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policy: slogans or complexity? February 27, 2017

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Nobody knew it could be so complicated. Actually, anyone who thought about it for more than 30 seconds knew it was very complicated.

a reflection on lawyer-legislator ethics February 11, 2017

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The Florida House of Representatives features on its website quite prominently a Public Guide to Florida House of Representatives Rules Changes with a subtitle of “Ushering a New Level of Transparency and Accountability Revolutionizing State Government. Most of the document relates to lobbying- for example legislators should not fly on private planes owned by lobbyists or corporations that employ lobbyists (and Rule 15.3 of the House Rules specifies that the ban applies even were the representative to pay for the flight). But perhaps there are some other issues they might concentrate on.
Rule 15.2 of the House Rules states:

The Integrity of the House. A member shall respect and comply with the law and shall perform at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and independence of the House and of the Legislature. Each member shall perform at all times in a manner that promotes a professional environment in the House, which shall be free from unlawful employment discrimination.

I am not sure how promoting legislation that could be seen as conducive to a Representative’s personal financial interests as a personal injury lawyer, especially legislation that is drafted so ambiguously as to open up a wealth of litigation possibilities, can possibly be seen as promoting public confidence in the integrity of the House. But perhaps that’s just me.

a prime minister of pretences? October 30, 2016

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The final paragraph of this piece by Nick Cohen raises some quite fundamental questions about transparency in government:

Now she is a prime minister of pretences, running a government where feelings matter more than fact. She pretends that we should leave the EU, even though she knows we should remain a member of the single market. She offers us the illusion that we are taking back control, even as we lose our freedom to act. She cuts deals in secret, in the hope that the public will never realise that her land of make-believe is an expensive place to live.

Meanwhile, other news stories suggest that Mark Carney may choose to step down after much public criticism. Whether or not the stepping down would really be for personal reasons, there’s a deep irony here: a person who seems to have tried, in good faith, to carry out his statutory mandate is threatened for not going along with the fantasies the people in power choose to tell the public.

brexit – into uncharted territory June 24, 2016

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The BBC says that 52% of UK voters voted to leave the EU and 48% voted to remain. Winners take all – or rather lose all and impose significant losses on everyone else. The pound fell to the lowest rate against the dollar since 1985. Keith Vaz said the result was terrible. Nigel Farage said it was a victory for real people, ordinary people, decent people (I suppose the 48% who voted for remain are not real, ordinary, or decent). But all those people who believed they were taking back control are about to discover that it was all an illusion and they are even worse off than they were before. If Scotland becomes independent and joins the EU I wonder if I could get a Scottish passport (my mother was born in Edinburgh)?

why brexit matters June 21, 2016

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This is what I spent a chunk of today writing. It is here.

london as an independent city state? June 21, 2016

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More amazing possible implications of a Brexit vote.

brexit worries June 17, 2016

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I think this piece by John Harris is exactly right, and at the same time what he imagines is so, so wrong:

at the centre of where we find ourselves there is an undeniable irony, which may yet turn cold and cruel. If the revolt succeeds and Brexit wins, the party in power is likely to take a political turn that will lead us even further away from what the moment demands, while Labour will likely tumble further into division and introspection.

The EU has some problems, sure. It’s an elite, intellectual project and always was, despite years of attempting to reach out to citizens across the EU. At the same time the EU institutions have a sense of social solidarity that the UK EU-haters lack. And this story of the development of the Brexit idea by Matthew d’Ancona links it to ideas of flexible labour markets, freedom from red tape and British economic creativity that needs to be freed from EU shackles. Not a surprise. But, as Harris argues, these flexible markets free from regulation are not the sort of markets to give any hope at all to the people who seem likely to vote for Brexit.

civil society and multilateral institutions October 29, 2014

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The UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association, Maina Kiai, published a report yesterday arguing that multilateral institutions should make efforts to allow the voices of non-state, non-business entities to be heard:

In recent times, non-State actors have challenged the State-centric approach to global governance and are demanding a place at the negotiating table. Civil society in particular insists that discussions and decisions of multilateral institutions should focus on people’s concerns and human rights rather than being confined to geopolitical and economic interests that primarily occupy States and corporations. The Special Rapporteur believes that the concept of multilateralism should be expanded beyond action by States alone to include the effective participation of a variety of voices within those States. With this in mind, the report highlights the challenges experienced by civil society actors in having an effective voice at the multilateral level.

The report points out that this is particularly important as supra-national decision-making has more and more impact on domestic policy.

warning on blending: irresistible! October 22, 2014

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The EU’s Court of Auditors has warned the new EU Commission about the need to focus on issues of management in blending public and private finance in development assistance in a new report:

The 30 projects examined by the Court were all judged to be relevant for the regions and countries concerned. However, the approval process under‑taken by the Commission was not thorough, and the decisions to award the grants, at a particular level, were frequently not convincingly evidenced. Guidance on what criteria the Commission should use in its decision‑making was also lacking. Once grants were approved, the advance disbursements were unnecessarily high. The Commission’s monitoring did not ensure that the added value of grants was achieved in all cases.

the vaguely united kingdom – devolution for manchester? September 21, 2014

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Reading about the Scottish referendum it seemed to me that many of the arguments for independence applied to parts of England beyond London and the Home Counties. Those parts of the country which aren’t doing as well as the South East, the “desolate” parts where fracking has been thought to be acceptable. Places with proud histories and vibrant presents ignored by southern elites. So it’s not a surprise to read on The Guardian’s web pages:

The Scottish referendum has prompted northern English councils to demand more powers from Westminster, with local leaders complaining that England is “totally overgoverned” from London.