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Monday, 30 September 2019

Future Prorogation Loopholes

I have had a chance to read the Supreme Court judgement on the infamous Johnson prorogation, and found some items of interest.

  1. On whether the Queen has no choice but to accept advice (as all sides seemed to accept), the judges say:  "It is not suggested in these appeals that Her Majesty was other than obliged by constitutional convention to accept that advice. In the circumstances, we express no view on that matter."  That seems to leave a bit of wriggle room for the future.
  2. A second point comes to why the Johnson prorogation is indeed justicifiable.  In concluding that it is, the Court argues: "It is, however, important to understand that this argument only arises if the issue in these proceedings is properly characterised as one concerning the lawfulness of the exercise of a prerogative power within its lawful limits, rather than as one concerning the lawful limits of the power and whether they have been exceeded."  The Court is saying that the legal limits can only be decided by lawyers, and as I read their judgement, that is a crucial point.
  3. A third area where the "Supremes" make a point that may be relevant for the future if certain people wish to pursue confiscatory powers is the note that: "For example, they include the principle that the executive cannot exercise prerogative powers so as to deprive people of their property without the payment of compensation (Burmah Oil Co Ltd v Lord Advocate [1965] AC 75)".
I am also struck by the way the Court determines purely on the evidence in front of it.  For instance, Sir John Major's evidence is referred to as "unchallenged" and the Court proceeds on that basis.  Mr Johnson must be ruing his decision not have put a statement into the Court of Sessions regarding his motives.

Sunday, 29 September 2019

Commentary on Prorogation

Reading through the commentary on the prorogation, I have never seen such a confused mishmash of opinion, even on matters Brexit.  Various infuriated commentators have been talking about constitutional coups and the overturning of democracy and so on.  Jacob Rees Mogg has been particularly bad in this regard, especially as the Supreme Court judgement implies that he came closer to carrying out a form of constitutional coup than anyone.

Anyone familiar with seventeenth century history will know that prorogation and long periods in which Parliament could not sit were a key part of the Stuarts' attempts to create a dictatorship.  Charles I got rid of Parliament for eleven years of personal rule;  Charles II used the same practice, as did Oliver Cromwell.  The last I suspect is company that Mr Rees Mogg would be particularly unhappy to be in.

A knowledge of that history demonstrates that these powers have always been subject to a certain ebb and flow according to political circumstance, and one would have expected a traditional Conservative to be aware of these things.

Saturday, 28 September 2019

Padfield Enforces the Benn Act

Yesterday, there was speculation that the Benn Act that it could be frustrated by an Order in Council or some ill defined letter.  David Allen Green suggests that the answers to such queries is Padfield.  If Johnson does seek to frustrate Parliament with a No Deal Brexit, there may be a new round of judicial activity.

Friday, 27 September 2019

Convergence Between Far Right and Left

There is a growing convergence between the Far Right and the Far Left online which explains much online antisemitism, and the increasing spread of antisemitism within the Labour Party.  This often includes twitter accounts with people who use call themselves Socialists and Corbyn supporters, but who in fact have connections on the Extreme Right. An example might be Scott Nelson (known on twitter as @SocialistVoice who associates with various Holocaust deniers.  Another would be Sally Eason who refers to to herself on twitter as @LabLeftVoice.  Both these have thousands of followers. 

There are also people connected to the Brexit Party who have ultra Left backgrounds, and troubling records in terms of supporting terrorism and murder.  One of the best known of these is Claire Fox , a Brexit MEP who supported the Warrington bombing.

These people benefit from the extreme factionalism that the Corbyn movement has introduced which automatically dismisses any accusations against people who label themselves as supporters without examination. 

Thursday, 26 September 2019

Louis Wain Film Coming

Claire Foy and Benedict Cumberbatch will star in a film based on the life of Louis Wain soon.  Louis Wain has a Brent connection, having lived in Brondesbury Park. As well as having featured in an exhibition at the Brent Museum back in 2011, he was also the inspiration for Willesden Green's two cat murals

Wednesday, 25 September 2019


The most striking consequence about the Supreme Court decision on proroguing Parliament is that the select committees can now return and scrutinise the government over Brexit, Johnson's possible misuse of public money and whether Boris Johnson will resign.


The text of the judgement is available.

