30 April 2009
How wonderful, and if you don't know what this means - well the last time a government was defeated was 1978, under Callaghan (there's that parallel again) and to Jim's credit he at least didn't have a working majority
Furthermore this is a rather massive blow as it would appear the public never agreed with the government - the Daily Politics did not receive a single message against today's motion, obviously it's not a fair sample but it is unprecedented for everyone to agree like that - it shows how deeply out of touch the government are
And this comes in the wake of the expenses fiasco, the climbdown on the database, oh and a certain little petition that is now No.1 on the PM's own website, so I don't even need the address, just head to petitions.number10 and it's on the front page under 'most popular' - not bad for less than a week (I can't wait for the government response)
Also while you're there numbers 4 and 5 also piqued my interest - the national speed limit change is clearly deeply opposed and there's one against the proposed changes to tuition fees, two issues I feel pretty strongly about, and they're worthwhile petitions now they're so large
I don't really want to talk at length about the Gurkha situation, I've always believed they have a right to live here, and as every blogger and newspaper journo in the land is saying the same thing I see little point in adding my tiny voice
What I will say is that the government have not only been foolish, but callous
Why did they feel that it was appropriate to use the rule of 20 years service when Gurkhas are forced to retire after 15? That's pretty clearly a stitch-up
And why exactly did the government suddenly bring up a brick wall against immigration when this government (rightly or wrongly) are well known for having a lax attitude towards it? Personally I think they saw it as a soft target in an attempt to look tough, unfortunately for them the public don't actually mind soldiers who fight for this country being allowed in
Allowing pre-1997 Gurkhas in would allow approximately 36,000 in, the government said this could equate to just over 100,000 people, accounting for dependants
Big number isn't it? Well not really, that's the worst case scenario, or in government language: their strongest argument - it's a bit like saying we could expect over 300 million coming in from the EU
And 100,000 is not particularly large, it might be a logistical problem should they all descend within one year, but that's unlikely - as an example net foreign immigration was 333,000 in 2007 - and we've received over half a million Poles since 2004 (same source), if the government could handle all the 'opening the floodgates' headlines from the Mail over that then I see little reason they should have a problem with up to 100,000 people who have a pretty strong claim
Other arguments include, 'it'll cost too much and we're trying to cut costs' - well unfortunately Labour were happy to spend massively until about 2 weeks ago, so they had a good eleven years to throw more money away - and their estimates of it costing over a billion pounds are worthy of the tabloids, including potential healthcare costs for a bunch of elderly soldiers, the government neglect to mention that Gurkhas paid tax and National Insurance and so are therefore paid in
And seriously, a billion is nothing - pointless and unpopular I.D cards will be over five billion, the Olympics are set at 5.3billion, and will probably be nearer ten billion, and exactly how much did the bailout cost?
Then of course the Tories are 'do-nothings' and Labour were the ones who gave Gurkhas right of settlement in the first place...yes, because what else happened in 1997? That's right we gave back Hong Kong and so had to change the rules
Incidentally, the idea of calling the Tories 'do-nothings' is now ridiculous as they just voted for a much bigger measure than the government, seriously I'm not a Tory but when all Labour can produce is negative campaigning at the opposition it grates at me
I think all you have to remember is the government's 20-year regulation: Gurkhas only serve 15 years, and that's just brazen
*I also have some quick mentions:
Nick Clegg performed very well (even if Cameron did muscle in) - I think he did a great job on this, well done to him
Andrew Neil for simply revelling in Brown's misery, what with hundreds of thousands laughing at him on the net (I haven't the heart to tell Andrew we've been doing that for nearly two years anyway)
Nick Robinson says that Gordon is constantly misjudging issues
So how's that for BBC bias? There is of course a simpering analysis by Gary O'Donoghue to prop up the dear leader, just kidding - he thinks he's lost his authority
Callaghan was defeated in late January 1978, but didn't lose confidence til March 1979, and the election was in May 79, a year and three months later - Gordon only has a year and one month left - pity
29 April 2009
I know we've been saying things like 'death knell' every week but the past week has seen some pretty big shifts
Like the mooted U-turn on the totalitarian database and the expenses farce, which I think is perfectly described by Nick Robinson:
Remember that first of all, he said that this wasn't a matter for him. Then he said that it was a matter for an enquiry, after the next election. Next, he said that the enquiry should be quicker, before going on to pre-empt it with a proposal for a daily attendance allowance which was broadcast on YouTube and therefore not open to questioning either by MPs or by the media.
Finally, last night, he effectively abandoned that idea in a letter carefully released after a news conference in Islamabad and once he was protected from questioning on a flight to Warsaw.
That's about four U-turns and no solution on the horizon - our 'PM' has gone from being too slow, to being too rash, to dropping the issue
Now that's good government - 'I'll say lots, then drop it' would at least be a reasonable political manoeuvre
Unfortunately Gordon is not blessed with the political grace that his predecessor had, he initially cocked up the response and was foolish for thinking he can get away with dropping the issue
There is a very clear image in my head now, of a battered old juggernaut who has somehow found himself on a cliff top road, following the curves and bends on the cliff, with a sheer drop of 100 metres at the side of the road
Old Gordon careers forward, putting the truck in the wrong gear, turning too late and smashing his back end through the barrier, but he chugs along, swaying wildly as he constantly slides on and off the edge of the cliff, how he has got this far no one knows
It would be quite impressive to watch really, if we were watching on the telly, rather than being in the back of said trailer
I mean what else is there, Gordon? The Home Office look set to backtrack on the database, even ID cards seem to be under increasing pressure (they may be citing costs, but as if it makes a difference, it's a climb-down) and Eco-towns are doomed
Seriously I can't think of any other legislation, so why exactly are we prepared to put up with this for another year? While I welcome a decrease in legislation numbers that had rocketed under Labour, we're talking big, useful things here - most of those 3,000+ laws were just EU fodder - but now there are no big plans, just Gordon trying to stay in power and Straw and Harman's pet projects - that's surely not right
I worry that all this collapse will do is justify Jacqui Smith's removal, not the government's
All this is an indication of how much we are abused by the parties - no policies, no ideas - just power, that Labour want to keep hold of and the Tories are happy to take by default
I could also go on about how the situation is what makes these climbdowns so powerful - you can't be seen to be weak so you have to stick to a failed policy until it is beaten to a bloody pulp, and that's no good for anyone
Politics really is broken
(P.S. Why exactly is Gordon off on another world tour, a week after his Easter holidays?)
