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Sunday, November 07, 2010

We need to restore a work ethic in Britain

I am something of a workaholic. I enjoy work, and enjoy having a purpose in my life. I enjoy my time off too, and spending time with my family. When I am not working I know I have earned the right to relax.

It has been reported Iain Duncan Smith is about to import a scheme from the United States, requiring those who are unemployed to do a month’s unpaid work in order to keep on receiving benefits.

There’s been the usual cries of outrage from some politicians, but surely this has to be the right thing to do. Too many people in Britain haven’t done a day’s work for many years. They are stuck in a rut, and the habit of working has evaporated, if it was ever there in the first place.

Voluntary organisations and charities would benefit greatly from additional help, and those who are claiming benefits would be contributing to their communities. Surely this is not too much to ask?

We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to change our benefits culture. We have a chance to bring down our huge benefits bill, which in turn will create a low tax culture. This will drive our economy forward, and assist in bringing the prosperity we all want.

There have been too many scare stories predicting the disasters that will befall us as a result of the government’s spending review. Although there will be job losses in the public sector, and a knock-on effect in the private sector, by restoring confidence in the British economy, the same people who forecast the job losses, predict 1.5 million jobs will be created in the next four years. This final statistic is regularly omitted.

We need to get those who can work, back to work. We need to restore a work ethic, and getting the unemployed to volunteer their time in order to receive benefits is one way we can do this.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Yet another irrational debate about the NHS

I have written before on how we are seemingly incapable of having an intelligent debate on the NHS. As soon as any reform is mooted, people like John Prescott immediately jump on to a bandwagon, making outrageous claims of the dire consequences that will befall us. We live in a country that thinks only the government can provide an effective, free at the point of use healthcare system. We are completely dependent on the NHS. It’s an addiction as strong as heroin. We have become blinkered to such an extent, we are terrified of any proposals to modify the way we access healthcare services. Rational debate goes out of the window, and anyone advocating change is seen as a pariah. 

The government proposes to replace NHS Direct with the 111 service currently being piloted in Co Durham and Darlington. This is what Professor Stephen Singleton, medical director of NHS North East said:

"The introduction of the NHS 111 service in County Durham and Darlington is an important part of our regional vision to improve access to urgent healthcare for local people.

"By better understanding what people really need from different local services, 111 will enable the commissioning of more effective and productive health care.

"Most importantly it will help improve efficiency across the whole health care system by reducing unnecessary waste and making sure people get access to the right service, first time."

I’m not saying this service is going to be perfect, and will suit everyone. Nor do I think NHS Direct fits this category either. What we do need to ask is whether we need a service staffed with nurses, when other trained people can handle the calls? We already have the answer. Only around 40% of staff working for NHS Direct are nurses. The new service will be able to direct callers to the relevant service they need and will also call 999 for you if necessary. It will be cheaper. It will be more streamlined and above all it will be better. A winner on all fronts, so why is Labour, in particular John Prescott, having a fit?

It could be because Prescott and all the potential Labour leadership candidates are acting with noble intentions. It could be, but it isn’t. If Labour had won the general election, it would have made more or less the same decision, and would have trumpeted it as progressive. Indeed, John Prescott stayed remarkably quiet when news about the 111 service broke before the election. Apart from Diane Abbot, all the leadership candidates were in the cabinet at the time and – one supposes – agreed with the new service being piloted.

So here we have the new politics, ladies and gentlemen. If the coalition government makes changes, it is hitting the poorest the most. They are people with evil intentions. They are nasty. Their policies are regressive, but if Labour had made those same changes – including spending cuts that would have had to take place – it would be spun as progressive politics.

I don’t agree with everything the coalition is doing. It is still keeping too much power in Whitehall and the choices it says it is giving to us are being decided by what it thinks we want, not actually what we want. It is making tough decisions, and like everything in politics, I am going to agree and disagree with those decisions. All I have seen from Labour – with the odd notable exception – is playground bully politics. Prescott will never change and he will never let the truth get in the way of frightening the voters. I had hoped at least one of the Labour leadership candidates would grow up, but alas it seems not to be. None of them seem fit to lead a major political party and certainly none of them deserve the title of statesman.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Basil Marceaux’s Bid for Governor of Tennessee

Whenever I think an interview hasn’t gone very well, I’ll think of this. It certainly makes you feel better. Is this the best Tennessee Republicans can come up with? The other candidates must be better.

Hat Tip: Carl Minns

Monday, July 19, 2010

What’s wrong with the Big Society

I read a joke today that said due to government cuts, the big society is going to be downgraded to the medium society. Okay, not the funniest joke you’ve ever heard, but it rather sums up what the public think of the big society policy. For starters, they don’t understand it. Hardly surprising as instead of hearing about this policy last year, it appeared to be dreamt up on the back of a fag packet a few weeks before the general election.

