"If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen."

Sunday, 30 May 2010

It's All Too Much

An MP doorsteps a constituent
Rabbit Humps Cat
I find it barely credible that David Laws is being lauded for his integrity by all sides of the House and sections of the media who are closing ranks around him.  We're not only supposed to be grateful that he's apologised, stood down quickly and repaid the money but that he's also waived the usual severance pay for MPs.

The general tenor of his colleagues' comments today seems to be that concerns for his privacy absolve him from any blame in the £40k expenses fiasco and he will soon be back in government.  The media is diverting attention on to his homosexuality and away from the fraud but that won't wash.  If I wanted to keep my sexuality secret even I'd know not to divert £40k from taxpayers and pay it to my boyfriend - and I don't have a double first in PPE.

He had every opportunity to set the record straight last year and I can only think that the reason he didn't is because he didn't foresee that he would ever be in government - and to be honest, neither did we!  How many other MPs have been let off the expenses hook or are keeping quiet because they don't expect to come under scrutiny?

The deep damage and hurt done to this country and its people by the last thirteen years of Labour government won't allow excuses now, no matter how bright the Minister.  Neither is being gay the issue here and we shouldn't get railroaded by other MPs, Ministers or the press (Polly Toynbee is already all over the airwaves saying it's a shame that he's been hounded out because of his sexuality and she's calling for new privacy laws!).

Cameron:  "A good and honourable man."
Clegg:  "When these questions have been addressed, I very much hope that there will be an opportunity for him to rejoin the Government.’’
Ken Clarke:  “He may well’’ be able to satisfy the parliamentary standards commissioner that his expenses arrangements were excused by his desire not to reveal his sexuality.
Alan Duncan:  "... a much liked and talented person.  I’m upset by the hurt this must have caused him and I hope he’ll soon be back."
Ian Duncan-Cough: “I am deeply sorry that he has had to go.  I have no question at all that he has the talent to be back.’’
Osborne: “put on earth’’ to do the job of Chief Secretary and bring down the deficit.
Liam Byrne: “... a hugely talented man and I think he does now deserve the space to gather himself together.’’

A more intelligent last word goes to Ben Summerskill, chief executive of gay rights campaign group Stonewall: "If in future the multi-millionaire MP wants to channel £40,000 to a partner, perhaps he might consider writing a cheque."

Sunday Reflection

Sunday Round-up

David Laws stands down He's gone quickly and with as much dignity as possible in the circumstances but he's replaced by Scottish Secretary, Danny Alexander.
The 'pointless' Saville Inquiry  "...the curious thing about the day is that most of the key facts are essentially uncontested, and have been since long before Saville. "  Nineteen lawyers have become millionaires through the Saville Inquiry.
Afghanistan strategy reviewed at Chequers Government officials stressed last night that they were not anticipating any dramatic change of policy. The meeting would be an opportunity to "brainstorm" and pool ideas so the coalition could speak as one on tactics and the overall purpose of a mission now involving more than 9,000 UK troops.
Taxman vetoes peerage for Bamford  "Days before the list was published on Friday, Bamford wrote to Cameron withdrawing his name from the process".  Party funding and 'cash for honours' are back in the headlines.
Muslim extremist, Zakir Naik, granted visa to enter Britain  "Naik will be appearing at Wembley Arena in London and in Sheffield on his British tour. "  It seems we have another government in need of a backbone.  Has Michael Savage, the US broadcaster, been taken off the banned list yet?
Prisoners must have vote or Britain will face ECHR Several law firms launch claims on behalf of thousands of UK prisoners who are demanding compensation – estimated to be as much as £750 each – on the grounds they were illegally denied the right to vote at the last general election.
Air-head Featherstone warned  Indiscreet twittering gets new Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone into hot water.

Around the world:

Chinese dam causes earthquakes and landslides  "The local government hastily moved out of a prestigious new block after experts warned that it was unsafe but ordinary people have been left to fend for themselves.  “What kind of dogshit government moves itself out and moves us into somewhere like this?”  Er... ...  one that thinks itself better than the people it's supposed to serve?
Europe on the march over austerity measures  "Thomas Klau, of the European Council on Foreign Relations, said: “The welfare state will inevitably change and become less protective. But it’s important to remember that we in Europe are in a luxurious position compared to the rest of the world.  If we want to keep our first-class seat we will need to change the way that the carriage is built and run.” I assume he's talking about the euro elite and their seats on the gravy train.
Russian Olympics whistleblower flees to UK He [Morozov] filmed the official being handed a shopping bag containing roubles and euros worth £90,000. At the end of the meeting the bureaucrat left with the cash.  He has already paid a price for speaking out... said that his company had been kicked off the Olympics hotel building site and had its machinery confiscated. He claims he is owed large sums of money by the state.
Sarkozy resurrects Napoleon's dream of a 'maritime metropolis' "...landlocked Paris risked becoming an irrelevant “museum city” unless it tied its future to Le Havre, 100 miles to the northwest in Normandy at the mouth of the River Seine. The report has recommended the construction of a port called “Paris Normandy” at Le Havre, which would become not only a leading hub of international maritime commerce but also a cultural capital and gateway to Paris."
UK economists urge Greece to give up euro and default on debt McWilliams called the move “virtually inevitable” and said other members may follow.  “The only question is the timing,” he said. “The other issue is the extent of contagion. Spain would probably be forced to follow suit, and probably Portugal and Italy, though the Italian debt position is less serious.  “Could this be the last weekend of the single currency? Quite possibly, yes.”
Attempts to curb press freedom in Italy No more reporting of criminal investigations before they come to trial (even if that takes years). No more recording or photographing of anyone, even a Mafia boss, unless that person approves. Only members of the state-approved "National Order of Journalists" allowed to film or record. Fines approaching half-a-million euros for publishers who transgress, with €20,000 per reporter also on the table.
Israel deploys nuclear subs off Iran The first has been sent in response to Israeli fears that ballistic missiles developed by Iran, Syria and Hezbollah could hit sites in Israel, including air bases and missile launchers. Tel Aviv, Israel’s business and defence centre, remains the most threatened city in the world, said one expert. “There are more missiles per square foot targeting Tel Aviv than any other city,” he said.
N Korea exporting nuclear technology International efforts to avert a full-blown crisis on the Korean peninsula were given greater urgency today after a leaked UN report claimed that North Korea is defying UN sanctions and using front companies to export nuclear and missile technology to Iran, Syria and Burma.
Volcanoes erupt in Ecuador & Guatemala Let's all pay higher 'green' taxes, have compulsory recycling and buy into carbon credit trading scams schemes in order to stop this sort of thing - it's the right thing to do.
Mobile phones implicated in loss of honey bees After three months researchers recorded a dramatic decline in the size of the hive fitted with the mobile phone, a significant reduction in the number of eggs laid by the queen bee. The bees also stopped producing honey. The queen bee in the "mobile" hive produced fewer than half of those created by her counterpart in the normal hive.
BP's Gulf oil spill threatens 8,300 species of plants & animals   A true man-made environmental tragedy as undersea 'dead zones' are being created.

