Tory MEP Daniel Hannan has got himself into hot water by comparing the behaviour of the President of the European Parliament, Hans-Gert Poeterring, to the Nazi's, allegedly.
Mr Hannan denies the charge.
What he claims he said was that the recent vote by MEPs to give the president the power to ignore the rules of procedure as he saw fit, bore striking similarities to the Enabling Laws introduced by the Nazis.
The Enabling Laws, as Michael Burleigh observes in his great book The Third Reich, " Permitted the government to pass budgets and promulgate laws, including those altering the constitution . . . without parliamentary approval. In democracies, constitutional amendments are particularly solemn occasions, here they were easier than changing the traffic regulations."
And, as Burleigh says, even when parliamentary approval was thought expedient, the process was a farce because: "The Reichstag met infrequently whenever Hitler determined."
And when it did meet: "The Reichstag no longer debated anything, since the only speaker was Hitler; the uniformed delegates were there to assent with enthusiasm."
In an article in the Daily Telegraph, Hannan writes: "Whenever I complained about what was being done, I got the same answer: we have the majority behind us.
But a simple majority cannot override a constitution.
This may seem a small point, but in it is contained the difference between constitutional government and arbitrary rule."

And, as Hannan observes, to accuse someone of ruling arbitrarily falls way short of branding them a Nazi.
Though, I would add, arbitrary rule and fascism are easy bedfellows.



No sooner had I posted last week's item on the collected works of Chairman Ed (February 5) than yet another letter appeared - this time in the Western Telegraph.
Eddie has stated his intention not to run for election in May, so is he making a pitch for the job as leader writer for the Telegraph/Mercury axis?
Though, having read his comment on the employment of MP's families on the WTelegraph's website: "I see nothing wrong in a MP employing his wife for his job.
Most small busines have to do the same so why not our both MPs. You get more out of a partner as a secretary as they do not work nine till five hours.
Plus I bet Mrs Clinton would have a lot happier had she been working for her husband Bill and not the other lady."
perhaps not.
Would it be churlish to point out that when a small businessman/businesswoman employs a spouse they do so using their own money, while those of MPs are funded from the public purse?
Also job recruitment, particularly in the public sector, is hedged about by anti-discrimination laws brought into being by our MPs.
Can we be sure that, when an MP decides to employ a husband or wife, the appointment is made strictly on merit?



Old Grumpy hears that the county council's ruling Independent Political Group (the non-political, political party) is busy recruiting candidates ahead of May's elections.
I am told they are looking for strong candidates in certain target seats including my own, with former Leader Eric Harries mentioned as a possible contender.
Nothing remarkable about that!
However, one strange story I've heard is that, in some instances, they on the lookout for people to run against those of their own present members who are considered either disloyal, or useless, or both.
If uselessness is to be the benchmark, most of the party will be at risk, though their well-honed synchronised voting skills will probably save many from deselection.
A mole tells me that some current members have even been asked for a pledge of post-election loyalty with the threat of a rival IPG candidate if it is not forthcoming.


The Archbishop of Canterbury has got himself into hot water by suggesting that the introduction of Sharia law in the UK is inevitable.
My understanding is that Sharia courts already operate in this country, so this comes down to the narrow legal issue of whether their decisions should be binding on the parties as is already the case with the Jewish Sin Bet courts and various matters decided under the Arbitration Acts.
The difficulty with religious courts, however fairly constituted, is that pressure may be brought on the parties to resort to them.
For instance, I read on the Internet that some Orthodox Jews regard use of the secular civil courts as sinful.
How much more difficult for Muslims, women in particular, to overcome the cultural and religious pressures in often closed societies.
In any case, it cannot be right that such courts should operate free of supervision by the state's courts i.e outside the law.
Even with cases of binding arbitration under the Arbitration Acts, arbitrators are expected to follow the rules of natural justice and any failure to do so will lead to their decisions being set aside by the higher courts.
At least with arbitration we can be fairly certain that both parties freely gave their consent to the process; something we can never be sure about with religious courts of whatever stripe.
The other problem with religious courts is that, being based on revealed truth, they are fundamentally undemocratic.
It is surely the very basis of democracy that it provides men and women with the ability to chose the laws under which they will live.
Clearly, if laws are God-given, you either have to accept them as they are, or countenance the idea that God got it wrong.
Indeed, it is for this very reason that many Muslim extremists regard democracy as the great evil.
And, I would have thought that, given the problems he has with biblical literalists in his own church, over issues such as gay bishops and women priests, the Archbishop would be that last person on earth to be advocating the introduction of religious fundamentalism into our legal system.


I have lost count of the times during the debate on the Archbishop's comments that the words "the great British tradition of equality before the law" have been trotted out as grounds for opposing Sharia or any other form of non-secular law.
While this is an extremely powerful argument against the Balkanisation of the law, to what extent is this great British tradition followed in practice?
I have sat through enough long trials to know that, at the highest level, British judges bend over backwards to be fair.
That doesn't prevent the occasional miscarriage of justice, but it is not for want of trying.
However, further down the food chain, things are not so rosy as we would like to make out e.g the planning system in Pembrokeshire, where, if you've got a couple of IPG buddies on the planning committee, you are likely to find yourself rather more equal than others.

 

Yesterday, I was ordering a load of gravel when by some mysterious alchemy I suddenly found myself in a conversation about rugby.
Well, after living in Wales for more than 40 years, you have to learn to take it on the chin, so I said I liked the redesigned England shirt (laughing through clenched teeth) and was surprised to find the chap on the other end of the phone hadn't seen it.
I have lost count of the number of my Welsh "friends" who have thoughtfully e-mailed me a copy, but it must be more than a dozen.
Just in case there is anyone else in Pembrokeshire who hasn't seen it, it is reproduced below.
Last week, I reported that I had foolishly bet two pints on the outcome of the England/Wales match during a visit to a local builders' merchants.
Unfortunately, the bad news doesn't stop there because one of the winners now tells me he drinks at the Jolly Sailor in Burton where a pint costs an astronomical £2.85.
To think that, when I started drinking almost fifty years ago to the day, a pint of Carlisle state management brewery mild was 11d (less than 5p) and bitter 1s1d (just over 5p).
And, to make matters worse, having been charged this extortionate sum for a pint you can't even sit down with a fag to help you get over the shock.



The Domesday Book - William the Conquerer's record of the nation's tax base - has now been posted online.
It covers the whole of England except my native Cumbria and neighbouring Northumbria.
We Cumbrians like think that our ancesters were such a fearsome bunch that William's tax gatherers didn't dare venture into their territory, though, in fairness, I should point out that our enemies suggest the real reason was that was nothing there worth taxing.

Back to home page