The People's New Clothes

The Government has brought out some proposals on House of Lords reform. As ever, they wish to codify certain conventions, replacing the flexibility of unwritten agreements with rules-based procedures that would weaken the power of the Upper House to scrutinise or amend government legislation. In certain reports, this is limited to a written agreement codifying the Salisbury Convention and setting out the inability of the Lords to overturn manifesto commitments. However, a PA report in the Guardian stated that Jack Straw wished to extend this agreement and encompass the legislative relationship between Commons and Lords:

A formal written agreement between the two houses of parliament setting out the Commons' right to overrule the Lords was necessary before further reform of the composition of the Lords, amid signs that peers were becoming "more assertive about their powers", he said.

Flanked by the lord chancellor, Lord Falconer, and the Lords chief whip, Lord Grocott, Mr Straw said this included the "codification" of the unwritten Salisbury convention, whereby the Lords does not vote against manifesto commitments on which the governing party has been elected.

Lord Grocott also noted that not all peers subscribed to the Salisbury Convention, an agreement between the Labour government of the day and the Tory majority in the Lords. Thus, the chaturbate changes undertaken by New Labour have disturbed the cosy little cartel that allowed the Tories to dominate the Lords whilst respecting the government of the day. Institutionalising the arrangements of yesteryear to extend the power of the executive under the guise of a democratic mandate is a shabby attempt to further weaken any checks and balances.

A democratic mandate is not a moral reason to undermine the revising powers of the Second Chamber. Both the Liberal Democrats and the Tories have opposed these changes, rightly seeing through the democratic shibboleth that NuLab clothes itself in to extend its powers. Indeed, such an agreement would encourage governments to produce detailed manifesto grab-bags, of a wish-list that they could plunder to undermine legislative power even further. A bad idea whose time has gone.

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Pole Puffery

Euractiv, one of the European widows on the world, cites a poll from Poland, that appears to demonstrate the support of the majority of the population for a European constitution and state. From this, the site calls upon the polish government to take public opinion into account:

In view of the current reflection period on the future of Europe, the study calls on the Polish government to take into account public opinion when shaping the position on the future of the Constitutional Treaty and the role of Poland in the EU.

The poll was run by "an independent, non-partisan public policy think tank." This is the Institute of Public Affairs, although a list of donors is revealing. It is an outfit backed by the British, the Germans, the European Commission Delegation to Poland, the European Parliament, the European Foundation for the Improvement of Work and Living conditions, the European Social Fund and the Office of the Committee for European Integration.

As we know, the structure of a poll will often help in finding the right answers. The poll concluded that the Poles have a low-level knowledge of the European Constitution but that they were in favour of common institutions. The report does not engage with the problem of balancing enthusiasm with ignorance. After all, the population votes a eurorealist government into power, an indication that Europe may be viewed as an issue of tertiary importance, at best.

Poll puffery inflating the unawareness of Poles and their misunderstandings on the EU.

Another Year of the European Constitution

The meeting in Austria was unlikely to provide the roadmap that the federalists crave. One strategy that is being considered , in line with the "consultative" exercises that Margot Wallstrom has developed, is a rebranding. The European Constitution would be renamed the Basic Law, which is, by coincidence, the translation of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Germany, and restructured to remove the problematic elements.

Supporters of the rebranding said that changing the name was designed to acknowledge the concerns of voters who felt uncomfortable with grand talk of a constitution. Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the German foreign minister, said: "We in Germany live with a 'basic law' which does not carry the title 'constitution' but has the same legal quality. It's a possible starting point."

Consideration of the European Constitution was postponed for another year. The future of the EU would be revisited after the Frendch and Dutch elections in 2007. However, the problems that prompted rejection are not fading away and the turn of the electorla cycle does not favour Europhile parties. France, in particular, is volatile and the possibility of a Le Pen presidency cannot be discounted.

Brought to Book

The position of Sir Ian Blair has been untenable since the De Menezes shooting, and his continued tenure as Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police brings that force into disrepute. As one of the New Labour cadre, he combines that distasteful attachment to the illiberal spectacles of political correction with the heavyhanded authoritarian measures that this group adopt for social and political problems. Such a combination has proved anathema to the Left-liberals professionals who gravitate to the jasmin live public sector and have done so well from Brown's tenure. Now Sir Ian Blair may be prosecuted as the Metropolitan Police did not adopt a "duty of care" to the shooting of De Menezes:

Prosecutors may now bring charges under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

They believe as there was little or no intelligence to suggest the innocent 27-year-old was a terrorist the Scotland Yard chain of command failed in its "duty of care".

Until now, it had been thought only those who fired or ordered the operation were under investigation.

Despite not being directly involved, a prosecution under the 1974 legislation could see Sir Ian appearing at the Old Bailey. A CPS source has said the move was now "likely".

I am not a fan of health and safety legislation, but it appears that some of the CPS wish to see justice done and Sir Ian brought down. Steve Glover remains behind the curve:

The tragedy is that a police force which indulges a destructive suspected car thief, and mounts a commando raid in East London, will lose public trust. A police force that is alternately indulgent and terrifying, and wastes time in persecuting ordinary people for holding reasonable views, will find that it is forsaking the confidence of the law-abiding middle classes on whose support it ultimately depends.

The trust of the public has been squandered. It is inherent with all state structures that they will shift from trust structures to the arbitrary interpretation of regulation as civil society shrivels before the onslaught of the state.

Get rid of thy Ents

I was listening to "The World on Westminster", whilst doing my ironing on a sunny Saturday morning, when David Moss, some Tory MP of the Regulatory Function, spoke up for the evils of extended licensing laws. Now that the World Cup is upon us, David Moss wishes to ensure that there is a strict application of the licensing laws. One could almost hear, sotto voce, a reactionary mumbling for the days when our drinking habits were determined by Great War munition workers. After all, you can't trust the people.

This was one of those rare occasions that I found myself siding with the Labour minister, although his arguments were ineffective and in error. David Moss pricked my libertarian antennae with his argument that if you need a license to set up a man on a piano in a pub (although if memory serves me, you need three musicians if you are going to get an Entertainment license), you should need one for showing a football match. Clearly, local councils do not deserve another opportunity to gouge those who actually work with the inception of another license. The Labour MP clearly thought so too, but he did not follow his thought process through clearly enough.

If you do not need a licence for showing football or playing guitar in your front room with a webcam, why should pubs have to pay for the privilege? Ergo, get rid of another pernicious tax on fun now, and give a boost to music. Oh, and people should be able to busk where they like, so long as property rights are observed.