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Friday 31 January 2014

"Begone; and give your places to honester men":

It seems such a long time ago now that the Parliamentary Expenses Scandal first blew up in the national press, to be greeted by wave upon wave of public outrage and indignation as each new astonishing revelation about MP's expenses were publicly disclosed to the British electorate, from duck houses to moat clearing, from dog food to porn films, from flipping to outright theft, no doubt we all hoped that those miserable days were far behind us. But apparently not it seems.
Although the new Parliamentary Expenses Watchdog, Ipsa, the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, to give it its proper, grander name, has been in place and has had oversight for some considerable time now, already there are real concerns that our elected representatives have subsequently found new and innovative ways of getting around the rules that were designed to hold them to account and thus keep them "honest".
However, before looking at specifics, it is perhaps worth offering a perspective on the matter of MP's expenses, which was offered by one of the plethora of political blogging sites; and that struck me as somewhat relevant to the issue at hand. It has been estimated that the suggested level of Benefit Fraud in the UK, amounting to £1.1 billion actually equates to around £59 per benefit claimant (based on a total of 18.5 million claimants), whereas the cost of MP's having to repay public monies in the wake of the Expenses Scandal amounted to £1.2 million, or the equivalent of £1,858 per Member of Parliament. Clearly these are not a like for like comparison, but the huge differential between the two figures, £59 as opposed to £1858, does highlight the seriousness and financial cost of criminal activity, especially at the top of our society, where the more "honourable" citizens are supposed to reside.
Recently released data for the year 2012 to 2013 would appear to suggest that Parliamentary expenses presented by the honourable members of the house have increased by around 10%, from £89 million to £98.1 million, accounting for nearly a third of the total running costs of Parliament itself. And even though some of the most outrageous claims may be a thing of the past, there are still a significant number of MP's who obviously try to squeeze every single penny out of an apparently bottomless public purse that they believe they're entitled to access, even if that means enlisting family members to draw on the taxpayer funded pot. According to a number of informed sources, where it was once unusual, now it seems an estimated 25% of our elected MP's have a member of their immediate family on the public payroll, often as office managers or researchers, regardless of whether or not they're best qualified to do the job. If only everybody was able to subsidise their household incomes, often to the tune of £30-40,000 per year, without the slightest requirement for those monies to be well spent, or indeed genuinely earned? By way of examples, Nadine Dorries has at different times employed both of her daughters on a salary of around £30-40,000 per year. Chris Grayling is reported to employ his wife on a salary of around £40,000 per annum, while Patrick McLoughlin also employs his wife on an annual salary of around £40,000.
Of course for the majority of these publicly funded "troughers", they justify their outlandish expense claims by complaining about the low level of recompense that they receive as a basic salary, the apparently measly £66,000 per year, an everyday British MP receives as a minimum wage. However, bearing in mind that the average working wage in the UK at the present moment in time is estimated to be in the order of £26,500 for a normal man or woman, one would have thought that earning more than twice that amount would have been deemed reasonable, but clearly not for most of our elected representatives. And that doesn't even begin to explain the sheer greed of those MP's who achieve ministerial positions, but still feel entitled to misuse the public purse. After all, who could survive on the salary of a Prime Minister at £142,500, or a Cabinet Minister on £134,565, or a Minister of State on £98,740, or perhaps the poor Permanent Under Secretary of State having to make do with a paltry salary of £89,435.
It's worth recalling that even after the MP's Expenses Scandal of 2009/10, our representatives are still able to claim a maximum of £137,200 per year for staffing costs in non-London locations; and £144,000 per year for those same costs if they happen to be in London itself. Those MP's who are fortunate enough to be asked to "chair" a Select Committee can expect to receive a supplement to their basic salary of £14,582, the same sort of money a full-time worker might expect to earn in one of the most deprived areas of the country, and yet for some MP's it's simply a bonus!
Clearly there are those who will defend MP's and their basic salaries, their expenses, their extremely generous final salary pension schemes and the valuable end of tenure allowances that they receive when they retire, or are voted out of office. It is interesting though to contrast the rule of the many with the exceptions of the few. The Conservative MP, Zac Goldsmith appears to be one of a remarkable group of elected representatives who claimed the absolute minimum of expenses, if any at all, save for those reasonable legitimate expenses incurred by their office staffing arrangements. No plasma TV, no moat cleaning, no duck houses, no meals, no newspapers, no sweets, no Royal British Legion poppy, or anything equally bizarre. No, Zac Goldsmith and a handful of other MP's do what every other working person does in this country, they paid for such things themselves, out of their own pockets; and didn't expect the taxpayer to pick up the tab.
Okay, so Zac Goldsmith is a millionaire, but then again, so is David Cameron, conservatively estimated to be worth £4 million in his own right, but that still didn't prevent him from claiming for a seven pence (7p) bulldog clip, or thirty eight pence (38p) for a staple remover. One can only speculate as to how much it actually cost the public purse to actually process those two ridiculous items, by the time you factor in the costs of his own office expenses and Ipsa's own office charges? Or how about the case of Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, who by all accounts is a multi-millionaire, having sold his interest in an Education Resources Company for £17 million. According to his expenses returns, he asked the taxpayer to refund him five pence (5p) for a paperclip, eight pence (8p) for a page marker and forty-one pence (41p) for a black folder. At the same time Mr Hunt is also one of a number of high profile MP's who are reported to be actively milking the expenses system by claiming rent on a property that is either leased or owned by someone connected with his own constituency party, leading some to believe that he is in fact financing his own political party by the back door, a practice that many believe will become the next big political scandal in the UK.
