...a blog by Richard Flowers

Friday, July 20, 2012

Day 4219: The Law is a (Naked) Ass. Again.


For a minute, it looked like flash of hope, maybe even SANITY, was creeping into things.

Sure, there's been military coup in the nation's capital that has transformed homes into missile launch pads and sees Apache helicopters buzzing our flat on an hourly basis...

And yes, that pie-faced cretin Mr Balloon is planning on using VOODOO to tell who is and isn't a dangerous child-offender...

But at least the Kafka-esque nightmare of the Naked Rambler was over, and he'd been allowed to walk away from prison. Naked.

Only now they've locked him up again.

In so many ways: BUM!

As a FLUFFY ELEPHANT I am USUALLY naked too. Unless I put on a NICE TIE for special occasions like getting nonimated for Blogger of the Year. (Yes, I am ELIGIBLE again this year. Do not forget!)

Nobody is shocked by MY fluffy bottom. So I really don't see the problem. Honestly, the only people making a fuss are the ones ARRESTING him in case he "offends" someone. And you do not have a "right" to take offence at what other people are not doing. Not believing the same things, not saying the same things, not WEARING the same things, it's all much the same.

And yet one minute there's one bunch of folks demanding people burn their burqas. Next there's another wanting them swaddled up again lest they frighten the horses. Just let people wear – or indeed NOT wear – whatever they want!

(And for people who say you can't let people see WILLIES, WILLIES are FRIGHTENING, I say go and watch ALIEN and you will soon see that the GIANT EVIL WILLY is ONLY frightening when it STAYS HIDDEN!)

I realise, in the grand scheme of things (especially today) that the plight of this slightly odd-seeming beardy bloke does not seem very important at all.

But he's not actually done anything WRONG

Eccentric, I'll grant you. Weird, I wouldn't disagree. You might even go as far as to think he's a bit peculiar. But not CRIMINAL. Because where's the crime in wandering about in his own skin doing no harm to anyone? And yet the full might of the state has been brought to bear/bare (hoho) and seen him locked up, mostly in solitary, for SIX YEARS.

If there's any CRIME here, it's the one that the STATE has committed against HIM.

NOBODY benefits from bullying this man to conform. In fact, a bit less diversity means we're all just that little bit worse off.

This country has already been HUMILIATED by an Olympic Five-Ring Circus that has proved that it puts the CORPORATE GREED of "official sponsors" ahead of the entrepreneur spirit of anyone who might have boosted the economy with some local initiative (and the UNIONS have nothing to be proud of either); that it puts the privileges of the elite in their Zil lanes ahead of the ordinary people of this city whose taxes have paid for those roads; that it puts SECURITY THEATRE ahead of FREEDOM or FUN.

Great Britain is SUPPOSED to be a Nation that celebrates ECCENTRICS and INDIVIDUALS and supports the UNDERDOG.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Day 4212: But if it DOES come to a Referendum...


Hard Labour CLAIM that they're FOR the PRINCIPLE of Lords Reform, but AGAINST the SPECIFICS of this Bill. So if we DO cut a DEAL that involves a REFERENDUM, let's make it one UP FRONT on the PRINCIPLES of reform.

This means it HAS to be WIDER than just a "YES/NO" to the current proposals.

The many different CONTENTIOUS CLAUSES in Cap'n Clegg's Bill give the reactionaries many different directions to attack from. So what say we make sure the PUBLIC get to decide on ALL the main issues, settling each question one way or the other. Like this:

The House of Lords is the second chamber of the United Kingdom Parliament. It reviews and revises legislation and can amend but not block legislation sent to it by the House of Commons. At present, the members of the House of Lords (peers) are appointed for life, mainly (80%) by the leaders of Political Parties, with some, known as Cross Benchers, selected by the Appointments Panel, and some Church of England Bishops.

The main question in this referendum is to decide in principle whether we should elect peers rather than appoint them.

Supplementary questions are asked about what an elected chamber might look like and how it might be elected IF it is decided to change to an elected House of Lords. Please answer all the questions, whatever your preference for an elected or appointed chamber.

