The 2019 General Election

The ultimate collective hubris. Having agreed that to go to the electorate without a Brexit deal having passed would be political suicide, they are now going to do exactly that. They feel that the charisma of King Boris will win over the people, even though his opponents will define him, based on past performance, as the least suitable person to be holding the reins of power. Given that he has always favoured that power over policy, it is a reasonable assumption that he does not really care whether Brexit happens or not. That is the dazzling light at the end of this gloomy tunnel. The assumption that he will get a working majority is reckless, but totally in character. Like a child, if he cannot get his own way, he will not want to play the game. It could lead to parliament finally accepting the reality that there is no such thing as a “great Brexit deal”, a further referendum and a return to sanity. Where there is hope there is life!

Church Times

Not a lot to say about this except that the title is a silly play on words of sorts. I spend a lot of time walking and some of it through churchyards. An act that oftimes makes me react.

Church Times

The churches that chime the times that change

Cherished those who were once called wise

And, in defining the hour within earshot range

Gave succour to those who searched the skies

For signs of sun or moon or star

To fix an object near or far

Later, trains travelled on rusty rails

Respecting the time from whence they departed

Yet delivered their cargo to ships with sails

Arriving, yet, before loading had started

Tides were sailors’ own favoured clocks

Even when tracks brought goods to docks

And still there are those who rely on the moon

To tell them when and what to pray

They will not start a minute too soon

As only the ordained dare define the day

Descending to the depths of ancient ritual

To find the source of the sacred and spiritual

O! bless the present and priestly enlightened

And those of the past who gave preference to science

Over manipulating the masses, those easily frightened

Or treating as fact what was poetic licence

Reading books by oil lamp in darkened room

Rejecting the threats of the mongers of doom

Now we can be armed on wrists with watches

Some connected to satellites made by man

No longer counting on wood-scraped notches

Pursuing technology’s permanent plan

To enhance our lives – for better or worse

Filling the public or private purse

As we walk by churchyard and hear that sound

We should wonder what is the current meaning

Of the noise of the bells that the graves surround

New stones upright and old ones leaning

To some of us it may still seem so strange

That churches chime the times that change

King Boris and the DUP

So we now see that the importance of maintaining the “my deal or no-deal” myth is to ensure that King Boris has the support of recalcitrant MPs when he is finally forced to pull the rug from under the DUP. These are typical tactics of a suicide bomber or blackmailer with respect to both the EU and parliament – “accede to my demands or I will blow us all up”. And when he talks of “working hard to get a deal”, he doesn’t mean discussing with the EU, he means talking to the DUP who he intends to abandon anyway.  We see the end justifying the means in his every move, or at least that is his avowed pretence. If one accepts the validity of the 2016 referendum and that it still reflects the will of the “people”, there can be no harm in asking the “people” to validate this new proposal. Moreover, he could get parliamentary approval for a deal – or make those opposing look very foolish – if he were to offer to put the deal to a confirmatory referendum. He could even fix the date of a general election for some time November. But, no! His gamble, entirely at our expense, is that confrontation, as his mate Trump has undoubtedly suggested, will ultimately allow him to be seen as a hero to a minority of the electorate, but a big enough minority to enable him to remain in power.

The Joys of Extradition – A Tale of Two Jurisdictions

So, after a 10 month long, expensive and very stressful legal battle with the extradition system, I was finally flown to France on July 8, 2019. Readers will understand, I hope, that I cannot go into the legal issues surrounding the case, but suffice to say that the defence maintained that the accusations had already been tried in the UK, that the UK courts had, on four separate occasions, decided that the second of the two accusations was not valid on the grounds of “double jeopardy”, and the French had accepted that I would not be detained in France pending trial should that come to pass.

