It’s very strange to admire someone as much as I admire Peter Tatchell, while disagreeing with almost all of his politics. While we always disagree with every person about some issues, we rarely find individuals with such courage, integrity and consistency.

Of course, I need to declare an interest, to the extent that he supported and spoke at the Rally for Free Expression last March. But his attitude towards Simon Hughes after the disgusting Lib Dem campaign in Bermondsey in the ‘eighties was that of a saint.

And anybody who had the balls to attempt a citizen’s arrest of Robert Mugabe is a fit subject for anyboby’s admiration.

I know you won’t like a lot of my politics, Peter. But, as you signed your correspondence to me during the build-up to the Rally:

Solidarity!

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Michael Gove, M.P. and Times columnist as well as author of the book Celsius 7/7 has been asking a series of Commons questions. On the 24th October:

Michael Gove: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how much (a) financial support and (b) support in kind his Department and its agencies have given to the Muslim Council of Britain in each year since 1997. [96284]

Mr. Hain: The Northern Ireland Office has provided no financial assistance or support in kind to the Muslim Council of Britain.

On the 25th, two question:

Michael Gove: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how much (a) financial support and (b) support in kind his Department and its agencies have given to the Muslim Council of Britain in each year since 1997. [96283]

David Cairns: The Scotland Office was established in July 1999. Since that date it has incurred no expenditure in cash or in kind in support of the Muslim Council of Britain.

and

Michael Gove: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how much (a) financial support and (b) support in kind his Department and its agencies have given to the Muslim Council of Britain in each year since 1997. [96282]

Mr. Hain: The Wales Office was established in 1999 and has given neither financial support nor support in kind to the Muslim Council of Britain.

So what is his point? Surely there are public accounts from which he could get this information.

Well, not exactly. The MCB has a very unusual structure(pdf):

7. Legal Status

The MCB shall be an unincorporated association.

a) The MCB shall cause title to all property, land and investments held by or on behalf of the MCB, to be vested in not less than five individuals appointed by the MCB as Holding Trustees.

I have been unable to find a page on the MCB website that lists who these holding trustees might be. And they have had a fair chunk of public money. I have a copy of a letter from the Home Office that confirms

1.I am writing to make you a formal offer of a grant for this financial year ending 31 March 2005.

2.This offer is subject to the terms and conditions set out below and in the enclosed Standard Terms and Conditions of Grant (1 April 2004). Please read these conditions, and this letter, carefully.

3.The purpose of the grant is to fund 5 projects that you proposed. These are 1) MCB Leadership Development programme 2) MCB Leadership mentoring programme 3) MCB Direct 4) British Citizenship Programme 5) British Muslim Equality programme. You may regard the money as restricted funds for accounting purposes.

4.The sum offered for the financial year ending 31 March 2005 is £148160.00 This will be a single payment and will be made on a one off basis.

There have been other grants – for website development and other specific projects.

There is a registered charity, The Muslim Council of Britain Charitable Foundation but this handles more modest sums:

Financial Year Start Financial Year End Gross Income TotalExpenditure
01 Apr 2001 31 Mar 2002 £27,146 £9,376
01 Apr 2002 31 Mar 2003 £27,848 £17,263
01 Apr 2003 31 Mar 2004 £2,215 £4,877
01 Apr 2004 31 Mar 2005 £13,401 £7,926

Small potatoes, compared to the grants flowing from the public purse to an apparently entirely unaccountable body. Their annual reports show no financial information whatsoever, just the Chairman’s speeches.

I have no idea what reason Mr Gove has for his questions. But I cannot see any justification for giving taxpayers’ money to such an opaque organisation as the MCB. Until they adopt a proper structure with filed public accounts, they should receive no more public money.

UPDATE: On reflection, my reaction was far too calm. I suppose I’m so used to seeing public money being poured into unaccountable and positively destructive holes that I just grunt and move on.

