Sunday, 31 October 2010

Congestion in Morecambe and Paris

I have just returned from France. What should have been a ten-day break became seven because of a French tradition called striking and this meant that a petrol shortage would mean that I couldn't drive through the country. As it happens it was fairly easy to get from A to B so this is today's blog - why is it easier to drive through France when it is on strike than Britain when it isn't?

Have you seen the way they drive around the Arc de Triomphe? Well I wasn't bold enough to drive here but I was walking and traffic was moving fairly easily. I did take on the peripherique of Paris and it did get busy at times, but never as busy as the usual traffic between Morecambe and Lancaster.

Let's hope that whoever makes the decision about the building of Morecame's link round appreciates the general level of congestion.

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Saturday, 30 October 2010

A benefits tax

One of the problems of the capitalist system is that we are seeing companies leaving this country and leaving the EC. There are lots of examples where production has been taken out of the country and this has caused many of the workers to sign on. Manufacturing industry is collapsing in this country and it is almost inevitable that the loss of jobs will mean higher costs in benefits. The owners of the company remain the same and they move the company out of the country purely to maintain or increase profit. So the owners do well but the workers lose out - and so does the country.

How do we get round this? How do we limit the loss of manufacturing industry to abroad? The simple answer is we can't. Owners have the freedom to move out if they so wish. What we can do is work on how we deal with their product if they wish to sell it in this country. A simple benefits tax on these products will go some way to repay the nation for the mobility (that's politer than greed) of the company.

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Friday, 29 October 2010

Young Offenders

I heard two stories recently about the way that offenders are treated. The first was about a young offenders' unit (not in Lancaster) that had naughty boys continuously kicking expensive doors that then had to be replaced. This person, who worked there from time to time, also told me that it looked like they could do anything they wanted. I have actually been told by a prison officer many years ago that prisoners had to have television in their rooms and all sorts of recreational activities.

The second story was about the Manchester Police Museum. I haven't been there but I may put it on my list of things to do. It is not that long ago when prisoners had to sleep on wood. I have been around Lancaster Castle and I have also seen the cells in Lancaster Town Hall - there used to be a court there. These cells didn't have the luxury of wood to sleep on.

Times change but if prisoners can't look after the things they are given then how many times should they be given them again. It is a little like the benefits blog on Wednesday. Jane wrote comments with the view that we have to look after the needy. My view was that we need to have incentives in order to work rather than take up benefits. I know Jane thinks I am a reader of the Daily Mail (I'm not) but I think the tide is turning against prisoners having luxury upon luxury and against benefits being more lucrative than work.

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Thursday, 28 October 2010

Astute Weapons

HMS Astute spent more than ten hours on a sandbank last Friday off the Isle of Skye. Luckily nobody was injured and there was no threat to the environment from the nuclear reactor but it made me think about the "astute" nature of this country's defences. We heard that there are 39,000 acoustic panels so that nobody will know its location. Well I can now confirm that there are times when 39,000 panels are not enough.

Accidents happen and I am sure this was not the first time that a submarine was left high and dry and it won't be the last. In fact the Ministry of Defence said this was not a major incidence. Would it have been a major incident if it had been carrying nuclear weapons? Is this our country's main defence?

On Tuesday I wrote about the effects of the bouncing bomb. In relative terms this is nothing compared to the effects of a nuclear warhead. If the Geneva Conventions do not allow for the bombing of dams then how do they see the use of nuclear weapons? I am not convinced of the need for this country to renew its nuclear weapons and I am not convinced that we could use them legitimately if we did have them.

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Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Hitting the poorest

Did you see on the news the woman who claimed benefits and could not go to work unless she received a salary of £60,000? Is this fair? Due to the complexity of the benefit system she was getting money from many directions for many reasons. She will be an extreme example and that is why she got on the news but in general people who work should get more than people who are on benefits, otherwise what is the point of working?

I hope this is not a common occurrence and in the vast majority of cases it is worth working. I have never earned anything close to £60,000 and for that matter I earn nothing like the benefits she gets. It may be the case that this is an extreme example but whether it is or whether it isn't, it is a good example of how we could be taking money off the "poorest" and still have a fair system.

