Is big change coming to the EU?

Is big change coming to the EU?

I have been following the EU’s Conference on the Future of Europe, particularly its democracy chapter which has helped shape some thoughts. I was interested to note that the US’ route to a federal republic seemed to be a harbinger for the EU’s journey. I wrote, Subsidiarity, representation and human rights, which frankly got blown of course and became a review of Prof. Mark Stoler’s lecture on the US constitution. I had drawn inspiration from the original US restriction on direct taxation and the 10th amendment which defines the powers of the federal government and those of the States, although the 10th amendment also purports to constrain the States power by defining a right of subsidiarity to the people.

This article looks at the flawed route taken by the US Constitution and forsees with hope the EU’s -and the UK’s] adoption of new rules and rights.

When I say it was blown of course, it was hoped to be a polemic for ensuring that the principle of subsidiarity ensured that the EU’s member states implemented a democracy where decisions were taken as close to the citizen and their communities as feasibly possible. The EU Treaties only promise subsidiarity between the Union and the member states, a bit like the 10th amendment and in contradiction to Article VI of the US Constitution, also known as the Federal Supremacy clause.

The EU has its democratic problems, and one of them is that theories of good political governance are dominated, at the least in the Anglosphere, by the US Constitution, even with its obvious flaws, it original racism, and its failure to consider economic justice as a constitutial right. These problems are still extant in both the US, most countries that have adopted similar constitutions but also in Europe.

I was taught and came to believe that the US separation of powers between the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary was an important means of constraining power in government. This insight has recently been reinforced by observing the behaviour of the Johnson government in the UK, where the legislature would not exercise its control, and the executive sought to undermine the judiciary. But is the value of the separation of powers true?

The US Constitution is not neutral and those that seek inspiration from it need to be careful.

Recently, the Jacobin magazine published an article, called, The Constitution Is a Plutocratic Document, in which its author Robert Ovetz, argues that the taxation and public debt management functions of the proposed federal government were designed to transfer private & State debt to the Federal Govt, who then issued bonds. The private debts had often been factored and the attempts to obtain payment had caused riots, and it was becoming difficult to collect both interest and the principal. State debts had often been defaulted. The new Federal Government replaced these private debts with treasury bonds and the repayment and interest was underwritten by the tax payments of all citizens, or at least all tax payers. At this time direct taxation was prohibited to the Federal Govt.

Stohler in his lecture mentions the need to reform debt laws, Ovetz puts this into a class perspective arguing that the new federal public funding/bond issuing programme transferred the risk of private debt default to the federal state.

These measures were in addition to the constitution’s author’s fear of democracy and thus the withholding of power from the people, with indirect election to the senate and the presidency, the racist and property based qualification to vote, the gridlocked legislative process, and the complex super majority required to change the constitution. Ovetz also argues that Article VI, the federal powers article, also known as the federal supremacy clause, was designed to ensure a brake on regional radicalism. This is reinforced by the Senate where each state has two votes irrespective of its population, together with the ubiquitous use of first past the post elections, which allows minorities to win power. Furthermore, with large electorates the electoral system jeopardise the ability to win a loser’s consent. The legislative gridlock inherent in the US Constitution also makes progressive reform hard. Ovetz’s penultimate statement in the article is,

The Constitution was designed with all these pitfalls and roadblocks that make it very difficult to get the changes we need unless we give the economic elites what they want so they no longer block it. This is how the economic minority is empowered by the Constitution to impede political democracy and prevent economic democracy.

When checking the Jacobin for this piece, I also found, “Toward a Marxist Interpretation of the US Constitution” by Bertell Ollman, also in the Jacobin. This is shorter and less detailed, but makes the point that the limited view of rights, and the ideology of the wisdom of the “founding fathers” makes the constitution a brake on progressive reform.

… an important part of the Constitution’s work is ideological. As ideology, the Constitution provides us with a kind of bourgeois fairy tale in which claims to equal rights and responsibilities are substituted for the harsh realities of class domination. Through the Constitution, the struggle over the legitimacy of any social act or relationship is removed from the plane of morality to that of law. Justice is no longer what is fair but what is legal, and politics itself is transformed into the technical wrangling of lawyers and judges.

