Outside the marginals

a commentary on the politics that followed the UK 2010 & 2015 elections

Archive for the tag “accountability”

What a way to decide!

I don’t like to say that the “British People” – averaged out – are incapable of making big decisions, but the various Quit/Stay campaigners are making it very difficult and illustrating why referenda are not necessarily a good idea. Read more…

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EFF: Censoring the Web Isn’t the Solution to Terrorism or Counterfeiting. It’s the Problem.

From Electronic Frontier Foundation 25 November 2014 Jeremy Malcolm (© Creative Commons Attribution License)

In politics, as with Internet memes, ideas don’t spread because they are good—they spread because they are good at spreading. One of the most virulent ideas in Internet regulation in recent years has been the idea that if a social problem manifests on the Web, the best thing that you can do to address that problem is to censor the Web.

It’s an attractive idea because if you don’t think too hard, it appears to be a political no-brainer. It allows governments to avoid addressing the underlying social problem—a long and costly process—and instead simply pass the buck to Internet providers, who can quickly make whatever content has raised rankles “go away.” Problem solved! Except, of course, that it isn’t.

Read more…

Why bash the HBOS three?

Robert Peston in his blog today (5 April 2013) asks Why bash the HBOS three?

It is perhaps a bit odd that lords and MPs on the banking standards commission have chosen to chastise and publicly humiliate two former chief executives of HBOS and the erstwhile chairman – and to ask the regulator whether the three of them should be banned from working in the City.

To be clear, it is not the fact of censure that is odd. It is the timing, and that it’s just these three rather than the great gang of bosses of failed British banks.

The second paragraph is the interesting one.  Read more…

Commissioning Crime and the Police

Today we see the political parties naming some of their candidates for election as Police and Crime Commissioners.  Thus we see the begining of the politicising of the police.  The Police are charged with “maintaining the Queen’s Peace”, not the “Government’s Peace” – I do not look forward to a political apparatchik “Commissioning” our police.  Should we see a difference when we move from a Tory Direct Police Authority to a Socialist Police Authority?  No, so why make it political?

“Because the police have to be democratically accountable” say the proposers. The current system (police authority committees) seem to do just this (albeit indirectly) whilst keeping the police out of politics most of the time (although in the North East we still suffer the distrust arising from the politicising of the police during the miners’ strike).

What next? Electing the magistrates and judges?

We live in a system of indirect democracy – even the Government is effectively indirectly elected (by the weight of numbers of MPs elected to parliament – we do not have presidential elections to “make the PM democratically accountable”).

Apparently Police and Crime Commissioners (people who commission crime?) are an improvement and police committees should be abolished because we don’t know the names of people on the police committees. Well I have news for our politicians – most people don’t know the names of their MPs or their councillors – do we abolish them and replace them with a President and all-powerful Mayors?

I hope not.

Universal Benefits from Universal Tax

I can’t help but share some of the concerns expressed about the move away from universal benefits.  However, I am also particularly concerned about the impact of this change when combined with the move to ensure that those earning less than £10,000 pay no (income) tax.  Universal benefits should be matched by universal taxation. Read more…

Coalitions do not lead to pacts

One of the media’s lines for this conference season (I write as the Liberal party conference starts) is “will the coalition lead to an electoral pact”?

I think they are missing the point and miss-understanding what the coalition is all about.  The coalition arose because the general election was inconclusive and, because inaction was not an option, two parties agreed to work together on dare I call it a “project” which was detailed in the coalition agreement.  The project is to tackle two emergencies:

  • the economic situation: a minority fragile government could have led to an even deeper economic crisis
  • the lack of trust in politics: an acknowledged need for reform (even if the exact reforms required are not agreed)

The coalition agreement is not a merger of two parties’ programmes; it is an à la carte selection intended by the two parties to met the needs of the time.  For the media to desire an electoral pact is just their old preference for a tidy two-party system – when they can then go foraging for “splits”!  Has the media learnt nothing from the experience of the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly – both of which have had coalitions (or are those two examples too far away from London)?

Read more…

Public Service / Private Wealth Creation

The new government seems to believe that by cutting back on public services it can improve the wealth of the country.  I’m not convinced.  If the services are required they will be privately purchased by the economically able and distressingly missed by the economically less-able.  This will not necessarily improve the economy.

Two questions need to be addressed:

  • Public or Private: what is the difference?
  • Wealth consuming activities or Wealth creating activities?

I think the solution to the economy’s problems lie in the second question. But let’s kick the first into touch. Read more…

The Moat in our eye

I hesitate to write about this subject, but it is a discipline to try to sort out one’s thoughts.  Perhaps a few declarations are required first.

  1. Now he is dead we do not have to refer to Raoul Moat as an “alleged” murderer; unfortunately he can no longer be brought to trial for murdering one man and maiming a policeman and his own girlfriend.  Our primary sympathies should lie with those he killed or injured.
  2. I find the idea of subscribing to a Facebook page and adding messages of support for Moat decidedly weird.  That said a substantial number subscribed to the Facebook page in order to attack the idea of messages of support.
  3. I have previously had jobs which involved liaising with the Police; I found individual policemen as civil (or uncivil) as my own colleagues.  Apart from a single speeding ticket I have never been in trouble with the police.

That said I am uneasy about the whole “event” – and unfortunately “the hunting down of the gunman Moat”, did become a media event.  I don’t subscribe to the “good riddance” reaction to Moat’s death, I would far rather have seen him taken to court and convicted as the murderer that I believe him to be.  A court case would go some way to prevent the creation of a “myth” of the “anti-hero”. Read more…

The Aftermath II (of ?)

So discussions are continuing and the press are baying either for a government or for Gordon Brown’s blood.  They say “the markets” will take it very badly if we have not got a government by the time they open on Monday.

I would rather we took a few days longer to get a government that may last a few months longer – which is what happens elsewhere.  Meanwhile, the press should remember that the Queen’s ministers must continue the government until a new one able to command a majority in the Commons emerges.

As for the markets, they need to seriously chill out a little. Read more…

Greece: Crucible of Democracy – a lesson in Responsibility?

Channel 4 News tonight shows unrest in Greece with one protester saying why should she pay? – It should be their leaders for the last 10, 20 years who should pay.

Whilst the scale of the “Greek problem” massively exceeds the wealth of all their leaders for decades, the theory in a democracy is that “the people” elect their leaders and they should, therefore, be responsible for their choice.  Whilst it is possible that the Greeks have had a (geographically) mistaken belief in “La Dolce Vita”, they have also been in an ostrich like conspiracy with their leaders to ignore the flaws in their economic system.

Now their leaders are having to impose policies that were definitely not in any previous manifesto and the pain is severe; arguing about how the pain is distributed (“tax the rich”) will not change the fact that everyone is going to see a very significant drop in their living standards.  Is this the price for ignoring the economic facts of life and “voting with your wallet”?

So, if we have similar levels of debt (although thankfully more long-dated), and none of the parties are telling us the full facts about future taxes and upcoming cuts, how do we take responsibility?

Whatever our result and whatever the permutation of parties that make up the “government side”, it is unlikely that they will have a mandate for what so many experts say they will have to do.  Can we protest with the ferocity of the Greeks?  The Poll Tax riots, The Miners’ Strike, The G8 Riots, all say we can – but it will probably be just as futile, and the pain will hit all of us.

Tomorrow I will get a Conservative MP – no matter what happens, we have had one since 1924.  But I have to accept the result, “take responsibility for my choice”, and take the pain.  I am already feeling sick.

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