The media and the left have made a lot of fuss out of all sorts of things since the budget, notably pasties, petrol, the granny tax and cash for access. So this morning I braced myself for an interesting time knocking on doors. Just like last weekend after the budget the response from those we spoke to was positive. Not just from those who traditionally vote conservative but also from those who vote Labour.
I did have one lovely old lady bring up the granny tax but once I explained to her just what it was and who it would affect, she was relived and actually in favour of it. It's as if the media is actually out of touch with those people they are reporting to. Mr Smith at number 27 doesn't appear to be interested in the nonsense that the media spew out. We all know that those on the left will make a mountain out of a mole hill if they can, and it looks like the media must source their stories from the left.
Now I know the whole cash for access thing was a big issue. But the granny tax and pasty gate were two non-stories that are illustrated by the lack of comments I've had on the doorstep. As for the petrol issue, well that I think happened due to the over reporting of the story by the media. The problem we are faced with is that with 24 hour rolling news we get the same stories every 20 minutes or so. As a result it makes an unimportant news item seem important.
Anyone who's knocked on doors after a bad press week for a party will tell you that most of the time the electorate won't mention these items to you. So it makes you wonder if the people who vote don’t mention the stories to people who are there as a representative of those parties then why oh why do the media decide to repeat the story over and over again.
I can only think that the media are hoping that they can stir up a lot of fuss over pasties or a tax that only affects a very small number. If the media wanted to be responsible and fill up their full schedule why not pick up on local good news stories then to repeat non news items over and over again.
Anyhow an a plus note the door knocking went well both this morning and this afternoon and we got a lot of C’s one or two P’s and only a few S’ which is always good to see. Though there were a few U’s which considering we are only a month away from the election to be undecided is a little odd in my opinion. Though I am waiting with baited breath for the knock on my door from the Labour party just so I can see how long I can keep them talking on the door step before telling them I am a Conservative.
Strikes were traditionally the way that the down trodden worker would redress the power balance between employer and employee. Workers would go on strike when they wanted better conditions and a safer working environment. So you would have had miners go on strike to reduce their working day to something reasonable and to ensure that they got regular breaks.
Now industrial action is the preserve of the trade unions and the public sector. We see or hear about unions balloting their members on industrial action ever few months, if it’s not the teachers it’s the postmen or the fuel tanker drivers or the tube drivers. Now its normally over them wanting a pay rise or something to do with their pensions or working hours.
However gone are the days when unscrupulous employers sent teenage boys down the mines for 14 hours at a time to extract coal. We have a whole raft of legislation both domestic and European that protects the rights of the work, and limits the hours they can work and regulates when they have to have rest breaks and how long they have to have off between shifts.
So pray tell well what are they after? Well in most cases they are normally after more money or they want to work less time for the same amount of money. Which if you think about it, it really isn’t that fair on those in the private sector. Whose employees can’t down tools for the day because they want a few more hundred pounds in their pay packet at the end of the month or because they want to work 35 hours a week not 39.
Now I would have a little bit of sympathy for these people going on strike if the statistics actually backed up their arguments. Yet however the office for national statistics regularly does a comparison between public and private sector wages and every time it always shows that the wages are normally a lot better in favour of the public sector. This time it was 7% advantage money wise working in the public sector over the private sector.
Yet these workers keep going on strike because they think they are underpaid and want more money. I’m sorry but who are you comparing your earnings to? You are better paid than the private sector so that really doesn’t leave anyone else to be compared to.
Anyhow, these strikes are also never the majority of those types of workers. Let’s take the proposed fuel driver strike. Now out of the 2000 of them balloted, only actually 827 of them voted to strike. So because most of the drivers didn’t really care so they didn’t bother to vote they will all lose pay for the day’s they are on strike and 800 people are effectively holding the country to ransom till they get what they want. As we have already seen people panic buying petrol in case they do actually go on strike. As a lot of people remember what happened last time there was a strike involving petrol.