This last line, reminds me of the theories of Dr Fritz Scharpf, the abstract to his paper says,

Judge-made law has played a crucial role in the process of European integration. In the vertical dimension, it has greatly reduced the range of autonomous policy choices in the member states, and it has helped to expand the reach of European competences. At the same time, however, ‘integration through law’ does have a liberalizing and deregulatory impact on the socio-economic regimes of European Union member states. This effect is generally compatible with the status quo in liberal market economies, but it tends to undermine the institutions and policy legacies of Continental and Scandinavian social market economies. Given the high consensus requirements of European legislation, this structural asymmetry cannot be corrected through political action at the European level.

The crucial part of this abstract may be the last sentence; progressives need a flexible and accountable government that can act in a timely fashion. Linz in the “Paradox of Presidencies” criticises the US Constitution; its immutable terms of office makes it unable, unlike a parliament to allow the electorate to force a change of direction on an administration through recall. This is shown in both the USA and UK recently by the cowardice of legislators fearing retaliation from their parties and loss of their position, even for doing the right thing.

How do you defend democracy against the corruption of its political parties?

To return to my start point I can see that the EU has problems because of the Council, the veto, and the Commission’s exclusive right of legislative initiative together with a problem with subsidiarity especially on the decisions of intra-state secession and the current treaties act as a brake on devolution within the member states. At least it doesn’t have a directly elected presidency, and despite leading European Parliamentarian’s ambitions to the contrary, this is unlikely to occur soon. It does have a Charter of Fundamental Rights, which guarantees many of the social rights missing from previous attempts to write a constitution including, the right to education, fair conditions at work, access to benefits, and healthcare.

It’s useful to be reminded that the rule of law is not always neutral.

While many of the undemocratic features of the US Constitution are replicated, some would say inspired by the UK, I have some hope that an incoming Labour Government will make some positive change, informed by the Brown Commission. Political subsidiarity, which it proposes is not enough, to back it up it is necessary to have a transfer union, and/or a solidarity contract! Having discovered that the US with its separation of powers is insufficient, I ask can we learn from the Swiss or do we need to look further afield. I am certain that Labour’s plans for further English devolution are not enough as they seem unwilling to back it with equitable funding and their target entities for devolved powers while, better than not having any, are too large for the advantages of genuine social solidarity to express itself.   …

Labour, its manifesto and the EU

Labour, its manifesto and the EU

Here is a swift call to action on Labour’s National Policy Forum, on relations with the European Union. I made an extract of the document to collect what they say. Earlier this month, Labour issued its NPF report in draft form. Members have the ability, through their local parties, to amend the this report; Labour Party members have until May 29th to notify, through their CLPs, their CLP NPF Reps of changes they want to see in the draft policy document. 

Perhaps the critical paragraph is,

An improved relationship with Europe

To deliver prosperity at home, it is vital to re-establish the UK as a trusted and reliable partner. As part of our mission for the UK to achieve the highest sustained economic growth in the G7, Labour will seek to improve the UK’s trade and investment relationship with Europe while maintaining its new role outside of the single market and customs union.

Labour’s NATIONAL policy FORUM dRAFT rEPORT 2023

I believe that the UK should rejoin the European Union but that a first step is that, it is necessary to rejoin the customs union and single market to alleviate and reverse the decline in economic activity and prosperity; it is now obvious to the vast majority of the UK population that this is the direction required. I also believe a failure to get the position on the EU right will jeopardise Labour’s electoral prospects.

Labour must,

1. call for a new relationship with the EU involving the adoption of the single market and customs union, including a reciprocal freedom of movement to work and that as part of this, Labour must repeal the cruel hostile environment.

2. commit to rejoin Horizon Europe and Erasmus+

3. add to the draft the recent promise to permit EU citizen/residents to vote in UK Parliamentary elections

The Labour Movement for Europe are proposing that, the Party must promise to negotiate direct access to the single market and a selective visa waiver system. We believe we must commit to the single market’s free movement of labour with no sectoral reservations but wish the LME well. We think their position will be less acceptable to the EU since their position is that the four freedoms are indivisible. To me it’s an example of our continued attachment to “Extrawurst”!

