back to article If they can break the law, why can't we?

Lies, spin and establishment contempt for the rules by which the rest of the population are meant to live, are nothing new. It is just possible, however, that the last few weeks have been a tipping point, with large swathes of the population now questioning just why they should adhere to the letter of the law when others don’t …


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  1. Rupert Stubbs

    Bad laws

    Much of the blame must be laid on the staggering ineptness of New Labour's haemorrhage of legistlation. For a party led by lawyers, they have shown themselves utterly incapable of drafting the simplest law, preferring to adopt a shotgun approach. Indeed, I'm not sure I can think of a single law they've passed (thanks to a huge majority) that hasn't had to be amended, repealed or generally ignored.

    The nadir was the recent Religious Hatred act, which was objected to by comedians on the grounds that they wouldn't be able to make fun of people any more. "Oh, don't worry about that", said the politicians. "We know that's what it SAYS - we'll just tell the police not to apply it to you."

    Bad laws are corrosive. They introduce doubt and ambiguity, and this distorts behaviour, both on side of the public, and on that of those enforcing it. We now no longer know whether we have freedom of speech, whether we can be extradited to another country for something that isn't a crime in this country, whether we can photograph a policeman beating someone up at a demonstration, whether our confidential details must be put on a government database, etc., etc.

    It used to be the glory of the English legal system - compared to the Napoleonic (European) - that what isn't expressly against the law is legal. New Labour (and the EU, to be fair) have tried to correct this by legistlating about everything they can - not a sparrow falls but the government must pass a new law to stop it happening again. There are now so many new laws that ignorance of the law - even for lawyers and judges - is inevitable, yet the effect of all this is to make us feel less in control, not safer.

    We can only hope that a new government realises that this is part of the contempt we feel for the authorities in whatever form. Both the Tories and Lib Dems have paid lip-service to restoring some of our freedoms and getting proper accountability - but we all know that these promises can be put off once they are in power...

  2. Matt

    Obey until...

    Most people obey the law until they come into contact with the police. As a law abiding citizen, when you've been stopped "Because I can" you quickly learn to tell them what to do.

    And there is nothing funnier than asking them which law they are stopping you under. If it's the terrorism one always ask for what makes you look like a terrorist (they will usually walk off quickly)

  3. Frank

    A few points

    I think this is a well written and thoughtful article, but I'd like to raise some points about something the author said.....

    "...if the public reflected more quietly on the issues, it is probable they would not wish their own employers to pursue such a draconian policy either."

    There is a contract of employment between my employer and myself and either of us are free to terminate it under simple conditions within a short time. There is no contract between MPs and the people who voted to put them into Parliament. The people have to wait years for an opportunity to appoint a replacement.

    My employer has written rules, available for me to read at all times. The vast majority of these rules only apply during the hours of work when I am 'performing my duties'. Outside those hours, my employer does not care what I do. MPs pass into law, rules that apply to me 24/365 and give power to their agents (police) to make up rules on the fly with no consultation with me.

    (This is a turnaround situation where the appointee now has power over the 'appointer').

    The situation and the effects of the relationship between the 'people' and the MPs and their agents are totally unlike the employer/employee relationship. Hence you cannot draw working comparisons between them. The authors statement (in quotes above) would be valid for a relationship between two normal people or a person and a reasonably 'benign' organisation. This is not the case for Parliament and the people.

  4. Pete Silver badge

    public malleability

    Right now, the public is being told what a load of thieving, fraudulent bastards our politicians are (as we didn't know already). This has taken over from swine flu as the biggest thing on the news horizon - even though only a few weeks ago we were being told that the whole planet is doomed and we'll all have to stuff hankies up our noses if we want to make to to the newsagents without dying a grotesque and horrible death. No doubt in a couple of weeks time, the MPs expenses thing will have been forgotten, just as the row about bankers pay before that, and the "epidemic" of teenage stabbings in London, before that.

    By this time next year - when we'll have to have an election, if there hasn't already been one by then, most people will remember the expenses row and think "Oh, yeah .... bunch of tossers".However, by then the wind-up for the 2010 world cup will be monopolising the meeja and all these revelations will seem as distant and unimportant as Tony Blair is today.

    The thing is, most people don't care - about anything that doesn't affect them, personally. Yes they love to grumble in the pub and on the high street and a few might actually get off their arses and grumble on the internet - but ultimately it's like moaning about the weather: something we do as a nation, but not in the expectation that we can change it.

    As it is, there are only a handful of people who's opinions matter in the UK. These are the individuals who set the news agenda: a few foreign newspaper owners and a couple of anonymous (and so "right-on" and artsy it makes you sick) news editors on 24 hour news channels. Since these people decide what we will be told - and what political slant it will be presented with, they effectively decide what we all shall whinge about next (and to a large extent, which of our two identical parties will form the next indiscernable-from-the-last government).

    So what of the expenses row? Just like every previous case of political corruption and every one to come; nothing. It'll cause a few snouts to withdraw from the trough - to be replaced by new and more devious ones. It'll give rise to some procedural changes in a place that almost no-one has ever been to and the historians will write about it. So far as having any lasting effect on real peoples' lives - forget it. It's already yesterday's news.

  5. Anonymous Coward

    You may have missed the point

    This could well be a tipping point as you say, but you seem to have missed that a large percentage of the public are finaly fed up to the back teeth with the way our *servants* have been trying to behave as the master.

    This bunch of disingenuous prevaricating bastards need dealing with, a few resignations will not do, we should get rid of this den of scum and start again.

    flames, they all need to be sent to to hell

  6. Martin


    Great article. It is apparent tom me and many others i am, sure that we are very much living in a society were the "the elite" control the many.

    The behavior of so called public servants is despicable, although i believe many of them see themselves as public masters. With all the talk of last years expenses, what about the previous expense claims for the last 20 years or more of a long sitting MP. Where i work the tax office wrote to the finacial controller saying we could no longer get our 20 pounds Xmas food voucher, because this was a benefit in kind and was subject to taxation!

    I strongly think the more control and power the few have the more likely we will have a distopian police state. It is time for people to sand up and say no to whats basically a two party state. The Northern Ireland Assembly political model springs to mind as possible answer to power swapping between Conservatives and Labour.

  7. Darren
    Thumb Up


    very insightful, as time goes on I wonder where the more and more orwellian actions by the UK powers-that-be will end.

  8. David

    Good article

    That's what I like about The Register. When you're serious, you're VERY serious!!

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    how i see it

    ever since the hand gun theft, enacted by a bunch of yet-to-be-convicted theives and enforced by another bunch of same, i have had a pragmatic approach to the law.

    if it does not suite my purpose, i will ignore it.

    that view has in no way been eroded by the behaviour of our "government" or "the loyal opposition", rather, it has been re-enforced.

  10. jake Silver badge

    Because we don't have to break the law. Duh.

    "It still takes a certain amount of chutzpah to stand up to a police officer in a public place."

    OK, if you say so. Personally, I don't allow myself to be pushed about by petty officials when I'm not doing anything illegal.

    "Nonetheless, this affair is bound to filter into attitudes towards compliance with the law. After all, why be quite so accurate in reporting one’s tax affairs, when it is clear that those who pass the laws think it"

    "those who pass the laws think it" ... think it what? Methinks you're missing a wee bit there.

    You Brits need to get a trifle more coherent if you want hoi polloi to be in charge.

    Not that I think us Yanks are doing much better ...

  11. Martin

    its the degree they seem to be fiddling too

    'If you are alleged to have fiddled your expenses, you would expect a full investigation before you were fired'

    actually if i was alleged to have fiddled thousands of pounds I am sure that I would be out of the door before I could say 'it was a simple mistake'

  12. SuperTim
    Black Helicopters

    Open defiance = Death by taser

    Open defiance will end up in the deaths of many through so-called non-lethal weapons carried by facist bully-boys citing terrorism law. The British public are not so foolish or stupid to fall for such provocation, and are now sick of the one sided nature of authority that they no longer care for the rule of law. Most Brits will break any law if they think it is unfair unless that leads to definite arrest. There are fiew who would think twice when filesharing........

    The police will respond with heavier and heavier measures until a true police state exists. The instances of illegal searches, inappropriate use of terror legislation, violence against legal and peaceful protest and the increasing use of tasers against people who are unarmed and not dangerous means I am now more scared to walk down a street if there a coppers there than if there were the stereotypical terrorist intent on martyring himself at the exact point i walk past.

    Many people's experience of policing is a negative one, even when they are victims or innocent bystanders. In the past i have been subject to investigation for failing to provide my driving documents after witnessing an accident (boy falling off pedal cycle and hurting his knee). After they told me i had failed to provide i pointed out that i was a passenger in a car and the copper's face actually dropped at the realisation he couldnt then charge me, before rounding on my wife (who was driving). She has also been subject to a police check of her car when some drunken fool walking down the middle of an unlit road walked right in front of her. She swerved and only winged him, damaging her car in the process. The police were very keen to see if there was any reason to nick her. Her protests about the man's behaviour were met with "There's no law against being an idiot!". Clearly not, otherwise most of the force would be ineligible to join....

    The Government's approach to the banking crisis shows us where we all stand (the plebs who must support the fat cats when they screw up). The recent revelations regarding the us-and-them nature of MP's expenses further alienates many former law abiding citizens and there is much unrest amongst the natives. It is clearly a time for a wholesale change of both governement and law, and this is going to end up akin to the october revolution (except that we would overthrow in a more civilised manner).

    And before any knucklescraper asks.... No I don't read the daily fail.

  13. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    If it happened to me...

    "If you are alleged to have fiddled your expenses, you would expect a full investigation before you were fired. You would also hope for a warning for a first offence in most businesses, rather than summary dismissal."

    I'd expect enough of an investigation to prove that I had claimed and received the money in question. When all that has been done, if the claim has nothing to do with the job and amounts to a noticeable fraction of my salary, I'd expect to be fired and given the choice of "pay back all the money" (what do you mean you've spent it?) or face prosecution for fraud. That's also what my erstewhile collegues would expect. Why should their employer carry the loss?

    This is the case for a few MPs. *Most* MPs have not been so outrageous. *They* can expect a warning.

    That apart, I agree wholeheartedly.

  14. Diana Artemis
    Thumb Up

    Good article

    Congratulations to John Ozimek on a temperate, thoughtful and shapely piece of journalism. A joy to read, and full of good sense. We need this sort of intelligent writing, when so much written and broadcast journalism is currently playing to the gallery, and getting dangerously overheated.

  15. adnim

    A lack of we

    They make the laws

    They enforce the laws.

    They judge those they deem to have broken their laws,

    They sentence those they say are guilty of breaking their laws.

    There is no "we" in any of the above, we are not involved, we have no say, we do as we are told.

    There is no "I" in any of the above, I am not involved, I have no say, I mostly do as I am told.

    Right then we know who we are and I know who I am but who are they?

    Hasn't it always been the case that the alpha male eats first?

  16. Dan

    'Cos they did

    I may copy the MPs and put all sorts of wacky expenses on my tax return this year. If the catch me I'll just plead ignorance and say "well I thought it was legal to do that since it's legal for MPs to claim those things as expenses".

  17. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects
    IT Angle

    Who will police the unpoliceable?

    I have visions of parole officers being recruited to jam the masses. Fancy being interrogated by some idiot savant refused promotion from the Job Centre?

    What will happen when readers of computer magazines realise they are being recruited for the BNP not the IT?