MAIN QUESTION: Should the House of Lords be appointed or elected?
  • Appointed
  • Elected


QUESTION ONE: If it is decided that the Lords should be elected, should peers be mainly or entirely elected?
  • Mainly elected peers (80%, per the Government's proposals)
  • Wholly elected (100%)

QUESTION TWO: If it is decided that the Lords should be elected, a proportional voting system is proposed. Should the voting system for the Lords be:
  • Party list system (as used in European Parliament elections)
  • Ranked preference system (as used in Scottish local elections or Northern Ireland)

QUESTION THREE: There are currently around nine hundred unelected peers. The Government proposes to reduce this number to four hundred and fifty. There will be six hundred member members of the House of Commons. How many peers should there be:
  • 300
  • 450
  • 600
  • 900
(vote for first and second preference)

QUESTION FOUR: The Government's proposals are for peers to sit for a single term of office of fifteen years, electing one third of the House at the same time as a General Election. If the House of Lords is elected, how long should their terms be:
  • Fifteen years (electing one third of members at each General Election every five years)
  • Ten years (electing one half of members at each General Election every five years)
  • Five years (electing all the members at each General Election every five years)
(vote for first and second preference)

QUESTION FIVE: The Government's proposals for fifteen-year terms include a provision that peers should not be allowed to stand for re-election. Do you agree?
  • Yes, peers should only be elected for one term
  • No, peers should be allowed to stand more than once

QUESTION SIX: Presently there are twenty-six Church of England Bishops with seats in the House of Lords. The Government proposes to reduce this to fifteen in line with the proposed smaller House of Lords. If it is decided that there should continue to be some appointed members, do you think that the Bishops should have seats in the House of Lords?
  • Yes, there should be seats for religious leaders
  • No, only members appointed by the Appointments Commission should have Cross Bencher seats

QUESTION SIX-A: Should the seats continue to be reserved for the Church of England or should other religions be represented as well?
  • Yes, the seats should remain exclusively for the Church of England
  • No, there should be representatives for people of all religions (and people with no religion)

QUESTION SEVEN: Under the Parliament Act, the House of Lords is only a revising chamber and cannot block legislation passed by the House of Commons. The Government's proposals will keep this provision. Do you agree?
  • Yes, the House of Commons should always be able to overrule the House of Lords
  • Yes, the House of Commons should be able to overrule the House of Lords, but only on the Budget
  • No, the House of Commons should not be able to overrule the House of Lords at all
A quick bill (haha), with all-Party support (hahaha), passed through the Commons this Autumn would pave the way for a poll next year. If the public reject an elected Lords then we drop the issue; if they approve, then we have a ready-made Bill that can be also be passed quickly, because only a bunch of BLINKERED SELF-INTERESTED IDIOTS would tell the Public that THEY know better... Oh.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Day 4211: The Price for Dropping Lords Reform – VINCE FOR CHANCELLOR


...and Mr David Outlaws for Business Secretary.

(Let's spell that out clearly: the Liberal Democrats to get a WHOLE EXTRA CABINET MINISTER, and one of the Great Offices of State.)

It seems quite plain that a cabal of bitter Conservatories are determined to derail ANY of the Liberal Democrats parliamentary legislation.

But it's ALSO very evident that where we have Cabinet Ministers we have made a REAL difference.

And, most obvious of all, Mr Dr Vince "the Power" Cable is the only person COMPETENT, CAPABLE and most important TRUSTED to take charge of the British Economy.

So it's WIN-WIN-WIN.

WIN #1: Mr Dr Vince gets the job he was born to do.

(And Master Gideon might even thank us for putting him out of his misery. And, er, promoting him sideways to Conservatory Chairperson would give him licence to sink his teeth into Mr Bully Balls' ankles any time he wanted.)

WIN #2: The Prime Monster gets to STAMP some much need AUTHORITY on his Premiership AND look MAGNANIMOUS to BOTH SIDES (his backbenchers get a victory and we get a Ministry), while actually we get him out of a HOLE without losing (big red) face.

(If, as looks increasingly likely, Mr Balloon has lost any vestiges of control over the Conservatory Party, it may not even be within his gift to deliver on his promise of Tory votes to back Lords Reform. Yes, like all of his other promises it's not worth the cast-iron guarantee it's not printed on. But, as Prime Monster, the appointment of Ministers remains within his gift and Mendacious Mensch and Humpty Soames can't stop him no matter how many lies they tell.)

WIN #3: The Liberal Democrats' SHARE of influence in the Coalition is RESTATED and CONFIRMED.

Suggesting a FAIR DEAL quid pro quo is much more GROWN-UP and ROSE GARDEN than throwing about sulky threats to derail the Boundary Commission. It's a trade-off, not a tit-for-tat.

Remember, we want to show that Coalition WORKS. But also remember, Mr Balloon needs to show that Coalition works EVEN MORE. Because he's out of a job (and buried in a motorway flyover pillar) the very second that it fails.

Why Mr David Outlaws? I know in the past I have pushed for a FEMALE Liberal Cabinet Minister (and in a minute I will again) but to sugar this pill a little, I suggest reinstating "the Conservatories' favourite Liberal Democrat" would be the best way forwards. (Particularly as they can and will take it as a hint that the exile of their current darling, the swivel-eyed "Fantastic" Dr Fox, need not be forever.)

