Tag Archive | "parliament"

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)

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)

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)

Harriet Harman and the missed opportunity

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

Harriet Harman and the missed opportunity


How could Harriet Harman, rumoured to be vying for Gordon Brown’s job, miss the golden opportunity that presented itself at Prime Minister’s Question time? Now I am no fan of Ms Harman, in fact, that would be an understatement, but who could fail to squirm as she ‘performed’ in place of the prime minister.

It was clear from her replies, and I use that term loosely, that she was neither prepared nor capable of dealing with any questions, least of all those posed by William Hague, a serious bruiser on such occasions. It would probably be too kind to describe her performance as inept, but to all and sundry, it was an embarrassing experience. Miliband was unable to contain his amusement, whilst Straw, Darling and others looked incredibly uncomfortable. You could almost hear them in unison saying ‘when will this be over’. It makes you wonder whether there ought to be a deputy for the deputy PM. Lets face it, I have seen better, more polished performances from children at their annual nativity play…and yes, I mean it.

They do say that if you give someone enough rope, they will hang themselves and I suspect that those in the ‘Stop Harriet Campaign’, were more than happy to hand it to her. A first year student would know how important it is to prepare before you present or accept questions. Harman clearly failed to do this, worst still, this was in front of her fellow MP’s and the television cameras. If that is not clear evidence of a bad judgement call, I don’t know what is? Failing which, it could just be the arrogance of office, but one thing is for certain, she has demonstrated that she is unlikely ever to be a suitable candidate for Labour leadership. After all, we know that New Labour like polished performances, even if they lack must substance, in Harman’s case, it appears that she has neither.

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

Are British Members of Parliament really aliens?

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

Are British Members of Parliament really aliens?


Perhaps it is just me, but I am beginning to believe that our MP’s are on another planet, not that they were born on another planet, just that once they become elected they appear to move to another planet.

We, the electorate, are almost always referred to as the “people” whenever our members of parliament or, more accurately, our ministers talk about us. Almost as if we are something different to them, of a different class, a different sub-species and, perhaps we are. Because MP’s simply remove themselves from the real world within months, sometimes days of being elected, or re-elected. They are quite happy to communicate with the “people” when they want something, such as your vote, but don’t expect them to talk to you again, at you, but not to you. Instead they will use any medium capable of delivering a one way message such as newspapers. Or perhaps, the internet savvy will use a blog, albeit many do not allow comments or moderate them to avoid anyone expressing an opinion that may differ from their own.

My point is, do any of the MP’s out there sound like us, talk like us or act like us. If we are being honest with ourselves, the majority don’t. For example, we make mistakes, but our MP’s in general and our minsters in particular, they never do. No, it is always a contractor, world events, the previous government, a civil servant, in fact anyone but themselves at fault. It is akin to driving a bus and claiming the accident was caused by weather conditions, the state of the tyres, the passengers, the previous owner etc., not because of anything the bus driver did. After all, it can’t be the bus driver’s job to check the tyres, the weather conditions or keep the passengers under control.

To err is human and believe it or not, most people can relate to that and the honesty that goes with being able to admit responsibility or culpability. Perhaps if more members of parliament were to admit the failures or weaknesses, we could repeat the entire saying, “to err is human, to forgive is divine”. In other words if they acted like the “people” they claim to represent, and admitted their mistakes, we would probably forgive them, because we can relate to something that happens to us all. In fact, at least making mistakes means we are doing something and it is better to do something and get it wrong occasionally, than it is to do nothing. Making a mistake and being able to admit to it can demonstrate our depth; provide a tangible example of our honesty and our integrity, not to mention our skills at objectivity and self-analysis. All the things, in fact, that we would expect of an elected member of parliament.

As soon as an MP is elected, they lose their ability to communicate with us, why, because they are then expected to toe the party line, they have to become part of a machine? So they must think about each and everything they say. They are no longer real people; they just spout the same party line, too scared of their own shadows to say anything else. This is a generalisation, but then, if we are honest with ourselves, this type of behaviour is a familiar trait with the vast majority of MP’s.

In the past, we have had real ‘characters’ amongst our MP’s most were not flamboyant, just outspoken. You may not have agreed with their politics, but at least they were prepared to step forward and say what they think, not the party hierarchy. Today, the number of characters amongst our 650 or so MP’s can be counted on one hand, simply because they are required to leave their opinions, beliefs and personalities behind if they want to get on or not be labelled a maverick. We would probably consider someone labelled by the party machine as a maverick as a person of principals, gravitas or of independent mind.

