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Abortion is a subject which one instinctively avoids. It arouses passions which have a tendency to produce intemperate debate and on both sides of the argument protagonists adopt positions that brook no sense of reasoned and reasonable debate. In the USA it even inspires people to try and kill doctors who carry out abortions.

It is the warped religious thinking behind the latter tendency that ought to warn ordinary people off. In order to protect the unborn and ostensibly in pursuit of the sixth commandment, extremist elements of the anti-abortion tendency have killed or tried to kill those engaged in the provision of abortions, in breach of the self-same commandment. It smacks of that same hypocrisy whereby those who are anti-abortion in the USA also tend to be enthusiasts for the death penalty.

It is thus with diffidence that I dip my toes into the issue. I am aroused to do so not so much because of the debate itself but of the utterly undemocratic way in which The Science and Technology Committee has chosen to conduct its debate and the role which Mr. Speaker Martin has played in that debate.

That Committee has just produced a report which, in broad terms, favours the process of having an abortion being made easier. This comes as a surprise to most of us who rub along in life thinking of abortion as a necessary evil the rules on which ought to be tightened given advances in modern medicine and who are concerned by the very high level of abortions being carried out for reasons of social convenience rather than anything else. That report was published at midnight last night.

Midnight? What possible reason can a democratic body have for publishing a document in the wee hours of the night? This should immediately tell you that dirty deeds have been done at the crossroads and so it transpires. It will come as no surprise to those who view Mr. Speaker Martin as incompetent, chippy and partial to the Government to discover that he is at the heart, yet again, of an effort to conceal from the public gaze something which appears to be unsatisfactory and discreditable about the conduct of the democratic affairs of the House and therefore the nation.

The complaint about him is that he has gone out of his way to block requests by MPs to disclose information about the nature and course of the committee’s deliberations. This is a disgrace. The public is entitled not just to the fruits of a committee’s deliberations but also to see how the growing season went as well so that it might properly judge the worth of that report. We no longer accept such things as Tablets of Stone brought down from the mountain. Instead we wish to be able to see for ourselves what led a committee to its conclusions and how those conclusions were arrived at. It is that process which Mr. Speaker Martin does not want you, the voter, to see. One is entitled therefore to ask: why?

Does it, one wonders have anything to do with the suggestion that the committee was extremely partial in what evidence it was prepared to hear, let alone accept? If that was the case it strongly suggests that it knew what conclusion it wished to reach long before it came to its conclusions and was not prepared to listen to any other point of view.

Or does it have anything to do with the baleful influence of the Honourable Member for Oxford West and Abingdon, Dr. Evan Harris, who is such a pro-abortion fanatic that he has apparently acquired the sobriquet “Dr. Death”, who, according to the Daily Mail was able to propose and have adopted no fewer than 126 amendments to the committee’s report which prompted Labour MP Jim Dobbin, chairman of the Pro-Life Group, to remark:

The abortion inquiry report is now the Evan Harris report. Anyone who successfully puts forward 126 amendments means that it is essentially his report.

Quite.

But this fact is one which Mr. Speaker Martin would not have you know, yet knowledge of it immediately changes one’s perception of the worth of the report and also enables us to judge the character of the majority of MPs who allowed this process to happen. By refusing to lift the curtain on the committee’s deliberations, Mr. Speaker Martin is, therefore, guilty of a serious degree of anti-democratic behaviour.

I was brought up greatly to respect the Speaker of the House of Commons. Incumbents in my lifetime have always managed to slough off the mantle of political partisanship to achieve, especially in the age of radio and television broadcasting of proceedings, the considered respect of the public who may well be able to recognize that a Speaker is not merely someone who ensures that the opposition’s voice is heard in The House but also plays a considerable part in protecting the honour and status of Parliament and the public’s view of it.

This Speaker routinely fails to live up to those high standards. Whether it is telling the leader of the opposition that he cannot ask about Tony Blair’s intended date for giving up leadership of the Labour Party on the utterly specious grounds that that was to do with party matters not his work as PM, allowing Brown to get away with accusing Mr. Cameron of ‘misleading’ the people (and by implication The House) or doing what he could to facilitate a Bill’s passage through the House (as he did in relation to David Maclean’s odious attempt to conceal from prying eyes details of MPs expenses), this Speaker has shown himself to be utterly partisan, narrowly sectarian and a disgrace to the office of Speaker of the House of Commons.

