Posts tagged ‘nannying’

MPs drink ‘to point of oblivion’, official warns

A parliamentary culture of heavy drinking can see MPs “drinking to the point of oblivion” the person responsible for security and keeping order within the Commons has admitted as he faced calls to scrap subsidised drink in parliamentary bars.

The Serjeant at Arms told an MPs committee the Government should do more to rein in a boozing culture within Parliament.

He also faced calls to end cut price alcohol in parliamentary after one MP complained she had once been charged only £1 for a treble gin and tonic while in the Strangers’ Bar.

Mr Ward told the Administration Committee he was not a “killjoy” and recognised people with stressful jobs needed to let their hair down.

However he said: “I am not convinced that we couldn’t do more about the culture of drinking in Parliament,”

“I’m not some killjoy. But sometimes there has been an attitude in the past that it was acceptable, as part of that de-stressing process, to all go out and consume vast amounts of alcohol as part of that camaraderie and that letting down of the hair.

“There is nothing wrong with some of that, but the levels of drinking to the point of oblivion and all the rest of it is a culture which I don’t welcome in any workforce.

“The incidence of binge drinking, the quantities of alcohol, across society are beginning to diminish. I would hope that would be the same in Parliament.”

His concerns had been heightened by the actions of the MP for Falkirk, Eric Joyce.

He told MPs “There were many things in that incident that concerned me. One of them, quite clearly, the culture of heavy drinking.”

Madeleine Moon MP said ending the “high level of subsidy” enjoyed at parliamentary bars would help to curb drinking.

She said she got the “fright of my life” when she was charged only £1 for a treble gin and tonic when setting foot in the Strangers’ Bar two years ago.

The Institute for Employment Studies (IES) has been tasked by the Serjeant at Arms with finding ways to cut problem drinking in parliament – and its report is due later this year.

A parliamentary spokesman said: “Much like wider society, MPs accept that the moderate consumption of alcohol can be part of life.

“However, we always encourage sensible drinking and have a number of programmes designed to raise awareness and prevent alcohol misuse.”

Advice on the dangers of excessive drinking forms part of wider initiatives to encourage a healthy lifestyle among MPs, officials indicated.

Cheap drink and/or food is available to MPs and staffers in all parliamentary bars and restaurants and is subsidised.

NB: Some of the details of this story may have been changed.

Crawling out of the woodwork

Australia’s crusade to make their country more attractive to smugglers whilst trying to stop people using the product of the tobacco plant continues with the news that, as of now, people entering the country will only be allowed to bring in two packs of smokes under duty-free rules. Bring in anything more and you have a choice (ha!) between having your cigarettes stolen or your wallet looted.

Moving (physically although not spiritually) away from the convicts, it appears that the recent antics of the tobacco control fools in Tasmania has led to their real goal becoming more and more transparent – not that it was well disguised to the more realistic members of the proletariat.

Whilst it is perhaps no surprise that the government of Singapore* is considering a similar legislation to Tasmania, it seems that the Finns are also thinking about it as well. To someone who hasn’t kept as close eye as some on the tobacco control lobby this was more surprising but some googling reveals that Finland is something of an early adopter when it comes to controlling tobacco.

Lest however you think that this mania is just something Johnny Foreigner is getting himself worked up about, news emerges of something closer to home:

GUERNSEY is set to demonstrate ‘similarly bold measures’ to a potential ban on cigarette sales to anyone born after the year 2000, the Guernsey Adolescent Smokefree Project chairman has said.

GASP (how original!) is, I’m sure you’ll be shocked to hear, at least partly funded by the Guernsey taxpayer

This silliness though isn’t just confined to a group of islands too close to France for their own good.

Senior doctors and anti-smoking campaigners have told Sky News they are working towards making the UK a no smoking nation within the next 20 years.

Leading specialist Professor John Britton has called on the Government to back the goal, describing it as entirely realistic.

“Andrew Lansley could make himself a legacy greater than that of almost any other Health Secretary in history,” Professor Britton, who chairs the Royal College of Physicians Tobacco Advisory Group, said.

Yes folks, things have come so far in recent times that the ultimate goal of the tobacco control lobby is now openly admitted to after so many years of pretending otherwise whilst they incrementally shifted the goal posts just that little bit closer to their destination with the passing of each piece of dictatorial legislation.

I would say that alcohol will be next but that campaign, along with the one against the wrong types of food, has been underway for a while.

Forget the various bastardisations of the Pastor Niemoller quote, they have (unless you are a non-smoking, teetotaller who has never eaten anything unhealthy in your life) already come for you. Do you fight as they drag you off for re-education or do you meekly surrender and become the drone that they want you to be?

* Pretty much a dictatorship in all but name.

