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Does Cameron understand his “patriotic duty”?

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Does Cameron understand his “patriotic duty”?


With the results of the latest polls ringing in his ears, has David Cameron finally realised that he cannot rely on Labour losing the next election, instead, he and his party must win it? The electorate are not going to give the Conservatives an easy ride simply because they are fed up with the failures, broken promises and incompetence of the current Government.

It is no use Cameron telling us that New Labour has failed…we can see that. Instead he must tell us what his party is going to do to resolve the problems we face and he must do it in such a way as to convince the electorate that he is sincere, and above all that his party has the knowledge, skills and experience to deliver on his promises. The polls would suggest that so far, he has failed to communicate that message. I have previously written on this subject, when I suggested nearly a year ago, that Cameron wasn’t trying to win an election, instead he was waiting for the Labour Party to lose it. That is a very high risk strategy and I believe he is only now starting to realise the affects of that miscalculation. This does call his judgement into question.

David Cameron likes to tell us that his party has diversity at its core with more women and ethnic minorities standing for election. Perhaps so, but what the electorate wants and what this country needs is experience, not window dressing. Granted, some of these candidates may have the knowledge and skills to make a real contribution, but that has nothing to do with their race or gender, so why does Cameron feel the need to concentrate on these factors? Is he hiding something from us?

When New Labour came to power, the public were ready for a change, New Labour offered fresh faces with new ideas…it was a slick marketing campaign. However, we have all paid the price for buying the polish and not the goods…yet Cameron appears to be trying to do the same thing all over again. I believe that is a mistake…and it may lead to another term in office for Labour or a hung parliament and few of us really want another 5 years of Gordon Brown.

David Cameron thinks it is his patriotic duty to win the next election. No…it is his patriotic duty to offer an alternative to what we have endured for the past 13 years….it is his patriotic duty to outline in detail what he will do to reverse or address the mistakes of our present Government…it is his patriotic duty to ensure that he has the skills within his party and frontline to be able to deliver on the promises he is making…it is his patriotic duty to ensure that our money is being spent wisely before he introduces higher taxes on a struggling taxpayer…it is his patriotic duty highlight the strengths of his party, rather than focusing just on the weaknesses of the incumbent…it is his patriotic duty to return power back to the people…it is his patriotic duty to listen to the electorate and act for the majority, not just focus in on minorities…it is his patriotic duty to fall on his sword if he or his party fails to deliver! I could go on and on. We need concrete proposals and policies against which he and his party can be measured…not 100’s of qualifications of “get out of jail free” cards.

At this time…the Conservative party looks like New Labour, with younger faces and blue overcoats. Why should we risk electing the Conservatives…with all their inexperience when they are simply serving the same old dish with a little garnish?

Get off the fence Cameron and tell us what you are going to do, how you are going to do it, who will be responsible for delivery and how long it will take. We need stakes in the ground!!! Do not tell us that you haven’t got “all the detail” to come up with such policies and plans, because we just don’t believe it…you can make (and publish) “assumptions” in the same way as any businessman would do. Perhaps this statement highlights the weakness of our electoral system…which allows people with little or no experience to run one of the largest ‘corporations’ in the world. One of the reasons that New Labour failed was because they had ideologies, but lacked the ability to effectively implement them and the experience to consider the consequences of their policies. Why should Cameron be different…convince the electorate of that question, and Cameron may have a chance to win the next election.

Posted in Conservatives, General, Labour, World | Comments (2)

David Cameron needs to up his game

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David Cameron needs to up his game


It is clear that David Cameron need to up his game. In an interview with Jeff Randall, he was unable to explain a £72 billion spending commitment contained in last year’s pre-Budget report. For a man who seeks to become the CEO of UK Plc, this is an appalling situation. £72 billion accounts for more than 10% of the budget and this implies either a lack of understanding by Cameron or an inability or even an unwillingness to get involved in the detail. To put this £72 billion into perspective, it is 20 times the losses reported by RBS, the bank that is 84% owned by the UK taxpayer.

For those that believe that Cameron need not have a grasp on this detail, it is worth noting this £72 billion of taxpayers money was listed simply as “other”. I suspect that most, if not all us would have investigated or queried such a massive sum of money described as “other”…which is the equivalent of miscellaneous!

I have to say that I was embarrassed for Cameron and the people of this country that the ‘heir apparent’, did not seem to have a grasp of the financial for this country. Little wonder that the people of this country are starting to have doubts about whether the Conservative Party has the depth and the skills to take this country forward. I virtually guarantee, that is Cameron had been the CEO of a large company and was unable to answer such a fundamental question, that he would have been quickly ousted.

Granted, Gordon Brown has completely screwed this country with his so called fiscal and monetary policies, but what hope do we have if Cameron cannot demonstrate a clear understanding of this country’s finances. A good leader, CEO of Prime Minister, would have a clear and detail knowledge of the finances of the organisation that he heads.

If Cameron wants the people of this country to entrust him with our futures, then he must demonstrate that he has the capacity, ability, the knowledge and the skills to take us forward. He cannot, as he has done so many times in the past, simply rely on the failures of the existing Government. We all know that New Labour have failed us…what we want to know is that he and his team have the answers. If Cameron cannot grasp the fundamentals of finance, then he does not deserve to lead this country.

Posted in Conservatives, General, Labour, World | Comments (5)

Discounted bank shares is cheap electioneering

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Discounted bank shares is cheap electioneering


I am not known for agreeing with the Labour Party very often. However, George Osborne’s suggestion that the people should be offered shares in a bank we already own, at a discounted price, is nothing other than a cynical gimmick. I would have hoped that the Conservative Party would rise above such silly electioneering.

The reality is, we already own these banks and therefore, the dividends or proceeds of a sale will already go back to the public purse, allowing us to reduce debt or invest. Why would we want to buy these shares at a “discount”, when as taxpayers we are already assured of receiving the full benefit when these shares are drip fed back into the market? Furthermore, why should any specific sections of the community receive special or additional discounts?

There are suggestions that young people, low-income families and parents saving for their children should receive extra discounts. Why? The banks were saved using taxpayer funds and debt. This proposal is not an equal or proportionate division of the proceeds of a sale of a publicly owned asset; it is just a cynical way of buying votes from one section of the community. In fact, this is a typical ‘Labour Party’ trick of attempting to redistribute wealth, in spite of the fact that the Labour experiment has proven to be an utter failure.

