The Election


Diane Abbott

canopykakum.jpg

I know Diane Abbott slightly. I once had the pleasure of accompanying her across the Canopy Walkway at Kakum in Ghana. The photo of the walkway may come in handy as a metaphor. Last time I met her we chatted in Westminster tube station about Tony Blair – our views on him are similar.

A question for my Labour supporting commenters. I do not know if, now John has stepped down, if Diane will now get enough MP nominations to stand. But why is hr candidature treated as a joke, or at best a half-hearted bit of tokenism? Look at her voting record:

Voted moderately against a stricter asylum system.

Voted very strongly against the Iraq war.

Voted moderately against an investigation into the Iraq war.

Voted moderately against Labour’s anti-terrorism laws.

Voted a mixture of for and against allowing ministers to intervene in inquests.

Voted moderately against greater autonomy for schools.

Voted a mixture of for and against introducing ID cards.

Voted a mixture of for and against laws to stop climate change.

Voted moderately for removing hereditary peers from the House of Lords.

Voted very strongly for a wholly elected House of Lords.

Voted strongly for more EU integration.

Voted moderately for equal gay rights.

Voted very strongly against replacing Trident.

Voted moderately against introducing student top-up fees.

Voted a mixture of for and against a transparent Parliament.

Voted strongly against introducing foundation hospitals.

Voted moderately for the hunting ban.

Diane Abbott is the only possible candidate left who was against the Iraq War, against Trident and for civil liberties. All the other candidates are deeply steeped in Iraqi blood and strongly associated with New Labour’s viciously authoritarian agenda. The frontrunner, David Miliband, spent most of his tenure as Foreign Secretary engaged in numerous legal attempts both to keep secret and to justify Britain’s complicity in torture under New Labour.

But she is the joke candidate because she is the only one who is not an Oxford educated cabinet minister.

Which opens the question, what is New Labour for? To me, it has found its niche as a neo-conservative opposition to a more traditional Conservative party given a still more comparatively Liberal tinge by coalition.

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Strange Adventure

Well, here we are on the first morning of a new government. I continue to wait to see what the government actually does. What we know for certain is that we have got rid of a government of war criminal torturers who attacked our civil liberties. Some commenters were indignant yesterday that I refuse to presume this government will be worse. It hardly can be worse – but we shall see.

In terms of cabinet posts, the Lib Dems do not appear to have got that much. Nick Clegg is to be Deputy Prime Minister. That post has to date been famously powerless, even when it was “beefed up” nominally to put Prescott in charge of everything you could name. More to the point, we are going to have the odious George Osborne as Chancellor. Spending cuts are required, but are not made more acceptable by being delivered with a patrician sneer. The Tories seem like they are going to have all the “Great offices of state” – PM, Chancellor, Foreign Secretary, Home Secretary and Defence Secretary. That will dominate the government agenda. The Lib Dems appear to have sold their soul for scraps.

Danny Alexander has been given the most thankless task of representing a Tory government in Scotland. I still believe this coalition will be an electoral disaster for the Lib Dems – and their being wiped out in next year’s Holyrood elections will be the start of it, which is a shame as I like Tavish Scottt.

Danny Alexander will be pitted against Alex Salmond. Alex is the most charismatic and talented politician in the UK – and gives the lie to the idea that a modern leader has to be “telegenic” to be popular. Scotland has a more collectivist view of society and will hate the spending cuts – which if Scotland could access its own hydrocarbons would not be necessary. The growing political distance between Scotland and the UK will in retrospect be the most important narrative of the next five years, with a hapless Danny Alexander able to do nothing about it.

It would seem to be too much for the Lib Dems to be given the other graveyard of political ambition, Northern Ireland, but don’t rule it out. Vince Cable’s precise role is unclear just yet, but plainly it will be subservient to George Osborne. The Lib Dems will also get given schools and something like paperclips. There will be a plethora of junior ministerial posts, but junior ministers have no influence at all on their Cabinet minister bosses.