The featured image is one of mine. CC DFL 2017 BY-SA …

Assembly sizes & legislative quality

Assembly sizes & legislative quality

Sean Jones, one of the UK’s top employment lawyers, tweeted about the quality of legislation and I made a reply. I do not exactly answer his question, but I think its worth thinking about parliaments in the context of the quality of legislation. Sean says,

I reply, “It’s an interesting question, I have two thoughts to offer. Firstly, the size of the parliament matters, small parliaments are captured by the executive, large parliaments make work for idle hands. This is exacerbated in the UK, in that the executive has been captured by one faction within the winning coalition.

Secondly, if one uses the 3√ rule, which I don’t, the EU Parliament is slightly under sized, and the Commons is too large; however, there is no [politically coherent] executive within the EU.

The other question that needs to be answered in both polities is that of effective devolution/subsidiarity. If the ambition is to take decisions as close to the people it effects as is possible, neither polity gets this right.

In this blog article, I add that in the UK, the legislature is controlled by the executive, and there is no entrenched human rights law to protect the people from a growing authoritarianism. The executive’s control of time and agenda in parliament is a key tool, as is the increased use of emergency legislative schedules.

It also contains citations to the 3√ rule and the UK’s lack of elected politicians.


May elections, does the bell toll?

May elections, does the bell toll?

I have learned to wait before commenting on election results particularly since many local authorities now count on the Friday during the day to avoid the overtime bill and so unless one runs an exit poll, one can’t know until the weekend. Also, I’ve been away and avoiding the news but I wanted to make three points about the elections last week. Labour did well across the country, although there are one or two self-created greyclouds, Brexit is either less important or the pendulum has swung, and the Green’s finally get a result their positioning and polling deserves.

This is some controversy about how one projects from May 3rd to a general election which is likely to be held at least 12 months in the future. I am of the view the Labour did well and if last Thursday’s results were replicated across the country then there would be a Labour government with a solid working majority. Some disagree, and I link to the Guardian and Labour List opinions below; they both follow the Curtice line that these results are not good enough to get Labour a majority. I haven’t studied the statistical tools that they use, but if you plug the raw numbers into electoral calculus, it predicts a Labour absolute majority with a substantial Lib Dem presence in the new parliament. However, Curtice defends his view in an article in the independent, he argues that people don’t vote the same in a local election as they do for Westminster, he argues that the swing from the Tories to Labour is below that of its opinion poll lead, that winning seats in a first past the post election does not illustrate growing support, because Labour’s vote was not growing; it’s that the tories vote is collapsing.  He says,

On average across 27 constituencies where it is possible to use the BBC’s data to compare the parties’ performances in the local elections with that in the 2019 general election, the Conservative share of the vote was down 19 points while Labour’s own tally was unchanged.

Prof John Curtice, The Independent

There were some important wins, in the South of England, including the capture of Dover council by Labour and the election of one of the country’s leading refugee rights campaigners as a Labour councillor in Folkestone and Hythe. This is a good result for Labour stretching across the county. The Guardian says, about Labour,

Retaking Stoke-on-Trent and East Staffordshire councils from Conservative control, along with picking up seats and councils in the north-west, and across the West and east Midlands, suggests a potential return to Labour competitiveness in Westminster constituencies that voted heavily to leave the EU in 2016. Winning Thanet, Dover and Medway in Kent shows the post-Brexit dynamic could extend beyond the ‘red wall’, while capturing a perennial bellwether town like Swindon provides further encouragement.

The Guardian

It remains obvious that this is, like the polls, a Tory loss, and the Lib Dems and Greens both did well winning, 13 councils between them over 25% of the Tories’ losses.

