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Showing posts from April, 2005

Westley Vale Millennium Green and Tory Helicopter

Today was another "roadshow" day where we visit shopping centres. Before that, however, I joined with the other trustees of the Westley Vale Millennium Green to tidy up the site. Just in case people do not believe that a candidate in a suit will pick up rubbish, here is a photo of me picking up rubbish. - and a picture of the rubbish I collected in about 15 minutes. We then visited the Wheatsheaf Shopping Centre, Yew Tree and Poolway Shopping centres. Everyone seemed very friendly even the Labour Party. After that I saw a novel campaigning technique from the Conservatives. It appears that they have decided to get a helicopter to tow a large sheet with a message on it. The message "Imagine 5 more years of Blair", is, however, not exactly what we would call positive campaigning. In fact it argues strongly for people to swing to the Liberal Democrats. After all the Independent's research shows that if people swing from Labour to Lib Dem it will not let the

Five News exposes postal vote-rigging

Five News's Press Release A Five News investigation has exposed how easy it is to rig the postal voting system. As six million people prepare to vote by post, Five News successfully obtained multiple votes in two constituencies, highlighting just how open to abuse the system is. This is the first time the ease of MULTIPLE fraud has been exposed in the postal voting system. The broadcaster downloaded and completed Internet application forms for postal voting from the Electoral Commission's website. No form of id was submitted, nor did Five News get permission from the voters. Five News identified a number of obviously empty or derelict properties and then checked the Electoral Roll to find the identity of those registered voters. In every case, voters were still shown as being registered at the properties, even though they clearly no longer lived there. Internet application forms for postal voting were then completed and submitted with a request to send the ballot papers to a di


I attended three meetings today (as well as other campaigning issues). One was a meeting at Sheldon Heath Arts College. One of the issues that came up was school dinners. It was clear that the Labour representative had no practical proposals for improving school dinners. The next meeting was a review with parties of the plans for the election from the Returning Officer. Although things are a lot better this year, there is still a tendency to give political parties the "Mushroom treatment". We only found out today that postal votes were posted from Manchester on Tuesday and Wednesday this week - when they had assured me they would be posted on monday. There is a clear lack of understanding of a need to provide timely information as to what is happening. The evening hustings was about the NHS run by NHS Concern. This had some interesting elements to it. The UKIP candidate thrown out of Monday's Gay Community Hustings was allowed to argue her case at this. I argued t

Relatively good news on Postal Votes in Brum

Although there remain votes that are misdirected and there still appear to be 22 voters who are getting two postal votes, the final lists of postal votes have now been issued. The total across the city is only 57,000. This is in fact about 13,000 fewer than last year's European and Local Elections. Having superficially reviewed the postal votes it appears that mass postal vote fraud will not be part of these elections in Birmingham. That does not mean that there will be no fraud. However, it does mean that the fraud will be less. That also does not mean that personation will not occur. However, with sufficient Polling Agents we have a reasonable chance of picking that up. We will also have some patrols to follow the personators from polling station to polling station so we can collect evidence as to who is personating. The individuals personating can receive jail sentances as a result. With a bit of luck, therefore, we should be able to prevent a proportion of the personation

Plus ca change, plus c'est le meme chose

What we had today was A 12 year old boy with a poll card (twas ever thus) (Hodge Hill) A voter who has been left off the electoral roll - who found out when Lynne Jones walked past her door. (Selly Oak) 22 voters who (it appears) will be getting two postal votes (sometimes for the same constituency, sometimes for different ones. (Across the city) 10 voters in Aston who still are getting their votes sent to someone else. (Ladywood Constituency mainly, possibly Perry Barr) Still it appears that we have frightened off the mass fraud. I will, of course, only be sure that this is the case when I get the list of postal votes from the second batch. We are expecting a level of personation and will be appointing around 100 anti-personation "Polling Agents" in a number of seats. We will also have patrols to bring in the Fraud squad where postal votes are being collected from people. In the mean time Clare Short has been avoiding meetings with Ayoub Khan. The police are, however, be

Tories admit little chance of winning (2-0 down)

Michael Howard the Tory leader has said that his party is now 2-0 down at half time. I am told that on an analysis of last season's Premiership and Football league games there were 214 games in which one side was 2-0 down at half time. In only 5 instances did the side losing at that stage win. It is rumoured that on each of those occasions it was against Southampton, but no-one has sourced that rumour. What Howard actually said was: "I am a football fan. You often find if you are a football fan there is a team that might be two goals down at half-time, [but] they win the game." So "often" is 2.3% of the time.

