31 October 2006

Police Investigations into Iraq

There's a vote tonight in the House of Commons on whether an inquiry should be held into the Iraq War and its aftermath. The government is (rather obviously) using the whips to ensure the party doesn't vote against it and thus avoid an embarrassing lengthy investigation into its incompetence.

Not from my personal collection,
I assure you

Imagine normal police inquiries were conducted this way:
Police: Erm, Sir, would it be at all possible, please, for us to look at your conduct and tell whether you have done anything wrong. Please?
Criminal: No.
Police: We'll tell you in advance exactly what we're doing and you can stop the inquiry at any time. Honest.
Criminal: Still no. Now bugger off.
For proper accountability by Parliament during a wartime situation, see the Norway Debate.

29 October 2006

The Freedom of Speech Protection Act 2007

If Assistant Metropolitan Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur has his way this Act will:

  1. Criminalise flag burning: It has been proven that flag-burning is a "gateway crime" that can lead on to much more serious acts of anti-social behaviour, such as standing on the left on escalators and swearing. Police chiefs are especially concerned that those that engage in such activity might soon be thinking independently.
  2. Ban demonstrators from covering their faces: Ugly people will be allowed to apply for a special exemption from this rule, as long as the necessary paperwork is filed 7 days in advance.
  3. Tougher powers to arrest demonstrators seeking to inflame tensions: Ibuprofen and aspirin will be rewarded, as they ease tension headaches.
  4. Speech Certificates: Those wishing to voice their opinion in "designated areas" will have to apply to the police for permission to do so.
The eagle-eyed amongst you might have noticed I've made one of these up. Can you guess which one it is?

(Click to enlarge)

Yes, that's right, it was number 4, because this has already been enacted in the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005.

26 October 2006

A Questionnaire About Breasts

No really:

It's for my girlfriend's dissertation, so if you could fill it in I'd be most grateful.

25 October 2006

Rocking Around Missouri

According to noted right-wing radio commentator Rush Limbaugh, Michael J. Fox is faking the extent of his condition in this video:

Yeah, I didn't think so either.

24 October 2006

Iraq Withdrawal

It's just bad manners to withdraw before you finish the job, surely?

19 October 2006

12 October 2006

A Spoof, a Parody, a Play on Words if you Will

According to the BBC, the Tories have shrugged off Sion Simon MP's spoof of WebCameron.

A still from Sion Simon's parody

So would I, it's shit. The voters of Birmingham Erdington must be ashamed they elected someone so patently stupid.

Will Howells' attempts however, are genius: Video 1 and Video 2.

John Redwood MP

Received this quite humourous* email from Dave Lewis (which he couldn't post on my previous entry):

"When I spoke to John Redwood in June his response to my questions on
variable fees were:

"well we've lost two elections saying we'll oppose them, and the public
disagreed with us, so perhaps they are not a bad thing after all"

Good old principles!"

The Vulcan

* You know, if you're into politics and stuff.

10 October 2006

Rob Wilson Interview

For my university's student newspaper, I interviewed Rob Wilson, MP for Reading East. Here it is, before it's even published:
“I’ll have a Boris moment shall I?” Rob Wilson, MP for Reading East, says, as we take our seats in Dolce Vita. He thinks about it: “I haven’t got the hair or the 17-stone frame.”

Mr Wilson was elected at last year’s May General Election for the Conservatives, overturning the Labour majority and becoming one of the 36 new Tory MPs. So how has he found his first year? “The job has changed over the last 20 or 30 years. At a local level it’s much more to do with being a glorified local councillor [as] a lot of constituency problems – blocked drains, traffic calming measures – 20 years ago residents would have gone to their local councillor about. There’s a disconnect, which is why you get such low turnout at local elections. People don’t think their local councillors and council can and do change anything. They feel powerless, so they look for someone they think has the power to change things and it’s generally their MP. It’s fair to say that if an MP writes to the local council to try to get things done, things do get done quicker, the letters are turned round quickly, you get your answers quicker. But that has to led to a massive increase in the burden of work for the local MP and it’s there’s now a sort of ‘democratic deficit’ at local level. We need to try to address that so that councillors do have more power, but also so that local people feel that using their votes and campaigning at a local level they’ll change things.”

There he is

He has enjoyed it though, saying the best thing about the past year has been “holding the World Cup and meeting the England Ashes team” as well as talking to those that in everyday life he might not have be able to: “Yesterday I was on the phone to the leader of the opposition party in Gambia, who had contacted me, out of the blue, about the fraudulent elections that took place in September. No-body in the world is talking about it or taking it seriously. It’s not been really reported. One of the most rewarding and satisfying things for me is I can now raise this issue and I can get it on both the national and international agenda, by raising it at Foreign Office Questions, getting it on the map, getting the Foreign Office to do something about it.”

The biggest downside to the job for him is the workload: “When Parliament is sitting, effectively you are stuck in London from Monday morning to Thursday evening and its only very occasionally you can get away. There are votes happening every day, sometimes through the day and you have to be there. The government has started to lose votes and you don’t want to be George Galloway”, a reference to the Respect Party MP who was absent from the Terrorism Bill vote, which the Government won by just two votes.

He admits MPs are tied to Parliament, “Particularly when the House is sitting you are constrained in what you can do. I can’t just walk around the corner to buy a chocolate bar or a banana, because I’ve got this pager welded to my side. The whips need to know where I am, and you have to be within eight minutes walk of the voting lobbies. It’s annoying. Sometimes you get an interesting phone call from a constituent or an organisation that you know you could really help with but you can’t go and meet them.”

When Mr Wilson spoke to Spark last year, he expressed opposition to top-up tuition fees, but said “I am prepared to look at [my position] and see what’s said”, so in the past year, has he shifted ground? “The party has lost three elections, everything is being reviewed. I don’t think we should be going in the direction of higher fees… I don’t think it’s a particularly clever way of doing it. You’re getting £3,000 a year in fees, but then you’re giving away £1,500 in bursaries to students. When you’ve taken into account the cost of administrating that, is that value for money? I hope our policy review [due to report in summer/ autumn 2007] will strip all these issues back to their bones and think again about how we best fund the people we need to compete with China, India and other emerging economies.”

Mr Wilson voted for David Cameron in the leadership election “because he promised to take the party in a new direction and that’s what he has done.” He says that the “style over substance” debate is the “media trying to hype something up so that they’ve got something to say about him. He said from the start that he would set out a general direction that we’re all going in, that’s what he is doing. Underneath that there are hundreds of people working on the policies that will underpin that [which] will give us the substance everyone is talking about.”

As the interview concluded, he walked off to see RUSU President Dave Lewis and help Save Physics.

09 October 2006