  18. Ian Bradshaw

    Lying Cheating Bastards

    "Claims that most workers would be sacked at once for bending the rules in the way that MP’s appear to have are likely misplaced, and if the public reflected more quietly on the issues, it is probable they would not wish their own employers to pursue such a draconian policy either"

    If I'd just made up a claim for a new laptop (substitute for mortgage) that didn't exist and pocketed the cash thank you very much and then go, 'oh, sorry, didn't realise that laptop I made up didn't exist' ... then yes, I would expect to be instantly dismissed.

    It's a matter of scale, these lying cheating bastards have been thieving more than a lot of people earn in a year. It's not as though they've just taken a few hundred by accident (when you would just expect a telling off).

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    One rule for us, another for them...

    I think what grates the most with the exposure of MP expenses, is how all of them claim their actions to be a 'mistake' due to 'the pressures of work' and how they think (probably quite accurately thus far) that paying their ill-gotten gains back will be an end to the matter.

    What if an ordinary member of the public tried this? What if I didn't tell the council there was a second person living in my house for a year, and kept claiming the single-person rebate? What if I failed to tell HMRC my partner has got a job, and kept claiming extra tax credits I wasn't entited to? Or if I 'forgot' due to 'pressures of work' or because I wasn't 'good with numbers' to inform the tax people I made some capital gains last year?

    We'd have the book thrown at us. Penalties, court summonses, prosecutions, allegations of defrauding the public purse, threats of prison time. Why can't it be the same for them?

  20. chris

    Revolution anyone?

    Its a hard one to answer isn't it... should we break the law if those who make it don't follow it?

    "sinking down to their level" and all that rubbish...

    I'm not the one to make the decision, but i'd certainly join in with hitting a few police officers over the head. I've been wrongly arrested, searched unlawfully for a knife (seriously, I might have been 17 at the time but i've better things to do than go around stabbing people for the sheer fun of it), oh! and not to mention the fact that they don't half get upset if you photograph them... (its my new hobby)

    I make the prediction that by 2010 we will see a new Britain. One "of the people" where everything is fine and dandy, or one where its just going to get alot worse than it is now...

  21. Andrew Macrobie

    Scale ?

    "it is probable they would not wish their own employers to pursue such a draconian policy either. If you are alleged to have fiddled your expenses, you would expect a full investigation before you were fired. You would also hope for a warning for a first offence in most businesses, rather than summary dismissal."

    Had I fiddled my expenses to the tune of tens of thousands of pounds I would expect nothing less than an immediate dismissal - this, to me, would be in direct proportion to the level fraudulent actviity in which I had actively participated. I don't see how you can argue that the systematic and repeated theft of public funds /at this level/ by a number of individuals can be likened to claiming an extra few miles on expeses except for the basic fact that it's fraudulent activity.

    That's rather like saying one man murdering another is much the same as the mass murder of many indiviuals. They are manifestly different and should be treated as such.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This reminds me

    It is basically the exact same process that we have seen in Central-Eastern Europe in the past 15 years. It would be everyone's benefit if the establishment realized it, and did something in a timely manner, to avoid that road.

    The problem is, they seem to be too human to do that. Immediate personal benefits ALWAYS come first, and long term public benefit comes distinct second. The people that are able to switch this order are called heroes. And I cannot really see too many heroes in politics these days...

  23. Anonymous Coward

    Basic principles

    I think going back to two very basic principles should help a lot:

    - innocent until proven guilty. This one is where one also assumes a mistake before malice. This is the primary problem with the police attitude problem (because that's what I read into the incidents), somehow the police appears to address you with the assumption of guilt, naturally leading to immediate conflict.

    - everyone the same for the law. This is where the public anger resides. Everyone is monitored, except those that ordered it and the ones that do it. First off, CCTV has NIL preventative value (it's no comfort that my knife killer may be apprehended afterwards, thanks), secondly, that monitoring is not transparent - why can't I see what happens to that data? Why can the police kill people and get away with it? They are given special powers, but with that comes special responsibility - and that appears to have been lost on quite a few (not all of them, thankfully).

    One extra for bonus points?

    - transparency, transparency, transparency. The absolutely dramatic erosion of trust was initiated by New Labour introducing the "sleaze" factor when they were in opposition, and yes, the Tory party wasn't exactly above reprove. What is interesting is that (a) that party appeared to have cleaned up its act whilst, at the same time, (b) New Labour commenced their own version of sleaze the moment it walked though the doors at No10. Controls were disabled, press spin was introduced, the prevaling attitude was "control the masses with spin and fill your pockets while we can" - and it shows. M apologies for appearing politically biased here, but I am observing facts here. The Tories left an almost working IT environment - I have yet to see anything working under New Labour. New Labour started with a budget surplus, and have managed to urn it into the largest black hole in British history. Yet trice disgraced people like Mandelsson walk off to the EU to hold a well paid job at vast expense to the taxpayer. Blair goes to the one place which will profit from the crisis he caused in collaboration with Bush. Pensions, remember what those were? Who taxed the funds? Financial controls - remember those? The power of financial regulators is presently about as strong as that of the Information Commissioner - close to nil.

    It is a management dictum that ethics and attitudes flow downwards. If the top is replete with money grubbing, unethical people who try to hide their misdoing, lack of morals and breaking of laws (that is, the one they didn't manage to neuter yet) behind a wall of spin and silence it sets an example.

    One that business duly followed.

    One that leads to anarchy.

  24. Anonymous Coward

    If you think that's bad

    Try posting your annual cheque to the equivalent of your Inland Revenue when the guy at the top of it all is a known tax cheat. Populism and the so-called "Court of Public Opinion" is turning a great nation into a third-rate banana republic/kleptocracy no thanks at all to the same types of things you see going on in your country.

    A truly bitter example is immediately subsequent to that Treasury appointment, another appointment failed because the pol in question owed $120,000 in back taxes. He wrote a cheque and was cleared of any wrongdoing. If a regular citizen had that kind of tax liability, they'd be looking at prison time. If they had the money to pay it, they'd be investigated as having that kind of cash on hand when you're withholding it is viewed as evidence of wrongdoing by the same taxing authority. Our sniveling, panting, adoring media doesn't appear to be concerned, as the guy was of the right political affiliation, so we don't even have a useful press to put things right.

    It's not that we are holding our politicians to a higher standard and they fail -- it's that they fail to hold themselves to any sort of standard whatsoever and we all fail.

  25. Mike Flugennock
    Thumb Up

    Mass disobedience? Ungovernability?

    You say that as if it were a _bad_ thing. What obligation do the People have to obey odious diktats issued by a government that's become so vicious and oppressive that it's like a mad dog that needs killing, that makes one set of rules for itself and another for the People?

    Would that any of us over here in The Colonies had the cajones to disobey en masse in response to this kind of bullying. Sadly, I'm not holding my breath.

    Romantic as the idea may seem, nothing's going to change while we sit on our asses/arses and wait around for some caped knife-slinging bad-ass wearing a Guy Fawkes mask to show up and save us.

    Thumbs up, because people have a right to rise up when their government becomes "ungovernable". "Disobedience" is the right and duty of every one of us.

  26. robbie

    Quids pro quo

    I am planning to take a much more inclusive view in my own tax affairs: I am several years behind in my tax returns, and have been building a second house 80 yards from my first.

    So many changes are now possible to my accounting strategy that I could need several more years to finalise these tax returns; but since I know for a fact I've been spending more money than I've been earning it stands to reason that the taxman owes me money.

    By the time I've factored in Communications allowance and some creative "flipping", not to mention all the furniture, fittings and security system (Fido) and my faithful research assistant I anticipate a healthy payout from the rest of you, which I shall invest in RBS shares.

    Tux, 'cos it's still a noble ideal.

  27. Graham Marsden
    Thumb Down

    It's one law for them...

    ... and another for us

    We are, it seems, supposed to be meek and obedient sheeple, willing to obey our "Lords and Masters" and not question their authority, but what we're seeing now is the sheep turning on the shepherd and his dogs and saying "Just a minute there..."

    We have seen the slow but steady whittling away of our rights, yet apart from a few of us, most people have not stirred from their apathy to complain and those of us who do are ignored or fobbed off with worthless platitudes that do nothing to fix the underlying problems.

    But, finally, people are starting to wake up because this recent scandal is hitting them in a sensitive spot, ie in their wallets and purses.

    The question is, though, whether there will actually be any *real* change from all this?

    Will we actually see the sort of reform we need where our government becomes truly representative of the people or will the changes just be cosmetic and the public slump back into their apathy again?

    YOU have the ability to do something, the intertubes give you that power.

    Write to your MP at and tell them that you're Mad As Hell and You're Not Going to Take It Any More!

  28. Sceptical Bastard

    Excellent article

    I return to the ranks of commentards after a couple of months' absence (Hi Sarah, did you think I'd abandoned you?) with the pleasant task of saying 'very well done, El Reg, another really good well-balanced article'.

    Less nobly, I also want a smidgen of "toldja so". Since my experiences of single-issue political campaigning and lobbying in the 1980s, I've consistently opined in this and (many) other forums* that by and large professional politicians (both in parliament and in town halls) are greedy, venal, arrogant, hypocritical, bossy, repressive, authoritarian, duplicious, rebarbitive scum-shite.

    Now it turns out that - though it's hardly a surprise - they are benefit cheats as well.

    Never mind public outcry, never mind the ballot box, never mind protests and demos - what is desperately needed is a long brick wall, a crate of cartridges and a dozen AK47s.

    * OK, 'fora' if you prefer your nits ready-picked.

  29. Anonymous Coward

    First they came for the hippies and the lefties...

    ... and we warned and warned that what they were doing to folks back in the miner's strike and at the battle of the beanfield and the anti-roads protests and raves of the early 90s was what they would soon be doing to everybody, and that the Public Order Act and the Criminal Justice Acts might sound like they were aimed at the convoy and the ravers but the new powers it gave the state would soon be applied to everybody, and that there was and is a deliberate culture of the police acting to suppress any kind of public involvement in any kind of protest or political activity and it will end in a police state with none of us having any real freedom at all. This is what thirty years of neo-liberal thatcherism gets you: a police state where we are increasingly becoming the serfs of our international corporate overlords.

    Wake up, it's too late. They already did come for you.

    (On the bright side, if you need any advice on chutzpah and standing up to the police in public confrontations, there are at least a few people with many many years experience of doing so to talk to....)

  30. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    Blame the government

    And I do not just mean the current bunch of spivs

    The anti-terrorism laws are a prime example of making a hammer to hammer a particular type of nail, then expressing surprise when peter sutcliffe uses it for a completely purpose.

    You only have to look at the disaster of the CSA to see this in action, the well intentioned purpose was to find and make absent parents pay for their children.

    So the first thing they did was start throwing out previous divorce/maintaince agreements between couples and making them pay more.... then taking the extra payments off the parents benefit claims so that the child did'nt get any more cash in the end.

    And, of course, not bothering finding absent non paying parents because it would cost too much.

    But while the British people will put up with such stupidity by the government(largely by ignoring it), when the self rightous law makers are seen with their hand in the till, making claims for 2nd homes lived in by their partners, duck ponds moats, not declaring tax on monies earned from property development or employing their university based children as 'researchers' then the anger will boil over especially when spivs claim its within the rules, the rules made by themselves.

    And then the British people know that if we tried the same sort of behaviour with our employers, then we could be well on the way out of a job and more than likely, looking at a nasty bill and fine from the inland revenue.

    How the anger now being felt is expressed fills me with fear, all it will take is some far right party to make a some claims about 'honesty' and 'sweeping away the corrupt' and they could pick up a fair proportion of the votes... and I would rather see the UK in the hands of the current bunch of spivs and crooks than in the hands of the bnp.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Aren't they about to commit suicide?

    Section the government.

    This should be an interesting one. Much more effective for removing them from office, and of course the drugs used are akin to water boarding style torture; doesn't look like much but it will wreck their lives.

