Archive 2009

Outreaching Parliament was the theme of the Speaker’s (John Bercow MP) speech to the annual Hansard and Political Studies Association meeting on Monday, November 30 2009 at Portcullis House.   Reaching the meeting sorely tried members of the public.   A few of the intended audience never made it.   So the first question I had wanted to ask at the end of the meeting was – could security be hastened for admission to Parliament’s precincts.    I wasn’t called but since then I have complained profusely to one and all about this point.
In fact the Speaker’s address was fascinating.    His five main points were – first to acknowledge “the cause of parliamentary outreach has been severely impaired by the expenses scandal”.   Secondly he set out the reasons why the task will be a considerable challenge.   He continued by sketching out “the strategic imperatives that must be met if the standing of Parliament in public life is to become what we want it to be”.   He continued by reporting what the House “is already doing and has sanctioned to advance with regard to outreach activity” and reported on one innovation.
The Speaker noted in his speech the “decline of deference towards all institutions” and said “In many ways this was a healthy change”.    So outreaching had to be a “constructive system of engagement which needs to be constantly refreshed and renewed”.    He noted that society was more fragmented and to outreach all was a huge challenge.   John Bercow felt some of the public could easily avoid “hard news” so an approach to reach such people had to be different.
Some people thought we lived in an irrevocably anti politics age, but he thought it was an anti politicians age.   John Bercow felt that in the realm of politics activism had moved from party politics to other forms.   He gave as examples – animal welfare, global warming, and international poverty as issues of great interest to the public but followers of such interests did not turn to Parliament for advancing their ideas.
So the Speaker felt, for a reconnection of Parliament and people, everyone must realise that the public perception was of “a politicians’ Parliament and not a people’s Parliament” and that we had a “political party Parliament and not a public policy Parliament.   Neither of these observations is actually true” he continued.     John Bercow felt more people should be invited into Parliament in person and to participate through the website, and Parliament must prove that it does focus squarely on issues.   “If we can do that, more of the public will see the relevance of the House of Commons” he said.
Fourthly he said that it must be observed that the role of individual Members in connecting with their constituents is changing beyond all recognition.    He wanted to thank key members of the staff of the House for their work in outreaching but now a more ambition programme was required.   More tours, particularly with schoolchildren, of the House were needed.   By 2013 a new education centre would be opened.   Schemes were being prepared to open the House of Commons at weekends and create a wider range of tours for specialist interest.   He mentioned the Youth Parliament held recently in the Chamber of the House.   He also thought the House should be used as the venue for special meetings “of those involved with worthwhile causes”.   The range of activism “is being supported by the promotion of Parliament outside of London”.   He wanted “all schoolchildren to experience the essence of representative democracy for themselves” and said “the House has sought to be a catalyst for the creation of schools councils as miniature versions of itself in the educational realm”.    John Bercow went on to say how closely the House was engaging with universities and said “Understandably, the emphasis here tends to be on those studying Government or Politics”.  
Since his election the Speaker had been involved in approximately 50 events which could be defined as “outreach”.
John Bercow confessed that illustrating Parliament was about the policy preferences of citizens was a tougher nut to crack.  However the vehicle of the departmental select committees have “the capacity to draw the sceptical but activist voter back into the Palace of Westminster”.    He went on to say “It is possible for the public to participate  by presenting evidence to these committees directly”   He continued by sincerely hoping that the Select Committee on the reform of the House of Commons, chaired by Dr Tony Wright, which had just published its report would be acted upon swiftly.   John Bercow said “anyone with the best interests of the House at heart should want select committees to be placed more squarely in the shop window”.
Final suggestion from the Speaker was his intention to establish the first Speaker’s Advisory Council on Public Engagement.   “It will consist of external figures with stellar careers ... kindly offering their time without payment.   It will provide an invaluable sounding board for parliamentarians and parliamentary staff, encouraging them in their endeavours and making constructive suggestions as to how the outreach challenge can be met.”
In conclusion John Bercow said that “the outreach agenda is at the core of my notion of a modern Speakership.   It, along with the restoration of the backbench MP as a political actor, is the yardstick against which I want to be measured.”  
December 27th Holiday TV viewing and radio - English Parliament
December 20th Petition to 10 Downing St - From the Taxpayer's Alliance - Undemocratic European Parliament
December 13th Electoral Administration Act 2006 - UK Taxpayers - The Big Rip-off - Civil Liberties
December 6th Support Power2010 - Open Primaries? - A Modern Conservative Party
December 27th
Holiday TV viewing and radio
Is it just me or is our television viewing and radio getting worse?   Over the holiday period there was so little that I wanted to view or listen to that it came as a great surprise when on Saturday morning I tuned in to Radio 4 and heard one of the best programmes for a long time.   Michael Crick did a half hour on Gladstone.   It was brilliant.   First of all he spoke to Gladstone's great grandson and then there was a studio discussion between Lord David Steel, Lord Adonis and David Willetts.   How refreshing it was to hear two historians (Adonis and Willetts) putting current events into a historical context with the help of a former Leader of the Liberal Party.   I do hope that Michael Crick will do more programmes of a similar style.   Well done.
An English Parliament
When will our politicians stop treating England like a colony?   It is ironic that England was one of the first nations to invent parliamentary democracy but will be one of the last to benefit from it.   You do not have to be English or a Nationalist to recognise the need for an English Parliament.    All you need to be is a democrat.   Just one small example.    When Parliament voted on the decision as to whether to have a third runway at Heathrow Airport a majority of 19 English MPs voted against it, but the approval went through because 67 Welsh, Scottish and Northern Ireland MPs voted in favour. 
The compliments of the Season to everyone and let us hope that in 2010 we will make progress on the road to democracy.

December 20th
Petition to 10 Downing St.
At last 10 Downing St. have agreed the following petition.   Do please sign it by clicking on the link below.   How can we live in a democracy if the political parties which choose the candidates for parliament are undemocratic?

     The petition reads:

     We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to introduce
     legislation so that the Electoral Commission cannot register a
     political party unless the party has a democratic constitution
     which can be changed by a majority of its members on the basis
     of one member one vote.

     Political parties are part of the democratic process in the
     United Kingdom.   Their role is recognised by parliament.   In
     the current financial year nearly £7 million of public money –
     known as “Short” money – has been paid to political parties.
     It is wholly unacceptable that public money should be paid to
     undemocratic parties.   This money is supposed to enhance our
     democracy – it does no such thing.   In some cases, all it is
     doing is perpetuating the power of oligarchies. It is also
     wrong that undemocratic organisations are determining who shall
     be our parliamentary candidates and in so doing who shall sit
     in the House of Commons and form the government of this
     country. The Electoral Commission is already involved with
     political parties by setting the rules for donations to the
     parties and enforcing the rules on donations.   They should be
     involved in ensuring that the parties are democratic. Once we
     had rotten boroughs, now we have a rotten parliament.   This
     proposal will change that.

From the Taxpayer's Alliance

Executive Summary

Ending the Green Rip-Off reveals the growing, excessive price that British families are

paying for climate change policy:

  The burden of green taxes and regulations, net of road spending, in 2008-09 was

£26.4 billion.1

 That is up £1.7 billion from £24.7 billion in 2007-08. The rise is driven by an

increasing price on emissions under the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme and an increase in

the cost of the Renewables Obligation, both of which increase electricity prices.

 There are a number of different estimates of the “social cost” of a tonne of

greenhouse gas emissions; this report uses estimates from senior academics and
organisations like the IPCC and DEFRA. The ‘per tonne’ estimates in those reports suggest
the total cost of Britain’s emissions was between £2.8 billion and £16.2 billion in 2008, the

estimate under the IPCC social cost was £4.6 billion. There was little change

between 2007 and 2008 as falling emissions were balanced out by a rising social cost per


 Green taxes were therefore excessive by between £10.2 billion and £23.6 billion in

2008-09, the estimate under the IPCC social cost was £21.8 billion. Excessive green

taxes and regulations therefore cost between £408 and £944 per household, the estimate

under the IPCC social cost was £872 per household. Again, the extent to which the

cost of climate change policies is excessive has risen from between £8.4 billion and £21.8

billion in 2007-08, and £20.1 billion under the IPCC social cost.

 Estimates for all UK local authority areas are provided. Those estimates show

that the burden varies significantly, with rural areas like Maldon paying as much as £622

per person in excess green taxes and regulations in 2008/09 under the IPCC estimate of

the social cost of carbon, and urban areas like Camden paying less, at £136 per person.

Even under the highest estimate of the social cost of carbon used in this study, only 27
local authority areas out of 434 did not pay excessive green taxes.
There are a number of problems with current climate change policies that are imposing an

excessive burden on ordinary families:

 Increases in energy prices are regressive, hitting the poor and elderly

hardest, increasing poverty and benefit dependency. The poorest income decile

spend three times as much, as a proportion of their income, on electricity as the richest.

Over 75s spend twice as much on electricity as the under 30s.

The undemocratic European Parliament
Did you know that the German Constitutional Court does not see the European Parliament as a body that can bestow sufficient democratic legitimacy on the EU, partly because there is no "European people" and partly because it is not elected on the basis of the one-man-one-vote principle (the larger member-states, such as Germany, have many fewer MEPs - relative to the size of their populations - than the smaller ones).

December 13th
The Electoral Administration Act 2006
In a little publicised statement issued this week it was disclosed that inadvertently during the passage of the above Act citizens of the Irish Republic and Commonwealth citizens were excluded from the House of Lords.   This effected The Archbishop of York, Baroness Trixie Gardner (Australian), Baroness O'Cathain (Irish) and others.   Isn't it extraordinary that citizens that have no allegiance to the United Kingdom should be in our legislature passing laws that effect the United Kingdom?   It would appear that these people should not have been in the House of Lords since the 2006 Act was passed.   Did they effect any votes taken?    Did they speak on any controversial issues and effect the votes taken?    I think we should be told.   No doubt this will all be brushed under the carpet and an enabling Bill passed to rectify the matter.   No wonder our democracy is in a mess.
UK Taxpayers
David Cameron has today stated that the Conservatives will pass legislation to ensure that only UK taxpayers are members of the House of Lords and the House of Commons.   He is quite right to do this, but why does he not go further and say that only UK citizens can be members of parliament, indeed go further still and say that only UK citizens can vote in our parliamentary elections.    There are about 400,000 citizens of the Irish Republic resident in the United Kingdom who vote in our parliamentary elections.   They can clearly effect the results because they tend to be concentrated in a few areas such as Glasgow, Liverpool and Kilburn in London.   It is clearly wrong that Irish citizens whose loyalty is to a foreign power are determining the composition of our legislature.   They have no loyalty to the Queen or the country.   As far as the Commonwealth citizens are concerned they may, but not all, have loyalty to the Queen but no loyalty to the country.   Last week Rwanda joined the Commonwealth.   Overnight potentially large numbers of people have become eligible if they are in the UK to vote in our elections.   This cannot be right and should be changed.
The Big Rip-off
Britain's richest man gets £1 billion from ETS carbon permits. Lakshmi Mittal, Britain 's richest man, stands to benefit from a £1 billion windfall from the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme. His steel business ArcelorMittal, where he is Chairman and Chief Executive, will make the gain on 'carbon credits'. The scheme allocates permits to emit CO2 up to a specified cap, and beyond this businesses must buy extra permits. However, ArcelorMittal have been allocated more than it needs, allowing it to sell the surplus for a profit. (Sunday Times, 6 December)
Civil Liberties
Listen to the debate on civil liberties organised by the Hansard Society

December 6th
Support Power2010
The following motion passed by COPOV was submitted to power2010 and accepted.    Please give it your support by visiting the power2010 web site.
"No political Party should be registered with the electoral Commission unless it has a democratic constitution which can be changed by a majority of its members on the basis of one member one vote". 
No. 10 Downing St. rejected the motion on the basis that it was party political.   How is it party political?   It would apply to all parties, after all we have regulations about the finances of political parties.    I have asked No. 10 to explain.   No answer has been forthcoming.

Open Primaries?
The following article was published this week on the openupnow website:
“Once we had rotten boroughs, now we have a rotten Parliament”
John Strafford
In July 2009, as the open primary in Totnes was taking place, the Board of the Conservative Party was meeting to determine the rules for the future selection of parliamentary candidates.    It was a stormy meeting – the last stand in the battle to defend the rights of ordinary Party members – a battle that was lost.   The decisions taken will affect democracy in the United Kingdom for a generation.   So what happened?
Under the new rules the Party Chairman will decide whether a local Association should select its candidate by a Special General Meeting or by an Open Primary.
For each constituency a sifting meeting will be held at a place designated by the Party Chairman at which the Approved List of candidates will be reduced to six names, 50% of whom will be women.   At this meeting there will be six representatives of the local Association including its Chairman and two Deputy Chairmen.   The Party Chairman will have a veto on the six names to go forward to the next stage of Open Primary or Special General Meeting.
As from the 1st January 2010 the Party Chairman will give an Association the names of three parliamentary candidates from which to choose their candidate.
The real impact of this is that the Party Chairman will determine Conservative candidates and consequently the Conservative Party composition in the House of Commons.   The Labour Party looks as though it is going down a similar route.   Many of the current members of the Cabinet were parachuted into their seats by the Labour Party hierarchy.   Peerage promises are seductive.   So a tiny number of people from our two main parties will determine who sits in the House of Commons and effectively form the government of this country.   Is this the way dictatorships are created without the need for bloody revolution?
So how are Open Primaries affected by these changes?   The model for Open Primaries is normally the United States.   How do Conservative Open Primaries compare?
In the United States anyone can stand.   As we have seen above, under the Conservatives, the Party Chairman decides who the candidates will be.   You can virtually guarantee that the only candidates allowed to stand are safe Conservatives.    After all they have to fight a General Election on the Conservative Party manifesto, which they have to sign up to, even though they will have no say in its composition.
In many States electors have to register support for a Party in order to vote.   With the Conservatives anyone on the Electoral Roll can vote in an Open Postal Primary or an Open Meeting Primary, even if they are members of another Party.
The candidates in the United States raise their own funds for campaigning in the primary.    The Conservative Party pays for a postal primary.   The costs in Totnes amounted to £38,000.   There are only half a dozen constituencies in the country that could afford this, so unless the Party at National level funds a postal primary it will not happen.
Campaigns in the United States are usually prolonged, giving everyone plenty of time to investigate the candidates.   The campaigns run by the Conservatives are strictly limited in time
Caucus meetings of registered voters are held in the United States at which the merits of the different candidates are debated and then voted upon.   These are banned by the Conservative Party.
A distinction should be drawn between Open Primaries where there is a postal ballot as in Totnes and Open Meeting Primaries, which are often lumped together and called Open Primaries.
The most common, because of costs, are the Open Meeting Primaries.   The Conservative Party imposes a number of restrictions on Open Meeting Primaries:
The meetings are advertised in the local paper so there is no guarantee that every elector is aware that the selection is taking place.
At the meeting no debate is allowed between the candidates – they are not even allowed to be on the platform together.
CVs of the candidates are only made available at the start of the meeting.
The elector must be present for the entire meeting and cannot leave for any reason.   Contrast this with a postal primary where the elector doesn’t have to hear any candidate before voting.
Limits are imposed by Central Office on the amount of money candidates can spend on their campaigns.
The vote on the final adoption of the selected candidate by Conservative Party members is done by a show of hands, rather than by a secret ballot, which can be intimidating, and which the Conservative government made illegal in the Trade Unions in the 1980s.
It can be seen from the above that there are major differences between what the Conservatives call Open Primaries and what in practice most people understand as Open Primaries.   The Conservative Open Primaries are a gimmick.   The media and the people have been hoodwinked by the Conservatives into believing that the process is totally open. It is not.   The process is controlled in detail by the Party hierarchy.    There is also the danger that the selection can be manipulated by the members of other parties, who can vote for the weakest candidate.   The Conservative Party does not care because it has vetted all the candidates.
There is much talk about electoral reform but when will the people “wake up and smell the coffee?”   Whatever the system of election, be it First Past The Post or Proportional Representation it becomes meaningless if the candidates are chosen by a few individuals.    Our two main political parties are wholly undemocratic organisations controlled by small oligarchies. In a democracy it is essential that the political parties are themselves democratic.   It is in a dictatorship that candidates are imposed.   “Once we had rotten boroughs, now we have a rotten parliament”.   Democracy R.I.P.
A Modern Conservative Party
The following article was published on the conservativehome web site

Tony Devenish: The party is modernising, but some continuity - and respect for a plurality of views - is as important as change

Tony Devenish is a Westminster City Councillor and was one of the Conservative candidates for the South East region at this year's European election.
Whilst I hesitate to repeat the Thatcher Cabinet Minister John Biffen’s career-limiting 1987 plea for ‘consolidation’, the last four years have shown that the Conservative Party is modernising but - unlike New Labour's abandonment of Clause IV and so on - is holding to timeless Conservative themes.
There is no need in our party for a so-called Clause IV moment. Despite the occasional ‘silly season’ style tabloid headlines, few can argue with the view that the party is both offering constructive solutions to the hole Gordon Brown has dug for UK Plc - as well as selecting parliamentary candidates who increasingly mirror contemporary British society to argue the case for sensible modernisation.
The Conservative Party has indeed changed considerably over the last four years, as I witnessed as an MEP candidate who visited seventy constituencies over fifteen months. However, whilst it is to be welcomed that ‘we are all modernisers now’, we do need to recognise and respect a plurality of views. And those views include those of people who perhaps live outside the M25, do not work (or aspire to work) full-time in politics or the media (parodied so brutally but realistically in The Thick of It), and yes, may well be conservative with a small ‘c’ and (like me) north of forty years of age.
All ConHome readers know modernising a political party takes guts: it also takes an authoritarian will of steel. But it is worth remembering why it has taken Labour nearly a quarter of a century to (almost) ‘love’ Peter Mandelson and why New Labour has become so loathed and distrusted by the public.
It is not just because of the change New Labour forced on their party, nor the economic and socially catastrophic results of the last twelve years: it is because of the poisonous culture Mandelson and his mainly London-based party officials created, attacking anyone who held any divergent opinion on ANY subject - be they a parliamentarian, journalist, long-standing loyal and hard-working party member or indeed vocal members of the general public (or, as witnessed recently, professional experts).
Over the last four years David Cameron has rightly (on the whole) adjusted our party’s position on a number of issues and for those of us who remember the despair of numerous by-elections (not to mention 1997, 2001 and 2005) it was certainly needed.
However, as John Stafford wrote so eloquently in a Platform piece in August, party membership does not (in my view) need to have fallen by twenty five percent under David Cameron’s leadership. We all need the eyes and ears of grassroots members; we all need to do more to engage actively with the wider public and to listen not just to those who ‘Google’.
I was taught that in leadership you are judged not by what you say, but by your actions. New Labour and control freaks from Mandelson to Gordon Brown have failed to listen or represent the views of their own party, their natural supporters or the wider country.
I hope in the run-up to the General Election David Cameron will continue to modernise by engaging actively with his parliamentary and voluntary party as well as the country as a whole. Then we can seek as a Conservative team to persuade the British public that the Thick of It culture is the story of Brown’s Britain and that May 2010 can mark the beginning of a new chapter where a plurality of views is acceptable in our representative democracy.

English Parliament
Never believe that politics does not attract large interested audiences.   Committee room 10  in the House of Commons, gamely booked by Lady Winterton MP, was packed to capacity on Wednesday evening, 18th November 2009 for an extremely lively interchange of views about The Future of England.   The meeting had been arranged by “Campaign for an English Parliament”, (CEP).
Paul Kingsnorth, author of Real England.   The Battle against the Bland said that England has 80% of the population of the United Kingdom but is the only nation of four in the UK who are not given a say on who is governing them.    He said England is in a cultural and political mess.   There was a sense in the public of “We’re not being listened to”.   A sense of patriotism and sense of identity was either ignored or mocked.   Regional government and major corporations were helping England lose its identity.   He continued that in sport the National Anthem is not English but a national anthem.  The people of England, he said, are unheard.   English people need a vote, need constitutional reform and a referendum.
Peter Facey, the director of Unlock Democracy pressure group is an expert on political reform.   He thought power was too centralised and held by too few people.   It was necessary to unlock tension by empowering individuals.   He continued that these were his personal views.   He lived in Cambridgeshire which in last 12 years has become more centralised, and Parliament has more power over us.  For him that was wrong.   Power should be decentralised.   He wondered why people did not fly flags more generally, particularly St. George’s flag – not just the Union Flag – and certainly not the EU flag.   He pondered what to do about centralisation.
David Wildgoose, vice chairman of CEP, said that voter turnout at election was going down and UK democracy was in crisis.   Scottish and Welsh MPs voted in their own constituents interests.    He thought CEP were like canaries in the coal mines.   England, he said, was a centrally governed colony and there had been a firesale of English assets.    It was necessary to recognise individual needs and treat us all as equals.  
 He thought harsh cuts were on the way and the UK could lose its triple rating which would cause a sterling crisis.   He said to govern it was necessary to have the support of local people.
George Monbiot, an honorary Welshman, and Guardian columnist and environment campaigner, thought the English were crazy.    He cited foundation hospitals, and university top up fees, rejected by Welsh and Scots but voted through by our Parliament.    Regional agencies, he continued, had a democratic deficit.   RDA’s had been handed £63million in last 10 years for   regional airports.   They were the only official body able to oversee itself. George Monbiot thought democracy and nationalism were two issues muddled up.   We should support democracy everywhere in all its forms and have referendums.    He continued that the House of Lords could have two chambers – one to oversee issues in the UK and a second chamber to deal with affairs of England.   Perhaps the House of Lords should be turned into an English Parliament.
Questions followed thick and fast revealing the depth of people’s frustrations.   Throughout the session it became clear how people felt about the inability of English people to affect their own political future. And it was necessary deepen, strengthen and have a wider democracy.   As one member of the audience said “This country has a history of mobilising the public into action and MPs should be a damned sight more frightened of us than of Party Whips.”    The Barnett formula was another stumbling block to fairness to English voters.
Two hours flew by with a growing sense of grievance at the current political situation at Wesmtinster.


