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A rather late Hansard trawl, featuring wallets, idiots in Sussex and what they read over lunch at the DWP

Tuesday, June 30, 2009
What do you want your wallet / purse advertsising, allegiance-wise? I'm a big fan of plain leather myself, but other folks possibly feel differently:

Mr. Maude: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office pursuant to the answer of 13 January 2009, Official Report, columns 581-82W, on 10 Downing Street, how many Downing Street-branded wallets have been sold by the gift shop in the last 18 months or nearest equivalent period for which figures are available.

Angela E. Smith: I have nothing further to add to the earlier answer.

I have rooted around in the Hansard for the 13th and turned up nothing, not that that is of any great import. However, suppose you were a shopkeeper, hotelier or whatever, and the customer you are dealing with whips out a Downing St wallet, wouldn't you check the details carefully and compare them against those of known dodgy cards?

A noble, if perhaps fruitless endeavour:

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what recent steps his Department has taken to combat homophobia in developing countries.

Chris Bryant: I have been asked to reply. The UK believes that every state has an obligation to protect the rights of all its citizens, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual (LGBT) people, without discrimination of any kind. We regularly raise this with governments of countries where the rights of LGBT people are violated. In countries where same sex relationships are illegal, we continue to press for decriminalisation.

Somehow I dount that 'our friends the Saudis pay much heed', although having spoken to a gay Saudi a while back, he found the UK scene a bit disappointing, as he reckoned there was far more going on in Riyadh etc. Hey ho... As an aside to an aside, it was only in 1981 that the French legalised these things. True story.

Erm, a bit late, this one:

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether the Government has made any representations to the Portuguese authorities on pursuing its investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann in the last six months.

Chris Bryant: Our embassy in Lisbon has continued to raise the case with the Portuguese authorities. The head of the Portuguese Criminal Investigation Police has made clear to the embassy that he is ready to consider any credible new leads mat come to light.

Am I missing something here?:

Mr. Joyce: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps her Department is taking to assist older people during the recession.

Angela Eagle: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave the hon. Member for Coventry, South (Mr. Cunningham) on 22 June 2009, Official R eport , column 683W.

If older is a euphemism for pensioners, don't said folk have rather less to worry about than the rest of us?

Quite an eclectic reading list at the DWP, compared to other dpartments. Bar the usual selection of dailies, news weeklies and Private Eye, they also get The Voice, Eastern Eye, Asian Woman and Gay Times. Maybe they are checking their adverts, although the DWPs ad agency ought to be doing that for them.

Unnerving statistic 0f the day:

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what proportion of schools staff have been admitted to hospital as a result of violent behaviour by pupils in the last 12 months.

Primary and nursery education teaching professionals - Non-fatal major injuries - 4, Over-three-day injuries - 13.

We all know that secondaries can be a warzone, but the figures for those teachers were 5 and 49 respectively.

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many incidents of... (c) hoax calls to emergency services...were recorded by each police force in 2007-08

I would have guessed London led, followed by the other conurbations, but no. The Met/CoL had 969, but Notts and Sussex got to five figures - 10,412 and 12,478. Alas the otherwise good people of the West Midlands led with 17,903. Why the shires, for Heaven's sake? Do they just like seeing fire engines, or are there a lot of very foolish people there / a smaller number of hyperactive idiots? There may well be issues of definition, rigour in reporting etc at work too, but even so.

Further unexpected stats
: London (7,995) leads for begging / vagrancy (fancy...), followed by Gtr Manchester (1,387) and then Dorset (1,351). I suppose the pickings might be quite rich there. Only 51 requests of 'ten pee for a cup of tea guv' in Warwickshire though.

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Dishonourable ways to turn a buck, or rather a euro

Sticking with fascists, the Bavarian government is cashing in on Western Europe's most odious C20th leaader, recckoning it should make one last throw of the dice before its copyright expires. Not that they put it like that, naturally:

Bavaria’s science minister wants to publish a new scholarly edition of Adolf Hitler’s book “Mein Kampf” ahead of 2015, when the state’s exclusive rights to the work expire, daily Handelsblatt reported on Monday. “There is a danger that charlatans and neo-Nazis will usurp this infamous work when the copyright runs out,” Wolfgang Heubisch told the paper from Munich. “Which is why I believe we need a scientifically grounded, excellently prepared critical edition.”

Yeah, right. On the basis that a good doctor has to study disease, I had a go at reading an abridged version a few years back and failed dismally. I doubt whether many would-be Nazis get very far with it. However, on the upside I have had much fun giving out extracts from the NSDAP's manifesto to various lefties to see what they think of them:

  • Abolition of unearned (work and labour) incomes. Breaking of rent-slavery.
  • We demand the nationalisation of all (previous) associated industries
  • We demand a division of profits of all heavy industries.
  • We demand a land reform suitable to our needs, provision of a law for the free expropriation of land for the purposes of public utility, abolition of taxes on land and prevention of all speculation in land.
They tend to nod vigorously....


Madrid gets rid of its favourite son

In this case, El Caudillo himself, Francisco Franco:

"There was a rare moment of almost total unanimity in Madrid City Hall yesterday when the majority Popular Party (PP) added the lion’s share of its votes to left wing parties and agreed to revoke the honors the capital had once bestowed on General Francisco Franco, dictator of Spain from 1939 until his death in 1975... [these being] the titles of honorary mayor and city’s favorite son as well as two other medals". (Source. Link will only work today)

A few points come to mind. Franco may have suffered from ego problems if he let it be known he wanted these things to happen, it is all a bit late in the day to revoke them and I am not convinced of the wisdom of judging past actions by contemporary standards. Where the end of Franco's Spain differs from various other C20th European undemocratic regimes is that it was not a war or a revolution that ended it, and thus an Eastern Bloc style smashing of the idols never came to pass.

Anyway, it will be pretty quiet here until mid afternoon. Places to go, people to see and all that.


A little something to make my fellow Britons feel slighty smug

Monday, June 29, 2009
A newly published Eurobarometer report on European election voting and so on focuses on the gender split in attitudes to voting and so forth, and we British types come top of the class for voting based on what Tony Benn calls 'issues'.

Some 66% of men make their decision based on campaign issues, while women fare marginally better at 67%. In contrast, 13% of Cypriot males and 12% of Cypriot females vote in this semi-informed manner.

The personality of the candidate makes little headway in these parts, with 6% of men and 7% of women voting according to who has the shiniest teeth, comes over well in magazine features etc etc. Supposedly. 52% of Lithuanian women are won over by a nice personality, as are 45% of Cypriot men. Pretty shallow of them, frankly.

