Tory MP Douglas Carswell will put down an extraordinary parliamentary motion. No one can recall a similar one. My name and that of my friend Gordon Prentice will be listed among the sponsors. It is hoped our action will embolden other MPs to say what is in their hearts. The danger of signing it is that the Speaker will not call us to speak or ask questions in future. The motion reads.
No confidence in the Speaker
"That this House has no confidence in Mr Speaker and calls for him to step down; notes that Mr Speaker has failed to provide leadership in matters relating to hon. Members' expenses; believes that a new Speaker urgently needs to be elected by secret ballot, free from manipulation by party Whips, under Standing Order No. 1B; and believes that a new Speaker should proceed to reform the House in such a way as to make it an effective legislature once again."
The pertformance of the Speaker has been petulant over the last two days. He has made a disastrous situation worse. He chairs the Commons Commission that has repeatedly mishandled the expenses crisis. Accusations have been made about his own claims. He is open to accusations that he has not acted impartially.
As a human being Speaker Martin is affable and engaging. As a Speaker he lacks authority and the leadership skills essentail to win back the public's confidence in parliament.
Agile for fragile
We had a buffet lunch with Rhodri Morgan. He was on fine form. He said that it was a manageable task to run a country with three million people. In Westminster there are rubber levers. The ministers pull them and nothing happens.
In Wales decisions can be taken quickly and implemented with certainty. Or as Rhodri put it 'It's agile Government for fragile times.'
Congratulations to Danny Kushlik of Transform. He brilliantly exposed a vacuous claim by the Serious Crime Agency (SOCA). In a report released today, (SOCA) claims that it has increased the wholesale price of cocaine and that street purity has fallen.
As the evidence has shown over the long term, illegal drugs have become increasingly cheap and available. However, short term reversals in these trends are often proclaimed by prohibitionist governments and the enforcement agencies charged with fighting the war on drugs, and this is a prime case in point. Taken at face value, these reversals in fortune will be used to signal imminent victory in the wider war. This is clumsy piece of PR that fell falt on its face. As Danny pointed out:
"For those of us who have seen entire enforcement agencies come and go, this is more of the same in the propaganda war. Cherry picking statistics is bread and butter for those who have to show success in an ocean of failure. President Obama is on the record in 2005 describing the war on drugs as an "utter failure".
The global war on drugs has gifted a trade to organised criminals, valued at £4-6 billion a year in the UK alone and £160 billion globally. One has to ask who benefits from hiking the price and lowering the purity of cocaine - even if this can be achieved or is the result of enforcement efforts? The answer is twofold:
One of the more pertinent policy outcomes that SOCA have notbeen trumpeting is that cocaine use has more than doubled in the last ten years (and is still rising) and part of this explosion has been the disastrous epidemic of crack cocaine use that has emerged over the same period. It is likely that this explosion in demand is driving any recent decrease in cocaine purity rather than supply side enforcement impacts. Clearly there is considerably more cocaine entering the country than their was when SOCA was set up. And this has nothing to do with how effectively SOCA do their duties; the economics of a totally unregulated multi-billion pound market (in which demand is high and rising) controlled by flexible, cunning and often violent criminal profiteers make SOCAs task one that is doomed from the outset.
If SOCA are so sure that this recent evidence is supportive of their work, I'm sure that they will back Transform's call for an independent impact assessment of the current regime of prohibition and a genuine exploration of alternatives, including the legal regulation of currently prohibited drugs. David Cameron supported a call as a backbencher, for the UK to initiate just such a debate at the UN in 2002.
So, what should we believe? Decades of history, or the agency that has to show that its work isn't futile and counterproductive? You decide..."
Total of British Soldiers killed in Afghanistan = 158