SNP block English hunting ban debate

Nicola Sturgeon, the leader of the SNP, has successfully prevented MPs elected in England from debating and voting on a piece of legislation that only applies to England and is devolved in Scotland.

The SNP announced before the election that they would lift their self-imposed ban on voting on legislation that only applies to England and today the managed to stop the debate on amending the ban on hunting with dogs in England by threatening to join forces with Labour and Tory rebels to vote it down.

Fox hunting is a devolved matter and the Scottish government introduced a ban on hunting with dogs before the British government introduced it in England. The Scots elected Members of the Scottish Parliament to legislate on hunting, their British MPs have no mandate to legislate on hunting in England and more than we in England can give our British MPs a mandate to legislate on schools or hospitals in Scotland.

Sturgeon said they made the decision to interfere in the English hunting ban legislation “in solidarity” with English people who were opposed to fox hunting. It wasn’t in solidarity at all – Sturgeon doesn’t give two shits about the English – it was a political statement to show Cameron that the SNP are prepared to do anything, no matter how dishonourable or undemocratic, to undermine the Conservative government.

Cameron says that they’re now going to wait until they pass their English Votes on English Laws measures – something they kicked into the long grass after the last election and again this month – before they bring it before parliament again. Except English Votes on English Laws isn’t really English votes on English laws, it’s English pauses for English clauses and any amended hunting legislation will still need to be voted on by all British MPs, including SNP MPs.

English Votes for English Laws is an unworkable mess

The British government had a bit of a chit chat about English Votes on English Laws yesterday with one Labour MP – Sir Gerald Kaufman – describing the idea of preventing British MPs from Scotland voting on things that only affect England as “racist”. Ironically, it was Sir Gerald who provided the sole voice of dissent in the late night debate involving a handful of British MPs who then voted to ceded Monmouthshire from England to Wales based on the rather flimsy pretext that it had lots of Welsh place names so he did have a sense of right and wrong where England was concerned at one time.

I’ve said many times that English Votes on English Laws is a nonsense – an unworkable, unconstitutional and insulting fudge – and I stand by that. Anything that costs money or has a perceived consequential impact on Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland will allow MPs from those countries to vote on so-called English laws. It just won’t work and it’s an insult to expect us to accept this half-arsed fudge when the Scots and Welsh are currently getting even more powers for their devolved governments.

When the Tories first announced this policy many years ago it was immediately blown out of the water by an MP elected in Scotland who said he would claim an interest in every so-called English vote that involved spending money because it would affect the amount of money available to subsidise Scotland. This will apply to the majority of bills that are supposed to be English-only.

The opponents of a fair deal for England (not that this is one) – which includes the SNP – claim that stopping MPs elected in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland from voting on things affecting England only which are devolved in their own countries and they thus have no say over, will create a two tier system in which the British MPs elected in England will have an advantage. But there is already a two tier system in place where MPs elected in England can only vote on the domestic affairs of the country they were elected in and where the affected voters can hold them to account through the ballot box and then there are MPs elected in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland who can only vote on the domestic affairs of a country they weren’t elected in and where none of the affected voters can hold them to account through the ballot box. This English Votes on English Laws nonsense will create a third tier of British MPs being the MPs elected in England and Wales who can vote on the domestic affairs of each other’s countries provided that both those countries are affected by that matter!

This complicated and convoluted workaround involves the Speaker making a subjective decision about which lines of which bills should be restricted to MPs elected in England or both England and Wales and still allows MPs elected in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to debate, propose amendments to and vote on supposedly English laws. British politicians will still make British laws for England and England will still be the only country in Europe that has no form of self government. A much simpler, fairer and effective system is just to make England equal in the union with a devolved English Parliament made up of English parliamentarians elected to represent English interests in an English Parliament and make English laws for England. None of this faffing about with gentlemen’s agreements, forming grand committees to consider individual lines of a bill, arguing about whether something affects the money the rest of the UK gets so MPs not elected in England can have a say, buying 650 iPads to keep track of which MPs are voting which way, calculating English majorities and English & Welsh majorities on a line by line basis – just a simple devolved English Parliament with clearly defined areas of responsibility and a democratic mandate. Nothing crazy, nothing complicated, nothing scary and new, just the same setup that has been in place and tried and tested in Scotland and Wales for the last 18 years.