The next problem is we have grown used to the state doing everything for us. I believe in free at the point of use healthcare, as do the vast majority of us, but why does the state have to provide it? The NHS is almost collapsing under the weight of its bureaucracy, but if you suggest we look into other ways of providing healthcare in this country, you are greeted with a barrage of abuse.

What David Cameron announced today makes me feel disappointed. If communities are to be truly empowered, they have to empower themselves. They have to decide what they want, not be given a list of choices from the government. For example, I would like an elected mayor of Hull. There are many who agree with me and many who disagree, but surely we should be allowed to have a debate and a referendum? Apparently not. We are not one of the chosen cities. I would like the option of trimming down the amount of councillors who serve on Hull City Council. All these multi-member wards are unnecessary. Why not have around 20 full-time councillors, devoting all their energies in serving their communities? This would also work out cheaper for the taxpayer too, and it may attract a better calibre of candidate. Once again I am not allowed to make this decision.

Why not allow local authorities to get their funding from a local sales tax, as advocated by Daniel Hannan and Douglas Carswell. This would provide a much more direct chain of accountability between local voters and local councillors. Sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself, because we can’t have this either.

Until I hear politicians using the phrase ‘change from the bottom to the top’, rather than ‘from the top to the bottom’ I will not get excited. The Big Society could work, but it will not when Big Brother is giving you the options. We should be able to decide. Just give us the chance. Please government; keep a low profile. 

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Banning the burkha is wrong

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is supposed to be a liberal democracy. We are supposed to be tolerant of other people’s views and lifestyle choices. We live and let live. Despite over a decade of the intrusive state, Britain is still a great place to live.

Tory MP, Philip Hollobone, may be acting with the best of intentions in his bid to ban the burkha, but if he has his way, it will send a message out that Britain is less tolerant than it is now.

Personally, I am not bothered in the least if a woman chooses to dress like this. It is up to her. It may exclude her from the rest of society and there is no doubt no-one will stop her in the street and pass the time of day with her, but once again, this is her choice.

What Mr Hollobone is trying to do is legislate for integration. It doesn’t work. Forcing someone to do something against their will only alienates them further. If someone tells me to do something I feel is unfair, I dig my heels in. I am sure you do the same.

I am sure this bill doesn’t stand a chance of becoming law. We are a free society and we are entitled to dress in any way we see fit, as long as it doesn’t promote violence against our fellow citizens and we are not guilty of exposure. Long may it continue.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Conservative/LibDem coalition government

I am shocked and surprised tonight. I never thought a formal coalition deal between Conservatives and Liberal Democrats would take place. I was wrong, and now we wait for details of the new government. On face value it seems the Tories have given far too much away, and it will have probably finished the LibDems off in local elections next year. Let’s see how long this government is going to last. Probably longer than I thought it would.

All in the national interest?

“We are seeking a deal with [insert political party of your choice] in the national interest.”

How many times have we hear that over the last few days? Everything is in the national interest. No doubt the Liberal Democrats will tell us opening talks with Labour is in the national interest too, but  it is more in the interests of the Liberal Democrats, rather than the rest of us.

Can we get one thing straight? Although none of political parties secured enough seats to form a majority government,  and all parties failed to convince voters they deserved a clear mandate, there wasn’t a single person in Britain who cast a vote  for a hung parliament. We don’t know how our fellow citizens are going to vote, but we do know they will cast their vote for a variety of different reasons. What the public does want is a new government formed that is going to get a grip with the dire financial problems this country faces.

Think about how many parties will be involved in a Lib/Lab coalition. Along with Labour and the Lib Dems, there will be the Scottish and Welsh Nationalists, the SDLP, and anyone else they can muster. It will only take one party to pull out of the coalition for the government to fall like a deck of cards. Stable government? Hardly.

If the LibDems truly want to act in the national interest, then stop this stupidity with Labour. Propping up a party the voters have clearly rejected, with the prospect of yet another unelected prime minister in September, is clearly wrong. A formal coalition between Conservatives and the LibDems will not work either, and I think the Conservatives can go it alone. When you remove the votes of the Speaker, his deputies and Sinn Fein (who don’t sit in the Commons, as they refuse to swear an oath of allegiance to the Queen), Cameron could seek support on a vote by vote basis. Therefore Clegg should have a confidence and supply agreement with Cameron, and allow a new government to be formed. It won’t last long and we will all be back to the polling booths in the Autumn, but at least we will move on from the current impasse

Campbell v Boulton arguing live on Sky News

Saturday, May 08, 2010

The Conservative Party was not radical and it lost

I hate to tell you I told you so, but I told you so. I said the only way the Conservatives would win a working majority in the House of Commons was for them to be radical. They weren’t, and now we have a hung parliament.

