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Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Proud To Be An (Ex) Liberal!!

So then folks, here I am again.

Rather like your good mate who disappears at the slightest sniff of fresh action, I present myself to your virtual doorstep holding nothing but an apologetic smile and some fast wilting service station flowers in the form of a long overdue fresh blog post.

I cannot deny that I have left it far too long. I'm hoping that I haven't burned bridges, because we truly did have a good thing going before I went all cold and stopped taking your facebook calls..

Previous posts were mainly concentrated with the Liberal Democrats and their entering into coalition with the tories.

I originally clung to the hope that they could moderate the thirst of the conservatives to hack, hack and hack again at the very fabric of our public services, and indeed our society.

I was very quickly proven to be disappointed in that hope, with the tories mounting a huge assault on the welfare state, the civil service, the emergency services, the pensions of our brave armed forces, among the many others who keep this nation functioning.

The Liberals then performed what can only be described as a complete u-turn on the meat and gravy of their campaign in the election, derelicting their promises to the many thousands of students who threw their wait behind the Lib Dems in the belief that they were getting their voices heard.

In the meantime, my Liberal Democrat membership has been well and truly terminated.

The very thought that I supported and advocated the rise of Nick Clegg makes me feel queasy. If ever there was a bigger opportunist, apart from Thatcher, Bus and Blair, I have not heard of them. There is now seemingly to be a concerted campaign to unseat Clegg, come the next election. I certainly hope the campaign works, because somebody who holds the democratic mandate of parliament in such disdain does not deserve the gold plated, index linked pension that he will enjoy for life, long after he has torpedoed the much less lucrative public sector pensions of those much more deserving than he could ever be.

I cannot condone the attacks by the coalition upon the poorest regions and the most vulnerable people within society by a government that is driven by an ideological zeal to punish the 'lower classes'

We have a government that is trying to push millions of people into a job market that is starved of worthwhile positions, and a Liberal party that is obediently laying on its back whilst our millionaire Prime Minister (Call me) Dave tickles its tummy with the promise of ministerial non jobs and shiny Jaguars.

Many of the tory MPs who whooped and hollered the cuts to the welfare state, and to the very real help and guidance given by so many community organisations and projects entered politics to wield these very ideological axes upon the welfare state, and upon working class and disabled people whom they perceive to be beneath them.

The 20 or so multi millionaires who are in the cabinet are deviod of real world experience. They do not know what it is like to struggle in the job market.
They do not understand. They do not care.

Meanwhile we have an opposition that is allowing the ConDems to heap blame for everything upon the previous government without viable reposte.

Labour got many many things wrong. They disenfranchised alot of people (including me) to the point where many questioned what exactly it is that Labour stand for.

With new imput comes new hope, and we can only hope that Ed Miliband steps up to the plate and provides a robust opposition to the attack of the killer spivs that is currently occurring.

Opposition for opposition sake will not do. There is no place here for cheap, sixth form style politics. The very future of our society depends upon Labour's ability to reach out, enthuse, mobilise, and above all put forward a viable alternative to the deep, fast and ideological cuts that the tories and liberals are trying to assault this great nation with.

It is a brave and scary new world that greets us, progressives, politicos, observers, activists and trade unionists included.

Labour, rather like the trade unions will not win this battle if they retreat into the 1970s.

New thinking, new ideas, and fresh approaches are needed if working men and women are to be properly protected.

We cannot do something purely because we have always done it, or do it in a particular way out of a subservience to history and past glories.

As a member of ASLEF I find it incredibly frustrating to see the same old boys network protecting the status quo at all costs, doing the same old things for the same old reasons, regardless of whether it works or not. It is, I imagine, the same in other unions.

I think it sums it up when I say to union leaders and Labour-ites..

'A little less ego-mania, a little more action please'

Friday, 28 May 2010

Is High Office Pulling Some Lib Dems To The Right, and Why Denis Skinner Has Shown Me Where The Life Boats Are

Regular visitors to my blog will have realised that it has been some time since my last update.

Indeed, many bloggers have been updating almost hourly with their takes on the recent seismic developments following the recent election.

I too must admit to feeling an urge to do exactly the same. Looking at the unexpected way in which the political strata have changed in the last few weeks, there has been much to digest, much to write about, and much to get the heart and pulse racing.

As a member of the Liberal Democrats, I have been watching with quiet anxiety as the party enters into a coalition with the Conservative party. My initial response was to run for the hills, such is my endemic mistrust of the Conservatives, and the ethos of those who make up the membership of the party.

Having said that, I fully accept that it simply would not have worked to try and install a ‘traffic light’ or centre left coalition into Westminster as an alternative.

Firstly, the numbers simply were not there in enough abundance to be stable in the turbulent economic times in which we find ourselves.

Secondly, it would not have been conducive to good government to have to pander to the nationalist parties of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales in order to shore up the government on every contentious issue.

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, Labour lost the election. It would be of the greatest offence to those who decided that they had had enough of Labour for the party to cling belligerently to power.

As a proud and committed trade unionist, it was a bitter pill for me to swallow by not immediately tearing up my membership card, despite the fact that my hand was hovering above my card wallet. However, I was convinced, albeit in the interim by many party activists who adopted the view that it would be best to wait and see what the coalition talks produced, the reasoning being that the Liberal Democrats could seize this opportunity to actively shape government, and to act as a socially just brake, and curb the excesses of the tory party.

Deciding to swallow this bitter pill, and support the party leadership in this decision, I actively refrained from posting blogs whilst I waited to examine the detail of the agreement struck between the two parties. I felt that it would be an adventure in guesswork, hyperbole and disingenuity to do anything else.

Days have since passed, and slightly more detail is beginning to come forth from the coalition government, and I have to be brutally honest in saying that I am getting the distinct feeling of disappointment in the way in which so many vociferous advocates of Liberal Democrat policies have magically switched perspectives and are now preaching the contents of the Conservative manifesto.

Just weeks ago, the Liberal Democrats were hitting the headlines and siding with Labour on the issue of whether or not it was right to instigate £6bn of cuts to the government budgets this year. Both the Lib Dems and Labour were contending that cutting £6bn from budgets straight away would leave us at risk of a double dip recession. Both parties made this argument with great vigour and passion, and they made a compelling case.

Fast forward to the weeks immediately following the election result, and we have many of these hitherto committed Lib Dem voices now claiming that the very measure they were passionately arguing against is the correct thing to do!

At the risk of being cynical, I find it hard not to think that the experience of having one’s bottom on the seat of a ministerial limousine has altered somewhat the feeling of those Liberal Democrats who are showing such breathtakingly loose principles that they could well give the very worst excesses of New Labour a run for their money!

We had an almost total commitment to achieving proportional elections in Westminster, yet in return for propping up a tory administration, all we get is a non-committal referendum on the basic alternative vote and a cloudy half commitment to proportional election to a revitalised upper chamber. On this specific issue, the Lib Dems have changed from wanting a fully elected upper chamber to talking of 'mainly elected' peers.

I for one simply cannot understand how the sprit, ethos and rule of democracy can be used to propel some into a reformed upper chamber but not others.

Complete nonsense.

There are so many issues upon which the Liberal Democrats are so far silent. How, for instance, has the formation of the coalition changed the view of the party leadership on the subject of trade union protection?

Nick Clegg has spoken of unions as ‘vested interests’ and this worries me. It is, and always has been at the centre of my personal politic that the working man and woman should receive fairness and justice in the workplace. That is the guiding principle of trade unionism, and it is also the very example of fairness that would lift the cloud of scepticism that hangs so over Mr Clegg and the party that offered me fresh hope, along with many others.

I truly hope that the party leadership is not confusing the likes of Charlie Whelan and his fellow union power brokers with the hard working and vulnerable trade union members that are keeping this country moving (albeit slowly) toward economic recovery.

The Liberal Democrats are a party that is essentially of the centre left. This was the guiding principle behind me joining the party following me leaving the Labour Party.

If the leading figures of the party are now suddenly allowing the magnetism of high office to pull them to the right, I think that I will not be the only one who experiences a resurgence of that bitter taste that filled my mouth in the days following the election.

Before the election, the Lib Dems promised to vote against any rise in tuition fees, and by doing so attracted alot of student votes. Now they say that they will 'abstain' against any such vote. Abstention may well yield the same result as voting against, but that simply is not the point. This is a point of principle.

After a few encouraging noises at the inception of the coalition, the only noises coming through have been from Lib Dem ministers getting their feet firmly under the table at the expense of their election pledges, and I for one am finding it harder to resist the urge to cut and run.

Sir Menzies Campbell is the only one to have stuck to his principles when he maintained his commitment to vote against the tuition fee rise. Already, people within his own party are comparing him to John Redwood!

I have watched with unease as David Laws sets about swinging his axe at the flesh of the state. Nobody can disagree with the assertion that action needs taking to stabilise the nation’s finances, but the vigour with which he is going about the business of wrenching millions from the various government departments is unsettling. I think that when you are not sure whether it is the thrill of actually holding office that is causing his subtle grin of joy, or the actual stripping of cash from the budgets, it says alot about the mood music currently being played by the artisans of the coalition.

The party say that they will ensure that an agenda of fairness will prevail. I truly hope that they are right, and honest.

Denis Skinner pinned David Laws brilliantly in the commons in a diatribe that was indicative of everything that is great about honest and principled politicians. In fact, if more of Labour’s leadership had shown the same commitment to straight talking and principles that Denis Skinner showed in his political attack on Laws, and less devotion to lip service, political over correctness, and complete indifference to the grass roots, I probably would never have left the party.

If Denis Skinner could give me advice, I am sure that he would tell me to jump ship, and do it now.

Whilst I have, thanks to the display of principled politics by Ming Campbell, no imminent plans to throw myself overboard, Mr Skinner has at least underlined the compulsion I was already feeling to go and seek out the location of the life boats.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Do Me A Favour; Ignore The Sun and the Others, and Read This Blog Before You Cast Your Vote

Well, we are less than 24 hours from the start of polling in one of the closely contested General Elections in history, never mind recent memory.

The three main parties, and indeed the plethora of minor parties and independent candidates have all been busily campaigning and vying for the support of the ultimate kingmakers, the great British electorate.

