Archive for April 2011

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue

i was going to try and set my thoughts on the wedding down but The Snowolf articulated my feelings quite well last night and I don’t feel the need to add anything to it.

For those who want to something to add a little extra spice to the day, can I suggest the drinking game or a satirical look at what might happen if Kate left William at the altar.

Finally I wish the two of them, but most especially Kate, the best of luck. They will need it. I do not at all envy Kate what she will have to endure for the rest of her life as pressure mounts for first an heir and then when she eventually becomes Queen.

Local Election 2011 Round-Up: Green Party

Two of the rules I try to live by with elections are:

1) If you don’t bother even trying to obtain my vote – either by canvasing or something as simple as sticking a leaflet through my door – then I don’t see why I should bother voting for you, and
2) I would prefer it if those seeking election lived within the area that they wished to represent.

I realise that the latter is perhaps easier for a constituency MP wannabes than local councillor wannabes but it would be nice to see an effort being made.

On that basis I look at the list of individuals who are standing for election in my council ward on May 5th with some dismay. The five individuals standing consist of a representative from the three big parties (Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrats) as well as one from the Green’s and an Independent. Of these, two (the Conservative – who lives about as far away from the ward as it is possible to get given that this ward is fairly central within the borough – and the Independent – the current councillor) fall foul of my second wish, whilst only the Green party candidate has so far (with seven days to go) fulfilled the first.

If I am to stick to my principles then it currently looks like the watermelon or bust. On that basis I’d better see what the Green has to say for himself in his election leaflet* on the off chance it appeals.

The first signs are not good. His slogan is “Fighting for a fair deal for people and the planet” but I have no context to go with the term ‘fair’. Does he mean the dictionary definition or that spouted by the ‘progressives’? Perhaps the rest of this leaflet will make it clear.

Next we get his biographical details, confirming he does live in the ward (nice to know), works as a lecturer (uh oh) and keeps himself occupied with an allotment, being a home brewer (this alone might make me like him) and write (a google search turns up one book on the aforementioned home brewing). The search also turns up an appearance (length unknown) in the Oz Clarke and Hugh Dennis program ‘Oz and Hugh Raise the Bar’. Add to this the fact that he is a trade union activist who manages to ‘regularly organise campaigns and represent people at work’ and he certainly comes across as a busy little beaver. I wonder how he manages to find the time to actually lecture students. Or is he a full time unionista paid for by the taxpayer? And if that isn’t enough he has also managed to produce three sprogs – something which doesn’t appear to fit with the greenie over-population agenda.

So, enough about him. What about what he stands for? Sorry, no, he seems to have forgotten to put that on this leaflet. Instead the next bullet point tells me that he believes

… that local people need a strong voice in the face of job and service cuts locally, to protect our environment as well as bringing back accountability to local politics.

Now, admittedly, I haven’t been keeping my ears to the ground regarding local politics (Julia manages this far better than I) but as a non-user of almost any service provided I don’t recall any wailing and gnashing of teeth about any ‘cruel’ cuts made by the council so I think I can assume that the locals generally think nothing too onerous is happening. As for the environment, the ward is a concrete jungle so there isn’t a lot to protect as far as I see it and as regards accountability it sounds like a nice idea but I’ll believe that when I see it. Without lots of power being returned from the centre in Westminster and until councillors become directly responsible for services rather than being stuck at arms length behind the local chief executive and their staff that statement is a pipe dream.

On the reverse of the leaflet he then proceeds to parrot what I can only assume is the official Green party line as it talks about an ‘alternative to this governments (sic) cuts agenda’, ‘bring[ing] new thinking and fresh ideas’ via their MP and MEPs and a ‘sense of urgency about the truly important things in life’ without any clarifying of these airy sounding phrases. I’m also told the position of the Green Party regarding the AV referendum.

All in all I don’t think that I’ll be bringing myself to put a cross next to this candidate next Thursday. Looks like it’ll be a spoilt ballot paper at this rate.

* Assuming you can call the postcard sized piece of ‘greencoat paper using vegetable inks’ a leaflet?

