Thatcher's grandchildrenIt's been ten years since Labour came to power, say the Tories, and it's high time they did something about families. Fathers are behaving irresponsibly, and this is causing their teenage kids to run riot around South London with an arsenal that would embarass a rebel militia. Bad parenting is causing bad kids that will grow up to cause even more social problems than now.
Step back a moment - let's say that the kids are 15 to 18; they would have been born between 1989 and 1997, five to eight years before Labour came to power. I would suggest that these are Thatcher's grandchildren; born to parents who had grown up in the relentlessly selfish era that saw large parts of the country in wretchedness, not just because their jobs went, but because those that kept their jobs saw their wages going less and less far and because there was not a social security system in place and because schools and training were cut back and those that fell into the prison system were given little chance to better themselves.
As much as it is the current Government's responsibility to deal with the current problem, its roots lie in the past.
Amnesty, Star Trek and ChinaThis made me laugh - it came up on the irrepressible.info box from Amnesty on my blog.
If you click on the image, you'll see the backstory - the BBC website is censored in China - but the idea of someone not wanting Star Trek fans to know that there was memorabilia to buy suggests a conspiracy on behalf of Comic Book Guy.
Iain Dale and Dizzy are thinking about EDMs. The House of Commons Procedure Committee are indeed looking into EDMs; in fact, they've finished looking, having moved onto Written Parliamentary Questions, and are moving on to Written Parliamentary Questions. I went to their hearings on EDMs. A couple of points - cost, and then use of EDMs.
147 MPs have not signed an EDM this session, largely because they're members of the Government; 379 have signed 50 or less. Rudi Vis has signed 726, just less than three quarters of the 971 tabled EDMs. All this information comes from the Commons' EDM Database.
It is not, however, how many EDMs are signed, but when they are signed and how they are read. EDMs are reprinted on the Blue Pages when someone adds a signature to them. As part of my job, I look at EDMs a lot and one will sit there for three weeks with no activity and someone will sign, causing it to be reprinted. All well and good, except that there are, according to the witnesses who appeared in front of the Procedure Committee, MPs who sign daily, weekly and monthly, so that a tranche of EDMs with one or two extra signatures cause the Blue Pages to become very much thicker for not much more information.
The Blue Pages are used almost exclusively by MPs and lobby journalists who can't be bothered to look things up online. The cost is not terrible, but could be greatly cut if it was only available in print form on request.
EDMs are not a lot of use and they do allow for a certain amount of laziness on behalf of MPs. However, not many local papers report when EDMs are signed and if they do it's generally in a column written by that MP. It's a way of drawing attention to something. There is already a good filter on frivolous EDMs - MPs, who don't sign them. There is no great harm in someone being able to see their name on an order paper for service to the community - it's a sort of Parliamentary 'mentioned in despatches'. It could also be used to raise issues of importance and to judge popularity of a stance. For instance, the most signed EDM at the moment is on Illegal Logging, submitted by Joan Walley, and has 331 signatures, well more than would be needed for it to be passed into law, giving Joan some leverage when the next DEFRA bill comes up to include something on illegal logging.
The whole issues, though, of giving MPs more time to debate things of their choosing rather than of the party machine is a canard - if the parties listened to their MPs and members, rather than whipping them all the time, their might be more of a flow as to what peope who aren't on the cursus honorum of the party think. If we're going to allow a system, like Iain proposes, of giving over time each week to what MPs want to debate, more changes are needed beyond the system of choosing what to debate (lottery/popularity). Firstly, you'll need MPs to stick around on a Friday and you'll need the whips to stop arranging for bills to be talked out.
Ultimately, given that the cost could be reduced, there is no harm in having EDMs. Tinkering at the edges of the procedures of the Commons will not reduce the problems of overweening attitude of the parties and the excess powers of the whips.
Iain Dale of
* Today it is the second most popular political video on Youtubenot any more - it's been overtaken by BLEACH 116 FULL and Goth vs Emo Rap Battle. Do watch them - they're excellent political commentary.
* It is the 23rd most viewed video on Youtube todaybehind such worthy examples of political discourse as 'Will it Blend? Glow Sticks' (does what it says on the tin) and Boobs.
* It is the 20th top rated video on Youtubebehind 'Will it Blend? Glow Sticks' and 'elvemage pk video 10 runescape'. Now, I enjoy the game of RuneScape, but it is hardly major political discourse.