The massed media have also been busy. They have been busy studying the proposed policies of the main parties, distorting and championing various policies, and distorting and rubbishing policies that they don’t like, or indeed that they feel could damage the chances of their own preferred candidates.

There has been a clear and concerted effort to twist and smear the policies of the Liberal Democrats ever since Nick Clegg invigorated the election campaign with his initial performance in the first leader’s debate. The fear among the establishment has been palpable. They are terrified at the thought of the British electorate actually being able to vote in a way that results in their views, hopes and aspirations actually being represented in parliament.

The current electoral system simply does not represent the hopes and values of the people who vote.

Only a Liberal Democrat influenced parliament can change this.

This is the reason why the usual gutter press snipers, and hysterical right wing news outlets have been hell bent on smearing Nick Clegg, and grossly misrepresenting the policies of the Liberal Democrats.

So before you go and cast your vote tomorrow, and I truly and passionately hope that you will, please take a few minutes to read through this blog, where I have set out a number of misrepresentations, half truths, and downright lies that have been published by the media outlets and newspapers who are determined to prevent you from being fairly and accurately represented in our parliament.

1. The Liberal Democrats are planning to release all prisoners who are sentenced to a jail term of less than 6 months.

This is simply not true.
The party have done extensive work, consulting professionals who work with young and repeat offenders on a daily basis, and as a result of this policy of INCLUDING those who deliver these very demanding and essential public services, the Liberal Democrats advocate a regime of sentencing whereby people who would otherwise have been jailed for 6 months or less are instead sentenced to community and restorative service that have been PROVEN BY EXPERIENCE to yield greater results in terms of positive impact on both wider society and indeed offenders.

These types of sentences are not only more effective, they are far less expensive than the custodial alternative. It is also true to say that many of these jails have ended up being nothing more than crime colleges, and it does not make sense to expose young and impressionable people to such pressures simply to please the headline writers of The Sun etc, when we can turn them around and stop more of them re-offending by making them pay back their debt to society, in the society that they have offended against.

To clarify, there are no plans to release those with short term sentences who have already been imprisoned. This is nothing short of a lie that has been peddled by the Tories, Labour, their press playmates, and their tired and scared party apparatchiks.

2. The Liberal Democrats are planning on granting an amnesty for asylum seekers.

Again, simply not true. The party have identified the fact that there are thousands of people who are living in the UK illegally, and this is the fault of both the Tories, and the current Labour government, who have failed spectacularly to build a working immigration and border control system.

In order to confront and sort out this unmitigated disaster, the Liberal Democrats have said that they would advocate the policy of a ‘one off offer’ whereby people who can PROVE that they have been in the country for at least 10 years, who have learnt English, and who have not committed any criminal offence would be allowed the right to undertake a 2 year probation period that would allow them to work, pay tax and contribute to our society, and to the funding of the public services that they have hitherto been using without paying anything towards.

Any illegal immigrants who are unsuccessful in their application would be removed from the country. It is as simple as that.

What the media don’t want to tell you is that the real amnesty has been going on under Labour and the Tories for years, because of the fact that they have been so incompetent in their running of the immigration system that they have simply turned a blind eye to these people who place massive burdens on our public services. There is a little known convention called the ’14 year rule’ whereby people are not removed if they have been here for 14 years, and this policy has been pursued by both the CURRENT and PREVIOUS governments.

So to clarify, the only person advocating an amnesty is the CONSERVATIVE Mayor of London, Boris Johnson!

The Liberal Democrat proposals are part of a comprehensive approach to the strengthening and overhaul of the services that administer and protect our borders. This proposal encourages illegal immigrants to come forward, rewards those who have learnt the language, not committed criminal offences other than entering the country illegally and who can PROVE this, and provides a chance to arrest and remove those who do not meet the terms of this offer.

We do not know how many of these people there are, nor do we know where they are. This is one way in which we can at least start to sort out the mess that is immigration, and bring an end to the constant insulting of the British people’s intelligence by Conservative and Labour politicians, whose only response to this very important issue has been to shrug their shoulders, wring their hands, and bludgeon detractors with charges of racism for daring to raise it.

The Liberal Democrats are the ONLY party to actively try and come up with robust and workable solutions to actually tackle and address the ‘elephant in the room’ that is the burden on public services caused by those who remain in the United Kingdom without the right to do so.

So PLEASE DO NOT listen to the ramblings and wailings of the right wing press. They WANT the status quo to remain. It is in the interests of their multi millionaire owners to ensure that the same old political parties remain in the position of influence.

They will carry on lying to you if that means that real change is avoided. Do not be taken in by their lies.

3. The Liberal Democrats are planning to get rid of the UK’s independent nuclear deterrent.

This is an unholy deception. At no point have the Liberal Democrats said that they would dismantle the nuclear defence that we have.

The party’s position is very clear. Both Labour, and the Conservatives are committed to spending millions of pounds of taxpayer money on renewing the existing system which was designed to combat the equivalent deterrents in communist Russia with the Trident project.

The Liberal Democrats say that this is ludicrous.

The party is committed to making sure that the whole Trident project is included within a strategic defence review which will be taking place in the early days of the next parliament. This will involve an in depth analysis of the project, BY THE EXPERTS, in order to ensure that it would best serve the defence of this country, should it go ahead.

For the record, this is a position backed by four of Britain’s most senior Army Generals.

The party are committed to the maintenance of our nuclear deterrent, whilst engaging with other governments around the globe to gradually reduce the international nuclear stocks of warheads in co-operation on the global stage. This is another reason why we need to ensure that we can negotiate and deal with other governments within Europe and elsewhere by adopting an internationalist approach.

So to clarify, the Liberal Democrats do NOT plan to de-commission the nuclear deterrent. They are, unlike the Tories and Labour, committed to ensure that we make the best decisions regarding the future of our defence, where possible diverting resources away from irrelevant and costly defence projects and into the provision of equipment and resources for our brave troops that is fit for purpose.

4. The Liberal Democrats want to force the United Kingdom to enter the Euro.

This is not, and never has been the case.

The party have always been clear in that they do believe that, should the economic conditions be right, Britain would be best served by being part of the single currency.

Nobody in their right mind would say that we have had conditions that are anywhere near those which would be good for joining the Euro.

The Liberal Democrats have no intention of approaching the subject of joining the single currency at any time in the near future.

It would not make any form of financial sense to expose the UK to the pressures and constraints of the euro zone as it stands, and the party recognise this.

So to clarify, a vote for the liberal Democrats will NOT result in automatic entry into the Euro. The party would only advocate membership if it were to be independently verified to be in the country’s best interest to join.

In any case, Britain would NEVER join the Euro under a Liberal Democrat government WITHOUT A REFERENDUM for the British people.

The Liberal Democrats are the ONLY party to promise this.

5.The Liberal Democrats have promised tax cuts that would put the economy at risk

They have not.
The Liberal Democrats have pledged to reform the taxation system in order to reflect a greater level of fairness that is still lacking in the tax system after 13 years of a failed Labour government.

The party have calculated that by reforming the tax laws so that nobody in the country pays a single penny of income tax on any earnings up to £10,000, they can give back to hard pressed taxpayers £700 on average, helping to lift the poorest paid workers out of the poverty that currently exists within the lowest earners.

It is nothing short of a travesty that there are bankers in the city are paying less tax on their capital earnings than their cleaners are on their wages.

This country needs real and true tax reform, and the Liberal Democrats are the only party to promise to deliver this.

All of the proposals are fully funded and planned, and will not interfere with our ability to reign in the defecit, other than to improve the ability of Britain’s lowest paid to help stimulate the economy by being able to spend more of their hard earned wage.

So, to clarify, there are no Liberal Democrat tax proposals that are unfunded, unplanned, uninvestigated or ill thought out. These proposals are designed to make the tax system fairer and put £700 back into the pocket of every worker in the UK.

I hope that these examples of mistruth on the part of the other parties and the massed media have shown just how distorted the view of Liberal Democrat policies have been.

So please, do yourself a big favour, and FIND OUT FOR YOURSELF the truth about Liberal Democrat policies, consider them, and if they compare with your vision, and what you want for a fairer, more progressive Britain, use your vote, and Vote Liberal Democrat.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

The Knives Are Out For Nick Clegg, But Beware Who Is Holding The Scabbard...

So the dust is finally starting to settle over the political landscape, the post debate froth is slowly dissipating, yet the star of Nick Clegg is at least managing to sustain its altitude in the days following the inaugural leader’s debate. In the midst of all this Liberal Democrat euphoria, the airspace that spans the majority of the European Union has been closed down as a different type of dust settles upon the holiday plans of the masses.

Meanwhile, as Sunday groans and creaks into life, the political pundits and news hawks are reporting with glee as the Conservatives begin patting themselves down, straightening up their old school ties, and sharpening the knives that they have been throwing at the life sized posters of the Liberal Democrat leader, such is their fury at his barefaced cheek in turning up to last Thursday’s debate and actually daring to connect with the electorate in a way that shows the Conservatives and Labour up as the outdated talking shops that they truly are.

Sitting here watching the various interviews with the political commentators and party spokespeople, it makes me wonder just what depths the Conservatives and Labour are prepared to sink to in order to fool the electorate into voting for the status quo.

This morning, we have already heard the Conservatives try to scare you into not giving your vote to the Liberal Democrats. A spokesman claimed that the Liberal Democrats were espousing a policy of amnesty for illegal immigrants. What they do not tell you is that this is a policy that has been put forward by the Conservative Mayor of London, Boris Johnson!

So this is a clear example of how you cannot trust anything that the Tories tell you, because they will do anything to ensure that we do not get the real change that this great nation desperately needs, and that will shatter their dreams of getting their grubby hands on power and looking after their friends in big business

We hear them crowing about the fact that the Liberal Democrats are supposedly ‘hell bent’ on assimilating the United Kingdom into a federalist Europe, once again trying to play on people’s fears in order to prevent real change, at your expense. Europe is by no means perfect. It is a collection of different states with different agendas, cultures, and priorities. Alliances rule the roost. Horse trading is the order of the day, it is how laws are made, concessions are won, and European law is shaped. There are many, many things that need to be urgently improved within the framework of the EU for it to be more relevant, more responsive, and to be better serving of our interests as a separate sovereign nation that holds membership of this body.

