Tag Archives: Parliament

Lies, damned lies, lawyers & politicians. Vague thoughts from my buggy sickbed.

(A version of this was also published by India’s We Speak News)

Parliamentary Man speaks with forked tongue

After I wrote my blog yesterday, I turned over and went back to sleep. I woke up at lunchtime, around 12.30.

I was in bed for most of the rest of the day with what I think was a bug, so I missed most of David Cameron’s reshuffle of his Cabinet. But it made no difference.

Having a Cabinet reshuffle is like randomly offering round a collection of magnifying glasses in the Land of the Blind. If you stumble on a one-eyed man, it is a matter of pure luck.

That is not a Party political point. It is the same with all British governments of all persuasions. Here-today-gone-tomorrow politicians in governments elected every four years or less do not run the country. The on-going staff civil servants do. Which is much better.

If someone is appointed Minister of Transport then, within hours, they may be expressing ‘considered thoughts and fact-based opinions’ on motorways, airports, rural bus services and the dangerous placing of a zebra crossing by some local council in Devon. But that’s all bollocks. They are given their thoughts by the experienced, ongoing civil servants in their department.

Politicians give vague political directions but, in detail, leave it to their civil servants. Which is fine with me. I studied British Constitution at school and love the ramshackle, mostly effective system that has randomly shuffled itself into existence.

That is why I am so against an elected House of Lords.

We already have an elected House of Commons full of people who have had to bullshit their way in there, voted-for by people who have no real idea who they are voting for. We don’t need another Parliamentary chamber filled with politicians exactly the same as the ones in the Commons.

The beauty of the House of Lords is that it is a shambolic combination of the experienced, the good, the worthy and past-their-sell-by-date politicians: a chamber which should, ideally, be conservative with a small ‘c’ because it is there to consider the House of Commons’ laws and delay or dilute their excesses, worse stupidities and incompetences.

Like the monarch, it has no ultimate power. It cannot ultimately stop a law being passed, only delay it.

It is, just like the monarchy, an accidentally cobbled-together edifice which is a thing of beauty.

The Queen has all theoretical power, no actual power but is vital as a failsafe for the election of a totally barking government.

In theory, she can dismiss a government. In practice, if she did this to a government with popular support, it would be the end of the monarchy. But, if she did this to a barking government with no popular support, she could call on what are theoretically her Armed Forces to enforce her will and it would not be a military coup, it would be an entirely legal constitutional action.

It would have been interesting to see what might have happened if the rumoured military coup planned in Britain in 1975 (without the Queen’s knowledge) had gone ahead.

I have few gripes about the British Constitution, but only about politicians themselves: a necessary if even more amoral type of double glazing salesmen.

I went to a grammar school – the Ilford County High School.

It was a good school but perhaps it had ideas a little above its station. It had a cadet force. (This was a long time ago.) You got to parade around in military uniforms and fire guns, much like in the movie If… though without the same outcome.

And it had a debating society called The Acorns.

I was in neither, which may be partially explained by my dislike of regimentation and my lack of any discernible vocal fluency. I can write OK; but I can’t talk fluently.

I do not remember who was in the school’s cadet force. Very neat boys, I imagine. But I do remember that quite a few of the seemingly intelligent people in the Acorns debating society wanted to study Law at university; they wanted to become solicitors or lawyers.

I remember not being in any way impressed when they told me that the absolute zenith of being a good debater was when you were able to successfully argue on behalf of a proposition you did not believe in – or successfully oppose and get the vote to go against a proposition you actually believed in.

This was seen by them as the height of an admirable skill.

I saw it as making successful dishonesty a goal.

And I have never changed my mind.

I imagine several of my schoolmates who aspired to become lawyers did actually study at university for several years in lying techniques and went on to become lawyers.

The highest triumph of being a good lawyer is if you can get a guilty man or woman found innocent and – of course – equally, if you are a Prosecutor, that you can skilfully get an innocent man or woman found guilty of a crime they did not commit.