The other substantial reason for voting choice is habit, with 44% of Danish men always voting the same way, as do 42% of Greek and Estonian women. Latvian and Irish elections should be the biggest nail biters, as 15% or fewer of the electorate are voting automatons.

Elsewhere, Finnish campaigners need to be hustling up until the polls close, as 61%(m) and 62%(f) choose how to vote in the last two weeks / at the last moment. A curious bunch, the Finns, as some 17% have candidate gender as an issue when they vote. To paraphrase a comment made here by Verity a long time ago, 'I don't care whether a candidate is black, white or Asian, male or female (etc) as long as they agree with me'.

More later, maybe.

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The Hansard Trawl, featuring the junket of a lifetime and fork lift trucks

Oh to be a recently retired cop with the drug squad:

"Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 23 February 2009, Official Report, column 1193W, on the Caribbean: crime, what funding the UK provided for the establishment of the Drugs and Crime Task Force in Anguilla.

Chris Bryant: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has provided approximately £50,000 in funding for the establishment of the Drugs and Gun Crime Task Force in Anguilla.The Drug and Gun Crime Task Force was established in 2006 by the Commissioner of Police in Anguilla. On the request of the government of Anguilla, the FCO provided co-funding for experienced, retired officers from the UK to train and mentor the task force following its inception. The task force is now fully funded by the Royal Anguilla Police Force".

Doubtless all thoroughly worthwhile and so on, but meanwhile sundry retired plod get to hang out in one of the nicer bits of the Caribbean and get paid for it. Jealous, me? Bet they would have found fewer volunteers to work in Baghdad.

Moving swiftly on, thieving squaddies / squaddies not exactly doing a good job of guard duty:

Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many military vehicles of each type were reported (a) stolen and (b) missing in the United Kingdom in each year since 1997.
2007 was particularly bad, with eight motorcycles, one van, one quad bike and a fork lift going AWOL. Overall, motorbikes and quad bikes are the most popular targets, presumably as they lend themselves to quick getaways. But fork lift trucks? If one considers that the Red Hats would have to be spectacularly dim to to be outran by a fork lift trucks, then I suppose they are being loaded onto trucks and spirited away thus. On the upside, at least no tanks / self-propelled artillery pieces have gone walkabout.

Sticking with the boys in green, here is the most egregiously dishonest use of the 'disproportionate cost' excuse in living memory:

"Sir Menzies Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether any munitions containing white phosphorus manufactured in the UK have been used in theatres of military operation against UK armed forces in the last 10 years".

Bill Rammell: This information is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost".

It is not as though our military have been involved in that many ops since 1999. I would have thought a few phone callls would have flushed out an answer.

A missed opportunity:

John Mann: To ask the Leader of the House if she will publish lists of all hon. Members who participated in each round of voting to elect a Commons Speaker on 22 June 2009.

Barbara Keeley: No list of Members who voted in the secret ballot is compiled.

Shame, as it would have given us all the chance to point and laugh at those MPs who just could not be bothered to vote. Plus it would have been so much fun to say to a canvasser for a sitting MP, 'your candidate couldn't be bothered to vote for the speaker, so I can't be bothered to vote for him / her'.

Weird question o' the day:

"Mr. Oaten: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what percentage of students achieved a B grade at GCSE in each subject in each of the last three years".

Maybe the international laughing stock that is the Honourable Member from Winchester had some point he wanted to make about his own exam results or those of his progeny.

Someone who, perhaps, should have declared an interest:

Mr. Drew: To ask the Prime Minister if he will make it his policy to establish a Royal Commission to report and make recommendations on electoral reform; and if he will make a statement.

The Prime Minister: I refer my hon. Friend to the statement I made to the House on 10 June 2009, Official Report, columns 795-99. The Government will set out proposals on taking the debate forward.

Drew has a majority of 350. Bye bye...

Yet another less than straight answer from our beloved PM:

"Mr. Hayes: To ask the Prime Minister (1) what criteria he plans to use to decide on his next nominee for the post of European Commissioner;

(2) what criteria he plans to use in deciding on the UK’s preferred candidate to be the next President of the European Commission. [281437]

The Prime Minister: The treaty establishing the European Community requires that Commissioners shall be chosen on the grounds of “general competence”. The Prime Minister nominates a candidate to become the UK Commissioner who has the right skills to be able to do an excellent job as a Commissioner. I have made clear that the UK supports Jose Manuel Durao Barroso in his candidature to become European Commission President for a second term. Mr. Barroso has been an excellent Commission President since 2004.

What he meant to say was re point 1, 'The candidate will be a Labour MP / Lord, who will have shown me slavish devotion over many years, and furthermore could do with a nice tax free salary and all the fringe benefits he/she can trouser / handbag over the next few years'.

Re 2 - 'Someone who has a face like a potato', perhaps?

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A brief observation. And an even briefer snidey aside

Sunday, June 28, 2009
I am re-reading Victor Davis Hanson's peerless 'Why the West has Won - Carnage and Culture from Salamis to Vietnam' for the umpteenth time, and fancied that this quote merited a narrower audience:

"Later the Greeks even had their triremes named Demokratia, Eleutheria and Parrhesia".

Which one might render as 'Democracy', 'Freedom' and 'Freedom of Speech'. Which I think are rather better names than HMS Ark Royal, USS Nimitz or, come to that, the Charles de Gaulle.

"Arnold Toynbee (guess whose grandfather he is)..in one of his more foolish asides suggested that a Greek loss to Xerxes might have been good for Hellenic civilization".

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A really long wait for opening time - two months - and a pretty lousy substitute in the meantime

From Greenlandic daily Sermitsiaq:

"Beer replaced with bear"

"Alcohol ran out in the town of Illoqqortoormiut in eastern Greenland over two weeks ago....The only incident for police to respond to has been an inquisitive polar bear on the lookout for an easy lunch...As the annual quota of polar bears had already been reached it was necessary for a police official to carry out the task, which Nielsen, a constable, was on hand to do....The meat has been divided out between the community’s public institutions...The town’s residents will have access to alcohol again on arrival of the next service ship at the beginning of August".

More on the town with no beer here, and a google earth satellite shot here.

Where I an Illoqqortoormiuter, I'd pace myself the next time I got my mitts on whatever they drink in those parts. Meanwhile, I would not trade two months of sauce for a couple of wagyu steaks, let alone polar bear.

