Tag Archive | "british politics"

Punch and Judy Politics

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Punch and Judy Politics


Prime Ministers Questions was yet another example of the Punch and Judy style of politics that is so prevalent today. It is reminiscent of two schoolboys arguing over who’s dad is bigger or stronger, yet, these grown-up children in Parliament are the very people we are supposed to rely on to represent our interests. We are slowly becoming a laughing stock as our politicians consistently fail to represent our interests, whilst many are guilty of taking the public for a ride in terms of their expense claims. Even the Ayatollah Khamenei believes that he is entitled to sit in judgement of the people of this country based on his views of our political leaders.

Yesterday, Brown and Cameron swapped blows regarding the level of capital spending in the UK over the coming years. Brown is quite clearly guilty of a deliberate attempt to mislead the public. It is self-evident that capital spending is being reduced, even if this is as a consequence of this government bringing forward capital projects from future years, which inflates the current spend, but has the effect of reducing the amount available in future years. Some would argue that this is quite a reckless policy, especially given Brown will almost certainly not be in power when someone else has to deal with the fact that there is nothing in the kitty. Mind you, that has become a fairly common trait with Labour government, their spend, spend, spend policy invariably leaves a Conservative government to clean up the mess.

Meanwhile, whilst Cameron has Brown on the ropes, he lacks the courage to state the bloody obvious and that is, we have no choice but to reduce public spending. Tax receipts are down, public sector spending is out of control, the economy is contracting and more and more people are becoming an economic liability, rather than an asset as a consequence of increasing unemployment. I would have more respect for David Cameron if he was to demonstrate that he has the courage and moral rectitude to come clean with the public. Instead of highlighting Brown’s lies ( after all we all know that he is a stranger to the truth), Cameron ought to be outlining why there is a need to reduce public spending and how they intend to do it if elected. Instead, he is allowing Brown to dictate what the “10% Tory cuts” amount to, using the classic New Labour trick of emotional blackmail, less for pensioners, less for the NHS, less for the Police etc.

Apart from the fact that most people already understand that we are in for a tough few years, Cameron also has the OECD stating that the Treasury figures for the UK economy are at best optimistic, but more likely completely wrong. He has the rating agency Standard & Poor making veiled threats to reduce the UK Plc credit rating unless the government gets it’s house in order and puts in place a concrete plan to reduce public debt. And, now, he even had the governor of the Bank of England stating that “scale of the deficit is truly extraordinary” and usggesting that the government should be more ambitious with their debt reduction plans. In other words, Cameron has some very powerful people or organisations supporting the notion that our economic situation is dire and we need to reign in public spending, yet he still lacks the courage to take the bull by the horns. It is this lack of backbone, even when the odds are in his favour, that leads me to doubt Cameron’s ability to offer the strong leadership this country needs to get itself out of the mess created my New Labour’s social engineering project.

Apart from public spending cuts, there is also a need to look at whether we are getting value for money from our public services. For example, in spite of the fact that we have record numbers of police officers, the number of front line bobbies (I have excluded PCSO’s) is but a tiny fraction of the 156,000 officers that are employed. Crime is rising not falling and police openly admit that they consider their job to be the investigation of crime, rather than the prevention.

The NHS has received a massive increase in spending. To fund this all UK workers were surcharged an extra 1% on their entire earnings and employers were charged an extra 1% of their wage bills. This added £billions every year. This burden on employers and employees will increase by a further 0.5% shortly. Yet, in spite of the enormous amounts raised to invest in the NHS, new build was financed using PFI, a hugely expensive way of funding new hospitals, and much of the money went into higher wages, not improved services. Now that the NHS have identified that there may be a real term reduction in the NHS budget, we are threatened with ward closures and increased waiting lists. In other words, the NHS are holding us to ransom, instead of investing the money wisely, they simply spent it. There is a subtle difference in my terminology, but a huge difference in practice.

Take the money being wasted on spy databases. £billions have been committed to IT infrastructure projects, most of which have not been thought through, many have contracts that amount to a blank cheque in terms of costly overruns and to be frank, most are simply not needed. This is not a wise investment of our taxes at a time when the country can least afford a spendthrift policy. It is also worth noting that many of these contracts do not benefit UK companies.

The list goes on and on. That notwithstanding, it is so bloody obvious to most people what we need to do, that to tell us different is patently insulting. Unfortunately, our politician’s still believe that we are not grown up enough to be able to handle the truth, so instead they either lie to us, or avoid being candid. My message to politicians of all parties is to stop treating us like idiots. They must tell us how they see the situation in unambiguous terms, what they believe needs to be done and how long they expect the pain to last. They must tell us how they will ensure that we get value for money and what they will do to ensure that tax increases are only be considered after all other areas have been exploited. If the people of this country and its politicians are not to be looked on by other countries as a bit of a basket case, then we need a man (and a party) with a plan.

Posted in Conservatives, General, Lib Dems | Comments (3)

Restoring confidence in Parliamentary Democracy

Tags: , , , , , , ,

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: The 7 Nolan Principles of Public Life

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

MPs: The 7 Nolan Principles of Public Life


Members of Parliament have a duty to demonstrate leadership in the observation of the ‘7 Nolan principles of public life’, as set out in the Parliamentary code of conduct. Ultimately, it will be the public, not the MPs’ or their leaders, that determine whether or not MPs’ involved in the expense scandal have observed those principals or simply paid lip service to them. I have reproduced the 7 Nolan principals below;

Selflessness : Holders of public office should take decisions solely in terms of the public interest. They should not do so in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends.

Integrity : Holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might influence them in the performance of their official duties.

Objectivity : In carrying out public business, including making public appointments, awarding contracts, or recommending individuals for rewards and benefits, holders of public office should make choices on merit.

