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Archive for February, 2010

‘Choose women, gay and disabled judges over white, middle-class men’

The Times reports: “Women, gays, ethnic minority and disabled applicants for jobs as judges should receive preferential treatment over white men in an attempt to make the judiciary reflect modern Britain, an official report recommended today. The proposals said the “positive action” should apply where two candidates for a judicial appointment are seen to have equal abilities. A report by an Advisory Panel on Judicial Diversity said that the judiciary has historically drawn its membership from well educated, middle-class, white, male barristers. It said that despite increasing numbers of women and ethnic minorities in the legal profession, this had been reflected only slowly in appointments to the judiciary.”

This hoary oldchestnut has been around for years.  I recall reading Professor Griffith’s book The Politics of The Judiciary many years ago.  As far as I recall, a central theme ofGriffiths’ book was the judges were ‘white middle class, middle aged and middle minded’.  It is quite possible, after a lifetime of enjoying red wine while reading about law, that I may have added the ‘middle minded’ bit.

I am all for diversity.  But… I am also all for getting the right people in the job and certainly would not wish to see the so-called ‘ethnic lesbian with one leg cliche’  being promoted to the judiciary ahead of better candidates simply to satisfy the needs of those who wish to mould and engineer society. The judicial appointment process has undergone significant change in recent years. Lawyers are coming from a wider cross-section of society.  Solicitors are now being appointed to the bench.  Lord Collins, an experienced law lord – now a Justice of the Supreme Court – is a solicitor. It takes time for changes to filter through. Women are far more numerous in the profession at the entry point than men.  When I was at law school in the mid-1970s the ratio was 90:10 approximately in favour of men.  Now it is 45:55 , possibly more, in favour of women. More students from ethnic minority families are coming into the law.

I am not in favour of any form of ‘positive discrimination’. It doesn’t work – it demeans the individual appointed, it demeans the process of fair appointments.  It may well have been unfairly weighted in the past, but this does not mean we have to counter past unfairness with a different kind of unfairness going forward. Best person for the job…whatever their gender, orientation, race, religion?  A wonderful ideal… but can we pull it off?

Some of the comments in The Times reflect public attitudes. I quote a couple as a taster….

Martin Carter wrote:
So having deceitfully engineered mass immigration and changed the make-up of the country, Straw’s friends now want to change the judicial appointments system to reflect the population.

Presumably the only reason they didn’t call for full-blown Sharia law was that the country isn’t quite ready for that just yet?

Roger HUDSON wrote:
I loathe with a loathing unsurpassed anything that smacks of ‘positive discrimination’ but, looking at some of the lunatic, irresponsible verdicts dished out by ‘white male’ judges, maybe your black, disabled lesbian couldn’t do worse.
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Minor problem

I managed to pour tea over my laptop yesterday afternoon.  This was not a ‘homage’ to Gordon Brown’s temper – but an accident.

The laptop appears to be working intermittently.  Perhaps it is drying out? I shall post later, if I manage to fix it!

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How the Hong Kong TV news reported on Gordon Brown’s ‘dificulties’…. absolutely wonderful stuff – a must watch.  Hat Tip to OboTheClown for this… his finger is often on the pulse!

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Watching former deputy prime minister  Jabba The Hut Prescott last night on Newsnight, blustering away, clearly furious that the Rawnsley ‘Revelations’ were about to assist in the immolation and final burial of Gordonus Caesar’s disastrous period of rule, was a surreal experience.

I started to imagine Andrew Rawnsley, dressed like Maximus in the famous film Gladiator, riding up and down the lines of his sources on Saturday night, the eve of the firestorm , the eve before publication of his book The End of The Party (available on Amazon and all good bookshops) – and exhorting them to ‘Unleash Hell’.

Far from unleashing hell, Rawnsley’s 24 carat sources appear to have done a runner. Jeremius Paxmanus, taking on the role of Cicero, put Maximus Rawnsley under pressure to name his sources… or rather more particularly, to drop Sir Gus O’Donnell, Cabinet Secretary, in the Merdus.

