Blog: Vote

During the last European elections, a small website, Blog: Vote, was set up to try and encourage debate about policy issues via the web. The same people at Blog: Vote are now planning a much bigger, better version for the next UK General Election in the hope of widening political participation, encouraging mature debate and increasing the turnout. If you want to help with these admirable aims then head over and read about the plans *here*. The more people that are able to help out - from right across the political spectrum -the more likely it is that the site will be an outstanding success and make a tremendous impact on voter turnout. Very best of luck to Jon and all at Blog Vote!

ID Cards

Ask to see my ID card and I'll eat it You know what you need on these dark winter mornings, when you get into your freezing car, and you sit there in a state of shivering depression, because the windscreen has been frosted to damnation, and the wipers are too puny to make any difference? I'll tell you what you need, my friend. You need an ID card! Just take one of the new pounds 85 biometric Blunko-cards, and scrape-scrape, hey presto! Frost's all gone. Or suppose you are mandated to take the kiddies for a bracing walk on the heath, and you've had the forethought to bring some cake, but you've forgotten the knife. Well, never mind: say goodbye to no-knife misery with the all- purpose Blunko-slicer. Yes, folks, I bet we can all think of 101 uses for the forthcoming ID cards, not forgetting breaking and entering, or perhaps even using it as a kind of strigil , as they did back in ancient Athens, to scrape off the mixture of sweat and olive oil when you have been for an exhausting run. I am sure that we will all find it a handy, if expensive, addition to our wallets and handbags. But I tell you this. If I am ever asked, on the streets of London, or in any other venue, public or private, to produce my ID card as evidence that I am who I say I am, when I have done nothing wrong and when I am simply ambling along and breathing God's fresh air like any other freeborn Englishman, then I will take that card out of my wallet and physically eat it in the presence of whatever emanation of the state has demanded that I produce it. If I am incapable of consuming it whole, I will masticate the card to the point of illegibility. And if that fails, or if my teeth break with the effort, I will take out my penknife and cut it up in front of the officer concerned. I say all this in the knowledge that so many good, gentle, kindly readers will think I have taken leave of my senses, and to all of you I can only apologise and add, in the words of Barry Goldwater, that extremism in the defence of liberty is no vice, and that I really don't know what I dislike most about these cards. There is the cost: let us be in no doubt that, by 2012, when it is intended that the entire population should be compelled to carry one, the universal imposition of ID cards will amount to a kind of pounds 85 Caesar Augustus-style tax. There is the loss of liberty, and the creepy reality that the state will use these cards - doubtless with the best possible intentions - to store all manner of detail about us, our habits, what benefits we may claim, and so on. Worse than the cost and the bother, however, there is the sheer dishonesty of the arguments in favour. If I understood Her Majesty correctly, her Government conceives of these cards as essential weapons in the "war" on terror. But the maniacs who performed the 9/11 massacre would not have been prevented by ID cards: the problem was not their identities, but their intentions. And if a terrorist really needed a new ID card, it would probably not take long to procure a forgery, biometric or not. All these points I have made these past few years, up and down the country, and the most frustrating thing is that these objections cut absolutely no ice (unlike, as I say, the cards themselves) with good, solid, kindly, gentle Conservative audiences. It seems only the other day that I was in Wolverhampton, railing against the Labour Government for having produced the conditions that made ID cards necessary. "And I tell you this, ladies and gentlemen," I said, "if Labour had not made such a disastrous mess of our asylum policy, we would not now need these ID cards imposed on the entire population." "So what!" the audience shouted back at me. "We want ID cards!" "Er, yes," I said, adding, "I tell you this, ladies and gentlemen, that if Labour had not so recklessly expanded means-tested benefits, so that more and more people have to undergo the humiliation of revealing every detail of their financial circumstances to the state, and so that we have more and more fraud, we would not need these ID cards!" "So what!" yodelled my audience, "We want ID cards! We had them in the war! If you've got nothing to hide, you've got nothing to fear!" And they started gurgling and drumming their feet like the impis of Chaka, and I hung my head and gave up. There in a nutshell, I thought, you had the eternal tension at the heart of conservatism, between the desire for liberty and the desire for order, and, in the case of ID cards, the frail cockade of freedom has been emphatically crushed by the giant descending rump of matronly authority. My audience were all gluttons for freedom, if by that you meant the freedom to hunt, or the freedom to eat roast beef without the fat trimmed off. But they were perfectly happy to see their own liberties curtailed, if that gave the authorities a chance to crack down on scroungers and bogus asylum-seekers. And there, I fear, the debate has come to rest. To all those who yearn for ID cards, and who would extinguish the flame of liberty in the breath of public panic, I make this final appeal. Read this week's Spectator, with its terrifying account by a man arrested and jailed for having a penknife and an anti-burglar baton locked in the boot of his car, and then imagine what use the cops could make of the further powers they are acquiring to inspect and control. We are told by Labour that we are at "war", and it always suits governments so to scarify the population. In reality, we have a terrorist threat not obviously more persistent than that posed by the IRA, and our liberties are being lost because of the intrusiveness and incompetence of the Government.

