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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Harman scuppers Commons reform

There is something very undemocratic about the way the executive holds sway in our legislature. Surely the elected representatives of the people should have more power to hold the executive to account? Yes it should, but in reality, this seldom happens.

If anything remotely contentious is wending its way through parliament, you can guarantee the government will at some stage use a guillotine motion to stifle debate and therefore scrutiny. The power of the whips remains supreme in appointing members of select committees. You have to be a good boy or girl if you want to get on and hold any position of influence. If you are a maverick, life will be very hard for you.

Ben Farrugia highlights in this article how once again reform of the House of Commons is going to be blocked by the government. Changes that could and would have made a difference to democracy in this country will not happen in the lifetime of this parliament because of a procedural trick played by Harriet Harman.

Ben describes this as a complete and utter disgrace. He is right. One day this country will become a democracy again, instead of an elected dictatorship.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

ID cards for students and fingerprinting in schools

From the Freedom Association, via Big Brother Watch.

Another school is about to start using biometrics in the school dining hall. Although there are many doubts about security, it seems head teachers and governing bodies are willing to condition our children into thinking handing over their biometric details is a normal thing to do.

Big Brother Watch also reported on Monday about the latest wheeze from the government, who are targeting students by encouraging them to buy a biometric ID card for what it regards as the bargain price of £30.

I am sure I am not alone in thinking because the majority of people are against ID cards, the government is trying to ensure it brainwashes young people into thinking they are the way forward.

The battle against the bullying and intrusive state continues.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Blocked on Twitter by Diana Johnson MP

I have written on a few occasions about my MP, Diana Johnson. Yesterday, I found out she has blocked me on Twitter. Strange really, as I have never contacted her on Twitter before. I was recommended to follow her by Labour’s Twitter Tsar, Kerry McCarthy MP. Here are some tweets exchanged between Kerry and I late last night and earlier today:

@KerryMP You advised me a couple of weeks ago to follow my MP Diana Johnson. Just to inform you, I can't. She's blocked me.

@andrew_allison What did u do to deserve that?

@KerryMP I don't know why she's blocked me, other than my political opposition to her. I haven't been personally abusive.

@andrew_allison Have u been bombarding her though? U say not personally abusive which suggests abusive in non-personal way?

@KerryMP I've not even sent her a message. All I have done is disagree with her politically and state I think she does her job badly. That's politics.

That was the end of the conversation. I don’t know why some people get involved in politics. If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. Unfortunately, I am represented in parliament by someone who doesn’t want to enter into a debate. Instead, all she does is tow the party line, which has enabled her to be appointed an Under Secretary of State for Schools. To hear what she is like, listen to an interview she gave this morning to Andy Comfort on BBC Radio Humberside.  Scroll in 1 hour and 8 minutes.

Instead of addressing the concerns of the Headmaster of Beverley Grammar School (which is no longer a Grammar School in the traditional sense), all she does is come out with a tractor load of statistics.  I did listen to the whole interview in the car this morning, although I must confess my finger hovered more than once over the off switch.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

DVLA makes £43.9 million selling your personal details

If you want to be able to drive a car in the UK, you must apply for a provisional licence. This is the start of the paper trail DVLA in Swansea has on you. When you pass your driving test, buy a car and register it, DVLA must know about it. It even knows who you insurer is and your policy number. In other words, you have no option but to hand over all sorts of personal details to this particular government agency.

What then gives it the right to sell you details to other companies? None at all, but it does, and has made a healthy £43.9 million thus far. You would also think DVLA would be choosy who it divulges your information to. Wrong. Some of the recipients are dodgy car clamping companies.

Is there any wonder identity fraud is on the increase when a government agency isn’t choosy who it sells information to?

 

Hat Tip: Big Brother Watch

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The devastation and chaos in Haiti

To donate to the aid effort, click HERE.

Aid plane stopped from landing in Haiti

Medicins Sans Frontieres has issued a very angry press release. Apparently, one of its aeroplanes carrying aid into Haiti was prevented from landing by the US to make way for Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.