Accountability : Holders of public office are accountable for their decisions and actions to the public and must submit themselves to whatever scrutiny is appropriate to their office.

Openness : Holders of public office should be as open as possible about all the decisions and actions that they take. They should give reasons for their decisions and restrict information only when the wider public interest clearly demands.

Honesty : Holders of public office have a duty to declare any private interests relating to their public duties and to take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interest.

Leadership : Holders of public office should promote and support these principles by leadership and example.

MPs, would do well to consider the following principles; Selflessness and Accountability, whilst leaders need to take account of the principle behind Leadership. Party leaders should not need reminding that it is not acceptable for ‘wayward’ MPs to simply be moved from the front line. That is a fudge. Those MPs that cannot justify their expense claims as wholly, necessarily and exclusively in the performance of their Parliamentary duties must be deselected and denied the opportunity of ever standing for the party again. It doesn’t matter if many of their colleagues were at it, each and every member of parliament has to be responsible for his or her own actions.  Anything less that deselection would not demonstrate leadership, but weakness, moreover, it would imply that the party itself condones such abuse.

Further, an MP that may be guilty of fraud or deception in relation to their expense claims must be referred to the Police, not by an outside body or a member of the public, but the party itself. If there is no intent to commit fraud or deception, then the MP will be offered the opportunity to clear his or her name, public indignation is not sufficient to presume innocence. Our MPs should have nothing to fear from a system that they, as ‘law makers’, have themselves introduced or amended.

I would remind all party leaders that this is public money not theirs, so the benefit of the doubt must not be given to any MP unless or until the public has been consulted and agreed. The public are the aggrieved party. For any party leader that is struggling with this concept, I would argue that the clue is contained within one of the 7 Nolan principles “Holders of public office should take decisions solely in terms of the public interest“, in other words, party interests cannot be placed first.

Posted in Conservatives, Labour, Lib Dems | Comments (9)

MPs’ fail to gauge the mood of the public

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

MPs’ fail to gauge the mood of the public


I don’t know whether Shahid Malik has a case to answer, only time will tell, but what he is guilty of is failing to capture and understand the mood of the public. Malik decided to come out fighting, in doing so, he came across as belligerent, arrogant and self-righteous, all of the attributes we despise in anyone, but especially those in positions of power, such as our politicians. It precisely this type of finger pointing, Holier Than Thou, I am better than you attitude, that infuriates the public. So instead of the public listening to what Malik was saying, they were concentrating on how he was saying it! So, the Minister for Justice believes that he should be considered ‘innocent until proven guilty’ whilst many in this country have been denied that long held right by HIS government! Further evidence, if it were needed, that most members of parliament really are hypocrites.

Of course Malik is not the only MP that has decided to go on the attack, but he is the latest, mostly, for some reason, Labour MP’s. Yet all they are doing is fanning the flames. How ironic that New Labour invented ‘spin’ yet it doesn’t appear to be able to reign in its MP’s when it needs to most. Whilst anger is universal, I get the impression that most is directed at Labour MP’s, almost certainly since they are the party in power that has failed the vast majority of the public. Therefore, it is perhaps New Labour MP’s, more that any, that need to be contrite?

I am not convinced however, that all of this anger is about expense account abuse, I believe it is the culmination of the way that MP’s, Labour in particular, have and continue to demonstrate that they are incapable of admitting that they could be wrong or have made mistakes and that starts right at the top with Gordon Brown.

Two thirds of the public want a general election, which is double the number that was needed to give this government such a massive majority, but the will of the people is ignored. Democracy is generally described as being: a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system. Yet, our elected representative know that the majority of people want a change of government, but they are too arrogant to grant one. That is dangerous. Malik said that the expense scandal was in danger of destroying democracy, not so, it is the smug, self-serving and remote attitude of MP’s in general and Labour MP’s in particular that will destroy our democracy.

David Davies has suggested that many members of parliament are considering stepping down, leaving politics altogether, because they dislike the fact that all MP’sare being tarred with the same brush. Personally I think that is the best thing that could happen, David Davies probably thinks the public should be concerned, I don’t believe that to be true. The public want wholesale change, if the main parties don’t provide that through the retirement or deselection of existing MP’s, then I suspect we will get it by default with an increasing number of independent MP’s (and smaller parties) being voted in at the next election. If the main parties do not want to become also rans, then they must listen to the will of the people.

One of the problems with the mainstream parties and I have said this before, is the fact that they select candidates from such a small pool. This means that we end up with lots of candidates (for MP’s) that think the same, talk the same and act the same. Not like you and I, but like each other. It is like being ruled by aliens. It is hardly a good example of democracy in action, if the only people we are allowed to vote for within the big parties, are those that are selected from the same tiny pool of limited talent, which is designed to positively discriminate against or, exclude real people.

Mainstream parties should spread their nets wider, recruit the best talent, so that these people can take up those key positions when, or if, the party get elected into power. Now is the time for party leaders to follow the will of the people. Never will they have a better opportunity than now to justify a wholesale clear-out of the many MP’s that are quite simply a waste of space. The party that is brave enough to do this, will align themselves most closely with the mood of the public, who want and demand change. In all probability, they will also be responsible for restoring the publics faith in politics, democracy and politicians. Party leaders need to understand that it is not optional, but essential, that the people of this country have trust and confidence in their politicians.