This week's No Shit Sherlock Award goes to:

The British Chamber of Commerce for their warning of a 'new' recession  The worsening eurozone debt crisis and financial market upheavals of recent weeks risk plunging Britain back into recession, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) warns today.

After reading this week's Sundays, how anyone can think we live in a sane, ethical world governed by intelligent, altruistic and benign leaders is beyond me.   That's not a visionary gleam we see in their eyes, it's just mad.

Turkish GP: 2005

Only 18 seconds long but it's 18 seconds of heavenly sound:

The final ten minutes of the 2005 race

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Dennis Hopper (1936 - 2010), RIP

Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

Not Again!

Here's a tough one for Cameron.  Chief Secretary to the Treasury David Laws has quickly gained a reputation for being a man whose actions match his tough words on cutting waste in government departments but he's now up to his eyes in an expenses row.

From 2004 to 2009 he claimed the cost of renting a room in his partner's home - sums varying between £700 and £950 per month - and has already referred himself to John Lyon,  the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner  He's also apologised and said he will repay the money (£40k) immediately.  He says it was done to protect the privacy of himself and his partner and that there was no profit motive.

Mr Laws also made a series of claims every month for maintenance, repairs, telephone bills and utilities.

Why didn't he sort this out last year when the expenses scandal was at its height?  Whatever happens now, he's tainted and it's such a  let-down.

Law's partner, James Lundie, works for Edelman UK, "the largest independent lobbying firm in the UK marketplace".  He formerly worked as an advisor to Paddy Ashdown and Charles Kennedy.  At the time of writing this, Edelman's website is down so I can't provide the link.

Btw - is £950 a month the going rate for renting a room in a flat in London these days?  If so, did Mr Lundie declare it to the taxman?  I also wonder if all this had something to do with David Laws' non-appearance at Question Time - talk about coincidence.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Quote Of The Day

“It is an enormous change.  It explains some of the reticence.  It is expressly forbidden in the treaties by the famous no bail-out clause.  De facto, we have changed the treaty.”

Pierre Lellouche, French Minister for Europe

Is He Still Here?

It's Campbell, of course.  He's back where he wants to be, at the centre of attention, spinning and weaving his way through 'plots', scams and headlines of his own making.

Why didn't Question Time invite a shadow opposition minister to go opposite a front bench minister instead of this lying, conniving, has-been?  As it was I thought Dimbleby gave too much leeway to both Campbell and Morgan who were vying with each other to see who could run off at the mouth the loudest and the longest.  Campbell is an unsufferable bully and I'd hoped we'd seen the back of him and the brand of politics he fostered.

If the rumours of Brown's dissolution list are true then he could be in line for a peerage - it doesn't bear thinking about - Alastair Campbell in ermine!

Campbell by Campbell

UPDATE: No peerage for Campbell - that really would have been a slap in the face. Amongst those going to the House of Lords are:  Sir Iain Blair, John Prescott, John Reid, Sue Nye, Michael Howard, and various high-flying contributors to Conservative coffers.
More info here
Complete list here

More Trouble Over Iraq

The Chilcot Inquiry, which resumes again within the next two months, is being refused access to an MoD internally-commissioned report by Lt-Gen Chris Brown
However, Brown's criticisms were so harsh that they have been suppressed following the intervention of Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, chief of the defence staff, and other officials, who considered them too embarrassing even for internal consumption at the MoD.  Defence chiefs also appear to be worried that once Brown's study was passed to Sir John Chilcot to help him with his inquiry, they would lose control of the contents.
The Inquiry must be given sight of this important report to allow it to come to any sort of reasonable conclusion, although it's very unlikely it will ever be released to the public.

Blogging:  'Blog-lite' will continue for a while.  I couldn't even find any 'Good News' to post this morning, since what qualifies as good news is all a matter of perception.  I think the result of the Malton & Thirsk by-election could be included though since Labour was once again relegated to third place.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Smart Grids & Carbon Currency

After reading an excellent article by Edmund Conway about the possibility of an EU/eurozone meltdown I thought I'd dig deeper into the who, what, where, why and when of it all but I'm finding it impossible.

I've read and re-read but I can barely get my head around all the implications of smart grids and energy credits.  It seems incredibly futuristic and utopian, in a vaguely sinister sort of way.  Take this, for example.  The European Organisation for Sustainability proposes that, instead of money, there should be an Energy Accounting system.
"It takes energy to produce items and we can measure how much energy our production system takes. We then divide that production capacity in terms of energy among the people as Energy Credits (EC). The people the decide how to allocate production to produce goods via allocating ECs."
It sounds like another nutty socialist experiment to me but David Miliband thinks it's more "equitable and empowering " than the current system of taxation:
"Imagine a country where carbon becomes a new currency. We carry bank cards that store both pounds and carbon points.  When we buy electricity, gas and fuel, we use our carbon points, as well as pounds. To help reduce carbon emissions, the Government would set limits on the amount of carbon that could be used.
"Imagine your neighbourhood. Each neighbour receives the same free entitlement to a certain number of carbon points.  The family next door has an SUV and realise they are going to have to buy more carbon points.  So instead they decide to trade in the SUV for a hybrid car. They save 2.2 tons of carbon each year. They then sell their carbon points back to the bank and share the dividends of environmental growth."
And how would "the government set limits on the amount of carbon that could be used" [by individuals]?  By the use of smart grids in every home of course.

Smart meters for all by the end of 2020
Smart grid development grants
300 'smart' fridges on trial "for the first time, consumers will lose control over the use of electricity in their own homes." 
Carbon currency & Technocracy

And what of the people, or 'citizens/players/actors/stakeholders' as some prefer to call us?
The first limitation [on democracy] would be human rights. A basic contract or constitution should be in place to secure that the communities may not violate basic human rights. They may not discriminate people on the basis of gender, ethnicity, faith or disabilities. They may not create laws which are inhumane or violating the rights of people to their opinions, their personal integrity, their ability to utilise their energy credits or their right to move.
The second limitation would be that the communities will not administrate the continental infrastructure, which will be operated through the service of the European technate. The technate is governed not through direct voting. People will not vote over what is going to be produced, but decides it by the allocation of their energy credits. No individual could decide where anyone else is going to allocate their energy credits.
EOS: A new dawn

Oh, brave new world that has such people in't.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Just Because

Make the most of it before an injunction is slapped on  it:

The Queen's Speech Debate

A portrait of a miserable old bastard called Hegel who said, "the State is absolutely rational ... and has supreme right against the individual, whose supreme duty is to be a member of the State".

