Thursday, November 24, 2005

Officially a Secret Joke

Has the Attorney General really threatened journalists with the Official Secrets Act just to stop George Bush looking either paranoid or stupid?

Is the "special relationship" (which in reality seems only to exist in the fevered imaginations of British politicians) so fragile that free speech - that great bastion of the US Constitution - can be swept aside in the media of the US's oldest ally?

This is not the first time that the criminal law has been deployed to stop anti US comment or protest in the UK. In December 2000, veteran peace campaigner Lindis Percy was fined £500 for writing on the Stars and Stripes and then trampling on it outside a US airbase in Norfolk, England.

We are living in strange times indeed when something that symbolises lawful dissent in the US is criminalised in the UK. But then again, perhaps that's what makes the relationship so special: the Americans know that Tony Blair will do anything for them - including denying the British their long cherished freedoms.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Anyone for a recycled slogan?

Leeds City Council has just discovered that the slogan 'Live it love it', which it commissioned from the imaginatively named PR agency An Agency Called England, is a direct lift from one used by the Hong Kong tourist board!

A snip at £150,000 for "research and launch costs" (which presumably didn't include a quick Google check, just to be on the safe side) the agency responsible for the slogan, Marketing Leeds, a joint venture between the council and the city's chamber of commerce, smartly sidesteps allegations of plagiarism by saying it hadn't cost anything to "develop" the new brand., whatever that means. An Agency Called England's head honcho, Tony Stanton, was, perhaps unsurprisingly, even more inventive with his response:
"The Hong Kong campaign targeted North American tourists on city breaks. We took the view we could use it as a brand as opposed to an ad campaign".
So there you have it - lifting the title of an ad campaign to use as a "brand" isn't plagiarism - more creative recycling - with the bill footed by the hapless council taxpayers.

Meanwhile, away from the self-serving frenzy and hype of the PR world, the BBC's website is currently featuring the 50th anniversary of the World Press Photo Foundation's annual photographic competition. The images are graphic and shocking, including a Turkish mother mourning her five dead children, victims of an earthquake; Chilean President, Salvador Allende, photographed moments before his death in the 1973 right wing coup; and the death mask image of a child victim of the Union Carbide gas leak. These are images that challenge our perceptions of the world - a far cry from the sanitised "news" increasingly served up for us by the major broadcasting channels.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Let me through officer, I'm a Proofreader

Police in New South Wales are embarrassed by a mis-spelling on new uniforms. Green vests to be worn by the force's ACLOs (that stands for Aboriginal Community Liaison Officers) were supplied with ALCO printed on them instead. Given the prevalence of alcohol related problems amongst certain sectors of Australia's indigenous population, the sight of officers trained to diffuse tense situations running around in vests bearing the word ALCO has prompted an apology by the force, as the Commissioner's spokesman said: "there was no intention to offend anybody. It was a simple printing error".

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Preachers of Hate

Let's hope Charles Clarke's proposals include the Christians as well as the jihadis. Pat Robertson - 2 Commandments down, and counting (that's 6 and 9 for any atheists, agnostics or US televangelists who might be having difficulty keeping up).

For the rest of us, there's always Ship of Fools

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

I've never liked airline food

The Gate Gourment dispute has left an increasingly bitter taste. Not only has British Airways been landed with a £ 40 million pound bill, but the allegations of "union busting" and attempts to deny the workforce the protection available under UK law demand a proper enquiry.

Ownership of what was originally a Swiss owned in-flight caterer passed to US venture capitalist Texas Pacific in 2002. Since then, Gate Gourmet's losses have rocketed, so that today a £25 million loss is predicted for the current financial year. This is mainly due to cost cutting measures by its airline customers which have seen the in-flight catering market shrink by 30% (40% in the US) since 2001.

Just the incentive for a ruthless management to provoke industrial action to cut their losses and export the operation to countries offering cheaper, less protected workers?

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Multiculturalism means what, exactly?

Strange, really. After spending the last 20-30 years telling to celebrate multiculturalism as a good thing, our politicians now either can't define it, or want to ditch it altogether.