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On Being a Government Supporter

It appears very probable now we will have a Tory/Lib Dem coalition. That would put me in the extraordinary position of supporting the government, for the first time in my life.

I would still much prefer the Lib Dems to remain in opposition. To a large extent that is for pragmatic reasons – I very much fear a coalition with the Tories will be electorally disastrous for the Lib Dems. But will I resign from the party? No, I won’t.

Part of the reason for this is my revulsion at the list of dreadful authoritarian New Labour figures who have been coming forward to rubbish any Lib/Lab deal. David Blunkett, John Reid, Jack Straw – these people truly are enemies of liberty and I find them more repulsive than any of the Tories, even Jacob Rees Mogg.

The proof, of course, will be in what the new government actually does. I do not view AV as an improvement on FTPT, and it appears the Tories will not touch the real reform of STV. But there are other areas of democratic reform that would be real achievements – fixed term parliaments appear on the cards.

But what about an elected House of Lords? A House of Lords fully elected by STV might be a way of breaking the negotiating deadlock, with the Commons remaining on FTPT for now. But just how attached are the Tories to the patronage of appointing their donors to the House of Lords? Pretty attached, I imagine.

On the economy, I tend to the libertarian side myself and favour spending cuts more radical than anything we are likely to get, particularly in local government where bureaucracy and useless departments proliferate and pay scales are much higher than equivalent jobs in the national civil service.

You may be surprised, for example, that my views of the Sharon Shoesmith affair are that she was unfairly treated, that it is ludicrous that we should imagine government can stop all murder and evil, that the large majority of social welfare, youth and community oriented jobs in local government should simply be cut as they do no good, and that the real scandal is that the woman was on a remuneration package similar to that of the Permanent Under Secretary of the Treasury.

If you ask me how to rein back the deficit, I would say that you can make a start by looking at the career of Bill Taylor, a full time Labour Party apparatchik who made a fat living his entire career out of various Polly Toynbee type aspects of taxpayer funded bullshit – and rakes in even more now by doing it on a consultancy basis. Read through Taylor’s career, and then abolish throughout the UK all public spending in any area in any way related to any sector he worked in.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Taylor_(politician)

So you will gather I am not moved by the argument that the Tories must be resisted at all costs because of spending cuts. I like spending cuts. What to cut is, of course, the area of dispute. The Tories appear to be wedded to Trident, but will they kick it back a bit through a defence review?

It will be novel to see liberal ministers in office, but hard lessons have taught me not to expect too much from that. When the FCO was embarking on its positive policy of encouraging the gaining of intelligence through torture,

http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2010/05/new_labours_com.html

Peter Hain and Bill Rammell were both FCO ministers – and both have a genuine commitment to human rights. But somehow the system takes good men prisoner.

So, I wait to see if the coalition comes, and if so what it does. As I said before, if they halt the extradition of Gary McKinnon to the US, that would be a good early sign.

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Voting Systems

The Tories have made an offer to the Lib Dems of a referendum on the alternative vote (AV) system.

I am not a supporter of AV. The fact that Labour and Tories can both support it, is a good indicator that it is not much of an improvement. Under AV you get to note a second choice on your ballot paper. The bottom candidate is eliminated and their second preferences re-allocated, until somebody gets over 50% of votes cast.

This system does not address the problem of proportionality – that the percentage of seats in parliament should broadly reflect the percentage of national votes cast. It is expected it would slightly improve proportionality, but that is a side effect and not inevitable. Indeed it can exagerrate the seat share of a dominant party. It most definitely does not help smaller parties, but rather tends to promote a flight to mediocrity – it puts a premium on being unobjectionable rather than exciting or different.

Party list systems are proportional, but I find them the worst of all as the parties can promote individual candidates who are personally unpalatable to the electorate. Under party list systems seats are allocated to parties according to the national or regional percentage of votes cast, and then those party seats are filled by the returning officer ticking down a party candidates list. The voter is voting for a party, not an individual.

