Thursday, 31 December 2009

It's A Wonderful Life

I have watched It's a Wonderful Life again this Chrismas and even though it was made in 1946 it was the best thing I saw in the last couple of weeks. In the film James Stewart runs the Building and Loan Association that gives out loans based on personal knowledge of an individual's character and he saves the bank from ruin. It sounds like we could have done with him when Northern Rock collapsed.

The film did make me think of why I am a Liberal Democrat. If you believe in small government and low taxation then this Conservative view puts you on the side of Lionel Barrymore who played Mr Potter. If you are not sure about his character then it is a good time to watch the film. I did think about Gordon Brown too when Mr Potter offers to guarantee all the deposits in the bank. i think that the Liberal Democrats are represented by James Stewart who shows the power of individuals if they work together.

Change the world

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

A reluctance to intervene

As we approach the end I have been thinking back over the two visits that I made to the doctor this year and I will share the December visit with you. I didn't see the doctor. I saw the nurse who syringed my ears. I have had this done three or four times in my life so I knew the ropes. I also knew that one moment I could hear nothing and the next I could hear the slightest noise.

Wax is there for a useful purpose. It helps keep the ear dry and prevent infection. So there is a risk involved by syringing ears. You can cause infection by removing wax and if there is a perforation in the ear an infection could develop in the inner ear. Risks cause reluctance to intervene and over the years this work has been confined to those who hold an appropriate certificate. Around twenty years ago I went from GP to occupational health nurse to GP to occupational health nurse to have my ears syringed. Apart from my time and that of the GP and nurse there was a lot of paperwork.

All this extra work comes about because someone has made a claim when something has gone wrong. I could give you the details about the reluctance to carry out my December syringing but I'll save you the energy of reading about it. What is clear is that everyone is so worried about litigation that everything takes so much longer.

Change the world

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Pantomime Time

In this technological age in which you can find out the news from across the world at the click of a button I was reassured yesterday that there are basic pleasures achieved from much simpler forms of communication. I went to see the local pantomime and it was wonderful to see the faces of the children (and adults) when the heroes failed to see the dangerous villain. As it turned out the villain was behind them all the time!

I am sure that Father Christmas was asked for lots of computer games but social activity is alive and well in Morecambe. I am convinced that there is a much greater pleasure achieved by social interaction like going to the theatre than from sitting at a computer. Computers do have their benefits, in fact I am sat at one now, but if I had a choice I would be at the theatre again. Oh yes I would.

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Monday, 28 December 2009

The nineteen days of Christmas

Do you get the impression that Christmas is over? Well it is the 28th of December. In fact the twelve days of Christmas are from the 25th December till the 5th January but you can't help feeling it is over, especially if you have managed to finish your turkey. Some people have to work over the Christmas period, some only get the statutory days. You may be lucky enough to get a couple of weeks holiday around Christmas and New Year, but whether you believe in the religious aspects of Christmas or not, it is a good time to enjoy a break in winter.

If you are an MP this year you get nineteen days of Christmas. Many would argue that MPs don't get a break at all as they have so much work in their constituencies. I guess some will work extremely hard but it is a bit like MPs' expenses used to be - we just don't know how hard they work. What we do know is that they have a recess from Westminster and it lasts much longer than the break that almost everyone else gets. They also return on the 5th January so I suppose it really isn't a Christmas break.

Let's say for the sake of argument that our MPs do work hard, but shouldn't they be working hard on a more regular basis at Westminster?

Change the world

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Greet or attack?

There is an old series of TV adverts for The Guardian which showed a news event from one angle but when viewed from a different perspective the whole story changed. The moral was don't believe the first thing you read or see. I thought of these adverts when I saw the news articles about the attack on the pope at the Christmas Mass.

Early reports described the attack but it looked to me like the damage was done not by the 'attacker' but because she was pulled over by those who were protecting him. The reports went on to suggest that security would have to be tightened because of this breach. Later on Christmas Day I read that the woman only wanted to greet the pontiff.

I know that a secure life may be important to a lot of people, and it is, but it strikes me that the role of the clergy is to reach out to all and sundry. If you stop all risk you end up doing nothing. In fact the steps you take to improve security may turn out to be a cause of risk. For me the most serious aspect is the injury to Cardinal Roger Etchegaray who broke his hip. Let's hope he makes a speedy recovery.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Morecambe Bay cockling

A couple of days before Chrismas I was speaking with a fisherman. In fact he is one of the few remaining fishermen on Morecambe Bay and among other things he was telling me about cockling. The beds are closed at the moment so there is no risk of anyone dying or at least this risk should be minimal. He told me that he don't want to restrict access to the bay because individuals may want to go out and pick a few cockles. Of course this access has to be balanced with safety and the greatest dangers came from the channels formed by the rivers.

He found it hard to believe that anyone would think that they could go cockling at night and this made me ask about who gets a licence. I am still not quite sure who gets the licence but he didn't want anyone to ask him whether he was competent to be on the bay but he understood that checks had to be in place. However he did assure me that a disaster like that of February 2004 should not happen again.

I wrote about J.S. Mill and how his thoughts on freedom applied to dog walkers. Take a look back at the 21st December and you will see that Mill is just as relevant to cockling.

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Friday, 25 December 2009

Merry Christmas

Political correctness is all around us but I am going to stick my neck out and wish you a merry Christmas. Some people, often the decision makers, seem to think that anything to do with Christmas is offensive to non-Christians. You hear all sorts of stories about the word Christmas being banned, and anything with any religious connection will cause offence.

Ten years ago they had 'Wintervals' in Birmingham. I am sure that the person who made this decision would have taken it to avoid offending anyone. The result, of course, is offensive to Christians. A more common expression is 'season's greetings'. I received a card before Christmas with this heading and the photograph looked like it had been taken in summer. So which season were they greeting me with?

I am not offended if anyone wishes me a good day or a happy Diwali. I have been known to say Eid Mubarak and would you believe that I did not wish to offend anyone? The reply to Eid Mubarak may be kul 'am wantum bikhair which means may you be well every year. I really can't find anything offensive with this. Whether you have faith or none there are some polite expressions that you could use. What is impolite is disregarding the feelings of others because of an unfounded fear brought about by political correctness.

Change the world and merry Christmas

Thursday, 24 December 2009

A business based on unhappiness

Why do people play the lottery? Mathematically it is not the thing to do to win money but you can certainly gain a thrill at the prospect of winning a lot so there is one reason to play. However the main reason is because we are dreamers. We want to change our lives. Maybe we want to stop working. It might be that dream holiday is out of our reach. The dreamers who play the lottery are saying that fundamentally they are unhappy with their lives. I don't think you need to think too deeply to realise this.

The argument for the lottery is that someone has to win. However unlikely it is you will hear about them and lives will change. That leads me on to my second point. If you are so lucky that you do win then you will make enemies. It may be that you are a philanthrope and you have great ways of spending your money to help people and save the earth. You may just want to share out all the money with your family and friends and you may know a lot of people however I guarantee that you will find that there are many more people who know you.

There are charities that gain from the proceeds of the lottery business, but how have we really developed into a society that recognises unhappiness and creates more unhappiness by winning or losing? Wouldn't it be nice to follow James Stewart's example in It's a Wonderful Life? Well it is Christmas.

Change the world

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

The source of Gordon's insult

I have written about John Hutton before and I disagreed with most of what he had to say. In fact if there was an award for the MP with whom I disagree the most it would go to Mr Hutton. Yesterday he was in the news as he was the cabinet source who described Gordon Brown as an " distaster" if he ever became prime minister. Well done Eddie Mair for informing us.

I have a dilemma because I would like to strongly disagree with anything John Hutton says, but in this case I find it so hard to do. However the obvious problem with finding out the secret source is that he has only had the courage to 'come out' because he is standing down at the next election. This is not a man of courage. I also find his poor use of language a sign of ignorance. There are times when obscenity may be appropriate. However with this example at best it is crass and at worse offensive.

What a shame he is standing down as even his own party could spend a long time criticising him.

Change the world

Employment Selection Process

My children support Blackburn Rovers and when they come over for Christmas I will ask them what they think about the sacking of Mark Hughes by Manchester City. I will watch football on the television but I find it hard to become passionate about a sport that is such a high profile business. I have a lot of sympathy for the fans who decided to follow FC United.

I don't think the fans of any football team will think of themselves primarily as part of a business venture but if they do then they have to consider the ninety minutes on the pitch firstly as entertainment and secondly as a competitiion between two teams . What chance do the poorer teams have against the likes of Chelsea or Manchester United. Alright there are exceptions but generally rich teams win. This takes me back to Mark Hughes. Whether it was fair of not to dismiss him I am sure that success will come the way of Manchester City as long as their manager has the freedom to keep buying the best players.

Apart from the enterprise aspect of football I find it strange that normal employment law doesn't seem to apply to the teams. Maybe Mark had a contract that said he could be dismissed at any time but how did City recruite so easily. Can they avoid selection procedures? I have no wish to apply but how did they advertise the post? Was the advert equally available to women? Was there any discrimination against any groups in their selection process?

I believe that people should have the ability to choose the best person for the job as they see it, however I thought that the employment law in this country would also be applicable to football team.

Change the world

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Are we prepared for bad weather?

