The Labour Party leader Keir Starmer.

The Liberal Democrats have just elected a new leader but before that here are my thoughts on the British Labour Party leader.


I’m a Liberal, and definitely anti-Socialist, but I do like Keir Starmer. I followed his career from when he was a young civil liberties barrister, as a Professor I worked with at Leeds spoke very highly of him. I think he can do well. My mentor in my first graduate job, at Leeds University, Professor Clive Walker, recommended Starmer as one of his brightest graduates. And I trusted Clive Walker’s judgment greatly. (From 1992 onwards). Clive thought Keir would go far.

The new Labour Leader Keir Starmer. I think he is very competent and can win – ironically he is a socialist from an ordinary background but because he is posh sounding and not far Left the Left are very hostile to him. Starmer. I always thought he was from the North East of Scottish background because he is named after the founding Labour MP Keir Hardie. In fact I was always wrong as Starmer was born in London. A leading civil liberties barrister of his generation I thought it was a brilliant move of the Labour Government in  2008 to appoint him Director of Public Prosecutions, head of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) as an expert civil liberties barrister would have a good idea what needed reforming or could be done better.

Based on social media posts, 7, 13 April 2020.

PS I’ve also spelt his first name wrong all these years, though hopefully not in my second major academic article, on breach of the peace and protest, with then Dr. Donald Nicolson, which analysed a case that Starmer and others took to the European Court of Human Rights and kindly sent me the papers in.


An encounter with non-European wide standardisation & regulation.

So all this European standardisation that is forced on us :-). In the UK if I apply for a refund from a company on my card, physically or online, they automotically make the refund. From a French company – a form, two pieces of paperwork, & up to 28 days for them to make the refund of €48 which was charged by their mistake. (Ignoring the several phone calls & emails to work out the system & why they needed the paperwork, which was mainly down to my lack of French).

And Regular reminder, all that health & safety ‘from Europe’. In Northern Ireland (surprisingly), the Republic of Ireland (the bit further north), Spain & France Aug – Nov none of the British health & safety culture. I appreciate our and EU health & safety when I see the shocking absence of it in non-EU countries. But maybe again it’s the UK not the EU responsible for over cautious bureaucracy. And each of those countries I visited were distinctively (Northern) Irish, Spanish and French, very different from England and Wales. No sign of being merged into a European culture

A few snippets for international election observers at the UK election.

Next week a few international independent election observers, and a small number of British ones, will observe the UK General Election. I shared a few points that I thought might be of interest for – lighthearted or serious – background with the team from SDAI, Sustainable Development Assistance International – Aidde International Developpment Durable.
“SDAI-AIDD is a small, independent, non-profit, non-governmental organization (NGO), based in eastern Canada.”

I post some of the points here for easy reading.
At the end I add links explaining the role of tellers – party supporters who sit outside polling stations and ask voters if they have voted. These are not common in other countries I have visited for elections. Those countries also have a 24 hour campaign silence period before E-Day to allow voters peaceful reflection, which we do not have in the UK.

1). Matt election cartoons in the Daily Telegraph.

2). An example of election local news coverage from one constituency – Wrexham.

3). Last minute Voter registration rush.

4). Facebook ads, the BBC and the digital campaign.

5). The role of tellers at polling stations.

Hello everyone,

I look forward to seeing some of you next week and also meeting a few of the team for the first time.

1). I thought you might like the Matt cartoon that I saw on the front page of my Mum’s Daily Telegraph. It’s a very biased Conservative paper (not a tabloid though with as much gossip and scandal, as well as ‘Society’ and business news) but the cartoons are very good

You will probably need to register for a free account to view the links.

2). In addition, while looking at another news story entirely I happened upon an advert for the election coverage by one local news site. I just thought it was a good example of localised election candidate and constituency information, in a public service type way.

This is just for two constituencies around one town, Wrexham, in North West Wales, so gives you a little local picture.

