Thursday, 19 November 2009


OK, E8Voice is finally dead. I launched my new blog- which contains the entire archive from E8Voice- at

Anyone who links to then I'd be really grateful if you could change your link to the content on this site will not be updated though it will remain live for the time being.

Go on, give the new blog a visit and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Clause IV- did Labour ditch too much?

When Labour ditched its old Clause IV- which was the right thing to do- did it ditch too much? I am increasingly having to pinch myself when I observe some of things that are now happening such as the public ownership of High Street banks. The events of the last two years have brought a new found intellectual freedom. I never thought that I would ever revisit the old Clause IV. But that is exactly what I found myself doing today for my labour movement column on LabourList:
"The left used to be all about ownership. Democratic socialism saw ownership as power. Without common ownership, there couldn’t be socialism. Hence Labour’s old Clause IV: equity was premised on the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange.

Then the Gaitskellites and the revisionists got their hands on the concept. The journey from the late 1950s to the final repeal of the old Clause IV in 1995 was a forty year march of the Labour party away from paying much heed to ownership as a means of creating a more equitable society. If you forage through the verbiage of the current Clause IV you find such gems as how Labour will work to ‘promote equality of opportunity.’ Nice to know but such words float into the ether before long.

While the left was quickly dragging itself away from discussing any meaningful concept of ownership a very different thing was happening on the right: it was very actively discussing ownership and it proved to be an intellectually and politically reenergising discussion. Meanwhile, the new Clause IV doesn’t even mention ownership."
Just before you think I've taken an abrupt turn left, it is worth bearing a few things in mind:

- Common ownership is a very different thing to public ownership. In fact they are completely distinct.
- This is not a left or right issue: Thatcher was very interested in spreading ownership though her distribution was inequitable. Progressive conservatives are now openly talking about 'recapitalising the poor' and David Cameron himself seems to be engaged with this agenda.
- Ownership reconnects Labour to some forgotten threads of leftist philosophy: GDH Cole (above), RH Tawney, JB Priestley, and Common Wealth. Mutualism could be an idea whose time has come.

It's fine keeping all this at a philosophical level but now there needs to be a move towards investigating how this could work in practice (and there are already some experiments in Scotland.) To that end, I am jointly working on an idea which I'll float in the next week or two.....stay posted.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Why Tripadvisor doesn't work (and Wikipedia does)

I used for the first time this weekend. The main bulk of its contents are generated by its users just as is the case with Wikipedia.

However, popular though it is I won't be using it for a very good reason. Opinion requires a certain stock of trust whereas fact is just fact. In the case of you have no idea who the reviewers are. The law of averages doesn't work when it comes to opinion- the average may be in a very different place to where you are personally as anyone on the far left or right of British politics could testify.

So I put my scepticism to the test with two hotels where I have stayed in the last two years. One was excellent- the Marmara Pera Hotel in Istanbul- to the extent that I'll be staying there again the weekend after next. One was average to below average- the Prime Hotel St John in Rome. I won't be staying there again.

Amazingly, gives them both a pretty similar score. The Marmara Pera, despite its spectacular Bosphorous view, roof top bar and the fact it houses one of the best modern restaurants in Istanbul, scores 85%. Prime Hotel St John scores 81% despite the fact that it's an utterly mediocre, over-priced business hotel. It's basically a Travelodge despite its four-star rating.

And that's the difference between tripadvisor and Wikipedia. The latter is based on facts. It is either wrong or right but you can check it. It's right almost all of the time so you are willing to go with it in the main. Opinions can't be checked. On tripadvisor you don't know who the people are, what they are looking for, what they like, how picky they are, or whether there's more motivation to post if you've had an extremely good or extremely bad experience. So there just isn't the foundation to trust in the site. Trust is very important to go with an opinion.

So I was interested to see the NHS going with a 'tripadvisor' style system for ranking health services. Take this example of my local GP. There's only one review so not much to go on. But surely I should be mistrustful given that this is an anonymous opinion?

Strangely though, it works in the case of Because, despite the hype, it's not actually like tripadvisor at all. Its ratings have a fairly factual basis: whether you can get through on the phone, how flexible the practice is, how you are treated by the GP and the staff, and the information that you receive.

So which is an excellent web-site- works precisely because it's not like tripadvisor. It's reviews are based on factual assessments. So when I come to use the NHS, I will be using When I come to book my holiday I won't bother with tripadvisor. Oh, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't use Wikipedia. Of course I do.

