Friday, April 29

Thunderbolts for Blair

UKIP's head of broadcasting, Clive Page, was leaving the building where the BBC Westminster staff and Sky broadcasting is based on Wednesday when some police motorbikes arrived followed swiftly by a large car.
The Prime Minister jumped out while one of his minders held an umbrella over his head. At that moment there was sharp crack of thunder. The minder threw himself on the Prime minister while all the Special Branch policemen standing around went for their guns.

When all had calmed down Mr Blair went in for an interview with Sky in which he said 'I have never told a lie.'

The thunderbolt is presumably a co-incidence !

''Education, Education, Education.

Evidence that New Labour's education policy has failed was evident recently on James O'Brian's local radio show. (LBC 97.3)

O’Brien: How many kings of England have been called Henry?

Contestant: Er, well I know there was a Henry the eighth... Er... er... three?

Portrait of the Week

The Mail on Sunday claimed that before the war on Iraq, Lord Goldsmith, the Attorney General, had warned Mr Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, in a 13-page letter that it was questionable whether Britain could legally attack Iraq under UN Resolution 1441.
A nine-paragraph summary of the Attorney General’s advice, containing no such caveat, was later published by the government, but it has refused to publish any fuller advice. Mr Michael Howard, the leader of the Conservative party, said that Mr Blair had ‘told lies to win elections. And he’s only taken a stand on one thing in the last eight years — taking Britain to war. And he couldn’t even tell the truth about that.’
Mr Brian Sedgemore, who first became a Labour MP in 1974, defected to the Liberal Democrats and urged voters to give Tony Blair ‘a bloody nose’ on polling day; Lord Kinnock, a former leader of the Labour party, said that, for fellow MPs, Mr Sedgemore’s remarks would be ‘a lance right through the spine’.
The Royal College of Nursing said in a report that there were 20,588 new entrants to nursing in 2004, but 35,000 home-trained nurses had retired or left, while 12,700 overseas nurses joined the register. Sir John Mills, the actor, died, aged 97.
A High Court judge refused an injunction to prevent publication in the News of the World of claims by Miss Abbie Gibson, who had worked as a nanny for Mr and Mrs David Beckham, about strains in their marriage and of a relationship between the footballer and his wife’s former beautician.
AQA, one of the three main GCSE examination boards, is to scan 500,000 papers and email them for marking in India, where examiners command much lower payments. A window fell from the 28th floor of the ‘Gherkin’ building in St Mary Axe in the City of London. A man gardening at Cringleford, near Norwich, unearthed a cache of 135 Bronze Age spear heads, sword parts, tools and ingots.
Zacarias Moussaoui, a French citizen, pleaded guilty in Washington DC to six charges of conspiring with the terrorists who carried out the September 11 attacks in the United States; he said he had been trained to carry out a separate attack on the White House. ‘I expect leniency,’ he said, but the federal court reminded his lawyer that four of the charges carried the death penalty.
Imad Yarkas, suspected of being the leader of al-Qa’eda in Spain, denied being a follower of Osama bin Laden during his trial in Madrid on charges of helping to organise the September 11 attacks in the United States.
The formation of a government in Iraq continues to be delayed 12 weeks after the country’s elections. A double car-bombing killed 17 and wounded 31 outside an ice-cream parlour in a Shiite district of Baghdad, two days after a suicide car-bombing at a Shiite mosque in the city killed nine and wounded 26.
At least 94 were killed and 400 injured when a seven-carriage commuter train carrying 588 people was derailed and smashed into a block of flats at Amagasaki, 250 miles west of Tokyo. Mr Jiri Paroubek, a Social Democrat, became Prime Minister of the Czech Republic after Mr Stanislav Gross, of the same party, resigned in the wake of a scandal about his finances.
The last Syrian troops were reported to have withdrawn from Lebanon.
Iran was considering a bid for the failed British car makers MG Rover, according to Eshaq Jahangiri, the minister for information and mines.
The federal government in Mexico removed Mr Andres Lopez Obrador from office as mayor of Mexico City, but he refused to go; he leads the opinion polls among candidates for the presidential elections next year.
Pope Benedict XVI met Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Muslim leaders after saying at his inauguration that he wanted the Catholic Church to continue ‘building bridges of friendship’ with other religions.

''UKIP seats within reach'' - Knapman

''UKIP seats within reach'' - says UKIP leader Roger Knapman

Mr Knapman says the main parties are keeping quiet on EuropeThe UK Independence Party is doing "exceptionally well" in its 21 target seats and is on course to see its first MPs, leader Roger Knapman has said.
He said he would not be surprised to see several seats, including Totnes and Thanet South, fall to UKIP on 5 May.

The three main parties had kept quiet about Europe because they were "ashamed of their record of sell-out", he said.

The main parties say leaving the EU would cost the British economy countless jobs and valuable trade.
I wouldn't be at all surprised to have the first UKIP MPs in a few days' time

UKIP had its best election result in last year's European polls, pushing the Liberal Democrats into fourth place on the national share of the vote.
Mr Knapman said the party was targeting the 21 seats where it came first in those elections and was making "good progress".
"We are very encouraged by local polls in those seats, showing in some of them we are in strong contention," he said.
"I wouldn't be at all surprised to have the first UKIP MPs in a few days' time."
Following reports a referendum on the EU Constitution might not be held in Britain if the French vote "no" on 29 May, Mr Knapman said the general election might be the last chance voters had to make their views known.

Europe and UK
Peter Troy (editor of this blog) was the lead candidate for UKIP at last years 'Euro' Elections for Scotland.

Talk of Targets and Silly Systems

Blair promises fewer NHS targets !
Tony Blair says government targets have been "too crude" and has promised fewer, more flexible ones in future.

Targets should never become "an end in themselves" or overburden the system, he said in an interview with BBC political editor Andrew Marr.
But they should be kept, along with investment, to ensure improvements are seen in the public services, he added.
The obsession with with Quality Systems and Corporate Targets is not only a desease with New Labour, it infects the business world as well. One of the symptoms of the Target Systems desease is that it ot produces results that are the oposite to those that are required.

In the NHS some GPs are refusing to fix appointments more than 48 hours in advance because of the government's targets.

The question of NHS GP's targets was raised when all three main party leaders appeared separately on a BBC Question Time Special on Thursday evening to take audience questions.

Audience member Diana Church said: "You can't make the appointment in a week because you are only allowed to make it 48 hours beforehand."
The Labour leader said he was "astonished", that the logic was absurd and pledged to look into it.

Mr Blair later told the BBC: "In the health service and in schools targets are important, but I think there has been a danger with us, if I am frank about it, that they have been too crude.

"What we need to do is to keep them, but make them sufficiently flexible and not to have so many of them that they overburden the system."

99.9% of patients see a GP within 48 hours, compared to 50% in 1997
2% of GPs' surgeries, according to provisional figures for April, refuse to book appointments more than 48 hours in advance, compared to 12.4% last November
(Source: Department of Health)

Mr Howard today returned to his immigration theme. He talks of little else.
Conservative shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley said targets were causing problems across the NHS, and said a Tory Government would scrap them.

It was an "insult" to doctors for the government to suggest patients would wait longer without targets, he said adding that Mr Blair was "out of touch" with the realities of the NHS.

Lib Dem spokesman Paul Burstow said: "These absurd political targets mean the sickest don't get treated the quickest its time to put patients first."
Dr Hamish Meldrum, the chairman of the British Medical Association's GP committee, also said the targets skewed priorities.

Mr Kennedy highlighted help for the elderly.
On the GP targets, he said: "We've always felt that this has been a crude target which has distorted priorities."
On the campaign trail on Friday, Mr Blair again argued the economy was the central issue of the election battle.
He urged voters not to put economic stability and investment in public services at risk by letting the Tories in.

Mr Howard told Question Time he would have invaded Iraq even if he had known Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction.
Speaking in Cardiff on Friday, he renewed his calls for migration quotas and said his plans to change the asylum system would make it "more humane".

