Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Ready, Steady, Go And Get Bored

The flag has been dropped, the light has gone green and the crack of Black Rod’s mace on wood has heralded the start of the labour party election campaign. The economic crisis has prevented the usual election bribe of tax cuts being waved around so we are now being treated to lots of nice warm feelings as the elderly are served tea and sympathy in warm comfortable surroundings, children are cosseted in loving families and the energy companies hand back lots of money to their customers.

This will probably be the longest and most boring election campaign ever, it will be like no other. The parties will sling mud like a muck spreader stuck in fifth gear, they will criticise each other, deride each others policies and paint the future under the opposition so black we will think global warming is the best thing to ever happen. Throughout all this the one thing that will be missing will be honesty.

Political parties will never tell the whole truth, never say sorry, they know if they do they will be pilloried in the media for being weak and inadequate, even though the same media continuously criticises politicians for not being honest and not saying sorry. There will also be a whole bunch of new candidates with little political experience who will largely rely on the party machinery for their spiel and thus be entirely on message. Prepared to be bored, totally and utterly bored.

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We Want Cuts To Public Squandering

BoardroomAlmost 60% of the public want the government to cut public spending so the country’s huge deficit can be reduced, they want benefits cut and the pay of public service staff frozen. One target missing from the BBC news report and probably not on the list of options for reducing government spending are the multitude of Quangos that cost the country over £200 billion a year but often deliver little or no benefit other than providing well paid jobs for the boys.

There are over 1,200 Quangos and include such wonderfully useful bodies as the Yorkshire Cultural Consortium which spends over £1 million a year, the Competition Service which spends over £3 million a year and Visit Britain, which spends over £70 million a year, which is not to be confused with the English Tourist Board that spends over £13 million a year or the Scottish Tourist Board which spends over £25 million a year.

Not all Quangos are a waste of money but many are indicative of the bloated government and public services this country is struggling to support. For many years the NHS was set annual efficiency savings targets which forced the organisation to become leaner and learn to do more with less. Perhaps the government needs to set itself some tough targets for cutting public expenditure starting with the Quangos.

Evening All, That’s Our Job

private policeSenior police offers are getting a bit twitchy at ate growing numbers of companies and communities employing private security to replace the beat bobby that went missing from our streets many years ago. Their concerns, and is some respects understandable concerns, are the powers given to some of these individuals and their unaccountability. We have all seen the way local authorities have abused the powers given to them, how long before the private police follow the same route.

Simon Reed of the Police federation said, ‘It’s the police who patrol public space and we should be very wary about giving those powers to private security companies’. Er, when was the last time he took a walk around our streets, many years ago I suspect. If he had he would know beat bobbies are rearer than hens teeth.

If the police are concerned about the growth of the private security service then I suggest they ask why the public feel it necessary to buy these services, why they consider their safety so important they will invest the time, effort and cost in contracting people to patrol their communities. The answers might just surprise them, the again they would have to stop wasting time and manpower going after easy targets and do some real police work.

Privacy, But Not At This Price

dataprotectionSome MPs have complained that all the investigations into their expenses and parliamentary arrangements is an intrusion into their privacy. It’s a bit ironic, therefore, to hear the EU complaining that these same MPs have been party to an insidious erosion of our privacy. This is not some mild rebuke but an out right criticism that relates to BT’s involvement with the testing of an internet snooping system touted by Phorm which would be used to target advertising at internet users.

EU commissioner Viviane Reding, stated that ‘people’s privacy and the integrity of their personal data in the digital world is not only an important matter, it is a fundamental right, protected by European law’. However, the British government has failed to tack action because it would ‘cost too much’ even though our own data protection people stated the trial contravened the data protect act. It seems or privacy comes at a price the government is unwilling to pay.

Unsuspecting BT customers had their internet shopping habits recorded without their knowledge and those who did read about the intrusion and complained to BT got nowhere. Now the EU is taking the government to court to force a change of stance and to tighten the law on the confidentiality of electronic communications. The problem for the government is they want the right to snoop and record everything we do on the internet and on the phone. For once even the euro-sceptics my be thankful for the EU’s intervention.

Boiling Frogs and Lost Freedoms

Hung, Drawn And Quaking

House of CommonsThe blond bombshell of the conservative party has suggested Brown and Cameron will be facing the prospect of courting the Liberal Democrats after the next general election as no party will achieve an overall majority. Lord Heseltine bases his view of the huge swing the conservatives will need if they are to win power.

Only twice since the war has such a huge swing in the voting occurred, and then we did not have the added distractions of the scottish and welsh nationalists, the other fringe parties and all the independent MPs. A contra argument is the lack of hung parliaments in the past, only one election in 1974 ended without a party having an overall majority, now however all the odds seem to moving in favour of difficult times ahead.

For some political observers such an outcome would seem to be a positive thing for the country. There would be a period where the extremes we have seen over the past few years would come to an end as everyone seeks consensus and a middle of the road approach. However it would also mean a period of uncertainty which could discourage business confidence and the investment needed to get the country out of recession. The only certainty is there are interesting times ahead.

