Tag Archives: politics

Putting the Government back in its place

Tuesday. So the Supreme Court says Parliament must give Article 50 go-ahead. This of course doesn’t change the (in my opinion, flawed) result of last summer’s referendum, but it is a reassuring reality-check to the Government and our unelected Prime Minister that they can not ignore the sovereignty of parliament. I am realistic enough that with the Labour Party’s disappointing (if unavoidable) stance on whether or not to support the invoking of Article 50 to begin the negotiations with the EU to agree the the terms of leaving, today’s announcement won’t do much to change our seemingly inevitable way out of Europe.

I do hope though, that this might be the beginning of an uneasy road. I think there is still a real chance that that the arguments of how and when of Brexit will lead to it never happening. Invoking Article 50 wil have to go Parliament and then to Lords. If it’s controversial enough with ammendments in the former, surely there’s more chance that it will be thrown out of the Pro-EU Lords? And again, maybe? All we need is for it go on long enough to delay Theresa May’s March deadline and suddenly the two year negotiation period with the EU is looking like ending a bit to close to the date of the next General Election. Might our unelected Prime Minister then choose to go the polls early, and then all bets are off. In that instance I would have thought a minority government of any persuasion is increasingly likely.

Whilst not dismissed altogether, there is still a chance that the results of last year’s EU referendum will be pushed off into the long grass for some year’s come.

To this end, I have written to both Jeremy Corbyn:

I have been a Labour Party member since the aftermath of the 2015 General Election and have voted twice for you as leader (even if I do have reservations about your stance the EU, the Referendum, and “Brexit”.

Following today’s supreme court ruling over invoking Article 50, I am writing to you to urge you allow a free-vote of Labour MPs when it comes to legislation for invoking Article 50. It is clear that the government do not yet have a plan for the negotiations with the EU, or what happens if agreement can not be reached.

As far as I see it we should spend as long as is needed before activating the ticking clock of two years after which we will be out with or without a deal. I cannot see how, at the current stage of things, that the government have time to do all of that within the allotted two years.

A free vote of your MPs is necessary to allow those who feel they need to vote in a way as to represent their constituencies can do so.

…and my local MP, Victoria Prentis:

Following today’s supreme court ruling over invoking Article 50, I am writing to you to urge you vote AGAINST invoking Article 50. The EU Referendum was always only an advisory rather than mandatory referendum and was not legally binding. It is also becoming increasingly clear that were it held again barely more than 6 months on, that it would have gone the other way. You yourself voted in favour of remaining in the EU and your constituency only voted to leave by just 500 votes (and was the only Oxfordshire constituency to do so).

If we are to leave the EU, then it is absolutely clear that we MUST have a clear plan for what life post-EU will look like. It has become clear that the government does not yet have a plan for the negotiations with the EU, or what happens if agreement can not be reached. Further to this, we HAVE to have this plan before Article 50 is invoked, because even if this means spending as long as is needed before activating the ticking clock of two years after which we will be out with or without a deal. I cannot see how, at the current stage of things, that the government have time to do all of that within the allotted two years.

For this reason I urge you to vote against activating Article 50 whenever this vote is called.

Observing with interest

Observing with interest

So Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn said some things to today that have confused me. He’s come out and said that Britain doesn’t necessary need free movement of workers and access to the single market. He’s also said that there should be a cap to the very highest earners. On this latter point, my problem with that is if you cap the wages of the highest paid you also cap the potential taxes you could get from them.

I voted for Corbyn, and I dislike the way that PLP have refused to get behind him, but I am beginning to get concerned by him. Sherlock actor, Martin Freeman, puts it very well in an interview in this week’s Radio Times:

The thing is, for me as a Labour supporter, he said a lot of things that I’ve been waiting for a Labour leader to say for years and years and years. But you also have to look at practicality, you know, so I’m observing that with interest.


