Saturday, 27 June 2009

Is childhood fame all it is cracked up to be?

Michael Jackson is taking all the headlines today (26th June). The first question on Any Questions is about him. Is being a child star a or a curse? I wouldn't mind a bit of fortune and fame but some people handle it better than others. I don't think Michael Jackson handled it particulary well. He has had a chequered past and perhaps in his fifty years he has done a lot more than most people will do in their lifetimes.

President Obama described part of Michael Jackson's life as sad and tragic. I think it would have been sad and tragic with or without the fame and fortune. Every actor, every musician, every performer of any kind has to have adrenaline running through their blood. It is exciting and stressful at the same time.

Part of Michael Jackson's past has included his times in court. Maybe it is better for him to die at the age of 50. He has had a full life and the overwhelming reaction from the public has been that Michael Jackson was their hero.

I have no objections to child stars as long as the children can cope with the fame. When Hollie Steel broke down on stage during the Britain's Got Talent show I felt sorry for her but I don't think her reactions would have been any different if it had been an audience of tens, hundreds, thousands or millions. I felt more sorry for all the other contestants. None of them would have been given a second chance.

Change the world.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Returns to the nearest penny?

Today (25th June) there is talk about the expenses paid out for BBC employees, or at least the top 100. Is there now a battle to be the 101st top employee in the BBC? Should we know what is paid to the nearest penny?

I put in expense returns last week for eight candidates in the recent election. I did this to the best of my ability. If a leaflet was for three of those candidates I would cross-reference each return to the invoice and indicate that a third of the cost was related to each of those candidates. These returns were rounded to the nearest penny. On the same day I saw the expenses of the MPs and it looked like their expenses were often rounded to the nearest hundred pounds.

If you look at my French blog you will see that I have seen High Society for the second time because I was a volunteer. I sold raffle tickets and did one or two other jobs. When I took my raffle money back I wanted to make sure that the money tallied with the number of tickets sold. I was two pounds out! I was concerned at this but the person taking the money off me was reassuring and even told me not to count the tickets. Sometimes the nearest penny or even the nearest pound shouldn't matter - what are you going to do about it except make people worry? i am thankful to that person. I didn't pocket two pounds but I may have dropped it as I was holding the money and tickets in one hand.

Let's see both sides of the expenses debate. Give some responsibilty to individuals but not to the extent where hundreds of pounds can be lost.

Change the world

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Taxis and Bus Lanes

On the 9th June I wrote about the votes that had gone to UKIP and the BNP. I got one comment that asked for local policies from the Liberal Democrats and from the Morecambe Bay Independent Party. I don't have the MBI manifesto but in future blogs I can take a look at their promises for Morecambe which can be found on their leaflet.

I have been writing about some of the things that Liberal Democrats have been doing. During the election all candidates were asked about the use of bus lanes by taxis. We discussed the pros and cons and decided to support the taxi drivers. They have been looking for support for years and we have been told about communication problems between taxi drivers and the council.

The advantages include a more efficient taxi service, lower costs for taxi users and less traffic in the main lanes, The disadvantage is that taxis will have to move into the ordinary lanes at some point (like buses). If you are a taxi driver and there is a benefit to using the bus lanes then that probably means that traffic is moving slowly so the danger from this disadvantage is low. Their request has been going on for some time. Let's see what happens.

Change the world

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Morecambe can learn from The Simpsons

Some money has made its way to Morecambe Parish Council for paying part of the costs of some PCSOs. If you are not sure what this means they are police community support officers. Now at the meeting last week there were comments like we need to know more about what is happening before we commit ourselves to the funding. They were wary of commitment because it is a large proportion of the whole Parish income and the Counil will be held to account by the electorate if they spend too much.

