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Archive for the ‘Labour: Say something do nothing’ Category

Jacqui Smith, it time to resign

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I am not normally one for calling for an MP’s resignation, albeit I am sure I, like many others would consider that there are a good number that should do so voluntarily. That said, I am of the opinion that Jacqui Smith needs to go and soon, not because of a single misdemeanour, but a series.

The bottom line is Jacqui Smith is not very good at their job. She is the first to try and manipulate the press and public opinion with elements of “good” news from reports, whilst blatantly ignoring those aspects which are critical or not self-serving, either for her or the government. Fair play some might say, but ministers must be judged on what they add, not what they claim.  Further, Jacqui Smith is something of a puppet, if the police want something, she believes that by giving it to them, she is helping the public, because the police only want to fight crime etc., this is utter rubbish. The police want more powers to intrude, monitor and spy of ordinary citizens and Jacqui Smith is seen as a soft touch. As a consequence the people of this country have seen a massive erosion of their civil liberties, right to privacy and freedoms.

My issue with Jacqui Smith is the utter and barely concealed contempt she has for the public at large, not just in terms of her actions is respect of her ministerial responsibilities at the Home Office, but also, her actions in respect of maximising her personal finances via the public purse. Whilst Jacqui Smith may be able to claim that she has operated “within the rules“, to quote one of her colleagues, “in the court of public opinion“, her expense claims are not acceptable in the least.

First she claims up to £24,000 per year because she says that her main residence is the room at her sisters house in London, not Redditch where her husband lives and her children reside and go to school. There is little or no credibility in this explanation. Then she claims for electrical goods, which includes two washing machines, why does she need two washing machines? Why should she feel the need to claim for two flat screen TV’s, what is wrong with one, why do they have to be flat screen? £550 for a kitchen sink….£1,000 for an antique fireplace, are these truly essentials, I think not. In the old days, expenses were referred to as “out of pocket expenses“, for an MP, they are nothing of the sort, instead they are used as a method of supplementing salaries.

What I find difficult to believe is that Jacqui Smith seriously expects the public to believe that she did not know that her claim of £69 per month was only for the internet and nothing else. It would suggest that she is both out of touch with the real costs we face everyday and implies that her attention to detail is very badly and sadly lacking. For a Minister in charge of the Home Office and therefore our security this is a very real worry. Moreover, someone that claims to operate within the rules whilst ignoring the spirit of the arrangement is, at least in my opinion, lacking judgement and credibility. If Smith was doing a good job, perhaps the public would be more forgiving, but she is utterly useless. The only consolation is that most of her fellow ministers are as inept, therefore she fits in well, but that doesn’t make it any better. She will survive, but only because Gordon Brown know that the by supporting her he can benefit from undying loyalty and that having a cabinet full of incompetents makes him look better.

I am further angered at the way that Gordon Brown has insisted that there should be a review of MP’s expenses, yet it cannot start until the end of the summer recess and has no need to report until after the next election. Once again, we are all being taken for fools, it simply does not take that long to review MP’s expenses. The bottom line is expenses can and must only cover ‘out of pocket’ expenses, they can and should be based on those in the private sector and second home allowances must stop. MP’s can be provided with an overnight allowance for when they are in London on parliamentary business, but his should be weighted based on private sector allowances for accommodation and food.

The review of expenses ought to be carried out by a firm of accountants and the brief include a requirement that they revise them to fall in line with the private sector. I reckon it will take about 2 weeks, but of course, we know that these self-serving MP’s are going to insist that they receive a salary increase in place of any ‘sacrifice’ they make on expenses. They also know that they will then get a doubly whammy, because a higher salary means a better pension, all funded by us. For a government so focused on targets, why don’t they pay themselves performance and results based rewards? Simple, not one of them would earn the bonus, they know it and we know it!

If MP’s don’t like the terms or rewards of a parliamentary career, then they must resign and make way for others that do. One thing is for certain, based on the rank incompetence demonstrated by the majority of our MP’s we shall be no worse off and in all likelihood, we will end up with real people that represent the interests of the public at large, not just themselves. It is time for change.

Anyone that is angered by the information contained in this post may also like to be aware that there is a new Bill going through parliament which seeks to provide MP’s and all other public servants with what amounts to an immunity from prosecution (civil and criminal) with a legal definition of the term ‘reasonable discretion’. You can find out more here: Bill to Exercise Reasonable Discretion

Another Jacqui Smith gimmick

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Not for the first time, Jacqui Smith demonstrates what a naive politician she is and how she will do anything to grab the headlines. Once again, however, she managed to put her foot in it. This time, the subject matter, part of the government’s gimmick a day programme, was a domestic violence initiative, whereby, the government is proposing the setting up of yet another database, this time to register known abusive partners.

Clearly domestic violence is a serious issue and I am all for a tough line being taken on offenders. But, during a round table discussion, Sandra Horley, Chief Executive of Refuge, a women’s charity, said: “We have had enough talking – we need action. As for the perpetrators’ register, it is a gimmick and doesn’t address the root problem. The Government is hoping to get away with useless initiatives like this register and it is hypocritical to sound tough and do little.” Fair point from someone that should know. But, my problem is that any initiative of this type must be gender neutral, Ms Smith’s comments would indicate otherwise.