What does the world think of the way we deal with our weather? We have television screens showing pictures of great disruption caused by snowfall when it looks like God has shaken icing sugar over the land. Airports can't deal with this amount of snow and the Channel Tunnel has closed indefinitely. If planes aren't safe in cold weather that is one thing but the excuses that I was hearing were about problems caused by the amount of snow on the ground.

Last night around 10pm I took a very pleasant walk along Broadway in Morecambe. It was snowing fairly heavily but my trusty shoes meant that my steps were sure even with a dog that was pulling from time to time. I did notice no difference between snow landing on the road and snow landing anywhere else. Broadway is a fairly broad way but there was no grit to be seen. This was fine for my photographs but I'm not sure if I want to go driving.

On Sunday evening I drove through Lancaster . Television and radio reports had told me how well prepared we were in Lancashire and we were so much better off than last year when we had icy weather for days at a time! Well now that we were prepared I dared to go up a hill and found myself sliding around. I wasn't on my own. I have heard many stories of people stuck in their cars or unable to get where they wanted to go.

It is one thing to decide that treating the roads in bad weather is not a priority. It is quite another to say that we are prepared but only treat a few roads.

Change the world

P.S. This morning Broadway has been gritted. I travelled to Hest Bank and saw two snowmen. I think this would be the first time that these children had built a snowman and they looked really good.

P.P.S. I am listening to the news on the evening of the 22nd and I hear that councils are working flat out. I thought that my main road was left for a morning shift rather than a night shift so I would question the "flat out" but it used to be the case that side streets were gritted. Council workers may be working flat out but there must be a lot less of them now.

P.P.P.S. I travelled from Morecambe to Chester and back this evening and the roads were fine. They were also the quietest I have ever seen them so congratulations to those who are looking after them.

Monday, 21 December 2009

What would J S Mill say?

I am all for freedom for individuals. If you want a fancy car that can accelerate really quickly then that is up to you. However there should be some restraints on freedom. John Stuart Mill wrote a book about this subject called 'On Liberty'. If an action only affects the individual then they should be free to carry out that action but if others are affected then regulation is needed. In the case of any motor vehicle then we have plenty of regulations, one of which is the speed limit.

There are so many factors about one person's car that affects others. There is the obvious use of the earth's resources, the carbon footprint, the accidents caused and road rage. I am sure that the list could go on for a long time but I will concentrate on speed limits which are generally used for safety. They also have a use in fuel economy. Check out how much fuel is used at 56mph and then at 70mph and 56mph easily wins. As well as this my physics A level tells me that stopping and starting is not good if you don't like buying fuel - something to do with inertia.

The reason I am writing this blog is because so many people think it is alright to break the speed limit. Everyone is safe and it is their fuel. Well I was walking my dog in the centre of Lancaster. I was thinking of walking across the Carlisle bridge which happens to be 40mph. It was late at night and one of the few times when there is no traffic jam and I reckon that the vehicles were travelling at 50mph at least. I didn't feel safe walking there so I turned back after a few steps. J S Mill would say that all the dog walkers should be considered when setting speed limits.

Change the world

Sunday, 20 December 2009

We need another bridge over the Lune.

In November we had the terrible weather that destroyed bridges in Cumbria and took the life of PC Bill Barker. Workington was cut in two and thousands of people were affected. Pupils who used to walk to school had a round trip of hundreds of miles. This mileage came down as other bridges were deemed safe and eventually they got a footbridge. There was a great show of support from all levels of government and I know that many members of the public have done what they can to help. Unfortunately political opportunism meant that the MP for Morecambe called for an additional bridge for Lancaster which was not affected by the floods.

I felt that this was bad timing and bad taste. The misery and hardship that had been created by the loss of bridges meant for her that a priority should be given to an area that had lost nothing. It is even worse when you realise that Morecambe is in the number one spot for getting a link road to the M6. There is a lot of vocal opposition to the link road based on environmental grounds (but the same few protestors do seem to live near the road and I would argue that there are benefits to the environment). The planning for the road has been going on for decades and traffic has been getting worse. There is more of a need for a link than ever.

Our MP has thrown her weight in opposing the road but if it is built we would have another bridge over the Lune by default. After decades of planning for the link how long does she think it will take to get another bridge in Lancaster? And how long would this take once you have dealt with priority areas in Cumbria? If a Lancaster bridge collapsed then it is difficult to think that we would have a round trip of hundreds of miles.

Change the world

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Morecambe Town Council Website

I received an email last week from someone who wanted to know about the Morecambe Town Council. I referred them to a local Liberal Democrat councillor or to the town hall but I was thinking how strange to get information from me. It seems that they found me through my blogs and sure enough, if you search for the council then you find one of my blogs on the first page. You also find sites like Lancaster City Council. Unfortunately they don't carry any details for Morecambe's council.

We live in a wonderful age of technology. I can put photos on my website or this blog and people from around the world can see them immediately. We also live in an age where red tape is getting worse and worse. Councillors were elected in June so maybe there will be some official information on the internet in the next few months! Please note the irony of the exclamation mark.

The Morecambe Council has a budget of around £220 000. It is not a huge amount but how much of this money should be spent on a website? Some organisations spend nothing as they use blogs, but I think something should be spent for for Morecambe council. It might help if we compare it with the price that an MP spends on their site. This was exceptional but in 2007 Conservative MP Angela Browning spent £9635 on her website. You may not be surprised to read that it was run by a former Conservative party campaigner. There are many many campaigners who write websites for nothing but as a site for a council is official let's pay a decent hourly rate, say £20 per hour. It might take a day to set it up and then an hour per week to update it. I make that around £1200 including costs for web space.

I wonder how much it will cost and whether the best tender comes from a friend of the councillors. Wouldn't it be nice to think that a volunteer would become the webmaster so that this tier of govenment did not have the same stigma as MPs? Failing that let's see if they get paid more than a generous £1200

Change the world

P.S. As of the 1st March 2010 there is a Morecambe Town Council website to be found at I hope it is a success and more people get involved in local politics because technology reaches out to them.

Friday, 18 December 2009

How to stop Morecambe's decline

I was talking to an elderly gentleman this week. We both live in Morecambe and he has lived here for many years and he told me that he had seen Morecambe go downhill in the last twenty years. I asked why and his first thoughts were about the Arndale Centre. I like this shopping centre but I wondered what he meant so I asked. He explained that the quality of shops had worsened. I didn't get many details but I understand that we used to have a Marks and Spencer's and we don't have a bookshop. Even the Town Hall is a shadow of its former self. I suspect that he has a lot more that he could say about the decline of Morecambe.

I put forward that this decline is partly related to the traffic problems from Morecambe to the motorway and he agreed. I said customers wouldn't travel to Morecambe from the other side of Lancaster and his reply was that he doesn't go to Lancaster. I think this hurts Morecambe much more than it does Lancaster because everyone else has to go through Lancaster to get here.

There is still opposition to the link road. I keep reading the same names in the local newspaper writing about how bad the road is. There was an article just this week about the harm the link will do to one local business. I am afraid the evidence is obvious. Many major employers will not touch Morecambe because of the difficulties getting here. People will not move here if they can't get out. I think there are a lot of positives for Morecambe but unless we get behind the link road we will see further decline.

Change the world

Thursday, 17 December 2009

What is Meg Hillier's punishment?

If we are to have an ID card then it has to be compulsory, otherwise anyone who wants to avoid discovery will just say they don't have a card. So if they are to be compulsory what would the punishment be if you forgot to carry it? Let's say for the sake of argument (because I am against them) that they are important so the fine should be significant. Ideally it would relate to income otherwise it is only a punishment for the poor. Again for the sake of argument, let's call this significant fine a day's wage.

Did you read about Meg Hillier a minister with responsibility for ID cards? It seems that she was promoting the roll-out of the cards in Liverpool. When she looked for her card for the photographers she discovered that she had left it at home. She hasn't broken a law because they aren't compulsory but she has done something much worse. She has advertised the fact that human error will make us all break the law. The ID cards are supposed to be wonderful things and we shouldn't be able to forget them.

How should her boss deal with her? I would think that her error is at least thirty times worse than the average forgetful law-breaker. Will she pay a month's wage to charity? That would be interesting.

Change the world

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

The CRB check does not protect anyone

I was doing some work for charity yesterday which involved knocking on doors and giving out small presents and a Christmas card to people who lived on their own. Everyone was pleased to see me and it was a very pleasant experience. It also involved going into sheltered accomodation.

On one occassion the first person let me in and I then went to see the manager because I had more to give out and I presumed that they would want to know about me. Unfortunately the manager was nowhere to be seen. In another home I had two presents to give out but in this case I couldn't get in because they weren't at home and the manager wasn't there too. I will try again tomorrow but if there had been a letterbox then the card and present would have been delivered. On the one hand I am concerned about the separation from society which is created by these homes, and on the other I can see gaping holes in security, but my main concern today is about the CRB checks.

I have a few CRB checks and one of them is relevant to the work I was doing. However nobody I met today knew this. The CRB check does not protect anyone. It does allow organisations to defend themselves from any allegations and they can then say they have gone through the due process, but this process is expensive and inefficient. I have had quite a few checks and all of them are only useful on the day they are issued. My greatest concern is for the safety of the individual and it is not affected by any police check.

I have written a previous blog about the decision to create a need for CRB checks followed the Soham murders. Ian Huntley would not have been prevented from carrying out the murders if this legislation had been in place. My suggestion is to find a drawing board and go back to it.

Change the world

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

What is Tony doing with his money?