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A little light White House-ology

Compare and contrast:

"He told Mr Brown to continue showing "integrity" and to be sure that "every day you are waking up and making the very best decisions that you can despite the fact that sometimes the cards in your hand are not very good and the options are narrow". BBC 1/4/9


"During German Chancellor Angela Merkel's White House visit on Friday, one thing topped the agenda: a show of friendship. US President Barack Obama praised Merkel to the hilt, while she returned the compliment. Politics were pushed into the background... [Obama] began with a "Wilkommen" in German, and praised Merkel's "wisdom" and "candor."...Obama greeted "my friend Chancellor Merkel." Der Spiegel 27/6/9

Get the feeling OB has just a touch more respect and amity for the Kanzlerin than the Prime Minister?

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The country where folk (almost) like estate agents

Saturday, June 27, 2009
Which is France, just for a change.

Asked whether they had a good or bad opinion of house pimps estate agents, some 32% had a good opinion, 54% a somewhat bad opinion and 14% a very bad opinion. The figure for total bad opinion is up two points from last year, so our Gallic chums would appear to be catching up.

While I have not been able to find a recent UK survey on all fours with those parameters, this one from April has 1% trusting estate agents. Further detail in the French survey has a mind-boggling 31% thinking agents have integrity. A rather lower figure than those who think Elvis lives, I imagine. In common with, I imagine, most folk I have my own horror story of being shafted by those odious wretches - yes, I am talking about you, Townends of Streatham Hill - but will spare readers the details.


Blogging anonymity - The French look to be getting it right

(Updated - including a factual correction)

From Libé:

"Yesterday, [at] the Conference on Rights and freedoms in the Digital Society, organized by Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet the Secretary of State in charge of the digital economy, Senator Yves Détraigne presented his idea of right to the “heteronymity”. Detraigne is the co-author of the report 'Privacy in the Digital Age: For a reinforcement of trust between citizens and the Information Society'...One of the concepts it supports is the recognition of a right to anonymity to those is dubs Homo Digitalis. It is a question of being able to separate a real identity from a digital identity".

That is the gist of it. I'm not very keen on the idea of registering an identity with the state, which serves to undermine much of the point of having separate identities for blogging, Second Life and all the rest of it. While the unmaskings of Night Jack and Girl with a One Track Mind (a correction from an earlier reference to BdJ - I got my horizontal bloggers mixed up) are the greatest causes célèbres of recent times, I do not have to struggle too hard to think of other bloggers - including mates - who wished to keep their given names private and were outed for reasons that can only be seen as motivated by no reason beyond spite - Devil's Kitchen, Old Holborn and PragueTory (sort of). Another blogger who went public has had the delight of another blogger contact his workplace attempting to get him sacked for 'blogging during working hours'. The effort failed. I am NOT making that up. And no, no names at this stage. I know full well who my mate Behind Blue Eyes is, and he has perfectly sensible reasons for wishing to be anonymous. Elsewhere, I use a completely different identity when posting on music fora and so forth as my political views have no bearings on my thoughts on Blind Lemon Jefferson, and indeed vice versa. Elsewhere, I have occasionally (if not in living memory) used a third identity as a blog commentator mainly when I have wanted to make off-colour jokes and / or have wanted to make comments where I have not wanted my main identity to prejudice, for better or worse, the points I was making. Re the former, that was in part informed by concern that as my mother reads this (sometimes), and as perhaps my children will too one of these days I have kept the swearing and coarseness to a minimum and hoped to avoid 'awkwardness'. I might add that I decided to keep this place PG before I started showing off to to the family. A friend outed me to my ex-wife, without malicious intent, but that caused a momentary panic in which I worried that I might have said something hateful about her. Doubtless she has better things to do with her time than immerse herself in the archives and I am 99.9% certain I have not let my mouth, or rather fingers run away with me. Anyway, I have never referred to her by name.

I kept my given name under the rug until the chance to appear on the much missed 18 Doughty Street came my way, and for anyone who does not know, and actually gives a good goddamn, I am called William Luckman and live guess where. Not that it would have taken much googling for any interested party to discover that. Take it from there would-be stalkers.... As I am self-employed, I do not have to be particularly furtive, but others feel that they do and if folk wish to maintain a chinese wall between given name and nom de blog for whatever reason, that is their affair and their affair alone


A late breaking *pearl* from Hansard

Friday, June 26, 2009
The Lords, naturally:

Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that, as a person over 60, I am continually bombarded with spam emails? They are always the same and are usually about penile extensions, Viagra or inkjet cartridges. Do I look like a man who requires inkjet cartridges?

A noble Lord: Yes!

This exchange came as part of a debate on internet access for the over 60s etc, sparked by Baroness Rendell of Inspector Wexford, and is worth a skim.

(Mackenzie has a fairly colourful recent past, judging from his wiki entry)

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Ostalgia (sic)

From German daily The Local:

"The daily Berliner Zeitung reported on Friday that 20 years after the joyous scenes of the Berlin Wall being torn down, 49 percent of easterners asked agreed with the statement: “The German Democratic Republic had more good than bad sides. There were a few problems but one could live well there.”

A further eight percent chose the statement: “The GDR had overwhelmingly good sides. One lived there better and happier than today in reunified Germany.”

A look at the 2005 results shows that the PDS, the successor to the DDR's Communists (or 'Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands' as it styled itself) secured some 8.7% of the vote, so the latter figure is no great surprise.

The 49% of trimmers disgust me, frankly: "
it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world...but for Olympic gold medals?" (With apologies to Robert Bolt)

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The Hansard trawl, featuring the prospect of manifest destiny for sheep, the govt messing with my pint and sick sailors

The demon drink:

Mr. Sanders: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans his Department has to restrict the means by which business may promote alcohol consumption.

Mr. Alan Campbell :(blah) Ministers have not yet taken any final decisions on the content of the mandatory code but some of the measures we are consulting on include: banning offers like “all you can drink for £10”; outlawing pubs and bars offering promotions to certain groups, such as “women drink free” nights; banning staff dispensing alcohol directly into customers’ mouths; requiring that consumers are able to make informed choices when they buy alcohol; and requiring bars and pubs to offer smaller measures available for customers who want them.

The last one suggests much scope for mischief. Who fancies ordering a thimbleful of C18th Chateau Lafite at the Savoy? Also, informed choice - does this mean the bar staff will be hectoring the poor belaguered drinker. Incidentally, my local plays host to a gent who has been drinking there since 1940 - an example to us all.