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Tuesday, 26 October 2010

When to look for a whistle

Wikileaks has been in the news because it is the website that released almost 400,000 classified US documents about the war in Iraq. Hilary Clinton criticised them and said that this information put US soldiers lives at risk. That can't be good so why would anyone publish such information? Would you publish it? There comes a time when anyone would act if they felt it was the right thing to do. In this case Julian Assange, the founder of the website said he wanted to reveal the "truth" (my inverted commas) about the conflict. His truth included evidence of torture that had been ignored.

Last week I watched the film The Dambusters as well as a documentary on 617 squadron. You probably know the story that on the 16th May 1943, 19 aircraft set out to destroy three dams in Germany's Ruhr valley. In all films like this the British are the heroes and the Germans are the evil enemy. According to the documentary the effects of the bouncing bombs were devastating and their use would now be illegal under the Geneva Conventions. If you can't tell the difference between the goodies and the baddies then it is time to blow a whistle.

I am not criticising the 617 squadron as their actions were not against the Geneva Conventions at the time. However if your army takes part in torture and knows they are torturing then I would look for a whistle.

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Monday, 25 October 2010

Council Efficiency

I attended a recent count for a byelection and as we were leaving the town hall the clock struck 11pm. It had taken an hour to finish the count as polling stations had closed at 10pm. I suppose that isn't bad for a count. You see them racing in with the ballot boxes at the general election to try to announce the first MP.

Well nobody was racing into the town hall this evening and what intially sounds like an efficient count did not turn out to be so. There were eleven council workers. Let's say ten to make the maths easier and there was around 600 votes to count. This means that each official had to count 60 votes in 60 minutes. I'll let you do the maths. I think I could do my share in about a minute.

Alright, they did have to bring the ballot boxes to the town hall (ten minutes) and verify them before counting, but I'd like to think that improvements could be made in the running of this aspect of council work.

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Sunday, 24 October 2010

Anonymous Comments

Yesterday I received an anonymous comment. It wasn't greatly insulting but I decided that enough was enough and have changed my blog settings so that I can't receive anonymous views. It is a shame because I don't want to deter anyone from writing in. Sometimes you have to be brave to put your name to comments but most of the time bravery isn't needed, and that's why I have changed my view.

I have some comments that have not been published for various reasons. I was keeping them pending comeback from the author(s) but I can't do this indefinitely. If commentators are brave enough to give me their name then I will be brave enough to publish them.

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Saturday, 23 October 2010

Scientific doubt

Following on from yesterday's blog, we rely on our scientists to give us information. Sometimes this information is contested and we believe the scientist that we want to believe. In the case of Dr David Kelly this information was cloaked in secrecy. It was like the government was wanting us to believe scientific evidence but not give us the evidence.

Recently Stephen Hawking, Britain's most famous physicist told us that there was no place for God in the creation of the universe. This was countered, among others. by another physicist Professor Brian Foster from Oxford Univesity. Our academic experts become experts because they investigate a small part of our knowledge. By definition they cannot be experts in all aspects.

Going back to the death of Dr Kelly, the only people who can contest the results are those who have the information. I thought the ulnar artery had been cut and this was more likely to be from a defensive manoeuvre rather than an attempt at suicide. I have already written about some of my misgivings in August. I'll look forward to reading more of the explanation.

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Friday, 22 October 2010

Interest in David Kelly's death

On the 23rd August I wrote about Dr David Kelly. My main concern at the time was that there was an embargo on the findings from Lord Hutton's investigation into the cause of Dr Kelly's death. Well the news today is that we will discover the reasons behind his death in the near future rather than the original plan to leave it for seventy years.

Some doctors say you can't kill yourself by cutting the ulnar artery (the most difficult of the wrist arteries to get to if you are trying to kill yourself) and others say it is a "textbook" method.

I don't know how Dr Kelly died but I am interested to find out. What is particularly intriguing is not whether you can die from blood loss from slashing your wrist, I suspect you can given the right (should that be wrong) circustances, but what is so horrific about this information that it should be kept quiet for seventy years. It sounds like there should be a lot of interest in this disclosure even if it just means that we live in a state that keeps routine information under lock and key.

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P.S. The "secret" evidence has been published and there is still doubt about the results. They are important but I am in no position to contest them. However, I have seen nothing that would shock any relative. Why were these secrets to be kept for seventy years? What sort of state are we living in? There are false and hurtful allegations plastered all over our tabloid press and corrections and apologies are placed in the middle of the paper (if at all) some time later. It is really good to see these documents made public. All I need now is an explanation fo why they were private.

