The Politics of ...

The Politics of ...

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Welcome to the Slough of Despond

You would have thought that a major political crisis is what has brought me back to this blog after nearly 6 months, but it isn't. It has nothing to do with Liam Fox and his bestest ever buddy; it has nothing to do with the anodyne party conference season, which seems like a lot of idiots preaching to the converted and it hasn't really been the economic crisis, although as a member of the great unwashed, the 2½million official unemployed, I probably have an opinion about it. No, the thing that has spurred me to open up this blog for what might be a final hoorah, is the growing feeling amongst people who aren't earning more than £40k a year, that the bottom is going to drop out of their worlds.

I'm actually a perfect example of this; as we hurtle towards Christmas and 2012, I am bringing such an insignificant contribution to my household that we are facing the distinct possibility of losing everything we've worked the last 25 years to achieve. I don't mean we'll lose our house, but I do mean that if there aren't jobs out there for me to do that bring in enough money to keep our heads just bobbing on the surface, we might have to consider some drastic actions. The problem is there are very few drastic actions we can take and that applies to so many people in 2011 Europe.

For the first time in my life and interest in politics, I look at all the parties and there's nothing there that installs even the barest hint of optimism. The Coalition is running to stand still - largely. Gideon Osborne's austerity drive seems to be floundering and the Tories, once considered the best people to handle Britain's economy, seem to be all at sea. They blame Labour for everything when they should be sorting out the mess. Labour could do with standing up as a united front and saying, 'Yes, we borrowed too much money, but look at the work we did and the fact that while the country is in debt, your kids have new schools, new hospitals and new homes to live in.' Surely the happiness of the many outweighs the elation of the few?

Labour should say mea culpa and like the long Conservative administration before Labour came into power, they lost the plot around the end of their second term. People have lost faith in politicians; they don't believe they have the interests of the many and evidence suggests that not only doesn't the government (any of them) have your interests at heart, but they believe that keeping the people with economic interest in this country sweet, even if the poorest get poorer and become even more alienated against politics and worse, society. If the Coalition has proved one thing, it's that we need a new kind of political system in this country.

Recently, I had all kinds of hassle trying to sign on the dole. It was like a 2 hour visit to Dr Mengele, the dentist. I was so incensed by the pfaffing about I had to go through I wrote to my local MP - Michael Ellis (Con, Northampton North). It is the second time in my adult life I have written to my local MP and both have done excellent jobs in helping me and both were Conservatives. It sort of created an interesting dichotomy for me - I have no liking for Tories, but as constituent MPs I have no evidence they're anything more than superb. Yes, it's just sugar coated vote catching, but that applies to any party. I have heard stories of local MPs going the extra mile for constituents and causes, and it's amazing that these imbeciles who run the country can do such excellent work on their own patches. I'm not suggesting that either Michael Ellis or Peter Fry who helped me in 1992 are imbeciles, but one wonders how they can do so much good at a local level and yet support policies designed to cause the maximum hurt to people who don't deserve it?

Two years ago I was so up for running for the local council that I declared my intention to my employer; I went public with my intentions and even sort council with local councillors to discuss strategies and what I needed to do to ensure I got your vote. Then I changed, almost over night. The General Election of 2010 obliterated my ideals. If I'm honest, a Coalition government was what I was really hoping for. Labour had been in for too long and I don't believe that Gordon Brown would have taken this country into new fertile pastures; he would have been bogged down by all the things bogging down the current administration and people may have grown so hateful of him and his party's policies that Labour might have faced a worse wilderness than it did during the 80s and most of the 90s. But, I expected a Labour/Liberal coalition, with the Liberals there to stop stupid decisions being made and to come up with policies that were fare to the poor and less so to those who have it all anyhow. We live in a classless society according to former PM John Major; no wonder he is gradually becoming the forgotten prime minister; he didn't have a clue and his party allowed him to continue without said clue.

George Monbiot, who it seems is the voice of reason in the country and doesn't appear to have any political affiliation apart from being fair, writes columns for The Guardian that provoke thought and sometimes anger. A recent column, which can be seen at explains where our money is and isn't going - it is depressing reading and isn't rubbish, it's completely true, properly researched and not some socialist propaganda. Even the hardest nosed Tory would have to (reluctantly) agree that the way our government is distributing money it claims it hasn't got, is a little more than disturbing. But the Liberals are stage struck and the Tories have never invested in the future when they can make money NOW!

A new politics? Yes, a new system designed to have the country's best interests at heart. We have grown accustomed to our elected representatives doing all manner of things we have no wish for them to do. I'd propose that governments are only allowed two terms in office; I'd even propose that MPs are only allowed two terms in office. There would still be elections at the midway point, but that would act as a referendum on whether the party in power were actually doing a good job. At the end of the two terms, every MP has to stand down and be replaced by someone new; who then has to go to his constituents and make his case for why they should elect him as the former's successor. That would mean new cabinets every 8 years (at the most), new people running the country, injecting new ideas and not being allowed to change things so much and so detrimentally that it takes the next administration four years to sort out just the beginnings. MPs and governments should be held accountable for the position they leave the country in. If the people don't like a policy and it has been a failure to the majority of them, then that party is penalised by not being allowed to have a candidate in a safe seat for a minimum of four years.

Drastic action? Yes, but these people are elected to serve us, not serve banks, corporate businesses and the aristocracy. MPs should be doing what they can for the people who elected them and also for the greater good. MPs should either relinquish associations with business or take a maximum of an 8 year sabbatical away from their interests. MPs should be MPs and not have any associations with anything that could compromise their position - even if that means someone is involved with a charity or voluntary organisation. MPs should concentrate on being MPs 24/7. There should be longer parliaments; more time spent with constituencies and less time swanning off around the world on jollies that are paid for by us but we get no benefit from. MPs should be given four weeks holiday a year and bank holidays; they should be taking an active role in local government, either in an advisory capacity or as a kind of House of Lords overlord, deciding if a major council decision is in the best interests of his constituents. In other words, MPs should be made to work; that way those thinking it'll be a jolly jape or a wheeze to be an MP might think twice about it, or better still be ousted from their role if they fail to do what is on the job description.

There should be a balance between helping those who are struggling and allowing the rich to get richer. I'm not saying the rich shouldn't get richer, I'm just saying they shouldn't be allowed to if it is making a disproportionate amount of poor people poorer. The plebs make the country run and if you continually take the piss out of them you'll get to the point where people give up on politics because they feel they will get nothing out of whoever is in power. And perhaps that's what all parties want; a population that is so disillusioned with their politicians that they can get elected with a turnout of less than 50% - not really a mandate in any one's eyes, but it could happen, especially if our young people continue to be bemused by the entire business.