There were quite a few maiden speeches this afternoon, the second day of the Queen's Speech debate, and I have to say that I've never heard so many speech impediments in one place before - orators they are not.

On the Labour side, I think I must have been away from Yorkshire for so long that I can no longer understand the dialect - either that or the new MPs are just nervous.   I hope it's the latter but I have to say some of the diction is appalling. This afternoon I've heard people speak a form of broad Yorkshire that was unknown to my grandparents who'd never left the County in their lives - and nor had their grandparents before them. What the heck's going on?  Is everyone regressing?

The new Conservatives seemed to focus on Afghanistan and Defence while the Labourites spoke about Engels and local issues back in dick's day when there was trouble at t'mill, t'pits were dark, t'bosses were baddies and t'workers were downtrodden workhouse fodder.

I don't think I came across a LibDem apart from a wonderful shock-haired chap of about 50/60 who thought it was ridiculous that we needed a nuclear deterrent in this day and age and so should scrap Trident with no replacement.  The camera didn't pan to his feet so I couldn't see if he was wearing sandals but I thought I saw a smudge of lentil roast on his tie.  Sorry, I can't remember the MP's name but I think we'll be hearing more from him.

There were plenty of historical references scattered about to provide assurance of a continuance of history and tradition and even Robert the Bruce had a mention - though not his spider, which was the real hero of the tale.

All in all, it was a very partisan affair and the only speech which I actually listened to, rather than hearing, was that of Bill Cash (Cons, Stone).  I admire Cash, not only for being returned with an increased majority, but for standing true to his principles.

Cash:  "We're in government, we're not an Opposition Party and when we're in govt we have to receive the legislation that comes from Brussels and we have to decide what to do about it.  And it's not just from Brussels it's from the whole of the European institutions and they operate by majority vote and we don't have an option..."

Cash went on to discuss the ERM, the eurozone and sovereign debt crisis and also spoke of how UKIP had deprived the Conservatives of twenty-three seats in the House (including David Heathcoat-Amory, an MP and Parliamentarian who shouldn't have lost his seat).  He blamed it on the Conservative leadership "not having a more robust policy on the European issue" .  It will all be in Hansard tomorrow.

How on earth the three parties have managed to reach a tripartite consensus between them I don't know - but they have. We shouldn't be fooled. I've seen many other blogs writing 'meet the new boss, same as the old boss' and they're right. Back in 05/06 Cameron made no secret of his "same destination, different path" politics (try and find that old quote in an online newspaper now and you'll fail but it stuck in my mind at the time).

Once again, it's the Third Way, it's Fabian socialism, Hegel and communitarianism writ large. The ConDems are taking us via the scenic route and, as we know, if your destination is a sewage works the pretty flowers on the way don't make it smell better when you finally arrive.

I wasn't going to post the following video because it it goes over old ground but then I realised that the title should be 'Who is David Cameron?'  Here's the same old info in another format which might resonate differently:

PS I wish Denis MacShane (Lab, Rotherham) would sort out the polyps in his nose - perhaps he can fit in a quick op during the next Recess.

Joke Of The Day

I love this - it shows how unreliable polls can be and how mischievous people are: "Abbott out in front as poll tips Britain's first black female MP to win Labour leadership race."
The strongest backing for the Hackney North and Stoke Newington MP in the poll came from Tory and Lib Dem voters.
It's good to see we Brits have retained our sense of humour after thirteen years of pseudo- puritanical government.  I'm slightly disappointed though - I voted for Ed Balls.

Ground Zero Mosque Given Go-ahead

I'm lost for words.  I find it incredible.
Manhattan borough president Scott Stringer said he understood the sensitivities of the families.  'I don't think anybody wants to do anything to disrespect those families. They made the ultimate sacrifice.  At the same time, we have to balance diversity and look for opportunities to bring different groups together.'
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the cleric leading the project, told the New York Times last year. 'We want to push back against the extremists.'
In the UK we've heard that kind of talk before.  Before Obama, America had a fighting chance but now...  hello gun laws, hello insanity, bye bye America.  I really wanted you to hang on and be beacon of hope to the rest of us.

PS I forgot to say that the planned opening date for the mosque/cultural centre is 9/11 - though I've forgotten which year.

A mosque at ground-zero
More on the mosque at ground-zero

You might also like these two videos from Vlad Tepes: A mosque in Munich outlining how Islam & the Muslim Brotherhood has been used politically in the West since WW2.

How Many More Disappointments...

...can we expect from this coalition government?  The latest is that the extradition of Gary McKinnon might not be halted after all, despite pre-election protestions from both Cameron and Clegg.

What Clegg said then:
“It's simply not good enough for Alan Johnson to shrug his shoulders and claim that nothing can be done.  It's completely within his power to enact amendments from the Police and Justice Act, which would allow Gary McKinnon to be tried over here.  Or he could urge the Director of Public Prosecutions to begin proceedings.” 

What Clegg says now:
“What I haven't got the power to do, neither has the home secretary, neither even has the Prime Minister, is to completely reverse and undo certain legal aspects of this.  But that, of course, you wouldn't want politicians to do.  It's legally very complex but on the morality and principle of it, I haven’t changed my view one little bit, which is that it would be right for Gary McKinnon to be tried in this country.”

I've been kind to the LibServatives for a week or so now but I think it's time I reverted to my first name for them: the ConDems.

“I just can’t see this extradition happening now.”

Are They Trying To Ruin Us?

What a scam all this is:

The EU will introduce a 'surprise' (aka hitherto secret) new plan today to combat global warming, committing Britain and the rest of the EU to the most ambitious targets in the world.  The plan proposes a massive increase in the target for cutting greenhouse gas emissions in this decade.

The EC is determined to press ahead with the cuts despite the financial meltdown, even though it would require Britain and other EU member states to impose far tougher financial penalties on their industries than are being considered by other large economies.
Business leaders fear that thousands of jobs could be lost and energy bills could soar. Carbon taxes on road fuel, heating and other sources of emissions could be introduced, with proceeds reinvested in renewable energy products.
The possibility of trade wars also rears its head with the suggestion that EU industries could be protected by imposing border tariffs on imported goods from non-EU countries with less stringent emission controls. The tariffs would be introduced with a requirement for importers to buy emissions permits.  Free trade my ar*se - the EU is a protectionist bloc.

