Monthly Archives: July 2012

The ‘cementation’ of the need for a political class

“I believe that education is the fundamental method of social progress and reform. All reforms which rest simply upon the law, or the threatening of certain penalties, or upon changes in mechanical or outward arrangements, are transitory and futile…. But through education society can formulate its own purposes, can organize its own means and resources, and thus shape itself with definiteness and economy in the direction in which it wishes to move.”
John Dewey, 1897.*

Raedwald has posted on the loss of membership suffered by the three main parties – and the attempts by the political elite to rectify the shortfall in the voluntary contributions required to ‘keep them afloat’ in order that they may continue to impose their ideology upon us. What is the betting that there won’t be a referendum on the compulsory funding of political parties?

But then, this is but yet another ploy designed to further the continuance of their existence, the practice of which has intensified in recent years. Have we, the people, not suffered manifesto after manifesto promising ‘goodies’ untold, that have failed to be delivered? Have we not suffered subsequent manifesto after manifesto, conveniently omitting that former promises have not been delivered?

That we have not been ‘led’, but have suffered psychological ‘brain-washing’ from pseudo dictators whose only claim to the position they hold is a university degree based on ‘theory’, cannot be in doubt. Have we not been presented by political parties, at times of general elections, with candidates who have lamentably failed when given the opportunity, but who are lauded as the answer to our problems – many of which they caused in the first place?

All hail the system known as representative democracy!

* Is this not the purpose – and aim – of Harrogate?

 


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Well-being vs political ideology

For those who watched Panorama (BBC 1) or Dispatches (Channel 4), both programmes dealing with the Coalition’s attempts to cut the welfare bill, it must have raised disturbing thoughts about how we treat those among us who are suffering from forms of illness that we would not wish on our worst enemy. While accepting that the media will not miss an opportunity for ‘sensationalism’ in their reporting of any subject, nor be amiss to ‘editing’ to make their point,  the two programmes provided ‘troubled’ viewing.

It would seem obvious that medical expertise is being disregarded in order to achieve a political target to cut the disability benefit bill. It would also seem obvious that ‘targets’, per se, are a factor in the procedure that Atos have put in place and that these are a result of ‘conditions’ imposed in their contract that means Atos must do all in their power to achieve the result that the Coalition are attempting to achieve.

That a supporter of the Official Opposition, albeit one with medical qualifications, is selected to be a ‘mole’ to highlight failings in a government programme can be questioned, yet the employment by Atos of a person with medical qualifications that are not recognized in this country is employed to induct an applicant to the process can also be questioned. On the other hand, the fact that a qualified doctor is being forced to ignore his own professional diagnosis of someone’s condition in order to meet ‘guidelines’ set by ‘government’ also raises serious questions in respect of the validity of the ‘workability’ examination.

If someone who has no ability other than to use one finger to press a button can be classified as fit for work, then there is something drastically wrong with the assessment – and also with the person who devised that ‘test’. To digress slightly, I am aware of someone who has been called in for an assessment. In what follows, it is not my intention to be patronizing and the person concerned agreed that I could cite his case. This person is a man of 54, of limited ‘intelligence’ in that he is not someone who could be classified of average knowledge, had been a lorry driver while working, has difficulty communicating in that he finds it almost impossible putting together any reasonable argument in support of what opinion he may have on any given matter, who has suffered the effects of an unpleasant divorce (the details of which I know, but understandably will not divulge) that had a profound effect on his life, who as a result of past experiences has no confidence in himself nor his ability to perform any task, who suffers from fits of deep depression, who suffers from sciatica, who suffers from emphysema and cannot undertake any extended physical exertion for more than about ten minutes – has been called in for an examination. He has been certified by his GP as unfit for work, yet pound to a penny his assessment will find him fit for work. This fear has had such an effect on this man that he is almost unconsolable with worry that he may lose his disability benefit; a benefit – and the only benefit be receives – that provides him with £94 per week. I shall be accompanying him when he attends his assessment as, on his behalf, I have a number of questions to ask the ‘assessor’ – and, as you can imagine, there will be questions!

