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Monday 30 September 2013

George Osborne: Long On Rhetoric, But Short On Ideas

Now, although it wouldn't have been my personal choice to listen to George Osborne wittering away to the party faithful in Manchester, as it turned out, having to listen to his 35 minute speech and watch as he pushed against an open door was no great hardship really, considering that he made such a half-assed job of it in the end. I'm not quite sure whether his new hairstyle was designed to make him more likeable, or possibly more electable, but whatever the reason, he still came across to me as a faltering, out-of-touch and deeply dishonest spiv, which probably accounted for the content of his conference speech, with its overspill of political and personal hyperbole, jingoism and rhetoric.
I've said it before, but I'll say it again, I'm no financial expert! However, as far as I'm concerned neither are many of our elected representatives, most of whom couldn't run a bath, let alone a multi billion pound economy like our own; and Osborne has to be one of our least capable politicians, with a degree in history! Mind you considering that we have a modern day snake oil salesman actually running the country, we really shouldn't be surprised at the sorts of second-raters that Mr Cameron chooses to surround himself with. Compared to the likes of Osborne, Gove, May, Duncan Smith and Hague, Cameron probably looks golden, although it's a shame that in reality he's nothing more than Iron Pyrite.
Anyhow, to get back to Mr Osborne and his set-piece speech to the Conservative party faithful! Even though it had been heavily trailed beforehand, the central announcement was to inform the country that true to their party values and based on the ideology that they had inherited from the late Lady Thatcher; that they were going to give the unemployed yet another severe kicking. In line with the ethos of the Daily Mail's readership, all of the welfare scroungers, layabouts and shirkers were going to be targeted by SS (Social Security) Chief Iain Duncan Smith and his department, in order to ensure that they earned the £70 per week that was allowing them to live the "high life" at ordinary taxpayers expense. From now on, the 200,000 long term unemployed would be required to attend their local jobcentre each and every working day, or made to cook meals for the elderly, would be compelled to pick up litter, or if they were unemployed through addiction, lack of education, or training, then they'd receive as much help as was needed to get them back onto the right path.
Unfortunately, Mr Osborne failed to explain how this new shiny Welfare programme would help the remaining 90% of the country's unemployed. Bearing in mind that we currently have 2.5 million people out of work and that the 200,000 mentioned only represents 10% of that total figure, what is he going to do about the other 2.3 million that are looking for work? Also, on a basic calculation, the cost of the scheme is reported to be in the region of £300 million, which if divided by 200,000 jobseekers, works out at £1500 per person. Just who is going to monitor and oversee these unemployed jobseekers, when they turn up at the various jobcentres, when they are cooking meals for the elderly, when they are picking up litter, or when they're being retrained, re-educated, or weaned off their various addictions? And how is £1500 per person going to pay for that in the long term?
Even though most Conservative politician's seem loathe to describe the new programme as a workfare project, in essence that is exactly what it is, a more modern version of the Victorian workhouse, where inmates (or in this case claimants) are compelled to work for their supper (or benefits). The danger is of course, is that in common with the old workhouses, how can one ensure that abuses within such a wholly compulsive work programme do not arise through the actions of those people overseeing the project; and the compliance of the participants, or indeed at the hands of some of the various commercial organisations that will ultimately benefit, from what is after all a free labour resource. It is no great secret that a significant number of Britain's major employers made full use of jobseekers under the terms of the Coalition government's previous employment scheme, to the extent that some high street businesses were able to save themselves the regular cost of paid worker's wages, simply by accepting jobseekers from the government's work scheme, at no cost to themselves. At the time, the Coalition were openly accused of offering "cheap labour" to some of the UK's wealthiest employers, a charge that both vigorously denied, but which continues to taint their corporate reputations right through to the present day.
It cannot be a coincidence that Britain's 2.5 million unemployed closely mirrors the 2.9 million foreign workers that both Labour and Conservative parties have allowed to come into our country over the past two decades, something that Mr Osborne was keen to lay at Labour's door alone. Although no-one should doubt the serious damage that both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown's administrations actually did to the indigenous population's employment prospects, the harm done by John Major and that continues to be done by David Cameron and Nick Clegg's parties in coalition should not be understated especially by George Osborne, one of the chief architects of their overall strategy. After all, it wasn't Tony Blair or Gordon Brown who decided to take a fiscal knife to the UK's Public Sector workforce, to the NHS, to the Police Force, to the Armed Forces; and in the process putting tens of thousands of workers on the dole. That was entirely the work of the Coalition government, of David Cameron, Nick Clegg, George Osborne, Liam Fox, Philip Hammond, Andrew Lansley and their own cost cutting cohort.
But of course the financial probity of George Osborne's Coalition government is another one of those great deceits that have become a characteristic of British government over the past few decades. As the Chancellor of the Exchequer, one would expect Mr Osborne to know the difference between the Government's Borrowing Deficit and the UK's National Debt, which are entirely different to one another, but often confused, either accidentally, or sometimes deliberately, to confuse the general public.
The Deficit is actually known as Public Sector Net Cash Requirement, which was previously known as the Public Sector Borrowing requirement. This is the rate that the UK government must borrow in order to maintain its financial commitments on an annual basis. In his speech today, George Osborne told his party conference that he had cut the deficit, the PSNCR (or the PSBR) by one third, even though at the beginning of the coalition's first term in office, the intention had been to cut the deficit entirely by the end of their first five year term, an objective that has now been put back until 2018 at the earliest. Bearing in mind the austerity measures introduced by the coalition government, including the billions saved on the cost of the NHS, Public Sector workforces, the Armed Forces, etc. this explains the reduction of one third in the deficit claimed by Mr Osborne. As he is spending less on government projects, he therefore needs to borrow less from the international markets, hence the overall reduction in the deficit. However, the deficit is entirely different to the UK's National Debt, which is still rising and that is explained below. As an example in the year 2011/12 the UK government's total spending was an estimated £710 billion, while its total income was only £589 billion, leaving a shortfall of £121 billion, which it had to borrow from the international markets. This £121 billion then became the deficit and currently cost some £2 billion per week on the National Debt simply to service it.
The UK's National Debt is the total amount of money owed at any one time through the issue of securities (gilts, etc) by the UK government. As of the first quarter of 2013 the UK's total National Debt was said to equal £1,377.4 billion, or 90.7% of Gross Domestic Product. The cost of servicing the UK's National debt was estimated to be £43 billion per year, or 3% of GDP. Forecasts suggest that the UK's National Debt is expected to rise to 95.6% of GDP by the end of 2013, to 98.7% of GDP in 2014. Because of the still relatively high Budget Deficit, as mentioned above, the Coalition government's National Debt is reported to be increasing by £121 billion per annum, or £2.3 billion per week. It was in part due to this stubbornly high Deficit that the International Credit Rating Agency Moody's downgraded the UK's Debt worthiness from AAA to Aa1.
By peacetime standards the UK's National Debt is fairly high, but during World War II Britain's National Debt was reported to have risen to 180% of GDP, although given the circumstances such a high rate was hardly remarkable. Depending on who you ask, some sources believe that the UK's total National Debt, including all outstanding government pensions, etc might be as high as £5 trillion, whilst most other estimates suggest a figure of between £845 to £900 billion, around 35% of which is owed to overseas investors.
The point is this. Along with David Cameron and many other politician's, there is a suggestion that Mr Osborne likes to play fast and loose when talking about both the Deficit and the National Debt and how exactly that message is being put across to the viewing public. Although Mr Osborne has undoubtedly reduced the deficit, mainly through introducing austerity measures to big spending sections of the economy, it is clear that the National Debt has continued to grow; and will continue to do so. As of 2012, it is reported that the National debt costs every British household around £2000 per year to service, a situation that is likely to get worse in the coming years.
The other great announcements made by Mr Osborne at conference were the "Help To Buy" campaign and his support for the proposed HS2 Rail Scheme, both of which he believes will be hugely beneficial to the UK economy. Making the point that house prices are falling in the North, as opposed to rising in London and the South, Mr Osborne's entire argument was flawed right from the start, although he didn't seem to let a little thing like that get in the way of his argument. Surely if house prices are artificially high, due to a shortage of homes, then maintaining the high prices with government backed mortgages is simply going to drive prices even higher again, as affordable homes become an even scarcer commodity. Surely commonsense would dictate that prices need to be allowed to fall, thereby making properties more affordable. Rather than London and the South being the exception, by maintaining the high property prices, the Coalition is simply replicating the London price model nationally? The last recession was caused in part by the huge sub-prime market in America, where house buyers were actively encouraged to take on excessive debt, only for their investment to go belly-up when the interest rates increased. So George Osborne is encouraging first-time home buyers to take on excessive debt with government help, when interest rates are almost non-existent, so what happens when interest rates start to rise, which they inevitably will at some point in time, possibly when the unemployment rates reach 7%, as suggested by Mark Carney, the new Governor of the Bank of England.
Like I say, I'm no expert, but neither does it appear that George Osborne is either. Most experts believe that you have one of two options to drive an economy forward, you either save your way out, or you spend your way out. Clearly the former option, as adopted by George Osborne, with all of his cost cutting, services cutting, welfare cutting, jobs cutting and every other sort of cutting, is still driving our National debt through the roof. What began as a five year plan to eliminate the deficit completely, has now become an eight year plan, assuming of course that he doesn't change his mind again in the next couple of years. That's the trouble though when you appoint someone who isn't an economist, to do an economist's job, they're almost certain to screw it up! But then maybe that's why you get a speech like Mr Osborne gave today, long on rhetoric and short on good ideas, because that's what people do when they haven't got a clue? 

