Wednesday, December 03, 2008

What A Cop Out, Mr Speaker

Brown's Queen's Speech took a back seat, as the commons speaker threw Serjeant at Arms, Jill Pay, to the wolves, blaming her for the heavy-handed Greengate police raid - it wasn't me it was her, guv.

Pay, has only been in the job a couple of months, as part of New Labour's 'modernising', and now her future seems to hang by a thread.

Many have seen through the sham. She's been made a scapegoat as the government continues to stamp out the opposition, clampdown on dissents and throw the law at the leakers, as it tries to capture the media and voters in the run-up to the general election.

The government's speaker, Michael Martin, laid the blame squarely on Pay for allowing the heavy mob to search the office of a senior opposition spokesman in the sanctity of the commons chamber, without a search warrant.

When anti-terrorist police arrested MP Damian Green, Martin expressed regret saying: "The Serjeant at Arms called me, told me the member's name and said that a search might take place of his offices in the House. I was not told the police did not have a warrant ... I must make it clear to the House that I was not asked the question of whether consent should be given or whether a warrant should be insisted upon. I did not authorise a search."

So that's all right then is it? Why didn't the man have the common's common sense to make sure there was a warrant, just to be on the safe side? Mr Speaker gets off the hook and the poor woman cops for the lot.

It was disclosed this morning that the police had failed to get a warrant but no mention was made of claims that Pay had been told the DPP approved of the raid.

The DPP deny being consulted by the police, so that begs the question did the police lie to the Serjeant at Arms?

It is hoped Pay has a chance to defend herself when senior MPs meet to investigate the scandal.

Nothing was going to get in the way of Brown's Queen's Speech debate on the government's nondescript watered-down legislative programme up to that election. So a full-scale debate on the row will now have to wait until Monday.

Former Conservative leader, Michael Howard, said MPs on all sides felt "outrage" at the arrest of the shadow immigration spokesman. 

Brown predictably used the police inquiry to get off the hook, saying that he was not going to comment on an ongoing police inquiry. His hapless home secretary, Jacqui Smith, is due to make a statement tomorrow.

In the commons, Conservative leader, David Cameron, said: "It's no good for the prime minister to hide behind 'I was only supporting the independence of the police' ... People want to know whether our democracy, our right to know and our right to expose are safe with this prime minister."

But former defence secretary, John Reid, re-ignited the party politics, echoing Brown's earlier statement warning the Tories that no MP is above the law. 

Now party politics is exactly what will happen as the government presses home its spin that the home office whistleblower at the centre of the leak to Green was a closet Tory.

The Orange Party is more than happy to let the MP at the centre of this outrage have the last word for now. 

Speaking on a point of order, Green, told the commons it would be a "bad day for democracy in this country" if MPs could not expose information that ministers preferred to keep hidden.

The MP added: "Those who have the real power in this country - ministers, senior civil servants and the police - are also not beyond the law and beyond scrutiny ... An MP endangering national security would be a disgrace. An MP exposing embarrassing facts about Home Office policy which ministers are hiding is doing a job in the public interest."


Spintime For Little Hitlers And Democracy

Take your seats for the greatest sham on earth. The Queen's Speech and Greengate. Democracy and a police state. The government is taking us for a spin today and it could be a bumpy ride. What will Her Maj think of it all? 

First up the Queen's Speech - poor woman having to read out all that crap. Even the BBC have been reporting this as "Brown's Queen's Speech". 

And what a sad little speech it is. Out go the 18 bills so trumpeted by the prime minister in the spring as he desperately tried to cling onto power. In come a dozen or so bills, mostly nondescript, most just regurgitated and spun around, after all the troublesome ones mysteriously disappeared in a puff of smoke and mirrors. 

The BBC (bless) has been billing the Speech as a focus on crime and something called 'fairness'. Well there's always a little police bill in a Queen's Speech somewhere. And fairness? One would have thought the government would have got its act together over fairness, or have they just been practising for the last ten years? 

Mandy's pawprints are all over this. All dutifully leaked to the BBC this morning. All carefully choreographed. All to centre on the economy. What else but the economy? It's the only straw left for Brown to grasp. No doubt something will have been cobbled together to grab the headlines. All deliberately positioned for electioneering as the Orange Party has so often pointed out before. 

And that leak. The mole-hunters have crawled out of the woodwork with the acting chief of the Met saying ministers knew nothing about the arrest. Anyone would think he was after a job. 