The fact is that the Liberal Democrats are the only one of the major parties who have stated that they will hold a referendum on whether or not the UK should remain a part of the EU, or whether we should leave. The Conservatives are so bogged down in dogma and ideology that their MEPs are failing to represent the best interests of the British people. Conservative MEPs voted against the EU law that spawned the European Arrest Warrant, and laws that have enabled the police forces of European countries to co-operate in order to trace, arrest and bring to justice major paedophile rackets.

If the Conservative party had their way, these people simply would not have been brought to justice.

In many cities around the UK, companies and public bodies have been able to finance new jobs, new facilities, and new amenities for the benefit of ordinary people, by gaining grants and loans from the European Union. In South Yorkshire for example, station improvements and new stretches of railway line that have improved passenger services have only been made possible by money granted from the EU development funds.
So we have to take a fair and balanced view when it comes to Europe. Good things as well as bad have come from Brussels and Strasbourg.

Let us be frank, many of the things that the EU do are quite frankly ridiculous. It is hard to fully respect any organisation that takes 15 years to define what chocolate is!

But whoever is in government needs to recognise the fact that we are a member of the EU.

We cannot simply pull up the drawbridge and pretend that Europe does not exist. Crime now spans international borders, as do the influences of the major banking organisations that have endangered the major economies of Europe. Industrial policies of multi-national companies cross the jurisdictions of sovereign nations.

So it is in my view essential that we at least play a part in European affairs. It is in our interest to make sure that we have a relationship with the European Union that ensures that we get the best out of membership in the interests of our country and our citizens, and that we co-operate with other EU countries in order to ensure that we are not disadvantaged by their actions, or those of their companies. It simply makes sense.

The key point is though, that whereas the other major parties spout endless hot air about Europe, with the Conservatives so obsessed with dancing around the maypole instead of representing YOUR interests in Europe, the Liberal Democrats are the only major party to pledge to hold a referendum on whether or not the UK should remain as a member of the EU. This would happen in the event that European events would threaten to majorly alter our laws, and is the true HONEST debate that we need to have.

Only the Liberal Democrats have promised to deliver this.

The other parties are readying their attacks in the area of foreign policy, believing that his is a weak area for the Liberal Democrats. Yet the Conservatives and Labour are trying to fool you into believing that the arguments around Afghanistan are based on whether helicopters are painted the right colour, and whether they work properly.

The true debate is centred around the reasons for us being in Afghanistan. The Liberal Democrats were the only major party to oppose the invasion of Iraq, and they are the only party who are prepared to take on the difficult questions raised by our supporting a corrupt and inept Afghani regime.

Our brave men and women who are going into that country to lay their lives down on behalf of the United Kingdom deserve these issues to be examined. It is the least that the major players in our political system can do in return for such brave and dedicated service.

By questioning the validity of the Afghan strategy, you are not failing to support our troops. You are showing them that you care desperately that they are sent to risk life and limb only when necessary, that they’re properly trained, equipped and supported, both before during and after conflict, and that they are not put in harm’s way in the name of a flawed strategy.

Our armed forces also need and deserve to be paid in parity with our Emergency services, who also do a great job. The Liberal Democrats are the only party who are proposing to reform Armed Force’s pay and tackle the questions surrounding Afghani strategy and the war on terror.

So bear in mind when the Labour party and the Conservatives try and stick in the knife in, that they may try and portray Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats as being no substance in terms of policy, but when you examine the true position of their own policies, their smokescreen and abject panic at the surge in the opinion polls in the Liberal Democrats’ failure demonstrate that they are all mouth and no action.

As we go into the second of the leader’s debates, the Conservatives and the Labour Party will certainly be sticking in the knife. But before you allow your perceptions to be changed by the panicking strategists in the Labour and Tory camps, take a long hard look at who is holding the scabbard.

Friday, 16 April 2010

My Take on the Inaugural Leader's Debate

I’m sitting down to watch the inaugural leader’s debate as I write these first few words, the dog finally admitting defeat and returning to his basket, a glass of milk and whiskey on the table.

I have to say that I have high hopes for Nick Clegg during the opening exchanges of this debate. It does all seem rather staid and a little starchy to be honest, however, I feel that it is fair to say that my impressions are as follows based on the opening few minutes;

• Gordon Brown is still approaching both audience and fellow political leaders as if he is at the despatch box during PMQs. He still, worryingly, looks like a pale android, and if I were a Doctor, I would be worrying about the state of his circulatory system.

• David Cameron is trying extremely hard to say all the things that he believes the electorate wish to hear, but I still cannot escape the feeling that he is reading every word of every answer from a pre prepared cue card. I must admit that I have also just experienced the frighteningly plausible mental image of David Cameron being wheeled back into the store cupboard of Madame Tussaud’s come the end of this debate.

• Hold the phone citizens! Nick Clegg is a flower that is starting to bloom! I am finding this deliciously ironic that he is the party leader that has invested the least amount of resources and time in preparations for this debate, yet he is coming across as the easiest to believe, the most comfortable in front of the camera, and the most assured under cross examination. He is talking alot of sense, and talking it well (Grammar Police stand down please)

• I am feeling quite a pronounced sense of antipathy all the way over here on my sofa. This is all too polite. Please excuse me for a moment whilst I try and suppress my bubbling indifference.

• Nick Clegg is managing to get lots of local references in his answers to his constituency in Sheffield. The Liberal Democrats are an extremely locally focussed party. Well Done Nick!

• Gordon Brown talking about successful police forces taking over failing ones. Bearing in mind that there is an unofficial recruitment freeze within the public sector, including the Police service, how on earth are the successful forces going to adequately apportion manpower to run the failing ones? Complete tosh and twaddle!

• David Cameron talked about visit to police station in Hull. Wonder why he isn’t talking about any police stations he has visited in Oxfordshire, or any other location that is more ‘well heeled’? A vacuous attempt at appealing to the working class vote perhaps? A Play and a miss for Cameron methinks..

• Nick Clegg drawing references from the other two party manifestos..I am glad to see that Nick is showing some teeth here. Now and again the Lib Dems need to show some mettle, as well as good ideas..more of the same please..

• Brown returning to the same old Punch and Judy PMQ approach. Cameron resorting to type and attempting to shelter under the banner of attacking the Labour Party economic policies that he and his Shadow Chancellor supported..excuse me whilst I yawn..

• And so on to expenses! Well done Nick Clegg on pointing out that the Liberal Democrat MPs were by and large clean following the expenses scandal

• I am rather unsettled by the not too subtle love bombing that Gordon Brown is directing at Nick Clegg..anymore and this broadcast will have to be age certificated!

• Why is it that David Cameron always brings the argument back to cutting the cost of what is being discussed?? If he were talking about the costs of getting on the housing ladder I would be more receptive, but when he talks about this in the context of cleaning up politics as if it were some great panacea I have to say to him that he is well and truly missing the point.

• David Cameron trying to spread the muck and deflect from ‘Cashcroft’ and Gordon Brown hovering and smirking like a patronising teacher.

• Noteworthy that David Cameron wants a ‘predominantly’ elected second chamber. If the Tories have changed and are no longer elitist, why can we not have a completely elected House Of Lords?

• Cameron lands a big blow on Brown. DC makes a good point when he pins down GB on why it is that he only became interested in political reform weeks before this election. It is fair to say that Labour have had 13 years, after all!

• Nick Clegg making the good European comparisons on education. Good strategy, as he is showing that where strategies have been adopted that Liberal Democrats support, real success has been achieved

• All the leaders are agreed that we need more discipline in schools. Nick Clegg mentioned the Liberal Democrat plans for smaller class sizes. Personally I wouldn’t be a teacher if you gave me a golden pig as a golden hello!

• David Cameron banging on about the Tory smoke screen that is the so-called ‘job tax’ (National Insurance Contributions) YAWN!!

• Gordon Brown is obsessed with successful groups taking over failing groups..Is he a messenger from the Borg???? He seems awfully preoccupied with assimilation!

• David Cameron (again) going on about how the roof will fall in if National Insurance rate raises. The 100 businessmen he has recruited have all (allegedly) bought ad space in the Conservative in house magazine.

• Nick Clegg claiming the scrapping of trident will save £100 BILLION!! Why are doing this?? Common sense please!!!

• As it stands, the Liberal Democrats are the only political party who have a ‘menu with prices’ with regard to the inevitable post election cuts.

• Gordon Brown making shrewd economic point regarding the fact that the UK has a lower level of unemployment than the US. Trying to cast himself as the steady hand on the tiller.

• Nick Clegg talking about open and honest in politics. The Liberal Democrat idea of instigating a Council of Financial Unity is certainly a very interesting one. We need to do something differently!
• David Cameron claiming that Lib Dem proposal to abolish income tax for all earnings below £10,000 as a £17bn tax break. Personally I would see it as a demonstration of fair and radical tax reform that the country needs.

• The whole debate is a little stop start due to Alistair Stewart. He is putting up a strong show though.

• Noticeable how David Cameron is completely ignoring what the other leaders are saying in reply to him.

• All three leaders are quite rightly showing gratitude and deference to our brave servicemen and servicewomen. They do a fantastic job, and we are all in their debt.

• I’m liking the Liberal Democrat proposal to bring harmony to the pay comparison between junior soldiers, sailors and airmen and comparable emergency service personnel. Also showing the idiocy of MOD beaurocrats in ignoring the engineering expertise that we have right here in our own country. A play and a hit for Nick Clegg!

• Lib Dem and Conservative leader agreeing on calling for a defence review. Nick Clegg pinning down David Cameron on the issue of trident. Cameron scaremongering with strange talk of losing nuclear deterrent. Cue much alarmist talk about Iran.

• Nick Clegg making good point in saying that the argument regarding trident is one of priorities.

• David Cameron making very valid point regarding lack of helicopters in Afghanistan. Gordon Brown stuttering in reply. Play and a hit for Cameron.

• Nick Clegg making great point about the NHS employing 5000 more managers in the past year. He is right to say that the priorities are all wrong when A & E departments and hospitals are threatened with closure.

• David Cameron makes heartfelt point regarding the treatment his late son received. Nursing & Medical staff in the NHS are indeed an excellent breed.