It could be argued that those on the lowest incomes and, for that matter, younger people, contributed the least towards the propping of the banks, so why should they receive shares at a more favourable rate? It simply does not stand up to scrutiny. I suggest that the Conservative Party get on with the real job of telling us what they will do if they get into power, rather than trying cheap tricks designed to garner support from a minority at the expense of the majority. We have had to put up with this type of positive discrimination for the past 13 years…enough now!

Posted in Conservatives, General, World | Comments (3)

Ministers must be careful they don’t bully the charity

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Ministers must be careful they don’t bully the charity


Government Ministers need to tread very carefully, because the public is watching, therefore any attempt to humiliate, marginalise or intimidate the charity ‘National Bullying Helpline’ or its CEO, Christine Pratt. We all know how vicious the Labour Party’s spin machine can be…and we will be watching very carefully.

Already Mandelson has suggested that there is a “political operation” to undermine the Prime Minister without substantiating his claim. Nonetheless, it has been implied that because the National Bullying Helpline has Anne Widdecombe and a Tory Councillor amongst its patrons, that there may be some political bias. Why? If the claims made by Christine Pratt are true, it makes little or no difference who is a patron of the charity. There are now suggestions that Pratt’s claims are not substantiated…please, how on earth can she do that without breaching confidentiality? Moreover, I suspect that the charity allows a person to seek advice and support without giving their names, which means it would be impossible to identify the complainants even if they wanted to.

No. 10 states that the charity never informed them of the claims against them. Is that any great surprise? It would appear that the charity is primarily a support group and do not have an interventionist role unless specifically asked to do so by their clients. This looks like a cheap attempt to undermine the charity or try and place some doubt on the veracity of the claims.

There are also suggestions that the charity has “breached client confidentiality”. That is total poppycock. No details of the specific claims have been made and they have not released the names of the complainants. Surely it is only a breach of confidentiality if the complainants can be easily identified, this does not appear to be the case? This just looks like another cynical and cheap attempt to divert attention from the real issue…a case of shooting the messenger!

Of course, the charity will now open itself to scrutiny, so I hope for their sake, that they are squeaky clean. Otherwise they will find themselves subjected to all sorts of questions and investigations, because they have shaken a hornets nest here. I don’t think it was wise for a small charity to speak out in this way, but there is an argument that they were prepared to stand and be counted, which at the very least, is a case of leading by example.

The bottom line is, that if Gordon Brown and No. 10 have nothing to hide, then the best thing they could do is stop attempting to defend themselves by attacking others and agree to an independent inquiry, where staff will be given the opportunity to make statements in complete confidentiality. Furthermore, they should agree to an immediate inquiry, so that the matter can be cleared up well before the General Election, because like it or not, the public will form their own opinion…and many will consider that there is ‘no smoke without fire’. This could be hugely damaging to the Labour Party’s desire to gain another term in office.

Posted in General, Labour, World | Comments (2)

Does workplace bullying take place in Downing Street?

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Does workplace bullying take place in Downing Street?


Workplace bullies typically surround themselves by weak or flawed characters that are invariably selected based, not on their skills, but the ability of the bully to control and/or dominate them. I will allow the readers to draw their own conclusions; I know I have formed my own.

Gordon Brown admits to losing his temper, shouting at people and throwing things, but this is dismissed by him and his colleagues as being emotional, demanding or passionate. No it isn’t, it is a sign of a man that is not in control of himself, which does not bode well for a man who is supposed to be in charge of this country. The people of this country are entitled to expect their leader to act like one! If Gordon Brown believes that he can achieve more my shouting and intimidating people, then he is deluded, which is probably true in any case, because this is the same man that thinks he had nothing to do with the financial mess this country is in!

So what is the definition of workplace bullying? Whilst there is no specific legislation, there is an implied terms and conditions of employment that place a mutual obligation of ‘trust and confidence’ on both employer and employee. This includes an obligation on the employer not to be humiliate, intimidate or degrade the employee, further, that the employee be treated with dignity and consideration. I wonder how this obligation fits in with Brown’s own admission of shouting, losing his temper and throwing things. No.10 can deny all it wants, but the facts must speak for themselves, if there is any suspicion of workplace bullying, then it must be investigated by an outside, independent inquiry. If Gordon Brown believes that he and his staff have done nothing wrong, then he has nothing to fear. This is, of course, the same justification he and his Ministers’ use to justify why we should not fear being on the Government’s DNA database!

How ironic that it was the Labour Party, in ‘The Road to the Manifesto’ that actually proposed the idea of establishing a basic minimum standard of fairness at work.

Of course, the National Bullying Helpline CEO has not accused Gordon Brown of bullying, but if there is evidence of bullying within No. 10, then he must assume responsibility and there should be an investigation to see if this is systemic or without foundation. In my experience, bullying tends to come from the top; it is part of a culture that develops until those at the top think it is normal! Personally I do not believe that it is acceptable to describe losing your temper or shouting at subordinates as simply being demanding, passionate or emotional. The public are entitled to expect exemplary behaviour from those that are elected to represent us and run this country; they must be beyond reproach and set an example to the rest of us. It doesn’t matter whether it is the Prime Minister, one of His Ministers, or one of their many aides. They are in public office and therefore subject to both public scrutiny and an expectation of the highest standards.

If there is evidence of Gordon Brown being involved in bullying or failing to act to stamp out this type of behaviour within his department, then he should resign immediately. Mandelson said “There is zero tolerance for bullying in the government as a whole, and certainly at the centre of government.” If this is the case, then this statement must be compared with the admission made by Gordon Brown about his management style.

The public is sick and tired of politicians believing there is one rule for them and one for the rest of us.

Posted in General, Labour, World | Comments (3)

MP’s utter contempt for the public is indisputable

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MP’s utter contempt for the public is indisputable


If anyone was in any doubt that members of parliament hold the people of this country in utter contempt, then a look at some of the news stories this week ought to be enough to convince even those that are in awe of the ruling elite.