Graham Allen MP – Labour, Professor Vernon Bogdanor, Sir George Young MP – Conservative, and David Howarth MP – Liberal were the speakers at the packed Hansard Society meeting held in the House of Commons on Tuesday, 10th November 2009.
Vernon Bogdanor spoke first about the constitutional reforms since 1997 and membership of the EU which replaces one constitutional order by another.   At least 15 major changes have taken place.   What is found to be the theme is the limitation of the powers of Parliament and limitation of Government.   He went on to describe how turnout in the last two election had  been very low and power has been redistributed sideways.   He did not think the public were prepared to wait four years to vote and we needed to create democratic engagement.
David Howarth thought the situation was very serious.    He said it was the Liberal view that power should be dispersed.   He thought Parliament should be an electoral college and had no need to be representative.   He thought power was not devolved much to local level.    He did not think primaries were a good idea and thought it was a little like spectators making judgement on X Factor.
Graham Allen began by recalling Charles I visit to the House of Commons and said that the Executive now dominated the House of Commons.   A genuine separation of powers was needed.   The legacy to John Smith had been devolution of Scotland and Wales in first year of Labour, and after that Tony Blair felt the “debt” had been paid.    There had been a Faustian deal with Tony Blair:  get us elected and we will give up policy debate.   Graham Allen went on that there was an idea that one party can have all the ideas, but we needed every institution to help, economically and socially.   How are we going to practice real revolutionary politics.    There was now the unlikely figure of David Cameron.   Now we were in time of crisis and possible change of government.   Sir George Young would be part of that change.    Graham Allen thought a written constitution was needed, and independent local government.   Parliament was not allowed to have its own business committee, not allowed to vote freely on membership of committees, and had an unelected second Chamber.   Altogether there was the tyranny of the Executive and we were only tinkering with alterations.   Even in the middle of the MPs expenses scandal the dominance of the Executive had been shown.    He thought if an independent pay review body had been in place the scandal would not have happened.  
Sir George Young began by saying he hoped there would be changes accepted by all parties.    He spoke of the separation of powers, devolution in Scotland and Wales and thought that the House of Commons was more family friendly and the Freedom of Information Act had been very important.  Some of the changes had not percolated downwards, and power had been centralised in Westminster.   He thought primaries involved people more.   There had been frustration in the House because of automatic guillotining on Second Readings.   He thought select committee chairmen should be elected. There should be time to discuss issues of the day.  Sir George thought the Lords were now more professional and he believed in a predominantly elected second Chamber.   Perhaps the Prime Minister should allow Peers to have an agreed term of say 12-15 years.   The question of the West Lothian dilemma always comes up.   He also wanted to abolish the regional tier of government.   He spoke of citizen’s initiatives when 100,000 were active, and that a million electors could have the power to table a Bill.   Quangoes must be broken down and have more transparency.    It was necessary for citizens to reclaim some of the powers that had been lost.
Most impressive thing about the whole event was the number of young people present.   Who said young people are not interested?   Three times the organisers had to move the event because of the weight of numbers attending.
Democracy lives on.
 November 29th Today's Universities - Open Europe - Labour's damage to Britain - Homer Simpson & Global Warming
November 22nd Moment of the Week - Eric the Dictator - Selection of Parliamentary Candidates - Downing St. Petition
November 15th "A Very British Revolution" - Choose the President of the European Council - South West Norfolk - Eastern Daily Press
November 8th European Union - They have got away with it - Letter to the Government - The English penny - Bully Boy tactics
November 1st Selection of Parliamentary Candidates - South Norfolk Selection - English
November 29th
Today's Universities
From a letter by Chris Payne to The Independent 25 November
The motivation of the modern university, with precious few exceptions, has moved from scholarly excellence to the mass production of the end-product, a unversity degree.   Lip-service is paid to quality, but no one believes anything other than that standards are going inexorably down and have been for years.
In this mad scramble for market share, demand is systematically managed - "If you haven't got a degree, you won't get a job" - while academic staff, many of whom entered the profession out of a sense of scholarly vocation, find themselves demoralised by low salaries, poor promotion prospects and falling status.   Promotions are never given for academic success or teaching effectiveness.   Rather they are awarded to the bureaucrats, the report writers, the committee attenders and above all to those who recruit the most students.
So expeditions are sent out all over the world to try to con students to pay through the nose to sign up for the exciting new degree course in Rock Music Studies.   It is little wonder that many universities have become little more than remedial A-level establishments.   It is little wonder that drop-out rates are high.
Open Europe
As EU Foreign Minister Cathy Ashton will be in charge of what current EU foreign policy spokesman Javier Solana has described as the "biggest diplomatic service in the world" - a new External Action Service created by the Lisbon Treaty.  According to reports the service will start with 5,000 staff based in delegations in 130 countries, and is expected to grow rapidly.  During a speech in Paris Javier Solana said the new service will cost taxpayers a staggering £45 billion between now and 2013.  By contrast, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office has an annual budget of £2 billion -- which the Treasury hopes to cut by 20% over the next two years. (Sunday Times Sunday Express 22 November)

Howard Flight: It is time we talked about Labour's damage to Britain

The following article was published this week on    It is a superb summary of the views of many grass roots conservatives.    What a shame that Howard Flight was kicked out of his parliamentary seat by Michael Howard.
Howard Flight was MP for Arundel and South Downs between 1997 and 2005, is a former Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury and Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party, and is now chairman of Flight & Partners Recovery Fund.
I had intended to write a piece this month demonstrating the deceit of the GDP growth figures and that in terms of output – rather than incomes – the British economy has scarcely grown at all under the Labour Government; but I am so annoyed that the British people are being denied the decision on the European Constitution (introduced by the back door), that I may get myself into trouble by writing about things we are now not “allowed to say”, in a country which is the Mother of free speech.
Quite simply, I am increasingly struck at how those who do not agree with the mantra of the politically correct elite controlling Britain and much of the media are today being silenced and shut out from the mainstream.  I find, moreover, that when I raise these issues with perfectly normal, respectable and responsible citizens, that they agree with me - but feel silenced, substantially for fear of getting a black mark which might damage their careers (and certainly their eligibility to participate in any Government quangos!)
I will give some examples, by no means exhaustive.
Why the British are essentially hostile to the EU and the project to create a United States of Europe is, on the one hand, because they resent being bullied and not given a say; and on the other hand because the EU structure is inherently undemocratic and implicitly corrupt.  Moreover, the massive body of legislation from the EU is introduced to Britain without any Parliamentary votes – let alone referendums – constitutionally, using the ancient powers of the royal Prerogative.
The Barons forced Magna Carta on King John and we fought a civil war to secure the principle that nothing should be law of the land without being enacted by both Houses of Parliament – by-passed and ignored with regard to the never ending flow of tedious and often economically damaging legislation coming from the EU.  Britain inherited the ancient Anglo-Saxon concept of power ascending from the people.  Much of Continental Europe inherited the Roman tradition of descending power – power flowing down from above, whether cast in the form of Roman Emperors or the Divine Right of Kings.  Whether pro or agin the proposition that one day Europe might come together as the United States of Europe, British citizens want their say.
At a much more down to earth level, if you want to change your bank, this now requires a nightmare of bureaucracy and obligations to submit utility bills and a legally certified passport copy when 99.99% of British citizens manifestly have no involvement in financing terror or drug money laundering. But we have unaccountable international organisations – the IMF, FATF and others – forcing on our banks, our stock brokers, our accountants, our lawyers and everyone else that might have something to do with our money these tedious and anti-competitive requirements.  If any jurisdiction refuses to require all of this, they are black-listed as a leper allegedly encouraging terrorism and drug finance.  Inevitably, the criminals find ways round these requirements, but our financial institutions are burdened with enormous costs and our citizens with tedious and time consuming hassle.
If any one dares suggest that the emission of CO² gases may not be the most important factor driving climate change, and that it is not altogether clear whether we are heading for global warming or a coming ice age (which was feared previously) - they are branded as unspeakable and irresponsible.  Nigel (Lord) Lawson has produced an excellently argued and presented case for scepticism here where virtually everyone I have encountered who has listened to his arguments has found it impossible not to agree with his case.  But rational public debate of this important territory is suppressed, while untold damage to our economy may be implemented.
Governments are making the dangerous and undemocratic mistake of muddling together tax avoidance and tax evasion.  As eminent judges and lawyers have rightly opined in the past, every citizen has the right to limit their tax bills within the law (avoidance).  What is wrong is to break the law (evasion).  The biggest danger of muddling the two is that it can lead to giving social acceptability to tax evasion (breaking the law).  The concocted argument for bracketing together tax avoidance and tax evasion is that it is wrong to use the law to escape “what Parliament intended”.  The whole concept here is misguided.  Taxation across society needs broadly to command the acquiescence of those having to pay.  Where it does not do this it is human nature for people to try to find a way around what they see as an unacceptable imposition.
Turning to immigration, there is resentment particularly amongst the remnants of Labour’s old white working class supporters and a major and costly drain on our health service and education system, as the result of excessive immigration.  Moreover, the dogma of seeking to create a “multi-cultural society” has been a terrible mistake.  In the past, America handled major immigration successfully – essentially by requiring everyone to have a common US education and to become culturally and politically loyal Americans.  But anyone who makes such common sense points runs the risk of being branded a racist - which is ironic, since they include many long settled in this country whose families originally came from the West Indies and the Sub-Continent of India.
Everyone knows that public spending under Labour has got wildly out of control, nearly doubling in cash terms but achieving remarkably little as regards improved output.  Much of the money has gone into large pay increases for those working in the public sector, largely as the result of the political power of the public sector trade unions.  Much of the rest has gone in major, disguised increases in welfare spending.  The real welfare spending figure is in excess of £200 billion per annum if tax credits (netted off tax receipts) having benefit and welfare spending concealed within Scottish and Welsh expenditure are included.  £60 billion is accounted for by state pensions – which are arguably inadequate.   But the balance has risen to circa £150 billion per annum before allowing for the impact of the increase in unemployment resulting from the recession.
This has served to create welfare dependent communities; part of the increased spending has gone to subsidize wages – an unwise economic policy, as we learnt when the same thing happened in the 1820s; and some is being exploited by couples who are not married and thus, potentially, eligible for and claiming, the substantial single parent benefits.  The economic truth is that the UK can no longer afford expenditure on this scale; but does any politician, other than Frank Field, have the courage to say this?
In more populist territories, did British citizens ever give their consent to the excessive proliferation of speeding cameras on our roads?  Everyone will agree with the proposition that excess speeding should be discouraged as it can cause unnecessary deaths, but what we have ended up with is a massive stealth tax.
Meanwhile even I, who has smoked for nearly 50 years (although still working 70 hours a week), have to agree that smoking is clearly not good for you.  But rather than achieving a reasonable compromise in this territory, we now see thousands of people outside pubs drinking and smoking in the road; and private institutions, such as working men’s clubs, closing down as no smoking facilities are permitted.  Here again, ironically, the elitist Labour Party is bullying its historic grassroot supporters.
My wife and I are blessed with four wonderful children who are sensible, characterful and responsible.  When they were naughty children we had no hesitation in smacking them – as I believe most parents would agree.  In trying to bring up responsible citizens, parents now run the risk, if they use common sense, of being prosecuted.
When I was at school, there were lots of school exchanges to France and Germany as a result of which we not only managed to speak the languages reasonably, but also made friends for life.  Particularly in the state sector, school exchanges have now been virtually abandoned because of the cost and hassle in checking that the host French and German parents are not paedophiles – inherently unlikely where they are representatives of hospitable, family homes.
Finally, on matters constitutional, it is outrageous that the Barnett formula continues to provide nearly twice as much public spending for citizens of Scotland as for citizens of England, where it was supposed to equalise expenditure over the long term.  It is also wrong now that Scotland has its own Parliament responsible for virtually all domestic matters, Scottish MPs still vote on domestic matters relevant to England.  If the Scottish people want independence - on which there should be a referendum – it should be granted to them.
I could go on, but have probably already condemned myself for saying what most people think.
I am reminded of the old adage: “Those whom the Gods wish to destroy they first make mad”.  The time has come for British citizens to assert their rights to free speech and to rebel against the tyranny of the politically correct.  I very much hope the Conservative Party – and Boris Johnson in particular – will give a lead here.

Homer Simpson and Global Warming

November 22nd
DaveDemocracy[1].png (110818 bytes)
Moment of the Week
At the Conservative Women's Conference this week Eric Pickles was interviewed by Iain Dale.   Inevitably, the issue of All Women Short Lists was raised.    Whereupon Iain Dale said "Lets take a vote.   All those in favour of All Women Short Lists".   A couple of dozen hands went up.    "Those against?"   A sea of hands.
Eric the Dictator
Click on the link below:
Selection of Parliamentary Candidates
There are an increasing number of complaints about the way in which Constituency Associations are being treated during the selection of candidates.   Orpington, Beckenham, Dudley North, Macclesfield, Penrith, Esher.   The list goes on.    What the Party does not realise is that  the activists in the Conservative Party now consist mainly of local Councillors and their families.    By preventing local candidates even being interviewed, these are the very people the Party is insulting.   They will walk away.   As sure as eggs are eggs, one day soon, the Party will want the local activists to help.    The way we are going, when that day comes they will not be there.    What is frightening is how few members many Constituency Associations now have.   Not surprising when the question is asked: What is the point of being a member of the Conservative Party?   The Labour Party is going the same way.
Downing St Petition.
I submitted the following petition to the No. 10 Downing Street web site:
"No political Party should be registered with the electoral Commission unless it has a democratic constitution which can be changed by a majority of its members on the basis of one member one vote".    No. 10 rejected it on the basis that it was party political.   How is it party political?   It would apply to all parties, after all we have regulations about the finances of political parties.    I have asked No. 10 to explain.   No answer has been forthcoming.    That says it all.

November 15th
"A Very British Revolution"
by Martin Bell
To a politician, a luxury is a plasma TV; an emergency is a falling-out with the constituency association; and a fallen comrade is an MP of the same party who, having been exposed as a flipper and swindler, has finally been forced into retirement.
To a soldier, a luxury is a bucket of water; an emergency is an all-arms Taliban assault on a forward operating base; and a fallen comrade is a friend who has fought alongside him and saved his life, and whose remains he is trying to extract from the wreck of a blown-up armoured patrol vehicle.
Choose the President of the European Council 
The 27 Heads of State and Government of the European Union will appoint the President of the European Council for the first time on 19th November. 

Given the interest raised by this appointment we are providing you with the opportunity to choose between the personalities whose names are being put forward for this position, since we are convinced that your opinion will count. 
  Click on the image below:

South West Norfolk
Tomorrow,16th November,the South West Norfolk Conservative Constituency Association is holding a Special General Meeting to decide whether to endorse Liz Truss as their Parliamentary Candidate.   The importance of this meeting is that the members are asserting their democratic rights.   Whatever the outcome of the meeting this is a landmark case and should be followed by other constituency associations where Central Office has interfered.   It is particularly unfortunate that David Cameron has interfered in the process and must be regretted.   It would have been unthinkable for any previous Leader to have interfered in this way.   Many other Constituencies are finding the interference by Central Office intolerable.    They should join the Campaign for Conservative Democracy and join the fight for a democratic Conservative Party.
Eastern Daily Press:

New twist in Truss scandal

Last updated: 12/11/2009 11:21:00
The threat of deselection to Tory candidate Elizabeth Truss in South-West Norfolk, and of a big rebuff to David Cameron, has been revived.

Amid signs of a backlash after the U-turn performed by local Conservative chairman David Hills, Sir Jeremy Bagge, the former high sheriff of Norfolk, is to propose that Ms Truss be dropped at a showdown meeting of members on Monday.

The importance to Mr Cameron of the outcome of the meeting was underlined when Sir Jeremy revealed that he had a telephone conversation with him in which the Tory leader spelt out why he and his lieutenants were fighting hard to save Ms Truss.

“He said that if we really stirred things up in SW Norfolk, it could have a ripple effect across the country,” said Sir Jeremy.

Mr Cameron is acutely aware that several other Tory associations are deeply unhappy about candidate selection rules that seem to favour his “A-list” candidates, and that they are keeping a very close eye on the battle in SW Norfolk. He also knows that disputes could escalate in the new year when he will impose “by-election rules” for the selection of candidates that will involve the imposition of women-only shortlists in some seats that the Tories are expected to win in the general election.

Rebellion is already spreading from SW Norfolk into Suffolk. Some Tories in the constituency of Central Suffolk and North Ipswich are livid after being presented with a candidate shortlist of six people that doesn't include anyone from the county. There are accusations there that Mr Cameron is trying to ease one of his favourites into the “safe” seat (where retiring MP Sir Michael Lord had a majority of almost 8,000 in the last general election).

An East Anglian Tory MP said last night that he felt it was “too close to call” in SW Norfolk, and that “this could go either way”.

Undaunted by his discussion with Mr Cameron - which took place on the initiative of the Conservative leader - Sir Jeremy told the EDP: “I am sure Ms Truss is a very able woman. But at the Monday meeting I shall be moving, on a point of principle, that we do not endorse her. I do not know how much support I will get, because people can be weak in this sort of situation. But I am not standing for it.”

Sir Jeremy - 7th baronet, friend of the Royal Family and owner of the 1,200-acre Stradsett Estate, near Downham Market - said that he regretted that local Tory association chairman David Hills had been “cornered” into calling for support for Ms Truss this week after making it clear to members of the executive at an earlier stage of the political drama that he felt let down by her and wanted her deselected. His earlier statements - following revelations about her affair with a Tory MP - were sent by email from a cruise ship off Hong Kong.

Sir Jeremy's end of the conversation with Mr Cameron took place, bizarrely, from a vandalised public telephone box in Stradsett village after his mobile phone had broken. It was on the evening of November 5, and they spoke against a background of firework noises that could not compete with the potentially explosive subject of their discussion. By the time it had finished, Sir Jeremy had put £8 in the box.

Mr Cameron sought to speak to him after Sir Jeremy had publicly stated that “I feel totally betrayed by Conservative Central Office” and that “the kindest thing would be to allow her [Ms Truss] to move on”.

In a further indication of how much is at stake for Mr Cameron in SW Norfolk, the EDP has also been informed that he was overheard “almost screaming” in a telephone conversation with Baroness Shephard. She has welcomed Mr Hills' statement of backing for Ms Truss.

A leading figure in the “Turnip Taliban” opposition to Ms Truss said yesterday that its resistance was holding up despite Mr Hills' U-turn. “The people I am talking to are still holding solid,” he said.

Mr Hills has failed to respond to an EDP request to elaborate on his official statement of support for Ms Truss and to explain his volte-face.

Ms Truss's future will be determined by a secret ballot after she has spoken at Monday's meeting. Just under 100 people attended her original selection meeting on October 24.

November 8th
European Union
This week David Cameron abandoned his promise to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.   He promised that any future transfer of powers will be subjected to a referendum. (Why should we believe him this time?).    He specifically ruled out a referendum on any treaty for the accession of a new member state, but in this situation power is transferred to the European Union.    It stands to reason that if now you have 1/27th, when a new state joins you have 1/28th.   If a vote is taken on population as under Lisbon our proportion inevitably goes down.   The other thing that Cameron has forgotten is that within the Lisbon Treaty there is a self amending clause which means that the Treaty can be altered without having to be ratified by all the
member countries
 so a new Treaty is not required.   In other words, Cameron's promise is not worth the paper it is written on.   Democracy has taken another battering.
They have got away with it.
Even if the Kelly proposals are implemented in full (and already there are attempts to water them down) the reality is that not a single MP has been expelled from the House of Commons, not a single MP has been prosecuted for fraud, wives can still be employed for another five years, mortgage interest can still be claimed for another five years, those retiring at the next General Election will still pick up £65,000 pay off and in the mean time they are all carrying on picking up their salaries and expenses.   The reality is that they have got away with it.   Just to make matters worse, a member of the establishment has been put in charge of the so called Independent Review Body in charge of expenses and he has stated that he might alter the rules in favour of MPs.   Professor Ian Kennedy is clearly not fit for purpose and should resign.   Let us have someone genuinely independent who will take a tough line.   Once again parliament has demonstrated that it is rotten to the core.   The only solution now is to kick the lot out and have a new constitution which is fair and democratic.   If only?
Letter to the Government.
Secretary of State.
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)
Nobel House
17 Smith Square

16 July 2009

Dear Secretary of State,

My friend, who is in farming at the moment, recently received a cheque for £3,000 from the Rural Payments Agency for
not rearing pigs.. I would now like to join the "not rearing pigs" business.
In your opinion, what is the best kind of farm not to rear pigs on, and which is the best breed of pigs not to rear? I
want to be sure I approach this endeavour in keeping with all government policies, as dictated by the EU under the
Common Agricultural Policy.
I would prefer not to rear bacon pigs, but if this is not the type you want not rearing, I will just as gladly not rear
porkers. Are there any advantages in not rearing rare breeds such as Saddlebacks or Gloucester Old Spots, or are there
too many people already not rearing these?
As I see it, the hardest part of this programme will be keeping an accurate record of how many pigs I haven't reared.
Are there any Government or Local Authority courses on this?
My friend is very satisfied with this business. He has been rearing pigs for forty years or so, and the best he ever
made on them was £1,422 in 1968. That is - until this year, when he received a cheque for not rearing any.
If I get £3,000 for not rearing 50 pigs, will I get £6,000 for not rearing 100?  I plan to operate on a small scale at
first, holding myself down to about 4,000 pigs not raised, which will mean about £240,000 for the first year. As I
become more expert in not rearing pigs, I plan to be more ambitious, perhaps increasing to, say, 40,000 pigs not reared
in my second year, for which I should expect about £2.4 million from your department. Incidentally, I wonder if I would
be eligible to receive tradable carbon credits for all these pigs not producing harmful and polluting methane gases?
Another point: These pigs that I plan not to rear will not eat 2,000 tonnes of cereals. I understand that you also pay
farmers for not growing crops. Will I qualify for payments for not growing cereals to not feed the pigs I don't rear?
I am also considering the "not milking cows" business, so please send any information you have on that too. Please
could you also include the current DEFRA advice on set aside fields? Can this be done on an e-commerce basis with
virtual fields (of which I seem to have several thousand hectares)?
In view of the above you will realise that I will be totally unemployed, and will therefore qualify for unemployment
benefits.  I shall of course be voting for your party at the next general election.

Yours faithfully,

Nigel Johnson-Hill
The English Penny
EU Directive No. 456179
In order to meet the conditions for joining the Single European currency, all citizens of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland must be made aware that the phrase 'Spending a Penny' is not to be used after 31st December 2009 .
From this date, the correct terminology will be: 'Euronating'.
Bully Boy tactics
   The Eastern Daily press reports:
    The SW Norfolk Tories have been threatened with having a parliamentary candidate imposed on them if they deselect Elizabeth Truss and then carry on defying David Cameron.
   But the warning seems to have stiffened the resolve of the rebels. And further protests against the process that led to Ms Truss's selection, and interference by the party's national leadership, were led yesterday by Sir Jeremy Bagge, a former high sheriff of Norfolk.

    "I feel totally betrayed by Conservative Central Office," he said. And he expressed outrage that the local association had been told that its candidate selection could be taken completely out of its hands if it throws out Ms Truss and then refuses to choose a candidate wanted by Mr Cameron.

"If they suspend the association, we can dissociate from the Conservative Party and choose an independent," he said.

"We will not be dictated to."

Sir Jeremy is a member of the association's executive, which was warned at a meeting on Tuesday that if Ms Truss were deselected, the local party would be made to choose from a shortlist of three candidates selected by Conservative HQ, and that it was probable all of them would be women.

If they then refused to select one of these, a candidate would be forced on them, they were also told.

The warning came from Sir Graham Bright, who retired on Saturday as the chairman of the eastern region Conservatives. And his message was delivered to the executive after he had spoken to Mr Cameron earlier that day.

Despite Sir Graham's words, the executive voted by 19-14 to refer Ms Truss's candidature back to a special general meeting to be held on November 16. The executive meeting had been speedily convened after the association had been rocked by a media disclosure, only a few hours after choosing her, that Ms Truss had had an affair with the Conservative MP Mark Field.

The warning delivered by Sir Graham infuriated Sir Jeremy, who voted for Ms Truss at the selection meeting on October 24, but now feels "the kindest thing would be to allow her to move on" and seek selection in another seat.

