Wednesday, July 1, 2015

I have a better idea

Some of this blog's readers would have seen one of the loopiest ideas in connection with the Greek crisis (going on for several years if not decades), the idea of crowdfunding. This amounts to a call to the people of Europe or European Union (which it is remains unclear) to contribute a small amount in order to rescue the Greek people from the mess they and their politicians have landed themselves in.

Thom Feeney, the onlie begetter of this idea explains it all here. The article is well worth reading in its entirety but here are a few choice quotes:
So, sat at the table after dinner, I started a crowdfunding campaign to try to rescue the Greek economy. Some basic maths told me that I only needed the entire population of Europe to donate €3.19 (£2.26) to reach the amount of the bailout fund. I included some nice perks for donating, including a Greek salad and holiday in Athens for two, and set up a page on IndieGoGo and a Twitter account.
To start with, someone ought to have pointed out to Mr Feeney that the population of "Europe", that is the EU as well as others through the IMF have already donated a good deal more than €3.19 to Greece and not a lot has been solved.

Secondly, somebody should have asked him who was going to pay for all the goodies that donors will receive (even on the assumption that a holiday in Athens for two would not be particularly expensive at the moment) and who will pay the people who will be organizing the various perks and their delivery.

Thirdly, I hope somebody reminded him that on past experience, even if he raises the required money (over and above the expense mentioned) and gets it to the Greek people, somehow by-passing the government and its many many minions, he will have to do it all over again in about six months' time, maybe sooner.
I set up the crowdfunding campaign to support the Greek bailout because I was fed up with the dithering of our politicians. Every time a solution to bail out Greece is delayed, it’s a chance for politicians to posture and display their power, but during this time the real effect is on the people of Greece.

I wondered, could the people of Europe just have a crack at fixing this? Less talk, more direct action. If we want to sort it, let’s JFDI (just effing do it)! On Tuesday, between leaving for work and returning home, the crowdfunding page had raised over €200,000 in around six hours, which was incredible. This isn’t just about raising the cash, though. In providing the perks, we would be stimulating the Greek economy through trade – buying Greek products and employing Greeks to source and send the perks out.

The way to help a struggling economy is by investment and stimulus – not austerity and cuts. This crowdfunding is a reaction to the bullying of the Greek people by European politicians, but it could easily be about British politicians bullying the people of the north of England, Scotland and Wales. I want the people of Europe to realise that there is another option to austerity, despite what David Cameron and Angela Merkel tell you.

The reaction has been tremendous, I’ve received thousands of goodwill message and as I write almost €630,000 has been pledged by more than 38,000 donors. Many Greek people are messaging me to say how overjoyed they are to hear that real people around Europe care about them. It must be hard when you think the rest of the continent is against you.
I trust Mr Feeney has already invested in the Greek economy, perhaps went on holiday there every year since the crisis began and bought many goodies that come from that country. Otherwise, his slightly off-beam lectures on economic reality is pointless.

Anyway, the truth is that €630,000 will get us nowhere and if Greece wants to get out of the mess it is in (I am sure it does) there will have to be some hard economic thinking in that country. Lots of weepy crowd-funding and hand-outs will get us nowhere.

Having said that, I may remind everyone that I do have a much better idea and that, too, involves public fund raising or, as it is known nowadays, crowd-funding. Let us put together the money needed to buy the remaining Parthenon Marbles and bring them over to the British Museum. About a third of the original are no longer in existence but at least two thirds will be reunited and well looked after. Now that is something I am happy to contribute to. As to Greek salad (something I can and do make) or signed whatever from Tsipras - pfft. And that goes for that holiday in smog-ridden Athens. Let us buy the Pathenon Marbles.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

UKIP members of Parliament

By members of Parliament I do not mean just MPs but peers as well who are members though not of the elected House. I am not going to argue in this posting about the need for a non-elected House as well as an elected one in order to keep some kind of a constitutional order even now when we are members of the European Union and, especially, once we are out of it.

As we saw in the General Election in May UKIP came third with 3,881,099 votes that constituted 12.6 per cent of the vote in a turn-out that may have been the highest since that fateful 1997 election but was still only 66.1 per cent. For that UKIP got one seat and there is a great deal of understandable dissatisfaction around.

It is impossible to discuss matters rationally with most members of that party as too many of them belong to the Farage Cult but the truth is that UKIP conducts elections and political campaigns as a Continental party - it is all about the party and the leader not the local candidate. These may crop up from time to time but they are given less pictorial space on UKIP leaflets than the Dear Leader. All too often one does not even know who they are. I consider myself to be something of a political geek but I did not know who the UKIP candidate was in my constituency until two days before the election.

