Tag Archive | "authoritarian"

Gutter Politics in the UK

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Gutter Politics in the UK


There has been much written about the Damian McBride debacle, but I have to admit, the only thing that surprises me is that people are themselves surprised. When Gordon Brown was Chancellor, it was well known that his henchmen would often brief against anyone that was not firmly in the Brown camp. In fact, I am sure some journalists made their reputation off the back of such gossip and rumour. To find that GB still has people that are prepared to go to any lengths to promote and protect their boss comes as no surprise. Furthermore, to have them planning an attack on the opposition in advance of an election is also par for the course, even if it is normally a little more subtle. The so called Westminster Village survives on gossip, innuendo, character assassinations and leaks! However, I guess the only difference this time, is that what happens in political circles has become public and, of course, for the most part, the standards of the general public are much, much higher than those who are elected to represent us.

Truth be told, there are very few ‘investigative journalists’ nowadays, instead they rely on briefings and leaks. Deals are done all the time, with very few exceptions, we read what the politicians want us to, not what the journalists uncover. One positive outcome of this latest fiasco is that ordinary people will start to realise that there is an alternative to the dead tree press. Yes, the blogosphere is in its infancy, but it is getting better all the time and it is much more difficult to silence or influence.

New Labour tell us that there must be “no reward for failure”, yet these hypocrites have rewarded failed politicians with plum jobs in Europe (and elsewhere) and on occasion, even rewarded these wayward, but loyal subjects with a peerage. This is because there is one rule for them and their minions, with another for the rest of us.

Take their generous allowances. The clue is in the name! They are not expenses, they are allowances, therefore MP’s of all parties see them as a right. As a consequence, they maximise their income by claiming for whatever they can, meanwhile, from a tax perspective, they are not subject to the same rules as the rest of us. Because, in the private sector, HMRC would treat the vast majority of these allowances as a benefit in kind and they would be taxed as such. What about pensions? The private sector has seen some 70% of final salary pension schemes shut down or closed to new members, meanwhile, our MP’s continue to benefit from what has been described as on of the best pension schemes in the world.

Power corrupts, that is a fact and it happens in politics as much as anywhere else. I do not mean that people necessarily take backhanders, but their morals seem to change. Power to many means that they can get away with things that other mere mortals cannot. It is this that ultimately corrupts. I am sure, for example, that there are many people that entered politics with the very best intentions, but look at them now. Not all, but most have their snouts in the trough, instead of questioning why such generous expense allowances are made available, they have simply claimed them. Instead of asking why MP’s should receive pensions so much better than people in the private sector, they have voted to keep the pension scheme unchanged. The longer they have been MP’s or, the higher up the food chain they go, the more arrogant, self-assured and unpleasant they get. One reason for this is the way people bow and scrape to gain favour, this makes our MP’s feel powerful, invincible even and self-obsessed. They start to believe their own publicity.

As if to confirm that MP’s know they are making mistakes and could eventually face civil or criminal charges because of their actions, there is a new Bill, due for its 2nd reading on the 24th April that seeks to offer a legal ‘get out of jail free’  card. A Conservative MP has introduced a bill designed to provide all public servants, including MP’s, with a legal defence of ‘reasonable discretion’. In other words if they can legitimately claim that they exercised reasonable discretion, this would be an acceptable defence. For example, if an MP was told, incorrectly or otherwise, by a civil servant, that it was okay to claim certain allowances, he would have a strong defence by claiming he had shown reasonable discretion by consulting an official. In return the civil servant, who would benefit from the same protection, can argue that he acted in good faith because he merely followed the established precedent. Similarly, if this country were taken to war, based on ‘questionable’ intelligence, provided the Ministers can demonstrate that they exercised reasonable discretion, they cannot be held legally accountable for their actions.

The Exercise of Reasonable Discretion Bill is a clear indication that there is an ever-increasing gulf between the electorate and the people elected to serve us. If this Bill is passed into law, no MP and no civil servant will ever be held accountable for their actions unless there is a demonstrable case of negligence. We have already seen in the past few weeks how power corrupts, we must never allow politicians to then benefit from an Act that would provide them with immunity from prosecution. This will encourage recklessness in the same way that Diplomatic Immunity encourages foreign diplomats to ignore our traffic laws.

SPREAD THE WORD:

A Conservative MP is seeking a second reading for a new Bill, titled ‘Exercise of Reasonable Discretion’. If passed into law, this will allow every public servant, including MP, civil servants, local government officers, the police etc., a legal defence of ‘reasonable discretion’ in any civil or criminal case brought about as a consequence of their actions. All they would have to prove, is that they acted in good faith, this as anyone in the know will understand, is a catch-all defence.