• Cameron bringing the debate back to the Tory confidence trick that is the campaign against NIC.

• Gordon Brown failing to connect through the camera. He is talking about the cancer treatment guarantee, which would be great if ever brought to practice, but he is looking like the pale android again.

• Cameron reeling out dodgy statistics about Bulgarian cancer rates. I’ll reserve my judgement on that one!

• I concede to the reader that I have a party political interest in this debate, however I do believe that Nick Clegg is providing a breath of fresh air as I type. Honesty is truly a refreshing approach from a political leader!

• Gordon Brown is using his supposed agreement with Nick Clegg as a life raft. Swim Gordon, Swim!

• Nice to see a fellow Train Driver putting a question to the leaders!

• David Cameron makes nice sounds with no answer again, taking a cheap swipe at Gordon Brown, yet forgetting again to mention that he and his party supported the very economic measures that he is now castigating Brown for!

• Nick Clegg is getting alot of positive press, I believe for his emphasis on honesty and consensus in politics. In the area of elderly care we do need cross party co-operation on this issue. We need to respect our elders and treasure them. David Cameron is making some good points on this also.

• Gordon brown is reverting once again to PMQ mode. I am losing the will to live whenever he speaks. I know that he is a decent and honest man, but he has the talent to switch the political passion within this political animal off! Lord knows what effect he has on the public at large!

• Nick Clegg proposing a week per year respite care for long term carers. A fine and noble proposal to end the debate on.

• Clegg makes a compelling appeal in his closing statement. Give real change a chance.

• Gordon Brown strikes for the populist tone by mentioning X factor. Cleverly using the statement to clarify Labour policy on cuts and NIC, honing in on Cameron’s jobs tax claim and misinformation. A good closing statement overall.

• David Cameron is trying to let sunshine win the day again. Trying to paint the Tory party as the victim within the political process is a bit rich, even for someone who is more than a bit, err..rich!

Overall, I believe that Nick Clegg came out he victor in this debate. I believe that he managed to portray a better way of sorting out the problems that face the country. I believe that Gordon Brown was tired and repetitive, and suffering from the ‘brake fade’ of holding office. David Cameron on the other hand failed to take advantage of the opportunity to instil dominance in the electoral campaign, and instead came across as far too polished and false, purveying a slightly tinted version of the same old politic that has outraged the electorate so much.

This has been vindicated by the exit polling from the debate, where ratings were recorded as Gordon Brown gaining between 17 and 32%, Cameron on between 22 and 29% and Clegg on between 37 and 61%.

I think that this shows that when each party is given equal coverage that isn’t distorted by the bankrolling of the big businessmen and the trade unions, the policies and philosophies of the Liberal Democrats, under the leadership of Nick Clegg really do present a credible option for where you should place your vote.

I would call upon you all to use that vote to the best interests of your conscience, and the best interest of this great nation, and its future generations..

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Why Voting for the Status Quo is a True Waste of The Power You Hold in The Election

The Conservative party have finally shed the venomous and divisive characteristics of their old ways, and are now a modern, progressive, caring, equalitarian party that even the most progressive minded political observer could seriously consider voting for.

This is essentially what the party’s publicity machine, headed up by former News Of The World editor, and professional “It’s nothing to do with me guv” excuse thrower Andy Coulson would have you believe in their myriad of election campaign messages.

I don’t necessarily have a problem with this. This is all fine and dandy. People can, I suppose change. If I had ever rented a room at Lizzie Borden’s house though, I think I would have insisted that I undertake the chopping of firewood, just be safe, but I am sure that a leopard can at least try and change its spots.

This remarkable transition however, does leave me in a quandary.

Thanks to the Conservative party, I have now had my preconceptions of the educational establishment within this great country of ours ripped to shreds, rather like the Saturday plans of a low income parent who intends to use a sure start centre, post any David Cameron victory.

I was always of the view that the reason people shelled out such eye watering amounts of money to send their often below average intelligence offspring to private and public schools was to afford them the opportunities that will propel them into the higher echelons of business, politics and consultancy, regardless of their ability to compete successfully on an even playing field.

Many of the MPs in the approaching parliament will be alumni from the elite public and private schools, and the majority of the Conservative leadership fit into that category. Labour are not above criticism in this field though, with Harriet Harperson, Alistair Darling, and a throng of other leading figures benefitting from fee paying education.

I accept that this on its own is no bad thing, and it would be quite wrong to dismiss any of these people simply because of the fact that their parents paid for their education.

However, when you look at the actions and intentions of the Tories and the Labour party, you begin to see that although these two groups of politicians share an affiliation with the educational elite, they have used what they have learned in markedly differing ways.

The Conservative party have dispelled entirely the myth that a privately financed education leads to greater literacy and numeracy skills, whereas the Labour party have used the skills gleaned within the public and private school sectors to flip flop between their constant and diametrically opposed appeals to the working class voter, and to the captains of large scale commerce and big business.

Over the last week, David Cameron (sorry, I meant to say the Conservative Party) declared all out war against Labour’s plan to raise National Insurance Contributions. (Call me) Dave stated that the rise was a ‘tax on jobs’ and was a measure that would ‘kill the recovery’ He then gathered 68 captains of big business together to shock the nation by saying that they were opposed to an increase in taxation on their massively over inflated salaries, and they claimed that any such move would ‘put them off hiring more staff’ in the future. (Call me) Dave also stated that, if elected, he (meaning his party, obviously) would instigate legislation that would limit public servants who are in senior managerial roles to earning a maximum of 20 times the salary of their lowest paid workers, yet stayed strangely quiet about the massive gap between the earnings of Chief Executives and Directors within the private sector, and the wages of their lowest paid staff.

He also claimed that the Tories could save billions in getting rid of governmental waste and streamlining back office local government posts, all without confirming whether or not there will be any redundancies, which would place further strain on the benefit system, and potentially throw yet more people of working age on the scrapheap.

All of these promises of efficiency look to be very feasible you may say. But when you look closely at the figures, and the effect that these proposals would actually have, it becomes plain for all to see that the Conservatives are just as flimsy as they ever were.

For a start, the ‘extra’ strain on business will be minimal. The M&S Chief Executive Sir Stuart Rose claimed that this increase in National Insurance would ‘put him off’ hiring more staff. What a complete load of twaddle!

For one thing, I cannot see a chain of stores like M&S whose sales are up markedly on comparable periods in preceding years, allowing their stores to go unstaffed despite the obvious need for hiring, simply because the NIC rate has been increased by 1%.

It is estimated in some quarters that, for an organisation the size of M&S, the additional cost of employing staff following any increase in NIC would amount to a figure in the region of £10m. Not good when placed in the context of a fragile economic recovery I hear you say, yet the scene changes again when you take into account that M&S paid the very same Sir Stuart Rose a ‘golden hello’ payment of £15m. So if Sir Stuart were truly concerned about the effect upon his company of any increase, surely he is duty bound as captain of the ship to return his golden hello payment in order to mitigate the effect. At the time of writing this blog, no such offer from Sir Stuart was forthcoming.

Strangely enough, I didn’t see these figures printed in The Sun, Daily Mail, Express, or any other Cameron worshipping newspapers during this debate.

As regards the plan to find billions in efficiency savings in the public sector, the current figure trumpeted by (Call Me) Dave is some £27 BILLION. This is almost the entire defence budget for the United Kingdom.

They have claimed that they will achieve this by implementing measures such as harmonising backroom positions in local councils, and not recruiting more staff when existing staff move on. What they seem to have ignored is the fact that, firstly, this is once again going to put more people onto benefits, thereby placing more strain on the nation’s finances, and having the effect that I have described above.

They have also shown a pronounced lack of understanding of how the public sector works. The commitment to not recruit further staff is discredited further when you take into account the fact that around 8% of public sector staff leave their posts for other jobs within the public sector. 8% of such a body of workforce represents a massive amount of people. If they cannot move because of a recruitment freeze, then the Tories efficiency claims are thrown into chaos, because the vacancies will not be there for any would be Tory administration to leave unfilled, thereby undermining any financial advantage to the tax payers of this great nation. A hit and a miss for (Call Me) Dave.

The only alternative for any Tory government, in order to compensate for this is for them to make redundancies on a large scale. It staggers me that none of the Tory strategists have factored this into their plans.

This staggering error points to one of three possibilities being true; Either the Conservative party have a massive misunderstanding of the way in which the public sector works, in which case they show themselves to be as disinterested in the low paid workforce that administers the essential services of this great nation, as well as being as untrustworthy as they ever were, or the privately financed elite educations that they benefitted from, and which propelled them to their current
elevated positions have left them so ill equipped in mathematical and analytical terms that they are simply unable to see where it is that their plans go wrong.

It is entirely possible, I believe, that (Call Me) Dave was too busy dictating the letter which was hastily endorsed by the 68 big business leaders, and briefing Sir Stuart ‘Golden Hello’ Rose for his appointment with the TV cameras that he forgot to check his figures before firing up his propaganda machine.

The third option is that they are perfectly well aware of the fact that they are going to have to make wholesale cuts to the public sector workforce, but have decided against being open and honest with the electorate about this fact.

I know that it is a shocking thought to deal with, so I would respectfully call upon you to take a moment and just process that idea. Take a deep breath before continuing. In an attempt to be fair about this issue, they do claim to be reformed characters, so I am prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt, and refrain from claiming that they are being dishonest or deceptive about their plans for hard working public servants.

The Liberal Democrat Shadow Chancellor, Dr Vince Cable MP has estimated that the net result of Tory plans for the public sector could result in 20,000 to 40,000
redundancies. Can our creaking benefits system really deal with an additional 20-40,000 skilled people claiming Job Seekers Allowances and Housing/Council Tax Benefits, as well as local authorities having to re-house those who lose their homes as a result of the inability to pay mortgages and other credit?

The Tories are obviously either, disinterested and incompetent, or they are so poorly educated despite the immense parental investment in their educations, that they could be perceived as the personification of why it that wearing the correct school tie will always outweigh your qualifications, or abilities when moving in conservative circles.

Either way, the result of allowing the Tories to get their hands on the public sector would be a disaster for our economy.

