Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Labour's Best Kept Secret? Food Banks

Seven for a Secret Never to be told
As if to temper the good news that the economy is improving, unemployment falling and business confidence is higher than ever, the left are trotting out the line, again, that more people then ever are using food banks. The obvious answer is that this is because they are there. Not wanting to be a hard luck story but there was a time when I would have dearly loved to have had access to a food bank but they simply didn't exist until the the early 2000's. But even though they existed throughout Labour's economic crisis from 2007 the benefits agencies were not allowed to refer people to them. This policy of the Labour government merely denied vulnerable people access to very much needed essentials. This is how Labour claim that food banks were little used during their time. To be able to make this claim meant that many families were denied the generosity of those who give to food banks and kept them reliant on state handouts. But haven't we heard this over and over again? The fixation on achieving NHS targets resulted in 'Targets First' policies in our hospitals rather than patients first. The Labour policy of 'Don't look for problems and you won't find any' strikes again and we get the scandals of Mid Staffs, Morecambe Bay and many others. Labour's reckless behaviour in the Ministry of Defence led to a 38 billion black hole and troops not equipped to fight a hugely difficult campaign. All in all Labours 13 years of Govern by Denial has been brought to an end by a government not afraid to make those difficult decisions. The result is that we will start to live within our means. Food banks can actually feed those in need, troops are properly equipped and protected and patients come out of our hospitals better then when they went in. Lesson to Labour, do you see what a bit of honesty can do.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Happy BIrthday, Mrs T

Today is the Birthday of Margaret Thatcher. She is sadly no longer with us to celebrate but her legacy is here, and here to stay. Even Ed Miliband, socialism personified, shies away from using the 'S' word in speeches. Without Margaret Thatcher's assault on the destructive forces of socialism, Red Ed would be politically free and unshackled to resurrect the power of the union barons, eye watering taxation and tax payers subsidising loss making nationalised industry. The reason he can't do this is because Margaret Thatcher made such a complete job of exposing socialism for what it was. It's the duty of all Conservatives to make sure that Margaret Thatcher's legacy never dies and vote for a Conservative Majority in 2015. This would be a perfect birthday present.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Andy Burnham - Resign Now for the Good of Your Health

Despite our spats (Link: None so Blind) I like Andy Burnham, he's my local MP, he's probably even a friend, but boy is he in real trouble. Although a scared rabbit in the headlights he's come out fighting but it will be futile and only serve to prolong the agony for him and, more to the point, for those who suffered so badly under Labour's administration of the NHS. The health portfolio can be the best and worst brief in cabinet in equal measure. Get it right and you'll get the admiration of all those around you. Get it wrong and your friends, while loyal at first, will back away leaving you to flounder, crash and burn and you'll be very, very lonely. Andy Burnham would be as well to remember one of his predecessors, John Moore. He was a rising star within the Conservative Party in the 1980's. He'd caught the eye of senior cabinet figures and even the Prime Minister herself. He was rewarded with promotion to Secretary of State for what was then the combined Department of Health and Social Security. A massive budget and a responsibility to match. A year into the job, and maybe one or two rash spending promises to the Star Chamber, he was in real trouble. Hospitals were struggling in the very cold winter of 1987/88. What some saw as mismanagement caused headline grabbing scenes of patients in corridors and on trolleys waiting for treatment. His cabinet colleagues deserted him and he was left to flounder on his own. He was stripped of the health portfolio leaving his as Secretary of State for Social Security before being completely sacked a year later. His ministerial career was over and talks of him being a future party leader had long evaporated. He didn't fight the 1992 election and, despite being given a peerage, is yet to give his maiden speech, politically the job broke him. History has a habit of repeating itself and Andy Burnham is just confirming that he is no exception. My message to Andy Burnham is to recognise that things went horribly wrong on his watch and be sorry for the fact that so many have suffered. After this, as yet uncharacteristic, contrition he may, just may be able to rebuild a political career. 
 Unless you come clean, you'll become a broken man.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Labour's 2015 Manifesto - A Living Fossil

