British Politics’s Blog

The ravings of an individual, UK voter frustrated with our politicians

Posts Tagged ‘jacqui smith

Voters must boot out self-serving MP’s

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Based on recent press reports, it is quite clear that many of the ‘honourable members’ are not as honourable as we every right to expect. When it comes to expenses, it seems that many MP’s see this as a right (as opposed to out of pocket expenses), something they are entitled to claim and money that they must and will use to supplement their income. Of course, when you have a system that has been designed by MP’s and is subsequently sanctioned and voted on by the same people, it is not too difficult to have an expense allowance programme that can be easily milked.

Now, far be it for me to suggest that any of the MP’s that are claiming a second home allowance are corrupt, clearly they are not that stupid, but I can say with virtual certainty, that in the court of public opinion, dipping into public funds in this way is insulting to the taxpayer and far from honourable. As a fellow blogger stated in a recent post, it is not the MP’s that are corrupt, but the system that they introduced and then vote in. Some would argue that there is little or no difference of course. However, those in power seem to be in no particular hurry to do anything about this gravy train. Why would they I hear you cry? Instead, it is proposed that another committee be convened, which will take too long, will doubtless have a limited remit and will almost certainly not judge, but instead, suggest higher salaries in place of the discredited allowance programme.

There are a few and I mean a few, members of parliament that have not been tempted to milk the system, but by and large, it would appear that the majority do. Senior members of the political elite appear to be the worst offenders. As voters, we must not forget that we are being fleeced at a time when we are having to tighten our belts, little wonder that the public finances are in such a state.

I believe every voter has an obligation to establish what their sitting MP has been doing. If they have been milking the system, then we must vote them out, regardless of the party they represent. There can be no place in politics for people that treat the public with such utter and complete contempt. If 61m are to permit just 648 people to represent our interests and create new laws, then trust must be 100%. Anything less is unacceptable. If MP’s cannot be trusted with public money, how on earth can we trust them with our security, well-being, economy, laws, liberty and general well-being.

The people of this country must not limit their sights to a reform of the corrupt series of allowances available to MP’s. We must go much further. What we need is a wholesale reform of the political system that will allow the constituents to boot out MP’s if they fail to deliver, not just the party hierarchy. The people of this country must, once again, take charge.  I am not suggesting anarchy, just that we must make a stand, ensure that our voices are heard loud and clear.  Because, above all, we need a system that allows ‘real’ people to stand for office, not simply those that are selected based on their race, their gender, who they know, who they are related to, which union they worked for, who they went to school with or their public profile.

The public are getting angry…it is time for a change to our political system and politicians of all parties would be well advised to remember that they rule by consent, not as a right. The trust and confidence in politicians is an an all time low, instead of being shame-faced when they are caught out or fail to deliver, politicians are brazen, almost arrogant. Jacqui Smith’s 10,000 Tasers will not have much affect if 61m people start to get restless. This Government and most of our MP’s shepherded us into an economic mess, they were paid to PROTECT our interests and they failed (yes, I know we must also shoulder some of the responsibility), they now risk making another mistake, that is to ignore the will of the people. It will not be so easy to shrug off the effects of a disaffected and angry majority.

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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

Democracy has already disappeared

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Much has been said over the weekend regarding the Damian Green affair, with most commentators suggesting that our democracy is damaged, at stake or in peril. I would not argue with any of these descriptives other than to say our democracy was under threat a good deal earlier than this high profile incident.

Whether it is detention without charge, law officers being able to store telephone call details, text messages, email content and web browsing habits, or the ability of the police to take DNA off a subject even if they haven’t been charged. All of these new laws have been brought in, ostensibly to aid the fight against crime and terrorism, but as we have already witnessed, neither the police nor the government are shy of using anti-terror laws in completely inappropriate circumstances. As each new piece of legislation has been passed, so we have had to wave a fond farewell to some of the fundamental rights that we have lost in the process. Rights that we have enjoyed for hundreds of years. Yet crime is not falling and terrorism remains the same threat as it was before.

The government has become the ‘bitch’ of the police service, giving them have whatever they want, whether it be detention without charge, 30,000 taser guns or the ability to monitor telephone calls on the say so of a senior officer rather than a judge. Opposition parties, by contrast, have acted like the governments lapdogs, providing a less than spirited defence of the rights of the individual. In an effort to preen themselves in front of the TV cameras, or gain a few column inches from a compliant newspaper, members of parliament have forgotten that they are responsible for upholding the rights and liberties of the citizens of this country. They have failed miserably….look at how many departments that have been labeled “not fit for purpose”, now consider how this label could be identified with most of the government and a large number of other MP’s!