Why do politicians insist on disrupting aid efforts? There are professionals on the ground who can relay to national governments what is required in the way of aid. Just let them get on with their work. I also understand Hillary’s hubby is due to travel to Haiti too. Another photo opportunity there, which is all these visits are good for. It’s no wonder Medicins Sans Frontieres is so annoyed.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Nick Clegg is proving to be an effective leader

I haven’t had much time to blog this week. I have been busy working on a couple of campaigns and praying the sun will come out tomorrow, as we haven’t seen the sun in this part of the world for a week. If the weather forecasters have got it right, tomorrow is the day the sun will return. I hope so, as I am going to the Richard Horne testimonial game tomorrow. For those who haven’t a clue what I’m talking about, it is a testimonial match featuring Hull FC versus Hull Kingston Rovers. The sport is Rugby League and there is no love lost between the two clubs. It  should be a good day. I’m with the black and whites of Hull FC, before anyone asks. (Cue hate mail from those in East Hull)

Getting back to politics, I was rather impressed with Nick Clegg during this past week. He spoke sense. There are many policy aspirations a political party has. When you are faced with the dire economic situation engulfing us at the moment, many of those aspirations go out of the window. Compare and contrast with Labour who think we can afford to give new laptop computers to schoolchildren. We can’t. I suggested to a friend this was a direct bribe to Labour’s core voters. He thinks it’s part of the scorched earth policy of leaving the nation’s finances in the worst state possible when Brown & Co. leave office. Perhaps it’s a bit of both.

Nick Clegg is leading the Liberal Democrats well. He has one of the most difficult jobs in politics as leader of the main minority party. Yes, the Lib Dems are the second party in local government, but we all know after the next general election they are not going to become the official opposition in Westminster. I think the Lib Dems will increase the number of MPs though, probably by about 20-30. In key marginal seats where they are the main opposition to Labour, they are going to do well. Nick Clegg’s leadership will play a big part in this.

The next election is going to prove the most interesting one we have had since 1979. I can’t wait.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Trinity House School, Hull, starts fingerprinting students

From the Big Brother Watch Blog :

Just before Christmas, Tory PPC Andrea Leadsom wrote a guest piece about her discovery that schools were regularly taking the fingerprints of their students as a means of identification.

In her post, she said that she would be writing to her local council to ask that they reject any attempts by schools in her area to introduce fingerprint scans.

However, today we have been called by a supporter in Hull who has flagged that a school in his local area has begun gathering fingerprints despite the objections of the council leader.

As reported by the Hull Daily Mail:

City council leader Carl Minns has criticised Hull Trinity House School for installing a biometric fingerprint system for pupils to get their school meals.

Councillor Minns says it goes against guidance issued to schools by the council.

The school, in Princes Dock Street, city centre, started using the system this week. Cllr Minns told the Mail: "My principal objection is on the grounds of information security.

"At some point the school will have to store a child's data on a computer and if it is subject to hacking or proper security is not there, then once the data is out there, it is out there for life and you can't get it back."

In recent days Big Brother Watch has been encouraging its supporters to bombard several misbehaving local councils, so it is refreshing to see a council leader showing such commonsense and concern for individual privacy. 

Councillor Carl Minns we applaud you for this stance and we will keep our readers updated on the progress of the council in getting Hull Trinity House School to reverse its position.

By Dylan Sharpe

Sunday, January 10, 2010

How long is the queue to knife Brown?

Gordon Brown is not liked, not respected, not trusted and is unpopular. I’m talking about those who work with him, not the electorate, although I’m sure it can be said of them too.

Peter Watt’s latest revelations are another damaging blow for Gordon Brown. I don’t think this will be last knife to be thrust into the prime minster’s back before the next election. I think there is a queue in formation as I write.

Cameron on Marr

Today was David Cameron’s turn to be interviewed by Andrew Marr. I wasn’t looking forward to this interview. I feared it would be full of generalisations and he wouldn’t be specific.