A trite phrase capable of meaning all things to all people, is now blamed - post July 7 - for reducing community values to the point that they have become meaningless, alienating those it was intended to help adjust and find a common home in post colonial Britain.

Time now to do some real thinking about how we can live together - without using meaningless slogans to cover up the divisions?

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Go Ruth, go

Only 24 hours after Ruth Lea, the economic diva, championed Anglo Saxon values and the victory of "new" Europe, she returned to have a go at the greatest threat to us all - that's right, children.

You see, Ruth has long been convinced that it's wrong to give incentives to parents and children - makes childless co-workers hopping mad and costs the economy millions.

Only a barking Thatcherite - wedded to the "no such thing as society" mantra could fail to notice that today's toddler is tomorrow's wage slave.

Time to get real, Ruth, take a look at the bigger picture. Even if you don't understand society values - you'd better make sure today's young are well-adjusted and educated, after all, some of them will be looking after you in your dotage. And you wouldn't want them to get the wrong idea about your views on their parents, would you?

"As ever I’m afraid the people are ahead of the politicians"

Nice quote, Mr Blair, but "as ever" we're just a little concerned that you're not listening.

Grandstanding, whether on Europe or anything else is a favourite hobby for Tony, but the sweeping statements always hide the reality.

While he says he wants Europe to have a social dimension, this will - if he follows his form on domestic policies - take a back seat to unfettered globalisation. The French "No" vote was largely a rejection of this kind of open market challenge to adopt US practices and it looks like Blair is going to have a very uncomfortable EU Presidency if he keeps trying to make deregulation palatable by sweet references to a social dimension we no longer recognise in the UK.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The Ruth Lea Appreciation Society

She's back - the right wing economist with a great line in revisionism.

From the Institute of Directors, the great thinker has now moved on to become the Director of the Centre for Policy Studies, espousing multi speed Europe, Britain and "new" Europe (that's right, Ruthie has picked up on Donald Rumsfeld's memorable dichotomy put-down for France and Germany - although he used it to castigate them for not joining the Coalition in Iraq, Ruthie has taken it up as a term of derision for the social democracy she so hates) as bastions of "Anglo Saxon" economic values. No, that's not pillaging monasteries, but rather "competing" with low-wage economies.

Watch out, folks - when she really gets going it'll be bye-bye minimum wage and parental rights: if they don't have it in Myanmar, why should we?

Times might change, but Ruth just goes on, and on and on...

Old economists never die, they just find another market.

Tony's latest Opsi

So the failed "rebranding" of the DTI cost £30,000 - but at least it gave us a laugh. The government has also renamed HMSO - that's the department that publishes legislation and official information - it's now called OPSI: The Office for Public Sector Information.
Where will it end- how about Off Tony?

Friday, June 03, 2005

No secrets left

Deep Throat outing himself: what next, the Loch Ness Monster shopping in Sainsbury's???

Still, it's as good an excuse as any to screen All the President's Men again. Better still, read the book.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

It's the Constitution, stupid

Now that voters in France and the Netherlands have rejected the EU Constitution, Labour and the Tories can breath a sigh of relief that Europe won't raise its ugly head so soon in the new Parliament. But relief, or dismay, at not being able to rake up the old fears and half-truths in a referendum campaign might be misplaced. After all, the Dutch and French - far more ardent Europeans than the British - rejected the Constitution for very different reasons than the UK electorate would put at the top of its collective hate list.

In France, rejection was largely due to wide spread mistrust of "Anglo Saxon" free market privatisation and outsourcing - the very things that Blair openly champions. Could it just be that the French might be on to something here. Although he won't have to try and sell an unpopular Constitution at home, is Blair secretly hoping the reason for its rejection won't catch on this side of the Channel?

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

That's entertainment - not theology

The refusal by Westminster Abbey to allow filming to take place for the Da Vinci Code on the ground that the book is "theologically unsound" won't do the Church of England many favours in popularity terms. Reflect on this, just because the Church authorities, operating in the more enlightened 1970s, allowed The Omen: Part III to be filmed at Fountains Abbey in North Yorkshire didn't mean that they condoned Devil Worship.