P.P.S. According to tonight's BBC news. the family always believed he committed suicide. That's unusual most families would find this difficult to accept. Michael Gaunt, a consultant vascular surgeon was interviewed and he told us that Dr Hunt was the only person to examine the body in detail and his conclusion was that the blood loss was sufficient to be the cause of death. The more I hear the more I wonder what is going on. We are talking about the death of someone who upset quite a few people in government and there is only one person who knows what actually happened. I don't think I will be the only one to spot these strange findings.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Downing Street photography

In April last year I wrote about the resignation of Bob Quick who was the head of counter-terrorism at Scotland Yard. One of his mistakes was to show confidential information to waiting photographers in Downing Street. I don't think this was his biggest mistake, after all, we all make mistakes but he happened to resign shortly after this. Since then there has been a long list of people who have also shown confidential information to photographers and I have not heard of any other resignations. It is the sort of thing that can happen to anyone. it is a failure in the system which is preferred to the possibility of invited guests going into Downing Street with a briefcase. Two days ago it was the turn of Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander.

In this case it meant that headlines were made yesterday that were meant for today. There really is a long list of private and confidential documents that have been filmed in Downing Street. My problem is not with the photographers - that's their job. It's not with the long list of people, mostly politicians, who made errors - nobody's perfect. It is with the decision to ban briefcases from Downing Street. You only get past the gates if you are invited. So we can't trust invited guests. If that is the case are briefcases banned whenever and wherever two or three cabinet members meet?How did we get to this stage?

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Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Who needs anonymity?

Occasionally I receive anonymous comments. Most get published and one comment that was published recently criticised my blog because of the small number of followers. This number does not bother me. For me these blogs are a method of letting anyone know my thoughts on any subject that takes my fancy. It is good to see some comments as I treat them like a conversationa and that is how ideas develop.

There is one follower who sent me a very nice email about a year ago and I became a follower of his blog. He now has 3047 followers as well as me. It looks like some people collect followers like trophies and this means that the actual numbers of followers is meaningless.

Andrew Marr criticised blog writers recently by calling them "inadequate, pimpled and single". Inadequate relates to task so I am not sure how Andrew gets to this conclusion. Pimples aren't relevant and I don't think marital status rates too highly in my philosopher of the year competition. I didn't hear his comment in context but I suppose I can relate his feelings to some of the comments that I get. One such comment has been deleted because it was offensive. I am keeping the others just in case the authors wish to come back to them.

Some comments are not relevant. Some commentators have their own agenda and don't even try to relate their comment to my blog. Invariably these comments are anonymous. If these commentators are unable to give their identity then it may be the case, in the words of Andrew Marr, that they are "socially inadequate" and "very angry people".

I am not sure if you can come to these conclusions from specific comments but I would much prefer to deal with individual comments than evaluate the commentators. The trouble with anonymity is that no defence is needed. No supporting evidence is needed. You can say what you like with reputation intact. I am sure there is a case for witholding identity but I just can't see it with my blogs.

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Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Adolf would be proud

If you want to know about social engineering then take a look at Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. In this "ideal" world everyone is happy and well and everyone dies at the age of 60. This futuristic world is extreme in which there are five castes and nobody looks for social mobility because everyone is happy just where they are. There is significant irony in this book. It was written in the 1930s when someone called Adolf was talking about an Aryan race but people like Jesse Owens were putting holes in his argument.

The problem is that some people don't see the irony. On the news last night was an American charity that was offering money to drug addicts if they are sterilised. I didn't hear any mention of which drugs had to be used. Did they include alcohol? It doesn't really matter. What does matter is that we are telling people with drugs problems that they are sub-human not worthy of having children. If we start to pick on drug addicts with extreme problems then I can see that some readers may be saying this is not a bad idea. Well that's what Adolf thought.

If you want to ban things that are bad for you and sterilise those who practice things that are harmful then do we include that great killer alcohol or being near motor vehicles? If we want to stay safe then the best bet is to stay in bed.

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Monday, 18 October 2010

Sincere Thanks

On Thursday 7th October we had a by-election for the Lancaster City Council. The turnout was awful and we didn't get one in eight voters interested enough to participate in our democracy. I wrote about the result on Saturday 9th October and that should have been an end to it. However I read the letters page in the local paper last Friday (15th) and the victor, who happened to be from the Morecambe Bay Independent Party has thanked a few people including the electorate.