If the future of England and the democratic accountability of the people who believe they have a right to rule England wasn’t in question, the knots the British are tying themselves up in to try and make this unworkable mess work would be bloody hilarious.

British politicians do not represent England

These British politicians do not represent England

Another day of the solar apocalypse survived

So we’re now on day 3 of the solar apocalypse and against all odds I’m still one of the survivors.

The temperature got as high as 32 degrees yesterday which is the sort of temperatures we experienced some summers when I was a kid. Of course, 30 odd years ago a heatwave in summer was just called weather and people made the most of it with a day at the seaside whereas now it’s a killer solar apocalypse caused by global warming and everyone is advised to stay in their houses because they’re going to die the second they walk out of the house.

Day 3 of the solar apocalypse is a bit cooler and damper than the first two days. It’s still in the 20s but the light showers of cool rain must be bringing some welcome relief to the council workmen who are doing a stirling job clearing the mounds of bodies off the streets.

Meanwhile, here’s another gratuitous tabloid heatwave picture.

The solar apocalypse is upon us

Well, day one of the killer solar apocalypse is over and I’ve managed to cling on to life against all the odds.

According to the Met Office and other experts the temperatures getting up to the same sort of level that holidaymakers inexplicably survive in their millions every year is going to be a killer with particular groups at risk including the young and old, active and inactive, healthy and unhealthy, fat and thin, gingers and depending on your religious persuasion, gays.

Despite ticking several of those boxes and the Daily Express suggesting I’m little more than a walking corpse, I took my life into my own hands and ventured outside a couple of times yesterday. I’m still here to type about it so I made it through day one of the killer heatwave; only time will tell if I survive to the weekend.

In the meantime, here’s a gratuitous tabloid picture of some young ladies sunbathing in a park to remind you the sun’s shining.

Sunbathing in a park

Happy Star Wars Day

My the Fourth be with you

Screw you Sony

I spotted an email coming into my inbox from YouTube for a copyright dispute and I’m wondering if I’ve had any of these before and not noticed them.

The multi-billion pound, multi-national Sony Music Entertainment company has filed a dispute notice resulting in a video I took of Donnington fireworks a couple of years being taken down. The reason? You can hear the song “OMG” which Wikipedia informs me was a popular song by someone called Usher 5 years ago which someone nearby (probably a fairground ride) was playing.

Now, I have absolutely nothing to gain from having this video on YouTube. There are no ads on it and it’s just a video of some fireworks. It doesn’t have any sentimental value. But it irritates me that this mega corporation thinks that it has the right to have an insignificant video of some fireworks taken down because a song they’ve made tens, if not hundreds, of millions from is playing in the background with a sound quality so poor that nobody would want to play the video for the less than 2 minutes clip of the song that you can hear in it.

So I’ve disputed their dispute just to show those greedy bastards that they can’t just file vexatious take down notices without a fight. It won’t change the record industry and it won’t change the way Sony does business but at least I’ll have made one of their mindless drones do some bloody work.

Firework Video

Happy Creator’s Day

Gone but not forgotten …

Happy Creator's Day Terry Pratchett

Happy St George’s Day!

St GeorgeSmile at us, pay us, pass us; but do not quite forget,

For we are the people of England, that never has spoken yet.

Sometimes being in the public eye helps

Q: You’re in the bank trying to withdraw money without your wallet and no form of acceptable ID, what do you do?

A: Bring up your councillor profile on your website and stand here grinning with the phone next to your face!