Other comments concerned their hours and the areas of Morecambe where they would work. This is how people tend to think when they have money to spend. I don't think they will get very far with these ideas as either Council officers or the police themselves will tell them it is nothing to do with these elected councillors. Why? Well a police force has its own authority under the crown. Think of the possible corruption. If you are struggling to think what harm this could do then watch The Simpsons. Mayor Quimby will give you plenty of ideas as to how our councillors may be corrupted. It's only a cartoon you may say, but even little things like 'vote for me and you'll keep your job love' or 'I will fight for more PCSOs in my ward' are all claims that could easily be made - if they have not been made already.

It made me think about funding in general of our police force. Money is being transferred to City Council to Town Council and so much time is taken up for matters that are wasting debating time. My advice is to get rid of this thorny political issue from Town council debates. It's nothing but trouble.

Change the world

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Grown up political debate

'Please let me speak. I was quiet when you were speaking'. This is something you often hear during public debates. This is demeaning for the person to whom it is directed and it may even get them to be quiet. Generally I would say that the person who makes this kind of comment is the one who interrupts others, but maybe not in the previous minute. If they were a humble person, as they are trying to make out, then they would not be saying this kind of thing.

When you watch the debates on television look out for who is allowed to speak. On occasions people get to speak if they heckle. Many years ago I was in the audience of a Friday night debate programme on Granada called 'Up Front'. It was hosted by Tony Wilson and Lucy Meacock. It was at the time of the poll tax and the person sat next to me shouted out at least half a dozen times 'what about the poll tax? It wasn't in your (Conservative) manifesto' Eventually he got to ask his question and received the simple answer that he should have looked under community charge, but he was one of the few who managed to ask a question. I heard a story that Terry Christian, who now hosts debates like this, got his break in television because he kept shouting out from the audience.

There is a need for grown up politics and the media have its share of the blame for the way that debates are conducted. Beware the next time you hear 'I was quiet for you'.

Change the world

Monday, 22 June 2009

Immigration and the tabloid arguments

Immigration is on the agenda on "The Big Issue" on TV (Sunday 21st June). The question is should there be an amnesty for illegal immigrants. The argument against an anmesty is that this is a small country and we can't allow uncontrolled immigration. These immigrants are using many of our services including education and the health service. An amnesty would send out the message that more illegal immigration can take place and they are not to worry because they will become legal at a later date.

The arguments for an amnesty are that it is morally right. Replace the words illegal immigrant to sanctuary seeker. The reason why Britain is great is because of our freedoms including the freedom to live how we want, wear what we want and say what we want. There is also an economic argument that illegal immigrants don't pay tax. They are using the health service and the schools anyway but without contribution. This idea that there is a huge threat of being swamped is fictitious and a large proportion of immigrants soon return home. Not only do immigrants use our services but they provide them too. There are many examples of this including one where illegal immigrants were working in the offices of those who were investigating such cases!

There was an argument from both sides of the debate that the opposition treat people with contempt. If you allow unlimited access then there is contempt for those people already here. If you oppose an amnesty they you have contempt for the immigrants who wish to play a constructive role in this country. We need to move away from these tabloid arguments.

The answers are easy. Apply the same rules to yourself as you would to others. I want the freedom to live abroad if I so wish, but I don't expect other countries to look after me while I am there. If I do choose to live abroad I hope the locals are friendly and don't have similar feelings to those of Nick Griffin.

Change the world

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Can I use someone else's coat of arms?

I mentioned in last Friday's blog that I may go to the first meeting of the Morecambe Parish Council on Thursday 18th June. I did, and not surprisingly the link road was not on the agenda. I only mention this because one Morecambe Bay Independent candidate made headlines during the election by her opposition to this road.

I also noticed another blog based in Lancaster that mentioned this meeting and set out the agenda. In this blog I read that the Council will decide 'whether the Council wishes to ask the City Council for permission to use the Armorial Bearings of the former Morecambe and Heysham Borough Council on letterheads and civic regalia'. During the meeting there was a mention that the Morecambe Bay Independents use these armorial bearings already. This should mean that this political party have the right to bear arms. Unfortunately I think it just means that they have nicked it without request. There was no hint of irony that the Council has to request permission but the party uses them without permission. I wonder when this question will be addressed.