An Easter Fantasy

Invited to fill the Thought for the Day spot on the Today show on Radio 4 on Maundy Thursday, the Archbishop of Canterbury (for the moment Rowan Williams) took the opportunity to preach about charity.

Starting from the traditional Maundy Thursday rite of washing the feet of the poor Williams said that it exists to remind the powerful

… that power constantly needs to be reminded of what it’s for. Power exists, in the Church or the state or anywhere else, so that ordinary people may be treasured and looked after, especially those who don’t have the resources to look after themselves.

Ordinary people may be ‘treasured and looked after’? Really? If by that he means that I shouldn’t have to worry about being persecuted by an overwhelming state and/or religion then I can agree with him. If however he thinks it means a religion and/or state has the right to protect me from myself than he can take a log walk off of a short pier. Ordinary people don’t need to be looked after, they mostly just want to get on with their lives with as little interference as possible from do-gooders who think they know better.

And those who don’t have the resources to look after themselves? Before anyone calls me a heartless cow, can we please differentiate between those who are unable to help themselves and those who choose not to? The former should be supported (and I hope that I will be hard pressed to find someone who disagrees on that) whilst the latter shouldn’t be. If you choose to opt out of taking responsibility for yourself I don’t see why I or anyone else, indirectly via either state of religion, should support you.

He then goes on to extend this thought with the following suggestion:

What about having a new law that made all cabinet members and leaders of political parties, editors of national papers  and the hundred most successful financiers in the UK, spend a couple of hours every year serving dinners in a primary school on a council estate? Or cleaning bathrooms in a residential home? Walking around the streets of a busy town at night as a street pastor, ready to pick up and absorb something of the chaos and human mess you’ll find there especially among young people?

Seriously? I know that my English, first language or not, isn’t brilliant but I could have sworn that charitable activities are voluntary acts, done by people who want to help rather than being forced to do so by an overarching state because otherwise they will be punished in some way – not that he indicates what sort of consequence he envisages for disobedience.

Lets go back to his list of potential ‘charitable’ acts though. Serving dinners in a primary school? Cleaning bathrooms in a residential home? I think we call those two activities jobs. Minimum wage jobs they might be but they are still paid employment so where is the sense in wanting people to do them ‘voluntarily’? Is he really advocating reducing the potential employment activities for the unskilled end of the workforce? That doesn’t strike me as particularly charitable.

It is only the last example that can be accurately described as a voluntary activity and if people wish to do that then more power to their elbows. The uniformed social workers (police) who usually have to deal with the violent and rowdy or incapable drunks will probably welcome the assistance.

The muddled thinking moves towards a conclusion with this pair spectacularly unthought through sentences:

I’ve no doubt some of our public figures do this sort of thing privately, and good for them.  But maybe having to do it, to do it in public and not to be able to make any sort of capital out of it because they had no choice?

If someone is doing good deeds privately then they are deliberately choosing not to make any capital out of it, thus making a lie of the second. If people were forced to do their charitable deeds in public then I can foresee it turning into nothing more than a glorified photo-op in the case of several people, such as politicians and ‘celebrities’. Anyone else remember a certain catwalk model’s community service? Turned into fashion shoot if I recall correctly.

Well, perhaps that’s just a nice fantasy to mull over during the holiday weekend.

And long may it remain so! Forcing people to do charitable acts will just result in resentment on the part of those forced and thoughts of ‘only here because s/he has to be’ on the part of the recipient. Coercion would not be acceptable in any other job so why should it be so because you happen to be rich or ‘powerful’?

May I kindly suggest to the Archbishop that he sticks to his job and doesn’t stick his head above the parapet again unless he has actually thought about what it is that he is saying?

Constituency MP Bothering – The Reply

Last month I mentioned I’d written to my MP regarding the Westminster Hall debate of March 17th this year. His reply finally dropped through my letter box on Thursday so, as promised, here is his reply:

Dear Ms MG,

Thank you for your letter regarding the debate on the Bill of Rights, which I have read carefully. I very much understand your concern and as such will pass them on to the Lord Chancellor. I will contact you again as soon as I receive a response.

