'Oh, so that's who Richard Morris is..." Lord Hattersley on The Daily Politics

'An influential activist' - The Guardian

'Iain Dale, without the self loathing' - Matthew Fox in The New Statesman

You are a tinker...' - Tim Farron

Monday, 26 January 2015

Julian Huppert. Ask the PM this.

Julian Huppert, the Lib Dem MP for Cambridge has a slot at Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) on Wednesday and he’s looking for suggestions about what he should ask.  Well Julian, here’s mine:

“Does the Prime Minister think that a Government security organisation which gives out its Chief Executive’s mobile phone number to a stranger who calls up their switchboard shouldn’t, on the whole, be given free access to every citizen’s e mail and internet records for the past year and trusted not to use that data inappropriately?”

I ask this, because while you and I might think the answer to that question is self evidently ‘no’, 4 members of the House of Lords think it’s a resounding yes. And for that reason Lords Blair, King, West and (unlikely though it seems given his recent pronouncements, the Lib Dem) Lord Carlile are this evening proposing a series of amendments in the Counter Terrorism and Security Bill, which will result in the Snoopers Charter becoming law.

Their justification for this being because… the police and security forces have asked for it. To quote Lord Carlile:

We have taken the view that if the head of the security service and the current Metropolitan police commissioner argue that these powers are needed urgently to retain communications data due to changes in technology, then we needed to act now rather than wait for reports that we do not know when they will be completed. We have got to give parliament an opportunity to provide these powers without delay and before the general election”.

Which is strange because I’m pretty sure Parliament has had the chance to review this since the last general election. That a Parliamentary Committee found the proposed bill wanting. Indeed the Chair of the joint Parliamentary Committee that reviewed the original Bill has written to Lord King stating

My committee savaged the draft bill and we found fault with nearly just about every component of it”.

… yet these  members of the House of Lords thought fit to effectively cut and paste large chunks or the original Snoopers Charter into the Bill. And never mind the fact that no majority in favour of these proposals exists in the (democratically elected) Commons. Because these 4 unelected Lords (including of course, a former Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police) want the powers that be to have them.

Which makes me wonder if Julian Huppert doesn’t like my first suggestion for his PMQ slot, perhaps he should be asking the Prime Minister when the Upper House will consist of a democratically elected reforming and reviewing body, rather than a collection of establishment figures who think they know best?

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

David Cameron on MPs expenses....

Hat tip to Sam Coates at The Times

I imagine David Cameron regrets saying all this now

Monday, 7 April 2014

Post Number 1000

This is post number 1000 on my little blog - which is just over 3 years old now.

In that time I have had 212486 page views (and counting) so each post gathers around 200 reads. So thanks to everyone who has come visit.

My top five posts have been...

1. The Lib Dems shift left could be more dangerous for the Tories than Labour from November 2013

2. The funniest Michael Gove cartoon you'll read this year... from January 2013

3. Exclusive: Tim Farron's speech to conference: the story everyone missed from September 2013

4. The final reckoning from September 2012

5. My take on the Clegg speech from September 2012

So September 2012 was quite a month...

These are the best referring websites to the blog...so big thanks to Guido. You see, he is good for something...

And where folk are visiting from is also interesting

So thanks to everyone who makes this blog work. 

And do keep visiting!

Sunday, 6 April 2014

So what didn't Maria Miller tell the Commissioner who investigated her expenses?

Much has been made of the fact that the Commissioner who investigated Maria Miller's expenses thought she should pay back around £45k, but the Standards Committee over ruled her and decided Miller need only pay around £6k back. This would rather beg the question - did the commissioner (Kathryn Hudson) get it wrong - and if so, should her position also come into question? After all - that would be quite a grave error.

Anyway, The Guardian reported on Friday (and again today) that the Commissioner and the Chair of the Standards committee have issued a statement to explain how the two very different conclusions were reached. The Guardian piece says...

"Sir Kevin Barron, the Labour chairman of the committee, and Hudson issued a joint statement on Friday to say that the smaller amount had been agreed after Miller provided further details about her mortgage to the committee."

