British Politics’s Blog

The ravings of an individual, UK voter frustrated with our politicians

Posts Tagged ‘harriet harman

Harman does it again

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At PMQ’s Harriet Harman made the following statement in response to a question about who had put Fred Goodwin forward and why; “I think Sir Fred was nominated for a knighthood because of his services for the Prince’s Trust.  “I understand it was not in recognition of his services to banking.”  Tut, tut Harriet, have you learned nothing? If you want to be PM in waiting you don’t try and guess the answers, you can only do that when you have the position, ask your boss! This statement has since been corrected by an official from her office.

But what does it tell us about Harriet Harman? It is, after all, only a few days since she suggested that the government would consider introducing new legislation, which would then be made retrospective, to enable the government to reverse Sir Fred Goodwin’s pension entitlement. Now, whilst I accept that there are at the very least, moral reasons why Sir Fred should not receive this pension, the fact remains that government ministers were party to, if not fully au fait with, the content of a compromise agreement, which is legally binding on all sides. To make matters worse, any threat to introduce legislation designed to target one citizen is a draconian move and anyone supporting or suggesting such an act must be considered a threat to all of us, especially when they are from a government that has paid lip service to civil liberties.  Sir Fred is NOT deserving of a pension in my view, but surely there are other ways in which this can be dealt with, for example, whether or not he had failed in his fiduciary duty?  If he had not, then there would, presumably, be some form of legal recourse using existing and established law.

In my view, Harriett Harman has, in the past week or so, confirmed why it is that she will never be a viable candidate for prime minister (or, more accurately, leader of the Labour Party).  Firstly, her judgement; no minister, whatever the motivation or justification should ever seek to use the immense power of government to target a single British subject. No-one deserves that, not even Sir Fred. Secondly, her knowledge on the subject matter; how is it that Ms Harman can claim to know all the details surrounding Sir Fred’s pension arrangements and the negotiations thereto, but not why Sir Fred was nominated for a knighthood and by whom? As Alan Duncan said, “Instead of worrying so much about her campaign to succeed Gordon Brown, she should focus on mastering the detail.”

I find it difficult to recall anything useful that Harriet Harman has ever done during her time as an MP, though I am happy to be corrected on that one, any takers? That said, at the risk of arguing against myself, perhaps that is why she would make a good leader of the Labour Party for their period in the wilderness which is certain to come after the next election. But PM, never, at least not in my life time, of that I am certain.

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Written by British Politics

4 March, 2009 at 5:19 pm

Is Harriet Harman is an opportunist?

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It is difficult not to conclude that Harriet Harman’s attack on Sir Fred Goodwin’s pension is anything other than opportunistic. Clearly she will be aware that public opinion is firmly against corporate greed and any form of reward “for failure”. However, if government ministers were to be judged on the same criteria, there would be mass resignations, no pay-off’s and a refusal to take their generous, gold-plated pensions. Of course we all know that isn’t going to happen.

It is fair to say that Sir Fred’s pension is obscene and that the board and Lord Myner’s should have dealt with this thorny issue at the time, but they did not. Instead, it would appear that it formed part of what is commonly described as a ‘compromise agreement’ and this is, whether government ministers like it or not, enforceable in a court of law. Compromise agreements are not the exclusive preserve of high ranking banking officials, many thousands of people every year enter into some form of compromise agreement with their employers, with each party fully appraised by their legal advisers of the consequences.

It is difficult to conceive that any credible member of parliament would possibly suggest that a compromise agreement ought to be overturned through the introduction of new legislation which is applied retrospectively. Yet, Harriet Harman has done precisely that, whether it was her own idea, or someone has ‘suggested’ that she become the sabre rattler is not clear, either way, she does not come out of this with any real credibility. Yes, the public will, at face value, agree with her and therefore, it will appear that she is in tune with the masses. However, this completely ignores the fact that a Labour minister was party to the pension discussions and that the government were aware of the compromise agreement back in October. Yet it has only come to light now, when there was a need to divert attention from the real issue, which is the massive injection of additional taxpayer cash into RBS and the taking on of massive potential liabilities through the underwriting of so called ‘toxic assets’.

There have been suggestions that Harriet Harman has been positioning herself to become the successor-in-chief to Gordon Brown, I don’t know how much truth there is in these rumours. However, if I wanted to set her up for a fall, I would have asked her to do precisely what she has done. Why? Because no minister ought to be proposing new legislation to reverse something in a contract, that they were party to (directly or otherwise), simply because they no longer like the terms. Once that happens, the government can no longer be trusted to enter into any contract, without the other party believing that there is a possibility that any terms could subsequently be overturned, on a whim, through retrospective legislation.

Whatever the rights or wrongs of Sir Fred Goodwin’s pension arrangements, ministers from the Prime Minister down appear to be milking it for all it is worth and in doing so, they are successfully diverting the country’s attention from the real issue and that is our massive long term exposure to RBS liabilities. Worst still, if they are expending so much time and effort on what, in the scale of things, is a peripheral issue, can we trust them to be steering the ship in which we have so much invested? I wonder!

Written by British Politics

1 March, 2009 at 2:06 pm

Prostitution, pimps, trafficking and criminal intent

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There is an interesting post over at Power to the People on the government announcement that they intend to introduce new legislation to protect women that have been forced into prostitution by people traffickers or pimps. The post does not cover the rights and wrongs about prostitution, but instead the issue surrounding a fundamental change to criminal law, in that there is no need to demonstrate intent only “strict liability”.

The following paragraph probably sums up best the argument contained in the post:

I am no law expert, but by introducing a “strict liability” clause into criminal law, (I believe it is already used in civil law), means a serious criminal offence can be committed without there being any intent. Now I know that ignorance of the law is no excuse, but this legislation means that even if a man asked the necessary questions and was given the appropriate responses, he is still playing a game of Russian Roulette, with odds that would not be lawful in a casino! Worst still, the man doesn’t even need to have sex in order to commit the offence, he just has to conduct the transaction.

If true, this is a very worrying precedent being set by government ministers, perhaps made worst by the fact that Harriet Harman is actually a QC. She more than anyone must know the consequences of a piece of legislation that can find a man guilty of rape simply because he conducted a transaction for sex with a prostitute.

Surely this is what is wrong with this government. They try and intefere in everything, with little or no knowledge of the problems, issues or implications. It is always a sledgehammer to crack a nut, draconian and penal laws introduced against a backdrop of political correctness or a wish to grab the headlines. The Big Brother Database was one way in which this government attempted to run roughshod over the civil liberties of the people of this country. Now they seek to introduce a strict liability clause which means that no ‘act’ has to take place for a very serious offence to have been committed which could result in a life sentence.

Vulnerable girls forced into prostitution are entitled to and must be protected. However, the laws are already there for the police to use, so why don’t they? If 70% of the girls are working under duress, then the police should have no problem bringing prosecutions. I don’t know how many ‘sex transactions’ take place everyday, but if 70% of them could lead to a serious offence being committed, surely the courts will be inundated with criminal cases. Also, we need to start building new prisons now, because I suspect, that this law will not stop the oldest profession in the world. In a worst case scenario, it could make the girls more vulnerable and drive it underground where it will be impossible to protect them.

Those that sponsor or support this bill in its current form should hang their heads in shame for they seek to change a fundamental aspect of criminal law in this country and fail to achieve the objective set. As for Jacqui Smith and Harriet Harman, they should resign immediately, because they have demonstrated that they are not fit for the high offices that they hold.