Temper, Temper

There are some astonishing, and damaging allegations, in today’s Mail on Sunday regarding Gordon Brown’s temper:

Sensational claims that Gordon Brown has physically attacked his staff in a series of outbursts in Downing Street – and once in America – have rocked the Government.

Well-placed sources say the Prime Minister has been accused of hitting a senior adviser, pulling a secretary out of her chair and hurling foul-mouthed abuse at aides while distraught over an alleged snub by President Barack Obama.

Stories about Gordon Brown’s temper and ‘flying Nokias’ have been well-known for years, but here the allegations are different; they suggest that Brown’s temper is so bad that he physically assaults people – hauling a secretary out of her chair is extremely serious and it’s difficult to imagine a worse revelation.

It’s hard to dismiss these allegations out of hand as journalist Andrew Rawnsley has a very good track record and impeccable sources within Labour. Also interesting is, despite Downing Street denials, Sky News appears to have been got at and pulled the Mail from their paper reviews.

Partly Brown must be thankful that today’s coverage is dominated by the revelations of a different kind regarding a certain sportsman, but should these gain traction over the next few days Brown is in deep trouble.

The motive is interesting; it’s surely too late to replace Brown now, though he’s clearly made a lot of enemies on the way up. I’m wondering if this is about the post-election leadership – damage Brown so much to maximise the potential for a devastating defeat, thus making sure Brown and Balls are out of the picture completely. Interestingly the Times today is reporting that Brown wants to remain as leader even if he loses the election.

Mandelson’s love is for the Labour party, not for Brown.

The Frog’s Favourite Blogs

Here’s a round-up of a number of blog posts that have caught my eye over the last seven days. Enjoy!

The Spectator thinks it’s great that Baroness Ashton has made a dreadful start.

Andrew Neil suggests the dam is cracking regarding Global Warming. He is the lonely sceptical voice within the so-called ‘impartial’ BBC regarding Climate Change.

Governmentitus asks where to cast the Eurosceptic vote at the next election.

EUReferendum continues his terrific assault upon the apocalyptic forces of darkness.

Mary Honeyball MEP discusses the EU’s role in trying to stop the horrific custom of Female Genital Mutilation.

Tom Harris has a short but sweet tale of an attempt at blagging.

Blair? I Don’t Care!

Apparently Tony Blair is appearing before the Chilcot Inquiry today. I only know this because the media have gone into collective orgasmic meltdown; it’s dominating all the media outlets – the Daily Telegraph even have a live lie detector on their website. The mind boggles.

I really really really don’t care about the lead up to the Iraq war. It was 7 years ago, this has been raked over many times before and Blair is the past. Nothing he says today is going to change anyone’s opinion, least of all those that want him stuck in the Tower.

If the Chilcot inquiry asks some probing questions about Blair’s role in Britain’s subsequent disastrous and humiliating campaign in Iraq as depressingly detailed in Richard North’s excellent book, then some use may come of it for lessons to be learnt in Afghanistan, otherwise it’s just a waste of everyone’s time and money.

A Greek Bailout

The euro continues to be in serious trouble, and failing rapidly; the immediate problems resulting from Greece’s debt. It seems clear that the government in Athens is unable or unwilling to address Greece’s financial problems; the question now is bailout or no bailout.

As I noted here the Eurozone countries will not allow one of its own to go into default – the project is far too important to allow Greece to default. With Greece facing bankruptcy and despite questions over the legality of such a move, Charlemagne’s notebook confirms that it’s now a question of how not if:

IN Brussels policy circles, the question asked about a bailout of Greece used to be: are European Union governments willing to do this? Now, I can report, the question among top EU officials has changed to: how do we do this?

Twice in the past 48 hours I have heard very senior figures—both speaking on deep background—ponder the political mechanics of how large sums in external aid could be delivered to Greece before it defaults on its debts: a crisis that would have nasty knock-on effects for the 16 countries that share the single currency.

One figure said yesterday that heads of government could not wait “forever” to take decision. That means a decision in the next few months, at most. Greece’s draft plans for reducing its deficit from around 13% to 3% in three years did not seem credible, said this source. Thus a crisis loomed. “We need to help them,” he said. This means “external aid” of some sort, in exchange for strict conditions.

As expected, it looks as though the EU will bailout Greece and impose very strict IMF-like conditions as a result – forcing a reluctant Greece to deal with its deficit.