Once in parliament, our MP’s become robots, part of the machine where every line has to be rehearsed, every comment considered to ensure that is doesn’t offend anyone, difficult questions must be evaded and if you are fortunate enough to be a minister, then you determine what questions can, or cannot be asked. It is so far removed from the real world, that it is alien to us; therefore it is impossible for the electorate to relate to these elected officials. So, we have around 650 members of parliament ruling 65m people, but in such fear, that in truth, we are probably ruled by less people than in the Politburo of the Communist Party of China.

Take Prime Ministers Question Time, the PM always knows well in advance what questions will be asked, they also have a few stooges who are ready to raise an issue where the PM can preen his feathers and claim all of the credit. If the PM is rounded on by the opposition, he simply blames the previous government, in spite of the fact that Labour has been in government for 11 years, or refers to the voting patters of the other parties. Everything is staged, yes the PM or some of his ministers may be lampooned, but we are given carefully rehearsed and research answers that are delivered in such a way as to ensure that the government record or minister is cleared of any wrongdoing, responsibility or culpability. This is not real life, it is alien to us.

Gordon Brown has many, many problems to deal with, but the people, as we are patronisingly referred to, are quite forgiving, because we are normal. Imagine if you will, Gordon Brown standing up and admitting, that he should have put a little money away in the good times, to ensure that we could survive the difficult times, which were bound to come. He could admit for example, that there would be fewer pensioners in fuel poverty had he not raided their pension schemes. We can relate to these admissions because they demonstrate that to err is human. He could also admit that he made a mistake by allowing the Labour party to renege on its commitment to allow the people the opportunity to vote of the ratification of the EU Constitution. He could even offer to put that right, by allowing us the vote and saying sorry. He won’t because that would make him look like us.

Our leaders and our members of parliament need to start talking like us, speaking like us and acting like us if they are to re-engage with the public. We don’t all speak with one voice like the political parties, the vast majority of us are willing to accept our share of responsibility when things go wrong, we don’t disparagingly refer to a group of people like they are some underclass, we don’t rehearse our answers or have speeches written for us.

Members of Parliament have to re-engage with the public and to do so is quite simple, they don’t have to spend hundreds of millions on consultants to work out how. They just need to act like normal people with a big job to do. They need to talk to us as equals. They need to keep their promises and maintain their values, not sell them for a cushy junior minister’s post. They need to talk to the people that put them in parliament for the entire period of their term in office, not talk at them, but to them. Above all, they need to be humble, admit their mistakes, tell us what they are going to do to put them right and move on.

 

It is not difficult for our members of parliament to demonstrate that they are not aliens or resident on another planet.

Posted in Conservatives, General, Labour, Lib Dems | Comments (2)

Is this really democracy at work?

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

Is this really democracy at work?


Lets face it, the only people that keep extolling the virtues of democracy are the politician’s and yet, here in the UK, some 60 million people are ruled by less than 650 members of parliament. So, if we keep hearing that we live in a democracy, then we will believe it…right? Now lets look at in a little more detail.

Every 5 years or so, we get the opportunity to vote for our preferred party, by electing a local MP who represents the party we support. Of course, some people support a particular MP, but the vast majority are thinking in terms of who will govern us, rather than who the local MP will be.

Each party creates a manifesto, theoretically, a commitment to their aims, goals and values. It is supposed to be a mandate on what they will deliver during their term in office, or if you like, a commitment or promise to the electorate. Now we have all seen how worthless that commitment can be, most notably in recent years with the broken promise made by the current government in respect of the EU Treaty. Made worse by their willingness to treat the electorate like fools.

The Manifesto

Now, when we vote for a new government, we are provided with a party manifesto, and each party will assume that if we vote them in, we support the manifesto verbatim…but this is so often just not the case. For example, with so many things needing reform during a parliamentary term, how many people would really have voted for a ban on fox hunting? Some, but not many I suspect. So, the manifesto of the party elected to government is likely to include many things that we simply do not agree with, but how can we communicate this to those that are supposed to represent our interests in government. We can’t and it was probably designed that way!

