Sunday, 23 April 2017

More Bank Holidays - Nice Idea but it highlights establishment ignorance

The Labour Party's proposal to throw in an extra 4 Bank Holidays is a nice idea but it really does highlight the disconnect between those in power and the ordinary people they want to vote for them.

Nowadays, for thousands, a Bank Holiday is just another day in the working week. This is especially true for people in low paid work such as social care, catering or retail. Where others may receive enhanced rates of pay for working the Bank Holiday there is no such benefit for the low paid who receive their minimum wage.

A second reason why this is proposal which is disconnected from the reality of ordinary people is the idea that these Bank Holidays should coincide with the national saints days.

With the exception of St. Andrews Day these all fall in an 8 week period, in this period there are also the two Easter Bank Holidays and, a week after St Georges Day we would have the May Day Bank Holiday! So, in 9 weeks or so, there would be 6 Bank Holidays.

Now, while this may be nice, for the many who have to work on Bank Holidays, there is the additional burden of having to find child care while teachers enjoy their extra days off!

Only the Easter Bank holidays could be guaranteed to actually fall in the school holidays every year and those who need to work, particularly those in low paid jobs face extra costs or loss of earnings.

Surely it would much better to simply promise an increase the the number of statutory holiday entitlement for all workers, so that the time off could be taken at a time convenient for individual workers. It would be a policy headline that would resonate more with those the Labour Party needs to win back and show a greater connection with the reality of the life of the lower paid in the UK nowadays. 

Monday, 23 January 2017

The Ignorant Arrogance of the Establishment

You can’t help noticing, can you, that there is an awful lot of whinging about the current political results sweeping across the world.

The election of Donald Trump has evoked protest marches, as did the European Referendum result in the U.K.

Yet rather than whinge and bemoan the results the ‘establishment’ need to look at how the things that they find so disdainful actually happened and take action to establish public trust in the ‘establishment’.

Donald Trump did not just walk into the White House. There is a very rigorous set of hurdles to jump before anyone can get there feet under the desk in the Oval Office and the journey of Donald Trump was an example of how many people across the world are rejecting the arrogance of the ‘establishment’ and an example of the ignorance of the ‘establishment’ in recognising that.

To become the 45th President of the United States Donald Trump had to first win the Republican Party nomination. What was clear from the outset of that race was that established politicians – e.g. Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie etc – were being rejected by many Republicans across the U.S. Even the second place candidate, Ted Cruz, was considered outside the ‘establishment’ in terms of his views etc.

Yet the ‘establishment’ chose to attack the anti-establishment candidates rather than attempt to listen to what people were saying and address the issues that drove them to reject the status quo.

Then Donald Trump was helped to the White House by the Democratic Party. Again the nomination process showed a rejection of the ‘establishment’. The Democratic nomination was supposed to be a coronation of Hilary Clinton, yet the campaign and success of Bernie Sanders showed how many Democrats were rejecting the ‘establishment.’ Again these issues were not dealt with as the Democrat ‘super-delegate’ system ensured Hilary Clinton would get the nomination without really having to listen to the electorate.

Whatever the issues with e-mails etc. Hilary Clinton had begun to lose the election at that point.

So, despite all the warnings and opportunities to change tack, Donald Trump is the inn the White House yet the ‘establishment’ still moan and whinge rather than begin to win the trust of voters back.

Brexit has a similar story. Those advocating remain did little more than give out doomsday scenarios of what would happen if we left the European Union. Yet there were many reasons why people voted to leave, many felt that the ‘establishment’ (of which the EU is a part in the UK) was leaving people behind in terms of quality of life. While immigration is an issue the reality is it is the perceived effects of immigration – e.g. impact of jobs, wages, public services etc. – that people are more concerned with rather than the immigrants themselves. Yet the ‘establishment’ and their advocates often label those who voted Leave as racist!

