Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category
Last night whilst perusing the interweb I was sent a link to the A Barristers Wife blog and promptly spent the best part of the next hour fully taking in all the content on said blog. I won’t lie when I say it was an eye-opening read however it is one that doesn’t surprise me.
The blog is (unsurprisingly considering the title) the blog of the wife of a Legal Aid lawyer. She is writing about some of the cases that her husband has dealt with and why it is vital that changes to the Legal Aid system as proposed by Chris Grayling do not succeed.
The first one I saw was Exhibit C – the “paedophile”. This is a case her husband worked on where a young boy had claimed that his daddy had been abusing him. It seemed a pretty open and shut case until it came out in court that the young boy in fact called both his dad and his stepdad daddy and that he hadn’t seen his real dad in over a year (because of the charges) and wanted to see him and cried. That doesn’t sound like the actions of a kid who had been abused by this man. The lawyer had worked out that it was in fact the stepfather who was the abuser.
Had the lawyer not taken the case diligently and not strong-armed his client into accepting a guilty plea (because the evidence on paper was pretty clear cut) then a completely innocent man would have rotted away in prison only to leave the real abuser still in control of the young boy.
As an aside here I have been the foreman on a jury in a very similar case. The similarities are uncanny and we fund the defendant not guilty due to essentially we didn’t trust the mother’s account of what happened. Her behaviour didn’t add up to us and that was the key. It is strange that evidence counts for so much but behaviour of witnesses do have a real impact. In the other case I sat on during my spell as a juror we didn’t trust the account of the two alleged victims in a GBH case because of the elaborate way they acted in court.
Anyway back to the case in hand. I continued to read the blog.
Next Exhibit B – the “murderer”. This case was a major national case including a Crimewatch reconstruction. The defendant spent over a year on remand awaiting his trial. The lawyer had to spend two weeks (unpaid) to read through all the background information and on the tenth day found the nugget that showed his client could not have been the murderer. In fact in time the Crown’s own evidence would prove he was incapable of being at the murder scene at the time. If we see the proposed changes of legal aid go through then we’ll get to a state where lawyers are just in the business for profit and not to act in the best interests of their client.
At the end of the piece she writes a summary of ‘Why this story should matter to you’ and if you haven’t clicked on the above link (which I would thoroughly recommend) then here is the summary reproduced in full:
Police & CPS procedure – it is clear that the officer in charge of the case had not done what my husband had done, and sat down and read everything. Evidence is collated and summarised in reports, which are passed up and up through the police rank structure. By the time it gets to the top it is a case of “Chinese whispers”. What the top guy reads is not always an accurate reflection of the evidence.
Performance targets – it is unrealistic to expect the police and prosecution to read all of the evidence in every case under the current system. It certainly won’t be possible, even for the defence, under the proposed system. The allocated defence lawyer will be working to targets, working for profit. He won’t have the time to take two weeks out to find the golden nugget. He’ll take a quick look at the evidence, see that it looks pretty damning, and advise the client to plead guilty.
The real scumbag criminal got away with it – as far as we know the real murderer is still at large. The proposed system will lead to more of this. Because if lawyers are to be paid the same whether clients go to trial or not, there will be less trials. Less trials mean less opportunity for upcoming solicitors and barristers to cut their teeth. Less practice on the more simple cases will lead to less proficiency on the complex ones. This will hold for both the defence AND the prosecution. The end result more innocent people going to prison, more guilty people getting away, quite literally, with murder.
It could happen to you – Exhibit B got picked up for this because he had happened to be in the right place at the wrong time. The Crown’s own evidence showed he could not have been at the murder scene at the right time. He served over a year in prison on remand waiting for trial for something he didn’t do. I’ll spare you the details of what happened to him while he was there. And even though he was found not guilty, mud sticks. He was a young man, just starting out. His life was ruined.
Innocence is not interesting – there was a journalist in court for Exhibit B’s trial. Every day there were articles in the local and national papers saying what a nasty piece of work he was. Once the case was thrown out my husband collared the journalist and demanded that he write the story up, listing the points as the judge had directed the jury. Guess what? He didn’t do it. No wonder the public always believe people are guilty until proven innocent.
Innocence is not interesting. Arguably one of the most damning indictments of modern society and she is right. Do we care about people who are falsely accused? Do we heck. The only time we do is if it happens to us or someone that we know. Until that point in general we couldn’t care less and that is something that saddens me. I’m proud to say that I don’t sit alongside those people and think innocence should be as big a news story as guilt. If a defendant is found guilty of a serious crime it will be front page of the local papers but if the same person is found innocent then it’s a snippet on page 17. That isn’t fair but not only that, it isn’t right.
Next up we have Exhibit A – the “child pornographer”. A tale that starts with a granddad’s computer going wrong and taking it somewhere to be fixed. On the computer were images of naked children and the computer repairer called in the police who then arrested the granddad and charged him with possession of level 1 child pornography. Until the trial no-one (including the CPS barrister nor the defence) had seen the photos and the defence lawyer would not advice his client to enter a guilty plea until he had seen the photos. They were eventually granted access to the photos and the CPS barrister upon seeing them offered no evidence and the case was closed.