Rawnsley was, of course, as we say in Battersea…. A fronte praecipitium a tergo lupiA precipice in front, wolves behind (between a rock and a hard place)

Rawnsley could not, as an experienced and well regarded journalist, reveal his sources.  Paxmanus knew this. This allowed Jabba The Hut to froth and exclaim… “Rawnsley’s main source Abiit, excessit, evasit, erupitHe has left, absconded, escaped and disappeared.

As I drank my Rioja (Vinum bellum iucunumque est, sed animo corporeque caret – It’s a nice little wine, but it lacks character and depth) and listened to Jabba’s oration,  I was reminded of the maxim Ad captandum vulgusTo appeal to the crowd — often used of politicians who make false or insincere promises appealing to popular interest.

Paxmanus, unable to break Rawnsley on the crucifix of his advocacy, turned to the next obvious line of questioning… money. I was surprised that Paxmanus gave up so quickly… for normally the maxim...Verveces tui similes pro ientaculo mihi appositi suntI have jerks like you for breakfast…would have been most appropriate.

The subject of money, often dear to the hearts of departing failed politicians (come to that,  failed serving politicians as well) inspired Jabba The Prescott to crow to the baying crowd (Daniel Finkelstein, Lord Hattersley and Lord Steel) that Rawnsley had a book to sell.. forgetting that both he and his wife had been coining it in by flogging their ‘memoirs’.

The interview became more surreal when Paxmanus turned to two rather dull politicians from Jurassic Park. Hattersley pronounced and declaimed with the remarkable prescience of a man who achieved little himself in office but who had the wisdom of the ages… I almost expected him to proclaim… Verum et factum convertunturThe true and the made are interchangeable. One can know with certainty only what he have created himself but he didn’t.  He merely said that there were better issues to think about than the anger management problems of a prime minister which he seemed quite prepared to dismiss as par for the political course.

Lord David Steel, enobled for having told his Liberal Party to ‘go home and prepare for government’ tried to reprise the role Of Maximus Aurelius in Gladiator.  I imagined him saying to Maximus Rawnsley… “You have not seen what politics has become. I am dying, Maximus. When a man sees his end… he wants to know there was some purpose to his life. How will the world speak my name in years to come? Will I be known as the philosopher? The warrior? The tyrant…? Or will I be the Leader of the Liberal-Democrats who gave the party back her true self? There was once a dream that was Government. You could only whisper it. Anything more than a whisper and it would vanish… it was so fragile. And I fear that it will not survive the winter.”

Finkelstein dismissed the whole matter of doubt and said that Rawnsley’s account is true – that the Westminster Village has known this for some time – and that, certainly, seems to be the case from even a cursory reading of Private Eye, Guido Fawkes and other political blogs.Politicians don’t, as they used to say in Dad’s Army – like it ‘Up ’em.’

The spectre of Brown, pictured on the backing set in the Newsnight studio, cast a pall of gloom – a phantasm of doom.

I end with advice for Gordonus Brown, the Labour Caesar who destroyed the vision of a society fair for all, with these words from Horace… Vis consili expers mole ruit sua

Brute force bereft of wisdom falls to ruin by its own weight. This maxim may also be interpreted ….Discretion is the better part of valor.

The Vox populi shall speak… very soon and I fear that it may not be for Gordonus Brown.

UPDATE: IT JUST GETS WORSE


This from Iain Dale Blog  on Prescott – a must read…

How to Cope With a Bullying Prescott

PS… I will try and find some sensible Labour people to vote for… I have just moved to Battersea and have registered to vote… I shall see if the local Labour MP is vaguely sane, sensible, behaved on expenses etc… do I need to hide behind the sofa on this one?

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There is a remarkable and curious resemblance between Gordon Brown and the character in this computer game Bully: The Scholarship Edition.

It may be time for me to take some pills….