He was better than I thought he would be. He detailed the help a Conservative government would give to small businesses, which included making it quicker to be able to start a small business and preventing private landlords forbidding people from running a business from their home address. For me, this is far too little.

I have argued the case on abolishing Regional Development Agencies before. Billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money has been thrown at these agencies and in every key performance indicator, they have failed. They have not reduced economic disparity between the English Regions, nor have they been drivers of economic change and the rate of businesses registering for VAT has slowed down since their introduction over ten years ago.

The Taxpayers’ Alliance has researched this subject and has recommended they be abolished and some of the money saved could be used to reduce the rate of corporation tax paid by small businesses. This would help entrepreneurs stay in business, encourage people to start-up their own business and help create more jobs. If David Cameron is serious, this is the sort of announcement he should have been making this morning. His announcements are welcome, but are not enough. He has to be radical.

At the risk of boring my readers, unless he proposes truly radical change, he will not seal the deal with the voters. Too many see him as Tony Blair Mk II.  Margaret Thatcher was elected three times because the voters trusted her to get on with the job. Many of them didn’t like her, but they still voted Conservative. Being touchy, feely is all well and good, but you want a prime minister to lead, be tough and not be frightened of being unpopular because of the hard decisions they have to make. A prime minister needs to be trusted and respected, not loved. Brown is not trusted or respected by the majority, but Cameron is not that far in front of him.

Tenants Services Authority cost us £38 million

Have you heard of the Tenants Services Authority? The chances you have not, but it costs the taxpayer £38 million. This Quango can hardly describe itself as a hub of activity. In its first year it managed to sort out just twelve complaints. The remaining 396 were passed to other organisations to deal with, according to the News of the World.

And how much does its chief executive get paid? A whopping £160,939, plus a £17,351 bonus! It’s clear this Quango is ready for the bonfire. The sooner, the better.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Hewitt and Hoon’s letter to Labour MPs

This is a copy of the letter Patricia Hewitt and Geoff Hoon have sent out to all Labour MPs. I’ve got this courtesy of ToryPolitico.

“Dear Colleague,

As we move towards a General Election it remains the case that the Parliamentary Labour Party is deeply divided over the question of the leadership. Many colleagues have expressed their frustration at the way in which this question is affecting our political performance. We have therefore come to the conclusion that the only way to resolve this issue would be to allow every member to express their view in a secret ballot.
This could be done quickly and with minimum disruption to the work of MPs and the Government. Whatever the outcome the whole of the party could then go forward, knowing that this matter had been sorted out once and for all.

Strong supporters of the Prime Minister should have no difficulty in backing this approach. There is a risk otherwise that the persistent background briefing and grumbling could continue up to and possibly through the election campaign, affecting our ability to concentrate all of our energies on getting our real message across.
Equally those who want change, should they lose such a vote, would be expected by the majority of the PLP to devote all of their efforts to winning the election. The implications of such a vote would be clear – everyone would be bound to support the result.

This is a clear opportunity to finally lay this matter to rest. The continued speculation and uncertainty is allowing our opponents to portray us as dispirited and disunited. It is damaging our ability to set out our strong case to the electorate. It is giving our political opponents an easy target.

In what will inevitably be a difficult and demanding election campaign, we must have a determined and united parliamentary party. It is our job to lead the fight against our political opponents. We can only do that if we resolve these distractions. We hope that you will support this proposal.

Yours fraternally,

Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt”

“70 million is too many” – a cross party group says

Whilst the main political parties squabble and score points from each other, a press release was issued today on immigration. Not from any of the party leaders, but from the Cross Party Group on Balanced Migration, headed by Frank Field and Nicholas Soames. Here is an extract:

"Poll after poll shows the public to be deeply concerned about immigration and its impact on our population. Yet, as we enter the General Election campaign, neither party has promised the British people that they will prevent our population hitting 70 million. It is time the parties turned their rhetoric into reality by making manifesto commitments to prevent our population reaching 70 million by 2029."