We should not be surprised by any of this. Labour ensured Mr. Speaker Martin’s election, which overturned a forty year tradition of the post alternating between the two main parties, in the belief that he would be ‘their man’. And so it has proved in yet another striking demonstration of Labour’s anti-democratic and gerrymandering tendencies and inclinations.

Meanwhile we should salute Dr. Bob Spink and the inestimable Nadine Dorries for their courage in writing a minority report to this committee’s efforts and doing their best to bring to the attention of the people the unsatisfactory nature of the way in which the business of this committee has been conducted. Their efforts have ensured that this nasty piece of behaviour has seen the light of day that we may properly judge it.

I leave you with these observations of Dr. Spink on the process:

Dr Spink said Michael Martin had stopped publication of the committee’s discussions over the report.

“Those would have helped reveal the stupidity of Parliamentary secrecy,” he said. “Unless I want to end up in the Tower, I must not comment on the report process; or even say how many amendments were tabled and how massive and convoluted some of them were, or how little they were considered as the report was railroaded through a committee, riven apart by a clear abuse of time-honoured process.

“The public are denied the facts, democracy is the loser,” he added.

The Telegraph report is here and that of the Daily Mail here.

At the Gordon Brown School of Mendacity, the first and greatest lesson is that you must repeat each lie as often as possible that it may in time become truth itself. The theory comes unstuck, however, in the face of a vain old man’s hubris and desire to ensure preservation and recognition of his legacy.

By such an old man’s hand has Gordon Brown’s conscious planned campaign of mendacity, which has as its objective the hoodwinking of an entire Nation that it might quietly acquiesce in the process of its own subjugation, collapsed.

It has collapsed because an elderly and deeply self-important man of eighty-one is so pleased with his handiwork that he feels the need to boast of just how clever he and his associates have been.

In this way Valéry Marie René Giscard d’Estaing, lately third President of the Third Republic of France has written the European Union equivalent of O.J. Simpson’s “If I Did It”, save that in the former’s case the title should simply be “We Did It”. For this descendant of Louis XV and Charlemagne, of imperial mien and bearing, has set out to Le Monde to ensure that all men realize just how clever has been the process of giving renewed life to his brainchild, The Union Constitution.

In so doing he has comprehensively blown the gaff on Gordon Brown who now stands revealed as The Emperor with No Clothes.

Let us delve a little further into the wreck that now is Gordon Brown’s rotten little plot to hand the business of the governance of the British people over to an alien and unelected Imperium.

Take by way of starting the mantra which has been culled from the Union’s own propaganda and which is repeated over and over and over like so many ‘hare Krishnas’: “the constitutional concept is abandoned”. This The Sun King comprehensively demolishes by setting out in extenso the process, which those of us unwilling to be hoodwinked have understood from the outset, by which it is merely the means of creating a constitution that has been changed, not the constitution itself:

For the Lisbon Treaty, by contrast, it was the Council’s legal experts who were given the task of drafting the text. They carried out that task with great care and skill whilst fully respecting the mandate which was given them on 22nd. June by the European Council. They took the classic route followed by Brussels Institutions, that of amending previous Treaties: the Treaty of Lisbon is but the latest in a line of such Treaties from Amsterdam to Nice, all of which the wider public find largely impenetrable.

Those legal experts did not propose any innovations. They took the text of the Constitutional Treaty and extracted therefrom each essential element, one by one, and placed them by way of amendment into the Treaties of Rome (1957) and of Maastricht (1992).

If one now comes to the contents, the net result is that the proposed Institutional reforms in the Constitutional Treaty – the only ones which mattered in the drafting process – are now embedded into the Treaty of Lisbon, re-ordered and spread across the previous Treaties.

Thus he makes it clear that the vital beating heart of the Constitution lives on, albeit in a different form. He describes the process thus:

The end result is self-evident. In the Lisbon Treaty, drafted entirely on the basis of the Constitutional Treaty, the tools are exactly the same. All that has changed is the order in which they are put into the tool-box. The tool-box itself has been repainted using an old model which has three compartments in which one must rummage to find that which one seeks.

