Archive for November 20th, 2009

PODCAST VERSION: A Hunstman’s View (2) / Invisibility

20th November 2009

The London trip was not a great success and a fresh assessment is required if I am to stand for parliament.  Cybil has a rather curious attitude to politics.  She listens to what politicians say and assesses their worth and value accordingly. I remember, over dinner some time ago, she made the extraordinary statement “Why can’t we have a government with just the sensible people from all parties in it? Vince Cable, for example, he seems to be the only politician who (a) has actually grappled with economic and financial policies in real life –  running a business  and (b) seems to have a better grasp of things than the current Chancellor does.  Why can’t we have him as Chancellor?” There was an embarrassed silence at the table.  Jamie Cadogan-Browne… a grandee.. I suppose you would call him, had a coughing fit and I thought I was going to have to put my old Boy Scout first aid badge knowledge to use.

Question Time and the great Tory Law & Order hope

We watched Question Time together last night and a vivid illustration of this technique of assessing politicians on what they say,  rather than on the basis of the party they represent,  presented early on in the form of Shadow Home Secretary, Chris Grayling.

“See, darling” Cybil said with an amused smile “Grayling… saying nothing of any value whatsoever… hot air and blether…. just like that other chap Ian Duncan-Smith …blah blah blah. All those years in television have reduced his thinking into simplistic impressionistic summaries suitable for a game show but hardly of value when it comes to serious debate. He’s being slaughtered and they are all laughing at him on Twitter.”

I have now discovered what Twitter is.  Cybil, apparently, has been on it for months.  She tells me that there are quite a lot of sensible people and bloggers using it including some MPs from Labour who are using it rather well. I must investigate this Twitter further and these blogger johnnies. I had wondered why she was spending so much time tapping away into the laptop of hers while doing a myriad of other things.  A chap, of course, prefers to focus on one thing at a time. I shall ask Jack, my head keeper, if he knows anything about  Twitter. He’s another one who is always tapping away into a laptop or his new iPhone.

I have to say that Cybil may have a point. Grayling didn’t do at all well last night on QT – not quite as bad as that chap Woollas for Labour,  who must have lost thousands of votes every time he opened his mouth… but there we are. The problem the Tories have is that they did have a fairly useful Shadow Home Secretary in David Davis, the member for the constituency of Haltemprice, who resigned, stood against himself on a a matter of principle,  and fired himself into political obscurity (albeit with a bit more style than that Parnell chap for Labour did when he resigned and then looked baffled when no-one noticed.)

CameronDirect needs a new Shadow Home Secretary but he won’t,  of course,  fire Grayling, Grayling won’t fall on his sword, so another chink in the slick corporate armour of CameronDirect is opening up for others to push sticks into before the election in 2010.  I’m rather looking forward, I have to confess, to seeing what nonsense Grayling comes up with next in his vision of a Law & Ordered Society‘ after his surreal ideas for yobs the other day.

The big thing at the moment for the Tories is for elected Police Chiefs. James Forsyth, writing in The Spectator, states “It is crucial that the Tories do not back down under this pressure. Locally elected police commissioners would be transformative, they would ensure that the police concentrate on the crimes that most effect peoples’ quality of life. The current top down, target-ridden culture would be replaced by accountability to the public.”  They say that the police are already politicised, that Ian Blair was a Labour police chief,  but Boris blew the bloody doors off on that wheeze and now has the Met under control. I’m not so sure that elected police chiefs is a good idea.  Quite apart from the idea of police chiefs lining up in a row with rosettes on – and what if a BNP Plod wanted to stand?  What then? – what exactly do the Tories mean by ‘locally elected’ police chiefs?  One commentator on The Spectator page drew the ravening hordes attention to an immediate practicality and flaw in the thinking.

A Mr Dennis Cooper writes ” Firstly my “local” police force is not “local”; it’s Thames Valley Police, covering three counties plus Milton Keynes. I question whether it would be possible to have a meaningful direct election of a Chief Constable for a force covering such a large and diverse geographical area.”

