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The day after the noxious Polly Toynbee wrote an unpleasant hatchet piece in the Guardian which probably did wonders for Boris' chances in the London mayoral race, Greyarea points out today's ludicrous piece by Mike Read (and the splendid comments thereon). It's difficult to avoid wondering whether this is a parody, or perhaps some more sinister and cunning plan to bury Boris by praising him. Either that or, err, Mike Read is just a complete cock.

I do find Boris amusing, and am generally of the view that he is far more intelligent than his deliberately constructed persona suggests. But I don't particularly like the man. Trouble is, I intensely dislike Ken as well.

Apropos of something a bit different, Liberal England asks why on earth either a back bench committee of MPs or HM Government should concern themselves with how local authorities satisfy their statutory duty to collect rubbish regularly. If central government doesn't allow local councils to decide how they collect people's rubbish, what will it allow them to do?.


Apr. 11th, 2007 02:14 pm
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The BBC saw fit to inform us this morning that 60% of men [or some such figure, and was it 40% of women] are now living at home. Where the hell else would they live? If that many people were actually homeless we really would be in serious shite.

What they were actually getting at was the number of people [of what ages? Didn't say] still living with their parents. Whether this genuinely constitutes a problem, rather than just a new twist on common family/social structures that weren't really abandoned that long ago, I am unsure.

Weekend was wonderful, mainly spent being Catholic at the Cathedral, save for acquiring a summer cold which, while coming back on the train from a day-jaunt to my mother's on Monday somehow turned into a raging fever. Am now mainly recovered (just in time for Pashazade to start coming down with same) but am feeling utterly shattered, so much so that I haven't yet summoned up the energy to formulate a polite response to an instructing solicitor's email criticising some trust drafting and asking for more documents. At the moment, mental drafts begin "you are a cretin" which is possibly not the best way to correspond with those who pay me.

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Your daily terror threat analysis. I for one will be signing up. It can go into the "random" folder, along with Snowmail, B3TA, and Popbitch. Another step more ludicrous every day...

I was promised flying cars, not a daily terror-level email.

I was tempted to add something crude about the expression on Dame Elizabeth Manningham-Butler's face in the photograph, but we are all grown-up and above such things. Aren't we?

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I've put a (fairly lengthy) review of Craig Murray's Murder in Samarkand up over at The Sharpener.


Aug. 8th, 2006 02:53 pm
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Intriguing article in El Reg picking up on a story in the Observer that people around Gordon Brown are seriously floating what has been thought of as the paranoid nightmare of ID cards: ultimate function creep whereby every electronic transaction in the UK would be linked to ID - and thence to loyalty card schemes.

With any luck this will be what kills the whole idea.

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Government to target crime at birth. Literally. In fact before birth, focussing on midwives identifying "chaotic" families. Hang on, I have a chaotic family... As The Register puts it:

Systems built on junk science sharing junk data in pursuit of imaginary concerns and a pre-defined criminal underclass, while the rest of us hide. Welcome to virtual reality social work, welcome to Project Blair.

(Via Sbp).

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The introductory paragraph above the fold seems to amount to little more than Women! Know Your Place.

What an offensive shit the man is. And this on the labour party website, as part of "Labour's 2006 World Cup Blog" (why, anyway?). "Views expressed in this blog and in the comments are the views of the individuals and are not those of the Labour Party. The Labour Party takes no responsibility for comments posted on this site." My arse. I'd like to see them try and escape liability via that disclaimer if he wrote something defamatory.

For the record, incidentally, I know nothing about football and care less, and no the World Cup isn't going to change that.

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So asks Steve on The Sharpener (which you should all be reading, except for the bits written by, err, me - at present that should be "bit" really, but more will come). And why not? Actually maybe we should go back to the days of permanently itinerant government. That would keep them out of trouble.

(On the water-shortage point, I have just asked Thames Water for a meter. I had forgotten how outrageous the cost rated domestic water supply was in London. This is ridiculous, says he, gazing out at the grey skies (yes, I know, too late to save us from the drought etc etc.)

