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Why I’m bowling for #brexit

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Tl;dr: Because economic myths, Turkey and migration.

It’s now been more than two months since the Prime Minister returned from his negotiations in Brussels and announced that there would be a legally binding in/out referendum on the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union (EU). For most of those two months I’ve been genuinely undecided as to how I will vote on Thursday 23rd June, but I have now made up my mind, and in this post I’m going to tell you why I’ve made this decision.

As the title of the post suggests, I think the United Kingdom should secede from the EU. This decision is not, as many might assume, born out of some knee-jerk right wing reaction to foreigners; those who know me well enough will realise that there’s more to my political views than that. I have made this decision after carefully considering facts and arguments from both “sides” in this debate.

Firstly let’s talk about those “sides”, specifically the “Leave” campaign and the “Remain” campaign. Both have been an utter shambles in equal measure so far, which has played no small part in determining the amount of time I have needed to come to my decision. They’re both run by hysterical loonies who spout sensationalist nonsense instead of educating people on the real facts and the issues that actually matter. I don’t care if there will be more or less potholes/booze cruises/pubs/cheap holidays/mobile phone bills abroad (delete as appropriate). These things do not matter. They don’t matter to me and they shouldn’t matter to anyone else. The following issues, however, do matter:

Economy

The economy is my primary argument. There are other arguments as you will see later on, but the economic argument is twice as important as the rest of them combined.

It’s always about the economy. Any reasonable person knows that without a strong economy nobody can have nice things like hospitals and nurses, schools and teachers, police officers and firefighters, and, yes, state handouts, if that’s your thing. Everyone, working or otherwise, should be primarily concerned with the economy.

Trade

One of the major arguments from those who wish to remain is that the EU is [one of] our biggest trading partner[s]. The words and letter in the square brackets are sometimes included, sometimes they are not; it depends who you talk to. Regardless, the message here seems to be that the UK “needs” the EU for its economy to strive and, if the UK leaves the EU, suddenly all trade between the UK and the EU will cease. This would, obviously, put quite a sizeable hole in our economy, but it’s not going to happen. Why? Because it would put an even bigger hole in the remaining EU economy.

Here’s how it stacks up: The map below shows the top 20 countries to which the UK exported goods and services during 2014, both EU and otherwise. Check my maths if you want, but I make it £131.7bn of exports to EU countries. £131.7bn of stuff we made and sold in 2014 was sold to our EU neighbours.

UK exports 2014

Now let’s look at the other map. This shows the top 20 countries from which the UK imported during the same year, again, EU and otherwise. Check my maths again, but you should get to £201.2bn of imports from EU countries.

UK imports 2014

That means we import £69.5bn more from the EU than we export to the EU. Our net worth in terms of trade to the European Union was nearly seventy billion quid in 2014. Now, would someone please tell exactly who “needs” who here, and why this sort of flow of trade would suddenly cease if we were to leave the EU? It wouldn’t happen, of course it wouldn’t happen.

It’s absolutely absurd to say that we have to be in a political union with a bloc of countries in order to trade with them. We traded with them for centuries before the EU came along and it will be perfectly possible to trade with them again independently of political union. This is scaremongering at its worst.

Our economic world will not end if the UK cedes from the EU, despite what Barrack Obama and George Osborne would like us to believe, the claims from the latter of whom have been debunked so heavily and by practically everyone that I simply can’t ever trust a word that comes out of his mouth ever again. And really, Mr. President? “Back of the queue”? We’ll remind you of those words when you want help with starting another war to prop up your economy!

Contribution

This subject, although one of the more popular subjects bandied around by the Leave campaign, pales into comparison when compared to the trade argument and it’s not one of my high priority issues, but since it is so often a flag waved I need to cover it. The chart below shows the net contributors and net beneficiaries of EU membership.

uk-eu-net-contribution

So we’d save another £4.7bn in (net) contributions if we were to leave the EU. It’s better than a stab in the face, and just one year of this saving would, by way of a topical example, allow Tata Steel’s UK business to keep making a £1m per day loss for over 12 years. If that’s not issue-du-jour when you read this then let’s fall back on that old favourite of the Labour party: £4.7bn would pay for nearly 200,000 extra fully qualified NHS nurses every year.

Single currency

The United Kingdom didn’t join the european single currency (Euro), and it turns out that was one of the best decisions we ever made. We also wouldn’t ever be obliged to do so were we to remain in the EU, so the extent of my comment on this subject will be limited. Nonetheless, I believe the single currency to be a bad idea and it has caused extremely serious problems for the EU, which of course have had (albeit relatively limited) knock-on effects in the UK. The only way to maximise our distance from this basket-case of a currency union is to also leave the political union associated with it.

Turkey

For the past twenty years the European Union has continued to expand by admitting more and more states, with more planned and proposed for the future. Some recent additions have been very successful, most notably Poland, which enjoyed an average of 4.2% economic growth in the ten years since the nation acceded to the union. The country now sits in spectacular and extreme contrast to its years under communism and is without a doubt an EU success story.

But the formula which worked in Poland, much like the single currency, is not a universal, one-size-fits all formula. To assume that it will simply work as well with all new member states is foolish and naive. It worked in Poland because the Poles are a modern, hardworking, tolerant and outward-looking people who were willing to embrace the ideals of the western-European nations which welcomed the country out from behind the Iron Curtain and into the EU.

Turkey, on the other hand, is quite different. With a population of 70 million Muslims the country could barely be more misaligned with the ideals and culture of western Europe. I believe that a political union with Turkey is completely unacceptable. Yet, that is exactly what is proposed. There is an application and a roadmap in place for Turkey to accede to the European Union.

Here’s what bothers me the most:

  1. Islam has an infamous and well-documented problem with homosexuality, an issue which is of course very close to my heart. Turkey aren’t throwing gays off buildings, sure, but Turkey has a very long way to go with regards to its legislation and culture surrounding homosexuality before I will consider entering into any sort of union with them. Homosexuality is not illegal or punishable in Turkey, as it is in most other Islamic nations, however:
    1. No laws exist that protect LGBT people from discrimination in employment, education, housing, health care, public accommodations or credit.
    2. The Turkish military openly discriminates against passive homosexuals by barring them from serving in the military.
    3. LGBT persons in Turkey may face discrimination, harassment and even violence from their relatives, neighbors, co-workers, bosses, employees, teachers, and even members of the Turkish police.
    4. Homosexuality is widely a taboo subject in Turkey and the culture of honour killings can be observed in Turkish society families murdering members who engage in sexual or moral behaviours regarded as inappropriate.
    5. Turkey does not recognise same-sex marriages, civil unions or domestic partnership benefits.
    6. In 2015 police in Istanbul dispersed a Pride parade with tear gas and water cannon, after the parade was suddenly banned by the Governor’s office, citing that it was the month of Ramadan as the reason.
  2. In March 2016 the Turkish government seized the country’s largest newspaper, removed its dditor-in-chief and forced it to start printing pro-government propaganda. Then the government tear-gassed in the streets anybody who objected to this flagrant crackdown on media freedom.  No country in the EU has ever witnessed such brutal suppression and control of the media since the Second World War.
  3. In April 2016 the Turkish government then seized all the Christian churches in one city and declared them state property, citing urban regeneration as the reason. The seizure fits into a pattern in the Middle East, where Christians are systematically displaced and persecuted.
  4. Turkey’s record on human rights remains appalling and, despite them since 2005 being central to negotiations to them one day acceding to the EU have actually become worse. Despite this the EU remains hellbent on moving forward with this process (see more on this below).

