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Archive for November, 2007

Free speech…

Are the students of the Oxford University Union wrong to invite convicted Holocaust denier David Irving and BNP leader Nick Griffin to speak?

Certainly, there are some who think they are wrong. The Guardian reports that “Trevor Phillips, the chair of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, yesterday branded the invitation a disgrace, and anti-fascism campaigners who fear members of the far right will also come to the city, claimed the safety of students could be at risk.”

In the same article, the report reveals: “…a senior Tory MP resigned his life membership of the 184-year-old debating society, accusing organisers of “naive publicity seeking”.

Max Hastings, historian and newspaper editor, takes the view that students need to know ‘what sort of dangerous people are out there’ : “It seems good for Oxford students to be exposed to the views of Griffin and his BNP, rather than spend their educational lives in a warm bath of Guardian decency. Members of the Union Society must be a sorry lot indeed if they are likely to catch the plague of intolerance and racism from a single evening’s exposure to Griffin”

For my part, frankly, I would rather see Irving and Griffin face a public audience and be allowed to speak at the Union than that they should win a victory through resignations and the refusal of others, who take a very different view, to stand up to them and put those opposing views.

Max Hastings ends his piece with: “Student debating societies have always been foolish, self-indulgent and irresponsible. We should cherish their right to remain so. Tonight’s Oxford audience has things to learn from listening to Griffin and Irving. We should possess sufficient faith in its intelligence to believe that they will be the right ones.”

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The Telegraph reports: The Defence Secretary Des Browne, June Sarpong, the television presenter, Austin Mitchell, the Labour MP, and other speakers have pulled out of engagements at the union as a result of the invitation.

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UPDATE: 27 November
The uprising against fascism: Students storm Oxford Union debate (Independent)

Victorian Maiden of Ruthie’s Law has an acerbic take on this.   

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Saturday Review: 24 November … Why?

At 4.30 am this morning I looked out of the window to see frost on car windscreens. It was quiet. Christmas is but a month away. It was time to consider my annual E-xmascard. Not having any children or wife to photograph as a festive family group outside my Staterooms (not that I would so if I had such a group) I felt that a picture of me with a Santa hat on was probably the best I could pull off this year. I have little interest in Christmas. I have, after all, read The God Delusion by Professor Dawkins.

Having spent a fair bit of time this week reviewing the extraordinary events of this week (Infra), I can find little to review – so, today, it is, I’m afraid, more of a free form frolic.

Geeklawyer managed to put diesel fuel in his motorbike. As a fellow biker, I am able to sympathise. As a fellow blawger, I regret to say, I found it amusing… a visitation from the supernatural spirits wreaking vengeance on GL?

But before I depart on my fevered frolic… a few blog reports: What About Clients? by J Dan Hull and colleagues, despite the US Thanksgiving weekend, continues to provide incisive coment on serious matters and takes time out for other, less serious, matters. President I’madinnerjacket of Iran has resumed blogging. WAC? picks this up.

Political blogger Guido Fawkes has an excellent caption competition. The comments are worth reading, some of them are not suitable for workplace or family viewing. Newly added to my blogroll LawActually has a very useful warning for those of you addicted to putting craplets and sh*tware freebies onto your PCs.

Reactionary Snob, no fan of the newly dead Ian Smith, former PM of Rhodesia, has an amusing and ironic quote picked up from the radio:

“The Deputy Zimbabwean Information Minister, Bright Matonga, said Smith could not be forgiven for bring untold suffering to millions of Zimbabweans…”

Victorian Maiden, of Ruthie’s Law, believes that their blog is read by those at the very heart of government. Not sure that this is necessarily a good thing. Mind you, being government, they’ll probably forget to bookmark or lose the URL. The author of The Pupillage Chronicles is a bit disillusioned and writes about recent experiences. IMPACT from Freeth Cartwright is still ahead of the curve with the recent posting about Data Protection spot checks being on the way.

And now to other matters…

Respect for the elderly and infirm is certainly on the wane when one sees a zimmer frame locked to a lamp post….

Scotland in chaos after England Croatia match. TRIBUTES are being paid to Scotland this morning after the entire country laughed itself to death: More…

Concerned about the loss of CDs by HMRC… I just had to revive and invoke Churchill with a bit of help from Photoshop.