In order to avoid any charge of being partisan about the issue of MP's milking the system in order to illicitly fund their own political operations, other representatives accused of highly questionable expense claims in regard to the payment of rents include nine Conservative Cabinet Ministers, sixty eight Labour MP's and thirty Liberal Democrat MP's, including their own party leader, one Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister. Other notables whose actions over the issue have been highlighted by the media include Ed Davey, Francis Maude, Nadhim Zahawi, Nadine Dorries, Tim Farron and the Education Secretary, Michael Gove.
Instinctively, when considering the likely expenses of party leaders one would have thought that Mr Cameron would have the greatest level of expense, given that he's the man who runs the country; and has lots and lots of things to do. Then you would expect that Mr Miliband would have the next highest level of expense, bearing in mind that he's Mr Cameron's shadow in Parliament, with equally arduous duties, but without the responsibilities or power. It has always been an accepted principle that the Deputy Prime Minister's post, is a none job, a case of being a spare body, as and when the Prime Minister is busy, out of the country, or worse still dead. Whatever the circumstance one wouldn't have imagined that the Deputy's job would incur more public expenditure than that of the other two more senior posts, currently held by Cameron and Miliband. And yet, according to the latest Ipsa claim returns, where David Cameron claimed a total of £121,873 (including his bulldog clip and staple remover), Ed Miliband claimed £136,115 (most of which was spent on office expenses), surprise, surprise, Mr Clegg outdid them both by claiming a total of £152,553, which was not only £30,000 more than Mr Cameron and £15,000 more than Mr Miliband, but also included the £145.50 cost of a TV Licence. Evidently it appears that although the Deputy Prime Minister's position post might be relatively unimportant in political terms, when it comes to the cost of doing the job, it is a far more expensive post than any of us ever imagined.
Of course those claims include the payroll costs of the staff that the individual MP's employ, but if you want to know who holds the title of the most expensive representative, not including payroll costs, then you need look no further than Ian Paisley of the DUP. According to most sources Mr Paisley's parliamentary expenses, excluding payroll, was £100,204, while the next highest claimant was Alistair Carmichael at £82,878, followed by David Morris with £75,902 and Debbie Abrahams with £74,615.
Of course much of this apparent extravagance might be due to the increasing cost of the representatives having to travel from Westminster to their constituencies, or vice versa. If that is indeed the case then the members of the House mentioned are in good company, as there are a number of other MP's who have presented equally swingeing claims for travelling the length or breadth of the country ostensibly for the benefit of their often much poorer voters. Cases in point include Jim Murphy, Labours Shadow Defence spokesman, who is reported to have cost the public purse £33,224 for one hundred and eighty-eight Premium Air Flights, because obviously standard flights won't do. The disgraced Labour MP, Eric Joyce claimed a total of £43,410 for the cost of two hundred and eight Business Class flights, presumably because he couldn't be bothered to find an alternative. Anne McKechin, the Labour MP for Glasgow North racked up one hundred and sixteen air journeys that cost the public purse a total of £21,405, while our former Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, was reimbursed £886 for the cost of a journey from Edinburgh to Brussels where he was booked to give a speech to the European Union. It is a noticeable fact that despite spending very little time in the House of Commons these days, let alone involving himself in serious Parliamentary debates, Mr Brown is reported to still have one of the most expensive constituency offices in the entire House.
No doubt, careful and ongoing analysis of our elected representatives expenses will uncover further evidence of the greedy and acquisitive nature of some less "honourable" members in the House, although what good such discoveries actually serve remains to be seen. A good many of those caught up in the main Expenses Scandal still remain in place, having obviously managed to assuage the anger of their local constituents at the time. One has only to look at the case of the former Peter Mandelson to recognise that liars and miscreants do prosper in Westminster, when a two-time wrongdoer can subsequently be enobled by a British government. One only has to look at the case of David Laws, now a serving government minister, who was forced to resign after seventeen days, because he had hidden the fact that an estimated £40,000 claimed by him, had in fact been paid to his full-time partner, but was subsequently forgiven his wrongdoing because he had made a mistake.
Neither should we forget MP Nick Harvey who claimed £7.20 for the cost of a journey from his home to attend a local Poppy Day service, or those eleven MP's who claimed £5,000 or more for accountancy services, even though such services are explicitly excluded under the new "improved" Parliamentary Standards Authority. Or how could any of us forget the £10,000 claimed by the now disgraced Liberal Democrat Energy Minister, Chris Huhne, for carrying out a survey regarding possible boundary changes being proposed for his own constituency. Or how about the case of the former Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, who charged the taxpayer £6,000 for hotel accommodation in London, even though he owned a flat in Pimlico at the time. And how could anyone of us forget that while we're all struggling to pay for our basic utility bills, but the likes of Maria Miller and dozens of other MP's are claiming their gas, electric and water from the public purse, leaving us to not only pay our own, but theirs as well.
And for anyone naive enough to still believe that our MP's are irreplaceable, or vital to our nation's democratic process, then please consider this. Out of the worst thirty worst performing MP's in terms of participating in House of Commons votes, some twenty four were elected under the Labour banner, five under the Conservative and one under the Liberal Democrat banner. Now, although it may well be the case that not every Commons vote is vital to the interests of their own individual constituencies, are these awful voting figures perhaps indicative of the particular MP's wider approach to the Parliamentary system as a whole, in other words, are they actually earning any part of their £66,000 salary, or their possible £137,000 expenses, after all, who would possibly know, or more importantly, choose to find out?
During the 17th century and following the death of King Charles I, Oliver Cromwell was said to have stood up in Parliament and said to the assembled members "You are no Parliament. I say you are no Parliament; begone and give your place to honester men" an historic sentiment that might find traction today, given the state of our national legislature. Of course, Cromwell was known to have had the support of the New Model Army at the time of his dissolution of that particular Parliament and was able to enforce his demand through the use of forty well armed musketeers, who swiftly cleared the disreputable chamber. Now wouldn't that be a sight to be seen in our modern country, a forced clearout of the dire, the damned and the disreputable; and especially those rascals and reprobates who have somehow managed to find sanctuary in our nation's democratically elected chambers.