A new Battle of Bannockburn

Saturday last was the 698th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn and if it hadn’t been for my spotting of a piece of bureaucratic stupidity the day would have passed by completely unnoticed by this particular Sassenach.

For the last 80 years, nationalistic Scots have been commemorating the anniversary with various activities including a procession through the town to the site of the battlefield. Those taking part in the march are generally dressed in costume (either medieval or Jacobite) and carry a mixture of swords, axes, daggers and shields.

This year however Stirling council decreed that no weapons could be carried because of some apparent minor trouble last year:

However, following reports of an “incident” at last year’s march, where a car on the route was allegedly hit with a shield and a Union Flag was burned, Stirling Council ordered those taking part to lay down their arms, saying no weapons would be allowed to be carried during the march, even if they were safely sheathed in a scabbard.

A burnt flag and a damaged car? Obviously the sensible thing would have been to prosecute the individual(s) who participated in the property damage, ignore the flag burning and forget the whole business. However these are bureaucrats we’re talking about so sensible doesn’t come into it and instead they reached for rule one of the public sector law and order playbook: collective punishment.

Unsurprisingly this didn’t go down very well with those organising the march, especially as

Scots law allows Shetlanders to dress up as Vikings each year and march through the town armed with battleaxes during the Up Helly Aa festival, while Scots are allowed to carry the sgian dubh knife.

Ooops!

As expected the council tried to justify their decision with some weasel words:

A Stirling Council spokeswoman said: “Stirling Council respect the rights of organisations and individuals to celebrate their history and cultural traditions.

“But we also need to balance this with the rights of the general public to go about their daily lives safely and with minimal inconvenience.”

Oh look, some tripe about ‘respecting rights’ followed by a recourse to that old favourite: public safety. All copied and pasted right out of the government PR handbook for dealing with uppity members of the public.

The public however weren’t going to let this stand and some behind the scenes lobbying of both Stirling Council and the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) later a compromise was reached:

The National Trust for Scotland, who manage the battlefield, confirmed a compromise to allow weapons to be carried during the ceremony inside the heritage site – but not during the march.

An NTS spokeswoman said: “People bringing swords and other weapons will be allowed to keep them in their cars and take them out when they arrive at the battlefield.

“After the ceremony, they will have to put them away again if they want to go back into Stirling.”

In the end there were two marches:

for the purposes of clarity.. this year there will be TWO marches.
The first one.. which the SRSM [Scottish Republican Socialist Movement, Ed] have organised will be a NON weapons bearing event.. and will be assembling from the 1314 inn at 13:30 hrs

The second one, fopr those bearing weapons, sorted out by Garaidh Stiùbhart of the society of William Wallace will be assembling in the Bannockburn Heritage Centre carp park at 13:30 hrs.

Both marches will rendezvous at the rotunda for the commemoration!!!

I thing we can call that a partial win for the public but now that the council has tried this once, it is a fight which I expect will be repeated annually for a while yet.

Welcome to Nanny Town

Don’t let the theft of intellectual property by our sorry excuse for a government go unresisted.

No surprises allowed

With the hiding of tobacco products (no doubt to be followed by plain packing); minimum pricing on alcohol (no doubt to be followed by measures similar to those enacted against tabacco); the new idea to slap age certificates on pop videos and a myriad of other inanities which the UK population are going to be made to suffer, in part, because of the ‘think of the children’ lobby, it is surprising gratifying to come across a piece of draconian stupidity which has nothing to do with this government.

Instead I bring you the US government’s ban on Kinder Surprise eggs because of – you guessed it – the children:

As Easter approaches, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reminds international travelers not to bring any Kinder Surprise eggs into the U.S. Also known as Kinder Eggs, these chocolate treats may be cute and seasonal but they are too dangerous to children to be imported legally into the U.S. The problem is the small plastic toy inside the Kinder Egg. While sold in many countries, this product is banned from the U.S. because young children can choke on it.

Does anyone have any figures as to how many children have choked on the surprise inside of a Kinder Surprise? I would be surprised if the figure were even as high as 1 in 100.

Can someone please stop the world, I wont to get off!

Smoking ban petition

We petition the Government to review the impact of the smoking ban on pubs and clubs and consider an amendment that would give licensees the option of separate well-ventilated smoking rooms.

So reads the Review the Smoking Ban petition on the government’s e-petitions website.

I am no fan of the smoking ban, considering it to be a very bad piece of legislation designed solely to appease the anti-smoking lobby and grossly un-libertarian. I would therefore like to see the thing overturned but accept that to go from where we are now to where we were 5 years ago is sadly not going to happen given the puritanical bent that seems to run through the political and lobbying classes we currently have.