We should look at our position in the world and realise that it isn't 1850 any longer and we're just a bit part player and not much else. We shouldn't be the USA or NATO's deputy sheriff; we shouldn't be spending our money and risking our soldiers lives for countries that mean nothing to most of us. We should have armed forces, but they should act as an apprenticeship for people who want to learn trades, find discipline or need it. Our armed services should be grooming the grunts for real life, not training them to get killed. The amount of money we could save by just becoming a country like Germany would ensure growth in all the right places. What is it about PMs - from Thatcher to Cameron and all in between - that means they feel that getting involved in a war or a conflict is going to endear them to the masses or possibly secure a place in the history books?

This country has always been resourceful; how else would a piddly little island control most of the world for as long as they did? If taxing the big banks and corporations heavily means they bugger off to a country that is more receptive to their greed, then so be it. Something else will step in and fill the void. I can't understand the reticence of not taxing the people who got us in this mess in the first place; the arguments is that without their money we'd struggle - most of us don't see that money any how. It lines the pockets of the already wealthy and it does not trickle down the way it is claimed it does.

A friend of mine, a Labour activist called Mike Sivier had a great idea. The couple who live in Cambridgeshire who won the £101million on the Euro lottery; if he had won it, he would have made half of the money available to local and small businesses - cut out the banks - and charge them a ridiculously low interest rate, mainly because if he lived to be 200 he probably couldn't spend all that money. I suppose the problem with winning big on the lottery is that human nature dictates that we suddenly change our core values; we're all right Jack - the ethos created by Thatcher - takes precedent and only the most altruistic and philanthropic would even consider using a big chunk of a windfall to help others make money. The thing is, even if the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street is injecting billions into the economy, banks still refuse to lend money to anything that might have the slightest risk attached - surely starting your own business is fraught with risks, that's the gamble you have to take. That's the gamble the banks have to take.

Briefly touching on the Liam Fox issue; if a minister or a bog standard MP is seen to be in breach of his regulations then they have to be punished. Claiming you didn't know it was a problem or claiming ignorance is not an issue. If my wife - a civil servant - was found to be discussing her job with an outsider, she would be sacked; surely MPs who involve independent people in their public lives should fall under the same jurisdiction? The same way every MP should be held accountable if they screw up. We have to have impeachable people running this country; I'm not suggesting they have to be whiter than white - six years of working with young criminals taught me that sometimes the best people to work with the disenfranchised is someone who has been in the same boat. As an ex-bankrupt, I feel that I learned more from the pariah years I suffered than I probably could have learned had I not gone bankrupt. As a former retailer, I feel I'm better placed to advise small retail outlets than others. Yes, you can argue that the most successful people are best placed to do this role, but temper this with the fact that economies rise and fall and you have to be prepared for the rough as well as the smooth. As a failed businessman, I give a perspective that successful people don't experience. Therefore, if someone is available to give even-handed and sensible advise and guidance, then they shouldn't be excluded from it.

I don't think any of my ideas would even be treated as more than rantings of a borderline communist; but I don't think sensible ideas by far more qualified people than me are going to be considered either. Politicians now have their ideas; are tied down by their own dogma and are pretty much isolated from the real world. It is a form of megalomania - another human trait we're never going to stop.

My gut feeling is that everyone is walking around believing that the western world is not going to crash and burn in a full scale depression - after all, whenever that happens, we have wars - but the harsh reality is that in the next few years we might see the collapse of economies, governments and even countries. We look at 3rd World countries and wince at the pain and suffering they contend with; but we console ourselves with the fact that we're Europeans and we're not going to suffer the same fates as these poor unfortunate souls. But what if Greece collapses? Does another country take them over - Soviet style - and force the population to work for peanuts and slip into such extreme poverty that children will die of starvation? How would we react if the scenes we have seen in Africa suddenly happen on the streets of places we once called holiday destinations? How would you feel about going to Corfu or Crete and being accosted in every town or village by beggars and children with bloated bellies from malnutrition? What if it happened in Spain or Portugal? What about Ireland?

I am a pessimistic bastard, but I think dystopia could be the next great social adventure the human race embark on. The riots of the late summer might have been instigated and mainly involved people with criminal records, but in Greece, people like you and me are campaigning every day because they are getting poorer and poorer and there doesn't seem to be any good news on the horizon. Germany and the EU can try and aid Greece by ploughing money into it, but my mum always said 'you shouldn't throw good money after bad'. What happens when Greece can't pay its debts and the people are expected to bail out a country that can't find its arse with a map and a torch? Even a peoples revolution in Athens and across a country that gave us democracy won't solve the problem. Greece will still be in debt and have no way of repaying it unless the people literally work for nothing. You can lead a horse to water; you can beat a donkey with a stick; you can impose all manner of punitive measures, but ultimately its the people who will sort out the problem and when they lose hope, there is no hope any longer...

We're all going to die, but instead of the way we'd hope, it will wallowing in filth, scraping the insides of the haves bins for leftovers. That's me being optimistic...

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

The Doldrums

Boy, am I glad that I didn't throw my hat into the ring! The rise of the Independent didn't happen; in fact, it went backwards. It seems that with this election the prime target was to punish the Liberals. Punish them for Nick Clegg, for supporting budget cuts - which it seems is much worse than implementing them, for tuition fees and, it would appear, for abandoning their ideology for a shot at power sharing.

Despite all of this, many people still went into last week's elections thinking that the country would support a change in the way we vote and would slap the Tories down as hard as they were going to the Libdems. Talk before the election was that the Tory party would lose 1000 seats, the Libdems 500 and Labour would be the big winners. None of that, quite amazingly, happened. The Tories actually gained seats and control of councils; Labour were shunned in a Scotland that is growing further and further away from mainstream politics, won in Wales and made headway in the North and some unexpected areas, but overall, the only victor was the Conservative party - no escaping the fact, regardless of how bitter it makes me feel.

My take on this chain of events is for a while the AV referendum was a definite Yes vote; but there were obviously more people, like me, intending to use the vote as a political weapon rather than as a way forward. 67.9% of the people who voted were unanimous in their wish to say No.

The Human Shield analogy has been raised a lot and probably is correct. The Tories exploited Clegg's unpopularity; the lack of cohesion within the Labour party, that essentially saw safe Labour MPs vote Yes and those in marginals opt for No. This isn't an exact science, but if you look at the figures you will see a definite trend. I think what happened was bizarrely the core of Libdem voters are not actually liberals; there's a huge percentage of them that are either disillusioned Labour or Conservative voters, unhappy with the way the party they support is operating at that moment. Socially conscious Conservatives and right leaning Socialists vote Libdem, but went back to their spiritual homes for these elections. The Liberal Democrats aren't finished, but they're not going to be in the game if they survive the coalition's 5 year plan. Nick Clegg better hope for a knighthood or a peerage because he's not going to keep his seat at the next election. His kids are going to be asking why Papa is at home all day every day, growing his hair, not shaving and becoming fixated with Jeremy Kyle.