Friday, 13 November 2009

An Afghanistan strategy built on quicksand?

So the US Ambassador to Afghanistan has put a spanner in the works of mission creep in Afghanistan. I don't know why the US military and diplomatic corps don't just publish all their advice on the internet, it seems to end up there in days anyway.

General Eikenberry's memo cautions against a further troop build-up in the face of the continuing dysfunctionality of the Karzai regime. MSNBC reports it as follows:
"That stance comes in the midst of forceful reservations about a possible troop buildup from the U.S. ambassador in Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry, according to a second top administration official.

In strongly worded classified cables to Washington, Eikenberry said he had misgivings about sending in new troops while there are still so many questions about the leadership of Afghan President Hamid Karzai."
If there is one lesson from the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, it is that you can't build a modern state on quicksand. And Karzai and his corrupt government are mushy to their very core. What are the chances of him becoming a paragon of virtue? Minimal I would say. President Obama is right to carefully consider whether to send the 40,000 troops requested by ISAF Commander, General Stanley McChrystal. He needs to use any build-up- at the very least as leverage to get change in the Afghanistani government. I would go as far as to suggest that Karzai, despite his election victory, should step down for the simple reason that his incompetence vastly the increases the risk of the troop surge strategy. His other option should be that we leave him to the Taliban. His choice.

Patrick Cockburn argues the moral hazard point forcibly in The Independent today:
"Mr Eikenberry is rightly sceptical about the dispatch of reinforcements to prop up a regime which is more of a racket than an administration. The troops may kill more Taliban, but they will also be their recruiting sergeants. As for the Afghan government, its ill-paid forces will not be eager to fight harder if they can get the Americans and the British to do their fighting for them."
The superb Christina Lamb analysed the situation with customary thoroughness in the Sunday Times last weekend. Here are some highlights.

On the Afghan police:
"As the terrible events of last week show, creating a reliable police force is another huge obstacle. Nato officials estimate that 90% of Afghan police officers are illiterate and a third are drug addicts. Paid just $100 a month for dangerous work — more than 1,000 officers have been killed in the past year — the threat of corruption is high. The rush to expand the force has meant training is minimal and background checks consist merely of two other policemen vouching for them."
On the dilemma facing the Afghan people:
"Most Afghans are on the fence, with the Taliban intimidating them on one side, and corrupt officials and police demanding bribes on the other. In southern Afghanistan there are many cases where locals have called on the Taliban to come back because the police have been raping their young boys or have failed to deal with highway robbers."
The situation is desperate. The potential for serious further losses severe. The chances of success- when Karzai is the only option- are very uncertain. And yet, we can't just walk away and let the country descend into chaos. Equally, getting further and further embroiled in the situation is highly risky.

As I wrote last week on the anniversary of Barack Obama's election victory:
"And beyond America's shores, the most difficult decision of his presidency awaits. The last great progressive reformer, Lyndon B Johnson had his presidency scuppered by Vietnam. It is not melodramatic to suggest that President Obama faces just as serious a choice.

It is a choice that is about life and liberty not politics. The Afghanistan war is going disastrously. President Obama must choose between retrenchment and deeper engagement. A halfway house - and his inner pragmatist does have a tendency to split the difference - will feel unsatisfactory. The big strategic question suggests that he must go with the recommendations of the ISAF commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal or radically change direction.

If he goes for an additional 20,000 troops instead of the 40,000 requested then he will need all his powers of persuasion. Whatever course he chooses he must follow through on the pledge in his victory speech to ‘always be honest with you about the challenges we face.'"
The all or change strategy choice is one that military strategist David Kilcullen outlines in The Guardian today. His preference is for all. I can completely understand why President Obama is torn. There seems to be some shift in his thinking towards minimal additional troops to concentrate on training with almost no additional combat troops as Democracy Arsenal discusses.

What this strategy implies is a greater use of the predator drone strategy for counter terrorism which has been so controversial in Pakistan. Joe Biden is reported to favour this approach. It's by no means perfect and don't underestimate the popular repulsion at unmanned drones killing civilians with guided missiles. As the New Yorker's Jane Mayer reported, it may have led to the killing of the head of the Pakistani Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud but a few hundred civilians were killed in the process.

The military commanders may now have struck upon the right strategy. It has only taken them 8 years. But with the Karzai government as it is, it is a strategy built on quicksand. General Eikenberry's caution is more convincing at this point.