Coelocanth - a Living Fossil
This is a picture of a coelocanth, a species of fish thought to have gone extinct millions of years ago but found alive and well in the 1930's; a living fossil. Discovery of a once extinct species should herald excitement but at the Labour Party Conference the once extinct socialism reappeared as a living fossil. Much comparison was made to the 1983 Labour Manifesto or 'the longest suicide note in history'. However when I read the 1987 Manifesto, cheesily titled 'Britain will win' it was clear that this less notorious Labour manifesto was more in tune with Ed Miliband's vision of Britain with him at the helm. Here the thrust is not so blatant as the 1983 manifesto. There is no loud and proud socialism but a quiet and careful use of language which suggests a back door conversion back to socialism without uttering the s word. But it meant the same thing, Tax and Spend (Link to - Revealed: Labours Economic Policy).

In 2013 Ed Miliband declared that continuously taxing Bankers' Bonuses and that amorphous cohort 'The Rich' would be the route to socialist salvation. In 1987 the tools were different but the job was the same. How familiar does this sound .....

  • Putting directly into generating 300,000 jobs the money that would be used up by the Thatcher government on its 2p income tax bribe.
  • Adopting the same practice as most successful industrial countries and companies, by prudently borrowing £3 billion for useful wealth generating national investment. 
 (Labour Party Manifesto, 1987)
In three word summary Tax and Spend. Looking at future manifestos in1992 onwards the language has become less socialist. In his speech, Red Ed Miliband heralded a reversal of this trend, reviving the living fossil of socialism from extinction. The speech was not as socialist as the 1983 manifesto but was every bit as socialist as 1987. If the reversal continues perhaps in 2015 we'll see the words written in the 1945 manifesto. 
"The Labour Party is a Socialist Party, and proud of it"

Friday, 13 September 2013

Rooms to Spare for Raquel Rolnik

Raquel Rolnik, the doyenne of all things housing has condemned a non-existent tax without speaking to the cabinet minister responsible for housing benefit. Not once did she attempt to investigate or comment on a very real problem which has real impacts on public health and quality of life, overcrowding.  As a young newly qualified Environmental Health Officer one of my first jobs was to visit a house where there was a report of a notifiable disease. The young boy had Hepatitis A and was quite poorly. The following day I had to go back to the same house, not because of him but because there was another report of another person at the same address and the following day another. The reason for the repeated visits and the family's ongoing suffering was clear. There were three generations and nine people in a two bedroom council house. The infectious disease was spreading rapidly through the overcrowded house with living rooms used as bedrooms and even one sleeping on a camp bed on the landing. They desperately needed help but, despite the council being aware of their plight, were unable to offer anything as there were more deserving cases ahead of them. This is not a blog about benefit scroungers demanding mansions. This was a working family looking after each other in need of help.Unfortunately I met too many families in a similar plight all for the want of extra room which they would have been quite happy to pay rent for. Did Ms. Rolnik visit any such families, if she did then she certainly didn't give them the voice they need. Instead she chose to comment on her own political agenda it was up to Grant Shapps to point out the indignity of overcrowding something which is lost on those intent on pursuing a political agenda to satisfy their own insatiable ego.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Sticks and Stones

So Russia think we are a small Island that nobody listens to. The press, especially the BBC, had a field day suggesting this was a sign that Britain's influence in the world was on the wane. Even the briefest research shows that this is not the first time. Let us remind ourselves what the French General's report to their Government before they surrendered to the Nazi Tyranny. 

"In three weeks England will have her neck wrung like a chicken". Churchill responded "Some chicken, Some neck"

Another famous Frenchman in another century said that we were;

"a nation of shopkeepers."

Napoleon was paraphrasing Adam Smith who wrote about a nation governed by shopkeepers. This is ironic as we were once governed by a shopkeeper and she said;

"I always cheer up immensely if an attack is particularly wounding because I think, well, if they attack one personally it means they haven't a single political argument left"

Nuff Said

Saturday, 27 July 2013

There's none so blind as them who don't want to see

It started with the news of the Royal College of Surgeons damning report into the University of Hospital Wales, under the control of the Welsh Labour Government. Patients dying on waiting lists, children given hearing aids because no surgeons are available to fit grommets, and grid locked A&E. It reminded me of the time when, despite Tony Blair's promises, we queued round the block to get a dentist, couldn't get a GP appointment more then 48 hours in advance and patients played second fiddle to the almighty targets. It was only when Labour MP, Anne Clwyd compared UHW to Mid Staffs that I tweeted ...