The biggest story by far is the publication of MPs’ expenses. For months, we have been told that the MP’s in general and this government in particular wanted complete transparency and, that they would demonstrate this by publishing full details of their expenses. They cautioned that some information such as their home addresses, telephone numbers, bank account details and signatures would be “redacted”. However, they have gone much further than that, with vast swathes of information being ‘blanked out’ to the extent that the information that has been provided is virtually useless, at least to anyone that wants to be able to scrutinise how MP’s have been spending our money. It is farcical. It is also nonsense to suggest that much of this information was redacted because of the ‘Data Protection Act’, granted, the DPA is relevant to some of the detail, but MP’s are hiding behind the DPA to mask their own embarrassment in the forlorn hope that few people will understand what is, or is not covered by the Data Protection Act.

Take David Cameron, one of the most vocal proponents of transparency on expenses. He is making clear that he feels too much information has been censored, but if you listen carefully, he is not suggesting that the current set of claims be reviewed and published again, only that any future claims be dealt with on a more open basis. In other words, Cameron wants to give the impression that he is all for transparency, but he is being very careful not to advocate the publishing of uncensored expenses pre-2008 …which is what we are all interested in. Clearly, only the most inept MP would exaggerate or fiddle their expenses when the public and others are scrutinising their expenditure and MP’s have been aware of this being likely ever since they lost their court case last year. However, what we want and need to know is precisely what they were up to when they believed their expenses would never be open to public scrutiny. It is this period when MP’s were trusted not to abuse the system that matters and will determine whether or not they were entitled or should have been in receipt of such public confidence. It is the same principle as the speed camera that is much loved by this government, if everyone knows that they are being monitored, then they adjust their behaviour accordingly, but only a fool would speed past a camera whilst over the limit.

It is clear that this government and many other MP’s have become adept at saying much but meaning very little. They say just enough to get them of the hook, they are willing to stretch the truth, but not so far that they could be accused of lying and, when all else fails, they don’t answer the question at all or go underground. The bottom line is, the public has not given any MP an amnesty for wrongdoing or fiddling their expenses, simply based on an assurance that they will be good boys and girls in the future. If they (our MP’s) have taken the public for mugs, then they must may the price with their jobs and if necessary, their liberty. Party leaders must also be wary of our view in respect of their decision to set up their own ‘scrutiny panels’ to allow them to set the rules and issue the adjudications behind closed doors and without any public involvement. We don’t have ex-cons acting as judge and jury, nor should we have MP’s doing the same, because we will, inevitably, believe that they are simply protecting their own, whilst using the opportunity to throw the mavericks to the wolves. The public is increasingly aware that we are being treated like fools, we know that MP’s, ministers and yes, party leaders, routinely lie or mislead us.

Perhaps what irks me most is the fact that the vast majority of Labour MP’s and many, many opposition MP’s supported government initiatives that permitted the state to consistently and relentlessly invade our privacy and our everyday lives. Supported by the majority of MP’s, the state will routinely spy on our email’s, monitor our telephone calls, record and store our internet traffic, monitor and store details of our local and international travel arrangements and share our most private and intimate details with up to 700 other government and non-government departments or organisations. Yet, it is these same MP’s that seek to protect their own privacy by redacting material that they believe they think we should not see, even though it is our money that they are spending. When the ruling classes become so overtly and arrogantly hypocritical, then we have to know that something has gone very badly wrong with the relationship between the people and the state.

However, this was not the only news which demonstrates how things are changing between the people and the state. Using legislation introduced in 2003, a high court has ruled that a robbery trial can go ahead without a jury. Now I am not arguing the merits of this particular case, only what this landmark ruling could mean to the rest of us, because the right to a jury trial is undoubtedly an ancient and preciously guarded feature of the English criminal justice system. Ask the average citizen whether they would prefer to be judged by 12 fellow citizens or a single judge and I think we all know what the answer will be. Whilst a non-jury trial is supposed to be used only in exceptional cases, we all know that our recent history is littered with such precedents becoming the norm. Mission creep, abuse, deception, lies, it doesn’t matter what you call it, somewhere along the line this high court ruling is likely to become far more widespread. Remember when CCTV cameras were only used to deter criminals? Today they are used to track the movements of people and cars using, respectively, facial recognition technology and automatic number plate recognition systems. Remember when it was only suspected terrorists and big criminals that had their telephones and other communications monitored? Now, every call, text message and email of every citizen in this country is monitored and stored by the state. Remember when you were innocent until proven guilty? Tell that to anyone that is targeted by the HMRC, or someone that has had their assets seized and have to prove how they attained them. Tell that to someone that has been detained without charge or subjected to a control order under anti-terror legislation, without ever being informed what evidence there was to justify such action. Anyone that believes that these state activities will never affect the average citizen is incredibly naive, there are endless examples of laws introduced for one purpose being used for something entirely different. For example, it is not just terrorists that are affected by anti-terror legislation, an old man was ejected from an open meeting for heckling Jack Straw, and a lady was detained for walking on a path that had been designated a bike path, Iceland’s assets were seized using anti-terror legislation even though there were other laws that would have been more appropriate. The state either directly or through their proxies abuse legislation routinely at our expense. If we cannot trust our lawmakers to be honest and beyond reproach in the submission of their expenses and in their dealings with the public, how can we continue to trust them with our liberty or values?

Take the most recent political debate over public expenditure, can we trust our government to be honest? I mean, who are we to believe? Gordon Brown tells us that public spending is going up, whilst the Conservatives tell us it is not. The difference appears to be whether it is includes or excludes inflation, whether it includes variables such as interest payments and how the bringing forward of capital spending plans affects the numbers. Semantics or bullshit? In my view, whilst Brown may not be lying, he is most certainly trying to deliberately mislead and that is unforgivable. Brown is in a position of trust, yet he thinks it is acceptable to play childlike games when attempting to explain the public finances, even though it is precisely these types of pathetic, self-serving, juvenile tricks that got us into the financial mess we are in today. But how can we trust the opposition either? They have many members that have been fiddling their expenses or, at the very least, been stretching the available allowances to extremes? But, rather than taking the opportunity to purge politics of reprobates and stealing a lead by removing the censorship of past expense claims, they go into self-preservation mode and refer only of future claims. This amounts to a virtual amnesty for any MP that hasn’t been caught yet.