My French legal team had asked the Judge (Juge d’Instruction) to confirm that I would not be charged with the second offence nor held in detention, in which case I would go to France of my own accord and at my own expense to avoid the pain, on both sides, of an actual extradition. The Judge refused for reasons that have not been explained. One might assume that it could have been purely through laziness, a spirit of vengeance or the idea that going through the process would make me more amenable to agreeing to something with which I disagreed. We may never know the workings of his mind.

In any case, around 5 July I received a telephone call from Suffolk Police about the organisation of the extradition. Why Suffolk when I live in Surrey? – nobody knew or cared sufficiently to find out. I suspect that it was simply an error in the original EAW (European Arrest Warrant). Whatever the logic might have been, their mission was now to get me to Heathrow for 10:00 on the Monday where I would be handed over to the French authorities. These plain clothed officers were extremely pleasant, transparent, knowledgeable and helpful. We agreed that there was no need for dramatic scenes at my house and that we would meet at the local railway station at 07:30. That required them to stay in a nearby four-star hotel the night before.

During the weekend I had an unexpected visit from the Surrey police – uniformed and in a marked car – which completely demolished the plan to keep everything discreet. They delivered a letter for me to sign, acknowledging that I was being extradited on the Monday. I explained that everything had already been organised. They were absolutely in the dark but pretended to be in control of the situation. This intervention was entirely unnecessary and could have been avoided if communications between the police forces had been functioning.

So, I was at the station as planned at 07:30 even though officers had warned me by text that they would be a little late. In any case, we managed to arrive at Heathrow well-ahead of schedule after an interesting conversation in the vehicle and stopped for refreshments at a McDonald’s near the airport. Being a vegan there was little for me to eat so I decided not to eat, expecting something to be available at lunchtime– more of that later.

We then progressed through a zone controlled by the Metropolitan Police and were driven in one of their vans to a door that led to the check-in area. At some point in this process the electronic bracelet (tag as it is commonly referred to) was removed from my left leg. We were met there by the reception party of three Frenchmen, two of them extremely burly. I found out later that they were, in fact, from the Administration Pénitentiaire (Prison Service) and had left their homes in Paris at 03:30 for this mission. They were firm, fair and friendly and respected the rules scrupulously. After a fairly formal greeting they proceeded to take from me anything they considered of value such as watch, telephone, money and bank cards in order to “keep them safe”. The leader of the team told me that, because I was over 70 years old, I could not be handcuffed. We then advanced at lightning speed through the formalities before the other passengers were even lined up and, after I went through an unusually thorough – thorough for an airport – but to-be-expected search, we were presented to the captain at the door of the plane. I assumed this was partly out of courtesy but also because he would have the right to refuse to accept me. We occupied the last five seats in the cabin with me right in the corner, presumably to ensure that my presence aboard would not trouble other passengers. The flight was with Air France for reasons of jurisdiction – Air France being the flag carrier; hence we were not able to use Gatwick which would have been so much easier. The staff were all very pleasant and the flight went off without incident. The “meal” served on board was half of half a sandwich, however, which was only enough to keep me going through the flight. By the time we landed at Roissy, Charles de Gaulle, I was hungry.

On arrival I was whisked away, without any formalities, through normally inaccessible doors and then driven by an Administration Pénitentiaire vehicle to a building housing the PAF (Police Aux Frontières). Inside I was effectively arrested, fingerprinted (including palms of both hands), photographed (including profile and head at 45°). Surprisingly, for a procedure much more thorough that in the UK, no DNA sample was taken. The very kind lady who controlled the process explained that there was no hurry to get to the Tribunal because the Judge was running late – I only understood the significance of that remark later. After more waiting in drab corridors which could have been anywhere in the UK administration except, perhaps, for the smell of cigarettes coming from outside areas, I was whisked away again with my three escorts and driver, sirens blaring all the way to the Tribunal de Paris – this was now becoming a French experience.