Brian Haw

May. 24th, 2006 12:22 pm
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Though the Court of Appeal have now held that despite the appallingly shoddy drafting of the legislation preventing unauthorised protests in Parliament Square, the section does indeed apply to Brian Haw, for the moment he remains (unless things have developed further since last night's raid).

The response from the Police and Government seems pretty ridiculously pathetic - see here for last night's antics.

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The Government has backed down, to some extent, on the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (latest version of the Bill currently here.

I haven't had a chance to go through it in detail as yet, so I'm unsure whether the amendments, available here (.pdf) cover all the concerns, but the crucial point would appear to be that the Bill will grant the powers only for the purpose of removing burdens, administering regulatory powers, or implementing proposals of the Law Commissions. (The latter two points weren't referred to in the news reports I've seen, but are still there in the amendments, and the last point about Law Commission reports still says "with or without amendments": while I can certainly see a reasonable argument for pushing through LC Bills as they stand, since they go through a very long consultative process before reaching the legislative stage, the point seems less strong if they're going to be amended.

The noxious Jim Murphy's line on Today was "well, this is of course what we always meant." Which rather invites the questions: "why didn't you draft it that way in the first place then, and why did you reject all previous proposals to do just this?"

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I am vaguely ashamed to admit that my interest in and enthusiasm about The Sultan's Elephant is vastly greater than in the London local elections...

ETA: Some pictures from lunchtime here.

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I was going to write yesterday about Charles Clarke's decision to cap compensation for those wrongly convicted at £500,000. Do eleven, fifteen, twenty years in the Scrubs for a crime you didn't commit, waking up every morning to being Big Frankie's Bitch... doesn't matter. Still only worth half a million. Less bed and board. Christ, is there some immutable law that every Home Secretary is more illiberal and obnoxious than the one before or something?

But Tim Worstall does it better in The Times

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The government seeks to assure us that the provisions of Part 1 of the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill if passed will not be used in "controversial" areas. But they refuse to incorporate anything to that effect into the Bill itself, leaving us only with ministerial assurances which are of about as much significance as a chocolate teapot (they wouldn't provide a Pepper v. Hart point, which is about the only time they could help).

The opposition drafted a list of statutes which, they argued, were of major constitutional significance, and should be excluded from the ambit of the Bill. Murphy, after all, had said that: "The Bill builds on the Regulatory Reform Act 2001. It aims to deliver on the Government’s agenda of better regulation. As part of that, however, we need to ensure through our deliberations in these eight sittings that there is a correct level of effective parliamentary scrutiny. Ultimately, however, the Bill is intended to maintain the UK’s competitiveness, free up public sector workers and others from bureaucracy, and remove unnecessary regulation."

The Government has refused to accept that amendment to the following Acts should be specifically excluded from the ambit of "removing unnecessary regulation":

Read more... )


Mar. 10th, 2006 02:57 pm
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Ou sont les scandales d'antan?

He seems to have spent the last 40 years quietly doing charity work. Where are the rest of them... googling: Ward killed himself of course. Rice-Davies lives* in America. Keeler lives in north London. And Ivanov was "recalled to Moscow and never heard of again"...

Beats dodgy mortgages any day. No one will ever make a film about the Jowell affair (ooh, maybe he will go down: see here if you don't understand this story yet), nor will it give rise to an image that signified an era(though thinking about it, that might be in Berlusconi's line, particularly if you buy Boris' take).

*Hah. Original typo of "lies" now corrected. He would say that, wouldn't he?

