Monday, 26 May 2014

Some free advice for the Conservatives

 Offered on the blog of my MP, Steve Baker, in response to his article arguing that the UKIP surge is actually a vote for disengagement with politics, pointing at the low turnout figure.  He comments:
It is a tragic fact that politicians are once again talking to themselves while commentators encourage them to do so. We have failed to inspire the public even to throw us out.
The challenge after this election is not how to defeat UKIP. It is how to speak truthfully, hopefully and realistically to a population thoroughly disenchanted with the entire political system.
My response:

You're right that there has been a strong shift towards not voting; this has been developing over several General Elections and is symptomatic of a general mistrust of politicians.  There is a cosy stalemate that has emerged between the media and senior politicians, whereby the media limit their questions to ones designed to catch politicians out and trip them into saying something that can be misinterpreted, and politicians avoid saying anything of any substance or meaning in reply.  Both tendencies reinforce the other.  Both lead to people switching off.

UKIP have succeeded in tapping into this and presenting themselves as a break from the old order.  In that regard, by focusing on "gaffes" made by UKIP spokesmen or candidates, the traditional media have played into their hands by confirming that UKIP are not part of the club and that the Establishment is ganging up on them. 

There are opportunities in this for the Conservatives, though.  Labour have shown themselves to be a failure (I think it has been quoted that no opposition party has ever not won a Euro election until now?), so the clear focus must now be on UKIP.  The question is, why have so many Conservative supporters left for UKIP?  My suggestion would be that a general mistrust of Cameron, a feeling that when the day comes he will wriggle out of the referendum promise, and a feeling that he is a highly experienced politician and "one of them", are the main reasons.

To an extent, Cameron's shiftiness on policy has possibly been because he has been hamstrung by the constraints of coalition politics.  But now, with the Liberals effectively dead in the water and the EU staring at a clear mandate for a British exit if current terms are maintained, he can afford to strike out, say what he thinks, and maybe even do it.

In his shoes, I would

(a) Describe the exact form of EU that he would wish to see.  I for one don't actually know what that is.

(b) Set. A. Date. For. The. Referendum.  Also, publish the question that will be set.  That way, it might look as if he is committed to it.

(c) Go to Brussels and ask for his vision of Europe.  Explain bluntly that they can say "no" if they wish but it appears that the UK will leave if they do so.  Point out that there is now a hard, immovable deadline.

(d) Don't be afraid to tell interviewers they've asked a stupid question, or one based on a truckload of false assumptions.  Stop being a Westminster pansy and speak up.  Don't let them dictate the terms of the interview.  The media are not your friends, stop treating them as such.  Show a little steel.

I know of two Wycombe votes that may go back from UKIP to Conservative if this happens.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Nothing Moves Like Music

No politics this time.  I want to talk about the power of music tonight.  It's late, and I can't sleep, because I caught a snatch of a piece of music this evening on a film trailer.

The trailer was this one:

Did you catch it?

It's only brief, about 30 seconds at most.  It is "Speigel im Spiegel", by Arvo Pärt.  Here's the full version:

It's a beautiful piece of music.  I love it, I love the image it creates in my mind of a calm and peaceful place where I am safe and secure, where I can rest and relax and let any and all worries leave my mind.  And every time I listen - every single time - I will well up and I may well cry.  If I'm alone, I'll probably let it out, but if I'm in company I will probably just go quiet and maybe a little distant.  It has done that to me ever since maternal grandmother left this world over ten years ago, because every time I hear it, it reminds me of her. 

I have no idea why.  We never listened to it together, I have no idea whether she ever even heard it.  She wasn't especially into music, but the little music she did have was very, very different.  There is no logic as to why it should be this piece in particular, but it is so, nevertheless. 

There's another piece of music that does this to me.  It's in a rather different style, and a little more recent.  Pärt's piece is moderately highbrow, this very definitely isn't - it is simple, straightforward, and commercial.  It's this:

This one reminds me of Mum.  The link here is even more tenuous - she cannot possibly have heard it, as it was released after she died.   Common sense says the song can have no connection with her, but my own personal logic has connected them; every time I hear it, she is in my mind, and I am back there with her on her sofa in the last few weeks, with her (exhausted) sleeping against my shoulder with my arm around her.

Nothing triggers my memories of these two wonderful, strong women with the intensity of these pieces of music.  I want to hate them both for the effect they have on me, but I can't.

I love both pieces.  I love them for the connection they give me.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Bye bye???

Well, I did predict that online safety filters would be a little bit impossible to run properly. I hate to say I told you so, but it seems that the following sites are blocked:
  • The Vatican 
  • The British Library 
  • The National Archives 
  • The National Library of Wales 
and, to make it just perfect:
  • Childline
Less seriously, but (spookily) exactly as I predicted also blocked is:
  • This blog

Sunday, 15 December 2013

I've missed the boat again

I had a brilliant idea for sorting out the EU this morning.  What we need to do is to find an ardent Eurosceptic (I would be an ideal candidate) who can then join the EU bureaucracy and work from the inside to make the EU into a completely ridiculous organisation, one that fails to make any headway on anything of importance, legislates away merrily on matters of no importance whatsoever, and wastes shedloads of money in the process.

A few years of that, and democratic support for the EU will soon evaporate.  And I'll spend those years with a nice expenses account among the restaurants of Brussels.  What's not to like?

