Posts Tagged ‘ UK ’

Comment: Liberal-Conservative coalition government deal


Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

…which surely is a contradiction in terms, right? Anyway, it’s going to be interesting to see what happens next. This is both the first time the Liberals have made it to office and the first time the UK has had a coalition government in decades. Not to mention the all-to-late bowing out of Gordon Brown. Change, with any luck, is afoot.

The Guardian yesterday had a run down of the deal the two parties have made, including the concessions each has had to accept.

Deficit reduction

This is the focus of many people’s attention. The coalition has agreed to cut spending rather than increase taxes and those cuts will include, among other things, tax credits for higher earners (why do they need them anyway?).

Spending review for the NHS/schools and a fairer society

Increased funding for the NHS will go down well, but ‘scrutiny’ of the Trident nuclear defence system may prove to be a mere placatory device for the Liberals.

Tax measures

Increase in personal allowance for income tax is a definite plus for those of us who earn low wages, although the Conservative’s proposal to (frankly) positively discriminate against married couples —albeit hetero- or homosexual— has also made it through the negotiations. This recalls the old “married-man’s tax” of bygone years, reaffirming in some minds the true meaning of the name ‘conservatve’.

Banking reform

This seems to boil down to regulatory reform, the introduction of a banking levy and the encouragement of a competitive economy, all of which will hopefully reverse the damage done by Labour. With a one-year reporting period, it’s going to be a long wait before we see any real change.

Immigration

Another key word in this election, the coalition deal merely states this:

We have agreed that there should be an annual limit on the number of non-EU economic migrants admitted into the UK to live and work. We will consider jointly the mechanism for implementing the limit.

We will end the detention of children for immigration purposes.

At last, some sense. I’m not saying it should be a one-in-one-out system, but you’d think that someone would have considered the idea of a cap before.

Political reform

The parties will bring forward a referendum bill on electoral reform, which includes provision for the introduction of the alternative vote in the event of a positive result in the referendum, as well as for the creation of fewer and more equal sized constituencies. Both parties will whip their parliamentary parties in both houses to support a simple majority referendum on the alternative vote, without prejudice to the positions parties will take during such a referendum.

Voting by proportional representation seems the fairer way to do it, if it’s as simple as you vote for the party you want in and who ever gets the most votes wins. If they don’t ‘pass the post’ they would have to form coalitions such as the one we have now, but it would make voting simple enough for the masses to understand. There may even be a ‘point’ to voting for those that would not normally do so, e.g. Liberal supporters.

Pensions and welfare

Retirement age is rising to 66 by 2016 for men and 2020 for women. This seems unfair in many ways and a long way off for me, but no doubt it’ll come [too] soon enough. A later retirement age reflects the nation’s need for more tax to be paid, but also reflects the modern (and increasing) longevity of the human race. The problem with a set retirement age is that, while some people will be financially/physically/mentally ready for retirement (at any set age), others will not and ageism, while frowned upon heavily in terms of employing new staff, it is still rife.

Education

The best bit? Increasing the possibility for social mobility.

Relations with the EU

No further transfer of sovereignty, defence of the national interest,

We agree that we will approach forthcoming legislation in the area of criminal justice on a case-by-case basis, with a view to maximising our country’s security, protecting Britain’s civil liberties and preserving the integrity of our criminal justice system. Britain will not participate in the establishment of any European public prosecutor.

Oh, and we’re not taking the Euro in this parliament :):-

Civil liberties

Scrapping the ID card scheme, next gen biometric passports and the fingerprinting of kids in school (they were doing this?!), restoration of rights to non-violent protest and safeguards against the misuse of anti-terrorism legislation all point to a reduction in the ‘big brother state’ we’ve been sidling into for a while now.

Environment

Lots of goodies here, including mandating a national recharging network for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles and increasing the target for energy from renewable sources, including marine energy.  The Liberals are permitted to maintain their anti-nuclear power stance without fear of reprieve or triggering another general election.

So…

We live in interesting times, times of change. Hopefully, maybe even possibly, for the better.

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Power ≠ exemption: arrest the Pope (& the corrupt politicians)


Power should ≠ (not equal) exemption, but overall it appears it does. I read an interesting article on the Huffington Post yesterday which lead with this:

Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, two of the world’s most prominent atheist intellectuals, are seeking means to try the pope for crimes against humanity.