Those on the left seem to think that a strike is generally a good thing as it’s the working man fighting the system and their perceived injustice. But the last big strike was over pensions and the fact the public sector didn’t want to be brought in to line with the private sector. Which got a lot of press coverage but the general mood of the private sector was one not in support of those on strike. A strike on petrol delivery will see little or no sympathy for those on strike as it has the possibility to produce wide scale disruption to just about anyone who uses any form of transport be that car, motor bike or bus.
Now let’s for a second imagine what the reaction of those public sector employees would be if the private sector workers decided to down tools on a semi-regular basis. Imagine the outcry there would be if all shop workers went on strike for a week, there would be lots of very upset teachers and nurses who couldn’t go and buy their couscous.
Now the reason why the private sector doesn’t strike is because of a small thing called competition, if M&S workers walked out you could buy your new dress from a multitude of other places. If Tesco’s staff had a strike you could go to ASDA. Yet with the public sector you don’t have that the NHS has a monopoly on health care, there isn’t an alternative school you can send your children to for the day and you can’t look in the yellow pages to find an alternative job centre.
So I think that the laws surrounding industrial action don’t have to be changed, they need to be changed to stop a minority of people holding the country to ransom. Now this could be done in a few ways, we could introduce a minimum number of union members that have to vote in any ballot for it to be a valid one as to call a strike as a result, say 70%. Which would stop a few militant trade unionists from pushing for strike action every other week.
Or the one I am favouring the more I think about it would be a temporary ban on industrial action whilst the Office of National Statistics keep producing reports that say pay is better in the public sector over the private sector. Strikes could only be balloted on if the private/public sector pay gap was more than 7.5% in favour of the private sector. Then it may be justifiable to ask for more pay and strike if it’s not given.
Or there could be punitive measures attached to strike action, so if the teachers went on strike and 10,000 parents had to take the day of work as a result of it then the unions had to cover at least 50% of the lost wages of the parents. Or when the tube drivers go on strike and it costs London hundreds of millions, some businesses could claim back some if not all of the money that they lost as a result of it; to give some protection to small and medium business.
As, for the issues that most of these strikes are called for they should be resolved through negotiation, as if the threat of strike action was removed from the table or made something the unions couldn’t guarantee they would get. The negotiations over pay, conditions and pensions would be a lot more productive.
So to sum up, we need to change the laws concerning strikes to level the playing field, that is currently stacked against everyone but the trade unions.
As some of you may well know Linda Hobson made what you would call an inappropriate tweet for an elected representative regarding Baroness Thatcher. This obviously stirred up some feeling on the Conservative side and upset a fair few people.
This lead to a whole scurry of twitter activity regarding this, lots of people demanding that Linda Hobson resign immediately or that her council leaders actually sack her from the Labour party. But before I joined in in this twitter rage, I looked in to the Local Government Association Code of Conduct; and I found that what she said was actually a breach of them.
Under paragraph 3(1) - Treating others with respect. As through her use of inappropriate words and abusive language, either in writing or verbally she had breached this code.
So I sent a nice email to the relevant people at Newcastle City Council who told me they would look in to the actions themselves and would also pass on my complaint to the Labour Group on the Council for them to look in to. This response was on Monday afternoon, so I braced myself for what was probably going to be a long wait while they investigate.
Then yesterday evening I got a reply from Linda Hobson personally who said the following;
Dear Miss J. McQueen LLB (hons),
Could I firstly and most importantly apologise for the upset I have caused you.
As you quite rightly point out it was a totally inappropriate thing for some one in my position to have done. I have issued a formal apology, however, I wanted to apologise directly to you.
I did not intend to cause such distress and I sincerely regret my actions. I hope you will be able to accept my apology.
So we now have an apology, and she says that she has issued a formal apology, we know the tweet has been deleted, so we just have to wait for the formal council investigation to find out what they say and this matter can then be put to bed.
Though I do hope the Labour party are consistent in their actions, as after the last one who made such comments was suspended, I think it only fit Linda Hobson although apologetic is suspended for a period of time too.