And then it struck me. 

I'm too late.  Someone is obviously already at it. 

Whoever you are, I salute you!

Friday, 13 December 2013

Need to Know Basis Only

I'm slightly gobsmacked.

Blue Eyes wanted suggestions of nice paces to emigrate to.  So, as you do, I googled "happy places to live".  The top result that wasn't along the lines of "nicest places in the UK", which would rather have defeated the object, was this site:

Yes, that's an article by the BBC on the happiest places in the world in which to live.  So it should be perfect for what I'm looking for.  So I followed the link.  To be told this:
We're sorry but this site is not accessible from the UK as it is part of our international service and is not funded by the licence fee. It is run commercially by BBC Worldwide, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the BBC, the profits made from it go back to BBC programme-makers to help fund great new BBC programmes. You can find out more about BBC Worldwide and its digital activities at
Errm, pardon?

That part of the website is not funded by the licence fee, so I can't read it if I'm in the UK?  Whereas non-UK readers, who have also not paid for it, can read it for free?  That is odd enough logic on its own.

But wait - what is going on here?  The Beeb has worked out where in the world to live if you want to be happy, and won't tell UK residents where it is?

Get your tin foil hats out...

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Hard cases...

...make bad law, as the saying goes.  However (I suspect you could see that word coming), this case is a perfect example of why we need the amendment to the Human Rights Act that I have been saying is needed for some time now.

It seems that Mr Jumaa Kater Saleh arrived in this country in 2004 as an asylum seeker, aged 16.  His asylum claim was refused, but where the claimant is a child we allow them to remain here until 18.  At the age of 18 he (naturally) made a further application to stay here, which was being considered when he was arrested for sexual offences.  He was convicted on specimen charges of sexual activity with a 13-year-old girl.  It seems that the three victims, described as"far from mature for their age" were lured to a house and assaulted by Saleh and three others.  Even at its face this is a disturbing crime, but I cannot help but wonder whether anything is concealed by the fact that he was convicted on a specimen charge that was (perhaps) straightforward to prove and required little by way of traumatic experiences in Court for the witnesses?

Anyway, he served his sentence and was then set to be deported back to Darfur... except that he claimed that this would be in breach of his human rights as "he would face inhuman and degrading treatment in Sudan, in breach of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights".  On that basis, he could not be deported.  So he was held in an immigration detention centre while the Home Office tried to work out what to do with him; the Court has just ruled that he cannot be held indefinitely and declared that he is entitled to compensation for being held beyond what was reasonably necessary.

The Telegraph is up in arms because we are going to have to compensate a foreign paedophile.  Once again, the media spectacularly misses the point.  Of course we have to compensate him; if our civil servants are incompetent enough to hold someone illegally, then compensation will be due regardless of how unpleasant the individual is.  There are two much more glaring problems leaping out of this case than the simplistic "Arrrgghhh immigrant paedo money waste!!!" headline that the Telegraph has grabbed.

First... his original asylum application was refused.  In other words, it was decided that he would not face persecution if sent home.  Then, his Human Rights application was successful, on the grounds that he would face persecution if sent home.  Someone needs to think about that.

Second, and this is the point I have been making for some time, his argument that being sent back to Darfur would breach his human rights was made under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, that "he would face inhuman and degrading treatment in Sudan".  Inhuman and degrading treatment... in other words, treatment akin to (say) a sexually immature 13-year-old being dragged of the street into a strange house and being sexually assaulted by four men?  Is it not an utter and rank hypocrisy to resist being sent to your own country on the grounds that, once there, you might be subject to treatment of the same class as you did actually inflict on a national of the country that accommodated you?

It isn't a huge change to the Human Rights Act that we need.  Just a little one.  Just one that says you can't use a human rights defence to protect you from the consequences of your own denial of the same human right to another.

Just that little change.  That's all.

Monday, 11 November 2013

How to send yourself to jail

I was quite annoyed to read this:

New Asbo plans are assault on basic freedom, says former DPP Lord Macdonald

It seems that our beloved Home Secretary has plans to replace ASBOs.  As we know, there are a number of quite difficult issues around ASBOs, in particular their ability to criminalise quite inoffensive behaviour on the basis of a fairly flimsy evidential basis.  Nevertheless, I'm sure they are capable of doing good in some circumstances.  So there are (obviously) two options for reform:

  • Redraft the provisions to add safeguards so that we keep the possible beneficial effects of ASBOs but limit their potential for mischief, or
  • Just widen them and make them easier to obtain without worrying about the consequences.

Theresa "Handful" May, not yesterday
Guess which one Ms May opted for..
Under proposals currently before Parliament, Asbos are to be scrapped and replaced with wide-ranging new orders known as Ipnas (Injunctions to Prevent Nuisance and Annoyance).
They are designed to be easier to obtain, require a lower evidential threshold and yet cover a wider range of behaviour.
Oh good.  In fact, it gets better:
the new system will allow courts to impose sweeping curbs on people’s liberty if they think they are “capable of causing nuisance or annoyance to any person”. 
Remember, of course, that breach of a Court order is contempt, which carries the potential for a custodial sentence.

At least there is some good news.  I find this sort of activity by politicians very annoying indeed.  So if Ms May gets this passed into law, then I can presumably use it to put an IPNA on her to prevent her from passing any more such laws.  I'm sure I'll be able to find a police officer keen to help me...