Of course, we could have lots of smaller police forces with even more plod wandering about with silver  fruit salad on their hats, but that rather goes against modern ideas of connected policing and maximisation of resources. But who said that ideas had to be workable to be policy?

The Invisible Man (and Woman) of Europe

Dickie Suffolk rang to say that we had done rather well in Europe. A rather dull man who can’t write decent poetry from Belgium is President and some Northern lass has been propelled from obscurity into the the Miliband role.” he roared down the telephone.  Dickie is one of these people who hasn’t quite grasped how mobile phones work.  If he is outside, he shouts louder, not realising that there is  a microphone at the bottom of the device that works perfectly well outside and is, Jack tells me, designed  for indoors and  outside use. “At least we stuffed Blair” I didn’t have the strength to suggest to Dickie that ‘we’ had done absolutely nothing as ‘we’ are not yet in government.  Dickie is one of these people who tells others that he only has a few slots in his brain left and he doesn’t care to fill too many of them up with complex impractical philosophical knowledge or debate. I did suggest to him that he might benefit from taking The Sun rather than wrestling each day with The Times.  I recall that he looked at me almost gratefully for the suggestion. Good chap, Dickie…. to have for the weekend… but not destined, I fear, for any form of ministerial position.  Nor did I point out that ‘our lot’ seem to have teamed up with sundry right wing nutters and SS sympathisers on the extreme right of Europe and that Angela Merkel and Sarkozy are not exactly in daily touch with Hague and CameronDirect. I also have a sinking feeling that if ‘our’ lot was in power, we would have a Brit in possibly the even more influential post of High Representative and I could almost hear Cybil in the recesses of my mind saying “Your lot would have been sitting in dark corners muttering about federalism, a super state, sovereign states, Britannia ruling British waves and thinking up new bogey men with which to terrorise the people.” I do not know for sure, of course;  nor it is any of my business… I rather like diversity….  but I believe that my wife may be a Liberal-Democrat.  I know she votes.  She is always most careful to get out an early to do so.

I suppose the good news is that after all this hand wringing and putting Ireland under the cosh to vote Yes because the first No vote was inconvenient, the 27 leaders have managed to control the monster of Europa by flying in a couple of nonentities who will do what the leaders want them to do, rather than the other way round. Obama was diplomatic and sensitive to European pretensions, however, in suggesting that the new President of Europe and his High Representative will enable Europe to develop in a meaningful blah blah way…etc etc etc.

You win elections by getting more votes than the other parties.

Cybil rushed into my study a few moments ago with her laptop and told me that I must read something.  She set the laptop down in front of me.  I was reading the Investor’s Chronicle, or ‘Misers Monthly’ as Cybil calls it,  to see if I was missing anything. My attention was drawn to an article on a blog by Mr Tom Harris, a Labour MP for Glasgow South.  Seeing that he has quite a number of #1 Rosettes on his blog, like the  First in Show things we have at our County Fairs, I was quite happy to read what he had to say. His central premise was that Labour will win if they get more votes than the Tories – Yes – that this will depend on having better policies – Yes – and will not depend on jiggering about with the voting system – Yes.  So… Three Yes votes from me for that type of thinking. Good grief, I’ll be watching X-Factor like Farmer Brown or Britain’s Got Talent soon if I am not careful.

Cybil laughed when I told her that I agreed with the chap.  “See?  There are people out there in other parties who say interesting things.  Perhaps you should apply to become a Labour MP…..? it wouldn’t be the first time a Tory had crossed over.  Think Churchill, darling, she said with the usual glint in her eye… he enjoyed a bit of political cross-dressing as Shami Chakrabarti likes to say!”

There are limits.  I told her this.  Her response was insouciant.  “It takes a good man to know his limitations, darling.  You should watch Dirty Harry.”

