It’s Still the British Government

As the euphoria of Labour’s ejection from Government recedes and the novelty of the new coalition Government wears off, it’s time to realise that the more things change the more they stay the same.  Here’s what to expect:

There wasn’t much conservative left about the Conservative Party before the General Election. David Cameron was already on the left side of his party with the Thatcherites severely marginalised. Now that he in in coalition with the LibDems, he has sold off the rest of the family silver. That was the price of the deal.

There is no question about the UK becoming less socialist. In this country it is not a matter of whether socialism but whose socialism. The new Government promises to spend more on the NHS year-on-year, but it will be spending less than was being spent. All the other money went to the banks. There will still be rationing. After promising that everyone will have access to the health care they need, the new Health Secretary admitted that there will never be enough to meet the demand, but that by shuffling around the nurses into various roles everything will be gloriously better.

Having poured the public purse into the bankers’ bonuses, new money to run the Welfare State will have to come from somewhere. They aren’t talking about the tax increases. It’s all about the spending cuts. However the reality is that the Conservatives have dropped the marriage (and civil partnership) tax break they promised during the campaign. That’s £150 per year per couple. They have dropped plans to raise the inheritance tax limit. (Inheritance tax is the tax penalty for dying after saving any of the money that has already been taxed.) There will be a very significant rise in capital gains tax (this means that everyone will dump whatever shares they can before it comes into effect and will drive down the market). VAT (that’s sales tax) will rise to at least 20%, though it could very conceivably go higher. The Tory promise of not implementing the Labour Government’s rise in National Insurance tax is being kept in part. Employers will not have a rise in their NI contribution, but employees will pay more.

The new Conservatives are every bit as liberal on social issues as Labour. They partners the LibDems are even more so. The man who would have been expected to take over as Home Secretary has been left out of the Government because he unwisely sided with a family who would not let gay couples share a double bed in their Bed and Breakfast. Since David Cameron took over from Iain Duncan Smith (an actual conservative Conservative), the Tories have tried to be pinker and greener than any other party. Abortion is not even a political issue in this country, despite the 200,000 that are performed every year.

What remains to be seen is just how the new Government will deal with Labour’s surveillance society. Both the Tories and the LibDems have promised to get rid of ID cards. How far they will go in otherwise getting out of the lives of individuals and families has yet to be seen.

There will be no conserving of the British constitution. The House of Lords, already nearly bereft of the hereditary peers who populated it for 800 years, will be turned into an elected Senate, elected by the LibDem’s preferred method of proportional representation. Like the Lords it will be an upper chamber in name only, with the centre of power still firmly in the Commons, even if it will no longer have the claim to the greater legitimacy of being democratically elected.

As a trade off for the Conservatives taking on the LibDem tax increases, the LibDems only lose one significant one significant policy, which is the only one for which I had any sympathy. The Tories are opposed to amnesty for long-term illegal immigrants, so there will be no amnesty for at least the length of this fixed-term five-year Parliament.

I’m glad to see Labour gone. I’m hoping that the new Government will not be as arrogant as the last, though the British Government is typically quite arrogant, regardless of who is in power.

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House of Common Criminals

Parliament and the Government are in total disarray. In the States, Newt Gingrich is calling for Nancy Pelosi to resign for lying to Congress, but that’s small potatos compared to what’s happening over here in the People’s Republic of Britain. Members of the House of Commons are calling on Speaker Michael Martin to resign. This just doesn’t happen here. Not since 1695.

The Commons Speaker, unlike the Speaker in the US House of Representatives and in the various US state legislatures, is not supposed to be affected by political party affiliation or loyalty. When they are elected by the members, they resign their party membership and when they run for re-election to represent their constituency, they are on the ballot as Speaker. They then serve as Speaker until they retire.

Over the past few years, there have been informal suggestions by some backbenchers (members of the Commons who are neither Government ministers or the spokespeople from opposing parties) that the Speaker should step down because he has been incompetent and feathering his own nest. However, this is the first time that a motion of no confidence in the Speaker has been put before the House or that a party leader has openly spoken against the Speaker.

It all stems from the huge fiasco over how members expenses have been paid. It turns out that many members across all parties have been claiming expenses for some pretty outrageous things. Two members of the Labour Party have been expelled from the party and one Government minister has stepped down during the investigation. Criminal charges may be in the offing for members who have been completely fraudulent, for example claiming expenses for mortgages that didn’t exist.