In essence, it could allow MP’s to argue that they made certain decisions, such as going to war, based on advice where they were required to use reasonable discretion, officials entering into multi-million pound contracts which are subsequently cancelled or overrun, will also be able to claim that they exercised reasonable discretion. It is effectively a get out of jail free card for any public servant. Effectively removing accountability and increasing risk, because of course, if there is no effective punishment, there is no need to be careful. We should all shout as loud as we can to ensure that this type of legislation never sees the light of day.

Posted in Civil Liberties, Conservatives, General, Labour | Comments (2)

How many Members of Parliament are fit for purpose?

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How many Members of Parliament are fit for purpose?


Much has been said about the dressing down Daniel Hannan have Gordon Brown. But, whilst it was an excellent speech and echoes what most of us are saying, there is a risk that we fail to take account of the paradigm shift that has taken place in British politics, hence the massive support for Hannan’s words. YouTube have registered well over 1 million views of the Daniel Hannan video.

I cannot recall ever having witnessed such a disconnect between politicians and the public. I am not just referring to Gordon Brown and his discredited government, but ALL members of parliament. Yes, Gordon Brown, first as Chancellor and then as Prime Minister, has shepherded us into the financial mess we are in by borrowing too much during the boom times and spending way too much on pet income redistribution projects, a cumbersome tax credit system and massive, as well as unnecessary, public sector capital projects. Were this not enough, he hammered private sector pension schemes, whilst failing to do anything about public sector pension schemes. Further, on his watch, we have witnessed an estimated £100bn of wasted taxpayers money through government incompetence and we have all had to accept a dramatic and unsustainable increase in the public sector payroll. Of course, he then goes on to deny any personal responsibility, so there can be little surprise that he is one of the most hated and despised men in this country.

However, this disconnect, at least in my personal view, goes much deeper than Gordon Brown. People no longer trust MP’s. Every few weeks we hear of another instance of MP’s using their expenses to supplement their income, because the rules allow them to do so, not because the expense is necessarily justified or warranted. Worst still, some of the worst offenders seem to be government ministers, those right at the top of the tree, meanwhile, the honourable members are reluctant to deal with this issue that is the cause of a great deal of public consternation and resentment. Opposition parties don’t make too much of a fuss, because it is a case of ‘there but for the grace of god…..’! Alistair Darling says that bankers must regain the trust of the public, but hold on just a minute, so do MP’s, but who is telling them? Clearly no-one is listening to public opinion.

Whilst I accept that the Labour Party has had a healthy majority for their 3 terms in office. How many times have we heard MP’s from the ‘other’ parties condemning this governments actions or challenging new, often draconian and repressive legislation? Not nearly often enough. Members of Parliament, particularly those in the opposition parties, have been reactive, not proactive. They have stood by whilst this government has all but destroyed everything we hold dear in terms of liberty, freedom and the fundamental right to privacy and be free from an overburdensome state. £16bn has been spent on databases this year and a further £105bn committed over the next 5 years. Everything our children do at school is monitored and recorded on ContactPoint a government database, then our children are profiled using ONSET, to determine whether or not they may be future offenders. All this information is held on their personal files. Our mobile phone calls, text messages, emails and internet browsing habits are monitored and recorded, our travel arrangements, who we travel with, when, how much we paid, where we went, with whom and so on is to be recorded and retained by the State. Our passports are to include biometrics, a way of getting around the discredited ID card system, our health records are to be recorded and retained on a database. Our every move is monitored by 4.2m cameras, in addition, many thousands of ANPR cameras record our number plates and can track us from one end of the country to another, new facial recognition software even allows them to name the driver. It is estimated that the Government has some 1100 databases holding some type of personal information on us. This cannot be justified, it is as if we are all in an open prison and fitted with an electronic tag, this is not a free democratic country, but an authoritarian, police state. Why were our MP’s not more vocal at the time, were they even aware that this legislation was being proposed, did they read or even debate the proposals. A cynic might suggest that MP’s actually like the idea of being able to monitor and control the electorate. 

Members of Parliament have, for the most part, lost the respect of the people and as I have said, this is not just Labour MP’s, although they would probably be in the upper tier. Our members of parliament are seen as out of touch with the people, they have quite clearly spent too much time at Westminster and not enough talking to real people. As a consequence, there appears to be a real and demonstrable disconnect between what MP’s say and how people feel. Labour MP’s rally around the party in fear of losing their seats, rather than acting as constituency MP’s and speaking for the people that have elected them. The number of times I have heard MP’s from all parties say “What people say….”, followed by the biggest load of crap I have ever listened to and, of course, I have never heard anyone say what they are claiming. Is it just me, or do other people feel the same I wonder?