The object of the English adversarial legal system is not to reveal the truth but to win the argument and to hide or discredit any opposing evidence. It is a talent contest for liars. The jury decides which of the two advocates has been the better liar. English courts are not set up to provide justice; they are set up to judge the efficiency of the lawyers and to boost or diminish their career prospects.

No wonder that such a high proportion of politicians are ex-lawyers in Britain and in countries where their legal system is based on the English system – Tony Blair, Bill Clinton et al – are trained lawyers/liars.

The English legal system is based on lying and hiding the truth. Politics is the art of pragmatism at the expense of morality.

British governments have always taken the entirely reasonable stance that they recognise and negotiate with the de facto governments of other countries whether or not they approve of their policies; we have diplomatic relations with states not with regimes.

To be a politician, you have to lie efficiently and put any moral scruples you may have once had into the shredder.

Not a new viewpoint.

But a true one.

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Comedian Malcolm Hardee: political visionary & Parliamentary candidate

Malcolm’s radical UK election leaflet

Yesterday, Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, opened a cable car across the Thames to Greenwich.

And, last week, Addison Cresswell of the Off The Kerb talent agency was named the “most influential” man in British Comedy by the Such Small Portions comedy website.

Here is an extract from the late “godfather of British Alternative Comedy” Malcolm Hardee’s 1996 autobiography I Stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake:

__________

I stood for Parliament in the very important Greenwich by-election in 1987 when Rosie Barnes stood for the SDP and Deirdre Wood was standing for the Labour Party. Everyone expected Labour to win in Greenwich but Rosie Barnes won.

I was supported by The Rainbow Alliance, who were loosely linked to The Monster Raving Loony Party. They linked up on this election and I met David – Screaming Lord – Sutch. He was broke and living with his mum at the time. He was ringing up from phone boxes trying to get his £500 deposit together.

The Rainbow Alliance was run by a peculiar old hippy called George Weiss. He had got a lot of money from his parents who were in the jewellery and silverware business and he’d blown it by gambling and betting on himself winning these elections, which he never did. I think he is convinced that one day he will win. He wanted computer-based referenda and Peace and Love all over the world. He always wanted to be a ‘personality’ but never managed it. His idea of humour was carrying a Gonk about – one of those stuffed toys that were popular in the 1960s.

George had come to the Tunnel Club which I ran and he wanted Jools Holland to run for The Rainbow Alliance in Greenwich. Jools didn’t want to appear to be a fool, so said he didn’t want to run but agreed to be my sponsor and Rainbow George put up my £500 deposit.

I ran for election under the banner THE RAINBOW ALLIANCE BEER, FAGS AND SKITTLES PARTY and we got an enormous amount of press and TV coverage because everyone thought it was going to be the last by-election before the General Election.

It was a good laugh, especially when I went to the count. The Great British public’s ignorance knows no bounds. It must be the easiest thing in the world to put an ‘X’ next to a candidate’s name. Some people had put ticks. A few had put marks out of ten. Some had voted for them all.

I got 174 votes. I beat the Communist Party. And I beat the National Front, which takes some doing because there’s strong support for them in the area.

At that time, the comedy agent Addison Cresswell was very left wing and was handling all the Red Wedge tours. He phoned me up and went mad at me because I was standing. He thought I’d take votes from the Labour Party which might have an effect if it was a close-run thing. In the event, their candidate lost by a lot more than 174.

If I had thought more seriously about it, part of my Manifesto could actually have won it for me. This was Bring Charlton Athletic Back to The Valley. Charlton is the local football club and The Valley was their ground. At the time, they had to play at Crystal Palace’s ground. If I had got the whole of the Charlton Football Supporters’ Club on my side, I would have got enough votes to win it. Four years later, they did form a Valley Party for the local elections and they did get a counsellor in and did get Charlton back to The Valley.

My other Manifesto ideas were a cable car for pensioners to the top of Greenwich Hill (This has since been successfully suggested by the Millennium Committee)…Proper rides at the funfair and proper prizes….Bringing proper fog back to London for old times’ sake….And concreting the Thames so people can travel about easier.