Political commentators are saying that the Tories are almost hoping to be able to call a snap General Election, because the feeling at Millbank is they would win it with a healthy majority; but the NHS is a key debate at the moment and no one, even Tories, trust their party with the health of the populace; the NHS could mean they end up not winning outright again and the prospect of a Labour, Scottish National Party, LibDem pact becomes all too apparent.

What the No vote might have done to English politics is turn it back into a two party nation, at least for the next generation. With Scotland and Wales having more appointed politicians than most corporations have directors - MPs, members of the Welsh Assembly, MSPs, mayors, councillors, parish and district councillors - that country is becoming more synonymous with politicians than leeks and sheep!

What a No vote did was keep fringe politics where it was and in the case of the BNP that is a good thing, but what about the Green Party? In an ideal world, every council in Britain should have two or three Green councillors. But, you see, we have to accept that the BNP have representation in these lands. We might find it and the people who follow the politics abhorrent, but this is, the last time I looked, a free country and we're tolerant even if the target of our ire isn't. Perhaps the question on May 5th should have been to decide whether or not council elections should be decided by PR - Proportional Representation. Then a four term study over 16 years could decide if it works and whether or not there was the ability to introduce it as an alternative vote. The councils run the country on a daily basis, surely that would have been the logical place to start with a voting and electoral reform idea? 20 years sounds like a long time, but I remember 1991 like it was yesterday...

The Lib Dems are going to hold onto what they've got and will make a good, if not vainglorious, attempt at looking like they are tempering Tory excesses; they'll get concessions on bills, but you can bet your life the concessions will already have been decided by the Tory policy makers before the Liberals make them. I expect politics to take a turn in the calm waters of wait and see; I don't expect much to happen for the next few months; the Treasury will sit back and watch to see if their radical plans are working and there'll be the occasional dog fight, probably to do with lack of services or a new Lansley idea to be torn to shreds by the left. The first year of this coalition is over and it's still alive; it's probably best for all nothing much happens for a while.


When Sean Connery returned to the Bond film franchise, the film he made reflected what he'd said in the late Sixties when he quit the role - Never Say Never Again. Throughout my life I've fallen victim to these four words on numerous occasions.

My intention is to take a break from this blog. I'm feeling a mixture of disillusionment about politics and struggling to come to terms with my own impending redundancy, because of the cuts. The politics thing is because I think it's all a bit pointless at the moment. I know that's a cop out and we should have challenging voices all the time, but factor in my personal position and you can understand why, hopefully.

I'm not closing it down and I will probably still post links and will be incensed by something enough to get my soapbox out. This has never been a regular thing, any how, but it's likely to get more irregular. My other two blogs are different beasts; one is already finished and just gets automatically posted and my personal blog isn't going anywhere.

Let's all hope it doesn't get worse, eh?

Saturday, 7 May 2011


The local Liberal Democrat candidate for my ward, Nazi Slam, probably lost his deposit. The lack of Labour candidates in 'pointless wards' possibly handed overall control to the Tories. Tony Clarke, who has done more for this town in recent years than, I dunno, anyone, lost his seat. Northampton became blue and I lost my faith in human nature.

I'm glad that I didn't stand as an independent; by the looks of things I would have been crushed by voter apathy and the Tories ability to mobilise their minority support, where other parties just don't bother or, more realistically, can't. The political landscape of Northampton has just become a hostile and ultimately destructive place. The new keepers of the Borough Council are not benign; they will be looking at how to drag Northampton back from the brink of bankruptcy as quickly as possible and that means in four years time you will be left wondering just what the party has done to have deserved to get the majority vote. This is not bad blood or sour grapes. The last Tory only administration NBC had screwed the town up so badly they became something of a laughing stock and there were huge calls for a unified council.

The Libdems took a kicking. Every one knew they would and former councillors must be looking at their results this morning and thinking two things - how can they consider trusting Nick Clegg ever again and probably more likely, they'll be wondering where it all went wrong. The brutal defeat of the Liberals and the failure by Labour to bother turning up in 14 of the wards will not explain why the Tories - the stronger party in government - increased its share and gained strength from it - bucking a trend that never gets bucked. Incumbent parties never do well at local elections; it's almost a God given. Yet, the Tories shone will they're coalition partners disappeared into the ether and considering the cuts, the job losses, the support of another Arab war, the many faux pas, Andrew Lansley and Michael Gove, the Tories will be sitting in their ivory towers, with smug grins and wondering whether or not holding a general election in September would see them return with a working majority and the ability to spend 5 years fucking up the country even more.

But that's just me being a prophet. The sad truth is that even though most people who live in this town know someone who has lost their job because of government and council cuts, they either didn't vote or decided that it was time for the Tories. And boy is that sad. It doesn't matter whether you disagree with labour's ideology, whether or not you can allow yourself to be bothered by others less fortunate than you, the people of Northampton have spoken and reflected the national feeling and Britain has become a scarier and less safe place to live in. If you voted Tory, I really truly hope that you suffer for it over the next four years. I mean, really suffer, because perhaps you'll be swayed to never vote for them again. They don't like you; they don't care about you and yet you fall for them like a hirsute bad boy, every time...

Friday, 6 May 2011

The Mourning After

What have we learned?

Scotland no longer trusts the three main British parties. It wants to see how it handles things itself.
Labour is still suffering from a power hangover.
People appear to be blaming Nick Clegg and the Libdems for the coalition decisions.
The Tories must be delighted to be in cahoots with the Libdems.

I think it's time we got off the Libdems' backs. It's the Tories that have caused the cuts and the disharmony around the country; they're the party with the most seats. Had they had a majority in the Commons then they could well have been facing humiliating results.

It's time to turn our ire to Blue. Clegg is finished, his 15 minutes of fame have gone. The AV vote will be a potentially fatal blow to the heart of this coalition. The Libdems will have lost all they believe in over two days in May.

Part of me just can't fathom how people seem to have conveniently forgotten that Cameron, Osborne, Gove, et al are basically a bunch of millionaires who don't give a shit about any of us and are destroying lives to get themselves into the history books. We have to focus on these self-serving Tory charlatans, the time for kicking the disabled and disaffected Libdems is over.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Wipe Out

Two major political decisions will be made next week. The first will possibly be the complete wiping out of the Liberal Democrats from the councils of the UK - this, it seems, is what a lot of political commentators believe will happen. The Libs will suffer the brunt of the backlash and the Tories, while still unpopular, will possibly (and amazingly) benefit.

The second and arguably far more important is the first referendum in this country since about 1971. You have a choice - you can vote YES or NO and you don't have to put a 1 in the Yes column and a 2 in the No.

I've sat very much on the fence as far as the AV referendum is concerned. I started out very much on the No side, started wavering at the beginning of April and planted myself firmly in the Yes camp by the middle of the month just gone.

