Friday, 11 November 2011

Happiness is the Little Big Society

St Wulfrum's Church

I think I've found the happiest place in the world. It isn't a Buddhists inner sanctum of calm nor is it a enchanted woodland populated by unicorns and fairies. It is a quite unremarkable church hall in Grantham. The event was to celebrate Bob Jeffreys’ 50 years of dedicated service to the choir of St Wulfrum's Church and, as a former Choirboy I decided I couldn’t miss it. On the 3 hour drive to the church I stopped in the usual roadside services; Costa Coffee, McDonalds, etc.  I was anonymous but thought nothing of it. It was only when I arrived at the church hall that I realised just how impersonal everyday life had become. Here I was, for all intents and purposes, after a 30 year absence, a total stranger and yet was welcomed as a friend and within minutes chatting with a cup of tea and all the cakes I could eat. The contrast between the impersonal commercially chained world and the friendly community welcoming any passer by was palpable. This is not to say that I'm against the likes of Costa coffee or Big Macs, I’ve had my fair share and no doubt will continue to do so, it's just that we must remind ourselves from time to time that there is a community out there which can give you far more than just calories and refreshment. Happiness and well-being is so intangible it can almost seem unreachable in today's fast-paced modern society but if we stop and look we will find that there are other St Wulfrum's Church Halls across the country which are ready to give not just the tea and cakes but also the all too elusive happiness which, in this day and age is increasingly difficult to find. As this is my Tory Story blog there is a Tory spin I can put on this. This is all to do with the Big Society and I think I’ve discovered that the reason why so many find it difficult to identify what the Big Society actually means. The irony is that it isn't big at all, it's small and difficult to see. It’s these small communities within communities watching out for each other working together to make life a little bit more bearable in these chastened times. By the way I was wrong, St Wulfrum’s church is far from unremarkable. It is the most amazing church you will find anywhere and dominates the Grantham skyline. If you’re ever in Grantham, when you’ve checked out Margaret Thatchers old shop, visit St Wulfrum’s, you won’t be disappointed.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Revealed - Labour's Economic Policy

A Big Black Hole
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Monday, 29 August 2011

Magistrates being populist - isn't that the whole point?


The Magistrate is one of the finest exports to the civilised world that England has created and the Prison Governors Association aren’t happy with them. They are calling the Magistrates’ approach to the rioters a feeding frenzy of sentencing. But they have failed to understand is that the Magistrates have not bowed to political pressure but have carried out their constitutional duty to reflect public opinion handing down sentences according to the law which has been broken. Here we have a person (or people) which come from the community, from all walks of life and from infinite backgrounds who sits as judge and jury to people from the community, from all walks of life and from infinite backgrounds. In short the Magistrate is the very embodiment of egalitarianism. 

The PGA would have a point if the Magistrates were hand-in-hand with the politicians and sentencing according to direct interference from on high but this is not the case. Since the beginnings of the riots public opinion was crystal clear that this was not the behaviour befitting of English Society. Seeing the masses appearing with brushes and brooms to clear up the mess left behind by the Neanderthals the night before is clearly a sign that we are, on the whole, a civilised society.  With such an outpouring of community spirit it would have been wrong for Magistrates’ not to have reflected the sense of outrage and in doing so have acted appropriately and proportionately. Contrary to the PGA’s opinion we should be grateful that the Magistrates’ are free to reflect public opinion in this way. Once a case escalates to the higher courts then it is only legal opinion that counts. 

We only have to look back to the proceedings against the killers of James Bulger who were handed down life sentences at the Crown Court and the judge ruled that they should serve only 8 years before being considered for parole. The then Home Secretary, Michael Howard, and the public at large, were outraged and he increased this to 15 years only to be overruled by the higher courts and the European Court of Human Rights. The result is that the perpetrators of one of the most heinous crimes carried out in the 1990s were released after only 8 years, their release being approved by the new Labour Home Secretary, David Blunkett. 

The fact that the prisons are full to bursting should be of no significance to the Magistrates’ opinion. The fact that legal niceties may interfere with satisfying the public's need for right, proper and proportionate punishment of offenders should be of no significance to the Magistrates’ opinion. And certainly the fact that the Prison Governors Association isn’t happy should be of no significance to the Magistrates’ opinion. Before writing this piece I spoke to a Magistrate friend of mine for his opinion of the PGA's statement. He referred to a recent desperate case of child abuse where he was absolutely adamant that he was going to sentence the maximum possible and refered the case to the Crown Court to do so. I asked him about sentencing guidelines to which he responded "stuff the guidelines, you would have done the same if you heard case". And this to me says it all. I didn't hear the case as I'm not hearing the cases of the rioters so it is up to the plucky Magistrates’ the last bastions of the judiciary who can truly reflect public opinion.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Bill of Responsibilities