    These techniques were used against one of the newspaper owners who won World War 1 thu' propaganda for us, highly effective means of removing people from power, no court, no jury, just two people is all it takes, MPs are claiming and acting as if a suicide is imminent, section them.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Timely bit of writing and not without merit. The subject is one that holds much interest for me as I've known career criminals and been schooled in economics and the rudiments of law. Without going off on a rant, I'd like to point to just one undercurrent evident to me, and to most others, but perhaps not as fixed on as its efficacy, scope and agency deserves. The arrival of Bush, Cheney and neocons like Rove in conjunction with 911 generated a social disaster. That disaster incurred a "gloves off" attitude and methodology to law enforcement and international relations that are just now beginning to be addressed. Because the Obama administration is the most powerful in the world and pretty much dictates to NATO and associated organizations that represent a military might equivalent to the legions of ancient Rome, the direction Obama is headed will necessarily strongly contrast with the prior administration. Such contrast will effect an us against them, dark against light, right against wrong line of sight that will engender reactionary tendencies. In the cross over from the policies of the prior administration dealing with the 911 to the attempts of the Obama administration to find a more conciliatory, lawful way the entire democratic world is likely to see in the "gloves off" policies of the recent past a duplicity and unethical undercurrent in the actions of elected politicians. While I'm overall in deep agreement with the commentator I worried we as a world, democratic population might see in the stark contrast between the two administrations and the reactionary policies against 911 justification for contempt and civil unrest that might be lessened if time is granted for the pass over from the tempo and themes of one set of administrative circumstances to a new, hopefully more lawful circumstance stemming from the "unprecedented" degree of oversight, transparency and accountability Obama has pledged to effect.

    Just a few cents from my over abundance of loose change.

  33. Maty

    hate crime?

    Much of the recent legislation which this government has passed is of two categories; 'we know what is good for you' and 'trust us to make sure that this over-broad legislation is selectively applied in your interest'.

    What appalls those members of the public who fell for this line (broadly described under the epithet 'Daily Mail readers') is the discovery that they can't trust their politicians, who are only human, and rather flawed humans at that.

    It's interesting that when the expenses row broke, the establishment's first reaction was to look to see what laws the person who leaked the information could be charged with. If we extrapolate the current trend a few years down the line, it is possible that 'protection of govt data' 'anti-terrorist security measures' and 'prevention of irresponsible reporting' legislation would have ensured that the scandal never saw the light of day.

    Hmmmm ... perhaps they could nail the newspapers under hate crime legislation. The scandal has not caused people to love their politicians very much.

  34. Anonymous Coward

    What do WE all think is a solution?

    I'm really very worried about the next election.

    Labour's love of legislating makes gives them a bad reputation, and on the other hand the Tory conservative stance of pro-business pro-tax, etc, means I can't really vote for either!

    I sometimes wonder if we had the China model if things would be any better. Given that our media basically control who gets into government, over a long period of time, we swing between Tories and Labour, both getting us into recession, because recession cannot be helped in a mostly capitalist world.

    Since most readers are likely smart, intelligent, IT people who are relatively clued up, have any readers got any ideas as to a solution?

    I think I'd like Lib Dem in, even if only for 4 years, just to have some change, and see if their man-in-the-middle and *mostly* reasonable answers to issues are what our country needs. I've never felt allegiance to Labour or Tories, but certainly the whole labour = 'working mans' party' did seem tempting for a long time to many of the population, as the going was good. Now we're back in a state again, and we'll vote Tory in.

    Given history shows us the majority of the public are a bit stupid, and just sheep, is this the time to emigrate?

    Note: I'm 99% sure Conservatives will get in the next election. For some reason we English seem to like them better, we should take after Scotland and just ignore them completely :D

  35. Paul

    I wonder if GB and his pals...

    ...have ever actually bothered to read 'Animal Farm' and '1984'? Shouldn't those be required reading for anyone entering public life?

    But of course, silly me... Even if they have, they wouldn't see any correlation between those two visionary tomes and their own behaviour. That would imply some sort of sense of responsibility.

    Speaking as one who maintains a 'second home' for work purposes out of my heavily taxed income, I can't see any reason why any of them should be exempt from fraud proceedings, and quite frankly they should all have all the allowances and exemptions taken away from them. If it's good enough for me to have to pay out of my own pocket, it's good enough for MPs.

    We desperately need to end the culture of 'all equal, but some more equal than others'.

  36. Anonymous Coward

    To the Policeman invoking the Wrong Law..

    In any given situation!

    And you Sir how am I expected to know whether or not you are not a Terrorist in disguise, especially as you do not appear to be responding in a manner which befits the current situation!

  37. Charles Silver badge

    A novel form of protest?

    Now, correct me if the laws say otherwise, but as I understand it, one is not required to answer police questions unless under arrest, and even then you may claim a protection against self-incrimination (depending on where you are situated). If stopped on the street, unless being arrested, one is not required to even give a name (providing automotive documentation--licenses, registrations, etc.--may be required if you're in a vehicle), and passengers are not obligated to give anything. I wonder if the next time a policeman wishes this kind of non-obligatory information from me, if it would be legal for me to CHARGE them for that information, claiming for example, "That kind of information is very private and very valuable to me. You must pay me (insert certain amount--fair or ridiculous, your call) before I will provide the answer." Call it what you will--insurance against identity theft due to public disclosure of private information, simply recognition of the value of your personal information, or something else.

  38. Sean Timarco Baggaley


    (With apologies to Private Eye magazine.)

    Number of ALLEGED expenses-twizzling MPs:

    NEW LABOUR: 60

    TORY: 48

    LIB-DEM: 10

    OTHER: 8

    (Total: 126.)

    Number of MPs in House of Commons at present: 646.

    Please note the qualifer: "ALLEGED". We cannot clean up the House of Commons by stooping to their level. As a people, we're angry, yes. But angry mobs can -- and do -- make mistakes in the heat of the moment. (Remember the "paedophile" / "paediatrician" mess a few years back?)

    Calm down, people! We need *considered* decisions. We may even need those radical changes and reforms -- the Lib-Dems have been banging on about just that for *decades*; how come none of you were willing to listen back then? (Come to that: why was New Labour ever re-elected after starting that illegal war in Iraq? Where were your high principles then, O England?)

    If members of our government are venal, corrupt and apathetic to the needs of others, perhaps it's because *we* have been just as venal, corrupt and apathetic to the needs of others too? We tend to get the government we deserve. If we want a better government, we have to be better ourselves.

    We cannot be judge, jury and executioner, no matter how hard the media implores us. Yes, there have been some shocking ALLEGATIONS, but I, for one, want to see hard evidence examined by expert, independent auditors' eyes first before I'm willing to pass judgement.

    And remember, 520 MPs are NOT on the list. Granted, 126 *allegedly* corrupt MPs is nothing to be proud of, (and it's quite likely that some of the remaining 520 are just better at hiding corruption), but it is NOT the end of the world.

    The greatest scandal of recent years is the sheer, bloody *incompetence* of our recent governments. It's hard to think of a single bloody thing that New Labour have managed to do *right*. (Ditto for the post-Thatcher Tories. It's easy to forget just how bad John Major's lot were.) We're in a dire economic mess and we *need* people with real financial chops to help turn this once-great nation around.

    The only voice worth listening to of late has been that of Vince Cable. Unfortunately, I can't stand Nick Clegg and his Blair-Lite cronies. If the Lib-Dems want power, they'd better bring the ill-treated Charles Kennedy back. (Yes, I'm well aware he had a drink problem. So what? Winston Churchill helped win WW2 while suffering from clinical depression! Frankly, you'll start a lot less wars if your foreign policy consists mostly of, "You an' me, pal! You're me best mate, Ahmedin--HIC!--Ahmadinnajacket! No, aye! Y'are! How... how 'bout another whiskey?")

  39. Pat

    Gotta make a start somewhere

    John your comparison is poor, though a good starting point for discussion. Remember that Brown-Harman-Speaker attempted to exempt MPs' expenses from the FOIA, remember that after that failed (thanks to Cameron and Clegg) they were going to heavily edit what would have been disclosed by the HoC and hide a lot of relevant information - I'd say that indicated unrepentant, organised fraud.

    What shoud not be forgotten is that not all MPs were involved in such snoutery, and even some who claimed large expenses supported the FOIA and transparency of MPs claims (admittedly probably under Cameron's and Clegg's instructions).

    Some media correspondents and some clean MPs probably had a good idea of what was going on, and the public certainly had strong suspicions that government under Nu Liebor was corrupt and self-serving, but what was to be done when this government appeared willing to cynically manipulate laws, police and media to hide or distort evidence on so many issues of importance to our nation?

    It is a great pity that the HoC could not come clean about their expenses if they sincerely thought they were in some way justified. We have only been able to discover the evidence through extra-legal means because Nu Liebor have subverted the rule of law. Are we supposed to ignore evidence of corruption when we at long last get our hands on it?

    We have seen the politicalisation of the police - how they were prepared to cover their identities when attacking protesters, and use 'anti-terrorism' legislation as a catch-all to intimidate and to prevent people recording evidence.

    We have seen our Ministers and their officials failing in their duty to protect the helpless from the violent, yet at the same time happily distort the law to force through mechanisms to spy on the non-criminal citizenry.

    Reporting by the BBC seems largely a publicly-funded unquestioning regurgitation of government propaganda.

    This suspect government gives public money to unelected bodies such as quangoes and the ACPO yet they are unaccountable; do you really think this is for the public good or are they serving this government's grubby purposes?

    As we had to rely upon extra-legal means then are the laws already flattened? How long before the brick hits a head rather than a window, and what will a jury decide about such an attacker? If it is to be seen to reassert the rule of impartial and fair law then the HoC needs a shake up to reassert its independence from the Executive, and Nu Liebor are clearly not the party to do it.

  40. Anonymous Coward


    I think it would be fair to say the majority of criticism is attributed to the current new labour government. However, I think this is unfair. The police have had their role changed over a very long period of time, partly as a reaction to the loosening of society's restrictions. However I really wish in many ways we were like some of the better countries.

    Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, even Iceleand, are said to be the best places to live ones life in. I don't think it's a coincidence that they all collectively have a different style of government when compared with ourselves.

    I'm 26, and I'm young enough not to remember much of the real politics involved when Mr.Major's Tory party were running the country. I think that's a serious problem, because if one takes the time to actually look back through history, although Labour have made serious mistakes for decades, so have the Tories.

    I was a ever so slightly disgusted to read about how the Tory party acted abroad. I no longer wish to stay in this country; especially with the prospect of a Conservative government, who may have a new happy front with David Cameron, but ultimately are the same party with the same ethos they have always had.

    I will make sure I'm back in the country for any election to show my disapproval of the way in which the police, in particular, have had their role role in society changed, and will not be voting Labour or Conservative. Any other party, even the greens, would be preferential to me. Obviously not BNP, but I would not merit them with reference as a 'party' of any sorts.

  41. Robert E A Harvey

    @ac "Basic principles"

    Another important one "The debt to society paid".

    When I was brought up it was drummed into us that someone released from prison had paid their debt to society and the slate was clean. Now we have sex offenders registers, and talk of a violent offenders register. People applying for jobs have to reveal their past criminal record. Persons wanting visas to work in the USA or Australia are refused for periods of imprisonment decades before. Even car insurance companies want to know your criminal history.

    The sex offenders one worries me. If, when people are released from prison, they are still a threat to young children Why were they released at all?

  42. Schultz
    Thumb Up

    Big stick

    So they used to carry a big stick but rarely used it in the good ole times of Winston, now they carry teasers and anti-terror paragraphs and use them all the time.

