Tuesday, 13 January 2015


To my amazement, yesterday's 'page filler' on the NPS proved to be quite popular, so I do hope readers will send in other examples over the coming weeks. All management 'moving forward together as a team' shite very welcome indeed. 

While we wait to see what the House of Commons probation debate brings this afternoon, it's probably as good a time as any to say a few words about what laughingly passes as democracy in this country. I notice the BBC are getting very excited about it and there's all sorts of stuff due to air on TV and radio over the coming weeks marking the 750th anniversary of Parliament:-
On Tuesday the 20 January 2015 - the 750th anniversary of what is widely recognised as England’s first Parliament, the Montfort parliament – the BBC will broadcast Democracy Day: a day of live events, discussion and debate broadcast from inside Westminster and the BBC Radio Theatre.
Across radio, TV and online, the BBC will look at democracy past and present, ask how democratic we are, and encourage debate about democracy's future. As part of the day’s offering, BBC Radio 4’s Public Philosopher Professor Michael Sandel will venture inside the Palace of Westminster and challenge an audience of MPs, peers and the public to consider what democracy really means. Sir Tim Berners Lee will talk to BBC News about the importance of open data and an uncensored web to healthy democracy.
That bit by Tim Berners Lee is particularly relevant given that it seems the Electoral Commission has started putting the 'frighteners' on certain websites such as Guido Fawkes, and quite rightly it's resulted in a firm two-fingered salute:-

The Electoral Commission has written to Guido, ConservativeHome, LabourList and LibDemVoice to provide them with “guidance” to bring them into line with the Putinesque provisions of the new Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act 2014.
Mark Ferguson at LabourList says
“It seems particularly bizarre (and that’s being generous) that there’s one law for “newspapers and periodicals” and another for “websites”. Perhaps the government are finding this new-fangled internet thing very confusing. We’re still working through what the most appropriate response is to this dreadful law – more worthy of a banana-Republic than a democracy – that clamps down on campaigning and free speech at a time when it’s needed most, election time. Whatever response we decide on though, we will not be submitting ourselves to any form of regulation that stops us from writing, reporting and commenting on the election campaign as we see fit.”
ConservativeHome’s editor Paul Goodman tells Guido whilst sorrowfully shaking his head, that he feels the site has no alternative, given the terms of the Lobbying Act, but to “run some pieces by senior Labour MPs during the election campaign”.
After ringing round it seems that other political blogs like the Spectator’s CoffeeHouse and PoliticalBetting.com have not being offered “guidance” by the Electoral Commission. Guido has written back to the Electoral Commission:

Dear Electoral Commission,
Thanks, but we’re not registering with you and we’re not going to pay any attention to your rules.
Yours in freedom,
Paul Staines 
Editor Guido Fawkes’ BlogGuido has no intention of registering with the Electoral Commission or reporting a penny of spending or anything else to them. This authoritarian law is a nonsense. If you read the guidance it should apply to newspapers.We haven’t just rejected statutory control of the printed press by one regulator for political control of digital media by another…
There's no doubt in my mind that our Westminster politicians are extremely rattled by the power of the internet, precisely because it has the capacity to usher in a rather more effective democracy, and that's the very last thing they want. This example rather neatly sums up the issue:-

Embedded image permalink


  1. NOW House of Commons Select Committee 10 am Prisons and in Wales and other Offender issues via


  2. Great blog piece - I am writing whilst listening to Welsh Affairs - House of Commons Select Committee details above - in spite of all the limitations parliament is the place to make protests felt as it is the only organisation to which Government has to be answer.

    So the best way to challenge Government is to firstly be a member of either House of Lords or House of Commons.

    I think that largely as a 1950s/60s secondary modern school boy going on to study for professional exams - law for bankers and then later Social Admin & related issues via Liverpool University's Social Work Diploma and CQSW course - I somehow misunderstood the rawness of it all until I did part of a Workers Education Course on the Parliament business and especially its history. Put simply - Parliament is NOT a continuous institution, despite that being how it appears - we have a new completely fresh parliament every 5 years, the Government goes on, and possibly on - with it continuing until a majority of the Members of Parliament do not support it - then a new Gov is formed by a rather convoluted process dependant on convention and understood by too few of us. Certainly not understood by the media, which by and large is as much part of the entertainment business as Celebrity Big Brother, or the Football Premiership - constantly diverting us to discuss speculatively and endlessly some issues, such as a referendum about the EU, though we can do nothing about it, that Gov and parliament do not determine and agree.

    It is a democracy but of only a limited sort and as Jim has reported there is a constant struggle between Government, the representatives of the masses and the masses themselves for rights. Things have definitely gone against the masses in recent years. Local Government - massively diminished since the changes of 1889 and reorganisations in London of 1965 and everywhere else in 1974 - I am excluding Scotland and Northern Ireland and to some extent Wales. but Local Gov is part of the issue, though it has largely been sidelined.

    So the only alternative for the masses is to use their economic power or threaten it or threaten or cause disruption, that is how some groups get better pay etc than others. There are transport strikes in London today. The FBU have not given up their struggle to stop us having 60 year old ladder climbers!

    The media are part of the issue, so blogs are important.

    Does JB have a policy if he gets a letter of warning about lobbying?

    He & some others of us obviously are coming under scrutiny. Last year, I realised I was being watched internet wise - to my amazement by the head of security at the MOJ - it gave me a great boost - we obviously at times are irritating those who are against good probation services and for using it as a device for profiteering.

