Monday, 22 May 2017

Weak and Wobbly

Ignore the whole of the Conservative manifesto, then.

That is a pity, because there are some good things in it, as well as some very, very bad ones.

"We do not believe in untrammelled free markets. We reject the cult of selfish individualism. We abhor social division, injustice, unfairness and inequality. We believe not just in society but in the good that government can do. Paying your fair share of tax is the price of living in a civilised society."

Jeremy Corbyn, who really does believe that, needs to recite it word for word, and then reiterate commitments such as the post-Brexit fund to reduce regional inequalities, a commitment that Theresa May cannot now be trusted to honour.

As for Corbyn and the IRA, everyone has always known about that. It has already been rehearsed many times. Except in the part of the country where you cannot vote Labour anyway (and you are most unlikely to vote Conservative, either), you now have to be pretty old to care about it awfully much, if at all.

Bringing all of this back out of the woodwork again is a sign of desperation on the part of the Conservative Party, that even the most viscerally anti-Labour voters might have stayed at home after Mrs May had threatened to take their houses away from them or their children.

She is no longer threatening that, though. So don't expect to hear much more about the IRA. Ignore the whole of the Conservative manifesto. And ignore the ridiculous commentators who were still applauding the Dementia Tax only a few hours ago.

Friday, 19 May 2017

If I'm Back At All

I am fed up of physical pain, causing and caused by financial poverty and political persecution.

I am fed up of financial poverty, causing and caused by physical pain and political persecution.

I am fed up of political persecution, causing and caused by physical pain and financial poverty.

I'll be back on Monday.

If I'm back at all.

A Sense of Proportion

The Conservatives may wish to have First Past the Post elections for Mayors, for Police and Crime Commissioners, and for the London Assembly. But that would only help Labour, in all three cases.

First Past the Post is now something of a curiosity even in the United Kingdom, lingering on only for the House of Commons, and for English and Welsh local elections other than the foregoing.

Of course, being the system used for the Commons means that it still dictates the shape of the parties, although that is so established and entrenched that it would be unlikely to vary much, anyway.

If there really is to be a reduction in the number of constituency MPs from 650 to 600 (and if the Conservatives won again, then they would have done so twice in a row on boundaries that were supposedly unfair to them), then an opportunity presents itself. 

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and each of the nine English regions, would elect five additional MPs, with each elector voting for one candidate, and with the top five elected at the end. 

The main parties would be required, and the other parties would be permitted, to submit their shortlists of two for those nominations to an independent, binding, publicly funded ballot of all registered electors in the relevant area. 

This would be extended to local government, with the additional Councillors elected by this means from each of the parts of a given municipal area falling within a particular parliamentary constituency.

All of this could still be put in place in time for the General Election of 2022.

These primary and proportional aspects are essential to the restoration of the powers of Parliament and of local government, and to the extension of those powers beyond their historical limits. 

Although the most essential thing of all to that restoration and extension, and then to their entrenchment and protection, is far greater economic equality, so that no one's vote effectively counted far more than anyone else's.

Trammelled

"Conservatives do not believe in untrammelled free markets. We reject the cult of selfish individualism."

So says yesterday's manifesto, which therefore takes it as a given that there is a cult of selfish individualism, and that it is incumbent upon the Conservative Party to reject it.

There are some nasty things in this manifesto.

But once and for all, Thatcherism is over.

In which case, so is Blairism.

Even Theresa May now says that Jeremy Corbyn was right all along.

An Open Letter To Labour-Voting Catholics

My friend Ronan Dodds, a man whose political views are pretty much exactly the same as mine, makes some important points here, although he does not say who would be any better, or how.

In this constituency, we also have the matter of a Labour candidate who is opposed to the existence of Catholic schools.

And to Church of England ones, meaning that, although I should have to check the precise figures, somewhere between one third and half of our primary schools must be on her hit list.

Oh, how I had longed to vote Labour this time, to vote for almost all of this manifesto, to vote for Jeremy Corbyn.

How I still do long to vote Labour this time, to vote for almost all of this manifesto, to vote for Jeremy Corbyn.

But there is no way that I can do it.

There is all of the above.

There is the manner of the Labour candidate's selection; even if she won, then she would almost certainly be deselected during the next Parliament, due to the unrepresentative nature of what are not yet her fully formed opinions.

There is the fact that she walked out of the Teaching Assistants' Solidarity Rally when it called for a vote against all Labour candidates at what were then the forthcoming local elections.