As a consequence of this governments preoccupation with gaining more and more state control, we as a people have become all the poorer. Not in economic terms (that was for different reasons), but in terms of freedom. Our right to privacy has gone forever, because this government has allowed nearly every aspect of our lives to be monitored and/or recorded and then allowed upwards of 800 agencies, both public and private, access to that information. It is an outrage. Worst of all, every MP that failed to speak up for the people of this country on this issue have been complicit in our demise, further, every newspaper editor that has failed to raise these issues for fear of losing scoops from a minister have failed their readership.

Of course you can’t get the genie back into the bottle, but members of parliament on all sides should seek to use the Damian Green affair as a signal that a complete review is now needed of all legislation passed that has provided government and the police service with unprecedented powers over the people of this country. British citizens are supposed to be the masters, not the servants, New Labour policies have dispensed with this long held tradition. Purists may say I am wrong, but it is my contention that when so much power has been passed to government and the tools or agents of government, such as the police service, security services and so on, the people of this country become the servants of state, not the other way around.

We may retain the vote, but little else and if we allow further removal of our rights, we could end up being a basket case like Zimbabwe, with question marks over our entire electoral system. Melodramatic maybe, possible most certainly, after all, Hazel Blears has already indicated that she wants the legal power to prevent publication of certain stories in the mainstream media and has pointed out that she is not in favour of bloggers. Who 20 years ago would have guessed that we could lock people up for a month with no charge, seize the assets of another country using anti-terror laws, monitor and store every telephone call, text message and email, force identity cards on a reluctant public? The list goes on, but you get the picture, it isn’t just possible, we are already well on our way.

If ever there was a justification for a public enquiry, something I do not normally advocate, it is now. It should be wide ranging and concentrate on the legislation that has been drafted by this government which as a consequence of its introduction, has removed, reduced or eroded the civil liberties and rights of the people of this country. Further, they must look at what the original intention was and find out how these laws have been used, abused or mis-used. This enquiry must then have the power to order that government introduce legislation to allow either an amendment to, or the repeal of any legislation that is not as intended or has simply gone too far.

David Cameron could lead this charge and I suspect he will have a great deal of support, certainly from the public and most likely from the LibDems and a few Labour backbenchers. Or, he could let the opportunity pass by and be picked up by Nick Clegg. For as sure as night follows day, there will be a massive public backlash when it starts to sink in just how many of our rights have been sacrificed in a fight against terrorism, something, incidentally that this country has faced for most of its existence.

If as a consequence of the Damian Green affair members of parliament only seek an exemption for MP’s, then I think the public will have a very good idea who our elected members look out for and it would most certainly not be us. They could be reminded of this at the ballot box assuming we manage to retain that right. Don’t laugh, it could happen, just look at our ruling elite!

Prostitution, pimps, trafficking and criminal intent

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There is an interesting post over at Power to the People on the government announcement that they intend to introduce new legislation to protect women that have been forced into prostitution by people traffickers or pimps. The post does not cover the rights and wrongs about prostitution, but instead the issue surrounding a fundamental change to criminal law, in that there is no need to demonstrate intent only “strict liability”.

The following paragraph probably sums up best the argument contained in the post:

I am no law expert, but by introducing a “strict liability” clause into criminal law, (I believe it is already used in civil law), means a serious criminal offence can be committed without there being any intent. Now I know that ignorance of the law is no excuse, but this legislation means that even if a man asked the necessary questions and was given the appropriate responses, he is still playing a game of Russian Roulette, with odds that would not be lawful in a casino! Worst still, the man doesn’t even need to have sex in order to commit the offence, he just has to conduct the transaction.

If true, this is a very worrying precedent being set by government ministers, perhaps made worst by the fact that Harriet Harman is actually a QC. She more than anyone must know the consequences of a piece of legislation that can find a man guilty of rape simply because he conducted a transaction for sex with a prostitute.

Surely this is what is wrong with this government. They try and intefere in everything, with little or no knowledge of the problems, issues or implications. It is always a sledgehammer to crack a nut, draconian and penal laws introduced against a backdrop of political correctness or a wish to grab the headlines. The Big Brother Database was one way in which this government attempted to run roughshod over the civil liberties of the people of this country. Now they seek to introduce a strict liability clause which means that no ‘act’ has to take place for a very serious offence to have been committed which could result in a life sentence.

