Birds of a feather

Germany has tossed a Holocaust denier into prison, and the American Christianist right is all outraged about it. Or so PZ Myers tells me; it’s telling that I had to learn about this from him, as this hasn’t been a big story here at all.

As you probably know, it is illegal in Germany to deny the Holocaust. Lutheran pastor Johannes Lerle denied it publicly; he was tried, found guilty and sentenced to a year behind bars. So far, so yawn. Germany has its share of reactionaries, but any of them stupid enough to deny the Holocaust publicly are punished; end of story as far as the Germans are concerned.

Not in the USA, though. For some on that side of the Atlantic, Pastor Lerle is a Christian martyr. Continue reading

UKIP with adverbs

The “Open Europe” boys apparently think that giving the EU a legal personality would be a huge transfer of powers from the UK to “Brussels”. Legal personality, essentially, means that the EU would be allowed to sign cheques – or rather that it could sign for the member states.

Well, that sounds like a big transfer of powers, no? The EU could sign away the spoons and we’d know nothing of it! Sadly, as always with Eurosceptics, there is a lot of discourse abuse here. The EU is a law-governed entity. That is to say, whether it could sign something is governed by its own decision-making procedures. Having legal personality would not give the Commission, or whatever, more power to make decisions, as it is subject to its own procedures. The only situation where “Britain” would lose powers here would be if we were to assent to something (if it was this important, it would presumably be subject to unanimity) and then decide to refuse our signature, after ratifying it!

Why, in this wild scenario, would we care? Wouldn’t we be leaving anyway? Enough of “Open Europe”, anyway. How does this stuff differ in quality from, say, David Noakes?

Sometimes it’s who you don’t vote for that counts

As many Fistful readers will be aware, it’s widely expected that there’ll be a General Election in the UK this May. Of course, because of the way our system works, no one can say for definite when it will be until the Prime Minister actually goes to the Queen and requests that she dissolve Parliament but all the signs on the Magic Political 8-Ball point to an election on 05/05/05 (for once, a date we can all agree on regardless of how you order days, months and years).

The UK remains the only country in the EU to use the First Past The Post electoral system which means that, thanks to the vagaries of the system, we can have electoral results that seem somewhat odd to an external observer. Since 1945, no party has won more than 50% of the national vote (the Conservatives came closest in 1955 and 1959) but only one election – in the February election of 1974 – has seen neither of the two main parties (Conservatives and Labour) achieve a majority of the seats in Parliament.
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The trials of the Tories

Later today, Iain Duncan Smith, the leader of Britain’s Conservative Party, will face a vote of confidence in his leadership that he’s widely expected not to survive. (For those of you looking for blogged coverage during the day, I recommend British Politics, Anthony Wells, Iain Murray and our own Matthew Turner. We’re yet to have a blogging Conservative MP, but there’s some interesting perspectives from inside Westminster from the MPs Tom Watson and Richard Allan.)
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