Tag Archive | "conservative party"

Does Cameron understand his “patriotic duty”?

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Does Cameron understand his “patriotic duty”?


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

David Cameron needs to up his game

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

David Cameron needs to up his game


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

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

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

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

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

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

Discounted bank shares is cheap electioneering

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

Discounted bank shares is cheap electioneering


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

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

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

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

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

Cameron’s offer of open primaries is pure tokenism

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

Cameron’s offer of open primaries is pure tokenism


Whilst I accept that David Cameron is demonstrating some leadership in terms of electoral reform, his latest proposals are so limited as to leave him open to the accusation of political tokenism. He has suggested that he is willing to open the Conservative candidate list to anyone “who wants to apply”, using what he describes as a system of “open primaries” where everyone in a constituency can vote at public meetings to select their prospective Conservative MP.  

However, in typical Cameron style, he limits the risk. Instead of making this policy widespread, by insisting that all Conservative MP’s stand for re-selection, he has stated that this policy will only be implemented in areas where Conservative MP’s have announced their intention to retire or stand down. At the moment, that is just 5 seats, which, even based on the current number of Conservative MP’s (190), would account for just over 2.5%. If the Conservatives are successful in getting into government, these candidates, chosen by the people, would likely amount to much less than 2% of the total. In other words, it will make little or no difference. Pure, unadulterated tokenism.

Cameron needs to demonstrate that he is a man of conviction, we have had 12 years of tokenism from Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. At the very least, Cameron should insist that his entire front bench stand for re-selection. However, I would like to see him go further and provide the people of this country with the opportunity to select their preferred Conservative candidate, in every constituency. That is true democracy. If the people don’t like his preferred candidate, then that is the will of the people, you can’t get more democratic than that. I am encouraged that he has stated that candidates would not be rejected because they had no experience of politics, that is also a step in the right direction, but if Cameron wants to be taken seriously, then he needs to go all the way. I personally believe it will strengthen his party, not weaken it and if he loses a few ‘mates‘ along the way, then that is the will of the people he claims to want to serve.

When we look at a potential new leader, it is essential that, as well as taking into account their policies, we look at the leaders principles and judgement. In the case of Julie Kirkbride, David Cameron has come out to defend her, stating that her case was “different” to that of her husband Andrew Mackay. That is total piffle and he knows it. Kirkbride and Mackay are married, both had to have known about the arrangement to maximise the ‘Second Home Allowance and, of course, as a family unit, Kirkbride would have been a benificiary of this arrangement. If David Cameron can’t see what everyone else can, then he is not fit to lead the party, much less this country, because he will be no better than Gordon Brown. He must, at the very least, insist that Julie Kirkbride stands for re-selection in an ‘open primary’, which would leave it to her constituents to determine whether her behaviour was acceptable, not him. Having put up with 12 years of New Labour, the public know the difference between headline grabbing rhetoric and action, as well as the difference between right and wrong. He cannot and must not take his poll position for granted. If the people of this country want to see fresh new faces in parliament, they may decide to vote for candidates from smaller parties, or independents.

For the record, I would like to say that I wholeheartedly endorse his suggestion that Conservative MP’s will only be required to follow the Whips orders on Manifesto commitments, other party’s should take note.

Posted in Conservatives, General | Comments (25)

Party leaders must beware of the wrath of the voter

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

Party leaders must beware of the wrath of the voter


Looking back over the past two weeks I have become increasingly concerned that party leaders are, for the most part, issuing small soundbites to humour the electorate, rather than taking clear or decisive action. Many MPs’ have referred to the fact that their claims were, either “within the rules” or “within the guidelines”. So, I decided to look at the definitions of each which are reproduced below: [Party leaders please note]

Guidelines: A statement or other indication of policy or procedure by which to determine a course of action.

Rules: A principle or regulation governing conduct, action, procedure, arrangement, etc.

Now, lets take a look at what the “rules” or “guidelines” say in respect of expense claims: Expense claims must be wholly, necessarily and exclusively in the performance of their Parliamentary duties

My take on this is that whether MPs want to refer to these as guidelines or rules, the vast majority of them that have claimed for anything other than rent, utility bills, insurance or other essentials cannot state in all seriousness that they have followed the letter or the spirit of the expense claims procedure. I have excluded mortgages only because in my view, mortgage interest reclaims should have been capped. If the party leaders are not going to look at this whole thing dispassionately, then the final arbiter of whether the rules or guidelines were followed, or if the claims were reasonable must be the electorate.