But then again, that was years before the curse of Springer walked abroad in the land, forcing evangelicals to rend our ears and their garments with the sound of their lamentations... Take me to the Ship of Fools, it's our only hope.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Lifelong learning - but only if you can afford it.

Post 16 further education has always suffered an image problem. Evening classes in schools and colleges starved of resources and taken by those who fell the need to get a few more qualifications later in life, or even just wanting to keep their grey cells active in retirement.

I know, I teach law to such groups. Now, as Adult Learners Week starts, those potential students are being hit by a reduction in funding, which at the College where I teach will see them expected to pay £50 more per year for a GCSE course and more for some other courses, particularly British Sign Language.

What was it that Mr Blair said about education?

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Exactly who's being "flexible" here?

With the Institute of Directors, Confederation of British Industry and the Federation of Small Businesses all trying to shout loudest at the European Parliament's decision to end the UK's Working Time Directive opt-out, no-one is questioning how voluntary employee opt outs really are.

The truth is that UK has the second highest proportion of men working more than 48 hours a week among the 15 longest serving Member States. In that context, it's a bit rich for the employers' representatives to start lecturing us about our inability to compete against low wage economies in China and the Indian sub-continent. The truth is we will never successfully do that - and requiring your hard-pressed workforce to opt out of the right to refuse to work in excess of 48 hours per week doesn't have any effect when you're dealing with economies that pay a fraction in wages. Or is that what they really want? A race to the bottom for the workers - with the "entrepreneurs" creaming off the profits in dividends and share options?

And here are some more defenders of the "right" to work all hours. Courtesy of The Times' letters pages - music to Mr Murdoch's ears...

A final word to the gullible: the world in which Westfield lives, works and has its being is characterised by the export of jobs to India and China. We will never compete with them on price - even if we work 24 hours a day, 365 days per year: we will only win this one if we argue for the quality of our products and the immorality of exploitation and threat. You could always start by refusing to bank with those financial institutions that "outsource" their call centre and other back office operations.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

He's not listening: bring on the stalking horses

So much for our new listening third term PM. The backdoor appointment of Andrew Adonis - by way of a Tony's crony seat in the Lords (still hasn't got the message about an elected Upper Chamber, has he?) as Education Minister shows that Blair's going to keep a firm separation between listening and actually heeding what's said.

Adonis, for those not in the know, is widely suspected (he's not a guy to give headline speeches, but then again, he doesn't have to, as he never stands for election) as the brains behind "specialist" high schools, city academies and university "top-up" fees. Just what we need - more undermining of the secondary education sector by "blue sky" thinkers and New Labour psychobablers.

Strong goverment isn't good for democracy

Now that Labour have been re-elected with 67 seats on only a 36% share of the vote we really do need to consign "first past the post" to history. The entire thrust of the campaign was focused on the key marginals - those relatively few seats that have to be won or held to ensure success.

The rest of the electorate aren't really required - and, as both Labour and Conservative campaigns showed, are nothing more than an annoying side-show.

Even the traditional hostility of the Tories to electoral reform needs an urgent rethink. Multi party democracy demands an effective opposition - something that the Tories seem incapable of providing: thinking what we're thinking? No, they didn't even come close with their xenophobia and negative campaigning - and that's the opinion of one their own MPs!
Now that Labour have been re-elected with 67 seats on only a 36% share of the vote we really do need to consign "first past the post" to history. The entire thrust of the campaign was focused on the "key marginals" - those relatively few seats that have to be won or held to ensure success.

The rest of the electorate aren't really required - and, as both Labour and Conservative campaigns showed - are nothing more than an annoying side-show.

Even the traditional hostility of the Tories to electoral reform needs an urgent rethink. Multi party democracy demands an effective opposition - something that the Tories seem incapable of providing: thinking what we're thinking? No, they didn't even come close with their xenophobia and negative campaigning - and that's the opinion of one their own MPs!

Monday, May 02, 2005

Casualty figures

In a pre-election interview last week, Tony Blair couldn't give an accurate reply when asked how many British troops had died in Iraq. Today we know: 87, unfortunately we don't have accurate numbers for Iraqi casualties. As Blair keeps telling us, he's sorry for casualties but not for war, perhaps we should remind him that we're talking about sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters here not just the means of furthering foreign policy.

