Monday, 31 May 2010

Let's sort out expenses.

I could have written this blog yesterday but I wanted to give it more than my usual amount of thought.

David Laws has resigned from the cabinet because he claimed £40 000 over nine years as payment for his accommodation which was paid to his friend. Since then there has been a great deal of support for David from all parties. The money is hardly in question. The cost of accommodation could have been far greater, and with his background in the city there has certainly been no intention of going into politics to make money. He is supported because he is an honourable man. I have no means of knowing this but he certainly has many high-ranking friends. David Law's intention was to keep his relationship private. It had nothing to do with false claiming (otherwise known as stealing). All in all it looks like the system is wrong and a good politician has resigned when the system was to blame.

This is the general view but I have read about one person who does not hold this opinion. Ben Bradshaw, the Labour MP wrote on Twitter 'when is "protecting your privacy" a euphamism for feeling shameful about who you are?' and went on to say 'clegg statement re laws nonsense why should anyone in Britain today feel ashamed to acknowledge they're gay'.

David Laws has made mistakes. He has broken rules and you can't pick and choose which rules you wish to follow. The rule he broke concerns paying partners for accommodation. If he were married then there would be no question of claiming for a home that is owned by a partner. I don't know how much you can claim for living in the house of a partner so there may be some theft involved. He was foolish to try to keep his relationship secret. He was foolish to claim in a manner that broke rules. He is foolish to distinguish between the importance of his role as a minister and his role as an MP. Some of us still think an MP's job is important.

It would be refreshing to hear some comments like this instead of one Twitter note which does not address the problem (there are many reasons why some people may wish to keep a gay relationship private) and breaks most grammatical rules of the English language - but Ben was only a journalist prior to becoming an MP. The expenses scandal is still haunting us and the sooner it is sorted out the better.

Change the world

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Eurovision Voting

I thought the winner of last year's Eurovision Song Contest was quite catchy and I was pleased that it won. However I didn't watch yesterday's programme all the way through. In recent years I have usually watched the results and heard the winning song. It was Terry Wogan's drunken comments that kept me listening and it may have been a case of in vino veritas when Terry would tell us how countries would vote. I think he got fed up with the politics of voting.

At the time of writing this blog I have not seen yesterday's results (and I am not sure I will watch this year) but I have no doubt that countries do vote politically. There may be an element of voting because of the quality of the music but there has to be questions asked about the validity of the contest. Compound this with the cost of becoming the host for the following year and not only is there a possiblity that the votes are unrelated to the quality of the music but it may well be that the votes aren't wanted.

Change the world

P.S. I have woken up to discover that we came last. It wasn't such a bad entry and the German winner is alright but nothing special. Perhaps there is a magical European musical ingredient that we choose not to add to our songs (apologies to Pete Waterman) or maybe there is political voting.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

We get the press we deserve

In the last week Fergie has found herself in a spot of bother for accepting £40 000 from an undercover reporter for an introduction to her former husband. According to Piers Morgan we are to feel sorry for her because she needs the money. I can't find myself feeling too sorry for her as I presume she managed to keep the money and nobody seems to think that opening doors for money is such a bad thing.

If seeing Prince Andrew is important then it should matter that the rich have access to something important and the poor don't. Normally I would say money opens doors but in this case we are supposed to believe that money doesn't matter. So there is a deception and Fergie should at least show some embarrassment. On the other hand if it is not important to see Prince Andrew then Fergie has done nothing wrong and Fergie has no need to be embarrassed.

There is another aspect to this sting that for me is even more important than the value we put on the royal family and that is the entrapment itself. I am a great believer that human fallibility is there for all to see in everyone. Would you steal £1. Maybe not. You probably wouldn't risk your good name for this amount of money. What if it was an amount of money that would mean that you never have to work again. You could live in luxury. If I added that there was absolutely no chance of anyone else finding out would you then consider this theft?

Alright some of you would still say you would absolutely not steal the money, but I guess most would consider it. In other words, if the News of the World come after you then the chances are they will catch you. Somebody must be buying the paper so we probably get the press we deserve.

Change the world

Friday, 28 May 2010

The mood of the nation

The Isle of Wight is the country's largest constituency. Ministers want around 70 or 80 thousand voters per constituency and the Isle of Wight manages to have an electorate of 103,480. I really don't think they mind having one MP. I would also guess that they prefer the present situation to having one and a bit MPs if this meant that they would share an MP with part of the mainland.