Meanwhile is it a showdown or climbdown in the commons? The Orange Party was putting its money on a government climbdown and no showdown but that was before Mandy spun round again, accusing the Tories of every dastardly deed under the sun. 

The hint of a government climbdown was well-rooted in spin. After all, minister didn't want to be knocked off course at the start of the Queen's Speech debate, with former shadow home secretary turned civil rights campaigner, David Davis, the leading the fray, over Green's heavy-handed treatment.

Leader of the House, Harriet Harman looked to be brokering some kind of deal. She's a civil right lawyer with a lot of past experience in fighting the home office. And Mr Speaker keeps putting his hands up - it wasn't me, guv - it was that woman in tights - the new Serjeant-at-Arms, Jill Pay, who let the heavy mob into Parliament. How it will play out this afternoon is anyone's guess. 

The Tories and LibDems should go for broke and screw these little Hitlers once and for all, demanding the head of the home secretary, or at least get her arrested for wasting police time. 

Any successful motion of no confidence in Mr Speaker could bring down the government and bring forward that general election that everyone has been playing in the phoney war. 

But that would make the Queen's Speech rather pointless, leave Her Majesty speechless and certainly not amused. 


C4 News 'Doctored' Mumbai Massacre

Channel 4's once highly respected News has come in for savage criticism over its reporting of the Mumbai massacre, with presenter Jon Snow singled out and now tarred with the same deluded brush as the heavily biased BBC. 

Tom Gross, writing in the Wall Street Journal, expresses the disbelief of many who watched the Mumbai outrage unfold with barely a mention that the perpetrators were Islamic terrorists, when anyone with an ounce of sense realised what was going on here. 

There's stinging criticism for much of the western media who pussy footed around but Snow is given a special mention for talking about 'practitioners' as if they were some kind of doctor. 

"Why did Jon Snow, one of Britain's most respected TV journalists, use the word "practitioners" when referring to the Mumbai terrorists? Was he perhaps confusing them with doctors? Why did Britain's highly regarded Channel 4 News state that the "militants" showed a "wanton disregard for race or creed" when exactly the opposite was true: Targets and victims were very carefully selected."

The BBC too comes in for a lot of flak but that was to be expected and was highlighted by Ron Liddle in the Sunday Times, who pointed out you'd be hard pressed to find the words radical Islam or jihad in any reports. As Gross points out: 

"Instead the BBC continues to try to persuade its massive global audience that "it is a local Indian problem," that "the subcontinent has a history of unrest," and so on."

The Orange Party was particularly incensed over reporting of the attack on the Jewish centre as almost an afterthought and indeed as an 'accidental target'. The torture, outrages and cold-blooded killings committed there are too sickening to repeat in any detail. 

Gross points out: "For much of the Mumbai siege, the BBC went out of its way to avoid reporting that the Jewish community center was one of the seven targets. At one point viewers were told that "an office building" had been targeted (referring to the Jewish center as such)."

The Orange Party does not subscribe to the view there is some kind of antisemitic conspiracy at work here. as Gross suggests but is does believe the western liberal media is burying its head in the sand by refusing to acknowledge the real threat of fundamental Islamic terrorism. How are we going to effectively confront terrorists when we can't even identify them as radical Islam?

This wasn't a dust up in the back streets of Bradford where events are often played down so as not to inflame the situation. This was a very carefully planned attack on the so-called 'infidels' whether they were Jews, Christians or Hindus, deliberately targeting the Jewish centre, hospitals, a train station, hotels and a tourist restaurant.

Some journalists do walk around with their eyes wide open. The BBC is probably a lost cause but it is time for Snow and the team at C4 News to open theirs. 


Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Can Brown Survive Without The Economy?

The government has been pinning its hope of revival on one man who can save the world. But without the relentless spin on the economy, the government is starting to flounder, as time and again a crisis of confidence rears its head. 

Events over the last week or so have brought into sharp focus the old political adage that government's can be brought down by events leading to a lack of confidence and trust.

Time and again opinion polls, reminiscent of US-style push polls placed for political advantage, seem to show the political gap narrowing, as Brown was positioned as the only man capable of saving the economy, the world and global warming on the way.

Then out of the blue came the crunch. 

The pre-leaked pre-budget Budget sham did nothing to enamour the government with voters. That exposed the government track record of relentless borrowing and just borrowing more in these debt ridden days was hard to swallow. No amount of leaks or spin could mask the silly little VAT gimmick for what it was. 