If I was a leader of one of the main parties I would seriously consider going on a recruitment drive to find the ‘best of the best’. I would be looking to recruit real people, those with expertise in business, health, education, economics and so on. Individuals that sounded like people, not politicians, that were sincere rather than smooth,  those that could demonstrate gravitas and sincerity rather than a dismissive attitude towards alternative opinions or the will of the people. One other thing all politician’s must take into account regarding this whole sorry saga is, whilst they may object to being tarred with the same brush (as ‘dodgy’ MP’s), that is exactly what is happening to the people of this country. The public are being forced into a situation where theirright to privacy is being stolen by this Governments Big Brother ‘database state’, which records our emails, mobile phone calls, health records, children’s educational needs, DNA, internet traffic, vehicle movements, travel arrangements…and now wants our biometric data, ID cards, the ability to profile etc, etc. The state is treating us all like suspects, it is bringing in petty rules, regulations and laws (3607 in 12 years) that seeks to criminalise even the most mundane things. It is has unashamedly used the fear of crime and terrorism to introduce what can only amount to state control and yes, state terrorism. It has got to stop.

Politicians don’t like it when the public think they are all on the make, or criminals, but then, we also dislike being considered potential criminals that must be spied on, tracked and hounded. In the end, politicians only have themselves to blame, they are paying the price for their disconnect from, and contempt for, the public. The expense scandal is a wake up for all MP’s, best they look at what is below the surface, as well as the actual event, lest they miss a golden opportunity to put power back with the people, by introducing genuine ‘root and branch’ reform within their own party’s.

Posted in Big Brother, Civil Liberties, Conservatives, General, Labour, Lib Dems | Comments (7)

MPs’ Expenses: Sorry doesn’t cut it!

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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)

MPs’ Expenses: There must be no Amnesty

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

MPs’ Expenses: There must be no Amnesty


Senior Labour MP Sir Stuart Bell said the Commons would be asked to approve an independent auditing body, which would be made up entirely of independent people, to oversee expense claim made by MP’s. If approved by the Commons, he said that this body would analyse “every claim that is made“. On the face of it, this sounds like a positive move, however, as you might expect, there is a catch. Because, he also made clear on Channel 4 News that this body would only analyse “NEW” claims, that their remit will specifically exclude a retrospective review of prior claims. According to Bell, the setting up of this auditing body would demonstrate that MP’s are both “contrite” and keen that respect for parliament and democracy is restored. Is this man for real?

Does Stuart Bell really believe that the public will accept what amounts to a clumsy and inappropriate fudge. Ignoring past claims, which is what the public is so angered about, would amount to an amnesty for any MP that had been predisposed to lie, cheat, defraud, or deceive in relation to their expenses and/or allowances? Any attempt by Commons authorities to limit the scope of this, or any other independent auditing body, is tantamount to an admission that widespread abuse had taken place and they (MP’s) do not want further investigation. In other words, they want to draw a line under it and move on. Not acceptable. If, as they insist, everything has been “within the rules” then what have they got to worry about? The only way to restore public confidence is to have a truly independent auditing body trawl over past claims, perhaps for the past 10 years. Furthermore, if I was one of the many “honest MP’s”, then I would demand a proper investigation, if, for no other reason, than to persuade the public that there are many honest members of parliament.

Stuart Bell also insisted during his interview that he believed, when all of the expenses are published, that “over 90% of MP’s expenses” will be in order. Really, well I, and I am sure many other people remain to be convinced. Not least, because an MP’s definition of “in order” is to state that it was “within the rules”, whereas the public will have a completely different perspective. The public, quite rightly believe that their money must be spent on ‘necessary’ expenses, not, for example the redecoration of a house shortly before it is sold, or ‘cosmetic’ additions to a property such as mock beams, landscape gardening instead of routine maintenance etc, etc.  I personally fail to see how these items could be considered “necessary repairs” or “for the purpose of performing their parliamentary duties“. Perhaps an MP, any MP can enlighten me?

As a voter and taxpayer I demand of my MP, this government and the Commons authorities, that an independent auditing body be appointed, with a remit to review all expense claims submitted by MP’s for the past 10 years. I further demand that this body, and/or an eminent barrister make a determination on each and every claim as to whether it was reasonable, justifiable, legal and/or in the spirit of the “rules“. This must be on the basis that the claimants were considered to be ‘honourable’ and by definition, of the utmost integrity. It has long been understood by parliamentarians that their position demands that they demonstrate very high standards of probity in public life and, adhere to very strict moral and ethical codes in relation to their actions. As a consequence, any auditor or reviewer, must take this into account when they determine the ‘reasonableness’ of any expense claim.

Claims that are deemed unreasonable or not justifiable must be immediately repaid by the MP concerned, irrespective of whether or not these claims had previously been “authorised by the Fees Office“. Further, any claims that are deemed to have been fraudulent or deceitfulmust result in the matter being referred to the police. In addition, HMRC must be instructed that each MP that has made a claim under the ‘second home allowance’ must be investigated to ensure that there has been no attempt to avoid capital gains tax. Similarly, where an MP has benefited from a claim, over and above that strictly necessary for the fulfilment of their duties, HMRC must consider a levy for the ‘benefit in kind’.  MP’s should not need reminding that this government has made clear that they intend to pursue all those minded to use tax loopholes to avoid paying their fair share of tax and I am certain, they would not want to be exempted from such a worthwhile cause, especially when they have just hammered anyone earning over £100k with further taxes.

If and only if, a true and transparent investigation is undertaken, with public money returned and/or prosecutions pursued will parliament in general, and MP’s in particular, ever have a hope of re-building public trust.  So, here is my final warning to all parliamentarians, stop treating the British public like fools, have the decency to accept that you are all open to the same laws and scrutiny as the rest of us.

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

Posted in Conservatives, General, Labour, Lib Dems | Comments (18)

MPs’ Expenses: New Audit body is just not enough!

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

MPs’ Expenses: New Audit body is just not enough!


If our members of parliament think that the British public can be bought off with the introduction of a new “independent” auditing body to oversee the ‘Fees Office’, then they are sadly mistaken. It is clear, that whatever the legality of the rules governing MP’s allowances and expenses, there has been a consistent and blatant attempt by many to exploit hard-earned taxpayers money. Some ‘Honourable’ Members have even admitted that there was a culture of MP’s being encouraged to fleece the system for as much as they can, others have confirmed that the allowances were considered a right, a method by which they could supplement what they considered to be unreasonably low salaries.