As President Obama makes his final decision, he must remember the ghost of Christmas past, President Lyndon B Johnson. He must trust the spirit and intelligence of the ghost of Christmas present, President Barack Obama. And he must fear the ghost of Christmas future, President Barack B Johnson.

The Sun apologises

Shameful and shameless The Sun has been forced to apologise for getting the spelling of Jacqui Janes' name wrong. Now they just need to apologise for their disgusting treatment of the Prime Minister.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Climate change Thursday #15

Is there a case for carbon capture and storage?

So carbon capture and storage is finally happening. Scientific American reports on the first power station to not only capture carbon dioxide- which in this case you do by liquifying the gas with bakers' ammonia then separating it- but also store it 2,375 metres under West Virginia.

The New Haven 'Mountaineer' project (pictured right) only captures 1.5% of the CO2 currently. When it is expanded to 20% of the Alstom's plant, it will cost an extra 4c per Kilowatt hour on top of the 5c that the plant currently costs. The research and development outlay will be $700million. This isn't cheap but it is becoming a reality and that is what is important- with some Federal funds thrown in.

This is all good news for the UK government. The Department of Energy and Climate Change published its Framework for the Development of Clean Coal earlier this week alongside a series of National Planning Statements on energy policy.

Coal currently provides almost a third of our energy and is extremely polluting and this is not a trivial issue. My instinct is that we should build no more coal-fired power stations at all. Given the uncertainty about whether technology will actually reduce carbon emissions at an affordable cost and if the carbon can stored safely and without leakage I had a degree of initial scepticism. It just sounded too good to be true.

However, that would be the right policy response if the UK was the only country in the world but it's not.

The reality is that others will continue to build coal-fired power plants regardless of whether we do or not. Just take China (sorry China I'm always picking on you which is mean): 80% of its energy comes from coal-fired power stations; it now consumes more coal that Europe, Japan and the US combined; it may build some of the most efficient power stations in the world but its emissions are still forecast to increase by 3% per year according to the IEA; and it is building these power stations at an eye-popping rate of one per week.

So we need to have a crack at developing the technology. It might as well be here in the UK. Ed Miliband's plan is for any new power plant to be completely CCS from 2020 with the four proposed CCS demonstration projects fully retrofitted by 2025.

Of course, there is not just an environmental consideration here but there is naked economic self-interest involved as well. There could be a £40billion market in this creating 30,000 to 60,000 jobs in the process. In the dry inhuman language ofeconomics, I guess you could describe that as a 'positive externality.'

In the context of the credit crunch and as we look to re-balance our economy away from an over-reliance on financial services that is no bad thing. It is important to state though that the economic opportunities offered by clean coal are not sufficient reason to pursue its technological development.

However, when you combine the environmental benefits with the economic and our energy requirements then what might seem like a policy of evasion becomes a compelling proposition instead. If we all going to keep on building coal-fired power stations then we have to do something about the emissions. This may be a solution; it's worth a try.

The surprising Mr Cameron

David Cameron's Hugo Young Memorial Lecture The Big Society was one of the more fascinating developments in the political discussion over recent months. I've discussed it in my LabourList column this week.

Just how do get from his conference speech a few weeks ago to Tuesday's speech? How can you simultaneously believe, without some major philosophical gymnastics, that 'it is more government that got us into this mess' and 'we need to use the state to remake society.'

Others have had a hack at the factual basis of the speech (Next Left, Channel 4 News, and Left Foot Forward) and on this score it was very dodgy indeed.

However, there is a much more interesting point to make. There is clearly a battle for the soul of the Leader of the Opposition in his private office. On Tuesday, Steve Hilton won. Steve Hilton is the good Cameron, progressive to his core. However, the conference Cameron was Thatcherite to his core. The good Cameron is far more intriguing. I have to say that notion that you can use the state to remake civil society is truly radical. Most social democrats, myself included, would be cautious about pursuing that as a notion. And yet, here you have the leader of the Conservative party making exactly that point.

If he really meant all this as a fundamental attack on poverty, he would have to make arguments about redistribution, asset and wealth transfer, large scale investment and he is not willing to make those arguments. However, in terms of building a more mutualistic, solidaristic, and activist society that takes more reciprocal responsibility- and I regard all that to be absolutely the right thing to seek- his arguments do perhaps have some force.