 "If you want to see what the NHS would've been like if still under control then look at NHS Wales now"

The problem with Mid Staffs and other NHS Trusts now under investigation is that whenever a conscientious member of staff wanted to speak up on poor standards they were told to shut up. When a staff member left the NHS because they just could no longer see suffering, they were told to leave and shut up. If anyone dared criticise the NHS in any way, they were told to shut up. I dared to speculate how a Labour Government would be managing the NHS in England had it won the last General Election and Andy Burnham told me to shut up. Old habits die hard.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Conservative Party Policy Should Be To Increase State Benefits ... Massively

Leigh Conservatives InTouch, Spring 2013
My latest leaflet exposed an astonishing waste of public money. Wigan Council spent over £600,000 on building and then demolishing a car park which before being built we all knew would not be used. Pounding the streets of Leigh and talking to people about my scoop I was even more astonished by some of the responses. Most, of course, were horrified. Some couldn't care less. When explaining on the doorstep the sheer waste of Council Taxpayers money the brazen response of "I don't pay Council Tax, why should I care"  took me aback. In a way, this person was right. He got his Council Tax paid for him with a 100% reduction. 

Since the replacement of Council Tax Benefit with the Council Tax Support more people who never paid before are now paying at least something. In the case of Wigan Borough this is 20% unless you are a pensioner or have children under 5. For those who've never paid and are now having to pay something I sense a change of mood and attitude to the way the Council raises and then spends our money. For those still not paying any Council Tax the 'couldn't care less mood' persists. Part of the answer comes with Universal Credit. Ironically, Wigan Council is one of those chosen to pioneer the Universal Credit but, sadly, this does not include Leigh. But Universal Credit does not go nearly far enough. It has to include Council Tax. The principles behind Universal Credit are undermined by leaving Council Tax off the list. ALL benefits must be paid in cash and all taxes payable in full by all. Only then will ALL residents of Leigh actually care that their Council has wasted £2/3 million on a useless project.

Monday, 6 May 2013

UKIP announces its Shadow Cabinet

A Fruitcake

Leader and would be Prime Minister   - Nigel Farage
Deputy Prime Minister                          - Nigel Farage
Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer - Nigel Farage
Shadow Home Secretary                     - Nigel Farage
Justice Secretary                                 - Nigel Farage
Shadow Foreign Secretary                  - Nigel Farage
Chief Secretary to the Treasury           - Nigel Farage
Business, Innovation and Skills           - Nigel Farage
Defence Secretary                               - Nigel Farage
Transport Secretary                             - Nigel Farage
Overseas Development                       - Nigel Farage
Health Secretary                                  - Nigel Farage
Education Secretary                            - Nigel Farage
Environment and Rural Affairs             - Nigel Farage
Work and Pensions Secretary             - Nigel Farage
Leader of the House of Commons      - Nigel Farage
Leader of the House of Lords             - Nigel Farage (he'll work out a way somehow)

Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change - Department Abolished

Departments for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will be merged in a new Department run by the Secretary of State for Nigel Farage.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Ed Miliband's interview - The Directors Cut

After this week's car crash interview on Radio5 Live the director's cut is released ...

Q. How would you reduce the deficit

Q. How would you avoid cuts to public services

Q. How will your VAT cut be funded

Q. And if the Euro crisis continues 

Q. What is your policy on membership of the EU

Q. Is this your answer to everything

Q. What is your star sign

Q. If you were a type of cheese what would you be

Q. That's the end of this interview

Q. Can you please leave now Mr. Miliband

Q. Haven't you got a home to go to

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Vote UKIP get BNP?