1st November
Selection of parliamentary Candidates
We know that 87% of conservative Party members oppose All Women Short Lists.   In a public opinion poll this week it showed that 58% of the public oppose them with only 23% in favour.   Why oh Why does Cameron keep pursuing this unpopular agenda?   You can see the latest spat on this by clicking on for Tuesday 27th October.   The item is 24 minutes in.
South Norfolk Selection
At a Special General Meeting of the South Norfolk Constituency Association held last week Elizabeth Truss was chosen as the Conservative Parliamentary candidate.   After the meeting a number of members of the Association discovered that several years ago she had an affair with a married Conservative MP.   They were unhappy about this and asked for a meeting of the Association's Executive Committee.   The Executive decided that there should be a full meeting of the Association to reconsider their decision to select Elizabeth as the candidate.   Contrary to what some bloggers might feel there is nothing wrong with that.   It is no good saying that you are in favour of democracy and allowing Constituency Associations to choose their parliamentary candidates and then complain about the decisons that are reached.   It is also no good calling the members of the Association "Neanderthal" as Iain Dale has done.
This problem would probably have been avoided if the Constituency had been allowed to select its parliamentary candidate in the normal way instead of being forced by Central Office to do it under the new rules.   Under these rules only six members of the Association including the Chairman and the two Deputy Chairmen are involved in the sift of candidates with the Party Chairman having a veto on any candidate and being able to effectively impose candidates.   The Executive's only role is to determine how many candidates go forward to a General Meeting.    Prior to the new rules many more people would have been involved in the selection process over a longer period giving more time for facts about the candidates to be disclosed.   It is virtually certain that in these circumstances Elizabeth Truss's affair would have been known by all those attending the General Meeting.    It is because the selection process has been changed that we have ended up in this sorry mess.   This is not the fault of the South Norfolk Constituency Association but it is the fault of the Politburo now running the Conservative Party.    Once you start distorting democracy you destroy it.  
There is a growing number of constituencies that are starting to rebel at the control of Central Office.    This does not augur well for the future of the Conservative Party.      If this control freakery is not stopped David Cameron will find that he is leading a Party with no members.   Then what will he do?
            The European Commission has just announced an agreement whereby English will be the official language of the European Union rather than the other possibility, German.
        As part of the negotiations, the British Government conceded that English spelling had some room for improvement and has accepted a 5-year phase-in plan that would become known as 'Euro-English'.
        In the first year, 's' will replace the soft 'c'. Sertainly, this will make the sivil servants jump with joy. The hard 'c' will be dropped in favour of 'k'. This should klear up konfusion, and keyboards kan have one less letter.   There will be growing publik enthusiasm in the sekond year when the troublesome 'ph' will be replaced with 'f'. This will make words like fotograf 20% shorter.
    In the 3rd year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expekted to reach the stage where more komplikated changes are possible.   Governments will enkourage the removal of double letters which have always ben a deterent to akurate speling. Also, al wil agre that the horibl mes of the silent 'e' in the languag is disgrasful and it should go away.
         By the 4th yer people wil be reseptiv to steps such as replasing 'th' with 'z' and 'w' with 'v'.
       During ze fifz yer, ze unesesary 'o' kan be dropd from vords kontaining 'ou' and after ziz fifz yer, vevil hav a reil sensibl riten styl.
   Zer vil be no mor trubl or difikultis and evrivun vil find it ezi tu understand ech oza. Ze drem of a united urop vilfinali kum tru.
   Und efter ze fifz yer,ve vil al be speking German like zeyvunted in ze forstplas.
        If zis mad you smil, pleas pas on to oza pepl.
October 25th All Women Short Lists 
October 18th Ministerial Expansion - Democratic Parties - Discrimination
October 11th Give Us Our Conference Back - Fringe Meeting Press Release
October 4th Bureaucracy Builds
October 25th
All Women Short Lists
This week David Cameron made a serious mistake.    In spite of 87% of Tory members being opposed to All Women Short lists Cameron is about to impose them on Constituency Associations.   No wonder the constituencies are fighting back.   There is now a suggestion that the old National Union of Conservative Associations should be revived.   The name still exists so it would not be too difficult to resurrect it.   For too long the voluntary party has been treated with contempt by the leadership.   I understand that a fighting fund of £15,000 is being created to help constituencies oppose this diktat from Central Office.   The Party talks about being in favour of localism and devolving power to the lowest level, yet when comes to the Conservative Party the exact opposite is done.   Can you trust the hierarchy when it practises such hypocrisy?
Where are the representatives of the voluntary party on the Party Board?   We haven't heard a squeak from them.    They should either speak up or hang their heads in shame.   Maybe the smell of ermine is preventing them from speaking up for the members that put them there in the first place!
Membership is falling, the ordinary members are demoralised and soon we will have an election to fight.   Dave should not be so sure that we will win that he can ignore the views of the members.   The Conservative Party is the membership.   Destroy that and all you have is a cosy little oligarchy seeking power.   Sooner or later the electorate will rumble them.
On Saturday 31st October COPOV has a forum meeting (for details see Notice Board) at which the Selection of Parliamentary Candidates is on the agenda.   Do come and join in the debate as to what we, the ordinary members should do now.
BBC PM programme
To listen click on    the interview is 46 minutes into the programme.
The Times 21 October
"John Strafford, of the grassroots group Campaign for Conservative Democracy, said that Tory members were fed up with interference from the centre and warned that further moves to control candidate selection marked the death of democracy".
The Daily Mail 21 October
"John Strafford, of the Campaign for Conservative Democracy, called Mr Cameron's announcement ' disgraceful'. He predicted it would lead to an exodus of activists.
Tory commentator Iain Dale, a candidate at the last election described the move as ' fundamentally unconservative'. He asked: 'where it will all lead? All-black
shortlists? All-gay shortlists? All-disabled shortlists? All-Muslim shortlists? Not in my name." 

The Independent 21 October
"David Cameron provoked a furious row with Tory backbenchers and grassroots members yesterday after reversing his party's opposition to all-women shortlists in a bid to boost the number of female Conservative MPs.
Only Labour has opted for all-women shortlists at previous elections, with past Conservative leaders opposing them as undemocratic. Mr Cameron's U-turn will see all-women shortlists imposed on some constituencies selecting their candidates in the New Year. Aides to Mr Cameron have said he has done all he can to promote women MPs on to the frontbench but privately admit that he is hampered by the fact that the party only has 19 sitting female MPs. That number would rise to 60 should the party win a majority at the next election, still only one fifth of its seats.
To the frustration of Conservative Central Office (CCO), local party associations have resisted rules forcing them to give half of the places on their shortlists to women. The system has failed to deliver more female Tory candidates, with men appearing in the last six major selection contests.
Announcing the change in policy at the Speaker's Committee, Mr Cameron said: "It's my intention, if we continue as we are, that some of those shortlists will be all-women shortlists to help us boost the number of Conservative women MPs," he said. "There are many very, very good women on our priority list of candidates who haven't yet been selected and I want to give them the chance to serve in parliament."
The announcement immediately saw a backlash from Tory backbenchers and grassroots members of the party. Anne Widdecombe, a staunch critic of the all-women shortlists, said that it would make some female MPs feel like second-class citizens.
"Women, no matter what their circumstances, must get to Westminster on their own merits and be able to know that when they're sitting in the House of Commons," she said.
John Strafford, chairman of the Campaign for Conservative Democracy, said that party members were "spitting blood" about the decision. "Many constituencies are just beginning to understand what controls central office is imposing on them," he said.
Tim Montgomerie and Jonathan Isaby, editors of the influential Tory members' website ConservativeHome, also issued a statement opposing the move. "We feared this would happen," they stated. "All women shortlists are fundamentally unConservative and they have no place in a party pledged to meritocracy and localism."

October 18th
Ministerial Expansion
Prior to 1997 there were 110 salaried Government Ministers.   Today there are 123 Ministers plus 75 Ministers in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.   You would have thought that with legislation being devolved there would be fewer Ministers at Westminster.   Does it matter?   The extra number of Ministers at Westminster are unpaid.   Unfortunately it does not stop there.   Each Minister gets three secretaries, a press officer, a chauffeur driven car and costs the taxpayer half a million pounds per annum.    Time for a few cuts I say!
The Equal Rights Commission took the BNP to court on the grounds that their constitution was racially biased.   They succeeded in getting the BNP to agree to change its constitution.   The Equal Rights Commission were correct to press for this change, but why do they not kick up a fuss about the sexual prejudice in the Labour and the Conservative Parties.   The Labour Party has women only short lists when choosing its parliamentary candidates.   The Conservative Party insists on 50% women on its short lists, in spite of the fact that women comprise only one third of the total candidates.   Of course the political parties have been exempted from the sex discrimination clauses in the legislation, so positive discrimination is alright in our political correct society.   Isn't it time we insisted on political parties having democratic constitutions?
Democratic Parties
At a packed out fringe meeting organised by the Conservative Action for Electoral Reform I put the following proposal to the meeting:
"No political Party should be registered with the Electoral Commission unless it has a democratic constitution which can be changed by a majority of its members on the basis of one member one vote”.
I said:
"Both of our main political parties are undemocratic organisations run by small oligarchies.   Although the Conservative Party now has a constitution, that constitution cannot be changed without the agreement of an Electoral College consisting of members of Parliament on the one hand and the National Convention, which consists mainly of Constituency Chairmen, on the other.   In this Electoral College the MP’s vote is worth five times that of a Constituency Chairman.
The Chairman and Treasurer of the Party are appointed by the Leader so are unaccountable to the membership.  
There is no Annual General Meeting of members so there is no formal forum for members to raise questions about the Party’s organisation or policies.       The Annual Accounts of the Party are not tabled for approval at an AGM.    The Parliamentary candidates of the Party are controlled centrally.   The Party Board can and does take control of any Constituency Association, which does not toe the line.    The infamous clause 17 of the constitution states: “The Board shall have power to do anything which in its opinion relates to the management and administration of the Party” and that makes the rest of the constitution meaningless.  
And yet, large sums of taxpayer’s money have been given to the oligarchy running the Conservative Party.   Over the last ten years some £40 million has been given to the Conservative Party and after the next General Election an equally large sum of money will be given to the oligarchy running the Labour Party.   This money is supposed to be given to enhance our democracy – it does no such thing.   All it does is perpetuate the power of the oligarchies.
In both the two main parties a small number of people determine who shall be a parliamentary candidate and in so doing who shall sit in the House of Commons and form the government of this country.   In the case of the Conservative Party this is effectively the Party Chairman.    Is this the way in which dictatorships are created without the need for bloody revolution?
Once we had rotten boroughs, now we have a rotten parliament.
This must be changed and my proposal will do just that".
To my surprise and delight the meeting overwhelmingly supported the proposal.   I could see only one dissenting voice - Eleanor Laing MP.

October 11th
Give Us Our Conference Back
Of all the people attending the Conservative Conference only 25% were party members.   The other 75% were lobbyists, businessmen, media, exhibition organisers etc.   This was the first conference I have been to where on purchasing a cup of coffee you are asked whether you want a receipt.   Not surprising when 75% are attending on expenses.   Not surprising, that everything is so expensive.   The end result is that fewer and fewer party members are going.   Even the fringe has been taken over.   Lobbyists attend the fringe meeting to push their causes, thus distorting the meetings.   At a meeting on Europe a hostile question to an MEP was put by an employee of the European Commission.
So when I received an email asking me to attend a special meeting with the Party Chairman to discuss the future of Conservative Conferences I immediately cancelled going to a particularly good fringe meeting with Dominic Grieve, in order to attend.    We were given Lancashire hotpot by the Commercial Director of Central Office and then told that Eric Pickles could not attend the meeting.   There would be no discussion, no debate, but would we put any suggestions on post it notes and stick them on the wall.   I knew where I wanted to stick them.   Is it any wonder that Party membership and attendance at Conference is in decline when members are treated with such utter contempt by the hierarchy.   To rub salt into the wound I was later told that the reason for Eric Pickles non attendance was because he had to take Samantha Cameron shopping.   You couldn't make it up if you tried!
Fringe Meeting
COPOV held a very successful fringe meeting at the Party Conference.   We put out the following press release.           
                                                                                           PRESS RELEASE
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            5th October 09

DEATH OF DEMOCRACY – Party Chairman chooses candidates!
“Once we had rotten boroughs, now we have rotten parliaments”.    This controversial view will be expressed by John Strafford, Chairman of the Campaign for Conservative Democracy, and author of the recently published book “Our Fight for Democracy” at a fringe meeting at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester on Tuesday, 6th October.
 Speaking about the Death of Democracy, one of the issues raised by John Strafford was the selection of parliamentary candidates.   He reveals that under the new rules brought in by the Party Board in July 2009 the selection of Conservative Party candidates has been changed.   “Now the Party Chairman will decide whether a local Association should select its candidate by a Special General Meeting or by an Open Primary.   For each constituency a sifting meeting will be held at a place designated by the Party Chairman at which the Approved List of candidates will be reduced to six names, 50% of whom will be women.   At this meeting there will be six representatives of the local association.   The Party Chairman will have a veto on the six names to go forward to the next stage.”
  “The real impact of this is that the Party Chairman will determine the Conservatives candidates and consequently the Conservative Party composition in the House of Commons for a generation.   The Labour Party looks as though it is going down a similar route.   Over half the current members of the Cabinet were parachuted into their seats by the Labour Party hierarchy.   So a tiny number of people will determine who sits in the House of Commons and effectively form the government of this country.   Is this the way dictatorships are created without the need for bloody revolution?”
 John Strafford concluded by saying “There is much talk about electoral reform but when will the people “wake up and smell the coffee”?   If our two main political parties are wholly undemocratic organisations, electoral reform is meaningless.   Once we had rotten boroughs, now we have  rotten parliaments”.

October 4th
Bureaucracy BuildsEU plans new £280m building for EU President and Foreign Minister. The EU is planning a new building to house the offices of the new EU President, EU Foreign Minister and European diplomatic service, which will be created if the Lisbon Treaty is ratified. It is set to cost EU taxpayers £280 million.
September 27th Party Conference events - National Convention - "Our Fight for Democracy", The UK and the EU - Wycombe update
September 20th Open Europe - Wycombe Parliamentary Candidate Selection - Bedford Mayor Selection.
September 13th Party Constitution - Party Conference - Level Playing Field?
September 6th Bankers Bonuses - Toryism, Nothing Changes - Tory Membership from conservativehome.
September 27th
Events at the Party Conference
Do come to the following events;
Sunday 4th October 3.15pm
Vote for Change - Speakers: Dan Hannan MEP, John Strafford, Chairman-Martin Bell
Friends Meeting House, Mount St. Manchester, M2 5NSTuesday 6th October 4.30pm
COPOV meeting - "Death of Democracy", John Strafford, Freedom Zone, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester
Tuesday 6th October 5.45pm
"Our Fight for Democracy " book signing John Strafford, Freedom Zone, Bridgwater Hall, Manchester
Wednesday 7th October 12.30pm
Democracy Dragons Den Michael White, Jonathan Isaby, Eleanor Laing MP, John Strafford. Main Conference Centre, Exchange Room 2. Conservative Action for Electoral Reform..
National Convention
In a desperate attempt to involve the Party members the National Convention is to have three motions for debate.   They are:
1)    Convention believes that membership recruitment and retention is the responsibility of local associations, this convention calls on areas, regions and CCHQ to support associations to get more people involved in our party.
2) Convention believes we need a new Training initiative to help volunteers be even more effective.
3) Convention believes that the Policy Forum needs revitalising and has an important role to play.
This is pathetic.   This is not debate.    This is froth, pure and simple - an opportunity for the hierarchy to spout meaningless phrases.   Will they never learn?
To add insult to injury we are informed that "We will take up to five contributions of 2 minutes for each motion", and then asks anybody who wishes to contribute to email CCHQ.   So each motion will have ten minutes of froth and even those contributing to the froth will be determined by the hierarchy.   Is it any wonder that party membership is declining.   In a recent article Vernon Bogdanor estimated it at 145,000.
The best thing that could happen to the National Convention is to put it out of its misery and shoot it! 
Our Fight for Democracy - The United Kingdom and the European Union
The Bruges Group have published the above pamphlet by John Strafford.   To view it click on Bruges Group
This paper charts how Britain became entangled in the anti-democratic European Union. And outlines the damage this has caused to our own self-government; including how the European Union dominates legislation in the United Kingdom. On the most conservative estimate over 65% of new legislation emanates from the EU.

This study also looks at how the European elites are in danger of creating a profound moral and institutional crisis in Europe – a crisis of democracy. Those in the Brussels elite who have power have not been elected, and those who have been elected have no power.

  • The European project was designed to take over the governance of the nation states and to create an unaccountable self-perpetuating oligarchy to rule without the inconvenience of democracy. It gave itself a fa├žade of legitimacy by creating the European Parliament, but this Parliament is a sham.

    The European arena continues to be largely the domain of self-selecting political and commercial elites.

    The fundamental democratic flaws in the European Union are now so deep, and history shows that the Union exhibits no sign of wanting to change them. Perhaps the only solution if we wish to live in a democracy is for the United Kingdom to withdraw from this wholly undemocratic body.
    It is time for the people to decide.
Wycombe Update
I gather the President of Wycombe Conservative Association has now been banned from the selection process (see below).   You couldn't make it up!

September 20th
Open Europe - Irish Referendum
Extracts from the Open Europe web site:
British Labour MP Gisela Stuart, who was a member of the European Convention which drew up the Treaty, said that a basic test for democracy should be whether citizens can get rid of politicians, adding that "Lisbon does not give you, as a citizen, the means to control the executive or the politicians who decide on your behalf, and that's the hurdle it falls on in my view."
 Gisela warned that "under Lisbon, there will be no more treaties, no more referendums anywhere" on EU integration, and noted that one of the big dangers of Lisbon is the bullying of the smaller countries by the big ones.  She said: "The nature of democracy is truly at stake." Asked what would happen if Ireland votes 'No', she said: "We are dealing with an organisation which is very good at making rules but which is completely un-bound by rules itself".
 Dr Jochen Bittner, Europe Correspondent for German newspaper Die Zeit, said that, with the Treaty, "sovereignty would be shifted from the people to the next higher level - the governments" and that "this is a major step, and one should discuss the wisdom of this step".
 He said that proponents of the Treaty claim it will make the EU both more democratic and efficient, but said the two are not compatible, adding "You simply cannot argue that the Lisbon Treaty makes the EU both efficient and democratic." Noting that China is "very quick at decision-making...because it is a dictatorship", he added that "politicians should be so honest to say that we have a choice between more efficiency or old-fashioned democracy as we are used to. I think that would be the right question to ask."
Wycombe Selection
On Wednesday 16th September the following appeared on the Wycombe Conservative association web site:
"Yesterday (Tuesday 15th September 2009) Eric Pickles MP, Chairman of the Conservative Party, suspended the selection of Candidates in the Wycombe Constituency because of an alleged irregularity.  Of course the biggest irregularity was his imposition on Wycombe Conservative Association of Rules handed down by CCHQ which do not appear to have been properly ratified properly and which are contrary to that part of the Constitution of Wycombe Conservative Association that was imposed on it by CCHQ in the first place.  The whole selection process appears to have been ultra vires thanks to Mr Pickles.  The website has yet to find a single member of WCA that supports CCHQ.  At least we will have a chance now to rerun the selection with a fair procedure.
Wycombe Conservative Association note the Conservative policy of eradicating top down government.  Regrettably Pickles does not understand that policy.  He also does not understand that he has no authority whatsoever to suspend a committee of the Executive Council of Wycombe Conservative Association". 
This statement is not an official statement released on behalf of the association, but rather has been posted as a freelance operation by someone within the local party with access to the website.   It was then changed on the website to read as follows:
"Yesterday (Tuesday 15th September 2009) Eric Pickles MP, Chairman of the Conservative Party, suspended procedure for the selection of Candidates in the Wycombe Constituency because of an alleged irregularity.  The selection procedure was being conducted by a Selection Committee of the Executive Council of Wycombe Conservative Association, but it appears that this action was taken without any direct communication with any of the officers of the Association.  It is also unclear until the Executive Council meet what the effect of the purported suspension is."
Thursday 16th September
Mr Moore, the association’s web manager, told the Free Press: “I embarrassed Wycombe Conservative Association and the appropriate thing for me to do was to resign from the committee.”
The Wycombe selection has been a bit of a mess.  Everybody wanted a finger in the pie.   We are told Central Office had a preferred candidate.   The President of the Association - Sir William McAlpine invited ten of the candidates for drinks at his home, then kept two of them on for dinner.    The local Muslims were organising their own candidates - the four main tribal elders had a meeting to decide on their candidate.   Of course all this was supposed to be under the new rules.   What a mess!
Bedford Mayor Selection
Great play has been made of the success of getting a Conservative Muslim candidate for the Mayor of Bedford.   It was an open primary selection or more precise a open caucus selection.   Anybody could attend the meeting.   The meeting was due to start at 7.30pm but eventually started at 8.50pm.   We are told that this was because so many wanted to get in.    The attendance was about 400.   However I am told that the real reason was that the local Iman had said that Ramadan should finish at 7.34pm., so many of the Muslims attending brought their dinner with them and proceeded to start eating it.    I am also told that about 90% of the audience were Muslim and had been bussed to the meeting.   Nothing wrong with that, except that there is a danger, particularly at an open meeting that the candidate will be chosen on purely ethnic grounds.   Has this open primary system opened up a whole new can of worms?    We shall see.

September 13th
Party Constitution
Have you recently tried to obtain a copy of the Conservative Party Constitution?   You used to be able to see one on the Party's web site.    It would seem no more.   At a time when many constituencies are selecting candidates and many members want to check what the Constitution has to say about this it is essential that a member has easy access to the Constitution.   So, come on Central Office put it back on the web site so anyone can see it.   After all, what is there to hide?
Party Conference
If you are going to the Tory Party Conference put the following events in your diary.   I hope to see you there.
Sunday 4th October 3.15pm
Vote for Change - Speakers: Dan Hannan MEP, John Strafford, Chairman -  Martin Bell
Friends Meeting House, Mount St. Manchester, M2 5NSTuesday 6th October 4.30pm
COPOV meeting - "Death of Democracy" John Strafford, Freedom Zone, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester
Tuesday 6th October 5.45pm
"Our Fight for Democracy " book signing John Strafford, Freedom Zone, Bridgwater Hall, Manchester
Wednesday 7th October 12.30pm
Dragons Den Michael White, John Strafford, Main Conference Centre.
A Level Playing Field?
In the Irish referendum on the Lisbon Treaty supporters of the Treaty are set to out-spend the No side by 10 to 1. An estimate of the budgets for the Yes side indicates it will spend at least €2.4m, compared with the No campaign's €270,000. (Sunday Times, 23 August)

September 6th
Bankers Bonuses
If the Finance Ministers could agree, there are two simple ways in which the bankers could be brought to heal.   The total remuneration of the highest paid person in a bank should not receive more than twenty times the remuneration of the lowest paid person in the bank.   All the banks are limited liability companies.   The state allowed them limited liability.    What the state gives it can take away.   Make the Directors of the banks personally liable for all the banks debts.   I bet you would see a wholly different approach to the risky dealing which is now associated with the banks and which the taxpayer will be paying for during the next decade.
Toryism - Nothing changes.
"Toryism is not only a Party spirit but a way of life, not only a political attitude of mind but a regenerative social and moral force, but Toryism could only be such a force if it grapples with issues such as pensions, health, and welfare provision which are examples, taken almost at random, of the sort of questions as to which the Tory Party should be thoroughly well informed".
Sir Arnold Wilson  - October 1935

Party membership has fallen by "almost a quarter" under David Cameron's leadership

The Independent on Sunday today publishes an analysis of Conservative Party membership figures, based on information provided in accounts from 229 local Associations to the Electoral Commission over the last four years (The report also features an unflattering photo of a "less-than-riveted party member" asleep at last year's conference who bears more than a passing resemblance to Tony Baldry MP...).
Its conclusion is that membership has fallen by almost a quarter during the period which David Cameron has led the party:
"Although the Tories have enjoyed a huge opinion-poll lead for several months, they have not been able to translate the surge in popularity into an increase in membership on the scale experienced by Labour during Tony Blair's early years in charge.
"The total membership in more than 200 constituency associations – barely a third of the overall number – who provided relevant figures to the elections watchdog fell from 185,000 to 145,000 between December 2005 and December 2008. The constituencies experiencing falls include "safe" seats, the bases of shadow Cabinet members and target seats that must be taken if the Tories are to win the next general election."
Am I surprised about this? Well, not really.
Last month Tim asked What is the point of being a Tory member? and cited a series of members' rights which have been taken away over recent years - mostly surrounding the power to select and deselect elected representatives.
And John Strafford covered similar ground just a couple of weeks ago in his Platform piece, The decline and death of Party membership - Why should anyone now be a member of the Conservative Party?
I should say in all fairness, however, that not only has there been a longstanding downward trend in membership over a period of years and indeed decades, but that this trend is equally apparent in parties across the political spectrum.
Jonathan Isaby 

August 30th MP's Expenses - War Room Briefing - Taxpayer's Alliance Bulletin
August 23rd Party Membership
August 16th Conservative Party Accounts 2008 - World At One, Martha Kearney's Newsletter - The Case against boosting MP's pay
August 9th Selection of Parliamentary Candidates - Open Primaries - Can We Learn?
August 2nd Interference from Central Office - Totnes - Dudley North - St Albans - European Parliament
August 30th
MP's Expenses
The Conservative Party Scrutiny Panel has examined the expenses of Conservative MPs.   To some of them it has written:
"The Scrutiny Panel examined your detailed ACA claims and I can confirm that we do not require you to answer any queries about them and there is no requirement for any repayments to be made."
In the interests of all those Conservative MPs who have a clean bill of health on the expenses issue why don't the Conservatives list all their MPs who have received a similar letter?
War Room Briefing
This week the Party Chairman praised the success of the Open primary at Totnes.    He said that 16,000 people have voted and they now have ownership in the new candidate.   Isn't he forgetting that Sarah Wollaston got 7,914 votes.    8,583 votes were cast for the other candidates.   Does that mean a majority of the people have decided that they do not want ownership of Sarah?
TaxPayers' Alliance Bulletin - 28 August 2009
Quangos banned from party conferences
Good news: we have a notable victory to report! You may recall that a few days before New Year we produced a report revealing that the Regional Development Agencies spent £285,000 at the three main party conferences last autumn. At the time, we advised that quangos should be banned from using taxpayers' money to lobby politicians for even more money. Not only is it a perversion of the public policy process, but it is also in practice a taxpayer-funded subsidy for the political parties themselves.
This week it has emerged that only days after our report came out, Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell (pictured, right) issued an order banning quangos from attending the conferences. This is a great policy change that will save taxpayers millions of pounds and demonstrates the influence of the TPA's research, media profile and campaigning.

Carbon Trust - another victory on the way?
The campaign against quangos took another step forward earlier this week with a new TPA assault on the unaccountable Carbon Trust. We revealed - along with the US think tank the Competitive Enterprise Institute - that the Trust, which is so far outside taxpayer control that it is even outside the reach of the Freedom of Information Act, is using British taxpayers' money to expand its lobbying operations into America and China.
The TPA has long campaigned against the Carbon Trust, which gets £93.4 million of taxpayers' money every year and whose 145 staff enjoy an average salary of £75,000, so it was great to see the news of their disgraceful global expansion plans covered prominently in the Daily Mail.