Ok as it’s rather topical at the moment I thought I would blog about it. With the revelations over the weekend it has brought back in to the spot light that we probably do need to change the way our political parties are funded. Something that has been mooted on a semi-regular basis and something that they attempted to introduce back in 2004, but was blocked by the Labour party.
Now I think that it has to happen, this latest story won’t go away until we see that there are going to be big reforms on the whole system. There have been lots of ideas mooted, that it should be state funded with the amount parties get reflecting the number of the votes they got at the last election; giving 50p per vote. So that would mean the big three parties got the following;-
- Conservatives £ 5,351,827
- Labour £ 4,303,258.50
- Liberal Democrats £ 3,418,124
Now although they are not huge amounts of money roughly £13million, I have to agree with both the stance of the Conservatives and the Liberal’s that in times of austerity when budgets are being cut to government departments diverting money to political parties would not go down well with the general public. So I think funding via tax payers money is defiantly out.
I think it should be up to the parties themselves to raise the money to do what they need through donations by individuals, companies or organisations or membership to the parties. However this I think is where the reform is needed. Currently there is no maximum limit on how much one person/organisation can give to a political party and this can lead to those in charge thinking that if someone gives a lot of money then they have to meet these people and wine and dine them. This is not something exclusive to the Conservative party, as Labour did their fair share of it when in office.
At the moment any political party has to publish the names of anyone who donates more than £7,500 as a legal requirement. I personally think this needs to go further; in that I would suggest that we introduce a maximum that any person or legal body could donate to any one political party per year. This could be set at an affordable level of say £50,000 as opposed to the proposed £10,000 limit that has been touted about. At this much it should eliminate the need for state funding on top.
I would also go as far as introducing a register for each party leader, ministers and shadow ministers that would have to list any meetings or other engagements where those who have donated more than the £7,500 would have to list them. This register would list if it was an official event or a private event. This would ensure transparency and would allow people to look to see if there has been possible influence on a person from a donor.
However I don’t think that this is all that has to happen, as it’s no good just knowing if a minister per say has been influenced by a donor alone; I think we also need to have a register of lobbyists as well that shows when they have meet people and where too. As that would help bring back some credibility to British politics, and show the general public that politicians are accountable to them not just every five years at a general election but all the time through the access of public registers.
A few weeks back I posted the following question on my Facebook page just to see what my friends thought about it, as it was a question that came to me and I couldn’t work the answer out myself;
Do we have more openly gay and bisexual MP’s now because times have changed and it’s ok to be gay/bisexual? Or do we have more because if they weren’t out the media would out them?
Now of those that answered the question they all felt it was a little from A and a little from B. Which got me thinking why is there this desire for people to know if someone is gay or not. Now obviously there are situations where you would want to know, if you wanted to ask someone out or wanted to chat them up in a pub. Then it helps to know or have an idea if that person’s sexuality is compatible with your own.
But when it comes to just about every other situation I can’t see a need to know if your banker, butcher, bar tender or grounds keeper is gay or not. Someone’s sexuality has very little bearing on their ability to do a job. Even if the job is working with LGBT people you don’t have to be gay to be good at the job, all you need is an understanding of that.
Now some people will argue that you can only properly understand that by having experienced it. But there are lots of jobs that people do where they can’t have experienced something, like historians they don’t know what it is like to have lived in fiftieth centaury North-west France.
Now in the vast majority of cases we do live in a society where being gay is fine and there are laws to protect gay people from discrimination which is good. However I think there are certain jobs, and politics is one, that if the person is not open about their sexuality the press sees fit to try and make it a story. A prime example of this was what happened to Simon Hughes and him being bisexual, where he was given the option by the press of coming out or be outed.
Now I don’t know about you but does it really make a lot of difference if an MP is open about their sexuality or not? We don’t tend to see this with other people in public life, there have been no Footballers outed or other Sports starts. Yet politicians seem fair game.
Personally I don’t think that anyone should have to be open to the world about their sexuality be that homosexual, bisexual or heterosexual. It is a very personal thing that I believe that people should be able to keep private if they want to.