There are a couple of dangers here. Firstly, the strict conditions could be political disastrous in Greece, something the Greek government is already acutely aware of – a backlash against membership of the EU could result on the streets. Secondly the political consequences around the rest of the EU could be grim as well.

As a result of the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty under Article 122 all the 27 member states of the EU, not just the 16 member states of the Eurozone, are obliged to help the Greeks if the EU decides to bail them out. Article 122 states:

“Where a member state is in difficulties or is seriously threatened with severe difficulties caused by natural disasters or exceptional occurrences beyond its control, the council of ministers, on a proposal from the European Commission, may grant, under certain conditions, Union financial assistance.”

This decision is taken on a majority vote, consequently meaning that the UK, which is not part of the Eurozone, would be forced to help save the euro. If the EU decides that member states have to contribute in accordance with their own share of the total EU economy, Britain might be forced to pay a £7 billion bill to bail out Greece – or perhaps even more, if other bankrupt Eurozone countries, such as Spain, are excused their share.

The bill could be even higher if other debt-ridden countries such as Spain and Portugual, seeing the Greece bailout, claim the same treatment. This could saddle Britain with a bill of £50 billion to save a currency in which the UK has never been a part of. Political dynamite, and not just in the UK as I noted here such a move would also be deeply unpopular in Germany.

There are other problems; no-one knows the true scale of the Greek debt – it’s very likely to be much higher, the EU still lacks clear mechanisms to handle a situation like the present crisis, it is stuck on debate regarding the legality, and there is clearly a split in opinion between countries more positive in helping Greece and others that are deeply uneasy.

One obvious solution would be to order Greece to go to the IMF. The IMF have already indicated their readiness to help, they not only have the necessary tools but would take the hit for the unpopular measures needed.

The reluctance to bring in the IMF is, of course, political – to do so would be humiliating for the Eurozone, but also Charlemagne’s notebook points to another reason for the reluctance:

This brings me back to an interesting detail about the IMF. It is often said that the IMF cannot intervene within the euro zone because it would be too humiliating, politically, for the EU to admit it could not look after one of its core members. That is clearly a view shared by senior officials. However, one source offered a further reason why the IMF is not welcome that I had not heard before. The fund’s experts typically offer countries in trouble a mixture of fiscal and monetary advice, he explained: ie, they tell countries to cut public spending and raise taxes, but also to alter interest rates and take steps to stabilise their currency. If the IMF told Greece to cut public sector salaries, say, that would not shock the rest of the EU, he said. But what if the IMF demands that Greece tighten or loosen its monetary policy? Greece shares its monetary policy with the other 15 members of the euro zone: would the ECB be expected to change its monetary policies? And what would Germany have to say about that?

Political considerations are being placed above financial ones but as the EU is about to find out, you can’t buck the market. The day of reckoning is approaching fast, though Jose Luis Zapatero, Spain’s premier appears confident:

“Nobody is going to leave the euro”

The political will may be there, but markets move much faster. The problem is not just Greece but Spain, Portugal and Italy – the prospect of contagion is very real as the markets find the next weak link. The EU leaders could very well soon find themselves surrounded by the wreckage of a European currency before they know what the hell has happened.

Update: This chap can’t be accused of mincing his words regarding the crisis in the Eurozone:

hattip: thedarknight comment on The Tap blog

When Is A Peep Show Really A Cinema?

In a rather bizarre VAT case at the European Court of Justice, the owner of a Belgian sex shop is attempting to argue that a coin-in-the-slot peep show counts as a cinema, which would then qualify for a reduction in VAT.

Under EU rules a cinema qualifies for a lower rate of VAT because they are identified has having a social or cultural purpose and in Belgian this reduces the rate from 21% to 6%.

The question posed to the ECJ is as follows:

Should a cubicle consisting of a lockable space where there is room for only one person and where this person can watch films on a television screen for payment, where this person personally starts the film projection by inserting a coin and has
a choice of different films, and during the time paid for can continually modify his/her choice of projected films, be regarded as a ‘cinema’ as referred to in the Sixth Council Directive
No 77/388/EEC (1) of 17 May 1977, Annex H, Category 7 (subsequently: Annex III, No 7, of Council Directive 2006/112/EC (2) of 28 November 2006)?

Now, a number of questions spring to mind; 1) Will the judges need to make a site visit, 2) why don’t Belgians have the internet and, 3) are Pringles really cakes?

The End Of Common Law?