    What did Winston say about the big stick again?

  43. koyama


    what i find funny (well sort of) is that the lords does more for the common lad.

    nagging poor practice, etc.

    let me think, which house is supposed to represent the commons ... was it the lords? me dont thinks so.

    really really sad ...

  44. Anonymous Coward

    A sad, very sad, inversion?

    It is a serious flaw for sure and don't be put off by false apologies, holier than thou approaches.

    A truth is that almost any MP by virtue of being an MP with involvement in something deemed hot by the press will always be afforded airtime and print time. Joe public will alays be portrayed in the press as an angry mob.

    The inversion?

    Ideal model:

    Public bodies (MPs, civil servantry, ... ) exist to provide systematic services to beneficieries (us, the public)

    A perverted inversion:

    Public bodies (MPs, civil servantry, ... ) are systematic beneficieries with the public existing to justify their causes.

    No UK subject (important note: not citizen, we are subjects of HM) can expect to be treated with dignity. swiftly and with servitude by any civil servant?


    NHS: framed in post-war (1945) management structures with those nearest the front line incurring lowest income and those furthest away enjoying maximal income (ask your local district nurse for an explanation)

    NHS: NHS employees are primary beneficieries (the get paid). NHS users tend to be fodder to maintain NHS income structures.

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    > as I understand it, one is not required to answer police questions unless under arrest

    Never forget that the police have their own means of punishing people who don't pay them the respect they are convinced they deserve. It's called "helping the police with their inquiries". Basically it involves being taken off the streets and confined against your will for an unspecified period. You will never be charged, or have the "protection" of the legal system. However you will be grossly inconvenienced and to all intents and purposes imprisoned without trial.

    They can and do use these powers on a regular basis - either in fact or as a threat to get whatever they want. Remember, the one thing a beat officer wants more than anything else is a collar - preferably early in their shift and definitely if it's raining. Buy being lippy, or refusing to co-operate you're a prime candidate for this kind of treatment - and have no recourse or remedy to avoid it,

  46. Uncle Slacky


    ITYF it was Teddy Roosevelt, not Winston...

  47. j
    Thumb Up

    Excellent Article

    I think all Reg readers must have spotted the trend, but I had not thought about the long term implications.

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Where to move to?

    Serious suggestions are invited for where to go and live instead.

    The grass may look greener on the other side, but the reality might no be so different from here.

  49. Anonymous Coward

    Doing the 'right' thing - but

    I hate the way the government justifies every actions as 'right'. The attempt to gain moral superiority is sickening.

    However, what is worse to me is the way this filters down to the police: they bend the law to get what they want. For a wonderful example, this post appears to be a comment by a policeman that shows how to ignore the wishes of a patient, and force him into hospital, even though he is at home. (

    "Practical and experienced street coppers will always find a way to make it fit. I usually arrest to prevent a breach of the peace, then arrest for S.136 once out on the street (in a public place) and de-arrest into the care of the ambulance teams"

    He bending the law: the mental health act does not allow a policeman to do that without a warrant. (Section 135 does allow force within the home, but it requires a social worker, a doctor and a warrant. Parliament has decreed this is necessary.) He is ignoring the will of parliament because he thinks he is doing the 'right' thing. He may well be, but it should not be up to him to decide.

    Can I bend the law, when I think it is the 'right' thing to do? The police should follow the law, and be seen to follow the law. Else trust breaks down: exactly what is happening here.

  50. Anonymous Coward

    Wake Up To The PsyOp

    Currently 80% of our laws are made in Brussels. When the final treaty is signed, 100% will be made in Brussels. Then they will shut Westminster down. The public, having been made to hate the government will say "Good job too!." This, IMHO is the real reason for the expenses saga.



  51. OffBeatMammal

    People get..

    ... the Government they deserve.

    what does that say about the people of the once Great Britain.

    You've allowed yourselves to be led by the nose by self-serving politicians and a complicit media who are more interested in selling papers than acting as checks and balances - the Fourth Estate and sadly failing in their jobs

    Over the 15 years since I last lived there I've gone from bemused to petrified at the acceptance of speed cameras, pointless queues (Heathrow has to be the worst airport in the world for that now), loss of personal freedoms and lack of oversight into those elected to guide the ship. It's enough to make anyone libertarian (or live in the hills of Wales with a veggie plot and a gun!)

    (Flames as the country burns)

  52. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Charles etc.


    You might be correct that the police have no power to compel yo to answer questions without an arrest, however it is very likely that should you refuse to answer simple questions then they will arrest you "with the purpose to determine your identity" with the justification being something like "I thought he was likely to be known to us and there might be outstanding warrants" or similar.

    Then they will take you to the nick, detain you for a length of time, ascertain your identity and then let you go (if you are innocent / clean). This would waste a great deal of your time and ensure that your fingerprints and DNA are on the system for ever and ever. If you tried to charge them you would likely find yourself subject to a body cavity search as they would assume only someone off their tits on class A would try to charge the filth for giving them their name.

    @Sean Timarco Baggaley:

    Whereas there are a number of MPs with no accusations of serious "oversights" against them as yet, it is important to note that according to the Telegraph there are precisely 6 MPs who have made no claims for second homes (3 lab 3 Tory) which leaves 650odd who have.

    Most people actually are not too happy with the second home allowances, we would not receive that as an expense and if we did the taxman would consider it benefit in kind and charge us tax accordingly, which MPs have voted to exempt themselves from. This is at the very least suspect and I think that perspective should be that fewer than 1% of our MPs are honest.

    Also, and this is very important, it is inconceivable that the 520 MPs of which you speak did not know what was going on and with the exception of Kate Hoey none of them have said anything about this until they were caught.

    have yo also noticed that the information goes back to 2004 and it is amazing that not a single MP made any suspect claims from before that time? They are all fessing up to the ones they will get caught for but it is business as usual where the information will never see the light of day.

    Re: the war in Iraq. The Tories would have done the same thing and the LibDems are unfit to govern so what choice did people really have?

    RE: LibDem electoral reforms. This means PR. We don't want PR and you should not either, for the following reasons:

    (1) Loonies get elected. A few hundred votes here and there is nothing, but it all adds up to UKIP / BNP / Veritas etc. MPs.

    (2) There is no chance for independents to get elected.

    (3) Parliament will just become the tool of the party leaders. One of the whinges is the whip system, which to those unfamiliar, is a system where the party leadership effectively insist that MPs vote as directed rather than as conscience or as their constituents want failure to do so results in loss of cushy jobs and promotion. Under PR this becomes much more so as the MPs will be selected by the leadership after the results are in so if you piss off your boss you find yourself not selected as one of the lucky ones.

    (4) As a voter you get no say over who your MP is. You vote for a party and they select the MPs.

    (5) You actually will have no consituency MPs so no requirements for MPs to care about you personally. The needs of bankers in Chelsea are completely different than the needs of miners in Newcastle and currently you can influence your MP to stand up for your needs. Not under PR.

    (6) Err

    (7) That's it.

    The electoral system is effectively fine, you claim Churchill was a good PM even though he suffered from mental illness (I agree with the good PM bit, by the way) but you then claim that the system Churchill PM'd under is crap and needs changing. One way or the other dude, one way or the other.

  53. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Police politicisation

    Look, the police decided which side their bread was buttered way back in 1984 with the miner's strike. No end of police assaults back then but prosecutions for said assaults? Not in the public interest quoth the CPS.

    So basically the police know that if they are broadly doing what the govt wants then they are bombproof.

    End of story. The police are NOT your friend, they are nobody's friend given the arrest bonuses on offer in many constabularies. They are also institutionally incompetent and have been so for my lifetime (40+ years) in three regions of the UK. We all know the people from school who joined the police - they weren't the people you'd have chosen to wield power at the end of a baton now were they?

    Want justice? The CPS has to go and a system of grand juries (as existed in England until the 1930s I believe) must be instituted. The citizen decides what is "in the public interest", not the politician and their appointed stooges.

  54. Matthew Ellen
    Thumb Up

    page 3 is missing something

    "Nonetheless, this affair is bound to filter into attitudes towards compliance with the law. After all, why be quite so accurate in reporting one’s tax affairs, when it is clear that those who pass the laws think it"

    What do they think? I think you deleted something by mistake there.

    I wholeheartedly agree with the conclusion that we are less likely to abide by the spirit of the law.

    The government frequently passes laws that suggest great swathes of the population cannot be trusted (the recent porn law springs to mind, as well as the marijuana classification debacle), when in reality what is needed is a greater understanding of the crimes that preceded these knee jerk laws.

    Perhaps they think they can't trust us because they don't trust themselves.

    Then there are the data retention laws that are causing such issues at the moment. The database of children, the ID cards, the now defunct centralised database of communications, and the new regulations of what ISPs store about our internet usage and what access police, MI5, etc., have to that data. I'd be a lot happier about the data retention if I could have confidence that the people accessing the data could be trusted not to leave it lying around and that the networks that it pass through have been thoroughly tested for security holes, be they technological or otherwise.

    On top of this there is the growing feeling that the government and police can't be trusted with the power that they have because they'll just do something despicable (e.g. MP expenses) or misunderstand what they're meant to be doing (e.g. police confiscating cameras). Add to that they fact the government seem to be actively trying to decrease how much we feel we can trust each other by implying that anything you see that's out of the ordinary could be (read: is probably) a terrorist threat.

    By criminalising so much behaviour that isn't actually negatively affecting anyone they're backing us into a corner, and with their recent and on going flaunting of our belief that holders of office should be morally sound they are angering and frustrating us. The public (en mass) is very much like a gorilla, so I can't recommend backing it into a corner and poking it with a stick.

  55. Dave

    And this proves my point

    All the recent activity by MPs / Lords etc etc only proves my held view that anyone who wants to hold an elected public office should have to submit to 6monthly CAT/fMRI scans of their brains and a psychological evaluation.

    With the results naturally a matter of public record. As when our so called 'leaders' are so nuts the rest of the world is laughing at us whats the point of having any?

  56. Tim Schomer

    @ I wonder if GB and his pals...

    would care to look at a couple of references from art

    1. The Who - Won't get fooled again - (meet the old boss, same as the new boss)

    2. A well known author recently diagnosed with a nasty disease - what the people really want is for tomorrow to be very much the same as today. (Vetinari, if you hadn't guessed.)

    3. Same author - Book - 'The Truth' read it and enough should be clear - there's too many references in there for me to quote - and here's probably a limit on posts...

    A relatively balanced rough broad section with basically the same message... I wonder if the author has read Pratchett?

    The one with the paperbacks in the pocket please (said he smiling at the sky)

  57. not sure
    Thumb Up

    Excellent article

    And some very, very good comments too.

  58. Charles Silver badge

    @Lee, AC

    There IS something police DO fear: like anyone, they don't like someone else digging into their affairs. In the US, three letters can probably make any cop think twice: FBI. They have a history of investigating corrupt police, so if I'm being held against my will without arrest, I could make it a subtle point that perhaps the FBI needs to look into possible corruption in the force. And knowing that, they'd be hard pressed to fabricate a charge against me, since arresting me affords me the RIGHT to a phone call...a call that would most likely result in the presence of not just my lawyer...but perhaps also the Feds.

  59. Graham Marsden
    Thumb Down


    > RE: LibDem electoral reforms. This means PR. We don't want PR and you should not either, for the following reasons:

    I suggest, before you start spouting off like this, you do a little research into the Single Transferable Vote system which does not use "Party Lists" and thus pretty much negates all the problems you raise.

    "The Single transferable vote (STV) is a system of preferential voting designed to minimize wasted votes and provide proportional representation while ensuring that votes are explicitly expressed for individual candidates rather than for party lists."