It may well be that the blame for some of those suffering from ill-health can be laid at their door through their own previous actions and choices, where their life-style is concerned – but that is beside the point as surely treatment of their condition should be the first priority. In any event, as politicians have been so intent on deciding how we should live our lives – and appear intent on so continuing – perhaps the cause of our growing ‘ill-health’ can be laid at their door; but once again I digress. Yet again it is necessary to pose the question that if we in this country have a problem with the well-being of our own then perhaps we should attend to that problem first, prior to attempting to rectify the same problem in other countries. Not all of us have the capability to be ‘captains of industry’, to be politicians (albeit ineffective); some of us are destined to do what may be classified as ‘mundane’ jobs – and where would society be without those performing ‘mundane’ jobs?

For those who fall ‘ill’ in later life, through the result of their choice of lifestyle, the resultant cost could be offset by the introduction of a compulsory health insurance scheme. For those who fall ill, through inherited genetic reasons, or what may be termed the ‘lottery of life’, then surely society has a duty to care for them? The question then arises which ‘society’ – the society of the country in general, or the society of those in which they live? As the care that those suffering ‘ill-health’ must be  funded by the communities in which they live, then should not those communities be responsible for the cost involved? Would it not then result in those communities, in the effort to reduce their own obligation to fund said care, devising methods that might reduce their ‘obligations’, whilst devising means whereby their obligations  can be minimized or negated entirely? (with apologies for introducing direct democracy and devolution of power…….)

Just ‘ food for thought’……….

 


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Politicians only have one aim……

….and that is power, whereby they gain control over those they are meant to serve.

Nothing illustrates this more than the first paragraph of the introduction to a paper Dominic Raab has written for the Centre of Policy Studies, entitled: “Unleashing the British Underdog: 10 bets on the little guy“:

“During a period of austerity, following the worst recession since the war and the application of the brakes to over a decade of rising public spending, it is unsurprising that politicians are wrestling with renewed vigour for ownership of the basic idea of fairness.” (emphasis mine).

Since when has ownership of any basic idea, where society is concerned, been the prerogative of, or owned by, politicians? 

In his paper Raab lists ten 10 policies which will widen opportunity and improve social mobility:

  1. Extend Open Access, the scheme that sponsors talented children from all backgrounds to go to independent schools.
  2. Fast-track Troops to Teachers, to encourage more schools staffed by veterans to be set up in areas of deprivation.
  3. Give VAT tax breaks to charities such as Fight for Peace which help turn round the lives of disaffected youngsters.
  4. Re-instate Young Apprenticeships, so that non-academic children have a better range of vocational options.
  5. Expand opportunities for “legal executives”, to encourage wider non-graduate entry into the profession.
  6. Give start-ups and micro-businesses tax breaks, such as exemptions on employers’ NI contributions and cuts in business rates.
  7. Extend the 0% band on stamp duty to £250,000, to help first time buyers get a foot on the housing ladder.
  8. Release ‘dead equity’ for tenants in social housing, to incentivise home ownership and finance new social housing.
  9. Teach refugees English on arrival, so they can find work and integrate into the community.
  10. Introduce a simple tax allowance for employers of disabled people to cover the cost of workplace adaptations.

I would challenge anyone to argue the case why any of the above should not be the decision of the people within the local authority in which they live. Any one of Raab’s policy proposals would need to be funded through taxation of the individual – so why should the individual not have the right to say whether he/she agrees to said taxation? Raab’s proposals are no more, no less, than an extension of the idea of ‘communitarianism’ – and if an individual is to have ‘rights’ then the ideology of ‘communitarianism’ is – and must be – a ‘dead duck’.

Over to you, dear reader – and especially those who attended ‘Harrogate’ and who seem averse to even the smallest facet of the concept of direct democracy.

 

 

 


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The man is a politician – remember that, do.

“A good politician is as quite unthinkable as an honest burglar.” - H.L. Mencken

Isabel Hardman, Coffee House, writes about ‘Borismania’ and a recent poll about who Conservative Party members would like to lead them once David Cameron is gone.