Tuesday 28 January 2014

Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory:

I don't imagine that anyone would dispute that UKIP, the United Kingdom Independence Party has had a mixed few days, as far as the British mainstream media is concerned. Never in living memory, has a political party found itself or its representatives, under such intense public scrutiny than UKIP has in the past few months, at least since May 2013 when it first started to make serious inroads into the traditional ground formerly only held by the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties.
For potentially millions of utterly disillusioned British voters, UKIP appear to offer a potential alternative to the staid old politics of the London centric Westminster bubble, with its ranks of overpaid, un-elected policy advisors, commentators and civil servants, who between them haven't a clue as to the concerns of the everyday voter, but who are more than happy to impose their views, their opinions, their ideas on those same sixty-odd million voters, regardless of whether they want them or not.
It was precisely this monopoly of power that many people hoped UKIP would destroy, to tear down the "ivory towers" of Westminster; and in doing so returning power to the place it really belongs, with the people of Britain. And even though that objective may still be achievable, how much more difficult has it become though UKIP's own recent bout of public "self harming", what with the issues of 'gay floods', 'drivel manifestoes' and 'relaxation of the current gun laws'.
Now even though I don't profess to be any sort of expert on such things, it doesn't take a genius to recognise a few basic truths. Firstly, that Nigel Farage, despite being the most outstanding British political figures of the current crop, is not infallible and does make mistakes. He is human after all; and bearing in mind that he's just recently undergone a major operation following his earlier plane crash, it is understandable that he won't be on top form for quite a while. However, all that having been said, by hastily rushing back to the political front line as it were, there is a view that rather than helping the cause, he is in fact hindering it, not only through his own reduced personal effectiveness, but by underpinning his opponents claims that UKIP are fundamentally a one man band; and that without Farage the party couldn't exist. The danger is, were that cult-of-the-leader charge to become more widespread and prevalent, then what does that say about the party, its policies, its ideals; and would that still be an attractive political message to the potentially millions of UKIP voters out in the country?
Having recently watched parts of the BBC's Daily Politics Show, where Nigel Farage was expertly interrogated by the presenter Andrew Neil, it was clear that when questioned about the party's 2010 Manifesto commitments that UKIP's leader was excruciatingly unclear as to some of the policies, real or not; that he had assigned his name to; and as most of us know, the devil is often in the detail, which it ultimately proved to be. When asked about the party's policies regarding taxi driver's attire, liveried railway stock and the Trident nuclear system, Mr Farage visibly flapped in front of the camera, before excusing his lack of knowledge on the size of the manifesto document. Later describing the entire 2010 UKIP Manifesto as drivel, it having ostensibly been written by someone who had subsequently left the party to rejoin the Conservatives, his sweeping rejection of the document simply helped to raise the obvious questions, how would he know if he hadn't read the Manifesto, or was UKIP offering the British electorate complete drivel as far back as 2010. Either way, it wasn't Nigel Farage's finest hour and simply helped to strengthen the view that preparation is everything; and in politics even more so.
The truth of the matter regarding UKIP's 2010 Manifesto is this, it was a basic policy document, of the sort that any of the main political parties might have produced; and the concise version (that the author has subsequently read) contained nothing whatsoever to do with taxi drivers, railway liveries, but did promise to maintain the current Trident nuclear deterrent, which one would imagine is a perfectly reasonable policy. The blog post on this site, entitled "ADummy Draft Manifesto For Discussion" contains 40 separate policy points taken directly from the party's 2010 Manifesto and by no means would they ever be regarded as drivel, but instead as perfectly sensible election promises that might have come from any of the three mainstream parties.
But therein lies part of the party's ongoing problems, a lack of detailed knowledge about some of the plainly sensible ideas that UKIP should be presenting to the public at every single opportunity, let alone a program such as the Daily Politics show, which attracts a politically involved audience. Although Nigel Farage's "Hail fellow, well met" approach undoubtedly connects him to his fellow citizens at almost every level of society, there is still an underlying expectation that a potential Member of Parliament, never mind a mainstream political leader and therefore possibly a Prime Minister should have a sound working knowledge of important party policies, such as the economy, taxation, defence, education and health services. It simply isn't good enough to try and bluff your way through serious questions with the usual high street bonhomie, when people are looking for a serious political alternative, to the Labour and Conservative cabal, who have wrought so much damage on our country over the past few decades.
The cult of personality will only get a person so far; and relies completely on the person in question behaving impeccably at all times, which would prove to be an almost impossible strain, as most have found to their cost. Even though Nigel Farage is one of the most outstanding politicians that Britain has produced in recent years, even he is not immune to making the odd gaffe, especially when one considers the weight of expectation that has been placed on his shoulders by members of the UKIP community. His recent pronouncements over the previous party manifesto, over hunting with dogs, over gun ownership and the issue of Walter Mitty-type characters in the party have all been the cause of many column inches in both the regional and national press, garnering immense amounts of publicity for UKIP, some of it good, some of it bad. Although there is an old adage of there being no such thing as bad publicity, in that, if the media are not talking about you then they're ignoring you, that is only true to a point.
The thing is, with highly divisive and emotive issues like hunting with dogs, gun ownership, religion, etc. is that they instinctively persuade people to take a view, on opposing sides of the argument, to the extent that political parties risk either attracting or alienating large segments of the electorate, especially if a party leader indicates a particular view on the subject. As it is, UKIP is now being defined by some parts of the electorate as pro-gun, as well as pro-hunting, ostensibly because of remarks made by Mr Farage, even though neither are specific party policy. Such misunderstandings are almost bound to happen when a situation is allowed to develop where the party leader becomes indistinguishable from the wider party itself, where a single person's viewpoint is thought to represent the opinions of the group, a perception that would not, could not find favour within a truly democratic society.
What has been particularly disappointing thus far, has been the almost total absence of other UKIP representatives in presenting the party's case for the forthcoming European elections. Quite whether this is because the mainstream media actively pursue, or specifically request Nigel Farage when it comes to covering the party's campaigns, isn't entirely clear, but whatever the case, the fact that Mr Farage and only Nigel Farage ever seems to appear in the media, simply helps to play into the preconceived idea that UKIP is a one-man show, which is likely to deter some voters from voting for the party. After all, it's not as if the party is short of media capable representatives, such as Paul Nuttall, Diane James, Roger Helmer, Amjad Bashir, Tim Congdon and others, who could just as represent the party generally, or on their areas of special interest. Perhaps if the party managers began to restrict access to Mr Farage, this in itself might encourage the media outlets to request other party spokesmen to offer an insight, thereby allowing Nigel Farage to be used for tactically in the campaign that lies ahead.
As a UKIP supporter I do fear for the party, in that it is allowing itself to fall into a trap of the media's own making. Being unprepared for television interviews is unforgivable at any time, but most especially when there is an expectation that the interviewer will seek to trip the UKIP spokesman up, with half-truths and downright lies. Barefaced honesty will only get you so far, but at some point there will be a public demand for actual proof of competency, something that can't be avoided, as it requires a level of professionalism to be shown.  Along with millions of others I wish, I hope, I long for UKIP to create an earthquake in the same old staid British political scene, although at the same time I fear that a serious lack of planning and strategy by the party managers will result in UKIP snatching defeat from the jaws of victory and condemning us all to the same old political circus for the foreseeable future. 

Saturday 25 January 2014

A Dummy Draft Manifesto For Discussion:

Below are forty possible manifesto promises that might form part of a Patriot's Charter if you will, in the unlikely event that the author was ever likely to be asked to have a go at writing a political parties list of future promises or aspirations. I'd be interested to know what people think about the proposed policies. Are they absurd, Unrealistic, too fantastic to contemplate? Or are they in fact something that people would consider voting for? 
1. Re-establish and reassert Britain's independence on international bodies, including the G8, G20, IMF, WTO, UN, Nato, World Bank and the Commonwealth
2. Restore the sovereignty and primacy of our national Parliament and our Law Courts
3. Undertake a massive reorganisation of the UK's Tax System, to bring simplicity back
4. Undertake a rational and medium to long term reduction of both the deficit and the national debt
5. Undertake a reduction in and simplification of the nation's Public Services sector
6. Scrapping of any unnecessary and burdensome regulations that inhibit economic activity
7. Increase capitalisation of our banks and make them answerable to the Bank of England
8. Ensure clear divisions between retail and investment bank operations
9. Encourage and stimulate private investment in new manufacturing industries
10. Promise a medium term investment strategy in the re-equipping of Britain's Armed Forces
11. Begin a medium to long term investment strategy in Britain's Nuclear Energy production, with the aim of generating 50% of the country's total energy needs through Nuclear by 2040
12. Undertake a 10 year coastal defence programme designed to protect the most "high risk" areas of the country.
13. A promise to invest in pre-existing rail networks, national road connections and new port and airport links, helping to speed up the delivery of both people and goods from A to B. Where possible, British based companies will derive the greatest benefit from these contracts.
14. Undertake a new prison building program, utilising existing sites and new developments
15. Create a number of new Enterprise Centres designed specifically for small to medium sized start-up businesses.
16. Enact legislation to prevent specifically sensitive industries, such as defence and energy from falling into foreign ownership
17. Bring an end to mass immigration into the country and introduce a pause on any new inward migration, until such time as more effective border controls can be introduced. Once such border controls were in place, immigration would be permitted but on a points based system, as seems to work in other Commonwealth nations like Australia, New Zealand and Canada. The aforementioned pause would also allow time for our newly reinforced Border Agency to begin the task of removing those illegal immigrants and persistent over-stayers, who have no legitimate right to be in the country. Where feasible, they would be returned to their home countries.
18. Once immigration is restarted, new migrants will be required to reside in the country for a minimum of five years before they are granted a permanent right to remain, during which time they will have been expected to contribute in the same way as any other citizen; and to have adhered to our nation's laws.
19. Immigrants who arrive, or are already here illegally will be held in secure accommodation, until such time as a legal decision is made as to their status
20. As Parliament and British Courts will have primacy over any and all legal matters, there will be no right of appeal to any other foreign body
21. Any and all legislation, or public funding that actively promotes the inherently divisive practice of multiculturalism will be ended.
22. There will be legislation, where necessary, to underpin a zero tolerance of crime, with stiffer custodial sentences, more prison places and juvenile boot camps being employed to actively discourage criminal and anti-social behaviour
23. All law enforcement and Judicial matters will automatically put the victims right first, rather than the rights of the offender
24. There will be a clear understanding that life means life with some of the worst offenders
25. A promise to withdraw from the European Arrest Warrant, thus ensuring that British citizens are only deported for trial abroad once sufficient evidence has been provided; and for a crime that is recognised by British Courts.
26. There will be a promise to abolish the Crown Prosecution Service and place decisions about charging suspects where it rightfully belongs, at a local level
27. Promise of an immediate increase in the national Defence budget, in order to rebuild both the full time and part-time Armed Forces numbers. In addition there will be an immediate strategic review of the nation's defence capabilities, in order to ensure that our forces are able to defend our country's national interests anywhere in the world.
28. There will be a guarantee to maintain Britain's independent nuclear deterrent, by maintaining the Trident missile system, but upgrading the nation's submarine capability, which will then carry a US built, but British controlled nuclear weapons system.
29. There will be an undertaking to significantly reduce bureaucratic waste within the NHS by stripping out layers of unnecessary administrative layers; and attempting to return healthcare to a more localised level. Rather than professional managers making decisions about how health budgets are spent, it seems to make far more sense for healthcare professionals to be deciding how money is spent on their patients and in their areas. As part of this program these local health boards would be expected to achieve the best economies of scale, as regards purchasing vital equipment and supplies, whilst at the same time liasing with other charitable, not-for-profit and for-profit organisations to achieve the best possible outcomes within a fixed financial budget.
30. Rather than continuing with the university based healthcare training that has become the norm, local health managers will be expected to eventually transfer all such training into a purely clinical environment, so that healthcares, nurses and doctors receive as much direct on-the-job training as is humanly possible.
31. The basis for any education system is the certainty that children have a basic understanding of reading and writing, basic literacy if you will. As a step towards that basic goal, it is desirable that every school must ensure that above all else they teach their pupils the three 'R's to a satisfactory standard.
32. Also, in recognising that not every child is as academically gifted as the next, our education system must try to offer something for everyone, be that in the shape of Grammar schools, Comprehensive schools, or even Vocational Colleges.
33. As with healthcare, often a national approach can be very non-specific, ensuring that local needs are often overlooked or insufficiently met. That being the case, it would seem to be far more sensible to allow local educational needs to be transferred to a more local level, always remembering of course that the statutory three 'R's are implemented by individual schools.
34. In recent years there has been a dramatic upsurge in the numbers of often scurrilous complaints made by pupils against teachers who have only been trying to maintain discipline in the classroom. As part of this manifesto pledge, it is hereby promised that we would prevent such spurious complaints being made, by restoring the rights of teachers to maintain discipline within the school environment.
35. In the event that particular pupils (for whatever reasons) eventually left full-time education without a job to go to, or without the necessary qualifications, an extended training or pathway to work scheme would be developed enabling such youngsters to find their way into full-time employment.
36. As well as repealing the Climate Change Act, which has been disastrous for the people of Britain, we would also ensure that no public monies were used to finance large scale wind farms, which would have to live or die through the provision of private capital investments. Where such wind farms are proposed, they would only receive the necessary permissions if they were being constructed offshore, thus ensuring that no more of Britain's beautiful landscape is bighted by these highly inefficient monstrosities.
37. There will be a promise to bring forward legislation to try and bring back into full -time occupation some of the estimated one million homes that are currently standing empty and unused in our country. It will also be policy to ensure that large scale housing developments must have local approval before they can begin; and appeals to national government must not override the decisions of local residents, a system that currently allows developers with deep pockets to circumvent local objections.
38. National scandals such as MP's Expenses highlighted the lack of oversight the people have over their elected representatives; and the lack of power the voters had in calling their MP to account for their wrongdoing. As a result, it is proposed that in future a local electorate that can gather 5% of their number together, can then demand the recall of their MP, who must answer for their actions.
39. We propose to create a ‘British Register’ of important UK companies, products and brands and amend the current trade legislation in order to safeguard these using set criteria, parliamentary approvals and/or conditions where necessary
40. We will insist that UK schools teach their pupil's about Britain’s contribution to the world, including British inventions and Britain’s role in fighting slavery and Nazism. All cultures, languages and traditions from around the British Isles will be celebrated.

Thursday 16 January 2014

Labouring Under An Illusion:

With just over 15 months to go until the next General Election and four months until the Euro Elections, no doubt millions of potential voters are anxiously awaiting the opportunity to cast their vote, as a means of ridding the country of the ghastly Conservative & Liberal Democrat Coalition, which they believe has caused so much devastation to our country since they were first elected in May 2010.
Many of these same voters will have been persuaded to consider voting for the Labour Party once again, forgiving-and-forgetting the party's previous 13 year term of office under the leadership's of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, but choosing to believe perhaps that the new Labour leader, Ed Miliband; and his team of Shadow Ministers, are somehow different to all those who have been and gone before.
In reality of course, they are nothing of the sort. The message may have changed, the various departmental spokesmen and women might be different, the emphasis on policy might have been altered, but fundamentally the party remains what it was under both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, a free market enterprise party, much the same as its rival, the modern day Conservative Party.
Most recent opinion polls undertaken by various agencies in the UK would appear to suggest that come May 2014 (European Elections) and May 2015 (General Election), Ed Miliband's party will emerge as the largest single political force in the country, which begs the rather obvious question. Why?
Why would a majority of the British public choose to vote for a largely unreformed Labour Party? The same Labour Party that sold off the nation's gold reserves at a bargain price, the same Labour Party that wilfully set out to create a brand new "knowledge" economy without having any real concept of how it would adversely affect millions of people's lives? The same Labour Party that continued apace with the NHS's "internal" marketplace, putting vital healthcare services into the private "for profit" arena, the same Labour Party that continued to pursue the previous administration's costly Private Finance Initiatives, which has led to hugely expensive schools and hospitals draining the spending budgets of local authorities throughout the country.
Why would a majority of the British public choose to vote for a Labour Party that introduced the bulk of our country's green energy levies, the same ones that have caused everyone's household bills to become so horribly expensive over the past few years. The same Labour Party that promises to build 200,000 new homes every year for a five year period, but forgets to mention that under their own Pathfinder Housing Regeneration Scheme, they demolished 10,000 homes and replaced them with only 1,000, leaving a shortfall of 9,000 homes, so destroying homes, rather than creating them.
Why exactly would a majority of the British public choose to vote for a Labour Party that got our Armed Forces involved in at least two bloody military conflicts in faraway lands, on the pretext of fighting and defeating foreign enemies that posed no real threat to our nation? Would this be the same Labour Party that only recently has found the courage to publicly admit that they deliberately flooded our country with overseas migrants, ostensibly to "rub people's noses in diversity?" The same Labour Party that told us only 13,000 Polish migrants would enter our country under the auspices of the EU's freedom of movement, only to find that hundreds of thousands came and settled? The same Labour Party that gave away a significant chunk of our country's European Rebate, on the basis of reforming the Common Agricultural Policy, only to fail to ensure that any such reforms took place?
Why would a majority of the British public choose to vote for a Labour Party that created the illusion of economic growth by borrowing to invest in a burgeoning public sector, creating unnecessary jobs in order to offset the failures of its new "knowledge" economy policy? The same Labour Party that helped to make widespread surveillance of the native population a routine of daily life, whilst at the same time curtailing the right of the citizen to free speech, especially in matters pertaining to race, colour or creed? The same Labour Party that attacked people's private pension funds with a range of new stealth taxes, leaving elderly investors to face their later retirement years, worrying about how they would afford to manage financially?
So, with both May 2014 and 2015 fast approaching, just why would a majority of the British public choose to vote for a Labour Party that has played such a pivotal role in creating the socio-economic nightmare that our country is currently looking to escape from?
One would imagine that for many British voters, any party other than the current Conservative one led by David Cameron, is a highly attractive choice; and as the only other major political force in the country, then for those given to making easy choices, there probably isn't an easier choice, black against white, red as opposed to blue, cold as against hot, etc. Of course, many of these same easy choosing voters will be the first one's to scream to the rafters, if and when their party of choice turn out to be just as bad as the last lot, reaffirming the commonly held view that "they're all as bad as one another", or "they're only in it for themselves". Obviously they never happen to see that they; along with their own easy attitude to selecting a political candidate, for the serious business of government, lies at the heart of our current problem.
Labour and Conservative parties have both become accustomed to the expectation of parliamentary selection and government, so much so that if they had their way they wouldn't bother going to the trouble of consulting the people; and only baulk at the prospect of removing that fundamental democratic right, for fear of being described and known as as an un-elected dictatorship. Harsh opinion of politician's you think? Well, it was only days ago that that Dark Lord of British politics, the former Peter Mandelson, the Labour Party's arch spin doctor of the Blair Brown era was bemoaning the prospect of a public referendum on our membership of the European Union, to be held in 2017. Along with many of his esteemed colleagues in that wholly un-elected house, it was publicly stated that such decisions, like our continued membership of the EU, were far too important and complicated for the ordinary British person to understand, let alone make a pivotal decision about; and so a choice on the matter should be denied to us, the people of Britain.
Other's amongst the majority of British people who are reportedly going to vote Labour in both 2014 and 2015 will be the traditional or "tribal" voter, who will cast their ballot, for no better reason than that's what they have always done, no rhyme, no reason, just through sheer basic habit. Rather foolishly perhaps most will still choose to believe that the Labour Party of today, still represents the working classes, which of course it does not. Although some former Labour Party members will know better than me, when exactly the party abandoned any pretence of of representing the working classes, it is now a matter of history that Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were influenced by and followers of the free market enterprise policies, first pioneered and enacted by the Conservative leader Margaret Thatcher in the early 1980's. From Tony Blair onwards, all Labour leaders are "Thatcherite" in their political leanings; and it should therefore be no surprise that the current incumbent of that office, Ed Miliband, will pursue the same sort of economic and social policies that were so assiduously followed by his own political mentor, the former chancellor and Labour Prime Minister, Gordon Brown. Only this week, Mr Miliband has made plain where his electoral priorities lie and it's not with the working classes, the poor and the unemployed, whose onerous and desperate plight can be traced directly back to many of the policies and strategies of the last Labour government.
No, Mr Miliband's priorities do not lie with the most needy, but rather they lie with the middle classes, the aspirational middle classes, those professional workers who aspire to own their own homes, who aspire to take foreign holidays once or twice a year, who aspire to have buy and own the latest consumer products, who aspire to see their children gain a university education, who aspire to retain more of their hard earned incomes, who aspire to influence political leaders like Mr Miliband. Tony Blair's Labour Party was the party of the middle classes, as was Gordon Brown's, as too is Ed Miliband's.
It makes grim reading indeed to realise that despite thirteen year period of financial waste, political misrepresentation, bloody wars and the social destruction of our country caused by their party's multicultural gerrymandering, that so many ordinary people would consider handing the levers of power to the same old Labour party once again, this time in the shape of Ed Miliband, As Noah Chomsky said "If we choose, we can live in a world of comforting illusion" and it seems to be the case that over the period of the next year or so, if you choose to believe the latest opinion polls, more and more people in our country are going to vote for what is a highly illusory Labour Party, rather than a more realistic UKIP one, which if it turns out to be true will be a real shame for our nation.