On a breakfast TV programme, Ms Smith said “Violence against women and girls is unacceptable in any form. We’ve already made real progress with domestic violence incidents more than halving in the past 12 years. But I want to start a national debate on what more we can do to prevent it and challenging attitudes which condone it.” Once again, in her ‘foot in the mouth’ style, she makes it a gender issue, when there are countless statistics that demonstrate that men are also victims of domestic violence. What really annoys me, is in an attempt to suck up to female voters, ahead of an election, she detracts from the initiative by implying that it is gender specific.

I am all for the introduction of bold initiatives aimed at combatingdomestic violence, irrespective of gender, but such programmes need early discussion with groups that understand the problems and challenges. Governmentofficials must never seek to launch an initiative before it has broad support from those that havethe knowledge and experience to make a tangible contribution. The way this initiative was launched, was typical of Jacqui Smith and her spin obsessed government. So much for Gordon Brown’s promise to stop Labour spin! There was some consolation that Ms Smith was berated in public, although I suspect somehow, she will be too thick skinned to realise what a complete idiot she looked. Hopefully, this clumsy announcement by Jacqui Smith will not discourage interested groups from coming up with an alternative proposal that is gender neutral, has general buy-in and is workable in practice.

It is high time that this government and its ministers understood that the public will not tolerate serious issues such as domestic violence being used to gain a cheap political advantage. The press launch was quite clearly an ill-considered, pathetic attempt to gain news headlines with little or no substance behind the announcement. The public demand that issues such as this be dealt with in a serious, considered and practical manner.  Jacqui Smith is long past her sell by date and should be removed from her post, although that is highly unlikely, given it is only her rank incompetence that makes Gordon Brown look slightly better.

UPDATE:

Anyone that is angered by the information contained in this post may also like to be aware that there is a new Bill going through parliament which seeks to provide MP’s and all other public servants with what amounts to an immunity from prosecution (civil and criminal) with a legal definition of the term ‘reasonable discretion’. You can find out more here: Bill to Exercise Reasonable Discretion

Gordon Brown on Civil Liberties

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Whilst browsing the No.10 website, I came across a transcript of a speech given by Gordon Brown on the 25th October 2007 at the University of Westminster. I make no apologies for being selective in what I have reproduced because they are his words, not mine. Readers are then free to decide which, if any, of these commitments he has delivered on, or reneged on in light of recent announcements and laws on the subject of liberty, freedom and privacy. Over to Gordon Brown, the unelected prime minister of Great Britain…

I believe that together we can chart a better way forward. In particular, I believe that by applying our enduring ideals to new challenges we can start immediately to make changes in our constitution and laws to safeguard and extend the liberties of our citizens

To include:

respecting and extending freedom of assembly, new rights for the public expression of dissent

respecting privacy in the home, new rights against arbitrary intrusion

in a world of new technology, new rights to protect your private information

“…crucible of great events, have, in my view, forged over time a distinctly British interpretation of liberty —— one that asserts the importance of freedom from prejudice, of rights to privacy, and of limits to the scope of arbitrary state power, but one that also rejects the selfishness of extreme libertarianism and demands that the realm of individual freedom encompasses not just some but all of us

So instead of invoking the unique nature of the threats we face today as a reason for relinquishing our historical attachment to British liberty, we meet these tests not by abandoning principles of liberty but by giving them new life

To claim that we should ignore the claims of liberty when faced with the needs of security would be to embark down an authoritarian path that I believe would be unacceptable to the British people.”

In my view, the key to making these hard choices in a way that is compatible with our traditions of liberty is to, at all times, apply the liberty test, respecting fundamental rights and freedoms, and wherever action is needed by government, it never subjects the citizen to arbitrary treatment, is transparent and proportionate in its measures and at all times also requires proper scrutiny by, and accountability to, Parliament and the people.”

First, it is the British way to stand up for freedom of assembly, speech and press.”

Wherever and whenever there are question marks over the ability to express dissent I believe that the balance should be with those taking action to defend and extend the liberty of individuals and their freedoms to express their views within the law.”

“…there is a case for applying our enduring ideas of liberty to ensure that the laws governing the press in this country fully respect freedom of speech.”

When anything is provided without cost, it does risk being open to abuse. However the Government does not believe that more restrictive rules on cost limits of FoI requests are the way forward.”

The advancement of individual liberty depends upon the protection from arbitrary interference of the person and private property and, above all, the home. ”

I share the concerns about the need for additional protections for the liberties and rights of the citizen.”

And this is how he ended his address;

The challenge for each generation is to conduct an open debate without ever losing sight of the value of our liberties.  Indeed the character of our country will be defined by how we write the next chapter of British liberty – by whether we do so responsibly and in a way that respects and builds on our traditions, and progressively adds to and enlarges rather then reduces the sphere of freedom.