Vaisakhi 2005

Ayoub Khan, Mike Whitby and myself spoke at the Vaisakhi in Handsworth Park today. The Vaisakhi is the celeration of the creation of the Khalsa which happened 306 years ago. There are two marches one from Birmingham and one from Sandwell which meet up in the park. There is a stage with Sikh music and various stalls. Anyone is welcome to come and as with many of Birmingham's celebrations gradually a wider range of people is attending. I visited the St George's Day celebration yesterday in Victoria Square, but sadly did not have time to take from campaigning to go to the concert. We also have a number of melas, a Carnival and the St Patrick's day parade. The top attendance is at St Patrick's day with about 100,000. Vaisakhi attracts about 40,000 people. There are about 50-60,000 Sikhs in Birmingham and probably about the same in the Black Country. This means that at least 1 in 4 of Birmingham's Sikhs attends Vaisakhi. The Sikhs raised the same question that S

The oddest reason for invading Iraq

I am speaking at two public meetings later today in Clare Short's Constituency. I have, therefore, hunted up Clare Short's reasoning for supporting going to war in Iraq. I have always found this the oddest reason. One of her reasons was: "We should also consider taking military action if it is necessary to minimise suffering and to maximise the speed with which Iraq is reconstituted so that it gets up and going and its economy is improved." Hansard 30th January 2003 Column 1052 - see link So Clare's argument is that the Iraq invasion was necessary: so that ... its economy is improved Does that mean that given the problems at Longbridge (caused by the government) she will be calling for the government to invade Northfield?

Skills, Pastry and degrees

Apart from ordinary campaigning I also attended two Birmingham Hustings sessions today. At both of them the issue of scrapping tuition fees came up. There was also the question of how we obtain better skills. I take a slightly unorthodox position on the matter of tertiary education. For example I have great difficulty understanding why someone should have a Batchelor of Science degree to be a pastry chef. This comes to the link. The course is: International Culinary Arts (Pastry) BSc (Hons) "This course prepares you for a career in the international hospitality industry and enables you to seek a position as a pastry chef or senior pastry cook on graduation. Stimulating your creativity, the course will give you state-of-the-art, technical skills by giving you the opportunity to practise your craft in our training kitchen."

Judicial Review - permission refused

If we can get the government to move by losing a legal case, I just wonder what we could achieve if we won a legal case. Clearly the Judge was uncomfortable with what was such a hot potato. The issue remains, however, that there are things that the government can do that will cut postal vote fraud. The ball is in their court.

DTI Rover and Administration

Various people (mainly those in the Labour Party) have tried to argue the case that the DTI did not push MG Rover (and Powertrain) into administration. The linked article that has just been pointed out to me includes the following dated 4th April 2005. Five days to rescue Rover as Chinese blow cold on deal By Michael Harrison Business Editor Apr 4, 2005, 12:34 MG Rover, the only remaining British-owned volume car maker, will be forced to call in the receivers by the end of this week unless an emergency £100m loan is made available from the Government. This was reported at midday on the Monday of that week. Personally I feel this particular article substantiates the argument beyond reasonable doubt. The result of articles such as this (for which the DTI have to accept responsibility for starting the Hares running) was that suppliers refused to provide supplies without cash up front. The company's cash, therefore, drained away in 2 days. See my earlier post for the rest of the matt

"They're off"