On the fourth day of advent: getting political

Michelle Harison, author of the 13 Treasures trilogy and the ever so scary Unrest shared the petition to save the arts in schools. I have done, and I’ve also written to my MP, and this is why we need a campaign to change the proposed new EBacc qualification.

I confess that I do sit in a slightly odd place when it comes to arts education because I did the creative subjects all the way through my degree, and then struggled to find work. Now part of it was *something else* that sat like an elephant in the corner of the room stopping me from doing well in interviews but I do think that probably too many people do go onto study the arts at a higher level. That said, I also think that children – at school – are forced to pass exams and specialise too early in an increasingly narrow set of academic disciplines and that is just not healthy. At school, children should carry on with the widest selection of subjects for as long as possible. Sorry, I’ve rambled, but as you might be able to tell, I’m a little bit passionate about this subject…

Wherein I defend Amazon

There’s been a lot of fuss in the news about Amazon (and Google, Starbucks and the like) not paying their taxes and even calls for a boycott. I don’t see what the problem is. Yes, morally, they are probably being a tad questionable but they’re not doing anything illegal! As far as I can see you have three options:

  1. put up, and shut up, they’re not doing anything illegal
  2. boycott amazon – yes you could, but like all boycotts it would have to be total in order to have any effect and that’s never going to happen
  3. change the law – clearly this has been an oversight going back to a time when business wasn’t as international as it is now. Just change it now to be: if you choose to operate in a country, whether that be with a base in the country or just selling to the people of the country, you pay the taxes in that country. Yes you may find some businesses leaving, but I find in Amazon’s case that’s unlikely

So stop flippin’ complaining and change the law to address the problem!

Lords reform: an alternative system

So, the powers that be continue to talk about reform of the House or Lords. It has to be said that I think I am, too, against a wholly or partly elected second chamber to UK politics. But I think I have a solution.

Firstly, all positions of office should be for fixed terms and there should be some safe guard that contacts made whilst in office do not put holders in an advantageous position afterwards either in business or pursuing a career in elected politics.

The House of Lords should be apolitical

The make up of the second chamber should be one of people appointed to hold a term of office. This should be done in two ways:

  • appointed by some apolitical means of people with knowledge/respect of business, profession and academia.
  • appointed from the general population in a similar way as with jury service, and employers would be required to honour this with time off on full pay

Does this sound like a truly fair system to you? Or am I missing something obvious (other than yes, it is a good system, and therefore has no chance of being brought in)…?


I’ve just got back from a public exhibition at the Littlebury Hotel in Bicester by some developers calling themselves Albion Land, who are proposing to build what is essentially an industrial estate/distribution centre on greenfield land that is laughably earmarked for Eco Bicester. If I don’t count the auto-email facilities offered by the various campaign websites, tonights joke of an exhibition (if a dangerous joke) has prompted me to write to my MP about it, copied here…

Firstly, I am all for appropriate development in Bicester and improving the employment opportunities in the town, however this proposal is quite simply the wrong development, in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

There is already an existing proposal to move the main Tesco store across the road as part of a business park on land next to Bicester Avenue. This is an excellent location for office development. There is also land off Launton road and surrounding the large DHL building that would be a good location for other industrial/storage distribution. I also understand the MOD would like to sell some of the land near to Graven Hill – and this would be perfect for industrial use as there would be possibility for it to use the existing rail tracks in that area.

The site off Howes Lane that Albion Land are proposing to develop is situated on the far side of Bicester from the town centre and much of the traffic would be coming in from the M40 at Junction 10 and through Middleton Stoney, or through the middle of Bicester from Aylesbury. People working at this site would also drive into Bicester at lunchtime, whereas other sites would be within easy walking distance.

From talking to the representatives from Albion Land tonight I conclude that:

  • they have not bought the land
  • they do not have outline planning permission
  • they have little or no local knowledge of Bicester (they were unable to answer several simple questions that I would have expected them to know the answer to)

This land is already earmarked for the Eco Bicester development but the company seem to have little concept of what is expected of an ‘eco’ development beyond that of building warehouses to the latest design constructions. Where is the Eco in encouraging the transport of goods by road on roads that are not designed for those kind of vehicles?