On the other fluffy foot, if we ARE going to do a full reshuffle, it might (FINALLY!) be time to promote Ms Lynne Featherweight to, er, Lynne Heavyweight! The Conservatories would probably want one of their own to take over from Mr Danny as Treasury Number Two (Mr Michael Borogrove probably – which would make an appropriate opening for Lady Lynne as Education Secretary). Alternatively, Lovely Sarah Teather to be promoted within the Education Department. Or even fabulous Ms Jo Winsome to do, well, just about anything!

I realise this leaves Mr Danny out in the cold. I like Danny very much but just now I think he would benefit from some time reconnecting to the Party (or decontaminating his reputation from accusations of having gone native at the Treasury), so I'd suggest a "senior Party position" – our "Minister for Newsnight" – perhaps also taking in charge of policy development for the 2015 manifesto.

I remain COMPLETELY CONVINCED that Parliament CANNOT heal the problems of Great Britain until first we heal the problems with Parliament itself, the gaping poisonous wound that is the shortfall in our democracy in BOTH Houses. But so long as the Labour Party are going to be TOTALLY TWO-FACED on this – first voting for reform with their right fluffy feet, then promising support to the reactionary rebels with their FAR-right fluffy feet – then we need to move the Coalition forward with short-term measures instead. Breaking the Coalition rewards Hard Labour Opportunists AND their deceitful partners on the Conservatory reactionary right.

We CAN still walk away. That definitely has to still be on the table, and Mr Balloon needs to have that made PRETTY DARN CLEAR to him. He can't expect to give in to his rebels and give us nothing – that is NOT being a Prime Monster and he'd very soon find that he WASN'T a Prime Monster any more.

But neither do we need to be so set in stone over the Coalition Agreement that we cannot continuously look at what we have to offer in exchange for changing those terms.

Everyone KNOWS that Vince is the best man for the job of Chancellor. So let's give him the job and move on.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Day 4209: Lording It


The House of Lords is a CANCER of PRIVILEGE at the heart of our Establishment. It needs to go.

How can we complain about UNACCOUNTABLE bankers manipulating interest rates for their own advantage or UNACCOUNTABLE media barons (haha very ironic) hacking the phones of innocent victims for a story to sell when we allow the very laws that govern us (and bankers! and newspapers!) to be made by an UNACCOUNTABLE bunch of self-interested, unrepresentative, largely-geriatric, probably-deluded, has-beens hand-picked by the Prime Monster and the Leader of the Opportunists?


Not the PEOPLE of Great Britain, that's for sure.

There are the seventy-some Conservatories who SHOULD be RESIGNING their seats and facing by-election for LYING to their constituents in their 2010 manifesto. But there's no punishment for twisting words to mean anything you want them to mean (and if Mr Bunter Soames isn't a candidate for Humpty Dumpty then I'll eat a Conservatory manifesto). But there's no punishment for these people – quite the reverse, they are rewarded with publicity to make their safe seats safer (and the dinners to make their fat seats fatter) and, in the fullness of time, a safe seat for life in, yes, the Lords on their retirement (at least, so long as they can talk out the bill and ensure there's a plush taxpayer-funded retirement home still there for them).

There is the Labour Party, who OUGHT to be in danger of proving themselves UTTERLY UNFIT TO GOVERN, because they'd rather ARSE ABOUT in the House of Commons than act PROGRESSIVELY, in accordance with what they CLAIM to believe and in the interest of the COUNTRY. But there's no punishment for treating politics as a BIG OLD GAME and just adding to the CONTEMPT in which real people hold the whole process of government.

And that SERVES the Establishment too, encouraging people to DISENFRANCHISE THEMSELVES when they don't care about politics. People care about OUTCOMES – the Health Service, welfare, pensions, schools, whether the trains run on time. Or at all. But when politicians play stupid games – and our media have utterly failed us here by encouraging them to do this – it disconnects those outcomes from the process that is supposed to DELIVER. The mega-rich media owners prosper because they get good value entertainment but people suffer but they get entertainment instead of government.

(More - and BETTER - on "processes v outcomes" from Mr Andrew. Do read!)

Then there're the Lords themselves. Let's take Betty Boothroyd, since she's been mouthing off this week. She SHAMES herself and her record. She was Speaker of the House of Commons from 1992 to 2000 and therefore was Speaker during the debates over the Maastricht Treaty creating the European Union and the Scotland Act creating the devolved Scottish Parliament, either or both of which could be said to be a more substantial a constitutional change as the Lords Reform Bill. Did she denounce those changes as an "outrage"? Did she rebel against the use of programme motions then? No, she calmly wafted them through. She passed the Social Chapter of the Maastricht Treaty on her own casting vote (unnecessarily as it turned out, but no qualms about needing a referendum there). No, it's only now – by an EXTRAORDINARY COINCIDENCE just when her OWN cushy seat is up for a touch of accountability – that she's up in arms.