I’ve always felt detached from politics because Government represents authority whether Labour or Conservative. The strangest thing I noticed, when I was in prison, was that prisoners always had a better deal under a Right Wing government. Parole came in under a Conservative government. One-Third and later One-Half Remission came in under a Conservative government. I also used to think that, when a Conservative government was in power, the prison officers themselves were happier and therefore the prisoners got treated better. Due to recent developments with the Hang ‘em and Flog ‘em brigade, this is no longer the case.

Prison warders are the type of people who would have been prefects at school. They’re even worse than the Police and the Army because they’ve got authority over people who in the main are completely helpless.

To be a prison warder all you have to do is to have a clean record and be over 5’6” tall, then take a very simple exam like What is your name?

Psychologically, policemen are much the same as Screws. I’ve actually had two brother-in-laws – in effect they were my brother-in-laws – who were both policemen.

I lived with a woman for 13 years and her brother was a copper. Now my wife’s sister’s husband is a policeman. He became a policeman because he couldn’t get a proper job. He was a salesman for a bit.

Sometimes people who become policeman are quite decent but being in the Force changes them just because of the pressure of all the other people who are there. They just go along with the gang like people do in many jobs. With the Police, I think the qualifications are much too low: again you’ve only got to be over a certain height and take exams. I think you should have the same qualifications you need to be a social worker or probation officer.

I don’t like people in authority.

__________

Malcolm’s other election suggestions included:

– Flexible licensing laws

– Treble old age pensions

– Re-launch the Cutty Sark

– Free TV Licences for over 18s

– Funfair on Blackheath to be free

He arranged a Victory Celebration Party, at his Tunnel comedy club, two days before Election Day.

Supporting his candidacy, Jools Holland said Malcolm was “unbalanced and completely untrustworthy – the kind of person who would do well in British politics.”

This year’s annual Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards are announced at the Edinburgh Fringe on Friday 24th August, during a two-hour Awards show.

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Who do we want as Queen of the UK? Elizabeth II or President William Haig?

…or we could have Tony Blair’s head

(A version of this blog was also published by the Indian news website WeSpeakNews)

I saw some Republican demonstrators interviewed on TV during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. One of their startling opening gambits to explain their position was: “The Parliament at Westminster has too much power.”

And they were arguing in favour of more politicians!

People often mis-read my political views. One example is that I am a very strong supporter of the monarchy.

Writing this blog I am on a hiding to nothing because, as long as it is, it does not give me enough space.

But, at school, I studied British Constitution for ‘A’ Level. The result is that I am a very strong supporter of the institution of a constitutional monarchy, but I have absolutely no interest at all in the soap opera of the Royal Family. I also think Tony Blair, as Prime Minister, was a neo-Fascistic prat who seriously damaged Britain’s constitutional set-up, but that is another matter.

When people say, “Oh, we should elect the Head of State,” I think, “Jesus! Are you out of your mind? Do you realise you are arguing that what we need is more scumbag politicians?”

Britain has stumbled into a State where we have a Head of State with lots of theoretical power and no practical power.

Bloody great!

The Queen does not actually make the important appointments, does not make laws, cannot in practice prevent laws from being passed by Parliament and has no actual practical constitutional power. But she is the ultimate safeguard against dictatorship and tyranny.

If a mad Prime Minister and/or a truly extremist government got into power and started passing laws which the vast majority of people then found repulsive – the example always used at school was a law that all red-headed men should be executed – what would happen? They could not be voted out by the electorate until the next General Election: perhaps four years away.

The only certain way to actually overthrow a government effectively anywhere (beyond the uncertainties of civil war) is for the government’s Army to overthrow it and you then have a situation where the Army is the government and has to appoint one of its own as Head of State.

In Britain, the Army is not the government’s Army; it is, in theory, the monarch’s Army. As is the Air Force, the Navy, the Police and the Civil Service.