And there is the fact that, due to the failure to take that excellent strategy and run with it, Labour did not, after all, lose overall control of Durham County Council this month.

Thus, it remains unpunished, both for the abuse of the Teaching Assistants as such, and for the long list of offences of which that abuse stands as a symbol, a list that now includes my own impending show trial, which is a "racist, sectarian and partisan hit job" that "recalls the darkest days of Northern Ireland or the American Deep South, with no dividing line between the Police, a massively dominant local political party, and a secret society bound by oaths", and which calls seriously into question any pretence of the Crown Prosecution Service to political independence or impartiality.

Therefore, in order to administer the punishment that ought to have been administered on 4th May, it will be necessary on 8th June to defeat all of Labour's parliamentary candidates in County Durham apart from Grahame Morris.

Here in North West Durham, we have the benefit of being able to vote for Owen Temple, who with Alex Watson is one of the two County Councillors to have done the most in support of the Teaching Assistants, and who is the only candidate to have been living in this constituency on the day that the General Election was called.

Am I a Lib Dem? Not remotely. But Owen is head and shoulders above the other candidates here. Demographically, this should never have been a safe Labour seat. The shock of losing it would be good for the local Labour Party, and making this a seat that had to be fought, as it always should have been, would be good for the constituency.

Counting The Cost

There are at least 50 uncosted policies in the Conservative manifesto.

What is the BBC for?

Thursday, 18 May 2017

I Shall Be Voting For Owen Temple

The Labour manifesto is almost entirely the one for which I have been waiting since I was a teenager.

The Liberal Democrat manifesto would serve as a pretty good compendium of everything that I was against politically.

Everything from re-running the referendum (although I think that that might happen whoever won) to legalising cannabis (against which I have been arguing for 20 years, against the people who have controlled the Conservative Party for most of that period).

Here in North West Durham, however, the Conservative candidate, Sally-Ann Hart, resides in Sussex, while the Labour candidate, Laura Pidcock, somehow acquired an address in Lanchester during the week between her loss of her seat on Northumberland County Council and the close of nominations for this election.

Ms Pidcock was imposed, using an all-women shortlist, by the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party, with no local involvement whatever.

On the same day as she was losing her seat in Northumberland, the Liberal Democrat, Councillor Owen Temple, was once again topping the poll at Consett North.

The Green candidate lives in Durham City, while the UKIP candidate lives in Bishop Auckland.

One may or may not agree with the Liberal Democrats about Brexit or any other issue. But voting is for individual candidates.

Councillor Temple is a champion of the Teaching Assistants, of whom Ms Pidcock is at best a lukewarm supporter or a fair-weather friend, and of a wide range of other local community concerns, most of which would be unknown to the other candidates.

He offers Labour voters a chance to return the contempt that the Labour Party has shown them by treating this seat as a consolation prize for Laura Pidcock, whose own MP has not retired as expected.

He offers everyone else the chance to take this seat out of the hands of the Labour Party, including the chance for Conservative voters to return the contempt that their party has shown them by yet again failing to field a local candidate.

And the failure to remove Labour from overall control of Durham County Council means that it still needs to be punished for its mismanagement of that authority, which means that all of its parliamentary candidates here apart from Grahame Morris need to be defeated this time.

Therefore, I shall be voting for Owen Temple.

Manifest Destiny?

Is there anything about grammar schools in the Conservative manifesto?

If there is, then no one has bothered to report it. And they really would have done. Had it been there.

Anyway, the Triple Lock on pensions would go, as would most older people's Winter Fuel Allowance, and the cost of their social care would be charged to their estates once they had died.

At the other end of life, free school meals for infants would be scrapped.

As for the rest, there is not even a pledge not to increase income tax and National Insurance; long gone are the days when Conservative manifestos promised to cut them.

Indeed, this document explicitly holds up both taxation, and the government regulation of the private sector, as positive goods in themselves.

The deficit would remain for so long that it might as well just say "forever" and be done with it. The same old immigration target is repeated, presumably as a joke.

Almost everything else is pure Jeremy Corbyn. At least the real Corbyn, not the caricature.

You can imagine him saying it. If you have to, because he has already been saying a lot of it for many years.

And you can imagine the totally different media reaction if he did.

But he has changed the weather of British politics. He has redefined the entire terms of the debate.

Labour could not have issued this manifesto before him (nor, where the attacks on pensioners and on hungry children were concerned, would it want to do so now).

