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Archive for March 1st, 2010

The cat is out of the bag… as they used to say in the Royal Navy between bouts of “rum, sodomy and the lash” (Winston Churchill) ….. Ashcroft has fessed up… but the Guardian isn’t letting him off the hook.

Toby Helm does the business in the boot putting in stakes…

Ashcroft tax revelations: A shocking and profoundly depressing moment

The Tory attitude to this scandal says a lot about the party and its self-image as one born to rule

Yes… we know Lord Paul and other non-doms are doing the same thing.. but are they trying to target marginal seats with quids and are they senior members of the Labour ‘apparatus of power and change’ ? ?

UPDATE… now THIS… from a ‘Master of the Art of Politicalart ‘  [Beau Bo D’Or ] is funny… at least I think it is… and I hope you will..

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I may not get very far with this – but  I have decided to celebrate the fact that the sun shone and  my new rather spiky haircut – which a lovely Spanish woman did – and the fact that I am both resident and domiciled somewhere… by starting a series of posts on politics for the younger person.

First up is Mr Fantastic. (Older readers may care to look at the Wikipedia entry to see what I am on about.. or, indeed, telephone NHS Direct and tell them that the Lord Ashcroft story finally did me in).

OK… OK… I’ll get my coat…. and see if you can catch me…. I’m orf…

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It has been quite a day… with the revelation by Lord Ashcroft that things were not quite what some thought them to be. Jack Straw has responded with a fairly robust statement, Iain Dale, disclosing that Lord Ashcroft is an investor in his publishing business, opens the batting for the Tories with some stat porn, Guido Fawkes  reminds us that he has been calling for Ashcroft to come clean for some time (He has) and reminds us that Labour also has possession of a non-dom peer and Privy Councillor to boot in Lord PaulGerald Warner puts the boot into Cameron by saying that he is ” in a modernising hole and, thankfully, still digging” … and just so that Cameron is left in no doubt about the strength of feeling among some traditional tories… Warner puts the boot in again..

“Good, Dave! This is excellent news. Because, Dave, there is no one we want more to see in a hole and still digging than you. It would have been regrettable if you had taken fright, assumed a mask of traditional Conservatism and possibly fooled some genuine Tories into voting for you. Much better that you should persevere in the demented and traitorous stance that will cause you to crash and burn. So, this is good news.

Just one or two personal pronouns out of place there, though. “We” did not decide we wanted to modernise the Tory Party – you and the Maudernisers did. And, yes, you didn’t do it on your own, you had a bunch of muppets to support you and some hoods from CCHQ – as it is now inelegantly known – to put the frighteners on local constituenecy associations and make sure they selected their candidates from a PC table d’hôte menu of women, ethnic minorities and homosexuals. That strategy, of course, was devised when you had a 25-point poll lead; how it plays out in present circumstances remains to be seen.

The man behind the story and, indeed, the Tory Party…Lord Ashcroft… demonstrated masterly skills of evasion and obfuscation with his statement – forced in advance of a Freedom of Information request about to be published by the Cabinet Office.

Lord Ashcroft: As for the future, while the non-dom status will continue for many people in business or public life, David Cameron has said that anyone sitting in the legislature – Lords or Commons – must be treated as resident and domiciled in the UK for tax purposes. I agree with this change and expect to be sitting in the House of Lords for many years to come.

The difference, however, between Lord Paul and Lord Ashcroft seems to be that Lord Ashcroft was initially turned down for a peerage and only got it because of promises he made… promises, Jack Straw says, which have not have been kept.

“Lord Ashcroft was initially turned down for a peerage. He was only granted his peerage on the basis that he would return to live in the UK, become fully resident, and that he would pay tax in the UK on his wider income.

“Today Lord Ashcroft has been forced to admit that he has not complied with this promise and that for the last ten years the Conservatives have been concealing the truth.”

Tomorrow could be even better….. the spinning jennies could be working overtime….

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I smoke and while I am happy  to accommodate non-smokers I would have preferred the smoking ban to have accommodated smokers by providing separate areas for smokers inside. Pubs have closed, bars have closed and some pubs are no longer the places they used to be – simply because smokers often enjoy drinking as well and they aren’t going to pubs on cold wet windy days and nights.  They are drinking and smoking at home.

Political blogger and libertarian, Old Holborn, has an excellent campaign – which I am both happy to support by making a donation (I have just done it) and by publicising it.

I quote from Old Holborn’s blog…

There has been a fair amount of comment in the blogosphere regarding the six month jail sentence given to Nick Hogan for flouting the ‘no-smoking ban’.

Outrage has been duly expressed, here, there, and everywhere. Perhaps we can do better than just express outrage?

Nick was actually jailed for non-payment of the fine originally imposed for a ‘mass smoke-in’ on the day the ban came into force in 2007 in his pub, the ‘Swan and Barristers’ in Bolton. He no longer has that pub. He was fined again when council inspectors walked into his present pub and discovered a group of customers smoking – Nick wasn’t even on the premises.

