Category Archives: Lords

Post-PMQs: surely the views of over 100 distinguished Jewish signatories outweigh those of 60 assorted Labour Lords

In an unsuccessful effort to deflect attention from Mr Corbyn’s questions about climate change during today’s PMQs, Theresa May forcefully – even maliciously – demanded an apology for his ‘failure to deal with anti-semitism within the Labour party’.

The following snapshots were taken as they spoke.

She referred to a full page advertisement in the Guardian paid for by 60 ‘distinguished’ Labour peers, attacking Jeremy Corbyn over anti-Semitism – as reported in the Murdoch Press.

Watch the exchange by clicking on this link (6 mins) and note the difference in demeanour as Jeremy Corbyn – impressively cool under fire – sets the record straight and tenaciously continues to challenge the government on the contrast between its rhetoric and its actions on climate change.

This welcome financial windfall for the Guardian, which occupies several inches of space after every online article asking for donations, recalls its withdrawal – after a communication from the Jewish Board of Deputies – of a previously published letter supporting Labour loyalist MP, Chris Williamson. It had over 100 Jewish signatories – many of whom evidently deserve to be described as distinguished.

The list of these signatories and their affiliations has, however, been saved by people who are beginning to expect this sort of mainstream skulduggery and may be seen here.

As the ‘censored’ Guardian letter said, such attacks on Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters aim to undermine the Labour party’s leadership, but – we add – they can rebound on the perpetrators.

 

 

 

 

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Lord Steyn: a legal luminary who upheld the rights of the powerless

 

Lord Steyn in 2005: a man of forthright opinion apparently untroubled by self doubt

The following 2004 broadside was fired by Lord Steyn, described in his Times obituary as an “Outspoken law lord whose liberal views became a thorn in the side of the Blair government, especially over Iraq and Guantanamo Bay”, following Lord Hoffmann’s suggestion that the courts should not interfere with certain Government decisions.

“Courts must never abdicate their duty to protect citizens from the abuse of power by governments . . .The United States government has already created a hellhole of utter lawlessness at Guantanamo Bay by committing such abuse.”

Lord Steyn was born and bred in Cape Town and was one of the few native Afrikaaners who fiercely opposed apartheid. He won a Rhodes scholarship to read English at University College, Oxford and after being called to the bar and sitting as senior counsel in South Africa’s supreme court emigrated to Britain in 1973 to start on the bottom rung of the legal ladder.

Though English was not his native language, his Afrikaans accent remained thick and his ‘delivery’ in court was hesitant, he was admired for his clear arguments and his skill in cross-examination. Having served as the presiding judge on the Northern Circuit, Steyn moved to the Court of Appeal in 1992. He was made a life peer in 1995.

A detainee from Afghanistan is carried on a stretcher before being interrogated by military officials at Camp X-Ray at the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (Telegraph 2016)

In 2003 he accused the home secretary, David Blunkett, of using “weasel words” to justify his policy on asylum seekers. Five months later, Steyn branded the US regime at Guantanamo Bay “a monstrous failure of justice” and declared that the system of trial by military tribunal was no more than a “kangaroo court” that “makes a mockery of justice”.

The unkett then blocked his appointment to a House of Lords judicial committee

The senior law lord, Lord Bingham of Cornhill, was asked not to include Steyn on the nine-judge panel to decide on the legality of detaining foreign terror suspects without trial – the first time a government had ever sought and obtained an alteration in the composition of the House of Lords’ judicial committee.

His other achievements include:

  • being one of the judges who ruled by a 3-2 majority that the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet was not entitled to claim sovereign immunity from prosecution;
  • reproving Lord Irvine of Lairg, the lord chancellor who sought ‘an unfettered right to impose rule changes on the legal profession; “He is a member of the executive carrying out the party political agenda of the Labour administration. He is a politician. To entrust to a cabinet minister the power to control the legal profession would be an exorbitant inroad on the constitutional principle of the separation of powers”;
  • claiming, when Britain introduced executive detention without trial in 2001, that the UK opt-out from the European Convention on Human Rights was not justified “in the present circumstances”.
  • arguing, as chairman of Justice, the human rights group, that the Iraq War was unlawful and said that, “in its search for a justification in law for war, the government was driven to scrape the bottom of the legal barrel”;
  • dismissing Tony Blair’s suggestion, just months after the 7/7 bombings in London in 2005, that the war had not made London a more dangerous place as a “fairytale”.

