Tag Archives: conflict of interest

Poll for Today: Child sex allegations

Resigned: Baroness Butler-Sloss.

Resigned: Baroness Butler-Sloss.

Vox Political received a message yesterday (October 7) from a vociferous critic – especially of the Labour Party – as follows: “Do you have any comment on or condemnation of the child grooming and sexual expoitation gangs curently in operation in Labour-held Middlesbrough? If you can answer why it always seems to be Labour-held areas and councils, it would be much appreciated too.”

This blog receives many similar queries, and most are dismissed as attempts to use the suffering of young children in order to score political points.

That being said, it may be just as damaging to ignore such queries as it is to give them any credence, as people may then fall into an unjustified belief that the Labour Party tolerates paedophilia.

It seems far more likely to this observer that the Labour Party is showing honesty about what it is finding in parts of the country where it runs the local authorities. Vox Political‘s response to the question ran as follows:

“According to the BBC, many councils are now investigating whether their area has a problem. My first question would be, why aren’t they all doing it and which party holds the ones that aren’t?

“Second logical deduction is that Labour is being honest about what is happening in areas it holds. That’s actually good, because it’s a necessary step towards stopping it from happening.

“Third thought is to wonder whether the Tories will be covering up any wrongdoing in the areas they hold. We never found out what happened about Leon Brittan and the missing dossier, did we?

“Labour’s attitude seems far more productive here – get the issue out in the open and sort it out. The Conservative response – cover it up – seems far more likely to allow the problem to continue.”

Did we ever find out what happened to the dossier that was given to Leon Brittan when he was Home Secretary, back in the 1980s? Didn’t it include the names of several prominent – Conservative – cabinet ministers?

Lord Tebbit is on record as saying that the Conservative attitude has been not to “rock the boat”. This year, the current Home Secretary, Theresa May, appointed Baroness Butler-Sloss to head an inquiry into historical cases of child abuse – only for the lady she chose to resign under pressure from the social media that there was a clear conflict of interest. May’s latest choice, Fiona Woolf, is also facing ‘conflict of interest’ allegations over a connection with – surprise, surprise! – Leon Brittan. She said she would be “making a statement” but at the time of writing that has yet to see the light of day.

So it seems, to this observer, that a choice between the Labour approach and that of the Conservatives is a choice between on one hand, realising there is a problem and trying to do something about it, and on the other, denying that there is a problem and trying to hide any evidence in fear of where it might lead.

But what do you think? Here’s today’s poll:

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

Join the Vox Political Facebook page.

Vox Political needs your help!
If you want to support this site
(
but don’t want to give your money to advertisers)
you can make a one-off donation here:

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Buy Vox Political books so we can continue
asking the difficult questions!

Health Warning: Government! is now available
in either print or eBook format here:

HWG PrintHWG eBook

The first collection, Strong Words and Hard Times,
is still available in either print or eBook format here:

SWAHTprint SWAHTeBook

Crimewave threat as police austerity means the innocent will suffer

Repression: Scenes like this could become commonplace in the UK as austerity forces police to stop investigating crime and people who try to protest are put down.

Repression: Scenes like this could become commonplace in the UK as austerity forces police to stop investigating crime and people who try to protest are put down.

How free do you feel today?

Whatever your answer, enjoy it while you can because new evidence has shown that funding cuts for the police are likely to result in public repression on a massive scale.

A report by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary has revealed that austerity is crippling the police service across England and Wales, meaning crime victims are being told to do their own detective work.

According to the BBC, “criminal damage and car crime were ‘on the verge of being decriminalised’ because forces had ‘almost given up'”.

Roger Baker, the inspector who led the review, tried to justify the failure by saying: “It’s not the fault of the individual staff; it’s a mindset thing that’s crept in to policing to say ‘We’ve almost given up’.”

In fairness, the report does say: “HMIC finds this expectation by these forces that the victim should investigate his own crime both surprising and a matter of material concern.

“The police have been given powers and resources to investigate crime by the public, and there should be no expectation on the part of the police that an inversion of that responsibility is acceptable.”