The Scots system is a combination of AV, regionally topped up to add a proportional element from a party list. This is a horrible system.

By far the best system is single transferable vote in multi-member constituencies (STV). Under this system. large constituencies contain perhaps six or seven MPs. The voter gets a list of all candidates from all parties, and independents, and the voter can rank the actual individual candidates in order of preference from 1 to x. In a seven member constituency, a candidates needs 14.3% of the vote to be elected. If anyone gets that, their excess vote is distributed according to their second preferences, otherwise the person who came last is eliminated and their preferences distributed, ad infintum until you have seven people elected.

This gives a strongly proportional result nationally, encourages small parties and independent candidates, and gives the voter a wide choice of individual candidates.

The most quoted disadvantages of STV are the loss of the link between an MP and their small constituency, and the encouragement to the BNP.

On the constituency link, I think this is romantic tosh. Only the expenses scandal caused any signficant proportion of the electorate to be able to name their own MP. MPs would still have a strong regional link.

On the BNP, there is no region where they came anywhere near to getting 16%. But I am afraid to say that should the BNP be able to get that kind of level of support, I think they would be entitled to their MP.

So there we have it. In my view, STV is by far the best system and the only one worth changing to. I don’t believe AV is significantly better than FPTP.

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The McKinnon Test

I am no more in favour of an alliance with New Labour than I am with the Conservatives – though if it delivered PR I would have to think hard.

But why tie ourselves to authoritarian war criminals. The culpability of Miliband in particular in strenuous efforts to cover up UK complicity in torture, should make it impossible for any Liberal to work with him.

http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2010/05/new_labours_com.html#comments

Poor Gary McKinnon provides an important test. The Tories and Lib Dems have said they would halt his extradition under Blair’s vassal state one way extradition treaty with the USA. New Labour apparently remain determined to extradite him – and that means Miliband and Johnson in particular. That should be food for thought for anyone considering New Labour leaders touted as more acceptable to the Lib Dems,

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Not Very Liberal

I received – along with other party members – a rather stalinist email from someone called Baroness Scott, President of the Liberal Democrats. Somebody should explain to her the meaning of each of the words in the party title, because her email said this:

We have all worked hard and for that I thank you – my travels around the country showed me just how much everyone has put in. We have achieved this not only due to that effort, but also by sticking to our fairness message. In order for us to maximise our chances of delivering our fairness agenda we now have to keep this discipline up, avoiding speculation as to what happens next.

Baroness Ros Scott

President of the Liberal Democrats.

By “speculation” she evidently means open and democratic discussion of what the party should no next. We can’t have that, can we Ros? All those people whose hard work you applaud are just meant to put the highheidyins in power. They are not supposed to have opinions on what is done with that power, or if they do they should keep them quiet.

“Discipline”, eh? Not a word culled from the Liberal lexicon, really.

One of the more depressing moments of the election for me was when that rather nice independent doctor from Kidderminster was replaced by – a Tory hedge fund manager. A representative of the most socially useful of professions replaced by a member of a profession which is parasitic and socially damaging. It seemed to sum things up, somehow.

There is a fundamental ideological divide between liberals and conservatives. That is part of the weft of British history. I can see no firm grounds for a joint government with the nasty party, or what John Stuart Mill dubbed the stupid party. I have seen no evidence so far that Cameron has offered any compromise on any policy with which the Conservatives were not essentially in agreement anyway, while insisting that the Lib Dems go along with Tory policy on matters like Trident and immigration.

Pace Ros Scott, there is no point in pretending that the Lib Dems do not have their own internal divisions. The truth is that Nick Clegg is personally less removed from the Tories than a great many Lib Dems, while the militarist wing headed by Paddy and bomber Ming will see advantages in a coalition with the Tories in overcoming internal opposition to the neo-imperial agenda.