With that, she was gone.  I could hear her tapping away into her laptop in the drawing room nearby.

PODCAST VERSION: A Hunstman’s View (2) / Invisibility


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Continuing with my Friday ‘Rive Gauche’ theme, I thought I would start this week’s edition with some more political nonsense, tinged with a soupçon of hubris.

Political diarist Iain Dale, always worth a read whatever your political proclivities, asks:

When will it end? The Telegraph has the story tonight of Conservative MP David Curry, the new chairman of the Parliamentary Standards Committee (no, really), has been accused of claiming £30,000 of taxpayers’ money to pay for a house he hasn’t set foot in for four years, after being banned by his ex wife.

Mr Curry has referred himself to the Parliamentary Commissioner. Iain Dale, states, not unreasonably…“Quite astonishing behaviour. It’s even more astonishing that Mr Curry took on the role of chairman of the Standards Committee in the first place. Did no alarm bell ring, even at the back of his head?”
Harman Faces ‘Driving Offence’ Prosecution. Sky news reports: “Cabinet minister Harriet Harman will be prosecuted for allegedly driving without due care and attention and driving while using a hand-held mobile phone, the Crown Prosecution Service has said.” Harman plans to contest the charges, but Gordon Brown gets the opportunity to trot out the well worn line that he has ‘full confidence’ in her. Given Brown’s reputation, chronicled amusingly by Guido Fawkes at every opportunity, to jinx pretty well everything he supports… this may not be welcome news to Harman.

The new president of ‘Europe’ is more likely to be mistaken for someone who directs the traffic than stops it as Blair may well have done – but in the finest tradition of the Franco-German axis which appears to dominate in Europe,  we now have another ‘leader’ who has not faced a public vote in Mr Van Rompuy,  who also managed to become prime minister of Belgium, I believe, without being elected to the role by the people of Belgium.  BBC

While many will rejoice in the fact that Tony Blair did not get the traffic stopping role of ‘EU President’ – Britain did not miss out and another person who has never been elected to anything (it is believed) is now High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security. Labour peer Baroness Ashton will now be doing the business. Most sardonic political commentary on the matter seems to focus on the fact that after 10 years of angst and pushing through ‘a new order for Europe’, the leaders of 27 countries have finally decided against striding across the world stage and would rather have someone as president who they can get to sweep up after them at meetings. We shall, no doubt, see how it all works out… or, more likely, we won’t..because RumpyPumpy, as he is now known, inevitably, in Britain…. probably won’t be appearing in the newspapers that often.

Meanwhile… The Great Architect of everything on earth and beyond, Lord Mandelson…another person not elected to govern over us…. is about to perpetrate a disgraceful abuse of power which is better left to the others to describe.  Let me point you in the direction first of a sane article on the topic of Mandelson’s grip on this country.


Dictatorial, disastrous, dire: Mandelson must not pass

Without debate, without public consulation, without any form of mandate, Lord Mandelson – an unelected politician – is preparing to place the rights of powerful industrial concerns above those of Parliament and above ours.

The powers that he wants to create – by means of a statutory instrument, which bypasses Parliamentary debate and decision – will criminalise downloading of content without permission. They will give him or anyone he chooses the power to enforce by law any action he or his successor thinks fit, in the service of protecting copyright.

These are the opening paragraphs for an excellent analysis by Rupert Goodwins. The entire article is a must read if you are interested in this issue.

We go over now to GEEKLAWYER, who, taking time out of his busy work and twittering schedule, has an excellent (and sane)  analysis of the very same issue. “Three Strikes and You’re Out” – A good read.

Despite well con­sid­ered inde­pen­dent advice on the eco­nom­ics of pol­icy deci­sions for the Inter­net from Pro­fes­sor Gower and var­i­ous oth­ers it seems that all it takes to buy Labour pol­icy is a bribe from a For­mula One homuncu­lus or a blow job from a rent boy on a nice yacht. Regrettably while Geeklawyer has a big mouth there some things he wont swal­low, one is the mem­ber of Hartle­pool; not even for some­thing as impor­tant as this.”