Wednesday 8 January 2014

Giving Voice To The Unmentionable:

Well, what a huge difference a few years can make to the political landscape of the UK! In April 2006, the current Conservative Party leader, David Cameron, made a speech describing members of UKIP as "fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists", thereby continuing a forty year British establishment theme of demeaning, insulting and disparaging anyone who held a negative view on the subject of immigration, as opposed to the entirely positive one held by the mainstream policy makers and agenda setters of the time. Cameron's remarks in part echoed, but also surpassed those made his predecessor, the former leader of the Conservative Party, Michael Howard, who had been a little more measured in his public derision of UKIP, referring to them only as "cranks and gadflies", as if their existence, let alone their deeply held opinions mattered not a jot.
Perhaps Cameron's remarks regarding UKIP were a little more representative of those held by the wider political elite, believing as they did, that to entirely ignore the thorny subject of immigration, with its underlying racial connotations, was the best possible approach to adopt, rather than risk being accused of racism themselves. How much more convenient it was, to have a then minor party like UKIP raise the subject and have them carry the labels of being right wing, extremist, isolationist, or racist.
Even though UKIP's principal policy objectives centre around our country's continued membership of the European Union and everything that goes with that particular subject, the generally unmentionable and forbidden topics of migration, ethnicity, religion and race have become almost inevitably bound up in the same argument, possibly because the UK Independence Party has become a convenient political scapegoat for all of those delicate subjects that our mainstream politicians, commentators and reporters prefer not to discuss.
How much things seemed to have changed then, when today, some eight years after David Cameron's much repeated "fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists" remarks were first uttered, we have national newspaper headlines proclaiming the fact that a new opinion poll suggests that up to 80% of people in the UK, now regard immigration as a major problem for our country. So why this sudden change in the public's attitude, when we've been previously led to believe that inward migration was never, ever a major issue for the bulk of the British people up until now; only for those small numbers of "cranks and gadflies", who were thought to have supported the likes of UKIP?
Obviously, the recent changes in employment rules regarding workers from Romania and Bulgaria have generated numerous column inches in most of the national press, as well as the subject having been discussed ad infinitum in the rest of the mainstream media, but is that the principal reason for this apparently sudden change in British attitudes towards foreign immigration? Over the past couple of years, the UK Independence Party has gained significant ground politically; an advance that has undoubtedly brought with it far more public attention to them and their policies, particularly regarding their views and proposals relating to immigration, but is that the real reason for four out of five people suddenly saying that inward migration is a major problem for Britain? Alternatively, the Internet and its amazing ability to educate and inform the masses might have played a part in helping people to recognise the reality of a serious socio-economic problem that in normal circumstances they would have been completely unaware of. Even today, millions of people still rely on the mainstream media to tell them what's going on in the country, watching news and events unfold that are prioritised and edited to suit the media's agendas, not necessarily those of their readers, listeners and viewers. But was it this new source of information technology that caused the British people to unexpectedly vote the way they did on the subject of immigration?
The answer one imagines, is that each of the above reasons have helped play their own small part in altering people's attitudes to and perceptions of more foreign migration into the UK. Given the almost endless coverage of the subject, bound up as it is, with the discussion of our continued membership of the EU, the European Convention on Human Rights; and the almost continuous refugee crises in one place or another, it is perhaps little wonder that people have been forced to look long and hard at the subject of migration, whether they actually wanted to or not.
One wonders though, whether or not the biggest causes of people seeming to change their minds about the supposed benefits of inward migration are far more obvious on the one hand; and much more subtle on the other. Firstly, there cannot be many British people who have failed to notice the changes inflicted on their own hometowns, the places where they live and where they were brought up, by the seemingly inexorable and unending influx of foreign migrants who have chosen to make Britain their permanent or temporary home. From the foreign tongues in the local shopping centre, to the foreign owned shop in the high streets, from the Eastern European children in the classroom, to the Eastern European tradesmen busily competing against the native born artisans. And often there is little point in the British national complaining about or confronting these foreign born incomers, as in common with the ill-thought-out Race Relations Act of some forty-odd years ago, most national legislation today only seems to work in one way, in that it protects the alien, but discriminates against the native. It can be no surprise therefore that as each year passes, the indigenous people's of Britain become more hostile and more resentful towards their foreign born neighbours, as what else is there left for them to do?
Secondly, it's worth remembering perhaps that much of the perceived tolerance that is said to exist in our country does so, not only because we are by nature a tolerant and generous people, by and large, but also because of the various pieces of legislative stricture, the "race" laws, which enforce "good" behaviour on us, when we are interacting with other races, other religions and other ethnicities. So rather than being a wholly free multicultural society, where everyone gets along with their fellow citizens because they choose to do so, we have in fact become a highly regulated society, where people get along with their neighbours, not simply because they want to, but often because they're made to, under threat of the law.
In the same way perhaps, up until recently, even expressing one's own personal opinions about immigration, never mind the more emotive issues of race, religion and ethnicity, had become something akin to a "thought crime", one that might be punished by law, if you were unfortunate enough to utter your personal beliefs or opinions in front of a potentially offended witness. As one of Enoch Powell's local constituents hinted at in the late 1960's, we have essentially handed a legal whip to both our political establishment and to every supposed "racial discrimination" victim, so we shouldn't be surprised, when they decide to beat us with it on every conceivable occasion.
As part and parcel of that discussion, the UKIP leader, Nigel Farage, admitted that he would much rather see Britain as a slightly poorer, less economically active society, if that meant far fewer foreign immigrants being brought into the country ostensibly to drive forward economic output, another EU and government claim that is highly doubtful given that GDP per capita has been declining since 2007. Mr Farage was keen to make the point that the economic benefits attributed to large scale migration are questionable at best; and possibly deliberately misleading at worst. Recent reports indicating that foreign migration into Britain is almost always beneficial to our nation, have proven to be groundless, largely because the report author's have either deliberately or inadvertently manipulated the facts and figures to support their own pre-defined, pro-immigration conclusions. To date, there has been no independent or definitive report, or academic study, which underpins the basic argument that mass migration can or will be a net benefit to any host country, unless of course falling wages and increasing pressures on its public and emergency services are considered to be beneficial? 
One can only hope that the recent public discussions surrounding foreign migration into our country; and all of the other matters relating to it, be that race, religion and ethnicity, continue to be talked about in a thoughtful and considered manner. For far too long we have seemingly denied an open and public voice to the unmentionable subjects that the mainstream political establishment have thus far refused to confront, such as that which was addressed in the latest opinion poll. For far too long a minority view has held sway, which has attempted to legislate on people's personal views, as if the law can realistically prevent a bigot from being a bigot, a racist from being a racist, when in fact, all that the various pieces of legislation actually do, is to deny the vast majority of the British people a voice as to how their country is run; and who exactly is entitled to come and live here, which shouldn't be such a difficult thing for the general public to discuss!