Take a look at
The Guardian is inviting the general public, and in particular anybody with financial expertise, to help shed light on the mystery of Tony Blair's finances. If you need any help they have published some of Tony's key documents, including the partnership register and accounts for one of his many ventures. The prize for the winner is an original Steve Bell cartoon.

They speculate about the various possible financial motives Tony might have for his labyrinthine arrangements. But then they accidentally give the game away: "The structure is so artificial that in one part of it, Blair is, in effect, forming partnerships with himself."

And there you have it. Britain may have civil partnerships, but for those suffering the pangs of self-love, only in the realm of finances can that love be requited. Point this out to the Guardian quickly, and claim your prize.

Change the world.

Monday, 14 December 2009

If only life were so simple

As I write, Ed Balls is defending the CRB checks that need to be carried out under Labour legislation on the Andrew Marr show. It seems that it has never been the case that parents need checks if they organise childcare for each other. It all sounds so simple. I am afraid that Ed is wrong and it isn't simple at all.

You only have to go back three months to the case of two policewomen who were told that they had broken the law because they looked after each other's childen. It was generally recognised that the legislation was complicated and confusing. This is why the Government is going to great lengths to say how simple everything is.

Wouldn't it be nice to have a Labour politician recognising their errors and saying they are working to correct them.

Change the world

Sunday, 13 December 2009

The great moral question of the day

If your job is to clean the floor then you would think it is fairly straightforward and so there would be little pressure. You would be wrong. Pressure comes from within you and if you could have done a little better then you may feel guilt. Nobody works without moments when they are not concentrating. Some people take unauthorised breaks and it doesn't matter what job you are doing, if you know that you could do better then so could your manager.

One question this week on Any Questions was about the great moral question of the day. Is it the way we leave the world for our children? Is it about equal access to education or is it about inequality in general? My answer would relate to how we treat each other. The person who has to clean the floor may have just as much pressure as the top executive, and how we treat each other relates to happiness. The top earners may be able to buy more commodities but as the Beatles sang, they can't buy love. If your attitude is right then everything else will fall into place.

Change the world

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Sometimes you can agree with the Tories

Sir Richard Dannatt was on the panel of Question Time on Thursday and a question did come up about him being in the payroll of the Conservative Party whilst serving in the army. His defence was that he had acted completely honourably and only given advice once he had left the army. Paddy Ashdown had a very good night. He was the expert on most matters during the programme and in particular he had the ideas for Afghanistan.

There may be some defence for Sir Richard. There is no defence for the Conservative Party who put him in an uncomfortable position, to say the least. You can't serve the Government and the opposition at the same time. There is a nasty whiff of treachery in the air when an advisor to the Government is proclaimed as an advisor to the opposition.

I was a little disappointed that there was no mention of the comments from the Conservative Chris Grayling who at the time of the announcement misheard a question about General Dannatt. Thinking that the Government had a new advisor, he said that he hoped it was not a political gimmick. It was all about PR. It is a good thing to get the best advice but I do agree with Chris Grayling. It was a gimmick to announce an army advisor while he was still a serving officer.

Change the world

Friday, 11 December 2009

Lawyers make the rugby decisions

When I was at school I used to play rugby on Saturday mornings and watch Sale rugby club every other week when they were at home. I mention this because the news yesterday was that Sale are thinking about their response to the news that Wasps are not to blame for the late late cancellation of their match two weeks ago.

It is not good for fans to go to a match and have it cancelled. It is much worse for the away fans but for the players times have changed. The professionals may need to protect themselves more and ask for games to be cancelled if they don't think the ground is fit to play.

The reason why I am writing the blog, and the reason why Sale are giving it some thought before they reply is that the blame for the cancellation is so complicated. Wasps said they wouldn't play but it is the referee's fault because he didn't make it clear that it his decision, so it is his fault.

I find this difficult to understand. Wasps won't play so blame the referee. When I played rugby we obeyed the referee but did blame him whenever we lost. We actually blamed anything we could but now in this professional era it looks like we need lawyers to make any decision.

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Thursday, 10 December 2009

You can't pick and choose your rules

Yesterday's blog was about communication and how important it is in management. It is also important for any walk of life. However there is one thing that is much more important than communication and that is what you wish to communicate. If you say something that is good but don't communicate it then you will get nowhere. If you say something bad but put a good spin on it then you might get somewhere but it wouldn't be good. So the message is all important.

I was walking my dog Molly in a park yesterday where there is a sign saying that dogs must be kept on leads. There was one lady with three little dogs walking next to her who were very well behaved but not on a lead. I explained to my dog that this is how she should behave but I don't think I was the main thing on her mind. One of her dogs came close and I had a struggle to hold on to Molly. She is very friendly but she is not good with other dogs which may be something to do with her coming from a rescue home. Yet she can be good with other animals if she is given a chance. She got a chance shortly after this experience with a big dog who was off the lead.

I thought that this was great. My dog had a chance to socialise with another dog. In the first experience my dog had struggled with me. Both the other dog owners had broken the rules but I knew which one I preferred.

As I was leaving I overheard the first owner complaining about the other one because her little dogs were threatened. You really can't complain about others breaking the rules if you are doing so yourself. Whatever defence she has for herself really isn't good enough to allow her to complain about others. Her dogs had irritated mine, the other dog had become a friend and she was complaining. The moral of this story for me is that you can't pick and choose which rules you are going to obey.

Change the world

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Can Gerry fix it?

I like Gerry Robinson and I watched his programme yesterday about whether he can fix Dementia Care Homes. In 2007 I watched his programmes on the NHS when he worked at Rotherham General Hospital. The difference that he tried to make in the NHS and the difference he is trying to make this time relates to care and attitude.

The staff were not happy in one home because they felt that they were not appreciated. The owner was angry with himself partly because his business was failing and partly because his communication with the staff was not good. He had taken away free food and according to Marx (and Robinson) whenever you get expectations raised and then lowered then you are likely to get revolution, and the staff were revolting.

There was also a breakdown in communication between staff and residents which was noticed when 'care mapping' was carried out. This meant noting what was happening every five minutes without getting involved. The owner recognised that the mapping had highlighted 'appalling' care. The staff could easily have taken this as a personal insult but it looked to me like a management problem to me.

Did Gerry fix it? Well some homes weren't broken but we will have to wait for next week for a full answer.

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Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Could do better.

It looks like Alistair Darling is going to make a "massive U-turn" tomorrow when he mentions the NHS IT system in his pre-Budget report. He is not saying the system is wrong. Have you ever heard a politician say something that they had previously said was wrong? No he is going to scale back the IT in the NHS because it is not "essential to the frontline".

Until 2008 I worked in the Health Service as a physiotherapist. There was widespread recognition that computers were doing a good job but for all the time that I spent on the computer it did not replace my handwritten notes. I used a lot of abbreviations but I was told that the system would be able to accommodate this and I would be writing my notes directly onto a computer.

I remember well when the computerised appointment system came in. I went along as a member of the public to one reception and I overheard that they were closing for a day to get used to the new system. They also said that they could do with a week not one day. This was a frontline service and its service was definitely affected.

One of the benefits of computerised records is that you can go into a hospital at one end of the country and they could access your records from the other end. I never heard that this had been done for anyone and I would imagine that this was no benefit for the majority of people, but I am willing to accept that someone may have done this at some time.

There are benefits to computers in the NHS. I thought the improvements for x-rays was fantastic. I do like computers. I write two blogs every day and I use my computers for so many things. However it looks like most of the NHS IT system could be better and saving hundreds of millions of pounds may not be a bad move for Mr Darling.

Change the world

Monday, 7 December 2009

Ban The Imaginary Ban

A couple of days ago I was speaking with a group of teachers and we got on to the subject of photography. I noticed a general sense of relief that cameras were banned from school. If cameras were allowed into schools it only takes one parent to object to their child being photographed and you have real problems. In practice what this means is that nobody gets photos of their children at any school performance.

The conversation went on to the subject of photography in public places. Again I noticed a general agreement among the teachers that photographs should not be taken near groups of schoolchildren. I remembered that I had recently read about someone who was challenged about their photography in public. The photographer was asked if they had permission to take photographs in this public place. The answer was in the form of a question. If the photographer could be told who they should ask then they would say if they had permission. I thought that this was a good answer except if you are in a position to give this answer then you are probably not enjoying your photography.

Yesterday the queen became involved in this topic by asking for privacy from the paparazzi when she is at Sandringham over Christmas. I think that everyone has a right to privacy on private land and anyone who invades this privacy could be prosecuted. Unfortunately this view does not address the main problem. We live in a society in which everyone is guilty of the worst type of crimes unless they can produce evidence from imaginary thought police to say otherwise. Why do we accept that we should just ban photographers? Why not ban everyone from being near groups of children, after all who knows what they might be thinking?

By all means let's do something about unacceptable behaviour but with the present way of thinking just carrying a camera is behaving irresponsibly.

Change the world

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Terminological Inexactitudes

When do you tell lies? It is the sort of question that you find in some newspapers and magazines that use questions and answers to interview people. A common answer is that the interviewee lies in order to protect their friends.

When I was a student in the eighties I was taught some psychology and I distinctly remember that we should not be confirming illusions. If someone is confused then they become more confused if you lie to them. The Bible tells us that we must not bear false witness but are there really times when the truth hurts and lying does no harm? I'll let you decide that one, but I wonder if that is what Tiger Woods used as his defence to his wife.