28 April 2009
Don't you just love Harriet's pic on the BBC? Really flattering, not surprising from a pro-Labour broadcaster, eh?
But anyway, the Equalities bill is back - I have no idea when the actual vote is, nobody seems to mention that - the ideas just keep popping up when somebody feels it's a 'fresh' news story
It seems a little feebler this time round, targeting certain health services at deprived areas as part of a 'social economic duty' sounds like pure waffle to me
While the most well-known positive discrimination plans have been watered down slightly, in the Mail she says:
'If you have got two equally qualified candidates, you might actually want to have the woman because she is a woman.
'Now at the moment, if you choose her because she is a woman, you could face a sex discrimination case.
'So this says to employers, if you want to, and want to be able to diversify your workforce, then actually you can choose, if you have got equally-qualified candidates, you can choose the one from the group that is under-represented.'
Positive discrimination, where a lesser-qualified candidate is awarded a job just because he or she is from a minority, will remain illegal.
That sounds like positive discrimination, but with an 'equally-qualified' clause in to appease meritocrats like me - well it doesn't
This effectively is 'positive' discrimination - although you are not obliged to simply pick the simpleton in the corner because she is the only person with ovaries who entered the interview process, you still get the opportunity to 'balance' your workforce without recourse
Sounds OK doesn't it? Well not really, it's just discrimination coated with a layer of pleasantness - let's create an example:
you currently have a workforce of 10 - nine are men, one of whom needs replacing (let's say he's on paternity leave) - you advertise the position and there are several qualified candidates out of a field of 20, however only one woman applied - she is now virtually guaranteed the job, the equally-qualified men (who should have a massive statistical advantage) are left out on the basis of their sex
Now fortunately this is optional, the law as far as I understand means you can behave this way without breaking employment law, you don't have to - but this law pretty clearly benefits women (although the reverse situation is also allowed, we all know what this is targeting) - as a male you now face an extra potential barrier to employment
Fancy turning up to an interview, performing really well and then being told 'we need to balance our workforce, so kindly f*** off' - obviously this is based on the assumption that the employer is using the law but just because it is optional doesn't make it fair - if anything I would force any employer using this law to publish their intent on the job ad, which would, ironically, be a step further into positive discrimination
Balancing workforces is all well and good but the proponents of this fail to notice the plight of the male job-hunter in this - come up against just one woman and you're scuppered - how depressing is that?
This is the fundamental problem at the root of almost all 'equal outcome' law - they treat the majority (usually white and male) as a 'community' - we are all treated as one homogeneous group - of course I am no nearer to being a millionaire head of a failed bank than the next woman/ethnic minority/homosexual and yet I am penalised for unfortunately sharing the same genitalia as said banker
If there was a massive problem in society - such as back in Weimar Germany where women were forced to take less pay, and men were given precedence, then I could support laws that promote equality (such as the Equal Pay Act) - but there isn't - women aren't kept out of academia or certain professions any more, they can't be sexually harassed and they receive the same wages
There is of course still the 'gender pay gap' - but this always relates to the average pay across the whole of society, it doesn't mean that I get more per hour in McDonald's than the woman next to me (hypothetical, I don't actually work in Maccy D's)
Female part-time workers still earned 40% less per hour than their full-time male counterparts, Ms Harman told Today BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
"Do we think she is 40% less intelligent, less committed, less hard-working, less qualified? It's not the case. It's entrenched discrimination. It's allowed to persist because it's all swept under the carpet."
Now, the actual gender pay gap is 23% according to the Beeb - for some reason Harriet chooses to compare the disparity between women who work part-time, and men who work full-time
Why not men who work part-time, or women who work full-time? An odd comparison, principally used to find a higher than average discrepancy - for me the 23% difference would've worked better than a larger, but irrelevant figure
There are more men in IT, there are more women in Retail - guess which pays more? Harriet somehow sees the gap as women systematically being paid 40% less - it has absolutely nothing to do with their choice of employment does it then?
Maybe she is right about unfairness in some areas, but the reasoning she uses to get the message out is always flawed, and it's annoying
The real answer to the issue she brings up is to pay women in lower paying jobs more than the men in those jobs - that's the reality of the situation, Harriet, that or force an equal percentage of women into every single job (including builders and dustbin-men as well as high flying lawyers) because there will always be a discrepancy between where men and women work
Meanwhile it becomes ever easier to get qualifications and get the best jobs if you're a woman or non-white because the minority is favoured in our society (and of course you could simply start drawing dividing lines around anything, maybe blonde haired people are discriminated against?)
I did like how the BBC ended with this graph, tracking the pay gap from the introduction of the Equal Pay Act:
Pretty nice steady drop of 50% since 1970 - seems that the rise of equal opportunities have been fixing the issue just fine without positive discrimination, but such a kick in the balls to the idea at the end of the article is of course still pro-Labour in some pseudo-clandestine way
22 April 2009
The premise is basically that American TV is currently putting British TV to shame, with the advent of shows like House, Lost, Desperate Housewives, The Wire etc..
