Thursday, March 23, 2006

Get back to school, Shabina

Well done, the House of Lords for restoring common sense into the Shabina Begum story. You will remember that this is the case of a young muslim girl who took her school to court for refusing to allow her wear a jilbab (full-length islamic dress) to school. The school permits muslim girls to wear the shalwar kameez, but very reasonably drew the line at the jilbab. Ms Begum was not happy, and enlisted the services of one Cherie Booth QC in taking her school to court.

After the Court of Appeal found in her favour, the school appealed to the House of Lords, and yesterday, their Lordships decided that enough was enough. Lord Hoffman, in particular, was impressive in dismissing the argument that the school had deprived Ms Begum of the right to manifest her religion. There was no such right, he said, to allow one to ‘manifest one’s religion at a time and place of one’s own choosing. Common civility also has a place in religious life’. Well said!

Lord Hoffman also pointed out that the aim of the Human Rights Act 1998 was not to ‘enlarge’ the rights of UK residents whose convention rights have been violated. Rather it was to give them a platform to enforce their convention rights in this country. Perhaps all human rights lawyers will want to take note of that.

I am glad to read that Shabina Begum has accepted the verdict. Let’s have no nonsense about appealing to the European court. I would advise her to get back to school and see if she can salvage some sort of education for herself. After a self-imposed two year exile from the education system, she will need all her powers of concentration to attain halfway decent qualifications.

And while she’s at it, she will perhaps want to give thanks that she lives in a country that values the education of women to the extent of making the sort of allowances that her high school made for her. If Shabina Begum lived in the sort of country that she undoubtedly wants Britain to become, I guarantee that not only would she never have seen the four walls of a classroom, she would never have been granted audience in the highest court in the land, let alone an expensive female QC to represent her.
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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The inexplicable blindness of the NEC

Yesterday, the National Executive Committee of the Labour party held a meeting with Tony Blair, in which they expressed their anger over the loans for peerages scandal, and informed the Prime Minister that from now on, they would reassert their control over the party’s finances.

This is all very well and good, but I have one question for the NEC. Seeing as they were purportedly unaware that Blair had borrowed £14m to finance the General Election campaigns, where did they think all that money came from? When they saw all the shiny new posters, battle buses, and helicopters, how exactly did they think that Blair had financed all this? Didn’t they think to ask him back then, and if not, why not? Given that they knew the state of their accounts, they should have known what they could afford, and should have been aware that the election spending was way beyond that. Typical lefties that they are, they probably just assumed that money grows on trees. How could their leader borrow £14m and spend it right before their faces, without them wondering as to its provenance? This failure to make the link between money and its source is also reflected in the attitude of the Left towards taxpayers’ money in general. Spend, spend, spend, without stopping to think where the money is coming from.

Now that they have been embarrassed by their greedy, unscrupulous leader, they hope to salvage some credibility by protesting to the rafters that they were unaware all along. I believe them. It is possible that they did not know. However that very fact clearly illustrates why Labour, both Old and New, can never be trusted with money.
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Monday, March 20, 2006

Licence to kill

The jury in the Mary-Ann Leneghan case has returned guilty verdicts on five of the men charged with her kidnap and murder. A sixth man had already pleaded guilty. It emerges that four of those men were on probation at the time they committed the crime.

This is the third time in as many months that we have heard such a thing. The man who killed John Monckton was out on probation at the time of the murder. So also was the man who murdered Roger Symons after burgling his home. In that case, we were told that the burglar had been released on licence after a quick chat on the telephone with a probation officer to assess his fitness for release.

What exactly is happening to our criminal justice system?
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Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Dodgy pensions advice from Blair and co

Today at Prime Minister's Questions, Ming Campbell, the leader of the Lib Dems, asked Tony Blair about the Parliamentary Ombudsman's finding that the Government's guidance on occupational pensions had been "inaccurate, incomplete, unclear and inconsistent". Given that many employees had lost their pensions when their companies went under, there are growing calls for the Government to compensate them.

Blair's reply was that no responsible government could underwrite the massive financial risks that private citizens undertake with regard to their pensions.

Flaming cheek! One could ask him what created these 'risks' in the first place. I can think of two things off the top of my head. The first would be the dodgy guidance I have already referred to in this article. The second would be his pal Gordon's tax policies that currently see the loss of around £5bn each year from private pension funds.

Yes, the general public understand risk. What we do not understand is a Government that causes us, through its greed and incompetence, to lose our hard-earned savings, and then dares to lecture us on its illusory fiscal responsibility.
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The walls of Jericho came tumbling down ...

Israel stormed the walls of a Jericho prison yesterday and led away some Palestinians in captivity. Harry de Quetteville in today's Telegraph puts it beautifully:

In the Old Testament the children of Israel circled the ancient city of Jericho seven times until its walls collapsed.

Yesterday morning more than 100 Israeli combat troops arrived armed not with the ark of the covenant but bulldozers, helicopters, tanks and armoured personnel carriers.

Wonder what Ahmed Saadat would make of that passage, although I very much doubt that that is uppermost in his mind at this moment.
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Monday, March 06, 2006

Cynical Britain? Wonder why.

Can it really be that this Government does not understand why the 'separation' of Tessa Jowells from her husband has been greeted with cynicism across the public and political spectrum? Further proof that New Labour is definitely out of touch with public opinion. For all their spin doctors and focus groups, Government ministers cannot even see what the public see when we look at them.
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Thursday, March 02, 2006

Tessa, your home is at risk if you fail to keep up payments on a mortgage ...

Tessa Jowell has been 'cleared' of breaching the Ministerial Code. She claims that she did not know that her husband had received a cash 'gift' of $600,000. Probably. She would have us believe that even though she co-signed an application for a mortgage on her family home, she did not know why her husband needed the money. That may be so. She also did not know when the mortgage was paid off by her husband. Really? So Ms Jowell would have us believe that her husband put papers in front of her, and she signed them, without asking questions? Even though she knew that defaulting on a mortgage could lead to her losing her home, she did not think to ask her husband why he needed to mortgage the house, and how and when they were expected to repay the loan? This is not the sort of behaviour one would expect from a woman of average intelligence.

In a situation where a co-owner wishes to mortgage joint property for his business ventures, the lender normally advises the other owner to seek independent legal advice. Did this happen? Did Tessa Jowell seek legal advice before signing, and if so, then it would appear that her lawyer would have reasonably asked her husband for details of how he intended to repay the loan, so as not to jeopardise Ms Jowell's share of the home. If this happened, then I wonder how Tessa Jowell could claim not to know these details. But who knows?

There are many unanswered questions. However, I have come to one conclusion: Tessa Jowell has fallen upon the classic 'female' defence. 'I'm only a woman, I don't understand numbers, my husband deals with the financial side of things'. What a shame. There is something rather pathetic about that. She would rather the public saw her as a foolish, helpless woman. Far better, in my opinion, to be seen as a financially canny woman with a whiff of scandal about her. No one is, after all, accusing her of breaking the law.
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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Tessa looking resplendent in pink

I never thought the day would come when I would feel sorry for a New Labour Cabinet minister, but I feel some compassion for poor Tessa Jowell. It is Prime Minister's Questions, and she is sitting on the front bench, trying very hard to look inconspicuous. Not much hope of that in a grey tweed jacket and pink blouse combo, methinks. That notwithstanding, a part of me hopes that nobody raises the issue of her husband's pending criminal trial and any suspected impropriety on her part. She is one of those few politicians who appear to be part of the human race. True, she is a nannying leftie busybody, but I hope she survives her current troubles.
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