Apparently, six more discs have gone missing from HM Revenue & Customs. The discs, transported by courier company TNT, contained recorded conversations between a member of staff and a customer making a complaint. BBC story

And finally…. something serious…

Andrew Holroyd, President of The Law Society, writing in Legal Week’s Legal Village section, states that The Law Society has started an online petition calling for the return of the rule of law in Pakistan and intends to visit Downing Street to make Law Society views known. He writes: “Some might ask what this has to do with UK solicitors. Well, I say the rule of law is something we should all stand up for – be it in Lahore or London.” As Holroyd says “From London to Lahore, LawSoc gets international”.

 

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There is an elephant in the room…

I had the misfortune, some years ago, to spend one night and a morning at a ‘conference’. It bored me rigid. Unfortunately, given that I was was one of the visiting ‘unpaid’ speakers, I had no choice but to attend. The setting was an old country house, turned into a flash hotel. Dress code was smart casual. I had no desire to add to the herd of wildebeest all wearing chinos and loafers, and wore an old, but well cut, Crombie sports jacket, a blue shirt and jeans with Chelsea boots. I attended the Chairman’s introduction. Senior Chino wearers sat at a table on a raised dais. For some reason the ‘conference board’ reminded me of a Russian May Day parade in the good old days of Brezhnev. I took a place near the rear to observe the proceedings. Chairman Chinowearer told us that he was very pleased we were at the conference and welcomed us. It was then that he started using some very peculiar phrases, of the type parodied / analysed in The Office and, most recently, in a brilliant article in the Independent today.

We were, he told us, going to be doing some blue sky thinking and be pushing the needle. We would also be running things up the flagpole. Chairman Chino did not manage to use all the phrases identified in the Independent article, but he certainly swallowed the frog, made a big ask, said he would touch base with all of us and god knows how many times he managed to use the phrase paradigm shift.

Dinner followed. Fortunately two of the more senior attendees enjoyed their wine and left the earnest chinowearers to touch base with each other and we managed to get fairly over refreshed. As I was simply involved as a speaker at one of the next morning’s sessions, and not ‘part of team X’ , I was largely ignored by the delegates. I’m not a boy scout. I don’t like wearing badges, so I had left my badge in the conference pack given to me on arrival. Anonymity can be useful on occasion.

The next morning was dire. After breakfast we were invited to attend a focus group after which we would break out into workshops to do some more blue sky and out of the box thinking. As the Indie article pointed out… it was Alexei Sayle who said “Anyone who uses the word ‘workshop’ who isn’t connected with light engineering is a wanker.”

I took an executive decision to absent myself from the workshops and went off for coffee with another speaker. I did, however, attend the ‘Challenge’. This was truly fascinating. The organisers had an ex-SAS man to give an inspirational on survival. Fascinating talk. He made sense and spoke English. He told us, inter alia*, that it was important to have the will to live, that he had a very strong will to live and survive.. and that he would live until he was 150 to get all the tax he had ever paid, back as a pension. The Chino wearers just nodded. I thought it was actually rather a good joke and had the bad manners to laugh.

I detected an underlying anarchy/ hysteria brewing as the morning progressed. There was, clearly, an elephant in the room. Everyone knew that the conference was not going well – and it wasn’t. It was just too ‘urgent/eager’ and verging on happy clappy. But no-one said anything.

My own rather meagre contribution to the conference was to talk about the internet… or the information superhighway as my ‘session chairperson’ insisted on calling it. I got away with it… without mentioning the word ‘traction’ once.

Anyway… if you haven’t got the faintest idea what I am writing about….and if you want to ‘jump the shark’… read the excellent Independent article… and all will be revealed.

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* post-ironic?

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An interesting article in The Times today about barristers.

“In summary, solicitors should probably have the last word. They are prepared, the survey finds, to put up with what they say is barristers’ eccentricity and lack of people skills because they value their expert knowledge and advocacy.

It’s a profession that seems to draw those kinds of people ,” one said. “I don’t think it’s necessarily a problem; they can be extremely good advocates. You just can’t have a conversation with them.”

Frances Gibb on Barristers: What do we think of them?

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That was what a week that was….

“Events, my dear boy, events”.

It was, of course, former PM Harold Macmillan who used this memorable phrase, but Gordon Brown seems to be being driven by events rather than driving events.

What an extraordinary week. 25 million records lost by HM Revenue & Customs, the Northern Wreck statement in the House, England crashing out of EURO 2008 (Brown did not attend this event after campaign by The Sun), yet another foot and mouth disease leak from Pirbright … Law Officers, the Crown Prosecution Service supremo, Lord Goldsmith, the current Attorney-General and Solicitor General coming out against an extension of detention without charge powers and … Admiral Boyce and several former Chiefs of Staff making a concerted attack on Brown’s unsypmathetic attitude to the armed forces in the Lords this afternoon.