So the author finds 50 shows as examples of this
Only I see a problem - why is the author including shows like Sex and the City (39), which ended five years ago? It may have just had a Hollywood film out but it is certainly not a current TV series, by his logic I get to include the original British version of The Office (ended in 2003) in my list of current British shows
The author is pretty clearly at pains to suggest there are 50 programmes better than any British fare currently out there, and he is grasping at straws to prove his point by using shows that are long gone and shows that are also complete shite
Pushing Daisies comes in at 37 - despite being critically acclaimed (purely by critics), the show was axed and never achieved an audience in America or Britain (it was "too sickly for some", as Daniel puts it) - how exactly this makes it better than the successful American Office (49), Desperate Housewives (47) and even Reaper (50) is beyond me
It's not even that he's putting some oddities in as filler - he has the long-finished Six Feet Under at 17, I agree it was a good show but it finished a good few years ago, and The West Wing at 5! In it's heyday in the early 2000s, the show was wrapping up just as shows like House picked up steam, I will leave 24 (4) alone as it is still running, and I never enjoyed it much, so I'm biased, but personally think it was best in the early years and is hardly all that any more
The inclusion of shows like The Simpsons (6), South Park (8) and Scrubs (33) - while all good products in their day, also demonstrates a massive flaw in his argument - none of them produce anything nowadays - Scrubs has suffered for two or three seasons and was only dragged kicking and screaming to a new, final, final series (on a new network) this year, and can anyone seriously say The Simpsons have made anything decent since the turn of the millennium? I know he does, but he's clearly an idiot, especially as he could've put in the far more recent Futurama - the idea that The Simpsons is the 6th best thing you can find from America right now is ludicrous, historically it will probably always be a top ten American show, but none of the recent tripe counts
It's not as if I'm being pedantic here - I'm happy with his inclusions of The Sopranos, The Wire and Battlestar Galactica, which have all recently finished - they are still contemporary - but a lot of his selections bring up the question of why he doesn't bring in 90s shows like Friends, Frasier and Seinfeld, I mean what's the huge difference between their period and the aforementioned show about four elderly shoe-obsessed nymphomaniacs in Manhattan? (for example Sex and the City ran from 1998-2004, Friends from 1994-2004)
I think at the heart of this is a perfectly valid argument that American TV has produced a lot of great shows in the last couple of years, at the forefront of that are House (23), Lost (7) , BSG (2), The Wire (1), The Sopranos (3), Desperate Housewives, Heroes (30) et all - these help give a general opinion that there's masses of quality coming from across the pond right now in my mind - but his list is bulked up by crappy shows that haven't even made it across the Atlantic, are old, are rehashes of the same formula (eg. Bones and The Mentalist) or just plain failures
This is without even questioning his opinions - we can all argue with him whether The Wire or BSG are any good, but this is much worse than pure difference of opinion - the article is based on flawed logic and is poor journalism, based solely on the author's obvious dislike of current British television, which he doesn't attempt to defend for the sake of balance
I could easily throw in The Office, Peep Show, The IT Crowd, Bremner Bird and Fortune, Extras and The Inbetweeners as examples of recent British triumphs straight off the top of my head, even Top Gear would be applicable by his standards
I note that most of my choices are comedies - I don't know whether that's my taste coming through or a natural British inclination towards comedy - but equally you could easily argue that the best American productions are almost solely dramas - on the comedy front they really only have Curb your Enthusiasm (10) and The Colbert Report, against a far greater number of British comedies
It's also fairly unsurprising when you consider that the British are far more famed for their comedy than dramas - simple budgetary concerns mean that shows the size of Lost are impossible as British productions, note the brilliant Rome series - a joint production by BBC and HBO, with a mostly British cast and a British director, but only a 15% share of the costs coming from the Beeb (still a whopping $15 mill)
While I think about it there has also been Life on Mars and Cranford as examples of British drama recently - and when you consider that British shows are generally only a quarter the length of a US season it's unsurprising that US ones outweigh the Brits in exposure
This is a poor article that reflects the author's own view of declining British TV more than an objective appraisal of American TV (his obvious dislike of Desperate Housewives and its begrudging place of 47th, despite being one of the biggest hits, is testament to that)
My Opinions (See, I haven't even got on to that yet) - top 10 US shows
I would include
The Wire, despite not being a fan, as I respect it and its fans, it's just not my cup of tea
Lost has to be in there
House is sheer brilliance
BSG just makes it, mainly for being the best sci-fi I've seen, even if it did drag for about three years
Prison Break - I don't know how this missed out on the list when it's first two seasons were brilliant and it only started in 2005, the subsequent series have been pants - but just forget about those, they are like Enterprise to the original Star Trek
The Sopranos, one of the best dramas out there
Desperate Housewives, for the fact that everyone seems to watch it
So that's seven really good shows, and I'm out of proper ideas
So I have to now include Heroes, even if it did lose the plot after one season and was over-hyped
24 just gets a mention, personally I think it is too old (was really big in what...2001-04?) but it's still being watched by an army of fans
and really what else? I can think of many more great shows, but none that are 'current' - so I leave my last slot blank as everyone has their opinion
These popped up late last year and I assumed they were just filler, but the idea to reduce the national speed limit to 50mph still lingers
Although my anger has somewhat subsided as I can find little that notes the drop in the national speed limit, only this brief mention in the Mail
The BBC focused on the urban areas and schools, the Guardian put up a ridiculous survey and are only interested in the 20mph bit, so I'm not sure any more
I personally find the 50mph on rural roads idea ridiculous - the assumption that speed is somehow the primary factor in accidents is nonsense
Now I am going to use anecdotal evidence, because frankly that's all this needs unless someone proves to me that all those rural crashes happen as a result of people travelling between 50 and 60mph, and because I live within a vast array of rural roads
Long and windy, deserted, stretches of road where crashes are infrequent (on a road by road basis, rather than the thousands of miles nationally) - the sort of road where you can put your foot down and blast along at 80, or that can force you to go round tight, blind corners at 30
This is true of the roads that I drive along every day - you cannot travel down these roads at 60 the whole way, on certain stretches I 'could' go faster because I know the road and have good visibility, while at certain points if I was going at 60 I would fly off into a fen
And this is the idiotic part - neither can you travel round these tight bends at 50mph - you would still come off the road, I can think of one particular stretch near my pub where there are those black and white arrows to warn you, I always slow down to 40 to go round there, and that's at the limit of what you should be doing - at 50 you would career onto the wrong side of the road and probably hit those useful signs
Now I'm pretty sure that most drivers know to slow down (it also says 'SLOW' on the road), without being forced to watch the speed limit - they are, on the whole, good at avoiding crashing, the last fatality on that bend was over ten years ago, and were you to be at 50mph and crash you still probably be done for dangerous driving
So what exactly would a 50mph speed limit on such roads achieve? - I have sat behind many weekend drivers who drive at 40 and 50mph on those roads, waiting for a chance to overtake and drive properly - it is simply too slow (assuming conditions are fine) for any normal driver to handle - 60 is an ideal speed for much of the road, at points it isn't but is it worth changing it all to 50, especially when even that isn't appropriate for those parts? By the same logic we may as well make the whole road system 20mph to be on the safe side
Or how about dropping the limit to 30mph at the bend I described - would it be worth it? Would it even save a life? And how would you enforce it over a stretch of about 100 metres on a road that probably only gets 30 cars an hour at best? Personally I'd be worrying about 'speeding' rather than focusing on driving appropriately for the conditions
A degree of common sense is required here - by all means target the black spots, but I'd love to know how they intend to police the bulk of rural roads - the usage is low, and there's no way the police or speed cameras could adequately cover the huge stretches of empty road across our countryside and so if they did it would be grossly inefficient compared to policing our motorways and major A-roads
But I will hold fire for now, until I get a whiff of the national speed limit actually changing to 50mph
20 April 2009
There's now a hoo-ha over her campaign to win a safe seat (shows utter contempt for the constituents doesn't it?)