Immigration is a subject being talked about in pubs, workplaces and homes throughout the country. Hopefully this press release will jolt Messrs Brown, Cameron and Clegg into action. We need to have a balanced and adult debate about this issue. This is what the voters want. More HERE.

I’m sick of the so-called election campaign already

We’ve had four days of the so-called election campaign, and quite frankly, I’m bored with it already. Labour has been making promises it knows it can’t keep. The Conservatives put out the awful poster of an airbrushed David Cameron promising not to cut NHS spending (as well as been forced on the back foot over tax breaks for married couples) and Nick Clegg manages to get himself into a corner with Nicky Campbell on Radio 5 over whether he could say anything positive about the prime minister.

If this is going to be the standard over the next few months, I fear this election is going to a big ‘turn-off’ for the electorate.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

The Conservative Party’s uphill climb

Yesterday, David Cameron; today it was Gordon Brown’s turn to kick-off his party’s general election campaign. Contrary to other commentators’ opinions, I think the prime minister’s interview with Andrew Marr this morning was far from a disaster.

I know he was, in general, talking a load of rubbish, but it comes across as believable rubbish. We know the government is not going to half the budget deficit in four years, however, will the British public, who do not know the full extent of the crisis we are facing, realise that? In times of economic doom and gloom, the natural reaction is to look for hope. Brown states he has averted a devastating recession. Small businesses who would have gone out of business are still trading. Home repossessions are down. Unemployment would have been much worse if it was not for Brown. ‘We got it right’, he says, ‘and the Conservatives got every major call wrong.’

Is this is a message of hope? No. But it is a message saying if the other lot were in power, we would all be in a worse position than we are now. Brown went on to talk about fairness, making sure everyone in life has a chance. Does this push the right buttons for a floating voter? Perhaps and considering the Conservative Party has not ‘sealed the deal’ with the voters yet, if I was David Cameron, I would be worried. The electorate mistrust Brown. They want him out of power, but, and it is a big but, they are still not sold on Cameron’s Conservatives.

There is a long way to go before we all cast our votes. We have the prospect of the Leaders’ Debates, which will make a big difference. Perhaps Cameron will seal the deal then. If he doesn’t, I get the impression many people will look at the two main parties and think ‘better the devil you know.’ Worse still for the Conservative Party, they may cast their votes for minor parties and split the vote in key marginal seats, letting Labour in by the back door.

I have said many times before, the only way Cameron can get his party back into power is by being radical. The Conservative Party’s job between now and the election is twofold. It has to convince once and for all that the mess we are in at the moment lies at the feet of Gordon Brown. He has spent and borrowed recklessly. He has increased the size of the client state. If Labour get a fourth term in office, expect more of the same. The country will be bankrupt. Conservatives have to convince the voters under Labour inequality has risen. Education is being micro-managed with devastating effects. Despite spending on the NHS rising, our hospitals are failing. Brown did not offer any public sector reform in his interview today. Instead he reverted to his failsafe option that under a Cameron government there would be vicious cuts.

The Conservative Party’s second job is to convince the voters it has the policies to get Britain back on its feet again. It is not enough for David Cameron not to be Gordon Brown. For Cameron to become prime minister with a good working majority, he needs to prove he has what it takes. This is what he is failing on and as for policies, we can only hope the first part of the manifesto published tomorrow will give us some idea. I know what the vision is. I know what the party is not going to do. I also know some of the things the party will do, but I don’t know enough and more importantly neither do the voters.

The Conservative Party should be soaring in the polls. It is not. If Cameron cannot connect with the voters between now and the election, my view is we will have a minority Conservative government where nothing much is going to get done. This will not be in the best interests of the country.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Simon Heffer on Jack Straw

In today’s Telegraph, Simon Heffer reminds Jack Straw of a few home truths.  Here is an extract.