This vote is a mixture of what YOU feel and speculation. It is a difficult issue and as many have said, the wrong question has been asked. For me, the time for debating whether the right question has been asked is moot, the important thing is, to be quite crass, how can you vote to ensure the coalition suffers hardest?

As far as I'm concerned, and I can point you in the right direction if you need swaying, a Yes vote will ensure that Political Voting Reform will continue to be part of the agenda for the foreseeable future. You might find AV confusing, but a Yes vote means that the thing can be honed, chiselled at and generally tinkered with until it's easy to understand or it becomes something more akin to PR - Proportional Representation, which, I think is the ideal that most of the Yes campaigners are aspiring to.

If you vote No. You are saying you are happy with First Past the Post and you don't mind the fact that the Tories have ruled this country umpteen times without the mandate of the people. 54% of Brits continually voted against Margaret Thatcher, yet she won 3 General Elections and this allowed her to tinker with county and town borders to ensure that the Tories had an easier chance of winning again. A No vote removes the subject of Voting Reform from the political agenda and it will languish, unspoken of, for another 30 years and you and me will continue to have pompous arses like David Cameron ruining our country.

Going back to the council elections briefly; in an ordinary world, the voters have an option when one party is in power - vote for one of the other main parties. This time Labour stand on their own; people will look at two things - Ed Milliband who hasn't got the gravitas of a proper statesmen yet and that councils are better off run by coalitions or the Tories. Just remember the new school your kid is in, or the new hospitals built around the country, or the development that doesn't EVER happen when Tories run the country or your local government.

If you can't bring yourself to vote Labour on May 5, then vote Green or Independent or for someone who actually gives a shit about the ward you live in. Councils should really be run by the people who need them the most.

My final word on the AV debate is that a Yes vote might not destroy this unholy alliance that runs the country, but it will be a vote against David Cameron, George Osborn, Michael Gove and a host of other millionaires who like FPTP because it keeps them from doing a proper job. A Yes vote gives us all the chance to elect the right person, not the person who gets the most votes in a 30% turn out, effectively winning with a lot less than 30% of the entire vote.

Vote for AV; vote for change. Vote for the chance to debate the voting system in the country. Don't vote No and box the entire country into a corner for a generation or two.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

The Winner Takes it All

Ever had a bet? A few quid on the Grand National or The Derby? No? Would you bet with someone else's money, if there were absolutely no strings attached? No? How about this one, then: would you bet with an entire country's finances, on what is essentially the flip of a coin - a 50-50 chance?

I was sitting in the garden reading Ed Balls spell out how Osborne is steering the good ship Blighty into economic oblivion and marrying this up with the grinning, evil sneer of the chancellor and it dawned on me what is happening in 2011 not so Great Britain. George Osborne is playing roulette.

No other country in a deficit is following in our example; many moderate economists are jumping on the doom and gloom bandwagon and we're all waiting for the country to slip its moorings and sink into the North Sea. However, there are a number of radical economists who think we're doing the best thing and a smaller number who seem to think we're not suffering enough. What if they're right?

Osborne has nothing to lose, has he? He's inherited a treasury that's so far up shit creek with its chocolate paddle that everybody was scared of their own shadows and no one wanted to do anything. He's not exactly got a bucket load of ideas to play with as he takes the keys to #11; so he calls in his brains and does a spot of storming with them and comes up with two scenarios - slow and steady - a Labour approach which will have him remembered as the chancellor who slowly steered Britain out of recession, oh is that the time? Or Super O, the radical chancellor who said 'fuck this, we're going blow this mother off the map'. The John Shaft of British politics comes in, gets radical on yo ass and if it works he's the person everyone remembers from this coalition of doom. If it fails? Well, he's just another of Cameron's cronies who had a go and buggered the country just a little bit more.

Osborne is in one of those no-lose positions, which is probably why him and that smug little cock Danny Alexander always look so full of themselves - political history has a tendency to breeze over component parts of failed governments. I'm just surprised no one else has noticed...

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Meanwhile, Back in Northampton

I received a circular from Michael Ellis, the Tory MP for my area of Northampton. It appeared to be a questionnaire designed to attack the Liberal Democrat members of the County and Borough Councils, which I found quite amusing. One of the themes was what worries us about the areas we live in and I took great pleasure in mentioning the cuts in public sector workers leading to cuts in essential services; because these things are the issues within the town that concern me the deepest. I expect my reply will be consigned to the bin, especially as I said my intention was to vote Labour at the next local elections.

One of the specific questions was aimed at the current decision not to allow Northampton Saints and Asda to develop Franklin's Gardens so that our rugby club can host big European cup matches rather than having to take the business out of the town and over to neighbouring Milton Keynes (which of course had usurped Northampton's prominence in the last 20 years by virtue of nothing more than a big shopping centre and a main line rather than a branch line railway station). It appears there is a concern among local and regional politicians that we're destroying the town centre and allowing the development of our rugby club will be detrimental to the development of the town centre. Okay...

Northampton Town Centre is dominated by the eyesore that is Greyfriars Bus Station. The plan is to knock this monstrosity down and replace it with a huge extension of the Grosvenor Centre, which already has a number of empty shop units; in a town that has plenty of space and not enough business to fill them. Apparently the thinking is if they increase the size of the town's premier shopping mall then more shops will open and more people will come flooding into town to spend the money that none of us will have in 6 months time.

We seriously believe that some of these pillocks we elect to serve as councillors actually have brain cells. They don't!

Take the thorny issue of parking. If you want to come to Northampton to do some shopping you either pay through the nose to park in one of the pretty shitty car parks or you go somewhere that's free or has a decent enough ratio of shops to car parks to make it worth your while. Leicester might be a city, but you can get lost walking around its centre because of the huge amount of diversity and choice of shops and areas to shop. Northampton, with its proliferation of pound shops, sex shops, pubs, mobile phone outlets, amusement arcades, bars, fast food joints, coffee shops and computer gaming stores, doesn't exactly advertise itself as a place to spend a hard day's shop in. Especially as it is choc-a-block full of either anti-social Brits or Eastern Europeans. The market square with its ridiculously pathetic water spout and its ever dwindling amount of traders was once the biggest outdoor market in Europe; we're probably struggling to be the biggest in the region now. All of these riches are available to us if we park our cars in the poorly kept car parks where we'll discover at the end of the day that we've spent more getting and staying here than we spent in any of the shops.

Retailers have been complaining for ages about the ridiculous parking policies that NBC has adopted. They might not want to see any further development of outlying areas of the town so that the emphasis is placed back onto the town centre, but why are they gradually increasing the radius of parking exclusion zones? The latest 'free' road to be targeted is Georges Street, the one that sort of runs parallel with Grafton Street. It's the road that has the small mosque, the Sikh temple and a few other Asian places of worship; it also has a school and not a lot else. it was, for people who work within staggering distance of Regent's Square, a haven of free parking and for weekend warriors it was a place, not that far from the centre, to park for free and therefore feel more inclined to spend money in the town rather than in parking metres.