The EU Climate Commissioner, Connie Hedegaard, is also under pressure to explain her failure to close the loophole which has allowed alleged fraudsters to make millions of euros through the EU's emissions trading scheme.   She had apparently been informed about the fraudsters targeting the Danish carbon industry in August 2009, but had said she didn't know about the fraud until December 2009.
In so-called missing trader fraud, bogus traders open an account in a national carbon registry, buy emissions allowances in one EU country VAT-free and sell them on with VAT added. The trader pockets the VAT without paying it to the national exchequer and the trader goes "missing".
Meanwhile more detail is emerging of the LibServatives' Energy Bill,  including a 'smart' energy grid and a dedicated investment bank which, for householders, will mean more borrowing, more debt, more taxes, more monitoring, higher energy bills.

I'd argue that greater damage is done by corporations through deforestation and subsequent species loss but what equivalent 'trading' scheme can tptb invent that will tax the ordinary person while letting the real culprits off the hook?  The smallest examples of this are charging shoppers for unrecyclable plastic carrier bags and for recycling the supermarkets' own  wasteful packaging.  They always hit the ones at the bottom of the food chain.

The Economics of Ecosystems & Biodiversity

UPDATE: 27 May - No firm decision; there will be further discussion on 17 June.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

One For West Yorkshire Police

Has someone lost a police car today?  

The Queen's Speech: Bills, Round-up & Video

The twenty-two bills, pinched from the papers:

National Insurance Contributions Bill
Income tax allowances raised so that “low and middle income” employees will pay less than they do now. Funded by a rise in national insurance which will raise £9billion.
Financial Reform Bill
Greater powers handed to the Bank of England and “reform the framework for financial services regulation to learn from the financial crisis”. It could pave the way for a levy on banks following the mammoth bailouts worldwide amid the financial crisis.
Decentralisation and Localism Bill
Abolishes the Infrastructure Planning Commission, set up by the previous government to streamline major projects such as power stations, airports and motorways. It had been criticised for taking power away from local people.  Also allows residents to veto unreasonable council tax rises
Welfare reform bill
Streamlines the welfare and benefits system and provides better incentivs to work. Removes “the confusing complexity of the benefits system”.
Office for Budget Responsibility bill
Will take charge of producing budget forecasts removing the resposibility from the Chancellor so that the figures are unbiased.
Pensions and savings bill
Restores the pensions link to earnings in April 2011. Carries out the findings of the review of state pension age being conducted by the government. Review proposes accelerating current plans to raise the retirement age to 66 by 2024
Equitable Life bill
Compensation for savers who lost cash when Equitable Life, an assurance company, came to the brink of failure
Postal services bill
Part-privatisation of the Royal Mail, as set out by Lord Mandelson, while retaining the network of post offices in public ownership
Energy bill
Incentivises suppliers and households to save energy with a “green deal” charging system.  Creates a Green Investment Bank and may regulate emissions from coal-fired power stations.
Academies bill
Allows more schools the freedom to become academies releasing them from Whitehall control
Health bill
Gives more “power and responsibility” to doctors and nurses in order to replace the “top-down” approach
Airport economic regulation bill
Promotes competition in the airport market with a possible break up of the BAA monopoly
Police reform and social responsibility bill
Creation of a border police force and overhaul of the 24-hour Licensing Act. Make the police more accountable through “directly elected individuals.” Make sure health and safety doesn’t get in the way of “common sense policing”
Public bodies (reform) bill
Reduces the number of quangos in order to save £1bn a year
Local government bill
Bans the creation of unitary councils in Exeter and Norwich
Parliamentary reform bill
Voters given the right to recall MPs found guilty of serious wrongdoing. Establishes the referendum on the alternative vote system. Fixed-term parliaments introduced
Freedom (great repeal) bill
Reinstates civil liberties and repeals “unnecessary” laws
Identity documents bill
Abolishs ID card system and scraps the national identity register
Scotland bill
Gives more devolution to Scotland by implementing the final report of the Calman commission.
European Union bill
Makes sure there is a referendum on any future plan to transfer powers to  the EU
Armed Forces bill
Improve facilities for servicemen and women. Continues to force the legislation giving the armed forces a legal basis
Terrorist asset-freezing bill
Strengthens government’s right to freeze assets of terrorists after a supreme court decision that over-turned legislation governing the finances of terrorists.
Draft parliamentary privilege bill

