Posts Tagged ‘parliament’

Fun for the geeks

August 3, 2010

I’ve been enjoying myself here.

I like ye olde Treason Act of 1351:

Declaration what Offences shall be adjudged Treason. Compassing the Death of the King, Queen, or their eldest Son; violating the Queen, or the King’s eldest Daughter unmarried, or his eldest Son’s Wife.

But no matter how hard I look through the Acts of the Old Scottish Parliament I ‘m still having trouble finding the ancient Scotch law “Oh ye cannae shove your granny aff the bus”.


Still alive! 2

July 5, 2010

Have you ever noticed references to the parliamentary Opposition getting Short Money and wondered where the term came from? Well, it was named after Edward Short – now Baron Glenamara – a Labour politician who came up with the idea that the Government should help fund the Opposition (loonies who argue that Cuba has a healthier democracy thank the UK, take note!).

Baron Glenamara is still alive. Born in 1912, he is the second oldest living member of the House of Commons. The other is, of course, James Allson.  Baron Glenamara has been around a long time; he was leader of the Newcastle City Council Labour group in 1948!! Good on him.

Another long-living Labour peer and contributor to political discourse can be found in Baron Barnett, who naturally came up with the Barnett Formula. Joel Barnett’s formula for funding the various outposts of the UK may not satisfy everyone but it has guaranteed him political immortality – which is surely the best sort of immortality there is!

And finally, for something a bit different, I am glad to see that Malvin Kaminsky – aka Mel Brooks – is still alive and kicking. This is the man responsible for The Producers, Spaceballs, Robin Hood: Men in Tights and all kinds of other comic gems. The baked bean scene in Blazing Saddles is puerile genius.

Born in 1926 makes Brooks a hefty 84. Maybe the secret to his longevity is a well-developed sense of scatological humour. It seems grossly unfair to me that the Pope gets an official state visit to the UK whilst Mel Brooks does not.

All power to the quacks

June 29, 2010

In Commons Health Questions this afternoon Tory MP David Tredinnick was disgusted by the suggestion of one of his Liberal Democrat colleagues that homeopathy should not receive NHS funding.

Tredinnick, who has a loony reputation in a most appropriate sense, decried the criticism of his beloved homeopathy as “illiberal”. Despite what the cynics claim there was plenty of annecdotal evidence that homeopathy works, he declared. In other words, damn those scientists and their pesky science!

The complementary-enthusiastic Conservative then pointed out that no-one was forcing anyone else to use homeopathic medicine so why not just leave it alone. But Tredinnick is of course in favour of forcing us taxpayers to pay for this nonsense as part of the NHS budget. As with hospital chaplains, I spy some sensible public expenditure cuts!

In a two fingered defiance to sanity and reason Conservative MPs recently put both Tredinnick and Nadine Dorries on the Health Select Committee. Yes, that’s the same Nadine Dorries who, as part of her anti-abortion crusade, allied herself to Andrea Williams of the Lawyers Christian Fellowship, an evangelical who believes that the world is only 4000 years old.

Would it not be more sensible to establish a harmless All Party Parliamentary Flat Earth Society and then let Tredinnick and Dorries help run that?

Bonar Law, Baldwin, Thatcher, Cameron – the long line of Tory deflation

June 11, 2010

Top notch maiden speech from Labour MP and historian Gregg McClymont. Even if maiden speeches are inevitably treated as sponges, his was very stone-like.

I look forward to hearing further comparisons between Tory policy today and Tory policy in the 1920s from him in the future!

Gregg McClymont (Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East) (Lab):
May I add my congratulations on your election, Mr Deputy Speaker? I noticed that you have the “Directory of Members” to hand. I hope that you will agree that I do not look quite as bad in the flesh as I do in that truly horrific photo.

I come to this House from Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East-a constituency served with great distinction by my predecessor, Rosemary McKenna. Rosemary’s 13 years in Parliament were the culmination of a lifetime of public service. As teacher, councillor, council leader, president of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and, latterly, Member of this House, Rosemary served the public with distinction for more than 40 years. Rosemary’s
distinctions are many, but I would like to emphasise her temperament and character. Rosemary’s generous nature, her good humour, and, especially, her serenity served her well. To keep one’s head when all around are losing theirs is an asset in every walk of life, but especially, I suspect, in this place. I am sure that the House will join me in wishing Rosemary well in her retirement.

