Friday, 18 May 2007

You couldn't make it up.

Words really do fail me. Politicians wonder, with an apparent air of hurt bemused innocence why no one trusts them. Gordon brown talks absolute tosh about re-building trust.

Well the Tories don’t quite seem to have kicked old habits, as one of their backbenchers, David Maclean, has sponsored a private member’s bill that he claims is “necessary to give an absolute guarantee that the correspondence of members of parliament, on behalf of our constituents and others, to a public authority remains confidential “.

By a complete coincidence I am sure did not occur to him it also has the effect of exempting the Commons and House of Lords from the list of public authorities obliged to release information under the Freedom of Information Act and also – as a, no doubt, entirely unintended side effect – allow MPs to keep their expenses secret.

It has to be said support for the bill is not limited to the Tories by any means.

Gordon Brown has said he will not block secrecy bid has pledged to respect MPs' decisions. A spokesman for the chancellor said he had also promised not to dictate to MPs. Labour Backbenchers have also emailed colleagues to say they "feel strongly" that the bill's measures were "worthy of support".

Critics suggest that despite it’s apparently neutral stance, the government is in favour of the Bill and has ensured it has the time to progress through Parliament.

Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker plans to make a formal complaint to the Commons speaker after MPs voted for the bill, by 96 to 25, to give the bill a third reading.

Big Brother is censoring you

Here is something a little disturbing.

A recent report , from the Berkman Centre for Internet and Society, indicates that state-mandated internet filtering is being introduced by a growing number of states around the world.

John Palfrey, at Harvard Law School, said that the report was an attempt to shine a spotlight on filtering to make it more transparent.

He indicated that in the last five years net filtering has risen from a couple of states doing it to twenty five. "There has also been an increase in the scale, scope and sophistication of internet filtering."

The filtering has three main justifications: politics and power, security concerns and social norms. Apparently it almost always happens in the shadows and the levels of censorship are expected to increase.

He said: "What's regrettable about net filtering is that almost always this is happening in the shadows. There's no place you can get an answer as a citizen from your state about how they are filtering and what is being filtered."

Rafal Rohozinski, a Research Fellow of the Cambridge Security Programme stated that "Few states restrict their activities to one type of content.". Apparently once a state starts filtering, it does it on a broad range of content.

States carrying out the broadest range of filtering included Burma, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen. No real surprises there then.

States the survey detected censoring the net are: Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Burma/Myanmar, China, Ethiopia, India, Iran, Jordan, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, UAE, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Yemen.

Before you feel all warm, smug and safe though keep in mind that the report also said that the US and a number of European States were not tested because the private sector tends to carry out filtering, instead of the Government.

You really can't tell the difference

It looks like Dave the Chameleon’s shadow education secretary David Willetts has stepped on a hornets nest, pushing the unpopular anti selective education/Grammar School line.

A YouGov poll has revealed that 49% of all voters and 71% Conservative voters support selective education. Apparently only 19% of all voters and just 13% of Conservative voters are actually against the idea of selective education of some sort.

After ‘private discussions’ with a number of Conservative MPs and a pretty rough ride from the 1922 committee. Mr Willetts in an attempt to placate his many critics he said he would be willing to do more to protect Grammar Schools.

He hasn’t actually gone back on it, mind you - just spun it differently. No you really can’t tell the difference…

A resounding success?

Apparently the Electoral Reform Society has hailed Scotland's council election as a resounding success!

A report from the society is set to claim that the single transferable vote (STV) system used in the 2007 Council elections worked well.

They do concede that there were "major inadequacies" in the vote for the Scottish Parliament, with over than 140,000 rejected/spoiled ballots.

Given that there were 45,687 rejected/spoiled ballot papers in the local government elections for Scotland, this means the local government elections were actually only one third as bad as the parliamentary election - and that has surely at least got to qualify as, “minor inadequacies”.