Category Archives: United Kingdom

Point made

So an Australian protester JUMPS INTO THE THAMES, delaying a BOAT RACE, in order to protest inequality and elitism in the UK…

…and they jail him for six months. Jail. The most serious punishment in their system (and ours). What we do to murderers and those committing violent assaults and people for whom other options have been shown not to work. And not just a short sharp sentence to make the point. Six months. Shove a political protester in with violent criminals. Why consider other sentencing options like community work or fines? When you can just rocket up the sentencing scale and do what you can to brutalise the bloke for, remember, jumping in the Thames and slightly delaying a boat race.

Why would the community want the guy’s sentence to be something that puts back to the community, like community work, when instead taxpayers can pay the huge amount of money it costs to jail a person for six months?

By the way, if you were looking to make the guy’s point that the British system is massively skewed in favour of the interests of the rich and against ordinary people – you probably couldn’t have made it more clearly. Congratulations.

PS If he has a history and they’ve tried other options before, then that should have been in the bloody report. From the barrister’s remarks quoted in the Independent article, it sounds like he had no priors.

Indefinite detention without charge equals a country that does not deserve to have prisoners extradited to it

Yesterday’s Crikey, on Julian Assange’s recent move:

To seek asylum, rather than to seek to address the allegations against him in Sweden (although Assange has repeatedly offered to be interviewed by Swedish authorities in the UK over the past 18 months), will undoubtedly further damage Assange’s reputation. The stain of “alleged r-pist” will always follow him, until the claims are resolved.

But Assange knows that the Vice-President of the United States has called him a terrorist. He knows that the Obama administration readily kills those it labels terrorists, even if they are US citizens, and even if they aren’t terrorists, without due process. He knows that a grand jury has been empanelled and has, according to those with connections inside the US security establishment, produced a sealed indictment against him. Being extradited to Sweden increases the risk that he will be surrendered to the United States where an uncertain fate awaits.

And Guy Rundle points out two critical points about Assange going to Sweden:

  • There is no such thing as bail; you’re either accused of a non-coercive crime and let out on licence, or you’re on remand until trial.
  • Sweden has a distinctive system of extradition — especially to the US — in which someone accused of a crime in Sweden (and hence on remand) can be “loaned” to the US for prosecution there. This process does not exist in many other countries.

And while the US is a country that will imprison people indefinitely without charge, and murder Afghans with drones simply for being in their own country, and will execute people even when there’s very strong evidence they’re innocent – nobody should be forcibly sent there to face that kind of prosecution. And while Sweden will hand people over to such a country, it should be treated as being part of the same profoundly flawed system.

If it were your life on the line, I suspect you would do something very similar to what Assange has done.

London Riots caused by people doing that thing I don’t like

We’ve discussed that thing I don’t like many times here, and had some fairly vigorous debates about it.

But the riots in London over the past week prove that I was right.


This is what happens when a country accepts that thing I don’t like.

It was impossible to watch the outbreak of lawlessness, of both the poor and middle class looting shops, and not think how it could all have been avoided if people had listened to me and stopped doing that thing I don’t like.

It’s just common sense. I’ve raised my children knowing right from wrong, and they have never done that thing I don’t like. And they are now some of the most well-adjusted, decent young adults you can ever hope to meet. They would never rob an injured person or smash a shop window. Because in our family, there was none of that thing I don’t like.

You can’t have failed to notice how that thing I don’t like was getting more prevalent in the years leading up to the riots. More and more of the people from the social groups connected with the violence were brought up in an environment where the importance of doing what I insisted was necessary was no longer emphasised. Where were these young people to learn the importance of society, of community, of respect for their fellow citizens, if this behaviour was accepted? Not just accepted, but encouraged.

And we know by whom. Encouraged by the very people who disagree with me.

Well, they should be hanging their heads in shame, now. It is obvious that their prescription for the UK, which the country has been slavishly following against my advice, is responsible for the predicament in which the English now find themselves.

Look at the result. Buildings set on fire. Property stolen. Lives ruined.

And it all could have been avoided if they’d listened to me. If they’d stopped doing that thing I don’t like.

Well, we here in Australia have a chance to avoid going down the English path. Our country has not yet sunk so low that we’ve had riots here.

But if we don’t heed the warnings, if we don’t learn from the mistakes of our cousins in the UK, then it is inevitable.

Please, I beg of you. Save our country by doing the things I have long argued we should do and banning the thing I don’t like that has clearly caused all this destruction.

Let’s make sure this never happens again.

The UK Government’s Marie Antoinette moment

Says the ironically-named UK “Community” Services Minister, asked about his government’s monstrously unjust and unbelievably stupid plan to impose extra punishment on the poorest rioters and looters by kicking them (and their parents) out of their homes, and cut them off any welfare:

Asked how those penalised would live, Mr Pickles responded: ”They could get a job.”

LET THEM EAT CAKE.