Monday 6 January 2014

The Rivers Of Blood Speech Reviewed:

Enoch Powell's commonly referred to "Rivers of Blood" speech, given at Birmingham's Midland Hotel in 1968, should more properly be called his "Birmingham" speech, but given the highly emotive nature of his public address, it continues to be known as the former, even though most people have little idea of its content, save for the "Rivers of Blood" label that has been attached to it, most notably by Powell's own political opponents and critics.
The recent attempt by the Sky journalist Dermot Murnaghan to try and trap the UKIP leader, Nigel Farage, into admitting that he somehow supported or agreed with Enoch Powell's sentiments, by quoting a section of the late MP's Birmingham Speech, without the benefit of context or title, simply helps to illustrate that even now, some 45 years after he first made his famous public address, Enoch Powell is still being misquoted, misrepresented and misused by the very sorts of people that he warned about in the first few lines of his speech.
"Above all, people are disposed to mistake predicting troubles for causing troubles and even for desiring troubles: If only, they love to think, if only people wouldn't talk about it, it probably wouldn't happen"
Could it not be argued that Powell himself not only foresaw the massive social problems that would eventually afflict our country through unregulated immigration, but also the vitriolic attacks that would be visited on him and his reputation, as the "establishment" reverted to type and shot the messenger for bringing them bad news. The idea that Powell's warnings could in any way have become a self fulfilling prophesy, is clearly a fatuous argument, were it to be made, simply because by making the speech in the first place Powell was subsequently cast into the political wilderness; and was therefore unable to play any sort of official role in the immigration debate from that point onwards.
"A week or two ago I fell into conversation with a constituent, a middle-aged, quite ordinary working man employed in one of our nationalised industries. After a sentence or two about the weather, he suddenly said: "If I had the money to go, I wouldn't stay in this country." I then made some deprecatory reply to the effect that even this government wouldn't last for ever; but he took no notice, and continued: "I have three children, all of them been through grammar school and two of them married now, with family. I shan't be satisfied till I have seen them all settled overseas. In this country in 15 or 20 years' time the black man will have the whip hand over the white man."
It's worth recalling that according to Powell, these weren't his own words, but those of an ordinary working constituent, who was so disenchanted with the way in which the country was moving, that he would have much rather seen his children; and presumably their future children, leave their homeland forever, rather than having them live and work in a Britain, which in the father's opinion was becoming unrecognisable. Now, as a classically trained politician, it seems unlikely that Powell would have invented the story just by way of making his point about immigration; and as the attitude of most native Briton's at the time was fearfulness and intolerance of foreigners, let alone persons of colour, the likelihood is that Powell did indeed have that very conversation, if not something very similar to it.
"In 15 or 20 years, on present trends, there will be in this country three and a half million Commonwealth immigrants and their descendants. That is not my figure. That is the official figure given to parliament by the spokesman of the Registrar General's Office. There is no comparable official figure for the year 2000, but it must be in the region of five to seven million, approximately one-tenth of the whole population, and approaching that of Greater London. Of course, it will not be evenly distributed from Margate to Aberystwyth and from Penzance to Aberdeen. Whole areas, towns and parts of towns across England will be occupied by sections of the immigrant and immigrant-descended population."
It is interesting to note that the three and a half million Commonwealth immigrants and their descendants specifically mentioned by Powell was not a figure made up by himself, but one that was provided by a Parliamentary answer to an anti-immigration MP, Sir Cyril Osborne. If anything though, according to Channel 4's Fact Check Team, who analysed Powell's speech for accuracy, the MP actually underestimated the numbers of migrants and their descendants, as he failed to foresee the sorts of mass migration resulting from our membership of the European Union. According to the latest Census; and accepting that many thousands of legal and illegal residents failed to complete the forms, for fear of official interest, there were reported to be in excess of 7 million people born overseas living in the UK, which in itself takes no account of their direct descendants who were born here and therefore have British nationality as a right. Regardless of the exact numbers, colour or ethnicity however, the facts speak for themselves, in this particular respect Enoch Powell was correct. As he also predicted many, if not all of these immigrants tend to segregate themselves into racial, ethnic or religious ghettoes, to the extent that large parts of some cities are almost entirely inhabited by migrants or their direct descendants, whilst in London, the White Briton has become now represents a minority of the overall population.
"The natural and rational first question with a nation confronted by such a prospect is to ask: How can its dimensions be reduced? Granted it be not wholly preventable, can it be limited, bearing in mind that numbers are of the essence: the significance and consequences of an alien element introduced into a country or population are profoundly different according to whether that element is 1 per cent or 10 per cent. The answers to the simple and rational question are equally simple and rational: by stopping, or virtually stopping, further inflow, and by promoting the maximum outflow. Both answers are part of the official policy of the Conservative Party."
Interestingly, both around the time of Powell's speech and in the decades since, the subject of repatriation has been raised a number of times, both within Parliament and within the wider country, yet nobody baulked at discussing the subject openly. In fact, as Powell himself pointed out voluntary repatriation was a policy endorsed by Edward Heath's Conservative Party, so Powell in discussing the issue was only reiterating party policy. Even today; and thanks largely to the increasing popularity of UKIP and the immigration failures of the last Labour government, immigration restrictions have once again become a popular method of reducing the British people's concerns, even though an average of some 200,000 new migrants per year still find their way into our country. Had any national government, from 1968 onwards heeded Powell's warnings, or adopted his suggested immigration policies, there seems little doubt that we would be in a far better position community-wise than we find ourselves at present.
"But while, to the immigrant, entry to this country was admission to privileges and opportunities eagerly sought, the impact upon the existing population was very different. For reasons which they could not comprehend, and in pursuance of a decision by default, on which they were never consulted, they found themselves made strangers in their own country. They found their wives unable to obtain hospital beds in childbirth, their children unable to obtain school places, their homes and neighbourhoods changed beyond recognition, their plans and prospects for the future defeated; at work they found that employers hesitated to apply to the immigrant worker the standards of discipline and competence required of the native-born worker; they began to hear, as time went by, more and more voices which told them that they were now the unwanted. They now learn that a one-way privilege is to be established by act of parliament; a law which cannot, and is not intended to, operate to protect them or redress their grievances is to be enacted to give the stranger, the disgruntled and the agent-provocateur the power to pillory them for their private actions."
In responding to the introduction of the Race Relations Act, Powell saw the legislation as a legal instrument with which to beat those British natives, who were resistant to widespread immigration and the increasing numbers of Commonwealth citizens who were coming to settle in Britain. Pointing out that an artificially inflated population would almost certainly put pressure on hospital and school places, be decried the use of affirmative legislation being employed to force native Britons to comply with the law, rather than giving them a personal choice in matters of housing, employment, healthcare, etc. This was the beginning of the concept of positive discrimination, with people being given jobs, housing, or services, not because they were the most deserving, or best suited but often because they were coloured, rather than white. In another part of the speech, Powell attempted to differentiate between the plight of the coloured people in America, where affirmative action was introduced to counter historically endemic racism; and those in Britain who arrived in the country with their equality largely intact, even though many native Britons didn't initially treat them as equals. For Powell and many others, the Race Relations Act was itself discriminatory as it legally enforced an almost higher duty of care and consideration on employers and landlords, etc when they were dealing with coloured workers or applicants than when they were dealing with white workers, to the extent that white workers felt that they themselves had become second class citizens in their own country. One could perhaps draw a modern comparison between the Race Relations Act and the later European Convention on Human Rights, in that on many occasions, clearly spurious claims are put forward by those who would seek to exploit the weaknesses contained within the legislation itself. Even today, it remains something of a standing joke that if a person of colour is asked to account for their actions, almost inevitably the first question they ask is "Is it because I'm black?"
"For these dangerous and divisive elements the legislation proposed in the Race Relations Bill is the very pabulum they need to flourish. Here is the means of showing that the immigrant communities can organise to consolidate their members, to agitate and campaign against their fellow citizens, and to overawe and dominate the rest with the legal weapons which the ignorant and the ill-informed have provided. As I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding; like the Roman, I seem to see the River Tiber foaming with much blood."
And so we arrive at the words that have attached themselves to Enoch Powell's Birmingham speech, the so-called Rivers of Blood, which many have chosen to interpret either as a threat or a warning regarding Britain's multicultural future. The thing is, choose your event or your incident, the various race riots that have affected a number of our larger towns and cities, the 7/7 bombings on the London Underground, the unsuccessful terror plots foiled by our national intelligence services, or even the murder of Lee Rigby in Woolwich. Immigrant communities can organise to consolidate their members, to agitate, to campaign against their fellow citizens! Draw your own comparisons with modern Britain, from a warning that was delivered over forty years ago; and consider the current situation with organised gangs of criminal youths, Islamic fundamentalist, Blacks-only pressure groups, Muslim political activists, Sharia Courts with official standing within the community and more besides. And as Powell so pointedly remarked, most of them are fully armed with the legal weapons that successive British governments have handed them, the Race Relations Act, The European Convention on Human Rights, to name just two that the British people simply cannot counter.
As for the Rivers of Blood connection? As a classical scholar Powell was always likely to explain himself in such a way, although some later historians have questioned his use of the story of Aeneas to make his point about the future of a multicultural Britain. Taken from Virgil's Aeneid, the mythological story revolves around the founding of Rome and the tale of a Trojan warrior called Aeneas. Upon arriving in Italy the warrior consults a priestess to ask her to foretell how his plans to build a new empire will turn out. In response the priestess tells Aeneas that in the process of him creating Rome she sees "wars and the River Tiber foaming with blood".
Perhaps aware that the creation of a new country, a multicultural Britain, would be both hard and troublesome, Powell employed his classical background to best sum up the future for Britain as he then saw it, with resistance, conflict, intolerance, resentment and even violence erupting as an old established white dominated country, tried to come to terms with becoming a much more modern multicultural, multi-faith, multi-coloured nation, much as it has become today. 

Sunday 5 January 2014

The Dignity Of Labour Gone Awry:

The old fashioned expression "the dignity of labour" is thought to suggest the concept that all forms of work and endeavour, including manual labour, are equally worthwhile and deserving of respect; with no one specific occupation being superior to another. One of the concept's most notable proponents was reported to be the great Indian independence leader, Mahatma Gandhi, who strongly believed in the human dignity that emanated from the simple act of work, whether that was in the form of physical labour, or intellectual rigour.
Of course, one could argue that the concept of the dignified labourer is an old fashioned ideal, one that has its place in our pre-industrial societies, where human and animal provided the muscle and the sweat to break the ground, plant the seed and harvest the crops, fell the trees, plane the wood and erect the buildings, shepherd the flock, fleece the sheep, spin the wool and produce the clothes. In other words, to physically produce the food, the houses, the clothes that they and their fellow citizens required, in order to survive as a society on a day-to-day basis. To sit down at the end of the working day, content in the knowledge that their physical and mental labours had been worthwhile and meaningful, to themselves, their family, to their community; and maybe even to God himself?
Clearly the invention and development of mechanised devices has helped undermine the earlier ideals of the dignified labourer, as farmhand and horse have given way to the tractors and harvesters, which were and are a far more productive way of growing society's much needed foodstuffs. But so the argument goes, as we have become increasingly detached from the means and methods of producing the basics of life, so too are we slowly but surely losing the ability to value the intrinsic worthiness of manual labour, especially in the West, where we can no longer experience the pride, the joy or the satisfaction of actually making the things that we use, the things that we consume in an increasingly rapacious way.
Perhaps inadvertently, the unforeseen side effects of the inexorable loss of these basic skills within our modern society has not only left us bereft of vital knowledge, but also even more reliant and dependent on growing numbers of foreign workers, those from countries where manual labour is still intrinsically valued, if only in a wholly financial way. There is a school of thought that earnestly believes that Britain's current employment woes have come about as a direct result of the prevailing British attitude that there is no dignity, no respectability, no value in carrying out any form of manual labour, let alone that which is generally low paid. Quite why British workers should believe that manual labour is demeaning, when Eastern European workers do not, is undoubtedly the result of the massive social and economic changes that have been imposed on the country over the past forty years by successive governments, from all political persuasions.
Some might propose the argument that the British Trade Unions undermined the principle of there being any sort of inherent dignity in the manual labour of their members, simply because they chose to put a price, often a high price, on the cost of that labour, by virtue of the increasingly expensive wage demands that they put before employers. That is not to suppose that workers shouldn't be paid fairly for their time and their efforts, but surely not when those demands will directly impact the employer and the consumer in a highly negative way, as that can only lead to the eventual loss of support and sympathy amongst the wider general public. One could well make the argument that the National Union of Mineworkers lost their battle with the Thatcher government, not because they faced a determined political adversary, but because they had lost the support of the electorate, the British public, who by the time of the Miners Strike didn't regard the mineworkers as honourable and dignified labourers, who risked their lives every time they went down into the pits to cut out the coal, but rather as an overpaid, out-of-touch, un-elected, politically motivated grouping that was determined by bring down a democratically elected government; and at the same time make everyone else's life a sheer hell. The fact that recent releases of government papers have ultimately proved Arthur Scargill to be right about the Conservative's plans to essentially close down Britain's coal industries is a moot point really, given that our country's coalmining industries have now been dead and buried for decades, largely as a result of the civil conflict between an intransigent government and an obstinate unionised labour movement; and where mutual dignity was in very short supply on both sides, if it existed at all.
For many other people of course, the end of Britain's traditional and long standing labour force, came during the Thatcher era, in company with the brutal and extremely short-sighted de-industrialisation of the country that she and her Conservative colleagues advocated as the way forward for Britain, changing it from the highly skilled, "sick man of Europe", to the largely unskilled, "slightly healthier man of Europe". Out went large scale coalmining, shipbuilding, car making, steel production; and in came privatisation, downsizing, deskilling and dole queues, most of which was funded by selling off the country's publicly owned utilities and licences for the North Sea oilfields.
This became the age of "me, me, me", rather than being the age of "us, us, us"; and as hundreds of thousands of highly skilled coalminers, shipbuilders, carmakers, steel workers were thrown onto the dole queues, they could perhaps content themselves with knowing that while they languished on the dole, there were  others who were enjoying the Right To Buy their council homes, or possibly Telling Sid that they were going to buy shares in the newly privatised utility companies. Rather than train to be a fitter, a welder, a miner, a riveter, a sheet metal worker, jobs that didn't really exist any more in modern Britain, not in any great numbers anyway, people on the dole could now retrain to be warehouse operative, a forklift truck driver, a secretary, or a computer operator instead. Okay, so there's not so much pride, or satisfaction, or personal dignity in producing a piece of A4 correspondence, as there was in helping to build a car, a ship, or digging coal to fuel the country's energy needs, but it was a job nonetheless, right?
So thanks to Thatcher and her Conservative successors, Britain emerged into the late 1990's with a significantly reduced skilled labour force; and a prevailing popular culture of manual labour being bad, but intellectual labour being okay, just so long as you're well rewarded for it! Tapping into these new attitudes and perhaps recognising that any sort of re-industrialisation of the country would be both costly and troublesome, if not nigh impossible, the new Labour Prime Minister, Tony Blair, conceived the idea of developing Britain into a world leading "knowledge" economy. This is said to be an economy that is based almost entirely on intellectual copyrights, or intellectual capital, which are generally intangible assets that can't be physically handled or adequately quantified, but typically include things such as research, technical support and consulting, the sorts of things that Mr Blair himself is said to have made many millions of pounds from, since he left eventually public office. The only problem with developing such an economy of course, is that it generally requires a much smaller and highly educated workforce, with a centralised emphasis on "Education, Education, Education", rather than on the much more fundamental "Manual Skills, Manual Skills, Manual Skills".
As a result of both Thatcher's deskilling of the nation's workforce and Blair's re-education of them, we now seem to have been left with a generation of workers with personal aspirations way beyond their means of achieving them. Hard, manual work has become an unattractive proposition in the main for an increasingly well educated British workforce, who not only aspire to have a highly respectable job, with good pay and prospects, but want to achieve it in the easiest way possible. Not for them, the old fashioned idea of working their way up from the shop floor to the management offices, let alone the thought of taking on the sorts of back breaking work that countless immigrants from Europe are willing to accept, regardless of the hours, or the pay and conditions that such gruelling work might involve. For the hundreds of thousands of Poles, Lithuanians, Romanians or Bulgarians who have migrated to our country to pick our crops, prepare our foods, serve in our high street restaurants and our coffee houses, the need to aspire to better things can wait, for now, they just want to earn money as quickly as they can, in anyway they can.
What is perhaps more alarming though, is the fact that our country's young people so readily scoff at the prospect of picking agricultural crops, sweeping the streets, preparing our foods, or serving in our restaurants and coffee houses, claiming that it would be undignified to do so, yet cannot see that being well educated, but being deliberately unemployed or indigent is equally undignified and degrading. Who would be the prouder man, the immigrant who toils in the field for his six pounds an hour, or the indigenous layabout who picks up his dole money every fortnight? Whose the better man, the worker who will do any old job to feed his family, or the individual who would rather rely on the State to put food in his children's mouths?
That isn't to suggest that unemployed workers should just take any old job in order to make their way in the world, as to do so would invite inequality, exploitation and wage slave labour, things that none of us would willingly welcome. However, the fact that our country has found the need to import hundreds of thousands of manual workers from the European continent, ostensibly because we have a shortage of such workers, despite having over two million unemployed people here at home, must surely indicate that things have gone seriously wrong in Britain.
It surely cannot be common coincidence that the wholesale de-industrialisation and deskilling of our country over the past forty years, coupled with the centralised re-education of our national workforce into believing that personal entitlement and aspiration are skills enough to succeed; and yet between them have seemingly fatally undermined the idea of an individual's work ethic in our country. Why work, when you can be given for free? Why not aspire to have the unattainable? Why worry about your fellow citizens, just so long as you're alright? Why labour, when someone else is prepared to?
Successive administrations have been struggling to find long term solutions to our nation's unemployment issues for decades, often with highly mixed results. However, the idea that the large scale importation of generally unskilled, low paid foreign workers will somehow solve the problem, will undoubtedly prove to be as unsuccessful as the rest. The greatest asset any company has is its workforce, so said Sir Richard Branson; and yet for year after year, decade after decade, we witness British companies regularly treating their personnel as little better than disposable commodities, that they pick up and put down on a whim or a notion.
The concept of the "Dignity Of Labour" although old fashioned, still holds true today. Our traditional values of dignity, value, respect and loyalty still exist to a lesser or greater degree within our country, but seem to have become detached from one another, especially in the workplace. Every worker was to feel valued and respected, to be treated with the dignity that they feel they deserve, in much the same way that they expect to be paid for the labour that they provide. How much more rewarding it is for a worker to be thanked for their efforts by their employer, who through that simple act conveys his respect for and value of their labours. What better way to end a working day? How much more rewarding and satisfying would it be for a worker to return home, knowing that their efforts have not only made a difference, but that the difference has been officially recognised by someone? Now isn't that what the dignity of labour is supposed to be about, a sense of personal worth, fulfilment and pride?