If party leaders fail to take account of the fact that the public consider many of these claims a deliberate abuse, then they demonstrate how completely out of touch they are. If they get this wrong, then they may well pay the price at the ballot box in a general election. I feel certain, that all of the party leaders and most of the MPs’ think that this whole thing will blow over, they could not be more wrong. If they don’t deal with it now, then the electorate will be reminded about individual MPs’ probity when they are asked to vote, nationwide opinion polls will not provide an accurate picture, because the electorate will be judging the individual candidates on a local basis. So, David Cameron, for example, must not get too cocky, because there are a good number of his own MPs’ that have themselves entered and benefited from unjustifiable claims. He could, therefore, find that whilst local constituents may want to vote conservative, they have so little confidence in the candidate, they put their tick elsewhere. As I have said, no national opinion poll will be able to predict that outcome, but party leaders could use a little commonsense.

Cameron is calling for an election and Brown is saying that the public want and expect the current government to fix the problems in “this parliament”. I dislike politicians speaking for me and therefore I will avoid trying to speak for others, but as far as I am concerned I DO want an election so that I can decide whether I support the candidate put up by the local party. I will say this, if I don’t trust the candidate, no matter what party he represents, I will not vote for him. I suspect many will act likewise, though how many is too difficult to predict.

Fixing the system that has allowed the abuse is the very least we expect from all MPs and party leaders, placing an immediate halt on the abuses is also expected of them. However, wrongdoing, abuse or fraud must not go unpunished, our lawmakers are supposed to set an example, it comes with the salary. Similarly, leaders that fail to act on abuse be removing the whip or insisting on deselection, will be viewed as condoning the activities of these wayward MPs’.

I don’t think Gordon Brown should call an election now, but I do believe he must have the courage of his convictions. If he believes he knows what the people want, then he must set a date for the election and it must be this year. If he has acted like a true leader, ensured that wayward MPs’ cannot stand for election again and applied the same rules to ministers as he does backbenchers, then he will do much better at the ballot box. I don’t think he can win, but it may not be a complete wipe-out. As far as Cameron is concerned, he must act in the same way, there is no point in the electorate voting for more of the same. If not, I predict, that at the next election, we will see a last minute surge to the Liberal Democrats and if that is the case, proportional representation is only around the corner.

However they deal with this issue, electoral reform is long overdue, all parties have a duty to increase their accountability to the people of this country. The system must also be changed to ensure that the ‘executive’ does not have so much power, resulting in them being answerable to no-one, including parliament. They can start by trying to widen their recruitment process for new candidates from the narrow section of society used now, to one which ensures that real people are given the opportunity to represent major parties and people with an appropriate level of experience are encouraged to put themselves up for candidacy, so that if the party is elected, they have a knowledge and depth in their cabinet ministers.

I don’t have all the answers, but one thing I know for certain, neother do our politicians and they have had and squandered their chance!

Posted in Conservatives, General, Labour, Lib Dems | Comments (6)

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)

George Osborne outlines spending priorities

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

George Osborne outlines spending priorities


Not before time George Osborne has outlined what the spending priorities will be if the Conservatives win at the next election. Although in traditional Tory style, his comments lacked any detail, but there there was at least a clear statement of intent, one which I could subscribe to. He said that The Conservative party will prioritise spending cuts rather than tax rises to address the atrocious state of the public finances. George Osborne said “You don’t want to kill off the recovery with heavy tax rises that bring you back to square one.”

Osborne stated that health, schools, defence and international development would be protected from cuts in 2009/10, but beyond that, would only commit to real term increases in health and to match Labour’s commitment on overseas aid of 0.7% of GDP. These cuts are likely to amount to £5bn, not nearly enough, but it is a start. For me there are a number of positive aspect to this statement which I find encouraging.

A politician has finally understood that you cannot simply take the easy way out every time their is a funding gap and fleece the already hard-pressed taxpayer. The Conservatives have made a great play of all the stealth taxes we have had to endure over the past 11 years as well as the increased tax burden. To then add to it, whatever the economic circumstances, would be hypocritical, at least until they have exhausted all other options. There is a huge amount of waste and excess in the public sector and it needs to be brought under control. Personally I believe a saving of £5bn is small beer and this could be much higher, without necessarily impacting on front line services.

I am also encouraged that the Conservative’s are finally willing to open themselves up for Labour party attacks along the lines of “a vote for the Conservative Party will lead to public sector cuts”. Anyone with an ounce of commonsense will know that our current public sector investment is unsustainable, it would have been if there had been no economic downturn, so it sure as hell is now. Increasing taxes will mean there is less money in the economy and therefore it will take much longer to come out of this recession. The best fiscal stimulus in a natural one and that is by allowing people to keep more of the money they earn, not less.

Labour jibes that a vote for the Conservatives will lead to cuts in schools and health are designed to be emotive, but it is clear that the current spending is not sustainable in the short or medium term and, deep down, the electorate knows that. No matter what party is in government, real term cuts are inevitable.