Georges Street is now a minimum wait zone; only a few spots by the places of worship have been made exempt, everywhere else is a two hour limit until 1pm. It is nothing more than an attempt to make the people who work in the town to use the extortionate car parks or park even further away from their places of work. It is, essentially, an attack on people by a council that already doesn't really understand the concept of your arse being different from your elbow.

Northampton has an underlying policy of extortion to anyone that needs to use it. The price of a bus journey from where I live to the centre is unbelievable; so unbelievable that it is actually cheaper for me to drive into town and then park as far away from my desired destination as is humanly possible, because the time, discomfort and aggravation is still markedly cheaper than catching a bus. The town is running alive with traffic wardens, whose brief appears to be screw as many people as is possible and they'll get a bonus - my word, that is encouraging people to come into the town, isn't it? This is a town that has harboured aspirations of becoming a city; give me a break, this place could never be a city; it is too colloquial and provincial to even contemplate it - it is run by small and petty minded idiots who have no concept whatsoever about what the residents want and need and will go out of their way to alienate people without a second thought about the long term consequences.

What Northampton needs is a few more councillors from places like King's Heath, Eastfield, Thorplands and Camp Hill, people standing as councillors who up until now have felt disenfranchised by the entire political and social scene. The Big Society is essentially the government saying, 'we're going to give people more say in how things work; if you don't get involved then tough titty, you had your chance, you didn't say anything, live with it.' So the only way for this council to ever be progressive is for its parties to start looking for people who give a shit to stand for local issues, rather than the massive amount of home owning wankers, sorry, councillors, who live in suburbia and hide their heads and consciences away from the crap that goes on in areas the Chronicle and Echo refuse to even acknowledge exist.

People, we are seeing the gradual erosion of our entire country and Northampton appears to be a test case for this. There will be a ridiculously low level of front line services available for use by 2013; the councils will be run by HR departments and 'managers' who think they know what we want better than we do. Your council tax might not go up, but what you get for it will disappear or we'll be charged independently for it. If you think life is crap at the moment, wait a couple of years and suicide will suddenly be a blessed alternative...

Monday, 21 March 2011

Out of Step?

Obviously getting elected to parliament in 2010 means you're inclined to agree with war, either that or I'm just hopelessly naive. For only 13 MPs to vote against military action in Libya suggest that only 13 people in parliament care more about the citizens of the UK than they do those of Libya. Because that has to be the message being sent out from Westminster.

Perhaps I'm missing something. Perhaps I don't understand the power that the UN wields. Perhaps the thousands of people affected by this monstrosity of a government's cuts, care more that we spend £10million a day protecting the lives of citizens of a country that for most of the last 40 years has had nothing but contempt for the UK. Perhaps, when it boils down to it, we'd rather be spending money defending Libya, when thousands of people will barely be able to survive when the cuts take real effect. Perhaps the money spent on this military action is coming from the UN, or from some secret bank account we only use when we get to kill people and blow things up?

I know a lot of other people who feel as passionately about this as I do, so obviously they're just as out of touch as me. I was disgusted that not one single MP asked Cameron where the money was coming from or how he thought people being decimated by his government's cuts would feel about it. My faith in politics took a massive down swing today. Not for a long time have I felt as though I don't want to be here any more. I don't want to think of myself as British. I understand what is happening in Libya; it isn't good and someone should do something about it. Someone who has the money, or the connections or someone who hasn't been involved in every other bloody military action for the last 50 years.

I sit here and wonder if it would even be worth writing to my MP, or Clegg or even that self-righteous twat Cameron and I realise that it's all a bit worthless and pointless. I'm going on a march on Saturday to campaign against the massive cuts. The weather forecast is dreadful and the outcome will not change - we won't see the government change its strategy; we won't see them acknowledging that we vote them in, so we should have some say when we really don't like being made to pay for the banks or the politicians' bad mistakes. Big Society? Make the people that matter accountable? Hold your politicians to account?

Never have I been so disgusted with politicians. They don't serve the people, they serve whatever agenda suits them.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Get Your Libya Yas Out

One day. probably not in my lifetime, we'll have a government that says, "No thanks. Got nothing to do with us. We have enough problems in our own country to get involved in someone else's problems. Yes, we understand that this country that you want to invade/defend/obliterate has lots of oil and a history of terrorism; but if we can't help countries that don't have oil with the same zealousness then we'd rather spend this money on keeping people in work; helping people from getting into massive debt; feeding people who now rely on charities because they're so under the poverty line it's a fucking disgrace...

I'm disgusted by any politician that can support this action. This country DOES NOT need to be the world's deputy police officer. It CANNOT afford to do it while so many thousands of people in this country lose their livelihoods. It SHOULD NOT put even more British forces lives at risk for the sake of oil. This has nothing to do with the people of Libya, if it really was then the UN would have been invading countries with appalling human rights records, or defending Tibet, or protecting Zimbabweans, or supporting Chechens, or protecting the good people of Burma.

This is a fucking disgrace. Blair was wrong to get involved with Iraq. Cameron is an arse for wanting to become yet another prime minister with a war on his hands.

When will we learn that not getting involved is the best way forward?

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Hope for the Future Unemployed? Not on Your Life!

Good news! Many people living in Middle England are going to see a slight reduction in their Council Tax.

Woo and indeed Hoo. Unfortunately, while the middle classes won't see any major changes, the working, lower and under classes will feel the pinch because frontline council services will be axed. If Northants County Council increased their tax by 3% - which is less than £30 a year per household - there would be enough money to save 750 of the 1000 jobs that are going over the next few months; it would also help with the next round of redundancies scheduled for December.

But, at least we won't see an increase on our indirect taxes and that means that some people, who aren't affected by the cuts, will be able to quietly think, "I'm all right Jack", because that's what Tory policies are all about. Cameron might harp on about the Big Society, but the reality is Conservatism promotes the individual.

*** is a scary article. It basically explains how, because of the cuts, the Youth Justice Board is losing a lot of its funding, which means that there will be less workers trying to keep our kids on the straight and narrow. Ken Clarke wants less people in prison; to the point where 5 prisons are closing in the next 10 months; yet the police are having their budgets slashed; Probation is having its budget slashed, the Youth Justice system is having it budget slashed. Just how is this government going to get crime figures down and work at rehabilitating offenders when all of the people doing good work are facing the axe?

If you know someone that ends up being a victim of crime, be sure to ask them who they voted for at the last election.