Party leaders are saying one thing and doing another. For example, they are making overtures about the fact that parliament can no longer be self-regulating yet, as party leaders, they consider their own committees best able to judge whether or not an MP has broken the expense rules or abused the often repeated “spirit of the rules”. These committees then have the power to ‘clear’ an MP and we are expected to accept that these secret investigations, adjudications and punishments have been fair, impartial and proportionate. We are forced to conclude that whilst MP’s believe we are capable of voting them into power, they do not trust us to judge them based on their actions and our standards. This is class snobbery at its best, MP’s from all parties truly believe that they are the elite and we are the peasants. We are simply a necessary evil on their journey to power. The only thing tMP’s fear is losing their seat and therefore, their power base.

Oh, and on top of everything else, this government does not believe that we are entitled to a public enquiry over the Iraq War. Now, lets get this straight shall we? This is a war that very few of us supported, this is a war that has cost the lives of many brave servicemen, not to mention the lives of the many innocent women and children in Iraq. This is a war that has cost us over £6bn and placed us on the front line of international terrorism. This is a war that has cost the people of this country a loss of liberty and privacy on an unprecedented scale, that has virtually destroyed the freedoms and liberties that have evolved and been fought for over hundreds of years. Yet this government believes we are not entitled to have a public enquiry to establish why we went to war.

The public want to know why we went to war, based on what evidence and, whether or not it was considered legal. Was the country and/parliament mislead and if so, by whom? Other than something that directly affects national security, everything must be open to public scrutiny, up to and including the cabinet minutes. When a democratic country is taken to war against the will of the people, then the government has an obligation to provide an open and honest account of why they went against public opinion, especially when the initial justifications for their actions have subsequently been proved completely unfounded. Those responsible must not be allowed to conduct such matters in secrecy given we are all having to pay the price. We need to know that our government did not take us to war for regime change or to instill our form of democracy on another country, there must better be another very good reason such as, there being a very real threat to the safety or security of the UK.

So much has happened over the past 7 days that it is difficult to know where to start or finish. However, what is clear to me, is the so-called ruling classes do not give a toss about you and I. With few exceptions, MP’s treat us with disdain and contempt, they consider themselves above the law, not open to scrutiny and not subject to the same rules that you and I must adhere to. Fiddling expenses has become so ‘routine’ that MP’s no longer understand the difference between what is right or wrong. Lying to the public has become so routine that Ministers can now do it with a straight face. Rhetoric has displaced action and, truth has replaced political spin in government and, all of the major political parties. MP’s and their leaders have never really been trusted by the public and for all intents and purposes, we have been proved right. 

In spite of that, they expect us to trust them at their word, even though they continue to lie and bullshit us on a daily basis, even though they protect their own and, even though they lack the humility to admit their mistakes. In reality, recent election results imply that we have lost confidence in all of them because, in spite of the fact that New Labour has destroyed this country in economic terms, massacred our civil liberties, made the people of this country a target for any radical terrorist, acted against our wishes and yes, consistently lied to us, we still don’t trust the alternatives, specifically the Conservatives or LibDems. The opposition party’s should be cleaning up with such a pathetic government and prime minister in place, they are not, and that should worry them. It is time for all parties and MP’s to treat the people of this country like grown-ups, if they don’t then there is a very real likelihood that the people will react and if that happens, I doubt that Jackie Smith’s 10,000 Tasers will make a great deal of difference. This country needs a regime change, the problem is, the alternatives don’t look much better!

Something that galls me most about this whole mess, is that whilst we have tended to look at the expense scandal as a serious, but local difficulty, our ruling elite have given the likes of the Ayatollah Khamenei license to refer to the people of this country as being corrupt. We, are all being tarred with the same brush as many of our MP’s and that is quite simply unforgivable.

Posted in Big Brother, Civil Liberties, Conservatives, General, Labour, Lib Dems, World | Comments (4)

Is Gordon Brown about to make another Balls up?

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Is Gordon Brown about to make another Balls up?


Rumours are abound that Gordon Brown intends to complete a cabinet reshuffle either, at the end of this week, or during the course of next week, especially if, as expected, Labour get a drubbing at the local and EU elections.

What has shocked me however, is that Gordon Brown is said to be considering promoting Ed Balls to Chancellor of the Exchequer. If he does that, then there really is a strong case for someone to send the men in white coats to Downing Street. So, from The Undertaker to The Clown, little wonder this country is in such a mess! Now I accept that Ed Balls is Brown’s best buddy, god know he needs them, but Balls is completely inept. His idea of selling something to the public is to keep repeating himself in the hope that we will get worn in submission. Ed Balls can barely string a sentence together, he is a poor commons debater, a useless TV performer and, lets face it, his first ministerial post as Schools Secretary has hardly been a success. In fact, the only ‘success’ he can claim is his innate ability to shift the blame onto others.

Loyalty, obedience and arse licking may be fine attributes for a dog, but not a Chancellor. Moving from Alistair Darling to Ed Balls can only be described as going from The Undertaker, to The Clown. At a time when this country is an economic basketcase, we need the very best available in the role of Chancellor, not another puppet. Some may claim that Ed Balls has experience because of his time at the Treasury, but he was just a messenger boy there, so he can more claim to be a Chancellor than an orator can claim to be a writer. If Gordon Brown decided to appoint Ed Balls to Chancellor then it is quite clear Brown has no interest in this country or the people of this country, his primary interest is himself and his buddies. One or two commentators have suggested that Ed Balls is highly respected in the City, so, my first question is, WHY? The second is how come so many people within the City are going on record to say the opposite?

Apart from the fact that Ed Balls does not possess the skills, gravitas or experience to take on the role of Chancellor, there is also the question of his moral rectitude. Ed Balls is married to Yvette Cooper and they both claim the Additional Cost Allowances for their London property, which they have designated as their second home, albeit not at the maximum rate, but they only need one home, don’t they? Similarly, between them, it is reported that they claim £600 per month in food allowances. Whilst what they have done is “within the rules”, the fact remains that they have nominated three different properties in two years to be their main residence. With both in ministerial posts, they have a combined salary of nearly £300,000 per year, they are hardly destitute nor are they in desperate need of the Additional Cost Allowances. Can this be described as prudence? Can we really trust a man that is quite willing to work the rules to maximise his allowances to seek value for the taxpayer? I don’t think so.

Gordon Brown is finished, but if he wants to demonstrate that he is also a complete idiot, then all he needs to do is appoint Ed Balls as Chancellor.