This makes it plain that the assertion that this is not the old constitution reborn is, quite simply, a lie.

He is not shy in the least about why it has been done in this way:

The text of the Treaty is thus almost unchanged. They have simply been dispersed through old treaties in the form of amendments. The resulting text is evidently miles from being simple and straightforward. To work out just how far, consult the table of contents of the three treaties!

What is the point of such subtle manipulation? First and foremost to avoid any need whatsoever to have a referendum, thanks to the dispersal of the amendments throughout the treaties and the avoidance of constitutional terminology.

What could be clearer than that? The people are not to be trusted, therefore they must, at all costs, be prevented from knowing what we are doing. What they do not know about will not trouble them.

Next he makes it clear who is actually in charge here:

Above all the Amending Treaty has been, for Brussels Institutions, a crafty way recovering control, after all the wholly unwelcome interference of Parliamentarians and politicians, of the achievements of the European Convention. The institutions have re-imposed their language and their procedures, thus making it all even more obscure and opaque for ordinary citizens.

So much then for the words of the European Commission in its Communication of 3rd. October 2007 (Brussels, 3.10.2007 COM(2007) 568 final):

Today, more than ever, the debate on Europe must be taken beyond the institutions to its citizens. This was emphasised by the 2007 June European Council which underlined the crucial importance of reinforcing communication with the European citizens, providing full and comprehensive information on the European Union and involving them in a permanent dialogue. This will be particularly important during the Reform Treaty ratification process and as we approach the 2009 European elections.

Read and understand: “We are the Masters now”.

Finally Giscard tells us that the chickens have hatched and may now be counted:

The next phase is that of ratification. This should pose no great problem save perhaps in the UK where any referendum would certainly lead to a rejection of ratification. The obscurity of the text, however, and the apparent abandonment of the more grandiose ambitions should be enough to scotch reservations in other countries.

In three pages the Father of the Union has demolished each and every lie which Brown has told. The truth is now out there.

We should be grateful for the vanity of old men.

See here for the full text of the Le Monde Letter in English and French

David Chamberband has pulled out of a meeting due to have taken place with Saudi counterpart Prince Saud to launch the “Two Kingdoms” conference which was scheduled for this morning. The reason given is that he wishes to get to know his new adoptive son who has evidently just arrived amongst the Chamberband tribe.

I have been trying to imagine Sir Edward Grey or Sir Austen Chamberlain or Lord Salisbury bunking off a State Visit for such a reason. It may well be that I am old-fashioned and a total dinosaur but could he really not wait? Evidently not. Thus the interests of the United Kingdom give way to the touchy-feely cult of the child.

There is one benefit to him that may have escaped some. It will be recalled that he recently discovered or re-discovered that he was deeply sensitive concerning his Jewish ancestry. When giving evidence recently before the House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee recently he used these sensitivities to deflect criticism of himself and his Master when compared, in respect of the Union Constitution, by the Chairman of that Committee, Michael Connarty, to Neville Chamberlain coming back to Britain waving a piece of paper and proclaiming ‘piece in our time’. The sudden appearance of the new addition to his family thus avoids any danger of him having to wriggle round his background in the company of the Saudis who are not exactly noted for their enthusiasm for either Jews or The Jewish State

Which leaves us all wondering whether he would have felt it necessary to parade those Jewish sensibilities if King Abdullah or Prince Saud had made some comment that was perceived as being in any way anti-Jewish or anti-Semitic. We shall never know, for Her Brittanic Majesty’s Principal Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has, as they say, gone fishing.

Today’s “Bladder of Hot Air Prize” goes without question to Vince Cable. He has announced that he is going to ‘boycott’ (whatever that means) the State Visit of HM King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. Will we notice? No. Will we care? No. Will King Abdullah notice? No. Will King Abdullah care? No.

All this notwithstanding, the BBC and Sky et al. are lionizing Dr. Cable as the harbinger of a new era of ethical Foreign Policy (our last stab at this elusive quarry bombed when everyone realized that Wee Pixie Robin Cook was, well, a Wee Pixie). No matter that he is but a passing pimple on the body of political life, there he is getting all the attention ahead of the King’s arrival.