There is nothing wrong with that. If one person votes then there is nothing wrong with thanking them. What irritated me was the use of the word sincerely. Sincere thanks are not deceitful but there was no mention about the low turnout. The result was an affront to democracy. If the winner really is sincere and has genuinely forgotten this then there is a naivity about his views. If he knows this then his sincerity is hollow.

When I went to the count the first person I saw with a huge rosette was from the MBIs. As I was leaving he shook my hand and told me it was nice to see me. He obviously doesn't know me or the blogs that I write but that's what party politicians do. They kiss babies, pat dogs and shake hands and say nice to see you when they should know better.

The MBIs are a party that disown party politics but they are not a unified party and their split in Morecambe Town Council is expensive in political and financial terms. They advertise themselves by asking if the electorate are sick of party politics and then rely on a confusing name to make them think that they are not a party. The worst excesses of party politics are displayed by this party and they get votes for criticising these excesses. As it happens I think this win was based mainly on getting out friends and family to the ballot box.

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Sunday, 17 October 2010

Emotion in politics

I was watching Sky news yesterday and there was a debate about NHS funding. At the same time there was a message at the bottom of the screen with breaking news about a group of female demonstrators who had handcuffed themselves to lorries and blocked roads in protest over climate change. If you asked the man in the street what they think about NHS funding or climate change they may give an answer but I think you are unlikely to find anyone who is so moved that they wish to do something about it.

How do we motivate members of the public so that they become politically active? Well one way is to use headlines. What attracted me to listen to the debate was when one person said "I couldn't disagree with you more". His view (I think) was that the NHS is so important that we can't rely on private companies to come in and improve it. His adversary in the debate then asked the rhetorical question as to whether private companies can support the NHS and improve it. I say rhetorical because he gave the immediate answer that we don't know the answer because it hasn't been done.

Well it has. There are lots of examples of private companies coming in to the NHS, doing a job and then leaving. The PFI means that the NHS is paying private companies because they provided the funding for expensive projects. Private companies don't do this out of the goodness of their heart. What this means is that it is more efficient to pay private companies than it is to organise it within the NHS. These decisions relate to general principles of whether we want private involvement in public expenditure. And that's where you find emotion. That's when you get handcuffed to lorries.

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Saturday, 16 October 2010

Local Newspapers

I am a couple of days late buying my Wednesday local paper and when I glanced through it I saw that my letter had not been printed. Regular readers will know that for the first time in my life I am engaging in a correspondence battle with the Labour Party. When I say "battle" it isn't a conventional battle. It's the sort of battle in which you could fall asleep.

A Labour supporter wrote about the damages caused by cuts in the public purse. I wrote back saying that cuts were inevitable and that's when the miracle happened - I got a reply. I always thought this would be an exciting time as I duly wrote back. Another Labour Party member wrote in questioning the amount of debt in the country. I replied again. Well I did get my name mentioned again.

The trouble is my reply was three weeks ago and it's still not in the paper. My previous two letters took three weeks to be published and if I am getting bored waiting for the next letter imagine how everyone else must feel.

Compare that to a blog in which comments may be submitted immediately. Although local newspapers have been protected from the decline in sales seen in our nationals, it is not hard to see their demise as other media replace them.

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Friday, 15 October 2010

Knowing all the answers

On Wednesday evening I went to a lecture by the physicist Brian Foster from Oxford University. He was talking about physics in general and Einstein in particular. Einstein enjoyed playing the violin and Brian was joined by the violinist Jack Liebeck for a very entertaining evening at the end of which we had time for questions. My question was about the creation of the universe and whether physics alone could provide an explanation.

On three or four occasions Brian spoke about explanations in physics that stem from the moment just after the big bang. There is the obvious question about explanations of what was happening just before the big bang. In his detailed unfolding story of the history of physics he continually mentioned the gaps in our knowledge. The gaps in our knowledge are great and this includes information gathered from the Large Hadron Collider. On so many occasions we hear that scientific knowledge is lacking. I didn't get the quote exactly but it was something like "anyone who says they understand particle physics clearly does not". There is a huge amount of information that is gathered and the tiniest fraction of this information is of interest.

Brian's answer to me was fairly clear. Physics does not have all the answers. I think we are a long way from knowing all the questions.