Of course the MCB should be compelled to provide audited financial statements for every year in which they have received any grants whatsoever from public sources of any kind, including the National Lottery. This is MY money and I want to know how it is being spent. As things stand, I am aware of no mechanism whereby it can be established that the MCB have spent money on the purposes for which it was awarded.

This is a disgrace.

UPDATE 2: 26th October 2006:

Michael Gove: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how much (a) financial support and (b) support in kind his Department and its agencies have given to the Muslim Council of Britain in each year since 1997. [96280]

Hilary Benn: To date no financial support has been given to the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB)

MCB were successful in securing the commitment of funding for a development awareness project among the Muslim community through the 2005-06 Development Awareness Fund which is a competitive funding scheme. The programme has not yet begun and DFID has not given any funding for activity yet.

DFID has had dealings with the MCB on occasions, including co-chairing a seminar for Islamic NGOs in 2005, and in 2001 publishing its fourth Target 2015 booklet, in association with the Muslim Council of Britain, Muslim Aid and Islamic Relief. These activities did not involve direct funding of MCB.

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I had to nip in and post this.

Argentinian prosecutors are seeking the arrest of former Iranian president Rafsanjani in connection with the 1993 bombing of a Jewish cultural centre that left 85 dead and injured more than 200.

They also were asking the judge to detain several other former Iranian officials, including a former intelligence chief, Ali Fallahijan, and former Foreign Minister Ali Ar Velayati.

They also said they were urging the judge to order the arrest of two former commanders of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, two former Iranian diplomats and a former Hezbollah security chief for external affairs.

Nisman and fellow prosecutor Marcelo Martinez Burgo said they suspected that Hezbollah undertook activities outside Lebanon only “under orders directly emanating from the regime in Tehran.”

This a very welcome initiative, and is based on a very important principle – the rule of Law.

While all complicity in terrorist actions should be prosecuted, and every tyrant should know that a court awaits them unlessd they peacefully relinquish power, the principle should be extended beyond actions to include words. The only valid exceptions to freedom of expression are incitement to violence and treason, neither of which is actually a free speech issue at all. When a cleric in, say, Pakistan offers a bountry for the murder of a cartoonist they should be extradited, tried and if convicted imprisoned for a term commensurate with an incitement to murder.

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I’m misting up.

Australian religious seer, Sheik Taj Din al-Hilali, has compassionately described rape victims thus:

If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside on the street, or in the garden or in the park, or in the backyard without a cover, and the cats come and eat it … whose fault is it, the cats or the uncovered meat?

The uncovered meat is the problem

If she was in her room, in her home, in her hijab, no problem would have occurred

Via Tim Blair (yet again). It seems this follows another Australian Sheikh, Feiz Muhammad’s gentle suggestion last year that rape victims deserve to be raped.

UPDATE – The Sheik apologised, saying he certainly didn’t mean to offend anybody. What he really meant was it’s OK to rape prostitutes.

UPDATE 2 – The Sheik apologised for his apology…(cont. p.94)

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Douglas Adams, in The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy made a very British joke about the origins of the human species.

On a distant planet a terrible, if unspecified, disaster was looming. The population was divided into three parts: the scientists and thinkers, the doers (engineers, plumbers, businessmen), and the middlemen – advertising agents, telephone sanitisers and the like. The middlemen were sent out on a spacecraft and the rest promised they would follow. But the middlemen hadn’t heard anything from them for a while… and then they crashed into the Earth.

While this rings true, in modern Britain, evolution meant that some people with enterprise developed. And what enterprise was shown here, in the cradle of the Agricultural and Industrial revolutions; the home of the Elizabethans who crossed in the Atlantic in ships the size of double-decker buses; the birthplace of the eighteenth-century Bulldogs and the mighty Victorians.

Unfortunately, it seems, they all buggered off, emigrated to Australia and the USA. Our national character now seems to be that of the people, in Adam’s book, who haven’t built a wheel yet because the Tincture Committee hasn’t yet decided what colour it should be, though it has set up a focus group.