The Lib Dems have focused on their plans for elderly people, including raising the basic state pension for over-75s by £100 a month and free personal care.

UKIP One Freed

Nikki Sinclaire, UKIP's parliamentary candidate for Rowley Regis, attended a public meeting about the election organised by the Birmingham Pride Trust on Wednesday evening.
Held at the Hippodrome in Birmingham, Clare Short (Lab), Andrew Mitchell (Con) and Richard Brighton (Lib-Dem) were represented on the panel but curiously not Nikki. She objected to this exclusion on the grounds of fairness and pointed out that UKIP is contesting all 59 West Midlands seats while the Lib-Dems, for example, are not.
Miss Sinclaire was asked to leave but refused to do so and the police were sent for. No fewer than six policemen turned up and arrested her to ‘prevent a breach of the peace’ and she was taken to the main Steelhouse Lane police station.
With her one phone call she rang Mike Nattrass UKIP MEP for the West Midlands who was at a UKIP meeting at the West Bromwich football stadium, which she was meant to be speaking at.

Reportedly it was Rustie Lee, UKIP candidate for Wyre Forest, who suggested picketing the police station and 80 UKIP supporters decamped there with standard UKIP posters and impromptu ones saying ‘Don’t nick Nikki and ‘Release the UKIP One.’

This people power had the required result and she was released at 10pm without charge.

Thursday, April 28

Yellow Peril

Proof, if it were needed of how public servants are in a world of there own can be found in the the story of a well meaning lady in Kent.
A press officer was forced to issue a grovelling statement to the Press Association when Kent Council was forced to apologise for banning a woman from taking daffodils into her local council offices because they were not politically correct during the election.
Valerie Jewess was stunned when told that the bright yellow flowers had to go as they were the same colour associated with Liberal Democrats. She had offered the daffodils as a gift to staff at a council archive centre in Kent. The spokesman said the rules had been taken too ''literally''.
Perhaps I should take a red rose to the Sedgfield Council offices as a symbolic gesture ! Ed.

Lost Whips

Our readers will, no doubt, remember the saga of the Conservative peers, who called publicly, together with some of their cross-bench colleagues, for a UKIP vote in the European elections last June.

At the time, we found ourselves wondering why the Conservative Party should be so stupid as to lose stalwart members like Lord Pearson of Rannoch or, especially, Lord Willoughby de Broke.
We are still wondering about that. In fact, we are wondering about the Conservative Party’s attitude to and understanding of the House of Lords and its significance.The peers themselves have remained logical, as a letter from two of them in today’s Daily Telegraph shows. We are reprinting the letter in full.

“Sir - We write as peers who lost the Conservative whip for suggesting that those who valued our sovereignty should have lent their vote to UKIP in the European elections last June.We find it surreal, when the House of Commons has become largely redundant because most new laws are made in Brussels, that "Europe" features so little in the election campaign. UKIP is the only party that is telling the British people the truth about this great matter; withdrawal from the EU is vital to our national survival.

Yet eventual withdrawal can happen only if it is sanctioned by a vote in the Commons, and that vote will be delivered only by a refreshed Conservative Party. There are therefore a number of marginal constituencies where those who wish to withdraw from the EU should not allow themselves the luxury of voting for UKIP if by doing so they deny a seat to a Conservative who will help to form a realistic policy of disengagement from Brussels.

It would be folly indeed if, in pursuit of withdrawal, such candidates were prevented from sitting in Parliament.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch, Lord Willoughby de Broke, London SW1”

The logic is unassailable, even if one cannot help wondering which particular potential ex-MP called for the peers' help.

Unfortunately, the practical aspect – a changed Conservative Party, as far as “Europe” is concerned – remains a very distant prospect.

Election Up Date

Tony Blair dismisses as a "damp squib" the implications of any apparent changes in the attorney general's advice on the Iraq war and agrees to publish it.
Read more

Labour claims it is the "party of enterprise" as it unveils its business plans.
Read more

The results of county council elections in Lancashire could be challenged in court because of a postal vote blunder.
Read more

Officials raise concerns about the wider implications of postal voting, as problems emerge elsewhere in Britain.
Read more

Tony Blair suggests he would not push for a "yes" vote on joining the euro during the next Parliament.
Read more

The general election is proving a turn-off for TV news viewers with ratings falling, research suggests.
Read more

Wednesday, April 27

Letter to the BBC

Below is a letter sent from a Sedgefield Constituent (not me) to the BBC Radio 4 today programme.

Please, as you are in a better position than I, ask my MP why I and the other voters in Sedgefield should vote to be without in effect Member of Parliament for another 4/5 years.
You might like to ask him how many Surgeries he has held in the constituency since 1997; how many open meetings he has held in the constituency; in fact how may times has he been in the constituency since 1997. When he does deem to grace the area with his presence only his Agent and loyal sycophants are in attendance. Constituents with problems and queries are pointed in the direction of his Agent. When was he elected?

I am of the opinion that Tony Blair is a prime example of why a Prime Minister should resign as a constituency MP for the whichever constituency he/she was elected for and to be given the title of MP for say Whitehall or Downing Street for the duration of his occupation of No.10. Should he/she be ousted from the position of PM he could still remain in the House as an MP for the duration of the Parliament or either fight a By-election or decided to take a seat in the Lords.

I have been involved in politics since before I could vote and this is the first election I have not actively been involved for either the Conservative, Referendum Party, or UKIP. Will I vote, yes, who for, for the first time in adult life and can truly say I don't know but certainly not Tony Blair.
Yours faithfully,
Seething of Sedgefield

Which Way For Busisness ?

The Labour, Conservative and LibDems have all unveiled their manifesto's for the business community with the clear aim of winning over the business voter.

The Tories Action for Business states 10 key points to help firms on issues such as deregulation, skills and lower taxes.

Outlining their commitments, the Conservatives promise a streamlined Department for Trade and Industry, making it the voice of businesses and not regulation; to regularly review regulation; address the skills shortage by creating vocational Super Colleges and abolishing the Learning and Skills Council.

The Conservatives have also pledged to simply the tax system; take action on business crime, support science and technology research - from class room to the laboratory; promote free and fair trade with poorer countries while helping British exports.

The Tories warn that Labour has cost British business almost £ 40 billion in new regulations and that businesses are now paying out more under National Insurance than ever before and will pay out more if Labour win on 5 May. A point that Chris Willamson who proposed a motion condemning the last hike in National Insurance contributions at the 2003 Federation of Small Business (FSB) Conference. Chris commented '' I am convinced that Labour will yet again increase employer NI payments. which together with now very high fuel charges impact on small businesses.

Chris knows all about small businesses both her and her family have been 'in business' all their working lives. Chris' motion at the Brighton Conference made history in the Federation of Small Businesses; the motion was accepted unanimously by the voting delegates. That had not happened in the 29 years of the existence of the FSB. It remain a unique achievement, Chris, frustrated at the ineffectiveness of the FSB has now ceased to be a activist. '' I get more results playing Golf, than trying to get the FSB to play ball, clearly they are stuck in a bunker and have no idea how to get out of it. Chris, who has represented England at Golf Internationals on a number of occasions likes using sporting analogies.

Anyway what of the Lib Dems, well they would abolish the DTI completely assuming that would remove vast amounts of regulation. Well that's a bit like the weapons of mass destruction issue they get so upset about. The mass regulation factory that causes mass destruction to the UK's business community is not located in this country; there is no need for a public inquiry to seek its true location.

In a further attempt to attract the business vote the Lib Dems state that they would have independent impact assessments on each piece of regulation; promote small business by cutting rates and reforming regional development agencies to focus on this sector; close the skills gaps particularly by giving under 25's statutory time off for training. They also add interestingly that they would ensure a referendum on joining the Euro.

The LibDem's party spokesman Lord Newbury said that businesses are being held back under a ''mountain of government rules, tax complications, bureaucracy and inspection'' he added ''they don't need civil servants meddling, the Lib Dems understand this because we are instinctively a pro-business party.''