The Labour party, on the other hand are no better. They have been sketchy at best in identifying areas within which they can cut waste out of inefficient areas of the public service, of which its most ardent supporter must surely admit that there are many. They have only grudgingly admitted at the eleventh hour that there will be ‘some job losses’ although they will not go into specifics.

The Labour party have developed a culture and a practice of serving the gods of re-election, rather than serving the British people. This has resulted in them responding to every problem by slapping a target on it and calling a press conference. Their strategy is to try and smother the flames of voter discontent with a blanket of statistics, seemingly hoping that we become so confused by the numbers that we simply stop questioning them, and give Labour our votes just so they’ll stop the constant attack of numerics.

On the specific issue of National Insurance though, Alistair Darling has said that he had a choice of raising NIC or VAT, and decided to target National insurance because VAT would impact upon the least well off instead off a raise in NIC for those earning in excess of £20,000 per annum. I have to admit that I can see the sense in that to an extent.

Obviously, we all are going to have to pay more in order to help sort out the mistakes of an exalted few in the City of London, we all know that, and it is a sour fruit that we shall have to collectively suck on in order to aid the recovery of the economy.

Surely though, it would make more sense to instigate a raise in income tax, thereby placing the greatest burden upon those with the broadest financial shoulders. If this were to be instigated in partnership with real reform of the tax system, the strain would be placed fairly and squarely upon those able to take it, and not those within society who are struggling to make ends meet.

The Liberal Democrats propose to abolish income tax for the first £10,000 of all earnings, thereby making people £700 better off on average using current rates. This is the kind of fair, progressive tax policy that the UK needs in order to rein in the massive deficit that the country faces in the fairest way possible, with those most able to take the strain contributing most.

These tax proposals would mean that approximately 3.6m people would not pay any income tax. These are among the lowest paid workers in Britain, and are amongst those most susceptible to poverty, as are their children, and both the Labour Party and the Tories have no plans to direct any kind of policy toward these people in order to help them do more with their lives than survive.

It’s a strange thing to say, but politics is one of the greenest businesses around. When you look at the policies of two of the major parties, they are based very firmly around the principles of recycling.

Some of the attitudes of New Labour could well have been wrenched from the philosophies of Thatcher, turning their backs on the commitment made to the 1994 party conference to nationalise the railways if elected and becoming the ‘hungry puppy’ of big business.

The Conservatives under David Cameron have tried as hard as Lord Ashcroft’s millions would let them to emulate the project that was New Labour, casting aside the party’s traditional elitist, unjust and outdates policies and guiding principles for the benefit of the massed media and trying to project an image of caring about the working classes and campaigning on the environment.

The big difference between the two is that where the Labour Party made a public and pronounced act of moving smartly to the right and putting clear space between themselves and their paymasters in the trade unions, they continued this conversion when the cameras were turned off.

The Conservatives, on the other hand have shown on a number of occasions, that as soon as the media walks away and the spotlight is turned off, they revert to type, aspiring to govern from their own ivory towers, believing the same old tired dogma that they have always believed, and looking to return Britain to the nightmare of the 1980’s.

During the recent financial crisis and electoral campaign we have seen Labour stealing policy ideas from the Liberal Democrats, continuing the cycle of recycle and re-use (in some circles it would be known as stealing) and ignoring the fact that in some cases, only months ago these same policies were being ridiculed by both Labour and the Conservatives, yet now both sides seem ready to deride the party in public, yet love bomb them in private!

It is clear to see that the only party that is truly setting the agenda, being clear about what is in store, open about how pledges will be financed, and making real plans that will deliver the kind of democracy and politics in this country that are not centred on protecting the right of the privileged few to claim for duck houses, toilet seats and first class train travel, and that party is the Liberal Democrats.

There are some that claim that a vote for the Liberal Democrats is a wasted vote. How can it be a wasted vote when that vote is for fairness in tax reform, greater powers of arrest, detention and removal for the Border & Immigration agencies, responsible banking law, the separation of investment and high street banks, greater investment in public transport, the reform of the most rotten parliament in the western world, and real investment in healthcare and education?

If you truly believe that these pledges are exactly the kind of honest, fair and progressive policies that this great nation needs in order to kick start the economic regeneration and deliver more jobs, responsible investment, and an environment that will be fit for our children and grandchildren, then I would respectfully suggest that you should give serious thought to voting Liberal Democrat on May 6th.

It is important that you do not waste your vote. It is imperative that you don’t waste this opportunity to secure real change.

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Why I Feel Vindicated By the ASLEF Leadership

I would like to congratulate the ASLEF leadership for their decision, published in the previous edition of the Journal, to become active in the franchising process.

Of course, it is not that likely that the government would actually allow us as a trade union to be instrumental in the running of any such franchise, however I do applaud the move towards such a campaigning strategy.

It is with a sense of vindication that I write this letter, as I proposed the exact same strategy when standing for election to the Executive Committee last year. I spoke at length on this issue in a number of branch meetings across District 1 during the election, and the idea was very well received.

It makes sense that the communities who are served by the railways are allowed to have a stake in the direction in which their operation is taken. ASLEF is just such a community. We are a community of highly trained, proud and professional Train Drivers who know where the current system is going wrong through our own daily experiences.

Co-operative's running franchises would remove the embedded obsession with profit, profit and more profit, and instead allow a greater focus on investment in and improvements to operations, safety, ergonomic cab design, social responsibility, customer care, pay, terms and conditions, and so on.

This is also guaranteed to garner substantial press interest if handled the right way, not only from the screaming doom merchants in the Daily Mail et al, but also from the more sympathetic news outlets.

No doubt some would see such an initiative as 'inmates running the asylum' I however see it more as an industry which is currently drowning itself in a sea of non competent management lending itself a chance at grabbing a life raft by drawing on the skills of the professional men and women that keep Britain's railways moving each day, and keep them safe.

I have been saying for an awfully long time that ASLEF needs a much higher media profile than we have currently. Bob Crow is not the voice of the railways, and it is a tragedy that ASLEF should allow the massed media to cast him as such without taking steps to redress the balance.

In order to achieve this we need innovative campaigning strategies, and proactive leadership from those whose wages we pay.

Tradition is a great teacher, and the status quo can be an able guardian of important achievements, but we need to do things better, we need to do them more effectively and efficiently, and we need to be much more aggressive and robust in getting the message across to politicians, the travelling public, and indeed our sister unions.

ASLEF is the only sensible choice for professional Train Drivers. We cannot however, allow ideology and dogma to get in the way of showing people why we are the only sensible choice.

If this initiative is the first welcome step towards that long awaited higher media presence, and modern, innovative campaigning that is fit and focussed on achieving and excelling for a 21st century membership, in a 21st century industry, I for one certainly welcome it, and I will obligingly offer my time and support in pursuit of such an aim, no matter how overdue it may be.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Bulger, Venables, and why the Red Tops Could Leave the Cell Door Open..

Another week, and another relentless display of feverish tabloid headlines. Last week it was Brown the bully (quell surprise) and this week it is the disturbing revelations regarding one of the killers of the tragic toddler James Bulger who as most will know was murdered in horrific circumstances by Jon Venables and Robert Thompson in Liverpool in 1991.

Since the pair were handed indeterminate sentences by the judge presiding over the case, there has been much debate over whether the punishment given was anywhere near severe enough. Personally, I believe that it was at best naive to go forward with the belief that these two could have been rehabilitated following the committal of such heinous acts, even though they were both only 10 years of age at the time.

I do believe that, whilst it is a misnomer to believe that only deviants and maniacs possess the ability to act with violence or sadism, it is certainly true that, at least for the most part, it is only people who are products of a damaged family or social environment, or indeed those born sociopathic who will go on to perform the type of depraved acts perpetrated upon little James Bulger.

Looking back at the particulars of the case, there is a part of me that rails against the sense of injustice that comes from the knowledge that neither of the offenders spent a single day of their adult lives in prison. But stand back for a moment, and view this sorry trail of events as dispassionately as you can. The criminal justice system was faced with what was a no win situation here. They were presented with bellowing crowds and impassioned tabloid headlines that whipped up an already furious public, understandably baying for the blood of these two ‘monsters’ who were responsible for such brutality against such an innocent and defenceless child. Yet they themselves were children too.

The conundrum served to the judiciary, and the rest of the criminal justice system was centred around what to do with these two young boys. One of the cornerstones of any advanced, compassionate and libertarian society is the belief that all punishment should be fair, and should also be aimed at rehabilitation. A fine balancing act had to be successfully achieved between the law being seen to be handing down justice to the perpetrators of what was a horrific and ghastly crime, and the goal of trying to rehabilitate these two youngsters so that they may one day be in a position to serve a useful purpose to the wider society.

So, although I can sympathise to an extent with those who bellow about the softness of the sentence handed down to these two boys, I can also see why it was that the decision was taken to sentence them the way that they were sentenced.

Not everybody takes the same view however. The unfairness perceived by some was translated into angry headlines by the less responsible red top newspapers, and the flames of public outcry were fanned by front page content, and this very understandable grudge seems to have been carried over into recent coverage of the return to custody of John Venables.

The main thrust of my point however is not solely concentrated on my opinion of the reasons behind the sentencing of Venables and Thompson. It is also intended to demonstrate why it is that I fear that the hysterical intervention of these red top papers may well result in the undermining of the criminal justice system.

A cursory scan of the headlines that have poured from the tabloids in recent days have told lurid tales of a myriad of obsessions and offences that I am not going to repeat here. Almost every man, woman, and child in the nation will have read or heard some of the charges against Venables, despite pleas from the Justice ministry for calm and reason in the way that the media handled the case.

This, I believe has been breathtakingly irresponsible action on the part of the British media, rather akin to the actions of the mothers who amazed the nation by buying junk food for their children at lunchtime in protest at the local authority imposing a menu of healthier food for their children’s school lunches.

I make this comparison in the belief that it demonstrates how people can demonstrate such unbelievable stupidity in the face of such obvious fact.

The fact in the case of these mothers is that they were jeopardising the health, educational ability, and future of their children in some ill informed and selfish protest, and the fact in the case of the media is that by hollering such hysterical and inflammatory revelations about the Venables case, they are jeopardising the chances of him receiving a fair trial, and if found guilty of whatever crime he is eventually charged with, receiving a fair and true sentence that will be beyond the questioning theatrics of an ambitious appeal lawyer.

