The Rambles of Neil Monnery

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Mr Mark Steel – A perfect example of why Labour can never win a grown-up debate

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Ah Mr Mark Steel. A voice against Capitalism and a voice against the system. Allegedly a comedian but I support if Michael McIntyre can call himself a comedian then anyone can these days. I think it is fair to say that Mark Steel is a Labour man and it has heavily influenced his life. I have no problem with that, we are all shaped by our upbringings and our political ideologies. Some from all parties believe in everything they do and disparage anyone who disagrees wit them. This always galls me as I like to think there is something to be learned from so many views.

Why am I writing about this today?

Well the ‘funny man’ has written a piece in the Independent entitled If his 2015 manifesto is going to feature a load of pledges he can’t stick to, shouldn’t Nick Clegg at least have some fun with it? with the sub-title, If it’s grown-up to ignore what you said to get elected, why have a campaign at all?

It is exactly what you think it is, a poorly thought-out piece saying that because the Lib Dems didn’t win a majority in the House of Commons at the last General Election then they basically should have told the Tories to stuff it and allow the economy to funk for a few months whilst we had a second General Election where the Tories would have won a majority. That is what he thinks would have been the best way to deal with the issues of the summer of 2010. It is a shame that yet another person fails to understand what the basic ethos of a coalition is but there are plenty of those about, so he’s in fine company.

I remember the same ‘comic’ on panel shows such as Have I Got News For You? and Mock The Week deriding the Lib Dems in the build up to the 2010 General Election as a waste of space, because quite simply they couldn’t win and couldn’t see any of their policies implemented. David Mitchell is one that really resonates in the memory banks, going on about how considerate it was to have the Lib Dem party conferences before the Tory and Labour ones so all the political hacks could have a warm-up before the important ones. Oh my sides split.

Well a strange thing happened on the way to being irrelevant. The Lib Dems became relevant and boy did it piss off a lot of people. Not solely because they became relevant but because they sided with the Tories over Labour in terms of a coalition. Not to mention the fact that the election maths made a Labour coalition impossible, meaning only a rainbow alliance could have had the MPs to hold a majority and imagine that, Labour, Lib Dems, SNP, DUP, Plaid Cymru, SDLP, Green etc… – could these guys really all sit around a table and form a stable government? I think the chances of that are similar to those of me ever getting laid – PS: if you don’t know me then I can assure you, the odds of me ever getting laid are long, very long.

Also the country had voted for more Conservative MPs than any other party, surely this meant they deserved to run the country? They didn’t win the election outright but they were closer to the winners post than any other party. The financial situation at the time of the election meant that confidence and supply for an emergency budget wasn’t really a goer and a stable coalition had to be formed. The Tories and the Lib Dems were the unlikely bed fellows. Did that sit well with me? No, of course it didn’t but I could see that stable government was needed and this was the best route forward.

I can see why many voters were unhappy about this. A significant proportion of the Lib Dem vote wasn’t really a Lib Dem vote, but an anti-Tory vote. In vast areas it is a two-horse race and Labour voters lent their vote hoping to keep the Tories out of office. The fact the Lib Dems then went into coalition with the Tories meant they felt betrayed. This is just a pitfall of our election system that we could have changed but the country decided they didn’t want it to be changed. Sod fairer votes as it might favour the Lib Dems. Now of course many people are slowly figuring out that FPTP is going to screw UKIP and they are outraged again but I digress.

Could Nick Clegg have handled certain things better? Of course he could. Sadly though we don’t have a Stargate or a Quantum Mirror to go into a parallel universe and see how things would’ve shaken out had Clegg not had taken the Lib Dems into a coalition. However to turn around and say that he could write whatever he wanted in the 2015 Lib Dem manifesto because he didn’t see through his 2010 manifesto is just a fallacy, one linked to the authors lack of grasp of basic coalition politics. Not just coalition politics, but coalition politics with a very junior partner.

If Labour had gone into a coalition with the Lib Dems and benched some of their manifesto then would they be a bunch of liars as well? Yeah I wonder what he’d say to that…

However what really gets my goat about his piece isn’t the bollocks he’s spewing about how pointless the Lib Dem manifesto is, comedians have been doing that for years in various guises believing that a third party was easy prey for laughs. The fact the irrelevant party became a party of government just meant they had to find other ways to deride the party. That is ok. That is fair game in comedy apparently. Who cares about accuracy when you can get cheap laughs, oh look my trousers have fallen down, I need stitches in my sides it is so funny.