EuActiv and Labour via the Guardian and Labour List are documenting the results as the return of Brexit voters to Labour.  This underestimates two factors, the first being that people have changed their minds now they see what a Tory Brexit looks like and the second being the effect of the changing demographics over the last seven years. Articulating the idea that, “your Brexit is safe with us”, or that “Brexit voters have returned to Labour” may not be as clever politics as the Labour front bench and their advisors think. Two pieces of evidence from last Thursday suggesting caution. The success of the Lib Dems and the Greens in winning council seats and vote share suggests again that tribal loyalty is weakening. Also the large cities and Scotland did not vote last Thursday; and these are areas where Labour’s young, educated and internationalist voters live i.e. while the Lib Dems seem to be taking Tory votes and seats in the shires, we have little recent evidence as to whether the core and majority of Labour’s 2019 vote will support a manifesto that only tinkers at the edges the cost of living crisis and continues to triangulate on relations with the EU. The timing of Labour’s statement on not abolishing tuition fees was particularly crass and Streeting’s defence of this appears to be a result of him reliving his past.

Furthermore the 2017 general election shows that the campaigns matter and polling leads can change dramatically. We could also consider the 1970 and 1992 campaigns which everyone expected Labour to win, but where its appeal was polluted by its anti-working class legislation and rhetoric.

Labour’s strategy seems to be based on winning back the red wall, mainly leave voting seats lost in 2019. The problem would seem to be that Labour strategists have a recidivist view of what those voters want. Their other problem being that even if they are successful in winning those seats, it takes Labour back to the 2015 results, which it lost and the risk is that in appealing to the imagined blue labour voters they will lose support in the cities (and frankly the red wall too in many of those seats the majority of Labour voters were also remain voters).

In Curtice’s response, he also says,

As well as claiming that the local election results showed that Labour was on course to win an overall parliamentary majority, Labour spokespersons were also keen to argue that they demonstrated that Sir Keir Starmer’s success in changing his party has transformed its electoral prospects. In truth, the local election results raise questions about that claim too. What is much more apparent is the scale of the public’s disenchantment with the Conservatives.

Prof John Curtice, The Independent

This is equally shown by the fact that another thing that Labour needs to worry about, is that it did badly in areas where the leadership pursued an aggressive interference in council candidate selection processes. In Liverpool, in Portsmouth and Leicester Labour lost seats to candidates that had either resigned, been expelled, or just deselected. I don’t expect the NEC to learn from this.

My final point is that the Green Party increased its vote share by two percentage points and won 481 council seats, taking control of one council and becoming the biggest party in one more.  They must now be considered a national party in contention and the media, in particular the BBC, must give them equal air time, and certainly more than the Reform Party or whatever the Faragistas are calling themselves today. …

Rejoining EU, what’ll it take?

Rejoining EU, what’ll it take?

I attended the EU’s citizens panel on virtual worlds over the weekend. One of the most inspirational aspects of this event was the ability to meet so many people from across the European Union. I took the opportunity, to talk to some about how they felt about British re-entry. One Dutchman felt we hadn’t suffered enough, and that we needed to wait. One German was anxious that we re-joined so as to reduce his tax burden. Another very well-informed Dutchman, said he felt that British public opinion under estimated what the EU would ask to allow us to rejoin and one Finn, said his condition on us re-joining was that we be forced to enter FIFA competitions as a single nation. I think this was a joke, but he seemed quite upset about Finland’s record against the UK nations’ football teams.

My informed Dutch correspondent started by talking about the euro. Some of what he said particularly on the Euro was a bit worrying, but it’s a price worth paying if that’s what it takes. I suggested that the Swedish precedent on the currency is important and that there may be dangers to the EU in attempting to subsume another global reserve currency too quickly. I also wonder if those nations hosting cities that have replaced London’s international financial trading capability, really want to see the London market makers able to trade in euro instruments so soon. To me more importantly on the currency and macro-economic convergence, are the limitations entrenched in the ‘stability and growth pact’. Debt levels and deficits should be the result of a democratic mandate and not embedded in an unchangeable treaty; the need to breach the stability and growth pact limits during the pandemic is a proof point to this truth. Perhaps the EU member states will take the opportunity to amend the requirement of Stability and Growth Pact. We agreed that the other opt outs are all gone; the UK will have to forgo its financial rebate, our charter of fundamental rights exemptions and comply with and join the Schengen treaty.  These terms are acceptable to me. We need to start talking about them. …