August 23rd
Party Membership
The following article was published on this week.    It received over 80 responses.   To see them click on below:
Nearly all the responses concentrated on the decline in Party membership and what could or should be done about it.   The much wider and possibly more important issue for our democracy, regarding the fact that about a dozen people will determine the composition of the House of Commons for a generation has been overlooked.   We can talk about electoral reform until the cows come home but if our two main political parties are undemocratic organisations and a tiny number of people in them determine their parliamentary candidates, electoral reform will change nothing.   The oligarchies in control will always win.   One other point in connection with this, is that the Conservative Party has received some £40 million in State Funding over the last twelve years.   Is it right that taxpayers money should be spent supporting an oligarchy?   Why hasn't the Electoral Commission stepped in and demanded that the price of taxpayer funding is the organisation receiving it should have a democratic constitution - that means one member one vote when it comes to altering the Party's constitution? 
                                                                                            The decline and death of Party membership
John Strafford

The end of World War II was a political watershed with the Conservative Party suffering its greatest electoral defeat.   The desire for equality and change brought the Labour Party to power.    The Conservative Party responded to the challenge by bringing in Lord Woolton as Party Chairman.    Woolton was to serve nine years as Party Chairman and was the most successful Chairman in the history of the Conservative Party.   With party membership at about 250,000 in 1945, Woolton realised that he had to build up membership in order to once again create a mass membership Party.   He believed that one of the reasons for the defeat in the General Election had been that the Party had forgotten the “little people”.   
            A membership campaign was launched in 1947 and by the summer of 1948, overall membership had increased by one million to two and a quarter million.   Woolton took on over 150 paid “missioners” who worked mainly in the marginals at Central Office’s expense, and visited over a million homes.   The official membership campaign ended at the Party Conference in October 1948.   By 1952, party membership had risen to a staggering 2.8 million.
In 1949, in Winston Churchill’s own constituency of Woodford there were 12,898 members including 1,172 Young Conservatives.   City areas were not neglected, with 60,000 members in Birmingham, two thirds of them women.   The young were not forgotten.   In the summer of 1945 there were only 50 Young Conservative branches in the country.   By 1946 this had increased to 1,546 nationally and by 1948 to 2,129 branches with no less than 150,000 members.           
 Participation was the key to this success.   Swinton College was opened in 1947.   Its role was to educate activists, train agents and volunteers and arrange lectures.   The Conservative Political Centre encouraged local discussion groups and by 1947 there were 557 of them, meeting regularly in a member’s house and all putting forward ideas and views on policy.   Their views were taken seriously by Central Office.  
 The strength of Party membership was not to last.   By 1979 it had fallen to 1,350,000.   It continued to fall and went down to 400,000 by 1997.   A million members simply evaporated.   The most serious losses were of suburban and county activists for whom executive power on local councils was a quid pro quo for loyalty at national elections.  
The Conservative Party suffered another great electoral defeat in the General Election of 1997.   William Hague became Leader and immediately set in train a reorganisation of the Party.   Initially he set out a vision of a democratic Party but by the time his proposals were finalised his vision had been watered down by the vested interests in the Party.   Primarily the Parliamentary Party were determined to retain their power and if possible increase it.   The Party got a constitution, but in accepting the required changes the voluntary Party paid a heavy price.
 After the reorganisation of the Party, membership picked up a little, but by nowhere near as much as the Tories hoped.   The total had fallen to 320,000 by 2003.   Today in 2009 membership of the Conservative Party is less than 200,000.
              Although the Party now has a constitution, that constitution cannot be changed without the agreement of an Electoral College consisting of members of Parliament on the one hand and the National Convention, which consists mainly of Constituency Chairmen, on the other.   In this Electoral College the MP’s vote is worth five times that of a Constituency Chairman.    The real power resides with the Parliamentary Party.   The Chairman and Treasurer of the Party are appointed by the Leader so are unaccountable to the membership.   There is no Annual General Meeting of members so there is no formal forum for members to raise questions about the Party’s organisation or policies.      The Annual Accounts of the Party are not tabled for approval at an AGM.    The Parliamentary candidates of the Party are controlled centrally.   The Party Board can and does take control of any Constituency Association, which does not toe the line.   The infamous clause 17 of the constitution: “The Board shall have power to do anything which in its opinion relates to the management and administration of the Party”, makes the rest of the constitution meaningless.   
             Does the decline in membership matter?   There are two major reasons why it does.   Of the 200,000 Party members about 10% or 20,000 are activists.    Today those activists consist primarily of 10,000 Councillors, their family and friends.
              Within a year there will be a General Election at which it is almost certain that the Conservative Party will form a government.  Because of the dire state of the economy some very tough and very unpopular decisions will have to be taken.   At the time when we will be most unpopular there will be local elections and many of our Councillors will lose their seats, not because they have performed badly, but because of the national position.   The effect on Party membership will be catastrophic.
              Why should anyone be a member of the Conservative Party?  Prior to the Party reforms of 1998 there were a number of reasons to be a member of the Conservative Party.   There were meetings at Area and National level where you could raise issues of policy or organisation.   The Party conference was run by the voluntary Party.   It had motions for debate.   Constituency Associations were for all intents and purposes autonomous.   The Party had three distinct sections, the Parliamentary Party, the voluntary party and the professional organisation.   There were checks and balances in the distribution of power.    All of these were swept away in 1998, but the members held onto one last right – that of selecting their parliamentary candidate.
              This has now gone.   At the Party Board meeting in July 2009 new rules were brought in for the selection of Conservative Party candidates.   Now, the Party Chairman will decide whether an Association should select its candidate by a Special General Meeting or by an Open Primary.
              For each constituency a meeting will be held at a place designated by the Party Chairman at which the Approved List of candidates will be reduced to six names, 50% of whom will be women.   At this meeting there will be six representatives of the local Association.   The Party Chairman will have a veto on the six names to go forward to the next stage.
              The real impact of this is that the Party Chairman will determine the Conservative candidates and consequently the Conservative Party composition in the House of Commons for a generation.   The Labour Party looks as though it will go down a similar route.   A tiny number of people will determine who sits in the House of Commons and effectively form the government of this country.   Is this the way dictatorships are created without the need for bloody revolution?
              There is much talk about electoral reform but when will the media and people “wake up and smell the coffee?”   If our two main political parties are wholly undemocratic organisations, electoral reform is meaningless.    Democracy R.I.P.

Conservative Party Accounts 2008
Nothing too controversial this year.    Disappointingly, membership is almost the same level as last year.    At this point in the electoral cycle it should be going up.   One odd point, income from fund raising activities was £849,000.   Cost of fund raising activities £1,111,000.   So, scrap the fund raising department and save £262,000 almost doubling the surplus for the year!
World at One - Martha Kearney's Newsletter
Some Conservative MPs do agree with Alan Duncan. The veteran Tory MP Sir Patrick Cormack told us that although Mr Duncan's comments were "unwise" he agreed restrictions on MPs' pay and perks could put people off entering Parliament because it was an "extremely expensive business".  Sir Patrick told us on Thursday's programme:  "What we do not want in this country is a Parliament of political anoraks and extremely rich people." He continued: "The fact is that being a Member of Parliament is an extremely expensive business. One is expected to give liberally to all manner of charities, one is expected to attend all manner of events, one is expected constantly to be putting one's hand into one's pocket.  One has to recognise that it is expensive being a Member of Parliament. It is a public service, it is a vocation and you don't go in it for the money."

Those remarks infuriated John Strafford, who chairs the Campaign for Conservative Democracy -- a grass roots pressure group. He described them as "barmy", as there were 4000 people who wanted to become Conservative MPs.

He also told me that  his members felt very let down by Mr Duncan's comments:     "He's now got a record for coming out with rather silly remarks. This is the third time it's happened and people feel very very strong about it. I mean the tragedy is he's a witty, charming, amusing, very intelligent man but he does have this streak of arrogance that occasionally comes through and he's got to learn to keep it private."
The case against boosting MPs' pay
Another new research note, released today, seeks to put paid to suggestions of a pay rise for Members of Parliament by revealing the true scale of their pay packets, and comparing them to Parliamentarians abroad. As you will have seen, some MPs have had the gall to try to use the recent expenses crisis as justification for a hefty pay rise. They claim that the reason that so many of their colleagues dipped their hands into the till is that they are underpaid! This new research demonstrates beyond all reasonable doubt that they are extremely well paid - even when compared to other politicians internationally.
The report reveals:
  • An MP’s basic salary - £64,766 – places them in the top 3% of the British population by earnings. By comparison, last year the median gross annual earnings for UK adults in work was £25,100.
  • On a comparison of basic salaries, British MPs are the fourth best paid in Europe, with only their counterparts in Italy, Austria and Ireland earning more. 
  • Once the heavy taxpayer subsidy for MPs’ pensions – worth £17,468 a year – is taken into account, an ordinary backbencher actually earns £82,252 a year. 
  • 131 MPs receive salary top-ups called ‘Additional Payments’ for their Parliamentary work over and above the basic backbencher’s salary. This total consists of the Prime Minister, 60 Government ministers and Under Secretaries, 26 select committee chairmen, 37 standing committee chairmen and 7 other MPs. In total, these MPs received £3.5 million in extra payments in 2007-08.
The report also lists the full range of Commons jobs that receive Additional Payments. You can read the full report here.
August 9th
Selection of Parliamentary Candidates
Under the new rules agreed by the Party Board on 22nd July 09:
1)"The Party Chairman,.... will decide if the Association should make its selection by holding an SGM or a Primary/SGM".
So the Party Chairman decides what selection process to be used.
2)"The Selection Meeting (Paper Sift) will take place at CCHQ, or another place designated by the Party Chairman".
So the Party Chairman decides where the meeting will be held.
3)"The final list will be agreed in consultation with the Chairman of the Party and must have the agreement of both parties before proceeding to the next stage".
So the Party Chairman has a veto. Remember, all the candidates being considered are on the Approved List, in any case.
4) "From this meeting 6 applicants, plus 2 reserves(at least 50% of the candidates being put forward must be women) will be prioritised".
Was it 94% of Party members disagreed with 50/50 short lists?

Would all this have happened if we had an elected Party Chairman? I think not. Have the control freaks taken over? You decide!
In his article in today's Sunday Telegraph Dan Hannan MEP praises "Open Primaries".    He says "Allowing local party members to present a shortlist to the wider constituency will give them more power than at present, when they simply get to choose from a shortlist".  How does Dan reconcile that statement with the above?   Even in Totnes the shortlist was finally determined by their Executive Council.   The ordinary member had no say.
It looks as though the Labour Party is going to go down the same route of Open Primaries.    They also are run by a small oligarchy.   The frightening thing about all this is that about a dozen people will determine the composition of the House of Commons for a generation.   You can talk about electoral reform until the cows come home but if the candidates for Parliament are all stitched up before hand, electoral reform will mean nothing.
Open Primaries 
Click on the link below to hear Frank Field MP discuss open primaries with John Strafford

  • The Times 5th August 09:  "Heather Burwin, the constituency chairman, admitted that she was initially nervous about the decision to open voting to all, but said she was delighted with the outcome. Chillingly for a party that has just spent £40,000, she suggested that Dr Wollaston would have won anyway".
So why did we have to spend £40,000 to find out?
  • Daily Mail 5th August:  "But John Strafford, chairman of the Campaign for Conservative-Democracy group, warned the poll was another 'nail in the coffin for party membership and party democracy'.
'It's a gimmick, frankly, because at a cost of £40,000 I can't even think of half a dozen constituencies in the country that could possibly afford that kind of money,' he said".
Read more:
  • The Independent 5th August 09:  But John Strafford, the chairman of the Campaign for Conservative Democracy, denounced the exercise as another "nail in the coffin for party membership and party democracy.
He told the BBC: "It is a gimmick, frankly, because at a cost of £40,000 I can't think of half a dozen constituencies in the country that could possibly afford that sort of money"Can We Learn?
A maverick mayor elected after promising to slash council spending, clear the streets of yobs and ditch politically correct services is the torchbearer for how towns should be run.

On his first morning as Mayor of 
Doncaster in South Yorkshire, Peter Davies cut his salary from £73,000 to £30,000 then closed the council’s newspaper for "peddling politics on the rates". Now three weeks into his job, Mr Davies is pressing ahead with plans he hopes will see the number of town councillors cut from 63 to just 21, saving taxpayers £800,000.
Mr Davies said: "If 100 senators can run the United States of America, I can’t see how 63 councillors are needed to run Doncaster".

He has withdrawn Doncaster from the Local Government Association and the Local Government Information Unit, saving another £200,000. Mr Davies said, "They are just talking shops".  Doncaster is in for some serious untwinning. We are twinned with probably nine other cities around the world and they are just for people to fly off and have a binge at the council’s expense".

The mayor’s chauffeur-driven car has also been axed by Mr Davies and the driver given another job. Mr Davies, born and bred in Doncaster, swept to power in the May election with 24,244 votes as a candidate for the English Democrats, a party that wants tight immigration curbs, an English Parliament and a law forcing every public building to fly the flag of St. George.

He has promised to end council funding for Doncaster’s International Women’s Day, Black History Month and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender History Month.
He said, "Politicians have got completely out of touch with what people want.  We need to cut costs. I want to pass on some savings I make in reduced taxes and use the rest for things we really need, like improved children’s services".

August 2nd
Interference from Central Office
Once again Central Office have decided to interfere in the selection process for Parliamentary Candidates.   After a disputed Board meeting on July 20th the following extracts reprinted from
  • The remaining selections (of which the most significant are the, so far, twelve taking place in seats where sitting Conservative MPs are retiring) will see a sift of all applications by the Association officers along with Eric Pickles, a representative of the Candidates' Committee, most likely its chairman, Shireen Ritchie, and, in attendance, Gareth Fox of the Candidates' Department;
  • That sift will pick just six candidates, all of whom the party ideally wants to go to the Special General Meeting or Open Primary;
  • The Association Executive will be able to meet as an intermediate stage where anyone "completely unsuitable" (Eric Pickles's words) could be removed and a reserve brought in and in "exceptional" circumstances (again, the chairman's word) that meeting could reduce the final field to four;
  • This procedure will apply to seats selecting in the autumn through until the end of the year (although I gather seats where the sitting MP announced their retirement pre-Expensesgate, i.e. Woking and Skipton & Ripon, may be able to use the traditional procedure);
  • For any seats where the sitting MP announces his or her retirement after January 1st 2010, "by-election rules" will kick in, whereby associations will simply be presented with a list of three candidates by the party from which to choose.
This is all incredibly disheartening news since it gives more and more power to the party at the centre, ironically enough at a time when the party is talking in national policy terms about localism and decentralisation
The usual more open selection procedures could have been followed in the time available: First of all,  there are a large number of new applicants being put through the parliamentary assessment boards over the summer, but once they are complete (assuming there is not an autumn election), why could those seats not proceed with selections in the usual manner between October and December? Additionally, the deadline of the end of the year seems premature for the seriously anti-democratic rules to come into play. If the General Election is to take place on the same day as the local elections at the beginning of May (with a campaign starting early April), it is surely feasible that the deadline could be put back by a month or even two.
Why are Associations only getting the option of choosing between six candidates?  Assuming that the safe seats seeking a new candidate (and most likely MP) attract - literally - hundreds of applicants, it is massively restrictive to allow only six names through the sift. These associations effectively get to choose their representative once in a generation and it is surely right that they should get to select from the widest manageable field. It is inevitable in these circumstances that members will feel that undue influence is being asserted by CCHQ.
CCHQ proposed even more undemocratic options for selection: These rule changes were passed through the Board, although there were a range of even more anti-democratic options that were under consideration, but which were jettisoned, not least because of opposition from the members of the voluntary party on the Board and Sir Michael Spicer.
Party members lose more rights to the centre: We appear to be stuck with procedures which marginalise the role of rank and file members in the selection process and allow for local Associations to remain "in control of the process" only really insofar as a handful of officers are involved in the crucial sifting process.  Many party members will ask themselves why they remain members at all when in selection of MEPs and their Westminster candidate they have fewer rights than at any time in recent party history.
Selection freedoms will be even more restricted in 2010: Perhaps the most crucial point to emphasise at this juncture is that Conservative MPs should feel duty bound to make their intentions clear about whether they intend standing again as soon as possible, since any announcements of retirements coming in the New Year will result in their associations losing any remaining semblance of control of the selection process.
We now know that pressure was put on Totnes Constituency by Central Office to have an Open Primary with a postal ballot to every elector.    The Liberal Democrats are campaigning for who they see as the weakest candidate - Nick Bye the Mayor of Totnes.   We shall see who wins.
Dudley North
On Saturday 18th July, 12 candidates had been due to be interviewed in Dudley North, but they all received an email on the evening of Thursday 16th from the association chairman, Martin Duffield, explaining that "following a meeting today with Gareth Fox (Candidates Department) and John Maples (Party Vice-Chairman) we have been informed that we cannot proceed with the interview process".
The reason was that the Dudley North Association had opted to interview nine men and three women, in contravention of the rule stating that there should be a 50:50 male:female ratio throughout the process.
The association had taken the view that since only eight of the 44 applicants were women, to interview six of them seemed somewhat excessive and discriminatory towards the 36 men who had applied. Instead, they sought to interview the best twelve applicants, who happened to be nine men and three women.
But CCHQ refused to allow the process to continue although, according to the Association Chairman, it did not intervene to stop the process until five days after it had been sent the list of names, meaning that the candidates for interview had very limited notice of the change of plan.
Final confirmation of the abandonment of the process came in an email from Gareth Fox on July 21st, in which he simply said that "unfortunately the Dudley North Parliamentary selection will not now go ahead in this tranche and will be re-advertised at a later date".
Reprinted from
In a poll conducted by 91% of Conservative Party members  oppose 50/50 short lists for candidates.    Does the Party belong to the members or is it just a cosy little oligarchy which treats the members with contempt?
St. Albans
Ann Main, the MP for St Albans faces a meeting of her Association called to deselect her.   The St Albans Association receives financial help from Beaconsfield.   There are rumours that the financial help will cease if Ann Main is deselected.   I hope this is untrue.   It would be completely wrong for a Constituency to interfere in the internal affairs of another Constituency Association.
European Parliament
UKIP MEP Marta Andreasen, the EU's former Chief Accountant who publicly claimed that there was a £172 million discrepancy between two sets of Brussels accounts, has been blocked from becoming Vice-Chairman of the European Parliament's Budgetary Committee by an unprecedented 'secret ballot' of MEPs. The centre-right European People's Party and the Socialists broke parliamentary convention on the allocation of committee posts by demanding a vote by secret ballot to block Mrs Andreasen's candidature. Chris Davies, a Liberal Democrat, attacked the "shameful decision", saying that: "The message it sends to the public is that anyone who speaks out against malpractice in Europe risks being excluded from office." 
Reprinted from

What can Westminster learn from Holyrood?
Overall view from three speakers at the meeting organised by Hansard Society on 19th May 2009 at the House of Commons was that the Scottish Parliament had been a great success. 
Michael Clancy OBE, member of the Council of the Hansard Society, said that there had been 150 Acts passed in the Scottish Parliament in ten years.    Scottish Law since 1707 had been renovated.   He also said that bills had six opportunities for amendment in Scotland.
Lord Wallace of Tankerness, or Rt Hon Jim Wallace MP (Lib Dem) as many still think of him, had been in the Scottish Parliament for 8 years.   The Scottish Parliament, he recalled, began on 1st July 1999 – six months earlier than expected.   It covered NHS, education, legal matters, tourism, and fishing.    They had made university tuition free and under Freedom of Information Act made Scottish MPs publish their expenses every three months.  Jim Wallace also went on to say how important was the role of Scottish Committees, and Scottish Ministers did not usually get an easy time there.   In the beginning there had been problems before power was properly set up and also with the Holyrood building costs.   Jim Wallace thought finances would be the most pressing topic now and how money was raised and spent.
Peter Wishart MP, Scottish Nationalist MP for North Perthshire, said that generally the Scottish Parliament had been an overwhelming success.  Scotland had been allowed to have an identity again.   The Members Allowance system had first been copied form Westminster, but now transparency has been introduced with quarterly reports.   There was no opportunity he said for swopping homes.   PR was used for voting in Scotland and there had been successful coalitions and now they had minority government.
The speakers were asked about the campaign for an English Parliament and the Barnett formula, and the audience were told that London and Northern Ireland have more spent on them and Scotland has greater need and greater disparity with a poorer health record and alcohol abuse.   Voting systems and the Single Transferable Vote were discussed.   Many interesting issues were raised, but all agreed the Scottish Parliament has and is a success.
July 26th Great New Events - Totnes Open Primary - Alright for Some
July 5th A Conservative Manifesto - National Express - Citizen's Convention Bill - Nursery Rhymes for our Times
July 26th
Great New EventsThe Conservative party is advertising Great New Events for the Party Conference.   What are these Great New Events?    Are we going to get motions for real debate?   Will speakers from the floor get four minutes to put their case?   Will the Conference be for Party members?   No!   None of these, the Great New Events are A pub quiz with Eric Pickles - A Gay Party Night and A Club Night.   This just about says it all.   Anything to distract members from serious discussion of politics.   At a time when the Country faces its greatest crisis for a generation the Conference is further dumbed down and Party members treated with contempt.
Totnes Open Primary
It has been announced that there will be an Open Primary for the Totnes Parliamentary seat (see below).   Ballot papers will be sent to every elector in Totnes, some 69,000 of them, with a freepost reply.   The cost of this bizarre exercise will be at least £40,000.   Who is paying for this?    Is it the Constituency Association?   Is it a particular benefactor?   Is it the Conservative Party?   Is it the candidates?    I think we should be told.   It is quite clear that there are few, if any, Constituency Associations that could even attempt to pay this kind of money out in selecting their candidate, and in any case why should an Association pay out good money to enable members of the Liberal Democrats and members of the Labour Party to choose the Conservative candidate?   Whoever thought up this ridiculous scheme needs their head examining.   If anyone can now choose the Conservative candidate why should anyone want to be a member of the Conservative Party.    What benefits do they get from being a member?   The right to be continuously hassled for money and that's about it.   No wonder membership is plummeting.
Alright for Some  
At this time of belt tightening some still get preferential treatment.    Tucked away in the small print of the last budget is a clause permitting the Prince of Wales to deduct his son's expenses from his own tax bill.   I would like to deduct my own son's expenses from my tax bill.   I wonder what the Inland Revenue would say if I tried!

July 5th
A Conservative ManifestoAt the COPOV meeting held on 4th July the following suggestions were made for inclusion in the Conservative Party manifesto:
Abolish quangos,?
Review public sector pensions and bring them into line with pensions in the private sector,
Have the same immigration policy as Immigration Watch - one in, one out,
Abolish stamp duty on houses
Bring in a Glass-Stegal Act separating the investment activities of the banks from their trading activities.
Let us have your suggestionsNational Express
Why isn't the Tory Party attacking the Government over the nationalisation of National Express's East Coast line?   Any semi-competent accountant will tell you that if you enter into an agreement with a subsidiary company you demand a Parent Company guarantee so that the Parent Company cannot walk away from the deal.   Why didn't the Government do this?   The Tories should be asking the question.Citizen's Convention Bill
COPOV is supporting a new law - the Citizen's Convention (Accountability and Ethics) Bill - which will establish a "Citizen's \convention" to look at ways to make the UK political system more ethical and accountable.   The Bill sets out the mechanisms for this and the role of the convention.   For more information visit the following web site:
 Nursery Rhymes for our Times
28th June
Destruction of the Tory Party
A large number of safe Conservative seats will soon be choosing their Parliamentary candidates.   I hear that Central Office are proposing that the candidates will be selected in open primaries with every elector in the constituency having a postal vote.   This is madness.   On top of the proposal that the Candidates List is now open to anybody, even if they are not members of the Conservative Party, we are seeing the destruction of the Party.
Ordinary Party members cannot understand why members of the Labour Party should be choosing the Conservative Party candidate.   They also cannot understand why someone who does not believe in basic Conservative philosophy should be a Conservative Candidate.   There is resentment building up in the grass roots of the Party.   What is the point of being a member if anyone can select the candidates of the Party.   What has been lost sight of is that party politics is tribal.   Someone with no allegiance, no commitment to the tribe, has no loyalty.   What will happen is that Party membership will continue its inexorable decline.   Does this matter?   In the short term - No.    The Tory Party will form the biggest Party after the General Election and will almost certainly form the Government.   It will then have to take some very unpopular measures to get the economy straight.   Within a year it will be highly unpopular.   It is at times like these when a strong voluntary party comes into its own, giving you that core support that is essential to carry out your program.   That support will not be there.   It will consist of Councillors, whose anger will be rising as they lose their seats as a result of the unpopularity of the Government.   The Tory Party as such will cease to exist.
For some years there have been those in Central Office who would like the voluntary Party disappear.   They want to see American style politics in the United Kingdom.   Their blueprint is the Republican Party, which does not have members, it has supporters who come together at an election.   The difference is that they then get paid for their help.   This is why the last Presidential election cost $4 billion.   It will not work in the UK.    We do not like money in politics.
What is the answer?   It is very simple but has so far been unacceptable to the Party hierarchy.   Reverse the decline in Party membership.   How do you do that?   Make the Party a democratic organisation.   David Cameron wants to give power to the people.   He could show his credentials for a start by giving power to ordinary Party members.    Will he?   We shall see, but if he doesn't watch the Tory Party go into a slow decline.
Gordon's Dilemma

While stitching up the hand of a 75 year old Devon farmer, who cut it on a gate while working cattle, the rural doctor struck up a conversation with the old man. Eventually the topic got around to Gordon Brown and his appointment as Prime Minister.