The Liberal ‘Democrats’ aspire to power in this United Kingdom of ours. There was a time when, in their wildest dreams (and they have an almost unending stream of them), they fondly imagined a day when they would hold the balance of power between Labour and Conservatives and that their Chief Gerontocrat would, as the new Foreign Secretary, shuffle his Zimmer Frame effortlessly up to the Cabinet Table to sit beside either a Labour or a Tory PM (which of the two did not matter terribly, though Labour would always get their first preference vote). As such he would have had to deal with the interests of the United Kingdom in the Middle East. There Saudi Arabia and Jordan are two longstanding partners and friends. Would Sir Ming Campbell or Dr. Cable have refused to meet the King as Foreign Secretary? Of course not.

This is gesture politics at its very worst. He has done it simply to get some cheap headlines for his beleaguered party, a party which, on the back of both a regicide and an abdication in the last two years, reels in the polls at something like wipeout level. It is cheap because there is almost certainly no comeback for it whatsoever. It will, in the scheme of things, drop into the political pond with all the hydrodynamic qualities of a ten pound iron ball.

Of course Saudi Arabia has many deeply unattractive features. Many Saudis espouse a particularly unlovely version of a medievalist religion. They lop people’s heads and hands off as an expression of penal policy and have an attitude towards women of which the kindest description I can imagine is ‘unpleasant’. But they are there, in charge and are our long-standing allies. In a region where the West has few allies it might be thought unwise to lose one that we do have. We have, regrettably, to do business with some rum folk from time to time. Fortunately Dr. Cable’s whoosh of hot air will not register in that relationship for he and his party are simply irrelevant.

He, by the way, has had as many political homes as many of us have had hot dinners. First he was a Liberal then Labour (acting at one time as a special advisor to the late John Smith) then he joined the SDP before finally alighting in the Liberal ‘Democrats’. He has fought elections for Labour, SDP and the Lib ‘Dems’ which suggests a flexibility of mind unusual even for one of his present party. The Doctorate is for economics.

There is an one thing for us to consider here. It is said that the next election has the best chance for a generation of ending with a hung Parliament. This sort of grandstanding nonsense which, together with the vow of Nick Clegg (hitherto thought to be a potential defector to the Tories) to show up David Cameron as ‘illiberal’, will remind us that the very last thing the Tories need to do if there is indeed a hung Parliament is to allow themselves to be joined in Government with this bunch of gadflies.

Not quite knowing whither it would lead, this blog started on 13th. May 2007. Looking back I note the first serious post was on the topic of an English Grand Committee, inspired by a piece that day in the Mail. I am gratified therefore that the MSM have today got round to the idea.

One of my favourite subjects at University was Constitutional Law which combines a study of the nuts and bolts of how our country worksd Committeea study of the nuts and bolts of how our country works with a grand tour of the evolution of the body politic which is the United Kingdom

The long tale is full of episodes of the great struggles between King and Parliament, King and People, Catholic and Protestant as well as the hundreds of occasions when grave political impasses have been resolved by good old-fashioned British compromise and sound common sense. The latter often demonstrated how entrenched interests have known how and when to back away from a potentially visceral final confrontation.

Thus in our long history have we generally managed to avoid the great schisms of revolution and civil war. Of the former perhaps only the events of the mid to late 17th. Century qualify as such and the latter, in so far as it involved the populace as a whole, only the titanic struggle of King and Parliament in the 1640s qualifies. The so-called ‘Glorious Revolution’ was not really a revolution as such, more a repair job after the disastrous and damaging reign of James II that largely confirmed the inclinations of Englishmen as to how they should be governed henceforth.

The great strength of our Constitution remains its evolutionary nature which is possible only because we do not have a single document called “The British Constitution”. We are thus able to take a very long view of the business of making a disparate nation run properly and if change is required it involves little more than a tweak here and a nudge there in order to make it work like a well-made large capacity motor that simply runs for ever.

Only occasionally is serious invasive surgery or amputation required or thought to be necessary: the Great Reform Act of 1832, The Parliament Acts 1911 & 1949, Irish Home Rule, votes for women and the final completion of universal adult suffrage, devolution, the exclusion of hereditary Peers from the House of Lords have been the irregular and infrequent tremors that have affected a Constitution that works remarkably well bearing in mind it is a work in progress of some one thousand years or so’s effort. In fact the general rule is: less is better.