I am not any more enamoured of a coalition with New Labour. Apart ftom Gove and a few others, most of the Conservatives are traditional conservatives, whereas Blair created New Labour as neo-conservative, which is altogether more objectionable. I view the New Labour leadership as war criminals tainted by torture. Let them rot.

A electoral reform referendum offered to the people by New Labour might well be lost just because of New Labour’s unpopularity. That would set back electoral reform for another 30 years.

The Lib Dems are not obliged to enter a coalition with anyone. Let us stay in opposition. Cameron can form a minority gvernment with DUP support. I still expect he can find a Sean Woodward or two to cross the follor for the sake of office. There are enough unprinicpled careerists in New Labour. Let Cameron stumble on for a couple of years, then let us reap the benefit when he falls. If the Lib Dems enter any coalition, they will face electoral disaster next time.

Amusingly, Sky News just interviewed someone in LibDem offices in Cheltenham who said “I am not going pontificating about what Nick Clegg should do. That’s up to the party leadership”. Ros Scott should be happy that someone reads her emails and is terrifically disciplined.

I had never come across Eric Lubbock’s blog, which is peculiar. Eric is a real Liberal, and wonderful campaigner on human rights and development issues worldwide.

http://ericavebury.blogspot.com/

UPDATE

Having just seen a papers review on TV, it is striking that precisely those newspaper groups which launched the most furious and concerted election attack on the Lib Dems, are now urging that they join the Tories in government. That in itself should signal that it is a very bad idea for the Lib Dems.

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Remember 1974 – Let’s Stay in Opposition

I argue urgently that we Lib Dems should not enter into any formal pact with anyone, but should remain in opposition to a minority Conservative and Unionist government.

I won’t pretend that last night was not horribly disappointing, as First Past The Post radically distorted our representation as usual. I went through this disappointment before, in February 1974 , in the election that first brought me in to political activity. Then, there was an even greater buzz about Jeremy Thorpe than there has been about Nick Clegg – and Thorpe was a spectacularly charismatic figure.

Third party politics really had seemed utterly dead in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Thorpe had inherited a parliamentary party that really could squeeze into a taxi, and Thorpe’s style, underpinned by Jo Grimond’s genuine radicalism, was an achievement more stunning than anything the Liberals or Lib Dems have managed since. It seemed to represent a re-ordering of the political system to accommodate the radical social changes of the 1960’s (and remember it was Liberal MP David Steel’s private member’s bill which liberalised abortion).

When Thorpe’s Liberal Party’s opinion polls rating during the first 1974 campaign hit the 23% level the Lib Dems gained yesterday, that was a quadrupling of support. When the actual percentage share at the ballot was 19.3% it was a huge letdown – and incredibly, 19.3% gave the Liberals just 14 seats – probably the most infamous result FTPT has ever delivered. 19.3% of the vote for 2.3% of the seats!!

That election morning was worse than this one. I had, age 15, worked almost every single non-school hour for 4 months leading up to the election, and had not slept for 96 hours, being out delivering leaflets. I shall never forget the burning sense of injustice.

The second election in October 1974 led to the Lib-Lab pact, which actually was highly succesful for three years in rescuing a near Greek economic situation. But the Liberals got no credit for it. The “Winter of Discontent” actually occurred after the Liberals withdrew from the Lib-Lab pact, but nonetheless the Liberals were swept backwards by Thatcherism in 1979.

That could easily repeat now. A Lib-Lab pact to claw back the dire economic situation would almost certainly be followed in time by a massive Tory backlash for keeping New Lab in power and losses of Lib Dems seats.

On the other hand, we have the scenario I blogged as tempting before yesterday’s vote:

a Cameron administration, with a tiny majority, propped up by some Northern Irish bigots, would inflict such pain on the majority of our society that, before falling after a few years, they would put the Tories out for a generation at least.