And then we have Keir Starmer QC, Director of Prosecutions, in The Telegraph: Chief prosecutor backs state snooping plans  Proposed new powers to track every email, phone call and website visit have been backed by the country’s top prosecutor as “vital” to fighting crime.” Telegraph

Civil liberty groups are none too pleased with this… “The DPP should also watch he doesn’t become a cheerleader for a government policy that the British people feel deeply uncomfortable about.”


I have a podcast with Keir Starmer QC for the College of Law Inside Track series going out on Monday. It is an interesting podcast with a great deal of ground covered. I’ll post the link, as usual, on Monday.

After all this… a light touch before I go for the grand finale.

Earlier in the week I published the first episode of The Hunstman’s View – a diary of politics and ‘the human condition’ as seen through the eyes of Sir Henry ‘Baggers’ Bagshotte 8th Bt. I rather like Baggers – a man in his fifties, tory by instinct. but not,  by any means,  sure of the ground being developed by modern tories led by Cameron.  He is not, however, a Turnip Taliban. New episodes will be published over the coming months until the run up to the election in 2010.

I was delighted to see in the comments section of The first Hunstman’s View episode a comment from Geoffrey Woollard:

“I know nothing of Ms. Truss and her troubles. Sir Henry Bagshotte, Bt., has my sympathy, however, if only for his having such an unhelpful lady wife.”

I was even more delighted to discover that Geoffrey Woollard is a real life prospective parliamentary candidate…standing on an independent ticket. I wrote to Geoffrey to ask his permission to quote him in my piece and to ask if he minded my drawing attention to his candidature.  I received a very pleasant email back to the effect that I should go ahead, thanking  me, and noting that all publicity is good publicity.  So…I present…. Geoffrey Woollard, prospective parliamentary candidate for South East Cambridgeshire.

Geoffrey Woollard has a blog. Definitely worth a read.

I do hope that Geoffrey will keep an eye on the diary of Baggers…. Geoffrey is none to keen on Baggers’ enthusiasm for hunting. I suspect that Baggers won’t be doing a great deal of it, largely because I have absolutely no interest in hunting myself… and cannot really see how anyone can get a kick from hunting an animal to death for pleasure. Cybil, by the way… wife to Baggers 8.. will be rather more helpful than  Geoffrey may realise!  Bon Chance, Geoffrey.  Independent tickets are good.

And finally… An Anatomy of an Injustice

Imagine a High Court judge walking down Chancery Lane on his or her way to the Royal Courts of Justice.  The judge notices a carrier bag on the pavement.  Being a civic minded citizen he picks the carrier bag up, opens it, and discovers a sawn off shotgun within.  The judge is now ‘guilty’ of the strict liability offence of possession and subject to a minimum sentence of 5 years imprisonment – whether he phoned the police immediately or took it to a police station. Of course, it is highly likely – being a judge and all that – that the CPS may decide it is not in the public interest to prosecute or, if they do, the trial judge may well come to the entirely sensible view that the strict liability offence is mitigated by ‘exceptional circumstances’ and an absolute discharge will be given.

This, however, is not what happened in the celebrated Paul Clarke case
– which provoked considerable outrage on twitter.  I was outraged.  Fortunately, a lawyer and writer, Jack of Kent – a leading law blogger, picked up the tale and analysed it in a measured and thoroughly researched way.  I spoke to the journalist who broke the story, consulted with my friend who writes the The White Rabbit blog  (Andrew Keogh, an experienced criminal barrister) and spoke at some length with Jack of Kent.  I could see no point in publishing anything myself for I would rather focus attention on this case – and attention there is – through Jack of Kent’s excellent analysis.

Please do read it. it is an important analysis; important for our rule of law and important for Justice…whatever that means these days.

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