Back in 2011 I was campaigning in Leigh to fight the Council elections for the Conservative Party. Leigh is not exactly rich pickings for us but I'm very pleased to have raised the Tory vote from a low of about 10% to a steady 30% and rising. I'm also quite chuffed the BNP were soundly beaten. Then in 2012 something strange happened. The same candidate contested the same ward but as an independent. This was pointed out to me by my Labour opponent and we both realised what was going on. BNP had its hiatus a few years before. The year that, thanks to Proportional Representation, Nick Griffin became my MEP. Since then the BNP vote has collapsed and my BNP opponent suddenly became an independent. It almost worked. I campaigned hard and beat the 'independent' into 3rd place but his masquerade as an independent had gained him votes. Looking at some of the UKIP candidates it looks as though those with a right of right view on politics are still abandoning their natural home of the BNP and finding a new home in UKIP. Nigel Farage cannot be blamed for those with vile views and opinions gravitating to his party but he can be blamed for doing nothing about it. To now he appears in complete denial. A message to Mr Farage is please learn from history. The BNP grew out of the slump in the polls experienced by the National Front. As if to repeat history the BNP is slumping in the polls now as they did in the 1980's except this time they are finding a surrogate party in UKIP

Monday, 8 April 2013

Passing of a Local Lass Who Did Her Dad Proud

This is a picture from google streetview of 25 Westgate, Grantham. It's now the HQ of Grantham Taxis. Before that it was the HQ of Grantham Antiques where my mum was the shopkeeper and I lived in the flat above the shop with an outside privvy and sharing a room with my brother. Today there have been many tributes to a great Grantham lady with similarly humble beginnings, Margaret Hilda Thatcher, who lived with her family in a flat above a shop. The very things that made her a Conservative also shaped my Conservative values - hard work is its own reward, the state should be a hand up, not a hand out and a determination that people should be in charge of, and responsible for their own destiny. Mrs Thatcher took full control of her destiny rose from the daughter of a Grantham shopkeeper living in a flat above a shop to becoming the greatest peacetime Prime Minister we've ever had living in the other flat above the shop, as she affectionately called her Downing Street digs. My being the son of a Grantham Shopkeeper living in the flat above the shop you see in this picture I know only I can determine where I'll end up but one thing is sure Margaret Thatcher is one tough act to follow.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

That's Why Britain Needs Trident

North Korea Won't Spare Manchester
I was on holiday at the Woolacombe Bay holiday camp on the 9th September 2001 and a news flash announced that "a light aircraft has flown into one of the World Trade Centre towers".  Of course what transpired was the horror of the terrorist attacks which took almost 3000 lives. After the towers collapsed Osama Bin Laden was quick, unusually quick, to deny any involvement and it's no coincidence that there has not been such a devastating attack again. It's difficult to get into the mind of a mindless terrorist like Bin Laden and his followers but the person who can justify such an atrocity could also seriously think that the US would contemplate using nuclear weapons in retaliation. To the ordinary westerner this would be as unthinkable as flying passenger jets into giant skyscrapers, to the crazed Jihadist maybe not so. Bin Laden's reaction to the attacks made it clear that he did not expect them to be as destructive and world changing as they were. Maybe for a moment he feared that Afghanistan would become only the second country in history to suffer a nuclear attack. Maybe, just maybe, even the most hardened Al Qaeda terrorist has curtailed such attacks because they fear nuclear reprisals. It's ironic that we waged war on a country to rid it of weapons of mass destruction that turned out to be non-existent. In North Korea we have a country which is horrid to its people and openly shows the world hard evidence of its nuclear programme and we show restraint. A timely and convenient reminder to the world that we need a nuclear deterrent that can be launched from anywhere in the world to anywhere in the world. This is what Trident gives us and we must not be left with aging and inferior technology than those of despotic states. But strong nuclear deterrents also deter non-nuclear threats from the warped minds of those who might think we would actually use it.
That's why we need Trident