For those who do not know the geography of my constituency-and I suspect that there are a few-Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East sits at the heart of Scotland, roughly at the centre of a triangle formed by Edinburgh, Glasgow and Stirling. This central location, along with a work force well educated in our excellent local comprehensive schools and colleges, is attractive to employers both private and public. Indeed, Members unlucky enough to receive a call
from the Inland Revenue will, I am sure, take some comfort in the knowledge that they are likely being called from my constituency, home to one of the largest Inland Revenue offices in the country.

The economy of my constituency is, I think, much like the economy of the country: it reflects a symbiotic relationship between the private and the public sectors. That is why I disagree with some of the speeches I have heard-not today, but in previous debates-from Conservative Members, who repeatedly draw a stark distinction between the public and the private. To me, that is rather artificial. Our economy depends on interaction between these two sectors. No man is an island, and neither is any private sector enterprise. In my view, the
private sector could not flourish without a public infrastructure of roads, rail, sanitation, telecoms or, indeed, a people well educated in our public, by which I mean our state, schools.

That is the perspective that underpins the views of Labour Members on the Government’s deficit reduction plan, with all its implications for poverty reduction. Yes, reducing the deficit is important; yes, it is a priority; but cutting before the recovery is established and before confidence is restored is to flirt with disaster. Badly timed public sector cuts of the kind proposed by the Government will not, in my judgment, damage only the public sector, but the private sector, too, as they will reduce demand in the whole economy.

I urge Members on both sides of the House to read the report released today by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, whose chief economist has revised his forecasts. Looking at the proposed Government cuts, he now believes that unemployment will reach 2.95 million by 2012 and remain close to 3 million until 2015. That would be a disaster for the poor: when the economy retracts, it is the poor who suffer most. Substantial reductions in poverty depend on economic growth, because in the end substantial poverty reduction depends on the creation of jobs. I am sure we all agree that the single best poverty reduction programme is creating well-paid, secure jobs.

That is the context in which I raise my concern about how the Government are approaching the deficit, with all its implications for poverty in this country. I recognise, of course, that it is entirely consistent for the Conservatives to advance deflationary economic policies. As a historian, I can see them having been put forward in different guises for 100 years, whether it be by Bonar Law in the 1920s, Mr Baldwin in the 1930s, Mrs Thatcher in the 1980s or the new Prime Minister in 2010. The object is generally the same-to reduce the financial burden on those who tend to vote Conservative. That is understandable.

More depressing, from my point of view, is the Liberal Democrat embrace of this deflationary strategy. One hundred years ago, the Liberal party broke with that kind of economics. In his “People’s Budget”, Lloyd George rejected as inadequate and likely to increase poverty exactly the kind of approach that underpins the new Government’s strategy. I wonder what Lloyd George, Beveridge, and,
above all, Keynes would make of the Liberal Democrat position. I suspect that those great social Liberals would see the Government’s so-called anti-poverty measures-whether they be fractional tax advantages for a minority of married couples, or appeals to the “Big Society”-for what they are. In my judgment, these are measures designed to ease the consciences of those who wish to feel that something is being done about poverty, while the actual priority is that that something” to be done is of minimal cost.

More positively, I hope the Government can be persuaded that poverty reduction depends, as I say, on well-paid secure jobs. I believe that the minimum wage and tax credits are excellent measures that reward work and have done something significant to reduce poverty in this country. I urge the Government, if I may say so, to embrace them with the zeal of a convert.

I also ask the Government to consider the issue of work that pays not too badly, but too well. I welcome the Government’s commitment to ending excessive salaries in the public sector, but I think that we have to look at the private sector, too. Excess public sector pay is not fair and should be curbed, but it is not actively dangerous, whereas inappropriate incentives in the private sector-excessive and poorly calibrated bonuses in particular-have put our entire economy in jeopardy.

Growing up in the new town of Cumbernauld in the 1980s, I saw with my own eyes the harm done by deflationary political economy. It took over a decade of Labour Government to begin to heal the scars left in Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East, and, indeed, in many other parts of the country. We ask not to be targeted again by a new round of deflationary cuts, particularly when the recession was inspired by the financial services sector. What I ask is that the burden is fairly shared.

In the end, I repeat, it is growth that will reduce the deficit in a way that enables the economy to prosper, thus allowing further reductions in poverty to take place. The best way to reduce poverty is to create work with a decent wage, which depends on economic growth. By cutting too fast, too soon, the Government risk a slump in demand across the economy: the result will be even higher unemployment than at present and thus greater poverty too. For me-and, I am sure, for many Members-that is a grim prospect indeed.