In other words, many of these honourable members have been nothing of the sort, instead they have been leeches on the public purse. Many MP’s have been contemptuous and dismissive of the very people that elected them into parliament. Another fudge will not restore the trust and confidence in our MP’s or, for that matter, the parliamentary system that allowed it to happen. We can never ever again automatically, consider MP’s honourable, honest or filled with integrity. And, the bottom line, is they have no-one else to blame other than themselves, because the vast majority of them have been filling their boots with our money.

I am angered by the members of parliament that arrogantly insist that they are underpaid. On what measure if you please? The vast majority of MP’s came from a background that consisted of politics, journalism, teaching or unions. Few, if any of them, had any business experience, that is of course, one of the principal reasons that their business initiatives always fail! MP’s are not measured on the same basis as ‘normal’ people, politics is full of cronyism, as a consequence, MP’s are promoted on loyalty, not merit. They keep their jobs even when they fail and they retain their salaries even if they have done something you and I would have been dismissed for. They have other perks that the ordinary man or woman in the street could only dream of and I am NOT including their lavish expenses, allowances and pensions. The vast majority of these snivelling, egotistical leeches would not have survived in the real world, which is probably why they tried politics in the first place. If they think they are worth more, then go, good riddance, we will not miss you, that is a firm promise.

Trust and confidence in our MP’s has been destroyed, not by us, but by them. Even the few that were not dipping into our pockets, stood idly by whilst the rest did…..they said and they did nothing. In my book, that makes them no better that the leeches that have helped themselves to our money. Since 1997, the overall tax intake increased cumulatively by £1.2trillion. The only people, it would appear, not to have felt the impact, were the lawmakers that introduced or supported these despicable and unjustifiable raids on our pay packets. The pimps that insisted that our money was theirs to take, squander and plunder. If they (our MP’s) think they will be easily of quickly forgiven, they truly are very sadly mistaken. The decent thing to do would be to resign and let a new batch of MP’s come in, ordinary folk, that have a track record of success or experience outside politics, who can offer real value and life experience. Only then will we have an opportunity to get rid of the stench of self-gratification and suspicion of a corrupt system.

The public is entitled to expect and demand a fully independent audit of MP’s expenses, but this must be completed by an audit firm that is not linked to the public sector in any way, in other words, they must not have previously had a contract with the public sector and must undertake not to accept one in the future. There must be no way that the independent auditors can be influenced by the people they will be auditing. Further, an eminent barrister must be appointed to provide a definitive interpretation of the rules contained in the ‘Green Book’. The auditors must then compare claims that have been paid against this interpretation and every single claim that does not fall within the terms must be immediately repaid by the MP’s concerned. No exceptions. This audit should cover, at the very least, the last 10 years. Furthermore, an assessment must be completed, whereby a panel of 3 judges determine whether, in their opinion,  any criminal offences have been committed by any MP, such as attempting to gain a pecuniary advantage, deception, fraud etc. Those that are considered to have a case to answer, must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. If anyone in the ‘Fees Office’ has been complicit in the criminal process, then they too must be prosecuted, they were paid to do a job and if they failed, then they must accept the price. We want no exceptions, no whitewash and no excuses. The decision of whether or not a prosecution can take place must be left to the judges, not the CPS.

In addition, HMRC must conduct their own independent investigation without fear or favour. It is clear, from the admissions of our own MP’s, that some have profited from the sale of second homes. It is not difficult to determine whether or not this can be classed as a capital gain. HMRC must look at the records held at the ‘Fees Office’ and use this to determine which property was classed by the minister as their primary residence, i.e. the property where no second home allowance was paid. Any property that was clearly not the primary residence must, therefore, be subject to capital gains tax. Where MP’s have played the game by transferring the allowances between several properties, the HMRC must make an assessment and then issue a tax demand. The same as they would for anyone else. Remember, it was Gordon Brown and this government that tightened the laws relating to unpaid taxes, whereas, for the most part, it is up to the ‘innocent’ tax payer to prove that they have not profited, rather than the revenue services to prove that they have. So let them become the ‘victims’ of their own laws. Anything less would be unacceptable and unjust.

A friend of mine recently discovered that his business had been incorrectly accounting for VAT to which the VAT office was not entitled. This had happened over a period of 6 years. When he entered his claim, he was told he could only go back for a maximum of 3 years and when they eventually reimbursed him, he was even “fined” 5% of the value of the reclaim, because the VAT office determined that he had gained through “enrichment”. That is correct, he made a legitimate mistake in favour of HMRC and as a consequence, has had his reclaim reduced by 5%! These are the rules brought in by Gordon Brown and his government, they must be judged by exactly the same rules. That is to say, if they have been enriched through their failure to declare the fact that a ‘capital gain’ was due on the sale of a property, then they must been fined, made to pay interest, as well as repaying the tax.

Much has been made by MP’s about the fact that they were encouraged to milk the system of allowances by ‘house elders’. That is no excuse and I will supply a personal example. In 1979, I was provided with a company car with my job and, on the first day, I went around to the local garage to fill it up with petrol. As I recall, I put about £4 worth of petrol in the car and was handed a receipt for twice the amount. I queried this and was told that it was “standard practice” for everyone that worked for the company. I insisted on being given a new receipt for the correct amount. I then raised this with my manager, who said that “we are so poorly paid, this is considered a perk of the job, everyone does it and even senior management accept the practice, don’t worry“. I refused to be corrupted, I knew this was dishonest and I can honestly say, that from that day to this, I have never fiddled, taken advantage of, or ‘worked’ my expenses or allowances. In other words, it is for the individual to determine whether or not they will succumb to or support a corrupt system, in my view, each and every MP was given the same choice I was and the vast majority chose to ‘work the system’. So much for honesty, judgement and integrity.

