Tag Archives: Eric Joyce

Undecided Scot decides

Alex Salmond: Better Together, that's what I sayI still don’t know how I’ll vote in autumn 2014. But a few days ago, one thing at least was made definite for me: the Better Together vote is going to win. I’m certain enough of that to lay a bet on it, if I were the gambling sort.

What made me so sure?

It’s not just that the SNP are saying blithely that Independence Day will be March 2016, though that is a highly-unrealistic timescale. (It’s also not a binding decision.)

On 11th May I predicted, correctly, that Barack Obama was going to be a two-term President. My certainty was founded in Obama’s own sense of political security: that’s when Obama opted to come out for repealing DOMA and in support of lifting the ban on same-sex marriage recognition: for gay marriage.

For the most part, there are two sorts of politicians who come out for LGBT equality: the very principled, who will stand up for what’s right regardless of what this does to their future career, and the very confident, who are sure of their future career regardless of what they say. Barack Obama is not the first sort of politician (that sort doesn’t become President of the United States) but he is superb at the job of getting elected. I was sure Obama was going to win.

I’m now sure that the SNP leadership is certain they won’t win the referendum in 2014: they can set a date of March 2016 for independence because that’s not in their plans. They can separate off the “Yes Scotland” campaign as officially not-really SNP, and the morning after the votes are counted and the result is published, the SNP can move on with their plans for contesting Scottish seats in the May 2015 Westminster election.
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Filed under Elections, LGBT Equality, Scottish Politics

Our constitution, July 2012: Public ethics

“Code of Conduct / Public Ethics”

There are, according to the Committee on Standards in Public Life, seven principles of public life – selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty, and leadership.

I have to say – having taken part in many protests in Edinburgh over the years – that I have never felt afraid of Lothian and Borders Police. I warily arranged a phone contact before going to the SPUC OFF protest, because I did not know for sure that SPUC would stay non-violent and away from us and I wasn’t confident that the police would necessarily pick out the prolife aggressors over us feminist hippy weirdos with our hand-painted signs: but I was sure that so long as no one started any aggro, Lothian and Borders Police would simply allow both sides to have our peaceful protest. And I was very glad they were there at the BNP protest at Meadowbank.

But I have felt afraid on several protests in London – because I was part of a large crowd engaged in peaceful public protest, and the Metropolitan Police seemed by that to assume I was the enemy. They did not seem to regard any part of the crowd of protesters as the people whom it was their obligation to protect. We were, at best, there by their tolerance: and I only felt at risk in any crowd when I saw the Met Police in their riot gear.

I heard by unsubstantiated rumour that when the Metropolitan Police offered to send a detachment to Scotland to “help” police the G8 protest in 2005, the Scottish police forces gave the Met a joint dubious look, muttered “aye, that’ll be right”, and politely declined the offer, on the grounds that they wanted to keep the peace, not stir up trouble.

The UK Committee on Standards in Public Life was set up in October 1994 and issued its first report in 1995, under the chairmanship of Lord Nolan. It was established in order to investigate concerns about the conduct of members of parliament, after allegations that MPs had taken cash for putting down parliamentary questions. The Committee Report set out seven principles of public life: selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty, and leadership. The ‘Nolan reforms’ established a new post of Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards (see ombudsman) whose job was to maintain the Register of Members’ Interests and investigate the conduct of MPs; to set up a House of Commons Committee on Standards and Privileges; and to set down a Code of Conduct for MPs. In 1998 the Committee issued a report on the funding of political parties, which rejected calls for state funding. — Alistair McMillan, Oxford Dictionary of Politics

There is a Ministerial Code, which is – we discovered with Jeremy Huntharder to break than the Enigma Code. Apparently the unwritten “constitution” of the UK requires ministers to be accountable to the Prime Minister, not to anyone like the “independent” adviser on the ministerial code:

The current holder of this well-paid and undemanding sinecure, Sir Alex Allan, tried to convince the select committee that he would be proactive and would not be sidelined.