No what really gets my goat is the final paragraph and a bit and how out of touch and lazy it is:

To have any chance at the next election, even of saving his own seat in Sheffield, he’ll need to go much much further than that.

So instead of wasting effort compiling more promises, his one chance of saving his seat in Sheffield might be a collaboration with local heroes the Arctic Monkeys, in which he sings: “Oh what a scummy man, you can see it in my eyes yeah that I’ve got a nasty plan, I’d go into coalition with the bloody Taliban for a place in the cabinet. And you’ve seen me with Osborne and Hague, there ain’t no promise on which I won’t renege, students do better to vote for the plague ‘cos I’m a scumbag don’t you know.”

First of all, does Mark Steel really think that Nick Clegg is going to lose his own seat in Sheffield Hallam? I mean really? I know it’s cool to say he’ll lose his seat but there is absolutely no evidence to say that it is on the cards. He has a stonking majority, the party still does well locally and in 2012, which is probably fair to say will be the lowest point of the Lib Dems locally in this government, the party still pulled in 39% of the vote with Labour 16% behind in second place. In the five seats in the constituency, they all stayed solidly Lib Dem in 2012 and in a key by-election in 2013, when Labour and the Tories really attacked, the Lib Dems cruised home by 1,400 votes.

Now I know Mr Mark Steel loves his rhetoric and thinks that his view is the right view but at some point he’ll have to understand that wanting something to be true isn’t going to make it true. That isn’t how it works in the grown-up world. When it comes to politics, so much is child like and it depresses me but the most child like are the Labour party. They believe in polling data unless it isn’t favourable to them. When there is positive polling data they then use it like a blanket over the whole country to predict what will happen, neglecting the nuances of local politics, region by region, county by county, city by city, constituency by constituency, ward by ward, polling district by polling district.

So Mr Mark Steel, live in your own mind and hope against all hope that what you want will one day happen and you’ll wake up in a socialist state. It may well happen, well actually it won’t because the country doesn’t want socialism and in the past half a century the only Labour General Election wins have been when the party has moved away from the extreme left to the centre-left/centre but who cares about facts. When you live in Mr Mark Steel’s world then you can believe whatever you want to believe and if facts get in the way then the best way to deal with them is to ignore them. Who wants facts anyway?

This is a prime example of why I treat the Labour party with distain at the moment. They cry about the Lib Dems not being grown-up, when in fact it is them who are playing adolescent politics. This comes from a guy whose upbringing was very much in the ‘Anyone but the Tories’ mould but as it stands they are at least acting like a grown-up party, not just the MPs and councillors but also the memberships. My politics are centrist but if I had to lean left or right of centre then it would be left, however with the way the Labour party are acting at the moment I just couldn’t see myself supporting them.

Until the Labour party stop trying to play politics and start seeing politics as a serious business then I struggle to take them seriously. We all have ideologies but sometimes real world issues have to come above ideologies. For example if a 45p tax rate rakes in the most revenue for higher band earners then so be it. Proposing a 50p tax band that will bring in less money is just ideological claptrap designed to sound good and gain support whereas the finances say it’s a bad move.

I’m 30 and I like to think I’m relatively grown-up and that is how I act and that is how I like my politics. Until Labour acts grown-up then for me I think that maybe the best thing for the country in 2015 would be another Tory/Lib Dem coalition and lets be honest, there is no way I saw myself typing that three and a half years ago but Labour have just been so poor as an opposition and so lightweight on the economy that I’m not sure I trust them as much as I do the Tories and boy that is a scary thought.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Please leave any comments or contact me directly via the E-Mail Me link on the Right Hand Nav. You can stay in touch with the blog following me on Twitter or by liking the blog on Facebook. Please share this content via the Social Media links below if you think anyone else would enjoy reading.

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January 31st, 2014 at 12:23 am

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The likelihood of a by-election in Richmond Park just keeps growing…

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My learned colleague Richard Morris has been banging on about this for as long as I’ve been reading his work (well near enough) but what would be a very interesting by-election could happen in the autumn of 2014. Richmond Park is your typical two-horse race in the South between the Tories and the Lib Dems. Both parties can win it on a good day with a strong campaign. Both therefore can of course lose it on the exact opposite. It is the type of seat that the Lib Dems must at the very least stay competitive in come 2015 if they aren’t be just become a party who defends seats.