I'm beginning to think that tackling the budget deficit should be a long term plan; one that guarantees the future of this country, especially if neither major political party has the balls to tackle tax evasion issues. The public - all of them - are going to eventually pay for this mess three times and it wasn't even any fault of our own.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

In a Pickles

As much as I abhor the fact that council chief executives earn shed loads of money, compared to bankers - the group of people that the tax payer bailed out and are now paying for again - these people and their £200k salaries are nothing. Eric Pickles is calling for these CE's to take self imposed 10% pay cuts; to send a message to all the people being hit by the cuts that everyone is making a sacrifice.

Is that the most hypocritical thing yet from this government? Telling us it's time to forgive the banks and let them get on with helping re-establish growth (oh and turning a blind eye to millions of pounds worth of bonuses they plan on giving themselves) while simultaneously berating council chiefs for paying themselves too much in light of all the many public sector workers who are losing their jobs as a result of the government slashing local government subsidies.

I'd accuse the ConDems of double standards, but that would be too simple. This is on many levels incredibly offensive.

I shall ask my favourite question, yet again. How do the Liberal Democrats sleep at night?

Monday, 14 February 2011

Big Society or Big Failure?

Share the love on Valentine's Day. Share the love and watch as more and more people face unemployment. The day has not been about love, it's been about administration, liquidation and the Big Society and how you too can lose your job, but still do it.

The Big Society has potential. There are elements of it that appeal to my socialist tendencies. The idea of rebuilding community spirit is admirable, even if it comes from a party responsible for its original destruction. But while Cameron answers concerns by using soundbites like 'We're all in this together' and 'It's not up to central government to dictate to local government how to spend its money', there is an overwhelming fear as to how it will work, especially when local government is slashing the amount of money it's giving to the 3rd sector. The many friends I have who work in the voluntary sector are more concerned about losing their jobs than they are about making the Big Society work.

It would appear, that when you strip away all the political rhetoric, posturing and altruism, what the leader of the government wants is for people to do the jobs they do at the moment for nothing, or for about £60 per week; which is the average amount of Job Seekers Allowance. Alternatively, if you haven't lost your job and you're not already using most of your spare time entertaining your kids or doing all manner of other voluntary things, then perhaps you'd like to do some volunteer work when you could be eating or sleeping?

I could, if I don't lose my job, give up writing blogs, so I could go and work for nothing in a library; except, 8 of the county's libraries are shutting and possibly more will follow in the coming years; so perhaps I could stand on street corners with boxes of books and hope to encourage a new generation to read, when they're not being encouraged to go and do some volunteer work, like emptying rubbish bins or policing the streets.

The Big Society will ultimately get supporters and those supporters will criticise the people who complain about it or haven't got the time to get involved. They'll argue that by volunteering they stand a better chance of getting off the dole queue and into a very low paid alternative job to the career they once thought they had. The right wing press will spin it all to seem as though people like me are doing everything in our power to devalue a great idea and will be unaware of the short cuts that will be risking lives or the lack of funds that will be making people poor and wishing for food.

The government don't want to do anything; it's up to you to do it, until they have to make a decision and then they will blame you for forcing them into doing the job they were elected to do.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

The Future is Cancelled

George Monbiot explains to us how the future of the average person is about to be destroyed by Cameron and Osborne's decision to turn the UK into Switzerland mkII.

If you know someone who voted Conservative, ask them how their children or grandchildren are going to survive in a country with no future!

Sunday, 6 February 2011

How Do the Liberals Sleep at Night?

Just when you think David Cameron (or his team of hatchet men) can sink no lower, the tenuous prime minister defies all logic and doesn't just upset the apple cart, he napalms it. So multiculturalism is dead? Really? Is this based on some extensive government research or is it just that Cameron doesn't like blacks?

I'll accept that many Brits have a problem with Islam, especially over the last few years, but to say that multiculturalism is dead is just abhorrently ignorant. Talk to the average - non-bigoted - Brit and you'll find that they worry about Muslim extremism, but equally many of them know some very 'normal' Muslims and don't even consider these people when they're considering extremism. In Northants, there is a concern over the number of Eastern Europeans in the county, but as the budget cuts bite deeper you can bet that a lot of them will be heading home as their own countries are probably not quite as bad as this one. Yet the most common complaint I hear about Eastern Europeans is the fact they're rubbish drivers and have no manners; I used to say the same thing about Volvo drivers and now believe white van man is possibly the most suitable human being for either castration or death! The majority of white van drivers tend to be Brits, so what am I? Inversely xenophobic?

To suggest multiculturalism doesn't work is crass and considering there was an English Defence League march in Luton yesterday, unbelievably badly timed. Cameron is an offensive upper class twat and I despise him a damned sight more than the majority of people who have either different coloured skin or talk in their native language. These people do not have such a profound affect on my life the way the leader of the Conservative party does!

I can count almost as many 'foreign' friends as I can British ones. A lot of my non-British friends are considerably more accommodating than a lot of English people I know and guess what, the nicer you are to a non-British person the more respect you get from them - period and fact!

There are so many people in this country at the moment who haven't got much to smile about (myself included) and the last thing we need is some idiot prime minister giving the ignorant and stupid among us the opportunity to blame someone else for his government's massive mishandling of our budget deficit. I'm beginning to get the impression that Cameron feels that this is his party's only chance of power for a long time, so he's going to do everything in his power to fuck it up for those who inherit the reins. It's customary for an outgoing government to make it difficult for the new incumbents to hit the ground running, Cameron, Osborne, Gove and co seem to be making sure that the country is in such a terrible mess that no one will be able to fix it and the Liberals are party to this erosion of our country and sit on their hands, say nothing and enjoy the trappings of power for the now, because they suppose there will never be an again.

There is a new cable TV programme called Tool Academy; essentially it is 30 men competing to see which one of them is the biggest twat; if the producers managed to get Cameron on it they would have a 5 minute show...

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Walk Like an Egyptian?

Apart from the fact that you would think Egypt was actually in the UK considering all the press coverage, it does raise a very interesting question. With the population of Great Britain becoming increasingly angry at the spending cuts and most being affected in a derogatory way, could something like a revolution happen in these apathetic isles?

The short answer would be: No.
The not so short answer would be: highly unlikely.

However, we only really see mass demos and public disgruntlement when there is a Tory government in power, so should the next year become misery filled months of despair and hopelessness, could we rise up and demand a better government or at least one that acknowledges the needs of the people?

The strange thing is this government seems to have no real regard for its grass roots supporters; with the news that shedloads of bus services in rural areas are being axed, it's difficult to disassociate the countryside with anyone other than Okay Yar Tory voters. Yes, there are, in fact, a lot of unemployed and socially excluded people living in villages, many of whom depend on bus services to get to the dole office, job centres, drug dealers and friends; but cutting services to small villages means that the Okay Yars will now have to spend more time sharing their idyllic villages with these self-styled scum of the Earth and I'm sure they're not going to like that. I mean, hooray Henrys don't like these hunt sabotaging, long haired, uncouth, sexually depraved oiks in their backyards to begin with and losing them for a few hours a day is probably a blessed relief, but now...