Why are we even giving half a passing thought to joining in political union with this country?

The European Union is hellbent on admitting Turkey regardless of costs or disadvantages. At the moment this is being primarily fuelled by the migrant crisis, but it was not always the case and still isn’t the only issue. Only days before the referendum Turkey will be granted visa-free access to the European Union, a key condition in the shady, underhand deal Turkey has struck with the EU regarding the management of migrants from the Middle East. To think that such demands will end with this is naive; Turkey will continue to make demands and threats up to and after accession to further its own self-interests. Turkey has the European Union over a barrel and I am not impressed with their blackmail in the slightest.

Even the pro-Remain Home Secretary Theresa May admits that admitting Turkey and four other countries to the union would be dangerous for the United Kingdom. I firmly believe that this referendum is as much about a decision to be in a political union with Turkey as it is the UK being part of the EU. I’m going to vote against such a union.

Immigration and security

It’s not been a good twelve months for the EU. With two major terrorist attacks, one of which was on its own de-facto capital city, plus an overwhelming wave of migrants and numerous reports of problems with their integration, the most notable of which being the organised mass sexual assaults of women in Cologne, immigration is a public relations disaster for the EU at the moment and it’s only getting worse. Immigration has always been a hot-potato subject with regards to the EU and the current migrant crisis could not have come at a worse time for those who advocate EU expansion and open borders.

Although I do feel strongly about this issue I am not going to go into so much detail as I have with the other issues. This is chiefly because I am mindful of the hysteria which is so often prompted when discussing this subject, with most arguments very quickly deteriorating in accusations of racism. My main points are therefore as follows:

  1. I believe that Labour’s immigration policies implemented while they were in power were largely cynical and inappropriate.
  2. I believe that “multiculturalism” is a failed project, not just in the UK but across the EU, and there are many very serious and large-scale examples of how integration has failed.
  3. I am uncomfortable with the recent rise of extremism and terrorism in European countries and I believe that both will become worse if migration continues the way it is.
  4. I completely disagree with the European Union dictating to the United Kingdom what we do and do not do with regards to migration.
  5. I am aghast at our apparent inability to tackle these issues and stand up to those who would abuse this country in the name of political correctness.
  6. I am uncomfortable at the apparent blanket tolerance being afforded to migrants who follow one particular religion known for its extreme intolerance and I believe this will have an effect on my way of life in the future.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not completely against immigration in any form. There have been some notable success stories (I refer back to my reverence for Polish people). But these examples are dwarfed by large, serious and glaring failures. Positive immigration is what the United Kingdom needs, not mass, indiscriminate migration.

Dave’s Dodgy Deal

During the week before announcing the referendum David Cameron was in Brussels furiously negotiating a deal for the United Kingdom within a “reformed EU”. The key points of this are:

  1. An “emergency brake” on in-word benefits for immigrants from a particular state if there was immigration pressure from it. This would have to be approved on a state-by-state basis by the EU council. This falls short of what Cameron asked for, which is a bar on in-work benefits and social housing for all immigrants for four years, regardless.
  2. An agreement that British taxpayers’ money can never be liable to support the eurozone, a win for Cameron in broad terms.
  3. Less regulation and stronger commitment to the free flow of capital, goods and services, key for our trading relationships with EU states. Again, in-line with what Cameron asked for.
  4. A “red card” for national parliaments, enabling them to block unwanted EU legislation. A win for Cameron, the deal says that 55% of national EU parliaments can bloke EU legislation if they object to it.
  5. An opt-out of the commitment to an “ever closer union” enshrined in the treaty to which every country has to sign up. Cameron secured this, but only for the United Kingdom. The EU super-state dream will continue to apply to other member states.

So, some wins, some with watered-down conditions. But it’s all meaningless. It doesn’t matter what Cameron negotiated. He could have negotiated industrial monopolies for the UK and a brand new BMW for every British family for all I care. Why? Because it’s not legally binding.

The Vice President of the European Parliament has stated that Brussels “clearly went too far” during its negotiations with  Cameron and that “their agreement is in no way a document of the European Union, but a text of hybrid character, which is unspecified and not legally binding”.

Cameron’s deal is worthless, and there is no “reformed EU”. It was all just a show to convince the voters that he’s done something about our unfavourable position within the EU. He hasn’t.

Attitude to democracy

The European Union has a terrible attitude towards democracy and will act unilaterally when it thinks it can get away with it. They’re even quite open about the fact; during April a top “Eurocrat” said that “Referenda are becoming a huge problem for the EU” and that “Perhaps it is time for an EU ban on referenda!“. He’s just one man, I realise, but this was really eye-opening for me. He clearly has no problem expressing his opinion, but that doesn’t mean that he’s the only person within the organisation which holds the same opinion. What will they call for a ban on next? Elections? Where does that end?

Don Juncker, who is very upset that we no longer want his family’s friendship and protection, might give us a clue to where it might end. In May he complained that Prime Ministers listen too much to their voters instead of being “full time Europeans”. More of that pesky democracy stuff getting in the way of the master plan! But he’s just one man. In addition to that other man. I wonder how many more men like these there are in the corridors of power in Brussels.

Here are a few examples of when pesky democracy stuff got in the way of the correct result and of the contempt the EU treats democratic processes (referenda specifically):

Country Date Issues ‘No’ vote Outcome
Denmark 1992 Maastricht Treaty 51.7% Made to vote again
Ireland 2001 Nice Treaty 53.9% Made to vote again
France 2005 EU Constitution 54.9% Ignored
Netherlands 2005 EU Constitution 61.5% Ignored
Ireland 2008 Lisbon Treaty 53.2% Made to vote again
Greece 2015 Euro bailout 61.3% Ignored

Which way will it go?

It’s all very well declaring support for one side or the other, but coming out in support of one side doesn’t necessarily mean that it will prevail on polling day. I stand by my decision and opinions stated in this post, of course I do, but do I believe that the UK will leave the EU? No, I do not. I believe that the Remain campaign will be successful, not by a landslide, certainly, but they will win.

The thing is about referenda is that they are, in the United Kingdom and many other countries, entirely voluntary democratic processes enacted by the government in power at the time. Whether they are declared “legally binding” or not (this one is, but not all are) there is no mandatory compulsion to call them in the first place, regardless of whether or not they formed part of a party’s general election manifesto. General elections, by-elections, local elections, yes, they are all mandatory processes; governments must call them regularly whether they like it or not and whether they think they will go in their favour or not. Not so with referenda.

Therefore, governments will only ever risk calling a referendum on an issue if they are reasonably confident that the outcome will be in their favour. This was true of the Scottish Independence referendum in 2014 (which went the government’s way) and also of the Lisbon Treaty referendum in 2007. Don’t remember that one? No, you won’t, because when it became clear to the contemporary Labour government that they would lose it they cancelled it, despite having promised it two years earlier in their general election manifesto.

Referenda give voters the illusion of power, but it is just that, an illusion. You think you’re making a difference by partaking in them, but actually the decision’s already been made, and there’s nothing you can do about it. I’m extremely sceptical of them.