Vulnerable girls forced into prostitution are entitled to and must be protected. However, the laws are already there for the police to use, so why don’t they? If 70% of the girls are working under duress, then the police should have no problem bringing prosecutions. I don’t know how many ‘sex transactions’ take place everyday, but if 70% of them could lead to a serious offence being committed, surely the courts will be inundated with criminal cases. Also, we need to start building new prisons now, because I suspect, that this law will not stop the oldest profession in the world. In a worst case scenario, it could make the girls more vulnerable and drive it underground where it will be impossible to protect them.

Those that sponsor or support this bill in its current form should hang their heads in shame for they seek to change a fundamental aspect of criminal law in this country and fail to achieve the objective set. As for Jacqui Smith and Harriet Harman, they should resign immediately, because they have demonstrated that they are not fit for the high offices that they hold.

Big Brother Britain by Stealth

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Proof, if any were needed, that this Labour government will bring in ID cards by any means necessary was provided by a recent statement given by Home Office Minister, Meg Hillier at the Biometrics Conference.

She was quoted as saying that there was “nothing to stop” drivers’ licences or other documents from being designated to work as ID cards and went on to say “In time it is possible to designate the driving licence or other documents to be counted as an ID card.” The only conciliatory note in her comments was that there were no plans to do so before 2012. Cold comfort for those who believe, as I do, that this Labour government is simply obsessed with gaining more and more control over the views, activities, intentions and minds of the electorate.

As Cornelius Tacitus, senator and historian of the Roman Empire was quoted as saying “In a free society, the rights and laws protect the individual from the government. In a dictatorship, the rights and laws protect the government from the people. The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws.”

Hillier explained that once an ID Card system was in place, it would be used for proof of age, criminal records bureau checks, for bank loan applications, for employers, as well as maternity allowances, tax returns, TV licences and incapacity or unemployment benefit claims. Of course, we all know that this will also include biometric data.

Under the Identity Card Act 2006, the Home Secretary can designate documents that will require anybody applying for them to be placed on the National Identity Register (NIR), the backbone of the ID card scheme. In other words, they could refuse to issue, for example, passports, drivers licenses and so on, unless, or until we agree to join the National Identity Register. This, presumably is designed, to counteract the growing movement of disobedience, where people are signing a pledge not to do anything to support the introduction of identity cards.

Phil Booth, national co-ordinator for pressure group NO2ID, said: “It is clearly a compulsory scheme if in order to continue driving, travelling abroad or get a loan you have to be registered on the scheme“.  He added that “it is coercion up to the point of compulsion.”

Add this database, with the Big Brother Database, monitoring all forms of communications, mobile calls, text messages, email and internet browsing, together with the children’s database, ContactPoint and the mobile phone register, added to vehicle tracking through ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition), 4.2m CCTV cameras and a National Health Database that will hold all of our medical records for our lifetime and you really start to get a picture of just how much control this government wants overs its citizens. We need to ask ourselves why, what are they so afraid of? It cannot be to protect us against terrorism, because lets face it, for 100’s of years, this country has been under threat from outside influences, yet we have survived and prospered, without this level of state intelligence and policing.

If we value our civil liberties, which clearly this government does not, then we need to be vocal and we should consider supporting pressure groups such as NO2ID, Statewatch and The Open Rights Group.

UK government seek more control over citizens

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I have decided to take up the offer of fellow UK Politics blogger, Power to the People and copy, verbatim, his article in relation to the latest Data Communications Bill, due to be debated in parliament and supported by Jacqui Smith. This Bill seeks to further erode our right to privacy and to be free from state interference, with sweeping new laws regarding the storage of all email, internet browsing habits, telephone calls and text messages of the British Public. This government has spent 11 years, introducing law after law, permitting more state inteference, less privacy and causing blatant infringments to our civil liberties.

I wholeheartedly support the views of PttP and would also urge people to view his proposed letter, vary it, personalise it and then send it to your MP. Maybe we can have a voice after all?