Clarifies the law surrounding parliamentary privilege

More detail:
A ''significant acceleration'' in the reduction of the UK's state deficit, delivered mainly by cutting spending rather than increasing tax.
Reversal of the bulk of the former Labour administration's planned rise in employers' National Insurance contributions.
Opportunity for more schools to take up academy status.
Abolition of ID cards and National Identity Register.
Referenda on any future EU treaty.
Government to ''examine the case'' for a UK Sovereignty Bill to make clear that ultimate authority rests in the country.
Legislation for fixed-term five-year parliaments, with a requirement for 55% Commons support to seek an earlier dissolution.
A referendum on the Alternative Vote for House of Commons elections.
A review which could bring forward the date when the state pension age increases to 66.
Annual limit ''in the tens of thousands'' on non-EU migrants allowed to live and work in the UK.
A ''significant increase'' in personal allowances for income tax in next month's Budget, with a long-term goal of taking the first £10,000 out of tax.
Full strategic defence and security review.
Maintenance of Britain's nuclear deterrent, with continued scrutiny to ensure that the renewal of Trident is value for money.  Liberal Democrats will ''continue to make the case for alternatives''.
New restrictions on the authorities' use of CCTV cameras and DNA data and a ban on the storage of internet and email records without good reason.
Creation of new Border Police Force.
Directly-elected individuals to hold the police to account.
Transfer of City supervision powers to the Bank of England.
Redrawing parliamentary constituency maps to reduce numbers of MPs and make seats a similar size.
Power for voters to ''recall'' errant MPs with a petition signed by 10% of electors in a constituency.
Proposals by the end of this year for a ''wholly or mainly elected'' Upper House of Parliament elected by proportional representation.
Establishment of an independent Office of Budget Responsibility, taking the power to set economic forecasts out of the hands of politicians, and Office of Tax Simplification, to suggest reforms to the tax system.
Simplification of benefits system to improve the incentive to work.
Restoration of pensions link to earnings in April 2011.
Plans to reduce and simplify corporation tax rates over five years.
Capital gains tax on non-business assets to be imposed at rates close to income tax.
Support for the development of a high-speed rail network.
Part-privatisation of the Royal Mail, while retaining the network of post offices in public ownership.
An end to the detention of children in immigration cases.
Moves to give NHS clinicians more power over care provision and to enable patients to share in decisions over their treatment.
Creation of a Public Health Service to encourage people to take greater responsibility for their own health.
Independent commission on how to fund long-term care for the elderly and disabled.
Relaxation of health and safely laws to allow ''commonsense policing''.
Stronger powers for police and councils to remove licences from problem pubs and clubs.
Measures to allow social enterprises, charities and co-operatives a greater role in public service provision.
Cut in number of quangos and cost of bureaucracy.
Devolution of powers over planning and housing to local councils and communities, scrapping the Infrastructure Planning Commission.
New rights for communities to take over state-run services.
Requirement for public bodies to publish salaries and expenses of senior officials online.
Residents' referendums on local issues - including the power to veto excessive council tax rises.
National programme of domestic energy efficiency measures, along with plans for a possible ''smart grid'' and Green Investment Bank.
Abolition of Home Information Packs.
Promise to pursue agreement on party funding reform ''to remove big money from politics''.
Restoration of rights to non-violent protest.
Implementation of Calman Commission recommendations on Scottish devolution.
Commitment to work towards an ''ambitious'' global climate change deal.
Continued commitment to working with the Afghan government to deliver lasting security and stability in the country.
Commitment to nuclear non-proliferation, particularly in relation to Iran's suspected weapons programme.
Aid spending to reach 0.7% of national income by 2013.
Enhanced measures to freeze terrorist assets.
Extension of the right to request flexible working.
''Fair and transparent'' compensation for Equitable Life policy-holders.
A pledge to support ''market-led'' investment in high-speed broadband.
Scrapping the planned creation of single-tier councils in Exeter and Norwich.

Well, at first glance it seems okay.  There are measures to restore civil liberties, cut quangos and simplify taxes on individuals and businesses as well as devolving power closer to communities (a double-edged sword) but we'll have to wait until the bills are published and scrutinised before any judgement can be made.

There was nothing about English MPs voting on English laws but plenty about devolving more powers to Scotland, Wales and N.Ireland.

I didn't understand about the Armed Forces Bill: "Continues to force the legislation giving the Armed Forces a legal basis".   Does that mean that if legislation lapses the AF have no legal basis?

One thing I'd like to see on all new legislation is a sunset clause whereby legislation would be reviewed/renewed on a regular, automatic basis or else allowed to lapse.

There's a good write-up in the Daily Mail  together with some terrific photos but the comments are some of the nastiest and most stupid I've ever seen there, and that's saying something.

The speech is being debated in the Commons at the moment and Sir Gerald Kaufman (Lab, Manchester Gorton) is creating a stir - apparently his LibDem opponent at the GE went round all the mosques telling Muslims not to vote for him [Kaufman] because "he is a jew".  Has he only found out about their dirty tactics?  It's par for the course in some parts of the country together with vote-rigging.

Here are the videos, beginning with Part 2 and the speech itself at 03:58

Part 3, the speech ends at roughly 02:00.   The remainder and Part 1  is taken up with ceremonial

The Harman/Cameron exchange

On This Day

On this day
With thanks for the video to Radio Free Britain


Here's a novel use of poetry:
"Stop paying for credit
Stop paying the bankers' tax
Use interest-free credit schemes
Buy all consumer durables second-hand
Buy everything else from markets, family businesses and charities only
Stop watching television news
Stop reading newspapers
If you work for a publicly limited company leave your job"

The Matrix

Paradox | Vídeo MySpace

Here are two interesting websites I stumbled across, both are about the creation and supply of money:
The (proposed) Bank of England Act
The Money Reform Party

Monday, 24 May 2010

The Axeman Cometh: The Cuts & The Speeches

Osborne and Laws prepare for their news conference

This morning's announcement on the £6bn cuts is just a tiny step on the way to reducing Labour's debt and deficit but it's a good symbolic pruning of the state:

Department for Transport: £683m
Business: £836m
Department for Education: £670m
Department for Work and Pensions: £535m
Chancellor's Departments: £451m
Home Office: £367m
Communities and Local Government:  £780m
Local Government Departmental Expenditure Limits: £405m
Ministry of Justice:  £325m
Law Officers Department:  £18m
Foreign Office: £55m
Energy and Climate Change: £85 million
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs: £162m
Cabinet Office: £79m
Devolved administrations: £704m

Across all departments, the savings are distributed as follows:

Contracts and projects: £1.7 billion
Discretionary areas (eg consultancy & travel costs): £1.15 billion
Quangos: £600m
Other low value spend: £520m
Property costs: £170m
Civil service recruitment freeze: £120m
IT spending: £95m

The Times has a very good 'as it happened' account.

Here are the videos with Osborne setting out the bigger picture and letting David Laws, the LibDem Chief Secretary to the Treasury, give the detail (neat).   There's also a lengthy Q&A session:

Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

UPDATE: This is from the The Daily Mail, which also has feedback from quangocrats, union bosses, the DGs of the CBI and the BCC, and the Taxpayers Alliance:


Here are ten of the craziest ways that Gordon Brown and his Labour administration has wasted your money:

1. The Department for Work and Pensions and Department of Health between them have 573 help lines which have received NO calls at all, ever. There are more than 200 Department of Health numbers which receive under 100 calls a month, 58 phone lines for Primary Care Trusts and ten for the Ambulance Service that have never taken a call.

2. The government splashed out £125million on taxis

3. Over £580million was spent on furniture across government and £800million on office supplies and cars

4.The Department for International Development spends £60,000 on airmail for each edition of its in-house magazine

5. HMRC runs 271 face-to-face enquiry centres, which have received as few as 11 visits a week.

6.The Department for Education spent £5million on a ‘play strategy’ which looked at ‘the short, medium and long term objectives in bringing to life children’s right to play’.

7.Whitehall departments spend £1.5billion on consultants and a further £500 million a year on temporary staff. Local Government spends a further £2.5billion.

8. Consumer Direct, the consumer rights watchdog, has 68 separate regional call centres.

9. £1million was spent on ‘Government Office Networking’ to allow bureaucrats in the regions to have meetings.

10. More than £1billion a year is spent on advertising and a further £700million on ‘marketing’ for the government.

Osborne & Hague Heckled

Actually, it's a bit more than mere heckling.    "Hey, it must be difficult fellating satan all day."