The voters of this country are also shoppers and they know that when times are hard, they have to make their money stretch further, this means cuts in non-essentials, reducing debt and making every penny count. They know that if they are prepared to shop around, money can be saved without necessarily compromising quality, for example buying supermarkets own label products, frequenting discount stores, utlising the intenet to research prices etc. This is because most people do not have the luxury of boosting their income by simply helping themselves to someone else’s money, as is common with governments when they get their sums wrong. The taxpayer always has and I suspect always will be the easiest target for spendthrift governments such as New Labour.

I am also heartened that the Conservatives are prepared to take a position and then defend it. So far they have promised to fix our ‘broken society” and as we all know that is an intangible that they couldn’t be accurately measured on. But a commitment to cut wasteful and excessive public spending is tangible, we will be able to judge them on their deeds, not their words. In fact, the Conservative party, if true to their word, is at risk of becoming a party of conviction and in my view at least, that makes them more electable. I would like to see George Osborne and his team put more work into this commitment and identify some of the areas where they will make cuts….yes, I say cuts, because we will inevitably have to make cuts in real terms. They could make a start with the £20bn a year that the Labour party have committed to spend on new databases that achieve nothing other than infringe the civil liberties of the people of this country, then move on to complete a wholesale review of the unfunded public sector pension schemes which are crippling the public sector finances. For example, it was reported last week that 20p in every £ collected in Council Tax, goes directly towards paying local government pensions.

It is worth reminding ourselves that the vast majority of our taxes go to support or subsidise those less fortunate, therefore, £1 in tax does not mean £1 in benefit to the taxpayer, as all government’s past and present would us believe. And, to help those less fortunate than the majority (soon to become the minority), we need an army of civil servants, many of whom are now better paid than the private sector and have much better pension schemes.

My best guess is that for every £ paid in tax, the average taxpayer will receive no more than 20p in benefits, now that IS a number the Tax Payers Alliance should try and calculate. The bottom line is we, as taxpayers, must insist that we get value for money. If my estimate is right, then for every pound that is taken from us, we get only 20p of value, is there any justice in that. I think not, it is taking social responsibility too far and I suspect that if the true number was ever published, there would be a massive backlash from the taxpayer. 

This is only one solid policy statement offered by the Conservative party that I fully concur with, I hope that in the coming months, we will have more sensible, tangible and worthwhile policy commitments. You never know, they may actually become a party that is worthy of our vote, rather than one which wins the election as a consequence of the electorate voting against New Labour, rather than for the Conservatives.

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

Gutter Politics in the UK

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

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)

Disreputable MP’s and their expenses

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

Disreputable MP’s and their expenses


Much has been written about MP’s and their expenses over the past few weeks and little wonder given we expect our elected representatives to always act in the best interests of their constituents, the public at large and above all, with the utmost integrity. Yet, each time an MP has been exposed as maximising their expense allowances, we are informed that the claim has either been an error, or more often has been claimed in “accordance with the rules” and “fully declared”.

I have already stated in previous posts that I am not suggesting that any MP or Minister has acted in a corrupt manner and without evidence to the contrary, I stand by that statement. However, what is clear to me is that it is the the expense allowance programme is corrupt, given it facilitates and even encourages members of parliament to maximise their claims with little or no scrutiny as part of their ‘rewards package’. My prior statement notwithstanding, it is MP’s that are the sole arbiters on the expense system they benefit from, because only they can vote to introduce change. Therefore, it is a bit rich when they are so defensive because the public has the temerity and audacity to find these claims objectionable and excessive, even though we have never been consulted…instead we just expected to foot the bill. Bollocks!

I believe that the only reason Gordon Brown and his cronies are recommending a review of the expense allowances is because they want and expect the committee to suggest that salaries are increased to compensate for the loss of some or all of the current allowances. This is not and never will be acceptable to the public. It is right that MP’s should be reimbursed for out of pocket expenses, that have been incurred wholly and exclusively in the course of their parliamentary duties, but that is it. Anything else would be an abuse. MP’s know what the salary and benefits are before they stand, if they don’t like the package, then they must step aside, there will be no shortage of people clamouring for their seats.

In the past, the basis or motivation for new laws was invariably where the majority of people found something objectionable, offensive or wrong. It is clear to me that the overwhelming majority of people in this country consider the MP expense allowances to be far too generous, self-serving and open to abuse. Therefore, all MP’s have a duty to the public to outlaw such acts, even if it is detrimental to their own interests. A failure to do this is a failure of their duty and obligation to the public. It does not need a committee to determine what is wrong with the expense allowance scheme, public opinion has already made that clear, MP’s must act decisively and NOW, for if they don’t the trust in our Parliamentary system of representation will be irreparably damaged. Trust has already been damaged.