I did add this comment to their blog I am still waiting to see it a couple of days later. I'll let you know if it gets added. In the meantime it is a good job that I have my own blog.

Change the world

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Unacceptable Claims by an MP

Following on from yesterday's blog, I wrote that a couple of years ago our MP sent out a letter to many constituents including me. I may still have my copy as I tend to keep political leaflets, but I can summarise it briefly. She likes the western route and anyone who prefers the northern route is wrong. She enclosed an SAE for the clever people who would confirm her beliefs.

I was looking at MPs' expenses which were published for the first time today (18th June). The first thing I saw was an expenses claim for the bypass questionnaire. I find this incredible. Opposition campaigners have to pay for their own leaflets. I can't afford nicely printed leaflets and postage to present my opinions and get support from a questionnaire. However I have knocked on a lot of doors and our survey happened to support the route that is now going ahead.

In my opinion there is no doubt that her expenses for this survey were party political and designed to get her re-elected. Even if she says that it was to find out the opinions of her constituents the outcome was still that she promoted herself at a cost to the tax payer. Our MP may say that these costs were incurred solely in her role of MP. Well it is easier to argue this case than cleaning a moat or claiming for a fictitious mortgage, but I find her claims totally unacceptable. Not only do I think she had the wrong opinion but she put forward this opinion at my expense. If there is any local issue that you will not find in a manifesto then presumably leaflets can be sent out by our MPs at tax payers expense.

This questionnaire has cost the tax payer thousands of pounds. My survey cost the tax payer nothing, This is the first item of expense that I saw. Let's hope there are not many more expenses that I can complain about.

Change the world

Friday, 19 June 2009

Morecambe Link Road

A couple of years ago I received a letter from my MP about a proposed link road between Morecambe and the M6. There have been plans to do this over decades but generally the delay has been caused by lack of finances. The route that goes south of Lancaster is called the Western route. There has been absolutely no question of building this road for some time now but some people still support it. I can only presume that they really want no link road. Some people don't want the alternative route that is now going ahead which passes north of Lancaster but is much shorter than its southern alternative.

For decades people buying houses near the proposed road have been told about it. I spoke to one lady who said if the road didn't pass near their house then it would be housing. They preferred the road. However there has been quite vociferous opposition but all that should now die down as the decisions have been made. It was quite surprising then to find one new councillor of Morecambe Parish Council campaigning on this issue. I may go to look at the first council meeting this evening (18th June). I wonder if the link road will be on the agenda?

Change the world

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Answers that raise more questions

If Gordon Brown doesn't understand the system for redacting (blacking out important details) expenses then why is he on TV explaining it? Why did he claim for Sky TV? Why was it accepted? You don't have to pay for Sky News, so we have paid for him to watch the latest Simpsons. I suppose that is acceptable.

David Cameron returned £200 dating back to 2006 because it was complicated. Why was it so complicated that he managed to claim it in the first place? Why did he manage to work out the right answer? Why did his correction coincide with the publication of expenses?

It is only £200 but David Cameron has brought up the question of honesty again. It may just be coincidence but I don't think that you can blame members of the public if they come to the conclusion that he has been found out.

Change the world

A Roundabout is Needed

More than four years ago I was part of a team of people who conducted a survey of Broadway, Morecambe and surrounding roads. Broadway has a 40mph limit and we were getting complaints that some drivers were speeding. We got a lot of information simply by asking a few questions and there were many people who were asking for a roundabout on the Prom. We asked too. One person told us how, if he wants to drive north along the Prom he has to drive south and get on the prom at a mini-roundabout.

There was a general desire to lower the speed limit to 30mph. As with most things, there are pros and cons but one of the deciding factors for us was a police officer telling us that people were speeding on other roads in Morecambe and they were saying that they thought the limit was 40mph like the limit on Broadway. There are still drivers who race up and down Broadway even now, four years later. One resident heard that the County Council had forgotten about this matter but they were going to lower the limit.