As for Labour, the Chancellor stressed his commitment to ''enhance stability'' and avoid a repeat of the boom-and-bust economic cycle where Britain was ''first in, worst hit and last out''.

Under questioning, Gordon Brown admitted the Government should have cut back on the inspections burden of businesses saying: ''We should have done it before now.''

The last word should go to Mr Howard only because it shows that he has identified the correct question but not yet understood the only possible answer to removing the real barrier to business growth in the UK.

Howard said on Monday:
'' I don't want the British economy to follow the European model. Labour for all their fine words do. I want Britain to change direction.''
Yes Mr Howard, the direction is the road out of the European Union; it is on the Map but it is not the by-pass sign posted renegotiation (that's a dead-end) the route is marked self government this way.

Perhaps some business people should erect some big directional signs.

Election fight gets personal

Tony Blair wants to talk about education, not himself or indeed 'the war'.
Conservative leader Michael Howard has accused Tony Blair of trying to pull off a "con trick" over tax rises for the third election running.

The campaign is becoming increasingly personalised after a Tory poster accused the Labour leader of lying.

Labour hit back with posters claiming Michael Howard has a "hidden agenda" for the NHS, although Mr Blair is concentrating on education policies.

Charles Kennedy says the Lib Dem mood is best since the "heady days" of 1983.
He said the Tories' tactics showed they thought they would lose the election.
"They are falling back now on the most negative form of personalised campaigning," said Mr Kennedy.

"It won't do them any good, it won't do the quality of the general election campaign any good."

He said the "four-letter word" liar should only be used when it was absolutely guaranteed to be true.

The latest Tory poster says: "If he's prepared to lie to take us to war, he's prepared to lie to win an election."
And speaking in Edinburgh on Wednesday, Mr Howard attacked Mr Blair for delivering a "stab in the back" to the Scottish infantry regiments facing merger or disbandment.

He said that in a further "test of character", Mr Blair had twice raised taxes after elections despite pre-poll promises and was refusing to admit he would need to do the same again.

Character is an issue at this election - it is about trust.
"He has got away with it twice before and thinks he can pull off this con trick a third time," said Mr Howard.
"But what does he take Scottish voters for: does he think they are idiots?"
Asked if he had ever lied in the past, Mr Howard said: "I'm not aware of any occasion when I have deliberately or knowingly misled people and that is the charge I lay against Mr Blair."

'Back door plan'
Labour says Mr Blair will not be drawn on the personalised Tory attacks.
But a Labour election broadcast on Wednesday will claim the choice for families is between "investment in education or Tory cuts" or "an NHS that's free or Tory charges".

Mr Blair will use a speech to renew his attack on the Tories' pupil passports scheme and to talk up Labour investment plans for pupils and school buildings.

In his speech, Mr Blair is expected to say: "The Conservatives can mount any number of attacks on me personally. They don't matter.
"They're just part and parcel of the Tory plan to sneak to power through the back door. What matters to me is stopping the attack they are planning on every school in the country.

"What angers me is that the Conservatives have a plan to cut £200 per pupil per year from local schools and they're trying desperately to hide it. That's what all the personality stuff is really about."

The Conservatives plan to let parents spend the value of what would be spent on a state education - £5,500 per pupil by 2008 - on a private education for their child.

The schools would not be allowed to charge any fee on top and the party says the scheme would improve choice.
The prime minister will stress the importance of school discipline and respect for teachers, an issue the Tories have put at the heart of their manifesto with a pledge to allow schools the final say in expelling pupils.
Teaching expertise
Mr Blair will also trumpet Labour's commitment to rebuild or refurbish half of all primary schools within 15 years, and all secondary schools.

The Liberal Democrats are highlighting their pledge to guarantee that in the core subjects of English, maths, science, modern languages and computing pupils will be taught by teachers who are qualified specialists in those subjects.

Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy said: "Enthusiasm. Dedication. Optimism. Expertise. These are the qualities of our best teachers and I want the whole profession to be equipped with the skills and support they need to do the job."

The party would fund its plans for smaller class sizes by scrapping the Child Trust Fund.
The Conservative campaign has been criticised by former party chairman Norman Tebbit, who described it as "bits and pieces without a really strong theme".

The United Kingsom Independence Party is attepting to put 'Europe' on the political agenda with its core message ''We want our country back''. The party has enjoyed a higher profile that at previous general elections with leader Roger Knapman commenting on key radio slots this week.

A new Mori poll for the Financial Times, today of people certain to vote suggests Labour's lead has narrowed, with the party on 36%, the Conservatives on 34%, up 2%, and the Lib Dems on 23% , up 2%. With UKIP at only 2%.
With 8 days left there is still hope that the politicians will connect with the people; which so far they have failed to do.

Beef and Gravy

From the Editor's keyboard:
As the big three political parties unveiled their business manifestos business leaders at the annual British Camber of Commerce conference called for more ''beef'' on policies.

Chancellor Gordon Brown and Tory Leader Michael Howard made keynote speeches to the London conference both pledging to ease the burden of regulation and maintain economic stability.

Maggie Pavlou vice-president of the North East Chamber of Commerce and a rising star in the movement said: ''it is not the job of politicians to tell business how to do their job''

The Chamber of Commerce conference, this year, is in marked contrast to the Federation of Small Business (FSB) Conference held in Birmingham in March. The 185,000 member strong FSB is clearly afraid of its own shadow. The cash rich organisation which recruits (and loses) 32,000 members each year is afraid of detailed debates on politico-business issues.

In the North East I have been increasingly concerned about the pro Labour 'cuddly Labour bunny' attitude of the Federations Regional Policy Unit. During the regional elected assembly debate the FSB in the NE was attempting to side with the Labour Party's Yes campaign. NE Regional FSB officials attended Labour Party sponsored meetings during the campaign supporting 'Labour Yes' badges to impress Gordon Brown and John Presscott at one particular event that I witnessed.

Last Friday I publicly called for the Regional Chairman, a well know supporter of 'those (that's anyone) in power' to resign since he was clearly not promoting the apolitical stance of Britains largest business organisation.

Meanwhile, the North East Chamber of Commerce confirmed that ''warm words'' were not enough from politicians, a lot is said about regulation, pensions and transport but as George Cowcher said yesterday from the podium: '' where is the beef and the specifics''.

As I said at the FSB conference in March 2001 '' The true government of this country is in Brussels, we are governed not from Westminster but by the European Union''. The ''beef and the specifics'' come from the EU Commission and the EU Council. My motion to withdraw from the EU was accepted by FSB branch delegates by a majority of a little over 68 per cent. However the motion was curiously not adopted as policy by the FSB's National Council.

When the delegates at the Chamber of Commerce conference wake up to the fact that much of what the political parties in this country promise, whether it be with or without 'beef', it is what our masters in Brussels dictate that impacts on the business comunity, not what British politicians mouth; unless that is our politicians are seeking to advance the cause of leaving the EU.

In the meantime, it is somewhat reassuring to know that the representatives of corporate business in the North East of England are complaining about a lack of understanding of the process of business by politicians.
I truly hope that the representatives of the small business community in the North East (the FSB) will soon realise that enjoying the gravy supplied by Labour politicos does nothing to improve the beef of British business.
Clearly some strong English mustard now is needed on our traditional British Beef.
Peter Troy was Chairman of the Darlington Branch of the Federation of Small Business from 1999 - 2005.

Tuesday, April 26

From a Campaigner

By 'Hamishmac'

On the campaign trail 05.