Saturday 28 September 2013

Coalition Politics, Awash With Vanity, Pride & Ignorance

For some individuals, going into politics has never been about that relatively old-fashioned idea of committing oneself to public service, for the wider public good; simply because, for certain people, politics is all about access to and the acquisition of power; power to influence people, events or the existing environment. In other words, for some people, the entire point of their being involved in politics, be it at a local, national, or even international level, is purely in order for them to have some form of personal involvement in the big issues of the day, to possibly help frame the debate, to gain some individual kudos from the decisions that are ultimately reached; and possibly helping to create a long term legacy for themselves, if only by association. If that were the true motivation behind most politician's decision to stand for office, then shouldn't we be worried by the fact that a significant number of our legislators, be they in local council chambers, the Palace of Westminster, or in Brussels, are not really there to represent us, the electorate, but are there to achieve their own self aggrandisement, their own enrichment, to satisfy their own personal vanity and to establish their own individual legacy, rather than having anything to do with us, the voter?

Given that it's a well established fact that most of our national legislators are independently wealthy people before they even enter Parliament, one can only speculate as to why each and every Member of the Commons ultimately decides to stand for selection in the first place. No doubt a small number of candidates will see it as a purely financial move, no different than any other job of work, only cleaner and with much more influence attached, but a relatively well paid job nonetheless. The vast majority though, the former lawyers, businessmen, journalists, trade unionists, stockbrokers, teachers, actors and the idle sons of millionaires, will undoubtedly sit in Parliament for any number of reasons, including the yearning desire to give something back, to shape the future of our country, because they're bored and are incapable of holding down a proper job, or often because they're wealthy enough and vain enough to believe that they have all the solutions to our country's many and varied problems.

How else would one explain the likes of David Cameron, Nick Clegg and George Osborne holding the levers of power in our country, when between the three of them they have nearly zero work-life experience, but bags of money. In addition to these three, our daily lives are also directly affected by the likes of William Hague, Iain Duncan Smith and Danny Alexander, three more perennial underachievers who now wield significant influence as Foreign Secretary, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions; and Chief Secretary to the Treasury

Outside of having worked as a Management Consultant for Mckinsey and Company, one of the firms directly responsible for the remodelling and reorganisation of the NHS, William Hague is yet another one of those professional politician's who has sought to build his personal legacy through his political career, although not always successfully. As leader of the Conservative Party between 1997 and 2001, he was reported to be a disaster, trying to unite a divided Tory Party, concentrating on issues that held little interest for the wider electorate; and publicly participating in stunts that simply made him look foolish in the public's eyes, including his infamous log flume picture that many of his fellow MP's later described as "juvenile".

For his part, Iain Duncan Smith inadvertently set himself up for public derision by describing himself as the "Quiet Man" of British politics, as a result of his natural way of speaking. He previously served as a Lieutenant in the British Army; and unlike some of his cabinet colleagues is not the wealthiest of men, but is fortunate enough to have married the daughter of a fairly wealthy man, so it pretty much amounts to the same thing. Reported to have held a specific interest in Welfare Issues, research indicates that Mr Duncan Smith has been largely informed on that particular subject by what might commonly be referred to as "right wing" policy sources, which would clearly explain his generally insensitive and obdurate approach to welfare matters since taking office as the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions in the current Coalition government.

As for Mr Alexander's elevation to High Office, well one can only assume that this is related to the comparatively small number of MP's that the Liberal Democrats got elected into Parliament, allied to the fact that he has previously worked closely with both Charles Kennedy and Nick Clegg, so was almost certainly appointed to his current post because of his political connections, rather than on the strength of his own natural gifts. Along with his party leader, Mr Alexander would never in his wildest dreams have envisioned the day when he might have had the opportunity to place his sticky fingers on the levers of power; and it has become abundantly clear over time that he has allowed himself to become completely infatuated with his once-in-a-lifetime chance to be on the centre stage of Britain's political establishment. One wonders what he'll do when his 15-minutes-of-fame is over?

Although these three individuals only play a small part in the coalition government; and the political legacy that it will inevitably leave to our country, always assuming of course that any subsequent political administration doesn't sweep it all away, which seems highly unlikely, it still begs the question as to whether or not their current implementation of coalition policies are based on their own personal socio-economic principles, those that they would try and sell to their local electorates, or are they simply part of a much larger Liberal Democrat / Conservative vanity project that they hope to be revered for by the masses in the future.