As I write, deals are being hatched. Tomorrow, the horse trading will start in earnest and the voters will definitely not get what they voted for. Despite all the frantic deals, agreements made will collapse like a deck of cards, and then an election will have to be called. Some commentators say we will all be visiting the polling booths within twelve months. I’m confident the next general election will be in the autumn.

There is a cost to the nation whilst this uncertainty is played out. The markets will not have confidence in the government. There could be a run on the pound. Billions are likely to be wiped of the value of shares. It will be difficult for the government to borrow more cash at a good interest rate. Britain will be heading down a Grecian road, marked cul-de-sac. Meanwhile, in a manner Nero would be proud of, our politicians will not tackle government debt, and will fiddle whilst the UK burns.

The voters are not happy with any of the parties, and have voted accordingly. With an unpopular prime minister, and the government finances in an appalling state, I think it is fair to say the Conservative Party has succeeded in snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Gordon Brown apologises to me!

I subscribe to e-mail alerts from Labour, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. I like to read how all the main parties spin their campaigning days and after a disastrous day for Gordon Brown, the following has just landed in my inbox:

As you may know, I have apologised to Mrs Duffy for remarks I made in the back of the car after meeting her on the campaign trail in Rochdale today. I would also like to apologise to you.
I know how hard you all work to fight for me and the Labour Party, and to ensure we get our case over to the public. So when the mistake I made today has so dominated the news, doubtless with some impact on your own campaigning activities, I want you to know I doubly appreciate the efforts you make.
Many of you know me personally. You know I have strengths as well as weaknesses. We all do. You also know that sometimes we say and do things we regret. I profoundly regret what I said this morning.
I am under no illusions as to how much scorn some in the media will want to heap upon me in the days ahead.
But you, like I, know what is at stake in the days ahead and so we must redouble our campaigning efforts to stop Britain returning to a Tory Party that would do so much damage to our economy, our society and our schools and NHS, not least in places like Rochdale.
The worst thing about today is the hurt I caused to Mrs Duffy, the kind of person I came into politics to serve. It is those people I will have in my mind as I look ahead to the rest of the campaign.
You will have seen me in one context on the TV today. I hope tomorrow you see once more someone not just proud to be your leader, but also someone who understands the economic challenges we face, how to meet them, and how that improves the lives of ordinary families all around Britain.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Cameron only has himself to blame

A week is certainly a long time in politics. This time last week I was getting rather bored with the election campaign. It was the usual knockabout stuff; Brown saying don’t let the Tories in, and Cameron saying don’t let Labour continue. I was finding it difficult to find anything positive, even though the main parties launched their manifestos early last week. I feared the leaders’ debates would be a damp squib too.

Well, things have certainly changed, although I can’t say I’m surprised.  Before anyone asks me if the LibDem surge is sustainable, the simple answer is I don’t know. No-one does and this is why this election campaign has suddenly got very interesting.

Locally in Hull, sources inform me the LibDems have recruited twenty new volunteers; people who walked through the door and offered their services. Nationally, the membership of the party has increased too. The Clegg Factor has worked wonders thus far. The reason for this is simple, and the way some Conservative commentators have tried to rubbish Clegg has been silly in the extreme. The fault lies fair and square with Cameron and his team.

I have said more times than I care to mention that the only way the Conservatives can win this election is by being radical. Well, it’s too late now. Cameron was desperate not to lose this election and a few months ago many Conservatives thought the party would win at a cantor. None of them seemed to realise that not being Gordon Brown was never going to be enough. By positioning the Conservative Party firmly in the centre, he has denied the voters a choice. He keeps muttering on about change, but what does it mean? He wants us to be part of a Conservative government; all of us playing our part in our communities. Fine words, but unless you articulate a definite, cohesive plan, how are you going to sell it? Can anyone give me a reason to vote Conservative at this election, other than Cameron is not Brown? For too many voters he may not be Brown, but there is more than a passing resemblance to Tony Blair. Why isn’t Cameron telling us the truth about the size of government debt and the cuts that will have to fall? Most of the public seem to be in denial about this, and Cameron doesn’t do too much to jolt them out of this collective state of inertia. Tell us the truth and we would have more respect for him. We are sick and tired of being lied to.

It’s all too late now, unless he can pull a rabbit out of the hat. I can’t see how he will do it, but as I said at the beginning, a week is a long time in politics, and who knows what may happen? There is still more than two weeks to go before the nation decides.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Eurostar accused of profiteering

As Mount ‘Unpronounceable’ continues to erupt in Iceland, causing more chaos across the skies in Europe, Eurostar has been one of the winners, as people desperately try and return to the UK from their holidays.