The report also found:

  • People received a different response from the police for the same kind of incident, depending on where they lived – so policing is now a postcode lottery.
  • Attendance rates at crime scenes varied from 39% in Warwickshire to 100% in Cleveland – postcode lottery again.
  • About a third of forces were failing to identify vulnerable and repeat victims – a gift to criminals.
  • There was “inadequate” use of technology by the police.
  • Some forces were losing track of named suspects because they did not have effective systems in place.

Enter ACPO, the sinister Home Office-funded Association of Chief Police Officers, to justify the withdrawal of law and order under the Coalition government’s austerity programme.

“The reality of austerity in policing means that forces must ensure that their officers’ time is put to best use and this means prioritising calls,” said Sir Hugh Orde, ACPO’s president.

ACPO has already anticipated that the effects of austerity may give rise to widespread public protest – which is why it lobbied the government for permission to use water cannons on the streets of the UK.

Vox Political stated in January: “This would be of no use at all in quelling violent criminal activities like the riots in 2011 – the police chiefs have already admitted that water cannons would have been ineffective in halting the “fast, agile disorder” and “dynamic looting” that took place during August 2011.

“ACPO is an organisation that has tried to put ‘agent provocateurs’ into legitimate protest groups and promoted ‘kettling’ to stop peaceful protests (as used in the student protests early in the current Parliament), among many other reprehensible activities.

“Considering its track record, it seems clear that ACPO wants to use water cannons against legitimate political protests, on the assumption that the increasing imposition of ideologically-imposed austerity on the country by the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives will lead to more political protests, as people across the UK finally realise that the Tories and their corporate lobbyist friends are actually working against the wider population.

“ACPO’s report on water cannons makes it clear that “it would be fair to assume that the ongoing and potential future austerity measures are likely to lead to continued protest” and “the mere presence of water cannon can have a deterrent effect”.

“The Home Office response? ‘We are keen to ensure forces have the tools and powers they need to maintain order on our streets. We are currently providing advice to the police on the authorisation process as they build the case for the use of water cannon.’”

What we are seeing is – as mentioned in another VP article published today – when austerity is imposed on a service provided for everybody, that service degenerates.

In the case of policing, this means crimes go unpunished as our political leaders force constabularies to focus increasingly on keeping us under control.

We have already seen police officers checking bus tickets rather than investigating crime. Note that the VP article on this subject provoked a flurry of justificatory comments on our Facebook page, from readers who exhibited a concern that we should not let the evidence convince us that anything was amiss.

ACPO has stated that austerity – such as that which is preventing the police from investigating crime – is likely to stir up public protest.

And ACPO – which, let us remind ourselves, is Home Office-funded – has, in a clear conflict of interest, advised the Home Office to allow the use of water cannon on British streets to put down any such protests, whether they are justified or not. Has it been paid by the Home Office to tell the Home Office what the Home Office wants to hear?

Innocent people exercising their right to protest against injustice will be arrested – while criminals will remain free to vandalise their property and steal from their cars, possibly at the same time.

That’s Tory-run Britain for you: The criminals run amok while the innocent are imprisoned.

Now how free do you feel?

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

Join the Vox Political Facebook page.

Buy Vox Political books so we can continue
warning you about the increasing loss of your freedoms!

Health Warning: Government! is now available
in either print or eBook format here:

HWG PrintHWG eBook

The first collection, Strong Words and Hard Times,
is still available in either print or eBook format here:

SWAHTprint SWAHTeBook

Vox Political needs your help!
If you want to support this site
(
but don’t want to give your money to advertisers)
you can make a one-off donation here:

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Butler-Sloss quits child abuse inquiry – under pressure from SOCIAL media?

Resigned: Baroness Butler-Sloss.

Resigned: Baroness Butler-Sloss.

Would anybody argue with the suggestion that the social media – including blogs like Vox Political – played the largest part in the removal of Baroness Butler-Sloss from the government’s inquiry into historical child sex abuse investigations?