Her Majesty’s Government has come out in support of the United Kingdom remaining in the European Union, and so that is what we shall do.

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General election manifestos – A landlord’s guide

Shortly before the 2015 General Election I was asked to comment on the manifestos of five of the parties involved. On the day of the election itself my comments were published on two property trade journal websites:

  1. Residential Landlord
  2. Property Reporter

I have reproduced it here:


 

As the general election looms, Stuart Ford from Glide Utilities gives his opinion on the main party housing policies and how they are likely to affect the property market.

Rent controls – Labour/Green

Rent control is never a good idea. The profound economic and social consequences of government intervention in a nation’s housing markets have been documented in study after study, over the past twenty-five years. In almost every case where rent control has been applied to a city or a nation it has inevitably led to a shortage of well-maintained rental properties. Landlords are left short of funds to maintain their properties and developers have no incentive to invest in new construction projects, since they are unlikely to be able to make rental business models work.

Labour state that they will cap rent increases to inflation, however, the 5 year inflation rate has been 10.8% whereas the 5 year cost price inflation rate has been 13.0%. The policy could very easily actually lead to massive rent increases rather than have the desired effect, especially if Labour’s economic policies were to have an adverse effect on inflation.

Long term tenancies – Conservative/Labour/Green

Tenants in short term lets often feel insecure about their accommodation. Even with normal twelve month tenancies, having to find a new home potentially on an annual basis is disruptive, stressful and expensive. This is not so much of a problem for student lets but is more of a problem with young couples nurturing new careers and possibly new families. Long-term tenancies should be promoted and encouraged, however, they should certainly not be enforced since this could not only be disadvantageous for landlords but also tenants.

Landlord checks – Conservative/Lib Dem/Green

Most landlords are professional and upstanding, however, we all know that there are a subset which are far from adequate. The introduction of greater checks on landlords and even a licensing scheme is something that most above-board landlords should not have a problem with complying with, assuming such schemes do not come at unreasonable cost to them, and should help tackle the problem of rogue landlords and ‘slumlords’. Certainly the opportunity should not be seen by letting agencies as a way to simply charge extra fees, these measures should be designed to protect tenants.

New home construction – All parties

There is cross-party consensus on the need to build more new homes in the United Kingdom. The housing shortage is longstanding and while the coalition government has made good efforts to tackle it more needs to be done. The “Green Belt” issue, which has plagued developers for decades, needs to be reviewed and the needs of the many put before the needs of the few who would be affected by construction.

A proportion of the demand for new housing comes from immigration and it would be not unreasonable to argue that building new homes treats the symptom rather than the cause of this issue. However, changes to immigration rules, even if they could ever be approved (since they are a social hot-potato), would take decades to make a difference on housing demand and we have this shortage here and now.

Regeneration – Conservative/UKIP

UKIP lead the way in this area with their pledges to reduce restrictions on the use of brownfield sites and bringing inexplicably empty homes back into use. Recycling is always a good thing and these measures should probably be considered before constructing new homes on Green Belt land if only to show to those who would be affected by Green Belt construction that all the boxes have been ticked.

However, the £1bn ‘regeneration fund’ from the Conservatives is unlikely to go very far. This needs to be a larger figure.

Economic controls – Green

Finally perhaps the most alarming policy put forward by the Greens in this area is to give the Bank of England power to curb excesses in the housing market. The housing market is driven by any other market, supply and demand, and to do this would be treating the symptom rather than the cause. The correct treatment is new home construction and regeneration in order to increase the supply of homes, rather than try to control the economics of existing property.

The Greens have also pledged to reverse the changes the coalition made to the spare room subsidy for those on housing benefit. This measure is known erroneously by some as the ‘Bedroom Tax’. The measure was introduced in order to encourage appropriate distribution of social housing stock among those who required it and plays an important part in reducing the shortage of housing in particular areas and across certain social groups.

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2011 Review

I’ve not done one of these for some time, mainly because I’ve had nothing that I would particularly want to write home about over the past few years, but not only has 2011 been a little different but I’ve also written “blog more” on my list of New Year’s resolutions, the rest of which I won’t reveal for fear of jinxing them. So here goes:

My year

For me it’s been a relatively good year, which is a welcome change. Every year since 2006 when my business failed up to and including 2010 was unpleasant and negatively stressful in some way. I say “negatively stressful” because there is such thing as “positive stress”, which is what I have been thriving on this year. Those previous years brought nothing but stressful losses, whether financial, of personal relationships, of employment and even my home. I can’t say that I’ve regained all of those things because that would be far from the truth, but I do believe to be on my way in a sustainable and realistic manner.

I started 2011 unsure about my current job and I was tempted by a very extraordinary opportunity that came across my path. I wasn’t offered the position in the end, I fell at the last hurdle during the recruitment process. I’m glad that happened now because my position at Glide developed and improved dramatically throughout the rest of the year and I am very settled there now. I see myself staying with the company and being involved in its development and future diversification for some time. Although I have been in higher paying positions in the past I can quite honestly say that it is the most rewarding job I have ever had and I really wouldn’t swap either it or the people I work with for anything less than something that I’d simply be an idiot to pass up.

With greater happiness in my job came greater acceptance and belief that my move from Manchester to Birmingham was a positive step, because for a while I quite honestly wasn’t sure, and this lead me to be able to move in to a place of my own in the middle of the city in November, which has made me immensely happy. Living on my own, on my own terms, in the middle of another fantastic city and with everything in walking distance again is a dream come true and I cherish it every day, whereas when I was living in Manchester I took it for granted. I’d like to thank all those who were so instrumental in helping make it happen for me.

2012

As I mentioned before I’ve a list of New Year’s resolutions and I’m so determined to stick to them that I have designed a spreadsheet that measures my success with each on a month by month basis. By that you can obviously infer that “be less anally retentive” isn’t one of them. However, also as mentioned before I’m not sharing them.

I’ve high hopes for my job and my team as the company I work for grows. We’re moving offices at the start of March to the Alpha Tower from our current base in the Jewellery Quarter, which should make things a little easier although I’ll actually have a smaller desk and my team will lose the separate room that we greatly enjoy at the moment. My team will expand (probably two-fold) and the company’s diversification plans are thoroughly exciting. A pay rise would be nice but Rome wasn’t built in a day.

I want to continue to improve and expand my skill set and experience as you might expect. As mentioned before I’ve learnt more in my current position than in any other position so I don’t expect that curve will get any shallower any time soon, nor would I want it to. I want to get into mobile applications if possible as it would be nice to have something that just earns money for me while I sleep, but as with most software development you typically (but not always) need a problem before you can come up with a solution.

There are some demons still haunting me from the collapse of my business that I want to put to rest this year, finally, I think if I carry those over to 2013 I really will be doing something wrong.

The rest is all personal, really. Yes, I’d quite like to meet another fella, before you ask, but this isn’t high on my list of priorities, mainly because I’m old and ugly enough to realise that such things will happen to you when you least expect and whether you like it or not, so to seek them out would be a futile waste of precious time. That said, I’ve not been as “eligible” as I am now for some time now, so who knows.

I wish everyone who’s bothered to read this far a fabulous 2012. Let’s hope it doesn’t all end horribly on 12th December, eh?