Sounds appealing and ‘just’, right? After all, the pontiff has been reported as heavily involved in the cover-up of sexual abuse within the Catholic church. In lay terms that would be aiding and abetting, a serious offence. The Pope, however, seems immune on the grounds that he is a head of state. Heads of state cannot be tried for crimes? Call me sceptical/uninformed, but that seems a bit bent.

Intellectuals Dawkins and Hitchens, both ardent atheists, evidently feel the same and are attempting to do something about it. Hitchens is quoted as saying:

“This man is not above or outside the law. The institutionalized concealment of child rape is a crime under any law and demands not private ceremonies of repentance or church-funded payoffs, but justice and punishment.”

But as a fellow student, Craig Spence, noted:

[It’s] never going to happen, can you imagine the uproar it would cause in mainland Europe? particularly Italy, not to mention all the so called “Irish Catholics” in the states. What the UK should do is ban him from entering the country, make it clear that we don’t agree with his conduct.

Now, I like that idea, but I am holding out hope that he gets arrested — it might give my faith in ‘justice’ a much needed pep. In truth, however, I seriously doubt either action will be taken. There’s too much pressure on the government as it is and in the run up to elections I very much doubt that the government is going to alienate all the Catholic voters. Convenient timing really.

The point is this: conduct such as his (and that of other priests) should not remain unpunished and he should not be exempt just because he’s the Pope, just as politicians should not be exempt from fraud charges over the expense scandal. In any other business, theft on such a scale would have had serious repercussions.

People in positions of power should be as culpable as anyone else.

“Homosexuality is wrong, kids, God says so.”


happy to hate

Rachel Williams reported in the Guardian about the so-called U-turn performed by the government regarding sex education in faith schools, i.e. allowing Catholic schools to teach that homosexuality is wrong and ‘discourage’ the use of contraception.

What I’d ike to know is, how has this been passed? Religious freedom notwithstanding, surely it’s better to teach kids all sides of something and let them make their own minds up. Teaching that homosexuality is wrong because ‘God said so’ (aside from the ambiguity of the actual ‘truth’ here) is just going to perpetuate and exacerbate hate [crimes], misunderstandings and inhibit diversity.

In the words of Stonewall:

Some people are gay, get over it.

In addition, does the country need any more breeding teenagers, really? With very few exceptions, having a baby young is a waste of the lives of all concerned – the teenagers who don’t get to have a life until they’re in their 30s, the kids raised by kids who haven’t probably learnt some of the most valuable lessons to pass down.

A spokesman for the Dept for Children, Schools and Families, has said

“…schools will be required to teach full programmes of study in line with the principles outlined in the bill, including promoting equality and encouraging acceptance of diversity. Schools with a religious character will be free to express their faith and reflect the ethos of their school, but what they cannot do is suggest that their views are the only ones.”

However, this translates to ‘a Catholic school will be required to teach the factsabout contraceptives and contraception, but would be free to contradict it all by foregrounding and reinforcing their views on the subject.

The question remains: who ensures that a balanced message of tolerance, objectivity and free will is  getting across?

ID cards, privacy & hope for a UK Bill of Rights


The increase in surveillance of the British public has long been on the up, but a new state of the nation poll (reported in the Guardian) shows that the country has hit its tipping point.

One such aspect that has come under public scrutiny is the ID card. In July 2009, the home secretary, Alan Johnson, said the card were a ‘no brainer. They would allow easy travel between EU countries— passport free, only terrorists wouldn’t have them, and so on.

“The identity card is a safe, secure and simple way for people to protect and prove their identity and to travel around Europe but leave their passport at home,” he said. “Given the growing problem of ID fraud and the inconvenience of having to carry passports coupled with gas bills or six months worth of bank statements to prove identity, I believe the ID card will be welcomed as an important addition to the many plastic cards that most people already carry.”

And then a UK newspaper hired a hacker to test the ‘unhackable’ cards out. With a phone and a laptop, the card was hacked in minutes and cloned, with new information put on it. Not so fraud-resistant after all. Besides which, even if they were, it only takes one corrupt/breakable/bribable individual on the inside to screw the whole system. On the surface a good, all-inclusive, ‘no sensitive info‘, easy idea. On the inside, deeply flawed and unlikely to go down well in a country where trust in the government is at best tenuous.

The last state of the nation poll showed only 33% of people opposing ID cards. Now 53% perceive them to be a [very/]bad and 63% of people– up from 53% – worry about the government holding information on them.