Winston Churchill gave us the expression 'terminological inexactitude'. It is unparliamentary to call an MP a liar so at least you now have a polite expression for the next time you meet an MP.

Change the world

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Where do dead pigeons go?

I saw some pigeons yesterday who looked like they had a death wish. There were three of four of them who were feeding on something in the road. A car came along and slowed down and then stopped. Then a pedestrian clapped her hands and they flew off - only to come back a few seconds later. I knew this person who told me that she had seen flattened pigeons and she even saw one person drive over a pigeon. He stopped very near to the incident and she managed to give him a piece of her mind.

My opinion is based on my Manchester upbringing where pigeons are generally seen as a pest, and the words of my driving instructor. He asked me if I had ever seen a pigeon that had been hit by a car and I hadn't. I still haven't. Where do dead pigeons go? He said if you slow down unexpectedly you may cause an accident. A child could run out into the road and cause a driver to make an emergency stop. If a car goes into the back of you it is their fault for not anticipating the stop and not leaving the correct distance between their car and yours. However an emergency stop is a risky manoeuvre and he told me not to change the way I drive for pigeons.

I didn't find any help in the Highway Code but I do slow down if I feel it is safe. If I don't think it is safe then I drive in exactly the way that my instructor taught me. If you have an answer then let me know.

Change the world

Friday, 4 December 2009

See the terror in their eyes

Have you ever told a teacher that they get long summer holidays? It doesn't go down very well. Another bad idea is to suggest to a police officer that they use their siren when they are late for their dinner. This doesn't get a laugh. It doesn't even get a smile. It is a bit like telling an MP that they get good expenses or a city banker that they don't deserve their bonus. Much worse than any of this is to ask a nurse anything while they are giving out drugs. They need to concentrate and errors may be fatal. Even minor errors may lead to disciplinary action.

I have been visiting a friend in hospital and one of the first things that she said to me was that she wanted to go to the toilet and had been waiting for a considerable length of time. The ward was made up of many side wards and I had looked round them all. The only nurse that I could see was giving out drugs. I waited at the door and when she looked at me I apologised for interrupting her and asked if there was anyone I could ask for help. It was too late. You could see terror in her eyes. How dare I interrupt her? She told me that I would just have to look around. I looked everywhere on the ward. The only nurse that I then found had just sat down on a break and I apologised to her for asking if there was anyone to help.

There was a happy ending to this story but I will spare you the detail. Wouldn't it be nice if there were enough staff in hospitals? Wouldn't it be nice if staff took their breaks so that nurses weren't left on their own giving out drugs? Wouldn't it be nice if we could laugh about our work?

Change the world

More misguided conviction

Two blogs today! I have to mention Margaret Beckett who reminded me of my blog on 21st November about misguided conviction. She had the final word on the mansion tax on yesterday's Question Time. She said "as is so often the case, the Liberal Democrat figures just don't add up". This was from the woman who a few sentences earlier thought that there were only 86 houses valued over £2 million when the figure is 86 000. The Liberal Democrats go to great lengths to have their figures audited but Margaret mustn't have paid attention again.

The next question was about the number of troops going to Afghanistan. A member of the audience told us that the French aren't going to send more troops. Margaret Beckett can't comment on this and the gentleman in the audience said it was in that day's paper. I haven't read it but I believe him. Margaret's preparations for the programme just don't add up.

Change the world

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Have you broken any laws?

Let me start by writing that I don't think that people should drive and use a mobile phone at the same time. I was wondering if it is an offence to hold a mobile phone whilst driving and I was told that the police would check the phone records to see if you were using it. Let's say that you weren't. Would you still be prosecuted? If you have been stopped by the police and they have checked your records then they must be suspecting that you are driving without due care.

What if you were holding a piece of fruit? I was told that there have been prosecutions for eating fruit and the person who told me also said that they had eaten fruit whilst driving many times. They also said they set off driving and put on their belt while they are slowly moving.

It strikes me that everyone is guilty of something especially when you have so many new laws coming out of Westminster that even the law makers can't keep up with them. It also strikes me that if the Government wanted to stop some aspect of bad driving then they could do so. What about a car that only starts when the belt is fastened? What about cars that don't go past the speed limit?

Change the world.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

The effects of stardom

There is a rumour (possibly vicious) that Simon Cowell is a smoker who smokes in the studio in a place which is not designated for smokers. He is fined for doing so but continues to smoke and pay fines. I don't know if there is any truth in this rumour but there are many examples of fines that are not related to income. How many rich sport stars hire top lawyers when they are in court? Not only is a fine nothing to them in comparison to the average wage earner, but top lawyers mean less convictions.

Tiger Woods is in the news because he has been involved in a car accident near his Florida home. The news also tells us that he is to blame for the crash. Ideally justice would relate to wealth if the penalty is financial. If there is a set fine then it becomes meaningless for the rich and you end up with one law for the rich and one law for the poor.

Simon Cowell, Tiger Woods and any other star should face two penalties. One for the law that they break and one because of the effect that this will have on anyone that looks up to them. When a football star abuses a referee then the Sunday footballer follows suite. When a celebrity drives recklessly then others will follow.

Change the world

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

The moral high ground

I wrote about the morality of owning two houses last week. If we have empty houses and people living on the streets then there should be some social pressure for us to house them. I know that some people will argue that homeless people want to be homeless and there is plenty of support for them. If they find one or two people who have chosen this way of life then anecdotally they are correct. It is freezing on the streets of Morecambe today so my anecdote is that I would not chose to be homeless and however good your net, some people get through.

There is also a moral question surrounding the ownership of large houses. If you live on your own and have six bedrooms then what do you do with them? Well you might have a really good reason to have so many rooms but when you get to the fifth empty bedroom then you are starting to lose the moral high ground. I can hear people reading this blog who are now saying "but I don't want to share my house however many spare bedrooms I have in my house". I don't want to advocate house sharing but there is still a question about ownership of large houses with rooms doing nothing when others are homeless. In Morecambe we know a thing or two about large boarding houses that are converted to flats.

House sharing may not be the answer for many but a mansion tax could help people think again about owning large houses. The Liberal Democrats were in the news yesterday because they were rethinking this tax. I thought that this was a good idea so I was surprised, only to find that in the next sentence the threshold was rising from one to two million pounds. OK the moral argument is stronger if your house is more expensive. I know the main reason for the tax is to improve the coffers but it does also play some part in the moral argument for housing the homeless.

Change the world

Monday, 30 November 2009

Third World Exploitation

Did you know that when you buy Panadol you are buying Paracetamol but paying a lot more for the name? If Joe Public can spend over the odds for something that is relatively straightforward then what chance do we have with relatively complex medicines on a world scale? What chance do we have if one company has a monopoly on a drug? We often see this from the point of view of the patient. If they received a particular drug then it could prolong their life but it is so expensive. One example is a drug called Nexavar that helps prolong life for those with liver cancer. Hower it costs around £3 000 per month so the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE - notice the irony of the acronym) get the criticism for saying that it is too expensive.

Why do NICE get criticised? Who says that the drug is so expensive? I haven't noticed drugs companies being hit by the recession. In fact they tend to do rather well especially when they can charge thousands of pounds for drugs. I won't mention the company but I was once part of a very nice two-day course in Cambridge and I jokingly praised the company for weeks afterwards, but someone has to pay for the free bar, the meals and the accomodation.

I did make a joke but it is a serious problem. Take Tamiflu. The company tells us that H1N1 is a more serious flu than we might think. I have heard of students who organise parties when they hear that one of their friends has the H1N1 virus, but for a moment let's take the company's point of view. Then why ia Tamiflu so expensive? Trials are conducted by universities and companies tend to come in at the later stages to produce the drug and get a patent. Poorer countries can't produce life-saving drugs unless under licence and even then the costs have rocketed. If the World Health Organisation are serious about health in poorer countries then they need to have a good look at the costs of production in the wealthy countries.

It is no use complaining of third world debt only to find that the poorer countries are poor because of exploitation. If we can be fooled into buying Panadol then we have a long way to go before we help the poor.

Change the world

Sunday, 29 November 2009

A comment on Iraq

I received a comment to Friday's blog but I only received it via email. I tried to post the comment myself but I couln't paste it, so today's blog isn't from me but it does fit in with what I remember...

I wrote this blog in 2003.

As far as I could make out:

The "good guys": We think you have weapons of mass destruction.

If you have weapons of mass destruction, we'll bomb the c**p out

of you.

Sadam: I don't have weapons of mass destruction.

The "good guys": Give us a dossier on everything you've got on

weapons of mass destruction or we'll bomb the c**p out of you.

Sadam: Here you go. I don't have weapons of mass destruction.

The "good guys": Let our weapons inspectors into Iraq to search

for weapons of mass destruction or we'll bomb the c**p out of


Sadam: Ok, let them in. I don't have weapons of mass


The "good guys": Right, we've had enough - our inspectors can't

find any weapons of mass destruction - we'll bomb the c**p out

of you.

A few months later...

BBC: After weeks of searching, the inspectors find nothing. We

think Sadam may have been bluffing when he claimed he had weapons

of mass destruction.

Hmm. anyway...

Today, two BBC news headlines - both on the front page

1 - Inspectors conclude no WMD in Iraq

2 - Saddam worse than thought - Straw

Under heading 2, the following paragraph:

But Mr Straw, speaking in Baghdad, said 'the threat from Saddam Hussein in terms of his intentions' was 'even starker than we have seen before'.