This actually worked for me this week when I went to pick up a box of election leaflets and realised that I’d left the cheque book on the dining room table and my wallet in the pocket of my jeans at home. Probably not the most orthodox way of identify a customer in a bank but I got my money. D

Councillor web page on my mobile

The true meaning of Easter

It’s that time of the year again where Christians celebrate Jesus turning into a zombie. But it’s important to remember the true meaning of Easter in these modern times.

Ēostre was celebrated by pagans long before the Romans started nailing Jews to bits of wood and was only adopted as a Christian festival when the Romans started hijacking pagan festivals and attributing them to events in the bible.

Easter is full of pagan imagery such as painted eggs and rabbits or hares. The eggs represent the sunlight of spring and the rabbits and hares are fertility symbols. The whole festival of Easter really has nothing to do with zombie Jesus, it’s all about celebrating the spring equinox and worshipping a pagan fertility goddess. So enjoy your chocolate pagan fertility symbols and don’t forget to say thanks to the goddess Oestera.

Eostre Hare

Sir Terry Pratchett OBE, 1948-2015

I was absolutely gutted today to hear the news that Terry Pratchett had died. I turned to Facebook to share grief with the world (as you do) and sat staring at my phone for half an hour. How do you distil your feelings about the death of the author you’ve read almost continuously for the past 25 years into a Facebook status? I’ve lived inside this man’s head for the majority of my life and it feels like losing a member of the family.

I started reading Discworld books as a young teen on the recommendation of my local librarian. He wasn’t an orangutan and he didn’t have a beard or pointy hat so he probably wasn’t a wizard. He was a great librarian though because he managed to track down every Terry Pratchett book in the county one by one and get them sent to our little library so I could devour them.

My collection of Terry Pratchett books is … comprehensive … and I read them all the time. My wife keeps telling me I should read something else and I do read other books from time to time but I go straight back to my Terry Pratchett books when I’m finished. Some of these books I’ve been reading for 25 years and I still find something new every time I read them. The continuity is amazing for 40 books written over 3 decades with characters that might have made only a cameo appearance in the first couple of books popping up 30 books later.

I was fortunate enough to accidentally (no, really) rent a holiday cottage in the next village to Terry’s house a couple of years ago. The housekeeper told me which pub he drank in and I thought about going a few times but I decided against it, figuring that his local is probably the last public place on earth he can go without being bothered by fans. My kids wanted to walk up the lane to his house and tell him how much of a fan I was but I pointed out that that’s stalking. He probably wouldn’t have minded but I felt like he’d earned what little privacy he had. I’m one of what I imagine to be a fairly small number of people who not only know where the Chalk is but to have seen the corner of Discworld that Tiffany Aching inhabits. The reason the Chalk feels so real in the stories is because it absolutely is – it’s what he saw when he looked out of his window.

Pterry’s genius has earned him immortality but a world with no new Terry Pratchett books is just too much to contemplate at the moment. Terry Pratchett and the Discworld have been a big part of my life for so long. No more books to look forward to. No more harassing the staff at Waterstones for pre-order dates when I know a book is due out soon. We’ll never know whether it’s Carrot or Nobby, what happens when a werewolf and a human make a baby, what really happened to Esk or where little Sam’s cow is. This makes me sad even though I know we would never have found out anyway because he didn’t know himself. He could have tied up all these loose ends with a few words but I think he liked to keep himself in suspense as much as his readers.

Terry had been suffering from a rare form of Alzheimer’s for the last few years which he referred to as his “embuggerance”. He died at home, surrounded by his family in a bed covered in cats. He went before the disease took his mind which is a small consolation. His death was announced on the Twitter account he shared with his assistant, Rob.

At last, Sir Terry, we must walk together.
Terry took Death’s arm and followed him through the doors and on to the black desert under the endless night.
The End.

SNP MPs will start voting on English laws after election

The new First Minister of Scotland and leader of the SNP, Nicola Sturgeon, has announced that SNP MPs will start voting on devolved matters in England after the election.

