Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Is This Our New Democracy?


On the day that Parliament was re-opened by The Queen and her new coalition government took control of the UK on a promise of a more fair society and the shrinking of a controlling state, it seems somewhat ironic, that long time anti-war campaigner Brian Haw was arrested this morning by the Metropolitan Police.

Mr Haw has been camping in Parliament Square, opposite the Houses of Parliament, for the past nine years and has succeeded in remaining a visible reminder to politicians and tourists alike, despite numerous attempts to have him removed, that not everyone is in agreement about the dubious wars we are fighting.

Today, the police arrested him for obstruction after he objected to their demand to search his tent as part of their security measures preparing for the Queen's arrival.

Director of Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti said:
"We are very sad to see that on a day that is supposed to celebrate British democracy, peaceful dissent is also shut down."
What more needs to be said?

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Friday, May 21, 2010

Asda First To Help Us 'Cash Cows'

(graphic from PetrolPrices.com website)

Once again supermarket giant Asda is leading the way in passing on lower fuel costs to its customers.

As the above graphic demonstrates, it is even more admirable when you see the small percentage that a retailer actually makes from a litre of fuel. Their own profit has to come mainly from volume of sales rather than true markup.

Add the duty to the VAT, though, and it is easy to work out why the government are in no hurry to help us all when we are such a cash cow standing in their field of financial black holes.

Despite the idealistic views of certain political parties, fuel is a necessary and unavoidable part of everyday life for most of us. Not everyone has the benefit of good public transport and those of us who live outside of the cities have no choice other than to drive to work.

True recovery will not come until the price of a litre becomes realistic once again!

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Hacker Who Broke Into US Never-Never Land!

"Cyberspace doesn't exist any more than never-never land. I was no more in America than anyone who is on a long-distance telephone call. The fiction of cyberspace should be properly tested in a British court because it is no more real than Santa Claus. They cannot "return" me to a country I wasn't in, yet they continually refer in court to "returning me". If I was being returned to the place where my crime was committed, I would be returned to Crouch End. I am not a fugitive, I was physically in North London and have remained in North London"

The words of Gary McKinnon the man the USA says could be the most dangerous hacker in the world after he broke into their military computers.

He now awaits the decision of a judicial review in the UK on whether he should be extradited to the USA.

Personally, I think he has a very good point and the Americans should admit they failed to protect their computers behind a firewall powerful enough to shield their secrets!

In reality, it is all about politics and a one sided 'special relationship'

Could this be one of the first real tests for our new Foreign Secretary?

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Politicians Take Their Seats For 'The Blame Game'

With our new coalition government announcing June 22nd as the date for its emergency budget, the opposing players are taking their places at the table for ‘The Blame Game’.

First to throw a six and keen not to take any blame for the financial suffering we will all be subjected to, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, David Laws, conveniently ‘let slip’ yesterday that he had been left a ‘note’ from his predecessor stating what most of us had long ago realised - there is no money left in the UK’s piggy bank. He also hinted there had been a desperate last minute spending spree, by outgoing Labour, with money they knew they did not have to spend.

Round one to the coalition but I am sure it will not be too long before Labour get their throw with the dice!

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Friday, May 14, 2010

Has Clegg Entered A Bum Deal?

If politics were to be compared with a meal, we have been served more courses over the last week than we could possibly digest but somehow I am still feeling unsatisfied.

When the news was announced on Tuesday evening of our new coalition government I was at first relieved but then after a short while started to feel uneasy. I could not work out exactly the reason. By Wednesday morning, I think my worries were starting to take shape.

The deal between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives seemed at first glance to be a major achievement. It had brought two parties together - albeit for the sake of convenience - that historically, had many opposing views. On the surface, it meant that both sides got at least some of what they had been wanting; David Cameron got to be PM and form a government and Nick Clegg would be able to claim his party was an almost equal member in that government by being awarded several senior posts and seats at the Cabinet table. So far, so good.

In reality, though, I started to wonder if the whole thing was as it seems. Nick Clegg has become Deputy Prime Minister but what exactly does that title mean? Does he hold any power in the real world or is he just a tokenistic gesture to the process.

Similarly, his own deputy, Vince Cable, has been given responsibility for banking and business which seemed to be a good move. He has, after all, gained a huge amount of respect over the last few years by speaking out against the handling of the economy and had warned of the abuse of a profligate banking system and the true depth of the recession we have experienced. But, he has much different ideas on how to solve those problems than the inexperienced government in which he now serves.

In effect, we as a nation have lost a genuine voice of opposition. Cameron has managed to ‘buy’ the compliance of what could have been the respected voice of a 'party of doubt'. From outside government, the Libs could have checked some of the draconian measures of recovery being mooted by the Conservatives - instead they chose not to.

Labour, who are now the only effective alternative voice sitting on the benches of opposition, are still in disarray from losing their majority. They have no leader and therefore no credible voice to be heard - at least for the foreseeable future. Cameron has, ultimately, engineered a free corridor through which to introduce new measures with little resistance.