List of Parliamentary Candidates for Birmingham City Council Electoral Area for General Election May 5th 2005 Nominations closed at 4pm. Birmingham (Edgbaston) Alden , Deirdre Conservative Beck , Peter Green Dixon , Mike Lib Dem Stuart , Gisela Labour White , Stephen UKIP Birmingham (Erdington) Ebanks , Sharon BNP Elvidge , Victoria Conservative Evans , Jerry Lib Dem Hepburn , Rannal UKIP Simon , Sion Labour Williams , Terry NF Birmingham (Hall Green) Harmer , Roger Lib Dem Hughes , Eddie Conservative McCabe , Steve Labour Muthulah , David UKIP Birmingham (Hodge Hill) Adams , Denis BNP Begg , Azmat Peace and Progress Byrne , Liab Labour Davies , Nicola Lib Dem Duffen , Adrian UKIP Thomas , Deborah Conservative Birmingham (Ladywood) Khan , Ayoub Lib Dem Nazem , Lynette UKIP Short , Clare Labour Stroud , Patricia Conservative Birmingham (Northfield) Burden , Richard Labour Catrell , Mark BNP Chant , Gillian UKIP Ford , VIcky Conservative Moultley , Louise Nationalise Rover - Socialist Al

Full Hearing on Thursday

It looks like the hearing on Thursday is the Full Hearing not the permission stage. That is a good idea taking into account the timing issues. For those who are interested. As far as Judicial Reviews go there are three stages: The "pre-action protocol". This started on 5th April, but was not responded to by the government. The permission stage, where a judge decides whether there is an arguable case The final hearing. It appears (on the basis of phone calls I have just had) that we are now going for the full hearing on Thurday. Further Comment (20/4): It turns out it is actually the Permission stage.

Lib dem plans to cut hidden waits in NHS

This research shows how the current simplistic targeting regime drives people into odd decisions. It is a bit like the old rationing system in some services of "not answering the phone". By delaying diagnosis the time between diagnosis and treatment is reduced. However, we really need to be able to do "triage" and identify who needs very rapid treatment. It is a good rational case as to how simplistic targets actually work against patient care.

Court Day Set for Thursday 21st April 2005

The Court Hearing day is now listed for the permission stage of the Judicial Review into the lawfulness of the election. That is for this Thursday. It does prevent me speaking at the Sustainable Buildings Conference and presenting Evidence to the Mobile Masts Scrutiny, but the Scrutiny Committee will meet on other days. I would like to have also gone to the opening of the Birmingham W1 marketing office for the city in London W1, but that is on Wednesday and I am very busy in Birmingham at the moment. The appopriate Judge was not in on Weds hence the Thursday date. I have not managed to speak to the Treasury Solicitors yet, but we need to stick to this date. If we can get permission that should act to discourage fraud. It is not impossible that we will get a formal undertaking from the government to act to enable evidence collation on the 2005 General Election.

Sunday Campaigning

Apart from this morning's campaigning in Yardley, I also spoke at public meetings in Tyseley and Saltley as well as doing an interview on the politics show. This morning I played telephone tag with Respect. They are also judicially reviewing the general election using the same (originally my) solicitor Fatema Patwa. Their JR is asking for too much from the judges. They are also a long way behind my case. However, I am hoping to get an early court hearing some time tomorrow (ie hear about it some time tomorrow). The Politics Show looked at the issue of Rover. Sadly they don't seem to understand what is going on. The important and urgent issue is one of trying to rebuild a manufacturing operation there. That will facilitate getting people back into work and maintain the skills base. Caroline Spelman (Tory Meriden) banged on about an indepentent investigation into MGR etc. Although I think she is right I do not think that is top priority. It will take some time to do thin

The Twlight Zone in Social Care

One of the issues raised with me today related to a 16 year old boy whose family for various reasons cannot cope with him. He falls into what I describe as the Twilight Zone of Social Care. Children under 16 are "children" and the system sort of copes with them. People of 18 or older are "adults" and the systems sort of handles this situation. People who are 16 and 17 end up in a twilight zone. The saddest part of this case, however, is that the way the system works and the responses of the system are almost guaranteed to ensure that at some stage this particular individual will end up in prison. There are so many problems that happen in the relationship between Social Care (aka Social Services) and society. Part of this arises from the breakdown in support structures. Part of this results from the pattern of behaviour encouraged by "the system". What happens is that people who are on the periphery of society get used to blagging things. This involv