Henley-Twyford railway line

Well done to my House of Commons office staff. Did you know: - all the mail from far and wide has been replied to (email and land mail) - the next batch of letters will also receive individual responses - every single one That is about 500 extra letters over and above my heavy mail bag. Olly, Maggie, Fiona and Melissa will need a good Christmas and New Year break soon, when I hope the mail bag will shrivel up in size. Ann, on the diary front, and Wayne, in the constituency, have also been working overtime. Here is my latest press release: PRESS RELEASE Following the recent publication of the Future of Rail White Paper, Alistair Darling MP, Secretary of State for Transport, has today announced the launch of the Government's Community Rail Development Strategy. Fifty six lines have been proposed for Community Rail designation by the Strategic Rail Authority, the aim being to involve local authorities, users and community groups more and to double originating fare income from Community Rail services over a five-year period and to reduce subsidy per passenger by a half. Commenting on this, Boris Johnson MP said: "To designate the Henley-Twyford line a community railway is utter lunacy. I fully support involving local communities in the management of local railways and I believe that we must place these railways on a sustainable basis for the future. However, I fail to see how the Government can possibly relate the rhetoric of sustainability to the reality of funding cuts. This is an excuse to marginalise, downgrade and under-invest in important parts of the network. Continue reading Henley-Twyford railway line

Queen’s Speech and State Opening of Parliament

Parliament was prorogued today, eagerly awaiting the Queen's Speech in the House tomorrow, where we will all be interested to hear of the Government's plans for future legislation. Boris should enjoy the proceedings away from the pressures of Shadow High Office - no doubt he will make some points during debates and questions in the Chamber and/or in his column this week. 🙂 A reason to smile this week: Weblog's own Tom Watson MP [in transit to a new host] was one of the first amongst quite a clutch of MPs to send consolatory letters to our office! 🙂 Cheers fellow blogger! what a great club

Google Scholar

As you know an MP's day-to-day working involves a great deal of research to keep up to date with latest policy ideas and Bills running through Parliament. Now Google have come up with a cracking first-rate search engine http://scholar.google.com/ looking up scholarly literature including peer-reviewed papers, theses, books, preprints, abstracts and technical reports from all broad areas of research. This should greatly enhance our research capability. Released yesterday for beta testing, it looks promising and you may like to try it out as well. News on Google Scholar.

Labour will always decide what’s best (Smoking in public)

And I tell you this, gentlemen, I said, and 100 golfers in black tie boggled drunkenly and hung on my words... You know what this Labour Government wants to ban? I yipped. What? they chorused, red-faced with anticipatory wrath. They want to stop you - smoking! I said. No more smoking in the workplace, or pubs, or restaurants; no more pint'n'Castella in the 19th hole, and in so far as the putting green is a public place, you will probably be forbidden even from having a crafty fag as you steady your nerves! Outrageous, they said, and for a while the surf of indignation thundered around me, until a man just to my right piped up in level tones: "Well, you know, I am all in favour of a ban, actually." What? I said, amazed, but before I could get to the bottom of his dissent, two or three others around the room were putting their hands up and demanding a ban on any kind of smoking in public. But hang on, I said, and I explained the statistics about passive smoking: that you have only to charcoal-grill frankfurters for half an hour on your barbie, and you will inhale the same quantity of carcinogens as you could expect to absorb in two weeks of passive smoking. Yes, yes, said my friends at the golf club dinner; we know all that, but the honest truth, they said, was that they used to be smokers themselves, and it was a filthy habit, and they thought the new law would help them to resist any temptation to take it up again. What? I said, still incredulous. Next thing, I said, you'll be wanting to ban drink in order to remove any temptation to get drunk, or ban cars, to avoid ever being tempted to drive too fast... But then I thought some more about their position, and I could see a kind of attraction in it. Of course it is ignoble to invoke the nanny state in order to correct your own personal weakness, but at least my friends' motives were somehow honest, and based on intimate knowledge of the people they knew best - themselves. My black-tied chums weren't actuated by a desire to impose some superior code of behaviour on others; their motivation was purely selfish, and I can live with the selfishness. It's the dogooders I can't stand, and this Labour Government is riddled with people who long to stop other people doing things of which they disapprove. In so far as there may or may not be a case for banning smoking in public, it should be no business of central government - or at least not while smoking is legal. Continue reading Labour will always decide what’s best (Smoking in public)

Boris column in the DT

Tomorrow's column in the Daily Telegraph - inspired by an evening followed by speech at HENLEY GOLF CLUB DINNER, HARPSDEN, HENLEY ON THAMES - at the end of last week. Points made include: Government plans to ban any kind of smoking in public, banning hunting and the destruction in Iraq. Brilliant column following quite a week..... how does he do it?! Post with full text tomorrow as early a.m. as possible.