The Prime Minister is not the Head of State. He/she is not even the head of the government. In theory. the Prime Minister is just that – primus inter pares – first among equals – only one of the monarch’s many ministers.

The result of this is that, if the Army overthrew an out-of-control government, it would do so in the name of the on-going monarchy and would not have to name one of its own officers as temporary Head of State. That sounds an unimportant distinction. But it would be re-asserting the monarch’s supremacy from a Prime Minister who had temporarily taken control, not overthrowing its own head. That makes it much easier to re-establish a new civilian government.

And this is not necessarily a theoretical point.

It would be interesting to have seen what would have happened if the rumoured plan for a military coup in the UK in 1975 had actually happened. But, returning to the subject…

The myth about the monarchy is that it is somehow costly.

Compared to what?

Compared to a President?

Bollocks.

The Queen receives no actual salary; the monarch’s costs are paid. Does anyone believe the same or higher expenses would be not incurred by a President? Plus some inflated annual salary and pension. All those flash state meals, all those flash ceremonials. They would still happen. Their costs would still happen. And, if there were no Diamond Jubilee, there would (quite reasonably) be some other State mega shindigs to bolster the patriotic spirit (but with less glitz and glamour because a politician in a suit would be at the centre of it).

Then there is the extended Royal Family – for which the taxpayer does not pay salaries. In effect, we get the Queen and a collection of subsidiary clones who trundle round the country as representatives. The London TV news last night carried pictures of Princess Alexandra (currently 40th in line to the throne and she’s free) at some street party.

So what’s the alternative?

Another morally-compromised politician.

By definition, anyone running to get public votes to be a temporary President will be a politician.

Un-enthusiastic voters would shamble out to decide whether they prefer to have President Tony Blair or President William Haig or President Edwina Currie for 4 years, at the end of which time some other lacklustre or tired or up-his-own-arse former, failed or self-important politician would get to extend their money-making life for a few more years.

And then you have the continuity which you do not get from an elected Head of State. The Queen has 60 years knowledge of the innermost workings of Britain. This is not insignificant.

She knows not what people think happened but what actually happened behind-the-scenes in the UK for the whole of the last 60 years – and why. She read the same red boxes her Prime Ministers did for the last 60 years. She – and, indeed, Prince Charles – know more about the inner workings of Britain than any temporary Prime Minister does. More than members of the Cabinet, more than MPs, more than current top civil servants. The top civil servants may have been civil servants for years, but they only hold the top posts – with real knowledge of what is happening – for a few years.

What you get from a continuing monarchy above and beyond the political system is continuity.

Who wants another politician in another now political role for another four years and what is he/she going to do anyway? Fight with Parliament? Counter-balance or emasculate the Prime Minister? Or do nothing and just go to meals with people wearing a suit and with a background of political back-stabbing over several years?

What improvement on the current system would an elected Head of State make?

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

When the very young 18-year-old Queen Victoria ascended the throne, she was mentored by Lord Melbourne. When the 26-year-old Queen Elizabeth II unexpectedly ascended the throne on the death of her father who had, himself, unexpectedly become King, Winston Churchill mentored her with knowledge going back beyond the First World War. But those politicians soon faded away. Their knowledge, though, continued through the monarch and continued to be built-on.

At the end of the movie Blade Runner, Rutger Hauer’s character, at the point of death, says:

“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe… All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.”

The same thing happens when politicians and civil servants leave office. They leave the papers behind. But, when another similar emergency situation suddenly arises without warning, who knows where to really find out how it was handled before?

As I said, I saw some Republican demonstrators interviewed during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. One of their startling opening gambits to explain their position was: “The Parliament at Westminster has too much power.”

I am not sure I agree with that, but it is certainly no argument for replacing the monarchy.

Do we really want ANOTHER up-his-or-her-own-arse elected politician?

Do we really want President Tony Blair or President William Haig or President Simon Cowell?

No, we want a theoretical Head of State separated from the sleaze of the Westminster sewer.