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Thursday, 14 October 2010

Perception is so important

It's great news for the Chilean miners. At the time of writing 15 miners have been rescued and I presume the good news will continue. One person did tell me that they could not be enclosed in the capsule that is returning them to ground level. My reply was that their work involved being in enclosed spaces so it should not be an ordeal for them.

Some people have hobbies like potholing. They may not like the term "extreme sport" but this pastime is dangerous and you do hear that cavers die. So danger is not just quantifiable, it is also how it is perceived.

The miners may have suffered terrible deprivation and hardship, but their perception of their situation must have helped them tremedously. We can relate this perception to any situation and suddenly tuition fees don't sound so bad.

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Wednesday, 13 October 2010

How to pay for universities.

I don't get the impression that we are worse off than we were in the seventies which was when I applied to go to university. I was given a grant and didn't have to pay for tuition fees. However our present economic climate has persuaded the government to increase tuition fees. The BBC reported that some universities, like the red brick University of Birmingham, will manage quite well while other univesities will struggle because prospective students will not be able to afford these fees.

You may believe that all our students deserve the chance to go to university and this should be free as it was in the seventies. You may feel that graduates should pay more because nothing is free in life. What can be wrong with tuition fees? I happen to believe that education should be provided to our students and not leave them in debt. It doesn't affect the rich but the poor may have their education curtailed. A graduate tax isn't fair either because any student who leaves the country would not pay it and some would repay their course fees many times over.

Where does that leave us? For me the answer is easy. The Spinners, the folk group from the sixties and seventies sang about red brick universities putting you on the lower branches of the tree. Now they put you on the top branches because everyone is getting to university. It feel like every town and city has its own university. To matriculate meant to join a little list and now university students are part of a really big list.

We don't need tradesmen with degrees. There is a common feeling that everyone should go to university and that is what we can't afford.

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Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Democracy Loses

I have spoken with a couple of people who could have voted at the recent Lancaster City Council by-election but they didn't. Local elections were not seen as important for either of them and they are not on their own. Less than one in eight of the electorate voted in this election. How are we going to get voters interested? For that matter how are we going to get candidates interested? The obvious answer is to reform the system. Let's have a voting systme that means votes count. Why should any individual bother to vote, after all who has heard of an election won by one vote? AV may be a stepping stone to a better system but even if we get this concession will it go far enough to enthuse the nation to vote? I fear not.

We have spoken about change for so long but when are we going to vote at the supermarket? Why are we voting on Thursdays? Can we vote through mobile phones or computers? I am instinctively against a compulsory voting system but could we persuade voters by making the system easier?

What is really concerning is that we get no change to the system and we continue to accept that four or five per cent of the electorate is enough to give a mandate to an elected representative. These people may have won because the returning officer says they have won but democracy has lost.

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Monday, 11 October 2010

Lost Land of the Tigers

If you are following the television programme The Lost Land of the Tiger, you will have seen that Professor George McGavin became quite emotional after seeing photos of tigers that have been killed for the Chinese medicine market. Shortly after this we saw the remains of a yak which had been killed by a tiger. Two thirds of the yak had been devoured and a puncture hole the size of your fist was seen in the beast's neck. There was no word as to how the yak herder felt and I don't suppose the yak was too happy about it. However emotion is important if we want to change anything and the brutality of a tiger's kill should not be confused with that of the human hunter.

Nature is brutal but man should be above brutality. It isn't that we have to kill animals as we must do this for all sorts of reasons. The problem is that there are only 5000 or so tigers left, and it has to be one of the most endangered animals on Earth. Yaks are common. When you also consider that just about every regulatory body of Chinese medicine has repeatedly and vociferously denounced use of tiger parts for medicine, perhaps we should all get a little more emotional.

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Sunday, 10 October 2010

People in glass houses

There has been much talk of the crowds at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi. How can it be so badly organised? Our athletes, those that have made the journey and not been put off by any threat to health, better offers from other games or lack of facilities, need the crowds to spur them to greater things.

And then I thought of our Commonwealth Games in Manchester. I was really pleased by the volunteers. They opened doors for the spectators, gave directions and had other roles too numerous to mention. There was one problem with the two events that I went to. There were no spectators.

Whenever I hear about criticisms of the lack of numbers in Delhi I think back to the rugby sevens and particulaly the badminton in Bolton. I didn't follow any crowds to get into the arena and I could sit anywhere I wished and follow any of the games that were being played. Let's be careful about our criticisms because Manchester was not that long ago.