Weird Hansard subbing of the day: 'Police Community Support Officers: Clothing'. That refers to this - 'Mr. Watson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many police community support officers were assaulted while on duty in each of the last three years'. (Scratches head in bewilderment)

The Senior Servive makes its Jolly Jack Tars sick
, or at least sicker than does the RAF, with 12.8% of the former either Not fully fit for task or unfit for task. It is 11.9% for the Fly Boys.

Non-answer o' the day:

Mr. Gummer: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many hours he spent on his ministerial duties in the seven-day period beginning Sunday 7 June 2009.

Dan Norris: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State (Hilary Benn) had a full diary of official duties.

Naturally... I think we should make them fill out timesheets, the results would make Troughgate look like very small potatoes if completed honestly, and if the sheets included codes for 'plotting', 'anonymous briefings to do down colleagues', 'daydreaming about being PM' etc. Suggestions along the same lines would be welcome.

And the sheep will inherit if not the earth, than at least the following places: Devon, North Yorkshire, Cumbria and Northumberland, as judging from the answer to this - 'what estimate has been made of the number of sheep in each county in England' they have clear cut sheep majorities. Mackems should be comparatively safe if the sheep rise up, as there are a mere 223 of them in the City of Sunderland.

Hackney is not a big enough problem for Diane Abbott:

"Ms Abbott: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps his Department is taking to assist women and girls in Africa whose employment and education is jeopardised by the recession".

And African men, and come to that, Latin American women can go to hell for all she cares, presumably.

Something very creepy has been happening to a child near you:

Mr. Hunt: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when he expects the results of the National Child Measurement Programme for 2008-09 to be published.

Gillian Merron: The NHS Information Centre will publish the results of the National Child Measurement Programme for 2008-09 in December 2009


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Some rather good photoshopping

Found this here:
The photoshopper is Brian Lane Winfield Moore, and if I have read the Creative Commons licence properly by linking, attributing etc I am within the licence's terms. More in the same vein here, although I think the one I've used is the pick of the bunch.

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The DPRK update, featuring an unlikely ambition and an exciting new book

Thursday, June 25, 2009

"The Korean people still bear a deep grudge against the crimes of the U.S. imperialists, the provoker and criminal of the Korean war (June 25, 1950-July 27, 1953) though more than 50 years have passed since the war".

Uh-huh. So sending 230,000 solidiers etc across the 38th Parallel was a suitable response to whatever were the US provocation?

Anyway, enough of the revisionism, what about this:

"If the U.S. imperialists start another war, ignorant of the ignominious defeat they had sustained in the past Korean war, the army and people of Korea will determinedly answer "sanctions" with retaliation and "confrontation" with all-out confrontation, the counter-measure based on the Songun idea, wipe out the aggressors on the globe once and for all and achieve the cause of national reunification without fail".

Meanwhile, book fans, here comes 'Vol. 81 of "Among the People", a collection of reminiscences', featuring the following page turners:

"Without expecting any privilege and benefit" and "Paternal affection felt on medicine price", which deal with the fact that the President taught the officials to share the turns and twists with the people".


"Reminiscences "It is only you that I can depend on" and "Leading the people to do everything by their own efforts" vividly tell about the wise leadership of the President".

Probably not available in any good bookshop this side of Pyongyang.

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A brief observation on Boris Johnson's taxi use

As spotlit here.

Our splendid Mayor has racked up some £4,700 or so on taxis since taking office, based on receipts he has submitted. and there is much whining from the usual quarters.

However, how many Mayors of lesser cities, boroughs etc in these islands make use of a chauffeur-driven limousine?

Many, and the cost of that would be a damned sight more than the odd black cab. One might further note that Boris doubtless gets to chat with Hackney carriage drivers, thus giving him an additional conduit to a sector of public opinion.

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Derailing the United States of Europe - a tip from Croatia

From the Croatian Times:

"Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader said today (Thurs) the ideal of a united Europe would never be realised if Croatia failed to become a member of the European Union (EU)....Sanader added: "If they give up on Croatia’s accession, they will give up on the ideal of a united Europe because the EU will have only a small chance of surviving if it is based only on the principles of its founding countries."

And he says that like it is a bad thing...

(Croatia and Slovenia are in the middle of a spat over a couple of square inches of territory claimed by both states).

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Prepare to be nauseated

Those of weak dispositions should click somewhere else, anywhere else, now. Here's Google.

Anyone still here, note this horror from Ha'aretz:

"According to reports, Spears has been offered a part in the upcoming Holocaust film The Yellow Star of Sophia and Eton, which integrates time travel, concentration camps and a love story.

If she accepts the role, Spears will be taking on the title role of Sophia LaMont, a woman who invents a time machine and succeeds in traveling to the time of the Second World War. According to the script, LaMont ends up at a concentration camp and falls in love with a Jewish prisoner named Eton. However, the budding love story is cut short when both are killed by the Nazis".

The whole thing smells of PR stunt to me, but the project sounds like the worst outbreak of cinematic Shoah abuse yet.

Anyway, having done my bit to spoil everyone's morning, I am now off to lie down in a darkened room for a bit.

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The Hansard Trawl, featuring 'miscellaneous plots', villainous OAPs and some rather good slap downs

Why am I never asked these things?:

"Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what his Department’s most recent opinion poll data are on public opinion on the retention of the United Kingdom’s nuclear deterrent

Mr. Bob Ainsworth [holding answer 22 June 2009]: Questions on the retention of the UK’s nuclear deterrent were included in the public poll on perceptions of the Ministry of Defence and UK armed forces conducted in December 2003.

The following figures were collated for the public opinion poll on whether the UK should keep its nuclear weapons: 8 per cent. strongly agreed, 35 per cent. tended to agree, 25 per cent. tended to disagree,9 per cent. strongly disagreed"

So some 23% just cannot muster the effort to come up with an opinion. Tis a minor tragedy that there is not the fun of a French-style full demographic breakdown.

Sometimes I think that a great deal of Parliamentary time could be saved by honourable members acquainting themselves with basic reference works or letting loose the google monster:

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Transport which parliamentary constituencies have airports wholly or partly within their boundaries.

See what I mean
? Mr Robertson represents Tewkesbury, an airportless constituency. Perhaps he needed his memory jogging ahead of a letter to his electorate.

I am indebted to Dominic Grieve for asking a question of Jack Straw that facilitated part of of my headline.

"Mr. Grieve: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice (1) how much surplus land (a) his Department and (b) its agencies had in each year since the Department was established"

The 'miscellaneous plots' are parcels of land, rather than the usual attempted backstabbings.