Johnson may well have been outspoken about the euro and matters relating to the EU, he may well have signed The Peoples Pledge for an In/Out referendum – but on the latter he has not, to my knowledge, actually stated which way he would vote. As ConHome reported: “Boris reportedly signed the pledge when asked to do so by a People’s Pledge supporter called Sue Connelly. His decision to sign therefore doesn’t seem to have been part of a strategic plan – but, rather, as the kind of spontaneous impulse for which he’s well known.They can have consequences both for him and for others. “

In hindsight it probably matters not that he fails to say which way he would vote in an In/Out referendum as it has to be remembered that the man is a politician, a profession now renowned for being one in which members have the unenviable reputation of being known for their word not being their bond, but saying and doing anything which they feel will raise their public profile and also garner them votes.

If Johnson is not one of these reviled politicians then he needs to publicly say so – and now.Until then articles such as that by Isabel Hardman are not worth the paper on which they are written because all those articles do is to continue to promote those who have shown they do not deserve the trust that their electorates place in them.

 


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2012
07/30

Category:
David's Musings

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Repeat after me ………

“Just because you have a democracy doesn’t mean you automatically have reasonable policemen, sensible legislators or wise bureaucrats. But at least if your culture encourages you to complain, often and loudly, about the misbehaviour of unreasonable policemen, thoughtless legislators and thuggish bureaucrats then there is a chance you can do something to stop them.”

NB: The quotation above is admittedly taken out of context – but…………

 


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What the hell happened to childhood – and adulthood?

From today’s Sunday Telegraph (no link): “From the archives” – 10 years ago this week:

“They may have been favourite childhood pastimes for generations. Now, handstands, games such as tag and even daisy chain-making are vanishing from Britain’s playgrounds as safety-obsessed schools and councils declare them ‘too dangerous’ for today’s children. A report to be published by the Children’s Society cites the case of a primary school that stopped pupils making hanging baskets over fears that they might pick up germs from the flowers” – July 28, 2002.

Not that anything has changed 10 years later – we still have the same ruination of what should be one of the happiest and enjoyable periods of anyone’s life. Childhood games now banned – or curtailed:

Kite flying; ‘monkey bars‘; playground football; three-legged and sack races; British Bulldog & conkers; playing cowboys & Indians; use of starting pistols at school sports days.

This practice is no more than a form of social engineering and which has now culminated in the state wishing to turn children into ‘informers’.

But consider: this practice of social engineering by the political class does not limit itself to children – adults are also targeted. Adults are now ‘constrained’ in what they can say and write. Whereas children are being constrained by the misguided implementation of health and safety ‘rules’, so are adults in the name of equality, diversity and xenophobia.

As parents we allow our children to be ‘moulded’ by the political class; as adults we allow ourselves to be ‘moulded’ by the political class – why? We have allowed ourselves to be conditioned to the ethos of ‘We’ – but we are not ‘We’, we are individuals and as such we are unlike any other person, we are ‘I’.

“The word “We” is as lime poured over men, which sets and hardens to stone, and crushes all beneath it, and that which is white and that which is black are lost equally in the grey of it. It is the word by which the depraved steal the virtue of the good, by which the weak steal the might of the strong, by which the fools steal the wisdom of the sages. What is my wisdom, if even the fools can dictate to me? What is my freedom, if all creatures, even the botched and impotent, are my masters? What is my life, if I am but to bow, to agree and to obey? But I am done with this creed of corruption. I am done with the monster of “We,” the word of serfdom, of plunder, of misery, falsehood and shame.” – Ayn Rand, “Anthem”.

However, contradiction as it may seem, when living under the roof of what is your host then it is beholden on everyone to accept the rules of ‘We’ – and the rules of ‘We’ are decided by the majority view of ‘I’.

And that, dear reader, is the basis of any democracy – be that national or local.


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But the question is never asked

Janet Daley, Sunday Telegraph, posts an article with a headline: “People would be happy to see a smaller state”.