"Well, you know," drawled the old farmer, "this Brown fellow is what they call a fencepost tortoise." Not being familiar with the term, the doctor asked him what a fencepost tortoise was.

The old farmer said, "When you're driving along a country road and you come across a fence post with a tortoise balanced on top, that's called a fencepost tortoise."

The old farmer saw a puzzled look on the doctor's face, so he continued to explain,

"You know he didn't get up there by himself, he definitely doesn't belong up there, he doesn't know what to do while he is up there, and you just have to wonder what kind of idiot put him up there in the first place".

21st June
MP's Expenses
Concern is being expressed with the Conservative Parliamentary Party about unequal treatment of MPs over their use of expenses.   This saga will not be resolved until there is a list published by the Scrutiny Committee of every Conservative MP showing what action is being taken if any action is required.   There is now sufficient information published in the public domain to give a provisional judgement on MPs.    If the Party does not publish a list we will do so, basing it on the criteria we set out our below on the 7th June, using our own judgement.   It will also show those MPs who have acted honourably throughout this crisis.   It is time they were also named so they are not tarred with the same brush as the dishonourable ones.  
How to behave!
Yesterday, 20th June, Dominic Grieve MP for Beaconsfield, held a public meeting to discuss his expenses and electoral reform.    Over 170 constituents turned up.   He gave everyone present a schedule of the expenses he has claimed and then went through them line by line explaining the expenses.   So thorough was this presentation that when he finished nobody had any questions about his expenses.   The meeting went on to discuss electoral reform.   The meeting was excellently chaired by Earl Howe who was charming but firm in his conduct of the meeting.   This was a brilliant example for all Conservative MPs.   Well done.
We are hearing disturbing things about the selection of Parliamentary candidates.    Will we repeat the same mistakes we made in 2005 by parachuting candidates into seats and imposing them on the Constituency Associations?   There is some resentment about opening up the list to anyone, even if they are not members of the Tory Party.   That resentment also applies to Open Primaries where anybody can participate even if they are members of the Labour Party.   What is the point of being a member of the Conservative Party if a member of another Party can choose our candidates?   Rumours abound that the Shadow Cabinet have been asked to put forward five names each of potential candidates.   Will this give them priority treatment?   The Chairman of the Candidates Committee should be elected by and answerable to Party members.   We cannot go on like this.   David Cameron talks about giving power to the people.   He could set an example by giving power to Party members.   One other question.   Why are we having to wait until September for selection meetings to take place?   The quicker candidates are in position the better they will become known to their electorate.

14th June
First Past the Post
This week David Cameron firmly supported First Past the Post as the electoral system for the House of Commons.   More precisely, he went on to say we must keep the constituency link.   You can do this with the Single Transferable Vote or with the Three Member Seat or even the Alternative Vote so all is not lost.    Ironically if the Conservative Party had used First Past the Post for the Conservative Party Leadership Election the Leader today would be David Davis and not David Cameron.   If you remember the votes on the first ballot were as follow:
David Davis                         62
David Cameron                    56
Liam Fox                             42
Ken Clarke                          38
Ken Clarke and Liam Fox were eliminated and in the second and third rounds.    David Cameron went on to win.
European Elections
Which region of the United Kingdom had the highest turnout in the European Election?   Answer - Northern Ireland, which has consistently had the highest turnout in every European election which we have had.   It is the only part of the United Kingdom that uses the Single Transferable Vote method of election rather than the List system used everywhere else.   This means that in Northern Ireland the electors can vote for individuals rather than parties.   It is extraordinary that we have two different methods of voting for the same Parliament.   This must be changed.   The turnout in Northern Ireland was 42.8% compared to 35% in the rest of the U.K.
Tony's Lavender List
We hear that part of the deal between Tony and Gordon was that Tony's friends would be rewarded in the next Queen's Birthday Honours List.   Pass the sick bag Alice.   Update: It didn't happen, but that only leaves one more honours list before the next General Election.   Will it happen then?

Referendum on the Electoral System
Last week we called for a referendum on the electoral system to be held on the same day as the General Election.   On Any Questions this week Caroline Spellman said it was Conservative policy to have referendums and when pushed she agreed to having a referendum on the electoral system on the day of the General Election.   Is this now Conservative policy?    Incidentally Caroline Spellman is so much better in her new position.    She should never have been moved in the first place!
MPs Expenses
Now that the police have shown a reluctance to prosecute MPs over their expenses it is incumbent on the House of Commons to take action.   The level of offences and the punishments need to be graded.    The House of Commons has so far shown no inclination to do this so we set out our suggestions below.   Not every category is included so if you have any further categories let us know, together with appropriate penalties.
Any monies incorrectly claimed should be repaid.   In addition the following should be applied:
Where an MP has claimed money, which is not a reimbursement of money paid out by the MP, they should be expelled from the House of Commons. e.g.   monies claimed for a non-existent mortgage, or a mortgage that has been paid off.
Suspension without pay
Where an MP has spent money on a second home and then sold it at a profit more than once in five years they should be suspended without pay.   The length of the suspension depending on the severity of the case.
Where an MP has sold a second home at a profit but has told the Inland Revenue that is is the main residence to avoid Capital Gains Tax.
Where expenses have been claimed over £5,000 but have not been wholly and necessarily incurred in the performance of parliamentary duties the MP should be suspended from the House of Commons - the length of the suspension depending on the severity of the case. e.g payment of costs of gardening.
Severe Reprimand
Where expenses over £1,000 have been claimed but have not been wholly and necessarily incurred in the performance of parliamentary duties the MP should receive a severe reprimand.  e.g. purchase of a duck house for £1,600.
Where expenses under £1,000 have been claimed but have not been wholly and necessarily incurred in the performance of parliamentary duties then the MP should be reprimanded. e.g purchase of dog food.
All Party History Group at the House of Commons
Tuesday, 12th May 2009
Credit Crunch Communist – The Life and Times of Friedrich Engels
Dr Tristram Hunt was a fascinating speaker who held the small audience enthralled.   Having no knowledge myself of Friedrich Engels, Tristram Hunt revealed the extraordinary contradictory life, full of sacrifice, of this extraordinary man in the shadow of Karl Marx.
Born in Germany in 1820 Friedrich grew up in an industrial area where the family firm undertook bleaching and textile work.   He wrote anonymous articles on industrialisation of working classes.    He lost his faith in religion and found it in communism.    Then his worried father send Friedrich to Manchester and in 1842 he arrives as an apprentice in a Victorian mill in Salford.   He wanted to find evidence of alienation on the group and becomes a roving reporter wanting to validate his Socialism.   Engels writes “The Conditions of the Working Class”.  He meets Marx in Paris in 1844.   They have a 10 day drinkathon.   Thus begins one of the greatest political alliances in the western world, but quickly Engels decides to step back and allow Karl Marx the dominant political position.   The friendship lasts until Marx death.   They prepare a joint communist manifesto which Marx clarifies and finishes himself in just four days.   When Engels mother reads about her son trying to ferment revolution in his home town he flees.     In 1850 Marx and Engels are in London living in Soho producing endless leaflets.   Marx is always dodging bailiffs.   Engels agrees to go back to Manchester in the family firm and becomes a frock coated socialist and then funds Marx for the next 20 years.  
Engels lives two lives – (1) the respectable Manchester business man and (2) the revolutionary Communist.   Friedrich Engels found this very stressful and went to the pinnacle of German society in Manchester, even enjoying riding with the Cheshire Hunt.   Perhaps this was a physical release.   Whilst Marx is busy thinking in the British Museum, Engels is providing practical help and commercial intelligence.   In 1867 he and Marx wrote 7 different reviews under 7 different names – so media manipulation began early.   In 1867 Engels buys out of the partnership, and comes to London and lives off Stock Exchange investments for the next 25 years.   He lives in Regents Park Road, Primrose Hill – the new mecca of the forces of Socialism,    Engels himself dies in 1895.    He had loved the South Coast but after developing throat cancer he goes back to London and dies in Regents Park Road.    His ashes are taken back to Eastbourne and scattered at sea.
Questions came from Virginia Bottomley, Quentin Davies, John Strafford, and Peter Lilley.   To my surpise Peter Bottomley took a photo – so perhaps I can take photos as well in future.
As an interesting footnote, the meeting’s Chairman, Mark Fisher,  said that the All Party History group was set up three years ago as a response to the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair’s non interest in history.
May 31st Referendum - Phantom MEPs - MEP's expenses - Newsnight - Recall
May 24th Action from the House of Commons - A Short Guide to Deselection
May 17th Democracy - Referendum
May 10th Parliament's Moral Bankruptcy
May 3rd Ulster Unionists - Iraq War - Ireland's Example - Gordon Resign!
We need to have a referendum at the same time as the General Election on whether the people want to change our electoral system.   The people should be asked to rank in order of preference the following:
First past the post
Alternative vote
Three member seats
Single transferable vote
Phantom MEPs!
18 "ghost MEPs" to cash in on £6!m. Due to the fact that the Lisbon Treaty has not been ratified, 18 MEPs elected in June's European elections will receive normal MEPs' salaries despite the fact that they will not be able to take up full political office for at least two years. The Irish rejection of the Lisbon Treaty means that after June's election 736 instead of 754 MEPs will take office. However, 18 further MEPs will be elected under the Lisbon rules, despite the fact that the Lisbon Treaty is yet to be ratified.
 Amid confusion over when and how they will take up their seats, the European Parliament has decided to give the MEPs only "observer" status from next year. These 'observer members' will receive a normal MEPs' salary, and collectively account for a £6m bill, including their salary, assistant and office allowances, as well as tax-free allowances on a daily basis. (Telegraph, 22 May; Mail, 24 May)
MEP's Expenses
MEPs are entitled to expenses and allowances of up to £363,000 a year
Open Europe has found that in total, MEPs are entitled to expenses and allowances of £363,000 a year, including a £261 daily subsistence allowance and £45,648 in general office expenses even though they are provided with offices in Brussels and Strasbourg . This equates to £1,816,250 per MEP over a five year term and no receipts are required. (Sun, 26 May; Times, 29 May; Open Europe blog) This comes on top of £83,282 in salary, £29,309 in pensions and £41,641 in transitional payments. In contrast, UK MPs claim up to £144,000 on average in expenses. (Telegraph, 31 March)
Swedish Left Party MEP Jens Holm has provided a candid account of how the current travel expenses system can lead to MEPs pocketing thousands of euros a year because no receipt is required to account for the actual cost of a journey. He said, "I know that until February this year, the European Parliament has paid me about €200,000 in travel allowances and I'd say that I have donated around €150,000 to charities and also to my own party." (Open Europe blog)
Under new rules, from June onwards, the travel allowance system will be reformed so that MEPs need to provide receipts for their tickets. However, for the majority of their expenditure (office expenses, daily subsistence allowance, staff allowances) MEPs will still not be required to produce receipts.
In the wake of the Westminster expenses scandal, Gordon Brown has ordered all Labour candidates for the European election to agree to publish all receipts for claims made under the MEPs' office allowance. Conservative MEP candidates have taken a pledge to disclose details of their expenses online but they will not provide receipts, while the Lib Dems have made a similar commitment to publish an audited breakdown of their MEPs' costs but also will not publish receipts. (FTFT, 24 May)
However, it should be noted that none of the parties' manifestos mention publishing receipts. (Open Europe blog)
Meanwhile, it has emerged that more than a third of British MEPs are paying one or more relatives. The wives, husbands and children of MEPs are earning up to £40,000 a year to work as secretaries and researchers at a total annual cost to taxpayers of more than £700,000. (Times, 29 May)
We need to also focus on the scandal of the expenses of MEPs.    We are in the process of cleaning up Westminster.   Let us not forget to clean up Brussels at the same time.
View the Chairman of COPOV on Newsnight arguing for the expulsion of MPs rather than just allowing them to stand down at the next election.
MPs: we're making them listen

Dear friends

I'm supporting this important campaign from 38 Degrees and I thought you might like to as well.

In the wake of the MP expenses scandal, we need new powers to make sure MPs answer to us.  At the moment we're stuck with disgraced MPs until the next election, no matter what they have done. A new "recall law" will give local people the power to call a fresh vote and sack disgraced MPs.
Please click here to add your name:
How many other jobs do you know where once you've been hired the people who employed you can't sack you for five years, no matter what you've done? In other countries including the USA and Canada, "recall laws" allow voters to call a fresh vote when an elected official has lost their trust. Now we need the same in the UK so that politicians remember who they work for. Let's seize this opportunity to make MPs more accountable to us, for good.
Thanks for getting involved.

Action from the House of Commons
An increasing number of MPs caught up in the expenses scandal have announced that they will no longer be standing at the next General Election.   Very cosy for them.   With the General Election possibly twelve months away they will pick up £100,000 plus in salaries and expenses plus their termination bonuses of about another £100,000.   Nice work if you can get it.    What needs to happen is for the House of Commons to expel these MPs immediately and force a by-election in their constituencies.   There are at least two precedents for this action.   I show an extract from my forthcoming book "Our Fight for Democracy":
                In December 1930, Thomas Jones, Labour MP for Pontypridd, gave his wife Margaret and their twelve year old daughter two House of Commons vouchers that had been issued to him for his exclusive use for rail journeys between his constituency and Westminster.   They were stopped by ticket inspectors, who decided to prosecute Jones.   He was forced to resign from Parliament, and the following day he and his wife Margaret were fined £2 and ordered to pay costs at Marylebone Magistrates Court or face prison.  
 The last Member of Parliament to be expelled from the House of Commons was the Labour MP Gary Allighan in 1947.   Not only an MP he was also a journalist and wrote an article for the World Press News “exposing” the means lobby correspondents were using to obtain leaks and inside information.   The technique was to ply MPs with drinks until they collapsed and leaked stories to journalists for rewards or favours.   A motion was tabled to the Privileges Committee to discharge Allighan for contempt.   Allighan was accused of leaking stories himself.   The Privileges Report, censuring the MP severely, said Allighan had aggravated his contempt by trying to cast suspicion on other MPs beside himself.

                On 30th October 1947, with the Privileges Report on the table, the Commons voted to expel Gary Allighan.   Allighan, had wrongly accused fellow MPs of accepting money for disclosing to the press the proceedings of private party meetings.    It turned out that this was precisely what he had done himself.   

                The Leader of the House recommended that he be reprimanded and suspended without pay, but the Conservative MP, Quentin Hogg, moved an amendment calling for his expulsion.    It was passed.   At this time there was also also concern about outside bodies, such as trade unions, attempting to instruct an MP so the House passed a resolution restating its principles:
                 “It is inconsistent with the dignity of the House, with the duty of a member to his constituency, and with the maintenance of the privilege of freedom of speech, for any member of the House to enter into any contractual agreement with an outside body, controlling or limiting the member’s complete independence and freedom of action in Parliament or stipulating that he shall act in any way as the representative of such outside body in regard to any matters to be transacted in Parliament; the duty of a member being to his constituency and to the country as a whole, rather than to any particular section thereof.”

                What a contrast in the standards of Parliament that these cases illustrate compared to the standards applied today.
 A Short Guide to Deselection
The following article appeared on this week:

A Short Guide To Deselection

 John E. Strafford
(Chairman, Beaconsfield Constituency Conservative Association 1985-1990)
Just before the 1997 General Election Tim Smith MP was readopted as the Conservative Parliamentary candidate for Beaconsfield.   Five days later he resigned.  What lessons can be learned?
After the adoption meeting a group of members were unhappy at the decision to readopt Tim Smith due to his admitted involvement in the “Cash for questions affair”.   They decided they wanted a new candidate.   (This was not a light decision and was only taken after serious consideration.)  
Constituency Association Officers are quite rightly, instinctively loyal to their Member of Parliament.   They are usually friends, so cannot be relied upon to be at the forefront of a reselection campaign.
What is critical is that the campaign has to have momentum and be seen to have momentum to the point where reselection appears inevitable.   How is this achieved?
The threat is to call a Special General Meeting at which a motion of no confidence in the sitting MP will be tabled. (It is essential to know the rules by which this can be done.   Get a copy from the Association office.)   It is important to stress here the threat that if a meeting is not called the electors will decide the issue and throw out the MP, whereas a new candidate would more likely be elected.
You then need a list of those members who want a reselection and are prepared to go public in their demand for this.   Once the campaign is launched you need at least three of them to go public each day - the more senior the members the better.   This gives a fresh impetus, every day, to the campaign.
Get the media on board – radio, TV, national press, - in Beaconsfield we got The Times and the Daily Mirror – and most of all the local press.   It is essential that you have several people that will talk to the media.   Unless you can give other names than yourself the media will lose interest.
Increase the pressure on the Officers of the Association by getting your supporters to telephone them.   You will be surprised how after a few calls the Officers become convinced that the whole Association is up in arms.
Put the phone on the hook for calls from Central Office.    Party members do not like interference from Central Office.   This is the member’s decision about who is to represent them at Westminster.
In Beaconsfield, after five days of intensive campaigning the pressure on the Officers and on the MP became so great the MP honourably resigned.
Beaconsfield selected Dominic Grieve as their candidate.   He went on to win the election.   It has proved to be a wise choice.

Another week, more revelations about the way our MPs have behaved.   We are now in a serious democratic crisis.    If the people cannot trust the MPs to handle their personal affairs where they impinge on the public, why should they trust them to handle public issues.    The main requirement from an MP is high moral standing and good judgement.    In both cases our MPs have been found wanting.   This issue goes far beyond just expenses.   Our whole democratic system is broken.   To get the trust of the people we have to do a number of things.   First of all we need to sort out the mess on expenses.   The key to this is accountability, so the steps required to bring accountability are as follows:
  • Total transparency showing all the receipts for payments made to MPs.   This also include showing second home addresses.   If MPs have a security problem that is a matter for the police to deal with.
  • Every Constituency Association should hold a General Meeting of members by 31st July and at that meeting there should be a motion to re-adopt the sitting MP.   If the motion is lost the MP should be de-selected.   This act brings accountability to the Party members, but this is not enough for those MPs that do not have the support of members will continue to stay in Parliament until the next General Election.   This is not acceptable.    They should resign forthwith.
  • Legislation should be introduced immediately so that if 10% of the electors in a constituency sign a petition calling for a by-election the MP is recalled from Parliament and a by-election is held within one month.    This makes the MP accountable to their electors.   It is no longer acceptable that an MP should only be accountable once every five years at a General Election.
For the longer term it is now essential that our political parties are made democratic.   The cosy oligarchies which control the parties have to be brought to an end.   This will bring accountability into the parties at a National level.
The other long term measure must be to set up a Constitutional convention to create a fair democracy in this country.    It is long overdue and now it has become critical.
Hear a discussion on these issues on The World Tonight programme of 15th May
The Conservative Party should promise the people a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty when they get into power regardless as to whether it has been ratified or not.
A new Populous poll for the Times has found overwhelming support for a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, even in a situation where it has already been ratified by Ireland and the rest of the EU.  82% of people agreed with the statement, "If Ireland and other countries ratify the Lisbon Treaty on the future of the European Union, Britain should hold its own referendum on the issue", with 52% strongly agreeing and only 14% disagreeing. 92% of Conservative voters, 76% of Labour voters and 85% of Liberal Democrats voters agreed that Britain should have a referendum on the Treaty. (Times, 13 May)

Parliament's Moral Bankruptcy
Over the years COPOV has warned that the issue of MP's expenses was a scandal waiting to happen.   This week it did.    Whenever I raised the issue I was told that only a tiny minority of MPs were guilty.   The great majority were honourable people.   Now we know, it is the other way round, a minority are honourable, but the culture of the majority see Parliament as a get rich quick scheme.   Under their own rules expenses should only be claimed by MPs if they have been "wholly and necessarily incurred" in the performance of their duties.   It is quite clear that this has not happened.   So what should be done?
First of all criminal prosecutions should be brought for fraud against all those MPs that have abused the system.
Secondly The Head of the Fees Office that paid them out should be dismissed for failing to perform their duty.
Next, the Inland Revenue should examine all the expenses and those that have not been properly incurred should be taxed as remuneration.   Where Capital Gains have been made they should be taxed.    Where second homes have been manipulated in order to claim expenses the MPs should be charged with tax evasion and charged, with penalties imposed.
Next, the rule recently brought in to hide MPs addresses should be scrapped.   It is clear that this rule would make it much more difficult to see where MPs were manipulating their second homes.
Finally any expenses that do not meet the criteria of "wholly and necessarily incurred" should be recovered.
This week it has become clear that our political system is morally bankrupt.   Parliament should be dissolved and a General Election called.   Immediately after the General Election there should be a Constitutional Convention to devise a new, fair Constitution, where every vote counts.   Whilst that Convention is sitting legislation should be brought in allowing the recall of an MP from Parliament.   If five per cent of the electorate (polled over a period of one month) in an MP's Constituency demand the recall of the MP there should be a by-election called within two months.   It is time MPs were accountable to the people.   Democracy demands nothing less.
One final point, the rottenness in our political system starts in the political parties.   They should be made democratic organisations where the ultimate control rests with their members.    We must see an end to the cosy oligarchies that now control our major parties.   Much needs to be done to clean up the whole stinking mess.

Ulster Unionists
I am hearing some disturbing reports regarding the joint working party of the Ulster Unionists and the Conservative Party.   The disgraceful treatment of the Northern Ireland Conservative's Deputy Chairman, Jeffrey Peel increases my concern.   There has been a denial of natural justice which must be remedied.   Watch this space!
Iraq War
With the withdrawal of British troops this week a ceremony was held at which the names of all the British troops who have been killed in Iraq was read out.   It was very moving, but marred by old fashioned class distinction.   The officers had their rank, surname and initial read out; the other ranks had their rank and surname read out.   Couldn't they have been treated the same?   They all gave their lives for their country.
Ireland's Example
To reduce the costs incurred by the political system the Irish government decided to reduce the number of Secretaries of State from 20 to 15.    On 22nd April the 20 Secretaries of State therefore presented their resignation to Prime Minister Brian Cowen who then appointed 15 "new" ones.   In addition to this measure the remuneration of Ministers and Secretaries of State, MPs and the chairman of Parliament was reduced, travel expenses were reduced by 25%, other expenditure was reduced by 10% and the spending regime is now more transparent.    Why don't we do the same?
Gordon Resign!
Sign the petition asking for Gordon Brown's resignation.
If you'd like to tell your friends about this petition, its permanent web address is:
April 26th *****Star of the Week***** - Labour's contempt for Parliamentary Scrutiny - Support our Troops
April 19th George Orwell's 1984
April 12th MP's expenses - Kettling - Fact
April 5th A Question of Accountability - Congratulations - Don Porter - First Past The Post
March 29th Stuart Wheeler - ***Star of the Week - Wally of the Week 
March 22nd European Parliament Election - Why Vote? - Naughty Fiona - Euro Subsidies
March 15th Shambles - Did you Know (1) & (2) - Voting in the European Parliament
March 8th Northern Ireland - Repeal of Legislation Act - Nuclear Submarines - The Surveillance society - All Party Groups
March 1st Convention of Modern Liberty - Froth, Pure Froth - On Open Letter to Gordon Brown - You could not make it up

April 26th
***** Star of the Week***** - David Cameron MP
For  the best speech from a Party Leader that I have ever heard.   Speaking at the Spring Forum, his speech was sober, serious, no tub thumping, but set out where we were and what the Conservative Party had to do.   This was the speech of a Prime Minister in waiting.   It was a privilege to hear it.