3). As you may know, the UK does not have automatic and continuous election registration. Before each election there is a rush to encourage people to register to vote. Many who want to vote miss the deadline – which is earlier than in the Eastern European countries that I’ve visited on EOMs.
This year more people registered on the last day than ever before. There was much coverage of this on Twitter. E.g. this tweet from the Electoral Reform Society highlights how 1 million more people registered during the election period this time than last time:

2.8m applications to #RegisterToVote since the election was called.

On November 25 they wrote:
There were an estimated 9m missing from the electoral roll as of December 2018 – so there’s still a long way to go to close the gap.

Tuesday is the last day to register before the election – deadline MIDNIGHT. Keep spreading the word #RegisterToVote

4). I’m also attaching a scan from the New European newspaper, from the end of August, which is the only article that I’ve seen before the election analysising the political parties’ spend on social media. This election the BBC is doing a lot of work analysing the digital campaign, more than before. See:

and some more information below.

I’ll also pop these links in the OSCE election observers Facebook group that many of us belong to.

Best wishes,

Kiron, Liverpool.

PS you can set many of the Matt cartoons here:

Unsurprisingly many of the recent ones are political and I don’t think you need to be British to get the jokes. The picture on yesterday’s front page of Donald and Melania outside 10 Downing Street seemed like a joke Christmas card but that one was real.

Online election ads – who is targeting whom?

By Rory Cellan-Jones

Technology correspondent

11 November 2019

Huw Edwards to lead BBC’s Election 2019 coverage
Date: 04.11.2019 Last updated: 08.11.2019 at 14.41

Making sense of the election


The BBC will have its first Digital Election Reporter, Joe Tidy, who will work alongside the BBC’s Media Editor Amol Rajan, focusing on the all-important digital campaigns being run by the parties and the vital role social media will play in the election.

5). Tellers.
As I wrote “You need some explanation of what happens at polling stations – specifically the presence of party tellers, which observers might meet”. The voting, verification and counting procedures in the UK are all pretty simple but different to other countries in North America, Europe and the former Soviet Union where the OSCE observe and international observers with the OSCE (the organisation I work with from time to time) are often not familiar with party representatives being present outside polling stations.

C. The role of tellers.

I attach the guidance poster from the Electoral Commission, 2017 version.

Tellers’ dos and don’ts (PDF)
This document contains a summary of what tellers can and must not do and should be read in conjunction with any guidance issued locally by the Returning Officer

That is one page. I don’t think anyone needs to read the four page detailed guidance for tellers. Which is this one:

Political-ads-social-media-UK-TNE-29-Aug-2019.pdf (3433 downloads )


Tellers-dos-and-donts-generic-EC-2017-1.pdf (3451 downloads )

Electoral observing in Britain.

The British Electoral Commission has published their New Code of Practice for Electoral Observers and a link to the consultation response paper. Here are key actions from their email. And I paste the specific links after that.

“We are now taking forward a number of actions to update the scheme. These include:

· launching a new online application process for individuals and organisations seeking accreditation as electoral observers from January 2019

· redesigning the electoral observer ID badge which will be issued to all observers from January 2019

· developing a programme of work to improve the guidance we make available to electoral observers, and those running elections

· introducing a voluntary feedback mechanism for electoral observers from the next scheduled elections in May 2019

· updating our approach to how we handle applications for accreditation of electoral observers”

The response is here:

And the revised Code of Practice here:

Pre-election processes comment. Overall I personally agree with the changes, mostly improvements in the working of the scheme, but criticise a couple of areas where no change is proposed. The Commission has engaged with feedback received. For example on the issue of whether observers should notify administrators in advance of where they intend to observe. Also in relation to observers giving feedback (both encouraged, but not a requirement). On the other hand they state, pretty pathetically, that observers cannot observe pre-Eday processes such as “access to electoral registers and staff training” because we “cannot provide for this without changes to the legal framework.” Instead of proposing to Parliament to improve the law. (The same answer you get about not being able to inspect candidate election expenses online which is pathetic in the 2010s).