I believe that we should all step back and allow the judicial protest to take its unhindered course. If Venables has indeed committed the crimes that so many have accused him of, the CPS, the judiciary, and the prison ser vice should all be allowed to do their collective job. If he hasn’t, then the same is also true.

The real irony of this situation is that it will be the same people, the ‘red top’ media who will be crying foul if their irresponsibility in the face of reasonable pleas for restraint end up foiling any attempt by authorities to bring Venables to book for any crime of which he is convicted.

These publications have all featured heavily the brave and erudite mother of James Bulger, Denise Fergus. She is a wonderfully courageous and articulate lady who has managed to carry on despite such unimaginable grief and rage, and I for one certainly tip my hat to her for that.

It has been stated by many, quite correctly that Denise Fergus has been handed a life sentence by the actions of these two.

The saddest thing of all of these recent events is that the actions of the media may well sentence Ms Fergus to a second life sentence. Surely nobody could forsee a larger injustice than that.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Corus, Teeside Steel, and Why Safety Nets Are Cheaper Than Benefit Cheques..

The banners fluttered in the icy Teeside breeze, the workers gathered at the gates of the massive Corus steel plant, the journalists mingled with union leaders and activists, and the whole scene transported me back to the newsreel coverage of the 70’s and 80s, where time and again workers of just about every industrial persuasion downed tools and walked out in protest, alot of the time for quite justifiable reasons, and sometimes for reasons that were not so.

This week we have seen the workers at Corus steel in Teeside walk out in protest at the decision to mothball the huge complex that not only dominates the local countryside, but also the local economy. In many ways, the steel industry in Teeside is, if not the actual heart of the local jobs market, it is certainly one of the great arteries of it, and the prospect of the plant closing, leaving such a massive hole in the local economy is a frightening one, not just for the residents and businesses of Teeside, but also for everybody who lives in a similar area.

Coming from Hull, I recognise just how devastating it can be to see the industrial heart of a place ripped out. Ever since the fishing industry essentially died out in Hull, the city has lurched from crisis to decline. The recent economic downturn has resulted in the loss of thousands of jobs in Hull, the caravan industry being essentially closed down in the city, despite 3 of Europe’s largest caravan companies being based there. In the last 12 months there have been in excess of 5000 more people claiming job seekers allowance in Hull, with yet another generation sinking into the despair and hopelessness that comes with a future blighted by poor health, limited prospects, high unemployment, weakening social cohesion, and an overriding sensation of being disenfranchised from the mainstream political process, and of being somehow regarded by the establishment as second class in comparison to other, more prosperous regions of the UK.

The really frustrating thing about the situation in Teeside concerning Corus, is that this is just another example of multi-national companies capitalising on the British outlook that seems to actively encourage failure.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that Corus on Teeside is unprofitable. According to the trade unions that represent the workers, it is quite the opposite.

What we have though is a situation whereby a multi-national company, Tata who are the parent company of Corus, has chosen to mothball a perfectly profitable site (chosen seemingly being the operative word in this instance) despite the fact that it’s other operations around the world require the use of the very product that they claim there is no demand for!

In essence, Tata are making a selective decision to close this plant, and end over a century of steel making, to punch a massive hole in the local economy, to sound the death knell for suppliers, customers, and indeed many other businesses that survive on the wages spent by Corus employees.

Why is it that this company is so willing to slit the throat of one of its own companies?

The only reason that I can come up with is that they have identified other locations and companies where the steel production is completed without due regard to a viable living wage, robust and accountable Health & Safety, and environmental laws which are enforced.

Obviously, cutting oneself free of such limiting restraints must give a healthy boost to the dividend paid to the shareholders, despite the fact that steel making on Teeside has a reputation of being amongst the highest grade in the world.

So it seems that Tata are essentially ignoring their own demand for steel, and are allowing one of their subsidiaries to wilt and die so that they can purchase steel at a much lower price, in all probability manufactured to a much lower standard, in order to feather the nests of the shareholders.

“But surely that is the cut and thrust of business?” I hear you ask.
Of course, businesses will take decisions that will benefit them industrially and financially, and I agree with those who claim that in many ways, this situation is no different. I have made my observations concerning the possible reasons behind Tata’s decision to justify the mothballing of the Teeside plant, and any suggestion of disingenuous actions on the part of Tata aside, this incidence does stand apart from the examples of many others, simply because of the scale of impact that will be suffered by everyone living in the local area.

As I briefly mentioned above, the Teeside plant is at the very heart of the regional economy. The loss of these jobs will cripple Teeside, and indeed parts of Cleveland and North Yorkshire. In the same way that I have described the effects of economic gloom on Hull, the same will happen in Middlesbrough and the wider region. Another generation of working age men and women reliant on state benefits, stripped of hope, ambition and self worth. Another generation of children who will never experience what it is like to have a parent to look up to who is holding down a job, paying taxes, contributing to society, thereby repeating the circle of hopelessness.

I cannot help but think that the government have abandoned the people of Teeside in their hour of need. I truly believe that it would be just as expensive to the public purse to subsidise or nationalise Corus, as it would to prop up the legions of workers, and their future generations with all of the associated benefits required, to provide a basic standard of living.

The government however will recoil in horror at the prospect of such a suggestion I am sure. They are far too busy propping up the greedy banks that plunged us into the situation that we are in to worry about some hard up provincial workers who will, in their political thinking, return a Labour candidate anyway.

But this abject abandonment of the Teeside workers and their communities acts as an indicator of two main themes that seemingly underpin our whole political system; A cynical and calculating approach to the very regions which have historically provided Labour with their core support, and a culture, whereby the stock answer to any major problem is to find reasons s to why it is that we cannot do something, rather than looking for ways in which our politicians can make things better
for the people they supposedly serve.

The simple fact of the matter is that Labour are now too occupied with playing to the ‘Daily Mail’ gallery in the run up to the imminent General Election to worry about the regions and heartlands of what was Britain’s industrial base. They have focussed their efforts on bailing out the banking and financial sectors, which I believe was the right thing to do, however, the strategy of the government seems to be to support the white collar industries that have crippled the country’s finances at the expense of almost every other sector, the net result being that once again, the south east and London, are the main beneficiaries of government investment, whilst the regions are left to rot in hopelessness.

This policy has been adopted by the incumbent government because of the failings of the current first past the post system of elections, whereby political parties know only too well that there is no real prospect of them being held to account for their failing of voters out in the regions, and away from the London chattering classes, which is where New Labour is fixated in its ideology and policy.

The situation as it stands is made worse by the fact that we in Britain are cursed with the affliction of our political leaders taking refuge from decisive governance by hiding behind excuses instead of taking the action that is needed in order to make our lives better, and our infrastructure work better.

What the government should be doing is taking a pragmatic view with regard to Corus, and recognising that the time has come for them to take serious and decisive action. I have stated above, that it would in all probability be just as expensive for the government to step in with regard to steelmaking in Teeside, than it would be to simply allow the industry to die, and then spend countless millions on benefits, extra costs to the NHS, all of the associated problems that accompany the abandonment of a generation.

We are entering an age whereby we should be looking towards ambition, innovation, and creativity to guide us out of the difficulties that we currently face. We should be forging ahead with the expansion of high speed rail, and the electrification of the railway network. All of this work requires steel. Steel that can be made at Teeside, and that can keep the aspirations of a region alive, and provide otherwise desolate and aimless workers with hopes and dreams for the future.

There are so many projects and initiatives that can and should be lifting this great
nation from the pits of recession. Our government should be presenting a unified and co-ordinated policy whereby the demand created from these essential projects should be matched with the characteristics of our regional manufacturing centres in order to ensure that the policies of the national government do not again ignore the needs of, not only the manufacturing ability of our nation, but also the need of
the workers within these regions to be given the chance to safeguard, and build upon the basic standard of living that they, and their families have the right to enjoy in a civilised nation.

The cost of turning our backs on the people of Teeside, and indeed workers in other areas is going to be huge. We have no other true option than to stretch out the safety net beneath the workers of Teeside, as it will save money, heartache, and another generation from the scrapheap in the long term.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Super League - The Battle & Bravado Is Back, and Why The RFL Will Never Widen The Appeal Of Rugby League Without Massive Reform

It was with a fastening of a button, and a half mesmerised observance of my breath against the cold East Yorkshire air that we Hull Kingston Rovers fans hailed the return of Super League to Craven Park.

The assembled faithful, just over 9000 of us in total, stood huddled together in the east stand of Hull KR's stadium in East Hull, bracing ourselves against the piercing winds that were blowing in from the open expanses of the River Humber, being funnelled from the North Sea and fired down the river's estuary, Craven Park seemingly the intended target for the full majesterial force of mother nature's off shore exploits.

The burger bars did a healthy and brisk trade, throngs of fans, usually queuing for bottled beers or plastic beakers of bitter hopping subconsciously from foot to foot as they waited in line for coffees, burgers and hot dogs, desperate for any insulation against the shrill winds as they stood discussing the close season activity, and debating healthily the merits of the strategies selected by the Hull KR coach, Justin Morgan, and the improvements made to the ground since last we assembled here at the business end of the previous season.

I watched this from a vantage point high in the east stand. Not only did it offer a great view of the action to come, it also offered up views of alot of Hull's most disadvantaged areas, both industrially and socially.

In many ways, Rugby League, and the battle and bravado that accompanies it have long since acted as a rallying point for the citizens of Hull, through recession, abandonment, poverty, tragedy and back again, and the circle looks set to continue well into the problems that my home city has to face in the years to come if it is to ever haul itself up by the bootstraps, and drag itself clear of the precipice upon which it teeters.

As the hooter sounded, signifying the start of the game, and indeed season for Hull KR, we settled into watching the contest as Rovers slowly started taking control of the game over their opponents, the Salford City Reds. Within ten minutes, Peter Fox had crossed the Salford line twice, and with the tries converted this gave Rovers a ten point cushion from which to build...

Rovers went on to win the game by 30-6, but in watching the game, and observing the chanting, the wit, the humour, and the collective spirit that was conjured up by this all encompassing spectacle that is Rugby League I got to pondering the future direction of the game, and the problems that have been endemic within it for far too long now that have, and will continue to undermine any attempts by the Rugby Football League to expand the game, and build its popularity beyond the 'M62 corridor'

I think that I can honestly say that in three quarters at least of the games that I have paid to attend, the whole experience has been marred by the lack of consistent refereeing that can be exposed successfully to any form of scrutiny.