Yet today, this manifesto has been issued by the Conservatives.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Fight Hard To Win

Yes, I have waited my entire adult life for this Labour manifesto.

Yes, I do want Jeremy Corbyn to be Prime Minister instead of Theresa May, and I question the credibility of anyone who will not say that while professing to oppose British intervention on the Islamist side in Syria.

And no, I am not at all impressed at, by or with the manifesto that has today been published by the Liberal Democrats.

But we elect individual Members of Parliament in this country.

What I am about to say would never have been necessary if anyone had listened to me, instead of to people who had spent their political lives on the fringes, or in other parts of the country, or both, rather than as the Secretary of Derwentside District Labour Party, as a long-serving Lanchester Parish Councillor, as a governor for a cumulative 16 years of two schools in Lanchester (one of them serving almost the entire Derwentside area), as a subagent who had secured Labour an overall majority of the total vote on a four-way split in what was then still a traditionally Conservative ward, and now as a governor of County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust.

I told them that it was not only reasonable, but morally and politically obligatory, to call for the election of no Labour candidate whatever to Durham County Council on 4th May.

And then, what? A Cabinet position for every non-Labour Group and for those of no Group, with the numbers made up based on their relative size. The same for Scrutiny Chairs, obviously never mirroring the portfolios of their respective partisans. And representation on each committee and subcommittee in proportion to their numbers on the authority as a whole.

If they had paid any attention and run with "Anyone But Labour", then Labour would have lost control of Durham County Council, as very nearly happened, and we would now be dealing with whatever had come after that, made up as it would have been of our stalwart friends and allies.

In which case, it would have been possible to advocate a Labour vote without complication at the forthcoming General Election.

Instead, though, with the Labour Party in County Durham still unpunished, and with my impending show trial (a "racist, sectarian and partisan hit job" that "recalls the darkest days of Northern Ireland or the American Deep South, with no dividing line between the Police, a massively dominant local political party, and a secret society bound by oaths") to add to its long list of offences, Grahame Morris is the only Labour parliamentary candidate who deserves a vote. Indeed, he more than richly deserves it.

There is no reason to begrudge the Conservatives their victories at Bishop Auckland and at Sedgefield. What would they make any worse? They are as welcome to those seats as they are to the ones that they are also going to take from the SNP, which deserves to lose to "the TOR-ies!" as surely as does the Labour Party in County Durham.

In City of Durham, and in North Durham, make a judgement based on your local knowledge.

Here in North West Durham, consider that only Owen Temple had an address in this constituency two weeks ago, and that he is tied with Alex Watson as the County Councillor who has done the most for the Teaching Assistants.

Is there still a Constituency Labour Party here in North West Durham? If so, then what is it for? What is the point of a CLP that had no say whatever on the selection of the parliamentary candidate?

The one whom the Labour Party has imposed here clearly intends to stay for 35 years. The CLP nominated Ed Miliband in 2010, Andy Burnham is 2015, and Jeremy Corbyn in 2016.

But there is Left and there is Left. Even were she to be elected, then Laura Pidcock's Marxism, her radical feminism, and her anti-Catholic zealotry would be the road to deselection before 2022. After all, the CLP was never asked whether it wanted her in the first place.

As for people who say that I do not know what I am talking about when I say that North West Durham is a well-known psephological anomaly that has baffled the boffins for most of its history, then take it up with them.

Nothing about it suggests a safe Labour seat apart from the fact that it is one, or that it has been one, more or less, up to know. It really ought not to be one, and it is regularly pointed out as an oddity. People who grew up Amish mostly think that the Amish are normal. But they are not.

This ought to be a seat that all three parties felt the need to fight hard to win, not one that a single party could give as a coming out present to a debutante.

A debutante, moreover, who walked out of the Teaching Assistants' Solidarity Rally because a speaker, from this constituency, had dared to propose exactly the right electoral approach.

Library Cards Marked

Why is Lanchester library open only half the time? It has been like that for years. Yet nowhere else has to put up with anything like this.

Monday afternoon, Tuesday afternoon (for not as long as it used to be), Thursday all day, Saturday morning (for not quite as long as it used to be), and that's it.

Why?

Not only that, but the room that was always used for book groups, and what have you, has recently been designated "Staff Only", meaning that those things now have to be held in the main room, and cutting off access to the convenience despite the largely retired customer base.

To take such an opportunity, it has been declared necessary to cross the road to the community centre, which is not, however, considered the most suitable venue for children's singalongs.

Those are held in the library, complete with the sounding of duck calls when, "On his farm, he had some ducks, e-i-e-i-o."