A champion of the Human Rights Act 1998, he retired satisfied that it had already “transformed our country into a rights-based democracy”. Hmm . . .

Anthony Lester, QC, wrote: “He has woven the Human Rights Act into the fabric of our legal system. He has a terrier-like tenacity and the courage of a lion. He’s going to be extraordinarily difficult to replace.” Agreed.

 

 

 

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Lord Mandelson – of all people – intervenes to promote ‘fairness in our society’ and ‘Britain’s place in the world’

peter mandelson2The author of the FT’s recent article about the consequences of electing Jeremy Corbyn as Labour Party leader, Peter Mandelson, is merely described as a former cabinet minister, Labour’s campaign director in 1985-91 and 1995-97.

There is much more to him than that

Several sources reported in 2011 that he had David Cameron’s support to succeed Pascal Lamy as head of The World Trade Organisation, Nicholas Watt of the Guardian also speaking of the PM’s ‘high regard’ for Mandelson.

He certainly shares with his ally, Tony Blair – another Cameron adviser – an overweening ambition and a propensity to pursue wealth.

How different from his target, Jeremy Corbyn

Refreshing the memory, Wikipedia records Mandelson’s blemished career, including:

  • his first resignation from government because he was found to be ‘hugely and secretly indebted to the Paymaster-General’ and had not declared the loan in the Register of Members’ Interests, and
  • his second resignation, following accusations of using his position to influence a passport application by Srichand Hinduja, an Indian businessman.

Lord Mandelson’s commercial interests have included acting as:

  • adviser to the advisory investment banking firm, Lazard,
  • director of a Russian arms company,
  • and adviser to Asia Pulp & Paper in selling timber products to Europe, accused in 2012 illegal logging in Indonesia and damaging the habitats of rare animals.

His words of wisdom – or vested interest – after voicing concern about fairness in our society and Britain’s place in the world:

”It would be a sad and possibly final chapter in the British Labour party’s history. If the leadership election that closes in two weeks’ time is won by Jeremy Corbyn, the current favourite, his policies — printing money, state ownership of major industries, unilateral disarmament and quitting Nato — will make the party unelectable.

“That would be a very bad outcome for anyone who cares about fairness in our society or Britain’s place in the world. For those of us who have once before trodden the road of rebuilding Labour, it would also be a poignant one”.

Used car anyone?

Support Jeremy Corbyn, honest and honourable, and reject the “frog’s chorus of swivel eyed Tories and Blairites”

Extracts from John Wight’s latest post, which goes right to the heart of the matter:

The huge disparity in wealth and power that exists today in British society has created an chasm in outlook, with the decimation of Labour in Scotland irrefutable evidence of an end to politics as usual. Decades of Thatcherite nostrums, embraced by both Tories and Labour alike, has left millions marginalised and effectively disenfranchised, yet going by the response of the Labour Party hierarchy to the party’s humiliating defeat at the last general election, you would think they were living in a parallel universe.

Mimicking the Tories on austerity, immigration, and welfare can be described as many things, but progressive politics it is not. Austerity is no more than a mass experiment in human despair. It is not only morally reprehensible, it is economically illiterate, given that it is designed to reduce the consumption of the poor and those lower down the income scale, and with it the demand for goods and services that forms the basis of any healthy economy . . .

jeremy corbynJeremy Corbyn represents the last vestige of hope for a Labour Party that is now almost unrecognisable from its founding principles of equality and social and economic justice for working class people.