Notable despatches

This section is a footnote really in the absence of a full review of news events this year. I would note that I actually read and/or watch the news every day with a keen interest and during my early days of blogging I would blog almost every day with my comment on whatever was going on, however, more recently Facebook and subsequently Twitter have provided more effective means of comment, meaning that rare is now the occasion where I will create a full blog about current affairs.

Banned shopping

Col. Gadaffi, the Libyan despot who ruled for 42 years since taking power in a military coup. An unpleasant relic from the 20th Century, no doubt, but I think many people will secretly miss the entertainment that he used to provide to the rest of the world. Modern world leaders may well be safe, responsible (Gordon Brown notwithstanding) and largely democratically elected but I can’t think of a single one who I would describe as “a character”, nor will any of them be remembered much beyond their tenures, not that I’m suggesting infamy to be something to aspire to. The circumstances surrounding Gadaffi’s death, however, raises worrying questions about Libya’s brave new future.

Invented nuclear fusion

Kim Jong-Il, the “Dear Leader” of the bizarre world that is the North Korea, itself also a haunting relic of the 20th Century that the world could well do without. Kim’s death was not unexpected, and although he was an abysmal failure as a leader, despite what North Korea state media insist, his passing on is not necessarily a good thing. The pampered idiot he’s left in charge is just that and nobody in the rest of the world wants a nasty coup in a rogue, pariah state armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons and the world’s fifth largest army. Orwellian societies were never designed to leave the printed page.

Bins taken out on Bank Holiday


Osama Bin Laden, the criminal mastermind behind the September 11th terrorist attacks on the United States, who was tracked down to a compound in the middle of an affluent area of Pakistan near to a military academy, which embarrassed the Pakistani authorities immensely and has since strained relations between the two countries. This news was not entirely surprising what with the tenth anniversary of September 11th and Obama’s pledge to remove US troops from Iraq looming large. His elimination was a necessary pre-requisite of being able to say the job was done. May America’s wounds now heal properly.

Also mad

Steve Jobs, the visionary creator of Apple, now the world’s most successful company. I’ve been an Apple user for coming up to 6 years now and I have never looked back. Jobs initially tempted me away with the iPod and Intel-based Macs, and has continued to deliver ever since. The world needs more people like Steve Jobs. He has no clear heirs-apparent in the computer industry. There are contenders, without a doubt, but only time will tell if they end up making the sort of difference that he did.

The BBC have a slideshow on more notable deaths in 2011.

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No to the Alternative Vote

On Thursday 5th May there is a referendum on whether or not the United Kingdom should adopt the instant-runoff (“Alternative Vote”) voting system in place of the “First Past The Post” (FPTP) system that’s currently in use. There are rigorous campaigns for and against this, both from various political parties and from other campaign groups.

Having carefully considered each argument I’ve come to a decision on how to vote on 5th May and I wil be voting “No”. Here are the reasons why I have reached this decision. You may wish to note that none of these reasons are political. I don’t care about any of the party positions. I will admit that the party that I’m a card-carrying member of has a consolidated “no” position, but this had no bearing on my decision.

  1. The instant-runoff system, whereby you “score” the entire list of candidates in order of preference, is the same system that Nominet and the British Computer Society use for various internal elections, so I am familiar with using it already. Here’s the blunt truth about using it in practise: After I’ve marked my second preference, I really don’t give a monkeys about the remaining six candidates and so I assign their numbers arbitrarily, almost randomly. I expect many people will do the same if this system is adopted for parliamentary elections.  Such “votes” that make up the numbers in this way are at best a waste of time and at worst could give a candidate or party more representation than people actually wanted.
  2. It makes what is currently a very simple voting system (marking a sheet of paper with a cross, even illiterates can do it as long as they have someone to tell them which candidate is which) with one that is much more complex and arguably inaccessible to a small handful. This will have a detrimental effect on voter turnout if people believe that the system is more complicated and therefore prone to error. Low voter turnout is one of the most crucial problems with elections these days and anything that threatens it further is unacceptable. I’ve always maintained that voting in parliamentary elections should be mandatory, like it is in Australia. At no point should it ever be possible to apportion the result of an election to any level of voter turnout.
  3. It has the potential to allow more extreme political parties to gain disproportionately more representation than they would otherwise gain. I’m actually very surprised that pro-AV groups, who are typically on the left of politics, are advocating a system that could give parties like the British National Party more power and influence.
  4. Lastly, given this country’s track record with IT projects, I have little to no confidence that the costly and complex vote counting system that will be required will be up to the job. Arguably a minor concern when compared to the others, but still valid.

I’m not saying for a minute that the existing FPTP system is by any means perfect, because it’s far from it. Indeed, I’ve often bemoaned its shortcomings following various general elections after watching in dismay as carefully planned constituency boundaries deliver election victories which they ought not to have and wouldn’t have under a “fairer” system. I just don’t think that AV is the answer to this.

So there it is, I have imparted my decision and the reasons for it. If you’re undecided at this stage I hope that the points I’ve raised help you to decide appropriately.

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Obama loses his shine over BP oil slick mayhem

With the BP oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico still unfolding and still with at least two months to go before it’s going to even start getting better, I think it’s now time to add my tuppence worth, since a lot has happened in the two months since the disaster started and I don’t want to lose track of things.

The Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded on 20th April killing all aboard and eventually sank leaving an uncapped oil well on the sea floor.

I do not for one minute want to imply that this disaster is anything other than epic. It is the world’s third most serious oil spill in history and the second most serious spill caused by an industrial accident rather than a war (the most serious spill was during the first Iraq War, and we have some way to go before the amount of oil spilt in the Gulf of Mexico exceeds that spilt in Iraq). I do not however believe that BP are being treated fairly over it, nor that the United States are in any position to lecture BP (and, by extension, Britain) on industrial accidents. Let’s have a brief look at their record from the 1980s:

Union Carbide gas disaster

In December 1984 the Union Carbide chemicals plant in Bhopal leaked lethal chemicals into the surrounding environment, exposing over 500,000 people and ultimately killing 15,000. The accident happened as a result of endemic mismanagement and violations of health and safety procedures. Union Carbide eventually paid $470m in compensation 15 years later, equivalent to $940 per exposed victim. The Union Carbide plant in Bhopal now stands derelict and the area is still contaminated. Neither Union Carbide or their new owners Dow Chemical have made any attempt at cleaning it up. It is the world’s worst industrial disaster in terms of human deaths*.

Piper Alpha explosion and fire

In July 1988 the Piper Alpha oil rig in the North Sea, operated by US firm Occidental, was destroyed in an explosion and fire which killed 167 workers, leaving only 59 survivors. The enquiry that followed was critical of Piper Alpha’s operator, Occidental, which was found guilty of having inadequate maintenance and safety procedures, but no criminal charges were ever brought against it.

Exxon Valdez oil tanker spill

In March 1989 the Exxon oil tanker Exxon Valdez hit the Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound and spilt a minimum of 750,000 barrels of oil into the surrounding waters. The collision happened as a result of a combination of factors, including broken sonar equipment (which Exxon Valdez Shipping considered too expensive to repair and operate) and crew fatigue and workload caused by the company’s failure to provide a sufficient crew. They were initially ordered to pay $287m in actual damages and $5b in punitive damages but this was reduced to a total of $507m after a series of appeals from Exxon. Hundreds of thousands of birds and animals were killed and the effects of the spill were felt for years afterwards.