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

House of Life at Brent Museum

Willesden's Jewish Cemetery is seeing an exhibition dedicated to it at the Brent Museum in Willesden Library.  It will combine a general explanation of Jewish culture relating to death, and items of local history specific to the Cemetery.  It starts from 3 October 2019.

Monday, 23 September 2019

Brent Council Health Disappointment

After complaints at Brent Council's supine attitudes to cuts in the NHS, the Council finally debated it and came up with a motion ending thus:

[Brent Council will]... "work with Brent’s Members of Parliament, to voice our opposition to any future arrangements in which alterations to local NHS services threaten the safety of patients or residents alike, and re- affirm the need for health services to put people at the heart of any future plans."

That is about as a bland a message as I can imagine. Nothing on the Council using its own powers of Scrutiny or as a partner of the NHS.  Nothing about the use of public health powers or areas of the Council (e.g. libraries) or powers of the Council (e.g. licensing) to help shape public health outcomes.  Just voicing opposition.

Sunday, 22 September 2019

The Need for Longer Interviews

Brian Walden died earlier in the Summer.  In the 1980s he dominated the most serious end of political reporting.  I was reminded of this after seeing some footage of him interviewing Margaret Thatcher from that time.

What was so in contrast to modern reporting was that he did not interrupt her; she seemed to be genuinely trying to explain the government's policy (i.e. giving reasons for her thinking), and most striking contrast of all, their questions and answers seemed to respond to each other.  Today by contrast interviewers and interviewees do not seem to react to each other but just plough on with pre-set questions and lines without doing more than shoe on in what they have already said.  The impression even by some reputable broadcasters is of a kind of faux gladitorialism, that Jeremy Paxman in particular tended to popularise.  I am sure that this is not because of the quality of the interviewers is any worse.  For instance I suspect that say Mishal Husain or Evan Davis could do just as well as Walden given an hour long format.

The problem is more that the broadcasters have given up on the format, and the politicians no longer need to appear on these programmes when so many other, softer channels are now available.  The first of these problems could be solved by a requirement of broadcasters to use this sort of long format for a set number of programmes per year for certain named office holders: Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition etc.  Of course they might refuse to show up, but that would obviously be a known fact that their opponents could use to embarrass them.

Why is it worth doing something like this?  Well surely no one could be happy about the quality of our political debate at the moment, the easy evasions, the aggression and the general failure to engage in an exchange of ideas.  We really do need to up the quality of debate somehow.  

Saturday, 21 September 2019

Brent Civic Centre Climate Change Protest

I wonder whether it occurred to people gathering to protest about climate change yesterday outside Brent Civic Centre that they were standing in front of one of the greenest buildings in Europe?  Brent Civic Centre is the kind of building that we will have to have vastly increased numbers of if we are to meet the UK's emissions targets.

Friday, 20 September 2019

Warning over Snap Elections

There has been a recent reminder from election administrators that there are practical limits on snap elections being adequately administered.  This is actually true of many areas of policy.  Indeed the entire Brexit process is a tribute to decisionmakers making a decision and then expecting some one else to solve the various problems there are in implementing them. 

It would be a lot easier if the political class paid more attention to whether decisions are feasible in the first place.

Thursday, 19 September 2019

The Ignorance of Boris Johnson

According to the Financial Times, Boris Johnson is only now realising what the Single Market means, which is remarkable even by the standards of ignorance of this government.  How can the rest of us trust this government  to enact anything if they are unaware of basic facts?

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Litter in Wembley

I see that the Green Party has raised awareness of restrictions on leafleting once again.  They last time they raised this was back in 2012, when they objected to a revision of the rules from 1994.  I suggested at the time that the controversy was artificial.  The fact that it has taken more than six years to come up with another example suggests to me that it is not a common problem.

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

A New Brexit Referendum

It seems that increasing numbers of people are finally coming round to the idea of a new Brexit referendum as the only way out of the current Parliamentary impasse.  Even a General Election might not do it because (a) You might end up with a hung Parliament anyway (b) Peoples' votes will be for a variety of motives not just their views on Brexit.

This was, I think, clear from a time before the Cooperative Party adopted a new referendum as official policy back in 2018. 

Monday, 16 September 2019

Community Use at The Queensbury

The Save the Queensbury campaign recently described the site of the current Queensbury pub in Willesden as in "community use".

This is true in only a limited sense.  Until the late 1990s it was a private club (in fact a Conservative Party club) so not really open to the community as a whole.  The Tories then sold it for use as a pub. 