The state of the nation poll shows the rights that the sample believed should be included in a Bill of Rights:

81% – the right to know what information government departments hold on you

79% – the right to privacy in your phone, mail and email communications

76% – the right to join a legal strike without losing your job

75% – the right to obtain information from government bodies about their activities

72% – and the right to free and peaceful assembly.

Which just goes to show that the UK still wants to be a free society.

This information was released by Power 2010, which asked the public to choose its top five priorities for political reform, the poll revealed that

80% agreed with the need for a bill of rights, 52% strongly.

The British public seems to be rejecting the idea of massive centralised power over which they have no control.

56% thought government power was too centralised, with

88% saying that local communities should have more say over decisions that affect them.

And that’s what democracy is all about… Right?

Q&A: Hayley Martin on social media


A seven question ‘witter’ with Hayley Martin on how she’s finding the increased use of social media on the second year of the Communications and Media (BA Hons) course at Bournemouth University‘s prestigious Media School.

Q: How are you finding the experience of blogging?

A: I like the concept of it and I’ve found some really interesting blogs to read, but I’m just getting into what to write.

Q: What do you prefer about blogging to Twitter?

A: You can go into more detail about what you’re interested in, but I don’t think you can have a blog without Twitter to blog about.

Q: What do you find most useful about Twitter?

A: All the PR and social media people I’ve made friends contact with on there and getting random news in my feed.

Q: How do you feel if, for whatever reason, you cannot access your social media for a length  of time.

A: I’d like to say it wouldn’t bother me, but I think I’d feel a bit cut off from the world. It’s just so easy to get hold of people on SNS and social media.

Q: Where do you see computer technology going next?

A: Apparently Google will be able to anticipate what you’re searching for and not send you useless or irrelevant sites.

Q: Why do you think social media is so important?

A: Because everyone wants to belong somewhere and with social media there’s so many opportunities for people to join that no one needs to feel left out.

Q: If you were a fruit, what would you be and why?

A: A star fruit, because I’m an odd shape, but when you cut me open you see how much of a star I am.

Hayley can be found on WordPress here and Twitter here.

UK full-body scanners set for take down


The use of full-body scanners in airports may be illegal on basis of discrimination and privacy, according to an equality watchdog.

The scanners have been hastily introduced to certain major airports in the UK in an attempt to catch potential terror attacks (like the recent Christmas Day incident) before they happen and stop them, but have now run into a hitch:  the human right to live versus the human right to privacy, dignity and not to be discriminated against. Understandably, many Muslim people are concerned that they will be singled out for the ‘random’ selection process —and they probably would be. This would be wrong for all the obvious reasons, but in addition it is foolish to think that the only people with a beef that could get attention from aeroplane-related terror tactics are [the minority of] Islamic people [who might resort to such measures]. The answer here is simple.

As much as I don’t fancy having my whole body peered at through a scanner (even though almost as much effort has gone into ensuring genital imperceptibility as into the perceptibility of everything else), I would rather that than be blown up mid-air (or anywhere for that matter). With regard to the potential for discriminatory practice, I believe everyone should be scanned. How else is the process supposed to be thorough? Scanning everyone is the only way to ensure that everyone is checked and nobody is discriminated against.

Time consuming, but worth it I think…

UK whore tax could help plug a gap


Also known as:

The case to have brothels  legalised, standardised, pasteurised (well, not quite), regulated and taxed.

Why?

The short answer:

Firstly, because the workers could be medically screened and physically and legally protected.

Secondly, the tax the government could/would reap would be massive,  comparable even to that of smokers’ and drivers’ taxes.

Simples.

The longer answer?

It could be argued that ‘no one’ wants a brothel on their doorstep and this is fair enough. Put them in industrial parks. Not sexy enough? Neither’s an alley (although something resembling an alley could be constructed on premises with an outside area).

Is this heinously commodifying women? I never said brothels should only be worked in by women; men are fair game too. Don’t like the commodification of sex? Here’s some news: it’s the oldest trade in the world, it was commodified long before any of us were born and with a country strapped for cash (and the government dipping into the pension funds etc.) we might as well stop being prudish and wilfully ignorant. Legalising this area of the black market could generate masses of revenue, plugging a gap in the economy, at the same time as all-importantly looking after the health and safety of the workers – not to mention the peace of mind of the patrons.

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