The real question becomes which David Cameron will emerge from this internal struggle (within the Tory party and within himself)? We can't say but Osborne-ite masochistic economics might force the answer. That would be a pity.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Dan Hannan at it again (on NHS!)

Dan, Dan, Dan Hannan, the gift that keeps on giving. So here we are again. This time he's placed himself in front of the cameras again for US libertarian outfit, Campaign for Liberty. Let's all watch together then discuss:

Did you enjoy the frames of Hitler when he was talking about the establishment of the NHS? Very stylish and clever. Remember, healthcare reform in the US is Nazi- lots of people say so like these people and these. Nicely done, Campaign for Liberty.

So what can we say of Dan Hannan? Well, you could say he's extremely naive to allow himself to be used in this way- a useful idiot for the American Right just like Viscount Christopher Monckton, for example (in his case, it was all a communist conspiracy- shift the labels, same concept.) I'd be amazed if Dan Hannan saw the footage that accompanied his words. He can't have done, surely?

But away from the theatrics and symbolism, there is a point of substance. He states (using very selective data that he doesn't even bother to back up):
"You know we're not the worst in the developed world, but the United Kingdom does pretty badly."
Well, let's compare the UK and US using OECD data (UK and USA):

- The UK has 2.5 physicians per 1000 people, 10 nurses per 1000, 2.6 acute care beds per 1000, a life of expectancy of 79.1 years, and an infant mortality rate of 4.8 per 1000.
- The US has 2.4 physicians per 1000, 10.6 nurses per 1000, 2.7 acute beds per 1000,life expectancy was 78.1 years, and an infant mortality rate of 6.7 per 1000.

Most people would say that the UK was marginally better than the US overall with the exception of infant mortality where it was considerably better. Why? Because infant mortality is heavily correlated with poverty and an unequal healthcare system- like the US has.

BUT the big difference? There was one stat that I left out. That is the cost of healthcare. For a healthcare system that is comparable but worse in significant ways, the US has to spend a whopping 16% of its GDP. We pay 8.4% of GDP.

So Dan Hannan can allow himself to used as a pawn in the US healthcare debate all he likes using selective data and unsupported assertion as he goes but he is doing his country down and completely off target.

I like Dan Hannan immensely. It's like having Christmas a dozen a times a year- whenever he opens his mouth basically. Keep it coming, please.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

The Sun- shameful and shameless

When vituperative Tory bloggers can't even bring themselves to throw a right hook at the Prime Minister you know that an attack is below the belt. And that is exactly where The Sun finds itself today. I don't know whether it was their desire to follow through on their election commitment to the Tories or just exceedingly poor editorial judgement that led them to attack the Prime Minister for his letter to Jacqui Janes but it is completely misjudged. When even the paper's recently departed political editor questions their judgement then you know they've got it woefully wrong.

Actually, it was a touching thing to do and demonstrates the Prime Minister's humanity. No one should belittle the deep grief and hurt that Mrs Janes is feeling. She deserves our utmost sympathy. There is no greater loss than losing a child. No parent should have to outlive their children and it is an agony to find yourself in that terrible situation. Gordon Brown knows this as any parent who has been in this situation knows all too well.

Who can honestly say that, when we hand write letters, we write neatly, legibly, with the correct spelling and punctuation to exacting standards? In the computer age it's a skill that is in decline. Nonetheless, sometimes, when we want to make a personal connection with someone we do get out the old Basildon Bond and put pen to paper. Should Number 10 have checked the letter? Probably, but that's really nit-picking.

The reality is, this letter was a heart-felt and genuine conveyance of regret and sympathy. It was a sensitive gesture. Mrs Janes feels differently and we have to respect that. However, to me, this is a remarkable and touching thing for an extremely hard-working Prime Minister to do. It says a lot about the qualities of the man. It says something rather different about The Sun.

Today, the bodies of six extremely brave soldiers are being flown into Wootton Bassett. They were willing to give their lives for the duties that their country asks them to perform. We can't help but feel humble. We can't help but continually question whether their sacrifice is a cost that must be paid for our security and the security of the world. Those are issues for another day and they are by no means simple.

But for the The Sun to suggest that this Prime Minster, Gordon Brown, has anything other than a complete awareness of and sensitivity to the pain, suffering and sacrifice that the families of the bereaved experience is offensive in the extreme. I really hope that this was just a misjudgement by The Sun. I hope they have the decency to offer the Prime Minister an apology. Yesterday's Sun headline screamed: "Bloody shameful." Yes, The Sun, you are and shameless too.