What has happened is that we got a coat of paint on the road at the Broadway / Prom junction. The lines form an area bounded by a broken white line and filled with diagonal lines. It is there to protect cars turning into Broadway by creating a third lane. The Highway Code puts it like this 'Areas of white diagonal stripes or chevrons painted on the road. These are to separate traffic lanes or to protect traffic turning right' and this is what it does. However it should also stop cars turning right onto the Prom from Broadway. In practice cars ignore the Highway Code and cross these lines.

Here is the relevant quote from the Highway Code: 'If the area is bordered by a broken white line, you should not enter the area unless it is necessary and you can see that it is safe to do so'. It is a strange use of the word necessary. It is not necessary to turn right. You could turn left drive south and then drive north. It hasn't been made any easier to turn right and now you have to negotiate the Highway Code if you want to go north.

Change the world

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

We need a police force that we can trust

On the 9th April I wrote about the G20 protests. It appeared that Ian Tomlinson had been struck by a police officer and soon after this he died. We were told that there would be a police inquiry. What has happened? Maybe we will find out in due course and maybe an inquiry does take longer than a couple of months. It is a complex situation but I don't think that the passage of time will help the inquiry. Let's hope we soon hear the results.

The reason that I mention Ian Tomlinson is that I have seen the news today and there is a video of four police officers who are 'restraining' a man who is now known as Steve. It looked like he was being punched and tasered for the second time while he was motionless on the floor. Now I don't know the details of the arrest but the video on its own suggests an over eager course of action (some would put it a lot stronger than that).

It would be nice to hear the results of inquiries. It would be nice to get apologies if apologies are needed. Wouldn't it be nice to hear conclusions to such matters because if we don't then people will come to their own conclusions. We need a police force that we can trust.

Change the world

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Why all the secrecy Gordon?

So the Iraq war inquiry is to be held in private. It will not be looking to apportion blame. Well some politicians may already be giving sighs of relief. To apportion blame you have to admit something has gone wrong. Will the inquiry consider whether something has gone wrong?

Let's consider the benefits of privacy as outlined by the Prime Minister. He says that we need to consider the implications for national security. Well this must mean that public knowledge of the truth would be harmful to this country. Yes I can see that, because I think the UN should have led us into Iraq not George Bush, and if I can see it that must mean a lot of people can see it.

We entered into an illegal war and to admit this would be harmful. Most obviously it would be harmful to the people who are blamed. To hide behind closed doors does nothing to make me feel that the truth will be revealed. We know what a lack of transparency did for MPs' expenses. To admit that blame is out of the question and protect the guilty before the inquiry starts does not give me much faith in the process.

Gordon says we must also avoid 'damaging Britain's military capability'. Well if you want to damage a country's military capability then the best thing you can do is start a war. Hiding the truth is another method but not quite as effective. If the truth damages military capability then hiding the truth damages it more.

Change the world

Monday, 15 June 2009

Could we repatriate Nick Griffin?

I was speaking with someone today (14th June) who lives in Morecambe. He told me that he had voted for the BNP. I was very interested to hear his explanation as I believe the BNP are racist. They don’t like Jews Blacks and immigrants so I wondered how this could be defended. His first comment was that I was too intelligent to understand the mood of the British people. It was about social integration. It was about uncontrolled immigration. It was about the political agenda of mainstream parties who ignored these points. A YouGov poll last week said that people voted for the BNP not because they were racist but because their supporters feel insecure and let down by the main parties. These supporters are mainly male manual workers whose main concern is immigration.

Nick Griffin was convicted of inciting racial hatred in 1998. He thinks the Holocaust is the ‘hoax of the century’. What he does do is work on the fears of the white working class. He tells us that we are losing our jobs to mass immigration and Islamic fundamentalists are going to bomb us.

I have lived in East Lancashire and have friends who are Muslim. In general they are kind hard-working people who were born in this country and speak with strong Lancashire accents. What Nick Griffin is doing is creating barriers to integration, not pulling them down and this is what he wants to do. However there is no chance for most of these people to go back anywhere because they were born in this country. Go back in my family tree and I will have to go back to Italy or Ireland. I think Ireland is alright but what about the Italian part of me? It seems that second or third generation Polish people are fine but first generation are not. Does this mean that the Poles who came over after the Second World War (as per the Polish squadron in the Battle of Britain) would be sent to Poland? However Black second or third generation could not join the BNP.

What will happen is that the fire of racial hatred will be fanned and people like the one I spoke to today are doing their bit to waft the air. There is a programme on BBC2 and Nick Griffin would not appreciate it. It is called The Incredible human Journey and it finished with the line 'we are all Africans under the skin'. Could we repatriate Nick Griffin?

Change the world.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

How to get in the newspaper

The local newspaper has a front page picture of our Labour MP with the headling 'Breaking News On Resort MP'. She broke her wrist on election day. In the photo she has a plaster cast which is red and the photo was also in colour. When she was at the count on the following day I spoke to her and asked why she didn't have a red plaster - at that time it was the standard white colour. As a former physiotherapist I could tell her that they came in a range of colours which were normally used for children but I was sure that she could also be allowed to have a red one if she said please and behaved well.

That afternoon she came back and the colour had changed! I don't blame her. If I were in her position then I would ask for a plaster in the colour of my party and I may get one more line on the front page of the local paper. 'Despite her embarrasing tumble she again came out fighting for Labour asking staff to fit her with an eye-catching plaster cast in the party's traditional colour'.

The paper didn't print a press release and a letter that I sent in a few weeks ago, but I won't be trying the old 'break my arm' trick to get on the front page even though it usually works.

Change the world.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Loan Companies and threatening letters

I was a PGCE student till February. I was working till 1am each morning and I was not satisfied with the work I was producing so I thought that it was time to leave. The problem with this is I still don't have regular paid employment but the loan company are asking for their money. They had asked for immediate payment two months ago but we agreed that I would pay back my loan at a very reasonable rate, to start in three months (July). I received a letter asking for payment in full today (June 12th)! When I phoned up to ask why things had changed I was told that they had received no payments. I explained the agreement that was made two months earlier and a standing order had been set up. I was told that this sort of agreement is never made.

It gets stranger and stranger. I asked them to check their recordings because I said at the time and I repeated again that I had family and friends who would lend me money but I didn't want to ask them for a loan to pay back the loan. The agreement was then made. The lady on the end of the phone told me that she was very experienced and I would have been told to create a standing order to pay back a small amount three times. I said this was getting ridiculous. If they wanted me to pay a small amount three times it would have been much easier to send a cheque for that amount rather than set up a standing order.

I was to phone back an hour later so that my previous telephone agreement could be reviewed. I had to ask for this review a few times because I was told on two or three occasions that the agreement that was made with me was not possible. I told them that I do not record phone calls but I do make notes. I would welcome their review as I had complied with everything that they had said and I had received a threatening letter. Again I was being told that they wanted the money immediately and in full.

The hour went very slowly but to cut a long story short the agreement that was made two months earlier would stand with the proviso that it would be reviewed in three to six months. A few seconds later this became six months. I am to contact them in December to renegotiate the loan. If I forget then I will receive another threatening letter telling me to repay the full loan. I should take this as a reminder to phone them to renegotiate. The very experienced person an hour earlier had told me it was not possible to have an agreement like this and now it was possible. So much for experience. Strangely, I was told that it was not possible to review a phone call within an hour. Why had I made two phone calls?

My biggest concern is that threatening letters are being sent out and will continue to be sent out because they are 'system-generated'. This is loan-speak for 'we like to send out threatening letters because some people may respond to them by paying even if there is a totally different agreement in place'. The threatening letters are sent out and the 'system' is blamed. Well change the system. If I get any more problems with the loan company I will let you know.

Change the world

Friday, 12 June 2009

Why do we need social restraints?

A nursery worker has appeared in court today (11th June) charged with a series of sexual assaults on children. She worked at the nursery for three years. When she was driven away from court in a police vehicle, there were angry scenes and two arrests were made. It may be that she is guilty. It may be that the crowd outside court have a right to be angry. I don't know. What I do know is that the system of checks on people working with children does not stop arrests being made. It makes me think about the use of such checks.

