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

Posts Tagged ‘power to the people

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.

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We need wholesale tax and benefit reform, not meddling

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The news that the Liberal Democrats wants to reduce income tax for middle and low income earners is welcome news, albeit the chances of them getting sufficient votes to deliver on this commitment is unlikely. However, it does appear that they are willing to fill the void left by the current reincarnation of the Tory party.

The conservatives have traditionally been a party of tax cuts, not something that is always justified, but nonetheless, for the most part that is how they are perceived. David Cameron does not seem to want to make this commitment, because he is justifiably concerned that the Labour party will scream that the conservative party will hit schools and the NHS to fund the tax cuts. Rather than fighting this unsubstantiated claim, David Cameron is avoiding the fight and in my view, showing how incredibly weak he is, both as a person and a politician.

Gordon Brown said in 2004 that he could save £20bn per annum in an efficiency drive within high spending departments. He has not delivered on that commitment in fact, quite the reverse, we have actually seen an increase in public sector spending. Neither the LibDems nor the conservatives are willing to look to fund tax cuts from an efficiency drive, yet only an imbecile would claim that government departments are efficient or not guilty of waste. There have been numerous reports lately claiming that £billions have been wasted.

What we need is wholesale reform, not tinkering, backed up by a firm commitment to reduce taxes. The government, and it has to be said, the opposition parties believe it is okay to keep taking more and more of our money, every time they screw up, they either borrow, which lets face it, we will have to pay for, or they will introduce more stealth taxes. It has to stop. Under this Labour government, more and more people believe that they have an automatic right to look to the state, more accurately the tax payer, to provide them with an income, housing etc. There are nearly 870,000 people claiming unemployment benefits and 2.5m on some form of disability benefit. That is 3.4m people that require some form of tax payer funded benefits.

Now I accept that there are people with genuine disabilities and they should receive our support, but how much longer can the tax payer be expected to fund 3.4m people (and rising), that are making no contribution? I have deliberately ignored pensioners given many have contributed to state pensions for most of their lives.

Someone needs to say it how it is. There are just too many people expecting too few tax payers to fund their living costs, subsidise housing costs, as well as provide free education and health. Enough now, some of these people, probably that vast majority, can help themselves and they must. In these difficult economic times, those working have to make significant cuts, or take on extra jobs, or both. Why? Because we are expected not only to cover our own cost of living increases, but also the rises faced by those who make no contribution, in other words we pay twice.

Uncontrolled immigration places a further burden on the tax payer. It does not take a genius to work out that the contribution in taxes and national insurance made by many immigrants seeking work in the UK, does not cover the free education and health benefits received by their offspring. So, what happens? There are fewer jobs available for the 870,000 people claiming unemployment benefit, so we have to keep forking our our hard earned money providing them with tax payer funded benefits. Whilst the people coming into the UK and accepting low paid work, cannot possible pay enough tax and national insurance to cover the free benefits they receive.

There is nothing wrong with immigration, provided they can make a genuine and a net contribution to the UK economy, not simply provide employers with a source of cheap labour, which in itself is exploitation of the individual and the tax payer. There are many people that have genuine disabilities that prevent them from taking any work, but this is by no means the majority, those genuine claimants are entitled to our help, because that is our way. The rest must find some form of gainful employment, even if it is part-time. There will always be people unemployed and of the 870,000, some of these may be between jobs, but once again, they are likely to be in the minority. The others, well some will have never held a job and they must be required to make a contribution.

Redistribution of wealth may be a fine goal, but not if the hard pressed tax payers are simply expected to reward people that are making no attempt to make a contribution to society. Successive government have failed to grasp the nettle, but they must, we need to urgently reform our whole benefits system, so that the genuinely needy receive an appropriate level of help and support and the others, those that refuse to make a contribution are forced to go to work.

Very wealthy people are able to employ clever people to avoid paying too much tax, but the rest of us, who do not have that luxury are expected to make up the balance, simply because we are the easier target. It is far, far easier to hit the lower and middle income earners than it is to get the long term unemployed back to work, to determine which of the 2.5m people are genuinely unable to work and tackle those guilty of extravagant and complicated tax avoidance schemes.