As the ramifications of devolution become clear (and much as they were predicted by those once cast as so many Cassandras by Labour) it is evident that its course is not going to the plan which Labour had for it back in the 1990s when they saw it as a way of having their constitutional cake and eating it. They would run Scotland as a private fiefdom, pouring money into it so that more and more Scots could be enticed into the comfort zone of publicly funded jobs and thus into a junkie’s dependency on Labour at Westminster who, being the giver of all that is bountiful, control the purse strings upon which that bounty depends.

Hence not only would Scotland be Labour’s private plaything but also would provide a solid phalanx of compliant, not to say ovine MPs with which always to bolster a Labour Government at Westminster.

Now we see the fruits of that tawdry little piece of gerrymandering coming delightfully unravelled. The SNP booted Labour out of power in Scotland in May and has set out on a path of governing and spending that is not at all to Labour’s liking. Alex Salmond, First Minister in the Scottish Executive, is trying to spend as much as he can get his hands on in funding wonderful freebies for Scots of which English voters can only dream and is bleating for more now that Labour’s Lady Bountiful is turning somewhat into Scrooge.

This in turn excites English who rightly feel aggrieved at the driving of a Scots coach-and-four through the principle of ‘No Taxation Without Representation’ who have no control over how taxpayer’s money is spent North of the Border but have to endure continuing control of their spending by, inter alia, the 39 Scots MPs who push through legislation on Labour’s behalf at Westminster.

The proposal, to which I first adverted to back in May, is that legislation for England and Wales should be referred after second reading to a Grand Committee of English and Welsh MPs who would then take the matter through to a vote. The Bill would then be sent back to the floor of the House where it would, by Parliamentary and Constitutional Convention, be accorded an unopposed Third Reading and sent to the Lords. It would theoretically be possible for it to be voted down by Scots and Irish MPs, but any party that led such an attempt would almost certainly incur the righteous wrath of English electors who might well then choose to punish such a party by obliterating them at the next poll.

Such a proposal has the attraction of being extremely cheap to set up as it requires no new politicians to fill its seats and only a few extra parliamentary staff to keep it running smoothly. We need another layer of expense-grubbing politicians in this country like we need a hole in the head. It would be easy to operate and would provide a neat, nay elegant answer to Tam Dalyell’s West Lothian Question.

Of course Labour are up in arms at the idea and say it will not work and would create two classes of MP. Well, they would say that, wouldn’t they?

David Cairns, the Scotland Office minister, warned thus:

“This proposal is utterly unworkable. Taken to its logical extent it would create multiple categories of MPs. Where does it end? Do the Tories think only London MPs should vote on Crossrail; only countryside MPs vote on foxhunting; only coastal MPs vote on fishing? It is utterly impracticable. Take the English smoking ban. This was proposed in clauses in a bill which applied to the whole of the UK. Would the Tories seriously take those clauses out into the Grand Committee for consideration?”

This should be seen for what it is: the bleat of a Scots Labour MP terrified that his party’s sway over England is up for the chop, no more and no less. As for the smoking ban issue, the Government will simply have to get used to drafting legislation more carefully and not using do-it-all Bills to pass this and that little policy which they have been used to doing up to now. It might even have the effect of making legislation as a whole better drafted which would be no bad thing.

The other whinge that they come up with is the allegation that it will create two classes of MP. That really is rich, given that there two classes of MP already exists: Scots MPs who can vote on any UK matter and English MPs who cannot. That division was foisted on the English by Labour’s Scotland Act 1998.

All that one needs to say to Labour is this:

As ye sow, so shall ye reap.

Meanwhile, one is cheered yet again to be ahead of the pack: 5 months to be exact.

Various reports are here, here, here, here and here.

Ken Follett (on Andrew Marr), on the subject of his wife Barbara Follett’s Parliamentary Office, say he subsidises it by a hundred thousand pounds a year. With the issue of MPs expenses very much to the fore, I looked to see if this squares with Mrs. Follet’s entry in the Register of Interests. And a fascinating exercise it was.