According to the Telegraph this morning though, Eurostar has not only benefited from increased business it has been charging a minimum of £223 for a single journey from Paris to London. Normally, you can buy a return ticket for as little as £69. Eurostar denies it is profiteering, but this is complete nonsense. Of course it is, and I always think it is good to remind companies who do this that in a free market they can charge what they like. At the same time, I am also free to decide who I wish to travel with and the next time I travel to northern Europe I will not be travelling with Eurostar, and never will again.

The public tend to remember those companies who like to rip them off when the chips our down. When life returns to normal, I hope many will kick Eurostar in the place where it hurts most.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Protest rally in Beverley

Click here to read my latest post for the Taxpayers’ Alliance, giving details of a protest rally outside County Hall, Beverley, on May Day.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

The battle for Hull North

For years nothing changed in Hull’s politics. Three Labour MPs and a Labour dominated council chamber was the order of the day. In recent years this has changed. Hull City Council is now under Liberal Democrat control and although currently the city still has three Labour MPs, this may be about to change.

Hull East and Hull West & Hessle will return Labour MPs. Karl Turner – John Prescott’s replacement in Hull East – and current Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, will be MPs after May 6. Hull North, however, is a different prospect. Before I move on though, I think we need some background information.

There are popular MPs from all parties. I’m sure you will have noticed the times when the national swing of opinion says certain MPs will be out on their ear, but many still hang on. This is the local factor that cannot be reflected in national opinion polls. Bob Marshall-Andrews – the Labour MP, pictured left -  is a prime example. Although he is standing down at this election, he is popular with his constituents, and thought he was going to join the dole queue after the 2005 general election. Many will remember his remarks on television after his great escape. ‘Call me Lazarus’, he said. Although he only held on with a majority of 213, the local factor is here again, bucking the national trend.

Generally, it takes many years to build-up a strong reputation. Kevin McNamara – MP for Hull North from 1966-2005 – did this and there was never a chance of him losing his seat. There are recently elected MPs who have managed this feat in a very short time though. James Cran was for many years the Conservative MP for Beverley and Holderness and it is fair to say he was far from popular. In 2001, he hung on to his seat with a very slim majority of 781.  His successor, Graham Stuart, another Tory, has campaigned hard in his constituency. He latches on to popular, local issues and although there are some who say if there is a bandwagon, he’ll jump on it, he will be re-elected in four weeks with a much larger majority. His constituents know who he is and they like him.

Now back to Hull North. Diana Johnson – pictured right - was elected in the same year as Mr Stuart; 2005. From my perspective, she has done very little for her constituents. She campaigned to keep local post offices open, but when they closed, she voted to close others nationally. There is a lesson here. If you are going to campaign on popular issues, you have to remain consistent. The LibDems have crucified her on this issue, and rightly so. She has not made a mark in the same way neighbouring MP Graham Stuart has and since the last general election Hull City Council ceased to be controlled by her party. Life has changed, but it seems Ms Johnson has not moved with the times.

The LibDem candidate is someone with a name you will never forget; Denis Healy. For him to win this seat, he will need a 13% swing from Labour. On paper, this seems insurmountable. In reality, it isn’t. The LibDems have thrown everything at this seat, including the kitchen sink. We are regularly reminded that Hull North is a two-horse race. I’ve joked with Carl Minns, leader of Hull City Council, that I intend to report him to the RSPCA. Those two horses have been flogged enough over the years, however, this approach is proving successful. You would think Diana Johnson would be fighting back as hard, wouldn’t you? The answer is no. I’ve barely heard from her, although I understand from informed sources she doesn’t have the necessary foot-soldiers to deliver leaflets and her campaign chest is desperately lacking in cash.

Only a fool would predict the outcome of the general election at this stage. I am going to make one prediction though. Hull North will be a Liberal Democrat gain. It will be a small majority – probably between 1000 to 2000 votes – but a majority nonetheless, and herein lies a lesson. If you are elected to what is regarded as a safe seat, work it as if it was a marginal. You never know when the wind of change will blow, and if you are found wanting, the wind will blow you away.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

John Prescott accused of ‘click fraud’

Last week I reported how the former deputy prime minister, John Prescott, reversed in to a car and then drove off. Now he’s in the news again for all the wrong reasons.

Today he has been accused of ‘click fraud.’ This is being reported by BBC News.

In a post on his Twitter page on 6 April, Mr Prescott wrote: "Click here then click on Labour Have Failed = 50p out of the Tories warchest. Let's do this! #ukelection."

What the public wants in this election is an intelligent debate on the major issues affecting our country. John Prescott wants to bring everything down to the lowest common denominator, and indulge in silly, childish politics. There are some things in life that never change.

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