* It has been viewed 30,000 times on Youtube and 20,000 times on our own websiteWith less than the wonderful blended glowsticks and with less than Boobs.
* It has 770 comments on YoutubeMore than any other. Congratulations to 18 Doughty Street for debating Politics for Adults, and bringing us such insightful exchanges as
digital1970: As an American who hasn't been brainwashed by politically correct patriotism, I've gotta say this is a load of crap.
* It is the most commented on video of the day in the political sectionCan't deny that. See the comments above.
* It is the third most commented on video on the whole of Youtube todayDitto. Lots of people commented, so it shows up as having lots of comments in more than one place.
* Fox News (the real one) are featuring it tonightAh, so you are Fox News Lite! All the bias - half the news. I congratulate the 18 Doughty Street team for a smooth production; it does look good. It catches the eye, like many things on YouTube, but is ultimately appealing to people's desire for an amusing viral during their lunchbreak or to take them away from writing another report for a few seconds. It is rather like London Lite - dropping in right wing propaganda when you're knackered.
Personally, I would welcome 18 Doughty Street if it did what it said it was doing - 'Politics for Adults'. However, they are producing assertions, attack ads and pretending to be unbiased. I don't mind media with an opinion - I mind opinion being dressed up as fact. It would be as true to say (as you are presenting a counterfactual) that a world without America would not have had US influence in South America, or that Britain would be in a stronger military position circa 1812 because of not having had a war with the US and would have been more successful in the Great Game, putting the Russian Empire on the back foot and therefore preventing the rise of the USSR.
Politics for Adults means, if it is not just a PR-job, open debate, transparency of objectives, sound methods, being prepared to change your position and not mistaking, as Mick McGahey said of Arthur Scargill, a mass meeting for a mass movement.
If Iain wants to say that 'the role of the US since 1918 has been generally positive', he should come out and make the argument, rather than forcing people into an all-bad or all-good answer. I think the world is better for the US's actions - I'm happy to take up the argument. I don't think that it is all good and, to avoid making repeating previous mistakes, we should see a nuanced picture so that we can follow the good and improve on the bad. I'm sure JS Mill said something along those lines.
PS Stalin was evil, but at least sort your dates out - the first clip says that "General Secretary Stalin was in Paris today" with a caption saying 1959. Stalin died in 1953. I know that's pedantic, but hey, I'm a pedant.
Egyptian blogger jailedAmnesty International report that Egyptian blogger Karim Amer as been sentenced to four years' imprisonment for blogging against, inter alia, Hosni Mubarak.
Beta translation to English courtesy of Google.
Free Karim Amer.
I'm a member of Amicus and I have just cast my vote in favour of the merger with the T&G, largely because I think we need more recruitment and more recruiters means more recruits. Trades unions are a vital part of civil society and key to the Labour Party, not only in terms of membership and funding, but in providing political education and, at times, a guiding hand on the tiller.
However, there is not a lot of information out there about the merger. Whether the right think they ought to be or not, trades unions are an important force in society particularly as Amicus, IG Metall and the United Steel Workers are set to form an international union and the merger of Amicus and the T&G will create a union of 2 million members in the UK. The newspapers - and in this I include the broadsheets - to go to the quick story and, while trade unions are not particularly “sexy” they are important and deserves coverage, not least so that members can make an informed choice on issues such as this.
I've heard it said from time to time that striking is inherently immoral because you have voluntarily taken up a contract. The best answer to that I know of is:
Naturally, the workers are perfectly free; the manufacturer does not force them to take his materials and his cards, but he says to them...If you don’t like to be frizzled in my frying pan, you can take a walk into the fire.
(Engels, The Condition of the Working-Class in England in 1844,
link courtesy of Project Gutenberg).
To put it another way, there might be less inflammatory to some people, “freedom to starve is no freedom at all”; It is to say that even an exploitative contract is better than starvation but that having moved up one rung on the ladder does not mean he cannot move up another all that the slight generosity of the former oppressor removes your right to challenge their actions. I'm not a Communist, but it does put the argument rather well.
Del Rey PhotographyI just spoke to a friend of mine who lived in the same block as me when I was in DC, Claire. Her fiance is a professional photographer - some of his photographs appear on his website, DelReyPhotography.com. Do please visit.