The Tribunal is housed in a wonderful, huge, skyscraper, just inside the Périphérique at the Porte de Clichy. It was built, or rather completed, about two years ago, and now regroups almost all of the 25 courts that existed in Paris – an example of central planning at it most efficient – one might imagine the furore if London were to do the same yet the efficiency and economic sense of such a change would be obvious. Of course, I didn’t see much, if anything, of the architecture, inside or out, because I was driven underneath into the 3000 square metre secure zone. Once inside the terrible reality of my situation became apparent. I was stripped of everything including laces, and was not allowed access to my bag, wherein I had stashed some nutrition bars, just in case. It is difficult to describe the scene in the bowels of the Tribunal: the dregs of Parisian society, the smells of the unwashed, police of all different types. I had shaken hands with my escorts, said farewell hoping never to see them again, of course, and was now in a different world not knowing what direction I was facing, what the time was, what was going to happen and how long I was going to be held.

I was moved fairly rapidly out of a holding cell along corridors worthy of a novel by Kafka and by strange lift systems divided in two parts – the part at the back being a sort of cage for the accused. I was handcuffed briefly even though I had protested that I was over seventy and had two metal bars in my left arm and a left wrist badly deformed after a succession of cycling accidents. The officer laughed in a sympathetic manner and explained that everything was at his discretion. During a walk along one of the seemingly interminable corridors I fiddled with the handcuffs and accidentally tightened them. I pleaded with the officer for help and instead of loosening them he just removed them. It is striking how, wherever in the world and whatever the dramatic circumstances, one can always find acts of kindness in humanity.

I was now placed in a proper cell, somewhere above the induction and holding area, which consisted of a concrete bed topped with a thin, narrow foam mattress and an open stainless-steel toilet – the sort that one would have seen in Parisian cafés in the last century but relatively new, of course. The advantage of this style of toilet is that there is nothing to break or steal or use as a weapon. There was also a drinking water facility that was over-excitable and drenched me every time I tried to fill my plastic cup. That was it: nothing to read, look at or eat all in the name of safety. I confess that I started, now, to have minor panic attacks augmented by the fact that I was hungry. I rang the emergency buzzer and explained to an officer that I had not eaten for hours and that I had some nutrition bars in my bag. He explained that I could have access to nothing and that food is served at lunchtime only, on the assumption that people arriving in court are from police custody or prison where they would have had breakfast. I mentioned that I had expected my lawyer to be there and was told to be patient. The door, which was all steel and Perspex was bolted shut for what, then, seemed like hours. I could not sleep, even though I was already exhausted. I busied myself by trying to flush away the smell of urine using a combination of the toilet flush and the overflowing water fountain.

Some immeasurable time later the door unlocked and I was told that I was being moved further up the building so that I could meet with my lawyer. I was placed in a cell with nothing but a fixed table and benches and with a male and a female officer outside. My lawyer came, explained that he had had his first sight of my file which was enormous, but had needed the time to read some of it before seeing me. He confirmed that the Judge was running late – by a number of hours – and that we would be meeting with him as soon as possible. I later realised that this was because of a very high-profile case (Bernard TAPIE et al) that coincided with my very lack-lustre affair. He reassured me that I would be leaving that evening, said he would try to get me something to eat from a machine and would then have to go back to wait on another floor. When he left and explained to the guards what he was doing they invited me, in another act of humanity, to sit with them. My lawyer came back with a cereal bar which I devoured in about thirty seconds. How good it tasted! After my lawyer had left to find out what was happening, I sat chatting with my guards about my case and specifically about the wafer-thin distance between guilt and innocence and the failings of the jury system. I learnt a lot about the French system and the difference between it and the UK one.

Eventually, hours later than was planned, I was ushered into the judge’s office with the two officers that now knew me at my side but slightly behind me – presumably to ensure I did not attack the judge or his assistant or even my lawyer. After a short, bad-tempered discussion, we were ushered out again while the Judge prepared the indictment documents and those required for my release on bail. The bad temper was caused by the fact that he had slipped back onto the indictment notice a charge which I considered to have been already discharged by the UK courts. Once recalled into his office, I signed some papers and left with my guards and lawyer who warned me that it might take some time for me to actually get released out of the building. We said goodbye and planned for me to meet at his offices the following morning.