Remember that on May 5.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Freedom of Information - with a bit of help from a leak...

So after all the bluff and fluster, we finally have the Attorney General's advice on the legality (or not) of war with Iraq.

After all Tony Blair's stonewalling, it's taken a good old fashioned Whitehall leak to bring it into the public domain. It's all very damaging for New Labour, though - being forced to come clean in the final week of the election campaign, and in the midst of the Tory attacks on Blair's integrity and the Lib Dem anti war crusade.

Now for the leak enquiry...

Sunday, April 24, 2005

An Uncomfortable Anniversary

Today marks the 90th anniversary of the deportation and killing of up to 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman authorities.

Whether victims of war, as claimed by the Turkish government, or of genocide - the first used to describe the killings in 1924 - the full horror visited on Armenia by its Turkish rulers is still a running sore between the two countries, but also has wider resonance given that Turkish hopes of EU membership, already a controversial issue, are also clouded by Ankara's refusal to admit responsibility for the events of 1915.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

A chat over coffee with Jessica

At last, the general election campaign gets interesting. After all the stage managed visits and set piece interviews, Blair's caught on camera being told the truth by a 20 year old student. Jessica Haig grabbed the headlines after being invited to what Blair's minders obviously hoped would be a walkover - memmbers of the public lost for words by the great leaders sudden appearance in a Leeds shopping centre. Instead, he got Jessica and she didn't mince her words.

OK, so it was uncomfortable for Tony - but this is an example of real people getting to the opportunity to tell politicians how they've sold out on their principles. We need more of it - particularly after the dull as ditch water campaign we've had so far. Who knows, it might even inspire a few more to turn on May 5.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

A Doctored Photograph - Worth Millions of Words

News that the Conservative candidate for Dorset South had doctored a photograph he used in an election leaflet sent Labour's campaign hard-man, John Reid, scurrying to the South Coast to make the most of the Tory discomfort.

Although it was all good knock about stuff, it's hardly news; after all, photoshop makes such high jinx hard to resist. The most startling thing about this particular manufactured row is that the original photograph showed the hapless candidate, Ed Matts, alongside Ann Widdecombe at a demo in support of a Malawian woman who faced deportation, along with her four children. Now that's surely a sacking offence in Mr Howard's book...

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Ooooh, Matron

No-one pretends that hospital-borne infections, such as MRSA, aren't a serious risk to health. But it's a bit rich for the Tories to come out with the plan to allow matrons to close dirty wards. For those with short memories, privatising hospital cleaning services was the big idea of the last Conservative administration. Silence has been deafening on this so far...

Who's opening your mail?

For those who have long worried about the effects of mail privatisation, a report that prisoners have been working for a company contracted to handle mail marked "return to sender" confirms their worst fears. Making a quick buck like this undermines any possible benefit public or business users could possibly get from privatisation. Contracting out, the PFI or PPP have gone too far - we have to return public services to proper public control and democratic accountability.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

It's going to be a long month...

Tony Blair saw the Queen this morning to ask her to dissolve Parliament and by 1.00 pm the first (Tory) election leaflet landed on the doormat. Great, at least the politicos are interested even if no-one else can raise much enthusiasm for the worst kept secret on months.

Interesting to hear the first pitches from the three main parties: Howard's not scared to be nasty to foreigners; Blair wants opportunity for all (don't want to spoil the party but this doesn't extend beyond our shores - certainly not Iraq, where the UN is concerned about hunger levels: must remember to mention the war if Labour come calling - they appear to have forgotten about it); and Kennedy thinks he's leader of the main opposition party(nice try, but tactically it could be a good call for the Lib Dems).

Funniest thing so far is the spoof (or is it?) blog from Alaistair Campbell

More - much, much more later...

Monday, March 28, 2005

Trade mark water? They'll patent fresh air next

Yorkshire Water, the privatised utility that 10 years ago managed to run out of water, has pulled of another PR coup. This time they've registered Icytonic as a trademark for drinking water.

Launching this earthshattering news at the same time as it landed its hapless customers with a 9% rise in water bills, the company is delighted to tell gullible hacks that their "product" costs less than .5p per litre and is best served chilled.