Noting that Paragraph 4 of interests to be entered into the register reads thus:

Sponsorship or financial or material support

In this section the Member is required to register any donation of more than £1,000 received by the constituency association which is linked either to candidacy at an election or to membership of the House, and also any other form of financial or material support as a Member. A ‘linked’ donation is defined as one ‘expressly tied to the Member by name e.g. if it is a contribution to the Member’s fighting fund or a donation which has been solicited or encouraged by the Member’. The obligation to register does not apply to constituency development agreements and other arrangements in which the identity of the Member is not a factor.

And that Barbara Follett’s current entry reads:

FOLLETT, Barbara (Stevenage)

2.Remunerated employment, office, profession etc Communications consultant to Ken Follett (author).

8.Land and Property Residential flat in London, from which rental income is received. Residential house in Cape Town, South Africa, from which rental income is occasionally received.

9.Registrable shareholdings (a)BEK Partnership; recording studio.


One has the following questions:

  1. Is the fact of Mr. Follett’s £100k ‘subsidy’ a registrable matter? (i.e. as “any other form of financial or material support as a Member”)
  2. Is this ‘subsidy’ being disguised under Item 2 of her entry?
  3. How long has Mr. Follett been funding her in this way?
  4. Is Mrs. Follett in breach of her obligations concerning the registration of interests and, if so, for how long has she been thus in breach?
  5. Is this a matter which ought to be taken up by the House of Commons Standards Commissioner?

I think we should most definitely be told.

UPDATE: As the SundayTimes is strictly a breakfast activity in The Huntsman’s household, I had not yet got to this report which details how Mrs. Follett is doing rather well out of the system. When listening to Marr, I failed, through trying to type and eat gum at the same time, to make the correct connection with why Marr was feeding Follett the opportunity to explain away her apparent enrichment. His response is even more interesting in those circumstances and, with respect, thoroughly disingenuous: it remains the fact that the Taxpayer has given her a whole load of moolah to buy a flat when she already had one which was “her own personal investment.” which makes you wonder why Mr. Follett is allowed to benefit from the one being claimed for.

I think we should be told even more.

Ken Follett (on Andrew Marr), on the subject of his wife Barbara Follett’s Parliamentary Office, say he subsidises it by a hundred thousand pounds a year. With the issue of MPs expenses very much to the fore, I looked to see if this squares with Mrs. Follet’s entry in the Register of Interests. And a fascinating exercise it was.

Noting that Paragraph 4 of interests to be entered into the register reads thus:

Sponsorship or financial or material support

In this section the Member is required to register any donation of more than £1,000 received by the constituency association which is linked either to candidacy at an election or to membership of the House, and also any other form of financial or material support as a Member. A ‘linked’ donation is defined as one ‘expressly tied to the Member by name e.g. if it is a contribution to the Member’s fighting fund or a donation which has been solicited or encouraged by the Member’. The obligation to register does not apply to constituency development agreements and other arrangements in which the identity of the Member is not a factor.

And that Barbara Follett’s current entry reads:

FOLLETT, Barbara (Stevenage)

2.Remunerated employment, office, profession etc Communications consultant to Ken Follett (author).

8.Land and Property Residential flat in London, from which rental income is received. Residential house in Cape Town, South Africa, from which rental income is occasionally received.

9.Registrable shareholdings (a)BEK Partnership; recording studio.


One has the following questions:

  1. Is the fact of Mr. Follett’s £100k ‘subsidy’ a registrable matter? (i.e. as “any other form of financial or material support as a Member”)
  2. Is this ‘subsidy’ being disguised under Item 2 of her entry?
  3. How long has Mr. Follett been funding her in this way?
  4. Is Mrs. Follett in breach of her obligations concerning the registration of interests and, if so, for how long has she been thus in breach?
  5. Is this a matter which ought to be taken up by the House of Commons Standards Commissioner?

I think we should most definitely be told.

UPDATE: As the SundayTimes is strictly a breakfast activity in The Huntsman’s household, I had not yet got to this report which details how Mrs. Follett is doing rather well out of the system. When listening to Marr, I failed, through trying to type and eat gum at the same time, to make the correct connection with why Marr was feeding Follett the opportunity to explain away her apparent enrichment. His response is even more interesting in those circumstances and, with respect, thoroughly disingenuous: it remains the fact that the Taxpayer has given her a whole load of moolah to buy a flat when she already had one which was “her own personal investment.” which makes you wonder why Mr. Follett is allowed to benefit from the one being claimed for.