For mortages, rents, renovations, repairs, and every other conceivable domestic expense, MPs have repeatedly engaged in “flipping”. This means they will claim a particular residence is their second residence, claim loads of expenses, then flip the designation to a different home, claim loads of expenses, and continue doing this.

Married cabinet ministers Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper made a claim for almost four times the amount of mortgage interest to which they were entitled. They flipped the designation of their second home to three different properties within the space of two years. They also charged the taxpayer £600 per month to feed themselves. This is on top of their combined salary of nearly £285,000.

But back to Mr Speaker. As reported today in the Daily Telegraph:

Parliamentary authorities, overseen by Michael Martin, the Speaker, gave secret permission for some MPs to over-claim for thousands of pounds in home loan interest in deals that led to the systematic abuse of the taxpayer-funded expenses system.

He let his people collude with MPs to cheat the taxpayer. He also tried to stop the publication of information about expenses. He tried to call the police on the Daily Telegraph when they started exposing all of this. He has got to go.

But so do so many other MPs. Many have hastily repaid some of their more outrageous claims but some caught with their hand in the cookie jar just don’t care. For example:

Ben Chapman, a Labour MP, admitted last night that he was allowed to continue claiming for interest payments on his entire mortgage after repaying £295,000 of the loan in 2002.

Over 10 months the arrangement allowed Mr Chapman to receive £15,000 for the part of the home loan which had been paid off. Last night, he said he would not give back the money.

It has gotten so bad that even the Queen, who never gets involved in political matters, has had strong words with the Prime Minister. She is conscious that her people are suffering the effects of a recession, while her Parliament are stuffing their pockets with every available taxpayer pound.

More and more people and media outlets are calling for a swift general election. What we need is time for the smoke to clear and for constituency organisations of all parties to have time to de-select offending incumbents (thus preventing them from standing for re-election as anything other than an independent) so the election can be fought on the failure of the Labour Party and not on the behaviour of individual members.

The Outrage Continues

The Government must be loving the news out of Mumbi. Just like with 9/11, they are using it to bury bad news.

They haven’t buried it entirely. The Daily Mail has the arrest of Damien Green as the front cover. After all, MPs across the political spectrum are completely beside themselves. There have been waves of questions tabled about it, though ministers don’t have to deal with them until after Parliament comes back into session on Wednesday with the State Opening and the Queen’s Speech.  Tory MPs are threatening to disrupt the Queen’s Speech debate, which should be about the Government’s legislative agenda.

It has now emerged that the Speaker of the Commons, Michael Martin, knew of the plans to arrest Damien Green and authorised the search of his parliamentary office. This has not done the Speaker’s reputation for incompetence any good. The calls for his resignation have never been louder. Unlike like the Speaker of the House of Representatives in the US Congress, the Speaker of the Commons is supposed to be completely politically unbiased and defend the rights of MPs. Again, MPs across the political spectrum are horrified at the Speaker’s actions.

The leader of the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg, used the same language that I used in the previous post, “This is something you might expect from a tin-pot dictatorship, not in a modern democracy.” Tony Benn said this indicates we are now in a police state.

Government Terrorising the Opposition

It’s all over the top of the news – the BBC, the Daily Mail, the Telegraph, the Times. The Government of the United Kingdom has just upped the totalitarian stakes.

It’s the sort of thing that happens in tinpot dictatorships. The Opposition spokesman on immigration, Damian Green, MP, has been arrested on allegations that he leaked stories to the media that he received from a Home Office whistle-blower. The police raided his home, his parliamentary office, and his constituency office.

There were allegedly four leaks between November of last year and September of this year. Green let the press know about:

an illegal immigrant that had been employed as a Commons cleaner,

a letter from the Home Secretary to the Prime Minister warning that a recession could lead to a rise in crime,

that the Home Secretary was warned that thousands of illegal immigrants had been cleared to work in sensitive Whitehall security jobs but accepted advice from her officials for a news blackout on the affair, and

a list, prepared by Labour whips, of MPs’ likely voting intentions on legislation to extend to 42 days detention without charge.

The Tory Leader, David Cameron has rightly noted, “As Shadow Immigration Minister, Mr Green has, on a number of occasions, legitimately revealed information which the Home Office chose not to make public. Disclosure of this information was manifestly in the public interest. Mr Green denies any wrongdoing.” Instead, he was arrested by counter-terrorism officers.

Those officers came from the Metropolitan Police. It is no coincidence (and even the mainstream media are saying this) that today is the last day in the job for Met Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair, forced out of office by the Conservative mayor of London Boris Johnson.

