- oD 50.50
G4S: securing whose world?
Devalue or Else!
Re-birth of the nation?
Guy Aitchison (London, OK): I’ve just signed up to Amnesty International’s “unsubscribe” campaign. It aims to unite people against the human rights abuses carried out by governments in the name of the “war on terror”. In the case of our government this means drawing attention to the fact UK airports have been used during "extraordinary rendition’" to transport terror suspects to where they may face torture and indefinite detention. The latest Amnesty magazine gives evidence that Glasgow airport has been used in just such a way. What I particularly like about this campaign is the name: unsubscribe. Governments base their claims to moral authority on the fact that they act on behalf of those they govern. In the case of the "war on terror" it is our interest in security that is supposedly being protected. By unsubscribing from, or “de-authorizing”, acts of torture and state violence we call into question the legitimacy of these acts and the governments that carry them out. In this way the campaign is reminiscent of that great anti-war slogan that popped up in 2003 but hasn’t been seen much since. It read “Not In My Name”. If you want to unsubscribe do it here.
The launch of CentreForum's pamphlet, ‘Globalisation: a liberal response', provided a platform for Sam Brittan and Vince Cable to sketch out the themes of a liberal perspective on globalisation. The speakers were united in their calls for free trade and relaxed immigration. Sam made a typically cogent justification for allowing EU migrant workers into the UK labour market. Vince in particular urged for an ending of reciprocity in trade:
Jon Bright (London, OK): Someone pointed out recently that I seem to begin every post these days with 'I have just come from event X' in a fairly transparent attempt to make myself sound connected and important. One thing that I have picked up while working for OK is the incredible volume of events taking place in and around the Westminster village - and, as a recent student, I must admit the novelty of free nibbles and a nice glass of wine still hasn't quite worn off.
Anthony Barnett (London, OK): I like intellectuals, and always feel they should be given the benefit of the doubt; whether they are the Prime Minister or head of the Metropolitan Police. But in this case, there is no longer any doubt: Ian Blair must go. Leaving everything else aside - which in this case is difficult as an innocent man was shot in our name - Blair was faced with a clear choice and had plenty of time to make it. Should the Met agree there had been a system failure, whatever the mitigating circumstances, and therefore plead guilty to health and safety failure? Or should he insist that despite regrettable errors etc, they got nothing wrong that they should own up to? As the man in charge, it was Blair's call. It seems he was advised to say sorry and plead guilty on behalf of the Met. Instead, like any small-time chancer (or should I say well-healed villain with tame lawyers) he decided to go for a not-guilty verdict and trash the man they should not have shot. The jury found against him. Therefore he has to go.
Anthony Barnett (London, OK): There was an excellent letter in the Guardian yesterday, short, cogent and reprod here in full:
The Tories are about to propose an English grand committee in the House of Commons, a variant on their earlier idea of banning Scottish MPs from voting on English matters (Salmond's solid start, October 29). This is riddled with practical difficulties and fails either to provide England with an executive like that of the other three nations of the UK, or to address the underlying problem, just as the old Scottish grand committee failed. The Westminster parliament currently has two mutually incompatible roles, as a federal parliament for the whole of the UK on non-devolved subjects such as foreign affairs, and simultaneously as a parliament for England on everything. The UK government has the same contradictory double role. There is only one solution: a parliament and government for England, the only one of the UK's four nations still without either, and (eventually) full devolution of all domestic affairs to the four parliaments and governments, making Westminster a fully fledged federal parliament and government dealing with all non-devolved and shared subjects.
Jon Bright (London, OK): Thanks to Matt Wardman for directing me to Ordovicius' translation of Richard Wyn Jones' recent talks on the subject of devolution and the future of the UK. Jones, of Aberystwyth University, outlines five possible answers to the English question - five possible ways of preserving the UK - each of which is riddled with problems. He concludes that none of them is a satisfactory answer, and that only the 'nationalists' (English nationalists that is) have developed a coherent constitutional solution to the current problem - albeit one that won't do much for the Union. On one thing Jones is settled, however - in the words of Burke, "change is needed, so that things can say the same". The question is, if you are a unionist, what change?
