Friday, 12 December 2003


Very worrying report published yesterday, by Amnesty International. Apparently there are 14 people sitting in British prisons, who have never even been charged with anything, let alone been convicted by a court. Needless to say, Amnesty is critical, and rightly so - six of them have been locked up for almost two years and any evidence against them has not been made public. Absolutely disgusting. One is hesitant to draw comparisons with abhorrent regimes but, really, this government has take us to war without our consent, and we now learn that they have been locking people up on what could be a series of whims.

Interesting reaction from the British Government - Blunkett (Home Secretary) threatened to resign from Anmesty! They came back with an intelligent quip about it being a shame that a British Home Secretary could not support the aims of a Human Rights organisation. But that is exactly what it boils down to! Terrorism or not, detention without trial is something one associates with dictatorships, not with supposedly civilised democracies.

I recently read Tony Benn's diaries, and as well as being struck by the intelligence of the man, the one thing that struck me was the "depression", almost, that came across. But then there are so many things in the world that should be changed, it must be difficult for people who genuinely want to make the world a better place to feel anything other than disappointment that - however much they have done - there is so much more to do. I feel the same kind of depression when I learn about things like the Amnesty report.

The Chancellor made a pre-budget statement the other day, and hidden deep in the small print there is a promise of further laws to try and turn freelance consultants (of which I am one) into employees. (The reason for this is that employees pay significantly more tax.) They already tried this once, with the IR35 rule, but fortunately I have been able to force my relationships with clients to be outside of these rules. So it looks like there will be fresh battles. I suppose the main thing in my favour is that despite the best efforts of the IR, the IR35 rule is far from watertight - there have been successful appeals against it left, right and centre. And they'll have the same kind of problems with any further rules.

Finally, some reassuring news from Europe. In the UK, our media often leave me with the impression that Britain is just completely out of step with everyone else in Europe on a good many issues. However with the talk of this European Constitution, which I personally think is simply a step too far, it would appear that it's not just Britain with major issues. Many other countries are up in arms also, and surely any final constitution will undoubtedly be severely watered down. It's reassuring, from my point of view, because it shows that it's not just a case of Britain against The Rest.

In saying this, I must say that I do consider myself very much pro-European, but I see "Europe" as a set of trade and passage agreements, perhaps even security and military agreements. But things like common taxation policies surely cannot work over such a large area with so many economies running at different paces. And if the European Parliament becomes the be-all-and-end-all, then my voice becomes that much smaller because I'm one of four or five hundred million, rather than one of sixty million. Can that be good?

On the home front, nothing much happening.

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