The place for septuagenarian, octogenarian and for all I know, nonagenarian and centenerian lags are Whatton, Littlehey, Wymott, Wandsworth, Hull and Albany nicks, all housing at least 20 prisoners of that description. I lack the motivation to calculate percentages and so forth, but instead will restrict myself to wondering whether Sunday evening is TV prime time at these places and there are frequent complaints about shivvings elsewhere interrupting afternoon snoozes.

Further detail shows that over 70% of these aged lags are not cuddly grandfather types, but are doing stir for sex offences. Perhaps we should be impressed that 22 out of the 525 are inside for drug offences and four for robbery.

Oh dear:

Mr. Wallace: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will request the supermarkets to assist in dealing with the consequences of the failure of dairy farmers of Great Britain.

Jim Fitzpatrick [holding answer 23 June 2009]: This is a commercial issue, and we have not specifically asked supermarkets to assist with the consequences of the closure of dairy farmers of Britain.

This would appear to be Ben Wallace, Tory MP for Lancaster. Perhaps he has not read Adam Smith etc lately.

The DCMS is failing to implement best practice on IT security:

Mr. Blunt: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport how many breaches of information security there have been at (a) his Department and (b) its agencies in the last five years. [281071]

Mr. Sutcliffe: My Department has had nine security incidents over the past five years. Royal Parks, our one agency, has had nine security incidents in the same period.

Maybe hackers were trying to get root that they might get then print off annual passes for sundry attractions.

A bit of a slap down here:

Mr. Sanders: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will assess the merits of holding national elections to determine the UK’s European Commissioner. [281429]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: European Commissioners are required to be: “independent in the performance of their duties” not taking: “instructions from any Government or other institution, body, office or entity”. Any Commissioner put forward can have no given mandate from the UK.

I'm sure we can all think of lots of extraordinarily independent Commissars from these parts in recent times... Anyway, hands up anyone who can name our current Commissar. If the individual concerned had a chin job on expenses, the gaiety of the EU would be vastly increased.

And another slap down:

Mr. Crausby: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how much his Department spent on clothing for official visits overseas by members of the Royal Family in 2008-09.

Chris Bryant: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office does not pay clothing costs for members of the Royal Family on official overseas travel.

My republican tendencies are well known to regualars, but even I would think it grotesque for Her Maj et al to be sent off to Wagga Wagga, Moosejaw or wherever clad in outfits selected by Milliband's lot.

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Hideous proofing errors of our time

Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Here's a screengrab of an ad for Standpoint that I saw and winced at earlier:

I imagine it refers to that splendid divine the Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali. Not a good mistake to make, frankly.

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Those wicked Belgians

From Dutch Daily NRC Handelsblad:

"King Leopold II of Belgium wanted to invade the Netherlands around 1854, when he was still only crown prince, according to documents discovered in the Royal Archives in Brussels by the Flemish historian and journalist Kris Clerckx. Napoleon III probably prevented the invasion".

The mind boggles. Apparently the Belgians fancied their chances, despite no great history of military prowess in the immedaitely preceding years. One might note that this would have been slap bang in the middle of the Crimean war, when we, our Gallic chums and sundry others were rather preoccupied with matters further east. Further Belgium only gained independence from the Dutch in 1830, having been variously under the Hapsburg and French yokes previously. Had this operation succeeded, doubtless the course of the wars of the 20th century would be very different, and Walloon domination of the Belgian polity would have been unsustainable.

I cannot immediately think of any situation in which a newly independent nation went on to conquer its former masters so soon after, although perhaps something will come to me later or a reader will set me on the right track.


The tale is also being featured in Francophone Belgian daily Le Soir, although it adds little to the Handelsblad report. Reader comments are rather amusing though:

"Think how many World Cups we would have won with their talent and our rigour"

"British propaganda. We know that Léopold II was influenced by British propaganda and so would seek to divert international public opinion from its own colonial exactions by attacking a small nation of Europe".

Isn't it nice to have all that gratitude for dying in our hundreds of thousands to save their Belgian hides?

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You are a terrorist

An excellent animation from some Germans peeved about the assault on their liberties by the state:

Further detail, in German, here.

Remind you of anywhere closer to home?

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The Hansard trawl, featuring what the MoD does in its spare time, the fast moving Peter Hain and *tractor stats*...

The MoD gets up to more than one might think:

Mr. Breed: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what criteria his Department uses in deciding whether to fund archaeological and cultural heritage projects; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Kevan Jones: There are three main criteria used by the Ministry of Defence (MOD) in deciding whether to fund projects: compliance with legislation; compliance with planning policy obligations; and the Department’s commitment to be a good practice exemplar in the management of its historic estate. These are balanced against the funding and delivery of defence capability.

There's probably a joke involving Raiders of the Lost Ark in there somewhere.

'Where have all the flowers gone? Long time passing, mowed down by the MoD every one':

"Mrs. Moon: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will consider (a) reducing the frequency of grass cutting on his Department's military bases and (b) developing wildflower meadows in such locations as a contribution to the Government’s targets for biodiversity"

You have to hand it to our Parliamentarians for their ability to come up with things to quiz the government over.

Didn't take him long:

Mrs. Gillan: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales whether he has appointed a special adviser since taking office. [281456]

Mr. Hain: I have now appointed two special advisers.

A book which I will be reviewing shortly has a point blank denial by Mr Permatan that he ever uses a sunbed, by the way.

It's the thought that counts. Probably:

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Minister for Women and Equality how much the Government Equalities Office spent on promoting International Women’s Day 2009.

Michael Jabez Foster: The Government Equalities Office did not spend any money on promoting International Women’s Day 2009.

The Ministers for Women led a debate in the House of Commons on 5 March 2009 on ‘Support for women through the economic downturn and for the future’ to mark International Women’s Day.

I'm sure that some 3.4bn XX chromosome types raised a sisterly cheer to the Minister.

A slightly more pointed one from Rozza:

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Minister for Women and Equality how many centres for male victims of domestic violence have been opened in each month in each of the last five years.

Female on male DV is the secret that dare not speak its name, and I know far more men who have been downwind of violent partners than vice versa. Which, obviously, is purely anecdotal and of no statistical validity. Further the generally more serious and generally more common character of male on female DV should not be downplayed. Anyway, those of a cynical bent can guess what the anwer is going to be:

Michael Jabez Foster: (blah) "The Government are funding a Men's Advice Line".
So that's a big fat zero then.