Sunday, 15 September 2019

Carbon Emissions and Brent Council

I am surprised by Environment Lead's rather tepid answer on monitoring carbon emissions in this Brent Times story.  ClientEarth should know that the Council already has an Energy Plan that should be publicly available.  She ought to know that Brent Council has chalked up some impressive environmental achievements relating to climate emergency, not least:

Saturday, 14 September 2019

Ringing the Changes

It is an extraordinary fact that this parliamentary session has had 73 changes of political allegiance by MPs and others.

That includes no fewer than three changes by Chuka Ummana alone.

Boris Johnson is also making a strong start on gathering ministerial resignations, beating all his immediate predecessors (see below).

Friday, 13 September 2019

Recent Brexit Stories

All the recent Brexit stories about how the Hilary Benn Act to block a no deal Brexit will be thwarted simply illustrate that Dominic Cummings is not really a "genius" at all.  He is just a childish and petulant bully who seems to think the law of the land does not apply to him.  If Johnson wants to retain any shreds of credibility, he should get rid of this man.

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Brent Library Closures this Autumn

Brent will be temporarily closing two of its libraries.

The first is Harlesden Library, although only for one day (tomorrow).  This is due to electrical work needing to be done.  Alternative library arrangements are easy to get to at The Library in Willesden Green, or by taking the 18 bus and walking from Wembley Triangle to Wembley Library, or by taking the 18 bus up to the top of Ealing Road and walking to Ealing Road Library from there.

The second stoppage is at Ealing Road Library from 23 September to 14 October for more extensive building work.  The physically closest library is Wembley Library.

Any loans from one Brent Library can be returned at any other branch, although outstanding loans during this period are in each case being automatically extended to when the libraries reopen.

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Prorogation Unlawful

The Court of Sessions, Scotland's Highest Court, has just ruled that the prorogation of Parliament is unlawful as Boris Johnson's intention was to stymie Parliament.  I doubt whether this was in the Dominic Cummings playbook.  The main effect is that the Select Committees can continue to function, and the case is likely to go to the UK Supreme Court.

According to the Speakers Office whether Parliament can be recalled is a decision for the Executive.

The second major effect is that the Court of Sessions has offered an opinion on Boris Johnson's sincerity in requesting the Prorogation, and they are not sympathetic.  Keir Starmer QC has been quoted as saying: "But to say that the motive or the reason that the prime minister has put forward was not the true reason, that is very powerful, and very unusual for a court. I don’t think they would have done it without overwhelming evidence."  Dominic Grieve QC has suggested that Boris Johnson may need to resign. 

In Preference to a General Election

Members of the Labour Party in Hull have apparently decided to go go for an all out selection battle for their MP.  It is not likely to happen.  Firstly the meetings casting the relevant "trigger ballot" votes sound as if they were inquorate making the process invalid.  Secondly, there seems to be an overwhelming likelihood of a General Election being called before Christmas, which would thwart any new selection process.

It does however tell you something about the inward looking mentality of many party members that they think an entirely inward looking approach for the next twelve weeks is better than preparing for fighting a General Election in November or December.

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Economist on Syria

The Economist has another excellent edition this week covering the immense suffering in Syria where half a million have been killed, millions displaced and the country has been turned into ruins.  All this to defend the Assad regime.

Monday, 9 September 2019

Brent Momentum in "Kensal Rise Library"

Brent Momentum is advertising an event in "Kensal Rise Library" on 12 October, which is indicative of some rather strange connections.  The facebook publicity promises:

"Inspired by ‘The World Transformed’ festival held alongside the Labour Party conference since 2016, Brent Momentum is holding a day of discussion, debate, and organisation this autumn on practical ways to make Brent and the wider world more radically equal, just, democratic and sustainable.

Themes will include climate disaster, extreme inequality, racism, street violence, insecure and low-paid work, poor air equality and public health, inadequate overpriced housing."

Brent Momentum is of course an organisation founded as a Jeremy Corbyn support group that is principally known for it for its attacks on Brent Council, Labour Party members who don't support Jeremy Corbyn to the group's satisfaction and Boris Johnson in that order. 

Kensal Rise Library describes itself  as a library, and is largely dependent on money granted by Brent Council.  Having been originally formed as a campaign group against Brent Council's Librarieis Transformation Project, it then morphed into a privately run community group.  More recently still the main twitter feed was changed to suggest its purpose as "We will hang in there until it is publicly funded & run by the council."