On a side note, I am please that char lady to the Police, Jacqui Smith is to quit at the next Cabinet reshuffle, but given she was expected to go anyway, all this is designed to do is allow her to leave with dignity. But we know the truth, she is, and always was, a useless Home Secretary who, instead of controlling and directing her departments, just became their gofer, char lady, bag holder. Good riddance. We now need a Home Secretary that does not believe in destroying individual liberty in a vain and discredited hope of reducing the risk of crime and terrorism.

Posted in General, Labour, World | Comments (7)

Restoring confidence in Parliamentary Democracy

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Restoring confidence in Parliamentary Democracy


Nothing irritates me more than having people claim that they speak for me and yet, that is precisely what I have to put up with from this government and party leaders. Not one of our party leaders, but in particular our prime minister, has been given a mandate to speak on behalf of the people of this country. Yet, the most common expression coming out of the mouths of all party leaders is “What the public wants is…..”. It is this precisely this arrogance that angers me most and I suspect that there will be others that are similarly angered, although I can’t nor will I claim to speak for them.

However, based on my limited number of friends and colleagues, I can say that I believe the expense scandal is the conduit for peoples anger, but not the primary reason. Instead, based on my straw poll, most people were already apoplectic about the failure of this government to listen to them and the abject failure of MP’s (backbenchers and opposition parties) in holding the Executive to account. The consensus was, that this government had become authoritarian, reckless and completely out of touch with the wishes of the majority. Further, that the introduction of over 3,600 new criminal offences over 12 years had sought to criminalise the majority, whilst offering exemptions for MP’s.  Further, that the removal of long-held and cherished civil liberties had been arbitrarily removed on the pretext of fighting crime and terrorism, using fear as the primary justification. Yet the statistics clearly demonstrate that the loss of liberty has produced no tangible or demonstrable improvement in our daily lives. Violent crime for example has doubled under this government.

All MP’s have an opportunity to restore confidence in parliament, democracy and, of course, members of parliament, but only if they truly understand what angers the public. Speaking for myself, I have listed below what I would like to see introduced in terms of electoral reform/change and manifesto commitments, not every one will agree with me but, unless the party leaders agree with my points, they must not claim to speak for me.

Electoral Reform

  1. Every MP must be required to stand down and seek reselection whenever there is an election
  2. Local primaries must be introduced which allow the local people to select which candidate they want to represent their preferred political party.
  3. The local people must be provided with the means and the ability to recall their MP [The barriers would have to be realistic and there should be a limit to the number of recalls in any given parliament]
  4. Introduction of fixed term parliaments
  5. Removal of the Whips ability to exercise their powers in all matters that are not covered by the ruling party’s manifesto
  6. Introduction of a procedure that allows the public to lodge a vote of no confidence in the government which will lead, if successful, to a new election
  7. Requirement for an immediate election where a party wants to change leader during their term in office [No coronations]
  8. Introduction of Proportional Representation to better reflect the will of the people [There are a number of variations of PR and I would be open to debate on which would be the preferred option taking account of the fact that no electoral system is perfect, but FPTP is not in my view, representative]
  9. Boost the power of select committees, provide stronger investigatory powers and require that the chair is elected by secret ballot rather than appointed
  10. Require all major legislation that is not contained in the Manifesto to be put to the people in a referendum
  11. Allow the civil service to be answerable to elected ministers only [i.e. not parliamentary aides or peers]
  12. Introduce a fully elected, but much smaller upper chamber [I would suggest that members of the upper chamber are all independent to avoid a situation where laws are simply rubber stamped]
  13. Devolve power from the centre and provide for more local democracy and accountability
  14. Repeal any law that provides members of parliament with legal exemption or special tax concessions which are not available to the public [With the exception of parliamentary privilege]
  15. Limit the number of new laws that can be introduced during any parliamentary term and for each new law introduced, one existing law must be repealed
  16. Party leaders must be made legally responsible for the introduction of all manifesto commitments
  17. Remove Ministerial Veto
  18. Limit the powers of the prime minister to prevent this country going to war without the consent of parliament
  19. Make ministers responsible and accountable for what they say outside parliament as well as inside [Ministers’  must the same type of sanction for misleading the public as they do for misleading parliament. We need an end to spin]
  20. Prevent all political parties from using ‘positive discrimination’ to select candidates based on race, gender or religion
  21. Require that all candidates seeking selection to represent their constituents have been resident in the ‘seat’ for not less than 5 years [This will ensure that the candidate has local knowledge and limit the powers of the party leaders to parachute prospective candidates into safe seats]
  22. Introduce a limit on public borrowing as a percentage of GDP, above which they must seek a mandate from the people through a referendum [No longer should it be possible for a PM to have the power to virtually bankrupt a country without recourse to parliament or the people]
  23. Place a limit on the Executive, above which they must gain parliamentary approval, for investment in private sector institutions
  24. Introduce tighter regulation of quangos and lobbyists
  25. Increase the power of backbench MP’s to hold the Executive to account and, if necessary, overturn unpopular legislation
  26. Members of Parliament rather than the Government must set the Parliamentary timetable
  27. Require that all new legislation is only passed when or if at least 35% of MP’s are present to debate and vote

 Manifesto Commitments

  1. Repeal the Human Rights Act
  2. Draft and legislate for a Bill of Rights that seeks to embrace the protection of the people, not least from the introduction of arbitrary new laws which seek to remove, reduce or infringe the civil liberties of the majority [Based on the principles of the American Constitution rather than a citizens charter]
  3. Provide a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty
  4. Halve the number of Quangos in one parliamentary term
  5. Scrap the Tax Credit Scheme and return to a simplified tax regime using tax codes and thresholds
  6. Review the Barnett Formula used to determine funding for the Scottish Assembly with a view to bringing it in line with England
  7. Cancel existing, ongoing and proposed IT/Database projects including, the NHS Database, the Travellers Database, ContactPoint, the Communications Database
  8. Review of the RIPA Act with the aim to limit the investigatory powers to the police, security services, HMRC and DWP
  9. Repeal oppressive civil liberties legislation that has resulted in the routine monitoring and recording of the actions and activities of all UK citizens rather than the minority that could justifiably be monitored.
  10. Complete a full scale review on the use of CCTV cameras
  11. Allow DNA to be retained only in cases where someone has been charged and convicted. All other DNA samples to be removed within 45 days of election
  12. Introduce a means by which the public can demonstrate their support or objection to debates or proposed legislation in the form of an online petition [Such as the existing Downing Street petition site, with a minimum number of votes being required before the point is debated in parliament]
  13. Review and remove Health & Safety laws that seek to impose the will of the government where a commonsense approach would be more appropriate [Health & Safety laws are crippling business and government arrogantly assumes that the people of this country need a nanny state or are incapable of carrying out their own risk assessment]
  14. Review and remove the raft of so called ‘PC’ laws which, instead of outlawing discrimination have simply ended up identifying people as being different, or in need of legal protection. This discourages integration rather than promoting it. Many of these laws are in fact discriminatory in that they provide positive discrimination.