Courtesy of Liberty Printers
tinyurl.com/6epcxuz
I saw something the other day which saddened me. A Blue Badge was placed on a dashboard of a car. Nothing unusual in that, there is everything right with giving less mobile members of our society a bit of break when it comes to parking. No, the saddening thing was that the badge had been padlocked to the steering wheel. There are things in life which need to remain taboo; apart from the obvious we don't queue jump, we don't say kittens aren't cute and we never steal from the disabled. It saddened me on two levels, firstly that the owner of the badge felt so insecure that they needed to padlock it but also, on a wider point, that society has become so impersonal and so devoid of any sense of responsibility that the theft of a Blue Badge is now very much fair game and in need of protecting as we now have to lock our doors even when we are in the house and we can't leave our car windows open, just a bit, in really hot weather.

Since the Coalition came to power there has been much talk about a 'Bill of Rights' in place of the Human Rights Act. An excellent move, as this will remove the whole issue of 'Rights' from the statutory arena. The Human Rights Act has done a great deal of good but its exploitation by unintended audiences has brought it into to disrepute and, like the News of the World, it has to go. My question is why stop at the 'Bill of Rights'. In fact why start at the Bill of Rights. My view is that before we publish a Bill of Rights we must first agree and publish a 'Bill of Responsibilities' and top of the list would be that everyone in society has a responsibility to respect everyone else; respect their property, their religion, their politics, etc, etc.

It's becoming a worn out phrase "you can't have rights without responsibilities" and perhaps this has never had a real meaning. But this is because there has never been anything to balance rights against. It should only be possible to exert your Bill of Rights if first you could show your regard and respect to a Bill of Responsibilities.

Bill of Responsibilities

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Give me your stick so I can beat you with it

I’ve been a Tory since the age of 9. It was 1979, I was in Grantham and in the town there was a buzz that a local lass was about to become  the Prime Minister. Since then my support has been solid but passive. Instead of active politics I entered a profession and chose to promote and represent that profession officially ending up as a regional Chairman. I made a decision a few years ago that I wanted to be an activist for the party. I resigned my Chairmanship to avoid any conflict of interests or diary clashes. This is where we come to the scandal of Union Reps, full and part time, being paid from tax receipts. We have Dominic Raab MP (member for Esher and Walton) to thank for this exposure and we need to support his every move until the practice is no more (read more, tinyurl.com/5r2oz7e).  At no time did I demand a wage or even time off to carry out my duties as a chairman of my profession, a profession entirely relevant to my day job so why should a Trade Union demand that its reps be paid by the taxpayer. The argument that some large private sector employers pay their union reps is a red herring. The private sector can spend its money how it wishes and we can choose not to buy their products and services in protest. Mr Raab needs to go the extra mile and introduce a Private Members Bill so Parliament can decide on our behalf whether or not to continue this archaic, "I'm Alright Jack" ritual.

Thanks to Mr Raab bringing this into the public domain the payment of reps is about to enter a new and hopefully more awkward phase. With the public sector strikes about to hit we will have to absurd situation that we the taxpayer will be hit hard by the strikes with the less well off hit the hardest, we the taxpayer will be paying for services we will not be receiving during the strikes yet we the taxpayer will be funding the those who want to perpetuate the strike! It's like giving someone a gun so they can shoot you. Back in June 2010 I predicted this public sector action (read tinyurl.com/6d6xf6j), I signed off this blog   

We can get the economy on track .... don't let the public sector screw it up!” 

so I say again .....

We can get the economy on track .... don't let the public sector screw it up!

Monday, 21 February 2011

I call on the Government to ..... make the Sun Rise

I was on the Labour Party Website the other day. I'm not thinking of joining in a Woodward/Davies style defection, I'd rather have my eyeballs tattooed with the words "Keep the red Flag Flying 'ere". I look to see what the opposition are saying so I can challenge my Labour Friends here in their heartland of Wigan Borough. You don't have to look in any particular detail to discover the shallowness of their policies and I have discovered their secret. Basically the Labour Party policy is to call on the Government to do what it is doing anyway (!?). Just this week we saw an attack on Andrew Lansley for treating the NHS as a commodity and many talk about NHS cuts despite the increase in spending. So a call from Red Ed not to cut the NHS budget will be answered in full. The homepage of labour.org.uk is demanding the Government spends on International Development. Again, another protected budget and another "victory" for Red Ed in getting what he calls for!

 I can't wait for their next call on the Government. Perhaps they will demand that the Sun must rise in the morning!

