Daily archives: June 3, 2009

Remember, Freedom Is Worth Dying For

In the UK, we are understandably preoccupied with the fact that so many of our elected representatives are personally corrupt in terms of filling their own pockets, and appear not to be particularly distinguished or inspiring people. I actually do not believe the oft-repeated mantra that they all went into politics with good motives.

This country has been through a terrible decade. We have launched illegal wars on others, to further the economic interests of a wealthy class, and unleashed death, mutilation, poverty and grief upon millions in foreign lands. In so doing we made ourselves hated and then disliked the fear of retribution. We have substantially circumscribed our own liberties, hard won by our ancestors, and not cared because we were seduced by a dream of limitless wealth and ease. That bubble inevitably burst and proved to be based on an economic lie. Ordinary people will be paying for bailing out the extremely wealthy, for generations.

So extreme frustration is justified. But today, on the twentieth anniversary of the massacre of Tiananmen Square, we should remember that freedom is so important it is worth dying for.

That has never been a remote concept to me. I have several friends who have died struggling for democracy in Uzbekistan in the last seven years. I also still believe that the Second World War and the fight against fascism was a noble and necessary defence. Like many of my generation, there are close relatives I never got the chance to know because they gave their lives for democracy then. My mother’s only brother, for one. My grandparents never really recovered.

Today in China numerous websites, twitter, Flickr, blogger, livejournal and much else is closed down to try to prevent Chinese people from seeing any remembrance of Tiananmen. This blog was blocked there already, as it is is Uzbekistan and several other countries.

About half as many people as died at Tiananmen, died at Andijan in Uzebkistan, also massacred as they protested for democracy, just over five years ago.

When I was in Uzbekistan, the official line I was given by Jack Straw’s FCO was that Uzbekistan was following the “South East Asian Model” whereby economic liberalisation was bringing about social shifts and the development of a strong middle class, which would eventually lead to democracy. The existence of the model was not a nonsensical argument, though in Uzbekistan there was not any actual economic liberalisation, which invalidated the argument against criticising the regime.

In China there has been economic liberalisation. But precious little sign that this has led to real democratic development or even toleration of dissidence.

In those diaries, Zhao called the massacre of peaceful demonstrators at Tiananmen Square “a tragedy to shock the world”, and clearly stated it could have been averted, had any of the party leadership sided with his view that the demonstrators should be permitted to protest or otherwise be peacefully dispersed. The violent crackdown remains to this day one of the great signs that liberalization of China by trade and engagement has been a moral failure.


The greatest sign of lack of progress over the last twenty years, is the Chinese government’s attempts even today to deny what happened at Tinananmen Square, and its Herculean efforts to prevent its population from knowing about it.

Two decades ago the air was heady, communism was tumbling everywhere, apartheid was vanishing, freedom seemed possible. We are left with a sense of ashes in the mouth. In China, the repression in Tibet and of the Muslim Uighurs – the latter a far less fashionable cause in the West – continues undiminished. But even toleration of dissent is not increasing, and there seems no end to the totalitarian desire to control what the people may know.

China may be moving towards capitalism pretty quickly. It is not even looking in the direction of political freedom.

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New Labour Postal Ballot Fraud NOW in Blackburn

I posted recently about the monumental scale of postal ballot fraud organised by New Labour in 2005 in Blackburn.


I have irrefutable evidence that this is happening again, and New Labour are engaged yet again in criminal electoral activity in Jack Straw’s constituency.

Michael Poultney, New Labour sub-agent for the North West Region Euro Election, has written to the Electoral Commission to complain that the rules governing the discarding ot torn ballots inadvertently favour the BNP.


In doing so, Poultney reveals he has been looking at the postal ballots and seeing how people voted.

I have noticed that a few postal voters have cut or torn their ballot papers only submitting the portion of each paper in line with their marked X.

But party scrutineers are specifically banned from seeing where the “marked X” is when postal ballots are opened.

The rules on this are very strict and could not be clearer. Nobody is allowed to see how the postal ballots are cast until they are counted with the others – not least because at the opening of postal ballots, they are accompanied by signed forms identifying the voter.

This is the rule on opening postal ballots. It could not possibly be clearer:

candidates and agents should not make any attempt to see how any individual ballot paper is marked, nor make any attempt to take notes on how ballot papers are marked. In any event, all ballot papers will be kept with the voting side face down and so it will not be possible to see how the postal voters have voted


See Chapter 5 para 15 of the Electoral Commission’s Guide.

How then did Poultney know where the vote was on these ballot papers?

That is the law, and plainly Poultney – and very probably the Blackburn returning officer – has broken the law. I know from experience as a candidate in Blackburn that if you are not New Labour, you certainly won’t get to see how postal ballots are cast. The local returning officer is, of course, the New Labour chief executive of the New Labour borough council and the people actually opening the ballots are employees of the New Labour borough council.

Anybody who thinks that deep political corruption begins only at Westminster is a fool.