John Redwood reveals Labour's contempt for parliamentary scrutiny

In Support of my argument that Parliament meets too little and is forced to pass things without proper debate I have been sent the following figures for the Commons: 1947-97 timetable motions curtailing debate on a Bill (under 3 a year.    1997-2007 438 timetable motions (44 a year)
From John Redwood's blog.

Note: Parliament has just given itself an extra week's summer holiday this year!   Pass the sick bag Alice!

Support our Troops                    
I heard the following story.    I do not know whether it is true, but it is  a nice story, worth re-telling:
Last week I was in  West London attending a conference.

While I was in the airport, returning home, I heard several people behind me beginning to clap and cheer.

I immediately turned around and witnessed one of the greatest acts of patriotism I have ever seen.

Moving through the terminal was a group of soldiers in their uniforms, as they began heading to their gate everyone (well almost everyone) was abruptly to their feet with their hands waving and cheering.

When I saw the soldiers, probably 30-40 of them, being applauded and  cheered for, it hit me. I'm not alone. I'm not the only red blooded Briton who still loves this country   and supports our troops and their families. Of course I immediately stopped and began clapping for these young  unsung heroes who are putting their lives on the line everyday for us so we can go to school, work, and enjoy our home without fear or reprisal.

Just when I thought I could not be more proud of my country or of our service men and women a young girl, not more than 6 or 7 years old, ran up to one of the male soldiers.

He knelt down and said 'hi,' the little girl then asked him if he would give something to her daddy for her.

The young soldier didn't look any older than maybe 22 himself, said he would try and what did she want to give to her daddy.

Suddenly the little girl grabbed the neck of this soldier, gave him the biggest hug she could muster and then kissed him on the cheek.

The mother of the little girl, who said her daughters name was Courtney, told the young soldier that her husband was a Corporal and had been in Afghanistan for 5 months now.

As the mum was explaining how much her daughter, Courtney, missed her father, the young soldier began to tear up.

When this temporarily single mum was done explaining her situation, all of the soldiers huddled together for a brief second.

Then one of the other servicemen pulled out a military looking walkie-talkie.

They started playing with the device and talking back and forth on it.

After about 10-15 seconds of this, the young soldier walked back over to Courtney, bent down and said this to her, 'I spoke to your daddy and he told me to give this to you.'

He then hugged this little girl that he had just met and gave her a Kiss on the cheek.

He finished by saying 'Your daddy told me to tell you that he loves you more than anything and he is coming home very soon.'

The mum at this point was crying almost uncontrollably and as the young soldier stood to his feet he saluted Courtney and her mum.

I was standing no more than 6 feet away as this entire event unfolded.

As the soldiers began to leave, heading towards their gate, people resumed their applause.

As I stood there applauding and looked around, there were very few dry eyes, including my own.

That young soldier in one last act of moment turned around and blew a kiss to Courtney with a tear rolling down his cheek.

We need to remember everyday all of our soldiers and their families and thank God for them and their sacrifices.

At the end of the day, it's good to be an Englishman. 

George Orwell's 1984
George Orwell starts his book "1984" in April 1984.   On this 25th anniversary we show below an updated report on 1984:
  • The "Ministry of Truth" which of course was set up to tell lies is now called "The Cabinet Office".
  • We had a spectacular success with the Iraq War when everybody believed our lies.
  • Our policy of continuous war looks like it will be achieved with the war in Afghanistan.   This war has so far gone on for eight  years and soon will be longer than the First and the Second World wars put together.   Of course with continuous war we keep our defence industries in full production.
  • Telescreens are now called CCTV cameras.   The United Kingdom ( we still have this name, but we are trying to get it subsumed into the European Union) has 20% of the world's CCTV cameras including 800 between Victoria Station and Parliament Square.   We are perfecting the technique of issuing instructions through the cameras.   This is being trailed in Middlesborough.
  • The Inner Party of privileged oligarchs is now called "The Political Class".    We continue with our sole objective of pursuing power in order to exercise power.
  • Our Newsspeak language is developing.   We are adding words such as "collateral damage".
  • Doublethink is also making progress.   Our political system is now accepted as democratic but of course it isn't.
  • Freedom of speech is now a thought crime, as is liberty and justice.   We have had some spectacular successes in these fields.
  • Our policy of keeping the Proles happy with a continuous supply of football and pornography is highly successful.
So Big Brother I hope you will be satisfied with our progress.   We will keep you informed!
Winston Brown

MPs Expenses
For years we have said that MP's expenses were a scandal waiting to happen, but whenever it was raised we were told that only a tiny minority were involved.   Indeed this is the answer from every commentator and every MP.   Now we know different.   It has become clear that the House of Commons is morally bankrupt.   The people have been taken for a ride.   Its motto is "How much can I get away with?".    As was pointed out this week on the "Today" programme the Commons only sits for 165 days a year so how can a second residence near the House be justified as the main residence if costs allowed can only be incurred in carrying out parliamentary duties?
One question I would like to have answered is this: When our MPs  cease to be MPs will they return all the goods they have purchased with taxpayer's money?   After all,they will not then need them to carry out their parliamentary duties.
During the demonstrations in London during the G20 meeting, the police used a technique known askettling.    What happens is that the crowd is herded together and held for 4-5 hours without any body being able to leave.   Whatever happened to Habeas Corpus?    It is a disgrace.   If a person, unmasked so they are identified and not carrying an offensive weapon wishes to leave to pursue their lawful business what policeman has the right to stop them?   The police are out of control and should be told that this practice should cease forthwith.   Liberty has to be defended.
In addition to the above it should be a disciplinary offence for any policeman to obscure his or her number and swift action should be taken if this offence is committed.   Finally, the ridiculous offence of photographing a policeman should be repealed.   This legislation is the latest pernicious assault on our liberties.     
There are more Councillors over the age of seventy that there are Councillors under the age of forty-five.

A Question of Accountability
When are those politicians who got us into the present economic mess going to be held accountable and why should we believe that the ones that got us into the mess are capable of getting us out of it?
To Eric Pickles for having the courage to acknowledge that he was wrong on MP's expenses and now believes that they must be reformed and reduced.
Don Porter
After nine years on the Party Board, Don Porter retires as Chairman of the National Convention at its next meeting.    This week he gave an interview to We publish an extract from the interview below:
Changing the leader's mind on the A-List
One issue which he found himself addressing during his chairmanship was that of the infamous priority list - or so-called "A-List" - of parliamentary candidates, where the party leadership decided that Conservative associations in the safest seats would only be able to select a candidate from a favoured one hundred or so. This provoked a hostile reaction from a large number of activists, as Don explains:
"I was getting messages from all around the country saying 'This is not working as well as it should’, ‘This is the centre dictating too much’ and I was also picking up huge numbers of comments from competent white male candidates, many of whom asked me for a cup of coffee, carefully to put their case to me... Over a period of months I picked up all these messages and then I asked someone who I have enormous respect for, John Strafford, if he would come back to me with a report of what he thought should happen. John came back to me, I had other people feeding in to me, I spoke to [1922 Committee Chairman] Sir Michael Spicer and eventually I walked into David Cameron’s office with a 12-slide PowerPoint presentation and I gently, quietly and hopefully professionally put the case to him."
His case was that huge progress had been made on selecting more female candidates, but that in order to address the widespread concerns of activists and candidates not on the A-List, associations should be free to select from the entire candidates' list (albeit with the proviso of a minimum of half the interviewees being women at all stages in the process).
"My point there was that we needed these key players feeling on side and feeling at least that they had a fair chance... I put the proposal to David, which we worked on together and effectively. He went away, thought about it, said he was very grateful for the evidence that was presented in a very calm, professional way and we did then provide associations with option of looking at the whole list... It completely took the sting out of the situation."  
First Past The Post
One of the myths of First Past the Post is that a Strong Government with a working majority can be replaced by a strong opposition with a working majority.   False.   This has happened only once in the last hundred years and that was in 1970.   In view of this the most likely outcome of the next General Election is a hung parliament.

Stuart Wheeler
Stuart Wheeler announced this week that he is to donate £100,000 to UKIP.   He says he wishes to remain a member of the Conservative Party.   This is not possible.   Rule three of the Paty's constitution states quite clearly that "Membership of the Conservative Party is not compatible with Membership of or association with any other registered political party".   Donating money to another political party is clearly an association with that party.
This is all rather sad.    Stuart has donated large sums to the Conservative Party and has made many attempts to defend democracy in this country.   He must be expelled from the Party but hopefully after the European elections he can be invited to return.    Central Office needs to take action now.
***Star of the Week*** - Daniel Hannan MEP - for a superb speech to the European Parliament attacking Gordon Brown and Labour's economic policies.   Dan then put the three minute speech on You Tube where it was a huge success recording two million hits and rising.   Now why hasn't a Conservative MP delivered a similar speech in Westminster?
Wally of the Week - Eric Pickles MP - for an abysmal performance on Question Time.    Eric, when you are in a hole stop digging.   The Party Chairman should concentrate on the organisation of the Party.   Political presentation should be left to others.   Once again we have a Chairman who is concentrating on the wrong thing.   The sooner we have a Party Chairman elected by the members and accountable to the members the better we will be.   When will our MPs understand the anger of the people about their expenses?   They may be sticking to the rules, but morally they have no case.   It is time we had a totally independent body to supervise and audit MP's expenses and set the rules for them.

European Parliament Election
Fundamentally, the European Union is an undemocratic organisation.    In a normal representative democracy individuals stand for election as part of a political party.   The party publishes a manifesto showing what it would do in government.   After the election the party with the largest number of seats in parliament forms a government.    The government passes legislation in accordance with its manifesto and governs the country through the civil service.   After five years there is another election and if the electors disapprove of the way the country has been governed they throw out the government and a new one is elected.   The new government can change or reverse any laws passed by the previous government.
How does the European Union fit into this template for democracy?    It doesn’t.
First of all the political parties do not form a government in the European Union.   The main arm of government is the European Commission whose members are appointed by the member states.   
Secondly, it is the unelected European Commission which proposes legislation.
Thirdly, as the European Parliament cannot propose new legislation, the political parties that are standing in the election cannot say in their manifesto what they would do in government, because they will not be in government.   Legislation proposed by the Commission has to be accepted by the Parliament, which has only limited powers to change it.   Legislation, once passed, is very difficult to reverse as it becomes known as the aquis communautaire (law, which all member states must comply with.)
 When another election is called the electorate cannot throw out the government, because it did not elect it in the first place.
So, if a Party cannot say in its manifesto how it will govern, if elected, and if it cannot say what laws it will pass or will reverse, what can it say?  This week I put the this question to two candidates for the European Parliament.   The first one, a Conservative, said "What a good question" but didn't answer it.   The second candidate, Labour, said that they would put in their manifesto what they were campaigning for.   So now we know, on June 4th all we will be doing is electing a bunch of lobbyists.
Why Vote
Why do people vote?   Is it:
    to protest,
    to judge the powerful,
    to say thank you,
    to express fear,
    to hope,
    to demonstrate idealism,
    to obtain personal benefit,
    to confirm your political identity,
    to show you belong to a political tribe,
    to show you are an adult,
    to express shear cussedness?
 It may be some or none of these things, but in voting we are expressing a view and collectively we create the wisdom of the crowds in determining our future, but only if those votes count.
Naughty Fiona
This week Fiona Hodgson sent out an email asking for support for her election as a Vice President of the National Convention.    We support her and hope she succeeds.   However her email went out on a standard Conservative Womens Organisation template and at the bottom is the usual:
Promoted by Alan Mabbutt on behalf of the Conservative Party, both at 30 Millbank, London, SW1P 4DP
Now, Fiona it may be Alan Mabbutt supports you, but you should not be sending out emails on CWO templates when you are campaigning in a personal capacity.
Euro SubsidiesEvery cow in Europe receives 2 Euros a day in subsidy.    Half of Africa's population live on less than 1 Euro a day.   Its a crazy world we live in.

Ballot papers have been sent out to members of the National Convention asking them to vote on changes to the Party Constitution including the discredited vote for more members of the Parliamentary Party to sit on the Party Board.   Just one snag, no date has been given for the return of the ballots.   One Area Chairman has told members that the ballots have to be returned by April 6th.    A Regional Chairman has said "as soon as possible".   The establishment are telephoning everybody to try to get them to vote as it looks as though there will be a low turnout and will not get the necessary 50%.   What a shambles.   First of all to have a ballot without a debate is a disgraceful way of proceeding.   Secondly, not to give a date for the return of ballots would surely make the whole exercise invalid in any democratic organisation.   Once again we have had a clear demonstration that the Party's Constitution needs a complete overhaul.   It is no longer fit for purpose.
Did You Know (1)
The United States of America has 745 military bases in 137 countries.   I wonder how many will survive the credit crunch?
Did you Know (2)
The top 500 dollar billionaires own half the entire wealth in the World.
Voting in the European Parliament
Each electronic vote costs 400 Euros and takes 30 seconds longer than a vote by hands.   Pressure is put on MEPs to vote by hand a) to save money, b) to speed things up, c) although there is a greater error with voting by hand they say it does not matter because the surpluses cancel out the minuses!   Oh, yes, one more thing when MEPs vote electronically we know how they vote, when it is by hand we do not.   All nice and cosy for the MEPs.
Ulster Unionists
Watch this space for further developments.

Northern Ireland
What is happening to the merger between the Conservative Party and the Ulster Unionists?   It is starting to get messy.
Repeal of Legislation Act
When the Conservative Party gets back into power it intends to bring in a Repeal of Legislation Act.   What Acts would you like to repeal?   Let me know on   We could start with scrapping the smoking ban and letting individuals decide for themselves whether they want to go into a pub that allows smoking.
Nuclear Submarines
Last week a British Nuclear submarine collided with a French Nuclear submarine.   If they cannot even detect each other it doesn't give you much confidence that if one of their missiles goes off it will hit the right place, does it?
The Surveillance Society
If you walk from Victoria Station to Parliament Square you will pass 800 CCTV cameras.   Who is watching you?
All Party Groups
In the last week the following All Party Groups have met at Westminster:
Slimming World
Weight Watchers
Rural Services
Primary Headache Disorders
Sex Equality
And Many Others
If our Parliamentarians spend so much time with all these groups is it any wonder they are not in the chamber?

Convention on Modern Liberty
This was an excellent Convention.    1,700 people attended the London event.   It was sold out.    I was delighted at the Conservative presence.   David Davis MP was the main speaker at the end of the convention and he received a lot of applause.    Other speakers included Dominic Grieve MP, Edward Garnier MP, Douglas Carswell MP.   The Conservative Party is now leading the fight to protect our freedom and liberty.   Billy Bragg, a life long socialist, even paid a compliment to David Davis.   In the morning session I had the unusual experience of getting three rounds of applause whilst asking one question.   The question was:
Do we need a written constitution to defend our liberties and freedoms (applause) from being destroyed by transient politicians elected by a rotten political system (applause) which gave us a government with a majority in the House of Commons of 65 when only 22% of the electorate voted for it. (sustained applause)
Froth, Pure Froth
Sir Graham Bright is a candidate for election as the Chairman of the National Convention.   He sets out his aims.   They are typical of candidates.   All froth and no substance.   When will we get a candidate that makes some specific pledges to do something to enhance the position of the voluntary party?   The following is taken from Graham's website.   You will note that at the end he says "Comments closed".   So thats it then!

Graham’s Aims

Graham is determined to see the Conservatives back in power which is why he is standing as the Chairman of the Conservative Party’s National Convention.  Graham enjoys working with all sections of the voluntary party and in particular would like to:-
  • Bring back the fun in voluntary politics recognizing that there are so many demands on people’s time
  • See the voice of the volunteer heard by the professional politician more often in both political debate and in the running of the Party
  • Increase the quantity and quality of training available to the voluntary Party ensuring it is relevant to today’s campaigning methods
  • Find a better way of involving experienced members in the activities of the Party and representing the Party on outside bodies at the end of their three year term in office
  • Increase the dialogue with local and regional media making our campaign more effective as a result
  • Ensure the Conservative Party is the Party of the highest integrity by adopting and enforcing the highest standards in public life           
Comments Closed
An Open Letter to Gordon Brown
STEVEN KATIRAI                                                                                                                            
B E L L A M O U R , L O N G H O R S L E Y , M O R P E T H ,
N O R T H U M B E R L A N D N E 6 5 8 R B
e - m a i l - S t e v e n @ k a t i r a i . c o m
The Right Honourable Gordon Brown MP
10 Downing Street,
Sunday, 15 February 2009
Prime Minister
An open letter demanding your resignation.
Your position is untenable and, I as a citizen of Great Briton demand your instant resignation.
You are unelected, have no popular mandate and lack the moral authority to be Prime Minister. Your terms as Chancellor and Prime Minister have been a total disaster for this nation and your attempt to cling on to power at all costs show a complete contempt for this nation and displays your absolute vanity and thirst for political power.
I list below some of the mistakes made by you during your time in public office. If as a director of a limited company you had made similar mistakes you would be subject to criminal prosecution and banned from being a company director. As a Government minister the standards exercised should be significantly higher than those exercised by a company director, you have failed to maintain those standards and are unfit for public office.
Banking Supervision: You transferred responsibility for banking supervision to the Financial Services Authority from the Bank of England so directly laying the seeds of the current banking crisis.
Banking Crisis: The initial response to the Northern Rock crisis was so slow as to be glacial and ultimately led to the damage done to the
whole banking sector. A strong Prime Minister would have provided depositors with a guarantee that their deposits were safe and the
bank run would have stopped. Ultimately the same guarantee would have ensured that the HBOS and RBS debacle would not have been
so severe.
Criminal Negligence: The entire UK banking crisis has been caused by a lack of supervision under the regulatory regime set up by you, any
man of honour would have resigned upon seeing the damage caused.
You however have tried to blame everyone else and accept no responsibility. You are criminally negligent.
Vanity: You have used the banking crisis to attempt to advance your personal standing and political career at the expense of the nation.
Lack of Judgment: You have made three serious errors of judgment in your appointment of advisers on the current financial crisis.
1. Your choice of banker to compile a report on ideas for improving public health was Sir Derek Wanless. a Northern Rock director when
it imploded in 2007.
2. You appointed Sir James Crosby, the former HBOS CEO, to the board of the FSA who then had to resign after becoming embroiled in the
row over failings of risk management at HBOS.
3. It now also appears that Glen Moreno will be forced out of his job, as chairman of UK Financial Investments Ltd, the company set up to
oversee the government’s stake in the bailed-out banks, because of his links with a Liechtenstein trust accused of tax evasion.
You Fantasize: By clinging to the idea that, thanks to your genius British citizens are far better placed than competitors to handle this crisis. The following two facts demonstrate that this is a fantasy:-
1. The Office for National Statistics' revelation that while the number of foreign workers getting jobs in the UK continues to grow (up by
175,000 to 2.4 million last year), domestic unemployment is rising sharply.
2. According to Business Monitor International, a research company specialising in country risk, "Britain is facing an unprecedented fall in
its economic world ranking… from 12th place in 2007 to 21st in 2010". "Despite enjoying 11 years of growth between 1997 and
2007, the UK ran a budget deficit of 1.7 per cent of GDP over this period, fuelling a fiscal time bomb. Faced with the financial burden of
bailing out the banking sector and kick-starting the economy, the budget deficit will swell to an unsustainable 9.3 per cent of GDP in 2009."
Public spending: Your 2000 Spending Review presaged a major expansion of government spending, without any significant benefit to
public services, directly leading to the UK being in the worst shape of any industrialised nation to weather the current financial crisis.
You have colluded in hiding the full extent of public borrowing by using PFI initiatives to hide the borrowings off balance sheet. PFI is the most
expensive and inefficient form of finance possible, and you have saddled the country with a debt that you cannot even quantify. Jeremy
Pocklington, leader of the Treasury’s corporate and private finance team, could only give a rough estimate to Richard Bacon that the total
liabilities, but not debt, from the vast majority of PFIs, but not all, from 2006-07 to 2032-33, but not beyond, is £157.9bn. That is not only
astounding but unbelievable.
Public sector Employment: The office for national Statistics shows Public sector employment was 5,846,000 (20.4 per cent of all in
employment) in June 2005, 680,000 (13.2 per cent) higher than in June 1998, whereas from 1998 to 2005 private sector employment only rose by 1,241,000 (5.7 per cent). This growth is unsustainable and wrong.
Growth: An OECD report shows UK economic growth averaged 2.7% between 1997 and 2006, lower than in any other English speaking country.
Gold sales: Between 1999 and 2002 you sold 60% of the UK's gold reserves at $275 an ounce, close to a 20-year low, a disastrous foray into
international asset management.
Your spectrum auctions gathered £22.5 billion for the government which caused a severe recession in the telecoms development industry
leading to the direct loss of 30,000 UK jobs. Two auctions were run in the USA, the first being cancelled and re-run (for less revenue) due to
damage caused to the industry. The Americans realised their mistake and tried to rectify it. The British and German chancellors copied the
North American first auction; which had failed. To copy a failed economic model is normally considered a serious error of judgement.
Your East Coast Mainline franchise auction led directly to the demise of GNER, an excellent company, which was replaced by National Express who offer East Coast mainline users a significantly poorer service. Your duty was not only to maximise revenues, you also had a duty to the shareholders, employees and customers which you completely failed.
Anti-poverty: The Centre for Policy Studies found that the poorest fifth of households, which accounted for 6.8% of all taxes in 1996–7,
accounted for 6.9% of all taxes paid in 2004-5. Meanwhile, their share of state benefit payouts dropped from 28.1% to 27.1% over the same
Tax: According to the OECD UK taxation has increased from a 39.3% share of gross domestic product in 1997 to 42.4% in 2006, going to a
higher level than Germany. This increase has mainly been attributed to active government policy, and not simply to the growing economy.
You pledged to not increase the basic or higher rates of income tax however in all but your final budget, you only increased the tax
thresholds in line with inflation, rather than earnings, resulting in fiscal drag.
You abolished the 10% tax band so that you could reduce the basic rate from 22% to 20%, to make it look like you were decreasing taxes.
However in fact it led to increased tax for 5 million people, and, left those earning under £18,000 as the biggest losers.
Pensions: Your changes in 1997 in the way corporation tax is collected, directly led to the taxation of dividends on stock investments held
within pensions, thus lowering pension returns and contributing to the demise of most of the final salary pension funds in the UK.
This act alone has single handedly damaged the pension of every person with a pension in the UK but also saddled UK corporations with
a an ever growing pension liability, so much so that many companies futures are imperilled by these debts.
Falsehoods: You used the Laura Spence Affair to beat up Oxford and Cambridge about their admissions procedures, Lord Jenkins, then
Oxford Chancellor and himself a former Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer, said "nearly every fact you used was false.
Inappropriate links: Given the finding that the government did not carry a proper public consultation on the use of nuclear power in its
2006 Energy Review, your brother Andrew’s is links to one of the main nuclear lobbyists, EDF Energy could be construed as inappropriate.
The father-in-law of your closest adviser Ed Balls, Tony Cooper (father of the Labour minister Yvette Cooper) has close links with the nuclear
industry. Cooper was described as an "articulate, persuasive and wellinformed advocate of nuclear power over the last ten years" by the
Nuclear Industry Association on his appointment as Chairman of the British Nuclear Industry Forum in June 2002.
IraqWar: You supported British involvement in the Iraq War against the wishes of the UK population and helped to justify that involvement by publishing false intelligence. This war has directly increased the odds of terrorist attacks on British subjects and the financial cost has had a
significantly detrimental effect on the British economy.
Military Covenant: You have not adhered to the 'military covenant', leading to a significant decline in the moral of the armed forces due to
poor housing, lack of equipment and adequate healthcare provisions.
The lack of equipment has directly led to an increase in the loss of lives, and serious injuries, compounded by a lack care following serious
The 15% VAT Rate: introduced to counter the effects of recession demonstrated a total naivety and breathtaking stupidity. Far from
digging the nation out of a hole, it has saddled the country with a hugeunsustainable debt.
No one should benefit from failure: You have on numerous occasions stated that no one should benefit from failure, however your tenure as chancellor was universally recognised as a failure, but you were rewarded with the Premiership and had the gall to accept.
There will be no more Boom & Bust: In your hubris you made a statement that was patently untrue, and counter to any economic
theory. You either knew that statement to be untrue and lied or if you believed it then you clearly demonstrated your foolishness and proved
that you were unfit for office.
The UK is in a better position than any other developed country: this again is completely untrue, we have more than double the debt per
head of population than any other country in Europe.
Public Services: You have destroyed Public Services by a raft of inappropriate targets, which have led to resources being wasted by the
attempts to meet those targets.
Surveillance society: You have presided over and led to the creation of a surveillance society in which any perceived wrongdoing is used as a
pretext to pass oppressive laws. You and your predecessor have both single headedly succeeded in making the UK an unpleasant place to live
These are but a small sample of your failings any of which make you unfit for public office and for which you should immediately resign. You sir are a fraud and I am forwarding this letter to as many people as I can, via the internet in an effort to shame you into accepting your failures.
Yours faithfully
Steven Katirai
You could not make it up!
Fitness centre for MEPs to cost 9.2m euros. The European Parliament is planning to spend 9.2 million euros refurbishing its fitness centre for MEPs and staff, including an aquagym and a 'chill out' room.   Gerard Onesta, a French Green MEP and Vice President of the Parliament insisted that the new gym would have "nothing to do with luxury" and that the facilities would save money by cutting staff absenteeism by up to 30 per cent.
Bow Group debate " Individualism: A Social Evil or a Social Good?"
This Bow Group debate held in the Thatcher Room at Portcullis House on Monday, 30th March 2009 was packed out. Matthew Taylor excelled in his contribution as he arrived late – after David Willetts MP had finished speaking – and had not prepared his speech thinking he was giving it the following day. The fluency and coherency of Matthew Taylor was astounding.
David Willetts decided that the meaning of individualism was for individuals to fulfil their own purpose. Some might be selfish, not libertarian, not laissez-faire but ordered liberty. He went on that conscience was for many in Western Christian countries their meaning of this word. Family structures and certain types of economic exchange - no overall planning or who knows best were two further interpretations.
Andrew Lillico asked what are bad things, and Jeremy Thomas went on about the supremacy of law. Then Matthew Taylor arrived full of apologies. He thought the subject of individualism was a huge generalisation. It could be a set of core ways of how people behaved, perhaps best understood as one way of social progress. Or it could be egalitarianism, or individualistic way, or fatalistic – random, unpredictable, world is a lie and nature like a ball. He went on to ask why individualism has collapsed. It was an interesting question to the right. The audience joined in vociferously with assorted questions, including "How do we tap into civic society".
Are political parties bankrupt? The economic emergency and the next election
Wednesday, 25th March 2009

The whole event was distorted by the drunken ravings of Nick Cohen who really laid in to the organisers of the event. Finally John Strafford stood up and asked the chairman if would actually stick to the debate, at which point John was applauded.
Frank Field MP, had hurried from the House of Commons to attend and was paired with David Davis MP – who at that time was not present. (When David Davis turned up he sheepishly admitted he had just voted at 7pm!) Frank Field said it was difficult to get airtime and space for political views and speeches in the House of Commons were often left unreported. He said that formerly for every £5 spent by government £1 had been borrowed, but currently the figures were for every £3 spent now £1 was borrowed. He thought there were huge repercussions now from the banking implosion, and recently a mob had set on a banker’s house. Frank Field felt matters are moving to the streets now. The Government had been unable to sell gilts, and sterling had gone down. It was all very worrying.
David Davis MP crept into the hall, and said "We face a cliff edge". David Davis went on also about the Government’s inability to sell gilts. He painted an overall gloomy economic situation today, and tensions in the world were rising.
Nick Cohen thought there was a collapse in ideology. Frank Field thought China had the western world by the throat. Douglas Murray thought we had been a decadent society – morally and politically obese. Nick Cohen thought we had to build small businesses. David Davis said we are losing the work ethic and felt that the true out of work figure was nearly 5 million and will be 8 million. He said that 3 million jobs had been provided by private business in last 10 years and 9/10 of that went to immigrants. David Davis said we could not have open borders and welfare benefits.
John Strafford asked if the anger of the people will turn on to politicians who are hated almost as much as bankers. John said the whole political system was rotten.