In response to a question from my Irish colleague, Michael G, I made this point – I cannot think of any legal reason why the organisers cannot invite anyone for good reason to observe training. It would seem wholly reasonable to invite accredited observers to do so if they wish. I can also think of no practical reason. I hope someone will correct me if I am wrong – there are a miniscule number of people registered as accredited observers in the UK. I personally know three only.  So I don’t think numbers wanting to observe would be a problem. [I’ve now checked the numbers and give more details at the end – there are actually 250 observers, though not all British.]

The requirement of being politically impartial comment. The Electoral Commission are reiterating their very wide interpretation of a being politically impartial requirement. This was a key area that I objected to. They have considered, engaged with (slightly) and rejected the critique of such a requirement. “Some suggested that political impartiality should only apply during an election period, rather than for the full length of the accreditation. In summary they – public officials – decide (full extract below) “members, officers or employees of a UK registered political party who would be, or are likely to be, politically active during their accreditation period must not apply for accreditation.”

. “Being affiliated to a UK registered political party, or a non-party campaign group, does not automatically disqualify a person from being accredited as an electoral observer. However, members, officers or employees of a UK registered political party who would be, or are likely to be, politically active during their accreditation period must not apply for accreditation.

If we find evidence that an applicant has previously campaigned, or has been politically active, we will contact the applicant to make sure they are aware of and can meet the requirement for political impartiality during their period of accreditation. We believe this is essential to maintain integrity and confidence in the independence of the electoral observer scheme.”

These restrictive criteria seem to me to clearly infringe an individual’s right to both freedom of association and freedom of expression. If they exercise their freedom of expression or freedom of association even significantly before an election period they are barred from being able to be an observer. It erroneously gives the impression as well that people who are party politically active are not able to be objective.

A personal note (as an aggrieved self-publicist 🙂 ). In an administrative error, I find that the Commission engaged with the points that I made but did not actually list me in the respondents to the consultation [unless, erroneously, as an international observer abroad they have put me in their category of ‘accredited observer’]. I suspect this is the misinterpretation of law by many government and public bodies (and petition websites) that believe if an individual replies to a consultation (or signs a petition) data protection means their identity should not be revealed, even though the individual is specifically replying to a public consultation / signing a public petition. I never intend my responses to public consultations, or signature on petitions, to be secret.

The number of independent accredited election observers in the UK?

I am surprised to find that there are 250 accredited observers in the current UK list that runs out at the end of December. Although this includes both officials from government departments and some foreign government and organisation observers I guess from the designations.
These numbers include 20 from a Ukrainian NGO (one that I haven’t heard of myself, ‘Leading Legal Initiatives’), UK Cabinet Office and Scottish Government officials, Korean and Singaporean diplomats. The UK NGO Democracy Volunteers is the largest group (50), and there is one enterprising school listed, Stowe School. I know at least 5 of the people on the list.

What is the European Commission really like?

Former NW England MEP Chris Davies writes.

The European Commission is both the EU’s executive (government) and its civil service. It has the job of coming up with the ideas and the legislation to put into practice the principles agreed in the EU Treaties and the wishes of the 28 EU governments. It also has the job of trying to enforce the agreed rules and ensure that there is a level playing field.

The Commission does not have a police force at its disposal, nor an army. To enforce the rules it calls in the ‘bureaucrats’ to write letters to governments, and when that fails it brings in the lawyers. The EU is not so much an independent body, more a set of legal agreements between independent countries. Enforcing the rules is often a slow business done mostly by persuasion because the Courts are even slower!

There are 28 Commissioners, one for each EU country, and they serve for a period of 5 years. These are the real ‘Brussels Bureaucrats, but most of them are former elected ministers with an impressive track record in their own countries. They are nominated by the governments of their respective countries, but have to undergo a three-hour interview by MEPs and be endorsed by the European Parliament. MEPs like to find a reason for rejecting at least one candidate just to keep the governments on their toes.

By the way, next time you hear UKIP complain about ‘unelected officials’ in Europe why not ask who elects the government of the USA? We know that the President is elected but all the other U.S. ministers are appointed, very like European Commissioners.