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Things like this (via Unfogged via Metafilter etc, and a few months old) give me hope:

Office of the Mayor, Lawrence, Kansas

WHEREAS: Dadaism is an international tendency in art that seeks to change conventional attitudes and practices in aesthetics, society, and morality; and
WHEREAS: Dadaism may or may not have come into being in the summer of 1916 at the Cabaret Voltaire at 1 Spiegelgasse in Zürich, Switzerland, with the participation of Hugo Ball, Tristan Tzara, Emmy Hennings, Marcel and Georges Janco, Jean Arp, and Richard Heulsenbeck; and
WHEREAS: The central message of Dada is the realization that reason and anti-reason, sense and nonsense, design and chance, consciousness and unconsciousness, belong together as necessary parts of a whole; and
WHEREAS: Dada is a virgin microbe which penetrates with the insistence of air into all those spaces that reason has failed to fill with words and conventions; and
WHEREAS: zimzim urallala zimzim urallala zimzim zanzibar zimzalla zam;
NOW, THEREFORE, I, Dennis “Boog” Highberger, Mayor of the City of Lawrence, Kansas, do hereby proclaim the days of February 4, April 1, March 28, July 15, August 2, August 7, August 16, August 26, September 18, September 22, October 1, October 17, and October 26, 2006 as “INTERNATIONAL DADAISM MONTH”
and I encourage all citizens
Dennis “Boog” Highberger
December 27, 2005

I find George Galloway's purported livejournal funny: you may differ. (Via Harry's Place)

Oh, and over on the Fafblog Giblets tells us the seven species of conifer he can never forgive, including The Bristlecone Pine for lying in wait to ambush Giblets for four thousand years and The Western Prickly Juniper for double-crossing Giblets, stranding him in Bangkok and handing over the emerald spider to Alfonse LaFarge and his cabal of undead ninja assassins, not to mention Fafnir's minutes of the desert island sub-committee on whether or not to eat the coconut. (good thing I caught the rather Freudian set of typos on that last word before posting...). And checking back through the archive for the first time in a while I see I missed The Challenge of Soup in a post-9/11 World

I am resisting the temptation to write about Jowell, Mills & Berlusconi. Suffice it to say that leaving aside entirely the political angle, the setup blatantly smells to me like, at best and stretching credibility somewhat, legitimate tax avoidance but quite possibly slipping over into evasion, and also quite possibly money laundering. The only point I can see in their favour at present is the thought "but if so, it's so blatant". Yet we're expected to believe Jowell, in September 2000, not only was so naive as to become the cliche of the woman who happily signs a joint mortgage without thinking about it when her husband asks (a cliche that has given rise to a number of leading cases) but with her husband was actually able to obtain a loan of £400,000 from Hambros without them insisting she took full independent advice to protect their security from a charge of undue influence, at a time when Etridge No 2 was trundling towards the Lords and some years after Barclays Bank v. O'Brien. And then they pay the lot off just over two months later... Just a coincidence, and a chance gift, she says. Now what was that phone number again...

ETA: (for reference) Actually Exists has a good summary of what Mills actually seems to have done.

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Craig Murray has a few new posts on the extraordinary rendition affair: (1), (2), (3). This story has not gone away yet...

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... but I'm too busy to write about anything myself about the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill. Suffice it to say that the more I read it the more it seems to be one massive Henry VIII clause, with the real risk, in my view, that post Jackson it may be deemed to be primary legislation, which takes it largely out of the oversight of judicial review. All hail dirigisme -but most states which run things that way have a differently constituted and more fractured political establishment. If you listen carefully you can hear Haselrig, Pym, Hampden, Holles, and Strode spinning in their graves.

1(1) A Minister of the Crown may by order make provision for either or both of the following purposes—
(a) reforming legislation;
(b) implementing recommendations of any one or more of the United Kingdom Law Commissions, with or without changes.


2 (1) An order under section 1 may for either purpose specified in subsection (1) of that section make provision amending, repealing or replacing any legislation.
(2) Provision under subsection (1) may amend, repeal or replace legislation in any way that an Act might, and in particular may amend, repeal or replace legislation so as to
(a) confer functions on any person (including functions of legislating or functions relating to the charging of fees);
(b) modify the functions conferred on any person by legislation;
(c) transfer, or provide for the transfer or delegation of, the functions conferred on any person by legislation
(3) An order under section 1 may for the purpose specified in subsection (1)(b) of that section also make—
(a) provision amending or abolishing any rule of law;
(b) provision codifying rules of law.

