The Prime Minister is expected to outline plans today for online pornography to be made available only in homes that ‘opt-in’ to such content, seemingly unaware that everyone has already done so.
Internet user Simon Williams told us, “The moment I hear there was a plan for opt-in, I put my hand in the air. Not that one, that one was busy.”
“If the government is somehow under the impression that this nation’s secret perverts will too ashamed to opt-in to get access to their porn fix, then they are sorely mistaken.”
“If I could double opt-in to get access to the really good stuff, I would.”
Porn filter opt-in
The government has spoken of its disappointment at the 100% opt-in rate, explaining they thought there might be one or two homes that chose not to.
A spokesperson explained, “The mistake we have made is underestimating how thoroughly depraved the general public is, and how tedious masturbation can actually be without access to a myriad of online filth.”
Online decency campaigner Sheila Matthews said, “This new government plan is important because it will keep the minds of our young people pure, and we need to protect the most vulnerable in society from materials that could corrupt their young minds.”
“Yes, my husband has already opted in, but that’s not the point.”
Could Boris Johnson actually end up as Britain’s prime minister?
And in that key word lies the rub — and Cameron’s worst nightmare. The rise in prices on the Boris Index is a sign that many Tories are resigned to losing the next general election. The right, which has never wholly trusted Cameron’s attempt to “detoxify” the party’s image, is disgruntled; the center worried that a panicky “lurch to the right” spells electoral calamity. It remains rather easier to imagine Boris as leader of Her Majesty’s loyal opposition than as prime minister. Indeed, even Tapsell only ventured that “perhaps” Boris could be a credible prime minister.
Boris is fun. But political prime-time is not the same as light entertainment.
So a large part of the pro-Boris bandwagon is predicated upon Cameron being ejected from office after a humiliating election defeat in 2015. Boris, back in parliament by then (even though his second mayoral term does not end until 2016) would then be swept into the leader’s office by depressed Tory members who want nothing more than to be cheered-up.
It takes no great powers of political analysis to perceive that this would be a high-risk adventure. For instance, the idea of Boris ever — even accidentally — having responsibility for Britain’s nuclear missiles is not a soothing one. But nor is it an idea that can be dismissed as evident nonsense.
For the time being, Boris is urging some measure of loyalty. “After 2016 who knows what will happen” he says. “But I’m very, very happy with the job of mayor of London.” Discontented Tories — i.e., his putative rivals — should “cool their porridge” and “save their breath.” They need to “put their shoulders to the wheel, all hands to the mast, and all shoot from the same trench — to mix my metaphors.”
And yet none of this quite convinces. Boris’s relationship with Cameron has long been uneasy. Cameron was two years Boris’s junior at Eton (and Oxford) and, befitting the time-honored conventions of the British boarding school, the older boy has never quite lost the sense of superiority first ingrained by seniority when the pair were teenagers.
It certainly seems that way. In an interview with a French radio station this month, Boris suggested, in his typical style, that he and David Cameron were “like Wallace and Gromit” though, as the Guardian observed, “he didn’t say which was the absent-minded inventor and which his far brainier dog.”
Be that as it may, many Tories still consider Boris the Clown Prince Across the Water. This despite a record of achievement that is, by objective standards, negligible. Boris has performed adequately as mayor of the capital city, but even his staunchest admirers are hard-pressed to produce any lengthy list of achievements he has to his name. London’s mayor has relatively few powers. Like being governor of Texas, it sounds a weightier position than it really is. There is a fear that, just as the United States was lumbered with George W. Bush, so Britain could be stuck with Boris. Like Bush — whom Boris once described as a “cross-eyed Texan warmonger” — Johnson’s appeal is as much a matter of style as substance. He talks “Real Tory.” From his euroscepticism to his enthusiasm for lower taxes, Boris tickles the Tory party’s erogenous zones. And he does so in a fashion that seems to entertain the public.
Perhaps it is a feature of these rancorous and gloomy times that Boris is no longer as preposterous a notion as he once seemed. He is not a “serious” politician but, as election results in Italy and Israel have shown recently, non-serious, populist, politicians are able to capitalize upon public discontent.
Before he became mayor of London, Boris briefly served as shadow arts minister in 2004. Upon his appointment he told one interviewer, that “Look the point is … er, what is the point? It is a tough job but somebody has got to do it.”
We may yet hear a variation on that refrain once again. Being leader of the Conservative Party is a tough job that someone has to do. So why not Boris?
The mind, as Boris might admit himself, boggles.
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SUBJECTS: POLITICS, ECONOMICS, BRITAIN, EUROPE
As the crow flies, it’s 320 kilometers (199 miles) between Brussels and London. But at 8 a.m. sharp on Wednesday, when British Prime Minister David Cameron stepped up to the microphone in the basement auditorium of US media company Bloomsberg’s European headquarters on Finsbury Square, the Channel suddenly got a lot wider.
n Brussels, the lack of desire to even react to Cameron’s challenge made itself felt – and if it hadn’t been for loud calls of protest, the spokeswoman for EU Commission president José Manuel Barroso would just as soon have broken up the midday press conference after delivering three succinct statements.