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Gordon Brown hit by fresh bullying allegations

Pressure mounts on cabinet secretary to launch inquiry into claims prime minister abused Downing St staff The Guardian

Yesterday, being a Sunday and my mood frivolous, I wrote about the Andrew Rawnsley allegations against Gordon Brown.  I also engaged in a bit of nonsense on Twitter with @KerryMP when accused of the ‘mortal sin’ of not reading the newspapers. This was twitter nonsense.  I enjoy @kerryMP tweets – and at least she is out there, engaging with other twitter users.  I was faffing about.
I do, however, feel that the allegations about Gordon Brown’s behaviour are ‘far from silly’ and the intervention yesterday by the CEO of the Bullying National Helpline raises the stakes.  The serious newspapers are all covering the matter.  I continue with my very simple stance.  Denial and spin will not make this story go away.  It will, of course, drop off the headlines but the fact of the matter is that a serious and well regarded journalist, Andrew Rawnsley, who maintains his sources are ‘impeccable’, has made serious allegations about the behaviour of a serving prime minister.  To dismiss these allegations as ‘colourful’ because Rawnsley wants to sell a book – may well be a sensible tactic.  If Rawnsley has got it right, then Brown, has a few questions to answer. We do have a right to know if the man or woman at the top, leading a government, is in control, is reasonably competent to carry out the very demanding work of a prime minister.  There is too much at stake for this simply to be dismissed.  We shall see what happens this week when Sir Gus O’Donnell, the Cabinet Secretary,  appears before the Justice Committee in the House of Commons.   The Times reports this morning...” A senior government source said ‘The timing for us is dreadful.”

In another bizarre twist, Iain Dale, well known conservative blogger, seems to have got himself into a bit of ‘hot water’ by covering the ‘art works’ of Louis Sidolo who ‘ got in touch with Dale to ask if he could cover his work.  Dale did so and incurred the wrath of the ravening horde. The comments section to the post reveal the extent of that wrath. One of the artworks is pictured left.

Girls, you can take the skirts off

Is not a headline one would have expected to see in The Times on a wet and grey Monday morning.

EQUALITY and human rights law may make it illegal for schools to force girls to wear skirts — because uniforms discriminate against transsexuals. Official guidance from the Equality and Human Rights Commission warns schools that insisting that girls wear skirts may breach the rights of those who feel compelled to live as boys.The watchdog, which has enforcement powers against public bodies that break equality law, says “requiring pupils to wear gender-specific clothes is potentially unlawful”. The Times

But back to the increasingly bizarre world of politics with this story from The Daily Mail…

Projectile vomiting MP downed so much champagne during drinking contest on official trip friends feared he might die

The Mail reports…

“Two Labour MPs took part in a champagne drinking contest on an official Commons junket to Paris, which led to one of them being violently ill. Left-winger Bill Etherington drank so much that a doctor was called.”

Apparently, Geraldine Smith MP took the sensible course by chucking her champagne into nearby flowerpots.  Etherington did not and ended up…”

in a “confused” state en route to a dinner in a splendid French restaurant. More champagne was guzzled. [He] had consumed a near lethal quantity of alcohol.

‘He was placed at the top table where he babbled incoherently. The event was a dinner for delegates from about 20 countries….The reputation of the British is still damaged by this incident. It was not the idiotic competition or the wild inebriation that left an indelible memory. It was the display of projectile vomiting across the top table.”

Bizarre, indeed.

Rather more serious is the conduct of the British government in relation to torture.  The Times reports this morning…

MI5 may face new torture inquiry

The Times: “AS befits Britain’s most senior spy, Jonathan Evans is noted in Whitehall for being cool under fire. That quality will be tested this week when MI5’s director-general learns whether his service is about to be engulfed by one of the biggest crises in its 100-year history. For the past 10 weeks a senior lawyer in the office of Baroness Scotland, the attorney-general, has been studying the cases of five British men alleged to have been unlawfully detained and tortured in Pakistan with the complicity of MI5. Scotland may rule there is insufficient evidence to call in detectives but if she does refer the cases to the police, it could in effect paralyse the agency that Evans has led since 2007.”

And finally, for this post…from The Telegraph

Judge criticises ‘waste of money’ case after pensioner threatens boys with hammer

A Crown Court case against a pensioner who threatened four boys for climbing trees was a waste of taxpayers’ money, a judge has said.