13th Spitfire alerts me to an Early Day Motion tabled by Bob Spink regarding the appointment of a European Public Prosecutor one of the essential steps in the general adoption of Corpus Juris in EU, thus replacing Habeas Corpus in the UK:

  1. The Lisbon Treaty provides for the appointment of a European Public Prosecutor [“EPP”]. Don’t confuse it with the European Peoples Party that the Conservative MEP’s finally left four years after Cameron said it would take place immediately! Mr Bob Spink, the Member of Parliament [Independent; formerly UKIP and, before that, Conservative] for Castle Point, tabled Early Day Motion [“EDM”] 637 on the 18th January 2009 about the EPP. A copy of that EDM is attached; it is self-explanatory.
  2. Confirmation that the European Commission is now going ahead with the appointment of the EPP was provided in the European Parliament on the 12th January 2010 during the Committee hearing of the candidate Commissioner for the Taxation and Customs Union, Audit and Anti-Fraud portfolio, Mr Algirdas Semata [Lithuania], in response to a question by Ms Marta Andreasen MEP [UKIP]. See the video of this on http://www.martaandreasen.com/Video.html; Commissioner Questions 3.
  3. From the point of view of the European Union in further expanding its powers, the appointment of the EPP is one of the essential steps in the general adoption of Corpus Juris throughout the Union. Corpus Juris was first formally debated as long ago as 1997 and it has been “waiting in the wings” ever since. Now that the Lisbon Treaty has been ratified, Corpus Juris will go ahead. Generally, as far as continental countries in the European Union are concerned, the adoption of Corpus Juris would be consonant with their present criminal legal arrangements but for the United Kingdom [and for Ireland and Malta] it would entail a complete bouleversement of our criminal law entailing, inter alia, theabandonment of habeas corpus, of the presumption of innocence and of trial by jury – safeguards of individual freedoms that have been customary for us for centuries but are not followed in any continental country.
  4. EDM 637 is unlikely to be debated in the House; its objective on this vital legal matter is to alert the Government about the extent and depth of the opinion in the House that, hopefully, will finally be determined by the number of signatures that it attracts from supportive Members; it already has cross-party support. Parliament itself – because of the provisions of the European Treaties – is powerless to prevent the appointment of the EPP, but those provisions do provide our Government with the power either to veto the appointment or to opt-out of the Treaty provisions relating to criminal justice thereby preserving the present basis of the jurisdiction for criminal law in the United Kingdom. It would be expected, in conformity with their Oaths of Allegiance, if for no other reason, that every Member in the House would sign EDM 637. If there were overwhelming support for EDM 637, the Government would be under great pressure to use either its veto or its opt-out
  5. However, it must be borne in mind that, in practice, the present Government and previous governments have shown little inclination to safeguard Britain’s legal systems from encroachment by the European Union. For example, the European Treaties provided that in many respects the European Court of Justice – clearly politically motivated in so many of its judgments – should be our final Court of Appeal. Another pertinent example indicating the present Government’s approach to the adoption of European legal arrangements relates to the maintenance of “law and order”. On the 18th October 2007, five countries in the European Union [Spain, France, Italy, The Netherlands, and Portugal] established a European Gendarmerie Force [“EGF”] by means of the Velsen Treaty pursuant to a Declaration of Intent dated the 17th September 2004 – see the EGF official website http://www.eurogendfor.eu. The EGF is an armed paramilitary anti-riot force under central control and is primarily intended to support the police and civilian authorities in the individual countries in the European Union [and, in practice, elsewhere in the world] in which the EGF can be stationed and deployed with the agreement of the country concerned. However, when asked in the House last year for an assurance that the EGF would never be allowed to set foot in Britain, the Government refused to give it.
  6. That is a summary of the present position on the appointment of the EPP. What can we do? The answer is that, as a matter of urgency, as many people as possible in each Constituency should get in touch with its Member of Parliament [personally, or by email or post] and ask him/her to confirm that he/she will sign EDM 637 immediately – and, if not, why not. Also, as many letters as possible should be addressed to local newspapers and the matter of the EPP should be brought to the attention of local broadcasters and television stations. By all means, letters should be sent to national papers and broadcasters but, in the past, it has proved to be difficult to interest them in complicated European Union matters – however vital to Britain’s interests – and that applies particularly to the BBC.

So far the EDM has been signed by 7 MPs, I have written to my MP to ask him to sign it, but I don’t hold out much hope that he will.