  60. Charles Manning

    re: Bad Laws

    "For a party led by lawyers"..., there you have it. Laws, by lawyers, for lawyers.

    Bad laws == more work for lawyers.

    Good, well defined laws make for simple determining of black/white cases of guilt/innocence which crank through pilce stations and courts etc like clockwork.

    Bad laws are defined by many different shades of grey, open to all sorts of interpretation which need copious legal rumination and court time to unravel. Lots of work.

  61. Throatwobbler Mangrove Silver badge


    Where have the House of Lords been in all this? Isn't the point of peerages to give people enough insulation from slings and arrows of political favour to say politically touchy things, like "MPs have got their snouts in the trough and this sh1tshow is undermining public confidence"?

    "Harriet Harman MP...said of the controversial pension awarded to Fred Goodwin, former chief executive at Royal Bank of Scotland: "It might be enforceable in a court of law, this contract, but it is not enforceable in the court of public opinion and that is where the government steps in"."

    'Kin Ada, I missed this gem. What on earth is she babbling on about? The numptytude is doubled because she is supposedly a lawyer.

    "The CPS has to go and a system of grand juries (as existed in England until the 1930s I believe) must be instituted. The citizen decides what is "in the public interest", not the politician and their appointed stooges"

    Not necessarily a bad idea but IIRC (and I am not making any promises) the purpose of grand juries is to decide whether to allow a prosecution to continue once the CPS/prosecutor has brought it to court. It doesn't decide whether an arrest/charge/anything "back up the line" should go to trial - there are so many points at which an inquiry can be dropped. The problems with a grand jury system that decided whether or not to launch a prosecution would be that a) you would have such an immense workflow and b) where would be a fair point in the process to insert the Grand Jury system?

  62. Charles Silver badge


    Better still, both in the UK and elsewhere, a means for the people to directly tell their elected representative or whatever, "You're incompetent in performing your job of representing the people--you're fired!". Sort of a "vote of no confidence" for representatives. I may find myself with crow in my mouth for this at a later date, but I think it's better than the status quo, plus it shoots down the whip system--a dreary job is almost always better than NO job.

  63. Moss Icely Spaceport

    Eat the rich

    It's the only way to be sure!

  64. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    surely one earns ones wages in order to pay for things such as housing and bills, if i ever hear of another job that effectively leaves your wages free to spend on whatever you want i'll be first in line.

    On a side note, i know very few young people who have any faith in the governmental system nowadays, thee are the people who will become the majority in the next 20-30 years, my question is what does it take to start a revolution??

  65. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    EVER compare a elected politician to any one in the private sector. Elected politicians represent the people and the nation it is NOT a 9-5 job like any other.

  66. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    More from me as AC

    1 - there will be no revolt in the UK

    while what is happening regarding fat cats and the public purse the UK public will get a little noisy, flustered and angry. And who can blame them?

    On the other hand the UK public will not do anything about it and it will blow over in 2 - 3 months.

    3 - (who's counting?) The sad, perverted inversion.

    As far as the UK goes tax payers have no guarantees about the state paid services (that is/those are services paid with public funds from a public purse) however:

    + organizations using those funds or able to pull down public funds will have highly paid people in charge of using those funds (traditionally by delaying service provisioning by making sure the funds are nicely tucked away for some time [3 months?] say, for example, in Iceland)

    + trade unions or civil service kameraderie will ensure that either preferential decisions will be made [17 million GBP pension anyone?] or complimenting/supporting that that UK employment law [TUPE?] will ensure that employees will also have some preferential arrangement with the public purse

    + sector experts (I use the term loosely) will do their best ensure that employees affected by good practice changes will somehow reappear somewhere else within the same sector

    - the UK tax payer has none of these, not a jot of legislation and probably the mildest temperature almost official guarantee of service level agreements that tend to be aspirational abstracts with little if anything to do with reality.

    So, conclusion:

    Income obtained directly and/or indirectly from the UK public purse disproportionally favours those employed in providing those services over people using those services.

    What does this mean in practice: try to write to any government sponsored body and obtain a meaningful result within 10 working days ... well .. I won't waste your bandwidth :)

    What to do about it:

    Given the unprecented level of commitments upon the country employees paid directly or indirectly from public funds should have income (that is basic plus bonus payments) capped to 90,000 GBP.

    And for this to extend into the recently nationalised finance sector (a suitable inducement is that once the finance sector has re-established its independence from the public purse it may readily return to incomes of 250,000 to 500,000 GBP and more...

    [no image]

  67. elderlybloke

    British voters

    could vote for independent candidates rather that the sheep like voting for a Party.

    Any Party that has been in power for a couple of elections become arrogant and conceited .

    Thats what has happened here in New Zealand,

    At present your politicians from all parties seem to be greedy corrupt people who are say how sorry they are for what they have done.

    They are only sorry that they have been caught.

    At the next election you will be told that everything has been corrected and there will never be another embarrassing situation like this.

    Politicians rely on the voters have a very short memory

    Remember that!

  68. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Graham Marsden

    Which is not really PR in the real sense of the word. What you get with STV is,as has been clearly shown in Scotland and the Wikipedia example you give, everybody's second choice.

    If you look at the food example in the article you see that although only 5% of the voters actually wanted strawberries as their food of choice it was still chosen.

    Look, any system of PR benefits the fringe, and STV benefits no-one. Look at Scotland for a good example. In the early days Labour did not get enough seats to form a ruling majority so they formed a coalition with LibDems, which meant that concessions had to be made to (and incorporated in law) for a party that clearly had minority support. Look at University fees. 70%+ of people actively voted for partys that stated they would introduce fees, the Libdems opposed this and accordingly through the botched PRish system got their way - which was clearly not the will of the people.

    The only people who would benefit under any of the LibDem proposed systems are the LibDems, and given that their share of the vote (and bear in mind a proportion of the vote will be protest votes) is around 20%-23% it is clear that the voting public do not want them directly affecting government policy.

    And, finally (for now) STV is not proportional representation. PR is, by definition and design, a system where your vote counts as much as anyone else's in the country. STV would change nothing except making the system more complicated and lead to more legal challenges and recounts. Under FPTP you vote for a faceless Tory/Lab/LibDem politician who you know will just do as his party tell him or he will not get selected next time. Under STV you vote for a number of faceless Tory/Lab/LibDem politicians in the hope that if your first choice does not get in then the one you hate most also does not get in. Either way the elected official still does as his whips tells him to.

  69. Ben Smith
    Thumb Up


    Well said sir or madam.

    It's far, far too easy for us to point the finger of blame at anyone but ourselves.

    We have know that many MPs are crooked (financially) for years, since before the present administration was in power. We did nothing.

    We have known about the obscene remunerations of "fat cat" directors - we did nothing whilst the economy made us all richer.

    We knew that the war in Iraq was a joke before we went in, we thought that several marches might help - instead of calling a general strike which would have stopped it from happening.

    Direct, non-violent action by enough people - forcing the motorways to shut for instance by parking on them - would force change. We whinge at the French for having the gall to take direct action, but they seem to be able to tell their government who is in power.

    We don't because we are lazy, apathetic whingers, happiest when moaning, ultimately all talk and no action.

    I'm seriously considering standing as an Independent MP in the next elections. If there was ever a time for it, it is now. Full representation via e-government - giving my constituents a vote on any proposed legislation via the Internet or a voting hot-line - would be my manifesto, and God knows if we can vote for Pop Idol we can and should vote for the laws that we want.

    And no, I am not Dave Spart from Private Eye...I'm just fed up of all the erosions of our civil liberties that are taking place. I'd describe myself as a centrist, now thoroughly fed-up that even the Lib Dems abused the expenses scandal, and worried that nutters like the BNP and UKIP look like viable candidates to the electorate thanks to the manifest failings of the main three parties.

    But the solution is in our hands / feet / voice - and without taking action of some kind, we all represent the People's Front of Judea.

  70. Dan
    IT Angle

    Legalize morality?

    "Legal academics have long debated the point at which it is "right" to disobey the law."

    Unfortunately, legal academics don't have an answer. Moral philosophers, however, do: It is not immoral just because it is against the law. Laws are there to benefit the populace, and coercing people to follow the law is a practical matter that is theoretically decided in some community consensual manner.

    The fact that the people and the police have any dissonance means that the government no longer has the consent of the governed. The current system will stay in power only until the people realize that there is a choice, then there will be a period of anarchy and/or polyarchy. You would do well to ensure that the system that emerges fixes the problems of the old, and to realize early on that both hereditary royalty and parliamentary representation are OPTIONS for methods of being governed, but they are not required or exclusive of other methods.

    I suggest smaller governments, each about the size of a utility grid. Any infrastructure that would cross borders should be funded only by the city-states that want it. Mandatory national databases? Bugger them up the arse with a sledgehammer. Do the people of The British Isles want a standing military? Let each jurisdiction decide how much they want to pay for it, what they want it to do, and if they can tolerate the conditions the other jurisdictions will impose upon it.

  71. Andy Davies


    An exceptionally good article.

    I wonder if John Ozimek would be insulted if I said it was worthy of Matthew Pariss at his best?

    AndyD 8-)#

  72. The BigYin
    Thumb Up

    The Party of Open Corruption

    I wish to form a new party. We will take decisions solely based on what is best for us as MPs.


    All expenses will be open to the public so that they can clearly see how much we are ripping them off. There will be a medal for who can claim the most.

    All outside interests will be open to the public so they can clearly see how much we are creaming in other roles. There will be a medal for who can hold the most directorships.

    All attendance and voting records will be public so they can clearly see how little work we are doing for such fat perks. There will be a medal awarded to any MP who manages to serve their term without ever showing up.

    New policies will be based on who gives us the biggest bung or directorship.

    If there is no bung (or it's too small to bothered about) then we will do whatever our constituents want. The constituents can even hold a whip-round to come up with their own bung.

    We will, at least, be honest in our dealings; we are in it for the money/power and do not give one damn about the man on the street.

    We will be the Party of Open Corruption.

  73. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton


    The only information you are obliged to give the police if asked is your name and if requested some form of ID to back that up.

    If you refuse or are unable to substantiate then they can firstly ask you to come with them voluntarily so that your identity can be ascertained or more likely use the power of arrest they have to take you to the station to do the same.

    If you are stopped by a police officer and asked questions under the terrorism act first ask to see his/her warrant card, when asked why explain that under the same terrorism act you are ensuring first that they are a genuine officer of the law and not a terrorist in disguise. Additionally, when requested a police officer must produce there warrant card. Make a note of the details on the card either by photographing it or storing the data (they really dont like this but its perfectly legal).

    What is more worrying is the number of PCSO's using these powers and also carrying handcuffs. PCSO's have no more powers than an ordinary member of the public and because its not illegal to carry handcuffs they are now being equipped with them and using the clever wording of section 26 of PACE they can make a "citiziens arrest" if you fail to comply with there directions under section 44 of the terrorism act.

    That said, if a PCSO does try and "arrest" you, you have the same power to defend yourself from his/her "assault" (which is why citiziens arrest is full of loopholes) although this will undoubtedly lead to more fun with the plod!

    Paris, makes more sense than our current legal system

  74. Francis Fish
    Black Helicopters

    One thing we're all forgetting

    We can call them rude names here, and also be angry about the expenses that got out into the public domain. We don't live in a totalitarian dictatorship where even speaking out would get us prison time or our religious beliefs would have us shot like dogs in the street. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves of that.

    Myself I also don't think we live in a democracy, either, because most of NuLabour's (and the Tories before them) decisions over the last however many years have not been something I would have voted for and I know I'm not in the minority. The biggest of these being the Iraq war.