TUPE is the key

TUPE (The Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations) is always a key issue in terms of any corporate rescue. When a business is sold from one person to another then TUPE generally applies. This has the effect of transferring some liabilities from one organisation to another. I have not been able as yet to clarify the position as to exactly which liabilities transfer through administration. My understanding is that the liabilities for redundancy payments rest with the administrator if redundancies are made during administration. That is a reason why normally a lot of redundancies occur during administration. There are press reports indicating that other liabilities transfer. This may mean that the only way forward that anyone will finance is to have completely new businesses set up and employ new staff (which are, of course, likely [but not guaranteed] to be people who were made redundant). It does appear that TUPE scuppered the SAIC possibility. If the busines

Blair heads for Rover

He is not taking the chance of visiting Longbridge as far as I know. The announcement has been made of 5,000 redundancies. There is clearly a ripple effect that occurs for other organisations as well. The big question for the weekend is whether it is possible to produce a stable smaller business making cars. If that can be done then there are more positive options for the future. What is important is that the auctioneers are not just being brought into the plant.

MG Rover / Powertrain Class Action

One interesting aspect of the situation at MG Rover is that it is arguable that anyone made redundant would have a case for Negligence against the DTI ministers that caused the downfall of the company through their briefings. One would presume that this case would be against the DTI as a ministry. If we look at the basic financial loss. Each worker has probably lost £20,000 or so in redundancy. That for the 6,000 workers is £120,000,000 Then they have lost about £10,000 on their car loans. That's another £120,000,000 because of the fact that there are 12,000 car loans. Then you have the dealers and the supply chain. All in all the DTI might have to fork out around £500,000,000. Not a nice thing for the DTI to think about.

Court Hearing Set ... then unset

A court hearing was set in front of Mr Justice Collins in Court 2 of the Royal Courts of Justice for 2pm tomorrow. Then it wasn't. Much that the Government's solicitors were sent a letter before action last week and have had copies of all documentation they are not yet ready. One option for them is to accept that we are right and that: a) The General Election is unlawful ... and b) The Government should give a formal undertaking to implement the legal changes. ... or c) The Privy Council should put the changes through. We see this as a positive situation. If Tony Blair's lawyers were ready then we would know that they have found a legal argument against our case.

"NHS Concern" raises Concern about NHS

I suppose the title is not surprising. Birmingham NHS Concern are a lobby group that deals with matters relating to the NHS in Birmingham. They have written two public letters to the chair of the City Council's Health Scrutiny Committee and to the Strategic Health Authority (SHA). The contents are important to anyone concerned about health matters. LETTER 1 - BIRMINGHAM NHS CONCERN - Health O&S Birmingham & Black Country SHA Strategic Framework ? A Wider View Thank you for allowing Birmingham NHS Concern to participate in the Health OSC meeting on 14th March. I am enclosing a copy of our letter to Mr P Spilsbury of the Strategic Health Authority, expressing our continuing concern about their plans. It is worth emphasising our disappointment at the inability of the PCTs to address the issue of recruitment of skilled health professionals in Primary and Community Health to replace those staff who would be lost if 1405 acute beds were to be lost. It continues to seem reasonab

N463 sent to court

The application for urgent consideration has been faxed to the High Court. The following is the text of the explanation of why urgent consideration is required: The date for the General Election has been set as 5th May. Postal vote fraud is likely to start about 2 weeks before that date unless measures are put in place to prevent it. The postal votes start being posted about 2 weeks before the election. Although it may not be possible to implement the legislative changes requested in the remedies prior to the election if it is clear that two of them will come into operation after the election then they will act to discourage fraud. The challenges in taking civil action through Election Petitions include: a) There is only 21 days within which to decide whether to act or not. b) It is not possible to check the application forms for postal votes until a court order has been obtained and a court order cannot be obtained until an election petition has been issued. c) There are substan

Plan B could be workers' co-op (Rover)