In 2002 Ian Huntley killed two young girls. He had no connection with their school. He was a caretaker in a secondary school and the two girls went to a primary school. However the Bichard Inquiry that followed this crime suggested that a national register would be helpful. This may be useful move that restricts criminal activity but it would not have stopped Ian Huntley. The murders were nothing to do with his work. Today it did not stop the nursery worker being charged with sexual assaults.

We have to decide how many controls we want to put into place. There is an oft-repeated phrase 'if you have done nothing wrong then you have nothing to fear'. There is a cost finacially in all restrictions of civil liberties, whether it is police checks by computer or by police officer, the use of CCTV or sophisticated alarms, or any other deterrent to criminal activity. There is also a social cost. Am I poor parent because I don't live in a gated community? If you are not sure how this can lead to social pressure then it may be worth reading 1984 by George Orwell or Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.

There is no definite answer to the amount of restraints that we use as a society. Guns and knives may serve a very useful non-violent purpose, but I would like to see a move away from an American culture of increasing violence and intolerance. There is a much more important inquiry - how to reduce the need for restraints on society.

Change the world

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Check your next bill

The Conservatives are saying that they will not make massive cuts after the next general election. I thought low taxation was the main point of voting Tory and if you aren't going to make cuts then you can't lower taxation. The Conservatives go on to attack Labour by saying that they will have to make cuts of their own. It is up to us to make sense of this. Which is the party of low expenditure and low taxation?

At Lancashire County Council the Tory leaflets promised a tax freeze if they won. They did win. The day after the election the sound bite from the leader of the Conservatives in Preston was better value for money with no cuts in service. What happened to the tax freeze? I asked a Tory county councillor and she said that the tax freeze promise was still there. My concern was that on the radio interview with the leader of the council we had lost the much greater promise of a tax freeze to the much milder promise of greater efficiency.

What is the easiest way of saving money? Employing less staff. I'll be checking my next bill and the staff employed by the County Council will be watching their backs.

Change the world

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Arguments not eggs

The BNP news today (9th June) is that their leader has been pelted with eggs while he was giving a press release outside the House of Commons. Why was he there? He is an MEP not an MP. Why was an anti-facist group there? It strikes me that a lot of organisation has gone on to get that egg thrown but there is no denying that the egg represents a violent attack.

Does a violent attack persuade me that racist views are abhorent? No, it tells the friends and families of the BNP that they need to defend themselves.

I have followed politics for some time. I have read the BNP website. I would like to question their policies and find out whether Robinho and Elano would both have to leave Manchester City. I don't know how they would describe their ethnic origin but they are both Brazilian. Elano's skin colour is lighter than that of Robinho. I find it hard to write comments like this because I believe quite simply that I (and anyone else) should have the right to work or spend money and live in any part of the world. It is quite a simple way of thinking and does not involve any racist thought.

I have tried very hard to look for their policies.If I cannot tell you any detail then you can be sure that the average BNP voter does not know the answer. It comes down to racism. You don't change the world with eggs but with arguments.

Change the world

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Be persuaded by policies not sound bites

UKIP have done very well. They are jubliant at coming second behind the Conservatives. UKIP also did well in Morecambe West. Their candidate lives in Lancaster and I didn't see him in Morecambe, which means that the good people of Morecambe voted for them on the basis that they don't like Europe. Now UKIP do have some policies at county level but I don't think that the voters know about them. I was talking to Dr John Whittaker who used to be a UKIP MEP. He told me he didn't know that education was controlled by the County Council and I believe that he didn't know. He was a candidate in the County elections.

The BNP vote is based on xenophobia as the foreigners are taking all our jobs. I have not heard any detailed policy debates in the media. We just get sound bites like "they are taking all our jobs". One confused person in Burnley said the Cypriot in the cafe was a good European but there are lots of bad ones. Shame on him. Who is he to decide the value of everyone from foreign countries? If we do get detailed debate in our media then we may get to realise that the BNP are racist. Their response to this claim is usually nothing to do with race but something along the lines that immigration is a great burden to our country. Immigration limits based on the colour of skin is racism.