But the fact is that — even if both sides affirm that they don’t want to pull up the drawbridge — Wednesday’s speech put two questions out there front and center: Can there be a European Union without the British? And can the British manage without the EU?
The clear answer to both questions is: Yes. Of course they can manage without each other. Whether they would manage better is another issue. None of the 27 and soon to be 28 (Croatia) EU countries – not even the French – want Britain to leave. Brussels is a bazaar, and at the negotiating table the British are heavyweights that others happily align with.
A case in point is the EU 2014-2020 budget, which an alliance of countries led by London and Berlin recently rejected much to the anger of many Brussels functionaries and parliamentarians. The British and Germans were also long-time partners on environmental issues.
Northern European countries align with Britain when it comes to Commission involvement in the labor market, for example in opposing quotas for women on boards. Britain is also a powerful advocate for all those who favor EU enlargement.
And of course the vision of a European Defence Community without Britain is a paper tiger. “London has to be part of any joint European foreign and security policies if they are to be taken seriously,” Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, a European Parliament member from Germany’s Free Democratic Party, told Die Welt.
Fate of The City
However, even before the outbreak of the crisis such visions had moved to the bottom of the agenda. And what with the challenge of ensuring that their joint currency has a solid future, the euro-zone countries have other more important things on their plate right now than going over dozens of agreements with Cameron’s people.
“Renegotiating contracts that London signed is an illusion,” German Christian Democratic Union politician Gunther Krichbaum, who chairs the German Parliament’s Committee on European Union affairs, told Die Welt. “All the other states would have something they wanted to renegotiate too and at the end of the day you would have the same compromises.”
If London really does decided to push for an ultimate confrontation, draw the consequences and pull out of the Union, what it loses – access to the largest market in the world, with 500 million consumers — would be far greater than what it gains. And in a free-trade zone, the British would have to accept rules they had no hand in creating.
A “Brexit” might not shatter the Union – but Britain itself just might end up shattered: in 2014, the Scots, will be voting for their independence, and some may be more inclined to separate from the UK, if it is leaving Europe. If that were the case, Cameron would have burned both hands with his referendums.
Just how serious leaving the EU would be for the British economy is something economists and business folk disagree on. However the fact is that half of the country’s exports go to EU member states and some 3 million jobs depend on it. The common market is hugely important for Britain, indeed Cameron stressed that in his speech.
However, there is the possibility for the UK to hammer out a free trade agreement with the EU as the Swiss have done. Last fall, a study conducted by the Institute of Economic Affairs, the London-based free market think tank, concluded that that option would mean that leaving the EU would only cost Britain one percent of its GDP.
Still, British companies and business associations are worried about the country’s current tendency to cut itself off. And rightly so: many multinationals use Britain as a base from which to drive continental business. With the British out of the Union, these firms might soon be moving their headquarters to Dublin, Frankfurt or Paris.
London as a financial hub would without a doubt take the biggest hit. Said Chris Cummings, Chief Executive of TheCityUK, an influential lobbyist from the London financial industry, after Cameron’s speech: “Our recent Competitiveness Report found that 40% of financial services firms choose the UK as a place to set up and grow their business because of our access to the EU.” In this sector particularly firms are very mobile and would not hesitate to move.
Tom Brown, head of the loans department at the Norddeutsche Landesbank in London, is even more direct. “Without the EU, London as a financial hub would be reduced to a fraction of the size it is now,” he said, adding that the reason London grew to become Europe’s largest banking center was because Britain joined the EU. “Without the possibility to move offices and workers freely around the EU, the City would be washed up.”
Read the article in the original language.
Photo by – Bertrand Hauger
With crimes committed by MPs already quite numerous, anything which reduces the number of potential crimes for them to be found guilty of must be a good thing, according sources at the House of Commons.
A sitting MP, who wished to remain nameless, told us that reducing the number of crimes available to those representing constituencies across England and Wales was a positive step for British politics.
“Any voter caring to glance at newspaper headlines over the past couple of years will have been truly aghast at the illegal antics of those voted into power,” he began.
“To think that there remains countless opportunities for MP’s to err from the expectations of the British public, places us in an invidious position.”
“So what damage is there in removing one of the most harmful allegations left open to us – drug abuse – from the buffet of crimes we frequently avail of.”
Proponent of drug decriminalisation, Sheila Mount, dismissed calls for a relaxing of the law to suit politicians.
“Loosening drug regulations for the benefit of MP’s usage?”
“Permitting medical trials of potentially life-threatening substances for MP’s?”
OPINION Cameron was brutally clear when he foresaw the need to intensify EU union. Such concerns may force a UK exit
As brave europhile Brits walk in fear of Brexit and Tory Eurosceptics and their UK Independence Party cousins inhale the sweet smell of success, other Europeans watch with bemusement how Britain, after decades of obstreperous membership of the European club, may finally pick up its armoured handbag and go.