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Saturday, 9 October 2010

Not an example of democracy

We had a by-election on Thursday in Lancaster and I went to the count. There are a few points I would like to make but I'll stick to one. The number of votes cast was 608. You may or may not be impressed with this but the stunning statistic is that this was 12% of the vote. What sort of mandate is this? We cannot get one person in eight to go and vote and this is with all the resources of a by-election.

With four candidates it is possible to win with just over 3% of the electorate behind you. I don't know how you define democracy but this isn't it. If anyone wants an argument as to why we need to change the system then feel free to use this election.

Change the world.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Do you know your GP?

I took someone to the GP yesterday. The surgery was in the centre of Lancaster but it could have been any major town or city because the problem was trying to park. I was lucky but you aren't allowed to drop people off outside the door so there will be some patients who call out the doctor simply because of this difficulty.

There has been talk of building a new surgery which would combine three large practices. The problem with this is the GPs would have combined lists of patients. The chances of seeing the same GP twice would be greatly diminished. I haven't met anyone who doesn't see this as a priority. If you have to go to your GP three times for the same condition the last thing you want to do is explain the situation in full three times. There is also a relationship that needs time to develop between doctor and patient. Regardless of improvements in buildings and services provided in surgeries, there should be an emphasis on knowing the GP.

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Thursday, 7 October 2010

A party where everyone matters

There are signs when you come into Lancashire that tell you that it is a place where everyone matters. I always blow a sigh of relief when I see this sign as I am so pleased to leave a place where some people don't matter. Sometimes headlines or signs don't actually have much meaning.

There is a row in Morecambe that I wrote about on the 23rd September. It concerns the allegation of bullying by six Morecambe Bay Independent councillors in Morecambe in relation to the former town clerk. Well the row rumbles on. This week there is a letter in the local paper from the former leader of this party who made the allegation. I don't want to go over old ground so this time I will highlight that her membership was terminated. She was expelled "from the Morecambe Bay Independents". She makes other points to defend her position and concludes that the six councillors who are the at the centre of the row have misused the report from the Standards for England. "This report is confidential and must not be disclosed".

She claims to have caught them out there but only recipients of the report will know. Why does she want this whole sorry story to continue? There is a by-election tomorrow in Morecambe and the leaflet from the Morecambe Bay Independents claims that if you are sick of party politics you should vote for them. Should that read "don't vote" for them? They also claim to put "people before politics". I'm glad they do because I'd hate to read about them if they didn't. Some political claims are as meaningful as Lancashire being a place where everyone matters.

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Wednesday, 6 October 2010

The rich and child benefit

So child benefit will not be universal from 2013. There are arguments to support keeping the benefit universal. There are extra costs to a means-tested benefit. Even in a household with a high income one parent may not receive enough money. However these are not strong arguments. In a similar fashion it is often difficult for me to feel sorry for holidaymakers who lose their holiday. There are so many people who can't afford a holiday in the first place.

On the other hand it is a really strong argument that says those who are very rich don't need child benefit, especially in the present economic climate. One mother was on the news a couple of days ago saying how life would be much harder for them (in three years time) as they are poor even though they had good incomes. They only drive two old cars. Again it is hard to feel sorry for her when many families have to make ends meet on less than half that amount.

I was motivated to write this blog because Labour said the move undermined the coalition's claim to be a family-friendly government. No it doesn't. However this response does undermine Labour's claim to be a good opposition. Take a survey yourself. Who thinks the really rich should receive child benefit?

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Tuesday, 5 October 2010

No touch rules

There are so many items in the news that I would like to write about but one blog per day is probably enough, and it is not difficult to find one subject to feel strongly about. Today I'll support Michael Gove with his abolition of the "no touch" rule in schools. You don't abolish crime by legislation (in fact you create crime by legislation) but you can use the law to stop a child who has been bullied from being comforted. You can stop pupils from comforting each other too but it doesn't make life better by creating these laws.

Similarly, life is not better for teachers if they know that pupils know that they can't touch the pupils. Controlled restraint must be a reasonable response in many situations. I saw the film Kes over the weekend and the main character Billy is bullied at home and at school. It is truly gratifying to see Colin Welland physically challenge one of the school bullies. A remake wouldn't strike the same chord.