What is going on in the community centre, in that case?

Any why, uniquely, is Lanchester library open only half the time, anyway?

To Protect The Integrity

My occasional outlet, The American Conservative, leads the pack in publishing a call for impeachment, as my friend Rod Dreher, the father of the Crunchy Con movement, writes:

Think about it: the President of the United States is threatening to blackmail the former chief of the nation’s top domestic law enforcement agency in an attempt to shut him up.

Maybe Trump is bluffing, which would be outrageous enough. But what if he’s telling the truth? We have no way of knowing.

Now, every single man or woman who goes into the White House to converse with him now has to worry that the president is secretly recording their conversation, and has no scruples against using what is said to blackmail them.

What say you, Sen. Mitch McConnell? What say you, CIA director Mike Pompeo?

This is banana republic stuff. This man is out of control. 

How can we have a functioning government if the President feels entitled to threaten blackmail, and every single official who meets with him in the White House has to worry that they’re being bugged, and that words they say in confidence could be used against them? 

Note well that Trump manufactured this crisis out of his own ineptitude and corruption.

Congress is going to have to impeach him to protect the integrity of our Constitutional order.

The House impeached Clinton for lying under oath (though the Senate did not convict).

Now we have a sitting president threatening blackmail against the FBI director he fired.

This, only four months into the president’s administration. Mind-boggling.

But here we are.

If this is not a bright red line, what is?

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Becoming Marginal To Stop Being Marginal

What with the statistical tie between Labour and the Conservatives in the North East, and what with the admirable Owen Temple as the Lib Dem candidate here at North West Durham, this seat is effectively a three-way marginal.

As it always should have been.

For at least 20 years, North West Durham has been held up as anomalous to the point of incomprehensibility, inexplicable in psephological terms, with a voting pattern that bore no resemblance to its demographic profile.

And now, we find ourselves used as a consolation prize for someone who has lost her seat on a different County Council to a Conservative, and whose own Labour MP has not retired after all.

Many Durham County Councillors have done a lot for the Teaching Assistants. But two have done the most. One is Alex Watson, who would have won here if he had stood in 2010. The other is Owen Temple.

My Day In Court

Fans of the circus, get yourselves along to Durham Crown Court on Tuesday 13th June.

The like cannot be seen outside North Korea, and the café at Durham Crown Court does not serve dog meat.

For today's hearing at Peterlee Magistrates' Court, the Crown Prosecution Service had provided my solicitor with, well, more or less nothing.

No copy of "The Letter". Nothing on its alleged similarities to my published work, a suggestion that has already been comprehensively refuted.

Nothing on the fingerprints that supposedly turned up a month after my arrest and fingerprinting, but in time for the local elections.

Nothing.

Just as they had obviously expected me not to make it to Peterlee, but I did, so they had obviously expected me to plead guilty in the event of my showing my face, but I did not.

Despite the asserted existence of those fingerprints, it took the CPS six hours to charge me on Maundy Thursday evening, 13th April. Not such a strong case after all, one wonders?

It then took until Monday 1st May, three days before the local elections, for The Chronicle to report that I had been charged.

Following my defeat in those elections, the persistence with this matter is nothing short of malicious. They have made their point.

But, just as I have no conceivable reason to keep it going except that I am innocent, so they have no conceivable reason to keep it going except to punish me for the fact that I ever dared to suggest that Labour ought to lose control of Durham County Council.

That would have happened, if certain people had not listened to the Labour careerist saboteurs in their midst. But it did not happen, simply as a matter of fact.

Carrying on with this reflects very, very, very badly on them as spiteful, vindictive bullies. Showboating about terror threats and Jo Cox is just bad taste.

Ranked behind them, however, are people who have not deleted me on Facebook (and nor, in at least one case, have several other members of their families), and one of whom, prominent and highly ambitious, also continues to follow me on Twitter.

So much for the slightest belief in my guilt on the part of those of the supposed victims who have known me for 15, 20, 25, 30, and in one case 35 years.

The purpose of this vendetta was to frighten me out of contesting the local elections (it didn't), then to stop me from being elected at them (job done), and then to stop me from contesting the General Election, a job that has been done by Theresa May, since I could never have raised the £10,000 necessary for a proper campaign in less than a month and with no notice.

Now, however, I am a declared, organising, campaigning and fundraising candidate, probably the first in the country, both for the local elections in 2021, and for the General Election in 2022.