Furthermore, if development is to take place on the Howes Lane land it should only be after other suitable sites have already been used as part of the continued growth of Bicester.

I am writing to you to request that you oppose this development at every opportunity in favour of more appropriate developments that will actually enhance the future of Bicester as a market town in Oxfordshire.

Of course I’m not expecting the Right Honourable (sic.) Tony Baldry to do anything – he’s a true blue and just as dim – and probably in bed with tweedledum and tweedledee at Albion Land…

The Open Web

It’s good to see the father of the internet Tim Berners-Lee urging the government to stop the snooping bill. I really hope they listen.

What I don’t understand is why the government think that it’s going to make the world a safer place to know the ins and outs of everything we do and say online. Yes, I know that bad people are planning bad things via the internet, just they are doing exactly the same thing on the phone, in the back rooms of pubs, and front rooms across the country. And you know what, they always will, for as long as there are bad people in the world. But this doesn’t mean that they need to snoop on us all. If it does, why do they not have a civil servant standing in the corner of all our front rooms and public houses taking notes of everything we say?

And how many years has the Royal Mail been in existence? Never have they seriously suggested that the government should be keeping a record of every piece of post that is delivered. Even if they did, unless they made it compulsory for every piece of mail to have not just the recipient’s details displayed on the front, but also the the sender’s and a brief subject line of what it’s about. So why are email and online transactions any different? It just doesn’t make sense.

Never knowingly under-educated

I really thought I had the slipped through some wormhole in time and ended up on April Fool’s Day when I read this article on how the conservative Policy Exchange thinktank thinks that teachers should run John Lewis-style schools for profit. Excuse me?

Have our government been spending so much time in John Lewis that they think everything should be run on that model? Don’t misunderstand me, I think the John Lewis is great … for shops. For schools, not so much…

Teachers should be encouraged to take a stake in John Lewis-style partnerships to run state schools as profit-making enterprises, according to proposals outlined by the conservative Policy Exchange thinktank.

What’s wrong with forgetting about league tables and selection and making all schools equally as good as each other. There would of course be some fluctuation from year to year, and place to place, some would be better, some would be not so good, and others would be on average, good. But that’s not going to happen is it!

Confused over film funding

I am confused by Cameron’s latest call for film funding to only go to commercially successful films in the future. Many have already raised the issue better than I can that you can’t predict what is going to become a blockbuster. It’s not that much of an exact science, and if it was then everyone would be doing it.

The announcement completely misses the point as far as I can see. The Film Council or BFI or whoever it is who dishes out the lottery funding these days are there, surely, in part to support parts of the film industry who would not be able to get films funded without their help. So by their nature they are going to be the riskier, more arty, independent films. If they were guaranteed commercially successful then they would be able to get funding from other means and wouldn’t need lottery support.

Non-event political announcements

So, David Cameron plans to curb ‘fat cat’ pay with people power? Or rather, when you look into it, he plans to allow shareholders to be able to veto the pay awards of chief executives. I guess, shareholders may include the wishes of ordinary people on low pay, but most shareholder power tends to be where the most shares are held, ie. the people who are higher paid and who have the self-interest of going to get paid the higher pay-awards.

All in all, a fine example of a political announcement designed to look like fairness and change, but which will actually change very little!

On the ninth day of advent: the Euro question

I find myself under the impression that our knobhead of a Prime Minister has done just about the most prattish thing he has ever done. Regardless of the the rights and wrongs of the situation Cameron really does seem to have spectacularly missed the point. I do believe him though, when he says, “I could not put this to my government”. Too right you couldn’t! Because you know what a can of worms that would open up.