The Tories are in favour of shifting boundaries to make constituencies the same size because this would improve the number of Tory MPs. However there is already a public body looking at constituency boundaries - it is called the boundary commission. It does consider the size of the constituency as well as matters such as geography and the local government boundaries.

I don't feel a popular move to changing the size of boundaries. I do sense a move towards a fairer voting system and we are well on the way to achieving it.

Change the world

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Let's hear it for academies

When the brewer Matthew Brown was taken over by Scottish and Newcastle there was a huge outcry in Blackburn. How dare this huge firm take over a much-loved Blackburn firm? Well they did and shortly afterwards Matthew Brown closed. You would not think that Scottish and Newcastle would be popular but a couple of years later many Blackburn residents were walking round with McKewan's Lager on their shirt. They had sponsored Blackburn Rovers. Guess who owns McKewan's. Sponsorship may be a useful tool to make yourself popular even if you have just taken someone's job off them.

Academies are schools that allow for sponsoship. There may be some philanthropists out there but more likely sponsors are private companies. Why should they do it? What do they get out of it? Let's be generous and say all sponsors have the best intentions of the pupils uppermost in their minds when they pay out thousands of pounds. So far so good. Even better, academies are more attractive for staff. They have greater autonomy, greater spending capacity, better staff and they drive standards up.

If all these factors and more mean that academies offer a better standard of education this must mean that in relative terms and almost certainly in absolute terms all the other schools offer a worse standard of education.

It sounds to me like supporting academies is like supporting a company that has just sacked you, but at least sponsorship puts more money in so they can afford to tell us how good they are.

Change the world

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Let's matriculate

Have you read 'Eats, Shoots and Leaves' by Lynne Truss? If you put a comma in the wrong place then it may be a matter of life and death. I am not writing a blog on punctuation, I just wanted to mention the book because it is full of grammatical errors. We all come across them and I want to take photos of signs that are full of errors or are ambiguous. You see them all the time.

People who have good degrees make foolish errors. The person who wrote the sign 'have you payed and displayed?' probably had a degree. There are many, maybe even a majority who don't know basic rules of grammar but they have been through university and come out with a degree. When you complete a degree course you receive a certificate that acknowledges a degree of intelligence but this may be far removed from the level of ability in the three Rs. My children who have been through university even tell me that some students going through a course do very little studying. Can you believe that?

This brings me to the Labour criticism yesterday that cancelling university places isn't cutting waste. My response is that it could be cutting waste, and even if it isn't we are left with no money so we have to return to a time when matriculate, or go to university meant that you were part of a little list.

Change the world

Monday, 24 May 2010

Nuclear deterrents

The basis of a deterrent is that you stop someone doing something because the consequences for that person would be too great if they decided to go ahead and do it anyway. If you were inclined to mugging then you wouldn't choose Mike Tyson. Fort Knox may not be the easiest place to steal from. When it comes to the country's defence, the bigger the army the less chance of being attacked.

Then nuclear weapons came along. The cold war reaction to these weapons was to use them as a deterrent. The opposition would not use them because we would use ours and that would be the end of us all. That sounds so logical and that's why it happened. The trouble with logic is that it doesn't always work. Go back to Mike Tyson. If he really got you mad or you were drunk or any number of other factors then you might have a go. About four weeks ago Rob Burrow was playing for the Leeds Rhinos against Hull. He is not the biggest player on the pitch but he was sent to the sin bin for fighting with a Hull player who may have been twice his weight. Sometimes deterrents just don't work.

It is useful to have big players on your team and let them be the deterrent. We now have a big £76 billion nuclear deterrent. How do we use it if our enemy is a terrorist who flies into tower blocks? What kind of deterrent is it if, as they are so often portrayed, our enemy is a lunatic? What kind of deterrent is it for us if the lunatic from the other side of the world is fighting his neighbour and not us?

We need to play a part in world peace but independent nuclear arms do not make us any safer. I would suggest that living in another European country without an independent deterrent (most of them) would be a safer place to live. Let's have peace through unity with our allies. Even better, make everyone our allies. Experts tell us the best way of dealing with terrorism is by intelligence. An even better answer would be to stop terrorism by breaking down divisions in the world. £76 billion could go a long way to breaking down the world's divisions.