This is the quiet time in election campaigns. The first week people are interested and take a wee bit of notice, and then in week final week everyone is fired up and excited.But now in these two weeks, no one can be arsed.
The public aren't interested, your members aren't interested. In fact it's amazing how much of a life our members have outside politics.
They can't leaflet those tenements at 9am because they're, "supposed to be in the office". You ask them to stick posters in their windows, or garden stake flag things in their garden and looking slyly up and down the road they say, "I'll put it up on the 3rd".
So what have I learned in the two weeks of my first proper go on a campaign team? Well Peter Hain is absolutely charming; nobody knows who the Ministers in the Scottish Executive are; people who vote Tory don't say "no thank you" when you try to give them a leaflet at a street stall, they tend to say "I'd rather stick needles in my eyes" or "you're having a laugh; pensioners have a hell of a lot of power; people with serious mental problems go out of their way to know everything about their MPs and candidates; washing dishes and cleaning your flat just doesn't happen; Lib Dems have absolutely no qualms about lying on their focus magazines; Charles Kennedy only allows local media four minutes to interview him; Tories have the rudest members but the friendliest candidates; children love balloons; flags and stickers; Alistair Darling really is the most boring politician I have ever met; most people just couldn't give a toss.
More of 'Hamishmac' on

Election Quote

''Is it any wonder I urge everyone from the centre and left in British politics to give Blair a bloody nose at the election?''

Former Labour backbencher Brian Sedgemore

Now what was that I read about less violent crime under Labour ? Ed.

A shrivelled campaign

by Dr Richard North
Back on the stump this week, once again it is the voters and not the policians who are rasing the issue of the European Union.
It thus takes Mark Steyn to make sense of this phenomenon, which he does in The Telegraph today with a piece headed "Big ideas? This feels like a local election".
His theme will be very familiar to readers of this Blog as he bemoans the claustrophobic narrowness of the election, and he focuses on the immigration issue which he analyses as a tactic used by the Right to "shore up the Tory base, boost turnout, and prevent further haemorrhaging to UKIP and worse."But, he writes, UKIP arose from the Conservatives' Europhobia-phobia - the party's wariness about becoming too explicitly anti-EU, and he doubts you can woo the lost lambs back to the fold by using a lot of anonymous Balkan deadbeats as a proxy for the A-list foreigners you're not quite confident enough to have a go at.
Putting his finger on the curious gap in the campaign, Steyn observes that Mr Howard "would rather risk being portrayed as xenophobic than as anti-European."That calculation is very telling, he adds: "I'm one of those who think France's Euro-referendum will be much more decisive than the UK's general election when it comes to determining how Britain is governed.
If the French reject the European Constitution, they'll have rejected it for these islands as well. If they sign up for it, it will probably be a fait accompli for the British, too."His conclusion is brutal: "For that reason," the Steyn complains, "the Tories at the very least owed us a campaign fought on big grand Thatcher-sized themes. This one just feels like a shrivelled local election - which tells you as much as anything about where British politics is really heading."The word that grabs is "shrivelled" – sums it all up really.
There is no breadth, no vision and there are walls around this campaign, keeping the candidates in check, excluding whole area of public policy from the discourse. No wonder the voters are tunring off.

Monday, April 25

Balls at No 11

Black Dog in The Sunday Mail reports that the prominent election roll given to cocky Ed Balls, the former special advisor to Gordon Brown in 11 Downing Street, has caused jealousy among Cabinet Ministers who have been kept in the shadows. Mr Balls is poised to become a Labour MP.

Those in the inner Labour camp who are unhappy with the 'Balls effect' had better get used to it. If (or when) Brown ousts Blair, he plans to make Balls Chancellor at once.

School Meals

'' They are not terific to be honest. I am seriously thinking about sending him in with a packed lunch ''

Cherie Blair joins the row over school dinners when asked about meals at her son Leo's school.

Election What Election ?

We are now halfway through the general election campaign and it has not yet caught the public imagination.
The politicians themselves are certainly expenting a vast amount of energy - much of it directed at each other - but the person on the Tyne metro or in the Rover 75 on the AI are hardly echoing with vigorous exchanges.
Some of the most incendiary issues in the business of politics - crime health, immigration are being discussed with real passion, yet the electorate remains almost totally unmoved.
If, as is widly predicted, the turn out will be less than the last general elections 59 per cent question must surely be asked why the publics intrest in politics is so low. Perhaps it is an issue of quality rather than apathy. Perhaps the political 'class' in this country have quite simply lost touch with their 'customers'.
One candididate a Mr R U Serious has clearly juged the public mood correctly. His slogan ' Work harder ! Millions on welfare depend on you' should be apt enough to get the Raving Loony Party candidate elected !

Sunday, April 24

The Conservative Manifesto

The Tory Party Manifesto issued in the early hour of Monday morning is a relatively modest document, heavy on graphics and thin on content.

As regard policy on the European Union, the offering is as follows:
Conservatives support the cause of reform in Europe and we will co-operate with all those who wish to see the EU evolve in a more flexible, liberal and decentralised direction.We oppose the EU Constitution and would give the British people the chance to reject its provisions in a referendum within six months of the General Election.
We also oppose giving up the valuable freedom which control of our own currency gives us. We will not join the Euro.In a reformed Europe, the restrictive employment laws of the Social Chapter will have to give way to more flexible working.
We will ensure that Britain once again leads the fight for a deregulated Europe by negotiating the restoration of our opt-out from the Social Chapter.
The common policies on agriculture and fisheries are unsustainable, damaging to free trade and conservation, and waste huge sums of money. The CAP needs further and deeper reform.

Like Father Like Son

Stanly Johnson one of the five hopefuls of winning the Lib Dem marginal of Teignbridge constituency in South Devon has an unique message for his would be constituents. The Father of the outspoken MP, journalist and broadcaster Boris Johnson, states in his door to door leaflet that:
'' Conservatives believe that it is time for a change of direction, Conservatives want more talk and less action''

Clearly Johnson and Son have a vision of a post election Conservative party as a stationary talking shop !

Europe is Missing

Dr Richard North comments:

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the leader in The Sunday Telegraph today, rejoicing in the title "Europe is missing", is that it was published at all.
In common with the political parties, the media itself has been at pains to avoid bringing the European Union into the cockpit of general election politics, yet it is precisely that phenomenon which the is remarked upon by the Telegraph.The paper notes that, four years ago, William Hague put the slogan "Keep the Pound" at the very heart of the Conservative election campaign - and was (rightly) pilloried after his defeat for taking that strategic decision.

We recall that it was during that self-same campaign that the Conservatives ran with the fatuous slogan "In Europe but not ruled by Europe"

Now, however, it is one of the ironies of this election that Michael Howard's policies on Britain's membership of the EU are considerably more radical than Mr Hague's, but have attracted negligible interest.

As I have pointed out on my Blog, the 2005 Conservative manifesto promises not only that Britain would stay out of the euro under a Tory Government, but that Prime Minister Howard would negotiate "the restoration of our opt-out from the Social Chapter" of the Maastricht Treaty.

Most ambitiously, the party pledges to repatriate control of the nation's fisheries - an entirely desirable step that would certainly involve a dramatic redefinition of Britain's membership of the EU.
Yet, in this general election campaign, the paper notes, neither Blair nor Howard have said much about the issue of Europe. For Howard, this is partly because of the divisive nature of the issue in the party while Blair has no desire so close to polling day to draw attention to his enthusiasm for EU integration - a deeply felt passion that sets him sharply at odds with mainstream public opinion.

Noteing how low "Europe" features in voters' concerns (the paper's ICM poll today showing that only four percent of voters regard Europe as the most important issue in the election - only to be expected, given its marginal presence in the campaign) the Telegraph believes it would be a shame if European policy did not play a significant part in voters' deliberations, as it is one of the areas where there is a pronounced difference between the two main parties.This is especially the case with the EU constitution where it appears that only a Conservative government is prepared to guarantee a referendum.
But there is another reason why it should be an issue, to which the Telegraph does not allude. General elections are about choosing governments yet, in many respects our government is not (and will not be) in Westminster, but Brussels.

For this government we will not be allowed to vote, but the Telegraph elsewhere in its own pages gives us ample evidence of why we should have nothing to do with it.