    There was a lot of shite talked about Blair "needing to lead the people to make uncomfortable decisions" when we went in to that war and the majority were and still are against it. I feel that our armed services were severely let down by this and a lot of people who are willing to die on my behalf were used up like tissues by these cynical people. This offends me far more than the odd chancer taking advantage of their expenses, they should just be paid an allowance and be taxed on it and done with it. End of story.

    Also in our unwritten constitution Parliament is actually only tasked with domestic affairs. Foreign wars are the remit of the monarch and the PM/cabinet. No amount of voting in parliament can change this. This is why those of us who have thought about this want the abolition of the monarchy and a written constitution. I'd also like a recall election like they have in the US, when Arnie got in (haven't laughed so much in ages, but the principle is sound).

    We don't live in a democracy, just a place where we can argue about the colour of the bike shed, but at least we don't go to prison for dissent, and that's a good thing.

  75. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The problem with parliament full of independants is that you would get nothing done.Who would be PM (the leader of the largest party, but with 650 parties each of 1 person....) and what power would your MP actually have?

    One or two independants is not a bad thing, especially where there is a protest to be made, but the problem is that you get a one-trick pony.

    Once the protest has been registered you still need to have the country governed - we need police, armed forces, foreign diplomacy, hospitals, taxes and a whole raft of things. You cannot guarantee that with independants.

    At least with the current party scum you know what they will do, you may not agree with it all but you know where they each stand on Europe, jobs, the NHS, policing, invading other countries, education, the union, the Euro etc. etc. etc.

    Someone who stands on the principle of "save the local hospital" or "get rid of the current MP" won't give you that. I hate my MP (he is a labour cabinet minister) and hope he has a nasty accident, or at least he and his party lose the next election. However I would rather have Brown and his lying, cheating, stealing, warmongering cronies in power for another 5 years than have a parliament made up of 600 incoherent MPs and the associated anarchy that would come with it.

  76. Dave


    Lee, I am confused by your ramblings about PR: The initial days of a Labour Government in both Holyrood and Westminster provided very little change, but the current system where there is a reasonable balance between FOUR parties looks likely to be much better for Scotland, particularly once the current Labour administration in Westminster is ousted. The minorities / independants are able to raise issues that the main parties would not be interested in, but their lack of numbers prevents them from having an undue influence.

    Funnily enough, in the first years of the Scottish Parliament, there were a few upsets over travel expenses, but after a while the MSPs realised that everything was open to scrutiny, and therefore learned not to abuse the system. This is in stark contrast to Westminster fighting for years to keep everything secret, (even as they eroded the liberties of the General Public.)

  77. Anonymous Coward

    Re: @Charles etc.

    "You actually will have no consituency MPs so no requirements for MPs to care about you personally. The needs of bankers in Chelsea are completely different than the needs of miners in Newcastle and currently you can influence your MP to stand up for your needs. Not under PR."

    You assume that PR involves replacing one inadequate system that does one thing with another system that attempts to do another. Why do we not have a system which allows people to vote on local issues and national issues separately without mixing the two up?

    In the current, inbred "representative of the Lord of the Manor" system, the local MP gets to go to Westminster on a local issues ticket and then vote on all sorts of stuff that is well outside his or her mandate. Consider your average New Labour MP who is going to be telling the locals that he or she is the person who cares about local issues; forget the illegal wars, economic mismanagement, corruption, and so on: it's all about local issues.

    The average Britard will probably think, "Well, I've always voted for them, and they do seem to care about pensions and the local hospital and stuff [as if there's a candidate from "The Bastard Party" who doesn't], and they'll do a good job putting the case for, erm, bigger pensions in Parliament, and it's not their fault that the economy is in the toilet and people hate Britain even more than they did." And this is how we have a chamber full of career politicians in near-hereditary posts supporting whatever ideologically-driven disaster has been prioritised by the idiot figurehead of the day.

    Of course, we have local elections which are for local issues, which actually does argue for a demolition of the "Lordship's son-in-law" system for MPs in favour of something that actually does represent the electorate's opinion on national issues. If attempts were made to ensure that the electorate was actually educated and informed, this wouldn't be anything to fear, but I suppose that the current system thrives on an ignorant electorate of Britards and can be defended by claiming that the people's wishes should not be followed too closely because they are too stupid to know what they want, and their preferences would disgust us.

    Well, if one seeks to create a society which encourages the worst in its members, one shouldn't be shocked at the result. Indeed, staring it in the face might deliver a swift education to those who know only the political life.

  78. Graham Marsden
    Thumb Down


    > Which is not really PR in the real sense of the word.

    I don't give a monkey's what you call it, the question is, does it work better than the current system and I think the answer is yes, see for more information.

    And you're wrong about getting "everyone's second choice", if you look at that example again you'll notice that most people wanted Chocolate, followed by Oranges and then there's very little difference in "first choice" preferences for Pears, Strawberries and Sweets, so the second choices determine that Strawberries are chosen.

    BTW your example about University Fees in Scotland just shows the flaws in the current system where a vote for "Party X" is interpreted as "I support everything that Party X has in their manifesto" (and simply repeating "STV is not PR" doesn't improve your arguments)

    Personally I'd prefer a system where Political Parties as they exist at the moment are banned so people actually vote for a Candidate instead of a coloured ribbon, but I don't see that ever happening.

  79. Anonymous Coward

    Re: @Graham Marsden

    Lee writes, "Look, any system of PR benefits the fringe, and STV benefits no-one. Look at Scotland for a good example. In the early days Labour did not get enough seats to form a ruling majority so they formed a coalition with LibDems, which meant that concessions had to be made to (and incorporated in law) for a party that clearly had minority support. Look at University fees. 70%+ of people actively voted for partys that stated they would introduce fees, the Libdems opposed this and accordingly through the botched PRish system got their way - which was clearly not the will of the people."

    You'll have to do better than that. Did "70%+ of people" actually want university fees or are you assuming that everyone voting for a party agrees with that party's stance on all issues? Given that the average Britard probably votes for a party based on how they perceive that party's image, how do we know, apart from polls, what people really feel about single issues?

    There are countries where PR is being used and where minority parties get a disproportionate level of influence, but the flaw is arguably in the need to form a higher executive from the representatives, combined with the hubris that is involved in that process. In at least one country that comes to mind, some parties are actually compatible with others, but you'd never catch them in the same government because it would presumably interfere with their image (and this doesn't even involve any of the dirty nationalist parties, either).

    In a PR system, coalitions could arguably be restricted in some way to prevent pandering to "toys out of the pram" extremists. And being reminded of the last days of the Major government in a non-PR system with a bunch of Unionists holding the balance of power, perhaps some more general reforms might do some good, too.

  80. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton


    Now that would be interesting.

    Day 1:

    "Oh, so I've saved the hospital then?"


    "Ah, so I've got 4 more years with absolutely no policies then?"


    "Huh... well, lets legalise coke and have ourselves a party on expenses!"

  81. Jimmy

    Bush Telegraph.

    The discomfiture, embarrassment and public humiliation of a bunch of self-serving con merchants has provided us with wonderful entertainment over the last couple of weeks, and given us chapter and verse evidence to confirm our long held suspicions about our elected representatives.

    The danger is that our self-hugging sense of schadenfreude may be obscuring a more important and underlying truth. Take for instance the prime minister's thunderous comment about how MPs have been allowed to manage the handling of their own expenses: " The time has come to end self-regulation."

    Well, knock me down with a feather duster if you like, but I think I just heard the global high priest of deregulation, self-regulation, light-touch regulation, and SFA regulation publicly admitting that you simply can't trust organisations in pursuit of financial gain to police themselves.

    This is a very welcome act of humility from a man who helped to precipitate a global financial crisis and effectively wrecked the UK economy. All we need now is an act of public contrition from David Cameron to hammer down the final nail into the coffin lid of Thatcherism.

    Is that my alarm clock going off?

  82. ElFatbob


    the remedy to such a situation requires the building of a massive centrally-run-database that compells the MP's to hand over vast amounts of personal data?

  83. Liz

    @Lee STV - Scottish University Fees

    "coalition with LibDems, which meant that concessions had to be made to (and incorporated in law) for a party that clearly had minority support. Look at University fees. 70%+ of people actively voted for partys that stated they would introduce fees, the Libdems opposed this and accordingly through the botched PRish system got their way"

    Actually, most of us here in Scotland are very pleased that the LibDems managed to get tuition fees stopped, in spite of being a minority party. One of the flaws of the current system (any of the party systems used in the UK) is that you are assumed to have voted for every policy in whole manifesto when in reality you have to pick the least bad group of policies on the whole, and hope that somehow the policies you don't like get dropped or derailed.

    I would say that your example is actually one that proves the value of PR!

  84. Doug Glass


    Be very careful when you speak of revolution. As a resident of a former British colony, I can assure you sometimes idle comments are followed by the complete breakdown of harmonious relations. Shots can be fired. New flags can be hoisted. Countries can be born.

  85. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's a Twin Thing

    Remind us who owns the 'Daily Telegraph'. Remind us what happened not so long ago when they tried to influence the politics of an even smaller island. Who is doing what and to whom?

  86. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Matt

    >> "If it's the terrorism one always ask for what makes you look like a terrorist (they will usually walk off quickly)"

    Does this still work even if you're black or Asian?

  87. This post has been deleted by its author

  88. John Smith Gold badge

    Vote Alan B'Stard for honesty in government

    You know he'll make whatever law the man with the biggest bag of cash wants making.

    He's corrupt. But he's honestly corrupt.

    And remember his advice. "The British people are infinitely gullible."

  89. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A sadder consideration still?

    One of the saddest aspects is that the whole sorry affair has been going on for years and I'd guess that other countries politicians/civil servantry probably have similar issues.

    All of the above really is justifiable but it will not matter a jot.

    By this time next year it will be mostly forgotten, replaced by the current seasons best performer vote or some suitable international sporting event. Thus is how it works.

    The matrix is alive and well?

  90. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    To answer the answerers ers...

    @ Graham Marsden:

    STV gives no real clear advantage over FPTP, certainly not in any proportional sense. I agree that STV is categorised as a form of PR but no-one I have asked accepts it as in the spirit of PR. So we shall just have to disagree on that part.

    However, it is clear to me that STV will not change the system we currently have in any meaningful way and so I can see no reason for implementing it.


    That is my point, in its own way:

    "The minorities / independants are able to raise issues that the main parties would not be interested in, but their lack of numbers prevents them from having an undue influence."

    the reason they are the minorities is that effectively so few people voted for them. however we disagree on the "undue influence" bit - I believe this system gives them undue influence.

    @Anonymous Coward Posted Monday 25th May 2009 12:53 GMT:

    Not my point at all. My point is replacing FPTP with either PR or STV - all of which are effectively inadequate systems. I am not trying to fix the system here I am arguing against breaking it further (or wasting time and money in making no discernible difference)

    @Anonymous Coward Posted Monday 25th May 2009 13:15 GMT

    It is much more reasonable to assume that 70% of people wanted what they voted for rather than for what they explicitly did not vote for.

    I agree that there is not necessarily a direct correlation as such between voting for a party because of policy X and therefore supporting said party's policy Y, but I do not accept that you can make any other assumption. In short - no maybe the 70% who voted for parties that wanted tuition fees did not actually want tuition fees, but it clearly does not mean that they were opposed. If they careed that much they could have voted LibDem, which they clearly didn't.


    See answer above, also just because *you* are glad of it does not mean everyone else is. I assume when you say "most of us in Scotland" you mean "Students". However, whether you agree with it or not the fact is that this is a policy solely of a minority party that had to be implemented in order for Labour to take power - clearly not according to the will of the electorate.

