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Archive for May, 2011

A new poll has been published by ComRes showing that Labour have lost their lead for the first time in 7 months. Top-line figures are CON 37%(+3), LAB 37%(nc), LDEM 12%(-3), Others 14%(nc) 

YouGov’s daily poll in the Sun has topline figures of CON 37%, LAB 42%, LDEM 9%

The ComRes poll, whilst serious is not worrying by itself.

It is only worrying if a trend emerges.

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You can take the test here.

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This picture amused me. I thought I would share it with you.

 Palin Fiction

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The Coalition will continue, with the Liberal Democrats remaining in Government even if the Tories win a majority, according to Rachel Sylvester in The Times:

“For the Tory modernisers, the Lib Dems are the ideal weapon to ward off the enemy within. The news that some of the so-called “Tatler Tories” have been dumped from the list of prospective parliamentary candidates  is evidence that the leadership does not think that the modernisation of the party is yet complete. The Prime Minister is pleased to have political cover for keeping the 50p top rate of tax, abandoning the “prison works” approach to crime, avoiding a return to grammar schools and retaining the ring-fence on aid — all policies that infuriate the rightwingers. “The traditionalists are just not on planet Earth,” says one Cameroon.”

It would certainly provide political cover to Cameron to continue his modernization of the Tory Party.

“Proper “Tories don’t seem happy about it either.

@Richedaw, a self described Orange Book Lib Dem commented that “its the Tory Right’s fantasy conspiracy theory re why the LD tail wags the Tory dog so much”

@mad_pieman, a right wing Tory, said “Over my cold dead body”

I wonder what Simon Hughes and the “social” liberals think of that?

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Picture of Pile of Money - Free Pictures - FreeFoto.com

The Guardian report here that the Tories and Liberals are seeking  a £50,000 donation “cap” on Party funding.

Within that article, The Guardian suggest, that since 2006 Labour would have lost 85% of its funding with such a cap in place, with the Tories losing 50% of their donations. This proposal is being suggested by the “Committee on Standards in Public Life”, on which all of the main political parties are represented. The proposals from this independent Committee are being floated to remove the presence of “Big Money” in British Politics. It is not such an act. It is a cynical and self-serving proposal to damage the long-term interests and standing of the Labour Party.

The Labour Party has historically been funded, to one degree or another, by the Unions. Since Ed Miliband became Labour leader, the Party has become more reliant on these donations. Whether that is a positive or negative thing is a separate issue. Union funding is important for the Labour Party. In contrast, the Conservative and Liberal Democrats are both funded by wealthy individuals and companies, which is also true of Labour to a lesser extent. However, the Coalition parties are able to rely upon a wider base of funding, from numerous wealthy individuals who would be able to donate the maximum £50,000 each.

The Unite union donated £11.7 million to the Labour Party between 2007 and 2010. Unite has millions of members, all of which are ordinary working people, who voluntarily donate a small contribution to the Labour Party. By imposing a £50,000 cap, Labour would have lost millions of pounds of funding from “normal” people, and would cut off the Party’s substantial funding streams.

In the first quarter of 2010, of £12.36m received by the Tories. Some of the donations are below:

£951,000 from David Rowland, an international property developer.

Christopher Rokos, a hedge fund trader, donated £250,000

Lord Sainsbury of Preston Candover, donated £250,000

Lord Ashcroft gave £123,464 in “non-cash” donations to CCHQ

The Tories and Liberal Democrats would lose substantially less if such a cap were in force. By including Unions, and considering them to be corporate entities, the Government is comparing the likes of Unite and Unison to Michael Ashcroft.

How should funding of political parties be resolved? I believe that the proposals of the Hayden Commission should be implemented:-

“He recommended capping spending for political campaigns as well as capping individual donations. He also suggested increasing state funding by £25m a year, linked to public support – he proposed that eligible parties receive 50p each year for every vote cast for them in the most recent General Election and 25p for every vote in the most recent ballots for the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and European Parliament. He also recommended cutting spending by the largest parties between elections by £20m each”

More gerrymandering from a ConDem Government.

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“The principle of parliamentary sovereignty means neither more nor less than this: namely, that Parliament … has … the right to make or unmake any law whatever; and further, that no person or body is recognised by the law of England as having the right to set aside the legislation of Parliament.” (Dicey (1885))

The Diceyan view of Parliamentary Sovereignty, as set out above, is the corner stone of our constitution. Dicey identifies two distinct elements of sovereignty – that Parliament may make any law, and that no institution can set aside the law made in Parliament. This concept originates in the 1689 Bill of Rights. This statement remains partially true today, despite the perceived threat which the European Union has bought upon this view of sovereignty. Indeed, it has been challenged by the senior Judiciary, where in Jackson v. AG Lord Steyn suggested that PS was a “common law” principle.