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Monday, 4 October 2010

Broadway Speed Limit

I have written before about the 40mph speed limit on Broadway in Morecambe. We surveyed all the houses and came to the conclusion that it should be 30mph. This was years ago and the limit changed to 30mph this week. In this blog I don't want to discuss the reasons behind the lowering of the limit but the communication that goes with it as we don't know the Labour or the Conservative view because they haven't told us. The County Councillor has stayed out of the discussion as far as we know, and I live on Broadway.

The limit changed last Tuesday, well at least the signs told us that a new speed limit was in operation. It wasn't till the next day that we lost the 40mph signs. This is a minor problem but one that is easily solved for future speed limit changes. The major problem is that the authorities did not ask for any views and did not let anyone know how or why they came to their decision.

Now if they want to take up another finding from the survey, we do need a roundabout at the junction of Broadway with the promenade.

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Sunday, 3 October 2010

Letter to the paper

Over the last few months I have been involved in a string of letters in the local newspaper with two Labour Party members. Well I have had two replies. Here is my latest letter.

Thanks to Simon Rudd (letters 29th October) for his reply to my letter and thanks for calling us by our correct title, Liberal Democrats. To answer his questions, the Office for National Statistics does tell us there is a £4 trillion debt and this figure includes £770 billion of unfunded public sector pensions. The ONC report suggests that this amount should be included in the total debt and I agree that this figure should be acknowledged. However there are not many people who can relate to figures in trillions so it may be easier to understand that it costs £118 million per day to pay off the interest on the debt, more than we spend on the army, the navy and the air force – the whole of our defence. It's a ridiculous, unsustainable amount.

Headlines are much easier to appreciate and pensions should be considered in the total amount of debt because it is a debt. However the gap between rich and poor is much more concerning than how we look at figures concerning debt. The last Labour government managed to increase this gap and they had no coalition partner to appease.

I don’t know Simon, a member of the Morecambe Labour Party, but he may have been to the Labour conference last week. I heard no division among the speakers there. In fact I heard no debate. The only division I noticed was between the Miliband brothers. David left the conference early but he did speak about his dedication to his South Shields constituents from the comfort of his London home. In closing the conference Harriet Harrman made jokes about the union’s block vote. I don’t think David was laughing.

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Saturday, 2 October 2010

Bad parenting or bad parents?

ADHT or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder has been in the news recently. There has been much talk about the environmental causes to this disorder but Cardiff University are telling us that it is now down to genetic factors. This is important because of the criticism that it is caused by bad parenting. Previously environmental factors have included such things as pre-natal smoking or pre-term stress for the mother.

Professor Anita Thapar leading the present research wrote "Too often, people dismiss ADHD as being down to bad parenting or poor diet... Now we can say with confidence that ADHD is a genetic disease ..." I am not a professor but I don't think life is this simple (and probably she doesn't either). One mother on the BBC was pleased with the results of this research because ADHT was not caused by bad parenting and the children are not evil or naughty.

Well to me it sounds like a hollow victory. According to this report the cause is not bad parenting, but if it is genetic then it is caused by bad parents. There is naughty behaviour and if we call it anything else then it becomes acceptable. Nobody would condemn children as evil but if we lose our sense of right and wrong then anything goes. No child should be called evil and for that matter they shouldn't even be called naughty, but we have to tell them what is right and what is wrong, what is nice and what is naughty.

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Friday, 1 October 2010

Apathy or ignorance

There is a by-election in Lancaster next week. It is for a ward in Morecambe and yesterday I was helping to deliver leaflets. We also spoke with some residents but the moment that stands out for me is being handed back a leaflet with the comment that it could be useful for someone else to read. What was the reason for this? Political apathy is my best guess although it may be that there is a commitment to another party or individual and this person was doing what she thought was the correct and polite thing to do. If the latter is the case then we need to let everyone know that they should only vote one way if they know about the others. How else can you know you are voting the right way?

Apathy dominates but there is a significant minority who can be bothered to vote. How do we influence anyone to vote. Well I suppose headlines help and we have a political party called Morecambe Bay Independents who feel that they are above party politics. They were successful in 2009 at a time when party politicians were not popular. Since then they have shown all the bad habits of the worst parties and I have documented that this has cost Morecambe a lot in financial and political terms.

They are at it again. "Sick of Party Politics" is possibly the one headline that voters will remember from their leaflet. What a shame that these party politicians continue to do a disservice to any member of a serious political party - one that has an interest in all levels of the political world.

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