Thus, if we are to chose a government – a British government – we must first dispense with the usurper over the water, which makes the logical choice the Party which is most likely to put distance between it and us.

In the fullness of time, we hope that such a choice may provoke the same leader headline – "Europe is missing" – but in the context of it missing not from a general election campaign, but from our lives.

First Birthday

On 20 April last year, the prime minister Tony Blair told the House of Commons that he would "let the people have the final say" on the EU constitution, thereby announcing that he would hold a referendum – without actually using the word "referendum" in his speech.
Nevertheless, he closed with a stirring peroration:
''Let the Eurosceptics, whose true agenda we will expose, make their case. Let those of us who believe in Britain in Europe - not because of Europe alone, but because we believe in Britain and our national interest lying in Europe - make our case, too. Let the issue be put and let the battle be joined.''
Thus was born:
We wish a very happy birthday to the blog that reaches the parts that other blogs don't, long may it continue.

The Sedgefield Constituency


Berony Abraham - Independent
John Barker - Independent
Rt HonTony Blair - Labour
Cherri Blairout-Gilham - The Pensioners Party
Julian Brennan - Independent
William Brown - UK Independence Party
Robert Browne - Liberal Democrat
Jonathan Cockburn - Blair Must Go Party
Mark Farrell - National Front
Helen John- Independent
Reg Keys -Independent
Al Lockwood - Conservative
Fiona Luckhurst-Matthews -Veritas
Terry Pattinson - Senior Citizens Party
Boney Maroney Staniforth -Monster Raving Loony Party

Turnout 2001 Result: Won by LAB, majority 44.0%

Profile: Sedgefield constituency was recreated by the Boundary Commission in 1983, having been abolished 10 years previously. Situated in the south east of Durham, it almost completely surrounds the urban constituency of Darlington. It consists of a number of small towns and villages -Trimdon, Newton Aycliffe, Ferryhill and Sedgefield itself, a relatively well-off town of 5,000 people and a racecourse.
Once heavily reliant on its traditional industrial heritage - coal and steel - Sedgefield's economy is continuing to recover and adapt. Diversification into light engineering, distributive trades and the service sector have all played a part here, as has Japanese inward investment from companies like Fujitsu and Nippon Silica Glass. Twenty-six percent of the working population is still employed in manufacturing. For the past 22 years this seat has been associated with Tony Blair who was selected as a last-minute candidate for the 1983 General Election.
The Blair family has a house in Trimdon in the constituency. His majority in the year of Labour's triumph and his becoming Prime Minister was over 25,000. In 2001 this decreased to 17,713 but the fall was in line with comparable seats.

Labour 64.9%
Conservative 20.9%
Liberal Democrat 9.0%
Others 5.2%

The Sunday Quote

'' Sport is often spoken of as the bringer of world peace. Bull. Sport is aggressive confrontational, loud, passionate, irrational.''

Simon Barns, The Times Friday 22 April 05

I have no idea who Simon Barns is since I always dispose of the Sport sections of my daily newspapers in the bin of the newsagent. Myown observations are that both national and international sport, particularly the Olympics, is dominated by aggressive confrontational, loud, passionate, irational, intellectually challenged overpaid twerps.
There are no doubt exceptions which I hope readers will comment on in the box below.

Saturday, April 23

The Lion Must Roar Again

I have received a number of emails today commenting on the large number of English flags that have been sighted in our city's, towns and many rural locations. As one lady asked does this mean that ''the lion is now roaring'' ?

The answer is when the lion roars it is fed EU meat to keep it quiet.
If as a nation we are ever again to roar effectively we must first learn to be more disobedient.
We should start by all complaining about the EU flag on our driving documents. I did some time ago when I returned mine to the Secretary of State requesting one with my nation's flag on. Needles to say all I got was a routine reply from a very uncivil servant. To cut a long storey short I deliberately drive without possessing a driving document. I now explain to any Police office that needs to see it that my licence that the number of my driving document is ....... but I returned the actual document to the Sec of State three times because etc. I encourage most people I meet socially to do the same. Why should we as British Subjects bare the symbol of the occupying authority on our driving permits ?
Also the current price of fuel in the UK is now is the highest in the western world. Some 90 pence per litre or £ 4.00 a gallon. 75% of which is Tax. The UK government can't reduce the amount of fuel duty ( despite how much we protest) because of our membership of the EU. A point we should all make every time will fill up our vehicles I frequently ask what is the actual cost of fuel less tax when I pay at fuel stations.

When the peoples fuel lobby recommence their protests (after 5 years absence) on 3 May - I will be there with them protesting.
We really must be less compliant and more disobedient. As a nation we have never liked being 'pushed around' yet for some reason we are far to compliant with government systems and silly rules that we don't need nor want which are imposed upon us without any true democratic accountability. So on St George's day lets start to think in terms of some very English effective protests, before it is too late.
With complements to my Scottish friends, who protest with style.


75 per cent is Tax !

Hauliers threaten poll disruption.

Fuel £ 1.00 a gallon, plus Tax £ 3.00 = £ 4. 00 a gallon

Protesters are threatening to take to the streets on 3 May. Fuel tax protesters are threatening to disrupt the general election with a campaign of oil refinery blockades and go-slows starting on 3 May.

The Fuel Lobby's Andrew Spence said the action would go ahead if the government did not bring down tax on fuel.

Hundreds of hauliers and farmers are to attend a meeting in Stirling, Scotland, to protest against high fuel prices.

A week-long series of protests against rising fuel taxes all but brought the UK to a halt in 2000.

''Don't rule anything out - the election would be stopped if we had our way'' Said Andrew Spence from the Peoples Fuel Lobby

On Friday, Mr Spence, a farmer and haulier from Consett, County Durham, warned of direct action if government did not take action.
"Don't rule anything out - the election would be stopped if we had our way," he said.

"Tony Blair will not have enough fuel in his car to get to the polling station."
He said it would be difficult to stop the farmers and road hauliers, who are meeting in Scotland on Friday, from protesting until 3 May.
'Increasingly militant'

The Road Haulage Association (RHA) said anger was mounting around the country about "the increasing cost of fuel" and warned its members could be stirred into "legal" action.

Roger King, RHA's chief executive, said meetings had been held in North Wales and Scotland and attitudes were becoming "increasingly militant".
''We are paying the highest levels of fuel duty in the world''

He said members were meeting to discuss how to develop the protest.
"Whatever we do as an industry, it must be lawful but to the point," he said.
"We recognise that the price of oil is a world problem, but the fact remains
that we are paying the highest levels of fuel duty in the world.

"We equally recognise that government has frozen fuel duty for some
while now, but this has done little to stem the huge increase in costs hauliers must pay before they receive any return from the customer - even if that customer is paying something towards the extra cost.
"We desperately need some kind of fuel stabilisation formula.''

Businessess Say No

To be launched on Tuesday
Click below:

St George's Day

Today as every Englishperson knows, or should know, is St George's day.
Many people, including the former Home Secetary David Blunkett urge us to honour St George's Day and celewbrate our Englishness.
The problem is that us English on the whole are not comfortable with patriotism, unlike our cletic cousins. The Scots, the Welsh and the Irish do not have the same inhibitions about extolling their nationa's verues.
Nationalism can and oftern does have ugly connotations, but patriotism is a noble concept. This Englishman, who prefers to be viewed as a Britton, belives that understated patriotism is the name of the game. Wild excitment is really not cricket. ....... Ed

To Say No We Need a Qui

I have been an opponent of the European Union (EU) since in was formed. However, despite my total opposition to the EU Constitution I hope that the French People vote to support the constitution in their Referendum on 29 May. I also hope the Dutch do the same 10 days later.

The reason being that a Yes vote on the continent would actually be better for the cause of the UK's withdrawal from the all embracing and controlling EU.

If the French and Dutch do vote No that will let Tony Blair off the hook, since apparently the EU constitution will then be dead in the water. In that event there will not be a Referendum on the EU constitution in this country (as Tony Blair promised in Parliament last year). Subsequently, as with the way with all matters EU, the centralisation of Europe will continue, directed by the EU Council by means of future Inter Governmental Conferences at which the people of Britain will have no voice.