Fancy that, well I never and go to the foot of our stairs, as they say in these parts.

Strange amidst all this corporate backslapping, but there seems to be very little media comment on the funding of future dividends for Yorkshire Water's shareholders. The company's figures show that 31.6% of the revenue it raises from its customers goes on "funding investment" - which includes dividends, so it remains to be seen just how much will find its way into shareholders' pockets.

In the mid 90s, Yorkshire Water found many of its shortcomings and PR stunts exposed by a pressure group called Yorkshire Water Watch. With bills now on the rise and the company seemingly intent on covering up bad news with PR puffery, it's to be hoped that Watervoice, the new customer's champion, will be as effective in cutting through the spin and corporate doublespeak that is Yorkshire Water's first resort when the going gets tough.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

The House of Lords, that great bastion of liberty...

Who would have thought it. After years of being denigrated as a geriatric talking shop, their Lord and Ladyships transformed themselves into the great protectors of civil liberty and slayers of tyrants. On Monday and Tuesday of this week the Lords inflicted 5 (count 'em Charles) defeats on the government's anti terror proposals.

I got fed up with counting the number of times Charles Clarke said no further concessions would be made - and then made them anyway. Even after the former Metropolitan Police Commissioner raised the possibility of 200 active al Qaeida operatives at large in the UK (scare tactic or not), the Lords still wouldn't hand Clarke his much sought after role as judge, jury and home arrest jailer.

When you remember how Blair gerrymandered the upper chamber "by appointment" when he got rid of the hereditary peers' voting rights; just think what damage an elected Senate could have done.

Data protection - the illusion of security?

News that Reed Elsevier's Matrix database has been hacked, allowing unauthorised access to information on up to 32,000 people must surely alert many to the false hope promised by data protection legislation and talk of "safe harbors" for data sent overseas by major financial institutions.

Details are sketchy - at the request of the FBI, Reed aren't giving too much away - but it has to raise questions about banks and other financial organisations use of "offshore" data processing facilities.

Even if customers give express consent to their details being sent to India or the far east for processing, how can we ever be sure that it will remain secure?

Friday, March 04, 2005

What's in a name - apart from a little bit of tradition?

Quite a lot, if you're the Leeds and Holbeck Building Society apparently. After a century and half of being named after the City of Leeds and Holbeck - a traditional, working class suburb where the Society was founded in 1845, Ian Ward, the Chief Executive, now wants to drop Holbeck and just have "Leeds" in the title - because he wants to identify the Society with the "vibrant" northern capital of business.

Personally, I'd rather have the tradition than the designer-suited glitz - and I hope the Society's members agree when it gets put to the vote at the end of March. Why not open an account with the Society and give Mr Ward a really vibrant answer?

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Martial nation

National tabloid and TV advertising campaigns are a costly business and I can't but wonder who's going to pick up the tab for the Army Cadet Force's adult instructor campaign.

The timing is also interesting. Can't remember any UK cadet force (Sea Cadets, Air Training Corps, Army Cadet Force) advertising for instructors in this way before; could it have anything to do with recruitment concerns? Or does the MoD envisage a long term need for soldiers??

Advertising for volunteer youth workers is one thing but this campaign - at this time - raises concerns that the Army is trying to push military training for teenagers on the quiet.

Friday, February 25, 2005

This is no way to win hearts and minds

Moazzam Begg's ">account of the US mistreatment of detainees at Bagram and Guantanamo finds parallels in the court martial findings about assaults carried out by British troops at Basra. In both cases, the supposed liberators and defenders of democratic freedom subjected Muslim detainees - who had not been charged or convicted of any offence - ito the most barbaric and appalling treatment. We, who are supposed to bankroll and support the "war against terror" come what may, were led to believe our forces would uphold international law in the way they conducted themselves. As with so much in what looks increasingly like an illegal, politically inspired adventure, truth and decency has been pushed aside in the service of American foreign policy objectives. Don't forget Blair's duplicity when the election is finally announced.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005


Although the finding that legal aid should have been available to Helen Steel and David Morris is welcome, it's also pretty much a pyrhic victory as you've got to be virtually penniless to qualify for public funding now.