Even months after the result the politicians and media are solely focused on the ‘plan’ for Brexit and the minutiae of the actual details rather than tackling the real reasons why people voted to leave!

Another example of the ignorant arrogance to the political elite and something that will further erode trust in the ‘establishment’ over the next few years.

Pope Francis has even joined the fray warning against the rise of ‘populist leaders’. Again this ignores the reasons for why such leaders are rising up across the world. People are unhappy with those who are, supposedly, elected to look after their interests.

Politicians, the mainstream media and others within the ‘establishment’ need, right now, to start listening to the people who feel that they have been displaced in the political process, who feel that they have been ignored by the ‘establishment’ and who feel they are losing their quality of life while those in the establishment prosper, in order to take action to address the concerns and issues affecting many people who, if not listened to, will continue to vote for ‘outsiders’.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

The Real Reason's We Need an October Election

We need a General Election in October, not because of the change in Prime Minister but because of the change in the UK.

In Britain we do not elect the Prime Minister, we elect individual Members of Parliament to represent us and the leader of the party with the most MPs simply becomes Prime Minister by default. There have been plenty of times when the Prime Minister has been in place without an electoral mandate, most recently Gordon Brown and before that John Major from 1990 until the election of 1992.

So, in normal times, a simple change of Prime Minister does not really warrant an election unless there is some constitutional change leading to the people of Britain actually directly electing the Prime Minister.

However these are not normal times.

The country is now split, not by left and right, but by in and out. This split crosses traditional party divides.

The manifestos, visions and ideals that were presented to the electorate in 2015 are now null and void. Now we face a future outside the European Union and this impacts on the lives of all of us.

The British people now need to be able to choose what that future should be. The political parties need to set out how they will negotiate the exit from the EU and what their vision of life outside the EU will be like.

The new Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition must go to the country and explain what they will do to secure the future of the UK, explain how life outside the UK impacts on education, health, social care, employment etc. and what they will do to secure the future of those most in need of help from society. These leaders must go to the people with their vision of a United Kingdom which thrives, their vision of how they will bring British society together.

They must also present their plans for ensuring that leaving the EU doesn’t mean leaving Europe. It is one thing leaving the bureaucracy of the EU system but Britain did not vote to leave wider European cooperation across defence, security, scientific research etc.

The British people must now be given the chance to choose which vision they believe is best for this new future.

On a secondary level we need a General Election so that the electorate can reaffirm or reject their current representative in Parliament. MPs are paid to represent the wishes of the people in their constituency, yet the referendum saw many instances of the MP’s views being completely at odds with the majority of their constituents.

It is only fair that those who wish to continue receiving public money to represent the people of their constituency should ask those people for their support in the post referendum world.

Those are the real reasons we need an October election and it is the duty of those who want to represent us to take their visions of this new Britain to the people and ask us to choose the path to that future. 

Sunday, 3 July 2016

The Immigration Issue

The result of the UK referendum on whether or not to stay within the European Union resulted in a narrow majority to leave.

However since the vote there are many who have protested, called for a second referendum and slated the result with such a passion it makes you wonder if they had shown the same commitment to the EU during the campaign whether the result would have been different!

The important thing now is to move forward and truly understand why people voted to leave in order to ensure that the deal eventually reached by politicians is one that tackles the concerns of those voted, whether or not it be for leave or remain.

Immigration is of course the hottest issue but there is a failure, particularly on the Remain side, about why. A poll has shown that 77% of those who voted leave are happy for existing EU migrants to stay, so if it is not the actual people who have moved to the UK what is the reason that immigration has resulted in a leave vote?

It is the perception of the impact of immigration that is the real issue and one which the Remain campaign dismally failed to counter.

Many people believe that those coming from the EU jump to the front of the queue for housing, benefit payments, hospital services etc. There is also a belief that migrant workers take British jobs and that, in doing so, they push down wages for the rest of us.
Most of these beliefs are over exaggerated (of course there area few migrants who abuse the system but equally some British people do to) much of the over exaggeration is fostered by those in Government seeking to deflect the blame from themselves for many of the economic problems they have caused, unfortunately most were also on the Remain side hence their reticence in being truthful!