Sunday, 23 May 2010

US Build-up In Med & Persian Gulf

If all this talk from the LibServatives about our Armed Forces leaving Afghanistan as soon as possible is just so they can be sent to Iran then I'll spit.

A quiet build-up has been going on for months now and in March I blogged about arms shipments being sent to the British island of Diego Garcia
According to a cargo manifest from the US navy, this included 387 “Blu” bombs used for blasting hardened or underground structures.

"Experts say that they are being put in place for an assault on Iran’s controversial nuclear facilities. There has long been speculation that the US military is preparing for such an attack, should diplomacy fail to persuade Iran not to make nuclear weapons...

"Crucially, the cargo includes 195 smart, guided, Blu-110 bombs and 192 massive 2000lb Blu-117 bombs.
Now we have this:
[Military sources report a decision] to boost US military strength in the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf regions in the short term with extra air and naval strike forces and 6,000 Marine and sea combatants. Carrier Strike Group 10, headed by the USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier, sails out of the US Navy base at Norfolk, Virginia Friday, May 21.

[The build-up] will take place over the next three months, reaching peak level in late July and early August. By then, the Pentagon plans to have at least 4 or 5 US aircraft carriers visible from Iranian shores.

The USS Truman's accompanying Strike Group includes Carrier Air Wing Three (Battle Axe) - which has 7 squadrons - 4 of F/A-18 Super Hornet and F/A-18 Hornet bomber jets, as well as spy planes and early warning E-2 Hawkeyes that can operate in all weather conditions; the Electronic Attack Squadron 130 for disrupting enemy radar systems; and Squadron 7 of helicopters for anti-submarine combat (In its big naval exercise last week, Iran exhibited the Velayat 89 long-range missile for striking US aircraft carriers and Israel warships from Iranian submarines.)

Another four US warships will be making their way to the region to join the USS Truman and its Strike Group. They are the guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy and guided missile destroyers USS Winston S. Churchill, USS Oscar Austin and USS Ross."
It's interesting to see from the article that the Germans are lending one of their warships (the FGS Hessen) and placing it under American command.

Obama's new toy: Prompt Global Strike: from here to eternity in an hour

Don't these 'world leaders' ever have enough of war?   Haven't the arms manufacturers and bankers made enough billions on the back of death?  If the likes of Obama, Blair and Bush had to lead their troops into battle they'd think twice before signing the orders.

Slightly off-topic but I keep seeing the year 2012 mentioned more frequently in the msm lately - nothing to do with Mayan conspiracies or loony websites, I promise.   It's being cited as a target date for the introduction of policies: economic and social.  I've decided to keep an eye on the health of HM the Queen - if she pops her clogs in 2012 it will be too late to run to Tesco to stock up on bottled water and cans of beans :-)

Non-reporting Of Trilateral Commission In Dublin

From InfoWars Ireland. Here is a clip from a discussion about Ireland's national sovereignty and the EU proposal for budgetary scrutiny. Towards the end (roughly 07.20) an audience member asks why RTE didn't report on a Dublin meeting of the Trilateral Commission before the microphone is taken away from her. The reaction from the presenter is puzzling and I can't tell whether he's angry or scared.

More info:
Barack Obama & the Trilateral Commission
Trilateral Commission2
Trilateral Commission3

Sunday Reflection

Music & history this week:

Sunday Round-up

Draft of Queen's Speech leaked ... with a "great repeals Bill" to get rid of Labour legislation opposed by the Tories and Lib Dems when they were in opposition... the speech is also said to promise a Bill to ensure that "this Parliament and the British people have their say on any proposed transfer of powers to the European Union".
First details of cuts emerge  The initial savings to be announced will target such items as civil servants’ perks, which include taxis, flights and hotel accommodation.  The package will also include a £513m cut in the budgets for quangos, with some being abolished altogether.
Security warning for MPs  Well-placed police officials said yesterday that the perceived security problem has now extended across all MPs, with the possibility of an attack by a self-radicalised Islamist extremist now being raised in recent intelligence reporting.
Police chiefs don't trust the public vote  ...there is an inherent danger in introducing a system in which the people running local police services have a "politically motivated agenda": there is a danger that chasing votes may take priority over the pursuit of criminals. The APA is also concerned that individuals with extremist views or personal agendas could seek election as commissioners.
(S)crap ACPO - 'Secret' files on 1900 protesters  The information has been built up by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), Britain’s most powerful national policing body, whose future is in doubt after it was revealed that it was being run as a private company.
Kinnock backs Ed Miliband & damns Blair with faint praise "Tony was a great actor. Tony Blair is a method actor and there is no thespian in Ed Miliband, so it's that much more natural, much less affected, as it were, and I say that in an affectionate way for Tony, because the thespian arts have got their place as well, but Ed is not an actor, so it is not the Blair thing..."
Control orders under renewed scrutiny  [They] could not be deported to Pakistan because they risked being tortured there. Neither could they be jailed because the evidence documenting their terrorist involvement was too sensitive to be heard in open court, meaning they could not face trial.
Left-wing agitators disrupt BA  talks  The extraordinary invasion by up to 200 hard-liners came after a union boss posted details from inside the meeting on the Twitter website.  "Kill Willie.  Get Willie".
LibServatives backtrack on reining in BBC licence fee  The Tories also appear to have softened their position on publishing the salaries of top presenters.
Brown:  Speeches and the IMF beckon  ...is understood to have advised Mr Brown that he can earn as much as £70,000 for a single after-dinner homily on bank bailouts and other economic measures... Mr Brown is in the running for another lucrative post in the US as next managing director of the International Monetary Fund – a job that carries a tax-free salary of £283,114, plus a £50,679 living allowance.
IMF insiders are thought to consider the former Prime Minister the ideal candidate to take over when Strauss-Kahn’s term ends in 2012. Brown wants one of the world’s most important economic jobs as head of the International Monetary Fund, according to his closest school friend.
Cajasur bailed out  Spain’s central bank took operational control of Cajasur, one of 44 large regional lenders that account for about half the Spanish banking market. It will need an immediate cash injection of €500m (£430m).
MEPs: belt-tightening - what belt-tightening?  Although MEPs have recently been equipped with new Hewlett-Packard laptops, some have told the bureau they find them cumbersome in comparison with the iPad.
In brief:
Redwood:  I want to get rid of every manifestation of unelected local & regional government in England.
New legislation in gypsy camp crackdown

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Hidden History: USSR, EU & Communism

H/t to War News Updates for pointing me in the direction of this article.  It concerns the collected manuscripts of Pavel Stroilov and Vladimir Bukovsky, two Soviet dissidents, and the difficulty they're both having finding a publisher that will touch them with a bargepole.

