Sunday, 28 November 2010

Penny Wong: The Return.

Back in July Australian Labor Senator Penny Wong backed her new leader's position on marriage equality with these words:

"On the issue of marriage I think the reality is there is a cultural, religious, historical view around that which we have to respect. The party's position is very clear that this is an institution that is between a man and a woman."

She did not say "This is the party's view and I respect that. However, I hold a different view." No she said nothing about believing in equality here did she? Perhaps she didn't want to rock the boat.

Fast forward a few months:

''There has been some commentary which has confused my position of not commenting publicly on this issue with my position on the actual issue itself,'' she said. ''I have had the opportunity to advocate for equality at the highest level of our party and within our party's processes as I do today. And I will do so again at the next national conference.''

Oh, I see. You've been quietly working for equality behind the scenes but were just too modest to be upfront about your beliefs? Perhaps the real reason is that you believe less in equality and more in Labor's continued electoral success and didn't wish to advocate publicly for your countrymen's freedom because it might embarrass your backwards leader. Yes, Penny Wong puts partisan victory ahead of her actual political beliefs.

Senator Wong criticised the Greens for seeking change by "shouting about it", rather than sensibly advocating for it.

"Sensibly", here means "Shh... don't rock the boat, we'll get there one day if we all just shut up and do as our heterosexual overlords say". Screw that Penny Wong. The Greens, and the Democrats, have the balls to stand up for something they believe in. It might not be politically astute, but at least it's honest and upfront.

Penny Wong remains very, very wrong.

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

A Royal Wedding And An Inconvenient Truth

So, full disclosure as always, I'm a royalist. I know, it's mad. I've tried being a republican! I've gone through my political beliefs and found there is no sensible reason for me to be a royalist. I've told myself this in the sternest of words. But I just can't help myself. I have an irrational loyalty to Her Majesty. This reluctant royalism does mean I'm very sympathetic to republicans. I agree with you on the political, constitutional and democratic arguments. You win.

However after the (wonderful) news of Prince William's engagement to Kate Middleton yesterday I saw so much stupid on Twitter that I feel compelled to correct some extremely loose understandings of this country's constitutional arrangements with regards to the Royal family's finances.

Don't think of this as some royalist argument in favour of keeping the Royal family, it's not. This is simply a post to put some facts straight. After you've read this, you can have no excuse for continuing to spread these lies.

Why are we paying for an over the top Royal wedding during this time of austerity?

Simple answer: we're not. As this article states (although ignore the bit at the end it's very misleading and I'll show why later), it's likely this money will come from the Civil List, Her Majesty's "reserve fund" (savings from previous Civil List payments) and/or Her Majesty's personal wealth. After the 1990s media disasters, the Palace has learnt it's lessons. It is unlikely to ask the Commons to approve any further spending during an austerity drive, as it has from time to time in the past.

What if it does and doesn't the Civil List get paid from our tax money? Why are we propping up these rich, unelected toffs?? 

This is a false presumption. I know, it's commonly said the Royal family "cost" every person in the country 50p (or more precisely now, 69p). This is not true. Certainly the "costs" that the Government pays are about £40 million. These come from grants for maintenance and from the Civil List. However, these costs don't come from our taxes! When George III ascended to the throne, it was decided that, in return for surrendering the Crown Estates to the Government, the Government would pay his personal living expenses through the Civil List. The profits the Government makes far exceed the amounts given in grants, through the Civil List and through security costs. So the Royal family is actually a profitable venture for us and they can, on the accession of a new monarch, change those arrangements. So it might be best we keep them on side during this age of cuts! 

But hasn't the Civil List been stopped?

Yes. To make the historic arrangement more explicit, the Government will, from 2013,no longer be paying the Civil List or grants but instead pay a yearly one-off payment called the Sovereign Support Grant specifically from the profits of the Crown Estate. In the meantime, the Royal finances have been reduced greatly. 

So. Please stop carping on about the costs of the monarchy. If you want to get rid of them, not only will we have to pay the costs of a President but we'd also lose our profits from the Crown Estate. We'd be looking at a couple of hundred million pounds lost to the Treasury. So remember that and stick to making sensible democratic arguments against the monarchy. Financial arguments make you look ridiculous.

No more "Stop the wedding, build a hospital instead" type tweets please. Deal?

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

Sunday, 14 November 2010

NUS Decapitation Plan Flawed (In So Many Ways)

If you're looking to express all your anti-Coalition anger at Lib Dem MPs sometime in the next few years, then the NUS Decapitation plan could (almost) be called sensible. Revenge is a dish served cold they say, and it'll be freezing by the time this succeeds.

If however you're looking to fight the cuts now and trying to avoid a rise in tuition fees then you're pretty much buggered if you'd set your sights on the leadership of the NUS.

Firstly their plan to use the right to recall, which is still not even available for use right now, is flawed in that the right of recall is for use in cases of serious Phil Woolas type breaches of trust between an MP and their constituents (if not it makes the idea of a representative democracy sort of defunct, and we head into delegate territory). It's not going to be useful for getting every politician who votes a different way to the one promised during the election, otherwise every single politician will need to be recalled (and regularly).