Big, far reaching and time enduring political projects seem to have become very much the norm nowadays, just as private home ownership, commercial privatisation and de-industrialisation did in the UK during the Thatcher era, thus creating an almost endless series of social and economic legacies that we can all still point to as significant moments in our nation's history. The question still remains though, were those fundamental and often traumatic changes to our society brought about by Mrs Thatcher's ideological principles, or because of her personal vanity? If vanity is defined as an excessive belief in one's own abilities (and consequently one's own ideas) then is it possible that the wholesale sell off of Britain's social housing stocks, the privatisation of the various national utilities and the widespread de-industrialisation of Britain's main manufacturing centres, were simply a part of Mrs Thatcher's own personal vanity project, rather than the vitally necessary socio-economic measure it was described as at the time?

Where Mrs Thatcher justified the sell off of the country's housing stock, publicly owned utilities and manufacturing centres, she did so by pointing to the purported yearning of the aspirational classes, the inefficiencies of publicly owned businesses, the militancy of the unionised workforces and the promise that things would be much improved in the future. She and her government then spent the next decade or more, spending billions of pounds of North Sea oil and gas revenues, having to secure those promises, as the much vaunted private sector struggled to fill the vacuum that those lost homes and industries left behind them, some of which continue to exist through to today, some thirty years later. Fast forward to 2010 and we have a similar situation with David Cameron, Nick Clegg and their own version of a personal vanity project, only this one involves much more vital services like the NHS, Public Welfare, Railways, the Royal Mail and of course Europe. We have no money for more Nurses, Doctors, or life saving Medicines, but we can find £100 million for Syria. We have no spare public money for Extra Bedrooms or our most disabled citizens, but we can find £12 billion per year for Overseas Aid. We can find £50 billion for the planned HS2, but we can't afford to maintain our military forces. Royal Mail is publicly owned, but that still hasn't prevented the Coalition from selling it off to the private sector for an estimated £3 billion, yet we're still paying £53 million per day to the EU.

Going back to the definition of vanity; as in an excessive belief in one's own abilities (and therefore in one's own beliefs and ideas), it surely must be the height of vanity for David Cameron, Nick Clegg and their cohorts to believe that they know better than a majority of the British public, half of whom would likely vote for a British exit from the financial, political and social constraints of the European Union. How arrogant they are to believe that they know so much more than we do; that they are better informed than we are; or that only they are qualified to make any judgement regarding our country's future direction. According to Samuel Butler "The truest characters of ignorance are vanity, pride and arrogance", a description that well befits a number of our elected representatives, most especially the few dozen Conservative and Liberal Democrat MP's who have been charged with taking care of our country's fortunes at this present moment in time. Perhaps they all might do well to remember another well known expression regarding one of the Seven Deadly Sins; that of Pride, which is said to come before a fall. Roll on 2015!!

Friday 27 September 2013

Let Politician's Reap What They Sow - Part One!