Expert Advice And Political Expedience Don’t Mix

cannabisThere has always been a problem reconciling scientific truth and political ideology, and today that problem hit the headlines big time. The scientific consensus, based on statical analysis, is cannabis is less harmful than alcohol and the government’s stance on classing cannabis as a class B drug is illogical. This is not something our prime minster, Gordon Brown, or home secretary Alan Johnson want to hear.

The government prefers to advocate a strong stance against drug use and push for tough penalties for those who use and deal in drugs, the suggestion their stance is based on anything other than a sound base of evidence seems to be too much and the purveyor of that fact, Professor David Nutt, the government’s chief drug adviser, had to go.There are a few scientists who doubt Professor Nut’s view, but none of the drug workers and support charities dispute the woeful lack of support for drug users who want to kick the habit.

Rehabilitation programmes are unable to meet the demands placed upon them, some prisoners do not get access to rehabilitation services and others leave jail having acquired a drug habit while inside. If the government is serious about reducing drug use their time and effort would be better spent arresting the dealers and helping those who want to give up the habit, not hounding their own advisor’s out of a job.

Bringing The Worst Out Of Both Sides

qtThe anger and hatred generated by the BNP’s appearance on BBC Question Time is understandable and precisely what Nick Griffin probably wanted. The skewed approach of the whole programme has also provided an opportunity for the BNP to continue the imbroglio by now making an official complaint to the BBC over bias.

Now, it may seem a bit rich for a bigot like Griffin to claim bias against the BNP, but there was clear the aim of the programme was to show how unpleasant their views are on a whole range of matters. Unfortunately the programme often got lost in tirades from the audience and continual bating by the chairman. One panellist, Bonnie Greer, did manage to make some very telling points and draw out the nastier side of the BNP. Its a pity the other members were not so eloquent.

As for Jack Straw he fell flat on his face when responding to a question on immigration. The Chairman even had to ask the question a second time but never got a clear answer. It was a woeful performance and left the door open for Nick Griffin to reel out the BNP policy of Britain for the British. The BNP is a horrid and very racist organisation, but this was not the way to defeat them. That needs a more rational and less angry approach without the baying crowd.

The Financial Iceberg Keeps Growing

iceburgWhereas the NHS was once described as a Tanker that would take a long time to turn around, the finance industry seems to be akin to an iceberg, much of what happens is hidden from public scrutiny but its potential to sink national economies is huge. Having scraped the hulls of many governments the iceberg has continued to grow unchecked and unhindered by the out pouring of disgust of the public and politicians.

Even the banks that have been propped up by public money to keep them afloat are making so much money they can sprinkle it among their staff like confetti at a wedding. ‘We want the best so we pay the best’ is a common retort among the leaders of the financial sector. Er, how come the same people who got us into this mess are now claiming to be the best at getting out of it and being paid huge bonuses?

Unfortunately for us in the UK our economy is more dependent on the finance sector than any other country, therefore we have suffered most and will find the downturn lasting longer than most. Its time for the government to introduce real controls and if necessary taxes targeted at the finance sector. Yes it may well drive some companies to move elsewhere, but in the long term that would not be a bad thing for our economic security.

Pay Up Pay Up And Play The Game

david cameronTough guy, David Cameron has laid down the law to his MPs telling them to pay up or get out. When everyone thought the MP’s expenses saga had gone away like the newspaper silly season the Civil Servant chosen to wrap up the whole sordid affair in red tape has done the opposite and opened up another round of claims and counter claims.

Cameron’s stance is clearly aimed at Gordon Brown who has taken a rather restrained approach to the scandalous actions and blatant greed shown by some of our MPs. He is pushing the Labour leader into admitting the scale of the problem and then need for clear action. But then, isn’t that what’s just happened?

Perhaps, this is just a bit of posturing, a, I can be harder than you move aimed at countering Cameron’s apparent soft hooray henry persona. It might work for some but only if he follows through when the selection process starts for the next election. That will be the real test of his toughness.

The Part-Time Part-Timers

Territorial ArmyThis must be the only country in the world where a significant proportion of our army personnel are unpaid volunteers. The Territorial Army is an amazing organisation that has successfully supplemented the professional army with front line troops in many conflicts and wars. Its an army run on the cheap that works as hard and as effectively as the historic regiments of our fighting force.

When the MOD has been openly criticised for its inefficiency and gross lack of cost control its
a bit rich for the army chiefs to tell the Territorial Army they must halt all training for six months due to the pressure on public spending. The plan will save just £20 million, a pittance compared with the money being wasted on defence procurement and buy the government itself on spin doctors and consultants.

When you rely on volunteers the last thing you should do is use them as part of some political plan or treat them as something you can put aside and then pick up again almost as a whim. The TA deserves far more than being push aside, even if its only for a few months. Its become an irreplaceable part of our armed forces and should be treated the same as the rest of the services.