Categories
General Election 2010 Uncategorized

Why a Lab/Lib coalition might be better all round

25th May Blog Updated: to remove a description some thought unfair – and with benefit of hindsight it might have been

You know, I cannot help thinking the quicker Clegg gets into bed with Labour the better. He has been quite pious about doing what the people want, but negotiating in secret with one party whilst public discussing with the others is dishonourable, and inconsistent.


A Lab/Lib pact would be doomed as it will depend on even smaller minority parties to stay alive against a determined Conservative/DUP attack, and as such the English will pay to keep the Nationalists onside. (as John Reid has already stated)


In all the negotiations the LibDems seem to be far more fixated on sorting out electoral reform than sorting out the horrendous mess that is the current UK economy (another £10b down the drain yesterday to support the failing Euro).

At some time, the whole thing will fail (I’d say in the Autumn) – probably on some incredibly minor political point, and then the public will be able to express a view on the coalition of losers. Cameron will be able to present a “I told you so” view of
• political machinations unchanged from the last parliament with grubby behind closed doors dealing
• judging by the Venn diagram from the Telegraph here, a whole raft of policies that were voted for, but not enacted
• and undoubtedly either a raft of unpopular fiscal measures on which Cameron can say both a) I told you so, b) you did not explicitly vote for


Thank you and good morning!

Categories
General Election 2010 Human Rights Uncategorized

Broken Britain – the need for the return of trust

Whilst Broken Britain is a good shorthand I think there\’s a stronger thing there. Trust.

The world used to run on trust, you\’d leave doors unlocked, employ people on their word, make contracts by shaking hands, let children walk to school.

Now that trust has gone, government assumes we\’re guilty, traders assume we\’re cheating, we assume traders are ripping us off, all adults are a risk to children. None of these \”untrusting\” assumptions actually makes things any better.
A more complex regulatory regime is imposed, or people trust other people less and so we are able to enjoy our world less.

If the Conservatives win back power and set to work to mend Britain, then trust is the thing to promote. If society can earn back trust from itself then we\’d be a long way towards being unbroken. But by doing that we expose ourselves to the untrustworthy. They will have to be dealt with more severely; and effectively. They abuse trust, and that diminishes our world.

Categories
General Election 2010 Human Rights libelreform Simon Singh Uncategorized

From @SLSingh – why we need #libelreform, so sign up at www.libelreform.org

Message from Simon Singh: \”A big step for me, a small step for libel reform, and what you can do to help today.\”
Dear Friends
Sorry for the silence, but it has been a ridiculously hectic (and happy) time since last week\’s victory at the Court of Appeal. However, I urgently wanted to get in touch to update you on the status of my case, the latest news on libel reform and what you can do today to push libel reform up the political agenda.


BCA v Singh


April Fool\’s Day 2010 was a day to remember. The Court of Appeal gave a ruling in my libel case with the British Chiropractic Association. The ruling strongly backs my arguments and puts me in a much stronger position when my trial eventually takes place. At last, after two years of defending my article and my right to free speech, I seem to have the upper hand and can breathe a small sigh of relief.


Moreover, the judges made it clear that they did not want to see scientists and science journalists being hauled through the High Court. In particular, they endorsed the view that a so-called comment defence should be adequate for scientific and other articles on matters of public interest. As well as the legal technicalities, the three wise, charming and handsome judges quoted Milton on the persecution of Galileo and directed that the High Court should not become an \”Orwellian Ministry of Truth\”.


Libel Reform Campaign


This is a small step forward for libel reform, but there is still a huge battle to be fought over the issues of costs, libel tourism, public interest defence, balancing the burden of proof, restricting the ability of powerful corporations to bully individuals (e.g., bloggers, journalists, scientists) and so on.


The General Election was called yesterday and the manifestos will be published in the next week, so we need one last push to persuade the major parties to commit to libel reform. Although we have already achieved a huge amount (from editorials in all last week\’s broadsheets to the Commons Select Committee recommending libel reform), we must keep up the pressure!


Both the Labour and Conservative parties have made encouraging sounds about libel reform, but now is the time for them to make commitments in their manifestos.


What you can do today to pressure politicians


I have spent over a million minutes and £100,000 defending my article and my right to free speech, so I am asking you to spend just one minute and no money at all persuading others to sign the petition for libel reform at www.libelreform.org/sign;


The last time I made this request, we doubled the number of signatories from 17,000 to 35,000. Can we now double the number from almost 50,000 to 100,000?!


You could ask parents, siblings, colleagues or friends to sign up. You could email everyone in your address book. You could blog about it, mention it to your Facebook friends and twitter about it. In fact, I have pasted some possible tweets at the end of this email – it would be great if you could twitter one, some or all of them.


You could forward all or part of this email to people or just steer them to www.libelreform.org/sign . Or you could persuade people that English libel law needs radical reform by using some of the reasons listed at the end of this email.


Remember, we welcome signatories from around the world because English libel law has a damaging impact globally.


Please, please, please apply maximum pressure to the politicians by encouraging as many new signatories as possible. Please do not take my victory last week as a sign that the battle is over. My case is still ongoing and the campaign for libel reform is only just starting.


Thanks for all your support – it has been incredibly important for the campaign and a real morale booster personally over the last two years.


Simon Singh.