Think about it for a moment. We tax and insure our cars, because if we didn’t, we could expect to be arrested, charged and fined, because we are, for the most part, law abiding tax payers. The others, well they won’t tax or insure their cars, if they are arrested they skip bail, if they get caught by a camera, then it doesn’t matter, because the car won’t be registered in their name. It is estimated that there are 1m uninsured and untaxed vehicles on our roads. We tax payers, received our pay, with tax and national insurance deducted, why, because we are law abiding citizens, the others, well they work cash in hand, because the chances are they won’t get caught? Why, because it is just too difficult to track and too costly to enforce?

We need wholesale reform, after all, any money earned, starts off as our own. That’s right, when you apply for a job, you get told how much your employer will pay you. Then the pimp, sorry the government comes along with hand extended and says, well you have a “social responsibility” and we are going to-redistribute some of your income to those less fortunate than you and to pay for things like health, education and pensions. We all sit there and take it, why, because we are law abiding and of course, we don’t have any choice? If government gets it wrong, no matter, they will just come back for more, perhaps in the form of direct tax, such as that on petrol, energy, insurance, vehicles etc.

Some people don’ realise this and of course the government won’t tell you. But when you buy petrol or a new car for example, the government add the duties and then VAT to the duties. How bad is that, not only do we pay VAT on the cost of the goods, but we also pay VAT on the duties! No wonder they think we are a bunch of mugs.

Someone, perhaps a political party, needs to stand up for the hard-pressed tax payer. Accept that there is a disproportionate amount of money taken from us and that the system needs serious reform. The LibDems have suggested that they could provide some tax cuts by tackling waste, but they have set the barrier way, way too low, even if this is a paradigm shift by the LibDems. If you are going to take flack for suggesting that we can keep some of our hard earned money by the government tackling waste, why not also target abuse, not just the wealthy, but those happy to receive tax payer funded benefits?

We need a party for wholesale reform and they need to tackle the people that are registered as disabled, but are able to work. After all, those that use or abuse the system are just taking it away from the genuinely needy, who should receive our help. Those claiming unemployment benefit must be required to work within a given period or lose all benefits. It is enough now, for far too long we have heard (and have allowed to pass unchallenged), people on benefits saying that they would be “worse off if they went back to work”. Surely this means that the benefit payments are too generous?

Why can’t lone parents group together, so that some can go to work, whilst the others look after the children? In the real world of the tax payer, that is what we do. What makes lone parents any more deserving? Why should someone that has never contributed anything in the form of income tax, be entitled to housing, benefits, free furniture, free health and free education? If they have an automatic entitlement to receive these benefits, what incentive do they have to work and make a contribution? Successive governments have added to the notion that everyone is entitled to state aid of some sort. Why should these people not be encouraged to help themselves, rather than helping themselves to the hard-earned money of honest tax payers.

Unemployment figures have been massaged by this government by allowing more and more people to claim that they are unable to work through disability, there are currently 2.5m in this category. It is a fair bet and some government ministers have alluded to this, that as many as 1.5m are able to do some form of work. So is the true unemployment figure actually 2.4m? Those that are workshy as opposed to genuinely disabled, must be identified and should be forced back to work. If necessary, through a steady decline in the benefits they are receiving, if that means that some become homeless, so be it. They always have a choice.

I accept, that if there are no jobs available, then we must take that into account, but whilst there is, those able and capable of working must be dissuaded from claiming benefits. Not incentivised, because that is morally wrong, they must be dissuaded through a steady fall in their tax payer funded benefits. We must also change some of our language, for example, state benefits should be changed to tax payer funded benefits, which is a more accurate statement. The state is faceless, but everyone know someone who is a tax payer, they will invariable be the people looking knackered without the ability to buy a pint in their local.

