me to believe that either (a) I have offended someone’ sensibilities; or (b), the truth is not liked when it appears.

 


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The EU keeps the peace?

Readers will no doubt have surmised that the lack of posting yesterday evening was due to events ‘flight MH17′ and watching/reading all the speculation that ensued.

Of all the speculation that was offered, that on Russia Today (RT) was the most facile with two ‘talking heads speculating that when a report came in that Putin’s plane had been in the area at the time, possibly a mistake had been made in the identification as that of the latter was also was also red, white and blue – like at 30,000 feet it would be possible to see this from the ground? In any event only minutes later a denial that Putin’s plane had been airborne was issued by Moscow.

As speculation is ‘all the rage’ let us add to it. It is possible that had the EU not got ‘expansion happy’ and not attempted to bring Ukraine into its sphere of influence Russia would not have felt it necessary to safeguard its Black Sea ports (especially as there is a signed agreement in place twixt Ukraine and Russia regarding the use of said facilities – albeit there are disagreements still rumbling about the ‘working details’); Russian separatists would not have felt it necessary to cause trouble and Russia would not have then felt it necessary to arm them; meaning that the downing of MH17 would not have happened.

One thing for sure is, ‘pound to a penny’, both the US and Russia with their surveillance abilities more than likely know damn well what happened, with both now working out how to minimise the fallout while making it acceptable for public consumption.

Once again we find that politicians, over whom we have no direct control, have got themselves and us into a potential conflict situation and all will now be backpedaling like mad to ‘save face’.

Just speculating……………………………………


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More of the same – plus ça change, etc, etc.

With 422 votes in favour, the European Parliament elected Jean-Claude Juncker in a secret ballot as President of the new European Commission to take office on 1 November 2014 for a five year term.

Prior to this ‘election’ Jean Claude ‘addressed’ the European Parliament, said address which can be read here, with the main points (according to the European Commission website) which can be read here. For some reason this momentous event appears to have escaped the attention of the British media – but once again, I digress.

My own personal opinion of the content of Juncker’s intentions can be summed up in two words: ‘More Europe’, it being ‘federalist’ in content.

Witness ‘energy: For long we have been led to believe by our political class that ‘fracking’ would provide a limitless energy source for the UK, that through exports it would ‘turn round’ the economy of our country – yet now we find it is to be a ‘pooled resource’.

We have been informed by Cameron that we need to ‘reclaim our borders’, yet now we see that we need more solidarity in our immigration policy.

Likewise we have been informed by Cameron that ‘ever closer union’ is as dead as the proverbial duck, yet now we find that we must move forward as a Union, but not necessarily all at the same speed – to which one can assume that ever closer union is not the dead duck we have been informed it is. Talk of Associate Membership will then be but a means to an end – did not Monnet state that slow, incremental steps (hidden in plain sight) would be necessary to achieve a United States of Europe?

Then we come to the mantra about the composition of the commission and gender equality. Has not Martin Schulz said that an increase in the gender equality of the new commission is a must, otherwise it stands little chance of acceptance? So what does Cameron do? Nominates a man as his offering to Juncker.

How many times have we heard, come each European election, that ‘this time its different’? It never is different as at the heart of this project is ever closer union.

Jean Claude may well talk about being committed to ‘democracy and reform’ – in respect of the former, where is it; and in respect of the latter, just how do you reform a project that cannot be reformed if it is to maintain its ultimate aim?

Good luck, Mr Cameron , with your reform and renegotiation agenda!


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News is how it is interpreted

In today’s Open Europe Press Summary there is mention of a comment on the nomination of Lord Hill by Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament.

He is quoted in both Reuters Deutschland and Handelsblatt, with the Google translation telling us:

EU Parliament President Martin Schulz has expressed skepticism about the British EU commission candidate Lord Jonathan Hill. “I can not imagine that Hill with his radical anti-European views if he should have, in the European Parliament, a majority agrees with me,” Parliament President Martin Schulz told the Germany radio on Wednesday. A rejection was “not possible”.

In contrast Open Europe informs us:

Meanwhile, speaking to Deutschlandfunk radio this morning, Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament said of Hill, “I cannot imagine that with his radical anti-European views, as far as he should hold them, that Hill can get a majority in the European Parliament… It will become clear if Mr Hill approaches us without prejudice, and that will certainly influence whether or not he gets a majority [in the EP].” He added that a rejection of Hill “cannot be ruled out.”

Martin Schulz has no comedic tendencies (unlike his namesake Charles M. Schulz, originator of the Peanuts strip cartoon) being a very serious, committed believer in the European Union. As such, he knows that the European Parliament can only accept the nominees as a whole – they cannot veto the appointment of an individual nominee. If Lord Hill is ‘blackballed’, a word in Juncker’s ear will be delivered and he then has the choice of reshuffling his commission portfolios and if the word in his ear is ‘no way, not under any circumstances’ then Juncker would have to ask Cameron for a replacement commission nominee.

While accepting that Google translate is not the best, there is a great deal of difference between ‘not possible’ and ‘cannot be ruled out’. Perhaps Open Europe should have clarified this section of their press summary, because what their press summary alludes to is the idea that Hill, as an individual, can be rejected.

If we now look at the transcript of the interview with Deutschlandfunk we find that what Schulz said is that a Commission which included Hill, or any other eurosceptic, may not be accepted. Pressed further it is then that Schulz says:

Yes, of course! This is not ruled out.

Not only that but we learn that Schulz spoke to David Lidington about Lord Hill – something which it appears is not mentioned by the British media. Note also the ‘slur’ by Schulz when he refers to Lord Hill as Mister Hill – but I digress.

Open Europe is not renowned for authenticity where matters EU are concerned and their views are quite often picked up by the media, either being quoted verbatim or ‘interpreted’ – the latter then presenting an entirely different story for public consumption.

This example is but another that shows being economical with the actualité only leads to the public being misinformed. While this practice continues just how is the public supposed to form an opinion on which to base their views, or vote come any referendum?

 


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Over the hill?

Slipped out during all the re-shuffle announcements was one that informed us Lord Hill was to be Cameron’s nominee for a European Union Commission post. One can well imagine Nigel Farage’s statement to Van Rompuy echoing round the country – just who the hell are you? I’ve never heard of you.

Mark Wallace, on ConservativeHome, has an article on this appointment – but one has to ask whether it was Grommit that actually penned it. I inquire because anyone who can write:

The British Commissioner, along with the Foreign Secretary, has a crucial job to do if the Prime Minister is to stand even a miniscule chance of being able to wave a renegotiation in the air and proclaim it a success.

and:

Ultimately, the success or failure of Lord Hill will rest on the performance of Philip Hammond at the FCO and Downing Street. They choose how to play the renegotiation, and what public signals to send to other EU leaders.

really should go back to school and learn their ‘times tables’ as what is written just does not add up.

We all know – or should know by now – that an EU Commissioner has but one responsibility; and that is to the EU. In any event someone who admits that he is not very good at thinking long term ahead ain’t going to be much use to Jean Claude. Bearing in mind that (a) Juncker is reported to have said that if Cameron wishes to secure an important Commission post he stands a better chance if he nominates a woman; and (b), the state of relationship that currently exists twixt Juncker and Cameron, then one can only presume Lord Hill will end up with the portfolio for counting paper clips.

Having been given the opportunity of a job that is well paid and provides one hell of a good pension, I for one am not surprised that he still has a smile on his face – mind you, that smile may well disappear rather quickly if he does not get past his ‘interview’ with the EU Parliament.

Just saying…………………………………………………….

 

 


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