This is what the House of Lords Club DOES – it turns decent people into HYPOCRITES and veneers our WORST politicians with ermine-edged nobility. As though that makes them RESPECTABLE. It makes them part of the ESTABLISHMENT, defenders of the STATUS QUO, and rewards them with a warm place to snooze and a decent London restaurant at country prices.

These people are given power and money – YOUR power and YOUR money – without asking your permission. Their hands are DIRTY. Yes, even the best of them. (Shirley, Ros, Paddy the many others who, I know, all work very hard and do good, but it's all built on SAND, and worse, it's built on LIES.)

So when they talk about "wisdom" and "tradition" ("tradition" here meaning "we've got away with it for so long, how dare you question us now") ask them "What gives you the RIGHT to pass laws over me?" And remember that their position is UTTERLY UNJUSTIFIABLE.

Because they have NO RIGHT to take your money or your power without your say so.

And for as long as we build our government on a system of doing favours for rewards, that hands out position without accountability, that lets people take POWER OVER YOU without legitimacy, then we will continue to live in a society that has darkness and corruption at its heart and we can expect to reap more Barclays and more Murdochs because they're just doing what the Establishment do.

Only smaller and cruder and THEY got found out.

Those TOP TEN anti-reform arguments in full:

1. "There's not been enough time for debate!"

Translation: there's just been nine months of open consultation that they couldn't be bothered to participate in and a cross-party committee on top of over a hundred years of discussion, but one more really good kick and they'll see it into the really long grass...

2. "They might challenge the legitimacy of the House of Commons"

Translation: if you make them more democratic it shows up the deficiencies in OUR legitimacy.

(aka: I can't bear to be challenged!)

What exactly is WRONG with the House of Lords CHALLENGING the House of Commons? Aren't they kind of SUPPOSED to do that? The legislation specifically states that the Commons will always get its way in the end.

3. "They won't be able to perform their role as a revising chamber"

Translation: I'm not singing from the same hymn sheet as "2".

4."I'm in favour of a proper democracy where the Lords is 100% elected!"

(also known as the "no one wanted THIS" argument.)

The Liberal Democrats want a 100% elected second chamber too but we also know that DEMOCRACY means COMPROMISE and the proposals in the bill aim to take into account the best ideas (and the red lines) of all parties to the consultation. This is supposed to be SYNTHESIS though there's an element of LOWEST COMMON DENOMINATOR too. If you're so SPECIAL and PRECIOUS that you won't accept ANYTHING except your own personally hand-crafted form of government then... you're probably going to have to buy your own island.

5. "We don't want to pay for more politicians!"

Good, because under these proposals you'd pay for FEWER politicians. About FOUR HUNDRED fewer. AND you'd get to elect them. A bit.

6. "It'll be a Parliament of Placemen!"

Well I'M pretty FURIOUS about losing STV for the Lords, but seriously, how are lists of names chosen by the Parties DIFFERENT from the present system of, er, a list of names chosen by the Parties? Plus appointed cross-benchers and totally unelected Bishops. Just like now!

At least the voters will get to choose the parties!

7. "You'll lose the wisdom of expert contributions"

Name five members of the House of Lords who have contributed EXPERT TESTIMONY to more than a couple of bills. Name TWO! Robert Winston may be great but, seriously, just how many Human Embryology bills do you NEED?

And what makes him an "expert" when it comes to the European Fisheries Act? Or the High Speed Rail Bill? Or the Business Regulations? Or tax loopholes? Or armed forces procurement? Or... continues ad infinitum.

8. "The quality of debate is so much better in the Lords than in the Commons"

So fluffy what? The House of Commons being broken is NO REASON not to fix the House of Lords. Oh, I was going to get the cooker fixed but the telly's on the blink so I guess I'll just keep eating cold cat-monster food from tins(!)

You don't get the jeers and juvenile behaviour in the Lords, it is true. But that's not because they're UNELECTED. It's because they're all ASLEEP! They manage to behave perfectly reasonably in the Scottish Parliament. Or the European Parliament. Or the American Senate. Mostly. And they're all ELECTED bodies.

The atmosphere in the House of Commons is like that because we ALLOW them to be like that. (It doesn't help that the ROOM is physically designed to be UNCOMFORTABLE and TOO SMALL and so PROVOKE conflict.)

9. "Er...."

10. "That's enough objections, Ed."

(No, not THAT Ed, obviously; Mr Milipede hasn't got enough objections but HE's going to vote against ANYWAY. Git.)

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