So the challenge is to dispel and nullify these perceptions whilst retaining the free movement agreement as part of the UK’s new deal with the EU.

This has to start at the top – both in the UK Parliament and with other EU leaders, who have continuously failed to understand the mood of many citizens of the EU and whose failure to do so has led to the increase in Right Wing organisations across the continent.

But equally all of us have a responsibility to challenge those perceptions, not by branding people as racists but by demanding that those we have elected to represent us, both in the UK Parliament and EU Parliament, tackle these issues immediately and deal with the UK’s exit from the EU swiftly, in a manner allows all the citizens of the UK to benefit from a trade deal that allows people to travel freely across the EU.

Friday, 20 May 2016

The Reality of the EU Referendum

While the political and wealthy elites along with large vested interest institutions inundate us lesser mortals with their arguments for remaining in or leaving the EU the reality is neither argument holds up and, in the end, there will be very little difference for anyone whether or not we are in the EU.

From the Remain Camp we get tales of impending economic doom, with hinted threats of recession and spiralling unemployment. Yet, those European countries who are outside the EU, such as Switzerland and Norway, have better rates of economic growth than the EU as a whole and unemployment rates much lower than the EU and even the UK. So the argument for impending economic doom certainly can’t be backed up by real world evidence.

On the flip side, the Leave camp tell us we will have all this extra money in the economy because we will not be giving it to Brussels. Again a false argument. Outside of the EU Britain will need a veritable army of new civil servants to negotiate and maintain the mountain of new trade agreements needed and the British Government will need to subsidise those areas of business and research that currently receive EU subsidies in order for those businesses and institutions to remain competitive and viable. So the likely benefit of any leftover savings will, at best, be negligible.

Then there is the Remain camp’s security argument, which plummeted to the depths of absurdity when David Cameron claimed it could lead to World War Three. The referendum is about the European Union, not NATO. Within Europe the principle forum for joint defence and security agreements is NATO, an organisation which absolutely nobody has suggested we should leave. It is also nonsensical to suggest that Police and Security forces will cease to cooperate with each other just because the UK is no longer a member of the EU.

The Leave camp tell us Britain will be able to control immigration if we leave the EU. Another fallacy, just because we are not in the EU it will not deter illegal immigrants from trying to enter the UK, the camps outside Calais will remain, and people traffickers will still try to benefit from those seeking the economic benefits of living in the UK. As for legal migration, that will continue because any new trade agreement with the EU will have to include free movement of people because it is equally important the British citizens can work and live freely in the EU states.

The reality is that the whole debate on whether to Leave or Remain is just an ideological rift between those who hold power and hinges on where the power actually lies. It has nothing to do with the lives of the citizens of Britain who will be unlikely to see any real change whatever the outcome of the referendum.   