The first element that Dicey identifies, that Parliament may make or unmake any law, remains in a reasonably unaltered form. Parliament continues to have the legal power to make any law which it chooses. A popular example of this is that Parliament may legislate to ban smoking on the streets of Paris. However, this theoretical ability has changed into a partial truth, and has become qualified by political and economic circumstance. This is mostly down to the European Union. The European Communities Act (1972) provides that all EU Law is automatically incorporated into UK Law, and section 2 (4) of the Act attempts to bind future Parliaments. This challenges the view that Parliament may make any law that it chooses. An example of this resides in the case of Thoburn v. Sunderland City Council. In that case, it was ruled that the ECA 1972 is not available for implied repeal, and Laws LJ described it is a “constitutional” statute. This challenges Dicey’s principle above, that each Parliament is entitled to pass any law which it chooses, and, by extension, imply the repeal of an earlier act.  Indeed, the ECJ ruled in Costa that EU law should take precedence of the law of the member states. This suggests that Parliament has lost its ability to imply the repeal of a piece of legislation. However, this can be challenged in the case of McCarthys v Wendy Smith.  Lord Denning ruled that if Parliament wanted UK Law to be supreme over EU law in a specific area it must be clear in doing so. This was supported in Jackson v. AG where the idea of Parliamentary Sovereignty was reinforced. Despite this, areas where Parliament has made its intention quite clear, where another institution, the European Court of Human Rights has ruled that the UK must comply with its decision that the blanket ban on prisoners voting should be lifted.  This is despite Parliament holding a debate, and voting overwhelmingly in favour of maintaining such a blanket ban.

Dicey’s second suggestion that no institution can set aside a law passed by Parliament appears to no longer be as powerful as it once was. The case of Factortame, in relation of the Merchant Shipping Act 1988, which imposed restrictions on who could operate a fishing vessel from a British port, was in contravention of European Law which required all EU citizens to be treated equally in all member states. The British Courts ruled that the Merchant

Shipping Act should stand. However, the ECJ ruled that the precedent from Costa, that EU law should be the dominant precedent, should apply. The House of Lords then took the decision to dis-apply the Merchant Shipping Act. By doing this, the House of Lords went against the intent of Parliament, and applied the European Communities Act 1972 over and above the Merchant Shipping Act. This was followed by R v SS for Employment in 1995, where another UK statue was dis-applied where it was inconsistent with EU Law. Indeed, the ECJ ruled in Marleasing that National Courts must interpret law so as to be consistent with EU law. In Frankovich, the ECJ ruled that EU Law will provide a remedy for citizens where EU Law has not been implemented by the member state. This suggests that EU law, and the European Communities Act will apply, and override, statutes passed by Parliament. Indeed, as a result of rulings in the ECJ statutes are now available for judicial review to test their compatibility with EU Law. This provides adequate evidence to suggest the PS that Dicey describes does not hold true today.

However, the UK could still pull out of the EU, if it wished, and therefore remove itself from the jurisdiction of the ECJ; this could be done by repealing the European Communities Act, which could theoretically be done. This demonstrates that the sovereignty of Parliament is maintained, and Parliament is able to do as Dicey says, and pass any law that it wishes. This remains the legal theory. However, given the economic and political consequences of leaving the European Union, withdrawal appears to be highly unlikely.

In conclusion, it would appear that Parliamentary Sovereignty remains a theoretical reality. Parliament could pass legislation to remove the United Kingdom from the European Union.  However, the Diceyan view of sovereignty would seem to have been eroded by the rulings of the European Court of Justice, leading to Acts of Parliament being dis-applied by the British Courts in favour of European legislation and rulings. In light of this, the Coalition Government has introduced a Sovereignty Bill in Parliament, which will enshrine Parliamentary Sovereignty in law. Dicey’s statement remains today as a theoretical truth, but in practice, the Sovereignty of the British Parliament has been weakened by the European Union.

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And they aren’t good.

Public borrowing for the month of April is up to £10bn, from £7.3bn a year ago. Most analysts expected the figure to be around £6.5bn

Hetal Mehta, at Daiwa Capital Markets said The public finances have got off to a pretty bad start this year”

Well done, George, well done.

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