Curiously in order to oppose the advance of EU control in our country it is needed for the French to support it - which they are unlikely to do since they believe that the EU Constitution is a British plot. Politics is a funny old world.

Thursday, April 21

Happy Birthday Ma'am

A very Happy Birthday today to
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Wednesday, April 20

Regulatory Excess

Liberate Europe from regulatory excess
By Keith Boyfield

Politicians across the European Union claim to be in favour of cutting red tape. Nevertheless, the regulatory burden on business and citizens alike continues to grow.
At the latest count, the acquis communautaire, the accumulated EU rule-book, ran to 16,000 pages.

In our new Adam Smith Institute study, we set out a "road map" which explains how policymakers can begin to cull the mounting stack of regulatory rules, both across the EU and within member states.

We identify three main sources of regulation that impinge on UK citizens, namely, the EU, Whitehall and regulatory agencies, such as the Financial Services Authority and Ofcom. A similar position applies in other EU member states.
If we are to succeed in reducing the regulatory burden, we need to ensure that fewer new regulations are passed, that existing ones are rationalised, and that enforcement does not become overzealous.
In terms of the cost to business, the Treasury estimates that over half of all new legislation with a significant financial impact on UK business now derives from EU law.
If we are to lift the regulatory burden we must tackle the main engine behind its recent growth. From our analysis of the regulatory labyrinth, we concluded that a series of radical reforms were required.

First, the most effective way to tackle the phenomenon of gold plating — when implementation goes far beyond the minimum necessary to comply with a directive — is to scrap directives (or framework laws, as envisaged under the new Constitution). The EU's legislative institutions should be required to focus on issuing clearly drafted regulations, which can be applied without further interpretation by each of the 25 member states. As we researched our report we soon realised that gold plating is the inevitable result of seeking to transpose EU directives into member states' domestic statute books. In a properly functioning single market, a regulation should be clear from the outset. If it fails to meet this test, it should not be introduced.

Second, it is essential that we introduce regulatory impact assessments for all new EU regulations that impinge on business. Such scrutiny aims to establish whether the net benefits from a new regulation exceed the compliance costs.
Our suspicion is that many do not pass this straightforward test. Indeed, Peter Mandelson, the EU's trade commissioner, told last year's Confederation of British Industry annual conference that the cost of EU-generated red tape was roughly double the economic benefits generated by the single European market.

Third, if new EU regulations can be demonstrated to pass the regulatory impact assessment hurdle, sunset clauses should be built in to review whether these regulations have achieved their stated goals, three years after they were implemented.

Fourth, we can reflect on the US experience and oblige the European Commission to report annually to the European Parliament on the total costs and benefits associated with EU regulation. The Office of Management & Budget has reported in a similar fashion to Congress on a yearly basis since 1997.

Fifth, we should establish within the Commission a regulatory oversight unit to evaluate all significant regulatory proposals. If it is to exert any influence, such a body will need to have a real decision-making authority (as with the Regulatory Oversight Office in the US). It will also require sufficient funding to perform its role and be separate from the regulatory agencies it monitors.

Sixth, we need to radically prune the acquis communautaire. The UK government has set out some ideas on how this could be achieved. In financial services, the EU's Financial Services Action Plan has attracted considerable criticism. In this context, the crucial regulations that need to be simplified are the first investment directive, the capital adequacy directive and the money laundering directive.

The Six Presidency Initiative — which sets EU priorities for the next three years — claims it will seek to cull outmoded Union rules. Charlie McCreevy, the internal market commissioner, said that he was prepared to abolish legislation that had proved to be damaging.
We have offered to submit a list of suitable candidates for Mr McCreevy's attention.

The initiative should be welcome news to the 10 new accession states. Many of them were only recently freed from the yoke of Soviet central planning. Having liberated themselves from unwelcome state intrusion, the last thing they desire is a raft of EU regulatory measures imposed on them by overzealous bureaucrats.

The writer, Keith Boyfield, is the co-author with Tim Ambler of Road Map to Reform: Deregulation (Adam Smith Institute)

Competition Focus

Gordon Brown, according to The Financial Times, has called for "sweeping reforms to competition policy in the EU", suggesting that an independent authority could take responsibility for investigations into key markets.
This is to be the central part of Labour's forthcoming business manifesto, to be published next week. It argues for competition policy at a Europe-wide level to be set independently of any political influence.
The Labour Party business manifesto will say: "We will propose that European competition policy is more pro-actively focused on driving up competition."
Well EU competition policy could hardly be any less so focused at the present !

Tuesday, April 19

White Smoke

From shooting down Btitish Aircraft to Gods representative on Earth has to be serious shift in career.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, 78, has been chosen to succeed John Paul II as Pope. He will be known as Benedict XVI.
Known for his uncompromising stance the new Pope promises to be a conrovercial leader of the the worlds 1.1 billion Catholics.
Cardinal Ratzinger was born into a traditional Bavarian farming family in 1927, although his father was a policeman.

His studies at the seminary were interrupted during the war when he was drafted into an anti-aircraft unit in Munich.
His supporters say his experiences under the Nazi regime convinced him that the church had to stand up for truth and freedom.

But his critics say he stands for suppressing discussion within the church.

Wolfgang Cooper, a commentator on religious affairs in Germany, said before his election that the cardinal could become a divisive figure.
"I think if Cardinal Ratzinger was pope, a large distance could grow between the leadership of the Church and the faith," he predicted before the result was known.

The cardinal is a "scientist" who "prefers intellectual discussions", says Mr Cooper, whereas many Catholics want priests and bishops "who will touch the hearts".

Cardinal Ratzinger has been a head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith - the Vatican's guardian of orthodoxy since 1981.
As such, he has also taken some uncompromising political positions, calling for pro-abortion politicians to be denied communion during the US election campaign for instance, or arguing that Turkey should not be admitted into the European Union.

As the 265th successor to St Peter, he is expected to give the Church a clear, if sometimes radical voice.

The Late Lord Bruce

by Dr Helen Samuely

For some years, if anyone asked me what was so admirable about the House of Lords (if anyone dared to ask me that) I would say Lord Bruce of Donington, whose obituary, alas, appeared in the Daily Telegraph today.
Actually, I would probably also say Baroness Strange, who died some weeks ago to general mourning, or Lord Stoddart of Swindon, or Lord Pearson of Rannoch, or the Countess of Mar or Lord Willoughby de Broke or Lord Monson or Lord Moran or many more, all of whom are thankfully still with us.
All of these people (and, as I said, many others) have repeatedly demonstrated their independence and refusal to knuckle under to bullying by the government and its minions. In most cases they also refuse to be bamboozled by the flood of misinformation emanating from Brussels or its various outposts in Whitehall and around the country.
By the time I knew Lord Bruce he had shed something of his old left-wing fervour (some would say he had shed most of it when he became an extremely successful businessman) and concentrated the fire of his still formidable oratory on subjects to do with the European Union and its many shortcomings.It was Lord Bruce who kept a very beady eye on the EU budget, forcing ministers to reply to some very uncomfortable questions.
It was Lord Bruce who first uncovered the existence of an EU diplomatic service, that was not listed in any of the budget lines and forced the British government to campaign for a modicum of transparency on the subject.Lord Bruce’s favourite modus operandi was to wait for the discussion to proceed for a few minutes, then lumber slowly to his feet and announce ponderously:
“My Lords, is the Minister aware that I have the documents his (or her)officials do not seem to be able to locate?”

He would then follow up that devastating opening by asking a complicated question on the subject under discussion that showed his complete grasp of it and the minister’s equally complete lack of grasp.
The most terrifying sight of all the sights I have watched from one of the galleries of the House was that of Lord Bruce exploding like a volcano after a former EU Commissioner had suggested that Lord Bruce did not understand the European Union.
I do not suppose that former Commissioner has ever been the same since.
In the last few years Lord Bruce had become physically weaker, moving at first with a stick (though rather rapidly) then in a wheel chair.