Of course there will be people who will want to shout it off the roof tops that they are gay, and I am fully supportive of them doing that. But I do not think that just because someone is LGBT and takes up a position in public life that they should be put in a position where they have to share that with the world because otherwise it will become subject to gossip and media speculation. We don’t have the media questioning if someone is heterosexual so why should the LGBT community have to put up with it?
Yet what I find even more abhorrent than the media doing it is other LGBT people who decide to out LGBT people because they think they have a moral duty to do such a thing. People deserve to decide themselves if they want to be totally open about it or not.
We probably have some of the strictest set of gun control laws in the western world. If we went back to 1981, the year I was born, the gun laws were remarkably different people with the correct license could own fire arms of their choice and you could go recreational shooting at a firing range.
However in a 9 year period between 1987 and 1996 we had two great tragedies in Hungerford and Dunblane. The first saw the banning of semi-automatic rifles and the latter saw the banning of handguns, and leading to tighter controls on shotguns and bolt action rifles.
Now in both cases it wasn’t the Government deciding that after the events they would ban them, but it was campaigns from the newspapers and pressure groups that lead to the ban’s that we have. Focusing on the two events pointing out that if they had been illegal then they never would have happened. Which lead to increased pressure on the Government and the ultimate bans. Now I am not belittling the two atrocities, they were both horrific acts.
However I think the kneejerk reaction to them in the banning of firearms was over the top and un-proportionate. The problem with Hungerford, Dunblane, Cumbria and latter Raoul Moat was not the weapons but the owners of the guns. Had we a system where people who purchased or kept guns were regularly checked for mental health or other problems, say every 2 year, then there is a chance we would have caught one or maybe all of these people before anything actually happened.
People will argue that this is too much hassle and will stretch the recourses, but this system already exists so it would be easy to implement it to England and Wales. It’s not as if it’s from some far off land like USA or Canada or even a European country, but from part of the UK. It’s the system they have in Northern Ireland. So we know that this system works and could implement it very easily which would keep tight controls on gun ownership, while allowing people who want to own a gun to own one.
The anti-gun lobby will also argue that with gun’s being illegal it will reduce gun crime, which is a flawed argument to make as gun crime has increased year on year since the bans. Banning gun’s doesn’t stop the criminals getting hold of guns, and if you are going to use a gun in a crime you would have to be stupid to use a licensed gun to commit the crime. If criminals want to use guns they will use them regardless of if they are legal or illegal.
I would probably call for not only the repeal of the two bans that we have in place, but I would go further and ask that if people wished they could carry a hand gun openly and own a fire arm for the purposes of self-defence an option that has never been allowed in the mainland United Kingdom.
This is always a very interesting area; some people think we should have no restraints on what people can say be that in the press, online or verbally. Then you have those that think there should be some restraints upon what people can and can’t say because you may offend someone or say something defamatory.
Now I have thought long and hard about this and tried to work out where I sit on this issue. There are a few things that I think regulation of free speech is needed but in the most part I think that we should be allowed to say what we like as long as it’s not illegal.
So let me expand on that a little, I don’t think people should be allowed to make racist comments or homophobic comments or things of a similar ilk. Because they are designed to deliberately offend or upset someone and I would consider them on a par with going up to someone and giving them slap round the face, it’s just not the done thing.
However if someone wants to insult someone because of what they have done or haven’t done then I don’t have a problem with that, as long as it’s not one of the above then that should be fine. To call someone a useless buffoon or a stupid idiot should be someone right.
I don’t think we need to worry about this as if someone says something about you that is untrue and damaging to your caricature we have the deformation laws. So there is a safety net there to cover you if something is done to you.
People should have the right to say what they like to who they like, as long as it’s not illegal, but we should not be bending laws to prosecute people for saying what they feel. We should be allowed to express our opinions as without freedom of speech I couldn’t type this to you now. People should not be prosecuted for expressing their opinions when they are not racist, or homophobic or inciting hate.