Well after 13 years of Lib Dem occupation, the Tories came in and won it in 2010 with Zac Goldsmith being elected MP for the constituency. He has been relatively quiet in office, however he has really been a strong constituency MP, with everything you ever hear from him being about local issues. The main focus of that has been on Heathrow Airport and its possible expansion. To cut a long-story short, he’s against it, dead against it and if it becomes government policy he was reiterated that he’ll stand down and trigger a by-election.

This morning the airport commission unveiled three options regarding airport expansion and two of them are at Heathrow, the other being at Gatwick. The ‘Boris Island’ scheme that is certainly not playing well in my neck of the wood was not as option, however the aforementioned airport commission will decide next summer whether that is indeed a viable option. If it does not then essentially they are green lighting Heathrow expansion and should the government make it policy that the preferred option is to expand Heathrow then Goldsmith will resign.

The most interesting question though about all this is would Goldsmith run again as the Tory candidate, but resign on principle so his constituents knew he is against this polixcy and would be an active voice against said policy if they reelected him? Would Goldsmith run as an independent ‘Against Heathrow Airport Expansion’ candidate? Would the Tories even place Boris in that seat to give him a route back into the House of Commons?

By-elections are notoriously harder to predict than regular elections because parties can concentrate on issues more without the national narrative getting in the way. Also by-elections lead to those with a great ground game doing better than they would normally because feet on the ground really does help with these things.

A by-election in the autumn in Richmond Park would be fascinating for all the politico geeks out there as there would be so many questions going into it and arguably very few answers off the back of it. Should government policy be that Heathrow should get bigger, then I firmly predict two things, firstly that the coffers of all Richmond Park sandwich shops, coffee places and public houses will go up significantly for a four-week period as press and activists descend into the area and secondly that A View From Ham Common’s readership will go up mightily.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Please leave any comments or contact me directly via the E-Mail Me link on the Right Hand Nav. You can stay in touch with the blog following me on Twitter or by liking the blog on Facebook. Please share this content via the Social Media links below if you think anyone else would enjoy reading.

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December 17th, 2013 at 2:43 pm

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Mike Hancock’s major opponent in 2015 – the Pompey Party?

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Last week came the announcement that basically the government have shafted the people of Portsmouth. The city of my birth (so I have a tonne of bias) has been the home of the Royal Navy for eons and should always have that at its heart. So when it comes to building new ships for the Royal Navy then it should be Portsmouth first and anyone else second if there is enough business to go around. I know that sounds like bias (it kinda is) but the home of the Royal Navy is the home of the Royal Navy.

I’m not the only person to think this unsurprisingly. As of just now the Save Portsmouth Dockyards Facebook page had just under 73,000 ‘likes’ – not too shabby for what four or five days? It makes the No More Page 3 Facebook page look pretty stale in comparison with 15,000 likes doesn’t it? Well this blog isn’t about me talking about the pros and cons of boobs but about how a real issue that people care passionately about can gain traction.

Tonight at the Shepherd’s Crook in Portsmouth there will be the first meeting of the ‘Pompey Party’ which is advocating putting up an alternative candidate in I suspect Portsmouth South. I do not know if they plan on this being a one-issue party of the Independent Kidderminster Hospital and Health Concern ilk that saw Dr. Richard Taylor spend nine years as an MP for Wyre Forest, but I will say this, if there is a constituency in the country that is ripe for a one-issue party then Portsmouth South is most certainly it. Lets be honest here if someone went to the 2015 General Election on the sole ticket of the Portsmouth dockyard then they wouldn’t be laughed out of town.

People are proud of where they come from and proud of their identity. I live in Essex these days and many people here revel in the Essex stereotype but Pompey folk are different. I think of Pompey people as roll up your sleeves and just get it done people. Look at the fact the football club is now owned by the fans and what people went through to get that done. I thought it had no chance because the obstacles were too great but I was proved wrong and if the ‘Pompey Party’ actually gains some good leadership and knows what its goals are and the infighting is kept to a minimum then they won’t be a joke.