The point of reminding everyone about these incidents is that nobody has a perfect record when it comes to this sort of thing. These things happen, thankfully not all that often, but they do happen and they will continue to happen, although their frequency will no doubt become less and less as technology and regulation improves over time. In this regard I think that it’s completely unfair and unnecessary to vilify British Petroleum over the Deepwater Horizon disaster. I have absolutely no doubt that they are doing all they can to contain this disaster and will continue to make amends far into the future. But they cannot do that if they are basically going to be wiped out by an angry and vengeful United States government and frankly hypocritical United States big oil companies.

Insatiable thirst for oil

The only reason why we have deep water drilling projects in the first place is because our insatiable appetite for oil and oil based products has meant that resources that are easier and cheaper to exploit are now running low and so we have to look to more expensive and risky sources. Oil companies from all around the world seem to have no problem in doing whatever is necessary to satisfy this thirst. It just so happens that an accident has happened to BP, but in all reality it could have happened to Exxon, Chevron, Shell or any other oil company, and if what I’ve learnt in the news about the response plans for such a disaster being identical between all these companies then it really was just a case of luck as to who would have to deal with it first.

Clean Energy

For decades and decades huge oil companies have wielded disproportionate amounts of power in the business and political arenas of the United States. Some recent presidents have been little more than puppets for Big Oil. Thankfully the current president isn’t, but he still represents a country that makes a hell of a lot of money out of oil. I applaud his commitment to cleaner energy that he has announced since this disaster happened, but I do rather feel that it’s like trying to rub ointment into a gaping wound at this point. For years and years oil companies have been suppressing clean energy technologies and companies that would otherwise threaten their business by quietly buying them up and shutting them down, without fear of any reprisals from government or politicians. This has to stop and oil companies have to appreciate that, like record companies, their business models need updating in this modern world.

Compensation hypocrisy

BP is a key company in most UK pension funds, which means that this disaster is going to severely impact those funds. This is serious news in an economy that is barely out of recession and now has a deficit of extraordinary proportions following a devastating financial downturn, a financial downturn which, not incidentally, was in part caused by the United States in the first place. So if we’re going to start talking about massive amounts of compensation from BP to the United States and the people whose livelihoods are being affected by this let’s also start talking about compensation to the UK from all the financial institutions in the United States who brought about the banking crisis and the meltdown that followed it two years ago. Until then I’m not interested.

It should also not go un-noted that the Deepwater Horizon rig was leased by BP from an American company and was operated by American employees, to provide a product that would feed the American market. BP really are just the unlucky face of this enterprise. In future I don’t expect they’ll make the same mistake again and just let American companies make and take the flack for their own mess.

Conclusion

So, rant over. In conclusion, let BP get on with the job and stop hassling them. It’s better to let them spend the time doing rather than explaining when something goes wrong, like any techie will tell you. It would be a different story if it was an American company rather than BP, the fact that it wasn’t an American company is down to nothing more than shear luck.

I have a lot of respect for Barrack Obama, more than I’ve ever had for any other United States president in my lifetime. He has utterly transformed the image of the United States in this country and internationally following the disastrous reign of George Bush Jnr. But as the title of this post suggests, he’s definitely lost his shine over this and needs to be careful not to undo all his good work by pandering hypocritical outrage at home.

* I personally consider the Chernobyl disaster to be the world’s worst industrial accident, even though far fewer people were killed either directly or indirectly.

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General Election 2010 Results

After five days of uncertainty following on from the results of Thursday’s General Election after which we were left with a hung parliament, we now finally have a new government, a coalition between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, and a new Prime Minister, David Cameron, who replaced the incumbent Gordon Brown after he resigned in a dramatic series of events on Tuesday evening of this week. It’s been a very dramatic few days and they’re going to change the face of British politics significantly, I hope for the better.

Before I get started I’d like to remind everyone of my personal rule that I’m not allowed to complain about a government that I voted for. I stand by this. It still allows me to complain about the previous government and the current Labour party (such as it is), however. I also believe that nobody who was eligible and able to vote, but didn’t, has the right to complain about the current government either. You had your chance to make your voice heard. This obviously doesn’t include people who were turned away from polling stations at 10.00pm on polling day, although one might argue that had they not all turned up at the last minute and gone out and voted earlier instead of watching soap operas it wouldn’t have been so much of a problem.

Results Analysis

Here are the full results from the election on Thursday 6th May, excluding the result from the one seat that wasn’t elected because one of the candidates died during the campaign. Parties that did not win any seats are not included. For a full table including all parties that stood in the election see the BBC News results page.

Party Seats Gain Loss Net Votes % +/-
Conservative 306 100 3 +97 10,706,647 36.1 +3.8
Labour 258 3 94 -91 8,604,358 29.0 -6.2
Liberal Democrat 57 8 13 -5 6,827,938 23.0 +1.0
Democratic Unionist Party 8 0 1 -1 168,216 0.6 -0.3
Scottish National Party 6 0 0 0 491,386 1.7 +0.1
Sinn Fein 5 0 0 0 171,942 0.6 -0.1
Plaid Cymru 3 1 0 +1 165,394 0.6 -0.1
Social Democratic & Labour Party 3 0 0 0 110,970 0.4 -0.1
Green 1 1 0 +1 285,616 1.0 -0.1
Alliance Party 1 1 0 +1 42,762 0.1 +0.0
Others 1 1 1 0 319,891 1.1 0.0

As you can see, no one party received an outright majority of at least 326 seats, meaning that at least two parties needed to band together to form a government with at least that majority. Labour could not have formed a coalition with just the Liberal Democrats, they still would have together fallen short of the 326 seats needed, so they would have needed to add minor parties to their coalition. This would have made their government very unstable, even if they did agree on (most of) their policies, which they evidently did not since their coalition talks broke down. The Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats together have enough seats for a majority and have therefore been able to form a government.

Let’s compare the results with the results from the last election using the doughnut chart that I used last time. Here are the results from the 2005 election:

General Election results 2005

As you know already from my previous post, I think it’s grossly unfair that it seems to be easier for some parties to win more seats with a disproportionate share of the vote. In the 2005 election Labour won 55% of the seats with just 35% of the vote. In the 201o election this fortune was reversed (almost) for the Conservatives, whereas the story remained virtually the same for the Liberal Democrats and the minor parties. Although I am glad that the Conservatives have achieved power, albeit in a coalition, I still believe that this system is unfair.

However, if you look at the combined results of the parties in the coalition you will see that the coalition government received 56% of the seats with 59% of the vote. Although a coalition government isn’t absolutely ideal, this combined results is actually dramatically fairer. The irony.

General Election results 2010

It will be very interesting to see what proposals the new government comes up with regarding electoral reform, which was apparently one of the key parts of the deal struck between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. Apparently any change to the current system is likely to put the Conservatives at a disadvantage compared to their current position and do the opposite. Although this obviously won’t entirely serve the best interests of the party that I support I also must consider that a reformed system will be fairer, something which I have obviously advocated in this and previous posts. My big concern is that a new system may make it difficult for any party to win an outright majority at general elections and that as a result we will always have to form coalition governments, which whilst sometimes necessary aren’t ideal.