The whole incident came about because someone pointed a finger (which in this day and age is pretty standard and we all want to be vigilant on these issues) but instead of the police going to see the accused and going through the case properly they just went for it. It turns out the children were his grandchildren and they had come over one day and had forgotten their bathers so were playing in a paddling pool and shooting water pistols naked. A perfectly innocent explanation and one that could have been nipped in the bud before any serious cost to the public purse. Instead police hours, CPS hours, legal aid hours, the court’s time and costs were all incurred when there was never any need for any of it.
On another blog we see the blog post So you’re a football fan, and think the legal aid cuts won’t affect you? which tells of a common tale that could happen to anyone. As a matter of fact a very similar thing happened to me in my teens and it was only the fact that the copper’s colleague really couldn’t be bothered that I wasn’t arrested.
Now I do not know how I’d have reacted as a what 14/15/16 year-old (I can’t remember exactly how old I was) but the context was it was a school INSET day so we were walking through town towards Seaclose Park to play a bit of football. I was saying to the guys something along the lines of ‘I bet we get pulled over by the police asking us why we aren’t in school’ and literally as I said that a cop car drives past eyeballing us. I point and laugh and say to the guys ‘just like that’ and then about 30 seconds later the car has swung around the block and young copper wants to talk to me/arrest me. Older copper (the driver) just stood there leaning on the car and I saw him just shake his head of the younger officer and so I was told to go away. He said I had sworn at him. I knew I hadn’t. However it was effectively my word against his so I’m hypothesising that the advice given to me would’ve been to accept a caution and not taken it to trial had he in fact done what he wanted to do and arrested me.
Of course it didn’t come to that and it was one rather small run-in with the law but I’m not going to lie. Even that incident affected me for quite a while and even years later it would blindside me and I’d think about it. Essentially it was one coppers decision that he couldn’t be bothered with the paperwork that stopped me potentially having a criminal record. How insane is that?
If the proposed changes to legal aid come in and the emphasis changing from putting the clients best interests first towards providing the best value for money and creating profit for the legal aid accredited companies then something has gone seriously wrong in our justice system. Seriously wrong. The cheapest contract is not always the best. I could say that I could school a whole school for £50 a night but that doesn’t mean I could clean it to a level that they expect and the same goes for lawyers.
We can all find ourselves in legal strife through no fault of our own. It can happen to any of us and that is what is so vital about not only the ability to have legal aid but also quality legal aid. Not all defendants are criminal scumbags and until they are found guilty by a jury of their peers they should be allowed the best possible representation from a diligent lawyer who puts the best interest of their client ahead of their own personal views or profit.
If you believe that everyone has the right to a good level of defence when they are only accused of a crime then you can sign the petition here. I did so last night. I would implore you to do so and if this blog post hasn’t convinced you then please read all the pieces that I have linked to. The right to a good standard of defence and advice is something that we all deserve but because of the way the media like to portray all accused as guilty scumbags until proved otherwise and the way society in the main has moved from innocent until proven guilty to suspicious presumed guilty until proven otherwise then it is all the more important that we defend quality legal aid for all who need it. I don’t use libraries but I can see many people that do and therefore don’t mind my taxes being used to keep them open. The same goes for quality legal aid.
My blood is boiling folks. There is one thing that I hold dear and that is that we are all created equal. One human life is of the same value as the next. So if I get murdered the person who killed me should get the same sentence as if they killed anyone else in exactly the same way. Now of course not all murders are equal, some are premeditated, some involve sexual crimes, some include torture before killing their victims but if I am killed in exactly the same way as another person then I’d expect sentencing to be the same.
Theresa May today outlined new proposals that will mean any police officer or prison officer slain would see the perpetrator given mandatory whole life sentences. This is because we ask them to put themselves in harms way to ensure that society are safe. However last I saw Army, Navy and Royal Air Force personnel did exactly the same. What about the coastguard who risk their lives to safe others? What about the Fire Brigade? Are we seriously saying that one section of society deserve more retribution than others?
What about when police officers kill members of the general public? Do these people deserve less time in jail and the opportunity of being free one day? Isn’t that kinda mad?
I am not a ‘lock ‘em up and throw away the key’ person. In fact I am quite the opposite. I believe there is a better way to deal with criminals but when it comes to serious crimes such as murder and rape then prison very much has its place. However mandatory life terms for a crime against one section of society to me seems wholly wrong and only goes to show that we are not all equal. All crimes are not equal. That is why we have judges who have leeway to use their judgement to decide on how long a guilty person should spend inside. Mitigating circumstances have to be taken into account.
This policy seems to me to smell strongly of the Home Secretary trying to get the police back onside and trying to sound strong on crime. That is what everyone seems to want. Labour have welcomed this policy and I don’t know what the Liberal Democrats think but I’d be disappointed if they are happy to say that one persons life is worth more than another’s. It goes against our very principles of equality.
Should people that kill police officers and prison officers face heavy sentences? Darn tootin’ they do but you know what – so does anyone who takes another human life deliberately. Whether that person is a police officer, a member of our armed forces, a teacher, a student, a homeless person or whoever. Taking another human life is a despicable act but you won’t convince me that killing one person is less reprehensible than killing another.
It is a question that comes and goes with various media stories and people have fairly entrenched views on either side of the debate. I am one of those people. I have strong views that due to the fact a not insignificant proportion of society equate an arrest or a charge sheet to guilt. I’ll ask these two questions and I want you to think about it and not just read past it.
If a friend of yours was charged or even just arrested for burglary would you treat them any different? If so, by how much? If the same friend was charged or even just arrested in relation with a sexual offence, certainly one involving children would you treat them any differently? If so, by how much?