Many low paid workers are claiming that they need more money to deal with the rising cost of living, well firstly I should like to point out that the problem is not uniquely theirs and it is wrong to play the victim as if it is an exclusive right, everyone is suffering. But, more importantly, they need to approach it from another angle, they should not be looking for more money funded, in the case of public sector workers, by the tax payer, instead, they should be entitled to keep more of their own money. By tackling government waste and making more people contribute, we can all see a reduction in our taxes, we will all feel better off and this country will prosper again.

I cannot see any of the political parties tackling this issue. The LibDems have moved from a party of higher taxation to one that is now talking of reduced taxes. Albeit it without the support of the entire party and, it has to be said, with a limited remit in terms of what aspects of abuse they will tackle. The conservative party has consistently refused to address taxation as if it is a poisoned chalice, because they don’t want to take on the current government on regarding waste, and abuse of the benefits system. Then the Labour government, who, through their self-righteous programme of re-distribution have built up this waste and allowed a situation where even they know that there is no more money to be had from the hard pressed tax payer. What hope is there for us with such weak politicians?

I am not advocating that everyone who is claiming unemployment benefit should lose, it, nor am I suggesting that everyone in receipt of disability benefit is workshy, far from it. I am arguing that unless we reform our tax and benefits system, this country will be bankrupt. We already have a massive accumulated deficit in public sector pension schemes, an aging populating and high borrowings. We also have hugely expensive PFI schemes that need to be paid for over the next 20 years. The tax payer is straining under the additional burden placed upon them by this government’s failure to tackle the issues in case they lose some of their core vote. However, unless we address the issue of those that are contributing little of nothing in the form of income tax and national insurance, then we will reach a stage where those currently funding this largess will no longer be able to cope themselves.

There needs to be a reduction in those claiming tax payer funded benefits, a corresponding increase in the number of people contributing income tax and national insurance and a halt to immigration unless or until they can demonstrate that they can provide a net contribution to the UK economy, taking account of their needs, such as free health and education…the government has no right to exclude this cost when making statements about how they contribute. If we don’t, we will reach the point of no return, where we have to borrow more and more money just to fund our pensions and benefits system, until one day, our government bonds will have the same status as junk bonds. By then, it will be too late and there will be considerably more people that will need some form of tax payer funded benefits, but with no-one left to turn to. Doomsday scenario or basic economics, you choose?

 

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Fuel Poverty – The case for creative thinking and solutions

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Within the UK, there is no denying that there are a high number of people in fuel poverty. These include ordinary families on low incomes, pensioners, lone parents, the unemployed and those with long term disabilities and registered as unable to work. In fact, the problem is so large, estimated to be some 4.5m, that the government cannot wave their wand and make the problem go away. That is the long and short of it.

Union leaders and Labour MP’s can huff and puff as much as they like, but the harsh reality is, this government has squandered much of the income it has gained as a consequence of the economic boom, higher taxes and borrowing. This means that the cupboard is bare. The union leaders crying foul, are the same people that fought and succeeded in getter higher wages for their members and in the process, supporting this government. The MP’s bleating, are the same ones that thought the gravy train of higher taxes, followed by waste, was okay. They have themselves, New Labour values and specifically, this government to blame. So there is no point trying to convince us that you are fighting for the ‘people’ when you are as guilty as the rest for the position we all find ourselves in.

It is time to stop the whining and start thinking creatively. It is time to forget trying to fleece the ordinary taxpayer that has spent the last 11 years supporting those that cannot or will not work and propping this government allowing them to claim that they have successfully invested in our services, whilst failing to demonstrate any real tangible benefit to the majority.

The Labour government typically throw money and/or resource at problems in the hope that it will fix the problem, or at least provide a brief respite, perhaps with some good headlines. Their spendthrift ways have lumbered this country with an enormous mountain of debt, which includes official borrowings of £450bn and another £170bn that needs to be paid between now and 2032 on PFI schemes. This ignores the £800bn or so shortfall in government pension schemes. In fact, it is an utter mess, and demonstrates what a tardy bunch this government is. Many of the foolish press barons have hailed Gordon Brown as a prudent or successful chancellor, history will judge him differently.