Monday, 9 November 2009

“This is the Captain. Brace for impact.”

Guest post by Stephen Adshead

On 15 January 2009, US Airways Flight 1549 was hit by a large flock of birds, shortly after takeoff, disabling both engines. The pilot - Chesley Sullenberger (aka Sully) – weighed up returning to LaGuardia or attempting to land at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey, but quickly determined that neither was feasible. In near silence (there was zero thrust coming out of the engines) he smoothly ditched the Airbus A320 into the Hudson River. Having made sure that everyone had evacuated, and retrieved the maintenance logbook, Sully walked off the plane. All his passengers and crew survived.

Sully had spent a career preparing for the vital decisions he made that day and from the first moment that mattered (deciding where to land) to the last (being the last one to walk off the plane) he exuded calm authority – This is the Captain. Brace for impact. When Sully and First Officer Jeff Skiles flew together again on 1 October 2009, four of Flight 1549’s passengers, and a significant number of the US media, requested to be aboard. When Sully gave the pre-flight announcement, the applause drowned out his voice. A few even stood up.

Around the same time that Sully reunited with Skiles, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced that it is seeking a $5.4m civil penalty against US Airways (and a $3.8 million fine against United Airlines). The FAA alleges US Airways operated eight aircraft on a total of 1,647 flights last autumn and winter whilst the planes were in a potentially unsafe condition. According to CNN, two Airbus A320s were allegedly flown without complying with an ordered inspection for possible cracking of a landing gear part.

Any failure to carry out inspections could have been – though fortunately wasn’t - a moment that mattered. A less obvious moment, however, was a cost-cutting measure relating to stationery.

When Skiles picked up the emergency procedures manual he discovered that the tabs marking out, for example, the guidance on safely ditching into water, had been removed. In the time between bird-strike and brace-for-impact, and in a flight that lasted, in total, 6 minutes, Skiles could have been found thumbing through the index. Fortunately for the 150 or so passengers and crew, Sully already knew how to ditch a powerless plane into water. His training, experience and perhaps most importantly judgement allowed him, in the moments that mattered, to overcome all of the obstacles before him (and to transcend the limits of the stationery cupboard).

Sully is a visiting scholar at the University of California’s Centre for Catastrophic Risk Management and co-authored with NASA a paper dealing with error-inducing contexts in aviation. There are many risk management lessons here, including broadening where to look for “error-inducing contexts” and the potential impact of poor judgement exercised by even the lowliest within an organisation. As for the tabs, Sully had complained previously about the decision to remove them and raises the topic once more in his new book ‘Highest Duty’. I would wager that he will now be heard and the tabs will be put back in.

Stephen Adshead is a litigator-turned-risk manager-turned-blogger.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Climate change Thursday #14

There was a landmark case this week when a sustainability manager for a residential landlord, Grainger plc, was awarded permission to appeal against his dismissal on equality grounds: his 'belief' in man-made climate change constituted a philosophical belief and so was covered by the Employment Equality (Religion and Belief) Regulations 2003. The regulations encompass, "any religion, religious belief, or philosophical belief".
His solicitor, Shah Qureshi, said: "Essentially what the judgment says is that a belief in man-made climate change and the alleged resulting moral imperative is capable of being a philosophical belief and is therefore protected by the 2003 religion or belief regulations."
Wendy M Grossman takes on Tim Nicholson, the man at the heart of the unfair dismissal case, in a column on The Guardian website today. She concludes:
"Religions have beliefs. Science is not a belief system but the best process we have for establishing the truth, piece by independently replicated piece. Nicholson should be appalled by the ruling he has won."
So are we dealing with a philosophy or are we dealing with science and should Tim Nicholson have been given the opportunity to contest his dismissal on equality grounds?

My first instinct was to disagree with Wendy M Grossman. It is often the case that anthropogenic climate change nay-sayers (whenever I call them 'deniers' they get all semantically stroppy so I'll keep away from the word for this week only as a special treat) accuse those who accept the science -i.e. pretty much all the world's scientific, policy-making, and corporate communities- of being religious.

Ms Grossman is absolutely right to refute that accusation as I do. Man-made climate change is real. It is grounded in the highest quality scientific research conducted by some of the world's leading scientific institutes, organisations, and academic establishments. We can certainly accept the causes of climate change with well in excess of 90% certainty. What the precise consequences will be are more debatable but we can look at various scenarios, none of which are good news.