Bye Bye Raab

Bye Bye Raab

Dominic Raab has had to resign from the government, due to an investigation into allegations of bullying having found that there was sufficient evidence to justify an adverse finding. Sorry about the complexity of that sentence, but he has not been found guilty, only that he has a case to answer. There was some question as to whether the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak would fire him or not. Raab saved him the problem by resigning in an extraordinary, apology free self-justifying resignation letter.

There have been two parliamentary responses, the first is that the Liberal Democrats have rightly referred these events the parliamentary commissioner on standards, the second by some Tories that they rewrite the rules governing ministers’ behaviour towards civil servants.

This is one of the most publicly visible stories showing the endemic occurrence of bullying within the workplace and the consensus of tolerance of such behaviour. Raab’s failure to apologise is symptomatic of an attitude pervasive within British management. He thinks he did nothing wrong and there will be many managers who agree. There is no excuse, the trade union movement and the law have developed definitions of bullying.

Bullying includes: offensive, intimidating, malicious, or insulting behaviour; abuse of authority which violates the dignity of an individual or a group of people; creating a hostile environment against an individual; and the undermining, humiliation or injury of an individual.

Tribunals do not consider bullying to be a crime although I have read some lawyers material that suggests that legal remedy can be sought through the Crown Court system; neither of these offer timely relief which is why the collusion by managements in supporting senior officers against allegations of bullying is so damaging. Raab’s refusal to apologise and to blame the victims is just one expression of this widespread view that managers have to be tough. The Tories have already let Patel off on the grounds she didn’t mean it, Raab is seeking to extend arguments in defence of bullying charges to arguing that it wasn’t bullying, it was merely effective management communication. I am also curious about the argument that I was accused of six acts and only found to have misbehaved twice. i.e. only a little bullying is permitted.

It’s all too easy to forget the genuine hurt and harm that bullying can cause and we too often forget that it’s designed to be hurtful. As human beings we should have sympathy with the victims and be robust in condemning and punishing the perpetrators. Another legal route might be to sue the employer for a breach of health and safety, although again, evidence of causality is difficult to obtain. I am unclear of the legal precedents for this pursuit, but I am advised that’s at least one trade union law firm has a very low assessment of the likelihood of winning. The best defence against known bullies with management air-cover, is a strong union, with a recognition agreement that threatens industrial action.

It is not uncommon for organisations that value their brand to appoint independent lawyers to establish the facts of the case of bullying or harassment, particularly in cases where the alleged bully is a senior officer of the organisation. One of the reasons this practice is quite common, is that it is unusual for bullies to do their bullying in public, and thus evidence of the acts of bullying is often hard to find. To be honest, I am surprised that the investigating lawyer actually found there was a case to answer, in my experience, this is highly unusual.

Concerning the Lib Dems referral of these events to the parliamentary standards commissioner, this would come better from, well nearly anyone else. If the parliamentary standards commissioner and committee decide to sanction Raab, then he may have to face a petition of recall and a by-election. His seat must now be considered a marginal; he has a majority of under 2,500, I think it’s unlikely that he would be able to hold his seat, particularly given his lack of contrition and the arrogance with which he continues to defend himself not to mention his failure during the Afghanistan withdrawal and his commitment to the failed Brexit, his constituency voted to remain in 2016.  

The referral to the parliamentary standards commissioner should be supported. It is highly unusual for acts of bullying to be held to account, as a trade union rep who has on numerous occasions helped people make grievances against bullies, I can assure you my success rate in these cases is not high. British workplaces need a change in management culture and a change in the law. The Bribery Act makes it an offence for a company to fail to stop ‘improper behaviour’, perhaps we should pass such a law for bullying.