It is also no coincidence that it came as the House of Commons was in recess. The matter would have been immediately raised with ministers. As it is, they can operate without challenge for several days.

George Osborne said moments ago on BBC’s Question TIme, “It has long been the case in our democracy that members of Parliament have received information from civil servants. I think to hide information from the public is wrong.”  Labour MP Diane Abbott, not being very supportive of the Government, just said on This Week, “Civil servants have been leaking information to politicians since the dawn of the photocopier. The Metropolitan Police do some daft things. They would never arrest a Member of Parliament without getting some form of political cover.” In other words, as much of the media is saying, this has to have been cleared at a very high level, despite the statement by a Downing Street spokesman that the Prime Minister had no prior knowledge of the arrest.

Green is being questioned on allegations of the offence of conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office. This carries a possible life sentence.

There is terrorism involved here. The Government is terrorising the Opposition to keep it from raising questions about the Government’s competence and honesty at the highest levels. As one not surprisingly anonymous insider question has been quoted in the media, this is “Stalinesque . . . unprecedented in its high-handedness”.

Culture of Death is Alive and Well

Well, the great debate is over. I’m sure there have already been plenty of post-vote post mortems in the blogosphere, though I have trawled through to read them. Between marking exams and getting ready for the arrival of the grandparents, I haven’t had the time.

The culture of death is alive and well in Britain. We will continue to have some of the most liberal laws in Europe and babies will continue to die at a rate exceeding 500 per day. There has been no change to 24-week social abortion limit. Supporters tried to play this down by emphasising that only 1.5% of abortions occur between 20 and 24 weeks, Of course if you do the math, that’s over 3000 babies chopped up and pulled out of wombs each year. That’s more than eight per day. It’s also an increase of 44% over the last ten years. For those aged over 17 weeks, and there were 7,123 abortions, or more than 19 per day. Those children were also removed one amputated part at a time.

And speaking of eight, that’s the highest number of previous abortions recorded. In other words, in the statistics available, they only note individuals (we can’t really call them mothers, can we?) who have had eight or more previous abortions. This number obviously continues to increase. The 2006 figures – the latest available – show that 54 women had procured at least eight abortions. There were 65 who had six abortions before they were 30 years old.

Then the numbers get really scary. In just the year 2006, 1300 women had their what was at least their fifth termination. More than 3,800 were on their fourth and nearly 15,000 were killing their third child. I suppose it is some comfort that of those achieving a hat trick, only 82 of those were under 18.

Most all of this is at taxpayer expense. Don’t be fooled by hearing that less than 25% are carried out by the NHS. A further 67% take place in private clinics that are funded by the NHS. That’s 92% in total.

As for the rest of the legislation, MP voted for human-animal hybrids, against children of IVF needing a father, and for the production of children as saviour siblings.

Muscular Christianity

I just saw Dr Evan Harris, MP – key proponent of hybrids, embryo testing, and abortion – on BBC News The Record. He was discussing the upcoming legislation.

“I’m actually relieved that we’re not in the American situation, where I think there’s disproportionate influence in my view of white, extreme right-wing, muscular, evangelical Christianity.”

Dr Harris works better in an environment where the Church isn’t so strong.

Life and Death

According to the Daily Telegraph, Prime Minsiter Gordon Brown has been warned by his whips that his opposition to reducing the abortion gestational time limit is likely to fail. The mood of the House is to bring the limit down. With nine time-limit amendments tabled, the most likely compromise appears to be a fortnightly reduction to 22 weeks. I think 20 weeks should be a reasonable adjustment to even the most die hard pro-death supporter, but it would seem that even that extra two weeks will be too much for some to stomach.

The son of a Church of Scotland minister, Brown will vote against the pro-life position on any attempts to change the law. Even though less than one percent of abortions happen between 22 and 24 weeks, and those are the most gruesome (except for the very later abortions, which it appears will continue to be legal), Gordon doesn’t want to keep them from happening.

What is interesting to me about battle lines on this “women’s rights” issue is that the chief pro-life leaders in the House of Commons are women. The pro-choice campaign is led by men. Abortion is a very cross-party issue here. The Labour Party has long had significant support amongst Catholics.

So next week as the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill is debated by a committee of the whole House, it will be a matter of life and death.  On Monday, the debates will cover human-animal embryos and saviour siblings. Tuesday will start with lesbians and fertility treatment, before moving on to abortion. The preservation of the unborn and the sanctity of the entire human species is up for grabs.