Getting it wrong when doing the right thing

Gordon Brown did the right thing in announcing an inquiry into the Iraq war but got it so wrong by saying it would be held in private. Even when it was so apparent that the public mood demanded that it be held in public, Brown seemed reluctant to shift.

Today Peter Mandleson has said the privatisation of the Royal Mail was unlikely to go ahead. Great news! Was this decision taken on the grounds of a deeply held principle that would galvernise support from disillusioned Labour voters? No. He has said that the legislative programme is too full.

Why why why does Labour get it so wrong when doing the right thing?

Michael Jackson: “the Frankenstein of white America”

Very interesting comments by Kwame Kwei-Armah, the actor and playwright, on Sky’s Sunday with Adam Boulton. He said that in his youth, he always regarded Michael Jackson as a good looking black man but was dismayed when he appeared to have morphed into a dodgy white woman. He said that as a black man this was a slap in the face and that it had suggested to him that there was something fundamentally wrong with being a black man. Jackson, he said, had become the Frankenstein of white America.

Vote for Alex Phillips in Goldsmid by-election on 23rd July

The Goldsmid by-election is just under four weeks away. This by-election could well change the control of the City Council if the Tories lose the seat. The ‘left’ vote could be split between Labour and the Greens, thereby allowing the Tories to retain the seat and thus the Council itself. The outcome of this by-election, therefore, is of critical importance to the whole of Brighton and Hove.

This week I have spent time with councillors from all three major Brighton parties (I do not include the Liberal Democrats in this).

The Conservatives seemed resigned to defeat. The behaviour of its former councillor and a lack of decisiveness by Mary Mears in dealing with him has undermined the credibility of their campaign, although they retain hope for a split in the non-Conservative vote..

Labour continues to delude itself that it is offering a credible alternative. It is running a lacklustre campaign. There is little enthusiasm for its candidate, Liz Telcs, and there is no evidence of a united party, with those backing Telcs being seen as divisive and sectarian.

The Greens, on the other hand, are displaying the enthusiasm that characterised Labour in Brighton in the 1980s, a party knowing it is on the threshold of an historic breakthrough. Its candidate, Alex Phillips, is very engaging, energetic, and enjoys the enthusiastic support of her local party.

How I wish Labour could regain its lost soul and sense of purpose. Until it does, and it won’t be in time for the Goldsmid by-election (and probably not in time for the general election next year), the recommendation of this blog is for all Labour and Lib Dem’s to vote for Alex Phillips on the 23rd July.

In Praise of Sarkozy in condemning Head Scarves for Muslim Women

France is so much more mature in its dealings with Islam and women’s opression than Britain. In 2004 it reaffirmed its rigid separation of the state from organised religion. Conspicuous religious symbols are banned from their state schools. This includes Sikh turbans, Jewish caps and Muslim headscarves.

It is now having a full scale debate on Muslim women’s clothing led by none other than President Sarkozy himself. He has said that the full veils are not appropriate in France. Sarkozy and the French are not seeing this debate as one of religion but rather seeing the headscarf as an instrument of women’s submission and oppression.

This compares courageously with Barrack Obama’s recent speech in the middle east where he said it was “important for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practising religion as they see fit – for instance, by dictating what clothes Muslim women should wear”.

In Britain, our feebleminded political leaders are too cautious to ‘offend’ male Muslim leaders and are too desperate to get their unreliable support even at the cost of women’s oppression.

Michael Jackson the Paedophile

Am I alone in in being nauseated by the wall to wall coverage of the death of Michael Jackson? What has got into people?

He was a musician, talented, yes, but what has he really contributed beyond a few good tunes? Yet the BBC and other broadcasters are presenting his death as a universal tragedy.

He was also a man who liked to go to bed with young boys and I am sure that I am not alone in thinking that this was anything but innocent. The man was a paedophile who did great harm and should be remembered for that. Celebrity is no excuse, no matter how pathetic and tragic he was as an individual.

Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett

I am sad that Farrah Fawcett has died. She has bravely faught cancer, lived and died with dignity.

Michael Jackson has also died tonight. It might allow his children some possibility of having a life not ruined by the tragic madness that was Michael Jackson. On that basis I am not sad that he has died.

MP Expenses: A Threat to Democracy

Harriet Harman today outlined three new offences targeting false claims, registering interests and payments to MPs for raising issues in Parliament.
She also announced the establishment of an Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) to run MPs’ expenses.

While many of the reforms are to be welcomed, there is one that sets a very dangerous precedent. The IPSA will have powers to expel Members of Parliament for breaches of the code. This is fundamentally wrong and needs to be rethought.

Send MP’s to prison for illegal acts, yes, but the only people who should be allowed to expel members of Parliament are their constituents. Perhaps the House authorities should advocate a recall system whereby local constituents, in sufficient numbers to sign a new the necessary petition, could trigger a vote on whether the MP should be forced to stand down, thereby causing a by-election.

Any system that allows unelected officials to remove elected representatives is fundamentally and democratic. Any system where the political majority can exclude a minority party or individual could result in decisions being made that are fundamentally undermine democracy and the relationship of a Member of Parliament with her or his constituency.

Gordon Brown fails dismally over Iraq Inquiry

Gordon Brown looks increasingly pathetic over the Iraq inquiry. Having committed himself last Monday to a private inquiry, he has faced an increasing volume of calls for the inquiry to be held in public.

Today those calls were echoed by Sir John Chilcot, the chairman of the Iraq inquiry, who has said that as much evidence as possible should be held in public in a full retreat from the stance originally taken by Gordon Brown. In a letter to Mr Brown this evening, Sir John said it was “essential” to conduct a mainly open inquiry.

In the letter he said: “More broadly, I believe it will be essential to hold as much of the proceedings of the inquiry as possible in public, consistent with the need to protect national security and to ensure and enable complete candour in the oral and written evidence from witnesses.”

So Gordon Brown has, as predicted in this blog last week, totally failed those who wanted a confidential inquiry (Blair, Bush, Mandelson), and looks weak and ineffective to those who have called for the inquiry in public. As a leader he has failed us dismally and he can take no credit at all for this public inquiry.

Traffic Chaos in Brighton

Heads should roll because of the chaos on Brighton’s roads today (Sunday). And the first to go should be the Cabinet member on the City Council responsible for traffic management.

A beautiful mid-summer’s day, the London to Brighton bike ride, two main thoroughfares closed, and the train companies refusing to take bikes!

What a recipe for chaos.

Is it beyond the ability of the Council to negotiate with the train companies to put on extra trains and carriages to cope with the thousands of extra passengers.

No, instead, hundreds of extra vans, lorries and cars clogged our roads, polluting our air , and bringing the city to a standstill.

Why doesn’t the City Council do all in it’s power to discourage motorists from driving down from London. We have a great rail service from the capital. It should be used to the maximum on exceptional days like today, and at all other times.

Cars will be the ruin of Brighton and Hove. Shame the Tory leadership in Brighton and Hove can’t see that.

Iraq Inquiry

Gordon Brown has made a concession saying that part of the inquiry into the Iraq way can be held in public. Earlier this week in this blog I said that such a compromise would satisfy no one.

And with every passing day this becomes more apparent.

There are now allegations that Tony Blair knew about a secret policy on the torture of terror suspects.

Brown is hiding behind a cover that national security could be compromised. There is no longer a threat to national security, and I don’t believe Iraq ever posed such a threat.

If, as Blair and Bush claim, the war was properly conceived and executed, a public enquiry would vindicate them. If not, they deserve to be exposed, given the cost in human lives, and held accountable for war crimes carried out in our name.

A part public, part private inquiry will be seen as a shoddy little cover up, further eroding the credibility of a man who advocates the values of the Manse.