The current Commission likes to think of itself as a reforming one that is tackling the big issues and cutting down on the small ones. It is also big on communication. In the first year of its 5-year term the various Commissioners answered questions from the world’s media in Brussels on 138 occasions; they addressed the European Parliament 58 times and answered 14,467 parliamentary questions from MEPs; they also took part in 45 public meetings/town hall debates.

The big boast of the present Commission is that it is working to curb over-regulation. It says that during the period 2010-14 an average of 130 items of new legislation were proposed annually, whereas last year the number was down to 23. It also points to the fact that 80 proposals already in the legislative pipeline were withdrawn.

This is not a European bureaucracy that ploughs on regardless of public opinion. It’s a political body of people with strong democratic traditions, and they are listening and responding to the mood across Europe.

Liberal Democrats North West Notes & News 3 November 2015.

News from the North West Lib Dems, 19 January 2016.

The European Commission has ordered the Belgian government to collect €700 million of taxes from 35 multinational companies trading in that country.

The EU Competition Commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, says that the Belgian government has been doing illegal ‘sweetheart’ deals to attract business from large companies. But these deals are unfair to small companies that don’t get the same benefits, are unfair to other European countries, and break EU state aid rules.

So here we have the European Commission, the so-called ‘Brussels bureaucrats’ so loathed by the Europhobes, playing the role of umpire, doing the job of enforcing the rules intended to guarantee fair play, and protecting British interests from unfair competition.

What would we do without them? If the UK pulls out of the EU there will be no rules to say that competition must be fair.

Incidentally, Margrethe Vestager (47), who is a bit of a star in the Commission, is a former parliamentary group leader of the Danish Social Liberal Party, Radikale Venstre, which is very much a sister party to the British Lib Dems. She was deputy prime minister of Denmark before being nominated as Denmark’s commissioner.

Her husband is a maths teacher. They have three daughters. And she served as an inspiration for the main character in the Danish TV series ‘Borgen’ who has to juggle family life with a thoroughly honourable but intensely time-consuming life in politics. (Highly recommended and utterly absorbing if you haven’t seen it).

Maybe the ‘faceless’ European Commissioners aren’t so bad after all!

Chris Davies

Factual comments on Brexiter posts on Otto English’s Daniel Barenboim BBC Prom video.

The comments by nearly all the anti-EU people on this video illustrate all that was wrong with the EU referendum, what failed during the referendum and what failed since. There are exceptions – there are some more informed and well argued comments but most are textbook of the worst lies, fakes, myths and anti-EU propaganda that has been rammed down the throats of people in Britain by the tabloid press, right wing and far left wing politicians / Trades Unions, and the billionaire backers of Brexit. That is what is so utterly shameful about the referendum.

This wonderful principled life affirming passionate plea by the World famous international conductor Daniel Barenboim, at the BBC Proms, has been followed on a You Tube post by a torrent of incorrect and untrue statements about the EU. Argument, much of it by myself, has come to dominate in the thread after the video the humanitarian points made by Mr. Barenboim. The comments and ‘likes’ by many do answer the stereotype of ‘the Proms’ being an English/British nationalist event when I found myself – through the family I married into – that the Proms is for lovers of classical music and culture. As I’ve taken up much time myself on the YouTube thread I’ve put answers to the main factually untrue statements here on my website.

The main anti-EU ‘myths’ or lies put forward in these threads.
1. Bendy or straight bananas. Nonsense.
2. Laws are made in Brussels. Greatly exaggerated.
3. Imperial martyrs or metric martyrs. As daft as the Duke of Essex.
4. Auditors have signed off the EU accounts for many years.
5. “Only the unelected commissioners can propose laws”. True. But Commissioners are civil servants proposed by the member countries and voted in by the democratically elected EU Parliament. Civil servants are not usually elected in any country. Improvement and reform are, as pro- and anti-EU critics agree, greatly needed.

4 untrue. 1 true. So 1 out of 5 to the anti-EU commentators.