Now i don’t have any statistics to back up my point but most people I know would be far more cautious with regards to someone who had been linked to a sexual offence. Certainly if you are a parent then would you want this person around your children? I’d pretty sure you wouldn’t even though they had not been found guilty of anything. An arrest or charge of burglary is a serious crime but there is a distinct different in how many of us perceive sexual crimes and all other crimes. We (rightly) find them more vile but we are also far more ready to err on the safe side in removing those people from our lives before the judicial process has played out.
The old adage of ‘mud sticks’ isn’t there because it isn’t true. It most certainly is true. Anyone who has been arrested or charged with a sexual offence will have that on file for the rest of their lives and it will follow them like a bad smell even if they were found not guilty or the charges were dropped or even if they were never charged. It is fair that innocent people are victimised (I don’t use that word lightly) because we as a society err on the safe side?
This brings me nicely on to my next point. At what point do we decide who the victim is? Do we decide that the victim is the person who has alleged a sexual crime against them from the off or do we decide they are a victim when a jury reaches a guilty verdict? Do we decide that the person arrested/charged is the victim if they are found not guilty or do we still perceive the person who alleges the crime as the victim?
Now clearly this isn’t an easy one to answer because there is a situation where both people can be victims, the person who alleges the crime may well have been the victim of a crime but the person arrested/charged with that crime might not be the right person. In that situation are they both victims or is one of them more of a victim than the other?
We all have different views on this case and one of the most prominent liberal voices out there, co-editor of Liberal Democrat Voice Stephen Tall has his and they are vehemently to mine. In his post Rape anonymity for the accused: well-intentioned but wrong, he concludes that, ‘Ultimately the best safeguard for maintaining a free and open society is an accountable and open system of justice. Secrecy, however well-intentioned, is hardly ever preferable to transparency, however messy.‘
Whilst on paper that seems the best way forward I would contend that in the real world that is not plausible. Justice can be seen to be served in a not guilty verdict but that verdict cannot undo the months (and sometimes years) the accused has suffered on multiple fronts. They find their social circle dramatically decreases whilst they await trial as people don’t want to associate with someone charged with such serious offences. They probably are at best suspended by their employer but in many situations they will be fired and are unable to find any more work until they are cleared and if they do it is unlikely to be in a similar field. Also as I hinted at earlier a not guilty verdict doesn’t ex-sponge people’s memories nor does it disappear from your criminal record. Yes you can have a serious criminal record without even being a criminal. A rape/sexual offence arrest/charge stays with you forever.
Some would say they would prefer to know if someone they knew was arrested or charged with such a serious offence as they have to think of their safety as well as that of their children. This is a fair point but at what point does a person constitute a threat? An allegation? An arrest? Being charged? Being found guilty of the crimes? I honestly don’t know but what I do know is that innocent people charged with such serious offences are victims. I’m not saying they are more or less of a victim than the alleged victim but they are victims. Yes a not guilty person can rebuild their life but they will always carry baggage with them and they will also always be looked at through narrower eyes.
I think I should put it out there that I believe the vast majority, let me reiterate that, the vast majority of allegations are made in good faith. We all know there are a number of malicious allegations made but we’ll ignore them for now even though they are a relevant debate. This is about a situation where there is a victim who has been attacked but at what point does the person the police decide is the person who attacked them deserve to have their name made public?
I know many (including Stephen linked to above) bring up the Stuart Hall case where him being named brought forward more victims and ensured a guilty plea and a sexual predator brought to justice but that is but one example. You could make a case for any piece of legislation based on one example. However I always ask the same thing – if you were an innocent person arrested and subsequently charged with such an offence, you lost all your friends and your job and lived a life of limbo for say a year or so before being found not guilty, finding that your social circle still weren’t sure and most of them still didn’t want to know you and then you couldn’t return to your job – or a job of similar standing – then would you feel aggrieved?
Darn straight you would. Your life would have been turned upside down through no fault of your own. Now whilst it is true that rape victims have exactly the same in that their lives are completely turned upside down, do two wrongs make a right? No. No I don’t think so – and more than that – I never will.
So to round this thing up one of two things need to happen, We as a society have to learn the difference between someone being found guilty of a crime compared to being charged or even arrested in connection with a crime (which I don’t think we can do) or we need to keep both the accused and the accuser anonymous until we can find out which of the two (or even if both) are victims.
Local election campaigns are in full swing across the country (although not here in Southend-on-Sea) and there is only one story that seems to be coming out. This story isn’t about whether Labour will make gains against the Tories. The story isn’t about whether the Lib Dems will stop the hemorrhaging of votes/councillors. The story isn’t about whether the austerity will hurt the Tories. The only story I keep reading about is the surge of the UK Independence Party and what this means for the future.
I must admit my gut feeling is that UKIP will be like a fast burning love affair. They will burn oh so bright but they will not burn for a long time. The fact of the matter is there are a significant number of people who don’t like nor trust politicians. The whole expenses scandal has left politicians looking up at journalists in the respected by stakes, which is not a good place to be. Heck divorce lawyers are more respected than politicians at the moment. UKIP are promising a breath of fresh air and to put Great Britain first and not to kowtow to Brussels and the EU. It isn’t like the UKIP leader has taken (to 2009) around £2million in tax payers money from the EU in expenses. Oh wait…
They are basically scratching the itch of those who are disenchanted with modern politics. They are different they say. The system is crooked they say. Nigel Farage has seen a stronger eye on his party in recent days as it has come out that they have struggled to vet their candidates. Some of them seem to be less than desirable and certainly not the type of people you’d want in any position of power. The main issue is a lot of people vote for the party and not the candidate so if you don’t vet properly then you may find you have councillors representing the party who don’t truly reflect the views of the party.