    Those of you arguing for electoral reform in such a manner are simply being taken in by politicians. The only ones ever calling for PResque changes are teh LibDems. And I recall clearly in 1997 that when they received a lower percentage of the votes but more seats they changed from wanting full PR to STV - they never wanted this change to benefit you or me, they wanted it to gain more LibDem seats, pure and simple, and if we (as an electorate) wanted there to be more LibDem MPs we would have voted for more of them. Nick Blair's claims the changes will be good for the country are dishonest at best.

    First they claimed they did no wrong, and they were found out.

    So they blamed the system. But we told them the system didn't make them do it.

    Now they claim changing to PR / STV / ESTV etc. would make everything bad just go away. And you are sucking it up like, well, suckers.

  91. Aram

    The only good politician...

    I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.

  92. Greg Trocchia

    Incomplete quote

    My compliments on a fine bit of commentary, and one which uses a reference to one of my favorite movies, A Man for All Seasons, to boot. Which brings me to my one (minor) quibble, you left out the final line which provides the climax to that scene, where Sir Thomas More proclaims: "Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake! ". There is a lesson in there for us all, I think.

  93. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tinkering about with voting systems...

    .. isn't going to make things fairer really.

    It is people that abuse systems and in recent declarations abuse the political structure in UK.

    So, the solutions possibly include:

    1 - getting shut of known offenders immediately

    2 - tweaking a system (provided above point is tackled first otherwise the abuse just continues on its merry way merrily)

  94. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    been saying for a while 'ignorance is the ultimate excuse - especially if the law is stupid'

    also, its worth noting the lords who were taking money for changing/creating law have completely devalued the law.

  95. John Smith Gold badge

    Countries with Proportional Representation




    Do you get the feeling that the devils in the detail?

  96. Camilla Smythe

    I'm surprised....

    No-one, MP or otherwise, has gone beyond trying to claim it was 'within the rules'... and therefore OK... to saying something like... 'I put the claim in and it was accepted so it must be OK'.

    I mean... like fuck me sideways but there is an opportunity to shift the blame elsewhere so why not go for it?

    Buh? Someone gets refused a camera but someone else gets 3000 fridge magnets. Who the fuck was in charge of that decision making process then?

    I mean like who was auditing the auditors?

    Could this be the tip of the iceberg for the 'Expenses For Favours/Votes' Scandal?????!!!!1111"""222

    "Right! Let's get down to it.

    Right Honourable Blah claims for fourteen Rubber Horse Dicks plus lubricant?"

    "Didn't vote for 42 days."


    "Right Honourable Flah claims for 3000 fridge magnets and paid for dogging sessions?"

    "Voted for 42 days and pump action shotguns for plod."

    "We haven't proposed plodpumpguns yet!"

    "Oh, sorry. Will vote for plodpumpguns at a future date."

    "Excellent! Fridge magnets approved and get the dogging sessions changed to cameras or laser printers. Any more for today?"



  97. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Thing is while it was wrong....

    only a couple of them actually broke the law, a bunch of them were immoral yes, the conservatives more than most (but most people would have expected that from them) but only a couple of em broke the law.

  98. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    By lucky coincidence..

    It is a lucky coincidence that the Pariament buildings are on top of the one place which is suitable for storing nuclear waste (apparently it's a sort of clay that rivals MPs in density).

    Why don't we combine two things? Surely that's "in teh interest of the tax payer" (but for real this time).

    Just an idea..

  99. TeeCee Gold badge

    Re: Number crunching.

    I think that your suggestion that President Ahmedinejad of Iran, a devout Muslim, would partake of a glass of whiskey is potentially offensive.

    To be on the safe side here I have reported you for an act of potential Religious hatred to the police and I'm sure that they'll do the right thing (probably something involving SO19, knowing them).

    Also your portrayal of Charles Kennedy as a drunken sot is probably libellous. (Yes, I know it's true, you think this makes a difference these days?) Watch for a Carter-Fuckogram on your doormat soon.

  100. Anonymous Coward

    Re: To answer the answerers ers...

    Lee writes, "I agree that there is not necessarily a direct correlation as such between voting for a party because of policy X and therefore supporting said party's policy Y, but I do not accept that you can make any other assumption."

    Huh? Then don't make an assumption at all. You then dismantle your own argument:

    "In short - no maybe the 70% who voted for parties that wanted tuition fees did not actually want tuition fees, but it clearly does not mean that they were opposed. If they careed that much they could have voted LibDem, which they clearly didn't."

    You can only make your assumption if they did indeed put this issue as the decider: that whether students get charged money for going to university elicits more than a "meh!" or "thieving students" from the average Britard. Somehow, I doubt that the Scottish electorate put tuition fees above all the usual factors (tax, image, healthcare, tax, whether their parents voted Labour, image, tax) except perhaps for people sending their children to university and those already attending.

    And this is yet another problem with the electoral system: when people advocate electing MPs on a "local issues" basis, they're effectively trying to turn elections into single-issue affairs, mostly of a parochial nature, when the very nature of the system of government is completely unsuited to such representation, unless you think that the guy who said he'd save the local hospital can vote as he pleases on any other issue for the next four years or so. In fact, having a referendum on such issues is perhaps the way to go, but I suppose you're against that as well because the foreigners do this kind of thing.

    "Those of you arguing for electoral reform in such a manner are simply being taken in by politicians."

    Oh, sure: it has nothing to do with a vote in a safe Con-Labour-tive seat being as good as garbage if you aren't running with the herd, or a bunch of marginal seats deciding the policy agenda for the next four years as Smarmy Blairite loses his seat when 150 people switch their allegiance to Slimy Tory in some London commuter town, and a bunch of Smarmy's friends suffer the same indignity, and the Commons goes from one huge majority to another in an instant.

  101. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    "Breaking the law is always to be condemned"

    You're banging on the wrong drum here mate.

    Hundreds of thousands of people take illegal drugs every weekend (or every day). These people have no de facto respect for "the law". And nor should they. We're not talking about the 10 commandments here. There is no moral imperative to obey the letter of every single one of the UK's laws. Breaking the law is not always to be condemned - the law says too much for this to be the case.

    But because there are so many laws that it is *fine* to break, people end up disrespecting the important ones.

    Your statement, "breaking the law is always to be condemned" *should* be true, and we should fix the legal system so that it is.

    But as it is, there is not a dope-smoker alive who would help a policeman.

    (Not that I ever see a policeman to help.)

  102. Ed Blackshaw Silver badge

    @John Smith

    Your list is, shall we say, somewhat selective. The list in full (wiki warning):

    Which comprises some 83 different nations (out of 194 odd, depending on how you define them, in the world). It is worth noting that this list includes Greece, the country that invented democracy some 2500 years ago.

  103. Ted Treen
    Black Helicopters

    One observation

    "....if this resentment spills over into active disobedience, then for a while at least, the British population may become just that bit less governable...."

    Both the "if" and the "then" are situations which are long overdue.

    It is the total disinterest/meek compliance of the British electorate with the cloud-cuckoo governance of recent years which has permitted - even encouraged - the ungodly to progress from silliness to stupidity to outright certifiable looniness.

    A little touch of at least the Ghandis, or preferably the Jack Cades would go down exceedingly well.

  104. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just before the post disappears ...

    ... people in or outside of the UK might be interested in the technicalities of parliamentary business.

    Here is a bit from the DDA of 2005

    An Act to amend the Disability Discrimination Act 1995; and for connected purposes.

    [7th April 2005]

    Be it enacted by the Queen’s most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:—

    The full version may be seen here

  105. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    They turn you into criminals

    I know someone that was screwed over by the tax man just because of the line of work they're in, the tax man thought that they'd cooked their books like most people in that line of work so they adjusted the tax bill accordingly.

    That person was as honest as the day is long.

    I say was because they were until they got screwed over by the tax man, now they take some jobs cash in hand without declaring it becsuse they're jolly well going to get the money back that was stolen from them by the tax man.

  106. Ben Smith

    @AC - "there is not a dope-smoker alive who would help a policeman"

    Yes there is - I would.

    It's pointless having a "throw the baby out with the bathwater" attitude.

    I would certainly help a policeman out in the course of his duties. By and large they don't do a bad job, and are fairly nice people doing a thankless task.

    Being libertarian != being an anarchist.

  107. mark jacobs


    While I was almost being swept up in the anti-official mania sweeping the minds of all good UK citizens, I Skyped my Aunt in South Africa, and we got chatting about this fiasco. She said it was a storm in a teacup, since the law breakages were tiny compared to what goes on in SA. Azuma held an inauguration party for one day that cost taxpayers half a million rand, while many citizens are starving to death or dying needlessly through lack of healthcare. This is common-place in 3rd world countries, and, if you do fall on the wrong side of the law, you can usually (and easily) bribe your way out of trouble. So, here is a plan of action for the world to take onboard :-

    1) Nobody can earn more than half a million GBP in any given year. No ifs, no buts, that's the law!

    2) Everybody who earns more than fifty thousand GBP a year, has to contribute twenty pounds a month to a third world charity like Oxfam.

    3) All financial records are globally accessible to everyone on the internet with no passwords or usernames needed to see them. No arguments!

    That will fix most things wrong currently, I believe!

  108. Liz

    @Lee Manifestos vs Individual Policies

    "I assume when you say "most of us in Scotland" you mean "Students"."

    You assume wrong then, just as you are wrong to assume that the tuition fees question alone would be enough to cancel out the other issues that would influence you to vote, say, Labour or SNP.

    As a middle-aged engineer who benefited from free university education in the dim & distant past, I hate the idea of charging those who want / need it now. But not enough to vote LibDem & risk letting a Tory in!

    Coalition governments force parties to co-operate, compromise, and all those other girly virtues rather than being macho & extreme, which is what you seem to value ;-)

  109. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Dumb question

    In answer to the question posed by this piece; Because MPs make one set of laws to suit themselves, and another set of laws for the sheep.

    Paris? Because even she wouldn't bend over and accomodate what the British public have endured in the last ten years.

  110. Nick Ryan Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

  111. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  112. Shakje

    @Ed Blackshaw

    I'd pay particular mention to Japan as well.

  113. Julian Lee-Webb


    Police Stop and Search:-

    See the card (linked below) from the website of Mark Thomas, the political activist, commentator, performer, writer and comedian. His site and podcasts are well worth checking out.

  114. Ed Blackshaw Silver badge


    Interesting; not knowing anything about the Japanese political system I can't really say whether it is better or worse that what we have but given the state of Japan versus the state of the UK one might conclude that their system seems to work better...

  115. Herby

    Remember: The court of public opinion...

    ...elects those who "serve" (in Parliament, or Congress where I'm at). The best thing to do is to THROW THE BUMS OUT.

    Unfortunately, the power of the incumbancy lets most prevail at their current jobs, usually buying the votes necessary to keep them in office (with taxpayers money!).

    Welcome to the 21st century!

  116. Mike Robinson

    Reassert the rule of law

    This is one reason for the "one million rebellious britons" campaign being run by the British Constitution Group.

    Its time to take this country back from the criminal traitors that are running it. WE are responsible for the kind of country we live in. We must all be involved in how it is run.

  117. Mad Mike

    @Andrew Culpeck

    Just being a bit inquisitive here. Why should a motor bike not pay for parking, but cars should? Obviously, they should potentially pay less due to the area they require being less, but why nothing? Mind you, the same goes for pedal cycles as well.

    This all rather depends on what parking fees are for. Is it for the space and infrasructure required to allow said parking, or is it to milk someone for money? If you choose to charge car drivers for parking, it only makes logical sense to charge everyone for parking any sort of transporation device......