Since Labour has an election to win, and since if it doesn't win it Jack Straw will probably be a candidate to pick up the poisoned chalice of leading the party, it is little wonder the Justice Secretary has jumped on the police-bashing bandwagon. He knows most people only encounter the police when being stopped for a minor motoring offence, or when the police are failing to clear up a deeply distressing crime. He knows how dismayed the public is by stories in the media about the police pursuing people who (for example) express disapproval of homosexuals, while failing to pursue burglars. So, in the words of one senior officer who disliked Mr Straw's remarks, this was a cheap shot.

In fact, his comments were worse than that – they reeked of hypocrisy. It was in Mr Straw's four years as home secretary from 1997 to 2001 that the cancerous attitudes that have benighted our police really set in – and they were led from the Home Office. The police ceased to be a force and became a service. They ceased to be a crime-fighting operation and became instead an instrument for the imposition of political correctness. New Labour came in to power with a set of beliefs about minorities of all sorts, and sought to make the police the enforcers of that creed. The wheels fell off at that point.

It’s hard to disagree with him. Since coming to power, Labour has done everything it can to neutralise the effectiveness of police officers by creating more than 3000 new offences and giving them more burdensome and in many cases, unnecessary paperwork to complete.   Ministers praise the police when it is expedient for them and criticise them if they think they can get votes out of it.

To read the full article, click HERE.

Polly Toynbee’s message to the Labour Party

It’s not often I agree with Polly Toynbee. She is one of those people who has hypocrisy written all over her. She complains the rich are avoiding tax, even though the newspaper she works for has effective tax avoidance measures.

Forget all that. Today she has spoken some sense. In today’s Guardian she writes,

“The death-wish brigade will let Brown crash his party. As Labour skids downhill at breakneck speed, self-interest and old rivalries paralyse those who could yet slow the descent.”

To read the article in full, click HERE. For once, it is worth reading and it should not make your blood pressure rise. 

Cameron launches the Conservative Election Campaign

It’s January 2, and today David Cameron kicked-off the Conservative Party’s election campaign. On Monday, the first part of the manifesto will be published and no doubt Labour and the Liberal Democrats will be out of the blocks soon. I suspect the British (unlike the Americans who are used to long election campaigns) will be heartily sick of politics come the general election, whenever that will be.

Cameron’s big announcement was that he would invite the leaders of the other two main parties to sit in a war cabinet on a regular basis. He said this would not be every week, but it shows a Cameron government intends to get a consensus from all the main parties when the lives of our troops are at risk.

This – according to the Conservative Party - is the ‘year for change.’ This puts a positive spin on what will be, economically, a dire year. The country’s finances are in the most parlous state they have ever been in, however, Cameron will be doing all he can to convince voters life will be better under a Conservative government.

Time for change? Time will tell.

To read David Cameron’s full speech, click HERE.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Government spends £1 million on TV adverts

If you want to know where some of your hard earned cash goes after you hand it over to the government, here’s one of the answers. The government has spent £1 million on a TV advert to encourage us to use its services online. Read more about the story HERE.

Jack Straw’s attack on the police

Jack Straw should know better. He has been an MP since 1979 and started his ministerial career as Home Secretary in 1997. Saying ‘that some officers spun out paperwork so that they could stay in warm offices rather than fight crime on the streets’ is the cheapest of cheap shots. In many ways it is as true as it is cheap. You can say the same about every profession. There are lazy MPs, councillors, civil servants, teachers, nurses, doctors. The list goes on.

I have said before Tony Blair’s mantra of ‘Education, education, education’ in 1997 should have been ‘Legislation, legislation, legislation.’ Since this government came into power there are over 3000 more offences in Britain. Couple this with probably the most complicated and burdensome paperwork of any police force in the western world, it is hardly surprising many police officers feel disillusioned and lack motivation. Mr Straw should have thought about this before he opened his mouth. Once again this government shoots itself in the foot and gives its opponents more ammunition. If someone of Jack Straw’s experience can’t get it right, then their really isn’t much hope for the rest of them.

