Sunday, 17 May 2009

A whole new experience

There's a line in a Blackadder episode (Blackadder II I think, where he's captured by a Hugh Laurie character). The eponymous Edmund says to Baldrick:
"Thank you for introducing me to a whole new experience, being pleased to see you!"
This week I have had a similar, wholly new, experience: being disappointed in Gerry Adams.

No one who knows, or knows of, Gerry Adams would doubt either his abilities or his commitment to his particular cause and in fact for anyone on the counter-insurgency side of life, rather than the insurgent side, to underestimate him would be a serious mistake. Like some others in his cause (but by no means all) he has attracted from those who oppose him what would ordinarily be called a "grudging respect", so it is with some regret that we learn that he's been claiming dubious expenses from the British taxpayer just like the rest of them.

Of course Sinn Fein see it differently, but that's only to put them in the same boat as all the others. Secondary home allowance is there to pay the additional costs of keeping a home in or near Westminster, but if you're an abstentionist this is hardly necessary. Sinn Fein MPs refuse to take their seats because they refuse to take the oath of loyalty to the Queen. Which is fair enough, in itself, but you can't have it both ways. If our Queen isn't good enough for you then our money shouldn't be either.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Whats wrong with treason?

What's wrong with treason, in the sense of "what's wrong with charging people with treason?" From the OED:
"treason, violation by a subject of his allegiance to Sovereign or State ..."
The actual definition goes on to add "punishable by death" which, you'd have to say, is one of the things wrong with it, assuming you are opposed to the death penalty. Then again, just because it's punishable by death does not mean that death is always imposed, or ever imposed.

But why the sudden interest? Well here is a quote from a man who had some association (but not in any criminal or conspiratorial sense) with the July 7th suicide bombers:

"It started with the anti-war movement in 2003 – they were expressing their willingness to kill British soldiers abroad. I thought these guys were going to join the Taliban."
(this is quoted from the Telegraph: link)

Whilst not being a lawyer, it would seem to me that a statement of this sort, if actually representing peoples thoughts, is easily treason. So what, you may be thinking. Well the point is that if these people had been convicted with treason it seems very unlikely that they would have gone on to carry out their bombings. Mostly because they'd be in prison, one hopes, but even if that wasn't the case, the kind of terrorism we face thrives in secrecy (as does all terrorism really). Even a charge of treason would expose the general environment in which these people were living and that in itself would reduce the risk, just by drawing attention to things.

This is not to say that use of treason as an offence will eliminate the threat we face, but at the moment even getting people to the point of being charged is proving difficult and mere interdiction of plots (I say mere, whilst recognising the effort that that involves) will only hold the line. A charge of treason would allow an early intervention but more importantly provides an opportunity to directly address potential terrorists before they become actual terrorists.

By contrast current policy seems entirely aimed at legislating to reduce civil liberties whilst justifying this by reference to "secret briefings" (of the threat see: link), with the classic side-effect that the consequences of such policy fall equally on all of us instead of being focused on the offender. Why introduce new legislation, why not use existing statute?

By the way, the notion that the law abiding have nothing to fear from such legislation is completely bogus. I don't need to be actually arrested for the liberties under which I live to be reduced; generally speaking that attitude is the first step towards a police state.

Treason, that is a charge of treason, is not something we should be ashamed of. We are all citizens, it is entirely reasonable that we should expect the same degree of loyalty from all our fellows. When this is lacking we should have the confidence to say so, and where necessary take action. After all we now know what failing to take action can lead to.

Friday, 1 May 2009

Is the Prime Minister losing it?

The Prime Minister in this case being Gordon Brown, just in case this changes in the future... This is a quote from a "minister close to Mr Brown":

“We can still turn this round, but Gordon is not listening. He is lashing out and reacting to headlines. It’s all so reminiscent of the last months of John Major."

A comparison between John Major and Gordon Brown is in fact very interesting, but mostly for the contrasts it brings out not the similarities. Assuming for the moment that the relationship between No 10 and its parliamentary colleagues is in fact reminiscent of the last days of the Major premiership, this is what a comparison reveals:

  1. John Major was elected in 1992 with a majority of around 20, which by the end had dwindled in one way or another to practically zero.
  2. Gordon Brown inherited a majority of 64 or so. Which has declined slightly but is still far greater than the best that Major ever had (in his 2nd term).
Despite his tiny majority John Major was able to pass crucial legislation, such as the ratification of the Maastricht Treaty, in the teeth of determined opposition from within his own party. And before one forgets, one of the principle beneficiaries of this treaty has been Gordon Brown himself as without it we would have been obliged by treaty to enter the Euro, something even GB himself recognised as being a bad idea. Whatever you may think of his relations with his backbenchers, John Major's policies were sound.

By contrast Gordon Brown, with his far larger majority, is now finding that he cannot get his legislation past his own backbenchers. Of course this isn't helped by taking the wrong side of the argument as he did over the rights of Gurkhas to settle here, but that is just a simple demonstration of his lack of sound judgment and bad policy making.

(As an aside: is this a sudden loss of good judgement, or do you believe he never had particularly good judgement?)

The economy that John Major handed over to Gordon Brown was thriving, with steady growth and falling unemployment; the economy that GB is going to hand over to David Cameron is characterised by deep recession, rising unemployment, record bankruptcies and national debt and budget deficits that defy the imagination they are so large. This is what the comparison between John Major and Gordon Brown reveals.

(Afternote: for the view from the horse's mouth, so to speak, see: Link)