The UKIP leader is not happy with all of this, ‘Have you met the cretins we have in Westminster? Do you think we can be worse than that?’ exclaims the 49 year-old. On one hand he has a point that all parties have the odd person who deep down you aren’t sure truly reflects the parties values and you get a sense they aren’t being their true self. When it comes to UKIP though who knows?
However this blog isn’t about that. It is about the talk over the possibility of more PM TV Debates in 2015. Stories in the press over the weekend have linked Labour to the Tories in wanting to keep out UKIP. Remember Labour do not want the Lib Dems in because they formed a coalition with the Tories so think any Lib Dem leader should share a platform with the Tories and Labour’s deputies because that is as high as they could ever be. Gotta love Labour’s stance on that. So in Labour’s eyes any debate would be two-way between them and the Tories. The Tories are happy for three-way with the Lib Dems also involved. We don’t know the Lib Dem view as yet.
My view though is extremely simplistic. If a party is putting up enough candidates to form a government then their leader should be invited to join the other leaders in these debates. The SNP, Plaid Cymru, the Green Party and others were unhappy about being left out last time but none of them were fielding enough candidates to form a government and their leader could never be Prime Minister so their place in any ‘Prime Ministerial Debate’ did seem relatively pointless. The likelihood though is that UKIP will be putting up enough candidates across the country and in the interest of democracy they deserve the to share that platform in my eyes.
We saw last time that Nick Clegg’s profile rose dramatically throughout the process last year and at one point, in one Sunday poll the Lib Dems actually led. As we all know though that extra exposure translated to over a million more votes but actually fewer MPs. It also led to far more scrutiny in the right-wing media as they went to town on the Lib Dems and on Nick Clegg in particular. This worked to some degree and should Nigel Farage and his party get the same exposure they would be subject to the same level of scrutiny.
My feelings on UKIP are pretty clear but I also believe in fairness and equality (good liberal traits there) and if UKIP are in a position where they could feasibility (no matter how unlikely) form a government if everything went right for them on polling day in 2015 then they deserve the right to share that platform. It is up to the other parties and particularly their leaders to show UKIP for what they are and to get the public to vote for them and not Nigel Farage’s lot.
The thing is we all know that the moment UKIP get any power (either at local or national level) the public will quickly realise what they have done. At a local level voting UKIP will not change anything to do with the EU or tax rates or immigration which is basically what UKIP are all about. So a vote for UKIP locally on Thursday is basically saying, ‘we hate them all and even though they can’t follow through with their primary objectives in local governments we’ll vote for them as a symbol of our anger towards national issues.’ When it comes to national issues though their rhetoric of being anti-EU and anti-foreigners is actually something they could act on.
UKIP are unlikely to ever have a Prime Minister, they are unlikely to ever be in a position to form a coalition but as they say – you never know. UKIP’s core support is with the older generation – a YouGov poll in February found that only 15% of UKIP support comes from those under 40 – the fact is the older generation are more likely to vote.
For me I don’t see UKIP as a viable party and are just a protest against the status quo and the current financial climate. The moment the economy pulls itself out of its funk and the countries finances are balanced then the need for a protest party will dissipate. This will happen but it won’t happen before 2015. So let UKIP play with the established parties and give them the opportunities that they deserve. I just hope they shoot themselves in the foot when they are under a serious national spotlight. It is easy to protest when their are few repercussions but when it comes to a General Election protests are harder because actions (and votes) have consequences.
Ah. Who doesn’t love a good Nadine Dorries story? It has been a while since her name has even passed into my consciousness. No doubt she has been extremely busy doing great things and saving the world. Or something. Anyway tonight there seemed to be a bit of a stir on my Twitter Timeline about her and the fact she was blocking Lib Dems from communicating with her via the medium on account that they were ‘Lib Dem.’
Please see the screenshot below.
Now blocking someone from communicating with you based solely on their political persuasion is fair enough if you are a muppet but if you are an MP then you kinda can’t do that – certainly if the person who instigated the conversation was in fact a constituent (which seemingly they are – or at least were). So yeah blocking people for that reason seems pretty petty and pathetic but it is no surprise.
My biggest issue with this whole thing is her saying that she has been ‘totally savaged’ – yeah Liberal Youth on twitter are the vicious ones. The fact she was getting slaughtered in the national media for her decision to swan off to the jungle and her other shall we call them eccentricities? Yeah it is those nasty Liberal Youthers who are the savages. If Nadine actually read everything about her on twitter she would know that the twitterati basically think as much of her as I do of mushrooms*.
I’m pretty sure Nadine has a brain inside of her head and she probably knows what a savaging was and a few people saying she hadn’t visited a school isn’t a savaging. Blocking people on twitter is all well and good if they are being abusive but for reasons such as this and then bleating that Liberal Youth are savaging her is about as pathetic as my attempts to get out of going to church when I was 11.
Ah well. We all love a good Nadine Dorries story don’t we…?
