Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Kebab, black cat and Sudan

I stopped for a kebab on my way home from Becky Tinsley's passionate and horrifying account of life and death in Sudan. I disturbed a black cat in the road which retreated to a wall and yelled at me. I could do nothing to help it. I guess I used up my luck just by being born in Britain and not Sudan.

If you want to know more, go to Becky's campaign, Waging Peace.

Simon Jenkins thinks it's moles

After William Hague's announcement (2:20:40 in) on the Today programme that Britain does not sell arms for use in internal repression or regional or international conflicts, I asked if they were for killing rabbits. In an excellent article in the Guardian today,"Britain can push democracy or weapons – but not both" Simon Jenkins wonders if it's for killing moles.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

All together now

How did Lawrence Dallaglio avoid becoming popular in Irish pubs ? By being named Lawrence and not Edward Ian.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Prisoners' right to vote (2)

David Kessler commented on my post about prisoners' right to vote.

He noted that I offered no evidence that removing the vote lacks penal value. The point about human rights is that the presumption must be that everyone gets them, not just people of whom we approve. If anyone wishes to remove someone's human rights they have to rebut that presumption; THEY have to produce the evidence. I heard none in the Commons debate.

The logic of his and Tory and Labour MPs' and the Sun's and the Mail's and the Telegraph's argument about democracy is that there can be no binding international conventions. The logic of mine is that if you sign them you should abide by them or leave them.

He made an interesting argument about compensation. Passing over his revealing expression "criminal-friendly judiciary", I despise the government's fear of compensation payments. We should obey the court's judgements because we are a law-abiding country and have freely signed up to this legal system. Many MPs made the argument, "If you break the law, you shouldn't make the law". Voters don't make the law, they elect law-makers. MPs DO make the law and these same fools voted last week to break the law so by their own logic I expect them all to resign.

What do we sell arms for ?

William Hague outlined government policy on arms sales this morning (Today programme). He says we don't sell arms for internal repression nor where they will be used in regional or international conflicts. Apart from the fact that this will come as news to Israel and, of course, the Bahreini government, what the hell do we sell them for ? Hunting rabbits ?

Today programme avoids the dread word "Reform"

Fascinating to listen to the Today programme presenters dancing carefully around the banned word Reform as they discussed the referendum on AV this morning.

Interesting also to hear William Hague's defence of First Past the Post. Responding to the point that 2/3 of MPs were not elected by a majority of their constituents, he commented that many were elected by just under 50%. Shall we then apply this startling approach to legislation and allow Bills to be passed by just under 50% of MPs voting ?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Prisoners' Right to Vote: Roll of Honour

Most MPs should hang their heads in shame for yesterday's display of scorn for human rights, ignorance of their meaning and sheer zenophobia. Let them all from Jack Straw downwards (Can one go lower than Jack Straw ?) go and work for Murdoch and the gutter press. I honour the 26 who voted against the resolution including Alan Beith, Tom Brake, Lorely Burt, Don Foster, Duncan Hames, Simon Hughes, Julian Huppert, Tessa Munt, Alan Reid, Stephen Williams. I honour especially Tom Brake, Lorely Burt and Kate Green for their unpopular but principled speeches.

I ask Mike Hancock, John Pugh and Bob Russell who supported the motion what they think they are doing in a Liberal party ? I ask the majority of MPs especially amongst them my MP David Laws, our party leader Nick Clegg and many other Liberal Democrats why they could not even be bothered to attend or vote in this debate on a question which should be meat and drink to a Liberal. There is always room for argument on economic policies but if we can't get these questions right, we serve no purpose in the British political scene.