The Times reported on this: ” I tell you, these men do not mess around. They not only know the SAS, they are the SAS. It was only modesty, and possibly because they were wearing smart suits, that prevented them from abseiling in”

Puppet Chancellor Darling will, no doubt, be looking forward to the weekend tabloids and broadsheets. The phrase systemic failure is being used more and more in the media. It has become a buzz word. Cameron and Osborne circle like buzzards. The Conservatives are nine points ahead in the polls – their highest poll rating since 1992.

Perhaps the HMRC CDs will turn up pasted to the front of one of the tabloid Sundays as a freebie this weekend? Or maybe it will be this CD?

As I continue to suffer from the delusion that this is a law blog… Victorian Maiden has comment on the Law Officers attitude to detention without charge.. and a wry comment about Lord Goldsmith’s statement that he would have resigned had Blair succeeded in getting a 90 day period through. ‘Vinegar Vera’?…

Former PM James Callghan used the phrase “Crisis? What crisis?”….

The Times is suggesting that Gordon Brown has nipped off to Uganda attend the Commonwealth conference to escape for a few days…

In the meantime…. I cannot drink Rioja until Sunday (Infra)… now… some may say… that is a crisis.

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Fellow blogger (and ever vigilant) John Bolch over at Family Lore has a useful link for those of you who have children and may be worried about identity fraud.

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Resignation… various meanings.

Of course, we all know the meaning of the word ‘Resign’. There are some quite interesting synonyms: 1. withdraw. 3. abdicate, renounce; quit, leave. 4. give up, surrender, cede, forgo.

One may, of course, be ‘resigned’ to something.

So… this week the Chairman of HM Revenue & Customs resigned – as did a 23 year old scapegoat at HMRC (Although some confusion on the latter).  Steve McLaren, England football coach is a ‘goner’, sacked with (no doubt) a fairly hefty payoff. £2 million is being bandied about. The Sun prefers the word ‘axed’ to ‘sacked’.

I do not follow football, but I did watch bits of the match last night. England crashed out of the EURO 2008 championships – incredible, considering the spend on football in this country.

Perhaps Brown may have to be resigned to not getting an extension of the power to detain without charge from 28-56+ days. Sir Ken McDonald QC, CPS supremo, told the Commons Home Affairs Committee: “The most I can say is that it is a matter of record that we have not asked for an increase. We are satisfied with the position as it stands at the moment.”

Lord Goldsmith, former A-G, came out strongly against an extension and now the two senior Law Officers, Baroness Scotland QC and Vera Baird QC believe that the case has not yet been made to extend the period of detention. Times story

It is also quite possible, after the puppet Supreme Court in Pakistan ruled in Musharraf’s favour, that General Musharraf will soon be plain ‘Mr’ Musharraf when he steps down as head of the armed forces.

I’m afraid that I am resigned to the fact that I am eating antibiotics at the moment and cannot consume Rioja or wine of any description until the course of treatment is complete!

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Non alcoholic grape juice is fine… if one wants to be an olympic athlete or play bad football for England… But I don’t happen to have that particular desire. The FA told me that they are looking for a credible new Coach… and, after reading my blawg, they did not feel I was suitable. [Of course they didn’t.. I’m making that up… but I may well apply to get ‘axed’… seems quite lucrative. Sven also walked away with a pretty good package, one understands. ]

Why not apply?… I rather like the idea of a load of blawgers writing to the FA to see if they can help. We do have to do our bit. If any employment lawyers out there could tell me how being axed for not doing one’s job can lead to a 2 million pay off… I will be most grateful. I will even send you emails from Monaco…. once a month.. for one year.

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And they want us to have identity cards?…

I watched the statement by the Chancellor…. 25 million records lost by HMRC… just imagine what they could do with biometrics and ID cards…. A cheap and easy jibe, I accept… and hardly original. But it does make one think.

Extraordinarily, The Chairman of HMRC fell on his sword and resigned.  This is fairly unusual in this day and age.  He didn’t even have a Knighthood… well he won’t be getting one now, one assumes.

(“Two password protected discs containing a full copy of HMRC’s entire data in relation to the payment of child benefit was sent to the National Audit Office, by HMRC’s internal post system operated by the courier TNT. The package was not recorded or registered. It appears the data has failed to reach the addressee in the NAO.”)  BBC Story

Rock On, Chancellor… sorry… perhaps ‘rock’ isn’t one of his favourite words at the moment.  So… not bad… two statements to the House in as many days.  Hat trick?  Have to say… he looked a bit subdued on TV this afternoon.

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