The intention of building WMDs is worse than the possession of WMDs???

Change the world

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Let's say the war was legal

There is continued news about the Iraq Inquiry so I will follow on from yesterday's blog. Sir Jeremy Greenstock, who at that time was the UK's ambassador to the UN, was questioned about whether we were right to go to war. He said the war was of "questionable legitimacy". I take this to mean that he doesn't know whether the war was legal. Slightly confusingly, he went on to say that the US and the UK had established its legitimacy and this had never been challenged in the courts. I think this means that we think the war was legal but nobody else does. If he is saying this and he is on our side what must our opponents be saying?

All the information that is coming out now was evident even in 2003 to anyone who was willing to do a bit of digging. It will be interesting to see how much difference it will make now that we don't have to dig. Our senses have been made dull by the passage of time and even the thousands who marched against the war will not give the same priority to the inquiry as they did to the war itself.

There must be a feeling in Downing Street that the inquiry will not tarnish Gordon Brown's record. This may be the case but I don't think Tony will be so lucky. If they both get away with it then this will be quite a trick, given that they were both more-or-less equally pro-war.

Let's see.

Change the world.

Friday, 27 November 2009

The spin continues

Did the House of Commons know perfectly well about the arguments for going to war? On Question Time yesterday Lord Falconer said that this was the case. My problem with this (among many) is that my Labour MP supported Tony Blair and then wrote in The Guardian that she was misled into war. Even now there is spin going on. We are told that we were not misled.

We are also told that Saddam had terrible plans and he deserved what he got. I do remember the reluctance of Saddam to allow inspections for weapons of mass destruction. I remember him allowing inspections and then finding nothing and then the war started. I also remember millions of people protesting at the time. I also remember that we went in without UN support.

There was "no smoking gun" and my selective memory recalls no evidence of weapons of mass destruction. However now we are being told that selective memories should choose to remember that Saddam taunted us with these weapons and we had to take his threats seriously. The spin continues.

Change the world

Thursday, 26 November 2009

G20 Review

Back in April I wrote about the police tactics in the G20 protests. A review of these tactics is due out tomorrow and is expected to recommend improved training for the police. It is not difficult to remember the incidents shown on television when protestors were hit by batons when speaking to the police. There will be recommendations about the use of "force". There will also be talk of "kettling" in which protestors are contained in confined areas and the confinement could last hours. Stories were heard of people who were not protesting, they were just in the wrong area at the wrong time, and they found themselves held for hours. If don't think this is a bad tactic then just think that you are in that position and imagine that you want to go to the toilet. Then add on a few hours.

The main reason I wanted to write this blog is because I heard a protestor talk about legitimate demonstrations. I would have liked him to talk about legitimate demonstrations and illegitimate demonstrations, and then talk about how the police should deal with the breaking of the law. How often do we see blinkers going on. In this case the protestors don't mention that there are other people who legitimately want to go about their business but can't use their street because of a demonstration. There will also be a recommendation that communication should be improved between protestors and the police. It's not just a problem for the police as communication goes both ways.

Change the world

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Compensation Culture

The National Accident Helpline have just advertised their service on TV. It was the advert in which an office worker slips on the floor and manages to make a successful claim. I didn't pay too much attention but I think they tell us that she got a few thousand pounds. I imagine that this was because there were no signs to say wet floor. However a lot of people can't read so it may be that the company did not have someone next to the water telling people that the floor was wet.

About ten years ago my daughter broke her arm. She had fallen off her bike. A couple of weeks later she was in the centre of town with my wife. Someone saw the plaster and ran across the road to them to ask if she wanted to make a claim. We didn't claim but it made me think whether bike shops should have signs saying "you may fall off this bike" or whether councils should have signs saying "these roads are hard".

I can see the point of compensation where negiligence is evident but the recent case of a youngster who was attacked by another child reminded me of Bart Simpson. Bart lost in court because it turns out that he didn't lose any income and he quite enjoyed being off school.

I recently overheard two people talking about whiplash injuries and how it is worth a few thousand pounds as long as they say they have an injury. There is nothing wrong with advertising but it seems to me that there must be a lot of times when compensation claims for injury are based on a compensation culture.

Change the world

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

How do you define murder?

An article on yesterday's BBC news related to yesterday's Panorama. It was about murder convictions for people who were not directly involved in the violence and there was an interview with the mother of a murderer who felt an injustice had been performed. There was also an interview with the wife of Garry Newlove who was kicked to death by a gang outside his home in Warrington. She thought that justice had been done.

So are you a murderer if you stand by and watch the person next to you murder someone? The law obviously says this is a possibility. I don't have any knowledge of the detail of this attack, but what I do know is that if I stood next to a someone who was killing someone else then I would feel guilty if I did nothing. I may even feel guilty if I did my best to stop it, and I would find it really hard to feel innocent.

We should let the courts decide who is the murderer. If we have a law that says bystanders are always innocent then that law is not just.

Change the world

Monday, 23 November 2009

A mansion tax is a good start

Should empty houses be given to the homeless? This was one of the questions on BBC1's The Big Question on Sunday. The point was that if a home is empty and people are homeless then there is a moral obligation to use it for the homeless. However there is also ownership. We all own things that we don't want others to have, not just houses. If we are lucky enough to have another house then what right does someone else have to live in it?

Houses are not just homes. They are a business if you are a landlord. They are an investment for others. There was one person who made a point of only creating squats from houses that were not used. He could tell if the house was being used by putting something against the door which would fall off if the door were opened. I am not sure of the point of this because I think ownership, not just use of a house is a fairly important point in a capitalist society. Why draw the line at an empty house. What about houses that are too big? If you don't use a room should it be given to someone who is homeless?

The organiser of the squats was due to gain ownership of many expensive houses because the genuine owners may have not been too genuine and were not willing to come forward to claim ownership. Just because there are some rogues who 'own' expensive houses does not mean that others can break in and claim it for themselves.

We do have an obligation to house people but we shouldn't do this by making the Robin Hoods millionaires. A mansion tax wouldn't be a bad start.

Change the world

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Let referees make mistakes

If you are Irish there is no doubt about the political question of the week. It is should Ireland have a replay with France for a place in next year's world cup? Not only do the Irish have the question of the week, they also have the answer and it is yes. Politicians have become involved even if they are all Irish so I will continue with this blog as the heading is politics for novices, not sporting cheats for novices.

Henri says he didn't cheat, as it was just instinct that made him touch the ball. If that is instinct then he has carefully honed his instincts to look like cheating. He must have trained hard to put the ball in front of his feet with his hand. In my book this is called cheating. However, in other chapters of my book there are all sorts of football cheats. There are those who roll over four times to get their opponent sent off. If you are seriously injured then you don't move. There are the cheats who back into opponents and then fall over. Some cheats pull shirts. I was once asked which upper limb muscles are useful in football. I replied those that are used for pulling shirts. You only have to listen to the comments on Match of the Day to hear many ways in which players may cheat.

So now that we have established that football is full of cheats we can't really blame Henri because the same commentators often tell us that players should go down to get a penalty. They often tell us how the referee was wrong. The crowd are even quicker in telling us how wrong referees can be, and if you don't respect the decisions of referees then you open the flood gates for questioning every decision.

The answer is to respect referees. In rugby the referee is right even when they are wrong. Wouldn't it be nice to go to a football ground and not hear abuse from the crowd. If we want to clean up the game and get rid of cheats we have to start by allowing referees to make mistakes.

Change the world

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Another example of misguided conviction

Yesterday's blog reminded me of when I attended Any Questions at Morecambe High School. John Hutton was the Labour representative and he had just been appointed as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, so it must have been November 2005. The subject of benefit fraud arose and Mr Hutton certainly had conviction when he criticised the Liberal Democrats for not saying a word about this subject. His conviction got cheers from the Labour supporters some of whom were sat behind me.

Lembit Opik was quick with his response by saying that the Liberal Democrats had lots of policies which John Hutton didn't know about. Furthermore Lembit would send them to him and with great generosity he could keep any that he wanted. However the Labour supporters had had their moment by thinking that the Liberal Democrats had no policies.

I went home and searched the 2005 manifestos. Quelle surprise. The only mention that I found of benefit fraud was in the Liberal Democrats manifesto.

I am pleased that John Hutton is standing down at the next election. I didn't think much of his comments on any subject but this particular instance shows the man to be opportunistic and uninformed. If you cannot trust his words when spoken with conviction (and cheered) then when could you trust them?

Change the world

Friday, 20 November 2009

Parachutes aren't big enough for Cyril

I like political debate. I like to listen to it, to write about it and to take part in it. I was recently involved in a conversation about Cyril Smith. I also like Cyril. I met him a couple of years ago and I was able to tell him that I had heard him speak many times and I had never heard anything that I didn't agree with. I didn't mention that I had only heard him three or four times, but he had spoken at length so there was a lot with which I could disagree.

Anyway, back to the recent debate. It was a Labour party activist who told me that he didn't like Cyril, probably because he had been "parachuted in" to claim the Rochdale seat for the Liberals. I knew that Cyril had a strong Rochdale accent. I knew he had been involved in local politics before becoming an MP. However, even though I have followed politics for many years, I didn't know if he had moved away from Rochdale for a short time. I went home and looked on the internet and saw no reference to any parachutes. I saw the same activist yesterday and I was able to tell him that they didn't make parachutes big enough for Cyril. He accepted it without a second thought.