Hansard Society meeting – "The Online Campaign – Solution or Smokescreen|?"
Tuesday, 24th March 2009

Three political bloggers came together in the Jubilee Room at the House of Commons at the invitation of the Hansard Society. Traffic and long security procedures made us late arriving at the crowded meeting so I missed most of Jonathan Isaby’s presentation. (
Derek Draper,, set up his blog 10 weeks ago. He promised that within a year he will divulge how his site is funded! Interestingly he thinks that on line campaigns will (1) influence the media, (2) influence organisations and (3) act as a catalyst. He said that young people aged 18-24 get all their information from on line or a computer. Politics should have a strong on line presence. He went on about Obama’s campaign being opened up, partly by Obama’s charismatic magic and partly by technology. He said that at key moments in a campaign it was possible to tailor quite specific messages to parts of the electorate. A virtual phone bank, with call numbers and a script, would be very effective. Derek Draper thought that in an election campaign there would be three/four days when stories would be started on the internet and the way the story moved would be determined by the blogosphere. Derek made very uncomplimentary remarks about the Tax Payers Alliance – which must mean TPA is really effective. He thought it would be bizarre if in a campaign the candidates were not engaged in using the internet actively. He said that in 1997 some said "Sun wot won it", but this next time if the result is close and was decided by a few hundred votes, then perhaps the saying would be "Internet wot won it".
Mark Pack,, thought every politician should be using the internet and at least update the website three monthly. He himself had editorial independence. He thought that emails to MPs were powerful, but perhaps a letter was even better, particularly if worded differently to identical emails. Mark Pack believed that local impact on internet might well have a dramatic result, and a well established blog might get 300-400 additional votes – enough to affect a result. The Lib Dems don’t think American ideas on running an election campaign can be translated over here.
During the course of questions Derek Draper did not think the idea of the internet would fantastically increase voting turnout, but it can clearly affect the margin.
Jonathan Isaby thought the internet could touch constituencies in ways other media would not.
So the clear message from the morning was that the internet was important and could make all the difference where election results were close, and was an effective tool at reaching young people.

Hansard Society meeting – Wednesday, 17th March
Europe & America: where is our special relationship now?

Bronwen Maddox of The Times made the most revealing point in the Hansard Society debate on Wednesday, 17th March, when she pointed out that China is the country we should be really worried about. In fact in speaking to the subject she said USA would be her answer, but the matter is not entirely our own choice.
Charles Kennedy, Lib Dem MP, kicked off the debate, revealing that he had first of all in his career supported the Labour Party. He went on that if he lived and worked in America, he would be a Democrat and all along would have voted for Obama. He said that whenever there was a change of President in the States, there was always a frisson as to what their views would be. The current economic scene was altering views, and the popular view of hating Bush had gone now with the new incumbent. Charles Kennedy thought that America might well turn to the Pacific area rather than Europe. He also thought Obama would want more European troops in Afghanistan and whether such a policy took place might affect American opinion about Europe.
Mark Tokola, Minister/counsellor for Economic Affairs at the American Embassy, was very polite in his comments to a British audience. He said there was Britishness in his DNA and having the same language made an enormous difference. He said that the EU was the most important organisation to which the Americans did not belong. Where did that leave the USA. He thought America valued ties with the UK but wanted to work with effective EU. Mark Tokola was ever the diplomat.
Bronwen Maddox of The Times, was for me the most fascinating and informative speaker. The financial problems facing countries now made very difficult times in Europe. Indeed Europe had not yet made up its mind whether to go with the Obama fiscal attitude. The UK had put itself on the Obama side but on a smaller scale. The IMF situation might make matters more complicated. Gordon Brown had bemused the American press by trying to rush over to the States. The Iraq War had strained the American/British relationship. Our role in Iraq and Afghanistan was small compared to the Americans but we could help economically there. Bronwen Maddox said there is basic friendship but we shall have to argue for a voice in Washington. She then developed her theme of really worrying much more about the frightening growth of China who was gobbling up huge amounts of the world’s minerals.
Caroline Flint MP, Minister for Europe, arrived late because of the frequent voting taking place that night in the House. The minister did not think it was an either for Europe or USA situation. She stressed the importance of USA and how Gordon Brown and Obama had shared values, and thinks the situation enhances our role in Europe. The minister thought the EU had different views to America on Russia and Nato, Afghanistan, Iraq and perhaps Israel.
When question time came John Strafford raised the question as to whether Labour would support a socialist as the next EU President, particularly relevant if the Conservatives at the next European Elections left the EPP. Caroline Flint’s response was that Gordon Brown had already said that he would support Barroso! Bronwen Maddox was asked about China whom she said was going to look after its own interests in Africa, and has no interest in helping the IMF. China would think of itself first. This, for me, was the worrying and really important fact I learned from the evening.


Attendance in the European Parliament in Strasbourg is just the same as MP’s at Westminster: in short it is abysmal. On our trip kindly arranged last week by Dan Hannan, a coach load of electors from Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Surrey went into the glass complex structure to see for ourselves how the European Parliament works at its monthly plenary session. We, with other visitors, outnumbered the MEP’s by roughly 10 to 1. There were about 40 MEPS being given their allotted 1, 1 1/2 or 2 minute slot. The subject was safety at sea. One French lady was even cut off in her minute speech for over-running. No MEPs seemed to be listening. We also learned that in order to speak you have to ask your parliamentary group for permission one week in advance. It is a travesty of democracy. There is no government, merely a Commission who produce legislation which never seems to be rejected, merely sent back.
Our trip began at 4am on Monday, 9th March. An early start indeed. But our friendly Rondo coach driver collected each group from their nearest railway station and we just caught the 9am ferry from Dover to Calais. Everyone then enjoyed a huge English breakfast on the boat. After a lunch break we arrived in Reims and dashed off to the Mumm champagne "works". It was interesting that John and I had been on a previous trip to Mumm but this time went to a different building and round a different tour, but this visit was enhanced by sampling the various champagnes – all of which are blended. Then it was time to wander round Reims – some visited the cathedral – and find a typical French bistro. We had veal and then discovered on our way out that Alison and Richard Gunner from Penn had found the same restaurant.
Leaving the hotel at what seemed early at 8.30am I decided I had better read Douglas Carswell and Dan Hannan’s book – "The Plan – Twelve Months to Renew Britain" (the main points being to clean up Parliament, have localism in laws and repeal a host of unwanted legislation) before arriving at Strasbourg. We got there mid afternoon and were put through security, labelled, and off to meet Dan. He arranged for us to hear from a Swedish MEP and a wannabee MEP who is standing in Malta in the June elections. Then it was time to watch the MEPs in their chamber before driving off to Obernai, and have dinner hosted by Dan with Chris Heaton-Harris as the guest speaker. Chris is standing down at the next election and has been selected for Daventry where he will replace our old friend Tim Boswell.
Wednesday we were off again at 8.30 back to the European Parliament building and this time heard from James Elles MEP, our longest serving British MEP, who when originally selected looked after Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire. We then listened to the London MEP, Syed Kamall, who replaced Theresa Villiers when she was elected for Parliament. He said that he hadn’t fought a by election – he just received an e-mail from the returning officer which he found in his Spam telling him that as the next Conservative candidate on the original list, he was now elected. It was time for a lunch break and we sat by the canal having a picnic. The water level in Strasbourg was so high our trip round the canals was cancelled and we walked round Petite France instead. We travelled by tram back to our coach and it was time for the wine tasting at a family vineyard at Obernai. Sampling at least four wines, many present placed orders. Very popular was a Cremont (like a champagne) at 6 Euros a bottle. We found a nice restaurant by the sensible idea of asking a lady walking her dog where she would recommend, so it was off to La Cloche where we were joined by Pam Dibbo and Niki Furneaux.
Thursday started slightly later at 9am. It was the day for driving across France in our comfortable coach. At lunch we learned from a Wycombe couple that the WRVS has been supplanted in Wycombe General Hospital by Costa Coffee – even though the WRVS actually paid the hospital £30,000 per year for the privilege of supplying coffee and tea to visitors. It seemed madness but true. James Holland, who works for Dan, told us in the afternoon that Dan had just heard that Gordon Brown was speaking at Strasbourg in two weeks time at a plenary session and some MEPs will be allowed to ask questions, so Dan was planning to do just that.. Coach passenger suggestions included – when will he resign, and when will we pull out of the EU! Arriving about 5.15 at Ypres, there was time to wander round the town and find a restaurant for an evening meal. Some of our party were seeking delicious Belgian chocolates and Jasper and Meriel Garnham from Chalfont St Peter will certainly be popular with their purchases. By 8pm we were all at the Menin Gate for Last Post – a daily occurrence. Coach loads of British school children had come so perhaps history is back on the education timetable after all. Strangely, after that, all the restaurants were closed, and so it was back to the Novotel where one poor waiter struggled very courteously to deal with a coach load all wanting to eat straightaway. We were joined by Hun-Hun Mai who has political aspirations.
Our last day started in heavy mist as we went round various WW1 cemeteries, which are beautifully tended. Visiting an actual crammed medical dug out by a canal and walking round some of the trenches made the thought of the long drawn out war very vivid. We also learned that though most German soldiers who died were repatriated to Germany for permanent burial, those left behind had their gravestones laid down as the vanquished. There was just time for lunch in Ypres before starting off for Calais. Graham Harris, chairman of Chesham and Amersham, kindly organised a collection for our excellent coach driver, Ronnie. All too soon we were home.

Wednesday, 4th March 2009

St Margaret’s Church, Westminster was packed for the Service of Thanksgiving for the life of Jack Page (1919-2008) held on Wednesday, 4th March. Of course many MPs were at Prime Minister’s Questions but scores of old Parliamentary friends came to commemorate one of Wesminster’s colourful characters.
Jack Page lived at Taplow, next door to Terry Wogan who gave a moving address about the well loved family man and extremely hospitable neighbour. Jack’s four sons all took part in the service. Henry Page, piper, played the traditional Scottish theme "My Home". Nathaniel Page read a passage from Romans 8. Hugo Page read the moving anonymous poem found in a slit trench at Alamein called "A Soldier – His Prayer".(Jack had served in the Royal Artillery in WW2 in Egypt). Rupert Page read Jack Page’s own poem "I like the desert". Jean-Claude Banon remembered with affection in his address the many lunches at Brooks Club which he and Jack had enjoyed whilst Jack was a highly successful water company chairman, and recalled suggesting a Christmas present for Jack to give Margaret Thatcher
Lady Thatcher who had often entertained Sir Jack and Lady Page at Chequers at Christmas was present and looked dignified but very frail. Rt. Hon John Gummer MP made a moving address stressing the parliamentary career (1960-87) as Member for Harrow. Lord Mayhew, Lord Cope, Lord and Lady Howe were also present.
I saw Dominic Grieve MP, Shadow Minister of Justice, and MP for Beaconsfield – in whose constituency Jack lived for many years. Jack and Anne supported the Taplow branch and were regular members for years of the Buckinghamshire Supper Club. (You always knew that Jack would put a witty question with an amusing anecdote to any speaker who came to the Club) Taplow members came in a coach and the local Royal British Legion flag was borne through the church, thanks to the organisation of Lt. Cdr George Milne. Former constituency chairmen present included Dr John Kennedy and John Strafford. Pamela Bentley, Alan Frost and his wife were amongst the loyal Taplow contingent.
At the conclusion of the extremely efficiently organised service, the Chairman and Committee of the Interparliamentary Union, British Group, held a reception in the IPU Room at Westminster Hall. Parliamentary security still held sway as the congregation were only slowly able to pass through the strict searching procedures before admission to the House of Commons. It took an hour for Reg Whittome, a former constituent of Jack, to gain admission to the reception but he was revived with three glasses of champagne: Jack would have approved of the liquid fortification!

Sir Christopher Kelly - COPOV Forum - Digital Exclusion - Social Exclusion, - Britain and Afghanistan
Constitution Unit – Tuesday, 24th February 2009

Sir Christopher Kelly – Chairman, Committee on Standards in Public Life
First of all Sir Christopher Kelly made clear his role, which is often misunderstood. He can make policy recommendations to the Prime Minister who is free to accept or reject them. He said that he thought the public was not convinced that standards in public life had improved. His committee had been set up initially after the Neil Hamilton "cash for questions" debacle.
In a recent survey his organisation had commissioned, 41% surveyed thought standards had fallen. Clearly there was a very negative attitude from the public re politicians. Sir Christopher said that one possibility was that standards had improved but so have expectations. Another was that the survey might be getting opinions rather than fact. Greater openness and transparency make the public more aware – the end of deference to people holding public office was clear. The final possibility was that the public are right and standards are declining.
It was a challenge for his committee with limited resources to undertake an expanding role.
As Chatham House rules were observed when question time came, I can’t tell you the interesting questions and answers at this fascinating meeting.
COPOV Forum on Saturday, 21st February 2009
Speaking as the "chef" it is sometimes difficult to get the flavour of a meeting, but this one was notable for the distance travelled by members wishing to attend. One party left Humberside at 6am that morning: A wonderful example of enthusiastic support. Others travelled up from Hampshire and east Kent. So COPOV supporters are coming from far and near.
Members were surprised to learn that the Chairman of the Convention, Don Porter, was advocating that the Party Board should be enlarged by having three extra MPs voting at the meetings. This would mean that the voluntary party is weakened by having their voting power diluted.. Convention members, mainly constituency chairman, would not be having a meeting before being asked to vote on this major matter.
Learning from the TaxPayers Alliance, COPOV members were in future not being asked for a subscription - if they gave their email addresses. (Postage was a major item when sending out agendas). Of course those attending would still be invited to give a donation towards the room hire and refreshments supplied.
Chairman of COPOV, John Strafford, is slowly managing to squeeze into the Forum meetings a synopsis of his book on the history of democracy, and this time reported on England’s invasion by William (and Mary).
One of the highspots of each Forum meeting is when constituencies report back on their news and any problems or highlights. If only the old Area meetings took place, the Party would communicate again with each other. Cllr Trevor Egleton regularly updates each meeting with council news whether it is about the dreaded regions or refuse disposal.
A glass of wine and ploughman’s lunch concludes the morning’s activities – why not come along to the next meeting on Saturday, 18thApril at All Saints Church Hall, Oval Way, Gerrards Cross at 10.30am.

February 11th
Digital exclusion = social exclusion?
The Bow Group invited three speakers to discuss the question of digital exclusion equalling social exclusion on Wednesday, February 11. Adam Afriyie MP, Shadow Minister for Innovation, sponsored the meeting in the Thatcher Room of Portcullis House: voting in the House kept him from the start of the meeting. So Paul Smith, MD of Cisco commenced and told the audience how lives had been transformed by digital advantage. But he said 17million people over 18 are not using computers – a fact I myself find difficult to believe. He applauded the fact that broadband would be everywhere by 2012.
Adam Afriyie MP then arrived. With his business background he said that the pace of innovation in Britain would control our place in the world. He thought digital exclusion correlates with social exclusion and noted that dyslexic people and some in rural areas have problems getting on the Internet. Adam said 60% of people have access to broadband and he again quoted the figure of 17million people not having computers at all. Adam went on that in an open connected society we needed to open up Government data. Look at Reuters, Google, entertainment like BBC I player, banking with payroll packages etc. It would improve democracy. Look at Open University with much information on line, Learn Direct may help some students. In Healthcare it will be possible to report from a gadget to the GP or specialist directly. Speed of internet access was essential Adam Afriyie said. The Conservative position was that Jeremy Hunt MP had announced high speed should go from 20 megabytes up to 100 megabytes, and duct cabling should be opened up not just to British Telecom.
Charley Leadbeater, former adviser to Tony Blair!, said it was nice to hear from a politician who knows his subject. He himself starts the day by signing up to Facebook and spends much time talking on line. He thought that it was necessary to think about what really matters and focus on relationships – crucial to a sense of well being. Charley agreed speed was critical for the internet. He went on that access and availability was crucial and given the technology people would take advantage: he said think of the third world and the huge number of mobile phones in Kenya. Charley said a vast number of young people leave school with no qualifications so it was necessary to find other radical means to teach. He thought that Barack Obama understood the power of the internet.
With varying viewpoints put to the speakers the Bow Group chairman had to link questions together. The hour passed all too quickly.
10th February
Britain and Afghanistan, 1700-2008

Professor Richard Holmes CBE gave a riveting talk to the All Party History Group packed into the Jubilee Room at the House of Commons on Tuesday, 10th February. Obviously Professor Holmes did not want to upset his audience and appeared constrained but the message was absolutely clear. The current Afghanistan war is impossible to win.
Professor Holmes explained simply the geographical divide of Afghanistan where culture is hugely important and kept alive in local tradition. There is the physical barrier of the Hindu Kush and the cultural divide of the River Indus. "Butcher and bolt" had been the English tactic in the 19th century when tribes had rioted, and the idea had been to "flatten a village or 18", retreat, and say "any more of that and we will flatten you". Forward military positions always meant trouble. There are 60 tribes of Pashtun and 400 dominant families. Different tribes would unite to defend the homeland against strangers. It had been in the 1820s that the British crossed into Punjab and sent "antennae" into Afghanistan. Britain had at various times installed a ruler on the throne, and fallen back into India.
More recently the Russians invaded in 1979 but finally decided in 1988 that they had lost. Then came the rise of the Taleban (which literally means students). Rigorous interpretation of Sharia role followed by shocking massacres, and in 2001 the destruction of the Valley of Buddhas.
Professor Holmes said we needed to think strategically and not tactically. The whispered solution should be to pack up now and save more lives. Afghanistan is not a Western nation state. The situation is not like Iraq. The political and physical boundaries are not the same. Professor Holmes said "when in a hole, stop digging".
Mark Fisher MP who chaired the meeting took questions from MPs, some of whom had visited Afghanistan. It was fascinating to note that MPs could not ask short questions.

28th January
Which does a democracy need more?

This title whetted the political appetite of so many interested people that the Hansard Society had their meeting packed out at Portcullis House last Wednesday (28/01/09). Tony Travers, Director, Greater London Group, thought that government had decided to have consumerism in public life where citizens were before. He spoke of schools with parental choice, hospitals where consultants could be chosen. The reality was that both spheres were always in our lives. He wondered how far it is possible to have consumerism in some fields. The answer was to have devolved powers where individual citizens can express their view in particular parts of public service life.
Ken Livingstone needed no introduction. He began by first talking about the PR voting system where every vote counts and said that when voting for the Mayor of London people had two votes. He thought that the choice for democracy was devolution or rule from the centre. He spoke of the death of Baby P and how statistics had been useless for Haringey had got good results the previous year. This showed you cannot run personal services from central Government. Ken continued that Charles Clarke had not been able to control the Civil Service. London Underground (LU) was the worst example as in the 1970’s they wanted fare increases and Ken had pointed out that 90% of people had no option but to use the service being a captive consumer base. LU had lost any drive in providing good service. Another example Ken Livingstone gave was about the NHS. The choice of consultant was not so important, he said, as cleaning hospitals. MRSA had increased in this country unlike France. So if the NHS brought matters to a local level, things would improve. Turning to the USA powers had been sucked up to the centre, and then starting with Nixon, the shift of power came back, followed by Bush 1 and then Reagan. Political innovation started with Mayors. He concluded – make accountability be way for improvement.
Dr Vince Cable MP said he had struggled with the title. It required serious thought to define difference between consumers and citizens. Citizens take account of wider environmental interests, and he had bought a bit of land at Heathrow (being MP for nearby Twickenham). For self-interested consumers and citizenship electors will provide the answer he thought. There was a dilemma between spending and saving. It seemed natural now to draw in horns so to speak but the Government and academics said this was a bad thing. We are, he said, under saving as a country and people are hoarding cash. Authorities are slashing interest rates. Fiscal studies showed a horrendous rate of Government debt, as also there was huge personal debt. There was a tension as to how we see ourselves as consumers. This was even more so when people lose jobs, and homes are re-possessed. It could be argued that governments need to intervene. The final question was about fairness and equality, income and equality and wealth and equality. It was not possible in many contexts to see everything through the prism of self-interest of individual.
Angela Knight, chief executive of British Bankers Association, arrived a little late having just done another BBC interview. She knew immediately that representing the banks made her a very unpopular with the audience. Turning to the dilemma proposed Angela Knight said – Save the living not the dead. Having the experience of been an MP, she knew that often an MP could not succeed individually but local councils could succeed. If people wanted a change, there was frustration and it was possible to change a MP which empowered citizens. She said banks had serious responsibilities and could see problems day after day. The story was that globalisation was good, but now when grappling with global problem what is the outcome. There is a feeling of anger from the public that it was difficult to influence what is happening. This, said Angela Knight, was when we start having riots. The problem was coming close to home. Were there any answers – no, she said. The problems were hugely difficult but it was necessary to be honest. It wasn’t possible to make it better for people all the time: she said you cannot turn base metal into gold. If there was a pretence than bankers said all would be OK, this would be wrong. It was necessary to give right expectations, and have proper engagement with citizenship
February 22nd Hero of the Week - BBC Parliament - Now they come for the Photographers - Local Democracy
February 15th The Bonus Culture - Our Fight for Democracy - Will they ever learn?
February 8th Torture - Another Week, Another Mess - Terrorism - Carolines Notebook
February 1st Party Constitution - House of Lords Reform - Eligible to Vote - Fat Cats - My Week
Hero of the Week - Vaclav Klaus, Czech President.
For his courageous speech to the European Parliament pointing out that Parliaments need oppositions.   Those MEP's that walked out during it should hold their heads in shame.   Do they have no inkling of what democracy is all about?    I am afraid they showed by their behaviour that the answer to that is NO!
BBC Parliament
The best channel on television is undoubtedly the Parliamentary Channel.   It has some extremely good programmes.    By chance I turned it on last Saturday.   It showed a debate about the United Nations.   It was riveting.   The argument went back and forth.   This was television at its best.   Why do we not get a schedule of the programmes on the Parliamentary Channel?   This programme went out world wide and was seen by 70 million people.   What a shame only a small number of the people in the UK saw it.
On the other hand Newsnight and Ten O'clock News have been dumbed down this week.   Why do we have to have a slot devoted to arts issues that have nothing to do with news at all?