If anyone truly believes that Britain is a far better place now, than it was maybe even forty years ago, in terms of jobs, housing, health, education, transport, manufacturing, international trade, politics, or perhaps more importantly our society, then quite honestly they must have been living under some isolated rock somewhere, for much of that time.
The coalition has made much recently of the fact that some one million or so new jobs have been created within the private commercial sector since they came into office in May 2010. What they fail to point out however, is that these increases in the private sector workforce has been almost entirely fuelled by part-time jobs, typically of 25 hours per week or less, most of which are aimed at women. At the same time, it seems to have escaped the government's notice that an estimated 300,000 former full-time employees, have been compelled to accept part-time hours by their employers, presumably on the basis of part-time work being better than no work at all? Even though most of these new part-time and often heavily subsidised posts (as many part-time workers are in receipt of Family and Working Tax Credits) are filled by female employees, it is worth noting that approximately 2.1 million men, out of a total male workforce of 16 million, are regularly employed on part-time hours as well.
Between 2003 and 2012 the numbers of unemployed workers in the UK was reported to have risen from 5% of the workforce to 8%, an estimated 2.5 million people. Between 2008 and 2013, the numbers of workers actively underemployed (wanting more hours than they could get) was said to have doubled, from 700,000 to around 1.5 million, suggesting that between the two distinct worker groups, roughly 4 million British workers were unable to achieve the levels of employment they actually wanted, often as a result of the various government's employment strategies. Within this 4 million strong underused workforce, will be some of the nearly 1 million young people who have left school looking for work, whilst tens of thousands of others will be temporarily off-the-books, as they participate in any one of the numerous government training schemes, purportedly designed to help them get back into full-time work. Fortunately for national governments, aiding them in their attempts to downplay Britain's actual unemployment figures, is the fact that some 40% of secondary school leavers now choose to go onto Higher Education, rather than paid work, meaning that they don't actually show up on any official employment statistics, until such time as they enter the jobs market after they have graduated.
Needless to say, assuming that many of these students and graduates ever manage to find a full-time, well paid job, once they leave Higher Education, then at some point in time they're going to want their own homes, away from mum and dad. But that then leads them into a whole new world beset by a range of various problems, do they have three years of student loans to repay (potentially 3 x £9000 = £27,000), can they attract a high enough salary to warrant and comfortably afford a 25 year mortgage (assuming that interest rates won't remain at record low levels forever); and does that then inform their decisions about having children, pets, annual holidays, a car, etc. etc?
Don't forget, things are bad enough now, so quite what they'll be like in the future is anyone's guess? Despite our international status as a modern developed western economy, we are reported to be one of the worst EU countries for available housing, a situation that will not have been helped by successive governments devotion to both the private rental market and wholesale inward foreign migration. According to informed sources, each and every year an estimated 250,000 new households are founded within the UK, each of which requires a house or property to operate from. According to these same sources between 2011 and 2012 less than 20,000 new building starts were begun, around 10% of the actual number required just to keep pace, a figure that the Conservative Party Chairman, Grant Schapps, referred to as "impressive", perhaps suggesting the source of the problem for Britain and its people!
According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Britain is expected to have a shortage of around 1 million homes by 2022, which was based on the market requirement of 210,000 and a market delivery of only 155,000, leaving an annual shortfall of around 50,000 homes over each of the next 20 years, thereby equalling the million homes mentioned. Considering that some 1.8 million houses were sold between 1980 and 2013 under the Right To Buy Scheme, introduced by the Thatcher government, the scale of the problem becomes fairly evident, especially when one adds in the 3 million foreign migrants who have arrived in the UK during the past decade or so; and the burgeoning numbers of Buy-To-Let investors who have been busily purchasing the nations housing stocks over the same extended period.
With the country's social housing stocks having been nearly exhausted by natural community growth, foreign migration and pure selfish greed, it is perhaps little wonder that Britain's ability to actually house its indigenous population has become so troublesome. However, the fact that an estimated 709,000 properties were reported as being empty in 2012 might offer some clue as to why the situation has been allowed to become so bad. As with any market that is governed by the potential financial benefits offered by a supply and demand economy, the prospect of initiating yet another property bubble, where the housing stock is in short supply, to help stimulate people's spending must have an attraction for any government, whatever their political ideology; and conversely the production of a housing surplus would not be such an attractive proposition.
Unfortunately, those who are outside of the housing market will ultimately bear the associated costs of a limited property market, although this is clearly a social cost that most governments are more than happy to accept. Over-inflated private rents, overcrowding, homelessness, property repossessions and rent arrears are just a few of the many social issues that can arise from a the pitifully thin social housing portfolios held by many local authorities, yet in response the coalition has simply helped to make matters even worse, through the introduction of its now fairly infamous Spare Room Supplement, or Bedroom Tax.
According to figures reported by the national housing charity, Shelter, the numbers of families living in emergency Bed & Breakfast accommodation has reached a new ten year high, with more than 2000 families living in such conditions in England alone. In total an estimated 9000 families with children are thought to have lost their homes within the last year.
Some 60% of people living in private rented accommodation consider themselves to be on a financial "knife-edge" regarding their homes, believing that any additional living expenses of £100 or more will almost certainly push them over the edge into hardship. 40% of private property renters stated that they had absolutely no flexibility at all in terms of their finances and were simply unable to absorb any further additional living costs, a significant admission given that interest rates are at an all time low. Even though home repossessions are thought to have fallen to a new 5 year low, due to the UK's historically low interest rates, an estimated 160,000 households are currently in arrears with their mortgages, suggesting that even modest interest rate rises could prove to be fairly catastrophic for some individuals in the future.
On any given night in February 2012, there were thought to be in excess of 2000 people sleeping rough in England, a rise of 31% on previous figures. Also, according to one London based homelessness charity during 2012/2013 there were reported to be a total of 6500 people sleeping rough in the capital city, an increase of some 13% on previous figures. 47% of those interviewed by the charity were thought to be UK nationals, whilst some 28% of the rough sleepers were said to be from other EU states.
Finally, even though Social Housing Tenants are generally more secure than their private counterparts, following the introduction of the previously mentioned Spare Room Supplement, or Bedroom Tax, an estimated 50,000 social housing tenants are reported to have gone into arrears with their rents, as they struggle to balance the losses to their housing benefits, with their other incomes. Aware of the growing problem, the Coalition government still insist that reductions to claimants housing benefit for any spare rooms that they happen to have in their homes, is a fair and equitable measure, despite any evidence to the contrary.
In closing the first part of this blog article entitled "Governments Reap What They Sow", it is perhaps appropriate to comment on the various aspects of the two main subjects covered by the post; that of jobs and housing.
It goes without saying really that in a modern western economy largely devoid of heavy labour intensive manufacturing industries and where women make up as much of the national workforce as do men; that the idea of full employment, as we might once have recognised it, is a wholly outdated concept that has inevitably been consigned to the past; and yet successive British government's continue to pursue the notion regardless of the fact that it is probably unachievable, be that in the short-term, long-term or any-term.
It cannot have escaped people's notice that in an earlier blog post regarding Mr Miliband's Magical Manifesto Show, I mentioned that some 2.9 million foreign migrants were reported to have arrived here in the UK between 1991 and 2001, a strikingly similar figure to the 2.5 million people who are reported to be unemployed in the UK at this very moment in time. Neither can it be a coincidence that the numbers of these foreign workers seems to accord with the levels of housing that some experts suggest that we currently need simply to meet our own people's basic accommodation requirements.
This is not to attach blame to the migrant workers themselves, who for the most part are simply looking for a better life for them and their families, but rather it is to accuse the various British governments, who have not only signed away our country's national sovereignty, our border controls and our independence, but also singularly failed to plan for the inevitable effects of their own ill-thought out party political actions. Did it not occur to John Major, Tony Blair or Gordon Brown that the arrival of nearly 3 million migrant workers might have an adverse effect on the people of Britain, as well as their jobs and their homes? Did they not think about the possible consequences for our country, or didn't they really care to begin with?
If it happens to be true that Tony Blair's only motivation was party political advantage, or ramming the idea of multiculturalism down the throats of his more resistant adversaries, then shame on him and the Labour Party for having essentially betrayed the British people. With that particular lesson learned one would hope that a majority of the electorate might return the favour in any of our forthcoming elections, thus ensuring that such a trick cannot be played on us for a second time.
Of course, Tony Blair's actions cannot and do not alleviate the blame that attaches itself to the Conservative Party and its then leader and Prime Minister, John Major, who was just as culpable for the ruination of our country, as was Mr Blair. Even during his unremarkable tenure in Downing Street, an estimated 350,000 foreign workers were thought to have arrived in our country, the initial trickle that would later become the flood, which has wrought so much damage to the socio-economic fabric of Britain.
Adding insult to injury of course is a typical Conservative trait; and by way of doing so its latest reinvention as leader, the wholly unimpressive Mr Cameron, along with the quietly oppressive Mr Duncan Smith have sought to make good on the injuries that their party inflicted on British workers, by punishing them even more. Not content with undercutting British employees with cheap foreign labour, they have subsequently decided to penalise the British people even more by cutting their benefit entitlements, freezing their wages, creating a new form of tax especially for those in social housing, cutting huge numbers of public service posts, part privatised the NHS and are now in the process of selling off the publicly owned Royal Mail.
The fact that Grant Schapps described a 10% achievement rate on new housing starts as "impressive", tells us all we need know about the Conservatives and their underlying ideological priorities. For a party which promised 3 million homes by 2020, it is clear that their electoral promises are as empty as their heads, so any hopes that things might prove to be better in the future are obviously forlorn ones. Yes, the days of full employment are long gone, but obviously so are those when politician's promises actually meant a damn thing. It is hardly surprising that the majority of British voters are so disillusioned with the political classes, but it still remains in each person's power to deny them their vote come election time, thereby teaching them the age old lesson of "you reap what you sow".

Thursday 26 September 2013

Mr Miliband's Magical Manifesto Show!