It would be better if restrictions were placed on corporations bringing libel actions in the first place - after all, this is a relatively new "innovation" that is very damaging to free speech.

McDonalds' victory against Steel and Morris was a crushing blow to the right to protest against the power of multinationals with deep pockets. When the boardroom decides to cry libel, who can stand against them?

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Charles and Camilla - let the joy be unconfined

Just what we need, a royal media splash fest. After years of poking fun at the happy couple, sweetness and light breaks out at the news of the impending nuptials. Oh, and the great arborial conversationalist is now a mature thinker - until the next time one of his sons shows him up, of course; then it'll be back to being an unfit and distant father.

When will the British accept that monarchy - even though it attracts the tourists and looks good on calendars - has had its day. Bring on the Republic!

Better still, sign the petition for a referendum on the future of the monarchy.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

I've just seen the Consultant

Management, that is. Spent two hours yesterday evening being talked at by someone describing himself as a "deep change facilitator". The presentation started, as consultants usually do, with a statement that he knew nothing about the field he'd been retained to work in (education in this case); he then proceeded to talk about his 30 years' private sector experience and how this qualified him to oversee changes to the working lives of teachers.

So why do organisations take on people who delight in the fact that they nothing about their raison d'etre or working practices? It's the Emperor's New Clothes" syndrome: a consultant knows about "change", we're in a mess, therefore we need to change: bingo; or not.

After being told that he was encouraging "thinking outside the box", he then said "deep change can take up to 10 years to embed" (more fees, anyone?) All this was the prelude to being told that things aren't going too well on the "deep change" front at the moment, but not to worry, these things commonly experience a "dip" before you emerge, changed presumably, at the end.

By then, of course, the consultant will be far away, selling his imaginery new clothes and snake oil remedies to another organisation whose management have clutched at the straw that is management consultancy.

Anyone else for re-hashed MBA lecture notes?

Zero-tolerance: a phrase becomes hackneyed

It's much beloved by on-message "new" Labour politicos - as Ruth Kelly showed yesterday in her plea for "zero-tolerance" of bad behaviour in schools, but what the hell does it actually mean, if anything?

Leeds City Council recently announced a "zero-tolerance" approach to litter - with fines of up to £2,500 for business that were found contributing to the mountain of crap on the City's streets. In that case, "zero" was eventually defined as five pieces of litter that could be attributed to the same commercial source. So, that's it then - five is the new zero.

To those of us with memories longer than Ms Kelly's, it seems that "zero-tolerance" has replaced another hackneyed favourite: "we should campaign vigorously" meaning "we should do something, but probably won't".

The trouble is, "zero-tolerance" is dragged into service to castigate the obvious; most people would agree that something has to be done about loutish behaviour in schools, or that the Army shouldn't allow rascist bullying in its ranks - it's the what and the how that causes the problem, that's when "zero-tolerance" is pressed into service as a woolly, one-size-fits-all, non-defined answer.

Don't be coy, Ms Kelly; this is something you could really take a stand on - put an end to zero-tolerance - you know, as Churchill said, why not make it something up with which we will not put.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Holocaust Memorial Day

Against the moving scenes taking place at Auschwitz we have the obscene spectacle of the far right BNP passing itself of as a respectable touter for votes in the general election expected to take place this year. Allied to this the frighteningly high number of Britons who profess to never having heard of the place and the worry is did those millions die in vain - and how can we really make sure they didn't?

One further question - where was Blair or the Queen: was Jack Straw and Prince Edward really the best we could manage?

"A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children, because they were no more". St Matthew's Gospel Chapter 2 verse 18.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

It's the Constitution, stupid...

Rather amusing to hear John Jackson, Chairman of the Countryside Alliance, bemoaning the extreme powers that the House of Commons claims for itself by virtue of our unwritten constitution.

I mean, our traditional view of a hunt supporter would be a Telegraph or Mail reading Tory, much prone to using the phrase "political correctness gone made" when faced with any contrary progressive or liberal views. But now, they've become the bastions of freedom, proclaiming, shock horror, that their human rights are about to be infringed!