Now, it will not have passed anyone’s notice that MP’s, brave souls that they are, have openly blamed the officials at the ‘Fees Office’ stating that expenses were approved by them, so it was okay. They should be reminded, that the Fees Office rules clearly state that ‘Your signature effectively certifies that the amount claimed has been spent on the additional costs necessarily incurred’. Quite right! In the private sector, the primary responsibility for an expense claim falls to the person that is submitting the claim. The individual that authorises the claim is obliged to determine the voracity of the claim at face value, but they will not, in most cases, be able to (nor expected to) investigate each claim or receipt. Nonetheless, if a dishonest claim has been entered, it is the claimant that can and will be held responsible. Over the years I have had responsibility for authorising expenses, I have always been diligent and never knowingly signed off on a dishonest claim. However, I have, on more that one occasion, disciplined or dismissed people that have deliberately entered a dishonest claim, such as false petrol receipts, exaggerated mileage claims and/or false overnight claims. MP’s must abide by the very same rules as the private sector. I can confidently state, that the experience I have had in business, in relation to expenses, are commonplace, in other words, most employers will not accept any level of dishonesty from their employees because they know it is a slippery slope.

  • For all those MP’s that have claimed that their claims were within the rules, let me remind them what some of those rules are (extracts), then perhaps they would like to reflect.
  • Additional Costs Allowance claims must be “above reproach” and MPs “must avoid any arrangement which may give rise to an accusation that you or someone close to you is benefiting from public funds”
  • MP’s expenses and allowances can only be claimed “for the purpose of performing their parliamentary duties.”
  • “You must ensure that arrangements for your ACA claims are above reproach and that there can be no grounds for a suggestion of misuse of public money.”

Here is something else MP’s are obliged to consider: MP’s are allowed to claim for maintenance, cleaning and “necessary repairs“, as well as furnishings and white goods. Therefore, among the questions MPs are urged to ask themselves before making claims is, “How comfortable do I feel with the knowledge that my claim will be available to the public under Freedom of Information.”

Former chairman of the committee for standards in public life, Sir Alistair Graham, said the expenses system had to be decided in the public and taxpayers’ interest, by an independent outside body. He said, “It is depressing to keep hearing [MPs] saying ‘well, it’s the system that was wrong and we are changing the system’. “The question you have to ask is who devised the system? MPs devised the system under their self-regulating arrangements and that’s what must change for the future.”

Lets hear from Harriet Harman; Asked about claims MPs have been claiming one property is their “second home” under the allowance, but not for the purposes of council tax or capital gains tax, she refused to give a “gut instinct judgement” on whether it was a breach of the rules. However, she said: “Normally it would be the same for council tax, for tax if there was a sale of the property… normally there would be a consistency on that.” – Lets have this point put to the test, we don’t need any MP’s ‘gut instincts’, if they are subject to the same rules as the rest of us, then we already know the answer, so it is time for HMRC to act…and NOW!

I will sum up by reproducing two statements attributed to Harriett Harman. The reader can draw their own conclusions from what she says, or rather, what her statements imply.

We do not have the level of corruption that remains in many other countries”. “We have recognised that the system needs sorting out”. “We need a new system“.

MPs believe in the cause of public service and that’s why they’re in public service and I believe our House of Commons is not scarred by corruption on the scale of other political systems.”

Game, set and match!

Footnote: I believe it is time that parliament was modernised to reflect the modern day. A good start would to remove the automatic address of ‘the honourable’ or the ‘right honourable’ when referring to MP’s. It is blatantly obvious to any bystander, that this title cannot be automatically conveyed on MP’s, but must be earned.

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

Posted in Conservatives, General, Labour, Lib Dems | Comments (17)

Who is running the country?

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Who is running the country?


It is not lost on me that, at a time when our country is in economic meltdown, our soldiers are dying on the front line, unemployment is rising at a phenomenal rate and businesses are going bust every day, our government is just not interested – Note: I have excluded ‘Swine Flu’ because this is just a convenient distraction for our government.

Instead, they are intent on squabbling like spoilt school children. Little wonder we are in such a mess, each and every one of them should be ashamed. Headlines no longer deal with the issues that concern the public, instead they are dedicated to those within the Labour party that seek to criticise or defend New Labour and/or Gordon Brown. Whilst I am all for the discredited New Labour machine going into self-destruct mode, I am concerned that it is happening whilst they are still in government, it is akin to sending a text message on your mobile phone, whilst travelling at over 100 mph on the motorway.

It is clear to me, that only now, have Labour diehards realised that their social experiment has been a failure, both in terms of policy and implementation. Instead of bickering, they should call a general election for the sake of the country and let the people decide who is fit to get us through this mess. But no, they couldn’t give a toss, they choose to fight each other rather than concentrate on what they were elected to do…run the country. Their selfishness clearly knows no bounds.

To save the party arguing the toss for the next 12 months as they desperately and unashamedly hang onto power, let me explain why they failed, in simple terms, that even children can comprehend. Now I will not get into the detail of whether or not the policies were right because this is neither the time, nor the place. However, the failure can be simply put, it is not about the plan, it is all about the implementation. New Labour came up with a vision, a plan for the United Kingdom and instead of placing the very best people in charge of these plans, they resorted to cronyism. The decision on who would be responsible for implementation of New Labour’s grand vision was determined on reward, not merit.