And as we make these decisions, we must never forget that the state and the people are not equivalent. The state is always the servant of the people. We must remember that liberty belongs to the people and not governments.

It is the challenge and the opportunity for our generation to write the next chapter of British liberty in a way that honours the progress of the past – and promises a wider and more secure freedom to our children.”

I can’t help wondering if the man that is running our country, is the same one that spouted these words, because to me at least, they seem incompatible with each other. You can make up your own mind!

New Labour broadband promise, say something, do nothing

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Well the government is leading the way again, with a promise that we can all have broadband by 2012, with speeds up to a earth shattering 2mbps. Wow, this is likely to be news across the world, isn’t it? Well no, of course not.

But once again this government of spin is making promises way before the detail has been agreed. Such as, how it will be achieved, who will be responsible, who will pay etc. We are told it will be a combination of fibre optics, upgraded copper, mobile and satellite communications. So where is the big story then? Other than the fact that the government has demonstrated a lack of any real ambition. I mean 2mbps, the average in the UK is currently only a measly 3mbps, despite unrealistic promises from Internet service providers to the contrary. But really, everyone knows that technology moves apace, how can this government be taken seriously when all they can promise (as empty as their promises invariably are), is 2mbps by 2012. By then, it is highly probable that the majority of homes will already enjoy speeds of up to 50mbps, in spite of this governments promises, not because of them.

Now admittedly this is just an interim report, but please, what was the point in an announcement? It demonstrates either a complete lack of ambition and/or a failure to understand the subject matter. Reports like this should contain a strategy, numbers, justifications, challenges and so on. Instead, it has just been taken at face value by government ministers and turned into a bit of opportunistic political spin.

Gordon Brown and New Labour have demonstrated, if any further proof was necessary, that not only are they completely out of touch, but that New Labour is the say something, do nothing party when it comes to anything other than spending our money or attacking our civil liberties.

1929 stock market is history repeating itself

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I read an interesting article over at the political blog Power to the People, about the similarities between the 1929 stock market crash and our current economic situation and I am finding it difficult to fault the parallels. Clearly many of the problems we are experiencing today are similar to those during the 1929 crash, except, as the author points out, back then it was shares and today it is property.

As the author makes clear there were some people in power in 1929 that were rightly concerned about the possibility of the whole pack of cards falling down, but elected to do nothing.

The people of America felt rich, lifestyles improved after the austerity of the first world war and few people raised any doubts, those that did, such as President Hoover, tended to keep it to themselves, rather than be see as the Cassandra.

Surely Gordon Brown knew there were real risks that the property bubble could burst, particularly given the property crash of the 1990’s, he must have been aware that the economy was being fueled by cheap and easy credit and above all, that the massive profits being reported by the banks were not from their high street activities alone. Yet, he chose to do nothing, now he is puffing his chest out and telling us how he is going to save the world. Personally I think that there is something morbid about allowing the same person who threw us in at the deep end to then jump in, ignoring his own culpability and receive backslaps for his vain attempt to save us.

During the 1929 crash, millions of people were destitute, having lost all their saving. Today, with millions of people investing in pensions, the fall in key stocks means that their pensions are worth considerably less than they were 18 months ago. Perhaps by as much as 50%! Those that have saved for their retirement, will be punished with low or non-existent interest rates, resulting in a reduction in their standard of living, even though they may not have been benificiaries of the largesse that caused these problems. Of course, most civil servants do not have to worry about such anomolies, because their final salary schemes are paid out of future income and as such, are guaranteed.

But the lessons of history havent been learnt, as the article goes on to state;

After the 1929 stock market crash, Hoover introduced the Securities & Exchange commision to regulate US markets, this had the desired affect. However, over the past 20 years or so, the rules and regulations have been relaxed, seen as no longer necessary and much of what we witness in the United States today can be attributed to the easing of those regulations. Similarly, the much vaunted deregulation of the City was also a pre-cursor to the problems we all face today. Light regulation and a hand-off approach by government and the regulators has allowed the banks to enter very high risk transactions which many people struggle to understand.

This government has a lot to answer for. Mr Brown promised an end to boom and bust yet, in spite of his promise, we are actually in one of the most dire economic positions ever experienced by this country, even though the warning signs were there all along. They were just conveniently ignored for political expediency and no doubt, because Gordon Brown, whilst basking in the glory of being described as the ‘iron chancellor’ didn’t want to be a party pooper. Shame on him, he was in the best position to know the risks and to do something about them, but he did nothing. In my view he is either incompetent, inept or reckless.

And…I couldn’t agree more with the statement made on this posting…

In my view, government ministers and bankers must be called to account because they have demonstrated what appears to be a reckless disregard for the interests, respectively of the people of this country and the interests of their shareholders.

We must all demand that all those in position of power or responsibility that have played an active part in this economic mess be made to accept responsibility. Further, anyone that has been reckless, irrespective of whether they are in government or commerce, must be brought to book. We, the people will automatically have to pay for any mistakes we have made (as well as those we haven’t), why should politicians and senior business executives get away scott free?