The end of the New Labour nightmare

It was a long time coming for Gordon Brown and New Labour, but it didn’t come soon enough. It was obvious to me from a very early stage when Brown ascended to the prime ministerial throne in 1997 that he wasn’t Prime Minister material and that as a result New Labour is nothing without Tony Blair. It frankly wasn’t all that even with Blair given some of the scandalous things that happened when he was in Downing Street. As I said in my last post, Labour have delivered some good things during their thirteen years in power but for the most part this country is in a far worse position, both economically and socially, than when it took power from the Conservatives in 1997.

Gordon Brown should not have become Prime Minister uncontested and because he did he should have called a general election straight away. Since then he became the most unpopular Prime Minister that this country has had since the war and it was this, despite what Keith Vaz insists, that was the ultimate downfall for Labour. Brown has admitted this since his resignation, although some sycophantical Labour figures have already dismissed this as untrue, claiming that it was just Brown being honorable. I believe that Gordon Brown knew that he couldn’t fix his mistakes some time ago but couldn’t bring himself to resign because of the uncertain position it would have put the party in advance of the election.

Labour are now back on the opposition benches of the House Of Commons where they belong and where they cannot do any more damage to this country. It’s going to be a very long and arduous journey to full recovery from their reign, one which will require some very unpopular decisions from the new government, but we have to start somewhere and I do not believe that a different government from the new coalition government would have any easier a time of it.

In short, it’s goodbye and good riddance to Labour.

Interesting times.

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General Election 2010

The Dear Leader, Gordon Brown, has finally been forced to called a General Election for Thursday 6th May. How fortunate for him that the pesky national rail strike that was to go ahead this week was stopped by the high court at the the last possible minute, that would have been terribly embarrassing for him to have to announce a General Election on a day when nobody could get work wouldn’t it?

Regardless, let’s get down to business. This general election is the most long awaited election in recent history, although the really delicious irony is that if Gordon Brown had done what he should have done and called a General Election as soon as he became our un-elected Prime Minister, the popularity of both himself and his wretched party at the time would have meant that we would at this point still be waiting for another two years for it. Crisis averted, nonetheless, even if the aversion did come about because of a grotesque disregard for democracy. And please don’t give me that crap about “you vote for the party, not the man“, everyone knows that’s not how it really works.

It should come as no surprise to anybody that I intend to vote for the Conservatives on May 6th. I have never voted Labour nor will I ever vote Labour. Because of this I have never enjoyed life under a government that I have voted for, since the first General Election that I was eligible to vote in was in 1997, when this disaster of a government first came to power. This is why I have complained so vociferously about the government for so many years – I have a personal belief that people should not have the right to complain about a government that they themselves voted in. You made your bed, now you have to lie in it. The same will apply to me should the Conservatives win this election. Remember this at the polling booth if you want me to shut up for the next 4-5 years, that in itself should be incentive enough for anyone to vote Tory :)

There’s a number of issues and reasons to discuss as to why I am going to vote Conservative. It’s not all to do with class background and upbringing, and even if it was Labour voters are more guilty of habitual voting than any other section of the electorate. All this “me Dad voted Lairbuh, an’is Dad voted Lairbuh, an’is Dad went on’t Jarrow March, so ah’ll vote Lairbuh an’all” bullshit and the more modern “OMG! The evil Tories!!!1” hysterical nonsense that is so widespread on social networking sites frustrates the living hell out of me and so I won’t condone it for any party’s supporters. Everybody should by now know that no party is like what it used to be, especially not Labour who were willing to go as far to admit it with their “New” party name in 1997 and their new centre-left position meant that they won. Had they stuck to their irrelevant and outdated “old Labour” values they would still be on the opposition benches where they belong.

Before I move on to specific election issues I would like underline the importance of everyone who is eligible to vote to do so, even if you don’t want to vote for any of the available candidates and you spoil your voting card. It should be mandatory to vote (or spoil) with a stiff financial penalty for anyone who doesn’t. You don’t get to do this very often and so everybody should make the most of it when they do. It is also critically important for voters in marginal seats to make sure that they vote. Remember that under currency constituency boundary arrangements, recently revised or not, it is much much easier for Labour to win seats than it is any other party, so if you don’t want another Labour government make sure you get off your arse.

Here is reminder of the 2005 election results from my blog posted after the last General Election, where Labour only had to secure 35% of the vote in order to secure 55% of seats, thereby providing them with the majority they needed for a third term of government. How, exactly, is this fair?

The travesty of democracy that were the 2005 General Election results

I’ve been told that since the last election constituency boundaries have been revised, but I’ll wager anything that they haven’t been revised all that much, and certainly not to the extent where it’s now a level playing field for all parties. Indeed, constituency boundaries are not the only reasons why the system is stacked in Labour’s favour.

Now on to the specific issues, which are both important to me and most of which should be important to everyone else:

Labour’s “performance” over the past 13 years

Labour’s election pledges, whilst not only being as generic and vague as election pledges could possibly be (in order that their eventual implementation can mean as many things as possible), also read like they’re from a party in opposition that’s trying to oust a longstanding and hated incumbent government, and not from a party that’s already been in power for three terms and thirteen years. Thirteen years is more than enough time for any government to achieve what it promised to achieve since coming to power and despite this Labour still blame the majority of their woes on the previous Conservative government. Are they going to do that forever? I thought they were supposed to fix everything the evil Tories did wrong? Just how long am I being expected to wait?

The fact is that Labour have performed abysmally since coming to power on so many fronts. You’ll note that I’ve not said “all fronts”, because that would be untrue and unfair, but it is true and fair to say that their failures vastly outweigh their successes. You’d have to be a real idiot not to realise that. They’ve had their chance, and for the most part they’ve fluffed it, in some cases to a degree that we simply couldn’t have imagined only a few years ago. I am not prepared to give them five more years in which to continue to cock things up, frankly, and anybody who is willing to grant them this really needs their head examined.

When reading this blog post I expect Labour supporters to be thinking “ah yes, but Labour have said they will do $whatever on this issue, which is better than what the evil Tories are proposing“. The fact is that I simply do not believe them because of their recent (and indeed not so recent) record. The Labour election manifesto is nothing more than toilet paper to me, it may as well be blank. Indeed, it would actually be more credible and believable if it was blank.

Economy

This really is the single most important issue that practically everyone is talking about during this campaign, and quite rightly so. If you’re not aware that Labour have left us with a £167,000,000,000 national deficit as a result of their fiscal policies, rampant public spending and government waste then you really have been living under a rock for the past few years and need to wake up and smell the coffee. It’s going to be one bastard of a hangover to shift. The trouble is that Labour don’t seem to want to start the process of shifting it, they just want to continue drinking, thus making the problem worse and worse. Their performance and broken promises on the economy since coming to power have destroyed any credibility they ever had on the subject and we are once again left with a country on the verge of bankruptcy after the biggest boom and the biggest bust since the second world war, something which Labour explicitly said they would prevent from happening in their 1997 manifesto. They simply cannot be trusted to fix something which they were so instrumental in causing in the first place.

The 1980s were better than the 1970s.

