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Archive for the ‘Europe’ Category

Tuesday
Feb 8,2011

It is the Second Day of the Report Stage of the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill.  Yesterday, in a very tight vote the Government was defeated by 219 votes to 218 on the issue of whether there should be a minimum turnout requirement before the referendum vote on the alternative vote would be binding.

There has just been another very close vote with an even higher turnout of members of the House of Lords.  This time the Government won by 266 votes to 262.  The issue was whether there should be local inquiries into the recommendation of the Boundary Commission on particular constituency boundaries.  In the Committee Stage the Government had promised that they would bring forward their own amendments to make this possible (this was the offer that helped bring the Committee Stage proceedings to a close after seventeen days of detailed consideration of the Bill).  In the event, the Government’s proposals were so weak and watery (it in practice only provides for the Boundary Commission to hold some public hearings) that there was a widespread feeling in the House that the Government had reneged on their promise – hence the amendment to strengthen the arrangements which was in the end narrowly defeated.

What is notable is the size of the vote: 528 members of the House voted (more than two-thirds of the House).  This is almost certainly the highest number of votes cast since most of  the hereditary peers lost their right to sit and vote in the House.  And it approaches the  record vote on the ratification of the Maastrict treaty, when a total of 621 Members voted in a division on the European Communities (Amendment) Bill on 14 July 1993 – and that was the largest recorded vote since 1831.

The figures, of course, reflect the wholesale creation of new members of the House of Lords since the Conservative Coalition was formed last May – 88 so far with more to come.

Saturday
Jan 29,2011

Conservatives don’t like Europe.  In fact, they don’t like abroad generally.  However, it is also clear that they don’t care about Britain’s place in the world.

Hence, the cuts in the BBC World Service.

Jeremy Paxman in today’s Guardian sums it up:

    “I don’t suppose there are many heroes who wear a cardigan and cords. But that’s how I imagine the BBC World Service, an ageing uncle who’s seen it all. It has a style that makes understatement seem like flamboyance.

    Yet I have never, ever, anywhere in the world, heard anyone say a bad word about the World Service. It is more trusted than its American equivalents, more lively than Deutsche Welle, more imitated (unsuccessfully) than any of them. It has a team of steady, dedicated and resourceful correspondents stationed around the world. Their probity is beyond doubt. Its television service puts its poverty on proud display every day.

    How many people will be going to the barricades to save the Macedonian or Albanian services and the others now to be cut? Not many – most of us have no idea what they’re saying. And as for the Caribbean, that’s presumably a decision to leave the former colonies to the mercy of the American networks.

    No journalistic service has a God-given right to exist for ever. But we are dealing here with something more. How many millions listen to the World Service in some form? A mere 241 million people, they say – the figures are so vast as not to mean very much. But it must be many more than will ever clap eyes on William Hague, listen to an ambassadorial speech or attend a Foreign Office leadership conference.

    The World Service’s misfortune was to be controlled by the Foreign Office. I can imagine the scene when the menacing note comes across from the Treasury. “Good Heavens!” says the Permanent Secretary, “they want us to save money. Anyone got any ideas?” No one suggests abandoning the pile on the Faubourg Saint-Honoré or recognising that perhaps the whole diplomatic service belongs to the days before email and the internet – the telephone even. Then a voice pipes up, “I know, why don’t we hand the BBC World Service over to the BBC and make it their problem?” “Excellent,” says the PS. “Shall we have a cup of tea?””

Friday
Oct 29,2010

Listening to all the hype today about David Cameron allegedly persuading other EU leaders to limit the EU budget, I immediately assumed that this was the old LibDem trick of declaring victory over something that was going to happen anyway, and that the Commission and the European Parliament had put forward an inflated budget bid, so that the European Council could cut it back to the increase they wanted in the first place.

So I was gratified to see my web-master, the excellent Jon Worth, who has forgotten more about the minutiae of EU politics than most of us ever knew, confirming my supposition.

So David Cameron HAS been taking lessons in tactics from his LibDem coalition partners.

The question is will the Euro-sceptic wing of his Party fall for it?

Tuesday
Sep 28,2010

As my previous post reported, there is jus a little uncertainty about what the detailed outcome will be of the Shadow Cabinet elections that are about to take place. However, I have spoken to a large number of delegates today about how they would like the top few jobs distributed.
There was unanimity that people want to see David Miliband remain in the Shadow Cabinet and after much discussion the following consensus emerged on the ideal line-up.
And here are the top four posts:
Shadow Foreign Secretary – David Miliband;
Shadow Chancellor – Yvette Cooper;
Shadow Home Secretary – Ed Balls;
Shadow Costitutional Affairs (opposite Nick Clegg) – Alan Johnson.

Friday
Sep 17,2010

As London locks down for the arrival of the Pope in Westminster, I have settled down with the perfect antidote:  “The Case of the Pope: Vatican Accountability for Human Rights Abuse” by Geoffrey Robertson QC.

Thursday
Sep 2,2010

If there were any reports in the UK media about a story reported in Der Spiegel last month about the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Turkish army against Kurdish rebels, I missed them.

The story states:

“German experts have confirmed the authenticity of photographs that purport to show PKK fighters killed by chemical weapons. The evidence puts increasing pressure on the Turkish government, which has long been suspected of using such weapons against Kurdish rebels. German politicians are demanding an investigation.

