For PMQs

At PMQs today:

"Those people, in my view, should be deported irrespective of any claim that they have that the country to which they are going back may not be safe.

Er, no. No, not at all.

Firstly, I don't see why someone being foreign changes things. Why should foreign criminals be treated differently to domestic criminals?

Secondly, are we seriously saying that we're going to deport people back to, say, North Korea? How about Saudi Arabia? Uzbekistan?

Thirdly, let's take a particular case. Women forced into prostitution - sexual slavery - in the UK. They have all committed what is now the gravest of offences - they are illegal immigrants. Are we going to turn around and just send them home?

I don't know who to blame more; Dave Cameron for going off on this one, Tony Blair for giving in, the media for hyping this out of all proportion, or the lot of them for not actually sensibly debating the issue.



Freedom of speech

One of the points of free speech, I think, is that it allows people to identify problems and so cause them to be rectified. One of the reasons, I think, for protecting free speech is that this rectification may cause problems for people at the top, who are able to act against speech they dislike.

Enter Erik Ringmar, stage right.

Without wanting to restate the facts (which can be found at Erik's blog at, I find it very hard to justify the LSE's position.

Everything that Erik said in his speech was, based on five years as a government department undergrad, accurate. Nor was it a tirade against LSE:

"What I can promise is that our ‘occasional teachers’ are in a league onto themselves. These are the people in charge of your classes. The people you will interact with most closely."

Because all undergrads are always lectued by Nobel laureates, frequently on a one-to-one basis.

If giving that speech, despite all that LSE said, was inappropriate, someone higher up the cursus honorum could have dropped an email. They could even have not invited him to give the speech again.

However, they did not. What they ended up doing was threatening an employee with disciplinary action because of something done in that employee's private life. We are in a sad situation indeed if someone cannot openly talk about their workplace, particularly an academic institution that proclaims its attachment to free speech.

One of the claims made from the administration was that Erik's comments damaged the LSE. Maybe yes, maybe no. I contend that coverage in the national press about an academic institution restricting freedom of speech is rather more damaging.



And now where?

Eagle-eyed viewers will have been able to see yours truly on the television news recently. ITV wanted some pictures of campaigners knocking on doors, and we were nearby, and various cameras were at the polling station on Palace Street to see me greet the PM and Cherie as they came to vote. This was used as stock footage of him voting, but was picked up in some outlets because my Conservative opposite number, Louise Hyams, asked Cherie if she would be voting Conservative. Cherie said 'fat chance' as she walked towards the polling station itself and this was picked up by the sound equipment. Whoops.

Anyway, it was an excuse to put on my best suit, although the hat was verboten.

It's far too depressing to dwell on the local elections, but some thoughts come to mind.

We are going to have to do something more serious about the BNP. Pontificating on blogs about the evils of fascism isn't going to achieve much.

The question of Blair's successor needs to be dealt with in a rather more rational way. Even if TB stays on till close to the next general election, Gordon Brown will, in all probability, take over. John Reid attacking anyone who wants a quicker change, including Brownites, as Old Labour doesn't help matters; these comments will come back to haunt us.

There's an adage about every PM being forced out except Wilson, who left because of failing health. I have a suspiscion that Tony Blair would like to leave on his own terms, in a period of relative calm - on his own terms. Unless the summer is particuarly quiet, I don't see such an opportunity, and I think that he would be better off leaving with despatch rather than trying to slug it out.

There are a couple of years between now and the next elections - the Euros and London in 08 - which should allow us time to regroup and look vaguely electable. However, if the current state of affairs continues, and we have another second-order election like this, we will look weak coming into the next General. People are already talking - well, the Nick Robinsons of this world - about hung Parliaments and so on, and there is a real risk that this will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. There is a problem in that I don't think that Brown will differ significantly from Blair in policy terms. He may deal more astutely with the Labour party, differently with the media and have a spell of support from the public at large and from within the party, to an extent because he'd be new and so on.

Finally, we need to hope that people will vote more on local issues; kicking out a load of councillors who don't like Tony Blair anyway and are good at their job because of Tony Blair isn't a great way of doing things.



Letter Boxes

Should I ever come to any significant power, I have decided that there is something that has to go.

Furry letter boxes.

Some letter boxes have stiff fur in them, purportedly to stop drafts, but they make it impossible to put letters and fliers through. If people aren't satisfied with the two-flap arrangement, they can put a box on the outside. So much time is wasted with those infernal furry letter boxes.

Anyone who's delivered leaflets for a political party will agree with me. Between us, we have the power. The time is right :)

How do people who deliver post all year round do this? There must be a secret...



Where's Wally?

My apologies, dear reader, if you have been expecting updates. I have been detained lately with the elections and revision. Fear not: I shall return in a few days.

In the meantime, I shall leave you with a quote from The Big Issue (May 1-7 2006, p6):

"In 2004, journalists on the Daily Express files a complaint against their own paper after being pressured into writing a story headlined '1.6 million gypsies set to flood in'."



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