The moral of this story is don't believe everything you hear even if it is said with conviction.

Change the world

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Dennis Skinner's joke

I saw the queen's speech today. All the pomp and ceremony was fine but the highlight was Dennis Skinner who said *here comes the Royal expenses" (or something like that) when the MPs were called to see the queen. Prior to the queen's speech there was a comment from Peter Mandelson about the need for the queen to go through this ceremony and tell of the government's intentions even when there was no hope of passing the legislation. It may be that one or two bills do get passed but I see the point of the question. Peter continued by saying that if there was no speech then the opposition would say that the government had run out of steam.

Later in the morning a Conservative spokesperson said the queen's speech was purely about political posturing for the general election. Nick Clegg's comment was that the whole thing was a waste of time. We have Labour saying that they have to go through the motions for positive reasons, Tories saying they are going through the motions for negative reasons and Nick Clegg saying stop going through the motions, it's a wasted effort. There seems to be widespread agreement that nothing will happen so let's stop wasting tax payers money. I smiled when I heard Dennis Skinner but whether you support the royal family or not, it does look like we are wasting her time and our money.

Change the world

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

The hallmark of a civilized society

Care for the elderly is a priority for Gordon Brown. He is set to announce that Labour will prioritise free care at home for 280 000 people if they win the next election. I don't know what this means. I think the number is based on frailest come first but I don't know what constitutes frailty and I don't know the cut off point. Wouldn't it be nice to know that if you can only walk 20 yards you get benefit but if you can walk 30 yards you don't.

The biggest problem for me is that we already have a culture of the elderly sitting at home in their coats so that the heating doesn't have to go on. You can almost see the image of the elderly being dragged out of their homes because they would have to pay if they needed to stay in a care home. Luckily these people would be frail.

Headlines are often made when houses are lost to pay for care. We will still be faced with these headlines, maybe not for the frail at home, but with the more frail in care homes. According to Mr Brown, how a country looks after its elderly is a "hallmark of a civilized society".Then why is England so far behind Scotland?

Change the world

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

The costs of immigration

I tried to post a comment on Sunday 16th November to a blog by Charlotte in Blackburn whose blog name is CharlotteinBlackburn. She was telling us that it cost £13 billion per year to support immigration and the main parties don't want to tell us this. So I checked the internet because the figure didn't make much sense to me and I wanted a better explanation of the costs. I couldn't find a simple answer. I tried to comment on her blog but it wouldn't let me so here is my comment.

I have been looking for the costs of immigration and the internet isn't keen on letting us know either. I only looked for 15 minutes but I am still not sure whether immigrants contribute more to public revenues than they receive in benefits. I think you have to be careful with lies, damn lies and statistics, but what I do know is that employers don't choose European workers because it is an easy answer. I also know that I hope if I worked abroad that I would be treated with respect.

Isn't it strange how we in Britain expect that we can do what we want anywhere in the world, but we don't give the same opportunities to anyone else from abroad. We even show resentment when immigrants work here and help us.

I read another of her blogs in which she was talking about living in the land of free speech (November 3rd). Unfortunately I don't think that she will see the irony of not allowing comments on her blog. Lets hope she reads mine.

Change the world

Monday, 16 November 2009

Merry Christmas

I was talking to someone yesterday who will be glad when Christmas is over. I said think of the children but her children have grown up. Her opinion, of course is what happens if you put the emphasis on commercialising Christmas. In this case it isn't about Christ. It's not about exchanging presents. It's not about bank holidays. It's about spending money. If you are not a Christian it is easy to see Christmas as a commercial venture and even as a Christian there is no getting away from the importance of the business side of Christmas.

I have started to hear Christmas music in the shops but I shouldn't be surprised because Bonfire Night has been and gone. I understand that the lights went on in Lancaster yesterday and we even had someone from Britain's Got Talent to switch them on. So it is obviously still very important to some! It would be nice to have a Christmas that has a Hollywood sentiment like those seen in A Christmas Carol or It's a Wonderful Life, but from my conversation it seems much more likely that Christmas will be a time for consumerism.

Change the world (and Merry Christmas).

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Politicians have a bad name anyway

Yesterday the BNP voted to change its constitution to allow non-whites to join. The choice was change or become illegal so I wonder how the debate went. "Let's vote - all those in favour of letting non-whites into the party. All those who want to become illegal". It's a bit like asking turkeys whether they want to vote for Christmas.

In practice this means no difference. Nick Griffin talked about the duress involved in the change. Of course attitudes haven't changed and I am not sure how this change will actually change anything apart from giving the BNP more publicity. Nick Griffin went on to say that if non-whites did join the party then they would be welcomed. Does this make any sense to you? They don't want non-white members and they change the constitution under duress. Are they seriously trying to say that they now welcome the opportunities that are brought about by the change?

Politicians have a bad enough name anyway and it isn't helped by the BNP talking nonsense.

Change the world

Saturday, 14 November 2009

The price of freedom

How do you view freedom? Is it liberating to have CCTV because we can walk safely through the town centre? Is there a great liberty in holding an identity card so that criminals can be named at once. Should we have our DNA on record so that convictions would be so much easier? How about security shutters on every shop window in the country?

The problem with these liberating ideas is that if they go unchecked you end up with a Sylvester Stallone science fiction type vision of the future. We end up spending more on security than we have possessions that we are securing. There is an argument that says "I have done nothing wrong so I have nothing to fear from these measures". The person that says they have done nothing wrong is a liar so should be sent to prison (please note ironic tone). Take speeding in a car for example. Is there a driver who has never exceeded the speed limit? If everyone pays for the latest technology in burglar alarms then they are a very expensive means of providing no deterrent at all.

If you advocate CCTV then either the mugging continues because it is not a deterrent, or it goes on around the corner because it is. The same with DNA. It either makes criminals consider the crime in terms of avoiding detection and they change the crime, or it doesn't and the crime continues. Our prisons are already full so the greater detection will cripple the country.

Do we want to live in a country where everyone is presumed guilty? If you treat people like criminals they start behaving like them. Would you prefer a society in which people are dealt with respectfully. According to Thomas Jefferson the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. You can add to that with the financial costs of CCTV, security shutters, more and more locks, more prisons, DNA records, police officers like Sylvester Stallone on every street corner...

Change the world

Friday, 13 November 2009

Negotiations in an ideal world

Last week I took a letter to the Post Office and they told me that there may be a delay. Although it was a little inconvenient I took it from Morecambe to Lancaster myself. Ironically there happened to be no delay with the postal service. However just because there was a possibility of disruption then the Post Office lost my business. I am guessing that a strike before Christmas is now less likely and the Post Office management and unions are working out their differences. Wouldn't it be nice if both sides actually looked at what was best for the business as well as the employees rather than taking one side or the other.

In an ideal world management should be looking after the best interests of the whole business including the staff. In an ideal world there would be no need for unions. What a shame that the world is not ideal.

Change the world.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Is lowering charges unprofessional?

I am a part-time photographer. See my blog and for the first time yesterday I received an album from Italy. It is one of those albums in which the photos are printed directly onto the page. I looked at the charges from other photographers and deducted a few hundred pounds. I wasn't sure of the exact costs as there are so many variables, but now that I have my first album I know that I can lower my prices even more.

I was a physiotherapist till 2008 and I worked in the NHS. I never worked privately but if I had done so I was told that there was no maximum charge. However I should not undercut the standard charges as this was unprofessional. My dilemma, and I could do with your help on this one, is that as a photographer I believe in a fair day's wage for a fair day's work which means undercutting other prices. I see this as using market forces to maximise potential in the business (that means make more money). This is capitalism at work, but are my actions in lowering the prices unprofessional or could it be the right thing to do in the present economic climate?

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Wednesday, 11 November 2009

When does drinking become excessive?

When does drinking become excessive? The problem is that people have a drink and enjoy it and then don't realise it is a problem if they drink excessively. We have medical recommendations to limit our alcohol intake but there can be no hard and fast rules because we are all different. Some people act as if they are drunk after one drink.

The difficult part is to know when a very social activity becomes a problem. It may be a problem because it is medically harmful and it may also be a problem because it hurts the wallet. There are more serious social aspects. Do you go out for a fight after a drink or could it lead to domestic violence? Could it be the cause of drink driving which leads to a death?

Before we can deal with excessive drinking we have to decide what is alright and what is not. Is it OK to get really drunk if it is just once per year at Christmas? What about once per month or once per week? Is it alright to drink fourteen pints per day if you are a teenager (like William Hague)?

I think acceptability does vary with age but so too does response to alcohol. If you sing better, get more sociable or play better snooker then alcohol is good. The bottom line for limiting excessive drinking is how it affects others. If you hurt others either physically, financially or even cause them to pick you up off the floor then it's time for restraint.

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Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Falling TV standards

The national TV news has shown us a video from The Sun in which a mother whose son has died, calls Gordon Brown's letter of sympathy a "hastily scrawled insult". Gordon's spelling did let him down and he apologised for that. Now I don't know our PM personally but I am fairly sure that he didn't deliberately set out to insult anyone. In fact I think that he thinks it is his duty to console the families of our fallen soldiers. It also looks to me like he takes this role extremely seriously and handwritten notes are part of his plan.

