Monday, 15 March 2010


Jack straw has decided now, six weeks before his government of 13 years loses power, that it is time for complicated idea of parliamentary reform to be brought to the fore. Well, I hate this issue being used from an electoral stand point because frankly most people know too little about politics and our system to really come to an educated opinion. Our system and constitution is incredibly complicated and esoteric, having slowly evolved over centuries. So turning it into an election point seems like a bad idea on those geounds to me, though I can understand why they would want to.

My bigger problem with it, though, is that it has clearly been designed and timed so that the Tories are forced to fight an election campaign all the while saying that a non-elected upper House is a good thing. I suppose this loops in with what I said above, about, with most people too ignorant to realise that, democratic or not, it has (in the last decade) repeatedly been the Lords who have been the ones who have been fighting for liberty, and the commons have been those constantly trying to erode it. The obvious example here is 90 day detention.

But the worst part is that they're playing such a silly electoral game with constitutional reform. Maybe I shouldnt be too worried, though, since Labour won't ever be in power to actually enact it (which is, perhaps, the point, like all of the Lib Dems batty policies) and even if they were in a position to enact something like this, they've made no qualms over breaking manifesto pledges before, so it may not be an issue anyway. But you can probably count on the fingers of one hand the number of people in the world who are qualified to actually enact constitutional reform of such immense complexity, and the idea of that being wielded as an electoral tool is troubling to me.

More Union Stuff

Oh dear oh dear! What has Lord Adonis gone and done now? He said, of the pending British Airways strike, "I deplore the strike" and that it was disproportionate. Needless to say, Unite arent too happy about a minister coming out and saying something like that about their strike, especially when it is the transport minister in a government whose election campaign (and very existance, actually) is owed to Unite.

It'll be quite interesting to see where this goes. I think its unlikely Adonis will take back his words - it would, afterall, be damaging for a minister of Transport to come out and say that he didnt have all the facts regarding a transport dispute. But how will unite respond? Charlie Whelan can't be too happy.

Friday, 12 March 2010


So for my absence recently, work's been a bit mental.

Anyway, yes, the Unions. They all seem to be up in arms at the moment, don't they? Train strikes, BA strikes, Civil Service strikes. And yet, despite this, the government is remaining startling quiet on it. You'd think the last thing they'd want during the run up to an election is a country ground to a halt due to strikes, especially when the majority of those wishing to strike are on the public payroll (and thus directly the government's responsibility, as opposed to the BA air crews who are not). As David Blackburn over at The Spectator suggests, is this because the Labour party relies on them entirely for their funding and thus existence?

The simple fact of the matter is that without the unions, the Labour party wouldn't exist. The only reason they weren't made bankrupt back in 2005 was because Unite promised to bank roll them. In the last 5 or less years, the unions have given Labour over £30m, and that money (as well as feet) are making big differences in a lot of the marginals (the same place that Ashcroft's money is).

So fair's fair, non? Both parties have big donors funding their campaigns in the marginals. Well, no, because there's an obvious conflict of interest involved here. The government has to deal with the unions on a daily basis, especially when so many of them are made up almost entirely of public service figures. The government also funds the unions via the Union Modernisation Fund - that's tax payers money going into fighting for Labour, which seems a bit wrong. So can we trust the government - when it's a Labour government - to deal with the Unions, when they're wholly relient on them for their own existence?

Here's my solution: Remove from all legislation any mention of unions. That's it. That one move will solve it all. Allow unions to exist, of course. They are merely the free association of people. Let them strike when they want, ballot or no. They can run with whatever rules they want for officers, leadership, whatever. Likewise, allow employers to sack people for any reason. Striking, being a part of a union, whatever. If the union is stronger, they'll win out. If the business is, they will. Unions can still donate to parties, but the government wouldn't be able to fund money back to them, and with their legislative powers regarding unions reduced, they'd be less inclined to fund parties in the first place. This isn't a plan to stop Labour existing - I think they should, and they need to - it's to stop a minority at the top of the unions from controlling either the government or the main opposition. It's worth remembering that if the Unions didn't donate on their members behalves, their members could still donate individually if they so wished.

As it stands, bring on the strikes. It'll only do harm to Labour.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010


A very quick one here:

- One can't "buy" an election, one can merely finance a campaign. If people vote for the Tories because of Ashcroft's money, it's because he eneabled them to better get their literature out, and people liked it enough to vote for it. I don't think many could argue with that.

- Lord Ashcroft's donations have been out-matched easily by non-domiciled Labour doners, one of whom is also a peer.

- Ashcroft has never taken a penny of expenses. The Labour doner-and-now-Peer takes an average of £300 a day when he's sitting.

- Since when was being a non-dom a bad thing anyway? It's only the tax you earn OUTSIDE of the UK you don't pay tax on, and frankly why should you? It's got nothing to do with the UK.


Aaaah, it had to come didn't it?

So, everyone is all up in arms about the BBC closing down the Asian Network and 6 Music. Well, maybe if more of you actually listened to it, they wouldn't be shutting down!

I jest, I jest. My actual position is thus: I believe the government has a role and a mandate to inform its citizens of certain things. These things are a bit vague, so there's room for manouvre, but current affairs, changes in the law and emergency information are well within its remit. Entertainment shows are not. I understand where it came from - at first it was the only channel around. But it's not now.

I have literally no idea how people can justify the government taking money off everyone who wants to watch TV to just fund a handful of channels. Again, if all they were doing was the above functions, I'd understand it. But why do they need to take money from people just to provide the same shows that the other, commercial channels manage to provide without coercing money from people? A lot of people seem to be complaining that they should cut out the minority crap and just stick to what's popular. That's the worst idea imaginable - I'd rather have a BBC that caters for everyone than a BBC that caters for the majority who can already get their entertainment (so much as it is) elsewhere.

I also don't like that it regularly comes down to a debate about the quality of the output. That's not really the point. Whether or not something is a justified use of government resources (and power - if you want to watch Channel 4 and don't pay the TV License, they'll fine you. If you don't pay that, they'll put you in prison.) shouldn't come down to whether or not its entertaining enough (and I don't think I'm alone in this, or else people wouldn't be so up-in-arms about the apparantly brilliant quality 6 Music being shut down [note, I'm not saying it's not good - I've never listened to it]). I mean christ, it's entertainment - what other forms of entertainment should the government arbitrarily supply at the detriment of the private sector trying to provide the same thing. And why why why does the BBC find itself in the business of trying to win ratings wars? They're actively damaging the competition, which would be fine if they were a private company and offering a better service for a better price, but they aren't - their programmes cost significantly more to make to the point where there are certain sectors that the other channels can't even begin to compete in because they don't have a £3bn budget that they're entirely unaccountable about.

The government (and it is is the government, since they force you to pay the License Fee even if you want to watch Dave all day) shouldn't be in the business of entertainment (in the same way it shouldn't be in the business of making nutty concept cars, or plastic trumpets, or any other arbitrary good). They don't pay my entry into a club, so why are they paying Graham Norton millions to make camp jokes at my expense? Well, it's not my expense, I refuse to pay the License Fee, but if I did then it'd be my expense.

If you want to watch Strictly Come Dancing or, at the other end of the spectrum, a documentary about the wilds of the Hampshire country side, then go ahead. Just don't force me to pay for it, is all I'm asking.