It's true, of course, that secondary legislation by ministerial order has a long history, and has its place in settling the administrative machinery required to make the law work. But, at least since 1689, it has been settled (in England and then in the various iterations of the UK: I know not about Scotland before) that the power to do so arises only under the residuary, and these days fairly limited prerogative powers of the Crown (which in this context means the powers exercised by HM on the Advice of her ministers, as opposed to the very small number of personal powers exercised after she has taken advice from those people she considers appropriate (use of capitals deliberate) which are really used only if everything has gone a bit wrong), or, more usually, under powers specifically given under an Act. Almost any Act of Parliament states something along the lines of "the minister responsible may make orders providing for regulations under this section", except Criminal Law acts, and even those do sometimes. Thus the minutiae of administrivia are taken away from the body of the Act. But such orders are restricted to use for the limited purpose laid down in the section, and to the general principles of primary law -natural justice, legitimate expectations, etc etc-, and their use can be judicially reviewed, these days having regard to the HRA. Even then, such regulations have a tendency to be authoritarian and prescriptive in nature, which is in part a product of their purpose but in part also a product of the limited amount of review they receive. And the whole point of the exercise is to avoid spending time having the measures argued about in the Commons: that, for good purpose or ill -I happily concede that trying to use the time of the various parts of the state efficiently is a perfectly good purpose-, is the entire reason for arranging matters this way.

Acts of Parliament can themselves now be Declared in breach of the ECHR under the HRA, but that is a different, and far more difficult, procedure (and as a matter of principle does not invalidate them, though the practical consequences are in essence to that effect). By contrast to the established kind of Regulation, this is a general power to legislate in the manner of an Act of Parliament, including amendment of existing Acts by freestanding Regulations, and amounts in substance to a huge expansion of the Crown prerogative. OK, so at least ministers today, unlike those of the 17th century, have a degree of democratic accountability. But part of the reason for doing things as we do now is to guard against elective dictatorship.

It isn't actually the first time this government have allowed ministers to amend primary legislation by regulation. It was first used in the HRA itself, and more worryingly, in the Civil Contingencies Act 2004. But even then it's limited to matters arising under those Acts. What it has a great deal in common with is the power of the European Commission to issue Directives - but then, I consider that one of the main problems with the current legislative machinery of the EU.

Owen Dixon wrote in "The Law and Constitution" (1935) 51 LQR 590, 596 that it "is of the essence of supremacy of the law that the courts shall disregard as unauthorised and void the acts of any organ of government, whether legislative or administrative, which exceed the limits of the power that organ derives from the law." That principle ceases to have much force when there are effectively no limits on the power in question.

Chicken Yoghurt and Nosemonkey (who has a few other posts on the subject) have made a start on the problems. In what I find an utterly bizarre move Clifford Chance, of all people, have a very good paper on the subject (.pdf)

Meanwhile Prem Sikka has a rather ill-informed and confused articles about trusts law, offshoring, and the constitutional position of the CDTs in the Guardian. No one appears to have pointed out to him the existence of the recent flood money-laundering legislation in the UK, copied verbatim in most off-shore jurisdictions including the one in which I sit. Or the draconian powers and activities of the FSA, and its offshore equivalents. Or the large pile of non-chargeable work involving review of relevant procedures sitting on my desk. Perhaps I'm deluded and it's not there... I shall take the afternoon off.

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Via Nosemonkey, as seems to be increasingly the case:

"The Propaganda We Pass Off As News Around The World": Media Guardian

A succession of scandals in the US has revealed widespread government funding of PR agencies to produce "fake news". Actors take the place of journalists and the "news" is broadcast as if it were genuine. The same practice has been adopted in Iraq, where newspapers have been paid to insert copy. These stories have raised the usual eyebrows in the UK about the pitiful quality of US democracy. Things are better here, we imply. We have a prime minister who claimed in 2004 that "the values that drive our actions abroad are the same values of progress and justice that drive us at home". Yet in 2002 the government launched a littleknown television propaganda service that seems to mimic the US government's deceptive approach to fake news.