With nothing in the kitty, ‘working’ taxpayers are so highly taxed through direct, indirect and stealth taxes introduced by this government and with realborrowings at an all time high, there is little room to manoeuvre, even for a government adept at screwing every last penny from the rest of us. Now is the time for new ideas, a bold approach, creativity and above all honesty.

Windfall taxes are a ‘one off’ short term measure with long term consequences, given the energy companies will get the money back somewhere, either by reducing necessary investment, increasing energy cost for the majority, or, most likely a combination of the two. Similarly, throwing money at the problem, assuming we had any, in the guise of fuel credits is knee-jerk and would then be expected every year. The answer is investment in ways to reduce energy consumption through insulation, energy saving appliances and bulbs and other such measures. Estimates suggest that these measures could reduce our energy bills by up to 35%.

The government should encourage the energy companies to invest their carbon credits in the UK rather than elsewhere. They should be incentivised, rather than bullied into offering more support for the Warm Front programme and the government should put back the money they withdrew from the scheme. The energy companies should, however, be forced, by legislation if necessary, to offer the so called ‘social tariffs’ to all those in need and should be prevented from charging higher tariffs for meters on non-direct debit customers. The energy companies have dragged their feet on social tariffs and the penal rates they charge people who use pre-payment meters, this in unacceptable. The regulator should be given more powers to mandate and control issues such as access to social tariffs as well as price rises.

The government then needs to be more creative. Lets face it, at a time like this, everyone needs to pull together. Those in fuel poverty should be encouraged to help themselves, not simply come along to the government expecting more money, which the rest of us will have to pay. Ordinary working families, whether they fall inside or outside the fuel poverty trap are feeling the pinch. Many have had to reduce their expenditure on non-essentials in order that they can meet the higher fuel prices, higher costs in getting to and from work, higher food prices, higher mortgage costs and higher local taxes. They too are suffering, even though they are working, some, many have had to also take on a part-time job in order that they can meet their obligations and keep their head above water. What of these people, the taxpayers that make it possible to support so many that are not working or are retired, don’t they matter?

No solution is going to be perfect, but you can be damned certain, that chucking borrowed money that this country doesn’t have at the problem is going to be much worse. Here are some ideas the government could consider.

  1. Determine which of those in ‘fuel poverty’ are capable of helping themselves with government assistance or encouragement and which are not.
  2. Allow those on fixed incomes, such as lone parents, disability allowances and the unemployed to take on a part-time job (stacking shelves, land work, cleaning houses etc) and retain the income, free of tax, national insurance and, most importantly benefit deductions. The limit for this extra income should be set at a level equivalent to what the government believes is the additional cost of living as a consequence of food and energy increases.
  3. Allow those in ‘fuel poverty’ and in receipt of some form of ‘tax credit’ to earn an additional income through a part-time job, free of tax and national insurance, albeit up to a pre-determined limit, set by the government or better still, experts!
  4. Remove VAT and any other forms of duties on items that are routinely used to save energy, such as, energy saving bulbs, insulation, gas boilers and so on.
  5. Reduce the amount of paperwork pensioners have to complete in order that they can take on a part-time job. Provide them with an additional ‘work credit’ whereby they can earn up to a pre-determined amount, free of tax and national insurance contribution, without affecting their pensions. Increase the work credit by an amount equal to each allowance they do not claim, such as the ‘winter fuel payment’, the savings could be reinvested.
  6. Stop paying the winter fuel allowance to pensioners that no longer reside in the UK and reinvest this money into support for the most needy or energy saving measures.
  7. Provide, if necessary, secured short-term, interest free loans to private landlords, housing associations and local authorities to allow them to bring properties under their control up to acceptable standards in terms of energy efficiency. – A large proportion of homes that need upgrading are in the private sector.