Currently, the SNP have a self-imposed ban on voting on things affecting England that are devolved in Scotland. They have broken that rule from time to time but on the whole they have refrained from interfering in matters over which they have no moral or democratic mandate. However, this looks set to change in May and we can expect to see SNP MPs voting on things affecting England that they can’t vote on in their own constituency because it’s devolved to the Scottish Parliament.

Sturgeon’s argument that MPs elected in Scotland can claim a legitimate interest in English affairs because it affects the amount of money they get from the Barnett bribe isn’t a new one. A Scottish MP whose name I can no longer remember said the same on the day the Tories announced English Votes on English Laws as their policy many years ago and of course he and the SNP are absolutely correct – EVoEL is nothing more than a sop to voters to con them into thinking the British are righting a wrong without actually doing anything.

The only way to answer the West Lothian Question is to devolve power to England just as it has in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Not by reorganising local government in English cities and pretending it’s devolution but by creating an English Parliament with an English executive with at least the same powers as the Scottish Parliament and abolishing the outdated and discredited Barnett Formula. If devolution is needed at a sub-national level in England – and it probably does – then what is devolved and how it is done is a matter for the English Parliament to decide just like it would be for the Scottish Parliament to decide in Scotland, the Welsh Assembly in Wales and the Northern Irish Assembly in Northern Ireland. Local government is a devolved issue so it’s not an appropriate decision for the British government to make, especially as any devolved assembly within England would have to be subordinate to the English Parliament.

Sturgeon’s decision to start voting on devolved matters in England is a clever one because it will increase the already sizeable outrage on this side of the border at MPs elected in Scotland interfering with English domestic affairs. If the demands for change get loud enough the British will be forced to do something and that will go some way to closing the democratic deficit between England and Scotland. If the Scots think that they aren’t getting enough of an advantage over England then support for the SNP will increase. It will also allow the SNP to say that they had no choice but to abandon their principals and fight against the cuts in England to save the Scottish NHS which will again increase support for the SNP.

However this plays out, the SNP and Scotland can’t lose. As usual.

Nicola Sturgeon

New car

My trusty Vauxhall Zafira has finally gone to the great scrapyard in the sky. The MOT was up this month and it just needed too much work going to it – two new tyres, new clutch, new EGR valve, new brake pipes, new discs, new exhaust … and that’s just the things I knew about!

I’m now the proud owner of a Suzuki Wagon R+ VVT auto. It looks like Postman Pat’s van and it’s a bit of a grandad car but it’s surprisingly roomy, quite nippy for a 1.3 engine and it’s only done 30,000 miles in 9 years with a service every 6 months. It’s not the most exciting car I’ve ever had but I’m not quite ready for a mid-life crisis just yet.

I thought going from a manual to an auto was going to be difficult but I’ve only gone for the clutch a couple of times since I picked the car up on Friday.

Stupid Wagon R

Happy whatever

Been a bit busy but Chrifsmas is nearly here

Lest we forget

When You Go Home

Happy slutty costume day

Smash some pumpkins … or whatever.
Slutty Halloween Costumes

Weather Channel founder says man-made climate change is “no longer scientifically credible”

The co-founder of the Weather Channel has said that man-made climate change is “no longer scientifically credible”.

John Coleman

John Coleman says:

The ocean is not rising significantly.

The polar ice is increasing, not melting away. Polar Bears are increasing in number.

Heat waves have actually diminished, not increased. There is not an uptick in the number or strength of storms (in fact storms are diminishing).

I have studied this topic seriously for years. It has become a political and environment agenda item, but the science is not valid.

There is no significant man-made global warming at this time, there has been none in the past and there is no reason to fear any in the future.

Efforts to prove the theory that carbon dioxide is a significant greenhouse gas and pollutant causing significant warming or weather effects have failed.

There has been no warming over 18 years.

Princeton University climatologist, William Happer, supports Coleman’s comments:

No chemical compound in the atmosphere has a worse reputation than CO2, thanks to the single-minded demonisation of this natural and essential atmospheric gas by advocates of government control and energy production.