The truth is we don’t really know what the butthead really thinks about Europe, because he’s too afraid of the argument that that would provoke amongst his backbenchers. What annoys me is not that we might now be out on our own or not when it comes to EU decisions, but that the decision has been taken by one man (yes, he has advisers, but apparently John Major only had the advice that he did have in a similar situation because he smuggled an adviser under the table cloth), and that His decision has nothing to do with the rights and wrongs of the situation in question but everything to do with his own party loyalty and his future as leader of that party.

Tax Shouldn’t Be Taxing

I’ve had this idea mulling around in my head for a few years now. I have no idea if its an original thought, or if I heard it somewhere, but it does seem to be an excellent idea – if the sums add up. That said it’s a bit on the alarmingly revolutional and would need some clever selling to get it past people.

The idea is that we cut the system down to the simplest system and in doing so save (probably) millions and millions of pounds every year on beaurocracy. All benefits (except maybe specialist benefits?) should be scrapped and we have one single tax rate for all. How is this possibly I hear you ask? Well, it is decided, probably annually, what is the minimum amount of money that an adult in the UK needs to live. That’s at a basic level, no frills and no excess, but an ability to exist on good wholesome food and accommodation.

For the purposes of this example I’m going to say that the basic living cost is £10k a year for everyone of 18 years and over (this is taken from something I heard on yesterday PM programme – that if you earn the minimum wage and nothing else, that’s what it equates to).

Under my system, the State gives every adult in the UK, irrespective of employment, a credit of £10k per annum, paid monthly by BACS (I believe there’s already a preposed policy/plan that everyone has a ‘basic’ current account if they haven’t got their own), and then any income they derive from their job is taxed at universal tax rate of 50%. Before everyone runs screaming at the unfairness of it, think about it…

Pay of £15k – 50% tax = £7.5k + £10k State Credit = £17.5k Net income

Even pay of £25k – 50% tax = £12.5k + £10k State Credit = £22.5k Net income

However, pay of £40k – 50% tax = £20k + £10k State Credit = £30k Net income

…you see how this is working? Proper redistribution of wealth, and a simple system to boot!

Edited to add: The level of the State Credit would have to be very carefully worked out so that it was the bare minimum for someone to live on (remember, under this scheme there would be no additional benefits available) but wouldn’t allow for any kind of luxuries. Thus, the need to work would be there to pay for, eg. beer money, books, music, cinema, holidays, meals out, etc… It would however mean that one could afford to give up work to leave work, retrain, and get new work in a new area.

So Mr President…

With the news the Lisbon treaty has now been ratified by all 27 European states it looks likely (nothing is absolutely certain when it comes to Europe it seems) that we will be getting a new president now, but not one for whom we can all vote for. I don’t pretend to know an awful lot about European politics, but I would consider myself generally as a Europhile rather than a Europhobe, however it does seem to me that if a President of Europe has great powers (and why else would they not, if its worth having one at all?), then you should probably have that person elected by the population of Europe.

Of course, the media are unable to talk about Europe without also mentioning what effect it will have to our next general election. It amuses me that everyone is talking about a Tory victory as an all-but-certainty. Yes, the opinions state it, but I’m not so sure its a full gone conclusion. It could actually be one of our most interesting elections for a lifetime, with, I would have thought a stronger certainty of a hung parliament than a Tory victory. And if not a hung parliament, certainly a minority win for whichever party, and I’m really not sure that its assured to be a Conservative win…

The Nuclear Debate

And about time too!

Yes, I know it seems like an unpopular thing to say, but the truth is, if we are stand any chance of stopping the planet rise in temperature by the crucial 2 degrees (as it is, highly unlikely because it has already risen by .7° and forecast to go up another .7° shortly) then we have to end our reliance on the carbon-polluting energy sources – and end it soon.

There’s not much we can do about alternatives to aircraft fuel, sadly, apart from hike the prices up to their ‘real’ levels and make people fly less (particularly when there is a land (London to Edinburgh) or virtual/web-conferencing (that hour long meeting in the US office) alternative.

We can do something about all other forms of energy. Bio-fuels are of limited use because of the quantities in which they would be needed. I forget where I read this, but apparently in order to fuel all the cars in Britain, you would need to carpet every inch of the UK in oilseed rape.