Enough is enough, the UK is becoming a police state by our control obsessed government and we are sitting back and allowing it to happen. It makes me angry to see such lethargy. Everytime a new act is brought in, far more sinister aspects are buried in the detail, which further curtail our civil liberties, freedom and privacy. This has got to stop and now, state should not be permitted to control the people, it should be the other way around. As it stands, just 650 members of parliament are pushing some 65m people around, yes, I mean 650, because whilst this government may have a majority, the MP’s from other parties are not making enough noise about this massive intrusion into our lives, they should be fired, the lot of them. We are quick to condemn the bankers (rightly so in many cases), but we do nothing about the MP’s that have consistently introduced or supported Acts of Parliament that intrude into our lives, in a way that will affect us for many years to come. We must put a stop to it.

It is expected that plans to collect more data on people’s phone, e-mail and web-browsing habits will be included in the innocuouslysounding “Communications Data Bill”, due to be introduced in the Queen’s Speech in November. By all accounts, these proposals are supported by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, Gordon Brown and much of the Labour government. Once again, the government is expected to justify this gross intrusion into the personal lives of 65m people under the auspices of ‘counter-terrorism’, this is utter garbage, they know it and we know it. Yes, there are terrorists out there and they don’t wear badges, but this country has faced terrorism before and the security forces managed to investigate and prosecute without such laws.

I don’t know how many terrorists are out there, but it is not 65m and is probably less that a couple of thousand, why should the privacy and personal of 65m people be invaded by this government because of a few people that mean us harm? This whole thing needs to be put in perspective, more people in the UK die on the roads than as a result of terrorism, more soldiers are killed abroad, that in the UK as a result of terrorism, in fact, more people are killed in farming accidents that as a consequence of terrorism. This government have invested massively in the security services, allowing them to go on a substantial recruitment drive, there should be no need for a massive Big Brother surveillance operation of the entire population of the UK. Before some smart-arse suggests that it is this surveillance and investment in the security services that has reduced the number of terrorist incidents in the UK, I would ask them to provide further evidence that this is the case and then to put it into perspective. For example, it is well know that the airline industry work out whether safety mechanisms are worth introducing on their planes on the basis of a cost/benefit analysis. In other words, will the costs associated with an accident outweigh the cost of implementing the safety programmes. Fact of life, they all do it, they just rarely tell us!

Of course the government will issue the usual platitudes and assurances that they will not misuse this information, but can we believe them. The Icelandic authorities had their assets frozen using anti-terror laws, in spite of the fact that there were other laws that could have been used and would have been just as effective. A local council used anti-terror legislation to spy on the parents of a child that they throught was in the wrong ‘catchment area’. This list, trust me, goes on and on. We also know that this government ant it’s private sector partners are incapable of securing data, which means our personal lives could be open to all and sundry. Some will argue that if you have nothing to hide, then there is nothing to hide, these same people probably still believe in Father Christmas. As we know information, any information can be used in different ways, depending on the the intepretation of the recipient, how many times have we said or done something that was completely misrepresented?

I have nothing to hide, but I object strongly to my personal calls, web browsing habits and email being monitored and invaded by the state. Government’s could even misuse this information to find out how we intend to vote! It is an appalling proposal and it is high time the British public called time on the control obsessed government and it’s supporters, irrespective of which party they represent. This goes beyond party politics, it is a direct attack on the very fabric of our society and no-one will be safe from government interference if it is allowed to pass into law. If the government believe that this act is so important, then they should allow the British people to vote on it through a referendum, I believe they will get a resounding No…and they know it!

People often tell me that there is “not much we can do”, but there is. Our members of parliament are worried sick that they may lose their seat at the next election, we must emphasise to them that if they support this attack on our civil liberties that we guarantee they will. We must demonstrate to our MP’s that they should be more in fear of the wrath of the British public that the Chief Whip of their own parties. Opposition MP’s should do their jobs and oppose this draconian piece of legislation. We must also warn our local members of parliament that if they vote for this Act, that we will not vote for them, we must make it clear, that we have a voice, not once every 5 years, but throughout their tenure and that we will have it heard. Everyone that feels this Act is a direct infringement of our civil liberties, right to privacy and an attack on the very fabric of our society, should write to their MP and tell them so. I have provided a ‘draft letter’ which can be viewed, personalised and sent to your MP. Draft Letter to MP

I would also invite all fellow bloggers that feel as strongly as I do on this issue to reproduce this article in part or full, topped and tailed if they wish, to publicise this issue to as many people as possible. Let us all stand up and fight in this issue, and remind this government who is actually in charge.

Full Article: Power to the People

 

RESIST!

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