Until yesterday, Lady Butler-Sloss was adamant that there was no reason she could not head up the inquiry, even though her past associations with people she might have to investigate included her own brother, the late Sir Michael Havers, who was attorney general in the 1980s.

It was the social media that found this information and revealed it to the general public – who then complained bitterly to the government.

Do we believe Lady Butler-Sloss where she tells us she “did not sufficiently consider” whether her family links would throw the inquiry into question? It seems extremely out-of-character for a former judge, who would never – for example – have allowed a trial jury to include a relative of the defendant, to claim that she could be impartial about matters involving her own family. It was a clear conflict of interest.

One point that has been glossed-over is the fact that this woman is nearly 81 years of age and from the same privileged background as many of the people she would be asked to investigate. Did she even have the necessary sensibilities – or even the ability to open her mind to current thinking – required to head up an investigation such as this?

Of course, Lady Butler-Sloss was appointed by the Home Secretary, Theresa May. She has been accused of failure to carry out “due diligence” – the necessary checks to discover if a candidate can be relied upon to be impartial – but has defiantly claimed that her choice was good.

“I do not regret the decision I made. I continue to believe that Elizabeth Butler-Sloss would have done an excellent job as chair of this inquiry,” she told the Home Affairs select committee. Really? Excellent by whose standards?

We know from Lord Tebbit that there was a ‘hush-hush’ culture in the Thatcher government of the 1980s. He said people thought the establishment “had to be protected”.

Then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher – who herself spent a great deal of time with serial child abuser Jimmy Savile – is now seen to have turned ‘Nelson’s Eye’ towards such accusations – the same eye with which he was able to make the claim, “I see no ships”. The eyes of history are likely to take a dim view of such blindness.

And of course the attitude she held is likely to pervade government even now, 30 years later. Perhaps Theresa May wanted this inquiry – which she had resisted for a long time – to be headed by a person who could be trusted not to rock the boat. Perhaps she had been told to select such a person.

Now we must wait for an announcement on a new chairperson. This also plays into the hands of those with skeletons (or worse) in their closets as it creates a delay.

Not only that, but we must all remain vigilant against the possibility that May will appoint another dud. The BBC’s report makes it clear that the requirement for a candidate to have a legal background and the security clearance necessary to be able to read confidential papers means it is hard to find anyone who is suitably qualified and is not part of the establishment.

We still do not know where this will lead and who will be implicated. People like Theresa May and David Cameron will want to protect members of their own Old Guard from retrospective vilification (if Lord Tebbit’s words are to be trusted), and it seems likely they will do everything in their considerable power to fob us off.

It is our responsibility to make sure they don’t.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

Join the Vox Political Facebook page.

Vox Political needs your help!
This independent blog’s only funding comes from readers’ contributions.
Without YOUR help, we cannot keep going.
You can make a one-off donation here:

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Alternatively, you can buy Vox Political books!
The second – Health Warning: Government! is now available
in either print or eBook format here:

HWG PrintHWG eBook
The first, Strong Words and Hard Times
is still available in either print or eBook format here:

SWAHTprint SWAHTeBook

Labour will ban MPs from having second jobs – hooray!

 

Corporate 'partners': These are just some of the companies that 'work with' your representatives in Parliament. Wouldn't it be better if the relationship was kept at arms-length and your MP wasn't their employee?

Corporate ‘partners’: These are just some of the companies that ‘work with’ your representatives in Parliament. Wouldn’t it be better if the relationship was kept at arms-length and your MP wasn’t their employee?

 

This is an important step on the way towards winning a personal crusade of Vox Political – to clear corruption out of the House of Commons.

The Labour Party will change the law to ban MPs from having second jobs including corporate directorships, employment or consultancy work.

Think about it; this means MPs will no longer be allowed to have dangerous conflicts of interest between their positions as representatives of the electorate and any responsibilities to other employers.

It would go a long way towards meeting the terms of the Vox Political e-petition from last year, which called on Parliament to ban MPs from voting on matters in which they have a financial interest.

It would not help when MPs have shares in particular companies – but those should be declared in the register of members’ interests in any case, and neglect to mention such interests should lead to strict penalties.