Its high water mark came in the postwar period, when led by Clement Attlee it came to power committed to transforming British society from the bottom up, challenging and defeating in the process the vested interests and economic power of the elite. It saw for the first time in Britain a government acting as a check on the unfettered power of market forces rather than an enabler of them.

Faced with a national debt of over 200% of GDP its achievements were phenomenal, responsible for forging a humane society in which working people were regarded as the end instead of the means to the end, a first in the nation’s social history.

In 2015 we are living in a cold, cruel, and desolate country in which benefit sanctions, foodbanks, poverty wages, and ignorance reign, governed by a clutch of rich, privately educated sociopaths whose conception of society has been ripped straight from the pages of a dystopian novel.

Jeremy Corbyn remains one of the few members of parliament that have refused to succumb to this normalisation of brutality, and indeed is among the last of the Mohicans within the PLP who can sing the party’s anthem – The Red Flag – at its annual conference without experiencing pangs of hypocrisy.

Political Concern adds two other vitally important points:

  • the highest praise for Jeremy Corbyn’s record on defence and his denunciation of US-UK illegal warmongering which has destabilised and almost ruined so many countries and
  • the fact that he is an honest and honourable MP, serving his constituents who rewarded him with a 21K majority in May this year and very different from the Lords, ministers and MPs who have not only accepted positions from corporates, ‘feathering their nests’ but in some cases have sought and been prepared to accept cash for questions.

John Wight ends, “His bid for the leadership of Labour is a serious one. The only candidate who can legitimately claim to be standing for the values the party was founded on, the political and media establishment underestimate him at their peril. If he wins it will change everything. As such, it is up to us to make sure he does”.


Follow John Wight on Twitter: www.twitter.com/johnwight1

 

Bad decisions by government: 40 – support for HS2, case unproven

hs2 kelvinhopkins debate 2011

Joining our grim litany of bad decisions by government (on fracking, social housing, destroying Libyan fresh water pipeline, etc) is a 130-page report on the HS2 project, just released by the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee.

hs2 logoThis adds to concerns over HS2’s value for money expressed by the National Audit Office, echoing a similar report published by the Commons Public Accounts Committee in January. None of the media reports seen – as is often the case – provide a link to the report, which we now offer: Report: The Economic Case for HS2 (HTML)

Its verdict:

Lord Hollick, chairman of the Lords’ committee, said overcrowding on the West Coast Main Line was largely a problem confined to Friday evenings, weekends on long-distance trains and London-bound commuter trains.

Evidence showed long-distance trains to and from Euston were, on average, only 43% full and even during peak times were only 50-60% full.

He added that the Government has not carried out a proper assessment of whether alternative ways of increasing capacity are more cost-effective than HS2 and concluded that in terms of rebalancing the economy, London is likely to be the main beneficiary from HS2.

The FT noted that although the government claims the biggest beneficiaries will be business travellers, peers said the evidence used to calculate the magnitude of this benefit, an estimated £40.5bn, was “out of date and unconvincing”, with some of it dating from 1994.

On capacity – it continued – the peers criticised the transport department for a lack of transparency and said full information on railway use had not been made publicly available by the government on grounds of commercial sensitivity.

hs2 viaduct 2

No consideration of the social and environmental costs of the project was included in the report’s list of contents.

Sources

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-32041167

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/0d46a2d8-d21e-11e4-ae91-00144feab7de.html#ixzz3VOMe33Vc – free registration

http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/lords-select/economic-affairs-committee/news/eac-hs2-press-release/ and video

Boot the money-fixated out of the temple?

We are in desperate need of honest politicians, dedicated only to the service of their constituents.

The register of members’ interests will give a great deal of information. It does not, however, include news of beneficial employment given to families and friends.

Yesterday a reader sent a link to an article recording the Unite union’s claims that 24 Conservative MPs and peers who voted in favour of the government’s health reforms have links to 15 private companies which won NHS contracts worth £1.5bn since 2012..Broken BritainIts findings include information about some politicians alleged to have received donations from organisations linked to private healthcare companies and others alleged to have a financial stake in companies that have won contracts since the 2012 Health and Social Care Act.