The two officers then took me back down to the bowels of the building where the dregs of society were now even more numerous and presented me to the office with my release form. I waited for possibly an hour before my belongings were restored to me and another twenty minutes before an officer came to escort three of us out of the building through numerous corridors and security checks. My fellow prisoners being released remarked commented to our guard on what an unlikely criminal I was and laughed at themselves for having presumed that I was an employee of the French justice system.

I found myself outside in a sort of alleyway completely disoriented and wondering why this had all been necessary. The waste of resources was flagrant. Given constraints on public spending on both sides of the channel, what work did not get done while all these people were looking after me unnecessarily?

Boris Johnson…PM?

So we really will have achieved the sort of sovereignty that certain voters said they sought! The man who promised us our “cake and eat it” has decided to exclude anyone from his  cabinet who has not demonstrated their desire to ignore the majority of the electorate who did not vote for a no-deal Brexit and has already started to blame the EU for not allowing the UK to leave under the terms he promised. He presumably hopes that, by blaming the EU for the stupidty of his own ambition, he will win back Brexit Party supporters to the Conservative fold, thus justifiying his decision to force a general election when the shit hits the fan.  For his own career, this is a real “shot to nothing” in snooker parlance. He will have succeeded in becoming PM and leading the Conservative Party and, if  we end up remaining in the EU, he can continue moaning about plastic kippers from tax havens for the next 45 years. It’s about as unpatriotic as one can imagine. The expression that he applied to business can now be applied to the majority of the population plus those who will have suffered from the effects of his narcissism without realising it!

Carlos Ghosn Update?

The failure in this article to mention his conditions of bail, previous periods of seemingly unjustified imprisonment and that he is barred from talking to his wife is worrying. The Financial Times seems to be shying away from the horrors of the Japanese judicial system as demonstrated by this case. Not covering these issues will only cause some long-term FT readers like myself to wonder about the pressures being placed on editorial staff but will also fuel concerns about the political nature of this investigation. The facts are not only yet to be judged but are evidently still being researched. Nevertheless, some commentators below seem to have had advance warning of the court’s guilty verdict. Maybe they would also care to inform us of what sentence he will be given. Could we have some coverage of the interview with Mrs Ghosn, please, just to give a little clarity?

Two-round Voting System

Given, the chaos that we have seen in the UK during then Brexit crisis, there are good reasons to look at different voting methods around the world. Having experienced the system used in presidential and some national elections in France, which also is used at times in some other countries, it may be useful to suggest how that might be applied in the UK and what would be the advantages and disadvantages. In particular, it is worth looking at the system of two rounds.

There are two types of system.  The first is where the first round is used to eliminate all but the two best scores, unless one gains over 50% in the first round. Then two weeks later there is a run-off between the two candidates. The second method is where a bar is fixed – usually 12.5% in the French system – below which any candidate is eliminated. Let us look at et the first system and examine the obvious advantages.:

  1. We are sure that anyone elected is elected by a majority of voters i.e. 50% + 1vote
  2. The two round system allows the electorate to express its preferred choice in the first round and vote definitively in the second
  3. The period of reflection of 2 weeks in the French case allows for alliances to be formed and policies to be refined or changed and for electors to consider and discuss their choices.

There is only one obvious disadvantage: the system requires electors to vote twice.

If we now apply the system to the recent Peterborough byelection, on the assumption that people would have voted the same way in the first round, we see that the final result might have been very different. As of today, under the 50% + 1 system everyone would have been eliminated except Labour and the Brexit party. Under the 12.5% barrier system the second there would be a three-way run-off between the Brexit Party, Labour and the Conservatives, the LibDems missing out by 81 votes.