*Mushrooms are the most disgusting thing on the planet. They grow them ugly to warn everyone off the and they smell worse than a fried egg and yet people happily eat them. Are you mad people of the world. Are you mad? Can you honestly say you look at a mushroom growing in a field and think ‘I think I’ll put that in my mouth’ No. No you wouldn’t and yet people do…*shakes head in despair*
Tax. We don’t like tax. We do like public services. The two of them go hand-in-hand so to get public services we pay tax. That is just the way of the world. Most of us have reconciled with that but then of course the debate is about who pays what and what do they pay for?
Well today the following image show up in my Facebook feed…
’340,000 New mums to lose £180 thanks to David Cameron’s Mummy Tax’
Mummy Tax. Are you (expletive) kidding me? Just calling anything that just screams political spin of the likes Shane Warne would deliver should he ever turn over his arm in the political arena. The message along with the photo was thus, ‘David Cameron is prioritising a massive tax cut for millionaires over new mums and hard working families.’ So it is essentially a dig at the 45p tax rate for higher earners. However what the ‘Mummy Tax’ actually is hasn’t been explained on this image or the text provided but we’ll get to that later.
One thing I do know is that under this government (which isn’t Labour) the amount a person can earn tax free will have risen to £10,000 a year. This according to the people who do the math (or maths if you are one of those who don’t like the american terminology – I just think ‘do the math’ scans better) means that people will save £705 a year on tax. Now as far as I’m aware £705 is more than £180 but I am happy to concede that we are talking about two very different things.
Now this ‘Mummy Tax’ is of course related to the benefits freeze at 1% instead of inline with inflation. This new image or the text to go with it actually doesn’t explain that at all. I just Googled ‘Mummy Tax’ and a few notes popped up including that Labour had dubbed this part of the budget as that. Nice slogan. The ‘Bedroom Tax’ worked well for Labour but the ‘Mummy Tax’ if it stuck would be an absolute winner. The issue is it hasn’t stuck as yet but they are trying.
In an article on Sky News about it single mum-to-be Helen Mockridge had a pretty clear suggestion for a better way to reduce the deficit and I think this is what Labour are trying to get people to think.
“Taxing really rich people, obviously, that’s where the money should come from.
“For me it’s a real no-brainer and it makes me really angry that certain parts of society are very, very wealthy and the gap between rich and poor is getting bigger.
“That’s where the money should be coming from, not from single mothers or the disabled or any other vulnerable group.”
It is a viewpoint that a lot of people have but let us look at the realities of the situation. I’ll use myself as an example.
If I was ‘really rich’ then if I was going to get taxed to high heaven to help reduce the deficit then I wouldn’t live in the UK – and you know what – neither would you. If I was super rich and they put up the tax rate to beyond 50% then I’d look at it and think ‘really is living in the UK really worth paying x amount of millions extra in tax?’ and I know exactly what I’d say. See this is the problem with having a higher tax band at a vast level.
Most ‘Really rich’ people are happy to pay a fair amount but the moment they believe they are being unjustly targeted then they will up sticks and leave. When that happens they pay no tax to the UK government and no tax is not going to help with the debt. I remember a local Labour councillor telling me that he preferred the government collecting less taxation as long as the rich really got screwed as it was an ideological matter and not actually about the money collected. I couldn’t disagree more.
Tax is about money and about everyone paying a fair amount towards public services. The issue about these ‘really rich’ people is most of them have a choice about whether to live in the UK or not. So the government has to decide at what level will they get more of these people to live in the country and generate the most income. It is a balance and it isn’t easy. The best level for the higher rate tax band is whatever percentage generates the most income. The more the higher band collects then the less is needed from the lower bands. It seems like pretty straightforward economic sense to me.
So to lump the ‘tax cut for millionaires’ aka the reduction in the higher rate of Income Tax to 45% from 50% in with the Labour dubbed ‘Mummy Tax’ and say essentially that the government are getting the money from New Mums that they aren’t getting from millionaires is a lie. If the math (I did it again) is right then 340,000 (New Mums) x £180 is £61.2million a year saved by the government. Are the ‘really rich’ people contributing more than £61.2million to the government’s coffers? I think they are.
In PMQs when this first came about these were the figures the PM went with, At the 50p tax rate there were 6,000 people paying tax raising £6.7bn in taxes. The previous year when the 40p tax rate was in place 16,000 people were paying on that tax rate and they brought in £13.7bn in tax revenue for the Treasury. So more people paying less actually led to £7bn more money being raised.
This has been long and rambly (like most of my posts) but really linking the cap in benefits to the tax cut for millionaires is just bollocks. Also dubbing the benefits freeze at 1% as the ‘Mummy Tax’ just makes me want to vomit. If the reduction of the 50p tax rate to 45p brings in more money than at 50p then what will Labour say? All they can say is either ‘well played government, you’ve done a good job there’ or ‘we don’t care – tax the rich bastards as much as possible even if it means less money – we only care about making it clear we hate the rich,’ they can only go one of those two ways.
We shall see as they say but I’m pretty sure I know which they will go. Labour’s front bench doesn’t scream out, ‘we want to deal with the financial issues in the best way possible’ and instead you always get the sense their attitude is, ‘what can we do to make it seem like the Tories love the rich and hate the poor and in turn make us more electable?’
Head. Desk. Bang.