This is on top of the fact they used an all-women short list (illegal until 1997, and still wrong) and she is basically an heir, my main grievances
Labour send a shiver down my spine
(and no I'm not supporting the Tories, more on them later)
15 April 2009
But I have got to thinking - if you were the dear leader, what would you do if your senior ministers were being called crooks and liars? Brown has yet to be caught out himself and I personally would want to ditch the liabilities - only he can't
He has offered feeble defences of Smith ('it's a personal matter') ignoring the wider issue which the other parties are keen to jump on - but I have since realised that he doesn't have a choice, Labour have no one left - Smith was already the bottom of the Labour-talent barrel
So Gordon, whether he wants to or not, has his hands tied
Of course, if I actually were Gordon I wouldn't have sought to oust the real leader to suit my own thirst for power, then do bugger all as I refuse the electorate a say for as long as legally possible
You do have a choice Gordon - it's called an election, and it's the right choice
13 April 2009
I will still endeavour to post, but I can't spend all my 'workdays' on the net for the next few weeks
The current news story around Damien McBride, Dolly Draper, Guido and the Telegraph frankly confuses me - so I'm not really worthy of an opinion on that anyway, all I know is I wouldn't vote for Labour anyway
09 April 2009
Gordon Brown gives his first interview after the g20 (is that like an election to him?) to Jeremy Vine on BBC Radio 2
The calls were clearly vetted to provide support to our ailing Dear Leader...
What was that last one on about? - she doesn't even provide any reasoning, you know, like 'you saved the world...I mean banks' - sounds like a party plant if you ask me
Now it seems to me that something isn't right - Labour have been trailing badly since before Blair left - in effect Brown has been low in public opinion for nearly two years, with no respite - Labour were creamed in local elections, lost seats in by-elections and yet remain in national power
And yet we pore over the polls looking for upswing or downswing - all based on one point in time that Brown seems determined to make us wait til the very last to receive - what is the point? They provide overwhelming evidence that Brown has no support, and nothing happens because of them - all they are is a talking point until that fateful day
Are they not a massive irony in our 'democracy'?
08 April 2009
It is not because you are a woman, it is because you're a charlatan who can't even admit you've done wrong
You want some equality? How about we kick you in the nuts
*No doubt that jab at rich Tories with property (despite the wealthiest MP being a Labour minister) has come from on high, just like at the Crewe and Nantwich by-election
I really am sick of this - stop f***ing voting for these people
She is defending MPs - of course she derides having to pay for the occasional miscreant and bemoans the system - but most are good, she claims, and she bleats on about how the system is wrong and how we need to put this behind us, all fine
But this masks her defence of MPs and ministers -
Political life is cruel to families. Imagine the life of a minister working 18-hour days in London (and often abroad), with a constituency in a far-flung corner of the country and a young family caught in the middle. Imagine the extra childcare costs they must pay when foreign summits demand a spouse at their side: the £8-£10 hourly rate for a nanny, plus up to £5 an hour in tax and insurance - and all for the privilege of not seeing your child all weekend.Notice how she has referred to ministers, not MPs - very few MPs go to international conventions with their better halves, the senior ministers do, those who are paid more than double your typical MP and allowed first class travel
True it does split up families, and I have never begrudged those living in the far-flung corners of Britain their home comforts, but welcome to real life - many workers have to do ridiculous commutes, and spend weeks away from their families - they do not get such rewards, nor is their worklife so good, or influential
Remember that these are the 650 most powerful people in the country (in theory) - and that their work consists mostly of speaking and listening, there are no managers, overheads or targets chasing them around, just a 'review' after five years - the hours are flexible, and the bar cheap - this is not a bad price to pay for being away from home 3 or 4 days a week, especially considering the almost 20-week period where you can work from your constituency
This is complete fudge from Ms Miles - talking about childcare for when the parents are away on state business - this really only refers to a handful of members, and I repeat - those who are on far more than an MP's salary. Hell, have a childcare allowance - I don't mind
She then defends the renting out of London property for those in grace-and-favour homes, once again she distorts the facts - there is nothing wrong with renting out a property, what is wrong is claiming expenses on the other
As a normal citizen you should be expected to run one home, we all need a home, right? A second one is required to work in two places, so you have an allowance for it - if you are given this second home then you should not be claiming for a third - I don't care if Darling lets out his London flat, but he has no right to claim expenses for his Edinburgh home while he has a freebie provided
Miles shows her true colours when she continues:
It is all very well for David Cameron to promise to remove the second-home allowance from any of his ministers with grace-and-favour properties...and many of his senior colleagues can afford to keep two homes. Labour ministers, on the whole, are not as wealthy.
That old 'Tory elite' chestnut - unfortunately these days Labour is full of wealthy members, many of whom are second generation politicians, Harriet Harman for one, and as I pointed out yesterday - Geoff Robinson. The old argument that Labour MPs are all working class heroes no longer washes, (particularly when you compare Blair and Brown with both Thatcher and Major) there probably are proportionately more of the 'elites' in the Tory ranks, but unfortunately it is Cameron's image that has allowed Labour to claim they are the sole offenders - you will find a pretty similar picture in both these days (sickening isn't it?)