I think we should be told even more.

Ken Follett (on Andrew Marr), on the subject of his wife Barbara Follett’s Parliamentary Office, say he subsidises it by a hundred thousand pounds a year. With the issue of MPs expenses very much to the fore, I looked to see if this squares with Mrs. Follet’s entry in the Register of Interests. And a fascinating exercise it was.

Noting that Paragraph 4 of interests to be entered into the register reads thus:

Sponsorship or financial or material support

In this section the Member is required to register any donation of more than £1,000 received by the constituency association which is linked either to candidacy at an election or to membership of the House, and also any other form of financial or material support as a Member. A ‘linked’ donation is defined as one ‘expressly tied to the Member by name e.g. if it is a contribution to the Member’s fighting fund or a donation which has been solicited or encouraged by the Member’. The obligation to register does not apply to constituency development agreements and other arrangements in which the identity of the Member is not a factor.

And that Barbara Follett’s current entry reads:

FOLLETT, Barbara (Stevenage)

2.Remunerated employment, office, profession etc Communications consultant to Ken Follett (author).

8.Land and Property Residential flat in London, from which rental income is received. Residential house in Cape Town, South Africa, from which rental income is occasionally received.

9.Registrable shareholdings (a)BEK Partnership; recording studio.


One has the following questions:

  1. Is the fact of Mr. Follett’s £100k ‘subsidy’ a registrable matter? (i.e. as “any other form of financial or material support as a Member”)
  2. Is this ‘subsidy’ being disguised under Item 2 of her entry?
  3. How long has Mr. Follett been funding her in this way?
  4. Is Mrs. Follett in breach of her obligations concerning the registration of interests and, if so, for how long has she been thus in breach?
  5. Is this a matter which ought to be taken up by the House of Commons Standards Commissioner?

I think we should most definitely be told.

UPDATE: As the SundayTimes is strictly a breakfast activity in The Huntsman’s household, I had not yet got to this report which details how Mrs. Follett is doing rather well out of the system. When listening to Marr, I failed, through trying to type and eat gum at the same time, to make the correct connection with why Marr was feeding Follett the opportunity to explain away her apparent enrichment. His response is even more interesting in those circumstances and, with respect, thoroughly disingenuous: it remains the fact that the Taxpayer has given her a whole load of moolah to buy a flat when she already had one which was “her own personal investment.” which makes you wonder why Mr. Follett is allowed to benefit from the one being claimed for.

I think we should be told even more.

Alex Salmond knows his ambition to hold an Independence referendum is unlikely to be met in the present Holyrood Parliament: the maths is too much against him. So for now he has to settle for the long game. Whilst he does so he must firstly govern sensibly and secondly foment anti-Scottish sentiment amongst the English.

With all three other parties at Holyrood against a Referendum he knows only too well that he cannot muster enough support for such an exercise. He knows too that he could not hope to win such a plebiscite at the moment, so he is not too bothered by this.

In fact the best thing the other parties could do is to force his hand now and hold such a referendum anyway, as soon as possible. Firstly this would shoot the Nationalist Fox before it has had a chance to gather any momentum. Secondly it would settle the matter for the best part of a generation. Thirdly it would remove the principal raison d’être of the SNP.

Sadly the other three parties are far too stupid to see this, though Lord Forsyth has bravely spoken up against the Tories stance and advocated such an early poll. Equally sad was seeing the Scottish Tories ganging up with the Scottish Labour Party and Scottish Liberal ‘Democrats’ on this matter at the same time as castigating Labour nationally for not holding a referendum on the Union Treaty, which simply makes the Scottish Tories look utter hypocrites.

So Salmond must for now concentrate on governing competently as well as finding good opportunities to needle the English by fomenting in them as much anti-Scottish sentiment as possible. If you want to destroy a bridge over a chasm it is much more effective to loosen the ties at each end to ensure its demise.