I am not a constitutional expert, nor can I claim to have any parliamentary experience, but that is the whole point, it should not and must not preclude me from having an opinion on how our system of parliamentary democracy functions. The details can be debated, but the fundamental points I have raised above need to be addressed if we are, in my opinion, to make parliament more accountable and return power to the people. You, of course, at least for the time being, are entitled to your own views, provided they don’t fall foul of the new laws enacted under New Labour. Hopefully, once collated, there will be a true consensus on what the people want, rather than MP’s, Ministers or party leaders telling us what we want.

Once parliament is truly representative and accountable to the people, then we may start to see a slow, but sustainable return of confidence in politics, politicians and democracy.

Posted in Conservatives, General, Labour, Lib Dems, World | Comments (11)

MPs’ Expenses: Sorry doesn’t cut it!

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MPs’ Expenses: Sorry doesn’t cut it!


Most MP’s appear to believe that they have nothing to apologise for because, so far as they are concerned, they acted within the rules and their expenses and/or allowances were paid by the Fees Office. Some, on the other hand have said sorry, not for the wholesale abuse of the system, but for individual expense claims which they think we will find indefensible. An even smaller number believe it is okay if they say sorry and reimburse the public purse. Well for me, that just doesn’t cut it. Do they think that the public is so shallow, so in awe of MP’s and so battered by circumstance that they will simple forgive and forget? I think not!

MP’s are in a position of trust, invariably they are elected based on promises made to the electorate and/or party manifesto commitments. Not only are the public entitled to expect the highest levels of probity, but they are also entitled to presume that members of parliament have a fully operational moral compass, in respect of their personal life and, above all in relation to their dealings in public office. In spite of this, many MP’s have actively milked an expense and allowance system for their personal gain, even though, a good number of them have variously described it as in desperate need of reform, open to abuse, or open to interpretation. Some have implied or stated that they felt the allowances were a right, given the salaries were, in their opinion, comparatively poor. MP’s have argued that the public would not accept higher salaries, therefore a flexible approach to allowances and expenses made up the shortfall. Did none of these MP’s consider this solution to be at best, immoral and at worst, dishonest?

One of the problems with MP’s salaries is the fact that MP’s have an exagagerated opinion of their abilities and value, at least, they place a much higher value on themselves than the public does. Why is that I wonder? Could it be, for example, that they surround themselves with flunkies, yes men and people that routinely blow hot air up their backsides? Perhaps, it is because becoming an MP is a virtual closed-shop. The reality is, that the best chance of being elected is to be adopted by one of the main parties, to do that, you have to come from a very small pool of candidates, perhaps a local councillor, a school friend of the leader, a friendly journalist, a union leader, a lobbyist or party activist, come gofer. As a consequence, real world experience is limited, both in terms of business and life experience, which probably explains why so many MP’s appear out of touch with real people and incapable of handling portfolios either in government or as a shadow ministers. Is it, therefore, any wonder that the public believe MP’s are already overpaid?

This is even more evident right now, by virtue of the fact that Gordon Brown has such a limited pool of ‘bright’ MP’s, that he has to make do with the best of the bunch. Not great when you are supposed to be running one of the biggest economies in the world! I would have no problem with MP’s being paid more, but based on the current crop, that would be ridiculous. There is nothing wrong with paying more in order that you can attract the brightest stars to politics, but no-one will want to pay for when all we get are the also-rans! In my view, the way candidates for chosen is akin to going to a small town job centre and expecting to find the best qualified people in the country. It just ain’t going to happen and, as a direct consequence, we end up getting served by MP’s that would be lucky to get a middle managers job, much less responsibility for thousands of staff and multi-billion pound budgets. To emphasis this point, we have a former postman in charge of the Health Service, the third largest employer in the world and a former teacher in charge of the Home Office. What a complete and utter mess!

Of course, whilst MP’s will complain that there £64k salary is too low, those with additional responsibilities will receive much more, for example, a cabinet minister will be on over £140k, but that has not stopped them from continuing to milk the system. Because, I assume, by the time they become a minister, with the higher salary and all the additional benefits, their moral compass is so damaged, that they no longer see right from wrong. Not a good thing when they are overseeing departments with multi-billion pound budgets. I am not suggesting any form of wrongdoing, but surely, the public has a right to wonder whether MP’s and Ministers that actively milk a system that, by their own admission is “flawed”, can be trusted to make the right decisions, for the right reasons.

It is not just the expense system that needs reforming, it is the whole system, from how candidates are selected, to how MP’s are promoted into senior positions. Much of it defies logic, lacks transparency and leaves a large question mark over objectivity. The initial candidate selection procedure for example, does not ensure that we get the ‘best of the best’, therefore, if the candidates are eventually elected, they cannot and should not expect salaries comparable with the private sector where there is a true meritocracy, not cronyism. In reality, we end up with Ministers getting paid to learn on the job, even though they have little or no experience of a particular role, that would never happen in the private sector. Little wonder then, that we end up paying £billions to outside consultants, the public end up paying twice and through the nose, because of the recruitment policies of the main parties.

Lets look at the logic for the moment shall we? David Cameron says that the Conservatives are “ready for government“. Okay, then the public is entitled to know who he intends to put in the ‘top’ positions of government and precisely what skills they have to qualify them to run these massive departments. He will not of course, because he doesn’t want us to know what he knows already, that few, if any, of his crop of MP’s have any relevant experience. How many health professionals does he have? How many business leaders? How many teaching professionals? How many economic experts? How many security professionals? Ready for government? If it wasn’t so serious, it would be a joke, the Conservative party may be more principled that New Labour, which wouldn’t be difficult, but ready for government? No chance and the same goes for the Liberal Democrats! Once again, the public will be obliged to accept that we have rank amateurs running our country, our economy and our enormous public sector departments.