Vaz’n’Hodge – two of my least favourite Labour MPs

June 9, 2010

Will Straw of Left Foot Forward has released a joint list of endorsements for Commons Select Committee chairs with Tim Montgomerthingie of Conservative Home. Isn’t the bipartisan spirit sweet? A nice bit of the new politics there.

Unfortunately the two Labour candidates they have expressed support for are Keith Vaz (running to remain chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee) and Margaret Hodge (going for Public Accounts).


The Daily Mail is of course a filthy rag, but stories pointing out Vaz’ sleaziness stick. He is one slippery customer and I don’t trust him one inch.

The Left Foot Forward/ConservativeHome endorsement reads: “his strong network within the BAME community and experience in foreign affairs gives him valuable insight”. Some of us consider Vaz’ principal achievement in foreign affairs to be his attempt to secure passports for rich foreign business buddies and so helping to cause a political scandal.

Those of us with even longer memories (or a taste for history) recall this BAME community networker joining the ridiculous Muslim demonstrations against The Satanic Verses.

All quite unforgivable.

The endorsement of Hodge points to her record in local government. It somehow manages to avoid mentioning the Islington child abuse scandal over which she presided as council leader.

Undoubtedly all politicians have skeletons in their closets, but Vaz and Hodge are examples of Labour MPs with particularly undistinguished careers IMHO. It therefore seems wacky for the editors of Left Foot Forward and Conservative Home to express support for such embarrassing politicians.

Food for thought

June 8, 2010

Michael Gove in the Commons last week:

The previous Government did make progress in certain areas. The former Secretary of State published his own cook book, “Real Meals”- two, in fact-which was distributed to every school in the land. In the words of the Speaker, when opening the debate on the Queen’s Speech, I have “obtained a copy” for the better understanding of the House. Right hon. and hon. Members may wish to read it during our deliberations this afternoon to get a better understanding of just what he was doing for much of his time in office. Certainly, time spent familiarising oneself with his recipes will not be wasted. I am sure that many of us will be captivated by the eye-watering sight of his mighty muffins in full colour on these pages. I have to say that the shadow Secretary of State certainly has a beautiful set of buns. May I congratulate him for striking a blow against elitism with his cook book? For the first time in history, a socialist Government’s response to poor achievement was, “Let them eat cake.”

Labour’s Ian Austin got revenge for the reds yesterday:

I think that I have discovered why the Secretary of State was so disparaging about the recipe book that the previous Government produced, which as you will recall, Mr Speaker, included recipes for proper English food, such as Lancashire hotpot and cottage pie. The right hon. Gentleman might not have heard of those, because I understand from The Times this morning that his favourite meal is something called “scaloppine with parmentier potatoes”. I am afraid that we cannot get that in Dudley, so I asked somebody more familiar than myself with the fancy foreign food available in expensive London restaurants, and apparently it is veal. Is that what the pupils of Britain can look forward to eating now that the Notting Hill elite are running the Government?

Spot the difference II

June 7, 2010

In the latest of this irregular feature (the previous one suggested that Cheryl Gillan is a grumpy Tory version of cheery Labourite Ann Clwyd) it is put to loyal readers that Labour’s Shadow Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw resembles Tory Grammar School-phile Graham Brady. Except obviously Brady is chubbier.







Ok, that’s enough.

Who do you think you are kidding Mr Tory?

June 4, 2010

  Chris Bryant was in fine form in the Commons yesterday:

Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): It is an enormous pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Daventry (Chris Heaton-Harris), who referred to me as his hon. Friend; coalitions are building, but I do not think that they are going quite that far. It is a delight to see him, because despite his absolutely ludicrous, nonsensical opinions on Europe-and nearly everything else under the sun-he is quite a nice guy. Indeed, we have shared many a pint, and several bottles of wine, which I think I always paid for, in Les Aviateurs in Strasbourg. I wish him well. The hon. Gentleman follows on from a very fine Member of Parliament, who was much respected across the House; he had much more sensible views than the hon. Gentleman, I fear.