I know. The Maria Miller case (to quote a recent example) isn’t going to fill anybody with hope, is it?

A Daily Mail report has stated that the move will infuriate many MPs on both sides of the House, and some Facebook commenters have already trotted out the now-tired line that they’ll believe it when they see it, or Labour won’t be able to push the measure through as MPs would oppose it.

That’s a mistake – a whipped vote in a House of Commons with a Labour majority means an automatic victory – in exactly the same way the Coalition government has continually won controversial votes in the current Parliament (against ardent Labour opposition that has subsequently gone unnoticed by the public – or at least, by many commenters on this site).

The Mail‘s article affected shock at Labour’s temerity in wanting to force this measure on members of other political parties, claiming it is likely to fuel claims that the party is anti-business.

This is, of course, poppycock. How is it anti-business to make sure serving members of Parliament concentrate on their jobs as public representatives, rather than trying to serve two masters at once? It seems more likely that business will revive without their over-rated expertise.

After all, look how well they’ve managed the nation’s finances!

The Mail also quoted some goon who said it meant the electorate would be lumbered with more career politicians who have worked as researchers and special advisors, when there need to be MPs in every party who have had “real world” professional experience.

This too is poppycock. There is no reason a person in any career cannot stand for election and, if returned to Parliament, take a sabbatical from their day job until they are voted out again or choose to return to their vocation.

Ah. I’ve just looked up the name of the goon who made this claim: Tory MP Andrew Bridgen. Need I say more?

Finally, the Mail turned to the Institute of Directors for support. It’s as if the paper really wanted to hammer home how corrupt the system has become, and will remain, if left as it is. Of course, the director general, Simon Walker, said MPs could better serve the public if they have “active links” with the business community.

Well, of course!

How could he influence Parliamentary decisions without a few directors in the Cabinet?

This is a policy that we should all support to the hilt.

I strongly advise you to contact your MP and seek their support for it.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

Join the Vox Political Facebook page.

Vox Political supports any move to keep MPs out of the pockets of big business
… but we are a small business and we NEED your help.
This independent blog’s only funding comes from readers’ contributions.
Without YOUR help, we cannot keep going.
You can make a one-off donation here:

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Alternatively, you can buy the first Vox Political book,
Strong Words and Hard Times
in either print or eBook format here:

SWAHTprint SWAHTeBook

Lobbying Bill rethink – another Tory ‘bait-and-switch’?

Listening on lobbying: Andrew Lansley proved exactly how trustworthy he is with the Health and Social Care Act 2012. Now he stands ready to hear concerns over the Lobbying and Transparency Bill.

Listening on lobbying: Andrew Lansley proved exactly how trustworthy he is with the Health and Social Care Act 2012. Now he stands ready to hear concerns over the Lobbying and Transparency Bill.

It seems we have all been victims of a Parliamentary stitch-up.

Everyone who was getting hot under the collar last week, because the Transparency of Lobbying, non-Party Campaigning, and Trade Union Administration Bill seemed to be attacking the fair and proper work of charities and other organisations, probably breathed a sigh of relief when the government announced it would scrap plans to change the way campaign spending is defined.

The Bill would have restricted any charitable campaigning which “enhances the standing of parties or candidates”, in the full year before an election, to £390,000. That’s a 70 per cent cut – plus it would now include staff costs.

The BBC reported that Andrew Lansley has tabled a series of amendments, including one reverting to the wording set out in existing legislation, defining controlled expenditure as any “which can reasonably be regarded as intended to promote or procure electoral success”.

What the BBC does not say, but is clarified in the government press release, is that “the Bill will still bring down the national spending limit for third parties, introduce constituency spending limits and extend the definition of controlled expenditure to cover more than just election material, to include rallies, transport and press conferences“.

In other words, this is a very minor change. Spending is still restricted during election years (and almost every year is an election year); the work of trade unions will be savaged – in a country that already has the most savage anti-union laws in Europe; and all organisations will still have to watch what they say about anything which might be considered an election issue.