Being a member of a political party is slightly different to being just a supporter and a voter. It is that time of year where my membership of the Liberal Democrats is up for renewal and after a couple of years as a member it is always good to look at yourself and ask whether it is worth it.
I have decided that there are three reasons to be a member of a political party – National Issues, Local Issues and Personal Ideology. The big question is how many of those three do I (or anyone for that matter) have to be happy with to continue membership (or indeed join in the first place).
I’ll start with Personal Ideology.
Several weeks ago I was challenged to write about my Lib Dem Values. In a way it was also a way to see if my thoughts meshed well with that of the party. I am a liberal. I believe in liberal philosophy. I don’t really have to challenge myself on this at any level because I have always had a very similar viewpoint of the world and our place in it. No one person is born better or worse than the next person. Every person deserves the same chances and opportunities in life. If the Liberal Democrats still sit broadly in the liberal realm of the political spectrum then I can tick this box.
However National Issues is a harder thing to sit with.
I joined the party after the coalition was forced. Despite having always voted and leaned Lib Dem I never actually joined until March of 2011. So I was not a member of the party when solely in opposition so I do have a slightly different viewpoint to many others who have been members for far longer. The biggest difference between opposition and government is that sometimes principles and practicalities are mutually exclusive and something has to give way.
The question is at what point do principles become compromised unnecessarily? That is the problem the I personally wrestle with. Being part of a coalition does mean that we as a party will have to do things that we are not personally comfortable with. If we want to live in an isolated Utopian state and only do things that as a party we would be happy with then either win a General Election or be in opposition until the point where an outright victory occurs. Coalition will always mean two parties (or more) doing things that they are both comfortable and uncomfortable with. This is just the nature of the beast.
However when we see MP’s and the national party doing things that go against the will of the membership without getting an obvious trade back on another issue then it is immensely troubling. It can be said that the Tories have backed things they would have preferred not to during the past 35 months or so. It most certainly can be said that the Lib Dems have done just that and on multiple occasions.
People have left the party due to various issues since the formation of the coalition. Many leave strictly because of one principle gone too far and others because of an accumulation of principles they believed in being ignored and in some cases actively campaigned against by the upper echelons of the party.
It is hard to really back some of what is going on at Westminster. I like Nick Clegg. I like him a lot but unless he explains why he does some of the things he does and listens to the grass roots then it is hard to fully back him. We have gone past the point where we can believe in Nick Clegg and the national party with blind faith that they know what they are doing.
So this box I probably can’t tick so I’ll say it is an incomplete.
Lastly Local Issues.
I currently live in Southend. We have a Conservative run council (with a majority of one) and a rather interesting local political scene. The Lib Dems locally are good people (which is always a pretty decent start) and I think we can see some progress here. I wish the councillors would be better at talking about their achievements as it is rare to see them in the local paper talking about what they do – and some of them do excellent work and genuinely make a difference.
I do like to think that I live in the real world and the financial situation makes things very difficult for the Tory run council. Cuts do have to be made to make ends meet but there is always a question of what cuts and where. Do we cut along ideological lines or do we cut where those effected are those who can deal with being effected? This is where I struggle with what the Tories have done going into a voting pact with the Thorpe councillors (although now that pact isn’t needed) because Thorpe is the ward where people can deal with issues better than any other. So whilst those in Thorpe will be delighted at the reduction in car parking charges in the Broadway, that is money that is now not going into the coffers.
Also we have to work on what things are spent on – certainly the big projects. The Shoebury Youth Centre was a £2.9million building but it is hardly being used. Firstly we have to question why it was built in the first place but secondly we need to find a way for that building to become a viable part of the Shoebury community. There are issues like this all over the place and in general the local Lib Dems seem to be actively working on finding solutions to difficult situations and aren’t just sticking their heads in the sand and saying ‘those evil Tories are really evil’ etc…
So locally I think I can probably tick that I’m relatively content with what is going on. The local party are active and I do think that being part of it is worthwhile and it can benefit the local community if we continue to work hard and deliver on what we can do.
So two ticks and an incomplete. The National Party do concern me and do the pros outweigh the cons of being in coalition? I’m not sure. Are we losing our soul? Some may argue that and in all honesty I do not know the answer. However my ideology has not changed and being a member of the local party is I think worthwhile therefore it’ll be another year as a member for me…
Paris Brown is a 17 year-old girl. She’s no angel but name me a 17 year-old girl (or boy) who is. She had written some tweets in her time that possibly looking back on she regrets. However I wonder how I’d have been at that age with the ability to leave my thoughts on a website for everyone to easily see. Luckily in a way Twitter, Facebook and social media didn’t really take off until I was well into my 20s and I was old enough (and wise enough) to always think twice before posting anything. I think to myself ‘what would I think if my Mum read this?’ and if I feel as though she’d be disappointed in me then I know it isn’t something I should be writing about publicly. Same goes for this blog.
So this girl wrote something about hash brownies. Big whoop. She says it was a line from Scooby Doo which is actually rather plausible as we all know Shaggy was a stoner. However even if it wasn’t who really gives a rat’s? She wrote about coming home from a party alone and not having anyone to sleep with/shag. Big whoop. A significant number of young people are very sexually active. This wouldn’t mean she wasn’t equipped to do the job she was hired for just because she wishes she had gotten lucky one night. Do the Daily Mail really think their readership believe young people shouldn’t be out enjoying themselves sexually? What horse expletive.