Monday, 29 February 2016

A Need for an Honest Open EU Debate

Politicians are trusted less than Estate Agents, in fact in a recent Ipsos-Mori Poll just 21% of Britons trust politicians to tell the truth.
People see politicians as self-serving people who are more interested in their own well-being, or that of their party, rather than the well-being of the constituents they are elected to serve. Yet whatever the inherent character flaws of those who seek elected office and while sometimes they lack common sense and a grasp of the reality facing their constituents, their overall level of education and intelligence is undoubtedly good.
Given that why is there such a divide amongst politicians over whether the UK should remain in or leave the EU?
The answer must be that the difference between remaining or leaving is a fine one.
After all if there were a really strong argument for one or the other the vast majority of Conservative Politicians (the Labour Party has yet to truly show its splits!) would be firmly in the one camp. Yet we have heard tales of Cabinet members soul-searching in deciding which side of the line to support, something that would be unnecessary if there were a truly clear argument for in or out.
If the benefits of being in or out of the EU is such a fine line then the debate needs to reflect the reality of that fine difference, the people of the UK need to be informed accurately and given real facts.
However, politicians have quickly reverted to type, pumping out spin and scare-mongering.
For example, the IN camp, “If we leave the EU we will be heading into the unknown” not quite true, we know how the EFTA countries operate with the EU, we know how countries outside the Economic Free Trade Area operate with the EU, studies have been conducted to see how the UK can operate outside the EU. It is no more a leap into the unknown than staying within the EU where changes by other members can impact on the UK. “UK security will be threatened” again scare-mongering, all Nations benefit from cooperating whether or not they are members of the EU, as a nation we cooperate with others outside the EU and even if the people choose to leave the EU we will still be members of NATO where much of the security cooperation takes place.
On the other hand the OUT camp will tell us “leaving the EU will help us control our borders”, the problem there is that any free trade agreement with the EU will inevitably include a requirement to accept the free movement of people and it does not address the issue of illegal immigration. The “jungle” outside Calais will not disappear because Britain has left the EU. Or “Britain will save “£55 million a day by leaving the EU” now while that may be the amount of the UK’s contribution claiming that would be the saving is pure bunkum, firstly there would need to be an army of bureaucrats employed to negotiate/re-negotiate and maintain the number of global trade agreements that the UK would need to operate outside the EU, then there are the subsidies by the EU which Britain will need to continue independently in order to ensure the competitiveness of British businesses.

As a nation we need to make an informed decision which means we need those campaigning on both sides to drop the spin, the scare-mongering and the self-serving desire to be on the winning side. The choice between IN or OUT is a fine one and it is those fine details that need to be debated, openly and honestly, those elected to serve us need to start winning back our trust and that can only be achieved by making this debate one which truly informs the electorate who will be making this decision.

Monday, 12 January 2015

Terrorism: This is not a New World

The terrible atrocities that took place in Paris last week have sparked the usual response that occur whenever the world is faced with the murderous actions of extremists who seek to use terror to impose whichever ideology the espouse.

At one point over the weekend I heard one commentator state “it is the world we need to get used to living in” and it was that comment that prompted me to write this blog because, in actual fact, I have been living it that world for as long as I can remember!

Terrorism is not new and, even though the reasons for the terrorists’ actions are different, the threat of terrorism has hung over the world for decades.

Is it so easy to forget what happened at the Munich Olympics in 1972? The massacre of 11 Israeli athletes by the Black September group was an atrocity that should not simply be consigned to history and forgotten. Equally should the murder of 21 people in the Birmingham pub bombings in 1974 be accepted as a part of an “old world” to be differentiated to the terrorism of a “new world”?

As someone who worked in London’s West End in the early 1980’s I, along with all those in London, lived with the threat of terrorism every day. Many younger people probably do not realise, and many older people have conveniently forgotten, why there are no rubbish bins in the major London train stations, it is because of the threat of bombs being placed in them. We should not forget the London Park bombings of 1982 which killed 11 soldiers as well as the other incidents outside London, such as the Brighton bombing.

That decade also so the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie which took the lives of 270 people.

Terrorism is not new, we are not in a new world, in fact, it seems in this respect, we are firmly stuck in a world where some individuals would prefer murder rather than peacefully attempting to impose their ideals.

The atrocities committed by these people are wrong and we must not pander to their egos by pretending they are any different to those who committed the same atrocities in the past. We must not allow them to dictate the political agenda or allow politicians to use terrorism to impose restrictions that curtail the liberty and freedom that those who commit murder through terrorism are so against.

The world will carry on as it has done over the last few decades, the impact of terrorism will be as fleeting now as it always has been. In forty years time no doubt a terrorist attack will elicit the same response as today and the memories of Paris 2015 will be consigned to an “old world” but it is important that people remember that terrorists, ultimately, have little impact on the world over time and we should never allow them too.
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