But to me, this would beg another question. Why didn't Maria Miller give these full details to The Commissioner in the first place? I understand that MPs have a duty to fully comply with the Commissioners investigations (and we know from correspondence between Miller and Hudson that the former showed a certain reluctance to do so). But the statement issued on Friday would seem to suggest more than that - that relevant material was not handed to the Commissioner but was handed to the Committee.

So I wonder why the information was given to one - but not the other?

Saturday, 5 April 2014

I wonder what Russell Brand makes of these Afghans?

"It is not that I am not voting out of apathy. I am not voting out of absolute indifference and weariness and exhaustion from the lies, treachery and deceit of the political class that has been going on for generations", he added

So said Russell Brand on Newsnight.

So I wonder if he thinks these folks are wasting their time? You know, risking life and limb in Afghanistan to exercise their democratic right? The first one certainly seems to have a message for him

List of folk who have been dragged into the Maria Miller affair

While Maria Miller sits firmly in the centre of the media storm over her expenses, there is an ever burgeoning list of other folk who now find themselves dragged into it. How long does this list have to get before Maria Miller resigns I wonder?

1. David Cameron - who wrongly said the lay members of the Standards committee had the casting vote on Maria Millers expenses claim investigation, and must also now regret saying the following (h/t @samcoatestimes and @magsnews

2. The 10 MPs who sit on the Standards Committee - who I don't think don't come out of this looking especially good, probably through no fault of their own. The headline in The Telegraph the other day for example....

3. The 3 lay members of the Standards Committee - who the PM cited as clearing Miller.

4. The Standards Commissioner Kathryn Hudson, whose recommendations to the Standards Committee were so watered down, begging the question did she get it wrong - though I now see a statement has been put out (see the end of the linked piece) 'explaining'  how the commissioner and the committee could had drawn such different conclusions...

5. Joanna Hindley, the spad accused of attempting to bully The Telegraph by reminding them of Maria Millers links to Leveson. I wonder if her position is the most vulnerable. Remember Jeremy Hunt and Adam Smith?

6. Craig Oliver - who appears to be accused of generally trying to intimidate journalists into dropping the story...

How many other names will be dragged into this over the weekend I wonder?


Now Grant Shapps has been dragged in - claiming on Marr that not a single activist raised the issue with him at Conservative Spring Conference yesterday (which says a lot about Tory activists) and refusing three times on BBC 5 Live to say he gave her his full backing when pressed by Jon Pienaar

Friday, 4 April 2014

A few more thoughts on Maria Miller...

In addition to my comments the other day....

"Miller therefore survives to fight another day. But the row has fatally undermined any authority she had left with the press, who are insisting she is not fit to preside over the delicate talks concerning press regulation. The rumour is that she will be quietly reshuffled into the Wales Office at the nearest opportunity."

But is strikes me that if she is now in a position where she can't do the job she has been asked to do  - doesn't that make her position as Sec of State at DCMS untenable immediately?

2. David Cameron suggested that the casting vote from the Standards Committee had been given, not by MPS, but by the lay members of the committee. We now know this was untrue, and No 10. have confirmed this was the case.

'A spokesman for Mr Cameron later said his comments were a "slip of the tongue" and that "lay members do not have a vote".'

But if the PM made his decision - that Miller could stay in post - on the basis that lay members had the casting vote, and the basis for that decision was wrong - isn't he duty bound to reconsider things?

I also feel sorry for the lay members of the committee who will now be under enormous scrutiny themselves.

3. Given the Standards Committee have taken the decision to water down the recommendations of the commissioner who investigated the issue, shouldn't either they resign (if the commissioner is right) or the commissioner resign (if she got it badly wrong). Someone has to have made the wrong call here - one or other needs to put their hands up. 

I suppose we have to wonder - who is policing the 'police' here?


This is apparently the answer to point 3 (according to he Guardian, quoting the chair of the Standards Committee and the commissioner, who put out a joint statement)

They said: "It should be noted that after the commissioner [Hudson] had concluded her inquiry the committee was able to secure further information from Mrs Miller on which to base its conclusions. The committee required Mrs Miller to give more information about her mortgage claims, and as a result it was revealed that Mrs Miller's mortgage had increased by over £150,000 after her election, not the £50,000 that the commissioner had discovered. The committee's calculations as to whether Mrs Miller's claims were justified were all based on this higher figure."