The EDL or English Defence League is planning a march through Northampton, which will cost the county a lot of money in policing costs and will have detrimental effects on other services because of the knock on affect. The police cannot ignore racist imbeciles like these, so despite them being in a very small minority, it's going to eventually cost us all. I wish the people who organise these essentially Nazi events realise that in the long run they end up doing more harm than good and the people they claim to be defending end up losing out because of their stupid and ignorant beliefs.

The strange thing is that Northampton isn't exactly a hot bed of racial tension or even race issues. Move over 10 miles to the east and Wellingborough has a far higher ratio of people who fit into the EDL's hate campaigns. I was talking to a friend of mine whose father co-owns an Indian restaurant in Wellingborough. His parents are from Gujarat, but he was born in Northampton. He thinks that its amazing that such ignorance still exists in the 21st century and made a very interesting statement suggesting that Wellingborough is actually very tolerant of Asians, Afro-Carribeans and even Eastern Europeans, because the town has been a multicultural haven for a long long time. Perhaps the EDL don't want to target Wellingborough for the same reason you rarely here of them organising marches in Bradford or Southall or Wembley - for fear of having their arses handed to them on a plate by the English people who regard all ethnic minorities as friends and valuable members of their society.


The County Council has just discovered they need to find another £20m in savings this year, meaning that a further 300 people are likely to lose their jobs (and the bus services are being decimated - see above). Private businesses are showing no sign of recruiting and the prospect for nearly 1000 people is that by April/May they might be facing an uncertain length of time on some form of unemployment benefit. These 1000 people will be competing with each other for a handful of jobs and 99% of these jobs will be less money than they currently earn.

Cameron can insist that we all have to make sacrifices to get the country out of debt, but it wasn't these people's fault that the country was in this mess in the first place. Why is the man in the street being penalised for something that is essentially the banks' fault? Joe Public ends up footing the bill continuously for successive government cock ups and mismanagement, yet we continue to vote them into power because we have no alternatives. This time last year, I was advocating the need for more independent MPs and councillors, but the problem is independents' are about as popular as Liberals and the man in the street seems reluctant to trust someone who doesn't represent the powers that continually rule the country.

I think if I had one wish, other than wanting enough money to buy myself a small island in the Caribbean, it would be for a massive change in the way people view politics and the emergence of sensible, people led politics.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Housing gloom

I came into possession of details of how the Housing Benefit changes will affect those people claiming in the county. Below is a rough guide to changes being implemented; it makes grim reading if you are on benefits already.

The New Scheme will begin in April 2011

The Headline changes are as follows:

Existing Claimants
will retain their current level of LHA until the Anniversary of their current claim, plus 9 months;
For example, if a family claimed LHA in Nov 2010 they would be protected until Nov 2011 and then for a further 9 months.
Any change of circumstances after March 2011, such as change in income benefits, anyone moving in or out of the household, will result in that claimant coming under the new scheme immediately.

These will all be reduced from the middle to the lowest third of Rents in the local area (the single room rent is already set at this level).
Please see attached rates on PDF attached. Briefly there is a reduction for each bedroom you are entitled to rent by £5 a week; i.e. a 3 bed property will receive around £15 a week less. The rate for 5 bedrooms disappears altogether.

UNDER 35’s
The rules that previously applied to under 25s - that they are only entitled to privately rent a room in a shared house (currently £58 a week in the county, apart from Northampton where it is £55) - will now apply to every individual claimant under the age of 35, once their period of protection has expired or their circumstance changes.
For example: A 34 year old in a one bed flat will see their rent reduced from £85 a week to £58 a week should there be a break in their income support or JSA, such as having a weeks work.
This is likely to have a significant effect on those who may live separately from their children but have them at weekends.

Long Term Unemployed
Claimants who have claimed JSA continuously for 12 months from March 2011 will have a 10% reduction in their LHA. This is cumulative i.e. 2 yrs out of work will result in a 20% reduction, 3 years 30%. This applies to Social Housing as well as those in private rented.

Non Dependency Deductions
These are where there are children in the household who have turned 18. For each of these a reduction will be made in the claimants LHA of £9.40 a week
Previously this would be waived if the non dependant provided proof of no income or on State benefits. The New Scheme does not seem to allow for this.

Previously people living in supported accommodation (such as "Hostels") were exempt from the general rules, particularly in respect of the Single Room Rent.
There is as yet no confirmation that these exemptions will still apply (apparently, a local hostel manager has privately stated that without these exemptions being reinstated they would not be able to accommodate under 35s).

Council Rents
The intention is for these to rise to be consistent with the Private Rented sector.
This is in line with the proposed abolition of secure Social Housing Tenancies where the stated aim is for new entrants to Social Housing to be given short term contracts and annually assessed to see if they can be moved into private rented sector.
The 10% reduction in LHA for being on JSA for 12 months still applies to those in Social housing.

Supported Accommodation Providers
Following the Closure of the two YMCA hostels in the County, most Supported Accommodation providers appear to be pessimistic of their continuing in their present form.
It seems highly likely that there will be few, if any, projects offering on site staffing and support in the future as their present contracts run down. The preferred model now is for people to go into general needs housing and then for support staff to visit them there. Even Women’s Aid is under review, my source understands.


Be scared:
The Guardian is no longer a socialist newspaper; they supported the Liberals at the last election (a bandwagon they jumped on that I'm sure they now regret, regardless of what Deborah Orr says), but this paints a very even handed picture of Britain in 4 years - the pros and the cons. It has to be said that as a socialist the most haunting aspect of this forecast is that if things stay as they are and Labour get back in in 2015, they might not have enough money to make any changes and Britain might just end up being a decaying island with, as the Sex Pistols once said - No Future!

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Digital Nightmare

Did you know that there are an estimated 700 young people in Northants that will be cut off from using television at the end of March because they are either living in hostels or are below the poverty line and do not receive the right benefits to be eligible for the free installation?

I was harping on about this as long as 5 years ago when I wrote an article for my then blog and somewhere else about the digital switchover and how it would be punitive to the poor and the ignorant and how the press is just ignoring this because most of them have a vested interest in the switchover.

The 700 young people in this county alone will be deprived of their main source of entertainment and will either have to go without something else - many of them pay for their licence fee on a fortnightly charge already - or will not pay their licence fee and face prosecution.

I personally know a young person who lives in supported housing in Towcester; he survives on income support because he has learning difficulties and is an Asperger's sufferer. His rent is paid for by the council, as is his council tax. However, he is actively seeking employment - goes to the job centre twice a week at the cost of £10.60 (it's a £5.30 return from Towcester to Northampton) and he gets no subsistence for travel. Now, when this young person's support worker approached the people doing the switchover and explained the circumstances of the young person and other young people she works with, she was told that you can obtain Freeview boxes for £10 now and they do not believe that £10 is too much for a person to pay.