The research is said to have spanned a period of around a year and to be based on freedom of information requests, analysis of company reports, clinical commissioning group accounts, the electoral register and register of interests.

A Conservative spokesman denied any wrongdoing: “All donations to the Conservative party are fully permissible and are declared with the Electoral Commission in accordance with the rules.”

fit to rule tests atos

News of some named individuals may be read in the Guardian.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said around £12bn of former NHS services are now being run by the private sector:

“Key clinical services including cancer care, blood analysis and mental health have been sold off or are up for sale. It is time to scrap the Health and Social Care Act and save our NHS.”

Call for more defence spending: UKNDA letter precedes Nato summit in Newport

uknda header

In 2007, a group of former senior military personnel, including chiefs of staff and politicians set up an organisation called the UK National Defence Association (UKNDA) to launch a campaign for a major increase in funding for the armed forces. This followed the resignation of 20,000 troops due to poor pay, too little family leave and inadequate accommodation – though the Telegraph reports inside evidence of ‘questionable’ allowances and grace-and-favour privileges, including heavily subsidised luxury apartments, are enjoyed by ‘senior military personnel’.

August 20th 2014

Kiran Stacey, political correspondent of the FT reports that the UKNDA recently published an open letter warning that the UK needed to ring-fence the Ministry of Defence’s budget after the next election to retain a credible defence and to guarantee to increase spending on the armed forces in line with inflation for the five years of the next parliament.

Reset NATO’s priorities?

The letter comes two weeks before the Nato summit in Newport, Wales, which Mr Cameron will chair, and which many defence insiders hope will help reset the military alliance’s priorities.

nato security cardiff‘Democracy and freedom’: security barriers already placed in High Street, Cardiff & 9500 police officers to cover next month’s September summit

Some observers expect Mr Cameron and Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Nato secretary-general to pressure other European countries to meet the organisation’s target of spending 2% of gross domestic product on defence. But though Britain currently meets that target, figures drawn up by an independent consultancy, in an analysis commissioned by senior military personnel in the British armed forces, show that the UK’s military expenditure will be reduced to 1.9% of the size of the country’s economy by 2017.

Need for Russia to ‘take us seriously’

Stacey reports that its intervention also reflects a wider concern among defence chiefs and analysts that Nato has lost its way. Allen Sykes, one of the authors of the letter – asserts: ”Unless we also ringfence our increased defence expenditure, we are sending a signal to our opponents and allies that defence is not our priority. If we don’t do this, it would be a laughable position. Russia would not take us seriously.”

And America must be helped to continue spreading democracy and freedom

UKNDA stalwarts are Andrew Roberts, New York-based journalist & historian, with a background in corporate finance, Allen Sykes, retired international businessman and – in the background – Dr Irwin Stelzer, long-term friend of Rupert Murdoch and Tony Blair, known for his book on neoconservatism and an advocate of American efforts to ‘spread democracy and freedom’, who wrote a foreword to the UKNDA’s 2009 report arguing for an increase in Britain’s defence spending.

Or witness the de facto death of the special relationship

irwin stelzerIrwin Stelzer warns: “There is no question that the Pentagon is engaged in a reappraisal of the extent to which it can look to Britain for support in any effort involving the deployment of military assets, and therefore the extent of its obligation should Britain need assistance (perhaps if the Argentine government carries out its threat to reoccupy ‘las Malvinas’ now that the Royal Navy has withdrawn from the oil-rich area in order to meet other challenges).

”If that reappraisal results in the de facto death of the special relationship between our countries, both of us will be the loser”.

But the countries destabilised by this alliance may be given a chance to rebuild themselves. The greatest losers would be those with a vested industry in the arms industry

The nexus of power between journalists, politicians and police in the UK comes under satirical scrutiny

Saturday’s 50,000 strong demo was largely ignored – will ridicule work?

richard beanJames Pickford in the Financial Times reports that the nexus of power between journalists, politicians and police in the UK comes under satirical scrutiny in a new play – Great Britain – opening on Monday at the National Theatre.