Renewable energy should play its part, and we should look to developing all forms of this but at a local level. Estuary barriers and huge escarpments of wind farms are not the answer, but wind farms around and on industrial centres or local solutions for local needs should be highly encouraged. We should be aiming to power all forms of electricity by non-carbon means. And then there are cars. What can we do about cars? Clearly renewable energy (in its current form) can’t solve the problem entirely, and so we have to revisit nuclear. With nuclear energy, yes it has its downsides, but it isn’t carbon-polluting, and its reliable. It can also produce hydrogen fuel cells. And with hydrogen fuel cells we can power all our cars, buses, lorries, trains.

Quite simply, it might be leave a sour taste in the mouth, but nuclear is (at the current) time, our only option. And it’s not just me that thinks so.

The end of the Flash Gordon references

So we won’t be getting any parodies of titanic fights between (Flash) Gordon Brown and (Ming) Menzies the Merciless at the next election. Amusing though to reflect on David Cameron saying, in response to the news, that ‘he was a “fine public servant” who had had a distinguished parliamentary career, and wished him well for the future. Yeah, right, Dave. You’re just now sh*t scared that the LibDems are going to get a leader who is equally as youthful and image conscious as you (not that politics should be about image but sadly it is) and your poll-rating is going to flop back down as people realise just how much the Tories haven’t changed.

Maybe it’s because money isn’t the thing that drives me but…

I don’t really understand what the fuss is all about as regards the recently announced changes to capital gains tax. Yes, I can see how if money, and in particular maximising money, is your key driving force in your life, how this change is going to effect you. Sure the capital gains tax is being is being raised by 80% but its being raised from 10% to 18%. If your business is even only moderately successful then you are still getting to keep over 80% of profits.

Yes, some investors might be less sure of investing their money in a business after this goes ahead, but isn’t that really a good thing? If anything it will mean that those people investing businesses will be doing so because they believe in the business and are in it for the long haul (rather than being out for the fast buck) which has got to be a whole lot more ethical and a sustainable way to do business.

Sheltering under bus stops

1. At about 3.30 this afternoon it absolutely pissed it down with rain, and my heart sank. By 4 o’clock though it had cleared up to a mild drizzle, and there was even a wee bit of blue sky visible somewher over the centre of town as I left OUP via the quad. It was all lies though. Damn lies and deception. Back on the Woodstock Road and the heavens opened with big clunking rain drops. I battled on, in my waterproofs, until when I almost at the ringroad, and where I have to cross-over, I found myself a bus stop to cycle straight into and stop under. I stayed there and sheltered for a while but it didn’t really ease off so in the end I made a run for it (or should I say ‘a cycle for it’…)

2. So we have a new Prime Minister. Well I wish him well. Certainly Gordon Brown can’t be any worse than Tony Blair. The thing is I am actually still broadly in favour of the Labour party. They’ve not been as radical and as socialist as I would have liked, and they have had a lying, deceitful, dangerous and deluded leader at the helm for ten years, but even so, I do still feel better off (both me, and also as a country) and the country does seem to be moving in the right direction – broadly speaking.

3. I was thinking. People often complain about about Labour (and the Lib Dems) moving increasing to the centre and right-of-centre ground, but actually you could look at as being where they have to be in a country that has become broadly conservative. I guess it all depends on whether there is still a left-right movement throught the parties. I wonder how much Labour has taken the country to the right, and how much the country and taken Labout…?

Democracy R.I.P.

So Greg Dyke has resigned as Director General of the BBC. So the BBC was wrong, and the Government were right over the intelligence evidence of WMD and the reasons to go war? What next then? Government appoints a new DG – that’ll be Allistair Campbell will it? he said he wanted to persue a career in the media… Heaven help us all.

John Humphries, BBC journalists and Today staff, you know what you have to do – stand by the truth and resign en mass. Farewell free speech and democracy – you’ll be sorely missed.