Given that, what this petition is calling for is probably a good first step, asking, as it does, for them to evaluate the fallout of their actions. Ok, we all know that governments like to look at the evidence and then do what they were going to do anyway but if it is out there, says what many suspect it does about the effect of the ban on the pub trade and has the government stamp on it then it’ll (hopefully) be harder for the anti’s to dismiss it.

On that basis I have signed it and I urge anyone who supports civil liberties, regardless of whether or not you smoke, to do likewise.

No sex please, we’re British

Political lobbying group and some time parenting site Mumsnet has been forced by its members to back track on its support for censoring pornography on the web. Needless to say this hasn’t pleased the new Conservative MP Claire Perry the “won’t someone think of the children” authoritarian nut job who is apparently the current cheerleader in parliament for such a scheme.

Why the change of heart?

It seems that pressure came from two directions. Firstly, the more technically savvy members threw their children’s toys out of the pram over the site’s bandwagon jumping, pointed out that as a result of the law of unintended consequences the site itself could well be filtered and downed tools – an action that resulted in no technical support for those in need. Secondly, a few members mentioned the obvious issue: that it is not the job of the state to raise children.

Strangely the second one didn’t appear to fly with one of the site’s founders:

“I think there have been some really valid points about workability raised here but the “this is the thin end of the wedge on censorship” one doesn’t make sense to me. We already censor loads of things in the name of child protection on the internet and elsewhere. Of course there are valid concerns about where you draw the line but you can’t deny that we do draw the line already all over the place – we censor illegal images, we rate dvds, we have a tv watershed.”

Who, unsurprisingly, completely misses the point. Don’t want young children to see pornography on the internet? Then don’t let them have a computer, x-box etc in their bedroom. Set up an account for them on the computer in the communal area that has proper filters in place to stop them seeing it. Don’t know how to do that? Then ask a friend, neighbour etc. Use some bloody initiative rather than expecting the state to act as backstop for your stupidity!

/takes blood pressure tablets and calms down.

Ahem.

Eventually however Mumsnet did decide that perhaps it had acted too hastily and the same person who posted the previously stupidity said:

“We are not going to back any solution… what we are interested in is protecting children online. However, everything we do on Mumsnet is a conversation and our opinions evolve with our users.”

Translation: We got our fingers burnt and next time we will talk to the membership before leaping on any passing bandwagons.

We aren’t of course out of the woods as yet. The government, in the shape of Culture Minister Ed Vaizey as well as the aforementioned Clarie Perry, is already talking to ISPs about getting them to filter the web. Perry, writing in the Telegraph, explains that she would like to see “a home network level ‘opt-in’ filter for internet porn”. Additionally the head of Ofcom (that government quango) said that, “given the technological convergence, if the ISP industry does not come up with a workable opt-in solution, regulation may be the only answer”.

Safermedia – a Christian charity (fake charity status unknown) also campaigning for internet filtering – said about the proposals:

I am surprised that parents would be critical of the campaign because the idea is to help parents. If internet users have to opt in to view pornography parents don’t have to worry about protecting their children from it… I think there has to be censorship to protect children. If you’re over 18 you won’t be censored [under the proposals]”

For crying out loud, when will you fools get it? You’ve recently been berating various countries like Egypt, Algeria and Tunisia for closing down the internet in order to try and stop anti-government protesters. You frequently complain about China locking down the internet and employing an army of thousands to police content as well as companies such as Google who have bowed to the regime there and acted as censors.

Even after all of that you want to employ similar tactics in this country? And all because of the emotive rallying cry of “Won’t someone think of the children”. In the name of the children we have the Criminal Records Bureau, the Independent Safeguarding Authority and others. Have they made children any safer from the paedophile that would otherwise be living under every bed and stalking the corridors of our schools, youth centres and any other place where children might go? No, of course they haven’t. All those bits of paper have done is ensure that innocent people are dismissed from their jobs and that children are being taught to fear all adults.

Can such a scheme even work? Well the Australian government under Prime Ministers Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard have been trying to do the same for some years now without success (as yet). It has been dogged by controversy with banned sites so far including such horrors as a dental practice and various education sites – quite amusing given that Stephen Conroy, the idiot charged with trying to implement the scheme, has said that it would be “100% accurate”. An opinion poll has suggested that over 90% of the Australian public don’t want the scheme and even children’s charities out there have dismissed it as a waste of money that could be better spent elsewhere.

In the end though it is not about the children – that is just a convenient hook to use and one that can be hard to argue against without being smeared as someone who supports child pornography and other such nonsense – but about control. The internet, allowing the rapid dissemination of information, is a threat to governments around the world regardless of how democratic they appear to be and for that reason they want to place limits on it.