Managers and workers at MG Rover are drawing up plans to buy the crisis-hit car company in the event of a rescue bid from China collapsing. Annil Chandra, a 43-year-old project manager, said yesterday he had already won the support a group of West Midlands businessmen. I am pleased that a group of local businessmen are happy to work with the workforce. Annil Chandra is spearheading the coordination of workers organising a possible "plan B" in the event that the Chinese do not wish to purchase MG Rover. I do know some of the people working with Annil. It is important that some alternative is developed in the UK. If all of the eggs are in one basket and those particular eggs do not hatch then that will not be a good situation for the workforce at Longbridge. At the end of the day it comes down to ensuring that there is a profitable business in the UK which can come out of the problems which currently exist.

1,405 Hospital bed cuts planned locally

Part of this morning was spent with a group of patients at a doctor's surgery in Shard End. They shared my concern that there is a plan for a 20% cut in hospital beds in the Birmingham and Black Country area. There is already a substantial constraint on operations controlled by the availability of beds. If the number of acute beds is further reduced this will add to problems.

Labour call for cover-up

Councillor Hugh Maccallion, Deputy Leader of the Labour Group, has strongly criticised the previous blog post. He says his criticism is based upon me reporting information about a Named Officer. Anyone reading the blog should note that I do not name anyone in a negative sense. The only people I name are those doing their job properly. Clearly Labour wanted the whole thing to be hushed up. I am surprised because in this instance it looks like a mistake followed by an attempt at a cover-up. The mistake is not acceptable as it disenfranchises about 1,000 people, but the attempt at a cover-up is far worse. (BTW for those who don't know their history (aka it seems to include Bob Piper) "Deep Throat" was the name of the source for the information for Watergate.)

Deep Throat blows whistle from Elections Office

I thought nothing could surprise me. Oddly enough something did today. I was told by someone in the elections office that there had been "Envelope 4s" mislaid during the local elections and not counted. There was a plan to "get rid" of them, but one or more staff were unhappy about this and kept them. Envelope 4s are the postal ballots taken to the polling station and collected by the presiding officer. There can be 1 ballot or 20 ballots in one envelope. I was told that on the 4th Floor of the Elections Office in the Archive Room which is the second door on the right and has a yale lock that in the little room off the side high up there was a box with 200 Envelope 4s in it. The political parties had a meeting with the police and the elections officials and we discussed aspects of the election procedure. I made the point that I wanted to have a facility whereby the elections office could be inspected. At the end of the meeting I explained I had received a detai

Phew - Judicial Review now issued

The RCJ (Royal Courts of Justice) can be really picky. They decided that if I have a solicitor then I have to let the solicitor sign the claim form. I had signed the claim form. So we will have to formally appoint the solicitor later. Still at least we now have the form in. We may end up with a retrospective change for some aspects, but if the declaration of incompatibility is made then we are making some progress.

My record as a student politician

The blogosphere in the persons of TalkPolitics and Labour Councillor Bob Piper seems quite agitated about my record as a student politician Bob says: "J.A.M. Hemming (the Max Clifford of self-publicity) was, according to Talk Politics, beaten in an election by a dog! (Please refrain from tasteless comments about his Labour opponent in Yardley)." There is a claim that this stimulated my awareness of election fraud. I don't think people should have to worry necessarily about their record as a student politician in the 1970s, but I don't see any particular issue in any event. I studied Atomic, Nuclear and Theoretical Physics at Magdalen College, Oxford at which I had a scholarship in Natural Science (which meant I had £60 a year extra and a longer gown). In 1978 I was elected as the Women's representative onto the JCR (Junior Common Room). That may sound a bit odd, but being as there were no women in the college at the time, there was noone to deal with "wom

Shanghai Automotive says it never mentioned buying MG Rover

This, from the Chinese Media, seems to be the nub of the current debate. The plan from China was not that SAIC would buy MG Rover, but that there would be a joint venture. The problem for the Chinese was the stability of MG Rover (because if you have a joint venture with someone who goes bust then you have the problem that either the joint venture goes under and you lost the funds invested or you have to support the other partner. That is why a stable partner is needed.