We want what we have: a Head of State with no practical powers and major theoretical powers which are a safeguard against political tyranny and a family which has (whether wanker Republicans like it or not) widespread public respect and continuity of knowledge.

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Christianity and close-up magic tricks at Parliament… followed by naked radio

Radio magic - Lewis Schaffer (left) & Martin Soan (naked)

I had an interesting, if slightly varied, day yesterday.

It started with lunch at the Houses of Parliament and ended with a naked radio chat show near London Bridge.

I had lunch at the Palace of Westminster with Fred Finn (Guinness Record holder as the world’s most-travelled person and blogger for Ukraine International Airlines), Grenville Burn (personal assistant to former Labour Chief Whip Lord Foster of Bishop Auckland) and a barrister who had better remain nameless lest it sound like advertising.

Grenville Burn is a former colonel in the Salvation Army, comes from a family of Salvation Army officers and the only person I have ever met whose opening gambit to me over lunch was “Are you a Christian?” and, when I said, “No,” responded, “Why?”

He is also an intriguingly enterprising man who is involved in the Executives Association of Great Britain and the Mikado Experience which, he tells me, was involved in creating over £70 million of new business last year. He ‘teaches’ Networking – at universities, to directors, for companies. He has some fascinating psychological and schmoozing insights in how to get on in business, something he told me he partially learned by being a Christian preacher… and he is involved in an organisation called BestForBusiness which, he tells me, is already bigger than the Institute of Directors. He is a sophisticated and persuasive man who – perhaps fortunately for me – has not yet started selling double-glazing.

More interesting to me than all that, though, was that he frustratingly told me a couple of extraordinary and totally unpublishable true stories plucked, as they say, from tabloid headlines… and he is a skilled close-up magician – rope tricks, dice, you name it – as well as being impressively fast on the creation of magic squares from any numbers. In years past, he might have been burnt at the stake as the possessor of unearthly powers.

There is no easy way to link from Christianity and magic tricks performed in the environs of the Houses of Parliament to exposed male genitalia in a radio studio near London Bridge, so I will not even attempt it.

I wrote a blog last week titled How I talked myself out of comedian Lewis Schaffer’s naked radio show.

It seems I was over-optimistic.

Last night, after a meal with comedian Martin Soan, I ended up at Resonance FM for their lengthily-titled weekly radio show The Voice of Americans with Lewis Schaffer of Nunhead – a man who could and should never be confused with Lord Foster of Bishop Auckland.

When we arrived at the studio, Lewis Schaffer told Martin: “You can’t take your clothes off. They won’t allow it. Sorry. Apparently OfCom rules say you can’t do naked radio.”

“Well, I’m going to take off my clothes anyway,” replied Martin, “because that’s what I’m doing here.”

“That’s the only reason I’ve come!” piped up my eternally-un-named female friend.

“Do I look good?” asked Lewis Schaffer, stroking his black suit.

“Fuck it,” said Martin. “Being naked is really what it’s all about, isn’t it?. I’m taking my clothes off.”

“Well I’ll take my clothes off too,” said Lewis Schaffer.

“Keep your socks on,” advised Martin, taking his clothes off. “You are never naked with your socks on, man. You are never naked with your socks on.”

Martin had had a few drinks with us before arriving at the studio.

“I don’t want to take my clothes off in front of the young women,” said Lewis Schaffer. “I’ll take my shirt off.”

“I’ve got no microphone,” said Martin.

“I’m so fat. I’m so fat,” said Lewis Schaffer, taking his shirt off. “Am I too fat? I’m too fat. Who can love a man with a… Let’s see your penis…”

“You can see my penis any time you want,” said Martin.

“It’s a lovely-sized penis,” said Lewis Schaffer with warmth in his voice.

“I think I can retain some kind of calm and I will not freak out for this announcement,” said the Resonance FM girl who had to introduce the show on air. “I will not freak out for this announcement.”

“Have I got a microphone?” asked Martin.

“Would I look good naked?” asked Lewis Schaffer. “Am I too fat? Yes I am. Do you understand what I am saying? I am too fat.”