Nearly 73,000 have clicked on a link to Save Pompey Dockyards, which is easy enough to do but there is something underlying here. Around 200 protesters braved the rain for an impromptu rally against the loss of shipbuilding at the dockyard, imagine how that would be with some proper planning and time to get the folk of the city educated and up to speed on this issue?

The sitting MP, Mike Hancock knows of the damage done by this decision and spoke about why shipbuilding for the Royal Navy will remain in Scotland but not in the home of the Royal Navy:

“It is a big mistake on the part of the government to put all their eggs into one basket and say that shipbuilding in Portsmouth should cease to exist. It is a very, very big mistake and one that they will live to regret.

“Whatever happens Alex Salmond in a no lose situation. He can claim credit for jobs being saved in Scotland because the UK government are running scared of him, or if they close a yard in Scotland he’ll say they are punishing Scots because of the referendum. The government ought to have seen through that.”

Leader of Portsmouth City Council was just as vocal in his opposition, saying the following on BBC Radio Four:

“Portsmouth is the last place in England that has the ability to build advanced warships for the Royal Navy and I’m very concerned that with a potential independence vote in Scotland, if Portsmouth shipbuilding is shut down, what would remain of the UK would have no ability to build advanced warships.”

“It would just mean either that that would have to change and the Royal Navy would have to buy ships from France or Germany – or we’d have to spend a huge amount of public money re-employing people, re-skilling people here in Portsmouth”.

Downing Street is on record as saying that the dockyard was closed in the ‘national interest’ which is basically them saying, ‘this is a sweetener to Scots not to go independent’ and that really hacks me off. Jobs and livelihoods should not be used as a political football but it seems as though the powers that be have decided that Portsmouth is a good sacrifice to keep the United Kingdom together. I suspect that sentiment is not exactly echoed on Portsea Island.

The 2015 Portsmouth South contest looked set to be one of the most interesting in the country before last week, with the sitting MP elected as a lib Dem but having been stripped of the whip because of a civil suit against him, the Tories had hoped to make inroads here and take the seat back. UKIP also have been praying to whatever God they pray to for a by-election here as after the success of Eastleigh, where they would have won had they just been a few days quicker off the mark. So throwing in an independent one-issue party if it does gain that all important traction and leadership would just make it fascinating.

Oh and you might wonder why Labour haven’t been mentioned as a potential winner. They aren’t a relevant force in this particular fight. If Mike Hancock (or any Lib Dem) wants to win in 2015 then they have to get this decision reversed. I think the Tories will be burnt just as much as Mike by this decision in Pompey South and it really does open the door to a potential four-way contest. I just hope that by 2015 the Dockyard has been given a reprieve and nice new orders for naval vessels to be built in Portsmouth because if it hasn’t then Portsmouth South will solely be a one-issue election.

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November 11th, 2013 at 3:12 pm

Why Brentwood Tories have disgusted me in their treatment of Lib Dem Cllr. Chilvers

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My blood rarely boils. Tonight it is pumping about my body like nobodies business. You see this evening the Tories banded together and decided that Cllr. Karen Chilvers wasn’t up for being Chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee because basically she was scrutinising them and wasn’t letting them do whatever they like. Interesting decision.

So they put a motion to remove her as Chair (which from what I can gather is against the actual constitution as currently written, although this seems to have been up for much debate) which succeeded tonight. A Conservative councillor will now oversee the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, I’m positive a Tory will really hold the Tory administration to account but whatever. However there were two things that really fucking hacked me off.

Firstly about how personal it got. Some of the things said about Cllr. Chilvers were vile. Look you can not like someone, we get it but why does politics get so personal? It was character assassination at its absolute worst. Whatever you think of Cllr. Chilvers, like her or not, you can’t arue that she is an effective councillor who works thoroughly hard for her constituents.

At local level I really do believe that there are plenty of terrific councillors from all parties. Yes I would naturally gravitate to saying the Lib Dems are the best but I won’t sit here an say everyone from other parties or independents aren’t standing up for the people they represent and work hard to ensure they get their voice heard in council.

Tonight though the vote went along party lines, a 20-15 vote was predicted and a 20-15 vote is exactly what we got. The whole opposition spoke glowingly about Cllr. Chilvers, whether they agree with her politics or not, they thought she was working hard and being effective in her role as chair of this committee. The Tories though all banded together because they decided they didn’t want to actually have effective scrutiny, they wanted life on easy street and that brings me the second point that really made my blood boil.