"Mr. Paice: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Transport how many tractor registrations there were in each year since 1997".

Tragically the reponse was not 'tractor registrations have exceeded all norms during the last two five year plans and we continue to build socialism'.

I think I can be forgiven a chart:

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Tease o' the day

Recently I was at a fund raiser for a Tory constituency party somewhere in London, and this constituency has a sitting Labour MP who is so unpopular with his own party that the dinner saw a table booked by half a dozen Labour party activists.

Given the careful love bombing of Labour councillors, activists et al by the local Tories, wild horses will not drag the name of the MP from me, although this chap does indeed have a broad rep for being useless.

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The (apparently) lost art of spelling

Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Seen locally:

Lest anyone is entertaining the possibility of this being a Croydon dialect word, it is not:

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How to upset one's uncle - an object lesson from France

The nephew in question is one Frédéric Mitterrand, and the uncle currently rotating at speed in his grave is Le Sphinxe himself, the deeply odious Francois.

And for why? Because young Freddie has just taken Sarko's Louis d'or Euro in the form of the job of Minister of Culture.

Mitterand jr would appear to have passed a comparatively blameless life as a thespian, producer etc and head of the French Academy in Rome, in stark contrast to his jailbird cousin Jean-Christophe Mitterrand.

Our French chums, always alert to nuance, will either be laughing themselves into convulsions or crying into their pastis.

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The Hansard Trawl, featuring newts and a contrived Shakespearian joke

Hain is back. Boo and indeed hiss:

Mr. Blunt: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how many breaches of information security there have been in his Department in the last five years. [281095]

Mr. Hain: There have been no breaches of information security in the Wales Office in the last five years.

Shouldn't that be 'as far as we know'?

The cost of running the CAP:

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the cost to the public purse of the Common Agricultural Policy integrated administration and control system was in each of the last five years.

Jim Fitzpatrick:...It is not possible to provide the specific costs to these bodies of administering IACS-only schemes in the time available without incurring disproportionate costs, as they do not separately collect such figures.

However, it was the merest bagatelle of £292m in 2007-08. Doubtless a bargain at 15 times the price.

Our old friend (so to speak) Jane Kennedy deserves credit for her choice of reading matter while at DEFRA - Farmers Weekly, Farmers Guardian, Fishing News. Wonder if she has taken a personal subscription to those titles now... Lord Hunt opts for the farming mags, but skips the fishing title.

Something to gladden the hearts of both a former Mayor of London and Gussie Fink-Nottles everywhere:

Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate he has made of the number of people qualified to survey land in England for signs of great crested newt activity.

Huw Irranca-Davies: People with suitable experience and skills can apply to Natural England for a licence to handle/disturb great crested newts. For the year April 2007 to March 2008, Natural England issued 1,074 great crested newt licences, permitting activities for the purpose of science and conservation. Figures cannot be broken down further to indicate how many of these licence holders were engaged in surveying land for signs of great crested newt activity

Must make the licence holders a wow at dinner parties. Newt disturbing sounds almost as alarming as sheep worrying. How does one disturb a great crested newt? Suggest that its titular distinction is not all that, frankly?

Mr. Salmond: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when he plans to reply to the letter of 31 March 2009 from the right hon. Member for Banff and Buchan on his constituents in Macduff.

Ruddock's answer, alas, was not that doubtless blameless burghers of Macduff should lock up their families to keep them safe from the wicked burghers of Macbeth.

Moving south:

Mr. Graham Stuart: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the eutrophication status of the Humber estuary is; and if he will make a statement. [280778]

Huw Irranca-Davies: The Environment Agency, which surveys waters in England for their eutrophic status, does not consider the Humber to be eutrophic or likely to become eutrophic in the near future.

Thanks for clearing that up HI-D. Feel free to look it up, I had to.

Dominic Grieve has a lengthy question about re-offending rates among of those convicted of sundry crimes against the person or property, and theieves and burglars are the most given to recidivism. Note, however, that those with custodial sentences were more likely to re-offend than those subject to court orders - imprisoned thieves re-offended at a rate of 75.6 and court ordered thieves at a rate of 59.1. Interesting, no? Doubtless those imprisoned had committed graver offences, but even so.

Better late than never:

Greg Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change if he will take steps to support Earth Hour on 28 March 2009; and if he will make a statement.

Joan Ruddock [holding answer 26 March 2009]: I apologise for the delay in this response (blah)


The Foreign Office's ministers manage one foreign language title between them: Le Monde, which Miliband reads, apparently. Private Eye is considerably more popular, with Miliband Major, Malloch-Brown and Lord Davies all poring over HP Sauce and the Broonites once a fortnight.

And yet more newtery:

Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what estimate he has made of the cost to the construction industry of compliance with conditions attached to planning permissions in respect of (a) great crested newts and (b) bats in each of the last five years. [280860]

Mr. Ian Austin: No estimate has been made of the cost to the construction industry of compliance with conditions attached to planning permissions in respect of great crested newts or bats.

O'B is clearly the primo caudataphile (or might he be a - gasp - caudataphobe?) in Parliament.

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Yet another reason to do away with the banjo

Monday, June 22, 2009
From the NZ Herald:

"A tourist who bashed a 69 year-old gay man with a banjo then repeatedly rammed it down his throat has gone on trial for murder at the High Court at Auckland".

Just for the record, a quick banjo joke: What's the best thing you can play on a banjo? A flamethrower.

All facetiousness aside, I highly recommend 'Recapturing the Banjo', a splendid CD by Otis Taylor et al.

Video extract here:

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DPRK-isms o' the day, or if at first you don't succeed....

From the usual place.

Firstly, all credit to the KCNA's subs for this corker of a headline:

Traitor Lee Myung Bak's Servile Tour of U.S. Blasted

Looking promising, isn't it? And there's more:

"The south Korean Solidarity for Implementing the South-North Joint Declaration on June 17 issued a statement to condemn traitor Lee Myung Bak for his servile tour of the U.S...The statement termed his tour sycophantic diplomacy for offering the sovereignty of south Korea to the U.S. as a whole, traitorous diplomacy for begging foreign force to stifle his fellow countrymen and war diplomacy of disturbing peace and aggravating tension on the Korean Peninsula. Lee Myung Bak will certainly be made to pay a dear price for selling off his nation and harassing peace, the statement warned....Civic and public organizations including the People for Achieving Peace and Reunification, the Confederation of Trade Unions and the National Catholic Alliance for Justice of south Korea held the 117th anti-U.S. solidarity rally in Seoul on June 16".