PetitionsAs of 23:19 on 15th January, fully 1,498,130 people have signed the petition against the introduction of road pricing. If I had more time, I would like to check how many pundits are currently saying that the PM should take note who did not say the same when lots of people marched against the Iraq war in London on February 15th, 2003. I'm not saying that there are many, or even any, but I'd like to know. Estimates of numbers range from 750,000 on behalf of the Metropolitan Police to 2,000,000 on behalf of the organisers but it was lots of people that took more time than it takes to fill in a petition, and the government took not a blind bit of notice.
There is a single, large problem with the petition as worded: it talks about vehicle tracking. It would be possible to set up a system, similar to the C-charge, whereby cameras picked up when a car entered a city, issued the appropriate charge to the registered driver (not a penalty) and the registered driver would be responsible for their car but wouldn't have to say who was driving it. There is no more of a civil liberties issue there than banks knowing where an ATM card is used or telephone companies knowing in which area a mobile 'phone was used.
I know not many people read this blog, but would those that to comment and answer this: anyone up for organising a petition that reads "We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to introduce the planned vehicle tracking and road pricing policy"?
I broadly agree with David Osler on this one.
I don't like London LiteIt takes me about ten minutes to read London Lite - less time than it takes me to reach the end of the Aldwych - on the bus in the evening, not to mention the fact that it's a rubbish read from the publishers of the Daily Mail.
Page seven, in a DoughtyStreet-style piece of attack dressed up as journalism, talks about rising taxi fares in London. They will go up 3.2% from April 14. The CPI measure of inflation was 3.0% in December and 2.7% in January.
The two people that London Lite uses to comment are Brian Cooke of London TravelWatch and Bob Oddy, general secretary of the LTDA:
Brian Cooke, chairman of passenger watchdog London TravelWatch, said it was right that cab drivers received an annual cost of living increase that was based on a wide range of measures.
Neither London TravelWatch or the LTDA can be called huge fans of Ken; moreover, the print version cuts out most of the comments of both. Ken became Mayor in 2000 - seven years ago - and has raised taxi prices eight times. Taxis are a luxury and rising fares at night are to encourage taxi drivers to come out - you know, capitalism or something.Then, on the interactive bit Page 8, Kevin of London comes out with a classic letter:
Much gang culture is attributable to the absence of a stable father figure and proper family unit. And now, what does the Government do? Gay adoptions? It may sound controversial but perhaps this is a further step backwards. Kevin has cleverly identified a problem - the lack a father figure and the lack of a proper family unit.His solution, though, is rubbish. If the problem is the lack of a father figure, gay adoption will provide, er, two father figures. A proper family? Do you mean a heterosexual family? I will accept, for the purposes of argument alone, that a heterosexual family may be better than a homosexual family. Does Kevin think that homosexuality is so bad that it is preferable to be brought up by a single parent? Is a proper family one that's exactly like his?
thelondonpaper is slightly better than London Lite, but I'm going back to reading a book on the way home from work. These are not newspapers - page three is about Kate Moss getting into a small car - but gossip rags with sidelines in scaremongering - see the insightful article on bird flu on pages 12 and 13 - and dressing up bias as news. I'm looking forward to Iain Dale's column.
Update 2138: I'm going to call the PCO in the morning and ask for the fares tables since Ken came to office and do a little comparison with inflation.
Defend free bus and tram travel for the under-18sI'm supporting Ken a lot this evening. The Tories want to stop free bus and tram travel for under-18s. Transport poverty is a genuine issue and the parlous condition in which people on benefits or the minimum wage must live merely emphasies that. You will remember Michael Portillo just about living for a week as a single mum. In that time, he didn't have any extraordinary expenses - birthdays, the boiler breaking, a funeral, whatever.
I have in the past been accused of being able to spend other people's money because I don't pay tax. Well, now do, and I am very happy for my taxes to be spent on alleviating transport poverty and making it easier for people to get to school.
Please support the lobby tomorrow.
Ken, the City and the Competition CommissionDisclaimer: this post was written on the bus, while under the influence and not all in one go, so if it's rubbish, that's why.
If only City had a hard 'C'...
London Lite (nothing else to read on the way home on the bus) reports that Ken Livingstone has called for any takeover of the London Stock Exchange to go before the Competition Commission as a special case because of its importance to the City of London and London as a whole.