So he agrees as often as possible with anyone who raises the West Lothian Question. Logically he should, for he would object to English MPs having any sort of vote on matters that touch upon Scotland and so supports those in England who complain about Brown’s Scottish Labour Lobby Fodder which ensures him a majority in the House of Commons. Since this tends to translate as much into an anti-Scottish sentiment as an anti-labour sentiment, he is happy to stoke that fire whenever he can.

It is the matter of money that has him much exercised just now, not least because it represents something of a godsend. For The UK Government has allotted a block grant that is £600 million short of the figure upon which plans were laid which will almost certainly mean that he cannot deliver on a whole raft of goodies promised in May to win the Holyrood elections. He is, as his appearance on Newsnight last night demonstrated, very very annoyed at this, though how much of this is synthetic anger is very much a moot point.

So, as times goes on, the grandiose promises made in May are starting to come undone. The latest is an apparent reneging on a commitment to put 1000 new Police Officers on the street. This is tactical grist to the opposition mill which is able to point to failures to deliver. On the other hand he has a convenient strategic scapegoat to blame every time something goes wrong: ‘it’s those wicked Westminster Labourites’ who are to blame. Thus he is actually not too displeased that Labour has decided to wage war on him by tightening the purse strings for he can now say: ‘if we were independent, we in Scotland would have control of our own finances’.

He also loves to mention, as often as possible, ‘Scottish Oil’, in the sure knowledge that will also irritate the English, who rightly make the point that development of the UK’s oilfields was not exactly bankrolled exclusively by the Scottish Taxpayer. As the oil price rises, so does his rhetoric on Scotland’s divine right to ‘their’ oil.

He perceives himself, therefore, in a win-win situation. The more money he demands the more irritated the English become at how this translates into largesse for Scots who are not pulling their weigh in the UK Plc enterprise. The less money he gets, the more irritated the Scots can be made to be because of alleged unfair Westminster parsimony. Thus he burns the rope attaching the bridge to the canyon walls at both ends. No wonder he smiles so much.

In this way the Union is subjected to Alex Salmond’s constant process of salami-slicing the Union: death by a thousand cuts with a happy smile on the face of the executioner.

Meanwhile on another front the SNP has decided that it will campaign for a referendum on the other Union, the big bad one that lives in a nasty hole in Brussels. Not only will they support a referendum on the Union Constitution but they will campaign for a ‘No’ vote, given that control over fishing has been abandoned to unelected Union officials. It would be an irony indeed if it could muster a majority to hold such a referendum in Scotland on the Union with Europe but not on one on the Union with England.

Daniel Hannan in his blog on 25th. October in the Telegraph has arrived at the same point that I reached as long ago as 19th. October. This is that the promise made by David Cameron in the Sun at the end of September by way of ‘cast-iron guarantee’, namely “If I become PM a Conservative government will hold a referendum on any EU treaty that emerges from these negotiations” is about to be trashed.

He makes the right point but perhaps with insufficient vigour which is that this backtracking by Mr. Cameron will be seen by the voters for what it is: an act of surrender being planned in advance of a battle during which the electorate will be told ‘we will fight to the end”.

Mr. Hannan unfortunately has not drawn the attention of his readers as to why this should be so. As I have pointed out, once the Treaty comes into force a whole new legal ball game begins. The only way in which it can be unpicked then is by renegotiation (which is simply not going to happen) or by derogation which means that we would have to notify the Union that we withdraw from the Treaty. The effect of that is that we would be signifying our withdrawal from the Union, something which is nor Conservative Party policy.

Mr. Cameron has no doubt been advised by his legal people that this is so. Unfortunately he made a clear promise on 26th. September to the Sun which encompasses, clearly, a referendum on the Treaty whether ratified or in force. He is now trying to resile from that position. Many will think that that is as dishonourable as anything Brown has thus far done and will be seen as fundamentally dishonest. Nor will they be impressed by so rapid a U-Turn that the hand brake is still smoking.

The Political Elite, The Nabobs, have decided that, whatever we, The Little People, might think or want, we shall not have, because our views do not matter or count. That we might be in a majority simply does not figure. Or, as Marie-Antionette is reputed to have observed:

Qu’ils mangent de la brioche !*

And we all know where that got her, do we not ?

*Let them eat Cake!

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