The people of this country have had to put up with interfering Ministers and MP’s introducing a raft of new legislation designed exclusive and comprehensively to erode our liberty, right to privacy and long held freedoms, whilst they (the MP’s) are, for the most part exempted from the same laws. They have lost all sense of reality and completely removed themselves from society.

Over the past 11 years we have seen legislation brought in to protect foxes, whilst having to accept the broken Manifesto promise of a vote on the Lisbon Treaty. We have seen public sector final salary pension schemes protected and enhanced whilst those in the private sector were raided to the tune of £10bn per year. We have seen Ministers living in grace and favour homes, whilst renting out their taxpayer funded London home, meanwhile other hardworking people have had their homes repossessed. We have seen countless examples of MP’s going on free taxpayer junkets with their entourage, whilst many people will be lucky to afford a weekend in Blackpool. The hypocrisy of our current batch of MP’s knows no bounds, but it has got to stop. Our system of parliamentary democracy goes back hundreds of years, but more damage has been done to it by this current group of MP’s than at any time since it started. Members of Parliament must hang their heads in shame, hand back our money, can the expense allowance scheme and agree not to stand for elected office again. Then there may be a small chance that the damage to our democratic process and, the necessary trust in accountable members of parliament, may be rectified in our lifetimes. It is the least we would expect from decent individuals, but then again, few of our current batch of MP’s could be described as decent!

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, Lib Dems | Comments (2)

Darling Expense Claim: They are all at it!

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

Darling Expense Claim: They are all at it!


Just 24 hours after it emerged that Geoff Hoon was claiming a ‘second home allowance’ for his Derbyshire constituency home, whilst renting out his London pad and living in a taxpayer funded ‘grace and favour home’ it transpires that Alistair Darling is doing something similar. Yet another example of Ministers who are expected to set an example hiding behind the rules of a corrupt expense allowance programme that they get to craft and then vote on!

As I alluded to in my posting yesterday, it appears impossible to find any MP that does not have his or her snout in the trough, they all seem to be at it. At a time of higher taxes for mere mortals, MP’s seem to be protecting their own positions with unjustifiable and very generous tax free expense allowances, that bear no relation to ‘out of pocket’ expenses.

MP’s expense allowances bear absolutely no relation to those in the private sector. For example, most people working in London will travel, at their own expense, to and from work, often leaving in the very early hours and getting home late. I for example, used to leave at 5.00am in the morning and get home at between 8.00 and 9.00pm….everyday for 9 years! My petrol was paid, but I then had to declare this as a benefit in kind. Most people in the private sector will receive an overnight allowance if they are staying in London, a relocation allowance, or a small one-off grant to cover the rental of a small flat etc. Not so for MP’s, they get annual allowances for virtually everything.

How ironic that the very people that bear a good deal of the responsibility for the economic mess we are in should seek to make the taxpayers pay for their mistakes (increased taxes, stealth taxes, bailots etc), whilst feathering their own nests with unjustifiable expense allowance benefits. Why do we all sit here and take it,  whilst these self-serving, pompous hypocrites are sneering at us in that contemptuous way that serving MP’s have got off to an art? Meanwhile, Gordon Brown says he has far more important things to deal with than MP’s expenses, well he has a point, but, if his ministers are milking a corrupt expense allowance programme, how are the public to have, or maintain, any trust in their honesty, integrity and judgement?

MP’s must not be allowed to hide behind the fact that they operated within the rules or that their claims had been “openly declared“. One of their own MP’s referred to the fact there is a “court of public opinion” and indeed there is. Members of Parliament have quite rightly declared open warfare on those that seek to minimise their personal and business tax obligations through complicated offshore tax schemes, many of whom are operating “within the rules”, but failing to contribute in a fair and equitable manner. Yet MP’s are doing exactly the same thing, hiding behind the rules that they set up and voted on, yet expecting everyone else to do their part. It is hypocrisy of the highest order, yet we have not witnessed one apology (other than for mistakes), nor have we seen immediate action to curtail this abuse and worst still, no resignations or signs of embarrassment.

This appalling abuse has got to stop right now, the public are very, very angry and there will be a backlash as soon as that public opinion has been mobilised into action. Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, John Lyon must act, by ordering MP’s and Ministers to repay these unjustifiable allowances, whether or not they were within the rules. Meanwhile MP’s must start to demonstrate that they are ‘in one’ with the people of this country and not the self-serving hypocrites that their action suggest. Little wonder that the electorate is so disengaged from politics and the politicians.

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

Advertise Here