The Tories clearly do not have the best interests of the residents at the core of this motion. They would prefer to have ineffective scrutiny as long as it makes their lives easier and fulfills their personal vendetta against Cllr. Chilvers. Ensuring their personal vendetta is worth them screwing the people of Brentwood they are meant to represent. How can any politican honestly think this is a good thing? How can any councillor look a constituent in the eye and say they’ll do the best they can to get the best thing done for them, when in fact they’ll do the opposite as long as it makes them feel big.

Cllr. Chilvers is a big girl who’ll carry on working hard for the people she represents. I do hope and firmly believe the people of Brentwood West saw what life was like without her and swiftly voted her back into power. These voters had so much dislike and mistrust of the Lib Dems nationally that they lost a great hard-working councillor and they quickly realised that local and national politics are vastly different.

So what have we learned from the events tonight?

Well basically the Brentwood Tories put their own agendas above those of the residents they are supposed to represent. They don’t like Cllr. Chilvers and decided that she should be removed from her position to make their lives easier and to stroke their own egos. I didn’t see the whole debate as I was on air this evening and the webcast was paused, but from what I saw seemed pretty clear that Cllr. Roger Hirst will go home this evening, look in the mirror whilst cleaning his teeth and he’ll smirk to himself, nod and think, ‘I’m a big man, I’m awesome.’

The events of tonight put the whole council to shame. It wasn’t a debate. It was a witchhunt. Cllr. Chilvers had no chance because the Tories all decided that Cllr. Chilvers was unfit for the position. Cllr. Murphy said all the councillors should be disgusted and embarrassed at what was going on. She claimed she didn’t know what a whip was and despite being appalled by everything, she still voted to remove Cllr. Chilvers. If she was that disgusted and embarrassed surely she’d be most outraged by the person who brought the motion?

I worry about politics when things get this personal. I worry when people can stand and look at another person and say some of the things they said tonight. If this was in any line of work you’d say they were bullying. One thing though is the opposition parties can point out that the Tories now do not work for residents first, they work for their own personal gratification first and that is not what the people of Brentwood deserve.

Like Cllr. Chilvers or not, she works hard and was an effective chair of that committee. Having her in that position was the best thing for the people of Brentwood but as we now know, the best thing for the people of Brentwood is not what the Brentwood Tories want. The best thing for the Brentwood Tories is what the Brentwood Tories want first and foremost and that is now plain to see to anyone that follows the local politics scene of this particular Essex borough.

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October 23rd, 2013 at 10:29 pm

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Porn, Porn everywhere (but soon) not a link to click

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Various newspaper reports state that today David Cameron is going to make a keynote speech with regards to pornography and it will mean that people will have to actively opt-in to porn if they want to watch. The Prime Minister believes this will clean up the internet and protect children. At what point do we call David Cameron ‘Helen Lovejoy’ or ‘Maude Flanders’?

“We are taking action to help clean up the internet. One click to protect your home and keep your children safe.” the Prime Minister will state. However I have a small problem with this. What if a family has opted in to watch porn and a child still has access to it? What will the PM do then? He hasn’t protected children of those who watch porn, all he has done is make it more culturally unacceptable to watch pornography.

People equate pornography to being a pervert. That isn’t the case. Lots of different people watch porn. I know pensioners who watch porn. I know men and women who watch porn. I know young people who love porn and I know middle aged people who enjoy porn. I know single people who watch porn. I know couples who watch porn. I know straight people who watch porn. I know of gay people who watch porn. I know of bisexual people who watch porn. Basically porn is pretty mainstream and despite its social taboo a large percentage of people indulge in pornography. I would say more adults enjoy porn of a semi-regular basis than voted for the Conservative Party at the last General Election.

The issue I have is clearly what happens to those who opt-in? Is this data kept and who has access to this data? Will police use this data to profile people who live locally to a sexual crime and these people all suddenly become suspects? Will this data be public? Will angry mobs start circling the houses of those who watch porn? There are some (I feel) legitimate questions here.

The government has many important things to do. Censoring the internet is not one of them. Parents have a role in how they bring up their offspring and the government of the day should not overstep these boundaries. If a parent doesn’t actively stop their kids watching pornography then that is up to the parents. It isn’t the role of government to bring up kids.