We had the pleasure of Richard Silverwood at Sunday's match, and yet again, despite the fact that Rovers ran out winners by a sizeable margin, the game was to an extent spoiled by the inconsistent performance of the main match official.

At previous matches, I have been able to say exactly the same thing about Ashley Klein, Steve Ganson, Ben Thaler and others.

Don't get me wrong, I believe that being a Rugby League referee must be an exceptionally demanding and difficult role to fill. However, these people are meant to be doing so to an elite level, and if I am perfectly honest, I cannot see how anyone could claim that their levels of performance could indeed be termed as 'elite'

In almost every match we see poor policing of offsides, poor refereee positioning, inconsistent monitoring of knock on and play the ball, almost non existent policing of forward passes, and some quite frankly bizarre interpretation of incidents that do from time to time, simply astound and amaze...

In addition to this, we have the Rugby Football League's disciplinary committee that fail in just about all attempts to measure themselves up to the requirements of consistent actions.

Time and again we have a player from one club being disciplined for an offence, and the next week a player from a different club being handed a completely different punishment, whether in terms of severity or nature, despite the incident, charge and circumstances being at times almost identical.

The Rugby Football League talks tough and big on wanting to spread the appeal of Rugby League, yet it still acts as if it is the centre point of an old boys network, where you can expect leniency if you are employed by a club who are 'on the inside' yet you should expect to be thrown to the wolves if your club is not one of the chosen few..

We have a ridiculously small pool of top level referees. The RFL constantly talk of the shortage of match officials, yet they do nothing to attract new referees to the sport.

They talk of wanting to build the game steadily, yet they choose to ignore the many healthy developing clubs in the south of England, in the north east, and indeed in Scotland, and instead super impose a club on the communities of south Wales, and they propel a second rate french team into the elite of the sport without having given the logistics involved even the merest of a second glance..

Cheap and easy headlines are great in the short term, but they do nothing for the long term future and the viability and solidity of our great game.

What the RFL should be doing is breaking the influence of the usual suspects within the game (Leeds, Bradford, Wigan, St Helens) in terms of the way in which the game is run and its rules implemented, and making the game more democratic to all clubs within the RFL family, with fairness and developmental assistance being made more readily available to all in order to ensure that these up and coming amateur and low level league clubs have targets to aim for.

The league should also be widening the pool of elite level referees. They could learn many lessons from our friends at the RFU in this respect. Their refereeing programmes leave the RFL languishing in the dark ages, and their level of organisation is simply light years ahead.

They should be identifying the promising clubs in terms of untouched territory and local talent, and building them up SLOWLY and STEADILY, allowing them to build up a local following that is loyal, and that will make it worthwhile staging games by providing respectable attendance figures (Harlequins RL for example rarely manage attendances that exceed 3000, despite being in London!!)

It will also build local dynasties of Rugby League players and families. The game can only truly establish itself within new communities when it is allowed to put down deep and sturdy roots. No disrespect to the players and staff of Celtic Crusaders and Catalan Dragons, but this has not happened in Wales and France.

Rugby League is a working man and woman's sport. That is a fact. It will not expand in a viable way without the RFL playing the long game, and facilitating the dedicated amateur clubs to take small, steady, regular steps forwards, in terms of recruitment, training, development, strategy and infrastructure.

Most of all, Rugby League would be allowed to flourish and grow properly if the RFL simply started thinking along the lines of what is best for the game at all levels, both now and in the future, instead of trying to vainly keep up with the activities of the much more affluent and better organised Rugby Football Union, as well as keeping in favour with the writers of Boots 'n' All et al....

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Mallard, Innovation & How RBS Can Bankroll A New Dawn..

Isn't it amazing how a machine, a simple manifestation of man's hunger for progress, and to some, a simple and overrated collection of pistons, gaskets, nuts and bolts, can represent so many sentiments aspirations, and indeed so much about the state of a nation's psyche, outlook, and fabric?

I spent this afternoon at the National Railway Museum in York, negotiating the throngs of over excited school children, harrassed parents and open mouthed tourists as we walked between Mallard, the Intercity prototype, and many other examples of railway engineering that literally changed the face of travel.

As I stood looking at the streamlined surfaces and gracious curves of Gresley's A4 Pacific locomotive it occurred to me that the power that this nation once wielded was based upon our manufacturing prowess, our innovation, our eye for the way of the future...

During the time of Gresley, and that of Britain's earlier Locomotive designers and engineers, the imagination of the whole country was powered just like a locomotive, speeding forth toward a collective goal of brilliance, of perfection, of engineering and technological superiority, the only difference being that the fuel that powered the minds of our great engineers and visionaries was confidence, competence, and a keen eye for the new way forward, whilst the fuel that powered their great machines was coal, steam and electricity.

Contrast this with where we stand now as a nation; unsure of who we are or what we are meant to be doing, our manufacturing bases smashed and sold out to foreign asset strippers, our foundries and factories colonised by multi nationals.

We have gone from leading the world in technology, innovation, design and research, to a situation where even the most staunchly British company or institution is owned and administered by foreign money, and our hapless government think that it is cause for a tea party when they announce that seasonal anomalies, and governmental fiscal schemes have distorted the economy into the production of false indicators of an exit from recession.

Don't get me wrong. I am not going to spend the rest of this blog bemoaning the fallen stature of the United Kingdom.

Sure, it is a source of great disappointment to me that we have allowed our country to slip into this situation, but i prefer to focus my energies and thoughts upon the matter of examining how we can reverse and change the sorry place that we currently occupy.

We in Britain, or at least our political leaders, lack the drive, confidence and vision to afford ourselves the opportunity to make Britain great once more.

Where once our collective minds were filled with thoughts of greatness, achievement and rigour, it is now filled with meekness, under performance and turmoil.

The world is now standing at a massive crossroads in terms of the future.

The emerging industrial nations have all but cornered the markets of mass production, manufacturing and the like. We are unable to compete on the basis that the minimum standards that we quite rightly employ in the developed world in terms of health & safety and employee welfare etc make our products too expensive at source to really have a chance of posing any opposition to the dominance of these emerging nations.

The traditional manufacturing economies of the developed world are failing; Germany is struggling with rising joblessness, and Japan's economy has been flatlining for almost a generation.

So we must look elsewhere to gain a foothold for the future. The ethos that will dominate industry for generations to come will be the development of 'green' methods of energy production, manufacturing, and the construction of all the infrastructure that comes with it.

The British Government should seize the chance to steal a march on our industrial competitors by actively supporting the development and innovations that the British pioneers in these areas are developing. We should be actively promoting, assisting, and investing in the development for mass use of alternative fuel sources, energy saving municipal technologies, major capital projects such as the expansion of high speed rail, enfircement of energy efficiency measures in all new buildings and the like. Sure, it wouldn't be cheap, but we do have a way in which we could raise the funds to finance much of these plans;

Its called RBS Lloyds.

We own over 80% of RBS, and a sizeable chunk of Lloyds too.

I have already spoken in a previous blog of how i believe that the bankers have gone far too long in their irresponsible ways whilst enjoying impunity.

Well, the piper plays the tune I am afraid, and it is about time that our government shook off its media obsessed approach to running the country, looked deep inside itself for any last remnants of its guiding ideology, and harnessed the so far dormant power within these organisations that it holds, and finally start taking measures that will kick start our ailing traditions of manufacture, production, and excellence in innovation.

Over the coming years and decades, the world will be clamouring for green technologies and infrastructure in scales of demand that have never been seen before.

Britain can be at the forefront of catering to that ever growing demand, of shaping the industrial and environmental landscape of the world's commerce and industry in a way not seen for a century.

What we need are a new wave of grants and loans for research and development, manufacturing facilities, and export assistance for the companies that are devloping new technologies that will help the world to do business without sounding the death knell for our environmental future.

The government should be building a system that will release the might of the leviathanic financies that have been pumped into these banks in order to maike Britain a better place; to create jobs, smash the vacuum of hopelessness that is being exploited by the BNP and other extremists, to foster a new national confidence in our ability to build, innovate and lead, and our ability to be a true positive example to the rest of the world.

Put simply, to allow us Great British people to feel Great about Britain once more!!

Obviously, there are people that would claim that this would undermine the whole philosophy of the system that generated the wealth that made the country so propserous, but they are wrong.

Eventually, the government is going to put RBS, and its shares in Lloyds back up for private sale. The banks will, once mroe be entirely commercial concerns.

In the new industrial landscape that awaits us, we need not only banks that are experts, and that have experience in trading, investing, and participating in the development of these new technologies, we need strong, major banking organisations that are weaned away from their over dependence on the excesses of the City of London.

If the government were to direct RBS and Lloyds towards a green development agenda, these two organisations would be ready placed to be world leaders, and fiscal pioneers in these fields, once again putting Britain at the top of the tree, and opening up another inestment, devlopment, and innovative opportunity where once there was only hopelessness incompetence, avarice and failure.

I believe that it is true that we need a solution from way out in left field to provide us with an exit from the mess in which we currently lie as a nation.

There are many aspects to the problem, and the solution comes in many parts also. We are talking about joblessness, crime, poverty, aspit=ration, education, training, the list goes on, and the effects of one aspect exacerbates the influence of others.

We need a radical, almost revolutionary raft of measures to change the direction of the UK, and instill in the nation once more, the feeling of being brave and fearless pioneers.

More importantly, we need to usher in an age of financial recovery and propserity that is not based on over inflated house prices and irresponsible corporate trading, in order to finance the measures that we all wish to see living in a Liberal democratic society; true tax reform, free higher education, free personal care, improvements in the pay and conditions of our armed forces, nurses and emergency staff, expansion and reform of our borders to name a few...

Our steam engines once ruled the world, belching their thick smoke as they pulled the borders of the empire with them as they powered across the globe.

I want a Britain whose empire is based on innovation, development, excellence, and confidence, rather than the religious and cultural dogma of its victorian counterpart.

How ironic that it was whilst standing amongst the symbols of this counterpartm that the two extremes were joined together as a vision for a brighter, cleaner, more prosperous future...