The Baby P case rightly caused public indignation but here Brown totally misjudged the mood of the country, leaving it up to his school secretary to try to recover the moral and political high ground. But at the centre is an incompetent local council department, the failure of Ofsted to uphold standards, failed government child protection policies and no hint at accountability at any level.

Then some fool came along and lit the fuse of Greengate. In one fell swoop that achieved a rare sight in politics with all opposition parties and many true Labour voices united in utter condemnation, while the prime minister maintained his state of denial. 

The Queen's Speech tomorrow signals the start of a new round of parliamentary legislation as ministers desperately try to re-focus on the economy to take the government up to a general election. 

But the rumblings of discontent amongst MPs over Greengate show no sign of abating with talk of a commons rumpus and Cameron and Clegg trying to force a debate with an early day motion of no confidence in speaker Michael Martin.  

The shallowness of the government has been exposed over and over again in recent weeks. Even with the economy to fall back on, it is doubtful no amount of spin can recover confidence. Other events may be just around the corner and now it doesn't take much to tip over the edge. 

Even up to the weekend, Brown's newly installed deputy prime minister, Lord Mandleson, was making hilarious comments, comparing the prime minister to Moses leading his children to the promised land. 

This little ditty from Singin' In The Rain springs to mind. 

Moses supposes his toeses are roses

But Moses supposes erroneously

And Moses, he knowses his toeses aren't roses

As Moses supposes his toeses to be

Maybe the Lord of the Merry Dance could bear that in mind when he next tries to trip the light fantastic.


Police Must Not Whitewash Greengate

Shamed government supporters are hoping the police's own investigation into the Met's handling of Greengate will put a lid on the heavy-handed outrage, as the embattled Force makes a desperate attempt to wriggle out of its share of the blame. 

A police investigation is welcome as long it is quick and to the point but here the police are investigating themselves when at the centre are issues of public interest, the sanctity of parliament and the role of the police as agents of the state. 

Those are political not police matters. Opposition parties have united in outrage and condemnation. The whole affair requires a high-level independent inquiry.  

British Transport Police chief constable, Ian Johnston, a former police chief at the Met and top officer at ACPO, will report back to the Met within two weeks. Only a referral to the PCA would remove any hint of a whitewash. 

But the police conduct in this disturbing affair was only one part of the picture. The anti-terrorism squad arrested the senior opposition MP Damian Green over home office leaks and held him for nine hours searching his home and office in the House of Commons.

Any police inquiry cannot answer fundamental issues at the heart of this scandal. Why were the heavy mob used for the arrest when clearly this did not involve any state secrets? Who authorised the police search in the sacrosanct precincts of the Place of Westminster? And, as the Orange Party asked earlier, what did ministers know and when did they know? 

Former shadow home office spokesman David Davis has, however, made a valid point over the police inquiry: "He can look at how disproportionate this was, how heavy handed it was. He can certainly look very hard at how the protection of parliament was trampled over in this investigation."

Only the leader of the House, Harriet Harman, has come close to expressing any sense of 'concern' as she tries to dig the government out of its hole. 

But then she has the experience of sitting on the other side of the fence.  As legal officer for the National Council for Civil Liberties (now Liberty), she was found in contempt of court in the landmark House of Lords civil liberties case Home Office v. Harman 1983 A.C. 280, 308, still cited as an important legal precedent to this day.

With both the prime minister and his hapless home secretary still in denial, a police investigation by police into the police must not now allow government ministers to once again hide behind a police inquiry and make little or no comment while that inquiry is taking place.


Monday, December 01, 2008

Baby P Case Must Not End Here

Outrage over the death of Baby P should not be allowed to end with a few words from schools secretary, Ed Balls. At stake is the future of children let down by his government's miserable and weak child protection policies.

Only when the full facts are made public will lasting lessons be learnt.

Announcing the outcome of an independent investigation, schools secretary told the public nothing they didn't know already. "Things went tragically wrong". The findings, were "damning" and "devastating." There were "clear failures in practice and management." The serious case review was "inadequate."

Fine words from the cabinet minister who after all has ultimate responsibility for child protection and whose department has ultimate accountability. Words the school secretary was quick to throw around earlier in an effort to switch the blame to others.

For two weeks the inspectors have been examining why the toddler was not taken into care, despite numerous injuries including broken ribs and eventually a broken back, while the council department was allowed to carry on as normal.

Balls was only stung into ordering an independent inquiry after the abysmal and inhuman performance of the prime minister in the commons, branding the Conservative leader's request for an inquiry as party politics.