    If only, folk refused to be gagged - all folk - what could they do - but we are generally cowed by fear of the consequences of losing our pensions or pay & I admit to identifying with that. If the UK Gov collapsed like Greece has done - would Gov carry on paying pensions just because they are legislated for - I do not know?

  3. Here is a link to the House of Commons Debate this afternoon and some of the background papers.

    It is really good that Kate Green MP for somewhere in Manchester has secured it, I doubt much will change directly but, despite the very short notice it is a wonderful opportunity for MPs to get detailed issues aired - if they understand them, I do not expect the chamber to be well attended by Conservatives or LibDems.


    It starts at 2.30 pm until 4 pm but should be available to view later and the text will be written up via Hansard within about three hours.

  4. Violence in Prison - Radio Investigation Tues 13/1 8pm

    For Details and links to broadcast - live or later: -


  5. "Westminster politicians are extremely rattled by the power of the internet.."

    This article in the Austrialian Guardian edition, would appear to support that theory Jim.


    1. On Monday David Cameron managed a rare political treble: he proposed a policy that is draconian, stupid and economically destructive.

      The prime minister made comments widely interpreted as proposing a ban on end-to-end encryption in messages – the technology that protects online communications, shopping, banking, personal data and more.

      “[I]n our country, do we want to allow a means of communication between people which we cannot read?”, the prime minister asked rhetorically.

      To most people in a supposed liberal democracy, the answer would surely be “yes”: the right to privacy runs right in parallel to our right for free expression. If you can’t say something to a friend or family member without the fear the government, your neighbour or your boss will overhear, your free expression is deeply curtailed.

      This means that even in principle Cameron’s approach is darkly paradoxical: the attack on Paris was an attack on free expression – but it’s the government that intends to land the killing blow.

      Terrorists must not be allowed to disrupt our way of life, we’re often told in the wake of atrocities. We must leave that to governments to do in the wakes of these attacks.

      But it’s in the practicalities that the prime minister’s approach slips from draconian to dull-witted. There is no such thing as “good guy encryption” and “bad guy encryption”. The same encryption that protects you and me protects companies, protects governments, and protects terrorists.

      Encryption is what protects your private details when you send your bank details to a server. It’s required for governments and companies when they store customer information, to protect it from hackers and others. And it’s built right in to whole hosts of messaging applications, including iMessage and WhatsApp.

      If Cameron is proposing an end to encryption in the UK, then any information sent across the internet would be open for any company, government, or script kiddie with 10 minutes “hacking” experience to access. It would spell the end of e-commerce, private online communications and any hope of the UK having any cybersecurity whatsoever.

      If instead the prime minister is proposing it is only encrypted messaging that’s banned, the picture becomes hardly any clearer: if my Amazon online shopping session includes an ability to message a seller, is that now banned? Will the government produce a list of people who are allowed to use encryption?

      Most messaging apps are global, and not built in the UK. Apple’s chief executive, Tim Cook, is unlikely to wish to dismantle the central privacy and security feature of his company’s iMessage tool at the whim of the government of one small island. The choice he then faces is whether to operate in the UK or not. The prime minister who intended to build “digital Britain” instead risks building an isolated, analogue nation.

      It is true that terrorists use encryption, much as in real life they use bank accounts, locks, money transfer services and public transport. If the presence of terrorists on a given service is reason enough to shut it down, we’ll find there’s really no form of civil society left to defend.

    2. In his eagerness to look tough on terror, Cameron instead looks like a man flailing wildly and virtually at random. Charitably, it can be hoped the prime minister was seeking to propose an unworkable policy for a few days’ good headlines.

      The fear is that he is serious, and understands so little of what he is legislating that he really believes it would be possible to somehow stop terrorists communicating privately without astonishing collateral damage to Britain’s economy, freedom, and security.

      If that’s the circumstance, then the prime minister needs urgently to abdicate his responsibility in favour of someone with more digital nous. He could begin with a concussed kitten on a ketamine trip, and work up from there.

    3. 'In his eagerness to look tough on terror, Cameron instead looks like a man flailing wildly and virtually at random'. Thanks Jim, for making me chuckle at the picture your words conjured up. After a day spent hearing about yet more procedures that now have to be implemented/documented/be allocated time - when I cant even do the job I'm already supposed to be doing, as my caseload is double that of my counterpart colleagues elsewhere - it was good to laugh........

    4. Glad you like it Deb! But I can only take credit for copying and pasting the tail end of the Guardian article - too long to fit into one comment box.

    5. There you go. Once again I'm trying to read something on a kindle and am misreading it. And it wasnt even in italics, so no excuses! Old age, (sigh........)

  6. Talking about suppression of freedom of speech. Peter Hitchens is the only journalist (I've read) that has mentioned the fact that Charlie Hebdo themselves were responsible for campaigning and starting a petition to have the French Front National party banned in the name of the 'Rights of man'. That a political blogger can be told what must be included by way of 'balance', is only a few steps from Mugabe's henchmen being sent round to kick dissenters heads in.

    1. Can the Electoral Commission be serious about registering political blogs?

      Guido Fawkes and other bloggers right to reject this heavy-handed response - from which print media would be exempt
      - - - - - - - - - - - -

      From The Guardian: -


  7. http://www.politics.co.uk/blogs/2015/01/13/round-four-grayling-offers-last-minute-concession-to-kill-of

  8. http://www.progressonline.org.uk/2015/01/13/probation-reorganisation-wholesale-high-risk-evidence-free/

  9. Debate on probation in parliament now.


    Kate Green MP delivered a good critique of TR's failings.
    Selous to respond soon.