She tweeted about getting drunk. Wow! Stop the freakin’ Presses folks. Young person likes getting ratted and on occasion when they get drunk acts like a twat. Big fucking whoop. Not all young people are as dull and boring as me. I didn’t drink until I was 18 and haven’t drunk since I was 26. In my whole life I can only recall being drunk on three occasions. I am not the norm. However I certainly don’t think a young person drinking is exactly a big issue when it comes to whether she is a good person to do the job for which she was hired. In fact I think the fact she is just like a regular teenager means she is far more of an ideal candidate for this role than I would have been at the same age because she deals with a lot of the issues that I would have had no idea about. Therefore being into alcohol is certainly (in my eyes) an advantage in this instance and most certainly not a negative in any way shape or form.
Now we move on to the tweets she probably regrets. Saying she was glad someone got ‘thumped’ for giving someone else a black eye. However who amongst us having deep down smiled wen someone got their comeuppance? Yeah I thought so. Calling homosexuals fags is probably her worst ‘crime’ but calling immigrants ‘illegals’ and travellers ‘pikeys’ may not be right but it isn’t unusual for young people to talk like that. Do the Daily Mail want to name and shame every young person who uses that language on twitter or does the fact she was appointed into a relatively unknown role give them good cause to tear her down?
The biggest issue for me was the fact the job was set up in the first place. Not really the job per se but the salary and the title. It opened up this poor girl to a political environment and media scrutiny which she didn’t need nor warrant. How about calling it a ‘Youth Liaison Officer’ or something of that ilk? I would bet a fair few quid that if she was appointed as that then this fuss wouldn’t have happened. This should have been some PR and was actually not a terrible idea. Have someone the Police & Crime Commissioner can liaise with about issues facing young people. The youth of today (and my youth, and your youth and everybody’s youth) always complain that the police don’t understand them or listen to them so this should have been a good idea.
Instead the fact she was called the Youth PCC and they made it so public opened up this 17 year-old to unjust and unfair criticism. The Daily Mail should be ashamed of its behaviour but we all know that they won’t be. They essentially hounded a girl from her job (before she’d even taken it up) because they decided she wasn’t the right person based solely on her tweets. They didn’t interview the young lady. They didn’t get to know her and see what she could bring to the position. They just saw one part of her and decided that was enough. Depressingly that sums up the media – and certainly sums up the Daily Mail.
I sure hope she bounces back from this and it will just be a footnote in her life/career. Her tweets were not unlike many others and just because she had a low paying job that was partly funded by the tax payer shouldn’t give the Daily Mail the right to tear her apart. If it does then there are a lot of council workers and civil servants across the country who should be closing down their twitter accounts or making sure they know who can read them and the same goes for Facebook. A role at the tax payers expense does not equate to the right to just crush someone for acting just like anyone else her age.
I actually sent in a letter to the editor of the Echo in the week. It has yet to be published. It of course very well may not be published so here is a copy of it. The back story is that Cllr. Terry has called on Cllr Kaye to resign and force a by-election in Thorpe ward following her decision to join the Tories having been elected as an independent.
I was surprised to read that Cllr. Terry was prepared to give up his ‘safe seat’ of Westborough ward in order to challenge the recently defected Cllr. Kaye in Thorpe or should I say I wasn’t surprised at all?
You see Thorpe ward is the biggest stronghold of the independent group and Cllr. Terry knows that he has issues holding on to his seat in Westborough in 2015.
Cllr. Terry is clearly an intelligent man who doesn’t do things lightly. He remembers that his now former independent colleague Dr. Vel only held on to Westborough by 38 votes in May. He also knows that the last time the borough elections were held on the same day as the General Election (like they will be the next time he is due to stand in 2015) Westborough lost an independent councillor who slumped to third place that day in the polls.
There is a reason Cllr. Terry doesn’t want all-up elections to be held on the same day as either European or Westminster elections – he knows the independents would struggle mightily. Come to think of it did any independent councillor win in 2010? Oh yes…one – Cllr. Kaye in Thorpe. Suddenly it all becomes crystal clear…
Now on one hand I agree with Cllr. Terry that Cllr. Kaye should resign and a by-election be called following her decision to change parties. However he didn’t call for a by-election when Cllr. Morgan defected from the Lib Dems to the independent group, nor did I hear him call for a by-election in Westborough when Dr. Vel left the independent group to become a true independent. It is either a by-election for every defection or for none. It can’t be by-election only in certain circumstances.
I know he said that it is different when someone goes from a party to an independent compared to from an independent to a party but frankly I disagree. Remember in Southend the independent group are not solely independents. In fact Cllr. Terry calls himself the ‘spokesman of the independent group’ – how can independents have a spokesman? Surely they should all speak for themselves as they are independents and therefore all have differing views but as we all know in Southend – the independent group are not fully independent at all.
As for Cllr. Terry resigning to take on Thorpe in a by-election it would then of course force a by-election in Westborough. Yet more expense. Swapping Westborough for Thorpe though would ensure Cllr. Terry’s seat in the chamber for many years to come and of that I am very sure he is more than aware…
Immigration is one of the biggest issues facing our country today. Not because it actually is but more because that is what the media is telling us. Ten years ago immigration was a footnote when questioning the public about what they wanted the government to sort out. These days it has become a bigger talking point on the doorstep than everything bar the economy. Yes even the NHS and Education are less of a talking point than immigration. So why the sea change?