The Orange Party never subscribed to that view nor did the public, outraged and left numb wondering how on earth this could have happened in the first place.

It has taken today's report before the leader of the council and the cabinet member overseeing social services in Haringey eventually resigned.

But, clinging on to the end, director Sharon Shoesmith was eventually suspended. So much for the backing of the 61 Haringey headteachers who crawled out of nowhere to back the director in that shameless piece of party politicking.

What is still left in the air is the future of the original serious case review into this awful case and whether that vital report will ever be made public.

And the central issue of how on earth did this Haringey department receive such a glowing Ofsted report, just a year before the tragedy.

Balls announced there would be no public inquiry into this case. After all, the last one didn't do much good so why even bother with another.

What is required is a long hard look at what went wrong, to learn lessons and perhaps this time to make sure it can never happen again. For that to happen with public confidence, the department should not be allowed to continue in its present form and should come out of direct council control.

Lessons will be learnt only when all the facts are made public. Not least the original serious case review which must point to these failings. And some hard questions need to be asked of the standards watchdog, Ofsted.

Just what is the point of this quango if all it does is hand out praise to a council service while a child was tortured to death.

This afternoon the shadow children's minister, Michael Gove, made a telling statement, when he said: "I'm in constraint in what I can say because I have received information which is not in the public domain and it should be. It should be a public process. At the moment, we're not allowed to know what went wrong, therefore we're not in a position to put it right."

This case had a child's death at the centre but it was all about party politics from the outset in the Haringey political minefield, a New Labour government, a Labour local council and a government sympathetic quango. And time and again the Orange Party asked just what did ministers know about Haringey.

Balls must show that he can take some decisive action in the public interest and share responsibility and accountability instead of just talking up to his name.


Sunday, November 30, 2008

Will The Queen Be Left Speechless?

The Queen's Speech looks set to be written on the back of a fag packet as Downing Street continues to strip out unpopular vote-losing bills or anything that could cause a commons confrontation. Though a Greengate confrontation could be just what is on the cards, as MPs gather on Wednesday. 

Downing Street has described Wednesday's Queen's Speech as "work in progress", though "spin in progress" would be more appropriate in these heady days of Mandelson management. 

The forthcoming legislation is a pale shadow of measures Brown announced earlier this year in his Queen's Speech by proxy. 

That draft, unveiled in the spring, surprised many with a detailed list of at least 18 bills, covering everything from reforms to hospitals, schools, police and welfare.

Slowly it seems unpopular legislation has been shelved or watered down and amalgamated in other legislation.

One of the earlier casualties was the Big Brother surveillance in the Communications Data Bill, to hold details of all phone calls, emails and internet visits.

The latest casualty, on the orders of business secretary, Lord 'call him Moses' Mandleson, according to reports, is to drop plans for more draconian anti-smoking measures with more restrictions on the sale of cigarettes and packet advertising. 

Not content with closing down our cherished pubs with a smoking ban, the new tougher anti-smoking measures would have marked the end of the corner shop. Another example of using 'sin' as an excuse for political and social control. 

The Orange Party believes a stripped down Queen's Speech, which sets out the government’s proposed legislation up to a June 2010 general election date, is the latest sign an early election is on the cards, despite efforts of New Labour and its supporters to dampen down speculation. 

The new list of bills before Parliament is being spun as a way to put more emphasis on efforts to help the economy. In reality it cuts down commons time to allow ministers to hit the campaign trail and get across its political message. 

After the shambles of the pre-leaked pre-budget Budget, the government has been forced to rethink its strategy, though what will eventually be in the Queen's Speech may have to wait until details are leaked for political advantage.

As the outrage over Greengate shows no signs of abating, speaker, Michael Martin is expected to come under fire on Wednesday, with MPs demanding he explains his actions at the start of the Queen’s Speech debate.

The Tory leader has called on the prime minister to at least show some concern, let alone outrage or condemnation. Both the prime minister and home secretary are refusing to apologise.

The role of the speaker has been brought into focus, with the vexed question of who allowed the political police, as servants of the Crown, to enter and search the MP's office, in the sacrosanct precincts of the Palace of Westminster. 

With comparisons made today to US president Nixon's ruthless and illegal pursuit of political opponents, the issue now centres on the Watergate adage - what did ministers know and when did they know it?

Private Eye cover: October 1964, The Queen reads speech for Wilson's first Labour government.