China Unlikely to Agree MG Rover Rescue

"LONDON (Reuters) - China's biggest carmaker said it was highly unlikely to agree a rescue deal for MG Rover, as administrators battled on Monday to find a buyer for the UK firm which is losing up to 25 million pounds ($47 million) a month. " This is the key issue. Unless there is a stable business (which has to be profitable) in the UK for the Chinese to have as a partner they won't want to deal.

"Sorry - the Lawyer is not in"

So, we finally get our 300 page bundle and claim form N461 to the Court. We have paid our Court Fees and they say: "Sorry you cannot sue the Prime Minister, you have to sue the Department for Constitutional Affairs and by the way you should tell us which statutory instruments you wish to change" So we change the form and put in the SI references and are told: "Sorry we cannot check the form now the lawyer who deals with it has gone for a day" C'est la vie. We will return to fight another day.

Rover - its not the end of the road

It isn't the end of the road today for Rover as a Brand. The difficulties at Longbridge could spread across the country to dealers and suppliers, but it is possible to pull a rabbit out of a hat. I am aware of two attempts to generate a rescue other than the government. One is where a business consortium (which is anonymous at the moment) is working with the workforce. There is a second approach which involves some of the second tier managers as part of an MBO. Ideally both of these groups would work together. What went wrong last time was that the original deal which involved management, workforce and community changed and the management threw out the community and disenfranchised the workforce. It would be a bad idea to simply do another Phoenix putting the company staight into the hands of management who start extracting money at the same rate as Phoenix did. It would be possible to establish a rescue bid which involved all the stakeholders and most importantly did not give

Hemming Demands Cabinet Committee Minutes

I will be demanding a copy of the Cabinet Committee Minutes for April 20th 2004 relating to Postal Vote Fraud as part of his legal case against Tony Blair. It is reported in the Sunday Times that Labour decided to allow postal vote fraud as the anti-fraud measures would have cut Labour support. As part of my legal case I have a right under Article 6 (equality of arms) to the disclosure of the Cabinet Committee minutes. I challenge the government to formally deny the report in Today's Sunday Times.

Rover and Governance

A story from November 2003 which included: "Yesterday it emerged that members of the group of Birmingham business people who helped to kickstart a local bid for MG Rover in 2000 are considering legal action to force Phoenix to appoint independent directors. John Hemming, a local businessman and the Liberal Democrat leader on Birmingham city council, said he was considering the action because he was concerned about the recent disclosures. He said he had helped put together the original group of people from which the Phoenix four emerged to buy the company. He said: "I want an improvement in [corporate] governance. They need some independent scrutiny. They need it for themselves to get people's trust back."

Ministers ditched vital measures to stop voting fraud (to help Labour get more votes)

The Sunday Times have written an excellent article showing that Labour thought safeguards were needed, but didn't implement them for electoral benefit. My barrister Jerry Hayes feels this is all grist to the mill for the election fraud JR. He has now written the Skeleton Argument and with a bit of luck everything should go to court tomorrow. This is his Skeleton Argument: IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE ADMINISTRATIVE COURT IN THE MATTER OF: JOHN ALEXANDER MELVIN HEMMING Claimant -and- ANTHONY LYNTON BLAIR Defendant CLAIMANT’S SKELETON ARGUMENT IN RELATION TO ARTICLE 3 OF PROTOCOL NO. 1 OF THE EUROPEAN CONVENTION ON HUMAN RIGHTS 1. The regulations governing the conduct of the postal vote scheme for the General Election are contained within Part V of The Representation of the People (England and Wales) Regulations 2001 [S.I. 2001/0341], which came into force on 16th February 2001. 2. On 4th April 2005 at the Election Court in Birmingham, the Commissioner, deputy High Court Judge

General Election Mailshots

I have now been a candidate 6 times. Each time all the national pressure groups send out mailshots with their manifestos. This, of course, is the busiest time in the year so I have no time to read any of them and they go straight into the recycling. I mentioned this to someone who worked for a pressure group once and they explained how much work (and trees) went into this each year. A complete and total waste of time. The only ones that get read are read by candidates that won't win because they are not working hard enough. In the mean time sadly we are going to have to present the JR request in the RCJ (Royal Courts of Justice) on Monday. I was too busy to sort out all the details on Friday.