I find this rather interesting; Ken, who was accused of being such a left-wing nutter that even Hugo Chavez thought of him as an electoral liability, is probably not a fan of the excesses of the City. Certainly, the rather large bonuses paid to people in the city is driving house price inflation in London to a large extent, quite apart from the inquity in some in the City earning quite spectacular sums of money while others clean toilets for the minimum wage.
It does, I think, show Ken as pragmatist, by which I do not mean an arch-compromiser. He is pragmatic here in three ways; for his own immediate political interests, for the interests of London and for 'the cause'.
I am not by any means knowledgable in finance and so on, but it seems that a lot of what goes on in the City - hedge funds, derivatives trading, private equity funds - makes people a lot of money without actually doing or creating anything. In the particular case of private equity funds, it strikes me as a means of having a public company without a lot of the regulation. This is not just the rantings of a leftie - the FSA are doing an investigation.
However, it does push money round the economy and raises an awful lot in tax, one way and another. While it would be desirable to do away with some of the more egregious examples of excess in the City, doing away with the whole kit and kaboodle by ramping up the regulations controlling these transactions would, I think, simply cause those transactions to move elsewhere, losing both revenue and regulatory oversight. Keeping the LSE owned in Britain and having a principle of not selling it to any Tom, Dick or Harriet helps protect this. At the same time, Ken, through things like pushing the living wage, does, I believe, help things. It would require global agreements and particularly the acquiesence of the US to make significant changes worldwide.
It does help London; as I said above, it is pragmatic in that it allows the government to, albeit slowly, push the agenda away from rampant capitalism, while not putting people off by seeming to threaten something that does make money. One of the cost-cutting measures private equity use is slashing wages to the bone (and less, if they could, than the minimum wage). By encouraging the living wage, the contrast when such a fund moves in is all the starker.
It does, of course, help Ken - interest in the City ameloriates some of the damage (not that much was done) of his trip to Cuba.
Guido Fawkes vs Tom Watson?I don't know what's going on here, but it would appear that Guido Fawkes is taking Tom Watson, Labour MP for West Bromwich East, to court for something he said on his blog. All I have to go on is:
Notice : That Story That Was on Tom Watson's BlogIf the BBC Radio 4 Profile on Guido is correct, his blog is offshore to prevent him being done for libel. If I understand things correctly, this is double standards of the worst kind from Guido; he has attacked Tom Watson for breaking the rules but won't allow the same rules to apply to him.
I may, of course, be barking up the wrong tree. The major observer of Guido is Tim Ireland at Bloggerheads - I shall be interested to hear what he has to say in the morning.
Update: 12 Feb 2007 - the post I link to above has been taken down. How very interesting...
The queen is dead, long live the kingNo, not really. However, should the queen snuff it, the heir might not be Charles, but Albert Turnbull.
The BBC has found someone who is descended from King Harold as part of an alternative history where William of Normandy didn't win the Battle of Hastings. However, Albert Turnbull is also descended from William of Normandy and Alfred the Great - which means, I think, that he might have a superior claim to the throne that the Saxe-Coburg-Gotha-Windsor lineage.
I'm not a fan of the monarchy and this just shows how arbitrary it is.
What did Charles Clarke say?I've just seen Charles Clarke on Newsnight and, I have to say, am somewhat confused as to what he said. From what I can work out, he said at the LSE that we should charge for (more) NHS services. I don't think he was arguing in favour of privatisation, but instead saying that we need a debate about how to fund the NHS, and that he favoured the state charging for it.
The entire basis of the NHS is that there are some things that you receive as of right, not as of ability to pay. If you introduce charges, you weaken the system by making the rich closer to paying for private, introducing some form of means test for the poor that may not be taken up and ending up with that gap between people who can comfortably pay and those who are covered by the means test. The Labour - not socialist, but Labour - argument has always been that resources are collected through tax based (more or less fairly) through tax and then redistributed according to need. This also protects the rich, in the same manner as insurance, from damage from very large payouts in a short period of time because of a serious incident or series of smaller ones.
Maersk, the world's largest container ship operator, offers, unsurprisingly, health coverage to its employees. It does not have insurance for this - reinsurance, insurance for vessels, but not health coverage, because it is cheaper to cut out the middle insurer. The same goes, but on a larger scale, for the NHS.