So, one can try to speculate on how people would have voted if the choice was between Labour and Brexit, in the first system, or between these two and the Conservatives in the second system. What we see in France, however, is that the second-round turnout can also change dramatically. So, for example, faced with the prospect of voters trying to stop Labour winning, we might see the turnout, which was under 50% increase to 75%! Similarly, in order to ensure that the Brexit Party did not win we might see reluctant voters coming out, holding their noses and voting for Labour. What is important is also how the LibDems would advise their voters to vote after their elimination. I would suggest that Vince Cable would encourage them to vote Labour in the second round so as to rule out a hard Brexit. Now, if you reflect upon this, it is much more likely that the extremists would be eliminated.

If you coupled this system with voting on Sunday rather than Thursday, the two-round system could well involve a larger proportion of the population in the voting process.

Candidate Description (if any) Number of votes
BRISTOW Paul The Conservative Party 7243
FORBES Lisa Labour Party 10484
GOLDSPINK English Democrats 153
GREENE Mike The Brexit Party 9801
HOPE Howling The Official Monster Raving 112
KIRK Pierre Ed UK European Union Party 25
MOORE Andrew   101
O` FLYNN Patri SDP Fighting for Brexit 135
RODGERS Dick Common Good: Remain 60
ROGERS Tom Christian Peoples Alliance 162
SELLICK Beki Liberal Democrats 4159
SMITH Bobby   5
WARD Peter Mark Renew 45
WELLS Joseph Green Party 1035
WHITBY John UK Independence Party 400
Total 33920
12,50% 4240

The Threat from Iran

Interesting article from the FT. The much-vaunted investigation into the attack on oil tankers in the Gulf region was actually carried out by the UAE – hardly an impartial observer. That being said, what we notice is that “The attacks were designed to “incapacitate the ships without sinking them or detonating their cargoes,” according to the report, and later in the text, “which resulted in no casualties or oil spills.”

Now, if we suppose that this attack was carried out by Iran or its sympathisers, it actually shows a remarkable respect for human life, property and the environment. If the most evil of our enemies acts with such constraint, one must wonder about the true nature of the threat that is posed. An enemy that is prepared to show such concern for specific and general welfare is hardly compatible to one which supports suicide bombing or the use of chemical weapons and the indiscriminate harm caused by acts of terrorism, for example.

If we suppose that this attack was not carried out by Iran, then we have to ask ourselves who would have a motive to do such a thing in these circumstances. The obvious answer is any power that wishes to discredit Iran or its sympathisers. That would preclude Russia, China and other members of the current “axis of evil”. The finger would inevitably be pointed at the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Israel or the CIA acting in conjunction with another party.

It is noteworthy that John Bolton seems delighted that this action justifies a “very strong response from the US”.

Organised crime offenders ‘twice size of the army’, says NCA

What this article tries to do, unsuccessfully, is to present a united  criminal front, as if those who subscribe to child pornography, for example, are actually linked to other types of criminality. It’s an old story that doesn’t have any credibility for the rational thinker. Indeed, if there is a link between those accused of sexual offences and the criminal classes, it is that the majority of the latter are most likely to be part of the lynch mob that would massacre the the former – whether they be guilty or innocent.

Carlos Ghosn – a dubious report by the FT

Some people who are commenting conveniently forget that he has not been tried yet and should therefore benefit from the presumption of innocence. It is not up to this newspaper nor to its readers to judge Carlos Ghosn or any other person charged with any offence. The nature of the offence does not change this principle. Secondly, whatever he might or might not have done does not justify his treatment by the Japanese authorities. The latest incarceration had no legal justification except to encourage him to confess. That hardly shows that there is a cast iron case against him. Thirdly, one wonders how the FT obtained this information. Without wishing to deny the FT the right to publish but this looks like an exercise in hardening public opinion against Carlos Ghosn and against Lebanon which can only help the prosecution. “According to people familiar with the investigation” is supposed to mean what exactly, FT, when you also state that “Nissan and Tokyo prosecutors declined to comment.”? Was the defence team asked to comment?