Therefore, the purpose of this vendetta has become to prevent me from contesting and winning those elections.

It is an undisguised attempt to use the Criminal Law in order to obstruct the democratic political process.

A democratic political process that, since my 2021 and 2022 candidacies are declared, is already underway.

Meanwhile consider that, as a matter of policy, no one in this county would ever be arrested, still less charged, with anything relating to the law against cannabis.

Consider that no one in this country would run much risk of arrest, never mind charge, never mind conviction, never mind anything more than the most derisory sentence, for what has long been the illegal activity of foxhunting, to which the Police act as escorts, arresting only anyone who might seek to obstruct this criminality or to object to it.

Consider that no one other than a Premier League footballer, and even then probably only one from the "wrong" club, would run any risk of arrest or prosecution for "digital penetration" of a 15-year-old girl who had, furthermore, been out drinking with the complete impunity of everyone from her parents to the relevant licensees.

Consider that no one other than a minister of religion, or possibly a teacher, would run any risk of arrest or prosecution for any kind of sexual activity with a 15-year-old boy.

Consider that the CPS has claimed to have insufficient evidence to prosecute people who openly admit to having filled in their 2015 General Election forms incorrectly in such numbers as to have affected the overall result.

Consider that, 10 years ago, the CPS claimed to have insufficient evidence to charge Tony Blair with selling peerages, even though he had done everything short of advertise them in Exchange and Mart.

Consider an awful lot of things about Tony Blair.

And think on.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Wash Out The Paintpots

The Labour lead is down to two points in the North East. Yes, you did read that correctly.

So there is all to play for in the cause of the Teaching Assistants, both in itself and as a focus for everything that is wrong with the Labour Party in County Durham.

An opportunity was missed when siren voices were able to lure the TAs away from the clear strategy of removing all Labour Councillors, which would have ended Labour's century-long control of Durham County Council.

But another opportunity has now presented itself, in the form of the General Election.

Grahame Morris must be re-elected.

The Conservatives, who did not vote against the Teaching Assistants, could take Bishop Auckland and Sedgefield, anyway.

In City of Durham, in North Durham, and here in North West Durham, ask yourself which of the candidates has done the most for the TAs.

Meanwhile, I am the country's only declared, organising, campaigning and fundraising candidate for the local elections in 2021 and for the General Election of 2022. 

There Is No Alternative, Indeed

"A year off without pay" is not much of an offer.

But put together Theresa May's proposals on workers rights and her proposals on housing, and then try and imagine the reaction if Jeremy Corbyn were saying exactly the same thing.

As, of course, he has been for years.

Similarly, if May had proposed substantially the leaked Labour manifesto, much of which could indeed have featured in one of her set piece speeches, then the media outlets that scream hysterically at Corbyn about Venezuela and what have you, would have reacted in an entirely different manner.

It is possible that May is onto something. Being the other side while screeching abuse at it worked for long enough for Tony Blair.

While the most prominent party that does not accept the two per cent military spending target as the price of the 0.7 per cent Overseas Aid target goes into this Election with one seat, and is going to come out of it with at least that one, the party that does not accept the 0.7 per cent Overseas Aid target as the price of the two per cent military spending target goes into this Election with no seats, and is going to come out of it with no seats.

It is not only because of the different electoral system that the party that wants to go back to Erich Honecker does better in the old East Germany than the party that wants to go back to Margaret Thatcher does in Britain.

Indeed, look at how all policies, even those of UKIP, are now judged by how well they play to "traditional Labour voters in the North of England", who are unquestioningly deemed to be the pure soul and radiant conscience of British politics.

Leaving aside the existence of other traditional Labour supporters, and of other people in the North of England, that exaltation of the moral authority of the people who voted Labour throughout the Thatcher and Major years amounts to defining the debate in terms of the wrongness of the results in 1979, 1983, 1987 and 1992.

As much as anything else, that entirely cuts the ground from under the foundations of New Labour. Among very much else besides.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

All At Sea

Trident runs on Windows XP.

Just give that a moment to sink in.

Security Check

Britain is not a world leader in cybersecurity.

Britain is a world leader in cybersurveillance.

That is not the same thing.

Someone needs to be sacked for the fact that the NHS was still using Windows XP.

On 8th June, the opportunity presents itself to sack the entire Government.

Meanwhile, what with this cyberattack, aren't you glad that we have Trident?

And will Theresa May be asked whether she would launch a nuclear attack during the next Parliament, or she is a lily-livered peacenik, since apparently those are the only options?