Then we get an impassioned plea for Sarah Brown - who apparently can't afford the £9,000 top she wore to the G20, and had to rent it
'She doesn't have a job so her husband can lead the world' - call me stupid but doesn't her hubby earn over £180k a year? Considering that's in the top 1% of earners and many housewives can live comfortably on much less, I don't think there's a huge issue here - maybe she can't burn nine grand on one top, but believe me she can spend a lot more than 99% of the wives in this country
I think the only point that comes across from Alice's sympathy is that Gordon is tight-fisted, or that she's a feminist and Sarah must not be allowed to live off her husband
This article in a well respected newspaper enrages me - it smacks of arrogance, of the sort that I've seen in several broadsheets recently - I think these writers are getting a little out of touch with reality
She brands the expenses as minor, and says that Jacqui Smith has far too an important job to do - unfortunately I disagree, ignoring the fact that Smith has never once shown any sort of use as Home Secretary, or evidence of being qualified for the role, she has deliberately abused the system - not a few bathplugs (which I'm willing to bet was on a plumber's receipt), but household furniture and decor, and a cable TV package - the porn was a mistake and is not the main issue here. What people like Miles don't seem to get is that it is not the porn that enrages us, it is that she has claimed her family house as an expense - it is not appropriate professional conduct, and the people will not stand for it - I have said it time and again, the fact was she was making personal benefit off expenses - you cannot deny that
Smith and Miles' defences are both a joke hidden behind a pathetic facade of 'the system'
07 April 2009
The additional costs allowance: ('Cost of staying away from main home')
Of note are the nine MPs who do not claim anything, nor get the London allowance:
Adam Afriyie (C-Windsor)
Celia Barlow (L-Hove)
Richard Benyon (C-Newbury)
Philip Dunne (C-Ludlow)
David Howarth (LD-Cambridge)
Anne Milton (C-Guildford)
Geoffrey Robinson (L-Coventry NW)
Martin Salter (L-Reading West)
Rob Wilson (C-Reading East)
Little surprise - all from along the heavy commuter lines - Cambridge, Reading and Hove are well-served and within an hour of London - what is also striking is that several of them are in their first term (mostly the Tories, who made gains in the 2005 election)
The exceptions are Geoff Robinson, who is a veteran Labour MP and very wealthy - it would seem he prefers to use his own properties than claim on the allowance, which is a damn sight better than a lot of MPs, I'd wager - and Philip Dunne, who comes from Shropshire and doesn't claim a lot really - very little travel, but he does have a massive office expense - make of that what you will, he is from the upper classes so maybe pays his own way
Others worthy of note are James Brokenshire (C-Hornchurch) and Kelvin Hopkins (L-Luton North) who both claim a noticeably low amount - again these two are within easy reach of the capital - Anne Widdecombe is also low, but I have ignored her as she's virtually retired (and yet retains her seat when she really shouldn't)
So I think what is of interest here is the people in similar positions who claim large amounts, while their comparable peers claim for travel (for example Kelvin Hopkins claims under £4,000 for his train tickets from Luton)
Let's pick some notable cads:
Oliver Heald (C-NE herts) - he lives in Royston, a commuter town on the Cambridge line - the same train David Howarth gets on earlier (and claims four and a half thousand for), and therefore is only a 45 minute train ride from London, and yet he claims £104 under the maximum (or nearly six times what his neighbour does) - worth exploring that one
Also in that area we can see South Cambridgeshire and SE Cambidgeshire, represented by two Tories - Andrew Lansley and James Paice respectively - Lansley has an office in Cambridge and Paice appears to do house calls rather than surgeries, so I can't find his office address - needless to say they are both very close to the city itself and in much the same situation as David Howarth, and yet Paice claims the full amount, and Lansley is just under £22k
Four MPs, potentially within 20 miles of each other, in a well-connected area and yet only one manages to fit commuting into his work, I have previously said I don't mind the claim if it is fair and hardly expect a commute from the Hebrides to London - but I have deliberately picked on Cambridge because it is the most used commuter line in the country - granted it isn't pleasant in peak hour (as you may have gathered from my knowledge, Cambridge is my homeland) but if Howarth can manage it for a few thousand a year so can they
You know what really grates me? Howarth, the commuter, claims £4348 on rail, Lansley claims £1822 on rail and £3125 on mileage (ie. car), Paice claims £4890 on mileage and £545 on rail and Heald claims £3246 on mileage and £3870 on rail! Somehow they all claim more than the bloke who doesn't even stay in London!
Now I'm not surprised those three have car expenses - rural constituencies will require some driving around, and Howarth would be an idiot to drive in Cambridge - but maybe they will have cheaper offices? Especially as Paice goes on call - nope, all four are within the £120k band, Lansley the most and Paice the least (and I'm willing to bet the difference is Cambridge rent)
I'm not too interested in their office expenses, I barely regard it as an 'expense' - but I was just checking for value's sake - so of these four geographically-close MPs, one seems to give immensely better value (about £4.5k vs £30k) - are rural areas really six times more expensive?
Now let's head over to one of those other areas - west of London, you will note that two Reading MPs, and the ones for Windsor and Newbury do not claim to stay in London, while the member for Slough (L-Mactaggart) claims less than £3,000 in travel, and only £3,400 on the ACA (and somehow got her employee's travel at less than £7 a go)
You would think the member for Wokingham, just south-east of Reading, John Redwood, would also be pretty cheap - oh no, he claims over £22k despite representing an area with a direct London train route - his travel is pretty good - under £4000 for mileage, clearly he drives and parks up at his London address - but he still claims what is virtually the full amount on that second home, and that is where most of the problems arise (you can't really get much benefit out of a travel allowance, can you) - you have to ask: is it worth it, and is he providing good value by claiming such an amount?