He has not really been seen for some time in the House, a sad sign of mortality.His death, one might think therefore, will not make that much difference. But reading his obituary and remembering his exhilarating performance in the House, I cannot help thinking that an age in parliamentary history is coming to and end.

Monday, April 18

French Openion Firms UP

The Press Association is reporting (see Scotsman website) that the "no" vote is winning in the French referendum.
This is yet another poll, one that shows 53 percent of the French voting against the EU constitution compared with 47 percent who would vote for it. A government spokesman, Jean-Francois Cope, wearily responded that rejecting the document seemed to have become "fashionable" (à la mode).The poll was carried out by the Louis Harris firm and published in the daily Liberation. But what is especially interesting is that 82 percent of those questioned "felt sure of their choice" and were thus unlikely to change their views.Nevertheless, 66 percent of the 1,002 people questioned said they felt uninformed about the constitution, while 50 percent said Chirac's televised "debate" last Thursday failed to convince them to vote "yes", compared with 22 percent who accepted his arguments.

As predicted by
this Blog last week, a referendum in the UK of the EU constitution is highly unlikely if the French vote "no" on 29 May
That the referendum is likely to be abandoned is confirmed by The Telegraph, which today is retailing the comments of Jack Straw made during the ITV Jonathon Dimbleby programme yesterday, which suggest that a French vote against the EU constitution would lead to the UK decision not to hold a referendum.

Less Government ?

Whatever the outcome of the general election on 5 May there will be (thank goodness) less civil and public servants. Well, that is if the manifestos from the three main political parties are to be believed.

Labour promises to implement savings in the Gershap review and thus cut more than 80,000 civil servant jobs and save £ 21 bn.

The Conservative Party plans to spend £ 12 billion less (more if one believes Howard Flight) by 2007-08 by abolishing 150 public bodies and scrap 'New Deal'.

The Lib Dems intend to Scrap the Department of Trade and Industry in order to save £ 8.2 bn in five years as well as savings in other government departments.

If we are to take all this at face value then there will be less public sector jobs, less government and less interference. I have no doubt that who ever is in power in Westminster on 6 May a department of Administrative Affairs will be instantly created to implement any one of these 'cuts'.

From The Palace

This Blog has some concern over the advice that the heir to the throne, HRH Prince Charles has received from Sir Michael Peat, HRH's Private Secretary over the fiascos surrounding the arrangements for the Royal Wedding in Windsor.

The mix-up over the venue was the start of a series of crises which resulted in Paddy Harveston, Charles's chief 'spinner' to spinning into action.
Repeatedly Mr Harveston did an excellent job explaing to the worlds press that there was not a crises at all. Clearly Harveston will go far in the Royal Household and perhaps we should note that Sir Michael's resignation will now be near.

The hapless Private Secretary's greatest disaster was to assure the media that the papal funeral would not have any effect on the Royal nuptials. Sir Michael Peat was struggling to persuade many significant figures to agree that the funeral in the Vatican would make no difference. The Archbishop of Canterbury (refered to as 'Grizzly' by HRH Prince Philip) stated that his first duty was to the whole Anglican communion and that he would be going to Rome.

It took Tony Blair - who was desperate to go to Rome to boost his ecumenical credentials and his world statesman image - to intervene directly. The PM advised the Queen to change the date.

Apparently informing Prince Charles that Sir Robin Janvrin, Her Majesties Private Secretary ( and the senior courtier at Buckingham Palace) had written to Peat with the change of wedding date details was not by all accounts a pleasant experience. Prince Charles was very fragile after his stagfest in Klosters and 'hit the roof' at Clarence House.

Demands of ''off with his head '' are now not the done thing under the Human Rights Act of 2000, this being of some comfort to at least one Royal servant

Sunday, April 17

From the Farm

If any one is wondering why so little attempt is being made so far to win the votes of farmers it is probably because there are no longer any left to vote.

An estimated 50,000 or more than a third of all farmers have gone out of business since the year 2000.

The last general election conceded with the end of the FMD crises, perhaps the greatest act of maladministration by any British Government in modern times. The cost, some 8 billion GBP devastated the rural community. As any proper public inquiry would have found - which is why the Prime Minister refused to bow to public pressure and authorise one.

The ''pre-emotive cull '' of more than eight million healthy animals was ordered by ministers in clear breach of the criminal law. This was implicitly admitted when, in 2002, they shamefacedly sneaked in a new animal health act to give the government powers to kill any animal they which they had falsely pretended to posses in 2001.

The Foot and Mouth debacle is the most glaring debacle and example of how Labour's ministers have routinely, blustered, bullied and abused their powers in tyrannising the farming community.

As for the Conservative Party, their inability to make political capital out of Labour's mismanagement of rural issues is a symptom of their terminal decline.

The Lib Dems, of course, think that green Wellingtons are a fashion accessory, whilst the Green party are trying to save them, because they are green.

Scottish Wind

Alex Fergiussion MSP, Tory spokesman for forestry and agriculture, recently called for a moratorium on wind farms until such a time as the Scottish Executive devises a properly co-ordinated strategy.

His comments on the subject were: ''I am not surprised that three-quarters of those surveyed are not anti-wind farm. The reason for that is that they will never have to live near one.''

Well now as it turns out villagers in Barr close to Mr Furgueson's farmland will soon have to live next to a wind farm.

Fergusson is to earn £250,000 by siting the biggest wind farm in Britain on his land. The MSP received a one-off payment of £27,000 in December and will receive a guaranteed minimum of £ 210,000 from Scottish and Southern Energy over the next 25 years.

That sounds like a very sound hypocracy.

Election Court

A very British Judge, Richard Mawrey QC, presiding over the first election court for over 100 years overturned the election of six Labour Party Councillors in Aston and Bordesley Green in Birmingham recently.

A close reading of His Honour's Judgement reveals deep concerns over the new system of postal voting. The Labour Party's has long been focused on securing the highest possible use of postal votes despite the knowledge that the system is deeply flawed.

The Judges comments were scathing:

''Anyone who has sat through the case I have just tried and listened to the evidence of electoral fraud that would disgrace a banana republic.''

And what was the response of Her Majesty's Government ? They have announced that the matter of postal ballots will be 'reviewed', after the general election. Oh well !

Blair's Change of Mind

Below is a copy of what Blair said in his 1983 election address when he first stood as a candidate in Segefield.

When the site is displayed please click on the individual pages of the manifesto for enlargement (that's the page not the EU).

The Sunday Quote

''Anti-speed police chief clocked at 82 mph in 40 mph zone''

Headline The Sunday Telegraph - 17 April 05.

The Head of the Metropolitan (that's London for the benefit of our many overseas readers) Police traffic division a Chief Supt. Les Owen was 'clocked' at over twice the speed limit on his way to a meeting in his 'chauffeur' driven Police Car. Apparently the Police Vehicle occasional used its siren on the journey taking the senior officer to a routine meeting for which the Police boss was late.