By way of an example of how removed from reality MP’s are, lets take Ed Balls. He was long known as Gordon Brown’s right hand man at the Treasury, always on hand to defend Treasury policies and spout endless figures. Today he is the Minister for Children. But this week, he was quoted as saying that he would love to be the Chancellor and to lead the party someday. Is he for real? He was an integral part of the discredited financial regime that was micro-managed by Gordon Brown, does he truly believe that he will ever be allowed to get his hand on the UK Plc credit card? Out of touch, deluded, there are simply dozens of adjectives that could describe such a disconnect.

But lets ask ourselves honestly, before Daniel Hannan made his speech, how many of us could honestly say that we ‘connected’ or agreed with an MP, not many I suspect? Take David Cameron, his favourite expression is, “what we have been saying all along is….”, oh yes, when Mr Cameron, in the last few weeks maybe, but what have you been doing for the past 12 years? Nick Clegg, when was the last time he said anything interesting, in fact Vince Cable is, perhaps understandably, gaining much, much more airtime. I think part of the problem is we no longer have any, of what I would call, ‘conviction politicians’, instead they either follow the party line or respond to public opinion in a knee-jerk manner, rather than argue their case. The only time we hear an MP argue a case, is when they are having to defend their position, actions, expense claim or must offer up a pathetic excuse for their political party’s actions (or lack thereof). Our members of parliament do not and have not for some time, sounded like us, talked like us, acted like us or looked like us. We, the electorate, are simply seen as a means of getting them into parliament once every 5 years, once we have performed our task, we are thrown away in much the same way as a used condom would be discarded in the trash.

The bottom line is, that unless MP’s start to realise that there is a massive problem out here, then there will be civil unrest. They (the government and MP’s) may even appreciate that this is likely, given some 10,000 Tasers have been ordered and surveillance on the masses is being stepped up a gear. But rather than engage, it appears that most MP’s just want to control, berate, bully and force us to do as we are told. The police have been given unprecedented powers under the auspices of the “fight against terrorism” and the public must seek permission before they can demonstrate.

Looking at how badly our Government and members of parliament (of all parties) have let the people of this country down over the past decade, it is MP’s that are not fit for purpose, the Parliamentary system that is not fit for purpose and the state tool, the Police Service that is not fit for purpose. What we desperately need in this country is more independent MP’s who can and will keep any government in check. Yes I know that this may lead to a hung parliament, but then who cares? Because we can see what happens when a party gains a significant majority, they just become brazen, authoritarian and ego driven (I can, therefore I will). The only real argument for the current system, first past the post, is that is can provide a significant majority for one party, allowing them to offer a ‘reform agenda’, but look where that has got us with the New Labour reform agenda. Power went to their heads and we have seen our liberty, finances and futures destroyed in a few short years. Thank you Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, New Labour and you weak, good for nothing members of parliament that did not stand up and fight for the people of this country. The vast majority of MP’s are simply guilty of political and personal cowardice….not one of them should be allowed to stand again. Perhaps we should have a system whereby MP’s reach their sell by date after 5 years?

If the people of this country are to regain confidence in the political system, then candidates need to reflect society, the people they seek to represent, no longer should MP’s be selected almost entirely from political activists, union stewards/leaders, Oxford and Cambridge graduates and mates of existing MP’s or leaders. Nor should race, gender or religion play a part in the selection process, positive discrimination is as bad as discrimination. No longer should people, such as Mandelson, be elevated to the House of Lords, just so that they can become a ‘minister’, all ministers should be elected so that they are accountable to the people, the House of Lords is clearly answerable to no-one. Unless MP’s start to take the temperature of the public, listen and react, then I truly believe we will see massive unrest, civil disobedience and a further collapse in our democracy as the state attempts to resist the people by force.

It is, of course, quite possible to disagree with the outcomes I have suggested, but as I stated earlier in this post, when was the last time that an MP said something that you fully agreed with and appeared ‘in touch’ with the people. I suspect most of us will have to think very hard. If MP’s don’t do something about this massive distrust and disconnect, this country could become ungovernable, you only have to look back at history to understand that eventually, when the people fight back, the powers that be soon realise just how weak their positions are and their relative impotence. The masses can only be ruled by consent, not force and I believe we are all getting closer to removing that consent.

 

SPREAD THE WORD:

A Conservative MP is seeking a second reading for a new Bill, titled ‘Exercise of Reasonable Discretion’. If passed into law, this will allow every public servant, including MP, civil servants, local government officers, the police etc., a legal defence of ‘reasonable discretion’ in any civil or criminal case brought about as a consequence of their actions. All they would have to prove, is that they acted in good faith, this as anyone in the know will understand, is a catch-all defence.