As for online filters…this very blog is (or has been) blocked by TalkTalk for an age because of pornographic content. There is no pornographic content on this blog but TalkTalk says there is. I have heard of newspaper websites such as The Guardian being blocked over pornography. At what point does the government think enough censorship is enough? At what point do we say that kids welfare is actually the primary aim of parents and not the government?

Parents should know what their children are doing online in their own home. Parents can set up filters and block out content already. If a parent doesn’t want their child to be watching porn they can stop it. It doesn’t need wholesale changes to the internet to do this. So why is the PM desperate to push this through? Maybe because he is pandering to ‘Middle England’ and the Daily Mail in an attempt to show he can get big laws through that go against the EU. Maybe he actually thinks internet censorship is a good thing. Either way he’s wrong.

As long as what adults do isn’t against the law then why should they be censored? If this is truly about children then far more important to keep these sites and videos away by using already set up parental filters. Also educating young people about sex and violence and how to deal with feelings and urges is something that we as a nation generally fail at. Sex is a taboo and until we as a nation embrace it and teach young people frankly and openly about it all then we are fighting a losing battle.

Education is what is needed, not draconian measures that aim to record all those who choose to watch porn. There are distinct difference between all porn (which is legal) and already illegal child porn and rape porn. Lumping them all under one umbrella first of all isn’t right and secondly does nothing to actually help. Young people need better education. Education, Education, Education Tony Blair used to bang on about and in this instance that motto rings true. People, young people, will always find a way to watch porn but the more ‘dirty’ you make it then the more young people will strive to enjoy it as it’ll be ‘wrong’ and if I know one thing about young people is the more you tell them something is bad without any further education on the subject then the more they’ll attempt to do it.

The Prime Minister has got this all wrong and I hope the Lib Dems as a party step up and fight this although my faith in the leadership is at this point lacking but I still can hope. I can still have that…right?

Oh and lastly. Internet pornography bad but Page 3 is a ‘consumer choice’? That really doesn’t make any sense…

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July 22nd, 2013 at 10:34 am

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A Labour councillor wants ‘fairness’ but can’t understand what exactly is fair.

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I do love it when councillors open up blog posts talking about my love life. It is kinda sweet isn’t it? Well that is exactly what Labour Cllr. Ware-Lane did today on his blog post Giving into greed? I’d prefer fairness which was his response to my letter to the Echo regarding the tax cut for the higher rate of tax payers that occurred. I knew he would respond in kind and still miss the point. This is why I at times dislike politics and politicians because they are so stuck in their ideological ways that they won’t actually see the big picture.

I say this primarily because of the following line from Cllr. Ware-Lane’s blog:

For me it is “from each according to their ability”. If this means that some millionaires’ loyalty to the UK is bounded by their unwillingness to pay their share then to them I say good riddance to bad rubbish.

Good riddance to bad rubbish. Yep those people who were putting in large sums of money to the public purse. Yeah we don’t want them. I’m sure he can walk around his Milton ward speaking to residents and telling them that it doesn’t matter that Children’s Centres are closing and Libraries are under threat etc… because the money that could keep these things open would be bad money and we don’t want that.

You see my whole point was simple. Yes those with broader shoulders should bear the largest loud. We agree. However I also know that money into the public purse is kinda the point of tax. So why have a tax system that brings in less revenue when instead we could have a tax system that brings in the highest revenue possible from those paying the highest tax rate? Myself and the councillor in question have debated this before and we just don’t agree. He prefers less money for public services as long as the rich get taxed harsher. For me this is a dumb position and not what I’d expect of a Labour councillor and a man who wants to be my MP.

One further line I want to highlight:

Are Liberal Democrats now abandoning the pretence of doing what is right in favour of what generates the most income?

First of all I don’t speak for all Liberal Democrats. I’m but a mere member of the party. This though perfectly demonstrates why I think Labour are a shambles at the moment and why despite my upbringing I am a Lib Dem and not a Labour member. The ‘pretence’ of doing the right thing. The right thing is finding the right balance that generates the highest income possible. That is simple and straightforward. Whatever that number is then I’m all for it. I’d prefer more millionaires to pay in less if overall it leads to more revenue being generated. The ‘right thing’ isn’t just to flog the rich for being rich.