“It’s pointless being naked if I haven’t got a microphone,” said Martin.

“No-one will like me naked,” said Lewis Schaffer. “I dress up nicely. I wear a dark suit. That’s what I wear. A dark suit. Do I look good for my age?” He started to put his shirt back on. He looked at Martin. “He’s got a lovely-sized penis. Me? I’ve gained a bit of waistline; it’s not a sexy look.”

“You’ve got one minute,” said the Resonance FM girl.

“This is just a normal Monday night for me,” said Martin. “Being naked.”

“Take a picture of his penis,” Lewis Schaffer told me.

“You’re listening,” said the Resonance FM girl, “to Resonance 104.4 FM. That was Luscombe’s Choice. Coming up next, Nunhead American Radio with Lewis Schaffer of Nunhead.”

Then the opening music – God Bless America – swelled up, the show started, I coughed a bit and Martin stayed naked and got passionate about funding cuts for the elderly in Nunead. It will probably turn up as a podcast at some point. What can I say?

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In praise of the Daily Telegraph and Pear Shaped Comedy Club’s quirkiness

To start at the end of this blog and to reply to your reaction…

Look.

It’s my blog. I am allowed to witter.

So, for fans of Tristram Shandy

Brian Damage and Krysstal’s weekly Pear Shaped comedy club has been running in London’s West End for eleven years. Brian and Krysstal promote it as “the second worst comedy club in London”. I prefer to call Pear Shaped the Daily Telegraph of British open spot comedy clubs.

Let me explain.

When I blogged about last weekend’s six-hour event celebrating the anarchic life of Ian Hinchliffe, I did not mention that I told ex-ICA Director of Live Arts Lois Keidan about my admiration for Bernard Manning as a comic, Margaret Thatcher as a Parliamentary debater and the Daily Telegraph as a newspaper. I do not think she was impressed with this triple whammy.

But – in addition to my love of quirky Daily Telegraph obituaries in their golden era under Hugh Massingberd and their sadly now-dropped legendary Page Three oddities – I think the Daily Telegraph is the only actual national NEWSpaper left. All the others are, in effect, magazines with ‘think’ pieces and additional background to yesterday’s TV news.

But the Daily Telegraph prints a high quantity of short news reports and (outside of election times) maintains an old-fashioned Fleet Street demarcation between News and Comment. The news reporting is, mostly, unbiased straight reportage; the comment is what non-Telegraph readers might expect.

They have also consistently displayed an admiration for rebels.

The Daily Telegraph – perhaps moreso the Sunday Telegraph – always showed an interest in and admiration for comedian Malcolm Hardee. They loved quirky MP Alan Clark, though they disapproved of his sexual amorality. The Daily Telegraph even surprisingly championed early Eminem. When the red-top tabloids were claiming his music and his act were the end of Western Civilization, the Daily Telegraph reviewed his first UK tour as being in the great tradition of British pantomime.

I once met a Daily Telegraph sub-editor at a party who hated working at the paper for exactly the same reason I loved reading it. People would yell across the room at him: “Give me a three-inch story!” not caring what the actual story was.

So the Daily Telegraph ended up with an amazing quantity of news stories, often not fully explained because they had been cut short.

I remember reading on a classic Page Three of the old Daily Telegraph, a brief court report about a man accused of scaring lady horse-riders by leaping out of hedges in country lanes dressed in a full frogman’s outfit, including flippers, goggles and breathing tube. That was, pretty much, the whole news item. If ever a story needed more background printed, this was it.

The Pear Shaped Comedy club is a bit like the Daily Telegraph in that it is an extraordinary hodge-podge of fascinating items apparently thrown together randomly but somehow holding together as a recognisable whole with its own personality. Quirky, eccentric and barely under control. Last night, in addition to the consistently good and massively under-praised Brian Damage & Krysstal themselves, the show included increasingly-highly-thought-of Stephen Carlin, rising new comics Laurence Tuck and Phillip Wragg and very new but intriguing Samantha Hannah.