Do you suppose that while chewing over the results of the 116th anti-U.S. solidarity rally, this group of useful idiots decided that all they needed was one more push?


Big news from Turkey

From Hurriyet:

"The southeastern Anatolian city of Gaziantep has become the first in the country to have a public toilet that meets European Union standards. The toilet facility was built in the city’s Türktepe neighborhood, along Culture Road, and cost 80,000 euros. It is reportedly very comfortable".

I particularly like the address.


A very brief observation on Neda

She being the Iranian woman gunned down by the Iranian authorities the other day.

A day or so back I was wondering whether the Iranian events would furnish the world with a Tianamen Square 'tank man' or a Jan Palach (qv), and sadly for her family and friends it is her.

It is a grim way to achieve immortality, and it is perhaps just as well that is so hard to think of many more individuals who in their sacrifice symbolise an event.

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Friday in Parliament - featuring dead badgers, traumatised children and more.

From Hansard I discover what Ed Balls does during the working day:

"Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families how many schools he visited on official business in the last 12 months.

Ms Diana R. Johnson: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families visited approximately 92 schools over the period since May 2008 on official business".

Even if he only inflicts himself onone class per visit, that must some 2300 children traumatised in a year. Not to mention the teachers who will have been seeking refuge in gin, chardonay or whatever later in the day. Good news for the nation's psychotherapists at least.

And a contender for weirdest question of the year:

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will make it his policy to provide a service for the collection and disposal of badger carcases found (a) on land adjacent to individual households and (b) in water courses
I am not making this up, and the response to Drew was not 'are you on crack, matey?'.

"Jim Fitzpatrick: DEFRA has no plans to provide a service of this nature". Blah etc
Unfortunate perhaps, as we are thus spared dead badger collection boxes to go along with the orange bags, green recycling boxes etc. Perhaps they should have black and white stripes, thus giving the various municipal bin stasis the opportunity to levy ferocious fines for putting dead zebras, skunks etc in the boxes.

Bees are back on the parliamentary menu in a big way (see passim), and I am indebted to Simon Burns for this:

Mr. Burns: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs which (a) organisations and (b) individuals were consulted during the development of his Department's bee health research Rationale, Objectives, Appraisal, Monitoring and Evaluation statement.

Jim Fitzpatrick [holding answer 18 June 2009]: DEFRA’s bee health research Rationale, Objectives, Appraisal, Monitoring and Evaluation statement (ROAME) was included as part of the public consultation on the Healthy Bees plan which commenced on 8 April 2008 and closed on 29 August 2008. The consultation documents were published on the DEFRA website and were sent to the following organisations.

Among the organisations quizzed were:

Bee Diseases Insurance Ltd.

Commercial Queen Rearers’ Association Of The UK (My favourite, that. Make up your own off colour joke)

Women’s Food and Farming Union - What is women's food anyway? Probably not pork scratchings.

BASF. If memory serves, the Tommies of WW1 fought in unforms dyed by BASF

A quick one on Gib:

"Adam Price: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what his policy is on the inclusion of Gibraltar on the UN’s list of territories in the process of decolonisation. [280231]

Chris Bryant: The Government believe Gibraltar should not be included on the UN list of non self-governing territories. The 2006 Gibraltar Constitution provides for a modern and mature relationship between Gibraltar and the UK, and Her Majesty’s Government regrets that the UN Committee of 24’s outdated criteria fail to take this into account. The Government do not consider that any of their Overseas Territories should remain on the UN list.

Chris Bryant saying something sensible. Miracles will never cease.

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many children were admitted to hospital as a result of an accident in school in each month of the last five years; and if he will make a statement.

The table shows that under 18s are most likely to get hospitalised in late autumn and winter. Given that the peak figure was 27 in March 2005-6, I take the figures cum grano salis, as I was responsible for at least two school-related hospital admissions - I was a little accident prone as a small person

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Bizarre survey o' the day

Friday, June 19, 2009
Yes, it's from France:

"If you had a son who wanted to be a priest, would you be happy or unhappy?"

Only 50% of practicing Catholics would be happy, 15% unhappy, 28% indifferent and a mouth-breathing 7% could not muster an opinion. For the overall population, the figures break 24/36/32/8

Asked what are the most important things a priest does, serving a parish followed by teaching the faith leads for practicing Catholics, then spreading the gospel, comforting the bereaved and only then giving the sacraments. Some pretty wonky theology at work there, I think. For the overall population it is comforting the bereaved followed by serving the parish.

Elsewhere, regular mass goers are les in favour of married men taking holy orders than are the backsliders - 74% /85%, likewise priests marrying (1) - 73% / 87%. As to female priests, or as they used to be known, priestesses, a majority is in favour among both the devout and the non-devout at 67% and 84%.

(1) It would be utterly remiss of me not to note that if only Father Frederick Hattersley had continued to cleave to the Mother Church we would have been spared Roy Hattersley. Ah well.

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The man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo - Monsieur Proust

If you have tears, prepare to shed them now - taking at Monaco's casinos have fallen off a cliff, dropping by 19% on the year.

And for why? Because the star of my title (no relation, AFAIK) in his role as 'PM' of Monaco decided that it would be a really good move to ban indoor smoking in public spaces at a time of a dramatic economic downturn. One might note that casino takings had been rising sharply for the last three years.

Given that Monegasques are banned from playing the tables, with a bit more fancy footwork it would have been possible to arrange for staff in the smoking areas to be non-nationals too. Public health issues resolved, end of problem....


Three cheers for our friends in Sierra Leone

It is time for the annual UN gabfest where the Argentinians moan about the Falklands, and the 'Special Committee on Decolonization recommended today that the General Assembly call for direct negotiations between Argentina and the United Kingdom over that Non-Self-Governing Territories'.

Prior to throwing in a few quotes, here are some of that committee's members: Cuba, Iran, China and Syria. All splendidly upstanding liberal democracies, I am sure we will all agree.

Firstly, Jorge Taiana, Argentina’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Worship has hauled out his usual warhorses (the whole discusssion varied little from that last year), including this 'shocker': "The United Kingdom alleged that it would only accept a resumption of negotiations should the inhabitants of the Islands so wish, thereby ignoring the will of United Nations Member States".

And the rebuttal: "Petitioner Richard Stevens, a Member of the Legislative Assembly of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), said in that regard that it would be unfair to apply sovereignty rights to the Falklands case alone. “Imagine every country complying with these demands with every international border reverting back to how it was in 1833. Would America for example, return part of California to Mexico, or Russia demand Alaska?” That view of territorial integrity would also lead to unbelievable global chaos".