Want to campaign to protect the NHS, introduce fair taxation, fight poverty, improve public health or education, reform the financial sector or civil liberties, or fight the privatisation agenda? Then your budget will be scrutinised and you may not go over. And don’t forget there will be limits on spending within constituencies.

This still means that smaller organisations will enjoy greater influence than larger ones and – perhaps most telling of all – it does not clarify the position with regard to the corporate media. Will the mainstream press be curtailed? Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp UK and the Daily Mail Group spend far more than £390,000 every day, and on material that absolutely is “intended to promote or procure electoral success” – for the Conservative Party. Does anybody seriously believe the Tories will enforce action against their supporters?

One tangential element that this does clarify is the BBC’s political stance. Its story makes no mention of the more-than-100 other amendments that have been proposed for the Bill – possibly because they were put forward by MPs who aren’t in the government. Nor does it mention any of the technicalities that water down yesterday’s announcement. Instead, the BBC presents it as a victory for charities, who are getting everything they want. They aren’t.

It’s another Tory ‘bait-and-switch’ trick.

Doubly so, in fact, because this little circus has diverted attention away from the other aspects of the Bill – its clampdown on trade unions and the fact that it does almost nothing to address lobbying, which was supposed to be its reason for existing in the first place!

Joint co-operation between various trade unions will be made more difficult – to such an extent that the Trade Union Congress will effectively be banned in election years (meaning almost every year).

All unions with more than 10,000 members will have to submit an annual ‘Membership Audit Certificate’ to the Certification Officer in addition to the annual return which they already make. The Certification Officer will have the power to require production of ‘relevant’ documents, including membership records and even private correspondence. What is the rationale for these draconian provisions when not a single complaint has been made to the Certification Officer about these matters?

Is the real motive behind this section of the bill to help employers mount injunction proceedings when union members have voted for industrial action, by seizing on minor if not minuscule flaws which the Court of Appeal would previously have considered ‘de minimis’ or ‘accidental’? Isn’t this about inserting yet further minute technical or bureaucratic obstacles or hurdles in the path of trade unions carrying out their perfectly proper and legitimate activities?

And what about the potentional for ‘blacklisting’? If union membership records are to be made publicly available, as seems the case, then it will be possible for businesses to single out job applicants who are union members and refuse them work.

And then we come to the matter of lobbying itself.

This Bill still does not do what it is supposed to do. A register of consultant lobbyists is not adequate to the task and would not have prevented any of the major lobbying scandals in which David Cameron has been embroiled.

Practically all forms of lobbying, including direct donations to political parties by corporate and private interests, will remain totally unaffected by the legislation and corporations could sidestep it easily, simply by bringing their lobbying operations “in house”.

No less than 80 per cent of lobbying activity will not be covered by the bill – and it must be amended to cover this percentage. The only lobbyists that will be affected are registered lobbying agencies, who will presumably suffer large losses as their clients leave. Perhaps the real aim of this part of the bill is to stop lobbying from organisations that don’t have enough money to make it worth the government’s while?

How does this bill prevent wealthy individuals and corporations from buying political influence through party political donations – direct donations to MPs who then coincidentally vote in ways beneficial to their donors – or directly to political parties, such as David Cameron’s “The Leaders Group”?

How will it stop paid lobbyists like David Cameron’s election adviser Lynton Crosby from having influential roles in politics?

How will it stop people with significant lobbying interests, like George Osborne’s father-in-law David Howell, being appointed as advisers and ministers in areas where they have blatant conflicts of interests with their lobbying activities?

How will it increase transparency when it comes to which organisations have been lobbying which politicians on particular issues?

It won’t.

Nor will it stop lobbyists targeting ministers’ political advisers (SPADs), as was witnessed in the Jeremy Hunt Sky TV affair.

Or prevent corporate interests being invited to actually write government legislation on their behalf – for example the ‘big four’ accountancy firms, who run many tax avoidance schemes, actually write UK law on tax avoidance.

An adequate register would cover all of the above, including details of all non-Parliamentary representatives seeking to influence members of the government, how much they paid for the privilege, and what they expected to get for their money.

Then we will have transparency.