In response to New Labour commenters trying to defend this, look at Poultney’s letter quoted above again and read it carefully.

I have noticed that a few postal voters have cut or torn their ballot papers only submitting the portion of each paper in line with their marked X.

It is obvious that he has been looking at a number of ballot papers, and knows where the X is and that they have torn the paper in line with it – ie, rather than for example tear the paper in half a good way below their X. So he is definitely looking at who postal voters are voting for, (and not just the BNP voters). That is simply illegal – you can’t spin it away.

For goodness sake, New Labour have had Blackburn councillors jailed for postal vote fraud. The place stinks of corruption. The ex council leader, Lord Taylor of Blackburn, has just been suspended from the House of Lords for corruption. Stop acting all innocent.


Having been exposed, Poultney has now hurriedly added this lie in comments after his letter:

I have not referred to marks made by voters, only to the ‘official mark’. This is an icon at the top of the ballot to ensure that it has been printed properly. This is completely different from the marks made by voters to indicate their choice of candidate.

As lies go, that is completely unconvincing. Poulter wrote originally:

I have noticed that a few postal voters have cut or torn their ballot papers only submitting the portion of each paper in line with their marked X.

In that sentence, “their” plainly does refer to the voters, and we all know what “Their marked X” refers to on a ballot paper. On top of which, the official icon he now says he was referring to is not an X.

Michael Poultney. New Labour electoral cheat and transparent liar.


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PMQs A Damp Squib

This is not one of the many blogs that gives a regular critique of PMQs. But this is an exceptional week.

I thought that Cameron’s performance was weak – well below his normal form. Interestingly, the quotes read well enough when Sky flashed them on screen, but his delivery was peculiarly hollow. Cameron today eschewed humour, which he is good at and to which Brown reacts like a bear tormented by bees. Cameron instead seemed himself unusually ponderous and his points were all obvious party ones. Brown’s divided backbenchers therefore rallied around him with instinctive tribal loyalty.

Cameron really should have used one of his questions to recite the government’s manifest failings, particularly on the economy and civil liberties. It would have given some substance to his call for an election.

Clegg was not a great deal better, though he should stick to the line that New Labour is finished and the choice is now between the Tories and Lib Dems. For the first time in a generation it sounds believable, even if greeted by yells of derision from New Labour in parliament. I strongly suspect it will seem still more believable on Monday.

Brown actually performed pretty well. It was the same old line about getting on with the job, and he was plainly uncomfortable over Darling, though he did manage to talk of him as though he were still alive. But he really gave very little impression of being under pressure and managed to put in a confident performance with no signs of ill temper. Cameron and Clegg really let him off the hook here very badly indeed.

But the overall effect of today’s PMQs was to make the theatre of parliament seem completely irrelevant to the real political drama happening at the moment.

Which is the lesson of the last month, and has to be changed if we are to be any kind of meaningful democracy.

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When Ministers Vote With Their Feet

When Ministers vote with their feet, we should be allowed to vote with our ballots.

Gordon Brown is plainly now devoid of all moral authority, and despite the volatility of public opinion and its ever increasing tendency to be caught in waves of emotion, the coming New Labour electoral massacre will only get worse the longer he hangs on.

Hazel Blears’ announcement today is the most stunning act of treachery. The treachery to Gordon Brown is vast. She timed the announcement for just before a Prime Minister’s Questions, where everybody was already anticipating there might be one of those great parliamentary moments when it becomes clear that he no longer has the confidence of the House – and the Commons could thus recover just a tiny bit of its reputation as a democratic forum.

All Cameron has to do today is point to the New Labour benches behind Brown and open with the insouciantly delivered “Are you quite sure it is wise to show your back to those people?” Gordon will return with his leaden pre-written line about working to save the economy for hard-working families, and be lost.

Indeed, it is hard to know at present whether the nation finds the meltdown of Susan Boyle or the meltdown of Gordon Brown more fascinating. Are they perhaps related?

But Hazel Blears’ treachery is far worse than to Gordon Brown. That can be forgiven, as he was about to sack her anyway.

To announce a political resignation from the Cabinet on the very eve of a national election, is an act of betrayal of her own party so extraordinary that I really can’t think of any precedent. Here, I think the hideously ambitious right wing populist Blears may have miscalculated. A lot of New Labour activists, not to mention MEPs and councillors, who lose their seats this week, will not easily forgive her.

Becoming leader of New Labour is hopefully going to become irrelevant to government, but nonetheless that is where Blears sees her future, as witness her campaign for deputy leader. She was the most enthusiastic propagandist in the government for the “war on terror”. I found her lies to parliament on the situation in Uzbekistan especially galling, but plenty of others have reason to dislike her.


Blears continually talked up the BNP, and often seemed to argue that the way to combat them was to steal their rhetorical clothes.

I do not believe for one second that Blears wishes to return to grassroots politics as she claims. But happily, I think for the rest of her life she will get what she pretends to want.

Maybe she should give up on politics and take up property speculation. Now there’s something she’s good at.

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