Daily Archives: 27 April 2006

Respect for Law

Labour hacks are normally quick to attack the Lib Dems for seeing only another by-election opportunity when an MP dies. In Peter Law’s case though, it is Labour that have been seriously quick off the mark.

It gets worse. Now Labour are accused by his widow of offering Law a peerage to not stand.

The point, as I’ve made on Iain Dale’s blog, is that this is not merely dodgy, it is illegal. Offering a peerage for a favour is a breach of the Honours (Prevention of abuses) Act 1925. If Yates of the Yard is doing his job, he should be on Trish Law’s doorstep within the next few days.

Labour councillor Bob Piper retorts “[this] is exactly how Prime Ministers and Opposition Leaders have shafted those they want to shunt upstairs for generations.” Typical New Labour logic: murder has been going on since the dawn of time; that isn’t a good reason for legalising it. To be fair, he may be right; that only goes to show what an indefensible thing political patronage really is. Wisely, official Labour have adopted a “deny everything” response, although it may yet come back to haunt them.

Meanwhile, the woman who Law defeated is about to be made a Baroness. That may be completely legal, but it stinks like hell. To quote Peter Hain (regarding dual candidacy for the Welsh Assembly):

“There is widespread abuse where candidates are elected on lists – often the majority of them having lost in the constituencies which they also stood for.

“So the voters rejected them in those constituencies, but they end up winning on lists.

“I think it’s an abuse – if you’re defeated and end up winning and setting up in the very same constituency where the voters kicked you out that is an abuse. “

This, despite the fact that no-one can find any evidence to support Hain’s claims that list AMs are abusing the system to help them win constituency seats (I wonder if Maggie Jones will be installed in time to vote for this ridiculous system?).

Why let the facts get in the way of a good argument?

Via Paul Davies on MakeMyVoteCount, I came across this article from some oik who claims to be the Torygraph’s Europe Correspondent.

His article appears to be the worst argument against PR I’ve ever come across: namely, that because the Belgium Parliament failed to force a minister to resign, all PR systems are indefensible.

A couple of points, aside from the obvious one about the futility of using a single anecdote to condemn a whole system of government:

  1. We’ve had plenty of examples of incompetence by government ministers in this country over the last few years. When did we last have a vote of confidence on any of them?
  2. Do you really believe – even for a second – that if the Commons had a vote on Charles Clarke that the FPTP-manufactured Labour majoritiy would vote to get rid of him?

The Telegraph have been annoying me a lot recently, as they are one of the main culprits for spreading the myth that the House of Lords is more “independent” of party politics than the House of Commons (fact: there are more serial rebels in the Commons than in the Lords). As the newspaper most dedicated to preserving the nonsense that is our current system of government, they don’t seem to be troubled by the need for either facts or logic.

The Crime Game

The crime statistics are out, and yet again, journalists have chosen to bypass the BCS in favour of reported crime: “Robberies up 6% but crime stable” claims the BBC. Well actually, personal acquisative crime is up by a statistically insignificant 1%.

As has been pointed out since time immemorial, an increase in the reported crime figure could have just as much to do with the policy doing their job as it has to do with an actual increase in crime. The BCS may not be perfect, but it is pretty hard to deny that it is a lot more reliable than the reported crime figure.

It always confounds me why the media leap at every single opinion poll statistic, which might only be from a sample of 1,000 (or in the case of the recent Lib Dem leadership election, as low at 400), while confine reporting of the BCS to the end of each article.

And before you think this is a “be nice to the safety elephant” post, it isn’t because he is guilty of playing exactly the same game. His press release statement is as follows: “Much of the work we are doing is aimed at tackling not just crime itself, but also perceptions of crime.” Well, on that case mate, you are failing as people as 17% of people are “very worried” about crime – a slight increase – despite it being at an all time low. “Anti-social behaviour issues are clearly matters of increasing concern for many people in England and Wales,” er, no they aren’t – overall, perceived anti-social behaviour has stabilised, “but as we roll out the measures introduced in the Respect action plan, I am confident that more people will begin to feel safer.”

Blair and Clarke’s crusade to “eradicate the scourge of anti-social behaviour” is futile because the list of things they are seeking to eradicate include “teenagers hanging around,” “people being rowdy” and “litter.” All the mission to treat such things as the most heinous of crimes will achieve is to make people feel less safe and less empowered. In short the Respect Agenda would be better described as the Blind Fear Agenda. As such, we will doubtless see the discrepency between actual crime and perceived crime continue.

Nick Clegg is about to face his first test in my book: will he play his predecessors’ game of crowing about the recorded crime figure in his press release today? We shall see.