Change the world

Sunday, 23 May 2010

What is it with cyclists and red lights?

I was driving through Lancaster late last night and if you know Lancaster you will know that there is a long downhill slope from the south into the city. A cyclist (without lights or helmet) was mostly keeping up with traffic. He must have been doing over 25mph. When we got to the lights in the centre of the city he sailed through even though they were on red.

I think lights and a helmet are a good idea. Lights may help to prevent accidents and the helmet may prevent injury. However going through red lights may not be such a bad idea when it is late at night. Flashing amber at night is not a bad idea. Why stop traffic, or cyclists when you don't need to.

I didn't mind the cyclist keeping up with traffic or going through the lights. I think it is good if cycling gets you from A to B quickly. I would not make helmets compulsory but I think they are a good idea and wear one. If the cyclist has an accident a helmet may or may not help but cyclists should give others a fair chance of seeing them and carry lights.

Change the world

Friday, 21 May 2010

One world politics

It seems a good idea to support the right to life, the right to family, freedom from torture and the right to a fair trial, and this idea is found in the Human Rights Act. It is also a good idea to find people innocent until proven guilty. If the police suspect someone is a criminal then they carry out an investigation, the case may get to court and that person may be found guilty. I think what I have said is fairly obvious.

What happens if the suspect is not British? It also seems fairly obvious that you should apply the same thinking. They are innocent until proven guilty and whatever rights that person has to be in this country remain their rights. There may be a call to send a suspect back to their country of origin if there is a suspicion of guilt, but not enough evidence to try them in court.

There is a human rights concern in this week's story about Abid Naseer. We don't send anyone to be tortured. However my major concern is that Pakistan uses torture. We have a lot of influence within Europe. We have some influence around the world. This story gives me ammunition to argue for one world politics as opposed to taking the little Englander position.

Change the world

Thursday, 20 May 2010

A punch on the nose often offends

On the day of the general election I had a short conversation with the (now) former MP for Morecambe. It was all very amicable but she did happen to mention something about the Liberals. I know that my party is called the Liberal Democrats and I expect she does too. I said to her that I did not think it was an insult coming from her, but Gordon Brown went out of his way to call us Liberals even when he had been asked a direct question about the Liberal Democrats. I wondered at the time whether it was ignorance or insult. The answer I got was that it was just a shorthand method of referring to us. I am not convinced.

Yesterday Jeremy Paxman forgot the name of the party on newsnight. Even Nick Robinson preferred to use an incorrect shorthand in the news. I don't think it is difficult to remember the name and it is more important to do so in a small number of areas because there are a few people who call themselves Liberals. I am not sure how they get away with it because I was a Liberal and voted to merge with the SDP.

By the way, Jeremy was particularly obnoxious last night. If he wants answers he needs to listen. Norman Baker was particularly calm and repeatedly asked him to listen for an answer. I am not an aggressive person but I may have been willing to make an exception for Jeremy. However a punch on the nose often offends.

Change the world

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Let's discuss discussions

On the 21st April I wrote about the Morecambe Town Council website. I can report back that the discussion board has improved. No longer does it have three areas of discussion that do not have any other information and do not recognise your comments. Now the website tells us that the discussion board is "being updated and is currently unavailable".

In fact the few short paragraphs that relate to the three areas on the discussion board have moved to a link on the home page. In other words very little has happened to the website. Anyone with any knowledge of computers could have done a better job of putting something on the internet.

At least I learned that there is a council meeting on Thursday. I may even look in.

Change the world

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

I now have an answer for everything

It may just be unfortunate that Newsnight decided to show Ed Miliband talk to the Fabians on Saturday. As one of the two contenders for the Labour leadership, he must have a good chance of winning. It was unfortunate because he was only shown giving an answer to a question about gender equality.

"I think we should say right at the outset of this that we are planning for a general election in some time, so what I'm not going to do is give you a sort of a hundred and five policies now and I actually think that the process of this debate has to be one where we debate together and we come up with ideas together and I'll be putting my own ideas forward in the course of this campaign".

That's a great answer. I will learn this quote (just like I learned a Monty Python sketch many years ago - see my blog on 1st March). Now I know that I can be a first rate politician.