Government is not the place for ‘on the job’ training. Take for example Jacqui Smith, how can a background in teaching economics at a high school qualify her for the position of Home Secretary? Or Alan Johnson, before entering parliament, he was a postman and then a full-time union official, so how is this going to help him run one of the 3rd largest employer in the world, the National Health Service? David Miliband is now Foreign Secretary, yet before entering parliament, he was a researcher for the Institute for Public Policy Research. How does this qualify him as the best person to represent our interests on the world stage? Even the Chinese questioned Ed Miliband over his “qualifications” to lecture them on climate change, his response was that as a politician, he was in effect, charged with selling the concept.

Take Gordon Brown for example. Some may think that he had some sort of financial background, an accountant perhaps, or a financial analyst. But no, this man who was to become our Chancellor of 10 years, had no such qualifications, little wonder that he lead us into the biggest economic crisis in 60 years. Gordon Brown was a Rector of the University of Edinburgh, after that, he was employed as a lecturer in Politics at the Glasgow College of Technology. From 1980, until he was elected a member of parliament, he was a journalist at Scottish Television, later becoming an editor for current affairs at the same television station.

As for Tony Blair, his background prior to becoming an MP is so scant, it is not worth mentioning, so I won’t. Little wonder then that this government of ,very little talent, has had to spend £billions on consultants throughout their term of office. 

It never ceases to amaze me how, in politics, ministers are offered position not based on merit, but based on loyalty. If the private sector were to resort to such cronyism, it would fail miserably, instead, with a few exceptions, the private sector employ the best people for the job, based on experience, knowledge and ability. No so ministers. If those in the private sector fail, they are fired and replaced with someone else that can do the job. Not so ministers, they are normally forgiven, occasionally moved, but rarely sent to the backbenches.

The internal squabbling of New Labour is lamentable, but it is also dangerous. The public are not stupid, they can work out that if the party, including government ministers are fighting amongst themselves, then they are not fighting for us. If the party had any sense of self-respect, they would admit that they had lost the plot, lacked any direction and had demonstrably failed the British public and in doing so, offer the people of this country the opportunity to decide on their future as well as our own. They won’t of course, because now, more than at any time in our history, MP’s of all parties are in denial of the fact that they are elected to serve, not rule. And chief amongst this philosophy and belief are members of the Labour party.

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

One in 10 MP’s to stand down at next election. Its not enough!

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

One in 10 MP’s to stand down at next election. Its not enough!


The latest news is that some 10% of MP’s are intending to stand down at the next election, if accurate, then we only have another 590 or so to go. It is clear, that many of our current batch of MP’s have failed to listen to the public, to the extent that, in my view at least, we have never had a period in our history where the people of this country have felt so disengaged from the politicians elected to represent us.

For the past 12 years, as a people, we have had to standby as our right to privacy, civil liberties and freedoms have been steadily eroded. Yes, this is the fault of the government, but it is also the responsibility of the opposition MP’s who have failed to wade in on our behalf. Our country is more like a police state than ever before, New labour has introduced during their time in office, some 3607 new laws. The police have been provided with massive powers to stop and search, arrest and detain. They have been provided with their very own ‘weapons’, including a steel truncheon, pepper spray and now all front line police officers are to be provided with lethal Tasers, some 10,000 of them. We no longer feel like a free country, instead we are ruled, monitored and controlled. Our police officers don’t care or don’t know the difference between a protest or a riot. Our action, words and thoughts are constantly monitored and recorded on a raft of databases, even our children have their every action recorded on a database, information from which, will be used to determine whether or not they are likely to turn into criminals (see: Onset Profiling Tool).

Much has been said about MP’s self-interest. They have benefited for decades from an expense and allowance system that actively encourages abuse. Yes, their actions may well be “within the rules“, but the rules were quite clearly wrong, yet no-one did anything about it, only now, when the Freedom of Information Act meant that the public could review their expenses have they started to consider revisions. Gordon Brown as Chancellor decided that he was going to raid the private sector pension plans, this action has raised approximately £10bn per annum, money that has been squandered, not invested. Meanwhile, they have done nothing about public sector pension plans which will, if not dealt with quickly, bankrupt this country, because they are paid out of tax revenues, not a pension fund. Our MP’s failed to consider the irony of the fact that whilst they were punishing those that had diligently invested in a private pension, members of parliament had one of the best pension schemes in the country. Now, there is a private members bill going though parliament that seeks to protect all public servants, MP’s included, from any wrongdoing if they can claim ‘reasonable discretion’. How can they claim to be representative or not full of self-interest?

No matter what political party you support, even the most foolhardy could not claim that our current government has any real direction, their rallying call is always “we will do whatever is necessary“, that does not provide much confidence, given it suggests that they are not in control, are lacking direction and any fresh ideas. Above and worst of all, it implies that they are reactive, not proactive. Whenever Gordon Brown or his cronies have to defend their actions, or lack of them, they always turn to party politics, by claiming that “at least we are doing something, the Conservatives would do nothing” or “we are investing, whilst the Conservatives would cut“. Haven’t they worked it out yet, the people of this country are simply sick and tired of this bullshit. Gordon Brown and his cabinet need to be reminded that the Conservatives are not in power, they are! In fact it is 12 years since the Conservatives were in power, New Labour can’t continue to blame the Conservatives for everything. All MP’s need their heads banging together. The opposition parties have not offered much opposition to this New Labour government, in fact, many MP’s have been complicit in the mess that we are in by failing to say something. Apart from PMQ’s and one or two ‘major’ debates, there is rarely more than a handful of MP’s in parliament to debate our future or protect our interests from what has become a over-bearing, increasingly authorotarian government.