MG Rover - what is going on

This story is quite interesting. The quotation therein: " But car industry insiders said it would be almost impossible to find anyone else willing to take on the undisclosed debts of MG Rover which ultimately made the Chinese walk away from the deal." shows a total misunderstanding of insolvency law. What happened in the last 2 weeks really demonstrates the odd way in which government works. MG Rover had for some time been working on a Joint Venture (JV) with the Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC). This looked quite close to completion on numerous occasions and had generated some half finished new models of car. In essence a loan from the government to the holding company of MG Rover (Phoenix Venture Holdings - PVH) of £100 Million had been needed to complete the deal. SIAC would not complete the deal unless that loan was paid. On the other hand the government would not pay the loan unless SAIC signed up to the deal. We, therefore, had a bit of an impasse.

A busy day ahead

With a bit of luck Jerry Hayes will arrange for the presentation of the request for Judicial Review in the High Court today. We have worked out it is possible for the Queen to modify the law by an order in council. The Privy Council will sit during the election period which allows such changes to be made. Today, however, I will be spending some time investigating options as to how to resolve the situation at MG Rover which has now spiralled out of control (mainly as a result of DTI briefings).

Election Campaign Starts

We have just had the first day of the election campaign proper. One of the differences about parliamentary elections is that the Royal Mail will deliver leaflets. We have stuck stickers on thousands of leaflets with people's addresses (a technique to get more than one leaflet to each household) and this morning were sorting out the leaflets with the right number of elastic bands around them. I find it odd that although we start out having the areas sorted by Polling District the Royal Mail ask us to resort them into the initial letter of the road name within first three characters of post code. This means that we sort roads that are hundreds of yards apart together and separate roads which are next to each other. I can see them resorting them back to something close to the polling districts in which they are sorted. It strikes me that someone writing the rules has not properly thought them through. West Midlands Police are also being very helpful and I have lined up a meeting wit

Aston and Bordesley Judgment

I have tried to find this on the DCA website. I cannot easily do that so I have uploaded it to the savedemocracy email list files section. Anyone can now download the full judgment. It is half a megabyte. From the Judgment Afterword In this judgment I have set out at length what has clearly been shown to be the weakness of the current law relating to postal votes. As some parts of this judgment may be seen as critical of the Government, I wish to make it clear that the responsibility for the present unsatisfactory situation must be shared. All political parties welcomed and supported postal voting on demand. Until very recently, none has treated electoral fraud as representing a problem. Apart from the Electoral Commission, whose rĂ´le I have described above, the only voices raised against the laxity of the system have been in the media, in particular The Times newspaper, and the tendency of politicians of all Parties has been to dismiss these warnings as scaremongering. In the course

Judicial Review of Prime Minister's Decision to Call Election without anti-fraud procedures

I have started the process (A letter before action sent to the Treasury Solicitors) of judicially reviewing the Prime Minister's decision to call a General Election without anti-fraud procedures. The ECHR includes the following: ARTICLE 3 (of Protocol 1) RIGHT TO FREE ELECTIONS The High Contracting Parties undertake to hold free elections at reasonable intervals by secret ballot, under conditions which will ensure the free expression of the opinion of the people in the choice of the legislature. The absence of measures against fraud means that: "under conditions which will ensure the free expression of the opinion of the people" Is not satisfied. I have asked for the following four changes: The first proposal is that a change is needed so that postal votes are counted separately to non-postal votes. The second proposal is that the same access is given to parties to check application forms as exists for checking DoIs. The third proposal is to extend the period for Election

Further thoughts about postal vote fraud and the General Election

The first proposal I have put is that a change is needed so that postal votes are counted separately to non-postal votes. The second proposal is that the same access is given to parties to check application forms as exists for checking DoIs. The third proposal is to extend the period for Election Petitions to 2 months from 21 days. The fourth proposal is to require presiding officers to keep a list of voters who attend to vote in person and are found on the absent voters list and to allow them to submit a tendered ballot. This means that there is time to check the results for fraud. It still, of course, does not deal with "undue influence" and all the other issues. All of these things can be done with a Statutory Instrument.