Seriously, how out of touch are these muppets?

Stay strong, UK Magistrates – your job is to uphold actual justice, not mob “justice”

There’s apparently a great deal of pressure being applied to Magistrates and Judges in the UK to throw aside years of legal precedent and understanding and, if the person in front of them has committed a crime during the time of the riots, LOCK THEM ALL UP REGARDLESS OF ANYTHING ELSE SHUT UP I DON’T CARE ABOUT CIRCUMSTANCES LOCK THEM ALL UP:

…it is clear magistrates and judges are under intense pressure to come down harshly on anyone convicted over the riots.

“It’s fairly obvious that David Cameron saying what he said about the way in which these people would be come down upon, senior police officers: we will find you, we will track you and you will be convicted etc,” he said. “This big rhetoric was designed to put pressure on the judges to make sure that they act within their discretion, as forcefully as they can and with as little leniency. The extent to which that will work is debatable but when we are seeing these sentences which I say must be unrepresentative, this is not what’s happening in most courts.

“But the fact that we are seeing it at all when press agents are in public galleries, in courts, all waiting to see what happens and judges know that their names will be published; they will be named and shamed as being too lenient if they don’t show a disproportionately harsh response.”

Screw the independence of the judiciary! We don’t know or care why that’s important! We demand the right to rack up huge bills for prisons that will require tax increases or futher service cuts! We demand that minor offenders who could be rehabilitated be turned into lifelong criminals! We demand that the offenders who are poor be turned into an army of homeless people with no chance of a job and no lawful means of obtaining money to live! We demand that you make us feel avenged by taking this situation and making matters worse!

Unfortunately, the idiots and shysters demanding destructive revenge aren’t just damaging their own country – they’re wrecking the country for everyone. Worse, and with more long-term damage, than the rioters.

Here’s hoping the independent judiciary, which is independent precisely for times like this, when the mob is lashing out in anger and demanding “action” which it hasn’t thought through, withstands the pressure and upholds actual justice. It’s going to be difficult for these Magistrates and Judges, being smeared by the disingenuous and the stupid and the spiteful, and not being permitted to respond – but that’s their job. It’s a tough job, but an honourable one.

And much depends on their holding fast.

The UK conservatives’ response to the riots: Let’s make matters worse!

What kind of dribbling moron could seriously think this insanity from the British PM a good idea?

Mr Cameron backs plans to ensure council tenants found guilty of taking part in the mayhem will be evicted. Some councils, including Greenwich and Hammersmith and Fulham in London and Salford in Greater Manchester, announced that they were already pushing ahead with the measure.

Housing Minister Grant Shapps was tightening the law to make sure that even if a rioter was convicted of a crime outside their borough they could lose their council home – something that is not possible at the moment…

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith is considering amending a Welfare Reform Bill going through Parliament to ensure that rioters have their benefits cut.

So – these disaffected, angry young people: we’ll throw them out onto the street with no money. That can’t possibly lead to more crime! And we’ll make sure that when we punish these opportunistic looters – from all strata of English society – that we punish the poorest hardest. The kids of the rich? They won’t lose their homes or their ability to eat. But the kids of the poor? LET ‘EM STARVE. IN THE GUTTERS.

And this army of homeless starving people they’re planning to create? Yeah, I’m sure they’ll settle down and get a job that won’t be offered to them because of their criminal record and they won’t ever bother anyone again.

Brilliant.

Hope UK taxpayers are looking forward to paying vastly more for the thousands of new prison places they’re going to have to provide, and to the streets becoming more and more dangerous.

ELSEWHERE: Some sense on the English Riots from Penny Red.

Another reason to be thankful they’re still our royals, too

A silly royal story in The Age with a startling revelation:

Prince [Charles] and his wife, Camilla, routinely take 14 aides on foreign tours, including valets, a doctor, an equerry and an artist who paints pictures of the highlights of the trips.

An artist who paints pictures of the highlights of the trips?

Man, the recession’s really hit them hard, if they have to leave the sculptor at home.

Ostentatious expenditure WIN.

Lib Dem pact with the devil backfires

So, it looks like not only did the UK Liberal Democrats not get the electoral reform for which they traded their votes to the Tories – or even the half-arsed inadequate AV compromise proposal: seriously, pissweak negotiation skills, Mr Clegg – but they’ve been given a right-royal bollocking for all the excesses of those Tories since the last election.

And why?

Because they bought the stupid lie that MPs have to form a majority government. That someone has to be “Prime Minister”, the Leader Of The Government (the “government” being distinct from the Parliament), and that there has to be some combination of MPs who agree to vote together on everything.

Which is rubbish. Voters (the tiny proportion of them who turn out in the UK) vote (sort of, since the first past the post system enables candidates to win even if a majority of their electorate can’t stand them) for a parliament, not a leader. A group of people, to represent the country, not a hierarchy of rulers. So why is the first act of each such Parliament to abrogate its powers to some “Prime Minister” and his party? Even when his party doesn’t have majority support (which, in reality, none of them do, even if they have a majority of seats, such is their ridiculous electoral system, but that’s a post for another day – and, ultimately, another century, since it looks like this generation of Britons is stuck in the 19th).