As for the Tories attempt to rewrite the ministers’ codes of behaviour, this article in the guardian also linked to above,  is very good; while not mentioning Priti Patel they do mention Jacob Rees Mogg’s bullying of staff to return to the office after the pandemic. You would have thought that the Tories would have learned that’s changing the rules after the event rarely has a successful outcome. Just look Boris Johnson and Owen Patterson. Sadly, the guardian article uses language that locates the dysfunction in the context of government. Senior civil servants are not the only victims of bullying. And while the FDA’s intervention has been important and useful. Allowing the FDA to lead on this issue makes it easy to turn this into a government versus civil service issue.  It is not, PCS needs to wake up and this is an issue for all workers.

My union, the GMB , has debated this at several Congresses over the last five years. I shall be writing to Officers asking them to support the referral to the parliamentary standards commissioner and to support a rewriting of the law so that everyone can be protected from management bullying and that managers learn that bullying has bad consequences. …

Virtual Worlds and the EU

Virtual Worlds and the EU

I am about to return to Brussels for the final session of the EU’s citizen’s assembly on virtual worlds. I decided to make a document from my notes on the EU citizens panel on Virtual Worlds. As I have said, my notes were contemporaneous and do not tell a story. This article hopefully documents the lessons I have learned and would like others to read, and of course agree. Hopefully, it’s more directed!

The biggest question I have is around the framing of the questions to be considered. The Commission seem to use the terms, virtual world and metaverse as synonyms. They tried to offer a definition virtual worlds by referring to the reality-virtuality continuum, about which I was unnecessarily rude. There is no question in my mind that attempting to frame the questions as those stemming from a virtual world rather than the future of the Internet causes problems, not the least, being just how important is the 3D representation and metaphor and the use of avatars. NB the Renault example does not seem to have personal avatars and I question the utility of 3D representation as part of their problem-solving algorithm. Wikipedia offers  a limited definition , and perhaps this McKinsey article office more. I have made a note on definitions on my wiki. I am unclear how much publicly funded research has been done.

To my mind, the quality of the experts, and their ability to engage with the citizens is highly variable, with, in my opinion, several offering little and at least one not only offering little but what was offered being wrong.

On the other hand, in my opinion, also some of the quality of the citizen contributions is poor. On the whole they seem to find it difficult to imagine a future with a pervasive metaverse and what they can conceive, they don’t seem to want. To be honest, I find it difficult, beyond games to have an idea of what the metaverse has to offer. In my notes, I mentioned this, but note I need to guard against personal arrogance. The internet’s designers need to take account of these fears although both banks and entertainment have just about, left the real world.

One of the questions or axioms stated by the workgroup I observed is that the world needs an Internet built for human need not driven my profit. This implies the need for public investment and regulation of both the platform providers and software developers/owners.

CoFoE proposed higher fines, and the right of the Commission to prohibit companies from some or all of their activities.

The more I think about it, the more I am concerned that Fake News aka lying is not taken seriously. In the Anglosphere and in Germany, much of the press is owned by billionaires whose business model involves using the political power ownership of media organisations brings. Many balance the need for a duty of truth with the rights of freedom of expression. European citizen’s need to decide where that balance point lies because the effective answer in the Anglosphere is not good enough. The citizen’s assembly is not as engaged on this issue as CoFoE was.

The other issues on which citizen’s seem less interested are press and platform monopoly regulation and on the press it’s possible that the EU could learn from the UK’s Leveson report, although the Government unsurprisingly bottled the opportunity to transfer libel court costs to newspapers unless they agreed to sign-up to an approved standards body. Most of the UK press do not and the failure to implement a press regulator even after the scandal that led to Leveson show the entrenched power of these corporations.

The EU is busy passing a series of laws to regulate the digital economy. One of the problems they seek to remedy is that of computer crime. There is rightly much concern about cyber-bullying, child protection and pornography. However, we are starting from the point where the platforms have established rights as a carrier not as a publisher. The lawmakers’ response has been to develop a statutory “notify and take down” scheme, but this is very much to the advantage of large scale intellectual property owners and the large platform providers. We need a law the suits people, not companies.