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Bankers, Bonuses & Why Obama Is A Liberal Democrat...

Over the last few days, President Obama has surprised the world’s press, the political movers and shakers, and indeed the press department of the Liberal Democrats by stealing a key Lib Dem policy, when he announced two major new strategies in the global efforts to ensure that there is no repeat of the financial crisis that has swept world markets, and deprived so many of their jobs.

Firstly, he announced that it was the intention of his administration to levy upon the banking organisations a tax on their financial transactions. Secondly, and much more boldly, he declared war on the culture of the mega bank, assuring the American public that never again will banks become too big to fail. This is all very laudable in terms of being seen to take action against the institutions that were the harbinger of the global financial meltdown, but it also gives light to other, more intriguing ramifications, both in terms of the effect on international banks, and indeed the effect that these actions will have on influencing British government policy.

I have to say that both of these policies do not leave the British government looking particular competent, or indeed effective in tackling the root cause of the recession.

Labour’s response to the ambivalence of the banking sector to the hue and cry over bonuses was to grasp at the headlines by applying a one off windfall tax on bonuses over £25,000. Of course, the blood hungry media lapped this up, and at least for a few moments, danced around the fires which they hoped would roast the burning carcasses of the banking fat cats.

This policy however is deeply flawed, and is indicative of the government’s desperate desire for any kind of positive media coverage. It is flawed in that it fails to tackle the underlying problems that still exist at the heart of our banking system.

The fact that the government are prepared to cream off £25,000 from a banker’s bonus will not lead to an end to the bonus system, and the way in which it disfigures the judgements of the bankers who chase it. More importantly though, it will not lead to the type of cultural change that is needed in order to move away from the backdrop of avarice, before which our banking system rots our economy to its very core by way of the ‘casino with impunity’ mentality.

If I were a banker receiving a bonus worth hundreds of thousands, or indeed millions of pounds, a windfall tax of this kind would not even make me bat an eyelid. Policy lurches of this type only serve to underline the fact that the government are when it comes to fiscal policy, akin to a ship with a jammed rudder; going haplessly round in circles with no relief, redirection, or dry land in sight.

The second of the Obama proposals on banking reform concentrates, as I have mentioned above, on the intention to ensure that the banks are ‘sectorised’ in order to ensure that they do not in future have the ability to so adversely affect the world’s finance markets. This is in my opinion, one of the first instances of truly far sighted and innovative measures being taken by any government in response to this crisis.

For far too long, the multi-national institutions within which we place our money, have taken that hard earned cash and gambled with it on the international markets, seeking short term fortunes in bonds, derivatives, hedging and the like. Meanwhile, these same institutions have hit the ordinary hard working men, women and businesses of this, and other countries with penalty charge after penalty charge for going a few pounds, or even a few pence overdrawn, all while they have been losing millions.

As an aside to all of this, we have recently seen the conservatives sounding the alarm bells over the post Lisbon treaty appointments within the EU. The conservatives maintain that Britain has been out manoeuvred by our European neighbours in these negotiations in that, they allowed the selection of Baroness Ashton for the post of EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs in order to facilitate the filling of the financial services commissioner by a Frenchman who has since gone on to make noises within the French and European press about how he will seek to tame the City of London. I for one believe that this new French commissioner for financial affairs is only making what noises he believes will keep the domestic audience happy. (And what British politician could ever be accused of that?????)

In any case, this is an interesting, yet irrelevant side show, at least in the short term, and I find it breathtaking that the conservatives have so badly misread the situation that presents itself.

The simple fact of the matter is that the biggest influence in terms of change in the City of London will not be coming from across the English Channel. It will come from across the Atlantic.

On the TV shows, and at political talking shops, the tories are bleating on about how it is that the French will end up having the controlling hand over the actions of the square mile. Yet they fail to realise that the actions of a building full of outdated and disgruntled republicans over in Washington DC will have far more control over what goes on in terms of fiscal policy, and this will happen for the following reasons;

• The current Labour government are, as I have intimated, desperate to be seen by the general public, and indeed the media as doing something to try and put right what has gone so horribly wrong within the nation’s finances. The simple truth of the matter is that they are quite simply bereft of ideas, therefore they will, in the fullness of time jump on the ideas that have been vaunted by Obama regarding financial regulation. We have seen a cautious reaction from the government to what President Obama has said on this subject, and I would wager that this is simply the government playing for time whilst they observe the reaction of the British electorate to the actions of the American president. If the public react positively to these measures (and I for one cannot see anybody outside of the banking sector reacting in any way other than positively) then they will set their army of spin doctors to work on a plan that can be presented to the media and the public as the government not riding on the coat tails of the US, yet you can bet your over priced house on the fact that whatever plan is presented will read very similarly in terms of content to that which President Obama has in mind for Wall Street.

• The US political landscape is not one of happiness and light right now. The Democrats have lost their majority in the Senate, and Washington is only a few steps short of all out war between the two parties, such is the residual bitterness of the Republicans at the loss of the presidency, and indeed the political impetus. The Republican party has gone on record as stating that it has no intention of voting to pass any measure that Obama puts before them, and you can bet that his proposals to reform the US banking sector will be no different. US Politics is one of self interest, lobbying, and money doing the talking, all to extents that Westminster could only dream about (and I’m sure that some there do frequently) The Banking sector is similar to the oil industries, in that it has much of the Republican movement eating out of its hand, and I can imagine that the highly paid, highly trained and zealous lobbyist movement is descending upon capitol hill as you read this, desperate to avoid any law being passed that will actually make the bankers responsible for the damage that they do!!!

It doesn’t take a political psychic to determine that any proposed legislation is going to be stuck in the cycles of Senate and House of Representatives for a long time to come, with the Republicans blocking the democratic proposals, and the Democrats becoming increasingly outraged, and engaging in the same tactics, blocking legislation concerning other issues.

Back in Westminster however, things are not that much better;

The Labour government looks on cluelessly, their noses turned windward in order to catch the prevailing breeze, and legislate in accordance with all that it brings.

The Conservative party maintain their positions; occupying the optimum seats for throwing disdainful looks across at the Labour ministers as they sniff the wind, the tories casting their collective gazes across the channel to the European parliament, banging their saucepans and pointing at the European Commissioners that they believe will bring the downfall of the City of London, and plunge the UK into a future of brown Lada’s and socialism.

The most intriguing thing that occurs to me whilst looking at all of this, is the striking fact that the leader of the richest and most powerful nation on earth is a liberal Democrat!!

For quite a long time now, Vince Cable MP has been pushing for the breakup of the banks, and for measures to ensure that the City of London is never again able to sabotage our whole economy (even the Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King agrees that this must happen in the interests of economic stability in the future)

Time and again, the other two parties have rubbished the Liberal Democrat proposals, each claiming that they are the only ones who have the one definitive strategy that will prevent this whole sorry affair from being repeated.

Now it looks as though these very measures are going to be what President Obama attempts to implement in order to bring the banks in line, and quite right too.

What we need here in the UK is somebody in Number 11 Downing Street who has the bottle, the foresight, and the economic competence to do what is needed and instigate real and radical reform of our banking industries.

Labour have shown, time and again that they have nobody. Alistair Darling does not have the vision, Ed Balls cannot see past the next poll of his leadership chances, and David Milliband would not know where to start, largely due to the fact that he is a serial bottler. (If you don’t believe me, look at the last failed attempt at a Leadership coup. If Milliband can’t even take on a lame duck Prime Minister, how on earth will he face down the self interest and abject greed of the big banks?)

If Vince Cable were Chancellor, these tough decisions and radical measures would be put into practice.

What we need is a clear system of regulation whereby the Bank of England has the power to intervene in problem institutions, and has the teeth to police the banking sector properly.

We need a clear separation of the investment and retail banking operations of the multi-national organisations. It is no longer acceptable that your life savings should finance the purchase of a hedge fund in some far flung tax haven.

We need a Chancellor, and a government with courage, strategy, vision, and the best interest of Britain and its people at heart.
All of this aside though, the events and actions that are centred around these developments have laid bare the true natures of the main political parties, and highlights the true choice at the next election;

The Labour Party will, as they have seemed to do for a while now, continue to scamper around the political landscape like an excited puppy, lurching and jumping at whatever idea or proposal that looks like having even a modicum of popularity, snapping and barking insults at the other political parties as the situation becomes ever more desperate.

The Conservatives will continue to growl and holler at mainland Europe, their preoccupation with the inception of a French financial commissioner, whilst the domestic quarrelling over in America between democrats and republicans continued unnoticed demonstrating the fact that they are far too obsessed with playing to the gallery of red top papers, rather than judging the political landscape correctly and formulating a policy that will actually provide the British electorate with a true choice.

I still passionately believe that the Liberal Democrats are the only party that is offering any sort of tangible policy that can truly have the effects that we all desperately wish to see; a tighter rein on the City of London, fairer and more progressive taxation that prevents the richest few from paying less tax than those who clean their mansions, and a clear strategy aimed at getting the country back on its feet again, both financially and industrially, both through the sustenance and development of existing industry and commerce, as well as the burgeoning green industries that the UK so desperately needs to succeed if we are to build ourselves a more stable financial future that will enable the kind of political and social changes that we all wish to see, and wish to benefit from.

I take comfort from the fact that the Conservative party are still clunking around, banging the table about the same old subjects, filled to the brim with outdated ideas, perceptions, and graduates from the old boy’s networks. They have shown nothing to the electorate other than poor judgement, the same elitist preconceptions of those who they seek to represent, and a preoccupation with Europe. The really great thing is that they miss the point time and time again. Long may it continue!!

So if you really want to know where the real influence will come from in terms of regulation of the City of London, don’t look across the English Channel to the European Parliament. Undoubtedly, the EU will play a role in the medium to long term.

But the real influence will come from the domestic wranglings between Democrats, and embittered Republicans that will be taking place in the coming months within the Senate, and the House of Representatives.

If you really want to know where you can find fair and progressive policies that will make your life better, and make Britain great again, don’t look across to Labour..or the Tories..have a look at the Liberal Democrats..

I can also take comfort from the fact that, if Obama were a British voter, I’m pretty sure that he’d be with the Liberal Democrats on this one!!