World Television produces the fake news, but its efforts are entirely funded by the Foreign Office, which spent £340m on propaganda activities in the UK alone in 2001. A comprehensive post- 9/11 overhaul means that this figure has probably markedly increased since then.


The diet of "news" received by viewers of the service includes an endless pageant of government ministers and other official spokespeople. Recent headlines on Iraq refer to happy news such as "Prime minister in surprise visit to Iraq" (December 22 2005) or "Iraqi ambassador upbeat on elections" (December 14 2005). Often Chatham House provides the venue for policy discussions, as in: "The psychology of terror - experts meet" (December 23 2005).

Questioning the occupation is out of the question, but some criticism of US policy is possible. In an extraordinary apologia for the British occupation of Iraq in 1920, the "suggested intro" reads: "This year is not the first time an outside power has sought to construct a modern, democratic, liberal state in Iraq. Britain tried to do the same in the 1920s". The benevolence of the US and the UK is simply assumed: "Today's USled coalition, like the imperial occupiers of 80 years ago, are trying to free Iraq's government and security services from corruption and abuse."

I despair, really I do. As Brad has been known to fulminate about the US administration, "I'll stop calling this crew Orwellian when they stop using 1984 as an operations manual".

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Well, maybe not. But, as Nosemonkey asks, is David Cameron a closet Whig? He appears to be calling for the eminently sensible idea of removing a chunk of the most important prerogative powers to Parliament: not the very few powers that really do remain with HM personally on taking such advice as seems appropriate, but those exercised by her government, including declaration of war. About time we dealt with this, not that I'm particularly in favour of a formal constitution as a higher law.

Went idly looking for the list of regicides: Wikipedia gives us this. They include an ancestor of my head of chambers and an ancestor of a girl I used to fancy desparately. Also one Robert Tichbourne, which slightly surprises me, I thought the Tichbournes were recusants all the way.

I feel for the fates of Hardress Waller, James Temple, and Gilbert Millington myself.

ETA: (mainly links for my own benefit) in the meantime our current lords and masters seek to make it an awful lot easier to circumvent Parliament in making what may well post Jackson be considered primary legislation. See a decentish article in The Times as well.

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Craig Murray, the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan at the centre of the rows over extraordinary rendition and torture, writes as follows. I confess to being somewhat unsure what to make of it, but one can understand why he might smell a rat.

[...]I gave evidence on Tuesday in Strasbourg before the Council of Europe Inquiry into Extraordinary Rendition. My evidence was on the willingness of the CIA to obtain information extracted under torture by foreign intelligence agencies, as the basis of the extraordinary rendition programme. I also provided documentary evidence of British government collusion with the CIA in obtaining torture intelligence.

On return from the Council of Europe, my suitcase has disappeared, including all my documents and notes and my laptop computer.


On arrival at London City, when my bag did not arrive, I went to the luggage desk to report it. The gentleman there affected surprise, waited for a while for the conveyor to clear, and then was taking down the details, including my name and the baggage check number. I spotted a handwritten piece of paper tucked under the keyboard of his computer - on which was already written my name and baggage check number. I challenged him on this, and he said that he had already received an email telling him my luggage was not on the plane.


When I returned home, I called the central Air France luggage number, and they told me that my suitcase had been located at Orly and was booked on the 7pm flight into London City. When it did not arrive, I phoned them again. They said that it had not been put on that flight, and was being held at the airport so it could not be rebooked on another flight. They could not tell me why it was being held, or who I might speak to about it.

ETA: the first two commenters both ask the sensible question: why on earth did he check in his laptop. Stupid though it is, I confess I have checked mine in before now, usually because I'm carrying only one bag which is overweight for cabin luggage. But then I don't carry hugely sensitive data on it. Err, um, apart from all the opinions and pleadings stored on it....


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