So, after many months of deliberating, cogitating and having been very quiet about the state of the country generally, much to the irritation of senior backbenchers and former ministers, the leader of Her Majesty's opposition, Ed Miliband, has finally gotten around to telling the party faithful, as well as the odd millions of undecided voters, just what he proposes to do, if and when him and his party are handed back the keys to No 10 Downing Street in 2015. The main highlights included a two year freeze on energy prices between 2015 and 2017, a pledge to build 200,000 new homes every year between 2015 and 2020, introduce tax cuts for small businesses, which would be paid for by higher taxes on larger companies, as well as introducing a scheme that would compel British based companies who employ foreign workers to offer apprenticeships to local out-of-work youngsters.
However, almost as soon as each of these proposed schemes were uttered at the recent Labour Conference, opponents began attacking them as unworkable, fanciful or even completely illegal under current European Union regulations, a body that Mr Miliband seems happy to defer to in most matters of national importance.
Interestingly, even though the promise of an energy price freeze for a two year period, may on the face of it seem like a highly attractive prospect for most voters, in reality it's hardly likely to offer that much of a benefit to most households who are struggling to pay skyrocketing utility bills. Despite what they may claim in the media, virtually all of Britain's six major energy companies have done very well from British consumers. They are after all commercial businesses and if they weren't making a decent profit for their shareholders, then in all likelihood they wouldn't invest in that particular market, they'd be putting their monies elsewhere. So for them to suggest that there is some sort of altruistic motive behind their investment in and ownership of the big energy companies is patently absurd; and most of us plainly recognise that fact. Nonetheless, there is also some truth in their counter claims that government and the EU have also played a significant part in ensuring that our household energy costs have gone through the roof, what with Green tariffs, VAT increases, renewable subsidies and God knows what else they've added to consumer's bills, so it is disingenuous of politician's to suddenly try and point the finger of blame at the energy providers directly. It is also a fact that a number of these same companies are already offering their customers price freezes for extended periods, some even longer than the two years specified by Mr Miliband, which sort of begs the questions; why all the fuss over the Labour leader's announcement in the first place; and why aren't all the energy companies offering those deals to their clients?
Along with his first great manifesto promise for 2015, Mr Miliband's second one, a pledge to build 200,000 new homes every year between 2015 and 2020 has also been greeted by equal levels of excitement and exasperation, especially as he uttered his "use it or lose it" challenge to developers and builders who are essentially hoarding huge swathes of land across the country. However, even though I am a huge fan of the idea of building new social housing for the people of Britain, along with many others I am deeply sceptical about the Labour leader's real motivations for proposing such a massive house-building programme. Is it to provide homes for the hundreds of thousands of people who need them already, or is it in preparation for the hundreds of thousands of foreign migrants that Mr Miliband and his party would willingly encourage to move to our already overstretched country? It's all very well to build the housing stock, but where is the infrastructure to support these new communities, the schools, shops, hospitals, transport services, or indeed the jobs? Who is going to pay for these 200,000 homes a year, what impact will they have on our countryside, our greenbelt, our social cohesion, our language, our culture? Nobody doubts that we need the homes, but what are they really worth if they're simply being built to accommodate hundreds of thousands of new migrants, rather than those indigenous Britons who haven't got a decent home to live right now?
Of course we all know about the big multi-nationals avoiding tax, by conducting their business outside of the UK, or in some or other tax haven, but whose fault is that to begin with? Successive British governments, Labour and Conservative, are complicit in having created one of the most complicated and confusing tax regimes in the world, to the extent that very few people understand it; and clever people can often drive a horse and carriage through it, causing our national Exchequer to lose billions in tax revenues every single year. So yes, let's tighten up our tax procedures, so that we maximise the amount of money being collected by the Treasury, but not at the expense of big businesses being driven away from our country, because they're being unfairly treated by government. It is perhaps worth recalling that Labour were once the friend of British business; and it was during that friendship that some of the most serious abuses of commercial ethics were reported to have taken place, so it seems extremely hypocritical for any former Labour minister to start attacking big business for all the wrongs in this country, when they played their own large part in giving them the legal means to do so in the first place.
The other great proposal put forward by Mr Miliband was that of forcing British based firms, who regularly employ migrant workers to offer apprenticeships to local out of work youngsters, presumably in a quid-pro-quo, or a "this for that" arrangement. Now wouldn't that be nice, if he could actually do it? Quite whether the Labour leader was confused about the way current EU employment regulations work, or whether he was being deliberately deceptive to his wider audience is unclear, but either way, this is one electoral promise that he cannot possibly fulfil. Even if he could introduce legislation to compel British based companies to take on such an arrangement, current EU regulations forbid any form of protectionism when it comes to employment, suggesting that any such "apprenticeships" would be open to ANY and ALL EU citizens, not just local, British born youngsters. Many who heard the pledge were reminded of Gordon Brown's ill-timed protestation of "British jobs for British workers" for all the good that it did him; because he too was shackled by the terms of the European treaties that he willingly signed.
Associated with that particular promise over British jobs, Mr Miliband recently wowed the mainstream media with his declaration over future Labour plans to reduce non-EU migration, should the people of this country ever choose to elect him Prime Minister in 2015. According to one Oxford based study, net migration into the UK between 1991 and 2001 was a reported total of 2.9 million migrants. Between 1991 and 1999 the average annual net migration figure was 65,000 per year, whilst between 2000 and 2011, the average annual net migration figure was 195,000 per year, three times higher than the previous period. Bearing in mind that Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and their New Labour party were in office between 1997 and 2010 these figures speak volumes as to their attitudes regarding inward migration to the UK, with very nearly 200,000 migrants per year pouring into this country unchecked between 2000 and 2010. 
In 2010 the actual net migration figure for the UK was reported to be 252,000; and in 2011 this figure was said to have fallen to 215,000, still well above the average annual figures reported from 1991 onwards. In 2011 EU migrants alone were said to have accounted for some 55% of all inward migration into the UK, which was reported to be a grand total of some 566,000 individuals, indicating that EU citizens alone accounted for around 311,000 of all of those migrants who came into our country during 2011. Of these an estimated 230,000 came to the UK to study.
As regards Mr Miliband's promises on non-EU migration! According to the same sources, non-EU migration increased throughout the 1990's and the 2000's, but has declined since reaching a peak in 2004. Of those non-EU migrants coming to the UK, studies suggest that just under half of those arriving here on either skilled, or highly skilled, are predominantly male, aged between 25 and 44; and most of them originate from either Asia or the Americas. The numbers of migrants arriving from African countries is said to have declined since 2004. One set of figures relating to non-EU migration suggests that in 1991 there was a net figure of around 19,000 individuals, in 2004 this figure had increased to 114,000; and more recent figures suggest the numbers to be around 47,000 per year.
The point being perhaps, that any promise by Mr Miliband to reduce, control, or cap non-EU migration will achieve practically nothing, as that is not where the main migration problem exists. The fact that some 2.9 million EU migrants came to this country, mostly from the eight Eastern European states who formally joined the EU during that time period, is where the real immigration problem arose, something that Mr Miliband, Mr Balls and the rest of their New Labour cohort are perfectly aware of. Bearing in mind that the citizens of a further two Eastern European states will be entitled to work in the UK at the beginning of 2014; that fact alone does not bode well for the already overstretched indigenous people of Britain. One wonders just what Mr Miliband proposes to do about that particular problem, rather than issuing some piece of wholly pointless electoral spin about what is a minor problem regarding migrants from elsewhere in the world?
As has been mentioned in previous posts, Ed Miliband is widely regarded as a great socialist thinker by those who inhabit the so-called Westminster "bubble", akin to that other great intellectual giant of the Labour Party, Michael Foot; and look what happened to him! Great minds don't always lead to great ideas, because such great thinkers often over-think their own ideas, making them unwieldly, unworkable and completely impractical for a modern mixed economy like our own.
As for Mr Miliband's actual proposals themselves? It is perhaps worth remembering that Mr Miliband and his Shadow Chancellor, Ed Balls, were both intrinsic and pivotal members of the previous Labour government, which became so unpopular under the Premiership of Gordon Brown; and that if legend is to be believed was one of the most divisive and poisonous of the last few decades. It beggars belief that Mr Miliband and Mr Balls were both somehow unaware of, or apart from the political and economic mismanagement that characterised the Brown era of government, suggesting that they too played a part in creating the unpopular shambles that the Brown administration eventually became.
The problem with most of our modern politician's is that their reputations precede them in the eyes of the general public and virtually all of the British electorate are happy to wish a "pox on all their houses", regardless of whether they happen to be a worthwhile and trustworthy elected representative, or not. For his part, Mr Milband's previous association with the Brown administration, his failure or inability to publicly apologise for the actions of his party during their time in office; and his shameful attempts to deliberately mislead the electorate over his party's future manifesto promises, simply bring me to the obvious conclusion that he will say, do and promise the people anything, in order to achieve his ambition of taking up residency in Downing Street.
Temporary energy price freezes, 200,000 new homes, taxes on big business and promises of apprenticeships that cannot and will not be delivered, are all very well as short-term measures, but do not and cannot resolve the long term problems that are affecting our country. The inevitability of even more increased inward migration and the pressures that it will exert on our already crumbling services needs to be tackled as a matter of urgency, as does the inexorable loss of our national sovereignty, which is being handed over to an un-elected foreign government. Sadly, these are the really big important issues that Mr Miliband doesn't seem to want to promote or promise to the British electorate; and until he does so, then anything else is just pure sleight of hand, like the very best magic shows tend to be.  