More than anything, I would like to see a massive clear out of MP’s, not all, but most. Clearly we need to retain some experience, but equally, we need to elect people that will genuinely represent our interests instead of their own. During the debate over MP’s expenses, I heard some of the most impassioned speeches ever, it is quite telling that it had to take something like their expenses to illcit this type of response! It also brought out some of the worst aspects of the self-indulgent character of our MP’s, with some whining about how poor their wages were, or suggesting it was a vocation not a job, implying they are doing us all a favour. The bottom line is, they knew what the pay was before they entered parliament, if the money wasn’t good enough, they should have done something else. What they need to remember is that parliament is not a true meritocracy, MP’s get to keep their jobs irrespective of their abilities, at least for 5 years anyway. In addition, very few are promoted on merit, because in parliament, promotion is normally offered as a reward.

That notwithstanding, if there are any MP’s that are not happy with the wages, prospects or allowances, then I feel certain there will be thousands of people who would be delighted to work for £65k per annum, and above all, for the privilege of being able to represent their constituents. I would like to see the political parties open their doors to ordinary people. By limiting their scope to mates, old Etonians, union leaders and the like, so they limit the spectrum, depth and ingenuity of our parliament. For me, unless we witness a substantial change to our representation, a return to democracy, renewed respect for the people of this country and an end to cronyism, then I think it is time to consider emigrating.

Posted in Conservatives, General, Labour, Lib Dems | Comments (7)

Budget 2009: New Labour have lost the plot

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Budget 2009: New Labour have lost the plot


New Labour has brought this country to the brink of bankruptcy and yet, even now, when everyone else can see it, they remain in denial. How on earth can any pollster find people that are daft enough to believe that Darling and Brown are best placed to get us out of this mess? Never have I felt such utter despair. Up and down the country, people are having to tighten their belts and reign in their spending, only then can they hope to get themselves out of debt or survive a period of reduced income. Ask anyone and they will tell you this is simply commonsense, anyone that is, other than a ‘New Labour’ MP or the recipients of New Labours redistribution of taxpayers money. New Labour believe that they have discovered the secret to dealing with reduced income and spiralling debt, just borrow more! If that were not enough, they elect to lie to themselves and their masters, by suggesting that things will get better by the end of this year and by 2011, we will be in the money again as a consequence of a boom, the like not seen since the ‘dotcom era’.

Our government tells us that the economy will shrink by 3.5% this year, whereas the International Monetary Fund suggests that it will be 4.1% and the the Centre for Economic and Business Research, 4.5%. Even taking account of the Governments hugely optimistic and unlikely forecast, they will have to borrow £175bn this year. In my view, the governments forecast is a lie and I believe they know it is, but rather than give it to us straight, they would sooner treat us like idiots. If the governments figures are wrong and most economists believe they are, then borrowing will be even higher, something our government, your government, doesn’t want you to know until it is too late to do anything about it. Even when it was announced that the economy shrank by 1.9% in the first three months of this year, the government still insisted that their figures were accurate, in other words, we (the government) are right and everyone else is wrong. Early estimates suggest that if the IMF figures are more accurate that those of the Government, then borrowing will increase by around £30bn per year, no wonder this Government doesn’t want us to know the truth.

Next year, the government is forecasting growth of 1.25%, yet in spite of this, they still need to borrow another £173bn. Once again, others, such as the IMF, suggest that the growth figures are vastly optimistic, suggesting instead a contraction of 0.3%. In spite of this, the government then tell us to expect a dotcom like boom in 2011, with a forecast growth figure of 3.5%. Utter fantasy, but even with this spectacular figure, the government will still need to borrow £140bn. Followed by £118bn in 2012 and £97bn in 2013. In other words, even taking this governments completely unrealistic contraction and growth figures, we still need to borrow more than £700bn over the next 5 years. Even to a Cabinet simpleton, this has to indicate that we, as a country, are living well beyond our means. It is also worth noting, that even before the property slump and the recession, we were still borrowing well in excess of our income, with further fancy footwork taking place to move other government debt, such as the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) off the government balance sheet. So, no matter what Gordon Brown will have us believe, we were heading for a fall even without the recession. If he denies this then he is either a fool or a liar..perhaps both! We must not be surprised that this government is lead by liars either, after all, it was they who made a manifesto commitment not to raise the higher rate of income tax and they who promised a referendum on the European Constitution and then denied us the right by falsely claiming that the renamed treaty was not the same. Two manifesto promises, two out and out lies, why should the electorate ever trust any party again over manifesto promises?

The government has decided that anyone earning over £113,000 per year must lose all of their personal allowances, which will cost them around £50 per week and anyone earning over £150,000 per annum, will face a tax rate of 50% on all earnings above the threshold. This governments justification is that these people have gained most during the boom years and should, therefore, pay more now. The truth is somewhat different. Over the past 11 years, the people that have benefited most from the boom, in relative terms, is the lower paid, funded in no small part by those on middle and higher incomes. This was as a direct consequence of the governments programme to redistribute wealth. The government has also said that those that earn more must pay more. But they already do. Someone on £113,000 per year pays, in cash terms, seven times the tax that an individual earning £25,000 per year does.

It is also worth noting that anyone lucky enough to earn over £100k per year has not been gifted it, they have earnt it through promotion, success, hardwork and/or entrepreneurial risk taking. No employer would pay someone over £100k per year if they weren’t worth it. It is also worth remembering that these people are resident here, which means that they spend the majority of their money in the UK, therefore, they will be contributing substantially to the economy in the form of other indirect taxes as well as helping to create employment through the purchase of goods and services. The money that the government takes from these people won’t be handed straight over to the poor as they imply, instead, it will be used to plug a huge gap in government finances…which has become something of a bottomless pit. I would sooner have the taxpayer keep more of their money which, if they spend on goods and services, will be the best natural stimulus this country could possible have. If the government could not fleece the taxpayer so easily, they would be forced, as the rest of us are, to ensure that available funds are spent wisely and are only used on what is necessary, rather than desirable.