I have to admit, I had some inclination that his team were cooking up something like this, as they approached me asking questions about how such systems would work in practice. I know this isn't a policy they just cobbled together without thinking about it; Chris Huhne supporter David Howarth is a sceptic of direct systems of democracy in the best sense of the word (as you can see from this video). If this policy got past David's forensic mind, you can safely bet that it has been robustly scrutinised.
Anthony Barnett (London, OK): While the Lib-Dem candidates (see below) stressed their anti-establishment credentials they repeated the Brownite touchstone about being "fair". It seems to be a Liberal/national/conservative/socialist essential to our way of being. Funny that. Why the need to say so, so often? Switch to the UK possession, Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. Its 'island people' were cleared out to turn the tiny archipelago into a US base. See HERE. Soon afterwards we re-invaded the Falklands to protect the rights of those islanders, and they were not even being removed. Now was that fair? Eventually, the Chagos won a ruling that they could return. Now it seems that the Foreign Office under Miliband-the-Fair is appealing against this decision! There is a brief and to the point petition asking for the appeal to be dropped on the No 10 website with 100 signatures. Apparently it needs 200 to force the government to reply. Sign it and let's see what they say.
Anthony Barnett (London, OK): I went to the RSA with Guy Aitchison to watch the first hustings between Nick Clegg and Chris Huhne the two candidates for the leadership of the Lib-Dems. I found myself sitting next to Lord William Goodhart who was cheerfully addressed from behind by a familiar voice saying "we are all Liberals here with one one or two exceptions" and I received a friendly but pointed slap on the back from the somewhat less lordly Tim Clement-Jones.
Gavin Yates (Edinburgh, GYMedia): New research from the Scottish Centre for Social Research has found that only 23 per cent of Scots are in favour of independence. The study asked almost 1,300 people their views on Scotland's constitutional future and is the most comprehensive study since the SNP's victory back in May.However, over 50 per cent of those questioned between May and August this year said that they wanted a more powers for Holyrood. Opposition politicians used the study to kick the new Scottish Government but it's more likely now that we'll see a ‘preferendum' on increase powers for Scotland later in the parliamentary term than a referendum on full independence.
Tony Curzon Price (London, oD): With a tin ear and no television in my life, I walked into the BBCist crowd assembled for the 50th birthday of "Today" the morning radio news-show (a bit like NPR's "Morning Edition", or the French "Les Matin de France Culture") knowing there would be neither familiar faces nor voices around me. Until John Humphrys, who has been presenting the show for most of my adult life, took to the microphone, again. Here is a voice that has woken me up more often than my wife or daughters, who has come in and out of my morning dreams. It is the archetypal voice of the ordinary Englishman - pragmatic, impatient of obfuscation, a little enamoured of pomp.
Suzy Dean (London, The Manifesto Club): From all the current Westminster hype you might think the replacement of our current Single Member Plurality System (SMPS) with Proportional Representation (PR) would be a revolution akin to giving women the vote. According to PR advocates, by making our seat-to-vote translation more proportional, those that feel the current system renders their vote irrelevant will finally be tempted back to the ballot box, and new life will be breathed into our old political system. But can we assume that public dissatisfaction with the First-Past-The-Post voting system is the root cause of public disengagement from politics?
James Graham (London, Unlock Democracy): Unlock Democracy published its latest report yesterday on the Scottish 2007 Elections. 251 monitors from across Scotland took part, making a note of every time they were sent a leaflet or target letter, were personally contacted by a party, saw an election-related advert or watched an election broadcast.
Peter Facey (London, Unlock Democracy): If the parties cannot now reach agreement, there will be terrible long term consequences for the reputation and state of British politics.We should be clear: the collapse of these talks will not mean an end to increases in public funding of political parties. Since Sir Hayden began work on this project, MPs voted themselves an additional £10,000 annual Communications Allowance. What this will mean is that grassroots politics will continue to decline and national politics will continue to be dominated by relatively few 'sugar daddies'.
Jon Bright (London, OK): I've just come from a CentreForum event advertising the launch of their new pamphlet: 'Globalisation: a liberal response'. Samuel Brittan and Vince Cable were on hand to fly the flag for free markets (with safeguards), relaxed immigration laws and the end to notions of 'reciprocity' in trade negotiations. Brittan was all for allowing Polish plumbers in to London - we need to find what to export back in which we have a comparative advantage, he said, and that was for the market to decide.