We are getting some (ever less) traction in the demands for an electoral reform to some form of PR system but that is not very likely to happen any time soon. It is, as it happens highly entertaining to hear the left-wing anti-austerity demonstrators shouting for it. Had we had PR this time round we would have now had a Conservative/UKIP government with possible support from the DUP though, obviously, there is no reason to suppose that people would vote exactly the same way under a different system. Now, I could actually live with that government but what would the lefties say? They are convinced that UKIP is the epitome of all that is right-wing and, therefore, evil. (Actually they are not either but a rather muddled statist, socialist and protectionist party who seem to have morphed themselves into the Labour Party of the 1950s.)

The point is that four years ago we had a referendum on the question of the electoral system and the people of this country voted quite decisively in favour of keeping the first past the post system. Is UKIP recommending that we should keep asking people over and over again at not very long intervals until we get the answer they want? There is another organization out there that takes the same attitude and the fact that UKIP and it (let it remain nameless) have a similar attitude to the People's Voice, despite being the "People's Army" proves what I said above: UKIP is essentially a Continental party in its political behaviour.

Which brings me to the question of House of Lords membership. There are now three UKIP peers and not one of them was appointed as such - they left the Conservative Party and lined up under UKIP colours. The question is should this be rectified or should we go on acquiring endless Lib-Dem peers even though their support in the country has collapsed. This is of particular interest since the Lib-Dems have long been in favour of an elected Upper House or, at the very least, one that somehow reflected electoral preferences. Will they now resign most of their seats and let UKIP have them? Is that a squadron of piglets I see taking off?

Lord Pearson of Rannoch has been asking questions on the subject as can be read on page 7 of this document.

Question no 1 was:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they plan to address the disparity in representation in the House of Lords between the Liberal Democrats and Ukip, in the light of their respective shares of votes in the recent General Election.
Question no 2 was:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they plan to recommend more Liberal Democratic peerages to Her Majesty the Queen; if so, why; if not, why not.
Question no 3 was:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they plan to recommend any Ukip peerages to Her Majesty the Queen; if so, why; and if not, why not.
As it happens the Labour peer, Lord Campbell-Savours also showed himself interested in whether there are going to be any more Lib-Dem peers:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether the proportionality objective on appointments to the House of Lords as set out in the agreement made by the governing parties in the 2010–15 Coalition agreement remains an objective for Her Majesty's Government over the next five years.
A good question. The situation has changed somewhat.

HMG is not committing itself to anything as Baroness Stowell of Beeston made clear:
Appointments are a matter for the Prime Minister. Any appointments will be vetted for propriety by the House of Lords Appointments Commission.
Something of a conundrum for the PM, I would say, given those electoral results. Of course, he could appoint lots of Cross-Bench peers or, even better, declare a moratorium on any more appointments for the rest of this government's existence but, somehow, I do not think he will do either of those.

So, any suggestions as to who should be the first appointed UKIP peers?

Friday, June 26, 2015

This is getting out of hand

Your Freedom and Ours is what this blog is called and that is what it is. I am getting a little perturbed by the news that is coming over from the other side of the Pond where there is now war of cultural and historical vandalism going on in the wake of the tragedy in Charleston, South Carolina.

There is no need to rehearse what happened, which was terrible, or the dignified response of the city to the tragedy that struck them. Nor is there any need to go through the various articles, essays and analyses (the books are to come) that have followed the shooting. For one thing I have no space for all the links and for another anyone who is interested would have read a great deal and will probably do so in the coming days, weeks, months but not years because something else will happen to take people's attention away.

What caught my interest, inevitably, is the campaign against the Confederate Flag, which is now being taken off not just public buildings but private merchandise. In fact, it will soon be banned completely and not for the first time in American history. It came back last time and it will come back again but, in the meantime, a good deal of historical knowledge and understanding will be destroyed in the name of some spurious feeling of justice. The truth is that the events that led up to the Civil War or the War Between The States or the War For The Union, the actual war and the years after it are far too complicated to be reduced to this sort of simplistic rubbish. (Though I am rather enjoying the reminders that the Confederate Flag was the flag of the Democrat Party. Of course, it was. Don't believe me? Look it up, while you can.)

I hear stories of Civil War memorials being defaced with stupid slogans and suggestions that Confederate generals should be dug up (what's left of them) and put on trial or their bones thrown to the dogs or whatever. This is insane. All of it.

The killer of Charleston did not carry out his attack because of the Confederate Flag or the presence of Civil War memorials. And, let's face it, even on this side of the Pond we know that the greatest number of black lives wasted in many American cities are in gang fights and criminal attacks carried out by other black young men. The situation is appalling and something ought to be done because black lives do matter but not only when the killer is white.

The worst suggestion I have seen is that Gone With The Wind should now be "retired". Well, good luck with that - "retiring" one of the most popular films of all times is not going to be easy, not even for leftist, progressive journalists. I hope nobody is thinking of retiring Birth of a Nation, which I am due to see at the NFT on Sunday. I notice that there are several comments on the NY Post article that I have linked to, which compare this attitude to the destruction of historic and cultural sites by IS because they do not like the religion or ideology that motivated their building. Well, I cannot disagree too much.

Incidentally and completely off the topic, here is a conundrum: why is it that the best and most highly regarded films about the Civil War, Birth of a Nation, The General and Gone With The Wind are all from the point of view of the South? There have been films from the point of view of the North, not least several biopics of Abraham Lincoln (no, dear, he was not a Democrat either, but a Republican) but nothing of that calibre. Is it because like the Royalists, according to 1066 And All That, the Confederates were Wrong but Wromantic?

So, just because I hate what is happening I have decided to post two pictures: one of the Confederate Flag as it used to fly together with the Stars and Stripes and a photo of General Robert E. Lee, the man who not only fought in that War but, when that became hopeless, surrendered, refused to institute a guerrilla war and worked for the reconstruction of the shattered union.

Monday, June 22, 2015

More on that Bill

First things first: we have had the Second Committee Day of the EU Referendum Bill on Thursday and you can read the debate here. The date for the Report is to be announced but, meanwhile, here is the amended Bill as it is to go forward to the next stage.

Before that, however, Derek Thomas (also here), MP for St Ives asked:
If the Electoral Commission will commission a lay-person’s guide to the costs and benefits of UK membership of the EU before the EU referendum.
Not precisely the Electoral Commission's job, as the Minister pointed out, but then whose job is it, given that HMG, singly and collectively, has refused to provide such an analysis over a number of decades?

We do have a volunteer in the person of the Wellingborough MP, Peter Bone (also here):
If they [the Electoral Commission] are not the people to do it, I am quite happy to take on that task. It would be pointless having such a document because it will have pages and pages and pages of costs; I doubt that we would find a page on the benefits.
Mr Streeter's response was dry:
I will certainly put that offer back to the Electoral Commission. I am sure that it will be as enthusiastic as I am.
However, he did not produce an alternative suggestion. Incidentally, the Member for South-West Devon was replying to questions on the subject of the referendum because he was representing the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

First Day of Committee

The Referendum Bill has reached Committee stage (yes, I fear, there are a number of stages in this process) and it can be watched directly here. Not a particularly well attended House but then Committee stages rarely are, since debates are about various, often minutely detailed amendments.

Some of today's (unedited) record can be read here. The edited version will be published tomorrow morning.

Monday, June 15, 2015

This anniversary has to be noted

Magna Carta, a crucial and still controversial document was signed on June 15, 1215 and a great deal of time is being spent this year on discussions about its importance and relevance.

It seems to me that there is a case to be made for reading the text, though few of us can do that in the original but here is a seemingly reliable English translation.

Here is a good summary of the history of the document and of its subsequent fate, an analysis of the Clauses and the text of the three still in English law:
I. FIRST, We have granted to God, and by this our present Charter have confirmed, for Us and our Heirs for ever, that the Church of England shall be free, and shall have all her whole Rights and Liberties inviolable. We have granted also, and given to all the Freemen of our Realm, for Us and our Heirs for ever, these Liberties under-written, to have and to hold to them and their Heirs, of Us and our Heirs for ever.

IX. THE City of London shall have all the old Liberties and Customs which it hath been used to have. Moreover We will and grant, that all other Cities, Boroughs, Towns, and the Barons of the Five Ports, as with all other Ports, shall have all their Liberties and free Customs.

XXIX. NO Freeman shall be taken or imprisoned, or be disseised of his Freehold, or Liberties, or free Customs, or be outlawed, or exiled, or any other wise destroyed; nor will We not pass upon him, nor condemn him, but by lawful judgment of his Peers, or by the Law of the land. We will sell to no man, we will not deny or defer to any man either Justice or Right.
There are some excellent pieces on the History Today site and on spiked-online. So, are we right to be celebrating the signing of the Great Charter? Is it really relevant today and if not should it be made more relevant? Are all clauses to be rescued and if not (I can think of a few that ought to be buried) then which ones. As they say: Discuss.

Friday, June 12, 2015

HMG replied to Lord Pearson

As readers of this blog recall, Lord Pearson's first Written Question in the new Parliament was covered by it and it concerned security at a putative Mohammed drawing competition. To my surprise HMG did not obfuscate too much in its reply.

The Question was:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they plan to support a contest in the United Kingdom between artists depicting the prophet Mohammed, and if so, whether they will provide security protection for such an event.
The reply was:
The Government is not aware of any plans. The safety and security of an event is an issue for the event organisers in consultation with the police.
Could have been worse. Could have been stronger in support of law and order, as well, of course, but we cannot have everything.