Obviously, people like us can agree with that - £10 isn't a lot of money, but for this lad and at least 700 others £10 is a shitload of cash. Also bare in mind that this kid also doesn't have a mobile phone because he can't afford one. He gets about £110 a fortnight; £16.50 of that goes on his service charge; £21.20 on bus fares, £30 on food, £7 on TV licence, £20 on bills. That's just a few pennies short of £95. It leaves him with £15 for himself, to buy a decent Freeview box he would have to go without something else. Are you aware that £10 Freeview boxes come with a 6 month guarantee and are inclined to go wrong inside a year? Which suggests spending a minimum of £30 on a box that will have decent quality and last the purchaser a few years.

I know I sound like a bleeding heart pinko liberal, but in the course of talking about this with people in my office, many of them social workers; they know of families that once everything is paid for, literally have nothing to last them a week, or just pennies and this is with the dad working - not just families with both parents or a single parent on the dole. With the cost of living going up, these people actually face massive debt just to survive and because they are classed as lower than pond slime in the eyes of banks etc, the only way they can borrow money is from places like Wonga, LoveMoney, Ocean Finance or other companies that advertise on the less frequented cable channels, where they pay about 500,000% APR.

These people are not going to deprive themselves of their only constant form of entertainment; they're not going to stop their kids from watching the telly, so they are going to end up worse off to satisfy a need. Yes, it's only a one off payment, but it's punitive. There is a sheltered housing complex round the corner from where I live, there are 58 people living in it and each one has to buy a Freeview box. For the complex to have just the one box and one TV licence, all the residents would have to remove the locks from their flats and if that wasn't bad enough, they would be restricted to watching just one channel at a time.

This was something that Labour advocated and I think that was despicable of them; I cannot expect the current administration to be more benevolent. In the North-West and Cumbria, there is an estimated 1000 households that didn't switch over. There is no way of ascertaining whether this was because of financial constraints or they just saw it as an opportunity to switch off for good. Once upon a time, paying your licence fee was a guarantee you would get a picture; now you can only do it if you fork out more money.

Buying a colour TV was a choice. Buying a video player was a choice. buying a DVD was a choice. Buying a cable TV package was a choice. Buying satellite TV was a choice. Want to continue watching TV in the digital age? You have no choice but to buy the right equipment!

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Higher and Higher

It's all over the news this morning; the higher than expected level of inflation. It wouldn't be so bad if it took into account such things as the higher than inflation rise on public transport, the spiralling out of control cost of fuel and, of course, the 2½% rise in VAT. The chances are that the current 3.7% rate will bust through the 4% barrier very soon and the hoped for rate of 2.3% will be a distant and unobtainable memory.

But remember, we're all in this together and that includes the private sector who are supposed to be the the chaps who are going to take up the slack and employ the majority of the public sector workers who are going to lose their jobs this year. Of course, the private sector needs conditions to be right for them to expand and at the moment none of them are doing so and in fact many of them are facing having to make cuts because of the higher cost of operating.


The Oldham east and Saddleworth by election raised a few eyebrows. The two biggest were that the LibDems share of the vote increased by 0.3%, not much, but approximately 99.7% more than expected. The second was that the Tory vote dropped by 7,000. Not unexpected considering they a) threw their weight behind not stopping the Lib Dems and b) they were in a traditionally Tory hating suburb. The incredible thing about it was that voters seemed to be saying they don't blame the Liberals for the impending mess.

In many ways this is a good thing, because the sad truth up to that by election was that the Tory's had managed to totally screw Clegg's Crew by doing nothing more than offering them a power share.

8 months into the coalition and things were looking grim for the Liberals and it had got to a stage where it seemed the Tories could do anything and the Libs would have to go along with it because their popularity rating was hovering in the minus figures. Damned if you do, damned if you don't seemed to be the best way of describing them. Popularity at an all-time low, Nick Clegg less popular than Maggie Thatcher and the Tories dismantling the country with no objections from the party, all because dismantling the coalition would end the Liberals chances of governing again until 2200 when everyone's great great grandchildren had forgotten what they did in 2010. It seemed that the Liberals were given a choice - do as we say or be out of work very soon. The by election seemed to suggest that in Liberal areas, the Liberal vote would remain strong and this must be a massive worry for Tories in Liberal marginals, because they're now going to be realising that if things don't get better, it's them who will get the blame come the next General Election.


Speaking of General Elections... I think the AV referendum in May is going to be won by the No voters and that is going to put the relationship between Cameron and Clegg at a crossroads. If the Barnsley by election is won, as expected, by the Labour candidate and the Liberals come second then the message sent out could be one that suggests it's time for the Liberals to jump ship if the AV referendum goes against them. Their members and the country as a whole would feel more comfortable with them tempering Labour than them bolstering the Tories.

My confidence is not that strong on this forecast, but I can't help thinking we might be back at the polls by September. Cameron may be left with a minority government if the Libs jump ship and the first major defeat will call a Vote of Confidence motion, which, regardless of public opinion and most of us not wanting another election, will end up with a General Election. Should that happen and we end up with a hung parliament again - quite possible, but with the current situation slightly reversed with the Labour party having the most seats but not an overall majority - then the Liberals would be well placed to form another coalition and remain in power.

The reason I think the Tories might be running scared is that even lifelong supporters of theirs are voicing concerns about the speed and ruthlessness of the cuts and changes they are trying to push through. Even grass roots Tories would like there to be a semblance of Britain left in a few years.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Rough Justice?

I would never condone what Edward Woollard, the 18 year old student protester did with his fire extinguisher, but it raises one really important question. Was this young man rail-roaded through the court and judiciary system to be made example of?

It took the courts less than 6 weeks to try and condemn this young man, yet as someone who works in the Criminal Justice arena, most cases take up to 6 months to go from the charge to the sentence. This is unprecedented in UK courts; for it to be whizzed through at such a high speed smacks of the government interfering to ensure a message is sent out to other student protesters - don't mess with us or you will go down!

Woollard deserved a sentence; what he did was reckless endangerment at best and had the extinguisher hit anyone it would have killed them - no question. But why did it get pushed through the court system so fast? I have worked on cases involving everything from theft by finding to murder and they have all taken 6 times longer to get to court than this.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Woo (and indeed) Hoo

VAT is going up; Public Sector workers are facing a bleak 2011, students are revolting, prisoners are rioting and the government does this: You have to admire them. No, really, you do. Only this government can spin such a non-story. With councils seeing their budgets being slashed, they are, of course, going to reduce their revenue by reducing parking charges. It's obvious isn't it? Oddly enough, even Conservative councillors are admitting that it really doesn't mean the reduction of parking charges in town centres; yes, they have the option to do it, but it's unlikely to happen. As unlikely as Nick Clegg becoming popular again.