Saturday 21 September 2013

Sometimes The Final Option Is The Best One

According to Einstein, insanity is defined as repeating the same actions over and over again and expecting different results, so presumably the same logic applies to the regular election of the same old political parties in Great Britain by us, the electorate, although as to whether that makes us insane, the political parties insane, or the entire electoral process insane, is clearly a question that each and everyone of us must decide for ourselves.

I also wonder just how many of us actually remember how utterly obnoxious most of were when we were seventeen, with that typical, been there, done that, can't tell me anything, sort of attitude; and whether or not we might have changed our views and opinions somewhat over the period of the next forty years or so? In other words, would we still do the same things, act the same way, hold the same opinions, as we might have done when we were still in secondary school, when we really didn't know any better. If most people are like me, then greater age has brought greater wisdom, confirming that old adage of "you can't put an old head on young shoulders".

Funny then that most of our main news outlets were trying to promote a story about how a seventeen-year-old youngster, named Nigel Farage, was reported to have held extremist views whilst he was at prep school, presumably in an attempt to make the case that he probably still held such prejudiced views some forty years later. Now, whilst I realise that some people believe that Mr Farage is a very special person, being asked to accept that he is unique amongst men and has somehow managed to carry his perceived teenage prejudices right through to adulthood and his leadership of the United Kingdom Independence Party is just a step too far, isn't it? Isn't it probably more likely that the entire story is entirely the creation of a disgruntled ex-teacher, who doesn't agree with Mr Farage's politics and is just out to make mischief for their former pupil, cunningly enabled by the so-called journalist's at Channel 4, the BBC and the rest of the mainstream media?

It cannot be a coincidence can it that a BBC journalist managed to capture the infantile humour of some unknown tech wizard, who appears to have deliberately manipulated the large outdoor screen, which appeared to adorn Mr Farage with an Adolph Hitler-like moustache, just as he happened to speaking to a national audience? It is perhaps little wonder that the BBC's long held reputation for fairness and transparency has suffered so badly, here in the country of its birth, when it chooses to stoop to the level of some restrictive state controlled news agency. Perhaps the next big move by the BBC should be to poach one or two of those North Korean television presenters that we occasionally see on our screens, at least we might amuse ourselves as we try to figure out whether they're actually male or female, as they dictate the daily party broadcast into our living rooms.

Of course the big news story of yesterday, or so we have been told by the same old culprits, including the BBC and Channel 4, quickly followed by the rest of the sheepish mainstream media, was that Godfrey Bloom had chosen to refer to a gathering of women as "sluts"; and then smacked that great political investigator, Michael Crick, over the head with a magazine or publication of some sort. Although "sluts" wouldn't have been my own first choice of word, there is ample evidence to suggest that Mr Bloom had in fact used to word to describe women who were untidy, unhomely and disorganised, to the extent that some of his female audience actually caught the joke and laughed, whilst other did not! To make matters worse, Mr Bloom then allowed himself to be irritated by the aforementioned Michael Crick into smacking the troublesome journalist over the head with some paperwork, which is probably the sort of reaction that Mr Crick had hoped for.

As a dedicated political agent provocateur that is Mr Crick's special forte', to irritate the shit out of politicians, so that they might react in the most unprofessional way possible in front of the cameras. Yesterday, he must have thought that all of his birthday's had come at the same time, having had one of UKIP's leading lights react in such an amateurish way to his prodding, especially in the full glare of the national media! One suspects that that was always Mr crick's intention, as that is what he does, although that still doesn't excuse Mr Bloom's personal use of highly irregular language, which can easily be misinterpreted by those who choose to do so, nor his decision to swat away the offending journalist in the manner that he did.

However, the voting public and the mainstream media need to put things into perspective. Our elected representatives are not super-human beings, despite our wish that they were; and are subject to exactly the same sort of urges, passions, intolerances and weaknesses that we all are. After all, it wasn't that long ago that we were all sitting agog, having been informed that dozens of our MP's had been fiddling the public purse for years; and had been making tens of thousands of pounds in the process. Just recently, Bill Walker, an independent MSP (Member of the Scottish Parliament) decided to resign his seat after having been found guilty of some twenty-odd charges of domestic abuse, over the period of ten years or so. The Conservative MP, Tim Loughton, was forced to apologise to his Liberal Democrat colleague, Sarah Teather, after he publicly criticised her appointment as Families Minister, because she had failed to produce any children of her own.

Michael Martin, the former Speaker of the House was forced to resign after he had approved the allowances system that so many MP's were abusing; and then risked the reputation of his office by trying to defend the abuses that were clearly evident. As a result, he was thought to be the first Speaker ever to be forced out of office since 1695, a truly damning indictment of this country's entire political system.

Not that Mr Martin's resignation or subsequent loss of Parliamentary career was the only one lost as a result of the MP's expenses scandal. Jacqui Smith, a former Labour Home Secretary chose to contest her seat at the following General Election, but subsequently lost it, as did Tony McNulty, a former Minister for Employment. Geoff Hoon, a former Labour Defence Secretary chose not to stand in the subsequent elections, as did his colleague Kitty Ussher. Other Labour MP's who fell victim to the expenses scandal; and who were either pushed, or decided to jump, included Ben Chapman, David Chaytor, Harry Cohen, Jim Devine, Ian Gibson, Eric Illsley, Denis MacShane, Anne Moffat, Margaret Moran and Elliot Morley.

At the same time a significant number of Conservative MP's also considered their positions in light of the expenses scandal and chose not to stand in the subsequent General Elections. These luminaries included; Andrew MacKay, Julie Kirkbride, Douglas Hogg, Anthony Steen, Peter Viggers, Ann Winterton, Nicholas Winterton, Christopher Fraser and Ian Taylor.

That is not to forget the Liberal Democrat MP, David Laws, who was forced to resign from the coalition cabinet, formed after the 2010 Election, for the financial wrongdoing that he committed prior to that date. It is also noteworthy that very little has been of the fact by our mainstream media that Mr Laws has somehow managed to restore his reputation; and now holds the office of Minister of State for Schools and the Cabinet Office, almost as if he had done nothing wrong! And yet his breaches of the parliamentary expenses system was described by the Parliamentary Standards and Privileges Committee as "a series of serious breaches of the rules, over a considerable period of time"

It is also worth pointing out that our country's unelected house of representatives is little better than the Commons, when it comes to committing affronts to the laws of the land. Baron Bhatia was suspended from the House of Lords for eight months and ordered to repay over £27,000 in expenses, whilst Baron Clarke of Hampstead admitted fiddling his expenses, to make up for not being paid a salary. Lord Hanningfield was subsequently found guilty of six charges of false accounting, whilst Baron Paul was suspended for four months and ordered to repay nearly £42,000 in expenses. Baron Taylor of Warwick was found guilty of six charges at Southwark Crown Court, whilst Baroness Uddin was investigated by the police and was ordered to repay £120,000 in expenses, as well as being suspended from the House of Lords from October 2010 until May 2012.