  118. Graham Marsden

    Re: @Charles

    By Anonymous Coward Posted Monday 25th May 2009 12:05 GMT

    > The only information you are obliged to give the police if asked is your name and if requested some form of ID to back that up.

    No, no, NO!!

    You are not obliged to give *ANY* information to the Police, not your name and certainly no form of ID!

    You have the right to go about your lawful business without let or hindrance, this is an established principle of English Common Law. The Police can *ask* for your name and ID, but you are entirely within your rights to say "No".

    Even if they start playing silly buggers and claim they can do this under Section 44 of the terrorism act, you are still not obliged to comply.

    See for more details.

  119. Anonymous Coward

    Good Article

    I very nearly did not comment, but then I realised that people not commenting when they feel things are not right is exactly what got us into this mess in the first place.

    So what if my opinion has already been posted by others? By keeping quiet we do allow are elected and unelected leaders to get way with breaking the law.

    I want a proper impartial investigation into each and every MP’s expenses. And where the MP fiddled those expenses, I want to see them prosecuted. I don’t care if they have paid the money back. That’s not the point, it’s not about jealousy, it’s about trust. They are voted into a position of trust and have abused it in a way that not only immoral, but also illegal.

    I also want an investigation into the Lords and MEPs. You can bet your bottom dollar that this kind of corruption is not limited to MPs alone.

    I also want the top ten earners in local councils investigated are they truly giving the taxpayer value for money? There was Baby P exposing the ineptitude of social workers. There was some cow in a council that kicked out a load of old people from their prime location cottages and then went on to occupy one herself while the rest where rented out really cheaply to other employees of the council. She got sacked, but did the old people get their homes back?

    There is at least one member of the Lords who turns up for a whole five minutes and then buggers off, but it’s enough to get her the attendance allowance. There I was thinking that a Lord had an obligation to be involved in matters. How silly of me.

    Then there are the Lords accused of taking money for influencing Law. Somehow there is a “lack of evidence”. Yeh right, more like a few police suddenly got into the freemasons.

    I’m sure that a much higher volume of paper shredding has been going on since the expenses scandal started.

  120. John Smith Gold badge

    @Ed Blackshaw

    My list was never meant to be comprehensive. it was meant to illustrate the range of countries who use a system of PR.

    Italy is *always* mentioned as the company that *proves* PR cannot work. Nearly 1 government a year since the late 1940's. Fragmented democracy. Coalition governments by default. Elected a media baron supported by his newspaper and TV interests who went on to retroactively legislate his way out of an insider dealing charge. Small parties having disproportionate power. Israel. Bit more stable but rather similar situation. Slightly more consensus across parties.

    However people forget that Germany is also a PR country. It has stable effective governments over decades. Strong growth and a solid social security system that does not rely on people currently working to bank roll the pensions of current retired people.

    Hence my point that if they are all (nominally) PR but the outcomes are *so* widely varying it seems pretty clear that the details make a very big difference.

    But I was aware that most (all?) other countries in the EU use PR.

    As for Greece. What have the Greeks ever given us?

    Mine will be the one with a copy of the Life of Brian in the pocket.

  121. Graham Marsden
    Thumb Down

    @John Smith

    If you'd bothered to read that article I linked to you'd note the countries with *STV* Proportional Representation include:

    Ireland: Parliamentary elections (since 1919), European elections, Local government elections

    Malta: Parliamentary elections, European elections, Local government elections

    Northern Ireland: Regional assembly elections, European elections, Local government elections

    Scotland: Local government elections (since May 2007)

    Australia: country-wide Senate elections (in the form of a group voting ticket)

    Tasmania: State assembly elections, Local government elections

    New Zealand: Some local government elections such as Dunedin and the capital city of Wellington

    United States: City elections in Cambridge, Massachusetts

    Yes, the devil is in the (inconvenient) details ( and just because Lee can't see how this will change the current system doesn't mean that it won't...)

  122. Sean Timarco Baggaley

    @John Smith (and others)

    I'm half-Italian. Silvio Berlusconi may be a tosser, but at least he's not in a position to do much harm. (Italians aren't major players on the world stage, and they know it. Hell, they don't even bother with Eurovision any more. They have far better things to do.)

    The national government in Italy has far less influence on national affairs than our own equivalent. Italy's regions are far more autonomous. What affects Perugia is usually dealt with by Perugia. National infrastructure is dealt with by national institutions or corporations. (Granted, planning law is a bloody nightmare, but that's mainly due to the Italian skills in Pure & Applied Bureaucracy. The French may have invented the word, but the Italians have turned it into an art-form.)

    Germany, Switzerland and a number of other nations in the EU have a similarly regional approach to government. Devolution works.

    Democracy -- with the capital 'D' -- scales terribly with population size. The more people you have, the less the perceived value of each vote and the lower the incentive to do so. 20 million people shout "TORY!"; 15 million people shout "LIBERAL!", but 25 million people are shouting "LABOUR!" Only the latter is heard clearly above all the hubbub, so those 25 million "win", even though there are *more* Tory and Liberal voters. Why should 35 million votes count for nought?

    First Past The Post must go. It isn't even slightly wrong, it's *completely* wrong. So some loonies might get into Parliament! So what? That's the whole damned point! I disagree entirely with everything the BNP says, but they have as much right to *say* it as the Liberals, Tories and Labour.

    FPTP was, in fact, democratic right up to the early 1900s. Up to that point there were the Tories -- today's Conservatives -- and the Liberals (now merged in the Lib-Dems; it was the Liberals who laid the foundations of our welfare state, not Labour.) With only two parties to choose from, the winner was pretty much guaranteed to have polled most of the votes.

    The rise of the Labour movement around this time split the vote three ways instead of two. As a result, damned few of the governments elected in the UK since then were elected by a majority of the votes. Tony Blair's first term of office was won on the back of just 44.3% of the total. Logically, this means a whopping 55.7% of voters DID NOT want Blair in office. In 2001, New Labour won again with just 42%!

    How is this democratic? By what possible twisting and bending of the term's definition can anyone seriously justify the FPTP system as anything other than rule by a vocal *minority*?

    Sure, the Italian system isn't perfect, but its flaws are mainly due to having Italians involved. (Consider that this is a country which fought *with* the Nazis, yet nobody ribs them quite as much about this faux pas as they do the Germans.)

    The German system shows PR *can* work if done right. Yes, it'll need a lot of though and planning, but nobody's suggesting tearing out FPTP *overnight*. Any government that gets elected will have at least four YEARS to thrash out the details. Any complex system will need maintenance an tuning as a matter of course, so it's not as if we'll be stuck with a lame duck of a system for all eternity.

    Jeeze! Live a little, people! Try something *new* occasionally.

  123. Anonymous Coward

    A twist in the tail?

    Apparently, wait for it, Euro-MPs voted NOT to disclose expenses to the public.

    Now there is a wonder of wonders!

    What do they have to hide?

  124. fajensen

    If you buy that, then I got a bridge for ya!

    <i>Elected politicians represent the people and the nation it is NOT a 9-5 job like any other.</i>

    Fact is: Politicians represent the people & nation from 5-9 AM while they are sleeping; 9 AM - 5 AM they represent themselves - in the way we know!!

  125. Andrew Culpeck

    @ Mad Mike

    You made some interesting points their so lets look at them one at a time.

    Firstly you say

    “Why should a motor bike not pay for parking, but cars should? Obviously, they should potentially pay less due to the area they require being less, but why nothing? Mind you, the same goes for pedal cycles as well.”

    This is an argument I have herd before but if you realise the in seven months Westminster Council made £2.5M out of this parking experiment you can see that this goes way beond a small controbution to parking. Motorbikes reduce conjestion on the roads and public transport both of which struggle to cope with loads put on them in Westminster. Most civerlised countries allow bikes to park free even allowing them to park on pavements if parked responsibly because they contribute to the economy.

    Secondly you say

    “This all rather depends on what parking fees are for. Is it for the space and infrasructure required to allow said parking, or is it to milk someone for money? If you choose to charge car drivers for parking, it only makes logical sense to charge everyone for parking any sort of transporation device......”

    It cost 23K to put in place the extra bays they added to try and sweeten the TAX but after a disastrous financial year in which they lost £15M in the Icelandic bank scandal £15M buying the wrong kind of CCTV cameras thanks because Danny Chalkly did not reading the DoT required video format (something he blamed them for) they still spent 23K on an annual ex-mayor’s dinner.

    So you tell me if you think they had a right to charge us in the first place?

  126. Reid Malenfant

    @ Graham Marsden - No No No

    Not entirely correct my friend. With regard to supplying an Officer your name and address you are of course obliged to where a suspected offence has been committed.

    Section 25 of Pace gives Police officers a power of arrest for NON arrestable offences under certain specific circumstances; one element of which concerns establishing a suspects correct identity in order that summon can be served. And I quote:

    “Where a constable has reasonable ground for suspecting that an offence, which is not an arrestable offence has been committed or attempted or is being committed or attempted he may arrest the relevant person if it appears to him that the service of a summons is inappropriate or impracticable because any of the general arrest conditions are satisfied”

    There are a number of these but the one most pertinent to this thread includes the following:

    “That the name of the relevant person is unknown, doubted, or can not be ascertained, or a constable has reasonable grounds for doubting that the name given by the relevant person as his name is actually his real name”.

  127. Britt Johnston

    @AC: a twist in the (EU) tail

    The EU Parliamentarians have been dropping a fat hints for at least two years that (some) British MEPs are those whomost misuse expenses - perhaps they applied national rules?

  128. Marco van Beek

    Here's an idea:

    Petition for a law making it illegal to waste public money. I know it's a No10 petition, and they are likely to pay it no attention whatsoever, but there must be enough techies reading The Register who are fed up with failed Government IT projects to raise the numbers to a halfway decent level.

  129. John Smith Gold badge

    The usual justifications

    when some one gets caught doing something like this. In no particular order we have

    Our job is *damm* hard.

    We're *never* appreciated. It's just our way of getting a fair reward.

    Everybody hates us until they need us.

    The job's so poorly paid we had to find other ways to make ends meet.

    Every one else was doing it

    Only someone with the virtue of a saint and/or the intelligence of a moron wouldn't do it. I am not that person.

    Does any of this sound familiar? The “I thought I was within the rules at the time” is something of a speciality of politicians, local government officials and civil servants.

    Miss-posted in error to another thread. Apologies

  130. John Stirling

    grass roots

    I have thought for some time that it is time for technology to provide the answer.

    It is possible to use the big central database for good purposes. The only one worth doing it for would be devolved democracy. Local votes, national votes, vote on the issues you care about, vote on pay of public officials, vote on everything of any import.

    There are significant risks in the database state, but if you take control away from Chief Constables and Parliament to create policy then they can be controlled.

    There are significant risks in any system. Every now and again we remember that.

  131. Martin

    And as I read all this . . .

    The one phrase floating through my mind is "When in the Course of human events . . ."

    And what's one of the complaints those men raised against this same government you're all griping about now? "He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance." Plus ça change, plus c'est la meme chose.

  132. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Comment on ‘If they can break the law, why can't we?

    This incident is not the first where Mr Colin Port has failed to follow the direction of a judge.

    The Chief Constable of this force seems to think he is bullet proof when it comes to defying a court order.

    On 31st March 2009 a high court judge in the appeal court in London pulled the Avon & Somerset Constabulary over the coals for, in his words "nit picking in search of a technicallity in order to avoid serious incident of race discrimination against one of its officers"

    It is unbelievable that a Police force behaves in this manner, they are not the law, they are there to uphold it.... A judge on the other hand is the Law and can rewrite it through case law. Colin Port needs a gentle reminder that he along with his officers is the servant and not the master!

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