The bottom line is, that the only way we are going to get ourselves out of this mess is if we reduce our spending, this is basic economics and most 8 years olds could tell you that. Increasing taxes reduces the amount of money in the economy and it is this that will prolong the recession. The government is asking us all to believe that it can spend our money better and more wisely than we can, is there anyone out there, other than those that do not contribute, that would agree with this statement? For those that believe this government has its priorities in the right place, then they should consider the following; According to the government, the increase in tax announced for higher earners is worth up to £7bn per annum, although other experts believe the actual figure is much, much lower, but taken at face value, this tax increase pales into insignificance when set against government spending on databases. The government intends to spend, in spite of the recession, some £105bn of our money over the next 5 years on databases and other largescale IT projects, that is equivalent to over £20bn per year, or half the defence budget. These databases are designed to allow the government to drive a coach and horses through our civil liberties, monitor our every move and spy on our every deed. How can that be a priority at anytime, let alone during a recession, the databases are far from an essential spend?

The government has failed to grasp the nettle of public sector pension schemes which now costs us £2.7bn every year and rising. Even though the government has hammered private sector pension schemes with a tax take amounting to more that £100bn over the past 10 years, they have done nothing to deal with the public sector pensions, where the gross liability has been estimated to top £800bn. This abdication of their duty is simply breathtaking. For those that are not aware and, in the interest of putting things into perspective, 20p in every £ of our council tax goes directly towards funding local government pensions (source: Taxpayers’ Alliance). With public sector pay now above the levels of those in equivalent jobs in the private sector and better job security, little wonder that questions are being asked. Some MP’s have been whining in recent days that they should not be expected to vote for less money in relation to their lavish expense allowances. Why not, the rest of us have not been given a choice?

Alistair Darling noted in his budget speech that there will be £15bn of “efficiency savings”. Note, these are not cuts, but efficiency savings. What I don’t understand is why they have only noted them now, any well run business would have an ongoing programme of efficiency measures designed to save money. If they are genuinely efficiency savings, then the government must hold its head in shame, because that is the equivalent of admitting that this government has presided over a massive programme of excess and/or waste. But lets call a spade a spade, it is not just efficiency savings that are needed, but cuts, real cuts. The Conservatives lack the courage to outline what they would cut, which leaves them open to any charge the Labour government wants to send their way, such as cuts in health and education. They (the Conservatives) should have the courage of their convictions and tell us what they will be, we know they are necessary, but scrapping the ID Cards system, whilst wholly sensible, does not cut the mustard. By contrast, the LibDems have highlighted some 8 or 9 areas they would cut. We all know that the LibDems won’t get enough support to form a government, but based on the fact that they are willing to put their stake in the ground and then fight their corner, they are demonstrating considerably more moral courage and conviction than their Conservative counterparts.

Because I don’t want to be accused of highlighting the problems, but not putting forward any solutions, the following would be my first port of call in terms of saving money. And, for the record, I would not be looking to increase direct taxation, since as I have already argued, the best stimulus this country could get, is the natural one provided by people spending their own money in the way they so choose.

  1. Scrap all database/unnecessary IT projects, including, but not necessarily limited to; the Communication Database, ContactPoint, the Travel Database, the NHS Database and the ID Card Scheme. Saving £105bn over the next 5 years. It is worth noting that over-runs on this Governments 8 largest projects total a staggering £18.6bn (source: Times & Computer Weekly). That’s right, this is just the over-runs, not the total cost!
  2. Scrap the ‘Tax Credit’ system and return to a simplified tax and benefits system that does not see people pay a higher rate of tax simply so they can fill a form in a claim it back as a tax credit. The same objective can be achieved by using personal allowances and a simple tax system. Minimum savings of £4bn per annum as a result of less fraudulent claims and errors (currently £2bn per annum), plus savings in process and administration.
  3. Can local council’s publicity machines, saving £430m per annum.
  4. Cancel the Child Trust Fund (Baby Bonds) programme, saving £470m per annum.
  5. Reduce International Development Aid budget by half. At this time, we can ill-afford to offer £billions in aid to other countries. Saving of £2.5bn per annum.
  6. Close down the Regional Development Agencies that have delivered little, if anything, for businesses in the UK. Annual saving of £2.1bn
  7. Reduce funding to the Scottish Assembly, the current ‘Barnett Formula’ is outdated and the amount paid allows people in Scotland to benefit from services that those in England cannot, such as free prescriptions and free care for the elderly. This is neither fair, nor equitable. The budget should be trimmed by at least 10% saving £2.6bn per annum.
  8. Withdraw automatic right to ‘sick pay’ for public sector workers. Savings £1.7bn
  9. Reduce the number of consultants used by various government departments by half. Saving £1.5bn per annum. Use the balance to recruit the skills that are necessary rather than pay inflated costs to outside companies.
  10. Reverse the increased cost of Quangos in the UK, which has risen by £41bn to £123bn. Saving £40bn per annum.
  11. Close tax loopholes which cost the UK Exchequer £8.5bn from High New Worth Individuals, £3bn from large companies and a further £7bn as a result of tax evasion and other activities. Total: £18.5bn

There are, of course, many other areas where our money is squandered, my particular suggestions would save approximately £70bn. Any halfway competent government, or government in waiting, could come up with a set of plans that could easily trim 5%-10% off government expenditure without necessary affecting front-line services. This could lead to savings of up to £60bn per annum. In fact, the European Central Bank found that if the UK’s public spending was as efficient as say, the USA or Japan, we could realise a saving of 16% without any cuts in front-line services, that is a whopping saving of £93bn per year. Throughout government there is duplication, waste, excess and abuse, this area should be tackled well before cuts in essential services are considered and this is what the opposition parties should be focusing on.

Posted in Conservatives, General, Labour, Lib Dems | Comments (4)

Advertise Here