So, I wonder, did Clegg make the right decision for the country as a whole, or did his personal ambition and ego take over at a time he should have been thinking calmly and with the bigger picture in mind?

When it comes to the crunch, will he and his ‘ministers’ have a true vote in the process, or will they be silenced by their Conservative ‘colleagues’?

If Clegg has got it wrong, his party will never be a credible force in UK politics again. The irony could be that he could have gained more by playing the long term game in opposition, than he will by such a flimsy and precarious deal in government.

The British public have long memories and are not known for their forgiveness of such a folly!

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

All Change On The Number Ten...!

Finally, after the usual long wait, it's all change on the No.10 bus.

Gordon Brown, the previous driver, has been forced to retire prematurely following several careless accidents. Meanwhile, David Cameron has replaced him at the wheel and is now in the driver's seat of a slick, shiny, new hybrid vehicle comprised from the parts of two different manufacturers.

What we all want to know is: are the parts going to last the full length of the warranty? Are fares going to rise to a level that will cause immense hardship to the passengers? Who will become Cameron's conductor and do the owners of the bus have a clear route mapped out for the whole of the journey?

Hopefully, the ride will be smooth and uneventful, but there is always the danger the driver will be caught out by that seemingly obvious low bridge!

Fares please!!

A Labour MP's Summary Of His Party's Version Of Democracy!

"In the last two days the Conservative party has had two meetings, the Lib Dems three and continuous email contact. Labour has had none,"

"We are to have one Wednesday 2.30pm by which time it will probably be all over. No need to consult us when all the decisions can be taken by Mandy and Campbell. They know things so much better than the peasants and workers."

Just in case you ever had doubts about how Labour kept its own MPs away from the decision making process during its 13 years in government, Austin Mitchell sums it all up in his blog.

One can only wonder whether the Cameron regime will be any better.

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Lack Of Government And The Financial Plughole.

According to a respected economist on the BBC this morning, the amount our dying government is spending per day is £550m more than we are collecting in taxes etc. That means in the 4 days of dithering to decide who is going to lead the country after the election, we are a whopping £2bn further into the red.

If we don’t get an agreement soon, the only party left willing to make a deal will be the bailiff!

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Four Days On - Still No Leadership!

Four days after we found out the not so surprising news we have a hung parliament and with both the Conservatives and Labour offering concessions and deals to the Lib Dems for their support to govern, we are still none the wiser who will gain power.

It seems almost unbelievable that plans were not discussed for this possibility before the polls opened last Thursday and it does not bode well for any alliance holding up once a decision is made.

What it does demonstrate is just how out of touch all the parties have shown themselves to be with the general mood of the electorate in recent months.

Perhaps, when we have another go at polling within the next year - for that is the likely outcome of a coalition government - they might focus their efforts on producing policies and not on presenting personalities.

Don't hold your breath!

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Saturday, May 08, 2010

Who Will Win The Last Dance At The Political Ball?

So, who really are the winners and the losers after Thursday's election? The answer must be that the three main parties have all won and lost.

David Cameron can claim his party has gained the highest level of support for probably the last eighty years, and should therefore be allowed to govern, but he has failed to convince us all he is the man for the job by winning the required overall majority.

He flunked the shot when presented with the perception of an open goal. It should have been an easy task after the increasing criticism of prime minister, Gordon Brown and the political shenanigans of the last 18 months but he misread the public barometer.

Gordon Brown can claim a personal moral victory by the fact his party did not lose in the spectacular fashion predicted by the many who mounted a personal campaign against him. It's true, his party lost a large number of seats to the Conservatives but he still clings on to power, under the electoral rules, until a viable alternative can be presented for the Queen's approval. David Cameron has so far failed to demonstrate that alternative.

Nick Clegg, who had gained an enormous amount of credibility for himself and the Liberal Democrats during the election campaign, failed to capitalise on that momentum and lost several seats when the final count was announced. It seems that, at the crucial moment, the voters were not convinced enough to take the chance.

In that respect he was a net loser but in reality he has gained more real power for his party than it has held for many a year, by becoming the power broker between Labour and the Conservatives; suddenly he is the most attractive person at the political ball.

The Conservatives have already started wooing him in an attempt to form some sort of political marriage of convenience, thereby enabling Cameron to evict Brown and move into Number10.

Meanwhile, Gordon Brown is, eagerly, watching from the side of the dance floor hoping the smooching will not be good enough to convince Clegg and providing the opportunity for him to step in and court him on the re-bound.

If Clegg is savvy enough to flutter his eyelashes at both of them, he will be showered with 'policy' gifts for months to come. They will be putty in his hands - not because he is the most attractive person at the ball but because he is the key to having the final dance dedicated to them.

Whether any such marriage of convenience will become lasting remains to be seen.

Don't rush out to buy the wedding gifts just yet!

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Thursday, May 06, 2010

Is Local Politics Dying A Slow Death?

With all the hype generated by the national electioneering of the past few weeks, it has been easy to forget that we are also voting to elect our local councils in today's polling.