Until Cllr. Ware-Lane (or anyone else for that matter) can find a way to stop people from relocating from the UK to Monaco, Switzerland or any other country with a more preferable tax situation than the UK then people are free to leave the country and not pay tax here.

Personally I’m all for public services. At least we now know that Cllr. Ware-Lane is not unless the money comes from people he deems to be the right people. He prefers less money for public services as long as the richest people individually pay more even though as a group they in fact pay less.

As for ‘good riddance to bad rubbish’ oh pur-lease. ‘Oh so you don’t want to pay our 50p tax rate well sod you – we didn’t want your money anyway. We’ll have to cut public services for example close a children’s centre but at least we know that ideologically we didn’t want your money anyway.’ I’m sure people on the bread line and those who rely on public services would stand up and applaud such a stance. Oh wait. No they wouldn’t.

To sum up, Cllr. Ware-Lane has showed me exactly why I at this point in time I think Labour are the least grown up of all the three main political parties in Westminster (and lets be honest – considering the way the Tories deal with issues such as Europe that is saying something). We all have our ideologies. That is what makes us but ideology doesn’t always work well in the real world and at some point we have to be realistic instead of Utopian. The 50p tax rate was not working in terms of getting the richest to share the largest load because many of them just left the country and therefore paid in nothing. This left those in the 50p tax rate sharing the load but they couldn’t share the load as well as all the people that were sharing the load when the tax rate was at 40p.

He wants fairness. He wants those who earn the most to pay the most. We all want that but the problem is these people have a choice – just like we all do – however of course it is easier for richer people to up sticks and move. I’ll end with this analogy that he might understand (or he might not – his whole concept of basic economics seems pretty out there) but 6,000 people holding up larger weights cannot hold up as much weights as 16,000 holding up smaller weights. Fairness is about seeing the amount of money these people can put into the system as a group and not seeing them as individuals. That is the mistake he (and others) make and that is why I get so disillusioned when people go on about how the tax cut from 50p to 45p is a reason why there is less money for the public purse.

That quite simply is not true.

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July 5th, 2013 at 6:07 pm

Attention Politicians: Where is your leadership?

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When did we get to the point where the seemingly marginalised viewpoints of society stopped being so out there? Over the past few years as the economic downturn has gripped the country, people have looked for someone to blame and the easiest people to blame are those who are different. So politicians are easy to blame but the problem with that is of course someone has to govern so whoever gets voted in will be a politician. Bankers have seen blame laid at their feet but yet again bankers aren’t going away any time soon so the problem has been who can people blame who they can a) get rid of and b) don’t understand.

Step forward religion and foreigners.

The term, ‘I’m not racist but…’ has become a bit of a running gag, albeit not very funny. People say this with a completely straight face. The people that are saying it are not the people that you would generally look at and think they are racist either. However a spectre of what I won’t call hate, but will call intolerance now hangs over far more people than I’ve ever known in my 29 years on this Earth and that spectre is becoming an ever bigger presence in society.

My problem is working out where this has come from? It must have come from somewhere and looking around the most obvious parts of society I can point my finger at and believe they are the reason is the media and politicians. The media will always tap into whatever the mood of the nation is and then play up to it. If the nation are happy then the media will be happy. If the nation has a sense of unease then the media will portray that and start to feed off it. If we are being told constantly about bad things people are doing then it will seep into the public’s consciousness and I believe this is what has happened.

Look at the media coverage yesterday. It was by a person who seemingly was a Muslim. Now was he described first of all as a terrorist or was he first of all classed as a Muslim? You bet it was the latter and not the former. Whilst so many bleat that the English Defence League do not speak for us we must understand that just because people do terrorist attacks are of one faith, they do not speak for an entire religion. When the IRA where blowing things up left, right and centre did they speak for all Catholicism? I’m pretty sure they didn’t.

We though as a nation are far more scared of the unknown than we ever have been before. In this modern age where people can interact with anyone, at any time, people get disturbed. If you are on a tube and two people are speaking to one another in a foreign tongue then instead of being calm and ignoring it, more than ever people are worried because they don’t understand and there we get it the crux of the issue. People in general are far more afraid of what they don’t understand than ever before and we have to ask ourselves, ‘why is that?’