While we spend, for example, £300M for tattoo removal on the NHS, in America they produce genuine technical innovation by having fun.

If anyone missed the DARPA Grand Challenge, which was won this year, check out their website. A $2M cash prize was offered to the first organisation that managed to put a fully autonomous, full size vehicle through an arduous 132 mile desert course in less than 10 hours. Teams were organised in Universities, private companies, or just by enthusiasts; think Robot Wars with Humvees and 4x4s. It was won last year by Stanford University. The next competition will be in an urban environment. Two million dollars! An interpersonal facilitation development counselling team-building consultancy focus group wouldn’t get out of bed for that kind of money. But DARPA got weird-looking vehicles, diesel smoke, unmanned jeeps crashing through rivers…

Now we have, or rather they have, the Space Elevator Games, with entrants like the University of Saskatchewan Space Design Team. And this one cost just $400,000 in prize money (which hasn’t been won yet). The idea of a space elevator came from Arthur C. Clarke. It is likely to be a signature of technology sometime later this century, as another idea of his, geostationary satellites, have been for decades already.

And that’s where the real tragedy of this lies. Clarke is, of course, an Englishman. Computers were developed to a significant degree by the British. The world wide web was designed by an Brit. The jet engine… There is enormous talent, enterprise and innovation in this country. We are not a nation of telephone sanitisers. But we are governed by them.

Last year, Gordon Brown made a speech in which he promised to make Britain a centre for science and technology. On the same day, Hull University announced it was going to close its Maths Department. The year before, when Exeter University announced the closure of its Chemistry Department, Sir Harry Kroto announced he was going to return his Nobel Prize for Chemistry in protest. We are going through an unprecedented collapse of science in particular, and of genuine education in general at the same time as we see a massive resurgence of religious fundamentalism and religious “education”.

We cannot survive this. It is national suicide. It will impoverish us, diminish us, condemn us to a twilight of superstition and ignorance.

But we can fight back.

And one way, one small start, would be the announcement of a few small prizes – game show money – for technical achievement, but fun technical achievement. There’s no better way to harness the ingenuity, time, expertise and enthusiasm of thousands than to offer, say, £2M for the first fully autonomous aircraft to perch on a scaffolding pole like a bird after completing an obstacle course. In the great scheme of public expenditure, this is less than peanuts. It is nothing.

But in our dreams, our hopes, and in our future, rebuilding our scientific heritage is everything. Labour has shattered it. They will continue to destroy for as long as they hold power. We can’t really, on past performance, expect anything from the Tories except the dessicated, over-intellectualised management of national decline.

We deserve better. Where are we going to get it from?

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I hold two passports – British and Australian. I’m very sad indeed to say that I’d prefer the former to be an English passport nowadays but I have no reservations about the Australian one. I’d give anything to have a Prime Minister like John Howard over this side of the world, and I’m very proud about the role the Australian troops have been playing in the war against the 21st Century equivalent of the Nazis.

Beccy Cole is an Australian singer who is also proud of the Diggers and she has toured some of the places they are stationed at the moment, entertaining them, supporting them and, it has to be said, significantly enhancing the landscape wherever she has gone. That has made her some enemies among the anti-civilisation movement; in some places her posters have been defaced and torn down.

She has responded with a song.

Via Tim Blair, who got it via Blackfive, who got it… well, you can read the other links if you click through.

But before you do, listen to the lady.

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We knew at the time that France’s opposition to the invasion of Iraq was largely driven by its oil interests – Elf was a major player in Iraq’s oil program. Then we learned that a bit of graft might have been an influence.

Now EUReferendum has a characteristically excellent post surveying French foreign policy. Sample:

Given that the continuous and expanding threads of evidence point to France as a country that has, from Vietnam through Algeria and a succession of African colonies up to and including the Ivory Coast, exercised a wholly malign influence, we really do have to ask ourselves whether this is a country with which we can afford to be associated.

Read it all.

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