Such behaviour must be resisted at all costs.

Making a mountain out of a molehill

Via Witterings from Witney comes this rather depressing tale of a dinner party. No, it isn’t the dinner party which is the problem, it is the massive over-reaction from the emergency services to something that wasn’t an emergency.

Assuming that Matthew Norman isn’t exaggerating matters we have a dozen members across three services pitching up at a non-event having presumably rushed there with their blues-and-two’s on and sirens blaring and a large number of opportunities to resolve the matter without a huge waste of time and effort going begging.

Let’s start from the beginning…

We have a fire in a flat and an alert neighbour or passer-by knocks on the door to notify the residents who proceed to quickly put it out before anything more than minor damage is done. Considering the matter resolved and after checking on the baby asleep in a different room they and their guests sit back down to continue eating.

However someone, perhaps the person who knocked on the door, has informed the porter who has dialled 999 without checking to see if it was really a necessary thing to do. Why? Probably because such a course of action has been drilled into them at the expense destroying any common sense.

Having been summoned, the fire brigade arrive and the hosts, rather than telling them ‘Thanks but the matter has dealt with’ and shutting the door, let them in and thereby surrendered control of the situation to the ‘professionals’.

Said professionals, deciding to make the most of the opportunity presented to them, did what all power hungry fools do and ensured that the resources poured into the situation didn’t go to waste. Instead of taking a quick look, agreeing with the owner’s assessment of the situation and departing, they evacuated the property, had the accompanying ambulance staff check out everyone including the baby and then lecture the mother on fire safety.

Mother, annoyed, responds – supposedly mildly – causing the fire brigade call for back-up from the police and as a result mother and baby are escorted by police to the hospital where upon staff there confirmed what has already been said and mother and baby are allowed to leave the next morning after being kept in over night for observation.

All told I make that five missed opportunities to stop the situation from escalating: firstly by the porter, secondly by the mother followed twice by the fire brigade and then finally by the police with the end of result being an utter waste of time and money and a tale that 9 people will no doubt dine out on for some time.

The only silver lining I can see is that plod didn’t feel the need to get social services involved but if I were the mother I’d be careful as no doubt something has found its way on to a database of theirs somewhere…

The moral of this story? Two actually. Firstly that people in uniform are no long the friend of the law abiding having been turned into target chasing drones with little or no initiative. Sure, not all of them are but as you can’t tell what sort you are dealing with at first glance always assume the worst. Secondly their authority does not extend past your front door unless you indicate otherwise or a court has agreed that they can legally force their way in – so don’t let them in if there is no need to.

A rose by any other name…

Amongst the many reasons to detest our former governing party was their propensity to tell people what they should be eating, drinking, thinking and doing. Their exit was greeted with a sigh of relief and the thought that such Nannying tendencies would be a thing of the past. Those of us who thought that (and I have to include myself in this) were wrong. Nanny is still there but has been renamed. Rather than hectoring us, our new government wishes to ‘nudge’ us.

Meet Richard Thaler from the University of Chicago, co-author of Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness and an economist who, as a leading exponent of ‘nudge theory’ has been advising David Cameron and his Orwellian sounding ‘Behavioural Insight Team’.

Nudge theory is described as being ‘libertarian paternalism’ and is, according to Wikipedia, about

help[ing] you make the choices you would make for yourself — if only you had the strength of will as well as the sharpness of mind. But unlike ‘hard’ paternalists, who ban some things and mandate others, the softer kind aims only to skew your decisions, without infringing greatly on your freedom of choice.

Well, they have the paternalism bit right, that’s for sure. All they have described is the process by which parents (should) raise their children without mentioning the inevitable discipline that is required when the boundaries are pushed too far.

One problem though – people who we legally consider to be adults are not children and thus should not be treated as such. Any attempt to skew my decisions towards something I don’t want to do is infringing on my freedom of choice. If I want to buy a round, eat food that isn’t health, donate my organs, give to charity or smoke I’ll bloody well do so because I want to – not because a politician such as Oliver Letwin has decreed that he would like to see me doing so.

This is not Libertarianism and can’t be. Libertarianism allows people to make their own choices (so long as they do not mean violence to another) and accepts that this will result in some mistakes being made. This is normal behaviour and is part of the how humans have learnt over the last x million years. You can advise that something that it is not a good idea but you can’t in anyway force them not to do it by removing that option.

Paternalism is control by another name. It is about reducing the level of choice available to someone simply because a busy body who thinks they know best has decided that some choices are ‘bad choices’ and that they should therefore be taken away.

The new government may have whitewashed Nanny and given her a new name but do not be fooled. She is still there, in the background, determined to interfere with and control the population and she must be resisted at all cost.