However I want to point a very stern finger at politicians because I see a distinct lack of leadership. In all honesty the last person who displayed leadership qualities was Tony Blair. Like it or not he led this country. Ever since politicians have been too scared to truly stand for what they believe in. As a friend put it to me last night, ‘they pander to the lowest common denominator’ and he was right. Politicians are afraid to say what they really think in case the most vocal of critics attack them. This needs to stop.

I would love to see David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband at a joint Press Conference where they said that intolerance would not be accepted. We live in a multi-cultural society and I love that. Great Britain isn’t just for those who were born here, it is for people who want to live and work here. Should people not be allowed to move from place to place to live with different people, different cultures, experience a different way of life? Should we go back to the day of ‘If you were born in Essex then you’ll live and die in Essex’ and so on? I certainly do not believe so. No-one owns the Earth or any country therein and people should be free to move around.

As we all know though this isn’t the way the tide is going. People think there is always someplace greener and those greener pastures might be to leave the European Union. Some want to leave the European Human Rights Act and have a British Bill of Human Rights instead. My fear though is what if we do this and still things are no better then who do people blame? Do they blame themselves for pushing this through or do they find another scapegoat? What if we started turning on all blondes? Would that be accepted in society the way that intolerance towards people of foreign backgrounds and different religions seemingly are?

The crux is no matter how hard David Cameron wants to bang on about fixing our broken society – the more he says this then the more people will look for where the cracks and the problems are. It is a bit like saying how terrible the economy is, the more you say it the more people will believe it. Society is not perfect. We all know this. However society is not perfect throughout the globe and there are bad people all over the world doing bad things every day. This isn’t just confined to us in the UK, it is a far larger problem than that and one that has to be addressed through education for the next generations coming through.

No matter what our differences are we all bleed when we are cut. We are all but one race – the human race. We all broadly want the same things for our loved ones and for society as a whole but the problems are some believe there are short-cuts and scapegoats to why we don’t all have what we would like.

Immigration is not a problem to the degree that people believe it is. People can live with people of different religious backgrounds. Not all people who are different are our enemies. The vast majority of people who practise the Christian faith are good people. The vast majority of those who follow Islam are good people. The vast majority of those who are Jews are good people and so on and so forth. Being different isn’t a reason to be scared of someone.

Our leaders need to step up to the plate here and now and stop this going forward. Do not pander down to the most vocal in an attempt to win votes. Stand for what you truly believe in. If you stand together and say that this type of intolerance will not be accepted then you’ll start drawing a line in the sand. This whole situation has meandered on for far too long. People can have different views on anything but still not persecute one another. Until such a time where this is the strong and constant viewpoint from our politicians (and in turn our media) then I fear the culture of intolerance will only grow and slowly shatter any illusions we have that we are a progressive society.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Please leave any comments or contact me directly via the E-Mail Me link on the Right Hand Nav. You can stay in touch with the blog following me on Twitter or by liking the blog on Facebook. Please share this content via the Social Media links below if you think anyone else would enjoy reading.

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May 23rd, 2013 at 10:43 am

Why we all need to rally round and stop the changes to legal aid – sign the petition today

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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.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Please leave any comments or contact me directly via the E-Mail Me link on the Right Hand Nav. You can stay in touch with the blog following me on Twitter or by liking the blog on Facebook. Please share this content via the Social Media links below if you think anyone else would enjoy reading.

Written by neilmonnery

May 16th, 2013 at 2:24 pm

Posted in News,Politics

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Theresa May tells the world that she thinks all human life isn’t equal – and Labour agree

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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.

However.

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.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Please leave any comments or contact me directly via the E-Mail Me link on the Right Hand Nav. You can stay in touch with the blog following me on Twitter or by liking the blog on Facebook. Please share this content via the Social Media links below if you think anyone else would enjoy reading.

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May 15th, 2013 at 12:48 pm

Posted in Politics

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Why shouldn’t UKIP get a voice at any PM TV Debate?

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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.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Please leave any comments or contact me directly via the E-Mail Me link on the Right Hand Nav. You can stay in touch with the blog following me on Twitter or by liking the blog on Facebook. Please share this content via the Social Media links below if you think anyone else would enjoy reading.

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April 30th, 2013 at 12:56 pm

Posted in Politics

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