It would be difficult to exceed the horror shown in the photos, which feature burned, maimed and scorched body parts. The victims are scarcely even recognizable as human beings. Turkish-Kurdish human rights activists believe the people in the photos are eight members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) underground movement, who are thought to have been killed in September 2009.

In March, the activists gave the photos to a German human rights delegation comprised of Turkey experts, journalists and politicians from the far-left Left Party, as SPIEGEL reported at the end of July. Now Hans Baumann, a German expert on photo forgeries has confirmed the authenticity of the photos, and a forensics report released by the Hamburg University Hospital has backed the initial suspicion, saying that it is highly probable that the eight Kurds died “due to the use of chemical substances.”

Did the Turkish army in fact use chemical weapons and, by doing so, violate the Chemical Weapons Convention it had ratified?”

Had this authentication been available before David Cameron’s visit to Turkey, would he have been quite so positive about fast-tracking the negotiations around Turkey becoming a member of the European Union?

However, given that David Cameron had had a number of meetings with Chancellor Angela Merkel prior to his visit to Turkey and as a prominent member of her own Parliamentary Party, Ruprecht Polenz (the chairman of the Bundestag’s Foreign Relations Committee) has called for an international investigation into the issue, it is more than likely that he HAD been briefed on the matter.  In which case, the only conclusion that one can reach is that David Cameron IS prepared to condone the use of chemical weapons.  I wonder what Nick Clegg thinks.

Friday
Jul 30,2010

I have already explained that I really don’t mind.

However, just in case you really really want to cast your vote for this blog in the Total Politics annual beauty parade, this is what you have to do:

The rules are:
1. You must vote for your ten favourite blogs and rank them from 1 (your favourite) to 10 (your tenth favourite).
2. Your votes must be ranked from 1 to 10. Any votes which do not have rankings will not be counted.
3. You MUST include at least FIVE blogs in your list, but please list ten if you can. If you include fewer than five, your vote will not count.
4. Email your vote to toptenblogs@totalpolitics.com
5. Only vote once.
6. Only blogs based in the UK, run by UK residents or based on UK politics are eligible. No blog will be excluded from voting.
7. Anonymous votes left in the comments will not count. You must give a name.
8. All votes must be received by midnight on 31 July 2010. Any votes received after that date will not count.

So I’m not asking you to do it, but I really won’t mind if you do……

Saturday
Jul 24,2010

According to a German News Service, a man from the Rhineland has been arrested for spying on more than 150 girls in their bedrooms by hacking into their computers and using their webcams to watch them, provoking warnings that others will be doing the same thing.

Apparently, Thomas Floß from the association of data protection advisors, discovered the case. He often visits schools to talk with children about data protection and sensible behaviour on the internet and gives a presentation including a video showing how children can be spied on via their webcam.

“I want to show how dangerous webcams are,” he said. “I became suspicious when from February, increasing numbers of girls expressed the suspicion this was happening to them.”

According to the report:

“Two girls told him the little lights on their webcams were not going out when they had finished using them. On examining one of the computers Floß discovered a so-called Trojan computer program which was being used to control the equipment, and which had been spread via the chat service ICQ.

The hacker had allegedly broken into the chat service account of one schoolgirl, and used it to choose which others he wanted to spy upon, and send the Trojan to their computers.

He was traced to the Aachen region and arrested – when police officers arrived at his home they found several live feeds to bedroom cameras running on his computer.

Floß said he believed many more people were doing the same thing. “I have visited 50 to 60 schools, and every time at least one schoolgirl tells me they have such a problem [with webcams not switching off],” he said.”

Thursday
Jul 22,2010

I have already explained that I really don’t mind.

However, just in case you really really want to cast your vote for this blog in the Total Politics annual beauty parade, this is what you have to do:

The rules are:
1. You must vote for your ten favourite blogs and rank them from 1 (your favourite) to 10 (your tenth favourite).
2. Your votes must be ranked from 1 to 10. Any votes which do not have rankings will not be counted.
3. You MUST include at least FIVE blogs in your list, but please list ten if you can. If you include fewer than five, your vote will not count.
4. Email your vote to
toptenblogs@totalpolitics.com
5. Only vote once.
6. Only blogs based in the UK, run by UK residents or based on UK politics are eligible. No blog will be excluded from voting.
7. Anonymous votes left in the comments will not count. You must give a name.
8. All votes must be received by midnight on 31 July 2010. Any votes received after that date will not count.

So I’m not asking you to do it, but I really won’t mind if you do……

Tuesday
Jul 20,2010

Apparently, last weekend the Vatican was subjected to a cyber attack from an unknown source.  According to the Rome-based Zenit News Agency, the attack meant that anyone typing Vatican into Google was directed to the site “www.pedofilo.com” as the first suggestion, rather than the proper Vatican Web page.  According to the Agency:

“When this misdirection was discovered, Google was informed, said Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office.

The Internet organization immediately apologized and assured the Holy See that it would do what it could to resolve the problem as soon as possible.

On Sunday morning the problem seemed to be corrected, as users were once again directed to the proper Vatican Web page upon initiating a search for it.

Although the person who caused this problem has not been found, the indications suggested that the operation may have been carried out by someone who had significant knowledge of how Google functions.”

Heavens!  Is nothing sacred?