The Commission is clear that privacy is at the centre of the goals of the regulation of the new digital society. The threats to citizen privacy comes from both private sector usually foreign owned, surveillance capitalism and the intelligence services. CoFoE has suggested both that GDPR fines are increased and that social media platforms should be licenced and that the withdrawal of a licence to operate should be a sanction available to the authorities.

There is also the need to review our copyright laws. Content publication is a supply chain, and our current laws do not favour the mass of creators. The value web is not going to be born with the current laws. The world needs a law that favours creation and not rent seeking. This means rebalancing the rights to make derived works against the default position of all rights reserved. Copyright longevity needs to be reviewed too. This has not really been raised at CoFoE or the citizens’ assembly but it’s a conclusion I have drawn from looking at what is needed.


In the document version, based on the articles in this blog, I made a document of my notes from the first two sessions of the Virtual Worlds citizens’ assembly. I added some foot notes.

  1. I made some rude comments about their use of the Reality/Virtuality continuum. In retrospect, something was required; it was needed to help define the metaverse and the focus of the assembly as something other than that of the future internet.
  2. I made some approving comments about the simplicity of the Commission’s bulleted statement of digital principles. Later in the month I found the full statement of the digital principles and I need to consider what I said, which was about the superiority of the short statement. On first review, the full statement which is longer, seems comprehensive and sufficiently technology neutral to be effective and to last.
  3. On review of the full text of the statement of principles, the right to digitally die is covered.
  4. On the shocked, shocked statement, which is a reference to Casablanca, I am suggesting that the professional moderators are taking guidance from the Commission and not the citizens.

Image Credit: European Parliament CC 2010 BY-NC-ND MEPs Voting …

The need for truth

The need for truth

I got a lot of posts about Fox vs Dominion in my feeds last night; I am not sure how well this is being covered in the UK. Dominion make voting machines and are suing Fox for $1.6bn because Fox made and repeated damaging allegations about Dominion’s machines performance during the US Presidential elections. Many allege that this was a deliberate attempt to boost Trump’s line that the election had been stolen!

It is clear from leaks, that Fox knew what they were saying lacked evidence at best and that their lawyers had withheld important evidence from the court’s discovery process. The court was due to start today, but the Judge has postponed it by a day; there are rumours that Fox may be seeking a settlement.

In this article, from NPR, they have two spokespeople arguing that the 1st amendment rights of Fox should trump Dominion’s right to a reputation. Do billionaire funded press organisations have the right to lie under freedom of speech rights?

This is important in Europe and the UK too. From my experience in Tallinn, many in Eastern Europe are rightly suspicious of Government regulation of the press, but in the Anglosphere, and possibly in Germany, we have a biased, ultra-rich owned press and I note that journalists are privileged under law. In the UK, the press dominate politics, and are were complicit in the legally flawed Brexit referendum. Somewhere we need to be able to hold the press, and social media platforms accountable to a duty to tell the truth, because,

A lie ain’t a side of a story. It’s just a lie.

Terry Hanning (The Wire)

We should also note that balance can also be the enemy of truth, giving liars equal time with the truth is still publishing the lie. …

Travel to the EU

Travel to the EU

I have just seen another article, this time in the Metro issuing scare stories about entry into Europe claiming that the EU is tightening up on border controls starting this year. It is, but much of this seems to be exaggerated for Britons, or should I say British Passport holders.  

As far as I can see, this autumn/winter, British passport holders will need a biometric passport to enter the EU and the EEA except Ireland where freedom of movement is guaranteed by the Good Friday agreement.  We should note that Bulgaria, Cyprus, and Romania are not in Schengen but Switzerland is it seems in Schengen, because it’s part of the single market.

The UK government have been issuing biometric passports since 2010. To be honest and from my experience at Vienna airport, this first stage will be an advantage to most people.

The second stage is to tell the EU that you intend to travel, the so called ETIAS process. This seems identical to what the USA demands today and has done for over a decade. NB the US charges $21 and lasts for two years. The EU process is new, will have to be done, and paid for, but it’s not exactly onerous and unlikely to be implemented this year. Of course, if we were in the single market, this wouldn’t apply to us and I wonder if NI passports could be exempt although documenting the passport as issued for Northern Ireland would be extremely provocative to the Unionists.