In the meantime, if you have any questions or think that I can be of any further assistance in relation to this matter, please do not hesitate to contact me.

With all best wishes,

Yours sincerely,
<My MP>

Ignoring the irritating use of the ‘Ms’ (I’m unmarried and am perfectly happy to be referred to as ‘Miss’) he has, so far as I am aware, done all that can be done by a backbencher and raised the matter with the minister concerned. What Ken Clarke intends to do about it – if anything – is anyone’s guess but hopefully my MP will keep his word about passing on any reply.

ASI Bloggers’ Bash 2011

Along with several other reprobates I shall be sticking my nose around the door here this evening:

Blogging: Yesterday’s news?

Speakers:

  • Tim Montgomerie – ConHome
  • Douglas Carswell MP – TalkCarswell.com
  • Harry Cole – Guido Fawkes blogger

Date: 21st April 2011
Time: 6.30pm to 8.30pm
Location: The Emmanuel Centre, Marsham Street, SW1P 3DW

Tim Montgomerie, the editor of ConservativeHome, will be joined by blogger and MP for Clacton, Douglas Carswell, and former ToryBear and current news editor of order-order.com, Harry Cole. In the light of the decline of centre-right bloggers and growth of mainstream media blogs they will discussing the future of the blogosphere.

There will no doubt be drinking afterwards…

Pointless voting

No, this isn’t a post on AV. :-)

Yesterday, April 13th, saw the result of two rather pointless votes.

In the first, much trumpeted by the Labour party and their media arm, the delegates at the spring conference of trade union that is the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) delivered a vote of no confidence in the current Secretary of State for Health Andrew Lansley.

Obviously a union voting against a Conservative minister is up there with ursine defecatory habits and the religious orientation of the Pope in terms of news but much was made of the decisiveness: some 96.1% of attendees (and 98.8% of those voting) agreed with the motion. A very impressive margin but one that does deserve closer inspection however.

The RCN has approximately 400,000 members. Obviously not all of these were in the Socialist Republic of Liverpool for this vote but how many were there? 10%? 5%? Sorry too high. Only 497 members, a little over one tenth of 1% of the membership, were in the hall at the time the vote was taken.

Suddenly it doesn’t look very impressive does it? “0.12% of union nurses pass vote of no confidence in the Secretary of State” is hardly newsworthy.

I’ll accept that the sentiments expressed may be held, if not in such percentages, within the greater RCN membership but the sample size on display is so statistically insignificant that it is not worth Lansley, authoritarian incompetent that he is, losing any sleep over.

The second, much less mentioned, vote yesterday was for the successor to hapless Aaron Porter as the President of the National Union of Students (NUS). In terms of relevance this can be ranked up there with the results of the local parish vegetable growing competition given that most students couldn’t give a fig which wannabe politician is currently claiming to represent them.

The President of the NUS is not elected directly by the membership but instead by delegates of the various universities who are themselves elected on turnouts that, from what I recall of my own student days*, struggle to break into four figure territory as apathy, rather than discredited far left wing ideology, tends to be the political opinion of most.

These votes are not representative democracy in action but rather two minorities taking the results of a vote that polled only a minuscule percentage of their membership and dressing it up in such a way as to have others believe that it means something.

They don’t.

NHS reform is necessary and will happen eventually regardless of the conservatism of the RCN (and the other medical unions) on the matter whilst students, having already not stopped going to university in huge numbers after the introduction fees under the last government, will continue to apply accepting that higher fees are simply part of the deal.

* The NUS is the only union of which I have ever been a member (by dint of being an undergraduate) and I do recall inquiring as to whether it was possible to opt out to membership. Sadly, as to do so would have theoretically excluded me from using the union facilities (i.e. the subsidised bars), I didn’t follow through.

Children? We don’t need no stinkin’ children!

That the watermelon*, sorry green, movement is no fan of humanity – and the progress we have made since we first figured out how to rub two sticks together to make fire – should come as no surprise to anyone. Indeed one of their catechisms is that the sheer number of us (rapidly approaching 7 billion) means that we are looking at a Malthusian nightmare in the not too distant future.