For detail see:

Detail. For sources, see below.
1. Bendy bananas. Anyone can sell straight bananas. The EU regulations are a trade system of classifying bananas. Your supermarket can sell them if it wants to.

2. Our laws are made in the UK and most do not originate from European Union regulations.
“An estimated 13% of Acts and Statutory Instruments have an EU influence, whereas that rises to 62% when EU regulations are included in addition to Acts and Statutory Instruments.”
“13% is likely to be too low, in reality, but 62% is much too high”
In Criminal Law – what many people think of as the most serious law – my own field, EU influence is minimal (much of what there is due to environmental, consumer protection and UK agreed fight against terrorism and serious crime measures).

3. Goods can be sold in imperial measures but they have to have metric on. No one is stopping any trader quantifying goods in Imperial – there is no metric martyr just a publicity hungry metric phobe. The UK signed up to metric before joining the EU & it’s why we have systems of weights and measures – why feet and ounces etc. were introduced originally – to facilitate fair trade. No one is stopping me buying my pint of 556ml of beer.

4. Auditors have signed off the EU accounts for nearly ten years and before that highlighted discrepancies that were mostly down to lack of proper accounting for spending in members states – by the public authorities and those given grants in our own countries. “auditors have not signed off the accounts since 1994” This statement has been factually corrected numerous times.

5. “Only the unelected commissioners can propose laws”. True. But Commissioners are civil servants proposed by the member countries and voted in by the democratically elected EU Parliament. MEPs can make proposals to go to the Commission for consideration, just as in reality British MPs can only really make suggestions for policy as the Government decides what the policies are. For more on the Commission see the next article, by former MEP Chris Davies (Liberal Democrat, NW England) on the roles of the Commission and Parliament.

So MEPs can suggest new laws – in reality the same as UK MPs – and have equal power to make law in most areas. This is an intra-country system, not a country’s Parliament. However, I agree that the democratically elected Parliament should have more powers. The EU Commission is more open to scrutiny and transparent than the UK ministries & civil service but I still agree with many critics, and with President Macron, that the EU is too bureaucratic and expensive and needs reform. The failure of British Tory and Labour Prime Ministers and MPs to achieve this is one of the biggest failures of British political leadership over the last decades. I’ve argued this for many years – our representatives have failed to do so.

Sources (there are many more for each one)
1. Of course if you don’t trust the EU (who like any public body provide masses of factual information) you can check one of many other sources.
Banana lie shown false more than a decade ago.



4. “The ECA [European Court of Auditors] signed off on the 2014 accounts as reliable, as it has for every set of figures since 2007. But it did find that payments were materially affected by errors.” Sam Ashworth-Hayes, Last updated: 10 Nov 2015

5. Apart from the Chris Davies article I reproduce there are good pieces by other British Members of the European Parliament who use their position to explain what really happens in Brussels. Including: Labour Yorkshire & Humber Linda McAvan: and Green for the South West Molly Scott Cato:
Labour MEP Richard Corbett’s refreshingly clear more political Mythbuster can be found here:

Cover note.

The comments by nearly all the anti-EU people on this video illustrate all that was wrong with the EU referendum, what failed during the referendum and what failed since. There are exceptions – there are some more informed and well argued comments (some from ‘Creme Creme’, although he or she repeats the ‘parity of lies’ nonsense; some from ‘caesarott’ and some from Julian Morgan). Nearly every comment by ‘chrish12345’ is an absolute textbook of the worst lies, fakes, myths and anti-EU propaganda that has been rammed down the throats of people in Britain by the tabloid press, right wing and far left wing politicians / Trades Unions, and the billionaire backers of Brexit. That is what is so utterly shameful about the referendum. The majority of our political leaders – Labour, Conservative and most Liberal Democrat for many years – failed to tell the truth about the EU to people, to explain what the EU does and the BBC gave lies and myths equal coverage to actual facts. During the referendum this continued unabated and in the year since it has been an end to truth. The people who don’t like truth just don’t believe it.