 PS. Please spread the word by sending out one, some or all of the following tweets

Pls RT English libel law silences debate, says UN Human Rights Committee. Sign up at www.libelreform.org & #libelreform


Pls RT English libel costs 140x more than Europe. We can\’t afford to defend our words. Sign up at www.libelreform.org & back #libelreform


Pls RT Two ongoing libel cases involving health. The law should not crush scientific debate. Sign up at www.libelreform.org & back #libelreform


Pls RT London is notorious for attracting libel tourists who come to UK to silence critics. Sign up at www.libelreform.org & back #libelreform


PPS. Reasons why we need radical libel reform:


(a) English libel laws have been condemned by the UN Human Rights Committee.


(b) These laws gag scientists, bloggers and journalists who want to discuss matters of genuine public interest (including public health!).


(c) Our laws give rise to libel tourism, whereby the rich and the powerful (Saudi billionaires, Russian oligarchs and overseas corporations) come to London to sue writers because English libel laws are so hostile to responsible journalism. (Again, it is exactly because English libel laws have this global impact that we welcome signatories to the petition from around the world.)


(d) Vested interests can use their resources to bully and intimidate those who seek to question them. The cost of a libel trial in England is 100 times more expensive than the European average and typically runs to over £1 million.


(e) Two separate ongoing libel cases involve myself and Peter Wilmshurst, and we are both raising concerns about medical treatments. We face losing £1 million each. In future, why would anyone else raise similar concerns when our libel laws are so brutal and expensive? Our libel laws mean that serious health matters are not necessarily reported, which means that the public is put at risk.


PPPS. I know that I will leave people out of this list, but I owe a huge thanks to:


1. The 10,000 people who joined the Facebook group \”For Simon Singh and Free Speech – Against the BCA Libel Claim\”, particularly those who joined when the rest of the world ignored the issue of libel.


2. The 300 people who packed Penderel\’s Oak in May 2009 and who helped launch the Keep Libel Out of Science campaign, particularly the speakers: Nick Cohen, Dave Gorman, Evan Harris MP, Professor Brian Cox, Chris French, Tracey Brown (Sense About Science), Robert Dougans (Bryan Cave) and David Allen Green.


3. The 20,000 people who then joined the Keep Libel Out of Science campaign.


4. Jack of Kent and every other blogger who ranted and raved about libel reform when the mainstream media was turning a blind eye.


5. Everyone in the mainstream media who is now covering the various libel cases and the issue of libel reform.


6. Sense About Science, Index on Censorship and English PEN, who formed the Coalition for Libel Reform. And thanks to everyone who has contributed pro bono to the campaign in terms of design, technical support, chivvying support for the EDM and more.


7. The 46,000 people (i.e. you) who have signed the petition for libel reform, particularly those who have cajoled others to sign up at www.libelreform.org/sign

8. All the big names who have spoken out in favour of libel reform, from Professor Richard Dawkins to Derren Brown, from the Astronomer Royal to the Poet Laureate, from the Amazing Randi to Ricky Gervais. Particular thanks go to Dara O Briain, Stephen Fry, Tim Minchin and Robin Ince, who have gone out of their way to step up to the plate when the campaign has needed them. Immense thanks also to the 100+ big names who were the first to sign the petition to keep libel out of science and highlighted the need for libel reform.


9. Everyone who has emailed and twittered and told me in person that I am not going crazy, and who reassured me that I am doing the right thing by defending my article.


10. Thanks to Nick Clegg, leader of the Lib Dems, for promising to put libel reform in his manifesto. And thanks in advance to Jack Straw (Justice Secretary) and Dominic Grieve (Shadow Justice Secretary), because I know that the Labour and Conservative parties are going to commit to libel law reform. I cannot believe that they will allow more scientists, serious journalists, bloggers, biographers, human rights activists and others to go through the same hell that I have had to endure for last two years.

Categories
General Election 2010 Uncategorized

Back to the garage then

Well, it looked like an election start, it was in an educational establishment (again). It has a slogan. I think it\’s a duck, but as @dhmorton said:
\”I took a \”second look\” at New Labour: It confirmed they\’re the same corrupt, authoritarian, neoliberal war criminals I saw on my first look.\”

Categories
General Election 2010 Uncategorized

Politicians, start your engines?

Reading the runes it seems GB might have decided that the recent polls that closed the gap to single figures might be enough to justify a General Election now. Frankly I don't think he can pick a date that will improve his chances beyond 0% but I guess the calculations might be:
* Keep the Tories on their toes
* Stop the Tories spending loads more on posters and other General Election type behaviour, that whilst regularly vilified, get them more publicity than the initial cost might have expected. Once the campaign begins, my understanding is that all spending will come in the £18m limit count. The Tories seem to have more than that to spend.
* A budget cannot be anything other than bad news given the dire economic straits in which the UK finds itself
* The increasingly likely double dip recession will not yet have happened (won't it need 2 quarters of negative growth again?)
* More cynically, whilst it won't be a khaki election, he might perceive a benefit if Operation Moshtarak achieves some or all of its goals in the short term – certainly whilst in progress it will limit opposition opportunity to criticise Afghanistan policy
* He might yet get out of the Chilcott enquiry investigation if a General Election is under way
* Avoid the possibility of local election campaigning, due later on this year, impacting and affecting the General Election campaign.
* There's loads of interesting political issues coming in the next few months that he might like to avoid rather than have further problems in the rundown to an election
* He'll avoid any other bad news he knows is going to come his way – I cannot imagine he can expect much in the way of good news.

But maybe more than anything, he might want to believe he has some control still to exert on the body politic instead of being boxed into the last possible date

Or am I just being cynical?