On one level, this can be written off by saying, "that's democracy" - but on another, the position that the Countryside Alliance and its supporters find themselves in is directly attributable to the rules that the "players" (ie politicians) make for themselves, which go under the name of Constitutional Conventions.

These mean that Parliament's claim to be the supreme lawmaker can't be challenged in court. And, not wishing to predetermine the outcome of the Alliance's challenge to the validity of the 1949 Parliament Act, this is precisely why a law enacted by Parliament - even one bypassing the Lords courtesy of the Parliament Acts - will not be questionned by the judiciary.

People usually find the Constitution boring, only getting excited when an unwritten convention means that they find they can't get their own way. Welcome to reality, Mr Jackson - a reality that's existed for centuries, but usually gets ignored.

After the court decision - why not sign Charter?

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Blog from Baghdad

Strange to say, this is the only Iraqi voice I've come across. A unique insight into the effect of the war on the lives of ordinary people. River deserves a much wider audience, our own media - "embedded" or not - can't or won't give us the truth about what's really happening in Iraq.

The latest atrocity gets a few moments on the news, while the government puts out the increasingly improbable propaganda that the election will bring democracy at the end of January. Keep on posting, River: the taxpayers bankrolling the coalition of the gullible need you to tell us how the war's really going.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Citizenship Events - A Great Idea

Only one problem with the Home Secretary's proposal to host citizenship ceremonies. This is a monarchy, which means that we're not citizens but "subjects" - take a look inside your passport. To become citizens, we need our rights and privileges to be set out in a Constitution that can't be changed without a referendum. So, go on, Mr Clark, give us a written constitution, then we can affirm our status as citizens.

But then again, the British like to delude themselves. Not only are we variously described, incorrectly, as citizens or "nationals", we also seem to believe we still have an empire. And we're assisted in keeping up the self-delusion by the Queen - after all, she hands out gongs twice a year proclaiming celebs, business types - plus the token streetsweeper - to be members or commanders of the British Empire.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

"Amazing pic" said the BBC - who am I to disagree? Posted by Hello

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Nazis in Manchester and Gloucestershire - and pointless space fillers published in media

Wow, Nazi uniforms for hire in Manchester!.

Just another mindless example of the press in full cry about nothing. Teenager dresses inappropriately at party. It was safety pins and bin liners in my day - although I do remember a sprinkling of Swastikas amongst the really outrageous. Anarchy in the UK (what a song that was!) sent shivers through the establishment - but Harry's Grandma is still in a job 28 years later and I don't expect his antics will bring the Republic any nearer.

Grow up and report real news.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Springer - Evangelical Theatre Promotion

After all the shouting, licence-burning and threats to BBC Executives, the show is now going on News - Latest News - Nationwide Tour for Controversial Springer Opera">nationwide tour.

Great result for the Christian rent-a-mob; condemn without seeing - and over-hype the rhetoric (who actually sat there last Saturday night and counted the obscenities??). Now, having made themselves into a laughing stock outside the BBC, look out for smaller groups reprising the righteous pharisee act at a theatre near you.

But the BBC shouldn't be allowed to get away with the freedom of expression argument too lightly - having stirred up the Church, I wonder if Roly Keating has any plans to screen Behzti in the near future?

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Someone's got a sense of humour...

Came out of Church yesterday morning to find the car had been damaged. Another vehicle had scraped the full length, from fuel cap to front bumper - but no-one had left a note and there were no witnesses.

I've just reported it to the insurance company. The guy on the phone asked for all the details and the location of the car when it was damaged. When I said "parked outside St Matthew's Church", he paused before saying: "You'd have thought God would have stopped that kind of thing from happening". Then he started to apologise - but we both ended up laughing.

Good job Christian Voice weren't listening in - they'd probably have a go at him for blasphemy.

Visit Ship of Fools, it's the only way to stay sane in a theologically challenged world.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

I believe I'm going to be offended, therefore I will be: the Springer Opera Row

This practising Christian has no problem with the transmission of something with a few naughty words and an actor appearing as Christ. I do, however, have major concerns about a group claiming to represent the Church behaving like modern-day Pharisees.