Enough of that, let's look at travel:
Travel is pretty dull really - unless somebody notes how many use those ridiculous 1st class tickets, what I'm looking for is oddities rather than how much people claim on train fares
In fact they look pretty reasonable - the highest spenders are those from Northern Scotland and the islands up there, they make up the very few MPs that are claiming over £30k - so not bad
There are however MP expenses for employee and family travel - once again the remote members make up the most expensive of employee travel, although I am slightly dubious of Geraldine Smith (Morecambe) claiming 10 employee trips at a cost of over 170 quid a go, or how about Alan Campbell's (Tynemouth) staff at over £200 each, is it that much for a return from Newcastle? Indeed quite a few of these employee trips from the remote regions are well over £100 a pop, I guess the employees take taxis and claim everything they can, but the airfares or train fares seem a bit 'steep' to me
I'm more interested in the spouse and family claims - of which you can use 30 each I believe, and which a few, mostly Scottish, MPs seem to be making good use of - is there really a good reason why Charles Kennedy and Alastair Darling need so much family support? Maybe because they stay down south longer? Either way they both stand out having used 60 and 55 expensive trips respectively
Charles Kennedy also seems to fork out nearly twice as much for his wife than for his employees per trip - rather odd as I would expect them to not be a million miles apart, at least Caroline Spelman (she of the dodgy nanny) is getting good value - 100 trips out of her £6k
There also seems to be a weird correlation between those that don't use the family allowance at all and those that spend lots on their employees - hmm...very interesting that
A better analysis may also reveal people like Malcolm Rifkind - A London MP who needs £5000 in travel apparently, half of which is airfares? (he's going up to his Scottish home, but there's no reason he should be claiming that)
One also wonders where Gerry Adams has been flying...considering he has never taken his seat in Westminster
I must admit Ann Keen has caught my eye - not a single travel expense for the west London representative, and yet she comes in at no.27 on the total expenses list, and as Wikipedia points out - if you discount travel, which disproportionately hits MPs from further away, she is no.1 - with a whopping office expense, and yes this is the woman who is married to another MP, with whom she combines the second home allowance (because that makes sense...) and has some rather dodgy allegations against her and her spouse
It's also interesting that despite there being dozens of london MPs (74), only nine don't bother with travel expenses, and even one out in Windsor doesn't - that's it, why can only these ten people get by without claiming for their tube tickets - even Mark Field, who represents Westminster, claims nearly a grand in train tickets, as do neighbours Karen Buck and Rifkind - these guys could bloody walk to work
What about Staffing? Well there's not a huge amount to go on - most are within a fairly wide band, for some reason Ann Keen and Ed Davey need obscenely expensive offices, the only two over the £140k mark
At the bottom end only our friend Hollobone comes in low, at £17k, the only other two below £50k are the speaker, not surprising, and Dennis Skinner
The average cost of running an office with staff is £116,000 - not bad I think
there are only 260 below this, or 40%
Personally, while some of them are trying to say most MPs are honest, while admitting some are dodgy, I feel that more than half are playing the system - some far more clearly that others - you can't even tell from the data I have that McNulty and Smith are up to anything - in fact McNulty looks like one of the best (within the bottom 200), and look what he was up to
Here are some averages:
Average cost of an office: £17,813 - 354 above this (54%)
Average staffing costs: £85,872 - 385 above this (59%)
Average ACA: £19,469 - 409 above this (69%)
MPs who claim within £100 of the full ACA: 198 (claiming full amount is 143, many claim within pounds of that)
over £22,000: 292 (£22-23,083: 292)
over £21,000: 346 (£21-21,999: 54)
over £20,000: 388 (£20-20,999: 42)
over £15,000: 494 (£15-19,999: 106)
over £10,000: 553 (£10-14,999: 59)
under £10,000 (and eligible): 42
So, well over half are within a few grand of the total, and taking away the 50 who aren't eligible, it's 58% who claim more than £21k, and 24% claim the full amount, and yet only 7% use slightly less than half (9% claim less than half) - it is this 'allowance' that definitely needs reforming - why is there any reason for these massive differences? They are all London living arrangements after all
I think we'll be lucky if 40% of MPs are being honest
Here he is in the telegraph - living in a cramped office and using second class post, and I totally agree with him for only using standard class travel (why shouldn't you??)
I still wonder how he rates on a service level - it's very good that he keeps his expenses down but they are there for a reason, and if you can improve the service to constituents with a bit more cash then I think you should - the real issue is that you do not personally benefit from expenses, which he clearly doesn't - the issue of service is brought up in this article in the Indie
One issue I must take up though, is why does he claim the full amount for the second home? He says it's done begrudgingly - but other MPs can do it for less - I have stayed in nice, cheap London hotels many times, costing about £55-70 per night - every weeknight in the year would not cost more than £15k at this rate, and that's assuming he is there four nights a week every week, when parliament barely runs for half the year - I have no idea how often he is down there so I used the full 52 weeks
Hotels may not be very practical, but I'm fairly sure you could rent a private property for less than full - I've just been on google and found flats in SE London (where he stays) for less than £1500 a month, by my reckoning that's £18,000 at a generous estimate - if he was truly interested in cutting costs surely he could knock off a bit? Instead he claims £84 less than full, coming in at the 195th most expensive claim on second homes - more than 400 (or over 60%) manage it for less, and they aren't all London MPs - Chris Huhne lives in Hampshire and manages it for less than £4,000, Eric Pickles, of whom some question the validity of his claim considering he only travels from Essex, is under £14,000 - why is Phil up in the upper echelons? (To be fair there seem to only be about 200 MPs who claim substantially less than the full amount, but still - he's right up there)
I don't want to attack the bloke, because he seems reasonable, and certainly isn't worthy of public scorn - I'm just questioning everything I see and could maybe help him cheapen up that expense which he says he's worried over
I am now going to play with a spreadsheet on a fact finding mission, toodles
06 April 2009
Found these rather handy tools for analysing MPs expenses: you can see a map of travel expenses here
Note: These are just travel expenses and quite boring if you're a sensationalist - no antique fireplaces or bathplugs
Here is a very good list of MPs total expenses, albeit without the useful receipts that I want, in online spreadsheet form
Specific mention must go to Philip Hollobone who appears to be very careful, and somewhat stingy - he only used a few hundred on stationery and postage, which appears somewhat lazy rather than cost-effective, and still claims the virtually full amount of £23000 second home allowance (which is the big part of the dodgy area anyway) - he just has no staff, I wonder what his service is like - I shall be looking him up
This blog, by the author of the map, Tony Hirst, is awesome
Yeah he's pumped money into the banks, and I'm sure he'll provide a list of spending on the NHS and employment figures (which no doubt will refer to achievements pre-2007) but what has he actually done - what laws has he changed? What has been done to improve the lot of the average British citizen?