However, environmentalism is a different thing. Given anthropogenic climate change there are a wide variety of responses. We could do nothing and accept the consequences: huge loss of life, extinction, famine, drought, floods, extremely hazardous weather events, war, and mass migration amongst other things. We could try to halfheartedly mitigate it. Or we could choose to adopt the conviction that collective action to avert disaster is possible but it requires sacrifice and imagination- we've managed it before so why not again?

Environmentalists of all different persuasions believe in the latter course. I count myself in that group. It is a political and philosophical outlook. The philosophical bit is based on the Brundtland Report in 1987:
"Sustainable development meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."
My only qualm with that quote is that it is not about future generations only. It is already about the people who inhabit this globe today.

The political belief is the conviction that, no matter how great the challenge, we have within us, as a global political community, the ability to fundamentally alter course should we so choose.

That is why my instinct was to disagree with Wendy Grossman: anthropogenic climate change is science but environmentalism is a belief (though one that it is debatable whether it falls under the Employment Equality Regulations given that it has a political component in my view.)

In the end though, I ended up agreeing with her as a result of both the statement from Mr Nicholson and the statement of his solicitor which combines science and belief. To recap, his solicitor said his philosophy was: "a belief in man-made climate change and the alleged resulting moral imperative." The first element is science but the second is belief- it is very dangerous to combine the two. The simple fact is that if you do then you allow those who would challenge the belief to, by default and extension, challenge the science also but without any requirement for scientific rigour.

However, I do wish Mr Nicholson, who is clearly a committed and articulate environmentalist, all the very best in securing the change that he and I believe in.

How to change politics for good

I was asked to respond to OpenLeft's Which way's left? conversation on whether the left should disperse power. It seems to me that the answer is a qualified yes as this piece argues. However, I decided to float a new idea for House of Lords reform that could enshrine a better separation of powers between the Government and Parliament.

It has the following elements:

- Members elected on an AV+ basis using the old European constituencies with a regional top up.
- Elections would be every five years and coincide with European elections.
- No member of the new House of Lords can be a member of the government. If they join the Government they would have to resign their seat.
- A minimum age of 40.
- Parties would commit to selecting candidates on the basis of expertise and to reflect the diversity of the UK.

Why make these changes?
"By having a different source of authority - and timing - this new House of Lords would strengthen Parliament and make it more pluralistic. Adding in electoral reform of the House of Commons – the alternative vote - and the opening out of political parties through the introduction of primaries then the centrifugal nature of our political system begins to be reversed. There would be more counterweight in the system.

Wouldn’t this make social and economic reform more difficult? At times, perhaps, but it would also improve the quality of legislation as Governments would have to operate by consensus. It would also embed institutions that had broad consent beyond the lifetime of a Parliament or a Government. Pluralism, long-termism, consensus, and diversity could be locked into our democratic system."
Which brings me nicely on to David Cameron's absolutely barmy intention to introduce a UK Sovereignty Bill (it didn't really bring me nicely on to this but whatever....) There are two possibilities for the Bill:

- It is meaningless. Therefore it achieves nothing but may simply make the UK look silly. Parliament is already sovereign- we can leave the EU at any time.
- It is meaningful. In which case, we are leaving the European Union. European law supercedes UK law. Any UK law passed which suggests otherwise is incompatible with EU treaties and, therefore, we would have to leave. Potty.

Fraser Nelson writes:
"Mr Cameron’s proposed Sovereignty Bill — declaring the primacy of English law over the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg — will also be meaningless unless it includes the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg."
Er, that is not meaningless I'm afraid. That would mean that the UK is leaving the EU. Quite meaningful, I would say. I'd be interested to hear whether Fraser Nelson has got confirmation that is what the legislation would contain. If it does, then Cameron is committing to the UK going it alone.

Don't take my word for it. Here is Kenneth Clarke describing such legislation as: "fundamentally incompatible with EU membership."

All this lets the eurosceptic genie out of the bottle. He is placing himself in a position of fundamental and ongoing conflict with the EU. Where does that end up? It ends up in only one place: a referendum on leaving the EU as he won't get his own way. Playing with fire Mr Cameron.

Post script: The BBC adds a bit more colour to the story. Pierre Lallouche is simply saying what others are thinking.