The policy of assuming that there will always be enough taxpayers that can be fleeced to support those that are actually capable of helping themselves in times of need has to stop, it is not sustainable. Yes, if they cannot work, through a genuine disability, age, or lack of mobility then we should offer support, but if they can help themselves, why should they get away scotfree whilst the rest of us pick up the tab through higher taxes and having to take on extra jobs? It is time to view the so called priviledged not as a gravy train, but as the conduit through which those less fortunate can have a better existence.

The truth is, many of those that are capable of helping themselves, probably would if they are in dire straits. However, New Labour has exercised and grown this culture of state intervention, the government will always come to the aid of those less well off. Little or no effort is put into finding out whether they can or are willing to help themselves. If someone on benefit tries to get a part-time job to cover the additional energy costs, they can expect to lose the equivalent amount in state benefits. Why, where is the incentive? I am not suggesting that we should let people abuse the system, just that they are encouraged to help themselves, within limits that relate to their assessed additional needs.

Similarly pensioners are penalised if they work part-time. Clobbered with paperwork and additional taxes, encourage them, don’t penalise them. Government should look to incentivise, cajole and if necessary bully people into helping themselves, rather than transferring the burden onto overburdened taxpayers who are suffering just as badly.

Okay, I accept there are flaws and risks in some of my suggestions, but then I am not an economist or a civil servant. What I do possess is commonsense and a desire to be constructive in my criticism, the former is something the government lacks and the latter something the opposition parties lack. At least my suggestions are a start, perhaps those better qualified than myself can come up with working proposals that encourage those that need help to do more for themselves, thereby reducing the burden on existing taxpayers already facing pressure on their own finances.

 

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OECD UK Recession Warning and the future for MPs

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The OECD have now confirmed what everyone else in the UK could ‘feel’, but our own government was keen to deny, that the UK is about to enter a recession. Darling and Brown simply had to know the truth and it is unforgivable that they could not be straight with the electorate, many of whom, entrusted New Labour with the future of our economy. That abuse of trust is shameful.

Instead of worrying about our economic situation, all Gordon Brown seems to be concerned with is his future as leader, instead of worrying about the people of this country, all New Labour seem to be concerned with is whether they can retain their seats. They are all spending so much time looking inward, for self-interest, that they are ignoring what is happening in the outside world, or more specifically, in the UK.

Contrary to Gordon Brown’s assertions, the UK’s fundamentals are not strong, in fact, it takes the highly respected OECD to tell us that the UK is in trouble. However, not only is the UK economy predicted to shrink in the next two quarters, but the UK is also the only economy not expected to see a recovery this year. The OECD said that Britain would fare worst amongst the Group of Seven leading economies. This is in spite of the assurances from Gordon Brown who has regularly claimed that the UK is the best performer among the G7, which includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States. The OECD expects the UK to grow by 1.4% in 2009, against the government forecasts of 2.5%. Okay this government has missed most of it’s previous growth targets, not something they brag about, but in the current climate, wishful thinking is not appropriate. There is also a prediction of some 200,000 people being added to the jobless total, which is already at a record high when you consdier that thatere are estimated to be some 2.5m on some form of long term disability.

The OECD have even given some of the reasons behind our weak position, most noteably that the Government’s policy of spend and borrow has left this country ill-equipped to deal with this economic slump. Interesting, that the average man in the street could see this wasn’t sustainable, but our elected officials could not, or perhaps, would not. The truth is Gordon Brown, as chancellor, borrowed in a boom, leaving us with the largest budget deficit of any industrial economy. Now we are all going to have to pay the price.

Aside from the fact that New Labour, as guardians of our economy, should have been able to predict much (not all) of what is happening and tightened their fiscal belts, what is most disappointing is the other parties. The opposition parties are keen to criticise, but if they want to show that they are fit for government, then they should tell us what they would do. It doesn’t matter if New Labour steal their ideas, it is the well-being of our country that matters and the electorate will know who came up with the answers and demonstrated true leadership skills when we needed them most.