That people might be happy to see a smaller state – if they had the faintest idea how to achieve that noble aim – must be classified as the understatement of the year. When one is a journalist, writing articles on a ‘daley’ basis, it must be exceedingly difficult to see the wood from the trees – on the other hand Janet Daley is supposed to be a ‘thinking’ journalist, or so she would have us believe.

It does not seem to cross her mind that achieving a smaller state is something politicians will never allow the people as by their nature politicians are only intent on accruing power. Neither does it, unfortunately, cross her mind to question why politicians should be allowed to present their electorates with a blank cheque, when it comes to the subject of taxation, at general election time.

In another of his trademark, puerile op-ed pieces, Matthew d’Ancona illustrates why journalists can never be relied upon for serious comment when he writes: “…those of us who comment on Westminster – who talk of “court news” – are instinctively drawn to “who loses and who wins, who’s in and who’s out…..” – and therein lies the problem we have in this country where the dissemination of political news is concerned.

Much is aired in the media about politicians, democracy and power; yet not one attempt is made to analyze the underlying reasons why the the first two are ‘shot to hell’ due a lust of the third. Yes, we had Simon Jenkins’ paper back in 2004 – and since then?

~

 


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2012
07/28

Category:
David's Musings

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GovNet Communications Ltd (4)

Readers will no doubt recall that at the end of May I posted on the matter of the above organisation and a letter I had received from a firm of solicitors acting forGovNet - here, here and here.

Referring to the copy letter I posted, it will be noted that point 4 dictated certain actions I must undertake, point 5 threatened a visit from the police and point 6 set out a series of demands about responding – the 4th and 6th have not been complied with and point 5 has not happened.

The original blogpost is still available and the comments made naming certain employees of GovNet have been removed; but not by Google nor me – which means they must have been removed by the individuals concerned. One wonders why? Were they posted by ‘anonymous’ contributors purely to give grounds for the issuance of a solicitors letter containing threats – bearing in mind that the last comment on 24th May was only 4 days prior to the date on the solicitor’s letter?

Needless to say I stand by the questions posed in the original post – and to which, incidentally, GovNet, Eleanor Laing and Hilary Armstrong have yet to respond. It is also worth noting that the hacking of my blog (third ‘here’ link) occurred just two days after the letter from Turner Parkinson – coincidence (not) methinks.

I can but ask Turner Parkinson, GovNet, Eleanor Laing and Hilary Armstrong a one-word question: Well?

 

 


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Harrogate (vi) – Direct Democracy

Richard North, EUReferendum, has posted on the subject of direct democracy in his series of posts following the ‘Harrogate Meet’ and in so doing mentions the fact that the use of referendums can bring results that are not wanted, citing the example of Hitler and the 1975 EU referendum. His previous post on the subject of local government, to which Raedwald links citing a paper by Simon Jenkins, basically endorsed the idea of direct democracy – unless of course I have misunderstood that which he wrote. It is fair to say that, possibly, one should wait for part ii on this subject of direct democracy, but in the meantime……

To accept that which Richard North terms ‘negative assent’ is but to leave matters where they presently exist, ie to allow Parliament to decide on new laws and their introduction – something which Harrogate attendees surely would not accept. If, as I written previously, it is accepted that the people are the supreme political authority, then logically whether any proposed law is acceptable or not cannot be left to politicians to decide – that decision can only be taken by the people. On the matter of ‘positive assent’ Richard North is quite correct to write that this should require a positive vote by the people before it can become law, especially where any new constitution is concerned – and where any attempt is made to negate the power of the people as the supreme political authority.

Richard North then moves on to the question of statutory instruments, a matter on which presumably part ii will deal with. However, while we await part ii, it should be remembered that statutory instruments are the means whereby central government uses these as the principal form through which secondary legislation is made to supplement Acts of Parliament.  Bearing in mind that under Direct Democracy central government will be limited to say 5/6 areas of responsibility, all of which would be subject to the threat of a referendum, then the need for and amount of  Statutory Instruments would fall dramatically — where they would still be permitted in any new constitution. Consider: if any Act is to be subject to the threat of a referendum, then should not proposals to amend, ‘tweak’, or add to the original Act also not be subject to a referendum?