The country’s financial position coupled with the recent industrial unrest (public sector, British Airways and (cynically blocked) national rail strikes) is horrifically reminiscent of the dying days of the pathetic Labour government in 1979 who were as desperate to cling on to power then as they are now. Labour will always be the same and they will never learn from their mistakes. Labour recently tried to scare everybody by saying that if the Tories won the election they would take Britain back to the 1980s. If this is the case then bring it on, the 1980s were a prosperous decade and a darn sight better than the disaster of the 1970s, which is what Labour have taken us back to.

Public spending, non-jobs and waste

Since coming to power, 66% of new jobs created in the United Kingdom have been public sector jobs, all funded by the taxpayer with an ever increasing tax bill from Labour which has by now doubled the UK’s tax burden since 1997. This is absolutely shocking. You cannot improve the economy of a country by expanding its state. Not only is that a rocky road to out and out communism but it is also a fiscal lie. Only wealth-creating private sector jobs can improve the economic performance of a nation. This is pretty basic economics and yet something which our glorious Prime Minister and chancellor of ten years apparently doesn’t understand since he is so insistent on increasing the “employment tax” that is employers’ National Insurance, presumably to pay for even more public sector jobs that we don’t need.

For a concise list of other ways in which this government wantonly squanders hard earned money from tax payers, even ignoring the giant welfare bill (which, incidentally, is greater each year than the total receipts from income tax), I draw your attention to the Department of Government Waste, a parody site set up by the Conservatives but which is based on real facts. The full list is in their downloadable PDF.

The Conservatives, however, have made it very clear that further tax hikes are not the way to go and cutting government waste is a high priority for them. I simply do not understand how anybody can say that this is a bad idea. Indeed it may lead to some public sector job losses, but boo hoo, they can join the real world for a change and put up with the risks of working in the private sector instead of wasting public money in public sector fantasy land, where nobody ever gets sacked no matter how bad they are at their job and everybody gets a nice fat index-linked pension at the end of it. It’s that which we can no longer afford, not scrapping the endless tax rises that Labour have relentlessly subjected us to for 13 years despite their early promises not to do so.

Lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) issues

This, I will admit, is a thorny issue with the Conservatives and we as a minority have much to be thankful for to Labour. This is an area in which they have actually significantly delivered on their original manifesto. They have delivered greater equality legislation to everyone with alternative sexualities and they have delivered civil partnerships and adoption rights to homosexual and bi-sexual couples. I’m not for one second going to refuse credit where credit is due on this.

One could argue, however, that such legislation would eventually happen, Labour government or no Labour government. I think it’s probably fair to say that it would have taken a bit longer under a Conservative government, but I do believe that we would still have it by now and it would be a case of better late than never. I also do not believe for one minute that a new Tory government would even dream of taking any of it away from us.

However, what I do know for sure is that we now do have what we asked for. The job’s done, complete and delivered. But I missed the part of the legislation that means that I as a gay man am obliged to reward Labour for what they have done by only ever voting for them and never for the “evil Tories”. Indeed, I’ll go as far as to say that I’m under absolutely no obligation to do so whatsoever. Labour have come good in one specific area and done extraordinarily badly in most others. Our wonderful new legislation has quite the price tag attached to it when you consider all the crap that’s been associated with the party that brought it to us. Many may question whether it was actually worth it all things considered.

The Conservatives have a questionable history when it comes to gay rights, no doubt, and it would seem that they still do have a few bad apples, with Chris Grayling being the most notorious example at the moment. David Cameron missed a beat this week when he didn’t fire him for his comments about bed and breakfast owners and I am disappointed about this (although Grayling has since admitted that he was wrong to say what he did), but it’s still not a reason to condemn a whole party to opposition forever. Indeed, anybody who votes for or against a particular party based on one single issue is both selfish and shortsighted.

I’m also quite sick of being asked “but how can you be gay and Tory?“. Get a grip, the two aren’t by any means mutually exclusive. Think back to when you were asked “but how can you like boys when you yourself are a boy?“. It’s as annoying, ignorant and insulting as that, so my advice to you is to grow up and get the fuck over it, because I am most certainly not the only “gay Tory” (if I have to accept a label) out there. Indeed a recent poll for Pinknews.co.uk recorded 25% of those asked as supporting the Conservatives, with 25% supporting the Liberal Democrats and 28% supporting Labour. Please don’t try and tell me that gay Tory voters are in a tiny minority.

Education

Although I am aware that primary and secondary school education has suffered somewhat under Labour neither will be the focus of this section because I do not know the specific facts. All I do know is that school leavers these days, now having the benefit of an entire education under Labour, seem to be barely literate and for the most part unfit to enter the world of work. Major business leaders have specifically complained about this and I really feel sorry for the poor buggers who’ve had Labour’s dumbed-down education system forced upon them.

Yet despite this more and more of them are entering higher education thanks to Labour’s unnecessary and seemingly arbitrary target of sending 50% of school leavers to university. For no reason. The country wasn’t short of graduates before or anything, Labour just didn’t think it was fair that some people were graduates whilst many weren’t. It just wasn’t socialism. As a result we have a massive over-supply of mediocre graduates with Mickey Mouse degrees believing that it entitles them to a better job, which of course it doesn’t since employers have simply upped their qualification requirements to compensate. What Labour have done isn’t fair on anybody, least of all the students themselves.

Now, all this would be slightly less baffling if at the same time Labour hadn’t completely ridden roughshod over student and university funding since 1997. The National Union of Students (NUS) campaigned vociferously on behalf of their members (whether their members liked it or not) in 1997 to get Labour elected, and what have Labour done for them since? They’ve abolished student grants (within mere months of coming to power), increased tuition fees and cut university funding – at the same time as trying to get even more people to become students in the first place. What the bloody hell is that all about then? I hope that the NUS are proud of themselves, frankly.

Crime and punishment

The statistics will show that under Labour crime has fallen and continues to fall, but I do not for one minute believe that it is as clear cut as that. Everybody knows that statistics can be manipulated and that Labour  are the grand masters at doing it. Indeed, Gordon Brown himself was caught out less than three times in March of this year alone for mis-representing statistics, which eventually lead to a telling off from the Office of National Statistics [letter] . There will always be a vast difference between reported and un-reported crime and it’s also important to remember that not all types of crime are equal. Some types of crime are more serious than others and affect real people in real ways, such as violent crime and burglary, rather than comparatively more victimless crimes such as insurance fraud and so on.

The police forces are bogged down with a target-driven culture imposed on them by Labour and spend inordinate amounts of time on paperwork even for trivial matters, in contrast to Labour’s (since disproven) claims that police officers spend 80% of their time on the beat (where “the beat” is also some contrived new-Labour definition of the beat and not what you or I fondly remember). Labour have introduced Police Community Support Officers which are nice to see around and about on the street but they have no more powers than a traffic warden did back in the day, and we don’t have any proper traffic wardens now, just Parking Enforcement Officers with even less powers. It’s not all about the number of bums on seats, we need the right bums on the right seats.

We need to move away from the ridiculous culture where criminals have more rights than victims and make sure that anyone acting reasonably to stop a crime or apprehend a criminal is not arrested or prosecuted, as well as or instead of the criminal which seems to happen over and over again since it’s easier to hit your Labour-dictated targets but arresting and processing the “soft option” member of the public who thought he was only doing his civil duty rather than the “I know my rights, mate” criminal who’ll likely get away with it and thus deny your a target point. If anybody should be defining targets for the police force it should be the public, not politicians.