I should explain to new hon. Members that the normal course of an EU debate is that we have exactly the same people along to every single one for about 15 years, and they deliver their single transferrable speech, which they have delivered at every previous such debate. It sometimes reminds one a bit of a sitcom-“Dad’s Army” springs to mind. There is always somebody-normally it is the hon. Member for Stone (Mr Cash), who does not seem to be in the Chamber at the moment-who is rather irritating, and just ever so slightly pompous, but whose heart, we know, is really in the right place: the Captain Mainwaring of the House. We always have the immensely suave Sergeant Wilson, who is of course the hon. Member for North Dorset (Mr Walter). I am not suggesting that he resembles Sergeant Wilson in any other regard, incidentally.

We always have someone who has to say, “Don’t panic, Mr Mainwaring! Don’t panic! It’s all going to be okay!”, and that is normally my hon. Friend the Member for Luton North (Kelvin Hopkins), who on these matters, unfortunately, never agrees with me about anything.

Mr Davidson: Get on with it, Pike!

Chris Bryant: I am glad that my hon. Friend is piping up, because we always have Private Frazer, “We’re doomed, Captain Mainwaring! We’re doomed!”, and he is always played by my hon. Friend.

Then, of course, we always have someone who is immensely sanctimonious- [ Interruption. ] And lo and behold, the hon. Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark (Simon Hughes) has arrived in the Chamber. Such sanctimony, I hope, will be a thing of the past from the Liberal Democrats. If there is one thing that they must have learned on becoming members of the coalition, it is that sanctimony must be a thing of the past for the Liberal Democrats. I can see that several Conservatives who were Members in the previous Parliament agree, and the hon. Gentleman is surely the vicar from “Dad’s Army”.

Are the Liberal Democrats taking this allegation of anti-Semitism seriously?

May 26, 2010

In yesterday’s debate on the Queen’s Speech, Labour MP Gerald Kaufman (a gent of Jewish extraction) started off his response by slamming the Lib Dems for going into coalition with the Tories. Maintaining this Lib Dem-bashing theme (here here), Sir Gerald accused his Liberal Democrat opponent in the recent election of trying to use anti-Semitism to win votes:

I say something else to the Liberal Democrats: they will have to indulge in some internal house cleaning. Their candidate against me at the general election, Qassim Afzal, went round the constituency to mosques and other places where Muslims gather, telling people to vote against me because I am a Jew. That is what their candidate did. I was told that again and again by Muslim voters. My Muslim voters are possessed of a decency and generosity of spirit utterly alien to the Liberal Democrat candidate in my constituency, because they organised for me as they never had before and voted for me in many thousands.

The incidents that took place in my constituency as part of an anti-Semitic campaign went on and on. One of my constituents, a Muslim, told me how the Liberal Democrat candidate Qassim Afzal came to his house, which had a poster of mine in the window, and said, “You cannot have a poster in your window of a Jew. Take it down.” I told two Liberal Democrat Members before Parliament was dissolved that that was what their candidate in Gorton was doing. They were horrified. They said that they would bring it to the attention of their leadership. I do not know whether they did. I do know that their Liberal Democrat candidate, against the decency and humanity of my Muslim constituents, went on conducting an anti-Semitic campaign right through to polling day.

I say to the Liberal Democrat leader, now the Deputy Prime Minister, that if he did not know about that before, he should have done. His MPs told me that they had told him. He knows about it now. I will wait to see what he does to deal with an overtly anti-Semitic candidate who fought an anti-Semitic, and personally anti-Semitic, election campaign. If the Deputy Prime Minister does not take swift action to deal with that person, I will know that he accepts that anti-Semitism is a run-of-the-mill form of campaigning by Liberal Democrats. [Interruption.] Well, it is up to him. That is what their candidate did, disgusting thousands of Muslims in my constituency. It is up to the Liberal Democrats to decide whether those are acceptable campaigning tactics.

The thing is, Qassim Afzal is not just an ordinary Lib Dem (if such a thing is possible…). He has been a Lib Dem candidate in many previous elections and a Lib Dem councillor. Plus he sits as an elected member on the Federal Executive of the party alongside Clegg, Ed Davey, Jo Swinson and other bigwigs.

His website is quite amusing. He seems quite a, um, character. I couldn’t be bothered to trawl through his 9 page CV to establish if he’d ever been a member of an anti-Semitic organisation. Hopefully the Lib Dems will themselves investigate to see whether such a prominent member of their party engaged in these disgusting anti-Semitic tactics, as Kaufman claims.  

Spot the difference

May 24, 2010

Welsh Labour MP Ann Clywd

Tory Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan

Have you ever seen them in the same room?