And then there was long-time comic, club owner, compere, comedy craftsman and humour guru Ivor Dembina. He had come down to try out some new material as he is performing in four shows at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, including the fascinatingly unformatted Ivor’s Other Show. He told me:

“I might just invite on people I’ve met in the street. Anything that takes my fancy.” Then he added, “Do you want to come on it one afternoon, John? Can you do anything?”

“No,” Pear Shaped co-owner Vicky de Lacey correctly interrupted, “he can write but he can’t actually do anything.”

But that never stopped Little and Large, so I may yet appear on Ivor’s Other Show, perhaps as a human statue. There is, inevitably, a ‘living statue’ resource page on the internet.

We live in wonderful times.

I refer you to the start of this blog.

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Justice Minister Kenneth Clarke and “normal” rape

I should start this by saying I have known three women who were raped.

I have worked with two; and a girlfriend of mine had been raped in her early teens.

I may be biased because I think Labour leader Ed Miliband is a twat, but I’m more disgusted with him trying to make political capital out of rape than with Justice Minister Kenneth Clarke’s comments on rape sentencing – at least from the relevant excerpts I’ve heard and seen of what Ken Clarke actually said – as opposed to what he is implied to have said.

What seems to have happened is that he was defending government plea-bargaining proposals which would offer a 50 per cent reduction in sentences (instead of the current one third reduction in sentences) in return for an early guilty plea for various serious offences including rape.

When challenged about the seemingly low average sentence for rape at the moment, Clarke mentioned that the average includes cases which involve teenagers having consensual sex with each other if the girl is under 16. The example he gave was of an 18 year old boy having sex with his consenting 15 year old girlfriend. Even though she perfectly happily consents, that is legally rape because she is below the age of consent… but that specific boy is likely (quite rightly, I think) to get a lower sentence than some Neanderthal scumbag guilty of what most people would think of as what Clarke called “serious rape, with violence and an unwilling woman”.

I think he is quite right that most people would accept a boy of 16 years and 1 month having sex with a consenting girlfriend of 15 years and 11 months should get a lesser sentence for rape than what people would think of as a ‘normal’ case of a man raping a woman… because it is a ‘different’ type of rape.

The fact that the use of the words ‘normal’ and ‘different’ can be twisted and misconstrued by quoting that sentence out of context exemplify how difficult it is to talk about rape.

Ken Clarke also foolishly said something along the lines that date rape cases can be “complicated” though, indeed, they can be. And he is right that average sentences (which is what he was being asked about) are affected by individual case circumstances because some cases deserve longer sentences than others. In that sense, there are, indeed, ‘different types’ of rape deserving different lengths of sentence. It is not that some cases are less serious but that some cases are nastier.

I asked a female friend about this and she thought that, perhaps, a teenager having consensual sex with a girl under 16 could be legally called something other than “rape”: perhaps ‘unlawful sex’. But it would be very difficult to draft that into Parliamentary legislation because how could you possibly separate a 45 year-old man preying on a 10 year-old girl from a 16 year-old having consensual sex with his 15 year-old girlfriend?

At what point would it change over from a crime of “unlawful sex” to the much worse “rape”? Is the sex performed by a 17 or 25 year-old less predatory than that performed by a 35 or 45 year-old? And at what point is “consensual” relevant? 15? 14? Parliament has decided 16 is the cut-off point. I think in most states in the US it is 18. In Italy, it is much more complicated, as the Silvio Berlusconi case (which I blogged about three months ago) shows.

It is almost impossible to legislate for ‘different types’ of unlawful sex.

But the sight and sound of Labour politicians trying to make political capital out of a very serious matter – trying to score sixth form public school Debating Society type points off each other – is an unedifying spectacle. Far moreso than Ken Clarke making a valid point.

On the other hand, I’m not sure it is particularly edifying to have the government give accused people 17% lower sentences (50% instead of 33%) if they plead guilty early… just to save money.