I suppose I should not be surprised by the stupidity and ignorance of the majority of MPs on this subject. Some still confuse the European Court of Human Rights with the EU, perhaps deliberately. There is nothing undemocratic about accepting its judgements any more than those of any other court. The court derives its power in the UK from a treaty voluntarily signed by the UK government and ratified by the UK parliament. This case is about honouring our commitments. If we wish to resile from the European Convention, there are procedures for doing so but it would be a great loss to our country and our freedoms. Removing the right to vote has no value in penal policy. It neither punishes nor deters nor rehabilitates.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Iceman and the nations

I went to see a man who lived 5,000 years ago today. I had heard of Otzi, the Iceman, whose mummy was discovered high in the Alps in 1991 but I didn't know he was in Bolzano. In his own way, he too has played a part in the rivalry of Austria and Italy in the Sud-Tirol / Alto Adige, although neither country existed when he lived. His body was flown to Innsbruck but the Italians claimed him and careful surveying revealed that his mountain grave was 101 yards inside the Italian border. It's a great museum.

Mussolini saves Berlusconi

This fascist frieze on the public finance office in Bolzano/Bozen has played a recent role in keeping Silvio Berlosconi in office. The embattled Italian PM needed every vote to survive a no confidence vote. The frieze displaying Mussolini's achievements in Roman style and carrying the slogan, "Believe, obey, fight" is offensive to the German speakers of the Sud Tirol and they want it removed, whereas Italian speakers want to keep it. Berlusconi bought the votes of local MPs by offering to arrange a compromise - covering it up. Covering up would appear to be his special skill, except where young female vistors are concerned.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011


I am in Bolzano for the Winter School of EURAC. Beautiful sunny flight from Gatwick to Venice - the hedgebound fields of England, the widening Thames estuary, the open French countryside, the broken landscape of the Alps topped with cream down to the Italian coast, peaks shining like islands as the valleys filled with mist. Venice itself was fogbound like Somerset when I left this morning. Italian trains clean, comfortable and on time without Mussolini. Strange to walk through an Italian town in the evening where everyone is speaking German. Europe remains a wealthy continent. If only we could spread it around a bit more and make better use of it.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

The finer things in life

A presumptuous and Americocentric quiz on Facebook decided that the USA was my natural country, that I liked fast food and was not interested in the finer things in life. I reject it thus:

I like fast food and the finer things in life - Laphroaig, Runrig, Rumpole, Wodehouse, Paltrow, Agutter, Patrick O'Brian, Anthony Powell, the Cuillins, Venice (going there next week), Harvey's Bitter, cats, some dogs,Ham Hill, symbolic logic, artificial intelligence, bacon, Bacon ("Writing maketh an exact man, reading a full man and conference a ready man"), Shakespeare, Rattigan, Wilde, zabaglione, John Stuart Mill, Altiero Spinelli, Aldous Huxley, more bacon, Cambridge, Cambridge Massachusetts, Lord Bonkers, stilton, brie, camembert, Glastonbury, Tom Lehrer, the Leningrad Cowboys, ginger wine, killer sudoku - to name but a few. Oh yes, Denmark and Italy...and crumpets.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Moving the European Parliament reports that a collapsed ceiling in Strasbourg forced the European Parliament to stay in Brussels for a part-session and thereby saved €1.7 million. The Telegraph's Europhobe and MEP, Daniel Hannan, wants to have no parliament at all.. Last November Hannan actually blamed the EP for not voting to stop moving about. He knows this is disingenuous, in fact dishonest. They can't. The EP's locations are decided by agreement between governments. When polled, 89% of MEPs wanted the parliament to have a single seat.

Every summer during the silly season when there's no news, the Telegraph and other Europhobic organs run the story of the cost of the migratory European Parliament. ( Of course they don't like foreigners moving about.) What they never print is that it's their beloved national veto (in this case, exercised by France and Luxembourg) which prolongs the migration. If the EP had the power to decide its own location, it would have settled long ago but the Europhobes hate the EP having more power. Hannan hates its existence.

Cecilia Malmström MEP started a petition for a single seat which has over a million signatures. Sign here, Daniel Hannan and stop lying.