The EU has overseen the longest period of peace between European nations in modern history. The European Community was specifically founded to ensure peace between France and Germany & that other countries are not caught up in a wider European war as happened for centuries. You may not like a quote from the New European newspaper but it sums it up perfectly “The politician who created the European Union did so because they had witnessed war and they had felt its devastation personally. They never wanted it to happen again.” Ian Walker obituary of Helmut Kohl, 23 June.

Really want to see what happens in reality ‘in Brussels’? Go and visit the wonderful Belgium capital which happens to host the EU headquarters and go and see the EU Parliament and Commission for yourself. In reality not in internet and tabloid myth and lies.

Edward G. Hemmerde KC; a note on the judge who stood against racism.

Further to my previous post of a remarkable report from the Guardian, from 1944, where a senior Liverpool judge takes a stand against racism. Here are a few lines of background about

Edward G. Hemmerde KC (1871-1948). It was also notable that the West Indian man, convicted of failing to attend Home Guard duties, George Roberts, is represented by Rose Heilbron, the Liverpool Law Faculty graduate and pioneering female barrister.

Edward G. Hemmerde KC (1871-1948) is probably unknown in Liverpool nowadays but deserves to be better known as a significant city political figure and character, and a judge who spoke out against racism in 1944. He was brought to my attention by my bookdealer father-in-law of Cardiff.

Nicholas Willmott writes

Yesterday I picked up a play written by him (‘Proud Maisie’ 1912). It is perfectly dreadful: Scottish historical drama portrayed through acres of blank verse – apparently the first night did not conclude until 11.45pm! However, I discover that Hemmerde’s career was rather more concerned with law and politics (and rowing) rather than literature.

I learn that he sat as a Liberal MP, latterly switching to Labour, and that his political career was largely abandoned after financial irregularities became the subject of court hearings. However, having been appointed Recorder of Liverpool in 1909, he maintained a prominent legal career up to his death.

Looking up old newspaper clippings it becomes clear that he enjoyed a frosty relationship with Liverpool Corporation, something he ascribed to his insistence that Sinn Fein defendants received a fair hearing, and his frequent complaints about heavy-handed policing.
I attach a remarkable 1944 clipping from the Guardian. The case also involves, early in her career, Rose Heilbron.

There is a substantial article in ‘The Journal of Liberal History’, Winter 2010, ‘The Strange Case of E.G. Hemmerde’ by David Dutton. From which article I learn that his defects probably rather outweighed his virtues. Fortunately, for Hemmerde, David Dutton skates over the man’s dubious literary accomplishments.

It is possibly significant that our copy of ‘Proud Maisie’ remains, after more than a century, largely unopened. However, there is no difficulty in assessing the quality of the verse: astonishingly bad. His name must always have prompted a smirk the other side of the Channel where, as I am sure you know, ’emmerdeur’ loosely translates as ‘pain in the fundament’.

I suspect there will not be a revival of interest in Hemmerde’s literary output any time soon. It was fortunate that the ‘Journal of Liberal History’ article was old enough to be available online. One can relish some of the impressive personal abuse quoted from correspondence.

Anti-racism stand by Liverpool judge, 1944.

The picture below is of a remarkable report from the Guardian, from 1944, where a senior Liverpool judge takes a stand against racism. The defendant, George Roberts, (a West Indian helping the war effort and victim of discrimination) was represented by the Liverpool University Law graduate, and pioneering female barrister, Rose Heilbron.

Edward G. Hemmerde KC (1871-1948) was the Recorder of Liverpool, so the top criminal law judge in the city. The report, from the Manchester Guardian, was found and provided to me by Nicholas Willmott, bookdealer of Cardiff (and father in law). Nick had found a copy of Hemmerde’s excrutiatingly bad poetry in a charity bookshop in Newport so was researching just who he was.

The Colour Bar in England

THE COLOUR BAR IN ENGLAND: Recorder’s Denunciation of a “Noisy, Intolerant Minority”
Source. The Manchester Guardian (1901-1959); Aug 2, 1944; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Guardian and The Observer pg. 3