David Cameron and the conservative party are running scared, they are shouting from the sidelines, rather than getting stuck in. In other words, they are basking in the failures of this government, they are gloating, but, above all they are failing to demonstrate that they could do any better. There is no time like the present, for Cameron and the conservative party to show their mettle, air their policies, demonstrate their competence for government and show leadership under pressure. If Cameron cannot see that this is his chance, then he does not deserve the highest office in this country. If he continues to say nothing of any value or substance, then we are entitled to believe that he doesn’t know what to do and therefore, he and his party would be no better.

New Labour in general and Gordon Brown in particular have lost all credibility in terms of economic confidence and they have long lost the integrity that is essential to govern long term. This is not helped by the fact that they have patently denied any personal, or policy culpability, electing to blame everything on other factors such as the credit crunch and oil prices. We know that it had as much to do with this governments policy of spend, tax, borrow and spend, leaving nothing in the kitty for a boom period. 

Cameron on the other hand is demonstrating a lack of courage, an absence of policies or ideas, poor judgement in a time of trouble and little depth or gravitas. Charm and fancy words simply do not wash at a time like this. Cameron and the conservative party are so worried about getting it wrong, they have been paralysed with fear. We expect far, far more from the conservative party, which in the past has invariably been the principal bastions for economic competence, but under the leadership of Cameron, they seem to lack bottle, confidence and spirit.

In fact, if we look around, never has this country been so poorly served by its members of parliament. Most of our MP’s are more interested in playing up to the cameras and preening their feathers with statements to, and interviews with, the press, the editors of which, in turn, attempt to set the policy agenda and influence public opinion. Never before have we all felt so removed from our politician’s, who don’t talk like us, act like or or think like us. Our whole electoral system needs a good shake up, no longer should we be represented by career politicians who have rarely held down a proper job, no longer should we be represented by union activists who, however they may try and convince you otherwise, have little in common with the public. We need a system where real people, those with life experiences, families, mortgages, business experience and integrity, can be elected to represent us. In other words, people that look like us, act like us and speak like us.

All too often, as our elected MP’s enter parliament, they immediately go native. Corrupted by power, position and prestige. They forget why they were put there and start to believe that they are ‘different’ from the rest of us. For the most part, our MP’s are just good salespeople, yet once they are put to the test, they appear superficial. What we need is depth, all parties, but particularly the conservatives, should be selecting their candidates based not on gender or race, but whether or not they can make a contribution to society, to government. Not based on whether or not they went to school with them, but based on life experience, how grounded they are and whether they are likely to be seduced by membership of this exclusive club called parliament.

The British people are no longer as politically naive as they were in the past. The Internet means that they can communicate more easily with like minded people, no matter where they reside in the UK. They are more vocal than they have been in the past and they have more information at their fingertips than they have had in past decades. By comparison, parliament is firmly rooted in the past, it is crusty, old fashioned and inward looking. Newly elected members should be looking to modernise parliament, not simply fall in line, they should be looking to use their time in office to pass more control back to the people, rather than entrenching their grand and priveledged positions, by gaining more and yet more state control. Most importantly of all, they should be listening to their trustees, the people that elected them. Placing the electorates’ interest’s first, before their own and before that of the party.

This recession is likely to be different to previous ones. Not because of the suddenness, not because of the depth, or the expected duration, not because our government has lied to us about our true economic position. But because, this time, there is a very real risk that the groundswell of public opinion will not only impact on the government, but also on the lacklustre opposition, and the weak ‘other’ parties. If people have time on their hands due to lack of employment, an easy method of communicating with like-minded people and a desire to see change, we could well see another, formidable political party formed, this time with real people, who have genuine feel for what needs to be done, the energy and the desire to be part of this change and above all, new ideas and a commitment to follow them though.

Political parties take note, members of parliament take note, the public have had enough of micromanagement, of state control, of tax and spend government, of mortgaging our future through uncontrolled borrowing, of manipulating the figures to make things look better than they actually are, of being treated like fools, of lies, of ever rising taxes and above all, of you! In this time of need, we still have an overseas aid budget of £5bn, yes, £5bn, when there is a very real prospect that some of our pensioners will have to choose between heating and eating to use that over used, but insightful term. Where are our priorities?