Without spending too long mulling on this one, and pausing only for a quick peer at the 1836 SDUK map of Europe (every home should have one) on the wall next to my desk, only four substantial European counties would find their 2009 borders unchanged in the last 179 years - Portugal, Spain, Switzerland and the Netherlands. Although the latter is arguable, what with land reclaimation and so on.

Another Falklander gave Argentina both barrels: Another Member of the Legislative Council, Janet Robertson, said there were fundamental reasons why there was “no foreseeable prospect” that the United Kingdom would agree to negotiate. Argentina asserted that the principle of self-determination was not applicable due to the pre-existing sovereignty dispute, and that the principle of territorial integrity was of superior validity to that of self-determination. Annexation by the Argentine State was, therefore, the only acceptable solution to the Government of Argentina, a goal enshrined in its Constitution, she said. That pre-determined outcome was wholly contrary to the wishes and interests of the islanders and, consequently, unacceptable to the United Kingdom. A resumption of negotiations between Argentina and the United Kingdom, without the participation and agreement of the islanders, could not, by definition, lead to a peaceful solution".

Anyway, the LatAm countries lined up with Argentina, as per usual, and do not really merit quoting, so on to our friends from Freetown:

"Victoria Sulimani (Sierra Leone) reaffirmed her delegation’s commitment to the principle of self-determination of all peoples, noting that colonialism in all its forms and manifestations was incompatible with the principles of the Charter, Chapter 11 of which ensured the responsibility of administrating Powers to promote the well-being of the peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories. It was in that spirit that Sierra Leone supported the position that the population of the Falkland Islands should be allowed to exercise their right to self-determination.

Not quite as good as this one from SL in last year's debate:

is delegation had repeatedly maintained that the rights of the islanders who had lived on the Territory for 175 years should be paramount in any negotiated settlement. Subjecting people to alien domination constituted a violation of their right to freely determine their political status and pursue development. There was no dispute that the people were the holders of the right to self-determination".

Now if only the Falklands, Gib, Ascension, Pitcairn etc had an MP in Westminster we could make the UN shove it.

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Looking for diamonds in the Hansard mine

Pretty thin pickings to today.

However, here's an MP working hard for his constituents:

Mr. Steen: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions for what reasons Mr. John Coombe of Brixham did not receive a £10 Christmas bonus payment and subsequent additional £60 bonus payment under the Real Help for Pensioners Christmas bonus payment scheme; and if she will make a statement.

Angela Eagle [holding answer 8 June 2009]: The acting chief executive of the Pensions, Disability and Carers Service has responded to the hon. Member separately on 3 June 2009 with the information requested relating to his constituent Mr. John Coombe of Brixham.

Shame Steen won't be able to to roll up to the door of John Coombe of Brixton and say 'Look what I've done, do the decent thing and vote for me'. Because he's standing down...

Today's collapsing stout party, so to speak, is Greg Hands:

Mr. Hands: To ask the Prime Minister whether he plans to reply to the e-petition which closed on 9 April 2009, relating to the BBC World Service, on the Downing Street website.

The Prime Minister: I refer the hon. Member to the reply issued on the No. 10 website: http://www.number10.gov.uk/Page19451 A copy of this webpage has been placed in the Library of the House.

Brown's odd use of language:

Mr. Dai Davies: To ask the Prime Minister whom he consulted on his proposals for constitutional reform announced on 10 June 2009; what public consultation he plans to hold on the proposals; and if he will make a statement.

The Prime Minister: Public consultation will be a key part of the proposals for constitutional reform, and the Government will set out their plans for taking this forward shortly.

Not 'its'? Perchance he thinks he will not be there when it happens.

Aviation related factlet o' the day:

Mr. Gerald Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the hourly cost of air-to-air refuelling of an RAF VC10 is.

Mr. Quentin Davies: The full-cost hourly rate of operating a VC10 tanker in the air for financial year 2009-10 is calculated to be £29,235. This figure incorporates a variety of costs to enable an aircraft to operate such as personnel costs, servicing of the aircraft and fuelling of the aircraft. It does not include the costs of the fuel payload VC10's carry to refuel other aircraft.

Odious though the turncoat Davies is, he missed the opportunity to say to Howarth - who cares how much it costs, mid-air refuelling is just awesomely cool.

Sticking with VC10, say hello to this week's most contrived acronym: "Maintenance of the RAF VC10 fleet is provided by BAE Systems under a partnering agreement called JAVELIN (joint approach to VC10 engineering and logistics integration)"

Guess who does not represent a naval constituency:

Mr. Ellwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the merits of transferring control of the Fleet Air Arm to the Royal Air Force.

Bill Rammell [holding answer 16 June 2009]: No such assessment has been made.

Ellwood represents Bournemouth East, and may well have set himself up for a lifetime of letters from Disgusted of Portsmouth, Disgruntled of Plymouth etc etc. Given that the FFA is only five years off getting its hands on some really hot planes for the first time in decades, Ellwood is being really mean.

Guess how many lags per screw there are in the nation's category C prisons, which hold 'those who cannot be trusted in open conditions but who are unlikely to try to escape'?

Dizzy just volunteered 500, my guess would have been maybe 20. In fact it varies from 2.3 to 5.1 per prison. A far cry from 'Porridge'. Meanwhile, I also discover that there are some 525 septuagenarians (or older) doing time.

We, the Great British Public, are somewhat unimpressed by the criminal justice system:

Mr. Grieve: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what assessment he made of the level of public confidence in the criminal justice system in 2008.

Mr. Straw: Public confidence in the criminal justice system (CJS) is measured using the British crime survey (BCS). In the year to March 2008 44 per cent. of people were confident that the CJS is effective in bringing people who commit crimes to justice. This rose from 39 per cent. in 2003, and met the Government’s target for the period 2003—2008.

That's pretty dire.

Andrew Robathan is a chiropteraphile. That's a bat lover.

"I like bats, I love seeing bats flying and I want bat populations to flourish"

Which is nice. Doubtless bats feel the same way about the family Robathan, although probably not the flying bit. Way back lost in the mists of time, the one time family home of Ma and Pa Croydonian had yearly visitors in the form of Leisler's bat, a comparative rarity in England. Chiropteraphiles would descend on Croydonian Towers to capture, tag and gaze in awe at said bats. There was also the fun of a Christmas card addressed to the family 'and your bats'.

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