Change the world

Monday, 17 May 2010

Support for coalition

Liberal Democrats have "overwhelmingly" backed the coalition with the Conservatives at the special conference in Birmingham. I am pleased at that because if I had been there I would have voted with the majority. I was invited and I have been to conferences in the past but I am not telling you about my invitation because I want to feel important but to let you know about the level of democracy within the party.

While Liberal Democrat MPs were meeting last week to decide on whether to form a deal with the Conservatives, their MPs were wondering what was happening. There are many differences between the parties but if we get even a few of our policies implemented then that must be a good thing. It's a pity Charles Kennedy could not bring himself to vote for the deal. I haven't read the details as to why this is the case but perhaps Charles could be persuaded to change his mind.

Change the world

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Faith is not an academic subject

Regular readers will know that I went to the hustings meeting for the Morecambe and Lunesdale constituency. There was a question about how each of the candidates would support faith schools and the Green candidate did not like the state supporting faith schools. To me it is obvious that it is the other way round and faith schools support the state. The cost of some of the bills for the school is partly paid by the school's parish. On the other hand state schools foot the full bill. There is the same level of education but less cost to the tax payer.

Faith schools are important for those with faith. I read about a proposal to end unfair discrimation on grounds of faith but this is the raison d'ĂȘtre of faith schools. If discrimation is only allowed to continue in the selection of the staff who are principally involved in religious education then the reason for the faith schools has been lost. Faith is not an academic subject but a way of life and a reason for all aspects of education.

Change the world

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Not a bad result

It could be argued that an alliance with Labour would have been the moral thing to do, after all, Liberal Democrats have more in common with Labour. I would argue that the opposite is the case. Labour were widely seen as a failed government, their leader seen as a failed leader and alienated even within his own party. People might disagree about whether Nick Clegg or David Cameron won each of the debates, but I think there can be little doubt that Gordon Brown lost all three. If the Liberal Democrats had backed Labour, they would have been seen as propping up this failed administration, and blocking the popular desire for change. They would have been tarred with the same brush as Labour, their credibility would have been impaired, and they would have struggled on only for a very short time before being brought down. A Labour-Lib Dem coalition would have had the support of only 52 percent of the voters - a majority, but hardly a convincing one, and the mathematics of MP numbers was even worse. There would have had to be consistent support from most if not all of the minor parties.

As it is, we have a government which will implement some Conservative policies. This is reasonable given that the Conservatives did end up with the most support of any party. However the most extreme of the conservative plans have been scaled back or replaced by more reasonable alternatives. Furthermore the Tories seem to be being quite happy with a large number of Liberal Democrat proposals. While I regret that not every Liberal Democrat policy will be implemented, I can see that many, for instance those who see a like-for-like replacement of Trident as essential, will see this as a good thing.

Overall, I think it would be very hard to improve on the outcome we have finally arrived at.

Change the World.

Friday, 14 May 2010

A taxing issue

I received an email yesterday about the concern business leaders expressed over Labour’s plans to increase National Insurance charges. It included a link to http://www.citation.co.uk/news/employers_fear_budget_impact.asp which summarises criticisms from “around 70 of Britain’s top business leaders”, including comments such as “this will greatly affect our business when it comes to hiring apprentices”. These criticisms may be seen as no longer relevant, given that Labour are no longer in power and the Tories intention going into the election was to scrap the planned increase. However the Tories have accepted the Liberal Democrat proposal for a “substantial increase” in personal tax allowances to benefit low and middle-income workers from April 2011. This needs to be paid for and the plan currently is to keep part of the planned National Insurance rise – the employee element – in place. The net effect of this will be transfer some of the tax burden on employees from those on the lowest incomes to those on the highest. Surely a good thing, and a remarkable concession for the Liberal Democrats to obtain from what is primarily a Conservative government.

I can imagine there will still be concerns because of National Insurance being seen as a “jobs tax”, but since only the employee element increase is being retained, the direct cost to employers of taking on new employees will not increase. Furthermore, since those employees on the lowest incomes will experience a net gain, there will be more incentive for unemployed to accept employment and less likelihood that doing so will make them financially worse off.

Finally, I think we need to see National Insurance as what it was originally intended to be, and what its name implies. It is a way of putting money aside for our future. If more money is needed in order to guarantee our future pensions, then we need to accept that and not dig a hole for future governments to deal with.