The playwright, Richard Bean, graduated in social psychology and worked as an occupational psychologist, before moving into stand-up comedy and then written drama. (Photograph by Greg Funnell )

Satire helps!

we tighten our belts 3Billie Piper is Paige Britain, an ambitious news editor at the Free Press, a fictional tabloid newspaper, and Rupert Vansittart is a Tory prime minister in the play which focusses on press and political scandals of the past decade including hacking and MPs’ expenses.

Sir Nicholas Hytner, the National’s artistic director, insisted Ms Piper’s character was not based on Rebekah Brooks, the former News of the World editor who was this week cleared of phone-hacking charges at the Old Bailey with trial costs estimated at £60m – and more to follow.

The play will open without preview performances. Critics will be invited to Monday’s premiere after dress rehearsals with a small, selected audience this week. Tickets for the first fortnight of performances went on sale on Wednesday. Those for the rest of the run, which ends on August 23, will be available from Thursday

Richard Bean said that the play was inspired by press misdemeanours, but none of the powerful groups at its centre came out well: “Press, police and politicians are essentially in bed with each other, and this threatens democracy.”

fish organiseWill enough authors, cartoonists and comedians unite to laugh corporate-political alliances, of whatever party, permanently out of office?

 

BBC Radio 5: the noble Lord, Baron Jones of Birmingham, shouts down a Royal Mail worker

nicky campbellAs the government gives notice to the stock exchange that it plans to privatise the Royal Mail “in the coming weeks” Nicky Campbell hosted a ‘phone-in’ on Radio 5 this morning.

In general an excellent broadcaster, on this occasion Nicky shared a failing with others – for instance David Dimbleby on TV’s ‘Question Time’ – in allowing forceful politicians or their corporate allies to interrupt and drown out anyone with views they do not welcome.

Today it was the turn of a postwoman who was asked to state her case but then was repeatedly interrupted and heckled by Digby Jones who preferred to bluster instead of putting forward a calm and reasoned contribution.

Was he impelled to do this because he was losing the argument?

This should not have been allowed. Some people now have refused to appear on such media interviews because they have experienced this discourtesy which can actually damage the presentation of their case.

No lover of titles, this listener did feel that, if they continue to be handed out, the victim in this case was infinitely more deserving of an honour than her assailant.

Noting visitors to the site from 22 countries last week, the writer hopes one day to be able to give them news of the reform of Britain’s plutocratic regime.

Soapbox for the 99% – addressing Channel 4 News and presenter, Jon Snow

David Halpin, FRCS:

pcu moral pygmies lords commons

We have agreed that use of ‘chemical weapons’ in Syria is a ‘crap red herring’. But why transmit it? Because for one it is the red line, we are told, by the very cruel and unlawful US administration.

You transmit it because this ‘pretext grasped from thin air’ – as I called Blair’s lies before taking a ship to Palestine (with Gaza my target) in February 2003 – was dinned into the prejudiced US and UK populations with some success. Six million Sun readers and those who think the Guardian, Independent and Times tell the truth, have soaked up this crap.

Let people like myself who have dealt with the suffering of illness and injury have some say. I say ‘no mother and child, in our still beautiful world, should be in the least harmed’.

I write about the psychopath and have instanced Blair as being one of the most horrific. The BBC choose to rehabilitate this monster. Playwright David Hare has defined this sort of very flawed human well. Because they are ambitious and cunning, and utterly ruthless, they rise in our so-called democracies and in the dictatorships. They have proliferated in the last few decades.

Separately I ask – what has happened to Channel 4 in the last few years?

I am off down to the 35 acres of woodland I planted 25 years ago. I will enjoy the myriad colours of young oak and hear the blackbird and the yaffle. But in my mind will be the weeping and the bleeding caused deliberately by mostly ‘western’ action backed by the primitive urges within the ignorant moral pygmies on both green and red leather.

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