In so doing, they would greatly enhance the cause of Scottish and Welsh independence, and with the Lib Dems the second most popular party and the challenger in the large majority of Tory seats, the Tory demise would sweep in a radical change in more promising circumstances.

http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2010/05/crisis_is_a_gre.html#comments

I rejected this scenario in favour of a good Lib Dem performance yesterday – but given the actual result, I believe the above is the best scenario we have. Let the Tories run a minority administration with unpleasant allies, restraining their excesses. In the next general election the Lib Dems will poised nationally to pick up a huge bonanza of Tory seats. Cameron will meantime be in the minority government position that killed Callaghan and Major electorally. But he will also face the problem that the electorate always punish anyone who inflicts an unnecessary election on them.

So play it long and cool. Resist the tempations of instant power and ministerial limousines, and especially resist blandishments of referenda on electoral reform in which the entire Murdoch and Tory media empires will again be deployed against us to devastating effect.

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Tories – Corrupt As Ever

I have been campaigning like crazy for the Lib Dems in Ealing and Central Acton. It is fun, for the first time in my life, to live in a marginal constituency. I am pretty confident this will be a Lib Dem gain. The local candidate, Jon Ball, is a good man, not least because he quite voluntarily, and before I moved into his constituency, came to one of my lectures!

The Tory candidate, Angie Bray, is a PR professional from Cameron’s “A-list.” Thanks to George for digging up this puff piece about her from the Financial Times, which cheerily informs us:

Angie Bray in Ealing Central and Acton was unabashed about using political links formed while working for the Tory communications machine to help her private PR clients

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/5f131b1e-4114-11df-94c2-00144feabdc0,Authorised=false.html?_i_location=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ft.com%2Fcms%2Fs%2F0%2F5f131b1e-4114-11df-94c2-00144feabdc0.html&_i_referer=

So much for Cameron’s claims that the Tories represent a cleaner politics…

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Jack Straw Plans More Criminal Treating

Having been caught red-handed indulging in the crime of treating – supplying free food and drink to voters to influence their vote – Jack Straw is planning to do it again this evening.

Treating is a criminal offence for which the maximum sentence is a year in prison. As a corrupt electoral practice, it also carries disbarment for life from both the House of Commons and House of Lords.

Straw has already flagrantly broken this law in an election rally at Jan’s Conference Centre on 25 April. Several hundred Blackburn Muslims were given free meals at a vote Jack Straw rally.

http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2010/04/jack_straw_face.html#comments

Blackburn police have told me this morning that they now have dealt with this by merely issuing a formal warning to Jack Straw’s election agent not to do it again. That is completely insufficient when Straw did exactly the same thing, at the same venue, with the same main speakers and the same food, five years ago, and was then given an official warning not to do it again.

http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2007/06/jack_straw_shou_1.html

It is beyond argument that nobody but a New Labour minister in a rotten borough like Blackburn would be able blatantly and repeatedly to flaunt the law of the land in this way without any consequences. I am now putting in a formal complaint to the IPCC about Blackburn Police.

Straw is however frantic as it looks increasingly unlikely he will hold his seat. A Gujerati constituent of Straw explained to me this morning that, in their culture, if they eat your food they are morally obliged to vote for you. He jokingly compared it to “tasting the salt” in the days of the Raj. A large gathering of Gujerati voters has therefore been organised by New Labour for this evening, at Lord Adam “Postman” Patel’s factory on Randall Street, where Straw will address the assembled diners. The plan is that, by issuing invitations by word of mouth through the Gujerati community, and holding the meeting on private premises with food provided by Lord Patel, they can get round the treating laws.

In fact this does not wash at all. The treating law says the candidate’s campaign may not “directly or indirectly” provide food and drink, while Lord Postman Patel, a New Labour enforcer ennobled for his creative approach to the organisation of postal votes, can scarcely claim not to be part of the campaign. He was on the stage making “vote Jack Straw” speeches in the treating spectaculars at Jan’s Conference Centre both last week and in 2005.