It is run by the  Friends of Kensal Rise Library,  which is registered as a charity (no. 1141606).

It is unclear how all these connections work since they are not subject to any kind of public scrutiny.

Sunday, 8 September 2019

Essex Libraries

The ongoing saga of the library closures in Essex again illustrates the difficulties of reducing Council budgets in an era when people just shout past each other.  The efforts to placate the opponents of the Council's plans has merely led to the Council spending a lot more money on the service area (cutting services for elsewhere as a consequence) and kicking the can down the road.

Now the Essex campaigners are worried about these shadowy groups not being properly accountable for the money they obtain and not needing to meet the same standards as public libraries, and they are right to be.

Saturday, 7 September 2019

Driving in Gladstone Park

I see Cllr Lia Colacicco has been concerned at driver going on the footpaths in Gladstone Park.  This has been a problem in the southern King Edward VII park, where it was solved by the installation of kissing gates.  This followed a similar issue some time before in people driving cars between Willesden Sports Centre and Doyle Gardens, which was also solved with a new gate. 

Friday, 6 September 2019

Police Cuts

An unfortunate effect of the cuts to the police in the past few years is that the police safer neighbourhood base in Station Road is gone, having opened in 2010.  It also illustrates an important point.  It is not just the size of the budget; it is the predictability.  The police made this investment, that allowed officers less travel time to the ward, to increase efficiency.  Even if they wanted to use any promised increase in budget to put it back in place, it would take time to make that decision a practical effect.  This is why the government's sudden lurch to more spending is unhelpful. 

Thursday, 5 September 2019

Violence and Roundwood Youth Centre

There is some irony in a meeting about what is being done about knife violence was held in a youth centre which is likely to be come less available for youth facilities as funding is reduced.  Roundwood Youth Centre was the last such to be built in the Borough.

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Relief at Brexit Defeat

I must say that I am immensely relieved by the government's defeat last night, including by the size of the margin.  I find it very hard to imagine that Hilary Benn's bill will not now pass, and the extreme Tories will have only themselves to blame. 

The photo of Jacob Rees-Mogg above seems to have gone viral largely because it sums up the insouciant arrogance with which this small band of fanatics are bringing disaster on the country.  I really am astonished that people who purport to be traditional conservatives could treat long established institutions such as the Monarchy and Parliament with such contempt.

HS2 Delays and Overruns

In all the other news yesterday, there was an announcement of massive delays and cost overruns to HS2.  It has gone £22 billion over budget and may face a delay of more than seven years.  London to Birmingham is now expected in 2031 rather than 2026.

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

A Final Note on the Design of "Preston Library"

Apropos of the "Preston Library" saga, I notice that the Planners' report is quite critical of the existing building saying:

“It  is  considered  that  the existing library building is of a low quality, and the design and layout of the building does not adequately  deliver  floorspace  of  a  high  enough  quality  to  deliver  a  successful  contemporary library.”

We are then further told that:

“The new design approach would provide a space that would be better designed, more efficient

and more engaging for library users and it is considered that the small decrease in floorspace

over  the  existing  library  building  is  considered  acceptable  in  this  instance.  Furthermore  the

re-provision  of  a  modern  building  with  the  facilities  purpose  designed  to  meet  both  adopted

policy  requirements,  and  floorspace  suitable  for  the  local  community  to  use  the  flexible  room

for a variety group based activities with scope host activities and events in a more effective and

flexible  way.  Overall  it  is  considered  that  the  new  library  would  provide  a  new,  high  quality

modern library for the local community.”

Incidentally, the report suggests that the existing book collection is 4,000 books, and the new one is 6,000 books which leaves me to wonder why it needs so much shelving

Monday, 2 September 2019

Freedom Of Movement Doesn't End After All

It now appears from The Times that ending free movement has been postponed.  This suggests to me that Priti Patel was just grandstanding with no idea what the effect of her demands actually were.  That is surely a habit from her colleagues, David Davies, Boris Johnson etc.  that has led to Brexit being such an utter mess.

Frankly no one in the Cabinet is fit for any kind of public office.

Sunday, 1 September 2019

Class and Policing

An interesting analysis of class, race and different kinds of policing in the Huffington Post.  A valuable piece of journalism.