If we start clamping down on people for what they say and what they believe then we are no better than Russian state under the Soviet Union where people couldn’t say or do what they wanted for fear of being imprisoned. So we should stand up for our right to speech and not let people oppress us, as if we do where will it stop?
At work I deal with a wide and varied range of things, one of them came up as a result of several clients contacting us with the same problem regarding accessing medical treatment. So out of curiosity my boss decided we would do a Freedom of Information Request to all the PCT’s in England to look if this was a National issue or a Local one.
Anyhow this blog isn’t about the FOI request but some snippets of information that turned up as a result of this. The information regards two specialist operations, where in the UK there are only 2 surgeons’ providing both types of operation.
Now we actually got the costs of these operations, something which we hadn’t asked for. Now you would think that these operations are being carried out in the same place with the same surgeons regardless of where you live in the UK would cost the different PCT’s the same amount. However this is not the case, the cost of one of the operations varied from £42,000 for some PCT’s all the way up to £65,000 for another PCT.
Now this variance makes the mind boggle; a £23,000 difference for just having a different post code is extortionate. Maybe if it was a few thousand differences you could understand it but this size of difference is just wrong. Where is this £23,000 going, does the costs of hiring an operation theatre change if someone’s from Manchester or Bristol? Do people from different areas have tougher skin and require more expensive instruments. Or is it a case that the administrative costs of different areas account for this huge disparity? Which is more likely. If that is the case then you may well be living in an PCT area where they are funnelling money in to administrative staff rather than treating you.
The second operation was seemingly better managed price wise and the variance between the PCT’s was a few thousand pounds, ranging from £14,000 to £15,500. However for this operation we found out something rather alarming. Three years ago this operation only cost the NHS £10,000 but in the subsequent years rose year on year to be £14,000. A 40% increase in cost in just 3 years, now surely the resources used in this operation have not increased by 40% in price.
We know that the cost of the doctors and nurses hasn’t gone up in that time as there is a public sector pay freeze, and surely for any operation that has to be the big cost of the operation. We can accept that the likes of heating and lighting prices have gone up, but have they really gone up by the tune of £4000 per patient in 3 years? I highly doubt that. So where has this extra £4000 gone?
Both are examples of obvious NHS waste where the money that is supposed to go in to treating people to make them better is being syphoned off in to administrative people who are filling up half of the total number of jobs that exist in the NHS. Is some admin person going to make your ingrowing toe nails go away?
Then there was yesterday’s story in the Telegraph about the NHS paying £20,000 to find a doctor to cover one week’s work, and another paying £14,000 to cover a gynaecologist for 4 days. The list in the Telegraph was huge listing more and more waste by the NHS.
There are thousands of people who want to save the NHS just the way it is, because reforming it would be bad and if the reforms come in all the Hospitals will explode. The NHS in its current form shouldn’t be saved it’s an inefficient organisation, trying to melt an ice berg with a match would be more efficient than the NHS is in its current form.
So people you should be embracing the change to the NHS, cutting out this waste and mismanagement brought in by 13 years of Labour ineptitude. If you want your NHS still hear and still free in 40 years’ time embrace the changes and lets trim the fat off the NHS.
Human Rights as an idea are a good thing; they ensure that people have freedoms to do things such as freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of thought and several others. They can do these things as and where they want as long as they don’t break any laws such as saying something that’s racist or inflammatory.
However I have one major problem with human rights and that with the people who automatically think that someone should have the human right to do anything. A recent example of this was related to a discussion I had with someone about the conditions of an ASBO that were placed on someone. The basis of the ASBO was that this person was not to wear a short skirt between set hours which happened to be the times when parents would drop off and pick up their children from school.
The ASBO had been obtained because this person had been wearing such clothing at these times and been bending over at times exposing their underwear to people passing by notably parents with and without young children. So after numerous complaints to the police an ASBO was issued that prohibited the wearing of these clothes at a set time. Which if you think about it is a very logical approach by the judge issuing the ASBO.
However the person I was having the discussion with couldn’t see it like that, they were trying to argue that the ban on clothing was a direct violation of this persons human rights and that they should be allowed to wear whatever they liked whenever they liked. As it was their right enshrined in law.