I have so far 16 volunteers from inside the Gujerati community who will infiltrate the event and let me know if treating has taken place, and gather evidence. This is interesting, because my friend who told me that eating the meal more or less obliges you to support the candidate, tells me also that it would be a great scandal and lose votes for Straw to invite all these people for a meal, and then just give the speeches instead.

Why is Straw so frantic? My mole tells me that New Labour’s canvass returns for Audley Ward show Straw in third place. This is normally his second strongest ward.

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Immigration and the Election

The Conservative Party is well and truly reverting to type in its efforts to beat back the Lib Dems and win an overall majority. Every time I see a Tory on television, they are banging on about immigration and putting more people in jail. I am rather grateful to the election campaign for reminding me just how unpleasant the Tories really are.

Whatever your views, I do not see how anybody can disagree that the Lib Dems deserve credit for bringing out into the open the question of what we do about Britian’s illegal immigrants. I have long argued for an amnesty.

http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2009/09/the_arrogance_o_1.html

Nobody has attempted to answer Nick Clegg’s question as to what you do with these illegal immigrants if you do not regularise them. In the second debate David Cameron interjected

“You deport them” to which Nick Clegg replied “You do not even know where they live”.

The problem is immense. The Tories are repeatedly claiming that the Lib Dem amnesty would apply to 600,000 people and their potential partners. I do not know what the Tories mean by the figure – is it meant to be illegal immigrants who have been here more than ten years, as in the Lib Dem proposal? As a total for illegal immigrants, it is too small. By definition nobody knows the exact total, but clues like money transfer remittances show it is well over a million.

Is Cameron seriously suggesting we deport over a million people? To find them would require a security operation and security service powers that would destroy civil liberties in this country forever. You would need vast internment camps. You would need countries willing to take them back, and then at least 4,000 return jumbo jet flights full of coerced prisoners.

You would, of course, also cause the total collapse of the hotel and hospitality, catering, cleaning service, agriculture and domestic service industries in this country, with selective shortages in areas of computing, construction and other skilled work also.

Most people in London know illegal immigrants. Round here, they are our neighbours. In the kind of places the Camerons and Baroness Scotland live, they are the maids. Who is serving and cooking the restaurant food, and scrubbing the toilets? It is a nonsense to pretend it is not happening.

There are three alternatives – an amnesty, a Nazi scale round-up and deportation programme, or we pretend it is not happening and continue to exploit these people who are working, usually through exploitative agencies, at below the minimum wage.

The reason that immigration from non-EU countries got out of control is very poor visa issuing decisions in visa sections abroad. A quite extraordinary amount of that was conditioned by the government’s strange tolerance, for a decade, of literally hundreds of entirely bogus language schools, and other colleges offering very low level further education courses. But the majority of illegal immigrants entered as visitors.

Perhaps the most important factor – and one I have not seen commented on anywhere – has been the catastrophic decline in the staffing of visa sections abroad. Here I speak from experience, as somebody who has line managed two visa sections, one of them then the fifth biggest in the world (Accra). In all I worked in four visa posts, and was literally manning the barricades at the British High Commission in Lagos on the first day that Nigerians needed visas to come to the UK.

There has been a reduction of colossal proportions in the number of visa applications abroad which are ever seen by a full time career immigration officer. Currently the percentage of visa issue decisions abroad taken by a career immigration officer is below 5%.

In much of the world, receipt of visa applications and initial sift has been privatised, with Tier 1 issues (no problem, straight visa) being agreed by young unqualified staff with no qualifications, either 2 or 3 weeks training, and on very low salaries.

Where applications do come to regular civil service staff for decision, the grade, age, qualification, salary scale and experience of those staff are much lower than they used to be. UK Visas is a joint FCO/Home Office(UKBA) operation. When I first was involved in visa sections, all visa issues were decided at the lowest at what was then called Grade 9 executive level. Now most front line visa staff are what used to be called Grade 10 clerical level. I have managed staff engaged in issuing and refusing visas, whose judgement I would not trust in deciding what class to post a letter.