On behalf of many of Her Majesty's Subjects who have been fined and penalized with points on their driving license following a conviction for speeding, caused by running late for a business meeting, I hope that Owen is fined a lot of money that he can not afford and banned from carrying out his job for 12 months.
If subsequently when Owen fails to pay the fine (because he has been seriously ill) I hope that a bailiff from TNT, a national bailiff company, used by the courts calls and illegaly attempts to wheel clamp or impound his car. When Owen then calls for Police assistance perhaps he will find that his junior colleagues support the illegal action of the so called bailiffs ('tools of the trade' can not be removed and neither can vehicles as stated on court warrents). When, he later checks his law books and complains about the wrongful and negligent, actions of the Police, supporting the court's bulling agents, he may well find that the attending officers then lie to the investigating Inspector. Not wishing to make a formal complaint he may well accept a placatory apology offered by a senior Police colleague which is never forthcoming from the young rude attending officer.
Annoyed ? Yes I am, not just on behalf of my self but on behalf of many hard pressed self employed business people who are needlesly persecuted in the name of 'road safety'.
Despite a lifetime of support for law and order I (and many others) receive what I belive is poor service from the Police, as I did from county Durham Police in September 2003 when in a distressed state three thugs employed by TNT assulted me when attepting to remove a vehicle, which I did not own, (useing unauthorised paperwork) to execute a warrent issued by County Durham Magistrates Court (reported in The Sunday Telegraph Nov 2003)
If indeed Chief Supt Owen is prosecuted it would be no less than the fate suffered by of all those who are caught by the 'Police partnership safety cameras' that Owen is disgracefully in charge of. Maybee it would be less hypocritical if all motorists were permitted to drive at over 80 mph with their sirens blazing.
Perhaps on the other hand Owen will do the honorable thing and resign, somehow I doubt it. ------ Ed.

The EU - The Real British Government

All we want is our country back.
This week The Booker Column in The Sunday Telegraph looks at "the biggest issue of all" that can't be mentioned in the general election, that colossal "elephant in the room", the European Union.
Booker opens his column pointing out that the real reason for the collapse of the Rover-Shanghai deal was the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations.
These enact EU directives which would have imposed on the Chinese greater obligations towards redundant employees than they could and would accept. Even the BBC now asks why "Europe" has become the great unmentionable issue in this suffocating election - but it is missing at least half the point.
It is true that all parties seem eager to keep the EU out of view (Tory candidates, for instance, were startled last week to be issued with a set of focus-group-tested mantras on this topic and warned not to vary from them by an iota). The politicians' stock explanation is that discussion of "Europe" should be deferred until the referendum on the European constitution in a year's time. This could prove to be more than just a convenient excuse: with the voters of France and Holland seemingly set to kick the constitution into the long grass, we may find ourselves denied any debate on this issue at all.
There is, however, a more serious respect in which "Europe" has become the black hole in this election.
The discussion of many vitally important issues is now avoided because they are in fact no longer the responsibility of our Westminster Parliament.
When even the Cabinet Office website admits that half our laws are now made in Brussels, this means that a whole range of policy areas which would once have been at the centre of election debate are off the agenda.
Booker then goes on to offer a list of nine key issues which have effectively been excluded from discussion, because the views of British voters are no longer relevant to how they are handled.
1. The Coming Energy CrisisWithin a few years, with the rundown of North Sea gas and our ageing nuclear power stations (currently providing nearly a quarter of our electricity), we face the prospect of a major energy crisis, which in the electronic age would be far more devastating to economic life than Heath's "three day week" in the 1970s.Yet no party is prepared to argue the unworkability of an EU-agreed energy policy which pledges that, within 15 years, we will derive 20 per cent of our energy from "renewables", mainly wind. To achieve this - which would entail building 20,000 turbines - is out of the question.
No party dares question the EU-Kyoto orthodoxy by pointing out that wind energy is hopelessly unreliable and uneconomical, and that without a new generation of nuclear power stations a crisis is inevitable.
2. The Waste CrisisOur waste disposal policy is in chaos thanks to the insane complexity of EU waste rules and its diktat that we must replace most of our landfill sites with giant incinerators. This is not going to happen. Thanks to the EU's bizarre definitions of "waste", Britain is prohibiting all sorts of imaginative recycling systems, such as the use of sewage pellets to fuel power stations.Labour ministers' slavish attempts to comply with ill-drafted EU law are proving increasingly self-defeating: eg the current nationwide wave of fly-tipping, or the fiasco of the EU's ban on burying "animal by-products", from fallen farm stock to old supermarket chicken tikka. Yet neither of the other parties dares question this shambles because they accept the EU's right to dictate waste policy.
3. The Defence CrisisThe Armed Forces face an unprecedented crisis in the provision of their materiel - their planes, ships and vehicles - which is intimately connected to the demands of EU defence integration. The recent award of the Army's biggest ever truck order to a German firm rather than an Anglo-American consortium was just the latest instance of how the politics of EU integration are now overriding military considerations.
The Tories promise to spend more on defence and to reverse the abolition of old regiments. But neither pledge makes sense without addressing the central issue of whether our armed forces should be reorganised and re-equipped according to the needs of EU defence policy.
4. Immigration and Asylum RulesIn January when Michael Howard first proposed a limit on immigration, he was caught out when Brussels officials explained he had no powers to do so. The Labour Government had signed up to directives which prevent Britain deciding its own immigration and asylum policy.
Mr Howard responded that he would repatriate those powers. But although he has continued to make immigration a central election issue, he has carefully avoided getting drawn into further discussion of how he could implement a policy which would be viewed by Brussels and his EU partners as illegal.
5. Road Safety and Traffic ControlFew issues have become more contentious than speed cameras and congestion charges. Even Labour's manifesto admits they will consider a new system for charging road-users. What no party explains is that Brussels now plans to take control of all "road use policy" across the EU, through its proposed Road Safety Agency, including speed limits.
Furthermore, among the declared intentions of its Galileo satellite system is a plan for electronic charging for road use of EU roads, including congestion charges; and satellite-controlled automatic "speed limiters", making it impossible for drivers to break the limit even if they want to.
6. Overseas AidTony Blair makes play with his plans to more than double Britain's overseas aid spending to £6.5 billion a year. What he doesn't highlight is the frustration of his ministerial colleagues at the extent to which UK aid priorities are now dictated by the EU, and how inefficiently and corruptly much of it is administered.A junior aid minister, Gareth Thomas, recently complained at the way EU aid is weighted towards Mediterranean countries, in the hope of deterring emigration - so that Egypt, for example, receives 100 times more per head than the much poorer Bangladesh. The Tories say they would "repatriate" some aid policy, but do not explain how they would do this in face of unanimous opposition from Brussels and EU partners.
7. Foreign PolicyBecause it is obscured by headline exceptions such as Iraq, few people, even politicians, are aware how much we must now comply with the EU's common foreign policy. In 28 policy areas we have already handed over our right to decide our own policy, which is one reason why the British Government has appeared to take such a pusillanimous line over such issues as the tyranny of Mugabe, Botswana's persecution of the Kalahari Bushmen and appeasement of the mullahs in Iran.
8. Competition and State Aid RulesWhen, with Government support, Peugeot planned a car plant at Coventry which would have contributed more to the Midlands economy than Rover, the deal was scuppered because it took too long for Brussels to approve it under EU "state aid rules".
Although the rules are widely flouted by France, Germany, Italy and Spain, Britain is punctilious in its efforts not to use subsidies in a way which might "distort competition". This has also resulted in abandoning such socially desirable policies as the Public and Private Partnerships which helped to clean up scores of former industrial sites and put them to beneficial use.
9. The Growing Deadweight of EU Regulation. When one West Country MP was recently approached by a constituent asking why, as a lorry driver, he was forced by the EU's working time rules to take a 20 per cent cut in wages, the MP had to point out that there was nothing any British politician could do about it. EU regulations are regularly put at the top of the list by business organisations, from the CBI to the British Chambers of Commerce, as by far the biggest single factor undermining the efficiency and competitiveness of British industry. Despite weak noises from the Tories, no British politician has any practical idea as to how to curb this regulatory blizzard, which is why it is not an election issue.These, concludes Booker, are just some of the issues which will remain undiscussed at this election, reflecting how much of our government has now passed to the new system centred in Brussels, unaccountable to any electorate.
This inflicts endless damage, from the chaos over our new "118" system for directory enquiries to the continuing disaster of our fisheries. But the more the power to run our country is taken out of our politicians' hands, the more reluctant they are to talk about it.
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This is why debate will continue to centre round the same obsessive little list of issues - schools'n'hospitals, crime'n'tax - ignoring that ever greater "European black hole" into which our right to govern ourselves is steadily vanishing.
With thanks to Christhoper Booker and Dr Richard North