“Beryl Welch, 61, was charged with affray after scolding four scouts aged 11 to 13 who were clambering up trees at a scout camp next to her garden in Cosgrove, Bucks. After her pleas were ignored and fearing the trees were being vandalised, she got a claw hammer from her house and angrily waved it at the youngsters.

She was arrested after the four scouts, from the 1st Newton Longville Scout Group, claimed she had swung the hammer at them twice, missing one of them by inches. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) charged her following the incident on February 21 last year and bought the case before Northampton Crown Court this week. But following a two-day trial, a jury of six men and six women cleared Mrs Welch of affray and found her guilty of the lesser charge of threatening behaviour. Judge Charles Wide QC gave Mrs Welch a 12-month conditional discharge and criticised the prosecution and the CPS for bringing the case to trial.He told Mrs Welch she would not have to pay any costs because the CPS’s charge of affray was too harsh and the matter could have been heard in a Magistrates’ Court without huge costs to the taxpayer.”

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Andrew Rawnsley – who I always enjoy reading on Sundays – has extracts of his new book The End of The Party in the The Observer today. He makes a number of serious allegations about Gordon Brown – summarised in The New Statesman.

The main five allegations:

1. The cabinet secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell – the top civil servant – launched his own investigations into Brown’s bullying of staff. After looking into it, he told the prime minister: “This is no way to get things done”. He took it upon himself to comfort members of staff and tell them not to take it personally.

2. Apparently Brown was consumed by paranoia after the cancelled election in 2007. After hearing about the loss of confidential data discs in November 2007, he grabbed Gavin Kelly, the deputy chief of staff, by the lapels of his jacket, and yelled: “They’re out to get me!”

3. Stewart Wood, a senior adviser on foreign affairs, received verbal abuse when he attempted to brief Brown about a Downing Street reception for European ambassadors. The prime minister reportedly yelled: “Why are you making me meet these fucking people?” before shoving Wood aside.

4. Rawnsley describes an aide cowering in fear that Brown was going to hit him after sharing some bad news while in the car, and writes that “the cream upholstery of the seat-back in front of Brown was flecked with black marks. When having a meltdown the prime minister would habitually stab it with his black marker pen.”

5. The prime minister’s relationship to Alistair Darling is portrayed as tense and troubled. Rawnsley writes that Brown flew into a rage after Darling said in an interview in 2008 that the economic crisis was the worst for 60 years. In a furious phone call, he told the chancellor that the crisis “will be over in six months”.

Gordon Brown refutes these allegationssee The Statesman piece.

There is only one conclusion to be drawn from this.  Rawnsley is not telling the truth and has opened himself to libel proceedings or Brown is not telling the truth?  It may be possible that I have missed something here with this analysis – and some spin doctor will be able to persuade people that both Rawnsley and the prime minister are telling the truth!
So… as I tend to favour the view, for the present (as is my right) that Rawnsley is unlikely to have written and published this material without checking with ‘impeccable sources’ – Brown should sue and have the matter determined by the courts.

He won’t do so, of course.  He will plead, as his Twitter Tzar already has, that he has ‘better’ things to do and will get on with the job.

I am not interested in the hysterical views of bloggers/tweeters/spin doctors – I would just like to see who is telling the truth – because if Brown has done these things it is clear to me, as a Labour voter, that he is not fit to be leader.  I believe that I still enjoy the right, despite being a labour voter, to express my distaste for the behaviour of the prime minister as described by Rawnsley and if it be proved on a ‘balance of probabilities’ that Brown is telling the truth and Rawnsley has libelled Brown – then I will change my view.

Rawnsley has been brave enough to put his reputation on the line – globally.  Is Brown?

And then I had this astonishing exchange with the Twitter Tzar… may have touched a nerve, there…. that’s the trouble with democracy… you can’t always control people or bloggers… and Kerry MP can certainly not control me now… I shall run RIOT!!

Ridiculous!

And then this came along

OK.. I’ve had my fun… orf to do some ironing…as my irony is not up to scratch….  but I still think Brown should sue if he wants me to believe him!

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