Image credit: Passport Control, BRD, by Heike Baerbel from pixabay, shrunk and cropped, reused under the Pixabay Content licence. …

Crime, memes and politics

Crime, memes and politics

Over the weekend, Labour produced what it seems we must now call a meme, associating Rishi Sunak with Tory policies of being ineffective and soft on crimes against children.  This may have been in response to some disgusting things said by Braverman who wrongly sought to associate British Pakistani men with child grooming. The meme and the sub-text have repelled a number of anti-racism, pro-migrant activists and almost certainly some ethnic minority voters if you want to see more of the debate then it’s easy enough to find.

The response of Labour’s bureaucracy has been as expected particularly brutal. But then half of the ad’s goals is to troll the left in the party together with Labour’s core urban vote. It may also indicate the growing tendency of Starmer’ LOTO to deny other members of the front bench any limelight. Yvette Cooper has disassociated herself from the ad and the response has been a vicious, anonymous, whispering campaign about her suitability to remain shadow home secretary.

The bureaucracy claim they are trying to win the election, check out the Indy article linked above, and those that oppose their messages are not. This claim needs to be examined. The problem with this sort of provocative advertisement is that, the conversation becomes about the ad , not about the message. Labour’s message on this issue is particularly uninspiring but having an argument about whether they should have associated Rishi Sunak so personally with this policy failure is unwanted.

It’s not the first time Labour have made this mistake. Labour’s 92 election broadcast on the NHS, was one of the first movie style party political broadcasts. However, the Tories turned its success into an argument about its truthfulness; the baby depicted was not suffering from the ailment claimed. The arguments became one of integrity, not of health service provision. In London in 2019 European Parliament elections, London Labour produced a final GOTV leaflet with the sole picture being of Nigel Farage. Some apparatchik obviously thought this was being tough and given that Corbyn and the NEC hadn’t truly got to grips with Jeremy’s new ‘Brexit red lines’, Labour was always going to have difficulty with a line that ‘honoured the referendum’ in a strongly remain city. The leaflets were rarely used because activists didn’t want to advertise UKIP who were an opponent and there was no positive message.

So for all those realists who think this is a good idea, i suggest you look at the evidence. It seems to me all this sort of attack ad does is debase the debate, even when well done, which this isn’t.

I have two further thoughts.

Crime is a difficult issue for politicians and those seeking to prevent crime. At Labour Conference 22 I heard Steve Reed MP, now the justice shadow justice secretary speak on crime prevention. My first take was that this required a marxist’s interpretation of Blair’s “tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime”, i.e. the marxism allows us to see it in a historical context, “the first time as tragedy the second time as farce”. I said at the time, “they i.e. the front bench seem to be considering some form of early action to disrupt social inheritance of criminal behaviour, it all reminded me of the ‘Precrime’ unit from Minority Report, …” However, the following month, I read the Secret Barrister’s book, ‘Stories of the Law …’, and in the chapter, ‘The Big Sentencing Con’ the goals of judicial sanctions are listed and then a whole series of circumstances where these are inappropriate is catalogued, from arguing that prison is a training ground for the criminality to the fact that many criminals are mentally disturbed and/or victims of violence and crime in their youth themselves. These are circumstances where early intervention can help and when writing this, I am reminded of the work done by the Lewisham MPs and council with the public health approach, inspired by Glasgow Council’s work on youth violence.

Politicians can make things better, but the complexity of the problem needs to be understood. This is an issue where one needs a bit more understanding and bit less condemnation. Labour’s graphic does the reverse.

I originally wrote this as a campaigning critique, but suggest you look at David Osland’s article and Phil BC’s, the former identifies the threat of losing ethnic minority votes and the latter that part of Starmer’s strategy is to make his Party the enemy to make him safe for Tory votes, a mistaken replay of parts of Blair’s strategy.

Image Credit: by Jessica Flavia from Unsplash, meant to refer to Jennifer’s ear. …