Change the World.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Time for a fairer system

The good thing about the first-past-the-post system is that it leads to strong government and it keeps out the views of minorities. That may be the views of some but the number that believes this must have decreased a lot in the last week. We have a FPTP system that has led to a coalition in a balanced parliament.

Another view is that the bad thing about coalitions is that they allow extreme views to prevail. In this case we find the Tories abandoning their tax breaks for the super rich and the Liberal Democrats putting to one side policies that the Tories don't like. In fact any agreement between the two parties will only take place if both agree. So extreme views don't prevail.

If there is nothing to fear from a coalition government and nothing to fear from extreme views then let's adopt a fairer voting system to allow both these things to happen. Not only are we getting a referendum on the alternative vote system (not brilliant but a step forward), we are also getting fixed-term parliaments. We can now look forward to the next election in May 2015 and not at any other time related to the whim of the Prime Minister.

Change the world

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

When to count the ballot papers

The Morecambe and the Lancaster constituencies counted their ballot papers on Friday morning. The reason for this is because we didn't want the staff to work through the whole of polling day and then through the night. I thought this was the reason but I heard on Radio Lancashire that the change of day was because the constituencies were so big.

I have often written about Morecambe's traffic problems. It can take a long time to get through Lancaster, but traffic isn't too bad at 10pm when the polling stations closed. I reckon that all the ballot boxes could be back at the count within thirty minutes. Let's be generous and say it takes 45 minutes. So why does it take so much longer to count the ballot papers in my area? I heard the Morecambe result as it was announced at 3.15pm (counting started at 9am) and the Lancaster result was declared some time after this. It took six hours fifteen minutes for the count to take place. If it had started when polling closed it would have finished at 5am!

All the volunteers who worked for the parties would have been up all day and all night and then attended the count. I don't think it would be too difficult for council staff who get paid for their day to finish their count much quicker than they did, and to carry on when the polls close.

Change the world

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

How to slighly improve a discredited system

The common cry from Labour is that you win some and you lose some. Well it suits them to say so. If history is anything to go by then the pendulum will swing slightly their way again and they will have absolute power. Diane Abbott, a Labour MP who did win this time said that we have to do what is best for the British people. What she meant is that we have to accept this result from what should have been a discredited FPTP system.

Pat Case, a Tory concillor was saying on Radio Lancashire that "there is absolutely clear evidence that people want change". For me the evidence is that most people don't engage in politics and feel disenfanchised. Of those who do vote most stay with their usual party. She went on to say that "the Liberals (she meant to say the Liberal Democrats) are only talking about electoral reform which is a bit selfish and to their own advantage". She mustn't have looked at the manifesto as it is all about fairness and change. However I was most interested in what she had to say about the Tory policies for change. "Cameron is talking about serious political reform of parliament, of the electoral system". She goes on "of the constituency sizes so that we have a fairer reflection of what the public want".

To me this says nothing. Correcting the size of constituencies will slightly improve a discredited system. So what!

Change the world

Monday, 10 May 2010

Apathy wins this election

Thanks to Sea for her comment yesterday. We do need to consider those who are eligible to vote but don't. The turnout was only 65.1% but this was an improvement from 2005 when it was 61%. If we put positive spin onto these figures then it is great that 4% more decided to vote this time. The negative spin is that we still find 35% of the electorate not voting. More than one in three can't put a cross against a name. Do more than one in three voters feel they can't vote for anyone? I think so.

The problems of our electoral system run deep. It is not just about the people who don't vote, but those who find they have nobody to represent them. On Friday on Radio Lancashire a Tory councillor said "The public have rejected Labour, particularly in England". Well the Tories did get the more votes (36.1%) than other parties, but this was way behind the number who didn't vote at all. There was a 5.6% swing from Labour to the Tories in England which happened to be exactly the same swing in Wales.

I can't agree that voters rejected Labour. A few people didn't vote for them and it is obvious that the Welsh swing was the same as the English so don't believe everything you hear. In this election the Tories gained 10 706 647 but the number who didn't vote was 15 897 265. I duly declare apathy the winner in this election.

Change the world

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Has everything changed?

If you have 100 voters on a street and these voters reflected the votes in the general election then you would find that five people had changed their mind. They voted for Labour previously but this time they voted for the Tories.

I was listening to local radio on Friday and I heard a Tory politician talk of the Labour government being thrown out of office. In effect a few people have changed their minds and the next time you hear politicians talking about the decisive nature of a victory then think about this street. Hardly anything has changed in the way people vote but the results don't show this.