I mean this totally honestly - what has he done? When you think of Tony Blair, aside from the Iraq war, you can find - Minimum Wage, Tuition Fees, Devolution, The Human Rights Act, the London Mayor, Freedom of Information, Civil Partnerships (among many other such laws), Fox Hunting...
You may not believe these are good things, or achievements - but they are significant pieces of legislation, a lot of which were passed in the first few years
Could you show me anything substantial that has passed through Gordon's team? The shelved anti-terrorist 42 day detention amendment? The (in)Equalities Bill? Eco-towns are a disaster, they haven't halted ID cards, they haven't actually introduced any constitutional reform, just a few consultations and inquiries, they haven't revoked SOCPA that prohibits protest outside parliament (If you're wondering why I'm talking in negatives, these are things Brown aimed to deal with when he came to power)
A lot of attention has been placed on the 'global financial system' - and fair enough that takes up time - but considering the amount of effort put onto the bizarre hobby-horse that is the Equalities Bill, and the grand gesturing that was '42 days' you would think there was enough space in government to deal with something other than the economy - I mean why have a Home Office, as well as Education, Health, Transport offices etc if not to focus on those areas?
Seems to me they aren't actually doing anything any more - maybe Britain is completely as it should be - or it takes over a 100 people in government to solely deal with economic matters?
I'm not sure if 75% based on 3 votes has any worth, but thanks for voting
I'm not sure how much Jacqui's embarrassment has affected this view - I used to fear what she would do next but now she is a running joke I fear the feminist ravings of Hattie far more, either way both are dangerous in power and should be kicked out
Time to think of a new poll
05 April 2009
Geoff Hoon has been caught letting out his main home, living in a 'grace and favour' home, and getting expenses on the old constituency home
Now we all know the tabloids are going to drag these up one by one to drag to fill their pages for a good year, (see my earlier request for a comprehensive list of 'good' and 'bad' MPs) - but this is a relevant story, if only to further highlight the inherent corruption within the system
Hoon claims he is within the rules, and no doubt he is within the loosely-worded rules that govern MPs - but I repeat what pretty much every sane person is shouting out: the rules are wrong!
I don't mind Hoon being in a free house - security matters etc - fine by me... but why should he be allowed to earn money on one and then claim money for another while living in a freebie?
Just because you can 'within the rules', does not mean you should, especially in a job where you a representative of the public - it's called ethics, and the fact is the people believe you have done wrong and in no way do we seriously believe you didn't realise what you did was wrong
Too late, Cameron - you think we don't know this has been going behind the scenes for years? Likewise Brown's 'suggestions' and his inquiry (that won't be published til after Labour are given the boot) are all too little too late - being caught with your hands in the cookie jar and then decrying the behaviour is not good enough
Writing in the Mail on Sunday Conservative leader David Cameron said the problems in the expenses system were shared by all parties.
"We are all implicated and we must all find a solution," he said.
MPs needed expenses, but there had to be more transparency, he said. He added that if elected the party would end the policy allowing ministers with free homes to claim for a second, which he said had "no justification".
These people have abused the system and they shouldn't be allowed to get away with it any more - they don't get to change the rules for themselves any more and then cry foul - GET THEM OUT!
Weekend update out
03 April 2009
It goes to show that the mainstream media is very lazy and as long as its given a major story it won't go much further - who knows what the government are up to as we sit here
There are some stories - Shearer at Newcastle being the most interesting if you ask me, I thought it had to be an April fool's joke - especially as the BBC hadn't picked it up a few hours after I initially heard, even when they did I still thought they'd been had - but yes, he is going to the soap opera that is Newcastle, and in this blogger's opinion: thank God - the only thing football pundits are interested in is the big name teams and the title race, or the trials and tribulations of joke clubs like Newcastle and Spurs, so I'm very happy there's some actual news (because focusing on the nitty-gritty of the league would be dull, wouldn't it)
But I don't really want to focus on football again - I have to practice restraint or I'd be at it every day...maybe I'll start a new blog...hmmm
Anyway, the best story I could find was Boris being brilliant in front of a bunch of twattish Labour MPs on a select committee - watch it and make up your own minds, I thought the partisan nature of the committee, who seemed to think Boris could've done something about a foot of snow, was pretty appalling and yet more reason to want the political classes out - Labour's continued party political behaviour, in particular over both the London mayor, and the G20 has frankly disgusted me
01 April 2009
Still 5 games to go, a 5 point lead - our next games are Kazakhstan away and Andorra at home - Kazakhstan doesn't look too fun but surely Andorra are a guaranteed rout, and the Kazaks have been beaten by both Belarus and Ukraine at home so it should be fine - that will take us to the brink with 21 points and 3 games remaining
and yet I still worry - Croatia and Ukraine are both very good and will keep winning, if they could draw with each other again that would be very useful - I guess my fears are partly based on paranoia, but also a realisation that this group is clearly the best - we all knew Ukraine were the toughest third ranks and should've been in the second pot, so I guess it's not surprising - not dissimilar to Euro 08 qualifying I guess - with us and Russia the two scrapping it out, and us coming off worse (remember watering an artificial pitch?)