In essence, it could allow MP’s to argue that they made certain decisions, such as going to war, based on advice where they were required to use reasonable discretion, officials entering into multi-million pound contracts which are subsequently cancelled or overrun, will also be able to claim that they exercised reasonable discretion. It is effectively a get out of jail free card for any public servant. Effectively removing accountability and increasing risk, because of course, if there is no effective punishment, there is no need to be careful. We should all shout as loud as we can to ensure that this type of legislation never sees the light of day.

Posted in Big Brother, Civil Liberties, Conservatives, General, Labour, Lib Dems | Comments (8)

LibDems undertake to repeal oppressive civil liberty legislation

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LibDems undertake to repeal oppressive civil liberty legislation


Finally, one of the major political parties has come out and made a clear and unequivocal statement in favour of returning power to the people. The LibDems have promised to repeal the series of authoritarian measures introduced by New Labour, which has lead, to put it in their words, to the “slow death” of our civil liberties. To be fair, the LibDems have taken a long time to recognise that this is a key are of concern for citizens of this country, but lets face it, better late that never. What a pity that the Conservative party have been so weak when it comes to civil liberties and government intrusion, but then again, they demonstrated their true colours when they sided with Jack Straw, when he used the Ministerial veto to hide the the minutes of cabinet meetings leading up to the Iraq War from the public.

The LibDems are calling on the government to reverse the controversial policing and criminal justice legislation introduced in recent years. Doubtless, this request will be ignored, given our current government have demonstrated time and again, that they have little or no time for anyone who would dare to criticise their policies. Further, this government have consistently paid lip service to the hard won freedoms that we have enjoyed prior to their term in office, dismissing protests with a wave of their hand. New Labour’s philosophy it is the state that is master, not the people, supporting this argument by spending £billions on new methods to record information of the general public.

The LibDems have stated that they would reduce detention without charge from 28 days to 14, remove the ministerial veto altogether, allow DNA to be retained only in cases where someone has been charged and convicted, scrap ID cards and order a full scale review of the use use of CCTV cameras, which now numbers over 4m. To put that into perspective, in 2004 a European Commission report found that there were some 40,000 cameras monitoring public areas in 500 British towns and cities, compared to fewer than 100 cameras in 15 German cities. Little wonder that nearly every report you read states that we are the most spied on country in the world.

However, the LibDems need to go much further. They must seek to cancel the Big Brother Britain databases that this government has either introduced or announced. At the very least, this should include the database proposed in the new Data Communications Bill intended to record every call, text message and email we send or receive, in addition to spying on our internet browsing habits. As well as the latest government wheeze, the travellers database, that seeks to record every trip we take, where we go, how we pay and where we sit. There should be a review of the ContactPoint database already introduced in terms of whether the benefits will outweigh the cost and risks and the NHS database, which is hopelessly inefficient and is the subject of much criticism from the very practitioners who are supposed to benefit from it.

I have never voted LibDem in my life, I have always viewed them as the party of high taxation, the Green Party in disguise if you like and quite frankly, lacking in any real substance. However, I have been heartily impressed with Vince Cable’s take on the economy, not that I have agreed with everything he has said, but he speaks with authority and knowledge, unlike some other that you would expect to be well briefed. Compare that with the wishy-washy approach from the Conservative party and the reckless abandonment demonstrated by the current Labour government. I fail to see much difference between the policies of the Conservatives and those of New Labour, it just seems to be more of the same, couched in a ‘softer’ tone or called by a different name and that is NOT what I want. Labour have promised us tax increases, the Conservative party have promised us tax increases, so what the hell, they are now all on a level playing field. The Labour party have demonstrated that they could not give a toss about our right to privacy, liberty and freedom to go about our business without state interference, the conservative party have said a few weasley words in condemnation, but nothing more. so I think we know where they stand, especially after their appalling and ill-conceived support for Jack Straw and his ministerial veto.

In fact, there is so little to choose between any of the main parties, that I suspect who we decide to vote for, may well be based on something that they do differ on, provided it is important to the voter. I believe, that whilst all parties broadly agree on key electoral issues, such as the NHS, education, crime, immigration, the environment and taxes, it will be the smaller things that become the deciding factor.

For that reason, unless we start to see substantial policy differences, not variations on the same theme, I do not believe that ANY party, especially the Conservatives, can count on winning the next election. In my view, the next election will go to the wire, people will decide late in the day and Cameron & co, unless they can highlight real policy differences and intiatives between the Conservatives and Labour, will be left with egg on their face. This could lead to the LiDems and other independent parties being in a position whereby they can punch well above their weight. Having seen what happens when a government gets such a massive majority, I never want to see that happen again, because the longer the term in office with a large majority, the more authoritarian they become. Given none of the parties are talking about wholesale reform, it can be safely argued that there is no need for massive majorities anyway.

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

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