I would stress that the numerous terrible decisions being made are by no means all issues. It is bad decision making, not one way decision making, which is the problem. Many a British business has lost a contract due to the inexplicable refusal of a visa to an important foreign visitor for them.

The same delegation of visa work to lower pay grades affects the immigration service/UKBA. It surprises people when I say that some of the most intelligent and best read people I ever worked with were senior immigration officers. Paul Williams and Colin Eborall I hope will not mind me mentioning them in this context, and both went on to be Chief Immigration Officers at Heathrow and higher. Like many other immigration officers I worked with, they made a great effort to understand the culture of the people in the country where they were based, and they made sensible decisions without a drop of prejudice.

But the number of seasoned career immigration officers posted abroad has fallen drastically as a percentage of the staff of visa sections, quite simply due to purblind cost cutting. The emphasis is all on what it costs to process a visa, even though those costs are self-evidently as nought compared to the cost to the economy of bad decisions.

Finally, I would say that I have no doubt that New Labour allowed immigrant communities to expand massively quite deliberately, as they know they benefit in elections.

Immigration. It needs an amnesty for those already here, and firm controls on new immigration administered by a truly professional and competent cadre of immigration officers. The problem is not those who apply as migrants, for which I have no great argument with the points system. Immigration is good for the UK and good for the economy. There will continue to be large scale immigration from the EU for some time yet.

The problem is those who apply as visitors or low level students and then become illegal immigrants. What we need to be able better to do is distinguish between genuine visitors and students, and those whose intention is to immigrate. That is the biggest problem, and that is where it is not rules or laws that need to be changed, but the civil service that needs to be better staffed and resourced.

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Jack Straw Faces Disbarment From Parliament and One Year in Jail

Jack Straw is guilty of the criminal offence of treating – offering food and drink to electors as an induucement to vote – under the Representation of the People’s Act 1983, Clause 114 (2). The maximum penalty is one year in prison. As a corrupt electoral practice it brings disbarment from parliament for life – including the House of Lords.

The evidence against Straw is overwhelming. Free food was given to hundreds of Blackburn Muslim voters at a rally in his constituency on Sunday 25 April 2010. Speeches were made specifically calling on the recipients of the free food to vote for Jack Straw in Blackburn. He also made a speech urging them to vote for him, and he approached voters individually to ask for their votes in the hall where the free food was being given out.

Affidavits have been sworn to this effect and handed to the police. You can see them here:

Download file

A complaint about him has been formally made to Blackburn Police and given police report ref LC-201004271237.

Treating is not an obscure offence. It is number 2 in the Electoral Commission guidebook for police officers

http://www.tinyurls.co.uk/I2081

It is also detailed in the Association of Chief Police Officers “Guidance on Preventing and Detecting Electoral Malpractice” .

Download file

At Page 22 of the ACPO guide, there is important information on how Blackburn Police should be conducting this investigation:

1.1Suggested action for all cases:

preserve evidence

respect the secrecy of sealed documents and seek advice before opening

when election documents become evidence in a potential crime, the method of preservation by the police should include consultation with the elections office to agree a mutually beneficial way forward

invite the suspected party for interview under caution or consider Section 24(e) of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) 1984 (as amended by the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005)

consider advice from the Special Crime Division of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)

inform the Returning Officer and the Electoral Commission via police SPOC

advise Police National Information and Computer Centre (PNICC) in scheduled return of all allegations and outcomes or immediately if there is a major allegation

In fact I expect them to avoid telling the Police National Information and Computer Centre – the authorities will try to bury this quickly and corruptly in Blackburn. There is a plaque proudly displayed in the entrance of the police station where I reported this treating. It states that the station was opened by Lord Taylor of Blackburn – the highly crooked Labour Party politician who was last year suspended from the House of Lords for Corruption –

http://richardwilsonauthor.wordpress.com/2009/01/25/sunday-times-exposes-uk-government-corruption-labour-members-of-the-house-of-lords-agree-to-take-cash-for-backing-legislation-changes/

The police station plaque bears another name also – Lord Adam Patel of Blackburn, who was put in the House of Lords because of his work as an “enforcer” of the Blackburn Muslim vote for Jack Straw, and who was himself present and implicated in the present instance of massive treating – see the affidavits above.