But realistically we should be fine - it just feels like there's no room for error, we may well end up with a 6 or more point cushion in the end
Then of course remember that we are probably the third most secure team in qualifying - only the Netherlands and Spain have it better, with the Netherlands only needing a point to secure 1st place, and Spain with a 6 point lead and 6 played
Speaking of the Dutch, we may as well look at Scotland in all its patheticness - as predicted, they got that win over Iceland, which is good - but because this is a small group and it's tight it's very precarious - Scotland have to welcome Macedonia and the Netherlands, and go to Norway - frankly that's only one likely win, and maybe a draw - even if the Dutch aren't really concerned (fortunately that will be their last, and almost certainly pointless, game)
Iceland arguably have it harder - Norway and the Netherlands are coming, and they have to go to Macedonia - I think they'll be lucky to get 3 points, so in actual fact Scotland are looking good for second
The problem lies in the fact that they are currently the lowest ranked of the second place teams - meaning they will be the ones to miss the play-offs - this is a group with very few results, the Netherlands has dominated a bunch of no-hopers, so there's very few points - now I do believe having a smaller group makes it harder - even though the bottom teams won't be counted in the other groups, it has made every game more important
Either way, the Scots, if they make it, will be at the bottom end of that second place table and so need to play all three remaining games like they are cup finals
(One possible chink of light may be the French, who unfortunately did win that double header against Lithuania and now look a bit safer - but only have three games left that will count for the play-offs, that is of course assuming Serbia keep beating everybody else)
Northern Ireland meanwhile produced two home wins, the best of the home nations - so you can't really fault that - but it's a damn tight group and Slovakia managed to beat the Czechs away - not good for NI, who have played an extra two games and face a serious threat from Poland, Slovakia and the Czechs - it's going to be very tight - you've got to say Slovakia are good for the 10 points off 5 they need to be assured of winning, but should NI get those last three wins they should be safe - big ask though (Slovakia at home, Poland and Czech Rep away) - I've got to admit I foresee yet another heartbreak as NI are screwed over by being in one of the toughest groups again
Wales are effectively out - they beat even my tepid prediction and lost to Finland at home, game over there
As for Ireland - well, they didn't make it easy for themselves by drawing with Bulgaria at home, after which I started working out likely scenarios - two wins off Montenegro and Cyprus are in order I think, and that's if Bulgaria win their 'easy' three and lose to Italy - and that will mean Ireland need to avoid defeat in Bulgaria in their next match, and their performance in Italy provided a potentially helpful, and unlikely, point - so it's hopeful
And that's it for the home nations - as for those other games I mentioned - well Spain won both against Turkey to pretty much guarantee qualification (Bosnia with a 4 point lead? seriously), Germany only won 4-0 and still need to watch out for Russia
That Slovak away win could be deadly for NI, Group 2 reamins boring and Portugal actually drew with Sweden! 6 points off five games for the gelled tumblers lot! They now have to go to Denmark and Hungary to have any chance of recouping that 7 point deficit and getting second, let alone first (I'm not getting my hopes up..honest)
France avoided embarrassment and got two 1-0 wins over Lithuania to battle it out with Serbia for the top spot (and they do actually look good for it, Serbia)
Australia meanwhile, beat Uzbekistan to almost be the first team in the World Cup but unfortuantely still need one more match (they are however guarateed a play-off) - will it be the Ozzies or the Dutch? My money is on the Ozzies, due to the time difference - Also the Japanese are also pretty much there - is it just me or has Asia got it a little too easy? Methinks they could do with dropping a berth, it has also taken away any sense of achievement for the Ozzies - they've been trying to big it up as a success like 2006 but it's just too easy to qualify now
I say this in all seriousness - but surely they should be giving even more representation to UEFA? Either increase the amount of teams in the finals, or give an extra one or two spots - take one off the Asians and one off the North Americans, for example - I know it's all about giving a chance to the useless teams from each confederation but do you think Wales ever get so much as a chance? These guys like Costa Rica and Iran are easily comparable to no-hopers in Europe - maybe I am being selfish but in Europe good teams will go out, in North America the US and Mexico are guaranteed, in Asia it's Australia, Japan and Korea, even South America gets useless teams like Ecuador in - European qualification is incredibly difficult compared to the rest.
Europe loses teams like Turkey, Ukraine, Czech Rep, Northern Ireland and possibly even Portugal - Europe struggled in 2008 with 16 berths (notably England) and the only real dead weights were the hosts...and France. Which is why the European championships are being increased - you risk the problem of the Euros becoming more representative than the actual World Cup - I know it seems unfair on the rest of the world - but think about it, we are only in this situation because of fairly arbitrary geographical distinctions - surely we could make it fairer by letting the whole world compete rather than squeeze the best area of football for the sake of everyone else, why not let Asia and Africa compete with Europe, and North with South America?
My two cents
"The problem that lies beneath this very difficult position is two-fold. First, MPs are not paid enough – not as much as other people doing broadly similar jobs."You often hear this argument - 'MPs are usually professionals (mostly lawyers) and can command vast salaries in the private sector, therefore should be paid as such...'
MPs currently get £64,766 per year (as of today in fact, it was 1,500 less til yesterday) - regardless it's 60k+ for every MP, and all ministers, shadow ministers, whips and other roles (eg speaker) get substantial supplements on top of that
So that is over £60,000 for being an MP - representing your constituency, voting in parliament and running an office - no front bench duties or anything of that type
The average salary is only £23k - but of course MPs are better than average
Are they? What exactly is an MP worth? Remember we are not talking about any politicians you probably know the name of, just those faceless people who sit behind the front bench and nod and jeer
You can never say, part of the problem is you can't really compare a politician with somebody in a real job - whether it be lawyer, doctor, teacher, police officer or cleaner
A lot are from a professional background and used to a high rate of pay - this of course makes it alright for them to get as much as possible through dodgy expenses...
Actually, no it doesn't - an MP is not really doing anything difficult, they have no government responsibilities and don't have to go on the telly, they have to deal with constituents and that's about it
They don't have to have any qualifications, they may do, but they aren't relevant - the justification that many are used to high pay is farcical when you think of the many teachers who enter politics and peform fine - just because you can earn something else outside doesn't mean you should inside - if anything people should be entering politics because they want to help govern, and shouldn't have an issue as long as the pay is reasonable
And why do we even need people of the 'highest calibre'? What exactly are they doing? yes we need life experience and expertise across the board - but we don't get that and anyone who thinks the bulk of 650 MPs are experts at anything is living in fantasy land
The truth is anybody can stand for parliament (over 18) and to be an MP does not require any sort of nous, like they currently claim - this whole idea that they deserve more based on their skills is just institutionalised elitism, yet another example of the political class in action and worst of all it is regularly perpetuated by the broadsheets - why? Is it because their senior editors and journalists earn much the same, or more? Well guys, actually you have a skill and have built up a reputation and probably a readership
Where skills are required is in government and opposition - where they are paid anywhere from £100k to the Prime Minister's £180k - these are the people who make the laws, speeches, come up with the ideas (?) and have to go on the TV and look awkward
If an MP is particularly skilled surely he or she would be in the hundred or so that make up the actual government and be paid substantially more anyway?
Let us also not forget the issues of those gold plated pensions that have been done away with for all but the upper realms of the public sector, tasty severance packages for ministers (see: David Blunkett) and of course the much-maligned allowances
So please - somebody justify to me why MPs actually should be paid more?