Change the world

Saturday, 8 May 2010

The aftermath of the election

I was taking photographs at a wedding for most of yesterday but I did manage to get to the start of the count for the Morecambe and Lancaster constituencies. I suppose that I can say I was there but I have always managed to see the results of elections since 1983. I spoke to a Conservative who felt that the electoral system was wrong. I thanked him for his support for reform but told him that he would be in a minority of those who were wearing blue rosettes.

There is still a slim possibility that the system will change but I am not raising my hopes, particularly after the polls got this election so wrong. Liberal Democrats gained 23% of the vote when the polls told me that we would get 28%. The predicted percentage extrapolated to 100 Liberal Democrat MPs and it turns out our numbers went down. How did the pollsters get it so wrong? It is hard to be disappointed when you are a Liberal Democrat but opinion polls have managed to cause disappointment.

There is a lot of hot air that is spoken after general elections but I thought that the former Morecambe MP Geraldine Smith was magnanimous in defeat. I hope that she doesn't stand again as I would much prefer to beat another candidate - there you are, disappointment has already turned to optimism.

Change the world

Friday, 7 May 2010

First-past-the-post on its last legs

This is a strange evening for me our count starts tomorrow morning and the last time that I missed a count was in 1983 when my second child was born. Since then I have watched boxes being opened at every count. This means that I have not watched BBC or ITV as the results came in and here I am no listening to Andrew Marr follow David Cameron.

The exit poll is telling me that there will be 59 Liberal Democrat MPs. This is really disappointing as the polls have also told me that our 20% has risen to 32% and fallen back to 28% and the Liberal Democrats will have three less MPs! I did say that regardless of the outcome there would be change. If the percentage votes are close to the predictions then the system will remain obviously unfair. Let's hope that we can't trust the exit polls.

At least Peter Mandelson is telling us that first-past-the-post is on its last legs.

Change the world.

Following the first result, a Labour victory and the Liberal Democrat vote falling by 1%, the exit poll has been amended and Liberal Democrats are now set to win 61 seats. How did we improve by two MPs after this result? Our percentage vote fell and this was against a backdrop of 28% polls not 20% David Dimblebly is casting doubt on the exit poll. I have also glanced at the ITV exit poll (at 11.30pm) and they have the Liberal Democrats down for 59 seats. I think I will stay with the BBC.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

A microcosm and soundbites

There was a moving article on the BBC news yesterday evening about the way that English people may have to sell their house to pay for their care but if you live in Scotland then house sales are not a factor. It is an issue that is costly to the government and it is certainly contentious, but this one issue is a microcosm of the whole political agenda.

If you support the Tory views in general then you will support the idea of paying a few thousand pounds for social care. The problem with this is it doesn't help the poor. It is fantastic for those who have the odd £8000 to spare as they won't have to pay anything if they have to go into a care home. It isn't so good if you don't have a few thousand pounds to hand.

Maybe it is time to change from writing serious blogs to looking at soundbites and talking tough, as I feel the hand of destiny on my shoulder. There is only one poll that counts today as we put our cross in the box. In short, vote for the Liberal Democrats.

Change the world

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Eurosceptics try to have their cake and eat it

At the hustings meeting on Sunday a member of the audience commented that the EU closed our post offices (where was the UKIP candidate?). Now I knew that the Post Office had given arguments for closure on economic grounds. I knew that UK post offices were closed and Westminster was blamed. I knew that Adam Crozier was brought in to make the business more efficient. I didn’t know that the EU was to blame so I came home and made enquiries and the best place to look is http://ec.europa.eu/unitedkingdom/press/doc/post_office_closures.pdf

This document states that I am not to quote from it so I will summarise it. The EU does not close post offices and there is no EU legislation forcing post office closures. This is a matter for the UK Government and Royal Mail. Furthermore EU rules allow state aid for post offices

The EU directive which the Eurosceptics blame for the closures applies equally to all EU members. It doesn't mention any EU member countries by name. So if that directive allows Dutch and German companies to come over here and compete, it also allows Royal Mail to compete in Holland and Germany. Any denial of that is, I think, just the Eurosceptics trying to have their cake and eat it too.