Opposition parties take note, you need to stop gloating while the people of this country are suffering, you need to stop looking so weak, when we need strength, you need to demonstrate the courage of your convictions, to show us what you would do to make things better. You need to show your true colours (if you haven’t already). Above all you need to lead by example, be confident and at the same time remain grounded and in touch with the people that matter.

Imagine what would happen if the people of this country decided to vote, not for the principle 3 parties, but independents? If we have nothing to lose, this could happen. Yes it would be chaos, but it could be a precursor to a new political force, one that included the voters, rather than career politicians, then the boot would be on the other foot. Just 650 people rule 65m people, this is by consent, not as an automatic right. Our colonial past demonstrates only too clearly what happens when so called leaders consistently let down the people, when they are removed, remote or aloof from the mood of the public and when our leaders start to think they are better than everyone else.

In the UK is will not be a military coup, it won’t be a work to rule, it will be through the ballot box. Once the public recognise that it is possible to make a stand, buy choosing not to elect anyone from the main three political parties, then there will have to be change. When we, your trustees, have little to lose, expect the unexpected. Members of Parliament, you have been warned!

 

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European Union to hold crisis talks on Russia

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For all Gordon Brown’s rhetoric and his comments in the Observer, the EU can do very little to exert any real pressure on Russia and GB knows it. Whilst the British public may be daft enough to have believed Gordon Brown’s past assurances and promises, it is unlikely that the ‘Russian Bear’ will. Brown suggest a “root and branch” review of EU/Russia relations and talks of a “determination”. So what I hear the Russians cry?

The UK and much of Europe relies on Russian oil and gas supplies, yes, the Russians also need the revenues, but the Europeans will run out of gas and oil long before the Russians run out of customers wanting to buy their oil and gas. No European government would put at risk essential energy supplies for the sake of Georgia, that is the bottom line. Nor will they do anything that could potentially increase further current oil and gas prices. We also know that Gordon Brown is weak, a classic school yard bully, that when confronted, simply backs down. So ask yourself this, why did he make threats he has no intention of following through? He just makes himself look foolish and this country look weak.

Sanctions won’t work, at least in the short to medium term, because we do not hold all the cards. Removing Russia from the G8 may lose them some prestige on the world stage, but do you really think they will care, when they view the action in Georgia, at least in part, a restoration of pride and Russian military might? The Russians will be watching what the Europeans and the American do with a great deal of interests and they will see rhetoric, which does not turn into any meaningful form of action, as a significant demonstration of weakness and they are likely to be emboldened. If we cannot deliver a significant blow to the Russians to demonstrate our disappointment with their actions in Georgia, then we would be better saying nothing and turning to diplomacy.

I am certainly not defending the Russians, far from it, nor am I advocating that no action is taken. It is just a little pointless shouting your mouth off, if you have no intention of following it through or, whatever you do will make little or no difference. Better to bide your time, keep your cards close to your chest and keep the Russians guessing. Proper planning could allow the EU and America to deliver a knock-out blow (not militarily), but based on our own timetable, not  that of the Russians. There is nothing worse that doing something you know is going to be condemned by the world and then, as a result of their unified silence, not know what form the reaction will take or when.

 

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Should the UK government impose a windfall tax on energy companies?

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The government is under pressure to impose a windfall tax on energy companies including UK based domestic fuel suppliers as well as international petroleum businesses based in the UK. This is a risky strategy given many of the companies have no particular need to remain in the UK for tax purposes and no longer to we have a favourable business tax system as an incentive to stay. Hence the reason some companies have been moving to places such as southern Ireland because of a better tax regime.