The incredible list of supposed horrors that increasing carbon dioxide will bring the world is pure belief disguised as science.

The global warming scam has made a lot of “scientists” very rich, not to mention the politicians and scaremongers who have promoted the scam to get rich off their “green” investments. Authoritarian politicians have seized on global warming as a way of extracting more taxes out of us and controlling more of our lives. Smart meters are being installed in millions of homes and it’s only a matter of time before a law is passed to make these government-controlled remote control kill switches mandatory. It has always been about greed and power and those that are benefiting from it won’t give up that power and wealth willingly.

English votes on English laws won’t work, we need an English Parliament

Obviously I’m disappointed that the Scots threw away their once in a lifetime chance of independence yesterday but they’ve had their chance and wasted it. Now it’s our turn to sort out our country.

Cameron, Clegg and Miliband have promised the world to Scotland but they can’t make good those promises without putting it to the British parliament and it’s not going to go smoothly. There are MPs demanding an English Parliament and others demanding English votes on English laws. Cameron has promised to ban Scottish MPs from voting on English laws (even though it won’t work – more on that in a moment), Miliband has ruled out anything that will prevent Labour from using their Scottish MPs from passing laws in England and Clegg will only support the recommendation of the McKay Commission which was to change nothing except add an extra stage in the legislative process so English MPs can make their views known. Both Miliband and Clegg only want power devolved to “city regions”.

It is an absolute disgrace that all three leaders of the old parties have happily promised to give the Scottish government extensive new powers but none of them will entertain the idea of an English Parliament. Cameron thinks we should accept a half-arsed fudge that won’t even work whilst Clegg and Miliband think that not only should we accept a half-arsed fudge but unless we live in a city or its suburbs we should accept the sum total of nothing.

English votes on English matters won’t work because anything that costs money will mean Scottish MPs can claim an interest in it because it affects the amount of money available for Scotland. It would change nothing other than dragging out the legislative process in England and delaying the inevitable implementation of an English Parliament unnecessarily. So as it’s got to happen and the British nationalists will try everything they can to prevent it from happening, let’s dispel the myths that they will be using to argue against it.

The most common argument is that it would increase the number of layers of government, increase the number of politicians and cost the taxpayer more money. This simply isn’t the case. We currently have three layers of government in England – local government, House of Commons and House of Lords. By replacing the House of Lords with a federal British Parliament and replacing the House of Commons with an English Parliament we would still have three layers of government. By doing away with the House of Lords we would cut 775 politicians in one fell swoop. By reducing the number of British MPs from 650 to 200 given that three quarters of their job would be done by someone else we would cut another 450 politicians. An English Parliament would need about 400 members so that gives us a net reduction of 825 politicians. According to a paper written by Christopher Gill when he was a Conservative MP, that would save around £250m adjusted for inflation and MP pay rises. For the numerically challenged, here’s a helpful graph:

Another common argument is that England is too big and that it wouldn’t really bring decision making any closer to the people. This is probably their strongest argument but it’s easily countered. In a geographical sense it doesn’t bring decision making that much closer but democratically it does. At the moment MPs from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland can make decisions affecting only England which they have no say on in their own constituencies because it’s a devolved matter. The Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish people have given their British MPs a mandate on reserved matters – those things that their own devolved governments don’t have any power over. British MPs from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have no mandate to interfere with the NHS, environment, transport, etc. in England  An English Parliament would only have members elected in England to represent England. A committee of British MPs elected in England voting on British laws for England isn’t the same as an English Parliament with members elected in England to make English laws for England. The sky fairy worshippers realised two thousand years ago that no man can serve two masters – it’s in the bible – so why can’t British nationalists see it?