Predictions for Hull and East Yorkshire Parliamentary Seats

I am not going to attempt to predict the outcome of the next general election, but I am going to give you my predictions for seats in Hull and East Yorkshire. There are seven seats in total:

Beverley and Holderness (Conservative)

The constituency’s MP is Graham Stuart. Replacing the rather ineffectual James Cran, Mr Stuart has proved himself as a hard-working, popular local MP and will easily retain his seat and increase his majority. 

Brigg and Goole (Labour)

If the Conservatives are to stand any chance of forming a government, this is a seat that must be won. The current MP, Ian Cawsey, is holding on to a reasonably small   2894 majority, and it being pursued by Conservative, Andrew Percy. My prediction is Mr Cawsey will be looking for alternative employment after the election and Mr Percy will be the constituency’s MP.

East Yorkshire (Conservative)

This is a largely rural seat, encompassing the towns of Bridlington and Driffield. Even when times were bad for the Conservative Party, this seat voted blue. There is no doubt the current MP, Greg Knight, will be returned to the House of Commons.

Haltemprice and Howden (Conservative)

The seat, currently held by David Davis, is the safest in the country thanks to the by-election result in 2008. I’m sure readers will be aware that Mr Davis resigned as an MP to trigger a by-election after the government won a Commons’ vote in favour of 42 days detention without charge. As his main challenger, the Liberal Democrats, did not field a candidate, Mr Davis was returned to Westminster with a 15335 majority. In 2001, the LibDems nearly won this seat, but there is no doubt in 2010 David Davis will be re-elected as the constituency’s MP.

Hull East (Labour)

The seat, currently held by John Prescott since 1970, will have a new MP later this year. Mr Prescott is standing down and the Labour candidate is local man, Karl Turner. There would have to be a political earthquake for the people of East Hull to elect anything other than a Labour MP. This is as safe a Labour seat as you can get.

Hull North (Labour)

This is the seat everyone in political circles in the region is talking about. Diana Johnson has held the seat since 2005 and on paper it looks safe, but since the last election, Hull City Council has been in Liberal Democrat control. There could easily be an upset in this part of Hull and the LibDems will be pulling out all the stops to create an upset. This is the contest we are all looking forward to and currently, it is too close to call.

Hull West and Hessle (Labour)

This seat has been held by Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, since 1997. The former postman is a popular MP who has bonded well with his constituents. He will undoubtedly be re-elected and then who knows what is in store for him. For me, he is the best communicator Labour has and if anyone is going to get Labour back into shape again, it is Mr Johnson.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to all my readers. Politically, 2009 was certainly an eventful year. It was a year when the standing of politicians sunk to an all time low. It was a year when Douglas Carswell set the ball rolling and for the first time anyone could remember, the Speaker of the House of Commons was forced out. Michael Martin should have gone much earlier. He was never up to the job and his supporters knew it. Unfortunately, instead of electing a new Speaker for all the right reasons, MPs decided to be tribal and the result was the awful John Bercow, who I sincerely hope will not be Speaker after the next general election.

In the Autumn of 2007, there was election fever. This fever continued at various times through 2008 and 2009. At least we now know 2010 will be an election year and the good news is that Harriet Harman will be fronting the Labour campaign. Labour’s ability to shoot itself in the foot seems to be one constant brought into the new year. Instead of using someone who could connect with the public – the obvious candidate being Alan Johnson – Labour uses someone who manages to alienate the voters with every utterance she makes.

On a personal note, I hope 2010 is the year we start tackling the advances of the bully state. David Cameron and his team have promised much in this area, but the proof of the pudding is always in the eating. Oppositions are great a promising things. It is up to those of us to feel passionately about the erosion of liberty in this country to make sure Cameron sticks to his promises if he does become prime minister.

I also hope 2010 is the year the campaign for Britain to leave the EU gathers momentum. I also hope this is the year we finally start trying to get to grips with the public finances. All of this will not happen unless Labour is out of power. This is the decision the voters will have to make. What a year this is going to be.

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