If you were to put all of the parties together, I doubt we would be able to find enough suitably experienced candidates, with the necessary depth and knowledge, to run even half of our key departments. That is normal, but it also shocking, because every party tries to convince us that they are modern, forward thinking and up to the job, yet their candidate recruitment process belongs firmly in the dark ages. If this country is to get itself out of the mess that our politicians have been responsible for or complicit in, then there needs to be complete reform.

  • This must include a review of their candidate selection procedures to ensure that they have a good choice of suitably experienced MP’s should they be elected to govern.
  • Strict rules on probity. If an MP or Minister loses the trust and confidence of the electorate, then they must resign their seat and a by-election called.
  • MP’s must accept that they are no longer entitled to self-regulation, nor are they to be permitted to exempt themselves from the same laws that the public must accept.
  • If a political governing party refuses to deliver on any manifesto promise then the the party leader must take full responsibility and resign, then an election must be called. – A manifesto is, of course, a contractual commitment to the people of this country, not an advertising gimmick.
  • The Prime Minister and other Ministers shall be obliged to answer all questions put to them by other Members of Parliament. No Minister shall be allowed to side-step direct questions as frequently happens during PMQ’s.
  • MP’s expense claims must first be approved by their party leaders, before they are submitted to the Fees Office. Expense claims must also be subject to independent and regular audit. False or misleading claims must lead to the automatic dismissal of the MP concerned. In other words, the party whip must be withdrawn, the MP banned from the Commons, and a by-election called.
  • MP’s must lose the entitlement to have themselves referred to as ‘Honourable’ or ‘Right Honourable’ given this implies that they are better than the people they serve and it is automatic, rather than earned. As such, it is meaningless and must therefore, be withdrawn.
  • MP’s must publish their diaries. This need not be detailed, but must include enough information for their constituents to be able to judge how much time each MP’s spends in the house of commons, within their constituency and talking to their constituents. Similarly, it will provide details on when MP’s are in London and whether they are on parliamentary or personal business. All MP’s shall be obliged to publish how many ‘junkets’ they go on each year, including the purpose, duration, cost and who paid.
  • Only Members of Parliament must be permitted to hold Ministerial posts, ensuring that they remain accountable. Peerages must no longer be used as quick method to place an unelected individual into a Ministerial post.
  • Ministers who deliberately mislead parliament are subject to sanction. The same should apply to any Minister that seeks to mislead the public, whether inside or outside parliament.
  • The public must be provided with a method of calling an early election if they lose trust and confidence in the governing party. This could be done by allowing the public to register their ‘satisfaction’ with the governing party once a year, using postal and/or  an internet based voting forum. If the governing party falls below an agreed percentage, then parliament must be dissolved. This would act as a deterrent to governing parties becoming authoritarian, complacent and indifferent to public opinion…as is the case with the current government. Power must be returned to the people if democracy is to survive.
  • When party Manifesto’s are used in an election campaign, voters must be provided with the ability to vote for, or against, each Manifesto commitment. This is to ensure that the public are not ‘bounced’ into agreeing unwelcome policies that are hidden amongst more populist commitments. Therefore, for practical reasons, Manifesto commitments must be limited to a maximum of 10.
  • Parliament must agree to limit the number of new laws drafted each year to allow members of parliament sufficient time to read and digest the content. Since 1997, New Labour have introduced a record 3607 new laws, many are detrimental to the public interest, yet in many cases, were not even debated. Parliament must limit the number of new laws to a maximum of 200 during any Government term.
  • News laws are now routinely introduced (or more accurately hidden) within legislation which has little or nothing to do with the subject matter. These are often laws that are likely to be the most contentious, politicians of all parties must agree to cease this practice forthwith. If a new law is required, then it must be open to scrutiny and debated.
  • Any new legislation or draft law which affects the fundamental liberty, freedoms or right to privacy of the public and has not been include as a manifesto commitment, must be subject to a referendum. The people, not government, must determine if they are prepared to sacrifice long held freedoms, liberty and privacy rights in favour of government assurances of safety and security.  It is not acceptable that any government with a large majority use this powerful position to introduce laws which increase the powers of the state at the expense of the public at large.

In summary, public concern is not so much about the money that MP’s have been pocketing. But the moral compass of any elected official that believed he or she should be entitled to supplement their income through the backdoor by deliberately introducing a ‘flexible’  and generous expense and allowance scheme. By their own admission, this was to avoid the furore that would have been caused if MP’s had sought to increase their salaries, in other words, it was very deliberately deceitful. The public is further angered by the fact that public money was then used to try and prevent the people of this country having access to this information, which amounts to little short of an attempt to cover up malpractice.

However, even before the expense scandal, the public were becoming increasingly disillusioned with politicians in general and this government in particular. This was because politicians appeared ever more detached from reality, unwilling to engage and government had become increasingly more authoritarian. Opposition MP’s did little to combat this attack on the people of this country and that further damaged the confidence of the British public in our political system and members of parliament. It was clear, to anyone looking, that politicians were becoming (indeed are) less and less accountable to the people of this country.

Moreover, politicians of all parties started to deny that they were there to serve the public, some quite openly on their blogs. To reinforce who was boss, this particular government introduced a raft of new legislation that resulted in long held civil liberties and freedoms being denied to the people of this country. The opposition parties did little or nothing to stop this government, and all of a sudden, the people of this country started to feel crushed, hemmed in and unable to do anything about what was happening as politicians increased the divide.

Then came the so called ‘bust’, followed by a recession. But, instead of taking responsibility, the former chancellor and then prime minister blamed anyone and everyone. This was compounded by the fact that his ministers, rather than having the backbone to stand up to him, just tried to continue the myth. Many of them manipulating numbers, statistics or other facts to confuse the picture and divert attention. The PM and Ministers were so far up their own backsides that they thought we would all fall for it, that is the level of contempt they had (and have) for the public. They were arrogant instead of contrite.  

With the economic crisis and lack of public confidence in members of parliament and government ministers, politicians on all sides, I believe, realised that the vast majority of them were out of their depth. When boom ended, few of them had any idea what to do and this is what became self-evident to those outside the Westminster village, but denied by those in power. All of a sudden, the fact that the ‘gene pool’ was so limited meant that there was no ‘experts’ to turn to within their own ranks. The Expense scandal is a culmination of all these things.