Stuart Weir (Cambridge, Democratic Audit): Things are worse than I thought. When I wrote yesterday's blog on the demands for self-censorship I had misgivings about making Prince Charles the figurehead over his unwillingness to stand up for Monica Ali's novel Brick Lane and the film. He is so well known as a meddling fool, a kind of prince and court jester all in one skin, that I feared people may well think I was exaggerating the danger of this growing trend. I had not read the Guardian's editorial of 27 October on the book and its author. The editorial is a farrago of tendentious sentiments and queries that don't quite face up to what the writer cannot quite say outright. What business does a "mixed-race Oxford graduate" have writing about ordinary Bangladeshis in east London? She should have taken special care in writing about a "new" subject, especially when it is a "community". The Bangladeshis are too various a group to speak as one. They are "real people" living in "real" communities. What tosh. There has been a robust response to the editorial in the newspaper's readers page, mostly in defence of fiction as imaginative work and of the freedom of expression in which novels like Brick Lane should flourish. However, having read the novel, I would also like to affirm that it is clearly authentic both artistically and as social reportage and far from ridiculing or disparaging a "real" community, its insights into the lives of Ms Ali's characters inspire sympathy and understanding. I can discount rumours that it was Charles who wrote the editorial - the leader writer had clearly read the novel. Or had (this is my guess) he?
Andrew Blick (London, Democratic Audit): Those who advocate restricted voting rights for Scottish MPs have undoubtedly uncovered a problematic anomaly with the UK constitution. But the UK constitution is a collection of anomalies and the proposed solution will create more of them.There are many technical difficulties with the idea, but here are some of the more fundamental objections. The focus on Scotland distracts from important questions about the Northern Irish, Welsh and even London devolved governments. MPs are not merely representatives of geographical areas, they deliberate on behalf of the population of the UK as a whole. Decisions that involve spending money are of interest to all MPs since taxes are raised centrally.
Anthony Barnett (London, OK): The great Sunny Hundal of Pickled Politics has just emailed to say he has "teased" me in his latest CiF post. It's called "Bloggers of the Left Unite!". I hope we don't. "Unite", that is. Such an obligation will demand a correct line etc, etc. Sunny is preparing the ground for a new initiative, that I will warmly support when it is suitably launched on Guy Fawks night. Now, by way of early stimulation no doubt, he suggests I was wrong to ask some time back why Britain's rightwing blogland is so much more lively than the left's. Wrong, because, he says,
Worse still is the government's threat of a further assault on England. Whilst they are delaying and struggling to work out the detail, Harman yesterday confirmed that they want to establish "regional accountability" around the artificial EU regions proposed for England.
Jon Bright (London, OK): Another hat tip to Gareth Young for flagging up this YouGov poll. It makes negative (if not entirely unexpected) reading for those interested in constitutional reform: asked to choose 4 government priorities from a list of 13 options, only 2% picked "Reforming the constitution" - equal bottom with 'none of the above'. This really gives me pause. Given the option, 2% of the respondents would rather have the government do nothing at all than reform how we are governed (these people must be big fans of the summer recess).
Jon Bright (London, OK): Anyone who signed up to email alerts in the last few months will have noticed that, well, we haven't been sending any. That is going to change this week, as I have finally found time to configure our new email list service, which will be run through Feedblitz. We will be offering two email alert services:
Stuart Weir (Cambridge, Democratic Audit): Funny what we can say and what we can't say. Perhaps the most prevalent complaint about censorship and self-censorship in British society is that about "political correctness". Actually I do myself often squirm in frustration over some of the absurd prohibitions and circumlocutions that PC-ness leads to (being a fan of plain-speaking myself) and of course give the tabloid anti-PC campaign so much ammunition.
Jon Bright (London, OK): Further to last week's liberty speech, the government have published three consultation papers on some of the proposed constitutional tinkering set out in this summer's Green Paper. Of course this is going to have the cynical spluttering into their morning coffee - but this is a (slim) chance to try and take some control of the process. The three papers are available in pdf format, with (very complicated) questionnaires at the back, and details about where to email completed questionnaires into in each one. Closing date is the 17th of January. The government is consulting on: