Wednesday, 31 March 2010

How to lower tax

On the 18th June last year I wrote about the speed limit on Broadway in Morecambe. The local Liberal Democrats conducted a survey around this area and came to the result that the limit should be lowered from 40 to 30mph. We passed on this result and the reasons for it to the relevant authorities. We were also well aware that local residents did exactly the same thing.

I noticed a sign on a lamppost yesterday on Broadway. It tells me that there are moves to change the speed limit and any messages of support or protest may be sent in for consideration. No reason has been given for the change and no county councillor has informed the residents of their opinion.

I was walking the dog around 9pm when I noticed the sign and apart from that I also saw at least six cars excessively exceeding the speed limit. I don't suppose that I am on my own in noticing such things. If these drivers don't change their habits then I suppose that if caught, their sentence would increase. What we need is the will to stop speeding. It is easy to catch the drivers as we do it all the time. I really don't think it would take long for most people to lose their licence. An alternative would be to fine them and tax could be lowered.

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Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Do you trust the polls?

Did you hear Ben Page, the Chief Executive of Ipsos/MORI on the BBC news say that "if the general public wake up to a hung parliament, a minority of about 35% or so will think it is a good idea and will want to see people working together". Doesn't everyone want to see people working together? He went on to say "but the majority of the poplulation want to see either a Labour majority or a Conservative majority". The problem with this is that he could just as easily have said that a minority of about 35% is often the most popular option if there is a three-way split and results are close together. He could just have easily said that a minority want a Labour majority and another minority want a Conservative majority. How did he come to his own conclusion that he wanted these two minorities added together?

My constituency will be counting the votes on the Friday and I understand that a significant proportion of constituencies are doing the same thing. It's a minor point but Ben is wrong to say that we will wake up to a result. I expect him to know that. More seriously, I expect him to know about the difficulties that are present when conducting surveys. I wrote on Friday about how difficult it is to be fair in the way that words are used. A much simpler error is how you deal with the figures. I would have thought that Ben would appreciate this already and not give such misleading statements to the press.

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Sophisticated touts

If you have been to any main event in the entertainment or sporting arenas then you would have come across ticket touts. They sell tickets to those who have travelled to the event but have not managed to buy there own ticket. The touts are happy because they have made money. Those who buy off the touts are happy because they managed to get into the event. Everyone is happy.

The problem with this is that genuine fans don't get to see the show. The people who do get to see it are the people who can afford to pay an entrance fee significantly higher than the advertised price. Well that's capitalism you might say, but I thought we had some protection from the rat race. Tickets are often printed "non-transferable" as the promoter wants the profit not some shady characters on street corners. Well there is no shade any longer. Ebay sell tickets but there are now even more sophisticated organisations that will sell on tickets for profit. I saw an advert on TV for one such group yesterday.

If I go to the official website I can pay £35 plus £3.50 fees for a ticket to see Peter Kay (I'm not keen on two prices for one ticket too) or I can go to another website £85 to £409. Maybe the tout asking for £409 had to work hard to get the best seats. Look at it another way and they worked hard to stop the genuine fan getting the best seats.

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Monday, 29 March 2010

Let's hope for hustings

In recent blogs I have written about the nature of our democracy. What we take as a shining example of government may not be as perfect as it seems. I pointed out that it is obviously wrong to 'buy' a seat at Westminster. We have improved the system by gradual reforms but that doesn’t mean that it is perfect. There is a huge problem if we can’t get people to vote. There is a huge problem if the government is decided by the way that some marginal seats change hands every four or five years. It is much more likely that you live in a constituency in which the MP has a large majority. Why should it matter if you vote at all? What incentive does the MP have to work hard for their constituents? As long as they keep the people happy who select him or her as the candidate then they have another job after the next election.

It is really important to know what the candidates stand for. Many voters put a cross against a name without knowing the ideas that that individual supports. There are manifestos but does your candidate agree with the aspects of this document that are important to you? How does the candidate perform under pressure? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a hustings? Shouldn’t this be mandatory in every constituency? Even if there are only a room full of people who can observe the candidates, at least local newspapers can report it.

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Sunday, 28 March 2010

Overhaul party finances

If you are an MP then you are part of the legislature. MPs make decisions and others will want to influence those decisions. At the most basic level this amounts to constituents speaking to their MP. However it gets much more sophisticated than that. People form groups and lobby MPs. There are professionals who do this. Sometimes they work for pressure groups, but they may also work for unions or big business and there are thousands of organisations who wish to influence decision making at Westminster.

So what can these groups do? It must be alright to speak with the MP. I suppose it is alright to put down thoughts on paper. What about making a DVD? What about presentation in a hotel and providing a meal at the same time? I'll jump a few steps and ask if it is alright to pay MPs. If you are an MP and you are convinced that a certain cause is right, why shouldn't you get paid and give extra time to this cause? Three Labour MPs were suspended from the Parliamentary Labour Party this week for hiring out their services. Stephen Byers described himself as a "cab for hire" but this cab cost £5 000 per day, but have they done anything wrong?

There is nothing wrong with MPs working elsewhere as long as this does not affect their role as decision makers. If a business employed an MP it is very easy to see how this influence could look like an assualt on our democracy. If the MP agrees with the business then why do they need paying? If the MP speaks to this business or speaks about this business it should be part of their role as an MP and as such should be paid for by their Westminster salary.

If I have an opinion that I wish to express to my MP then I would tell them. If someone else wishes to put forward the opposite case why should they provide a meal as well? How do you tell the difference between influence and corruption? The answer is that MPs should avoid payment by individuals, pressure groups, big businesses or unions. We need to overhaul the way our parties are financed.

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Saturday, 27 March 2010

What's your conclusion?

There have been two police officers in the news this week. On Thursday there were the reports that PC Ian Terry had been killed unlawfully. In 2008 he was the "robber" in a training exercise which went tragically wrong. How could this happen? Over the years I have spoken with police officers and they have told me about the stringent training that goes with firearms. If you are holding a gun you point it towards the ground. I know that but it seems that even with rigorous training one officer failed to point the gun at the car tyre and it was "instinct" that caused the shot to PC Terry's chest. There were many errors that led to the loss of life.

On Wednesday Sgt Delroy Smellie denied a charge of common assault on Nicola Fisher at the G20 demonstration in London last April. You may remember the article on the news. She was filmed speaking to this officer while she was holding a carton of orange. It was his instinct to feel threatened. The carton of orange could have been a weapon. He slapped her hard across the face and then hit her with a baton across the back of her thigh. He had forgotten about the use of the baton.

How can it be that so many errors can lead to the death of a young police officer? How can riot training be so poor that a carton of orange may be perceived as a weapon. Although the extensive bruising is not in the same category as the gunshot errors, if I had been demonstrating near Nicola Fisher I am sure that my mood would have changed.

If we are really relying on instinct for such important matters then it is quite clear that training is not good enough. There are other conclusions but I'll let you think about them.

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Friday, 26 March 2010

How to create your facts

If I set out to conduct a survey on any subject I would need some questions to ask. I would need to find a target group for my survey and I would have to give an explanation of what I am doing. When I get my answers I would need to interpret the results.

I know that I can exaggerate the results. I can emphasise any aspects of the results and in political terms this is called spin. I can get the answers that I want to get. You don’t want that do you? Answer: no. It can be any subject, e.g. how to deal with the problem of dropping litter.

Firstly I could say that compared to violent crimes dropping litter is a relatively minor offence. It doesn’t hurt anyone if you drop litter and in fact it keeps people in work because you have to pick litter up. On the other hand litter is a malaise on society. The state of our country is a disgrace. All the cities in the world have many things in common but you can always tell a British city by the litter. All we have to do is to prioritise our reactions to dropping litter and if our reaction is strong enough we won’t have a problem.

Two surveys, different questions, different answers. This is what the Tory candidate for Morecambe did for a crime survey (see yesterday’s blog). It would be nice to think that our candidates could discuss important issues in the local press without resorting to creating their own news.

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Thursday, 25 March 2010

So much for not getting in the paper

Last year I met the Conservative parliamentary candidate for Morecambe. He complained to me that it was difficult to get anything published in the local newspapers but since then I have seen articles about him. However in comparison to the Labour MP there has been little written about him, and there has been very little written about all the other candidates. I think the Liberal Democrat candidate Les Jones has only been named once, but the Tories have a cunning plan to increase their presence.

In yesterday's Morecambe Visitor there is a headline "Tory candidate cuffed by police" along with "Inspector hits out at incorrect crime figures". Now that is a cunning plan. Conduct a survey about crime and see what you can do with the results. It is well known that you should never let the facts get in the way of a good story. Mark Twain wrote that you should "first get your facts and then distort them at your leisure". In this case the Tory has made up his own claims from his own survey. It may be the case that he never claimed that his figures were remotely related to those of the police, but as a responsible politician shouldn't he have made reference to official statistics? If he says "local police are almost entirely restricted to response policing" wouldn't it have been wise to check out the claim first?

The case for the defence is that these are genuine figures. In this personal survey one in five respondents are victims of crime. Unfortunately Chief Inspector Ralph Copley is quoted as saying "we are currently enjoying all-time low levels in certain crime categories such as burglary and vehicle crime". Who do you believe?

What does it matter if Tory figures are not quite right? Does it matter even if the candidate is wildly wrong? He has achieved his aim of getting a large article on page two and if that isn't enough he just managed to pay for a large advert elsewhere in the paper. Let's hope the newspaper readers can see past the photographs.

So much for not getting in the paper!

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Wednesday, 24 March 2010

And finally...

And finally... I had one suggestion for words on this poster from Sea on Sunday, so here it is. If Lord Ashcroft is willing to pay millions of pounds to boost Tory prospects in marginal constituencies then I am willing to do my little bit to stand up for substance over image. In the last few blogs I have set out why we should not take these posters at face value. In fact I believe the reality is actually the opposite of that portrayed.

I know this poster is highly debatable, needs defining and is definitely putting words into Danielle's mouth, but hey, those are the same criticisms that can just as easily be used against the original posters. The difference is that my blogs have a much smaller audience than the posters. Well at least I have done my bit.

Change the world.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Lots of room for conjecture

So now that you can put your words into the mouth of Danielle from Brighton what will they be? The Tories support big business. Is Danielle a big business woman? Why has she never voted Tory before? Is it that she has voted for other parties before, as the Tories would like us to believe? Is it more likely that she has not voted for anyone?

Why should she think that the Tories would support society. I thought they wanted individuals to stand on their own two feet - you know, the opposite of society. Margaret Thatcher is famous for saying that there is no such thing as society, so I had to add these words to the poster on the left.

On the right I simply thought that it was an opportunity for Danielle to become famous. At the 1987 election I left a polling station and there was a television crew and a reporter outside. They asked me if I had changed the way that I had voted. I knew that if I said yes, I didn't vote for the sitting MP because he is rubbish then I might have been on TV. I couldn't do it. I simply said no and walked on. Maybe Danielle isn't too aware of Tory policy, maybe she hasn't voted for anyone before, maybe she genuinely believes in Tory policies to strengthen society, but there is a lot of room for conjecture.

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Monday, 22 March 2010

Stages of transformation

Yesterday I looked at how to fit a photo into a specific shape. The photo is distorted which may be to the advantage of the model if they want to be slimmer.

On the left I have removed the words. I couldn't find the correct font but I didn't think that it mattered that the exaggerated inverted commas were left in situ. Now the field is clear to do with it whatever you like. I am not greatly concerned that I am putting words into the mouth of Danielle from Brighton, firstly because in this context it is obvious that it is my work, it is a little like graffitti. Secondly I think words have already been put into her mouth. Tories aren't known for mending society. It might be easier to think of them as bringing back corporal and capital punishment or standing up for entrepreneurs by giving them huge tax breaks but my first thoughts are not that they search out and support the root causes of society's ills.

In fact if you ask Tories whether they prefer prisoners to be punished or to be rehabilitated I believe they would go for punishment. This doesn't mend a broken society, it is directly related to it. Previously I went into details as to how Julie from Llandudno shouldn't have been persuaded by Tory policies on the family. It is just not right that they are the party to support society. If you want to add a comment for Danielle then feel free to do so and see your words on the poster.

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Sunday, 21 March 2010

Amending political posters

I have written about political posters in earlier blogs. This means that I can write about them in my politics as well as my photography blog. There is so little content in them that they are ripe for parody and that was the title that I gave to them previously.

Here I am showing you the original photograph on the left. The only thing I did to change it to the photo on the right is to fit it into a 6"x 4" format. It didn't really matter about the cropping here because I am not going to print it, but look what happens to the image. It has been distorted and the model (sorry genuine voter) becomes slimmer. This manipulation is exaggerated. It doesn't look right, but you can see how slight variations may not be noticeable.

Over the next few blogs I am going to show you how to change the words. If you have any suggestions for new reasons to vote Tory then let me know and your words may be seen in the near future.

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Saturday, 20 March 2010

With friends like these...

I have written about Morecambe Town Council in previous blogs. It is dominated by a party of 'independents' who all happen to vote the same way. They were elected in June last year when party politicians were not doing well and my problem with the council then (and now) is firstly that there is no effective opposition and secondly that this party is based on putting Morecambe first. However when the debates only concern Morecambe it is hard to know which way they are going to vote. I couldn't find a preamble to their constitution, and for that matter I couldn't find their constitution. I suppose they will argue that you don't need one at Town Council level. I would argue that you don't know what this party stands for.

It has been reported this week that the leader of the Independents (how do you lead independents?) has lost a vote of confidence but at least this vote was not carried unanimously. It was a victory for independence. In yesterday's local newspaper we are told that the former leader did not want to comment as she was taking legal advice, but it was understood that the matter concerned a procedural issue. I may be able to help out here. The procedural issue was a matter of no confidence in their leader. With friends like these...

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Friday, 19 March 2010

John Bercow must put down unruly MPs

Last week I mentioned that the speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow had described a heckling MP as boring and boorish. We all know that there are many MPs who would fit that description. Sitting on those green benches must make them think that they are back at school and they behave accordingly.

It was with great pleasure that I saw the speaker admonish another heckler this week. There are stories that he has shown bias and if that is the case then he needs to reconsider the way he works but we all do this all the time. Basically John Bercow comes over as a man who is trying to tidy up politics. It can't all be image so keep it up. It is all very well MPs being passionate about their subject but they need to learn how to behave.

MPs may feel that he isn't being fair. They may say that he is supporting one side of the House rather than the other, but what they cannot say is that he is wrong to put down unruly MPs.

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Thursday, 18 March 2010

Unjustified and deplorable

In general I like trade unions. I like the idea that we should improve working conditions. I like the idea of a fair day's pay for a fair day's work. A pivotal role for the unions is to ensure good communications between the workers and the management. In an ideal world we don't need unions. We would have perfect communication, fair wages and excellent working conditions without asking for them. Unfortunately we don't live in a perfect world.

If there is a dispute then the management will blame the unions for excessive demands. Unions will blame management for unjustified impositions. Disputes may lead to industrial action and in extreme cases this would mean strike action. Nobody likes strikes because employees lose pay and ultimately jobs are at stake. This is just what is happening at BA.

The BA management blame the union and are continuing "to try to prevent this strike taking place". On the other hand the Unite union blame management for imposing change and causing the breakdown in negotiations to prevent a strike. Who do you believe? I have heard specific allegations made against management. I have not heard the allegations refuted. I have only heard unsupported claims from management. So why has Gordon Brown called strike action "unjustified and deplorable"?

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Wednesday, 17 March 2010

1984 Synopsis

If you have not read 1984 then I will give you a brief outline of the story. It involves a Big Brother. I think his name is Gordon. There might have been another Big Brother called David who had his airbrushed face on posters on every wall. The main character Winston works in the Ministry of Truth where he has to amend the news in order to conform with Gordon's wishes. If anything goes wrong then there is a Ministry of Justice, I seem to remember that the person in charge is called Jack.

The reason that I am writing about the book is because Winston's job was to write news items. In the book there was no good news. The country was losing an unpopular war abroad and had no hope of winning. The country was covered by CCTV and you couldn't do anything without Gordon knowing. However Winston would create news that would keep everyone happy. He would make up scare stories and the following week he would say things weren't that bad and everyone would feel better because things weren't as bad as they expected.

One week the story might be that all dog owners have to pay an insurance even if they are already covered by their house insurance and the only danger from their dog was if they licked you to death. The following week the government changes its mind and everyone is so grateful that they sing Gordon's praises.

Winston gives the impression that Gordon is taking public health very seriously but really nothing has happened and everyone feels better for it. The problem that I had with the story is that I just couldn't believe it would ever happen.

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Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Reform for financing political parties.

I wrote about the David Cameron poster campaign in January. I was struck by the way that image was far more important than content. It was the way that his airbrushed face dominated the message which was about the NHS. I knew the content was contentious in Tory circles because a Conservative MEP had told me that the NHS was a mistake. I am sure that he is not on his own in that view.

This month I was struck by Julie from Llandudno who had changed her mind about Tory policies when I could see gaping holes in them. Furthermore she had closed her mind to her old political views (whatever they were) because she was now part of the Tory poster campaign.

Now I am concerned about the nature of our democracy. The more posters you see for one party then the worse our democracy. I took these photos a few days ago. I have not amended either photo. The poster on the left is huge. Within half a mile there are four of them (these two are repeated). Relate this to my blog on the 28th February. The Reform Act looked to improve democracy. We need another reform act now.

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Monday, 15 March 2010

How do we find democracy?

What is your view of an ideal democracy? One definition is government by the people which is direct democracy but you are more likely to get an indirect democracy in which representatives are elected. So the best indirect democracies are those that reflect the views of the people.

Now think of any domestic decision that you have to make. It might be buying a tin of beans , choosing a holiday or picking a colour to paint the house. It really doesn't matter what you choose. The point is that it is very rare to have a question with only two answers. It's the same in politics but we get artificial choices between two extremes. I don't look upon this as a great democracy.

Take a look at your local council. I have been to many council meetings and councillors talk a lot of sense individually. Then you find that they vote along party lines and forget all the good ideas that they were talking about. Wouldn't it be really wonderful if debates in local and national government actually meant something? Wouldn't it be better if our representatives looked for the best answer and voted for it?

Democracy is also held to ransom by those who finance the main parties because they don't do it for nothing. A lot has been made of Lord Ashcroft and the millions that he has given to the Conservatives. He manages to do this by saving millions as a tax exile and then wants to participate as a legislator to presumably) keep the rich saving millions that could be targeted towards the poor. On the other hand take one union. The Unite union has given £11 miliion to the Labour Party in the last four years. They must feel unwell now that Lord Adonis has told them that their strike is "totally unjustified".

When I hear that a hung parliament is not wanted to me it is like saying that we don't want a democracy. There may be arguments for dictatorships but you will never achieve the will of the people with it and dictatorships may be corrupt.

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P.S. I did write this before Nick Clegg's speech in which he talked about choice in our everyday life. "if you have two parties you only ever have two ideas".

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Hopefully David Cameron doesn't know what is going on!

I usually write one blog per day but I can't help adding a note as I watch David Cameron talking to Sir Trevor McDonald. He tells us that he was not airbrushed in the January posters.

I can't take my eyes off what looks like a spot on his forehead. In the middle of his chin is what looks like a tiny strip of a goatee. I can tell you that neither of these are on his poster. I have nothing against spots/goatees but I do object to a lack of recognition of airbrushing.

The best defence that I can think of is that David doesn't know what went on in his advertising campaign.

Change the world

P.S. You may want to look at how you change photos for a 'soft focus' effect. Compare how you change your photos to the posters.

Economy versus environment

I grew up in Manchester. There are some parks but apart from that there are not many green bits. I could recognise some wildlife but pigeon was the main type of bird. The road names gave away the type of area that I lived in. Forge Lane, Pit Street, Tanhouse Road, Brick Street, Gas Street.

After twenty years I moved to east Lancashire and I found some natural green bits there. After another twenty years I moved to Morecambe. There are less green bits here but it is more than compensated for by the views over Morecambe Bay.

My primary school was at the end of a cul-de-sac. The M60 now runs past it and I don't think the hard shoulder is more than 20yards from the school. My first house in east Lancashire had fine views at the front and the back if you like to look at rows of terraced houses.

I am not looking for sympathy. I am setting the scene for opposing Nimby opinions. Most rail lines and roads are built with consideration for the view. Napoleon built roads that are tree-lined. They protect the traveller from the sun and the walker is spared the view of the road. We do this now with the added consideration for the environment. Everyone is talking about offsetting the carbon footprint but the trees also offer some protection from sound as well as the view.

There are arguments for protecting areas of outstanding beauty, but they have to be balanced with arguments for improving the infrastructure and the economy. A view of another house is really not so bad. Compare that with no home and no job and any house is wonderful.

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Saturday, 13 March 2010

Keep the comments coming in

Generally I like to get comments as they make me think more deeply about what I have written. On Wednesday I wrote about health insurance and got a comment in three parts. The first agreed with what I had written. There are some instances when private insurance should be taken out. We may disagree on the detail but that's fine. We are all different.

The second point was about why we go to hospital. I mentioned going with a scratch, but this could be anything from a scratch to a Monty Python scratch which is more like the loss of a limb. Anonymous questioned when we should seek help. As a former physiotherapist for 22 years I have been involved in many scenarios of when people should look for professional help but the bottom line is that you seek help if you have any doubt.

I had already read the third comment at but it is an important point. Household insurance may cover injury from pets. Irresponsible owners will remain irresponsible even if this new legislation is passed and the burden will fall on responsible owners.

Recently I nearly changed my settings to stop anonymous comments. I have been questioning some anonymous commentators about why they remain anonymous but I haven't received an answer from them. I guessed it was possibly because they didn't want to expose their foolish background when that is what they are doing with their comments. I would prefer it if comments were not anonymous but if they allow me to write at a greater depth then these comments must be a good thing.

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Friday, 12 March 2010

"I have done nothing dishonest ever"

There was one sentence on the news last night that struck me as particularly poignant. "I have done nothing dishonest ever", said Lord Hanningfield. He is one of the four politicians who are pleading not guilty to charges related to their claims for expenses. Now the Crown Prosecution Service has looked at the evidence and decided that there is a case to answer. Whether they are guilty is up to the court, and I am quite willing to wait for that decision.

What I can't wait for is an answer to Lord Hanningfield's statement. Is he really saying that he has never done anything wrong? Is this person human? Whatever the rights and wrongs of him asking for expenses for overnight accomodation and at the same time being driven home I will leave to the courts. Yesterday his comment was not specific. This man thinks he is perfect. Either he is divine or he should be locked up for insanity. I think that he should prefer to be found guilty of the relatively minor fault of claiming unjustified expenses.

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Thursday, 11 March 2010

How do you know if your MP is boring and boorish?

How are voters supposed to get to know the views of the candidates at the general election? Relying on the press has its difficulties. Their job is to sell newspapers and the news should not get in the way of the truth. There is often bias in reporting and editorials. In fact they blatantly support particular parties so I think we can disregard newspapers if we want to come to a sound conclusion.

Television is better but it isn't perfect. Ask Alex Salmond. There are people writing blogs with very strong views about bias on telelvision. My view is that it is much better than newspapers but if you want a deeper knowledge of the views of the political parties then you have to work a little harder. Reading the manifestos is not a bad start.

Do you get the chance to attend a hustings meeting before a general election? They are getting more popular but in my experience I have only attended one in 1987. At every other election no meeting has been arranged. Churches have been known to arrange hustings meetings and this allows for the possibility of political debate at first hand on neutral territory.

You may then discover if the candidates are "boring and boorish", the words of the speaker yesterday in describing an MP who was heckling. They may well be elected but at least you would have been warned.

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Wednesday, 10 March 2010

What do we insure?

How would you feel if you were told that you had to take out insurance for walking down the street, just in case you had an accident? I think it would be strange. Accidents happen and that's why we have an NHS. What if you were told that insurance was needed to play a violent sport? You may or may not think that was reasonable, but what if it was a non-contact, non-violent sport? Private insurance gives peace of mind to those who can afford it but it is also there to support private insurance companies. There has to be a profit for them otherwise they wouldn't do it. Insurance may give peace of mind but so too does the NHS.

It seems to me that there are obvious examples when insurance is needed and obvious examples of when it isn't. Reports tell me that over 100 people are admitted to hospitals each week due to dog attacks and there are plans to make all dog owners insure against their pet attacking someone because of the risk from dangerous breeds. And that's the problem. All dogs aren't dangerous and to implement a compulsory insurance is either another form of taxation or it is a subsidy for those with dangerous dogs.

You may think it is fine to lump all dog owners together and make them pay insurance, even if that dog weighs 2lbs and has no teeth. Then why not make all who participate in sport take out insurance even if it is dominoes? Why not have compulsory insurance for walking down the street? Why not have compulsory insurance if you are underweight or overweight? If you have been involved in a pub fight on a Friday night surely the NHS shouldn't pay for the care.

I believe that we should receive first aid treatment without having to deal with paperwork. If I go into hospital with a scratch on my arm should I be questioned for insurance purposes as to whether it was a nail, a rugby boot or a dog tooth? If you think I am wrong then let me know, but you will have to tell me why I shouldn't have insurance for being a few pounds overweight.

I wrote on the 10th October last year that "Our NHS was founded on the guiding principle that it was free at the point of access. The more little charges that you have then the more it affects the poor. The Black Report highlighted the division of care between the rich and the poor. We should heed this report and look to improve the health of the poor". I stand by that.

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Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Lord Ashcroft is quite wrong

The news from David Cameron is that he has clearly acted to settle the Ashcroft matter before the general election. That's good. The Tories say that he will stand down from his party role after the election. That's good. The problem of course is that this is the man who promised to stop being a non-dom ten years ago. Promises are cheap when it saves you millions of pounds not to do what you promise.

That is why the words from David Cameron sound hollow. Acting now sounds like ten years too late. If Lord Ashcroft has not done what he promised then that sounds like lies, deception and deceipt (see yesterday's blog). When you can mix up the terms "non-dom" and long-term resident" then that's also deception, and it is simply wrong to allow people to buy their way into our legislature.

David Cameron may now be taking credit for the fact that answers are being given as to the tax status of Lord Ashcroft. That's great. However Lord Ashcroft is different from other wealthy donors because of his "promise" to come clean. You have to presume from this that he wouldn't have been honest without David Cameron's intervention. Lord Ashcroft is no different from any non-dom who want to preside over our laws, and that is quite simply wrong.

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Monday, 8 March 2010

Margaret Thatcher School of Charm

According to Nicky Campbell in The Big Questions yesterday, the most watched political programme in the last year was Qustion Time with the appearance of Nick Griffin. I like Question Time as it allows not only the members of the public to be spontaneous but also the politicians. Some politicians come out of it very well but this week I was disappointed with Carol Vorderman. I think that she is an aspiring politician and I wouldn't be surprised if we see her as a future Conservative candidate.

She doesn't mind being rude and aggressive. Her first words were to pick up a comment from the audience about Lord Ashcroft and the worst aspect for this person was the "lies,deception and deceipt". This is quite a reasonable comment that needs an answer but Carol decided to go on a rant about Lord Mandelson. The idea that you can deflect dishonesty in the Tory party by talking about a Labour politician confirms the thoughts of the member of the audience.

The real answer is to deal with the problem in hand. I have written about Lord Ashcroft previously. I don't have a problem with him being a non-dom. My problem is that he is a member of the House of Lords and is part of the legislative process. It won't improve if we are led by people who will not resolve "loopholes" in legislation. There is also the problem of secrecy and lack of commitment to keeping one's word.

What Carol hates to listen to is "politicians picking at each other on technicalities". Could she add mud-slinging to that? I think she has gone to the Margaret Thatcher school of charm. She may well become a politician which is fine if you like unthinking (it did look at one stage like she was making up her opinion on the spot), rude and aggressive politics. She made mistakes on Countdown but laughed them off and this is the way Boris Johnson gets away with his rudeness, but wouldn't it be nice if all our politicians would do more listening and less interrupting.

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Sunday, 7 March 2010

A fisherman's tale

Last Wednesday a number of people marched from Lancaster Market to the Morecambe Town Hall. They were protesting about the closure of the market and while they were marching I happened to be walking my dog. I often carry a camera with me and I took a photo of the marchers. I thought that it would be interesting to compare the number on the photo with the reports that would follow of how many were protesting.

On the radio on Thursday I heard that hundreds were protesting. On the BBC website they wrote that at least 200 were marching, see and in the local paper they reported that "market traders were joined by around 100 supporters on a march". I counted 48. It may be that many more started but that isn't the same as marching from Lancaster to Morecambe. It also makes you wonder about any reported numbers, and it sounds like these numbers may well increase as time goes on like the stories that fishermen tell.

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Saturday, 6 March 2010

Is Julie from Llandudno a stooge?

Following on from yesterday's blog, I took a look at the Conservatives website. I admit that I only glanced at it but I saw that Julie in the poster campaign liked what the Tories are doing for families so I wanted to know if I liked it too.

The website mentions marriage but this isn't the same as family. It's fine if you like marriage but what about the families where there is no marriage? It talks about a council tax freeze. This is nothing to do with families. Families may benefit but so will everyone else. It's also a red herring. If we see what has happened in Lancashire County Council, the Tories took control with the electoral promise of freezing the council tax. How did it manage to do this? It borrowed a lot of money.

The website talks about only letting millionaires pay inheritance tax. If we want to impose a tax so that the money can be directed towards families then it strikes me that inheritance tax is one of the easiest ways to do this. In fact if you want to change the inheritance tax laws then it almost certainly doesn't help families who are just starting their careers in order to build up a financial resource that may eventually lead to an inheritance. I admit that it will help the filthy rich young families. Napoleon knew about this and he used inheritance tax to break up the aristocracy. The Conservatives want to maintain the aristocracy.

I am concerned about Julie from Llandudno. She has never voted for the Tories before, and now she has invited them into her house and given her name to an advertising campaign for them. Manifestos, including those of the party or parties that she used to vote for, have not been published so she hasn't read them. She is quoted as supporting ideas that have gaping holes in them, and worst of all, she may even be a stooge.

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Friday, 5 March 2010

Ripe for parody 2

When I saw this poster I thought it was hard to believe. The Conservatives are funded by big business and they have a philosophy of allowing people to spend the money that they earn. Why should they want to support families as this would increase taxation? The poster just didn't fit in with my perception of the Tory Party.

So I thought that I would improve the poster by amending the wording for them. It struck me that this 'genuine' voter was actually working as a model for the party. I presume she got paid and I am sure that the poster campaign costs a lot of money. Where did this money come from. Well big businesses and people like Lord Ashcroft are factors here so this led me to the second amendment.

If you look carefully you will see that I have taken out the origninal words and this has affected the underlying photograph. It is difficult to see at this poster quality. I was considering a smaller change just to the second and third lines but I didn't find the exact text so changed all the words.