Politicians must now realise that their recruitment model is broken, their promotion model (based on cronyism rather than merit) is broken, their moral compass is broken, their reputation for probity is in tatters, the gulf between them and the people they are supposed to represent is wider than the Atlantic, their lack of humility is self-evident, their authoritarian approach is resented by all, their spin doctor messages so old as to be almost predictable and the people, in spite of having their liberties, freedoms and right to privacy destroyed in a little over a decade have had enough and are fighting back. Politicians of all parties would do well to listen. They rule by consent, not as a right. The public could scupper all of their plans by simply voting for fringe parties, it may not give is a joined up government, but lets be honest, we haven’t had one of those for generations!

It is worthwhile checking out this article on MP’s Expense Claims!

Posted in Civil Liberties, Conservatives, General, Labour, Lib Dems, World | Comments (3)

Gordon Brown, the G20 is over, time to go

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Gordon Brown, the G20 is over, time to go


Gordon Brown has received a great deal of praise from world leaders at the G20, one assumes, because he managed to get so many leaders together in one place to discuss the global economy. But talks of a breakthrough or global deal are a bit strong, lets face it, all we have been given is a set of guiding principles. Nothing is binding and, as we all know, when the dust settles, things are rarely as they at first appeared. For example, tax havens will be named and shamed, but that won’t stop them doing what they have been doing for years, threatened sanctions are unlikely to have any real impact, even if they are implemented, which is a very big IF!

Everyone has agreed that banking and financial market regulation has to be tightened, but this is meaningless, because no-one will agree that there can, or should be a world regulator. Therefore, all we will see is each country implementing their own regulation, presumably based on the guiding principles agreed by the leaders. But rest assured, someone will be a little more flexible, so that they can attract the ‘banking and financial services business’ to their shores, stealing it away from London. The primary reason that London was the banking and financial services centre of the world, was Gordon Brown’s own “light touch regulation“, now it is likely that we will toughen regulation so much, that we will lose most of this trade. Some will argue that this is okay given the circumstances, but, truth be told, banking will continue, just somewhere else and we will have to find something to take the place of the 20% of GDP that we will lose if London is no longer the banking and financial services centre of the world. Has anyone any idea what we have in our armoury to deal with this massive reduction in trade, tax receipts and jobs? Thought not? Talk about throwing the baby out with the bath water.

Sarkozy may be a little petulant, but he is not stupid, he wants more regulation, because he seeks a level playing field so that Paris can take over where London left off. Gordon Brown’s light touch regulation was a failed policy and we shall all pay the price, however, if we now over-regulate for political expediency, we shall lose future, better regulated business to other countries such as France and Germany. Surely it is possible to regulate without killing off this significant contributor to our massive balance of trade deficit? A failure to get the balance right will cost us all and that is another good reason why Gordon Brown has to go and go now.

It was Gordon Brown that coined the phrase light touch regulation and he even had the temerity to lecture other European leaders on the same subject. Now, this same man is telling everyone that there must be much tighter regulation of the banks and financial markets. Talk about turning on a sixpence! Under Gordon Brown’s light touch regulation, it was possible for the financial markets to introduce new financial products with such complexity, that few people understood them, or the associated risks. Everyone knew of these instruments, but no-one, not even the regulator, asked any (or enough) questions. This, together with an overheating housing market and increased personal indebtedness is what caused the crisis. Our ability to manage this crisis in the UK has been exacerbated by the fact that UK Plc is massively in debt, not necessarily based on the Government figures, but when taking account of all the off-balance sheet debts that ought to have been included such as PFI, pension liabilities etc

Of course, Gordon Brown cannot be held responsible for the world economic problems, but he can and must be held culpable for the problems that have become evident here in the UK on his watch. It was ultimately his job as Chancellor to ensure that the financial markets were kept in check, Government borrowing was accurately reported and kept under control and that the availability of credit be actively managed, both secured and unsecured. The fact that our economy and housing market was overheating was known to Brown, he received plenty of warnings, he chose to do nothing. He was in denial, but he could no longer pretend everything was okay when the world banking crisis forced government intervention here in the UK. Let’s not kid ourselves, whether or not the world banking crisis happened, this country would have gone into recession. It was Gordon Brown’s job as Chancellor to ensure that boom and bust was at an end, he failed and in a spectacular way.

History will prove that Gordon Brown was a poor Chancellor and that he missed or chose to ignore every sign that our economy was running into trouble. It is only the world crisis that has diverted attention from his full culpability. What we must not do however, is allow this inept former Chancellor to continue making financial decisions that will affect each and everyone of us. His past judgements have been seriously and catastrophically flawed and by his own admission, we are now in “uncharted territory“, therefore how can any of us have any confidence in this man? Gordon Brown has been universally praised for his decision to make the Bank of England independent. However, the tripartite system that was introduced as a direct consequence was not clearly thought out given it has spectacularly failed, with The Treasury, Bank of England and the FSA blaming each other for the mess we are in. Therefore, I would argue that the jury is still out on whether or not Gordon Brown’s stated objectives were achieved when he gave the Bank of England independence, whilst stripping them of other fundamental responsibilities. Take this ‘achievement’ away and what other positive legacies has Gordon Brown given us…none that I can see? But there are literally hundreds of failures, I won’t name them all because it would take too long, but a short list would include a decimation of the private sector pension schemes through the removal of tax breaks, whilst allowing public sector pensions to get out of control with an unfunded liability of around £900bn; The introduction of a overly complicated ‘Tax Credit’ scheme which still ‘loses’ £2bn every year through errors and fraud; A massive public sector debt, much of which has been hidden from sight through fancy footwork and an insistence that certain debts remain off-balance sheet; a huge increase in environmental and other stealth taxes which are then funneled into non-related pet projects rather than being used for the purpose stated at the outset; and, a massive increase in direct and indirect taxation.

The mainstream press are going on about an expected “bounce” in the popularity of Gordon Brown. That may be true, but then we deserve what we get, because this is a man who is primarily responsible for getting us into the mess we are in. No world leader, naive enough to praise Gordon Brown, should be permitted to sway public opinion from the harsh reality of Brown’s policy failures, rank incompetence and inability to heed warnings. Time to go Gordon Brown, maybe the public will then look upon your efforts at the G20 as an act of contrition and be more forgiving when we look at your legacy.

Posted in General, Labour, World | Comments (3)

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