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?

Change the world

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.

Change the world

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.

Change the world

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.

Change the world

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