I don't know if we'll watch the show or not; unlike Michael Ancram my TV has an off switch and the ability to let me change channels. As for Christian Voice, a group closely allied to US far right Christian fundamentalism, its members need to remember one thing - when the Church sets itself up as the all-seeing nanny and custodian of moral values, it risks alienating non-believers and causing further divisions in its own ranks: something that liberal and progressive members of the Church care about very much indeed.

Whenever the "let's get it banned" brigade start howling it's always as well to determine exactly who it is that thinks they know what's best for the rest of us, and why.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Who needs a lawyer when they can imprison you without trial?

Now it gets really worrying. Even the barristers appointed by the government to represent foreign detainees held without charge are refusing to do the job.

The law allowing the detention of foreign terror suspects without trial were lambasted by the House of Lords before Christmas, and one of the "special advocates" (barristers allowed to represent the detainees but not tell them what evidence the State had against them) resigned on the basis that he refused to go along with the unjust law.

Now News">details are emerging of special advocates refusing to represent other detainees, with judges resorting to extraodinary measures to get them into court.

The law is being dragged into disrepute by measures that we thought had been consigned to history. It's four hundred years and a civil war too late for this kind of stain to be allowed on the hem of Justice's gown.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Blair - a credibility crisis

The Prime Minister's latest press conference , along with his live interview last night, show that he's fast losing his credibility as a leader.

The eager, Hugh Grant-like desire to be a best friend to all comers (especially middle Englanders), has given way to a growing defensiveness. How much longer does he think he can keep the lid on the inter-Party warfare with Gordon Brown and will he keep the whole thing together during the expected election campaign?

Labour's leadership also seems to be in denial over Iraq. With mounting deaths this week, the upcoming election there is in serious trouble. Going ahead as planned at the end of January looks like being very risky indeed. Increasing violence will expose many Iraqis to fear of death; balance risk low turnout against major casualties and either way, Blair, facing a probable Spring election here, is a real liability to a Party intent on a third term.

Good job the Tories have "busted flush" Howard in place, with him around to make Blair look good, victory at the ballot box looks assured - even if it means we're saddled with a lame duck leader and a snarling Chancellor waiting in the wings.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Three Minutes' Silence

Sad, although strangely predictable, that the Daily Mail and Daily Star should oppose the silence to be held in memory of Tsunami victims.

These two papers - which take a right wing, anti-European Union line - feel it's just an empty gesture to remember those who perished on December 26.

The predictability of it stems from the fact that the silence was proposed by the Dutch prime minister, in the Netherland's capacity as President of the European Union, so, obviously, it must be another example of the UK being "dictated" to by Europe. Even worse, at three minutes, the silence is one minute longer than that accorded to the nation's war dead each November.

It is to be hoped that the UK, along with the rest of mainland Europe, ignores this petty knee-jerk posturing. The Tsunami wiped out communities and shattered lives irrespective of national borders; you can't compartmentalise compassion when faced with tragedy and loss on such a scale - even if the call to remember the victims comes from the EU.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Tsunami disaster: New Year's Eve shock

We went to some friends for New Year's Eve. Conversation got round to the Tsunami and one of the other guests said he'd heard from a friend on a family holiday in Thailand. She'd called to let him know she was OK, but that her father was missing.

This thing is going to have a terrible effect for a long time to come.

If you haven't donated yet -,,

David Hyatt Posted by Hello

Happy New Year

I received a letter the other day from a 16 year old girl who writes short stories. She'd seen our advert in Yellow Pages and wanted some help in publishing her work - but her letter was full of spelling errors.

Now, I know I'm old-fashioned about this, but surely if you want to impress a publisher, the least you could do is use the spell check (limited value, but at least it shows willing) or a dictionary.

It's trumpeted throughout cyberspace that anyone can publish on the Web but in these post Eats, Shoots and Leaves days shouldn't "self-policing" include some spelling and punctuation criticism?

I attended a course a while ago at which I was told that articles for Web publication should not contain paragraphs longer than 4 lines - for "browser optimation" purposes.

Imagine buying a ream of paper and being told not to use the letter "L" more than 12 times per page...

First thought for 2005: don't surrender the English language to the texting generation or the cyber-geeks.