Whether it is UKIP in Morecambe or the BNP in the North West, voters have been persuaded by sound bites not by policies.

Change the world

Monday, 8 June 2009

European elections

35% of the votes are now in for the European elections. The BNP has won one seat and may win one in the North West. I want to stay up to wait for this result but I am too tired and downhearted.

One commentator says how sad it is to have a BNP MEP. How do we deal with them? One person said to me today that she saw my leaflet but didn't vote because she didn't know anything about politics. I hope that a lot of the people who voted for the BNP don't know much about politics. I hope they are not knowledgeable racists.

Does this mean that I should no longer advocate proportional representation? No. If people do want to vote BNP then they have a right to have their views represented whatever I may think of these views.

Change the world

Sunday, 7 June 2009

No Opposition, No Democracy

Francis Pym was a minister in Margaret Thatcher's first cabinet. I remember seeing him on Question Time during the 1983 election. Labour didn't have a chance and the Conservatives were going to win easily (I corrected a typo that read 'sin easily). The question was about landslide governments and Francis answered the question honestly by suggesting that a Thatcher landslide was not the best thing for the country. He was sacked very soon after this. If there is no opposition then there is a very limited democracy.

I went to the count for the newly formed Morecambe Parish Council today (6th June). Labour did badly even under a different name. The Conservatives did badly with no name. The Liberal Democrats gained the only seat not taken by the Morecambe Bay Independents. I summed this up as a sad day for democracy.

I spoke to a few people. One Independent councillor didn't understand what I was talking about. I am not sure how far their political thoughts have been refined. I hope you have managed to follow this blog because I think it is fairly obvious that democracy works by having an effective opposition. Another Independent councillor said that just because they all vote the same way did not mean there was a strong party whip. It was just coincidence that it looked like they all voted the same way. I told him that the frequency of agreement meant that coincidence was unlikely. I told him that it was more likely that it was the power of persuasion. He agreed with this. I went on to explain that this is party politics by smoke-filled rooms. Democracy has died at Morecambe Parish level.

Change the world

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Political Excuses

If you don't win in our first-past-the-post system then you don't win. There is nothing for second third or any other ordinal number. Often a politician will comment about how they have a good basis for the next election, or the result was much better than expected or if A and B had happened then we could have won. I'm not going to say any of that. I lost.

Four years ago I stood in the same County division, Morecambe West, and I received nearly a thousand votes with no leaflet. This time with one and a half leaflets (the second leaflet only went to half the division) my vote goes down tremendously -now what does that tell me? OK there were more candidates this time and the total votes were down. I am starting to sound like I am making excuses but I did work hard and I know for sure that one of the other candidates did nothing and I am fairly sure another candidate did nothing.

My first inkling that things may not go to plan was when a friend of mine phoned after the polls had closed, to say that he had been too busy to vote. His mother wasn't voting at all. Let's blame the expenses scandal for that one. There is still a chance with the Morecambe Parish Council. This count is today.

Change the world

Friday, 5 June 2009

An Interesting Election

It has been a long election day, but not as long as usual. The count is usually held straight after the polling stations close, but partly because of the complexity of this election and partly because it is more civilised to allow party workers to sleep, this time the count has been delayed until tomorrow. There may be many other reasons why we are not staying up into the night but this count has lost a little of the usual atmosphere.Not everyone is allowing party workers to sleep and I envy those who can stay up.

I have enjoyed election day. Just standing outside polling stations means that I have spoken to some people that I have not seen for some time. I wish I could have been at all polling stations all the time!

There is great uncertainty in this count. The Independent Party did not stand four years ago but they have been very active this time. The Labour vote is bound to go down - you don't need a crystal ball to say that. Whatever happens, the result will be interesting. We find out the result this afternoon. The Parish Council count is tomorrow, and on Sunday we count the European election in line with all the European countries.

Change the world

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Polling Day - Please Vote

Today is polling day for the European elections and also the Lancashire County Council. In Morecambe we are also holding an election for the Morecambe Parish Council. Will you be voting? I have put out a couple of leaflets to encourage people to vote, specifically to vote for me. I hope I win but I also hope that the turnout is greater where I am standing.

Why don't people vote? Is it because they believe that their vote doesn't count? Well every vote gets counted but it is very rare to hear about an election won by one vote. Is it because of the recent MPs' expenses scandal? Well this wouldn't explain the definite downward trend in voting but it certainly will not help voter apathy.

I believe that voter apathy is due to many factors but primarily it is because of our first-past-the-post system, which means the vast majority of the electorate don't get the person they want. The advantage to the present system is that there is a constituency link between MP and electorate. To my mind the vast majority don't want that link, and the small minority who do want it could contact their MP by phone or letter or email even if the constituency was a lot bigger. The Liberal Democrat MEP Chris Davies represents the whole of the North West. To my knowledge he has been in Morecambe twice in the last month. Larger constituencies are not a barrier to links with an MP.

Change the world

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Some people just don't vote

While I was out campaigning today I met two ladies who were going into a house. I gave them a leaflet but they said they voted every day for God. I saw their magazine 'Awake' and I knew that Jehovah's Witnesses did not take part in politics. They told me that they vote for God every day. I told them that I vote in both elections for God and for man. I wanted to ask for my leaflet back but I put it more politely and said "should I take that back?" It turns out that it wasn't their house and they took it for the owner.

My problem with the Jehovah's Witnesses' stand on politics is that they are missing out on helping to socially change the world. They will say that what man does is inifinitely less important than man's relationship with God but at the same time they do not isolate themselves from non-religious social interaction. They still go into shops and pay with currency. They still earn a living and pay taxes. We have relationships with other humans as well as God but this can be a reflection of our relationship with God. How do you deal with a lack of housing or poor education or man's need for health care?

The Jehovah's Witnesses have to work within social organisations but don't want to influence them. I always finish blogs with the expression 'change the world'. How could this be adapted for the Jehovah's Witnesses? I am not sure, but if you can influence things for the better, whether it is social care or pensions or good road surfaces then...

Change the world

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Please Vote

I meet someone today who takes my leaflet. I usually get the 'dog' vote as I do like dogs and hers is called 'Maine Road'. There is a Manchester connection here, so I tell her the story about there being no City fans in Manchester because children are always told 'whatever you do stay away from that Maine Road'.

We also talk about the state of politics at the moment. She hopes that the smaller parties do well. I know that the churches recently announced that they don't want support to dwindle from the major parties because they (like me) think that minority parties like the BNP may gain from it. She is actually talking about the Morecambe Bay Independents. My comments before I know this are that you never know what minority parties actually think. This comment still stands as I have just had another good search for their policies and found nothing. In fact, on the second or third page in my search I find my blog rather than their website.

Another person tells me they are not going to vote. I don't think I managed to persuade them but there are good reasons why people shouldn't vote. I think that the reasons to vote are much better.

Change the world

Monday, 1 June 2009

Total apathy or will he read the leaflet?

The vast majority of people who talk to me about politics are just spending a moment to say they support me. I know there is also apathy. Here is a conversation that I have just had whilst leafleting. Someone was outside gardening and it is still a sunny warm day as I am writing this (31st May).
"Nice day for it".
"If that's politics you're wasting your time".
"Why's that?"
"You can't trust any of them"
(theatrical voice) "But I'm standing".
"You still can't trust any of them".
"Alright I'll take the insult on the chin".
"They're all dishonest".
"I've written about that it is on page 2 called honesty in politics"

I didn't want to spend much time here because the chances are (as will be seen in the turnout) that he will not vote for anyone. I did walk away two or three times and I walked back when he said something else. However this convesation is much better than total apathy. Who knows? He may even read the leaflet.

Change the world