Charles Clarke wants to start a debate - fair enough. I'm happy to debate rationing - whether we can or should pay for very expensive drugs like tamoxifen, whether the media is damaging the NHS by reporting a drug like tamoxifen as some kind of breast cancer panacea when it is useful for treating some breast cancers at some stages in some people and so on. A couple of suggestion off the top of my head, particularly as Charles Clarke was suggesting that the continued rising of drug costs would be a problem, would be to stop the permanent revolution in the NHS (including making a decision on regionalisation, seeing as that seems to be the flavour of the month, and Gordon Brown's NHS Board) and to actually have a national health service and national health strategy rather than the national sickness service we have at the moment. The latter point would entail a look at the social causes and implications of illness.
I had an impression that he'd said something at the LSE and started back-peddling on Newsnight, but I may be wrong. It is worth remembering that it was Charles Clarke who introduced tuition fees, which are rising above the rate of inflation and are not leading to the promised increases in poorer students going to university. I freely admit that I supported the policy of tuition fees for a time - it is not one I support any more.
There is an irony in a former Labour cabinet minister going to the Fabian-founded LSE to talk about charging for the NHS. Ah well...
HurricanesMatt Sinclair is terribly concerned about pre-industrial hurricanes. It would appear, according to Matt, that the existence of hurricanes before the industrial revolution disproves or seriously damages the case that global warming exists. He links to a photo of a pre-industrial hurricane, dated 1897. The idea that the industrial revolution occured after 1897 is faintly amusing. Indeed, Abraham Darby built the second furnace at Coalbrookdale in 1709.
It's not really an inconvenient truth, as Matt describes it. Indeed, the first reference I can find quickly for hurricanes is from AD77, in Pliny the Elder's Natural History. There have been hurricanes for a long time, and we all knew this. As I understand it, Tropical cyclones form when the energy released by the condensation of moisture in rising air causes a positive feedback loop over warm ocean waters. The existence of hurricanes merely shows that there are energy differentials within the world.
What matters is the frequency and strength of hurricanes. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory performed a simulation that concluded "the strongest hurricanes in the present climate may be upstaged by even more intense hurricanes over the next century as the earth's climate is warmed by increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere."
Matt finishes with this quote:
"I just hope this doesn't set back our efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels use..", said Dr. Cruddy, "..we all know it is the right thing to do, and the last thing we need is to have the oil lobby in Washington stop progress over some fuzzy, black-and-white photograph."This could well be a reference to the supposed tendency of the oil lobby to underplay or deny the effects of global warming. I'm sure, though, that the oil lobby and Matt would never try to base an argument on a single photo.
Save ResonanceResonance 104.4 fm is one of my favourite radio stations. They are best summed up by themselves, here. In short, it is different to other radio stations, not tied to commercial interests and always worth listening to. It is the only radio station on my shortcut bar - not even Radio Four has that honour.
They need donations to keep running. Please donate if you can - visit resonancefm.com.
Quotes of the week
Shut up, Dave.Dave Cameron is a fraud. There is only one authentic Dave C in politics, and him it is not.
Anyway, he's said something about Muslims needing to integrate. From the Tory website:
Speaking after an opinion poll was published showing that anti-western attitudes are strengthening among young British Muslims, he declared: "We need big changes. Let's take down all the barriers in the way of a stronger society - the barrier of extremism, the barrier of uncontrolled migration, the barrier of a multiculturalist approach that's failed, and the barriers of poverty and poor education."The question is why such attitudes are on the rise. I will take no lectures from the Conservatives on poverty and poor education. Multiculturalism is becoming a bit of a weasel word and unless the Tories in general and Mr Cameron in particular say what they mean by it, they and he are guilty of gesture politics at best and pandering to the far right at best. Do they mean "everyone should be one people" or "everyone should be exactly like the people who are here" or "we should see that there are other cultures"?
Uncontrolled migration. I just wish that every time someone talked about this, they'd say that migration and asylum are two very different things.
As to extremism - it's a two way street. I just heard on the Westminster Hour a couple of MPs talking about the speech. Speechifying doesn't do much good; in fact, continually drawing attention to the problem is one of the causes of the problem. Telling people they're different is a good way of making them think they're different.
Political CompassI've talked about this before somewhere, but Ewan Watt has done it, so I feel I will. My Political Compass result is Economic Left/Right: -6.50 and Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -6.87. I'm the little red dot on this graph.
Which sits on top of this:
And can be compared to this: