Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Blair and Brown Save British Way of Life

What is it about the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights that Blair and Brown so dislike? It can't be the right to life (Article 1) or the prohibition of torture (Article 4). Could it be the right to freedom of assembly and association "... which implies the right of everyone to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his or her interests" (Article 12)? Could it be the right to asylum (Article 18) which "...requires the Union to respect the Geneva Convention on Refugees"? Surely it can't be the prohibition of discrimination "...based on any ground such as sex, race, colour, ethnic or social origin, genetic features, language, religion or belief, political or any other opinion, membership of a national minority, property, birth, disability, age or sexual orientation..."? Or equality between men and women, or the rights of the child, or the rights of the elderly? Wait a minute. I think I'm getting warm: Article 27 is about the "..workers' right to information and consultation within the undertaking...". Quite despicable. And what's this? Article 31: "Every worker has the right to working conditions which respect his or her health, safety and dignity". And: "Every worker has the right to limitation of maximum working hours, to daily and weekly rest periods and to an annual period of paid leave". It gets worse: "Article 30: Protection in the event of unjustified dismissals; "Article 28. Right of collective bargaining and action"; "Article 31. Fair and just work conditions".... Thank the good Lord (who is of course Blair's personal pal) that - his resolve stiffened by Brown - Blair managed to obtain what is in effect an opt-out for the UK. The Charter is obviously a vile document threatening the whole British way of life. Just as well we have these two Labour leaders to protect us.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

A child of two could do that (er...and did!)

The Sunday Times has a story that Trevor Nunn paid £27,000 for a painting by Damien Hirst which turns out to have been drawn by two children aged ten and two. Personally, I can't see what the fuss is about. All this stuff looks like it could be done by a child of two anyway. And now we find out that it actually was.
The picture shows tins of excrement bought by the Tate Gallery a few years back at £745 per gram (I kid you not).
Who said modern art was shit?

11 Days to Freedom

On July 1 it becomes possible to go into a pub and enjoy a beer without inconsiderate arse-holes blowing smoke in your face. Recently we have heard whinging from Christopher Hitchens and David Hockney about the ban. The argument is simple. If I drink too much beer that has no effect on you. But if I smoke in your vicinity it clearly does have an effect. "Smoking" and "no smoking" areas don't work (not in a pub; in sealed railway carriages maybe). It is a filthy disgusting habit and the people who do it for the most part plainly have absolutely no consideration for other people whatever. July 1 is freedom day. Rejoice!

Brown's Euro-Dilemma

On Thursday the European summit in Brussels will try to agree a new EU Treaty. The Treaty is a massive problem for Brown. The purpose of this “slimmed-down” version of the European Constitution (rejected by referendum in France and the Netherlands in 2005) is clearly to salvage as much as possible from the Constitution while avoiding a referendum. If a deal is agreed it will almost certainly be condemned as too federalist by the Tories, who are already demanding a referendum. Brown is arguing that there is no need for a referendum (there was no referendum over Maastricht or the Single European Act). The danger for Brown is that a refusal to hold a referendum will be an electoral albatross; with the Tories arguing that he is denying the voters a voice. It will also antagonise The Sun (which according to Martin Kettle in yesterday’s Guardian has already warned Brown: “Accept the Treaty and lose The Sun”). I doubt if Brown has the stomach to face down Murdoch. Brown’s options are therefore limited: rejecting the Treaty is difficult, since after all the Government did sign-up to the European Constitution in October 2004; and even if the UK succeeds in getting a plethora of opt-outs that will not satisfy the tabloids and the Tories. And if Blair agreed the Treaty and then Brown rejected it? What a complete disaster for the Government that would be!! (Let us hope that they are indeed “singing from the same hymn sheet” on this one). Alternatively, there may not be a deal at all if Poland refuses to accept a reform of voting weights in the Council of Ministers (Poland got rather too good a deal at Nice in 2001). Brown might breathe a sigh of relief if that happens; but from what I read it seems the Poles might buckle. What if Brown does a U-turn and opts for holding a referendum? One the one hand, a “No” vote so close to a General Election would give the Tories a boost. On the other hand, the Treaty – and the demand for a referendum - would not be a General Election issue. The Sun might stick with Brown if he offers a referendum. But that, of course, would be to sabotage Merkel’s whole strategy. It looks like a circle that can’t be squared.

Money for old rope

On the Marr programme this morning Mchael Howard described himself as "semi-retired". So being a MP is not a full-time job then? How much are they paid?

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Deputy Leadership Debate

Politaholic has been very busy recently hence no post for weeks. Missed a lot: Reid deciding not to run; Gordo's pending annointment, Sarko's victory (and Blair's haste to rush over to congratulate him), Irish elections (Ahern is currently wooing the Greens)...etc, etc.

I saw about half of the Deputy Leadership Debate on Newsnight "Listen Again" facility before the boredom became too great. Here's what I think:

Hain: too pompous. Reminds me of what someone (was it Julie Birchall?) said about her ex: "He went to India to 'find himself'. He should have looked up his own arsehole".

Blears: the problem is not that she is a dwarf but that she is a speak-your-weight machine. No sign of any sentient activity whatever.

Johnson: amiable chap, but My God he does drone on about his working class background. Reminds me of the Monty Python sketch ("That were luxury...")

Cruddas: politically more congenial from my point of view, but then he voted for the war (they all did) and he doesn't seem to have any personality.

Benn: lofty, worthy, slippery, polished. Can't say I trust him. (Don't really trust teetotallers. In beer veritas. In tea not so bloody veritas).

Harman: always thought she was far, far, too posh and too dim for my liking, but thought she did surprisingly well. Quick to distance herself from the war (a mistake) and draw a line under the Blair years. Much more impressive than I would have thought. Paxo's gibe that her main claim to the DL is that she lacks a vital Y-chromosome was a bit cheap, but then again this is something both Blears and Harman do exploit, jus as Johnson exploits his "prolier-than-thou" origins.

On balance, I though Benn and Harman came out best.