Here's an extract:
"There are other ways in which the story that Stroilov’s and Bukovsky’s papers tell isn’t over. They suggest, for example, that the architects of the European integration project, as well as many of today’s senior leaders in the European Union, were far too close to the USSR for comfort. This raises important questions about the nature of contemporary Europe—questions that might be asked when Americans consider Europe as a model for social policy, or when they seek European diplomatic cooperation on key issues of national security.
According to Zagladin’s reports, for example, Kenneth Coates, who from 1989 to 1998 was a British member of the European Parliament, approached Zagladin on January 9, 1990, to discuss what amounted to a gradual merger of the European Parliament and the Supreme Soviet. Coates, says Zagladin, explained that “creating an infrastructure of cooperation between the two parliament[s] would help . . . to isolate the rightists in the European Parliament (and in Europe), those who are interested in the USSR’s collapse.” Coates served as chair of the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights from 1992 to 1994. How did it come to pass that Europe was taking advice about human rights from a man who had apparently wished to “isolate” those interested in the USSR’s collapse and sought to extend Soviet influence in Europe?

Or consider a report on Francisco Fernández Ordóñez, who led Spain’s integration into the European Community as its foreign minister. On March 3, 1989, according to these documents, he explained to Gorbachev that “the success of perestroika means only one thing—the success of the socialist revolution in contemporary conditions. And that is exactly what the reactionaries don’t accept.” Eighteen months later, Ordóñez told Gorbachev: “I feel intellectual disgust when I have to read, for example, passages in the documents of ‘G7’ where the problems of democracy, freedom of human personality and ideology of market economy are set on the same level. As a socialist, I cannot accept such an equation.” Perhaps most shockingly, the Eastern European press has reported that Stroilov’s documents suggest that François Mitterrand was maneuvering with Gorbachev to ensure that Germany would unite as a neutral, socialist entity under a Franco-Soviet condominium.

"Zagladin’s records also note that the former leader of the British Labour Party, Neil Kinnock, approached Gorbachev — unauthorized, while Kinnock was leader of the opposition — through a secret envoy to discuss the possibility of halting the United Kingdom’s Trident nuclear-missile program... Similarly, Baroness Catherine Ashton, who is now the European Union’s foreign minister, was treasurer of Britain’s Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament from 1980 to 1982. The papers offer evidence that this organization received “unidentified income” from the Soviet Union in the 1980s. Stroilov’s papers suggest as well that the government of the current Spanish EU commissioner for economic and monetary affairs, Joaquín Almunia, enthusiastically supported the Soviet project of gradually unifying Germany and Europe into a socialist “common European home” and strongly opposed the independence of the Baltic states and then of Ukraine."
Also mentioned are  Jo Biden, Richard Lugar, Francois Mitterand, former Syrian President Assad, Korea and Israel plus assorted European leaders.  More food for thought.

Good News #3

Fox:  "We are not a global policeman. I would like the Forces to come back as soon as possible."

Injured soldier wins payout despite review after Wembley walk

Saudi women fight back against religious police

Aid to Malawi under review

13 yr-old climbs Everest

High heels for men - meels

Old(ish) woman survives 80ft fall

Canada geese creche

A Re-post

I've been taking stock of the blog  - this is from some time last year and I hope it's useful:

Today I've been catching up with some reading and link-following.  One of the things I looked at is this legal working paper from the European Central Bank: Withdrawal and Expulsion from the EU and EMU and below are some interesting snippets.  It's a fifty-page .pdf but I paid closer attention to the first twenty-eight pages which are concerned with unilateral withdrawal and negotiated withdrawal of a 'Member State':
Intro: The Union’s slow but continuing progress towards a more advanced level of integration, involving closer political and economic ties between its Member States and the transfer of an ever-increasing share of their essential sovereignty to the supranational European institutions, in conjunction with the EU’s declared ambition (unpopular with the public of some Member States) to bring new members within its fold, have created new tensions or exacerbated existing ones, testing the Member States’ commitment to the furtherance of European integration.

P.8 This paper is divided in three parts. Part One examines the issue of a Member State’s voluntary withdrawal from the EU and/or EMU. Part Two looks at the legal and conceptual issues arising from a Member State’s possible expulsion from the EU and/or EMU. Finally, Part Three provides an overview of the implications of a Member State’s exit from the EU and/or EMU for its use of the euro. It will be argued that unilateral withdrawal from the EU would not, as a matter of public international law, be inconceivable, although there can be serious principled objections to it; and that withdrawal from EMU without a parallel withdrawal from the EU would be legally impossible.

P.11 As for a Member State’s withdrawal from the EU, the complexities surrounding it are legion, affecting the rights and obligations of every natural or legal person inside or outside the territory of the withdrawing Member State who is or who may be affected by it.

P.17 The European Court of Justice has ruled: "By creating a Community of unlimited duration, having its own institutions, its own personality, its own legal capacity and capacity of representation on the international plane and, more particularly, real powers stemming from a limitation of sovereignty or a transfer of powers from the States to Community, the Member States have limited their sovereign rights and have thus created a body of law which binds both their nationals and themselves … The transfer by the States from their domestic legal system to the Community legal system of the rights and obligations arising under the Treaty carries with it a permanent limitation of their sovereign rights."

P.22 ...the conclusion is that the assertion of an implied right of unilateral withdrawal from the treaties, even in exceptional circumstances, would be highly controversial (especially in the case of EMU, where in the text of the EC Treaty it is clear that no such right was intended) except, perhaps, as a last resort in the event of an extremely serious and lasting infringement of the treaties or extraordinary circumstances affecting a Member State’s ability to fulfil its treaty obligations.

P.24 Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty explicitly makes provision for the voluntary secession of a Member State from the EU. Specifically, the exit clause provides that a Member State wishing to withdraw from the EU must inform the European Council of its intention; the Council is to produce guidelines on the basis of which a withdrawal agreement is to be negotiated with that Member State; and the Council, acting by a qualified majority and after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament, will conclude the agreement on behalf of the EU. The withdrawing Member State would cease to be bound by the treaties either from the date provided for in the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after notification of its intention to withdraw.

P.24 The exit clause, as formulated, raises at least three concerns. First, despite the references in it to a negotiated agreement on the details of the withdrawing Member State’s departure, the exit clause recognises, effectively, a unilateral right of withdrawal as well as a possibility for a Member State to negotiate its agreed exit from the EU. Second, ...a mass exit from the EU. A third, and perhaps the most serious, concern, ... the euro.