It’s that point of view that annoys me, they are seeing the actions in a very narrow way that its victimisation of this one person. With a complete disregard for the human rights of the wider world, it is as if they don’t care about the human rights of the other people involved in the situation. As surely the parents and the children have rights not to have someone bend down in front of them and show their underwear to them.
While we do have the right to do and say what we want, this can’t be something that we do with total ignorance to those around us. I have the freedom of speech and could go and stand outside on my street and say “The world is going to end, we should all eat more broccoli to stop it happening!” now if I did that during the day time it would be fine and considerate of those around me however if I went out at 3am on a Sunday morning and did it I may well be exercising my democratic right for free speech I am violating lots of other people’s right to a private life and duly and rightly so would probably get free bed and breakfast at the local police station.
This is the element of human rights that a lot of people don’t get, that yes X has human rights but as do all of the people that X affects with their actions. The victims in human right issues like in just about all other areas of the law get forgot.
Now I am not defending the likes of the couple that ran the B&B who refused the gay couple accommodation, as in my opinion that has nothing to do with human rights it’s a simple and straightforward case of discrimination.
Which brings me on to the final part of this; Human Rights are a good thing however there is always going to be the issue of whose rights are more important. Is it X’s right to freedom of expression or is it the victims’ rights not to be offended by the actions of X. Which if they are not illegal is going to cause problems for the authorities and those offended by the actions. This is where I think the UK as a whole could benefit from a Bill of Rights. We wouldn’t need to revoke the Human Rights Act it could exist alongside the Bill of Rights it would just help society and the courts deal with situations where we have competing rights and would allow those who have been offended by other people’s actions know what the law says.
The vast majority of western democracies have a bill of rights and those that exist within Europe have Human Rights law too. So why shouldn’t the UK introduce something like that it makes things clear and concise and gives people a definite yes or no on an issue; as the law likes certainty and the current system we have is anything but certain.
Of late all you have really heard from the Labour party and the left in general is complaints about reforms to the NHS, which are long overdue. They have done as much scaremongering as they possibly can about how the NHS will change in to some American System and if you can’t afford to pay then you will basically die in the streets.
However if we cast our minds back to 2010, the Labour party themselves were saying that reform was needed and that bringing in private companies to the NHS would benefit the system and make it better for everyone. Yet now in opposition they apparently just want to oppose everything that is being done, regardless if it’s needed or will benefit society.
Anyhow back to the point, the NHS I think everyone approves of and likes; and its always the corner stone of any general election campaign. As you can win over some swing voters by saying you’ll pump in x many millions of pounds to cancer treatment or maternity care.
However come 2015, the Labour party have put themselves in a very tight corner. For them to be able to legitimately use the NHS as a campaigning tool, there is only one situation that they will be able to legitimately use; and that is that the NHS is in a worse situation than it is now be that patient care has got worse or its costing a lot more money to operate the NHS than now with increased bureaucracy. If the changes do very little and its much about the same as it is now, then they have no grounds if the NHS is more efficient and treats patients quicker, patients are happier or it saves money then they have shot themselves in the foot.
The point of an opposition party is to oppose things that are bad for the country, where as the NHS reform is much needed. However Labour seem to think that they can win votes by just opposing everything the government does which will win them the hard-line socialist vote who are inherently opposed to any Conservative policy, which they already have. Their other policies are either about as coherent as a very drunk person or as easy to find as a needle in a haystack.
As a person interested in politics I find the Labour position bemusing at best and confusing at worst. As a member of society I am shocked especially at their stance on the NHS, as it’s almost as if they are willing the NHS to get worse in that people are suffering more, waiting longer and in some cases dyeing when they didn’t need to; that stance to me I find particularly abhorrent. As a conservative I encompasses all of those points, however although there is a sense of inevitability of the result of the next general election I think we need to tread carefully as a Conservative majority is ours to lose at this point and we need to keep highlighting the inherent flaws that permeate through the current opposition that we face.