Now they come for the photographers - February 16, 2009

You can now be arrested for photographing the Changing of the Guard?

Section 76 of the latest Counter Terrorism Act came into force today.   What does this section of this law say?
It creates a new offence of "eliciting, publishing or communicating information" relating to members of the Armed Forces, intelligence services and police, which is "likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism".

Professional photographers held a protest about the law at Scotland Yard earlier today as they fear that the new law could be used to hinder them as they go about doing their job: after all, policeman are present at many events that press photographers and film crews capture for their audiences, whether they be football matches, scrums outside courthouses or indeed protests themselves.
And as for members of the Armed forces, what about those wanting to take snaps at a display of pageantry like Trooping the Colour, or capture a relative's passing out parade on camera, for instance?
The Government would have us believe that all the laws it introduces in the name of protecting us are well-intentioned, but there is an increasing tally of examples of anti-terror laws being used against decent law-abiding folk going about their private business (think Walter Wolfgang, the heckler at Labour conference, or Maya Evans, the woman who recited the names of the Iraq War dead at the Cenotaph).
How long before a tourist gets stopped for photographing the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace?
Edited version of an article on
Local Democracy
The Conservative Party have published their proposals for Local Government and very good they are.   They improve our democracy, and should be welcomed.   There is one snag.   Until local government finance is reformed central government will still control what happens at a local level.   You cannot really devolve power until local government raises at least 75% of its own funds.   Will the Conservatives tackle that?
The main planks of the proposals are:
Giving more power to people over their local authorities
  • The 12 largest cities outside London will also be given the chance to vote for an elected mayor;
  • The police will be made accountable through directly elected police commissioners;
  • Power for people to instigate referendums on local issues;
  • Requiring councils to publish detailed information on expenditure by local councils – including the pay and perks of senior staff;
  • Repealing the "pre-determination" rules that prevent councillors from standing up for their constituents’ views on local issues.
Removing a tier of regional government and devolving powers back to local councils
  • Abolition of all regional planning and housing powers exercised by regional government;
  • Giving councils the power to establish their own local enterprise partnerships to take over the economic development functions of the Regional Development Agencies;
  • Scrapping the Government's new Infrastructure Planning Commission, which it intends to use to force through Heathrow expansion.
Freeing local government from Whitehall control
  • Ending Whitehall capping powers and instead giving local residents the power to veto high council tax rises via local referendums;
  • Ending all forced unitary amalgamations of local authorities – such as those planned in Norfolk, Suffolk and Devon.
Giving councils financial rewards for house-building and facilitating new business
  • Local authorities will be able to benefit financially when they deliver the housing that local people need and retain the financial benefits arising from new business activity in their areas;
  • Councils will also have discretionary power to help local businesses by levying business rate discounts.

The Bonus Culture
At last David Cameron has told the banks that they cannot pay more than £2,000 per person in bonuses.   This is an excellent start.   Well done!
In my view, no bonuses at all should be paid by Royal Bank of Scotland or HBOS or Northern Rock.   Without taxpayers money these banks would have been bust.   Lloyds has had taxpayer's money so bonuses should be restricted, as David Cameron's proposal, but I would go further and say they should not be paid to anyone earning over £25,000 per annum.
For the longer term we have to eliminate the high pay culture in the banks.   We are told that many of the counter staff are paid between £15,000 and £20,000 per annum, and yet the Chief Executive of RBS took home almost £4, 000,000 last year.   This is obscene.    He was earning 200 times more than his lowest paid employee.   The rule should be that the highest paid person in a bank should not received more than 20 times that paid to the lowest paid including perks, pension and bonus.    Fairness needs to be injected into remuneration.    This would be a good start.
Our Fight for Democracy
As Gandhi said, "First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win."
Will They ever learn?
From The Sunday Times
February 15, 2009
MPs plump up their ‘golden parachute’ pay
Robert Watts and Holly Watt
WHILE millions worry about being made redundant, MPs have increased the “golden parachute” payments they will receive when they leave parliament.
According to rules that come into force at the election after next, most MPs will receive a larger lump sum when they leave Westminster. Many MPs will be paid a full year’s salary, currently £63,291, after leaving the Commons.
Critics say the payment is a “reward for failure” when millions of taxpayers are facing a difficult economic future.
Under current rules, any MP who leaves parliament under the age of 50 receives six months’ salary, but under the new rules they will get up to 90%.
The lump sum is based on the age of the MP on leaving parliament and the number of years worked. By 2014, the likely date of the election after next, MPs in their early fifties who had sat for two parliamentary terms would get almost £19,000 more. A 50-year-old MP who had worked for 17 years would get a year’s salary, rather than the current 60%.
Most MPs would see their pay-off rise under the new rules if they stood down in 2014. Jacqui Smith, the home secretary, would receive a full year’s salary, an increase of £20,253; David Cameron, the Tory leader, would get £18,987 more.
When disgraced MP Derek Conway stands down from parliament at the next election he will receive £31,645, of which the first £30,000 is tax free.
MPs’ salaries are assessed every three years by the Review Body on Senior Salaries (SSRB), which suggests pay levels. In the most recent report, the SSRB recommended that MPs receive a resettlement grant of one month’s salary for each year’s service as an MP, up to a maximum of nine months’ salary.
The review body recommended that the money should be paid only to MPs who lost their seats at a general election or due to boundary changes, and not to those who retired or resigned.
However, a committee of MPs, including Harriet Harman, the leader of the house, and Michael Martin, the speaker, have overruled the SSRB’s findings to make the lump sum available to all MPs, even if they simply choose to stand down.
At present an MP with 20 years’ service can retire with an income of £30,000 a year but it emerged this weekend that Gordon Brown had ordered a review that may stop such final-salary pensions.

Why hasn't David Milliband asked the United States government if they will release for public scrutiny the documents in the Guantanamo Bay case?   Does the British government gave something to hide?
Another Week, Another Mess
Hardly a week goes by without the BBC being a news iten rather than a news reporter.   This week we had the case of Carol Thatcher.   Once again thousands of viewers complained about the action of the BBC.   This organisation is funded by the taxpayer but it is not accountable to the taxpayer.   It should be.   The Chairman of the BBC should be elected by the people and accountable to the people.    That is the only way we can change the mind set of this organisation.   I have noticed that increasingly News at Ten and Newsnight are including items about the arts.    These are not news, so why are they being included in news programmes?    Mark Thompson is the worst Director General in the BBC's history.    It is time he resigned.   The alternative to the actions mentioned is to privatise all or at least some of the BBC and reduce the license fee.
Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 allows the police to stop and search people.  In 2008:
  • Number of people stopped nationwide by British Transport Police using s 44: 160,000
  • Number of people stopped in London by the Metropolitan Police using s. 44: 200,000
  • Number of people amongst the 360,000 stopped under s. 44 and found to have any terrorist material or links: 0
Carolines Notebook
For a detailed report of last week's Hansard Society meeting have a look at Carolines Notebook

Party Constitution
You will see from the letter below that changes are to be made to the Conservative Party constitution.    There will be no debate.    The voluntary Party will just have to accept them as a fait a complies.   This is quite disgraceful but is typical of what we have come to expect.   Once again the voluntary Party is to be shafted.     The Parliamentary Party will increase its stranglehold on the Party by having three more voting Members on the Party Board.   If this had been offset by having a Party Chairman elected by the members of the Party it would have been more easily accepted but No, this is not to happen.   The truth of the matter is that the Party's constitution is now wholly out of kilter with the requirements of the 21st century.   It needs to be completely revised.   The National Convention is just a rubber stamp.   It should be abolished.   What is the position with the Conservative Political Forum which as far as one can understand has not had any meetings for years?
The voluntary Party is on its last legs.   Membership is only 7.5% of what it was sixty years ago.   Soon it will be down to zero.   Central Office has no interest in reversing this trend.   Indeed it encourages it.   Where is the vision to create a democratic political Party?   A party in which the Chairman and Treasurer are elected by all the members,   which has an Annual General Meeting at which Chairman and Treasurer are accountable,   which encourages debate within the Party on policy matters, which has a regional structure so that all parts of the United Kingdom can have their say,   which has a Conference for the members instead of a media presentation.   Time is running out.   To all Constituency Chairmen I say vote against the change to the Party Board.   Stand up for your rights.   Stand up for the ordinary Party members.   If you do not do so you will soon find that you are Chairmen of nothing.
29th January 2009
To: Members of the National Conservative Convention
Dear Colleague
As with any organisation, it is good practice to periodically review the Constitutional framework to ensure that it is consistent with the requirements of the Party and that it serves the interests of its members as effectively as possible.
Following extensive discussions with colleagues throughout the Party, there are three areas where amendments to the Constitution are proposed. The Board of the Party has unanimously recommended acceptance of these changes, which must be put to a ballot of the Party’s Constitutional College, of which you are a member. Ballot papers will be issued on 25th February.
In summary, the proposed amendments are as follows:
The Composition of the Board of the Party
At the request of the Board in October 2006, three Members of Parliament (elected by the 1922 committee) were invited to attend meetings of the Board and to fully participate in its deliberations. The Board of the Party is "the ultimate supreme body for the management of the party" and the belief was that Conservative MPs should become more engaged in the Board’s decision making process. This experiment has worked very well and the Board now recommends that the three MPs should be given full voting rights. This however requires an amendment to the Constitution.
Conservative Associations: "Mergers and De-Mergers"
In recent times, a number of constituencies have been entering into mergers. Given that Article 44 of the Constitution provides that
"A Conservative Association shall be maintained in every Parliamentary constituency in Great Britain".
there is a question mark as to whether or not the mergers that have taken place are constitutional. In the short term this will have little impact, but in the longer term this is an important point.
The purpose of this proposed amendment to the Constitution is to make it quite clear that such mergers are permitted and to provide a set of rules in Schedule 7 of the Constitution. In addition to the current set of rules set out in Schedule 7 for the use of individual constituencies, a further template for merged Associations (Schedule 7A) is to be attached.
The purpose of the proposed amendment is to provide for a full merger between two or more constituencies with a single structure. In addition, there will be an exit route for those Associations that may at some time in the future wish to de-merge.
A number of Associations have formed partnerships rather than a full merger. These are quite legitimate and do not need an amendment to the Constitution to legitimise them.
The Welsh Board of Management
At the request of the Welsh Board, it is proposed to add two further representatives to this body:
  1. The Secretary of State for Wales, or when in Opposition the Shadow Secretary of State for Wales and
  2. The MEP topping the Conservative Party list in Wales.
Amendment of the Constitution requires a ballot of the Constitutional College of the Party which includes:
  1. Members of the National Conservative Convention
  2. Members of Parliament
  3. Members of the European Parliament
  4. Officers of the Association of Conservative Peers and frontbench spokespersons in the House of Lords, as appointed by the Leader of the Party.
Between now and the issue of ballot papers, I am required under the Constitution to consult with members of the National Convention. The most sensible way to do this would be to invite you, should you wish, to meet with one of the National Conservative Convention Officers or with your Regional Chairman. In addition, we have set up a designated e-mail address to which you are invited to send any questions you may have regarding these proposed amendments. Please send these to
Alternatively, if you would like to discuss these proposed amendments with me or seek clarification, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me directly on  07768 147558 (mobile) or  01344 876300 (office). I hope that you will reflect on these proposals and vote, in due course, for their acceptance.
With best wishes
Yours sincerely
Chairman, National Conservative Convention
House of Lords Reform
Lesotho is the only other country in the World with hereditary members of Parliament. 
Iran is the only other country in the World where the state religion has a formal role in drafting legislation.
Makes you think?
Eligible to Vote?
According to Ken Livingstone "Subject to residential qualification 2.5 billion people are eligible to vote in London elections.   This includes all European Union citizens, Commonwealth citizens and citizens from Mozambique".   Why do we have this differentiation?   Should not the criteria be United Kingdom Nationals, plus anyone that pays the council tax?
Fat Cats
Cllr Allan Glass writes:
I have seen the huge bonuses paid to executives from failed companies and think it immoral that a person can be paid for failure.    
A lot of people on the shop floor have to clock in and out then have to graft all day to keep their job if they fail to hit quota they can be docked cash or sacked.  They do not get a bonus although they must succeed in their job just to keep it often in the minimum wage.
Bonuses paid to company directors should be held in trust for a year, if the company closes or fails to reach its projected targets a percentage of the bonus should be taken and put into a fund to help small or start up businesses.
I would suggest that 100% of a bonus should be taken for company closure or receivership.    50% of bonus for failure to hit projected targets.
This I think would reduce the over inflation of projected targets in company prospectuses and focus the minds of bonus seekers.
I think also that no bonus should be allowed that is more than six months pay.
A note for Gordon the irresponsible, when a bucket is empty stop trying to pour.  The country is broke but he insists he is spending his way out.  He is only spending my children's and grandchildren future.   We need to tell the banks now owned by the public to start lending the money already guaranteed by government to fund businesses therefore jobs while reducing the public sector by taking out the "non jobs" just apparently made up to fill quotas.
Yes I am a Tory therefore I often disagree with Labour policies but a policy of pouring money down the plug hole cannot be justified.

My Week
28th January - Hansard Society meeting.    Ken Livingstone spoke, quite well.   Vince Cable MP gave a very good speech.   Angela Knight came under attack as she represents the Banks and Tony Travers gave a fairly academic speech.   I asked whether perhaps political reform would come out of the economic crisis.   No answer.
27th January - Unlock Democracy lecture by Nick Clegg MP.   Very good although rather short.    Terrible on questions of which there were only three.   The ones he screwed up were on the Lisbon Treaty and climate change.
January 25th BBC - Julian Lewis MP says MPs should NOT face disclosure of rejected expense applications - European Union, Daniel Hannan MEP writes - My Week
January 18th They are at it again! - Democracy Destroyed - My week
January 11th Party Chairman
January 4th Israel is doomed - Israel's Democracy? - One Nation

It really is time that the BBC was either privatised or drastically cut down in size.   At the inauguration of the USA President we were subjected to incessant chatter from the presenters.   Why could they not just let us see what was happening?   Bring back David Dimbleby.    The ten o'clock news now includes entertainment items and other irrelevancies,    Similarly Newsnight is getting worse.   BBC bias on climate change is a disgrace, and now we have the appalling decision not to broadcast an appeal for the people of Gaza.   Who took this decision?   We should be told their names so that we can demand their resignations.   This is a public body.    Perhaps it is time that the Chairman of the BBC should be elected by the people.   Then they might become accountable to the people.   The present situation is untenable.

Julian Lewis MP says MPs should NOT face disclosure of rejected expense applications

Julian Lewis in the Commons yesterday:
"May I flag up a matter that I thought was extremely unfair to the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Margaret Beckett)? She put in a claim in relation to her accommodation for something to do with her garden. The claim was turned down, yet the information that she had tried to get it but been refused was released, much to the joy of the press, who proceeded to criticise her for having asked. Surely what should be revealed is the expenses that are granted. It should not be revealed if somebody asks whether they can claim for something, is told that it is not appropriate and says, “Fine, I will let it go”. That situation was most unfair to the right hon. Lady."
Julian, it is called "Trying it on".   Unless moneys expended are wholly and necessarily incurred in the performance of your duties as a Member of Parliament you should not be claiming for them.   Any doubts do not claim.
European Union - Daniel Hannan MEP writes
Now the EU wants to regulate recreational fishing
I’ve just been on the Fisheries Committee, listening to one of the most asinine proposals I’ve ever heard. And, after ten years in the European Parliament, that’s saying something.
In essence, the EU wants to extend the Common Fisheries Policy to recreational anglers. Sporting fishermen, who go out in small boats or fish from piers, will be required to purchase licences and to log every fish. At present, while they keep the odd fish for personal consumption, most sea anglers return their catches to the water. In some cases, they tag them first, contributing to conservation programmes. If the European Commission gets its way, they will be forced to land every tiddler they catch, and to count their quota against the national one.
Why? Where is the need for this expensive and cumbersome scheme? Will it rescue the EU’s fish stocks? Hardly. The CFP has already wiped out most of what ought to have been a great renewable resource. Recreational sea anglers account for perhaps one per cent of the total catch that remains.
No, this is regulation for its own sake: the product of an attitude that sees “unregulated” as synonymous with “illegal”.
British and Irish MEPs put up a heroic defence on the committee, demolishing every point in the Commission’s case. But the Commission continued to insist, mulishly, that the measure was necessary for conservation. Conservation? Coming from the organisation that has presided over the ecological calamity of the destruction of North Sea fish stocks, that really is hard to take. The CFP put most the skippers in my constituency out of business years ago. Some of them turned to tourism, making a new living by taking anglers out in their boats. Now, the CFP threatens to ruin them a second time, bringing to amateur fishermen the same destruction that it brought to professionals. And to think that there are people in Iceland who want to join this wretched organisation.
My Week
19th JanuaryInaugural meeting of the Conservative Classical Society.    Rupert Mathews, MEP candidate for the East Midlands spoke about Boadicea - the Warrior Queen.   Fascinating.   30 people turned up including many young people.   I detect a yearning for knowledge about our history.21st JanuaryBook launch at the IEA for Dominic Raab's book The Assault on Liberty.   Dominic is the head of Dominic Grieve's private office.   Good attendance at the launch.   I had a chat with David Davis, Dominic Grieve, Jonathan Isaby, Iain Dale and others.   Very cosy.

They are at it again!
Unlock Democracy printed the following on their web site:
On Thursday, the Government sneaked out the draft of the innocuous sounding “Freedom of Information (Parliament) Order.” This “statutory instrument” (not an act), if passed, will
“…change the scope of the application of the [Freedom of Information] Act in relation to information held by the House of Commons and House of Lords regarding expenditure in respect of Members of both Houses. This includes information held by either House about expenses claimed by and allowances paid to Members. Such information is no longer within the scope of the Act.”
In short, they intend to exempt the expenses of MPs and Lords from the Freedom of Information Act and thereby close them to public scrutiny. This is to be passed almost a year to the day after the Derek Conway scandal erupted, when it emerged that the MP had been paying his sons as research staff while they were at university, despite not being able to demonstrate that they had actually done any work for him. If the Government gets away with this, scandals such as this will be allowed to continue and we will not be permitted to find out about them.
It is completely outrageous that the Government should seek to do this at all, let alone in such an underhand manner. The Government is planning to put us all on a national identity database, force us to carry identity cards, keep the DNA of millions of innocent people on a database and to read all our emails, phone and internet records regardless of whether we are supposed to have done anything wrong. Their argument is always “if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.” Why, then, is it one rule for us and another rule for politicians?
What’s more, when Gordon Brown became Prime Minister, one of his first acts was to publish the Governance of Britain Green Paper which asserted that “It is right that Parliament should be covered by the [Freedom of Information] Act.
This proposal is going to be debated in the House of Commons this Thursday - we don’t have much time. For this reason I am strongly urging you to do the following as a matter of urgency:
Democracy Destroyed
The Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Bill is going through Parliament at the moment.   This pernicious Bill is destroying democracy.   It must be opposed.
Buried in the small print of the Bill are plans for the creation of unelected economic and transport quangos, allowing the Secretary of State to establish by Ministerial fiat "combined authorities" - which will be appointed and not directly elected. These unelected authorities will be empowered to impose "local charging schemes", in the form of congestion taxes, road pricing and workplace parking taxes.
As Eric Pickles has said, the Bill establishes a dubious constitutional precedent in allowing unelected local bodies to begin to levy and vary taxes on local householders.
The Bill also strips away the last vestiges of democratic accountability at regional level - by giving major housing and planning powers to unelected appointees of Regional Development Agencies with reserved powers by the Secretary of State to revise or disregard regional plans as they see fit.
Even the figleaf of a rationale for the Bill - greater cooperation and collaboration between local authorities in the economic sphere - is a deceit.    The Secretary of State will have powers to impose so-called Multi Area Agreements on local authorities and so-called Leaders' Boards (unelected) and Economic Prosperity Boards (unelected), will be effectively to all intents and purposes merely agents of government policy directed through Regional Development Agencies.
My Week
Tuesday 13th JanuaryLord Norman Fowler spoke to the Conservative History Group meeting after a very interesting lecture about his book. Wednesday 14th January
Met Ken Ritchie at the reception of the Electoral Reform society.
Excellent reception, packed out with lots of interesting people.
Friday 16th JanuaryDominic Grieve gave a brilliant speech at the Bucks. Supper Club.   What a star!

Party Chairman
In its year end survey put the statement "The whole Conservative Party membership should be able to elect the Party Chairman".    Of those polled, (approx 1,800), no less than 59% agreed with the statement with only 32 % disagreeing.
The arguments for having an elected Chairman are numerous:
A directly elected Party Chairman would be responsible for the organisation of the Party.  The Party Leader would remain responsible for the political policies of the Party.
An elected Chairman would be similar to the position at a local level in Constituency Associations. Nobody has ever suggested that the MP appoint the Constituency Chairman.
We have had eight Party Chairmen in the last ten years. The inevitable result is that decisions relating to the organisation have been totally concentrated on the short term with very little long term thinking going on. For example Party membership has more than halved in those ten years. Membership should be a priority for action but it is not given the priority it deserves. If the Party Chairman were accountable to the members perhaps membership would be given priority.
Six of the past eight Party Chairmen have been MPs with a parliamentary career to think of.   Is it therefore any surprise if their approach to the position is coloured by the effect it will have on their career?   In other words they are thinking of what job they will get on ceasing to be Party Chairman.
The average tenure of a Party Chairman has been 15 months.   It probably takes at least six months to understand what the organisation is all about.    In their last three months they will be more concerned as to what they are going on to.   This leaves only six months in which they can do anything effective.   No wonder their approach is short term.
At the next National Convention it will probably be proposed that the extra four MPs who presently sit on the Party Board as non-voting members be given full voting rights.   This will considerably weaken the voluntary Party's position.    The quid pro quo should be a Party Chairman elected by all the members of the Party.   That is what a majority of Party members want.    They should get it.

Israel is doomed
Most politicians advocate a twin state solution to the Israel/Palestine problem.   It will not work.   If it is set up Israelis will still want to be settled in Palestine and Palestinians will still want to return to their homeland.   The two state solution is a recipe for disaster.   In the long term the solution must be one secular state including Israelis and Palestinians where all are equal.
Israel's Democracy?
We hear a great deal about how Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East and is therefore worthy of our support, but just how democratic is Israel?   First of all there are no constituencies.    Voting is done on a National basis, so there is no local representation in the Israeli Parliament.   Secondly, voting is done on National Party lists, so you can only vote for a Party and not an individual.   This means you cannot elect your representative in Parliament or get rid of your representative if you do not like them.   The Party lists are drawn up by the Parties.   Thirdly in order to be a candidate you have to acknowledge the Jewish State of Israel, so accepting that the Jewish religion is fundamental to the Constitution.   This is similar to the British Constitution prior to 1829 and the passing of the Catholic Emancipation Act.
In any meaningful sense of the term Israel can hardly be described as a democracy, much like the European Parliament cannot be described as democratic.
One Nation
"Is not revolution the making real of dreams and hopes?   So let us work together that my dream may be fulfilled, that I may return with my people out of exile to live in one democratic state where Christian, Jew and Muslim live in justice, equality, fraternity and progress.    Is this not a noble dream worthy of my struggle alongside all lovers of freedom everywhere?   For the most admirable dimension of this dream is that it is Palestinian, a dream from out of the land of peace, the land of martyrdom and heroism, and the land of history too."   Yasser Arafat - United Nations General Assembly - 13 November 1974
One nation as described by Yasser Arafat is the only long term solution to the Israel/Palestinian conflict.

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