Borrowing a theatrical analogy, local politics has become the fringe event at the national festival.

But is that really right? Local issues and the management of its infrastructure affects people just as much - and often more - than national issues. We need strong representation from our locally elected politicians to make certain that the environment surrounding our everyday lives is protected.

I was shocked and more than a little disappointed, today, to discover that there were only four candidates up for election in my local area and they came from only two parties - yes, you have guessed it.....Conservative and Labour.

What sort of choice is that? Why have they been left without competition? Have the other parties that used to take part now just given up the fight or is it that no-one can be bothered to stand as a candidate and try to close the gap against the two heavyweights?

Whatever the reason, it is a sad day for both local politics and democracy as a whole, when we are left with such a lack of alternatives.

A two party political world makes for a very boring world indeed!

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Every Vote Sends A Message - Use The Power!


At last, the big day has arrived and the sun is shining - for the moment at least!

From media reports last night, it looks like it will be a race to the end of polling before we can get a hint of a winner and even then, it might not be with a workable majority.

This is the one day we can all make a difference and claim some responsibility for how we live our everyday lives.

It does not matter whether the party we vote for wins or loses, it is our opportunity to send all politicians a message.

If their majorities are slim, they are going to have to work harder to keep their seats and listen to their constituents. It will give a voice back to us, the people.

In a democracy, governments and politicians are supposed to be servants of us all; now is the time to send them a reminder of that simple premise and restore our faith in a system that has been allowed to slide.

Apathy, is our biggest enemy so please, please, go out and vote - for if you don't, you cannot really criticise the way things turn out.

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Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Should I Vote To Swim With Piranhas Or Sharks?

Less than twelve hours to go and I'm still not sure who is going to get my endorsement in this election. It seems I am not alone, however, as opinion polls show that up to 30 percent of those of us eligible to vote, are also still undecided.

To me, it appears to be a choice of no choice: Would I prefer to swim in a pool full of sharks or a pool full of piranhas? Both options are guaranteed be extremely painful but one will leave the skeleton intact while the other leaves it in pieces.

That seems to be the main difference between the Conservatives and Labour. The Conservatives want to remove a big chunk of Britain's skeleton, while Labour want to nibble away at the edges, leaving as much as possible in place for the future.

In reality, the aims of both are so close, you can hardly place a feeler gauge between their policies. Both campaigns have been more about the personal attacks by their leaders than about the way they intend to run the country. Neither provides a recognisable alternative choice.

Personally, I am hoping for a hung parliament where neither Conservatives nor Labourites are able to claim a true majority. We have had far too many years of large majority governments who claim they have been given a mandate to introduce almost any change they want, without debate, close scrutiny or amendment.

Having to rely on the agreement of a third party, like the Liberal Democrats, would introduce a safety net for democracy and bring some new and original thinking to the Cabinet table.

To achieve that, though, we still have to decide where to place our cross.

Oh well.....back to the drawing board!

Conservative's David Cameron - Suicide or Murder?

Results from several studies of the sleeping habits of over 1.5m people, released by Sleep journal, show that those getting less than six hours sleep a night are at serious risk of a premature death.

David Cameron is said to have been campaigning through the night in an attempt to claim every available floating voter he can find before tomorrow's election.

Could this mean he is committing political suicide? Or, is he guilty of attempted murder in trying to keep us all awake?

The jury is still out!

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

My Election Letterboxometer 3

With just one day of eIectioneering left before the polling stations open on Thursday, the only piece of literature to try to seduce my letterbox this week has come from UKIP - the party that thinks immigration is out of control and our being part of Europe is akin to swimming in a sea of floating faecal matter.

I was hoping for more but it seems all the other parties think they have educated me enough while our forests can breathe a quick sigh of relief knowing they are not going to be chopped to a pulp!

Unless......well there is always tomorrow!

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Monday, May 03, 2010

My Voting Dilemma!

With just three days to go before we all (well those that can be bothered anyway) cast our crosses on the ballot sheets, I am, for the first time in my voting life, facing a major dilemma.

Who the hell do I support?

I have an irritating sense of sympathy for Gordon Brown of the type I would feel when confronted with a socially challenged child.

I have an irritation of the sort usually soothed by a liberal dose of haemorrhoid cream, for David Cameron and his smug, overly confident sidekicks.

I have a growing admiration for Nick Clegg in the way he has upstaged his two main rivals during what appeared to be a political version of The X Factor -but I have serious doubts about his party's ability to govern.

I gave up any thoughts towards UKIP after it's then leader, Nigel Farrage showed his total arrogance and lack of diplomatic skill during his recent brutal attack on the EU President.

I feel nothing at all towards the National Front errr sorry British National Party, other than the contempt I feel towards all self serving bigots.

As for the rest ...... well we all need a good laugh now and again!

I just hope I can find the answer before the close of the polling centres on Thursday evening but somehow, I think I am going to be feeling this unsettled for months or possibly even years to come!

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