The recent history of Europe has accustomed us to reversals, but few have materialised as fast as this: the secession of the UK from the European Union, once a topic for post-prandial jousting, is now a hot potato on Europe’s political menu.
Whether Brexit should be dreaded or welcomed as the exit of a poisonous flatmate has become a matter of serious examination in European capitals. Would British withdrawal badly weaken the economic and ideological foundations of the single market, allowing excessive statism a free rein? Would a British departure deal a fatal blow to Europe’s global clout by depriving it of British diplomatic and military heft? No consensus has formed – though on balance, most EU leaders would prefer the UK to stay in.
So why the change? As with pretty much everything else in Europe these days, the answer lies with the euro zone crisis. Strikingly, the dynamics at work have found their first clear expression in an interview UK chancellor George Osborne gave the Financial Times in July 2011. In one of the most richly ironic moments of recent European history, it fell to a British chancellor to become the first big hitter of any big EU member state to speak of the need to transform the euro zone into a fiscal union. In effect, Mr Osborne was demanding a far greater curtailing of national sovereignty in the euro zone than its member states had hitherto envisaged. He did so at a time when such federalist encomiums were viewed as offensively provocative by the governments in Berlin, Paris or Madrid, all of which hoped – and continue to hope – that taming the euro zone crisis will not exact quite such a steep price in terms of national sovereignty.
Britain’s partners were seriously annoyed and the mandarins of Whitehall were left gasping for air at this reckless jettisoning of centuries of British attempts to stop the continent from coalescing into a single political entity. But this was no erratic lapse; Mr Osborne clearly expressed the view at the top of British politics.
A good year later, a moment of beautifully unguarded prime ministerial language unfolded on the Late Show with David Letterman in the US. David Cameron, having famously failed to pass Letterman’s knowledge tests on the meaning of Magna Carta and the authorship of Rule Britannia, went on to explain later in the programme that “in Europe if you have a single currency, you are going to end up with effectively some form of single government . . . I don’t want that for Britain . . . I don’t want to be part of a country called Europe.” He said this having previously made clear that the relationship between euro zone member states must surely come to resemble that between Texas and Nebraska for the euro to survive.
Most of Europe’s media ignored the comment because it was made on the Letterman show and most of the British media predictably zeroed in on Mr Cameron’s amusing failure to remember his Old Etonian Latin. They glossed over the far more important and astoundingly frank assertion by their prime minister that the euro zone, unless it disintegrated, must effectively become the United States of the Euro and that the United Kingdom under his stewardship would not wish to be part of “a country called Europe”.
Confront British officials with this moment of prime ministerial candour and they will give you a pained look. It is a rare moment indeed when it is the head of government himself who publicly lays out a matter of fundamental political import in such starkly simple – or, as some critics would say, simplistic – terms as to leave no room for diplomatic subterfuge or political compromise.
But if Cameron is right and the euro zone must basically become like a country called Europe if it is to survive (with which this author happens to agree), then, barring some unforeseeable economic cataclysm, a vast majority of Britons will choose to stay outside it for decades to come.
Equally predictably, the European Union would then be reduced to some kind of glorified European free trade area encumbered with too many obsolete institutions. Whether the UK would remain in it or negotiate some other form of access to its single market would be a secondary issue.
Surely ambitions to build a European foreign and defence policy – the one other big constitutional issue to settle – would gravitate away from the EU towards the country called Europe. After all, wars cost money and a fiscal and budgetary union would soon seize control of military expenditure.
It is unclear yet whether market pressures coupled with the objective to strengthen the euro’s foundations will suffice to make the euro zone’s leaders surmount their innate conservatism and submit their countries to the joint exercise of a massively expanded euro-zone financial, fiscal and budgetary authority.
Obviously, the vast majority of the euro zone’s present leaders hope that Mr Cameron is wrong and that salvaging the euro will require merely a series of gradual moves towards deeper integration, each of which can be fragmented or fudged sufficiently to avoid the dangers of a referendum at home – or of a make-or-break confrontation with the UK over the nature of its relationship with Europe.
London’s red lines
But equally obviously, if it is the UK that sets the bar too high, if it is London that tries to extract painful concessions from its partners as the price of allowing the euro zone to salvage itself through deeper integration, then all euro-zone leaders are now determined to ignore the red lines drawn up in London and find other ways to achieve their goal.
For decades, Europeans implicitly accepted a special British right to constantly wield its veto as the unpleasant but necessary price to pay for British club membership. Today, the stakes are too high for such tolerant behaviour.
The gamble of the euro’s founders was that once the euro would be launched, no matter how steep the price of further political integration, the price of monetary disintegration would always be higher. History has embarked us on a gigantic experiment to see whether that prediction will come to pass.
What becomes of the UK in Europe or outside, it has now become a fascinating but minor part of that far broader narrative. Continental federalists such as this author, of course, will be tempted to wish the UK Godspeed and bon voyage. After all, it might even become possible to build a US of E once the flatmate with the armoured handbag has moved out.