When one considers the case of Godfrey Bloom publicly complaining about British taxpayer's money being sent to "Bongo Bongo Land", rather inappropriately referring to female delegates as "sluts", or slapping a nuisance reporter around the head with a piece of paper, how does that really compare against those hundreds of elected representatives, from all three major political parties, essentially robbing the public purse, not just once, but dozens of times? Gordon Brown famously referred to one constituent as a "bigot", John Prescott actually got into a bout of fisticuffs with an egg throwing oik, Peter Mandelsson had to resign more than once over his personal financial arrangements, yet their constituents were still happy to vote for them in subsequent elections!

Although I fully accept that Michael Crick is a sly, weasley protagonist of a reporter, who will go that extra mile to irritate and provoke the crap out of his political prey, I don't accept that the BBC has taken against UKIP, just because of what it is, or indeed what it stands for. In my own view, its treatment of UKIP, its annual convention and its representatives are all just symptomatic of a national media organisation that is following its own internal political agenda, rather than the wider public one that its charter demands. With its often second rate journalistic standards and having chosen to adopt the latter day media mantra of "never let the truth get in the way of a good story", the BBC was a product of its time, but unfortunately that time is long past.

I personally like the political realism of the UKIP representatives, with their don't knows, could be's and the rest of the uncertainties that come with the massive responsibilities of running an entire country. After all, can anyone tell me where the acual evidence that Nigel Farage couldn't do a better job than David Cameron at running the country; that Paul Nuttall couldn't do a better job than Nick Clegg, that Professor Tim Congdon couldn't do a better job than George Osborne, that Steph McWilliam couldn't do a better job than Jeremy Hunt?

No politician is born to be Prime Minister, Chancellor, Foreign Secretary, or Minister of State for whatever department! When all's said and done most of the actual work is being carried out by an army of professional administrators and bureaucrats, the Civil Service, with elected politicians just guiding the overall policy direction. No-one really believes that George Osborne, a history graduate, actually sits down with a pen, paper and a calculator; and works out Britain's economic sums do they? Who would you rather trust with the nation's finances though, a history graduate, or a professional economist who knows how to work figures out and more importantly, what they mean?

Just how many times do we need to keep picking the wrong people for the job of running our country? Let's face it, if either Labour or Conservatives were that clever then they would have been in government since the Second World War; and we wouldn't have to bother with national elections at all. The truth is, at present the three mainstream parties in Britain are not only led by the worst set of professional politician's this country has ever had, but they have also run out of ideas. They've been so busy fighting over the same common ground that they have become indistinguishable from one another in the eyes of the wider electorate, which goes some way to explaining the widespread public apathy that dominates our everyday political discourse.

If nothing else, maybe we need the likes of Nigel Farage, Tim Congdon, Paul Nuttall and Steph McWilliam to give our staid political system a bloody good shake, to mix things up a bit; and allow the British electorate to feel valued in the political process once again. If the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties are the three main traditional options for the people of our country; and they have all failed in their task, then maybe we all need to consider other options, it may not be as bad as we think!

Wednesday 18 September 2013

Dangerous Illusions!

If there's one piece of European legislation that is bound to arouse the antipathy of most British citizens, especially those with a heavily anti-EU inclination, it has to be the infamous Human Rights Act, otherwise known as the charlatans charter, which is so beloved by the army of Islamic extremists, illegal economic migrants and international war criminals, who have chosen to call our country home. Rarely a week goes by without some piece of the world's most objectionable human flotsam and jetsam washing up to lay claim to their human rights in racially tolerant Britain, where national government typically show scant regard for any threat that such migrants might pose to the indigenous people's of our islands. If there is one particular piece of European legislation that might finally help convince the British population that they would be "better off out" of the European Union, it must surely be this dismally dishonest piece of legal chicanery, which has been deliberately manipulated to serve the best interests of the wrongdoer, rather than the righteous. How appropriate then that during his closing speech at today's Liberal Democrat conference, their leader, Nick Clegg, should publicly proclaim that it was thanks to his party; and his party alone that the European Human Rights Act had been preserved in the UK, in order to allow even more extremists, illegal migrants and international war criminals to come and settle in our country. Thanks very much Nick! Thanks to your party, our country has now become a receptacle for every low-life criminal and religious extremist that yearns to set up home here; and to prey on the law-abiding citizenry of the UK.
Mind you, this isn't the first foot-in-mouth moment we've had from the Liberal Democrats this week, so the fact that Mr Clegg decided to go on a completely delusional rant about breaking the two-party political system forever, the necessity of Lib Dems to national governance; and how him and his party have acted as an brake to the Conservatives and their extreme socio-economic policies, was probably just the sort of tonic that he and his party needed after the endless public savaging they've received over the past three years. It really is astonishing to think that these supposedly clever politician's really do believe that they can hoodwink the British electorate so easily. Attack Labour, attack the Conservatives; and the public will suddenly forget the Liberal Democrats part in privatising the NHS, cutting Welfare, cutting the Public Sector workforce and introducing the Bedroom Tax. After all, it wasn't their fault, it was the last Labour government's fault, it was the Conservatives fault, maybe even UKIP's, the Greens, the SNP, or the DUP, provided they're given the time to make the case! It definitely wasn't the Lib Dem's fault though, because in their own closeted, delusional little world, they're the good guys! Don't forget, Nick and his band of Orange Book MP's have brought us windmills, lots and lots of windmills; and boy don't they look pretty! They're not worth a damn from an energy production point of view, but boy they look pretty, sticking out of the ground all over the place, not forgetting our traditional shorelines and seascapes as well.
And then we had Vicious Vince giving the conference delegates the benefit of his years of experience as an economist and a bitter back biting politician. If anyone had a dog that bit its feeder's hand that often, no doubt a shovel round the back of the ear might have come into play some time ago. For any prospective Lib Dem voters who were watching his speech, a bit of a stretch I know, it must have been a bit confusing trying to figure out what the message was. He wants to be leader, he doesn't want to be leader, he wants a pact with Labour, he doesn't want a pact with Labour, he wants to be in coalition with Cameron, he doesn't want to be in coalition with Cameron, he actually knows what he wants, he doesn't know what he wants? Answers on a postcard please!
Maybe it's just me, but the longer the coalition goes on the barmier and more delusional the Liberal Democrat leadership seems to get. Nick Clegg does know that his party lost the last election, does he? He does realise that most people DON'T agree with Nick any more does he? I only ask, because Mr Clegg seems to think and act like he's in government by right, rather than because of the Conservative's desperation at not having won a working majority in the General Election of 2010. Even with just under two years to go until the next national poll, the Liberal Democrats are already coming up with schemes to alienate hard pressed British voters, free meals for rich people's kiddies, more environmental madness that'll put our fuel bills through the roof, more taxes to punish the motorists who help drive our economy, what's not to like?
Listening to Nick Clegg today, I was reminded of one of those highly charismatic, but totally deluded leaders who heads one of those occasional suicide cults, who encourages his followers to drink the poison, in order for them to move on to a newer and better existence. His utter belief that the Lib Dem-Tory coalition has somehow changed our political system for the better is without foundation and is completely irrational, when one considers just how damaging this particular political partnership has been for both our economy and our country. Instead of one leader, one party with a single generally unified strategy, we have ended up with a mish mash of a political manifesto that serves neither parties real aims or objectives.
Sadly, as deluded as Mr Clegg might have become, as a result of his artificially created and completely undeserved position as Deputy Prime Minister, no doubt there will still be millions of British voters who will choose to believe that the Liberal Democrats have a vision for Britain in 2015 and will vote accordingly. One can only hope therefore that someone, somewhere will be able to dispel such dangerous illusions from their minds, before fate, or the vagaries of the British electoral system conspire once again to allow him and his party to gain so much as the slightest grip on the levers of power, as next time around they might do even more damage.         