I am not a Gordon Brown fan so I won't go on, but the main point I want to make is about the standard of journalism that allows this news item to make the headlines. Television has fallen to the levels of The Sun. It is tabloid journalism that we don't normally find on TV.

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Monday, 9 November 2009

Driving again

I drove from Morecambe to Sutton Coldfield yesterday. I have written about driving recently and it gone some response so I will try again. If you leave the M6 at junction 12, turn left and drive along the A5 you are driving along the former Roman road called Watling Street. You may know that the Romans built straight roads and Watling Street was no exception - until they built the M6 Toll road.

The first thing to notice about the A5 is that there are probably more signs telling you that there are speed cameras than there are signs that tell you the speed. Experts of the highway code may tell me that they can identify the limits at any point, but I can't. I shout out the limit every time I see it. Then we pass a roundabout and I am never quite sure if the speed limit was the same on the other roads, in particular the one I am taking. Never mind. I'll soon see a sign telling me there are speed cameras. Things have improved over the years and there are a few more speed limit signs but I think that there are still more camera signs.

What hasn't improved is the signage for the directions to Sutton Coldfield and back to the motorway. I used to know my route exactly. Now I have to follow signs for Birmingham. On the way back I am told that to get to the motorway I can follow M6 Toll (no thanks) or A5. Yes please. If I follow other signs for the M6 I would be on the toll road. It's a good job I know the way.

Change the world.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

A question of sport

How do you distinguish valid sports from barbarism? For example there was a recent report that rugby injuries are getting worse as the players become stronger and fitter. Sometimes these injuries are caused by players who are not acting within the laws of the game. At what stage should the police become involved rather than a referee? How do you label ice dance a sport when it is marked on artistic merit? How do you label darts a sport when it is played in a pub and not a sports field?

There are lots of contentious areas when addressing sport but I want to save the rest of this blog for boxing. Boxers are fit and the better ones spend many more hours in a gym than they do in a pub. There are definite aims and nobody thinks about using artistic merit as a means of finding a winner. The problem for me is that the aim is to knock your opponent out. It's not quite barbaric because there are rules to follow and there is a referee in the ring but weren't some barbarians fairly organised?

David Haye fought Nikolai Valuev last night. I don't know the result because I am writing this on Saturday before the fight. What I do know is David is 7st lighter and has to look up at his opponent who is over a foot taller. Perhaps more importantly he has to dodge punches from a much longer arm than his own.

I hope that neither boxer is injured even though this is the obvious aim of stepping into the ring. Players do get injured on the rugby pitch but the aim is to score more points than the opposing team.

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Saturday, 7 November 2009

Cameron's hypocritical stance

Occasionally you see photos of politicians with their families. It sets the scene as the prospective MP as a family member. It may tell you something about their values but it probably just tells you that they have a family. They must think that being a family member wins votes. The problem with this is that if family members are useful as political propaganda then they are also useful for political criticism and the MPs don't have a defence if family members make the news.

A similar line could be taken when MPs mention their religion. They hope that their participation reflects positively on them. Politicians expect their private life to make the news because they put themselves forward for criticism - hopefully positive. Today (6th November) David Cameron has told us about the importance of his Christian faith. He also tells us that his faith becomes "hotter and colder by moments" but he does not pray for guidance.

David wants the best of both worlds. He wants the religious vote but he also wants the secular vote. Humility is a fine Christian attribute but not one commonly found in politicians. God is important to the Conservative leader but not that important. If you have "faith" then the least you could do is ask for guidance. Unfortunately for him, his religious viewpoint just leads to a hypocritical conclusion.

Change the world

Friday, 6 November 2009

Interesting times ahead for Cameron on Europe

Politicians are notorious for answering their own questions and not the ones they have been asked to answer. Life is complicated and often there is no easy answer. That's why I like to start blogs by stating the obvious. This time the obvious is that the Conservatives are split over Europe. Why should this be? Ted Heath took us into the European Economic Community in 1971 but complaints about loss of sovereignty (otherwise known as working in Europe) have led many Tories to become Eurosceptics.

We need to work with the rest of Europe. Nobody would argue with trade agreements. Can we have trade agreements without ties over law and order, immigration, the environment, fishing, defence... Well yes but if we are not part of Europe then we have to agree with what we are told. The alternative is to have no influence.

David Cameron is trying to look after the anti-Europe block within his party. He has an uphill struggle. David Davis' continuing insistence on a referendum even when it was clear that David Cameron was set on dropping that commitment can be seen as a direct challenge to theTory leader. But even Mr. Davis isn't set to be such a thorn in the side to Mr. Cameron as Daniel Hannan is. Daniel Hannan, the Tory MEP whose hero is Enoch Powell and who has described the NHS as a mistake, is the sort of character for whom the word "maverick" seems to have been coined, but he is not without influence. I predict interesting times ahead.

Change the world.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Some thoughts on driving yesterday

I went to my son's graduation yesterday. I drove from Morecambe to Chester (see my photography blog) and it really rained hard while I was driving. If I hadn't been driving I could have taken a photo of the sign that said "take extra care at roadworks". You would have seen that it was quite hard to see this sign because of the heavy rain. It wasn't the best time to drive and this roadsign was definitely a further distraction. It could easily have read "take extra care when reading signs".

I also saw a minor crash in the centre of Chester. One driver decided to stop in the middle of a busy road and allow pedestrians to cross. It was hit from behind. Now I know that you always have to drive with care and be aware that cars may stop in front of you. If there is a collision it is always the fault of the car at the back, but I couldn't help thinking that the first car shouldn't have stopped.

There was no problem travelling back in the afternoon but traffic was heavy in the morning and we were delayed by congestion and an accident. We still managed to get to Chester on time. the heavy rain in the aftenoon didn't slow traffic down too much either and traffic was hardly delayed even with the accident in Chester. It doesn't seem to matter where I go, the traffic is heaviest between Morecambe and Lancaster.

Change the world.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Don't believe everything you read

A couple of weeks ago I allowed someone to hijack my blog with many comments that were nothing to do with my blog entry. They wrote a comment which related to their agenda and had nothing to do with my blog. It was definitely spam. The same thing happened a couple of days ago but this time I didn't publish it. I know this is not liberal of me so I will tell you about it. A propos of nothing the subject of the comment was the American Democratic Party.

The comment criticised the Democrats and tried to persuade party members to stop funding the Party. They tried to tell me that the Democrats are both communist and fascist. That takes some doing. The comment did include a website which contained vague expressions of disgruntlement which I presume was trying to strike a chord with disgruntled Democrats.

The website made a big thing out of being Democrats who wanted to reform the Democratic Party but it is much more likely that they are Republicans masquerading as Democrats. Don't believe everything you read.

Change the world

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Genuine benefit cheats?

There is an advert on TV about benefit thieves. There are two actors or genuine benefit thieves who describe how they have carried out their theft. One person describes how he did some work but didn't declare it. The detail doesn't really matter as I don't think they are giving anyone ideas for lying about benefits.

What matters is that these people are either actors and so they are lying, or they are genuine benefit cheats and this begs the question as to whether they are being paid as a result of their crimes. If they are genuine criminals then crime does pay. If they are genuine then people may prefer to become criminals on the grounds that short-term benefits (no pun intended) are obvious and long-term benefits may be above board. If they are actors then the general public may prefer to place their trust in the 'honest' cheats and move into a life of crime.

What would I have done if I were in charge of the advertising against benefit cheats? That's easy. I wouldn't have taken the perspective of the criminals.

Change the world

Monday, 2 November 2009

Harriet is wrong

According to Harriet Harman MPs should not be forced to sack relatives. Although we haven't heard it yet, there is an expectation that Sir Christopher Kelly's advice will be that MPs don't employ relatives. Joe Public thinks that all MPs are in it for their own good. They are all the same.

It is no use saying that I have not claimed any expenses or that I have paid out a lot of money to take part in politics. It is no use saying that money for my political activity is nothing to do with money from the unions or from big business. It may be that relatives of MPs are doing good jobs for the constituents but it is really hard for Joe Public to differentiate between the best person for the job and nepotism. And that's why Harriet is wrong

I am sorry for all the good workers who may have to lose their jobs but I am more sorry for the standing of our politics and politicians. If we are to rebuild faith in the system then sacrificies have to be made.We may get rid of nepotism too.

Change the world

Sunday, 1 November 2009

David Cameron's extreme image

Can you remember any of President Obama's policies that got him elected? Well there was something about health and I remember that he doesn't want to follow the British system. But wasn't that after the election? I also remember a lot of hostility to change, presumably from the powerful private health care lobby. The point is that image is often more important than policy. It was time for change in America and they got change.

So what sort of image is David Cameron portraying, in particular what are his party's views on Europe? Well they aren't mainstream. He hasn't aligned himself with the major right of centre parties. In fact he looked for support from the political fringes and he is facing criticism from many sources for his tactics of writing to the Czech president Vaclav Klaus. It doesn't matter that the Conservatives have abandoned the main centre-right grouping. It doesn't matter to him that their allies include fringe parties from the hard right. It matters to him that they show antipathy towards Europe.

Well I am afraid it does matter. David Cameron has isolated himself in Europe. It matters that his allies are extremists because regardless of extreme policies, this image of extreme allies will be remembered.