Why couldn’t the Lib Dems have simply said – nup. We’re not going to form a coalition with either Labour or the Tories. We’re a different party, and we believe in different things, and sometimes we agree with Labour, and sometimes we agree with the Tories, and this is what we’re going to do in Parliament: support legislation that moves us closer to what we promised our voters we believed, and oppose legislation that moves us further from it. We don’t care who calls him or herself “Prime Minister”, because without the ability to pass legislation the post is ultimately meaningless. We’ll vote on candidates for various Ministries, and we’ll vote on someone to sit in Downing St and take command if we’re at war, subject to the review by parliament as soon as practicable, but otherwise – this is it. This is the parliament that represents (inasmuch as our pathetic electoral system allows it) the people of the UK. Let’s get some legislation out there and see where the votes fall.

Judge us on how we vote, people of the UK, not on this ultimately meaningless personality politics. There are plenty of issues that need to be decided. It’s time to get on with it.

Why couldn’t they have said (and done) that? I’d bet they’d be in a much stronger position today if they had.

No, you were not “elected”, Cameron – seven in nine eligible voters did not support you

Check out this garbage from the Tories, via William Hague:

“The choice before the Liberal Democrats … is whether to go in with the Labour Party in a government that would not be stable or secure, because it would rely on other minor parties for any parliamentary majority at all; that would have a second unelected prime minister in a row – something we believe would be unacceptable to the great majority of people in this country; – and which would impose voting reform without any consultation with the people of the country, something we believe to be profoundly undemocratic.

“Or they can choose to continue their talks with us, to make a coalition with the Conservative Party, which is on offer, in a government that would have a stable and secure parliamentary majority; a majority of 76 in the House of Commons, something highly desirable in our current economic situation; that would have an elected prime minister in David Cameron, the leader who obtained by far the most votes and seats in the General Election held last week; and which would say that any reform of our voting system must be subject to a referendum of the people of this country.”

How precisely was David Cameron “elected”? Yes, because the liberal vote was split between Labour and the Lib Dems he received more votes than each separately, but he received many many fewer than the two of them combined. His claim to having been “elected” is based on receiving fewer than half the seats, only a third of the vote, and – given that only two-thirds of Britons voted – the support of only two in nine eligible voters.

“Elected” indeed. I do not think that word means what you think it means, Bill.

As for “a referendum” on electoral reform, of course the Tories want that – they know they and their allies in the press could run a scare campaign about change that would have a good chance of defeating it. You probably could, in a situation where the majority of voters don’t really understand the difference between electoral systems and don’t have the time to sit down and think about it, convince them that it’s in their interests for the powerful incumbents to continue to dominate the country without its actual support. “If we have proportional representation our economy will collapse like Greece’s!” they’ll say, and have said, completely ignoring the dire state of the UK economy RIGHT NOW under the poor stewardship of the major parties. They might as well say “under proportional representation we’ll all be forced to speak Greek!” for all the sense of the line, but with the major tabloids screaming the idiocy so loudly that the voters presently disengaged precisely because they’ve given up on politics can’t think straight through all the noise, the lies and the smears and the half-truths and the outright misrepresentations – well, no wonder the Tories think they can get away with a “referendum”.

But this is the point: there’s nothing undemocratic about the government – and we’d be talking here about a majority of MPs very recently “elected” passing that measure in the national parliament – imposing a democratic system “without consultation” (without further consultation), provided that the results actually are democratic. Which, if they involved full proportional representation, multi-member electorates and preference voting, they would be. (They’d be even more democratic if they made voting compulsory, but maybe that’s one step too far for present Britain.) You can’t say that something’s “undemocratic” when the only change it would make is that voters would have an equal say in their government; that the parliament would clearly match what voters actually said when they cast their ballots.

The only way through this mess is for Nick Clegg to stay strong and resist the threats of the Powers That Be. His voters demanded one thing above all: real electoral reform. If he caves, then he’ll be no better than the old parties they trusted him to challenge.

UPDATE (14/5): Well, he did cave, and now the chances of real electoral reform look dim indeed. Consider – if the new Coalition is successful, then there goes the pressure for change. If it isn’t, then the line will be that coalitions cannot work and we must avoid proportional representation because it’ll make them more likely. Damned if it works, damned if it doesn’t.

Sorry, *how* many years between elections?

And while we’re on the subject, what the hell is with five year terms of office? Hereditary members of the upper house, voluntary voting, first past the post, single member electorates, massively biased press and five year terms (with the timing at the whim of the incumbent party) – could the UK be any less democratic and still call itself a “democracy” without being laughed at? Even more than it is at present?