P.25 There are at least three clear indications that the exit clause embodies a unilateral right of withdrawal. These are: (i) the reference, in Article 50(1), to a Member State’s withdrawal ‘in accordance with its own constitutional arrangements’; (ii) the fact that a Member State’s withdrawal is not conditional on the conclusion of a withdrawal agreement, since a Member State can withdraw even if negotiations with the Council break down, provided that two years have elapsed since the notification to the Council of its decision to withdraw; and (iii) the fact that ‘the right to withdraw is not connected with the adoption of a constitutional change that a Member State cannot accept, but introduced without such restrictions. This third consideration is crucial since it is not the element of negotiation that would make a Member State’s withdrawal consensual (as opposed to unilateral), it is the absence of restrictions on a Member State’s right to withdraw that is decisive. Negotiations would, in any case, be necessary to organise a Member State’s departure.

If this assessment is correct, that Member States have a unilateral right of withdrawal under the Lisbon Treaty, the exit clause would appear to represent a notable departure, rather than a mere codification of international or Community law on the right of Member States to withdraw from their treaty commitments. For the reasons explained earlier, this does not sit comfortably with the fundamentally integrationist rationale of the treaties, with the sui generis nature of the Community legal order and, not least, with Article 48 TEU and with the specific procedure for amending the treaties that this provides (of which a Member State’s withdrawal would be a prime example).  Why the drafters of the Lisbon Treaty introduced such an abuse-prone provision into the treaties can only be a matter of speculation.

P.26  ...the exit clause recognises the practical reality that, politically, a sovereign Member State cannot be coerced into honouring commitments it no longer has an interest in.

P.29 While a Member State may be free to denounce its EU participation and repudiate its treaty obligations in their entirety, it would not be free to go back on its decision to join EMU without breaching a binding obligation, under the EC Treaty, unless it were also to withdraw from the EU...Such a genuinely unilateral right of withdrawal would be unthinkable in the context of EMU...

Intermediate Conclusions:
That negotiated withdrawal from the EU would not be legally impossible even prior to the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, and that unilateral withdrawal would undoubtedly be legally controversial;
That, while permissible, a recently enacted exit clause is, prima facie, not in harmony with the rationale of the European unification project and is otherwise problematic, mainly from a legal perspective;
That a Member State’s exit from EMU, without a parallel withdrawal from the EU, would be legally inconceivable;

Next stage: euro
Footnote 35 This clearly follows from Articles 122(2) and 123(4) EC, pointing to the obligation of non-participating Member States to maintain momentum towards the abrogation of their derogations and transition to the single currency.

Four gems in the footnotes:

In a sense, some lack of legal certainty is desirable. As suggested above, if expulsion is impossible this may deprive Member States of an incentive to comply with their obligations. The hitherto silence of the treaties on the issues of withdrawal and expulsion may therefore be preferable to clarity.

For an account of the abusive use to which the exit clause could be put, see Zeh, pp. 204-205; Eerola p. 1, argues that, because the exit clause could encourage national governments to use the threat of withdrawal to extract concessions (and national electorates to elect confrontational politicians willing to act on such threats) the exit clause should be amended to require a withdrawing Member State’s voters to approve withdrawal in a referendum.

The advisability of a referendum is highly questionable, considering the grave political implications of such a step for the stability of the Union and its impact on the future relations between an expelled Member State and its former partners.

The insertion of the exit clause probably reflects the desire of the drafters of the Lisbon Treaty to avoid giving the impression that the Member States are captives of an undemocratic EU. The reasoning may well have been that if Member States have an institutionalised right to withdraw from the EU, they are unlikely to object so strongly to surrendering more of their sovereignty to its institutions.
From all the above the next two items on the EU agenda will be (a) close the loopholes around the exit clause and (b) increase pressure on Britain to join the euro asap.

The distinction between natural and legal person on P.11 may be of interest to those considering becoming Freemen.

Friday, 21 May 2010

What Has Europe Done For Us?

The BBC gives us news about the EU:     avatars: TV Reporter: Barfing Up Cat

In all the hoo-ha about the euro and the EU the German FM, Guido Westerwelle, responded to an attack on Merkel by saying: "It doesn't matter whether you think Ms. Merkel is terrible or whether you think I'm terrible. It's about whether Europe will stand or fall!"

German Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, presented his proposals for moves towards an 'economic government' and said, "We won't make it without amendments to the existing treaties. I know many other countries are sceptical."

Former Italian PM and Commission President Romano Prodi: [This is] "a very important step towards the gradual creation of a European fiscal federalism....Combining the resources of the eurozone countries and the Commission with those of the European Central Bank is a step beyond the stability and growth pact.   I therefore consider the recent decisions made in Brussels as a very important step towards the gradual creation of a European fiscal federalism."

Jean-François Copé, President of the UMP party in the French Parliament, said, "I said to him, you know David, I know the euroscepticism of your party, but let me tell you something...We need you. We need you for Europe...I hope this sentence has been kept in his mind."

I wonder if Cameron will be able to resist the flattery and blandishments of the EU - none of his predecessors has.

The first sight of Cameron's cojones

It's good to see Cameron taking NATO to task over Afghanistan. The coalition is hardly balanced when the USA and the UK bear the brunt of the burden. He also had something to say on the state of the euro and Britain's position - am I hoping too much that it's a case of softly, softly? I just wonder who the monkeys will be:

What Cameron had to say on the Kandahar/Helmand split:

Troops To Kandahar 4

Major-General Gordon Messenger, a British military spokesman, said:  "This is us doing exactly the same job as we have been doing up to now, under slightly different arrangements" - which is a shame because I was hoping it would signal an easing of pressure on our Armed Forces.  I think they've done an incredible and courageous job over the last nine years and it's time they came home.  There's a two-year timeline with rotation between Helmand and Kandahar so it doesn't look like we'll be out of there any time soon..

From the preliminary reports coming out it seems that the MoD and the AF spokesmen are more concerned with the PR image at home.  I think they can rest assured that no Briton will see this as a retreat or a defeat and the troops will have a homecoming fit for Kings (and Queens!) when it's all finally over.


Troops to Kandahar
Troops to Kandahar 2
Troops to Kandahar 3


There's a bit of a language warning on No.5 so don't click to enlarge unless you want to be offended - mind you, looking at some of the blogs round here.....that seems unlikely:

I don't know how long I can keep up with this Good News interlude - so much is going on that's hard to ignore - plus 'good news' is a bit thin on the ground, as you've probably noticed.
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