For those who need the history lesson, Thomas Malthus was a British scholar who proposed the theory that continual population growth would eventually result in a situation whereby humanity would not be able to feed itself.

Needless to say such a situation has yet to present itself and mankind has so far managed to make supply keep up with demand** but that hasn’t stopped people continuing to insist that it will come to pass as the population surges towards an estimated 9 billion by 2050.

It is therefore didn’t particularly surprise me yesterday when I saw that Chris Packham was in the papers advocating population controls.

Like Malthus he believes we should stop breeding in the UK because the projected figure of 70 million people on this island come 2020 is too many. I know it maybe a typical complaint to say that we are all full up but the UK does not have a particularly high population density, weighing in at 53rd all told which is behind a number of smaller European countries and an awful lot of Asian ones. The UKs problem is that our infrastructure (dating back to the Victorian Era in places) needs a major overhaul, not just lots of tinkering around the edges.

Returning to the subject, Packham suggests that a slower population growth be achieved by the use of tax breaks to those who elect to go childless or settle for only one. If he is advocating that people should pay only for the services that they consume (rather than fixed percentages based on income) then I’m right behind him. Seems a much fairer way of collecting money wouldn’t you say? He isn’t of course, in much the same way as he made no mention of reducing, let alone scraping, Child Benefit which is paid to all those who breed. Or was until yesterday – now it is restricted to those not in the upper tax brackets.

No, Chris is more concerned about the other species with which we share this planet:

Fact is, we all eat food, breathe air and require space, and the more of us there are, the less of those commodities there are for other people and, of course, for the animals.”

And of course doing his best for the environment:

If I didn’t recycle and shop locally, I couldn’t see the point of being human.

Laudable aims but not being able to see the point of being human if he didn’t do those things? Oh please, do the achievements of the human race mean nothing to you? Is everything you buy locally sourced locally? No out of season fruit and vegetables? Nothing imported from other countries? None of which would be possible without the accomplishments humanity has made since that first stick rubbing moment.

What Chris seems to forget is that nothing slows a birth rate more than industrialisation. As we get healthier, better educated and live longer we no longer need to produce large families in order to ensure that some of the children make it to adulthood. With birth rates in the developed world already dropping below replenishment levels the majority of the population increase in this country is going to be coming through immigration and the children of these first generation immigrants.

If Chris really wants to slow the rate of population increase then can I suggest he devotes his efforts to ensuring that Africa starts industrialising? With China and India are already moving in the right direction, it just needs that basket case of a continent to play catch up.

All in all it wouldn’t surprise me if Chris were a fully paid up member of the The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement. Which is fine by me as it just means more for the rest of us and our descendants.

* Thank you James Delingpole for that most excellent throwaway.

** Anyone who mentions Ethiopia here will be up against the wall soon after Bono and Geldof. Clear?

Rally against Debt

Many of you may have heard about this already via various social media outlets but for those who haven’t Rally against Debt is a response to those misguided individuals in the UK Uncut who seem to think that the money tree is never going to run out.

The organisers describe it as follows:

A well mannered, polite rally for civilised people who don’t wish to see their hard earned money being spent on pointless government initiatives and instead would like government spending to actually fall and our national debt to be cut.

We don’t think that it’s fair for us to continue borrowing money to live a lifestyle that we simply can’t afford – burdening our children with unnecessary debt that they will have to pay back.

Any visits to Fortnum and Mason’s by protesters will only be to marvel at their selection of quality goods and perhaps make the occasional purchase.

Bonfires will be strictly forbidden: it’s out of season anyway.

Trips to see Vodafone and other high street chains will result in congratulations to the company for providing jobs and growth in the UK.

The march will be in London on 14th May 2011 from 1100 and although I doubt that the numbers will reach those bussed into town by the TUC on 26th March it will be good to show that there are some of us who understand that the current climate of spending, as continued by the new government, is not sustainable.

Hope to see you there.

Website: http://rallyagainstdebt.org/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=204678962884261
Twitter: #RallyAgainstDebt or #RAD