Labour "Suspends" Birmingham Labour Councillors found guilty of Vote Fraud

You can find the same element to this story in various locations including: "The Labour party last night suspended the six councillors and sent officials to monitor elections in Birmingham." Now ... what we have is Six Councillors found to have been involved in electoral fraud to the criminal burden of proof. The criminal burden of proof is "Beyond reasonable doubt". The Labour Party's immediate response is to "Suspend them". Now I would accept that if merely allegations were raised that may be appropriate. However, we have had a High Court sitting for over a month going through the cases. The question is "Where is the doubt?" On what basis do Labour expect to reinstate the councillors (now ex-councillors). What is holding the Labour Party back from expelling the councillors? Clearly they know which other Labour Councillors got elected through election fraud. As do I presume other members of the Labour Party. It does seem that Labour are &

Statement on Election Court Result

Following the decision of the Commissioner to disqualify 6 Labour Councillors for Election Fraud John Hemming has issued the following statement: The Commissioner has made it clear that the current system is wide open to fraud. The Government can make a simple action through a Statutory Instrument so that we can identify where fraud affects the election results. This is to count the postal votes separately from the non-postal votes. That is not in any way a full solution, but it is a solution that could be implemented in time for the General Election. They must act. The Labour Party in Birmingham have a further issue. These were not the only Labour Councillors elected as a result of fraud. There were others. What are Labour going to do about this? We have shown in Birmingham that we are serious about acting against Election Fraud. We need the Government to show that they are serious as well. Postal vote Fraud has been reported in Birmingham, Sandwell, Woking, Guildford, Readin

The Pope and Rover

To me the most interesting aspect of the late Pope's Reign was the direct support of the Vatican for political change in Poland. I can understand and sympathise with, however, his lack of support for Communism and also pure self-interested materialistic capitalism. I haven't issued a statement myself. For the City Council that is done by the Lord Mayor and for the party that is done by Charles Kennedy. I wish, however, that politicians would hold back from issuing unhelpful statements about the current situation at MG Rover. The future of MG Rover is important to Birmingham and the West Midlands and it does not help that people are continually trying to issue new public statements. I know why the government "leaked" details of the proposals for a bridging loan. However, it would be better if the government had put the jobs of people in the West Midlands first rather than their own jobs. Much of what is reported in the press is inaccurate, but a lot of it is unhelp

Oil price predicted to exceed $100 per barrel

Regular readers of this blog will be aware that I am concerned about the lack of response from government to matters relating to the depletion of crude oil. There are a number of websites and organisations which deal with matters relating to whether or not we should be concerned. is one of the useful websites. This is named after the US Geologist who correctly predicted (in 1956) that US production of Crude Oil would peak in 1971 (which it did). The Association for the Study of Peak Oil (ASPO) is a useful source of information and they issue a regular newsletter via email (it is actually on a website, but they issue an email to tell you to download it). In essence the argument is quite straightforward. Oil is something produced many thousands of years ago and stored underground. There is a finite amount of oil. Not all Oil in any particular aggregation can be extracted and gradually as more of the potential oil is extracted then it becomes harder. There gets

Today is Council Tax Bombshell Day (and it's no April Fool)

April 1st 2005 is the date at which every property in England is to be revalued. This is to enable a Council Tax rebanding. This sounds relatively anodyne given that in theory it is a "nil sum" operation. However, the experience from Wales is that there have been increases in the amount of tax people have to pay of up to 22% on top of inflation. The only fair option is to "Axe the Tax" and replace the Council Tax with an Income Levy paid with Income Tax (A Local Income Tax). This would be administered by the Inland Revenue and collected together with the normal income tax bill. It would, therefore, be very cost effective to collect. Most importantly it would be fair, being based upon people's ability to pay.