Monday 16 September 2013

Burqa & Niqab Wearers Don't Want To Be Integrated!

Although I can't speak for the personal motivations, political, religious or otherwise of the twenty-odd-year-old unnamed Muslim woman who has insisted on wearing the niqab, a full length face veil, during her trial in a London court, where she has been accused of witness intimidation, the fact that the judge has been minded to allow her to wear the covering in a British court of law in the first place, albeit with certain conditions applied, should prove to us all, if proof were actually needed; that something has gone fundamentally wrong with our country.
According to some reports the young lady standing trial in London has a highly questionable religious background, which suggests that her initial demand to remain anonymous to the judge, the jury and the viewing public may well have resulted from her own malicious attempt to both politicise and damage the case that was being made against her. Following on from the case of the prospective Muslim student who accused a British university of discrimination, because of its already well established and widely known rule, of forbidding full face coverings on the grounds of protecting the student's personal security, all of us should be concerned that such apparently isolated incidents seem to be playing into a much wider and generally Islamic based agenda, one that has the potential to fatally undermine our largely secular and previously very tolerant society. The fact that in both cases, the court and the university have felt obliged to rescind their earlier judgements, in order to essentially accommodate the religious demands of these individuals, at a direct cost to every other non-Islamic suspect and student has inevitably established a precedent that this country yet prove to regret.
Of course the obvious argument should be; if you don't like the way our courts, or our universities operate, then don't live here! If you want Islamic courts, Islamic universities, or Islamic dress, then go and live, study, work and commit crimes in an Islamic country! Just how many times do people need telling? If they want to live in a dedicated Islamic state, then go and live somewhere else, because Britain is a largely secular country; and religious extremists of any flavour are not wanted, or indeed welcome.
Quite why Muslims, or any other religious faith should expect Britain and its people to adapt, alter, or amend our own long held traditions and customs, simply to accommodate these new foreign migrants is quite frankly beyond me! They add no cultural benefit or social premium to Britain's own way of living, which has existed for hundreds, if not thousands of years; and yet some would have us believe that Islam and its followers have something of value to offer our long standing traditional society, although exactly what remains a mystery. A virulent paternal society, where women are treated as second-class citizens or even chattels, the marriage of minors is encouraged, the education of females is discouraged, where honour killings are deemed to be acceptable, local religious and community leaders advocating the cold-blooded murder of perceived enemies and opponents of Islam, where Sharia Courts are employed to supplant the authority of Britain's established legal systems, where the sexual exploitation of young non-Islamic women and girls seems to be a commonplace occurrence; and a society where widespread fraud, intimidation and the ritual slaughter of sentient animals is the norm.
Increasingly, as with other nominal and highly vocal migrant groups, we have begun to see a significant number of Muslims playing the "victim" card, whether that's because of the clothes that they wear, the food that they eat, or the beliefs that they hold. Where it suits their purpose they will have nothing whatsoever to do with Western laws, culture, traditions or rules; and yet when an argument, or a legal judgement goes against them, they're quick enough to adopt the likes of the West's very own European Human Rights Act, in order to support their own generally backward and medieval style of thinking. But hey!, who ever said that Islam and its followers weren't capable of being first rate hypocrites, as and when it suits their purposes?
Like most people in Britain, I am largely indifferent to the question of Islam and its religious followers, live and let live at the end of the day! And as long as their faith, their religious practices; and some of their more odd traditional customs don't affect my life, then why should I care? However, many of us do start to care when some of our own longstanding legal and cultural precedents, or safeguards begin to be eroded by the malicious and entirely political misuse of our national laws and our regulations, ostensibly because a small number of supposed Islamic devotees believe that they are somehow beyond our laws, because of their faith. Surprisingly enough, we do not live in an Islamic Republic where the Koran, or a particular Imams word holds sway, we live in and abide by the rules of our secular society, where the rule of law has primacy, not the whim of two silly little girls who want to play "dress up" for their own highly questionable religious agendas.
Quite apart from the fact that religious vestments such as the Niqab and the Burqa scream "Go Away" to virtually any westerner who seems them being worn in the street, the sheer presence of such clothing items on the streets of Britain simply helps underpin the opinion that the wider Muslim community in this country has absolutely no intention of integrating into mainstream British society; and so they become and remain a Cuckoo in the nest of our daily lives. It is perhaps unsurprising then that resentment towards the Muslim community is on the rise, after all, what society would be prepared to accommodate, let alone accept a foreign host in their midst, especially one that is so antagonistic and brazen, as to display its hostility and indifference in such an obvious way.
It seems to me that elements of the Muslim community in Britain cannot have it both ways, either they are part of an integrated British society, or they are not. Although no-one is suggesting that traditionally modest Muslim women should walk around our cities half-dressed, as some of our young women choose to do, there are perhaps hundreds of thousands of perfectly respectable young women, be they Muslim, Hindu, Christian, Jewish, or whatever, who travel around our country each and everyday, without attracting a second look; and certainly without attracting the antipathy of their fellow citizens. If the Muslim community want to be part of Britain's rich cultural mix, then they must be prepared to compromise, after all, for the most part they are the newcomers, not us. For those few who are not prepared to compromise, or adapt to the British way of things, then please go and find another country that best suits your cultural and religious needs, only it isn't here!
As they have been brave in France, we need to be equally brave in this country; and to establish a set of cultural norms that the majority of us can live by and accept. In light of the two recent cases regarding the wearing of the Niqab and the Burqa, we too need to have a national conversation about whether or not such religious attire is entirely appropriate for our own country in the 21st century. Even a number of leading women's advocacy groups believe that the wearing of such garments represent a huge backward step for female rights in modern Britain, which the writer cannot wholly disagree with. Fundamentally though, it seems to me that the choice of wearing such an attire has little to do with personal modesty, or any supposed threat from a jealous Islamic spouse, but in reality has more to do with sending a message to our wider British society. For me personally, the underlying message of the Niqab and the Burqa is; "leave me alone, I want to live in Britain, but entirely on my own terms! I don't care about this country, or its people, I only care about me and mine. I have no interest in being integrated, but I'll let you know when and if I need something. Just go away!"