Friday, 22 February 2013

Leigh East to Eastleigh

The Grant Shapps Pixie
The last time I was in Eastleigh I was on business doing some work for the audit commission. This was my latest client until its doom was signaled by the Government in the great bonfire of the quango's. Then Chris Huhne became the latest Steward of the Chiltern Hundreds and Eastleigh beckoned again. I went down the Eastleigh to play my small part in the campaign. Any news coverage concerning Eastleigh had an obvious focus on the fever pitch electioneering and this was the image I had in my head. Driving into the town there was no doubt an election was going on, huge signs for Lib Dems and the Conservatives lined the road into town. What struck me after then was just how little the local population cared that there was an election going on even one as hotly contested as this. The main focus for the vast majority was shopping, eating, just about anything except politics. To them, the election is something which is happening on the 28th Feb and until then, not interested and why should they be, getting on with life is much more important. This confirmed what I have always known, that politics is not a mass participation sport. Canvassing and campaigning over the years confirmed to me that people vote mainly out of habit, then on issues and lastly on conviction. It's only the political classes who take a deep interest in party politics. This also means there is everything to play for in Eastleigh. The voting by habit proportion I put at roughly 50/50 so the campaign needs to be about trying to break the habit amongst a very small number of voters. It's nigh on impossible to identify who would break the habit so the saturation approach needs to be taken and the Tories are taking that exact approach. When I was leafleting in Eastleigh at the weekend a good many houses had Conservative leaflets already by the door and when I was telephone canvassing a good many had not yet made up their mind (or at least that's what they told me). I'm confident the campaigning will work, not because I'm a dyed in the wool Tory but because this is exactly the approach I adopt in Leigh East, a very safe Labour seat in Wigan Borough. Saturation campaigning has lifted the Conservative vote in Leigh from about 10% to almost 30%. If the same campaigning technique I've witnessed in Eastleigh creates a similar shift then the seat is a dead cert.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

I Love my Kids, that's why I Support Equal Marriage

The votes have been cast and the Commons have agreed that marriage is for all and not just the straight community. I have a feeling that the vote has been won but the debate has only just begun and this is far from the last we have heard of this. Even before the moment David Cameron very publicly declared he is for gay marriage because he is a Conservative I instinctively knew that it was wrong to deny the right of marriage to couples who want to commit their lives to each other. From the start my friends in the LGBT community had my complete and unconditional support. It was during the debate, however, that I had my most profound epiphany moment, I support equal marriage because I love my kids. Love for my family is also unconditional. Should any decide they want to commit to a same sex partner my Christian values and beliefs would insist that God plays a part in their partnership. It would be their choice, of course, but if they had the same insistence then they should be allowed to have their marriage witnessed by God in Church. For the state to effectively forbid this is an abhorrence and has no place in a modern society. As for the picture, this is St Mary's Church in Leigh where I was married and all my children baptised. It would be great if they were also to get married here, no matter who they fell in love in with.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Harry Potter and the Colliding Worlds of the EU

The Real Harry Potter
To some Harry Potter is a fictional character in a rather successful series of children's books. Harry Potter is also one of England's finest Barristers (although he is Scottish) and presented a staggeringly good BBC TV series of documentaries on the development of English Common Law. In this he explains that Common Law, despite being a bit loose fitting at first, slow to react and notoriously non-prescriptive develops into a solid body of law with checks and balances to see justice done "beyond reasonable doubt". What's more he explains the story of English Law is never ending and self repairs where faults are found. My final Harry Potter point is that our system of Law is unique in Europe. The majority of the EU operates under a more codified and prescriptive framework. The European system is tested not by an adversarial "one verses the other" system but by inquisitive examining magistrates. I'm not suggesting one is better than the other. Both serve their purposes having been developed from their different histories. I am saying, though, that when they are pushed together one is not compatible with the other. When the embryonic European Community came into being back in the 1950's it only comprised 6 nations. With Britain's membership vetoed in the 1960's the whole membership remained under one fundamental codified legal system and so the European Directives, Regulations, etc which were drafted were easy to assimilate into their national law. In 1973 the EEC welcomed its newest members including, for the first time, a Country whose legal system was based on Common Law with its adversarial courts and binding court judgements. We hear much criticism of 'new European Regulations'. Much of these regulations are nothing of the sort as we are often referring to European Directives. Contrary to poplar belief Directives are not laws which us individuals need to comply with, they act as instructions to member states to bring in regulations through their respective national Parliaments. This works well in most of the EU which have codified, prescriptive laws and is exactly the way Directives are written. European Regulations are direct regulations on EU citizens and are merely brought in with a rubber stamp Act of Parliament which we are treaty bound to enact merely stating that it is an offence not to comply with the EU Regulation, no separate regulations are required. The system of Directives and Regulations are completely incompatible with Common Law and this must be the key negotiating point for David Cameron in the run up to a Referendum. Firstly, the European Regulation as a legislative tool must be scrapped altogether. It is wrong that binding legislation can be made for imposition on a Sovereign nation. Secondly, the UK must be permitted to apply Common Law principles when complying with European Directives. Working in Environmental Health I see a plethora of European Directives being 'enacted' as regulations all too literally. The prescriptive nature of Directives is an affront to our broad based system of primary statutes shaped by events through Judicial precedent. The UK must be allowed to demonstrate compliance with European Directives without having to bring in prescriptive legislation. Existing legislation, perhaps backed by robust codes of practice, must be allowed to be considered as compliance with Directives without the need for new regulations. A great deal of Health and Safety Regulation would never have become law had this been the case. The detailed, prescriptive regulations we now have can almost all be replaced with the single 1970's Act of Parliament, the Health and Safety at Work  Act, which is still in force and doing rather well. Such a fundamental amendment to the way the EU harmonises its legal requirements would require a leap of faith by those countries which are unfortunate enough not have Common Law. But it was a blind leap of faith taken by the UK all those years ago in which we shaped our legislation using codified law. Future negotiations by David Cameron need to put this right and make Common Law relevant in a Europe where it is just not that common.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