Immigration

Labour have completely lost control of immigration into this country. The immigration “system” is nothing but a complete farce that is exploited and abused by thousands of people every year. Labour have proven themselves to be unable and/or unwilling to do anything about it (unwilling, perhaps, because immigrants typically end up voting Labour should they eventually bother to obtain the right to vote). The trouble is that anyone who is willing to speak out against immigration is immediately labelled a racist by hysterical politically correct left wingers whose priority is to simper and wring their hands in order to make sure that the needs and demands of immigrants come above the needs of established citizens of this country. This really has to stop and people need to get a fucking grip.

We all know the facts when it comes to migrants who want to come to this country. Few are actually in genuine need of asylum, most are economic migrants. Even those who claim asylum are on shaky ground since if you are in a position where you need to claim asylum you are supposed to claim it in the nearest country that is qualified to afford it to you, which includes all the EU countries that you have to travel through in order to reach the UK. There is only one reason why this otherwise unremarkable nation is singled out in such a way and that is our monstrously generation welfare state. I know it, you know it.

I’ve a long list of things that I think need to be done about this. I don’t think any of them are unreasonable. The Conservatives only really cover two of them – only admitting migrants that will “benefit the economy” and offering English language instruction, and even with the latter I think it should be a requirement rather than something that is merely offered. No party goes far enough to tackle the immigration problems in their manifesto, no party would even dare given the ridiculous hysteria that is whipped up every time this emotive issue is mentioned.

It would do us all a lot of good, and I can’t believe that I’m about to say this given my general position on Europe, if rules on immigration and asylum were unified across all European countries. For example, in France new migrants are entitled to no benefits whatsoever; they have to have lived and paid tax in that country for a number of years before becoming entitled to them. In Germany asylum claimants are all kept in holding centres until their claims are processed, at which point they are either allowed into the country or sent directly back to where they came from. You won’t find any failed asylum seekers living illegally in Germany. We get it wrong in every way imaginable.

Make no mistake, this isn’t about not liking people with brown skin, far from it. There are plenty of hard working people in this country with brown skin, many having been here for generations and multiculturalism is in general a good thing. This is about people with skins of all possible colours abusing a weak and exploitable system and then living off those very same hard working people. It isn’t acceptable and we can’t afford it. Britain is a soft-touch when it comes to immigration and this is well known in countries from where most of the immigrants come from. Migration to Britain is even packaged up and sold as one-way tours by foreign firms.

I’ll stop here with this issue because I really could go on forever and it would probably be racist or something.

Labour lies, sleaze and arrogance

Finally I would like to remind everyone that one of Labour’s major election pledges in 1997 was that they were going to be whiter than white, in contrast to the “sleaze-ridden” Tories of the time. I’m sure I don’t need to remind everyone of John Prescott’s now infamous speech on the subject. Since then Labour have proven themselves time and time again to be more arrogant and sleaze-infested than the Tories could ever have even dreamed of being.

In May 1997, Blair promised his government would be purer than pure as an antidote to the Tories’ sleaze. Within months, Formula 1 racing owner Bernie Ecclestone had won an exemption from tobacco advertising after donating £1m to Labour. Every week there seems to be a scandal of sort involving a Labour MP or someone who works for the Labour government, including the recent revelation of high profile Labour MPs pimping themselves out for thousands per day. Whether the Tories will be any better remains to be seen, but they surely can’t be any worse than this shower.

Regardless, it’s by no means something that Labour can now campaign on and is indeed something they should not have campaigned on in the first place given their record. Instead of the fair and honest party they promised they would be we have an arrogant, desperate incumbent government that will not admit its mistakes, puts itself first and will do anything to cling to power. To hell with everyone else and their interests. These are not the actions of a “party of the people”.

That’s it for specific issues. There are of course numerous smaller issues, many of which are just as important, but I have to draw the line with this blog post somewhere.

This will in all likelihood be the only major blog about the election that I post before the election itself on Thursday 6th May because I wanted to get all my rants into one blog and out of the way as early as possible into the campaign. I will however be posting a significant election blog in the week or so after the election, whichever way it goes. Until then I will of course be ranting daily about election related matters on Twitter and Facebook. On Twitter I tag election-related posts with the hashtags #ukelection and/or #labourfail when space permits (click on either to search for my tweets that have those hashtags). More or less everything I post to Twitter then gets automatically posted to my Facebook profile, which can only be viewed if you are a friend on Facebook.

All three main parties have published their full manifestos online, but I have provided links to them here:

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Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi’s controversial release

_45204807_megra226b_ap I am completely torn over the highly contentious decision to release on compassionate grounds Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, otherwise known as the “Lockerbie Bomber”, convicted in 2001 for the murder of 270 people in the Lockerbie terrorist atrocity. al-Megrahi was the only person ever to be brought to justice for the outrage and has always denied any involvement. Whether this is true or not is not important.

The Scottish Justice Minister responsible for the decision faced a terrible dilemma. On one hand he had a reponsibility to uphold Scottish law regarding the release of terminally ill prisoners, regardless of the nature, scale or notoriety of their crimes. On the other hand he was under immense and almost unbearable pressure from the United States and the bereaved families of the victims. The UK government’s position on the matter is at this point unknown but it is widely believed that it will condemn the decision when parliament is recalled.

Of course, at the end of the day, while the United States is entitled to express an opinion on the matter, they had no control nor should they have expected to have any control over what happened to al-Megrahi. This was a crime that was committed on UK soil and so from start to finish had to be dealt with using the UK and Scottish justice systems, regardless of the predominant nationality of the victims. One might also argue that the United States has no right to comment on the situation since it was largely the United States’ foreign policy which created the motivation for the attack in the first place. Just saying, like.

_46240802_tripoli2 The reaction of the Libyan government and public on the arrival of al-Megrahi in Tripoli after his release was absolutely abhorrent, however, regardless of whether or not he is truly guilty of the crimes for which he has been convicted. It was made very clear by both the UK and US governments that it would be inappropriate and very bad for diplomatic relations should Libya allow a “hero’s welcome” to take place, which it did anyway. It was distasteful and wrong and I believe that Colonel al-Gaddafi should and will suffer for it in some way. Indeed, a royal visit to the country is already being reconsidered.

Assuming for a minute that he is guilty, and I have to have enough faith in the UK justice system to believe that he is, I think it highly unlikely and therefore highly unfair that he was the only person brought to justice over an atrocity which quite clearly required the involvement of more than just one person. The investigation into the incident should have been more wide reaching and should have brought more people to justice. For this reason it is valid to argue that al-Megrahi has been made a “scapegoat” for the attack, with the world’s anger and rage focussed solely on him. But this does not mean that somehow the laws of the country in which he was brought to justice and imprisoned did not apply to him. He was entitled to apply for and be granted release from prison on compassionate grounds just like any other prisoner in the UK. If we start making exceptions where do we stop? Where do we draw the line before the rights of prisoners become meaningless?

So I really don’t know what to think, it’s a difficult one. As a citizen of this country I feel I have to stand behind and have faith in its justice system, but at the same time I can appreciate the outrage and grief suffered by the families of the victims over what was the world’s worst terrorist atrocity before 9/11. Certainly, having salt rubbed into their wounds by the rapturous reception he received in Tripoli was both unnecessary and cruel and thoroughly undeserved, regardless of the decision to release him.

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