I’m also not clear if, under the proposals, people would get a 50% reduction for pleading guilty plus the normal (I think it’s) 50% time off for good behaviour… That would mean someone facing a 16 year sentence would get an 8 year sentence and be out in 4 years with good behaviour… a 75% reduction in sentence.

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Why liars and the tsunami of history may yet lead to bloody civil war in Europe and Scottish independence

In 1985 I was on holiday in Uzbekistan.

Opposite our hotel, a new block was being built and its skeleton was showing massive cracks in the concrete. I asked an architect why this was.

“They are using the wrong type of concrete,” he told me. “The decision on which type of concrete to use in the building was made centrally in Moscow. They have a very cold climate in Moscow. This is Uzbekistan. We are in the middle of a scorching hot desert. They are using the wrong type of concrete because those are the decisions made by the bureaucrats in Moscow.”

The Soviet Union was partly an organisational disaster because it made centralised decisions for a nation which stretched from Uzbekistan and the Balkans in the west to Siberia and Mongolia in the east.

In 1991, Yugoslavia disintegrated, largely because, like the Soviet Union, it was a fake country with such disparate constituent parts that it never made a sensible whole. It just never held together as a single country because it was not a single country.

The UK joined the European Economic Community in 1973 and I remember the 1975 referendum in which English politicians Edward Heath, Harold Wilson and other pro-Europeans lied through their teeth and claimed we had joined an economic union which no-one had any intention of making a political union. The referendum was said to be about joining an economic Common Market.

The European Economic Community then became the European Union in 1993 and Eastern European countries joined after the fall of the Soviet Union. Turkey is likely to join, if it can get over its habit of routinely torturing people (or even if it doesn’t). There is even talk of Uzbekistan joining – a ‘partnership and co-operation agreement’ came into force in 1999.

So we have the ludicrous spectre of a new Soviet-style Union with a centralised bureaucracy increasingly making decisions on the same basis for towns and cities from icy cold Aberdeen (I was partly brought up there in a council estate on a hill, so don’t talk to me about cold) to the baking hot deserts of western Asia (I’ve been there).

And, give me a break, Scottish culture bears no relation to Balkan, Turkish or Uzbek culture, let alone Italian culture.

In Scotland yesterday, at the time of writing, the governing SNP (Scottish National Party) appears to have won a decisive victory in elections for the Scottish Parliament, possibly helped by the fact the opposition Labour Party seems to have mostly attacked not the SNP, but the Conservative Party which is virtually non-existent in Scotland. It would be as if Britain, at the start of World War Two, had decided to concentrate on waging war against Italy instead of Germany.

Presumably this own-goal disaster of a strategy was masterminded from London – another example of why centralised control is a bad idea.

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond has said he will introduce a referendum on Scottish independence in the next Scottish Parliament.

I used to think Scottish independence was a ridiculous idea because Scotland is not economically large enough to be independent but I have changed my mind because of the European Union.

Clearly I do not think we should be in the European Union but there seems to be no practical way to get out of it.

If Scotland were to separate from the United Kingdom and become an independent country, then financially it would gain massively from being a small country within the European Union – I worked in Ireland in the 1990s and saw the massive financial benefits that country had reaped and was still reaping from Europe.

If Scotland became independent I do not know what would happen in Wales but there is some likelihood that it would move towards independence from England (for – whisper it quietly – it is in the United Kingdom not as a separate country but as a principality of England).

Instead of one country (the UK) being part of the EU, there would be three countries with three votes but the same outlook on almost all issues – an outlook shared by the island of Ireland (which is going to unify eventually, however it happens).

Quite what happens to Britain’s ‘voice within Europe’ and to the British Armed Forces at this point, I can’t even begin to get my head round. But we may yet live in interesting times as I cannot see a vastly enlarged European Union lasting very long without a Soviet style acrimonious break-up or a Yugoslavian type civil war.

Edward Heath, the lying cunt who took us into Europe may yet be the British leader who created a very bloody civil war within Europe.

We can’t escape the tsunami of history.

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