UKIP -Back to Obscurity

In 1987 The Sun newspaper ran a story under the title "Nightmare under Kinnock" telling what a disaster a Labour government would be to the country. In 1997 the nightmare started on a slow burn and the Labour Government sleep walked the country into financial oblivion. In this final part of a series of blogs the nightmare under a UKIP Government predictably unravels and self destructs.

The referendum campaign was now seriously derailing. "Keep UK In" campaign was plain and simple, vote to stay in the EU and negotiate from the inside. The "out" campaign was less organised. Factions started to appear even before the referendum question was published. Nigel Farage, the Prime Minister, made the Government position clear that he would be supporting an exit from EU and start negotiations for a unilateral trade agreement. His front bench publicly held the party line but it was clear that not all were convinced the EU would just roll over and let the UK negotiate without joining EFTA. The backbenchers were far more vocal insisting on a clear statement that the UK would lead talks to quickly form a Commonwealth Free Trade Agreement and others wanting EFTA membership. Farage moved quickly in an attempt to bring party unity and announced continued talks to bring about a Commonwealth Free Trade Agreement which the UK would play a 'key role' avoiding any suggestion the UK would lead the talks given India's dominance. He attempted further placation by prematurely announcing UK's membership of EFTA as an interim measure prior to CFTA membership. This was quickly thwarted by EFTA themselves. Lichtenstein in particular were concerned that the Vaduz Convention allowed free movement of people across member states. This could potentially mean the UK, with its population of 60million, would swamp smaller countries pointing out the combined population of all EFTA countries is only a third of the UK. With EFTA now ruled out and the EU now making it clear that any trade negotiation would only be with the UK as an EFTA member the options were closing. With the referendum looming Nigel Farage, upbeat as ever, had to campaign on the basis that we would exit from the EU and go it alone with no agreements laid down. Britain, initially at least, would be laid bare to tariffs and EU states protecting their own industries against British exports. This was denied by UKIP, now moving their position from "They need us more than we need them" to one of "Their bluffing, let's call their bluff". The referendum went ahead as planned, as laid out in statute. Just as the UKIP government wanted the question was a simple in/out. The campaign had split the "out campaigners" into a number of factions. The official government line was now confused with exit from the EU clear but with a very uncertain prognosis. The referendum result produced a narrow but clear victory for the "In" campaign. The Government accepted the decision of the electorate but was under considerable and very vocal pressure from the backbenchers. Their argument was that the UKIP General Election manifesto clearly had exit from the EU as its core policy. However, with their energies and focus on the referendum the economy was showing signs of faltering and with their inexperienced ministers and MP's the infighting quickly became unsustainable. Using the failure to win public support on a key manifesto pledge Nigel Farage went the Palace to resign as Prime Minister and requested the Queen dissolve Parliament. The General Election took place and Nigel Farage became the newest Crown Steward and Bailiff of the three Chiltern Hundreds of Stoke, Desborough and Burnham.