I could not agree more.  Outrage is often expressed on the net and on Twitter – but outrage alone is not going to solve Nick Hogan’s problem. Do have a look at Old Holborn’s blog post to find out what the law is on Smoking (interesting) and if you are minded to help… a lot of £1 donations will free Nick Hogan.  I had some money knocking about in Paypal – enough for four packs of Marlboro…. and Nick Hogan is more than welcome to it!  If you wish to donate – please visit Old Holborn’s blog and follow the instructions there!

Mosley case on privacy laws ‘is being fast-tracked’

The Independent reports: European Court set to give public figures chance to gag press on damaging stories

It could spell the end of the kiss and tell: public figures might, within 18 months, have the power to stifle bad news stories before they are published, a senior lawyer has warned.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) is currently fast-tracking a landmark case, brought by Max Mosley, to tighten UK privacy laws. Mark Stephens, a lawyer acting for a group of media and free speech organisations opposing Mr Mosley in court, believes that the extraordinary pace with which it is proceeding suggests that the judges are about to rule in the former Formula One boss’s favour.

That would mean a change in the law that would force the press to contact anyone that they are intending to run a story about to warn them if it could potentially breach their privacy, giving public figures a chance to gag newspapers before publication.

While I am not at all interested in Max Mosley’s desire to dress up in striped ‘prison style’ uniform, have his head examined for lice and then be beaten by blonde dominatrixes shouting at him in faux German accents (He then had a spot of shouting in German himself after his own thrashing) I am concerned that press freedom may be curtailed by public figures when it is in the public interest that their activities be disclosed

Article 8 European Convention on Human Rights – Right to respect for private and family life

1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.

2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

The Independent noted: “Mr Stephens, partner at Finers Stephens Innocent, argued that the revelations about Mr Mosley’s sex life, published in the News of the World, are not covered by Article 8. He added: “There should be no injunction preventing publication. What Mosley is doing is trying to drive a coach and horses through the rules and get injunctions against newspapers prior to publication. This could be the end of ‘publish and be damned’. Are we really saying that next time we want to write a story about a public figure, we should give them 48 hours’ notice?”

I did a podcast with Mark Stephens last year when the Trafigura case raised issues about the use of superinjunctions. Given the relative ineffectiveness of High Court injunctions in the internet and twitter age,  it may be useful for the law makers and the Ministry of Justice to investigate the increasing use of superinjunctions.  Privacy of the individual for matters which do not impact on the public interest is one thing (deserving of protection) – activities which are potentially harmful to the wider public interest is quite different – and a free press is essential if we are to prevent mission creep to suppress freedom of the press.

And…another case on privacy…mission creep?

Kate Middleton set for £10,000 privacy victory

The Times reports: KATE MIDDLETON, the girlfriend of Prince William, is set to win a controversial claim for alleged invasion of her privacy. She is expected to receive at least £10,000 in damages, plus substantial legal costs, after threatening to sue a photographer and two British picture agencies over photographs taken of her at Christmas. The images were not even published in Britain. Middleton’s claim follows a decision by the Queen to crack down on alleged intrusions into the private lives of the royals. Middleton’s action may also be an attempt to restrain photographers ahead of an engagement to the prince.

Sources close to negotiations over the dispute say that the photographic agencies have offered to meet Middleton’s demands because they cannot risk losing an expensive court battle. One said: “We can’t fight them. If it went to court and we lost, it could cost £100,000.”

The Times report noted that the photographer took the photos from a public footpath – not using a telephoto lens  – and while Ms Middleton may well have been concerned about photographers taking photographs ‘through the window’  of her eating lunch,  that did not happen.

The Times noted..”Middleton instructed her lawyers to seek damages and take legal action if she did not receive a suitable response. One source said: “They are trying to crucify the photographer; maybe they want to set an example.”

It is a difficult balance, but those who seek to live lives in a public way and take advantage of the very significant financial rewards in doing so must accept reasonable interest from the public in their activities generally and, if they stray into illegal activity, the full scourge of investigative journalism. For my own part, being a good ‘republican’, I would be quite happy if I never saw a photograph of a Royal again – save in the execution of a public state duty.  The trouble with celebs, royal or not, is that they often seek press coverage when it suits their interests and then complain when it does not.  We are too craven in this country about the ‘great and the good’ – I suspect quite a few celebs would bleat like stuck pigs if their rather (often)  tedious activities were not covered by the tabloid press.

And finally… on a cheerful note, particularly if you are a student – I am delighted to let law students know about a new series of Revision aids from Oxford University Press – the Concentrate series.  OUP has published quite a few already:

English legal System | Contract Law | Criminal Law | Equity & Trusts | Public Law | EU Law | Evidence Law | Business Law | Employment Law | Land Law

I disclose that OUP has sponsored Insite Law Magazine costs to assist in our keeping resources free – but I have no hesitation in saying that this series is an excellent supplement for students should they wish to focus their revision.

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