This would not be the first time the government has imposed a windfall tax on energy companies, but the last time, the tax regime was favourable and no doubt many of the companies decided to be pragmatic. But a second raid may be the last straw. I am not advocating that no action should be taken against these companies, only that it must not be quite so blatant as a windfall tax, instead the government could look at the carbon credit scheme, because many energy companies benefitted disproportionatly when the trading scheme was introduced. Some energy companies have clearly taken advantage of the current crisis to boost their own profits and this must be looked at, but simply appearing to ‘punish’ business in such a penal way as a windfall tax smacks of short-termism and desparation. See my recent article here: Windfall tax on the energy companies is not the answer.

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Is the UK turning into a Police State?

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News that home secretary Jacqui Smith intends to provide security guards and town hall workers with sweeping new powers has to send shivers down the spine of the average UK citizen, who surely cannot help thinking that we are becoming something of a police state. Instead of utilising our police force to enforce the law, the government are seeking to use civilians who pass an accreditation course costing just a few hundred pounds, to punish and fine the general public. The use of the ‘extended police family’, is akin to the German war machines’ use of collaborators during the second world war to snitch on fellow citizens. This concept is ill-conceived, smacks of desperation and surely is no different to the plain clothes infiltrators used by the Chinese and Russians.

We are already the most spied on nation in the world, with more CCTV cameras than anywhere else in the world. We have had to endure the introduction of community support officers who have simply been sent out in place of normal beat bobbies, but with less powers, less training and less experience. Now, they are going to be joined by a group of badged or uniformed civilians with the power to issues fines, stop cars, direct traffic, remove abandoned vehicles, seize alcohol and even take pictures of so-called offenders. Where will it stop.

If a police officer stops us, we tend to accept that as everyday policing, but when civilians with uniforms, or civilians with badges do so, we are entitled to feel we are being hounded or persecuted. How ironic that successive government’s have criticised so called “police states” and yet with one wave of their wand, the people of this country find themselves policed by untrained civilians. Ask yourself this, what type of people will apply for this accreditation, perhaps people that like having a uniform, those that have failed to get into the police force or are not suitable to become a special constable, or security guards who think a uniform makes them important?

This is a scattergun approach to policing, rather than admit that they have failed, by having experienced police officers chase targets instead of criminals, this government wants to drown us with a pseudo police service, ready to pounce for any misdemeanor. These powers can be given to council workers, social workers, car park attendants, housing officers, trading standards, charity workers, dog wardens and private security staff.

The fact is there are already 1400 council workers and private security staff with this accreditation, but the government want to expand the programme massively. I am all for effective policing, bobbies on the beat and a no-tolerance approach to anything that affects the lives of ordinary people. But this must be done by trained and experienced police officers. This government promised to reduce the amount of paperwork police officers are expected to complete in order that they could be released to investigate crime, return to the beat and pursue offenders.

They have lied to us again, instead of doing as they have promised, they are simply putting more and more untrained people on the streets to police the public. Not only is this a derogation of the governments’ duty of care to the public, it is also a breach of our trust. The opposition parties must come out now and say that they will reverse this policy when they get into office, we don’t want to be policed by civilians, we pay an enormous amount of money for policing through central and local taxes, we want our value for our money. Proper trained police officers on the streets.

One of the biggest blights on our quality of life in this country is anti-social behaviour. Will a civilian or a PCSO for that matter issuing an on the spot fine make any difference, no, it will not. These yobs need to be taken down to the station and charged. The PCSO can detain for 30 minutes until a ‘proper’ police officer arrives, the accredited snoopers don’t even have the ability to detain. So what difference will they make to persistent offenders? The truth is, law-abiding citizens will, for the most part, cooperate with these badged jobsworths, because that is what we do and we will accept our fines for small misdemeanours, because that is what we do. But the people that are guilty of anti-social behavior, well, they will run away, give false details or simply fight. So these snoopers and PCSO’s will make no difference at all to our quality of life.

Ministers are so cocooned, they haven’t got a clue what goes on in the real world and that is the problem with having a government in office for so long. They run out of ideas, believe if they are doing something, anything, then they are earning their pay and worse of all, they forget what it is like to be an ordinary citizen and yet, spend their lives trying to avoid talking to us. This government needs to go and now!

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