The things they say – 28th June

In a few days, Iraq will radiate with stability and security

Iyad Allawi, 28 June 2004

There are times when I despair of the apathy to the bloodshed taking place in Iraq today. It seems that things have been so bad for so long, that we no longer notice when another suicide bomber kills another half-dozen people. And still the pro-war half of the Parliamentary Labour Party insist the invasion was the right thing to do because ‘we gave them democracy’. It looks like anarchy from where I’m sitting.

too complex, technically unsafe, overly prescriptive

too complex, technically unsafe, overly prescriptive and lack a foundation of public trust and confidence

So says the London School of Economics in their Identity Project Report published today. Much has been made of the LSE’s disagreement with the government over the cost of the scheme – but the report’s unease goes far further than cost issues. It also raises concerns over the plain legality of the proposals – both under our own laws, as well as European Human Rights legislation.The government is determined to steamroller this bill through Parliament, despite the fact that there is no confidence in:

  • The viability of the technology
  • The security of the data which would be held
  • The ability of government departments to manage major IT rollouts without creating huge backlogs to the detriment of their customers (I’m thinking of the CSA here)
  • The ability of government departments not to make monumental cock-ups (like paying families too much tax credit – and then clawing it back at rates that leave families unable to manage their family budgets)

All this from a Blair administration that promised to ‘listen’ after the greatly reduced mandate at the last election.

Legislate in haste – repent at leisure.

Stop patronising us

Lord Goldsmith wants to remove the right to trial by jury in ‘complex fraud cases’. Is he suggesting that jurors are not intelligent enough to understand these cases? Are judges always people with their fingers on the pulse of businesss and therefore easily able to understand complex fraud cases that the rest of us mere mortals are not? The right to trial by jury is one of the fundamental pillars of our stable society – and as such it should remain sacrosanct.

And Lord Goldsmith needs to stop patronising us!

Chirac vs Blair – the rematch

We’ve been here before – but never has the relationship between Britain and France within the EU been more interesting. For Chirac, it hasn’t quite gone to plan. I’m sure he would have wanted to enter this period with France looking like good Europeans (having ratified the Constitution), casting Britain in it’s traditional role of the sceptical people on the margins of Europe (clinging to their rebate and unable to convince their Eurosceptic people of the advantages of being in the EU).

But this time, it’s the French who’ve thrown the EU into disarray, while Tony looks forward to his term at the helm. The trouble with the rebate is that it’s only justified because of CAP, and in a world where effects of unfair agricultural subsidies on third world producers can no longer be ignored, CAP is becoming less and less defensible.

Add to this the further complications introduced by EU expansion, and it becomes abundantly clear that the whole system of EU finance is in need of root-and-branch reform. Maybe then we’ll persuade more citizens on both sides of the channel to endorse a joint constitution.

The Long Walk to Justice

Here’s the deal: eight of the world’s most powerful men meet in Scotland for the G8 summit. One or two people plan to turn up at Gleneagles and exercise their right to peaceful demonstration. All right, a few hundred thousand. Possibly because a few hundred thousand of us feel sufficiently uncomfortable with living our cosy, comfy lifestyles knowing that 50,000 people will die today from poverty. Meanwhile, the EU is wedded to an agricultural policy which ensures western farmers get paid to produce food we don’t need, which we then dump outside the EU at knock-down prices which Third World producers cannot compete with. It’s not uncomfortable – it’s obscene.Meanwhile, a five mile long security fence is being erected around the G8 venue. It is being camouflaged on the inside just so that the G8 leaders don’t have to feel ‘shut in’. Or perhaps so they don’t have to be made to feel too uncomfortable as they ignore the demonstrations outside.

Bob Geldof has launched Live 8 – as if anybody hasn’t heard yet – not to raise money, but to raise awareness. Third World poverty is a blight on the west, because our leaders really do have the power to do something about it. They just don’t think it’s a vote winner.