Change the world

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

No more gaffes

The first leaders' debate set the scene for the election. The polls adjusted and have settled in a position which is wonderful for the Liberal Democrats. I spoke with a voter last week who was thinking that the polls may still be volatile but my opinion is that we have had no major gaffes and unless we get any more faux pas (everyone knows about Gordon and Rochdale) then what we have is what we will get on May 6th.

Francis Pym was famous for answering a question on Question Time about whether we need an effective opposition. He admitted that it was necessary for effective democracy and he was immediately sacked by Margaret Thatcher. Her position was that power was more important than democracy. I feel that we are now in a position to cast off the old system and democracy will win.

On Sunday the Tory candidate at the hustings meeting felt that there was an army of volunteers out there that would take over part of the role of government. They call it the 'big society' but they mean an active society. I'm afraid that power has been centralised for far too long for any great wave of volunteers to appear. Apathy is rife. Just take a look at the pattern of those who can be bothered to vote. If we really want to inspire people to action then we have to be serious about devolved power and a fair system to do this. Until the Tories recognise this then any call for a big society will sound hollow.

Gordon was right when he says that he doesn't get everything right, and neither does anyone else. It is time to strengthen our political system, so that gaffes aren't seen as such an important part of it.

Change the world

Monday, 3 May 2010

Gordon Brown visits Wray

I don't think that there is a big overlap between those who read my politics blog and those who read my photography blog so here is today's photography blog as a bonus...

These photos were taken in Wray village which is to the east of Lancaster. They have a scarecrow festival each year at this time and I was there yesterday. There are themes to the scarecrows. There were some TV detectives and televison entertainment in general was a common choice. The residents put certainly put on a great show.

I wonder how much time is given to planning as many of the scarecrows had a political theme. I know that you could have guessed the date of the general election but we have only known that it was 6th May for a few weeks.

These photos show Gordon Brown in his setting and as a close-up and if you look closely you will see that plans have been amended in the past few days. If there is a prize for a topical scarecrow then I think this one won.

Happy snapping

Morecambe Hustings

We had our hustings meeting in Morecambe yesterday and it was it was good to see a packed hall taking part in the democratic process. I am grateful to the organisers for playing their part. I have read the manifestos of the three major parties but it was interesting to see how the candidates interpreted their policies and to see how well they spoke in front of an audience.

I am afraid that the event was not completely positive. The UKIP candidate had a prior engagement and regular readers will know that I would have liked a few answers from this particular candidate. 'Prior engagement' may be a euphemism for not wanting to answer any questions but this possible eupemism pales into insignificance when compared to the absence of the sitting MP. A simple explanation was given - she declined the invitation.

Why should she do this? I had heard that she had better things to do. Well what could be a better use of her time? She may consider that she will get in the newspaper for her refusal to attend and that all publicity is good publicity. I don't think they will publish my letter (see Wednesday's blog entry) and they may not mention her non-attendance at all. However I do want the voters to know that she couldn't be bothered to turn up. Possibly she feels that she cannot articulate her policies. We don't know so we will have to come to our own conclusions.

Change the world

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Most defensive action

Following on from a story about doctors, police officers and council officials, I heard a wonderful story from a friend. This week a health and safety course was taking place in a room that did not have a screen for a projector. The teacher who was not used to the room wanted to project against a wall that had a large framed print on it but he didn't want to take it off in case anything happened.

I think he was too used to having risk assessments written in triplicate and then getting the forms countersigned to show that the assessments had been authorised. The friend just took the frame off the wall and placed it out of the way.

I hope I don't get a reply about this blog entry saying that my friend's actions were disgraceful and no action should have taken place without a risk assessement.

Change the world

Saturday, 1 May 2010

More defensive actions

A Couple of weeks ago the headline in the local paper was about the closure of playgrounds because the council cannot afford to improve the safety surfaces. So 19 have to go with the hope that others can be improved. Yesterday I wrote about defensive policing and defensive medicine. Here we have defensive actions from a council. There is an argument that says that the council has a case to answer if children are injured on a park. There is an argument that medical negligence should lead to compensation. There is an argument that police actions should be accountable and relevant compensation should be paid when errors occur.

The problem with these arguments is that society is stagnating. Inaction wins the day. Paperwork becomes more important than hands-on work. In practice we have play areas closing, police officers not making the decision that they want to but the decision that defends them if they are held to account. It means that we have to be admitted to hospital even if it is against the better judgement of the doctor.

Change the world