I call on the Government......to make the Sun Rise

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Bankers Bonuses or pave the streets with ...... carpet

Bankers bonuses have surfaced again. We were right to get angry in 2007 when the credit crunch went global. Bankers had been too comfortable in their risk taking and left nothing in reserve. As the saying goes "there are  none as blind as those who don't want to see". And this perfectly describes my own observations of the slow motion car crash of the financial merry-go-round. That was then and this is now. The truth is that banks are now performing well and better than expected in many instances. Instead of record losses and collapse we are now seeing huge profits. These profits have been made by doing exactly the opposite of what they did to cause the credit crunch. Cautious lending, retaining funds and steady growth. Yes, some would argue that lending is too cautious and growth too steady but, nonetheless, their fingers were burned and there seems to be an overwhelming desire from them to keep cool. What does this have to do with paving the streets with carpet? I'll explain. As I am not (yet) in political office I still have the luxury of courting unpopularity. Let's pay the bonuses in full and be glad about it. In fact let's encourage the banks to pay more! Many years ago I asked my Dad what he would give to charity if he won the pools. He said he would give nothing but would carpet all the streets in town. He was obviously being metaphorical but this was his attempt to explain economic dynamics. The carpet fitters would get a huge amount of trade, they would have to employ extra people, they would all be paid and they would spend their new found wealth. The shopkeepers would have to buy more stock to fuel demand and factories fill their order books to supply the retailers, etc., etc. I was gobsmacked, all this because some lunatic wants to carpet the streets! With Bankers being paid huge bonuses we get double bubble. They increase their spending power and, however frivolous, the money they spend stimulates the economy. As most of these recipients will be on the highest rate of tax, we, the taxpayer, get half the bonus as PAYE. Their frivolous spending will account for another 20% to the taxpayer in VAT. If the banks continue to refuse to be persuaded to lend more money then keeping the bonuses in the bank will add to their profits and we only get 27% of that as Corporation Tax. So withhold the bonuses and we get a smaller cut. The unpalatable truth is that the Banks MUST pay big bonuses, they are the only businesses that can.

Bankers Bonuses let's pave the streets with carpet

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Don't Shoot the Messenger

So today we have seen the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer making a fool of himself on Sky News. Red Ed's chosen one to lead Labour's front bench on the economy did not know the answer to a simple uncomplicated question about employer's National Insurance contributions. he obviously hadn't reached the chapter on NI in his Economy for Dummies he said he needed to read and probably didn't even know that employers had to pay national insurance. The immediate reaction is to lampoon the gaff and point fingers. No doubt he'll be getting more than his fair share of this next time he's at the dispatch box. On reflection, though, the biggest mistake Alan Johnson made was to accept the job in the first place. He is quite obviously out of his depth and this begs more questions about the man who put him there. The question in my mind is did Ed Miliband really appoint him when the smart money was on Ed Balls? The appointment of the former postman, union leader and self confessed Marxist suggests more than a light touch from the Union bosses to push Red Ed into putting him in this top position. As I predicted in my blog "Shadow Shadow Cabinet - What a Balls Up" (http://tinyurl.com/shadowshadow), the real Shadow Cabinet isn't the one full of Labour MP's, it's the one full of union bosses. And now we hear that Ed Miliband's efforts to appoint himself a chief of staff has failed at two hurdles with James Purnell and Lord Falconer. Will he be turning to his Shadow Shadow Cabinet for guidance?

I think we have seen the first signs of the Shadow Shadow Cabinet sending out the messenger but we should not shoot him, we need to aim our sights higher.

Don't Shoot the Messenger


Saturday, 8 January 2011

Fiddles, Fat Cats or Felons?


I’ve been reading the comments in the blogosphere about the recent jailing of former Labour MP David Chaytor over his expense fiddles. This was passing me by until I read one particular blog from a Journalist I have long admired and will again admire when I’ve got over it. The blog “It’s not hard not feel a bit sorry for David Chaytor” (http://tinyurl.com/38snova) has absolutely missed the point. We have no obligation to feel even the slightest bit sorry for him and shouldn’t feel guilty for not doing. Like the rest of us we were horrified by some of the fiddles going on with the MP expense system. Most MP’s were whiter that white, a few were bending rules and a few more were breaking the rules – we got angry, the scandal exposed and MP’s learned from it. A very VERY few went beyond a fiddle and were downright criminal. A nose in the trough is wrong but David Chaytor didn’t just bend rules or exaggerate claims. He didn’t just accidentally claim for something which wasn’t a legitimate expense or flip a house to max out his allowances. He lied, he cheated and he stole money from the tax payer. There are no Party Politics here, he’s a criminal, convicted by the courts and he’s being punished just as Archer and Aitken have been before him.  The big difference here is that he is an MP and that does make a difference. He is not only a convicted fraudster but also an abuser of the trust his electorate placed in him and the court seemed to have reflected this in the stiff sentence and not giving him full credit for his belated guilty plea.

Three other Labour MP’s have opted for a trial and maintain their innocence. If they are found guilty they have better get used to the taste of porridge.