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Thursday, 4 March 2010

Ripe for parody

I saw this poster yesterday and it gave me another opportunity to combine my photography and politics blogs. The poster told me that one person was voting Conservative because of their plans to help families. I am not sure whether this is the case or not. It is advertising after all. I don't know if the Tories had to find a 'genuine' voter but this one looks just right for a poster campaign. I don't think much airbrushing was needed and she has been amended much less than David Cameron was in his poster.

I wasn't convinced that this voter had arrived at a balanced view comparing one party's policies with another. Is Julie from Llandudno politically aware? Is this Julie from Llandudno? Does she know the details of all the parties? I buy all the manifestos before general elections and compare them. How has Julie managed to come to this conclusion even before the manifestos have been published?

The point here is that the Conservatives are not trying to put over policy. We are just as ignorant after reading the poster. Image is much more important than substance for them, and image is certainly helped by some airbrushing. Obviously there are a lot less changes to this photo than were made to that of David Cameron, but it remains ripe for parody.

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Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Upholding the wealth divide

I have never thought that it was the role of government to make the rich richer and the poor poorer. I am not keen on tax loopholes because, as the name suggests, it is an anomaly in the system that allows the rich to get richer and loopholes need closing. However if there is a method to avoid tax then I don’t blame individuals for doing so.

If you have enough money accountants may advise you to live abroad. The Rolling Stones are famous for paying little tax. Jack Walker is famous for making millions and avoiding the tax man but then passing money over to Blackburn Rovers. They put this statue up to him outside Ewood Park as he was much loved in this area of Lancashire. He did have to live abroad to hold on to his wealth but it didn’t really matter that he influenced the English football results. The point is that if there are loopholes and the rich pay less tax then proportionally the poor pay more. I am sure that Robin Hood would not approve of this sort of thing.

You may have guessed that I am going to mention Lord Ashcroft. I am not concerned that he is a non-dom. If I had millions I might choose to live abroad and pass on my money as I see fit rather than pass it to the government. I do have concerns for political pary funding in that the people who pay will want something in return. If the trade unions want to sponsor an MP then they will want something in return. If big businesses fund the Conservatives then what are they getting?

It might be alright if voters know who is pulling the strings but we tend to get headlines rather than detail. Voters should know who is paying the piper. I have heard that Lord Ashcroft is passionate about his politics. Well if he is really passionate about governing Britain (which involves closing tax loopholes) then this is much more important than football and he should live here and live within the laws which he hopes to administer.

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Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Good old happenstance

I wrote about Neil Warnock's rant on Tuesday 16th February and how this attitude affected not only the respect shown to referees but was also related to the way that fans treat each other. When I was recently in Edinburgh I took this photo of a pub in which rugby fans could watch a match side by side with fans from the opposite team. I saw other pubs with similar signs.

Compare this with pubs near football grounds. They are either for the home or the away fans. I wouldn't dare to say that victory on a football pitch is not important but compared to the way that fans treat each other I know which I consider to be more important.

There is a postscript to the Neil Warnock story. It seems that his wife told him off for his rant because a similar thing had happened in his favour in the previous round of the cup. Sometimes pure luck is useful for a clearer view of the right way forward but wouldn't it have been much better if he had thought it through before he was taken over by emotion, because we are still left with the excuse for all the emotional fans to do whatever they like to abuse referees and behave badly towards each other.

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Monday, 1 March 2010

Right-thinking people

Do you remember a Monty Python sketch in which Graham Chapman says "I think all right-thinking people in this country are sick and tired of being told that ordinary, decent people are fed up in this country with being sick and tired." It does go on in a similar fashion but it is a parody of politicians who say very little and talk in jargon.

I was reminded of this sketch yesterday when Peter Hain was interviewed by Andrew Marr. Peter is in election mode. He said "what is absolutely vital to the great decent progressive majority in Britain is that we stop the Tories winning power. And I think it is absolutely crucial and most people in Britain agree, that if we can have a situation in which we can stop the Tories winning governments, then whether Labour's had an absolute majority or whether Labour doesn't have a majority we should be the majority party because we are the only party that can form an alternative government to the Tories". This can be summed up as "vote Labour".

Peter went on to call for all non-Tories to vote Labour. Now Andrew had just heard that it was vital and crucial to stop the Tories, so he asked the obvious question about Labour supporters voting for Liberal Democrats. Peter got confused at this point and forgot what he had just said. He reverted to his "vote Labour" spiel. It's a pity that our top politicians forget what they have been saying so easily.

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