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Emrys's Journal
Emrys's Journal
March 2, 2016

The Tories systematically cheat in elections, says their own campaign manager

In an extraordinary investigation for Channel 4, Michael Crick has uncovered repeated electoral fraud by the Conservative party in the run-up to the 2015 general election. While the rest of the broadcast media largely ignores the story, the party’s own workers are speaking out, calling for an investigation into the Tories’ “systematic” breach of election rules.


It was 2014, the year before the general election. David Cameron was fighting off “the Ukip threat”. He had already pledged to hold an EU referendum to keep eurosceptic voters happy. Then one of his MPs resigned, triggering a by-election in Newark – which Ukip thought it could win. Within months, two more by-elections were triggered when the Conservative MPs for Clacton and Rochester & Strood, Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless, both defected to Ukip.


Channel 4 has uncovered hard evidence that the Conservatives spent more than the legal £100,000 limit in each of the three by-elections. Not just by a few pounds, or by a few thousand pounds, but by well over £90,000 across the three elections.

Then, instead of declaring their overspend, the party submitted misleading expense returns to returning officers – a criminal offence. It kept well over 1,200 nights of local hotel accommodation off the books. Many of those nights were signed for in a personal capacity by Conservative HQ Campaign Specialist Marion Little, who was later awarded an OBE for her by-elections work.

February 13, 2016

Guardian long read - Trident: the British question

The debate is not simply about submarines and missiles. It touches almost every anxiety about the identity of the United Kingdom. The decision may tell us what kind of country – or countries – we will become

by Ian Jack

At this moment, a British submarine armed with nuclear missiles is somewhere at sea, ready to retaliate if the United Kingdom comes under nuclear assault from an enemy. The boat – which is how the Royal Navy likes to talk about submarines – is one of four in the Vanguard class: it might be Vengeance or Victorious or Vigilant but not Vanguard herself, which is presently docked in Devonport for a four-year-long refit. The Vanguards are defined as ballistic missile submarines or SSBNs, an initialism that means they are doubly nuclear. Powered by steam generated by nuclear reactors, they carry ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads.

The location of the submarine – both as I write and you, the reader, read – is one of several unknowns. Somewhere in the North Atlantic or the Arctic would have been a reasonable guess when the Soviet Union was the enemy, but today nobody could be confident of naming even those large neighbourhoods. Another unknown is the number of missiles and warheads on board. Each submarine has the capacity to carry 16 missiles, each of them armed with as many as 12 independently targetable warheads; but those numbers started to shrink in the 1990s, and today’s upper limit is eight missiles and 40 warheads per submarine. Even so, those 40 warheads contain 266 times the destructive power of the bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima.

Vickers (now BAE Systems) built the submarine hulls at Barrow; Rolls-Royce made the reactors in Derby; the Atomic Weapons Establishment produces the warheads at Aldermaston and Burghfield in Berkshire. All these inputs are more or less British (less in the case of the Atomic Weapons Establishment, which is run by a consortium of two American companies and Serco), but the missile that they were built to serve and without which they would not exist is American: the Trident D5 or Trident II, also deployed by the US navy, comes out of the Lockheed Martin Space Systems factory in Sunnyvale, California.

MORE: http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/feb/11/trident-the-british-question
February 12, 2016

Barack Obama plans intervention in Britain's EU referendum

Barack Obama is planning to make “a big, public reach-out” to persuade British voters to stay inside the European Union, the chair of the US Senate foreign relations committee has revealed.

The plan emerged amid fears in Washington that the UK’s EU referendum is a dangerous gamble that could unravel with disastrous consequences for the entire continent.

His “reach out” is likely to focus on the need for the EU to stick together to combat the migration crisis and the growing threat of Russian aggression in the Baltics, Ukraine and Middle East.

But there are concerns in both Washington and London that an intervention by the US president has to be handled sensitively and could backfire unless it is pitched at the right geopolitical level.

February 9, 2016

British media 'most right-wing' in Europe, YouGov survey finds

The British press is regarded as the most "right-wing" and "biased" in Europe, according to new research by YouGov.

The company polled people from seven major European nations to find out how they perceived the press in their own countries. They found that 26 per cent of Britons viewed their newspapers, TV and radio as "too right-wing", more than in any of the other nations surveyed.

By contrast, only 17 per cent of British respondents felt their media was "too left-wing". The other countries in the survey were France, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland.

Respondents to the survey were asked whether they felt their country's media coverage of five key issues was too left-wing, too right-wing, or balanced. The five policy areas analysed were immigration, housing, health, economics and crime.


A mere 18 per cent of Britons felt that the media was reasonable in its presentation of the refugee crisis, with 29 per cent feeling the media was too right-wing when dealing with questions of immigration.


The YouGov poll results are here (sampled late January 2016): https://yougov.co.uk/news/2016/02/07/british-press-most-right-wing-europe/
February 8, 2016

Alistair Carmichael faces 150,000 bill after attempt to oust him

Alistair Carmichael, the former Scotland secretary, is facing a legal bill of about £150,000 after narrowly surviving a bid to have him ousted as MP for Orkney and Shetland.

Two judges sitting as an election court in Edinburgh rejected Carmichael’s application to have his legal costs awarded against four constituents who had challenged his election victory after he lied about the leak of a civil service memo.


Carmichael faced a rare election court case after authorising the leak of a Scotland Office memo to the Telegraph that recorded allegations that Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister, secretly wanted David Cameron to win the 2015 general election.

The claims, based on a briefing to a civil servant by the then French consul general to Edinburgh, Pierre-Alain Coffinier, some days after the first minister had met the French ambassador, Sylvie Bermann, were immediately denied by Sturgeon. Coffinier also denied she had made those remarks.


I don't know how much noticeable media coverage this case has been getting outside Scotland.

Basically, the election court found that Carmichael had lied repeatedly about the leaked note that sought to discredit Sturgeon at the height of the 2015 UK election campaign - both during and after the event, including in the court itself - but on a technicality, he escaped being dismissed as an MP because it was found that he had done so in an official capacity, not a personal one. A politician is apparently entirely free to lie in the course of his duties about anything, but not about his personal character or conduct. No, me neither.

Prior to this finding, he had been typically bombastic, dismissing the case as a vexatious SNP plot and declaring that he was going to seek severely punitive damages against his four constituents.

Anyone who witnessed his performances in committee with members of the Scottish Parliament while he was Secretary of State for Scotland will not be surprised that (a) he's a legally confirmed liar, and (b) he's arrogant and petty.
February 6, 2016

Tory councillor accidentally sent details of 'smear plot' to intended targets

A Tory councillor tried to persuade party colleagues to join him in a smear campaign against local domestic violence services and women’s rights campaigners, a leaked email shows.

Scott Harris, a Conservative member of Portsmouth council, wrote in the email that he had been compiling information on a number of political opponents operating in the city before council elections.


However, they and others named by Harris received the email after it was mistakenly sent out in a chain. The message says: “The elections are coming and the politics are dirty. The tricks by the Lib Dems, the lies and the smear are disgusting.

“Quite frankly it might be a good idea to play dirty this time. I know we shouldn’t go down to their gutter politics but should we continue to stand by and allow this to go on?

“I’m also compiling some stuff on Shonagh Dillion [sic], Aurora New Dawn and Sisters Uncut. Interestingly I’ve found some stuff on [local socialist activist] Jon Woods and the SWP locally which will be useful when the loony left come calling nearer May.”

Rest here: http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/feb/05/local-campaigners-tory-councillor-plot-smear-portsmouth?CMP=share_btn_tw

Ladies and gentlemen, let's hear it for the next Conservative Party Director of Communications.

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