It is worth digressing on the subject of referendums and looking at the effect they have in Switzerland where frequent referendums do have an influence on the way both parliament and government act. Experience shows that a party defeated in parliament will call for a referendum on a new law and that the chances are good that even a single one out of five major parties may win a referendum and block the new law, if it is too extreme. The German terms “Referendumsdrohung” [threat of referendum] and “mit Referendum drohen” [threaten to call for a referendum] cannot be found in dictionaries, but they are often used in Swiss newspaper reports on parliamentary debates .

Both the Swiss government and administration and the parliament do take the “threat of a referendum” into account. There is even a formalised method of opinion polling before a draft is even sent to the parliament. In German, it’s called “Vernehmlassungsverfahren” [procedure to hear opinions]. The reason is very simple: even the most sophisticated system of proportional election cannot guarantee that the opinions of the members of parliament are a true representation of people’s opinions in any possible political question. So in a parliamentary debate some arguments decisive in a referendum campaing might get lost or not be taken serious enough. The “Vernehmlassungsverfahren” gives a possibility to a broad spectrum of political parties, professional and cultural organisations etc. to put forward their wishes and views and to state where the limits for a threat of referendum are for them.

In the parliamentary debate these views are taken into account and usually a “typically Swiss compromise” is sought. If nobody is really happy with it, but almost everybody can live with it, chances are good that either nobody will call for a referendum or that the proposed law will at least be accepted by a majority of the electorate. But although all members of parliament know the system, sometimes a majority is still inclined to play the power game – and usually they will lose it.

Traditionally, the members of Switzerland’s government do present proposed laws both in parliament and (if it comes to a referendum) to the electorate, and they are expected to do so even if they personally disagree with the proposal and everybody knows they do. If the proposal is rejected in a referendum, then the issue is cancelled. Nevertheless, given a political system with referendums, it is definitely helpful to share executive power in a broad coalition of parties. So four of five major Swiss parties are represented in Switzerland’s 7-member government, and at present they have a two-thirds majority in the big chamber of parliament and a 100% majority in the small chamber. If these parties disagree – and they constantly do in Switzerland – the electorate will decide and the government will execute what has been decided. No need for a vote of confidence, no need for untimely elections. Just political stability.

Consideration needs to be given to the conditions under which any referendum is held. Thinking back to 1975, the referendum result was ‘skewed’ by outside influence, disparity twixt the financial clout of each side, coupled with  the influence of the media. It is of paramount importance that in any referendum, (a) sufficient time is allowed for debate; (b) it is necessary to mandate the amount of money that can be spent by either side; (c) equal access to the media, coupled with equality of media output: and (d) that any ‘outside’ input/interference is not allowed. Another issue which should be considered is the role of the government in a referendum campaign. Should the government be allowed to campaign for the outcome it supports? Can they or should they distribute their own promotional material or run government broadcasts outlining their views? Should there be a designated neutral source of information separate from the government and campaigners providing for the dissemination of non-partisan information about the issue? It is worth noting that in Switzerland when ballot papers are produced, along with those are included fair, un-biased, information sheets setting out the main points of each argument.

More to follow when part ii of Richard North’s article appears.


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2012
07/27

Category:
David's Musings

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As a result of

thinking that I am younger than I am……..

Richard North’s last post on Harrogate and the subject of local government, in which he links to Raedwald who in turn links to a paper by Simon Jenkins in 2004, means that I have quite a bit to say – but it will have to wait until tomorrow.

Readers must bear with me in that today has been a ‘physical day’, one involving ‘hard graft’ – which involved digging out an old bush and the roots (and which turned out to be the wrong one – *ahem*) – as a result of which my old body is presently suffering the ‘after effects’. Consequently I am off to to enjoy a long soak in the bath, accompanied by the obligatory glass of scotch and a book.

See y’all the morrow………


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