Let me address the point about bringing decision making not being closer to the people at the same time as the vacuous argument that an English Parliament would break up the union and play into the hands of the EU at the same time. There is an absolutely valid argument that devolving decision making to a local level – be it regional, county or local authority – would improve accountability and decision making. I would envisage an English Parliament devolving power to a local level once the transfer of powers from the British government has taken place. It’s an important distinction that power is devolved from an English government to a local level and not from the British government because local government in England should be subordinate to the English government, not the British government. It’s also important that England has a national government to keep the country together in the face of constant pressure from the British establishment and the EU to break it up into regions and to be able to compete on the global stage in a way that a Birmingham city region or the north east of England couldn’t.

Another argument that will be used against an English Parliament is that England is too big to have a federation with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. They will argue that there are no examples of a federation working with one member bigger than all the others put together and that England will dominate the union because of its size. There are three key points to address in that argument. Firstly, it is correct that there are no examples of federations with a mismatch in size that you would see in the UK because it’s never been tried. That also means there are no examples of federations with such a mismatch in size not working. There was no evidence that eating mouldy bread could cure diseases or that if you sailed far enough east you would end up where you started rather than falling off the edge of the world until someone tried it. Secondly, the size of England is irrelevant when it comes to devolved matters because they’re devolved. If they were relevant to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland they wouldn’t be devolved. Finally, England should dominate the union. Not to the detriment of the rest of the UK but the needs and priorities of 85% of the population should carry more weight than those of 15%.

One of the arguments that MPs like to use to dismiss an English Parliament – especially MPs elected in Scotland – is that it would create a two tier of MPs. They say that if Scottish MPs can’t vote on all legislation then they would be second class MPs and all MPs should be equal. But there is already a two tier system – British MPs elected in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland can’t vote on devolved matters in their own constituencies, only in England. MPs elected in England can vote on all legislation in their own constituencies, including things that are devolved in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

English vote on English laws simply cannot work and the only way to address the inequality that seriously threatens the union is to create a devolved English Parliament with at least the same powers as the Scottish Parliament. Why should we accept an inadequate, unworkable compromise instead of equality?

The English Commonwealth campaign has set up a petition for an English Constitutional Convention to let the people of England determine the form of government best suited to their needs. I would strongly urge you to sign it.

This is the only chance you’re going to get of getting independence, don’t fuck it up

The Scots go to the polls tomorrow to vote on their independence and the polls are all too close to call it either way.

There’s just 2-4% between the yes and no camp in the polls with a 3% margin of error and 4-8% undecided. It’s going to come down to which side the don’t knows plump for tomorrow and which side is most motivated to go out and vote on the day. A distrust of the postal voting system rife with fraud will probably result in more yes voters preferring to vote in person tomorrow and physically casting your ballot in a polling station feels more real, like you’re actually taking part and not going through the motions. The yes camp have probably got the edge on the no camp when it comes to motivation.

Many promises have been made by Cameron, Clegg and Miliband to give more power and money to Scotland, including agreeing to Gordon Brown’s three demands for more money and influence for Scotland in the event of a no vote. The problem is, none of them have the power to deliver those promises. They can make personal pledges and even declare them to be party policy but there’s a general election in less than 8 months and MPs representing English constituencies are getting a little uneasy about how far the English can be pushed before it starts inflicting damage on them at the ballot box. One Tory MP has promised a “bloodbath” when the new powers Cameron has promised for Scotland are up for debate in the British parliament. More people than ever are demanding an English Parliament and expressing their disgust at the unfair treatment of England. There are votes in supporting equality for England and MPs in England will be doing their sums and wondering if they can afford not to support an English Parliament.

I would like to implore our neighbours north of the border to do the right thing and vote for independence. If you vote no you won’t get another chance for a couple of decades at least. When you find out that the promises that have been made are empty and you won’t be allowed to have your cake and eat it if you vote to stay in the union it’ll be too late to do anything about it. There’s no point staying in a loveless marriage for the sake of the children, it’s best to part on good terms before it turns completely sour. This is the only chance you’re going to get of getting independence, don’t fuck it up.