Basically the economy has gone down the tubes and someone has to be to blame and it can’t all be the bankers fault, can it? We have gone from one of the most tolerant societies to one that openly talks about immigration in a bad light. The media whip up a firestorm with stories such as the benefits cheats who get to live in mansions at the tax payers expense but the stories about the hard working people who come over here, pay taxes and enrich our culturally diverse society don’t seem to get as many inches in the written media for some reason?
If I’m awake in time I often leave BBC1 on in the mornings (because Homer Under The Hammer is fantastic) and there is a show called ‘Saints & Scroungers) and practically every single scrounger is a foreign national who shouldn’t be living here. Am I to believe that these people account for more benefits being illegally received than born and bred Brits? Yeah. Right…
The argument I often hear is, ‘well I was born and bred here and they weren’t so why should my taxes pay for their benefits.’ On the face of it a fair point of view but when you dig deeper they don’t just chastise those who don’t work and claim benefits, they chastise those who have jobs as well because they are doing jobs that born and bred Brits could do. I ask them what they think about Brits moving abroad and they don’t have a problem with it. So Brits moving abroad and working is fine but others coming to the UK and doing the same isn’t. I bash my head against a brick wall sometimes.
Angry voices are swelling about immigration and you hear that people want the government of the day – whoever they are – to be tough on immigration. One of my main issues is the loudest voices want the government of the day to be tough on everything. Being tough is the way forward they say but it isn’t however a political party can never be shown to be anything other than tough otherwise they’ll be torn apart in the media. Being tough on crime is one of the main ones and yet locking everyone up and throwing away the key doesn’t actually solve all the problems. The penal system isn’t just about punishment but also about rehabilitation but you can’t say that out loud without sounding soft in the eyes of many.
This leads me to the immigration issue. The country and the economy will prosper if we are open for business. That means foreign companies investing in the UK and it also means skilled nationals from other countries coming here and working. It also means foreign nationals coming to the UK to learn and get educated.
On a society front I hear people argue that they feel more uneasy being around foreigners instead of UK nationals. Personally I have never felt this is the case. It is akin to people saying that foreigners are more criminal than people in this country and that just doesn’t wash with me. We are all human beings when it comes down to it and yes there are bad people in this country who are not helping our economy or society but you know what – the majority of those people are British. Should we tolerant these people and persecute the others just because they were born here? Does being born somewhere give you the right to be treated differently to another person when that is the only difference between the way you are acting? I think not.
The reason I am discussing this today is simple. Nick Clegg spoke today on this issue and the headline is about looking into the feasibility of visitors from certain countries having to pay a bond that they would collect on their way out of the UK once their visa was up. It is a pretty dumb policy in my opinion but they are just looking into it, just like the previous Labour government did twice and the coalition has already looked into. If civil servants think it is feasible then a pilot will be run.
Now that is the headline that was on the news and is in all the online editions of the written media. It doesn’t come across well but the speech wasn’t just about that. A very interesting part was about exit checks and the way they had been scaled down by the previous government. To me it just seems logical that you count and check people in and then check them on the way out as well. Isn’t that just good practice so you know who is where?
I have no issue with being ‘zero-tolerant on abuse’ as long as it doesn’t impinge on those who are wanting to do things legally and would benefit the economy and our society. I know Nick wants to sound tough on immigration and wants to be at the forefront of the debate but the issue now isn’t about actual immigration – it is about how to differentiate between all the main political parties on this issue. They all want to sound tougher and more outraged than the next party whereas in reality the best practical solution would be to sort out the management of the system and ensuring that we know who is here, for what purpose and for how long. If we know that then that is the majority of the battle won. The way I see it our biggest problem isn’t the amount of people who are here but that we don’t know who is here.
Whilst immigration is an issue – as I said earlier it is seen as such a large issue because those with the loudest voices have dictated it to be so. UKIP, the Tories and Labour all want to be seen as the hardest and toughest on immigration and that will play well with many. However there is plenty of room for a sane and reasonable approach to immigration and that is where I hope Nick and the Lib Dems go. If a political party could say (and more important achieve) a situation where they could effectively manage immigration to the point where the country was open to anyone with the skillset that was deemed needed and that students on education visas were free to come and study but with the important caveat that when their visas ended they had to either leave or apply again for either an extended or a different visa then that would be music to my – and a lot of other people’s ears.
Politicians need to remember that the loudest voices are not always the majority of voices. If you can put yourself in a position where the more reasoned voter could believe you could deliver something that made sense then you have a chance with these people. Not everyone votes on the strength of what the media tells them. In fact the truth is most vote based on their own opinions. Not everyone is extreme in their views on immigration so I’d like to see a political party talk to these people – and I for one would like that political party to be the Liberal Democrats.
Immigration is not bad. Uncontrolled immigration might be but the whole issue of immigration is a good thing for all countries around the globe. Finding a way to ensure our doors are flung wide open to the right people is far more important than ensuring the wrong people are finding a way in but we need a balance. If we can find a way to manage immigration – both the good and the bad – then we’ll be going someway to building a better society and economy. The biggest story in Nick’s speech wasn’t the bond issue but the fact we are building up our network of exit checks that the party has been calling for since 2004. Once we have a handle of who is where and who hasn’t left when they should have then we can start effectively managing the whole immigration system. It was a Labour mistake but it is one the Lib Dems are helping to fix.