Change the world

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Grown-up drugs debate

Many years ago I took a course with the Open University called Health and Disease. One of the things that I remember from the course is that aspirin is a powerful drug and if it had been discovered today then it would only be available on prescription. There are obvious social factors in how we legalisise our drugs. Many of the illegal drugs were once legal and many drugs, even though they are legal like alcohol are much more harmful than legal ones.

Today Professor David Nutt has been sacked by the government. He was an advisor. In fact he was head of the Advisory council on the Misuse of Drugs. Part of his advice was that he felt the govenment was wrong for reclassifying cannabis from a class C to classB drug. This is the same person who has also claimed that "taking ecstasy is no more dangerous than riding a horse". Perhaps an open debate on risk should include some sports and hobbies that we would not consider dangerous. The NHS has to deal with riding injuries just as it does with the misuse of drugs.

There is a risk of death with ecstasy. The Daily Mail will tell you that, but how many lives could have been saved if it were legal? How does this compare with alcohol related deaths? I am not condoning the use of illegal drugs but there is a social context that allows more harmful drugs to be legal. When this is pointed out by an advisor it turns out that the advice is not wanted so he gets the sack. Let's have a grown-up debate.

Change the world.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Safety nets and disablity

When you have a safety net you get a poverty trap. That means that if you have a benefit then someone who doesn't quite fit the requirements for the benefit will have to work hard to get a similar amount to someone who is not employed. In fact they may get less because they have to pay to get to and from work.

There are other benefits that may not even have a financial gain but have a similar trap. If you have a disabled badge you can park in places that others can't. I have seen someone park in a disabled spot and walk their dog around a park. I also see very large and expensive 4x4 vehicles in disabled parking places. It may be that disability benefit allows people to drive a more expensive car but there is a certain irony that a disabled badge goes with a vehicle for which you need a certain level of fitness.

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Thursday, 29 October 2009

One rule for one

In 2006 14 people died because a Nimrod crashed in Afghanistan. The plane should not have been flying but safety concerns were secondary to financial targets. Obviously this is a tragedy of the highest order and to admit that finance is the root cause must be hard for everyone who was involved.

How many times do we say in our home that we will make do. Many domestic fires are caused by old electrical equipment. Do we know the age of the wiring in our house and the hidden dangers behind our walls?

There is a big difference between an old electric blanket and a business that knows of serious danger and continues to ask its employees to take a risk - especially when that employee has no choice but to follow orders. If an individual does not have the correct certificates for their domestic wiring then they can face legislation. I wonder which legislation is facing the government.

Change the world

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

New roads in Europe

Have you travelled through northern Spain? There is a new road that takes you across the country in a fraction of the time it took prior to this road. It is a feat of civil engineering spanning several estuaries. I understand that Ireland's infrastructure and economy have been transformed by new roads. People tell me that roads are transforming the whole of Europe and they also tell me that funding has come from Europe.

There is a trend to improve transport to benefit individuals, companies and the economy. A couple of days ago I wrote about the opposition to the Morecambe link road. While the rest of Europe celebrates its new roads we tend to complain. There are genuine reasons to complain as long as you are prepared for European money to go to the rest of Europe and not here, and as long as you are prepared for your economy to fall behind the rest of Europe.

Change the world

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Blame the side that obstructs arbitration

I live fairly close to the centre of Great Britain. If you count the islands then it is Dunsop Bridge and if you don't count them it is Whalley. So if I wanted to set up a private postal business then it may be good to start from this area. However you may find that most of your business comes from the cities and there is not so much to send to the islands. If I am asked to deliver a parcel to a Scottish island then it is going to cost me a lot more than sending one to Manchester. Now times are hard so I can either put the price up for Scotland or I can subsidise it. But times are very hard so I decide to confine my business to the cities.

A private postal service is bound to have an advantage over the Royal Mail. They will choose the profitable services and leave the letters that are sent up farm tracks. Royal Mail is on a loser and times have to change. There has to be modernisation. but it is the role of the union to look after its members and to get the best terms and conditions of employment. That's what management has to do and that's what the unions have to do.

Strikes are not an easy option but if there is a breakdown in communication and a strike is called then it isn't the fault of one side. There seems to be a lot of one-sided criticisms in this dispute. It should be easy to discover why ACAS are not involved so let's blame the side that are obstructing arbitration.

Change the world

Monday, 26 October 2009

Morecambe to the motorway and beyond

Is traffic a problem everywhere? I drove to the other side of Lancaster today (Sunday 25th October) and many routes were impassable. I was reminded of one person who told me that he thought the traffic between Morecambe and Lancaster was as bad as anywhere outside London. However since the congestion charge he reckoned our traffic was the worst anywhere. Today I was very lucky and the route that I took only added ten minutes to my journey. Others were stuck for a lot longer. This problem is not unusual here as it occurs every single day at rush hour and at many other less predictable times.

So how do you deal with this problem? It has been going on for years and Lancaster is in the fortunate position of being next in line for a link road from Morecambe to the M6. Unfortunately there are many objectors. The objections are also many. They include objections to the route as there is a NIMBY and an environmental factor and there are also people who still wish to argue that an alternative route to the M6 should be chosen even though this was rejected years ago. It is easy to counter a NIMBY argument. I would even argue against the environmental arguments because traffic jams aren't good for the environment.

Other people emphasise the fact that the link road will make little difference to the traffic through Lancaster. This is a good point. Traffic has been increasing over the years so maybe we don't need a crystal ball to see that it will continue to increase. Maybe in the long term we won't travel in cars at all and the link road will not be needed but in the short and medium term we will not be moving quickly from Morecambe to the motorway. Even this good point does not deal with the link road doing what it says on the tin and getting the people of Morecambe to the motorway so in fact this argument is misleading.

Let's have better public transport. Let's have park and ride schemes. Let's encourage the use of bikes. Let's have people work near where they live. Let's have lots of other things too which help our environment but if you live in Morecambe wouldn't it be nice to use a link road to actually link to the motorway.

The short and medium term alternatives for anyone from Morecambe or any Morecambe business that has to use the motorway is move away from Morecambe. This is not a good conclusion for Morecambe so I hope we get the link road asap. I wonder if the town council sees things the same way!

Change the world

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Why do we change the clocks?

Today is a significant day in our calendar because the clocks go back and Greenwich mean time will soon be with us. I post blogs at five past midnight so it hasn't started yet but we all have to change our clocks and watches if we haven't done so already. So why do we change the hours?

British summer time is also known as daylight saving time and it is to give more time in the summer evenings for people to socialise. Winston Churchill was in favour of BST. He thought that it increases "the opportunities for the pursuit of health and happiness among the millions of people who live in this country". There are other reasons why we change the hours that include protecting our children because they go to school and get home in daylight hours.

Another reason that we change the hour is because the cows have to milked and daylight is much better for this. It is also said that the number of deaths on the road is decreased because of the change in the hour.

Well there must be a better answer. Nowadays the "pursuit of health and happiness" is not affected by the hour change. People go to gyms and sports stadia and they all have artificial lighting. The nation's greatest pastime, shopping is now all day and all night. Children soon come home in the dark and this obviously doesn't work in the depths of winter or even when we have exceptional bad weather. If we were really concerned about the safety of our children caused by the dangers of darkness then school hours should be seasonal.

I am not sure about the evidence for deaths on the road but it strikes me that the more obvious answer is to do with improving rush hours rather than change our clocks. As for the cows this must be the most ludicrous reason for change - they can't tell the time!

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Saturday, 24 October 2009

Exposing the BNP

"Nick Griffin was bullied. David Dimbleby was a disgrace. Members of the public have been persuaded by BNP policies". These were some of the views expressed on Radio 5 immediately after Question Time. The majority view was that Nick Griffin came off badly in the debate. He gave confused answers and his bigotry was exposed.

Other criticisms of the programme were that too much time was taken up with the BNP but compare this with criticisms that their policies were not discussed. I was interested to hear a little more on policy on the radio. The BNP councillor is a Leeds fan and felt the example of foreign footballers playing for Leeds was an extreme example of immigration policy. When pressed on the issue, because football is a business like any other, he was willing to concede that footballers could come over for five years as long as they went back. I'm not sure where five years comes from but can we now presume that five years applies to architects, doctors, entertainers and cleaners?

So did the BNP come off well or were they exposed as racists? I think that BNP supporters have a further vehicle to support their views. They'll claim that they must be a mainstream party because they have been on Question Time. However, the fact that discussion totally avoided pressing issues such as the economy, on which the BNP has nothing to say, shows how far from the mainstream the BNP actually is; and those who oppose the BNP have more ammunition to attack their non-mainstream racist policies. With all the exposure in the world there will still be racists around so they will vote for the party with racist policies.

Change the world

Friday, 23 October 2009

Wrong end of the stick

I saw the protest as Nick Griffin entered TV Centre. The organiser of the protest was possibly arrested but he was definitely taken away by the police. So the BBC interviewed a London Labour MP. I missed his first couple of sentences but then he said he wanted to keep the British way of life which is about tolerance, equality and freedom for all. I thought he wanted to support Nick Griffin but he was definitely protesting.

He said that these types of ideologies should not be encouraged or supported. I agree with that but the BBC's role is to represent the views of our democracy and not to drive people underground. If the BNP break the law then they should face the consequences. What right do the BBC have to suppress their views? The answer is obviously none and this undermines the Labour MPs argument. I am sure Nick Griffin will expose this bigotry. He is a very clever man but the main point should be whether his bigotry can be exposed.

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