I am therefore sending copies of the dossier to the Independent Police Complaints Commission to be sure it is investigated properly, and the full rigour of the law applied to Mr Straw.

Christopher Hope of the Telegraph contacted Jack Straw’s constituency office, who gave one lie and two irrelevancies in reply to this accusation of treating. Straw’s defence is:

1) That people were asked to make a voluntary contribution to the cost of the food.

That appears to be a simple lie by Straw. All of the witnesses to whom I spoke – and I interviewed many others who were too scared to swear an affidavit – said they were never asked to make any contribution.

2) That the Returning Officer had approved the arrangements in advance.

He can’t. Straw’s people are, to say the least, very chummy with the Returning Officer. But Treating is a criminal offence and the Returning Officer can no more OK it than he can OK burglary. The Returnng Officer has no role at all in determining whether treating has taken place, which is solely a matter for the police, crown prosecution service and courts. Mr Tom Hawthorn of Electoral Commission HQ in London has confirmed this to me. It is also made very clear here:

http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/guidance_issued_on_eros_consent

3) That the advertisements for the event did not mention that free food will be provided

This is a complete irrelevance introduced by Jack Straw. Prior advertisement is nowhere a condition of the offence. The offence is of offering food and drink to influence someone to vote. Crimes are not mitigated because you do not advertise them in advance.

As I see it, the Police now have to act. Either Straw has to be charged under Representation of the People Act 1983, 114(2), or I have to be charged under the Representation of the People Act 1983, 106 – for making a false statement about a candidate.

If no action is taken against Straw, I shall be advertising free meals for anybody in Blackburn who wishes to vote against him.

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YouGov and Murdoch Boost Cameron Again

Last night’s YouGov poll gave Cameron a full five percentage points more than the average of the four other respected polling organisations who effectively asked the same question at the same time.

http://www1.politicalbetting.com/index.php/archives/2010/04/30/is-this-camerons-platform-for-downing-street/

The YouGove polls are simply a part of the Murdoch/Mail propaganda blitz to push Cameron into No 10.

In my last thread I posted the email I sent last night to Stephan Shakespeare, CEO of YouGove, asking whether yet again YouGove had fixed their poll by opening their online polling for a very brief window immediately after Cameron had finished summing up and before the others had summed up.

Shakespeare has replied that he does not know and he has nothing to do with the polling operation (which he recently defended in an article on Conservative Home).

Personally I find it rather difficult to believe that former Conservative parliamentary candidate and Jefrrey Archer campaign manager Stephan Shakespeare was not paying the closest attention as last night’s debate figures were produced by YouGov for Murdoch, his firm’s biggest paymaster.

I also find it even more difficult to believe that he could not get the answer to my question in moments if he genuinely did not know the answer.

It is also worth noting that the threatening letter from YouGov’s libel lawyer Olswang

Download file

attempts no denial that this really was a YouGov poll:

pushpolling.jpg

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YouGov Libel Lawyers Try To Shut Down This Website Today

YouGov have asked my webhost, under threat of libel proceedings, to take down this website today. Their letter from libel lawyers Olswang – amusingly headed Private and Confidential, Not For Publication – is available here.

Download file

Now why whould Rupert Murdoch’s favourite pollster attempt to take this little blog down on the day of the final leaders’ debate?

http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2010/04/how_yougove_fix.html#comments

I hope I shall be liveblogging the final debate here again, presuming YouGov don’t manage to threaten someone in the technical line to pull the plug.

Last night’s talk for Swansea Amnesty International was a really good event, with over 90 people. Amnesty made some good new contacts and I hope made money on the event. Very many thanks to Swansea Rugby Club for the free use of their premises and help of their staff.

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