For example, the only people that believe the labour party will get into government at the next election, is the labour party, unless they are being honest, but that would be an unusual trait. Therefore, theoretically, the opposition can create a manifesto and include virtually anything they like. Granted, it can’t be too controversial, but if they offer for example, 80% of what the electorate wants, the chances are they can do pretty much what they want with the other parts of their manifesto.

So, in other words, we must accept all of the terms of the manifesto, if we want to support a particular party. So why can’t we also vote on the contents of the manifesto? If we assume that most will only have 10 or so key commitments, then surely they can include on the voting forms, a brief description and the opportunity for the voter to indicate whether they are for or aganist a particular manifesto commitment. Of course they won’t. This is either, because they assume we are all too stupid to be able to form an objective opinion on their commitments or, more likely, they believe it passes too much control to the electorate…! Ask yourself this, if we are capable of voting on a manifesto in its entirety, why aren’t we entrusted to vote on the individual issues that make up the manifesto?

Delivering on their commitments

In the real world, few people would get away with a failure to deliver on their commitments, whether they are in business or even in their personal lives. At some stage we are all called to account. However, when we look at a government, we should really be judging them in the same way as we would a public company, with the electorate as shareholders. Think about it, the UK government is just a huge company with social and economic responsibility.Therefore, we should really refer to is as UK Plc.

This government and others have been great supporters of corporate governance and as a consequence, we have seen a good deal of legislation brought in to “protect” the shareholders of these big companies. Whilst it is right to question just how far this legislation has gone, the principal was a good one. Why then, have we not seen something similar for UK Plc? If the chairman, or the board of a public company fails to deliver, the shareholders can oust them at the Annual General Meeting (AGM), yet we have to wait up to 5 years. Imagine if you will, a chairman of a company that has consistently failed to deliver, or has mislead his shareholders, having the right to determine when he leaves, or is put up for re-election. Ludicrous, isn’t it? Yet that is precisely what happens with UK Plc.

Now the government of the day will probably argue that there are various committees that scrutinise their actions. True, but whilst they may have the right to publicly admonish wrongdoing, they can’t fire a minister, or call for the government to step down. Nor is there anyone measuring the government’s performance against their manifesto commitments. Whenever a government fails to deliver, all they do is ask the electorate for more time at the next election, typically stating that they need to continue their “programme of reform”. So what have they been doing for the past 5 years, that is what we should be asking, if they make a manifesto commitment, they should make clear how long they expect it to take. Imagine the chairman or chief executive of a public company making bold commitments without placing a timescale on it, this just would not happen. Yet UK Plc, our government, get away with it time and again.

Can we expect the opposition MP’s to do anything about it? Unlikely, because they have no more wish to be judged by their delivery of manifesto commitments, than anyone in government.

Your local Member of Parliament

We could all be forgiven for believing that when we vote for our local MP, that he will or she will be representing our interests. That they will be our voice in the houses of parliament. Sadly, in most cases, the truth is invariably something completely different. True, some MP’s will raise matters in parliament which relate to local issues, perhaps a hospital, post office or school closure. But when have they ever asked you what you want? The only time you may get asked is if you bump into a prospective MP seeking your vote, but even if they do make promises to you, can you really trust them to deliver?

Ask yourself why, if MP’s are supposed to represent the interests and views of their constituent’s, every party has a ‘chief whip’. This person, or people, are there to ‘whip’ MP’s into shape. To ensure the government receives the backing of all their MP’s to support, what is often, a controversial issue that divides parliament and therefore, most likely, the country. Government Whip’s may cajole, bully or perhaps even offer incentives to an MP to ensure that he or she supports the government line. So when are your interests represented? Local MP’s are always keen on sending us details on what they have done for us, so they know how to write and theoretically, they know how to communicate, so why don’t they ask us what we think?

If our local MP is supposed to represent the local constituent’s, then surely they could provide the electorate with their own mini-manifesto and at the same time, tell us where they stand and therefore, how they will vote on national manifesto issues. That way, we the electorate, will know exactly what our MP stands for and will know that no deals can be dome behind closed doors. Too much to ask?

British voters feel let down by their MP's

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

British voters feel let down by their MP's

  • I strongly agree (65%, 55 Votes)
  • I agree (13%, 11 Votes)
  • I am neutral (11%, 9 Votes)
  • I strongly disagree (6%, 5 Votes)
  • I disagree (5%, 4 Votes)

Total Voters: 84

Vote

Loading ... Loading ...

Posted in Civil Liberties, General | Comments (3)

Advertise Here