Giving evidence, he said he would quit if he were marginalised, and promised not to be anyone’s “poodle”. He even came up with proposals for how he could conduct inquiries more quickly than his predecessor, Sir Philip Mawer. But he was clear that the prime minister had no plans to change the fundamental tripwire: that only the prime minister could ask him to conduct an inquiry.

Arguably, constitutional propriety requires ministers to be accountable to the prime minister, and not to a Whitehall bureaucrat. But it is notable that neither the cabinet secretary nor the prime minister have been keen to pass any issue to the independent adviser. Indeed, David Cameron has never referred a single case, making one wonder how Allan spends his days.

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Filed under Corruption, Elections, Justice, Riots, Scottish Constitution, Scottish Culture, Scottish Politics

Violence in House of Commons bar

MPs can get drunk in the House of Commons more cheaply than anywhere/anyone else in London.

Last night an MP entered the Strangers’ Bar in the House of Commons, shouted abuse, and violently attacked one or more fellow MPs. I anticipate wincingly that, given the kind of abuse the MP shouted, that this is going to turn into a discussion about anti-Tory feeling among Scots or about the appalling behaviour of a Labour oik.

For several years running, the LGBT Tories have shown up to Pride fairs and marches in Edinburgh and Glasgow. Given how Scots feel about Tories, and given how LGBT people feel about Tories, they’re not a big group and they’re not a very popular one. But they have their stall at the Pride fair or they march with their banner, and while I doubt if they’ve convinced anyone in the crowd to vote Tory, no one has ever – to my knowledge – used abusive language to them or been violent. Pride marches and fairs are loud, cheerful, and sober parties.

From PoliticsHome, last night:

Conservative Stuart Andrew, MP for Pudsey, was reportedly head-butted and punched in the incident which happened just after 11pm tonight in the Stranger’s Bar, a Commons bar which is reserved for MPs and their guests.

Mr Joyce is alleged to have “just started lashing out at people”, according to one eye-witness who asked not to be named.

The eye-witness told PoliticsHome that Mr Joyce, a former Army officer who represents Falkirk, pushed a Tory MP and then started punching some of the other Conservative members seated at the back of the bar. Drinks were thrown over other bar partons.

I could be wrong but I think the evidence strongly suggests that Eric Joyce has a drinking problem – he was banned from driving in November 2010, after an incident near Grangemouth where he refused a breathalyzer test. (And he also has an expenses problem.) I have no comment to make on his blog about Vodka stats and the Scots but I expect plenty of other people will.

Not that this excuses the violence last night – I strongly agree with David Allen Green:

How wonderfully amusing. Someone we disapprove of is headbutted. What a laugh, eh? He must have been asking for it, so funny.
Because having one’s head smashed is just a joke, isn’t it?
Why are peeps calling it a “brawl” when the only current information is that it was one-sided? Makes the headbutt ok, does it?
By calling it a “brawl” the implication is that the victim has blame as well as the attacker. So we can laugh at alleged physical assault. (1, 2, 3, 4)

Though I disagree that taxpayers should subsidise their food, there’s every reason why MPs should have somewhere to go have a meal in the House of Commons, as should everyone who works there. I’d rather subsidise the food for the civil servants who work there than the MPs – anyone who gets a salary of £64K can pay for their own dinner. I’m not suggesting that the restaurants should be unlicenced. But the taxpayers subsidise four bars in the House of Commons, and I’m failing to see why we should pay for even one. Nor do I see why MPs should be able to buy as “souvenirs” bottles of wine or spirits at a subsidy of nearly 20% from the taxpayer.

If Eric Joyce is an alcohol addict, he needs help. For all the other MPs who work there, alcohol addicts or not – close down the bars, end the “souvenirs” subsidy, and set your own House in order. Though I doubt if David “Tiger-Tiger” Cameron, Bullingdon boy, will make any speeches in support of that.

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Filed under Drinking, Scottish Politics