Secondly, what does this plan achieve?

i) it's not going to stop the rise in tuition fees from going through. Only lobbying and building as broad a, dare I say it, coalition as possible MIGHT achieve that.
ii) it's unlikely to succeed, as the stringent requirements for a recall will probably not be met
iii) if it did succeed and the Lib Dem MP was removed, what's the best scenario? A Tory MP who will happily screw over students or a New Labour MP who will not care either way, it'll just depend on which way the political wind blows at the time. This progresses the cause of students, how?

Thirdly, it spells out to every sensible person that the NUS isn't interested in students or tuition fees (it's policy on a graduate tax is less progressive than what most students actually want!) but is acting as an offshoot of the Labour party. It risks losing the support of the sympathetic non-student population, like my Mum, who dislikes the Coalition, hates tuition fees BUT who remains firmly unconvinced about Labour following the last 13 years.

For the sake of the fight against tuition fees, the NUS needs to make a stand now fighting against EVERYONE in Parliament who has allowed this policy to exist be they Labour, Tory or Lib Dem. Otherwise it's about as useful as a chocolate teapot.

Don't be fooled AGAIN students.

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

Thursday, 11 November 2010

For The Fallen - Laurence Binyon

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres.
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables at home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain,
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Phil Woolas: Really Labour? Really??

When Harriet Harman said "It is not part of Labour politics to try to win elections by saying things that are not true." regarding the decision of an election court to overturn the Oldham East and Saddleworth election, I thought it wasn't enough. I made my feelings known that I felt her, and other senior Labour figures, complete disregard for the racial hatred stirring content of the leaflets was unacceptable.

Now I know why she tempered her words, and I feel somewhat sympathetic to her plight. She tempered her words because even what she did say (that Phil Woolas' lying was bad enough to make him person non grata in the Labour party) was controversial enough with her Parliamentary colleagues. They have attacked her for abandoning a "colleague" so "quickly" (!).

To us Liberal Democrats, from our partisan position, this is laughable. But it's understandable that the Labour party stuck by Phil Woolas during the court procedures. However, once he was found guilty, they made the right decision to disown him.

The Labour MPs belief that it's unacceptable to have a court overturn an election result seems silly given it was based on a law passed by Parliament. This wasn't a court creating a new law or interpreting the law in a new and different way. This was a court just going by the book.

The other part of their argument ("it ain't over until it's over") is that Phil Woolas is still planning to appeal the decision and that the Labour party should stick by him until all possible avenues of appeal are explored. This would be fine if it wasn't for the content of the leaflets he issued during the May campaign. They can read them for themselves. By defending Phil Woolas they are, in part, defending these leaflets. They must realise this.

I saw many Labour activists getting angry with their MPs last night, I saw more than a few former Lib Dem voters saying things like "Thanks Labour MPs for reminding me that I shouldn't vote for your party ever again" and I saw a lot of left wingers wondering how MPs could get so passionate about defending a discredited party member when they don't seem quite so passionate about fighting "the cuts".

Harriet Harman called this correctly and the Labour MPs have called it very, very wrongly indeed. With letters like this, they are in danger of annoying their base, their new post-Coalition voters and just about everyone else.

I just hope the angry Labour membership are able to convince them to change their mind before they get any deeper into a pit of burning stupidity.

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

Can You Hear The Students Sing?

Today students, lecturers and supporters will march against the proposed rise in tuition fees. As someone who had to leave university because of Labour's tuition fees made it unaffordable for me (principally as they were introduced without even allowing families to start saving for them!), I can only offer them my full support.

I may not be a social liberal, and definitely appreciate the Orange Book way of looking at things, but I am with the left wing of our party on this issue. Sara Bedford's excellent post on the subject says all I would want to say, and I'd suggest you read it immediately.

I think the Coalition is doing some important and worthy work, but fighting tuition fees is part of our parties core values. We must remember not to lose sight of that. Even if it means aligning ourselves with hypocritical Labour MPs who slam us even when they INTRODUCED the bloody fees in the first place. Even then, we must defend students.

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Child Detention - A Shame On Our Party

The continuing practice of locking up children in immigration removal centres is now not likely to be stopped until March next year (nearly a year after the announcement that they would be stopped).

Whilst it's great that Labour's disgusting policy is being overturned eventually, it's completely and utterly unacceptable that it be allowed to continue for even one day more.

We must loudly and clearly make it heard that we will not put up with bureaucratic delays on issues of basic human dignity. Cruelty against children should not be allowed to continue based on a timetable! I'm writing to my MP today to make my feelings plain. I urge you to do the same.

End Child Detention Now

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

Monday, 8 November 2010

No More Apologies - The Return Of The Cleggist Uprising

Remember the euphoria among Liberal Democrats in the lead up to the General Election this year? The excitement, the hope and the expectation would be dashed as the results came in showing an increase in vote but a loss of seats (typical FPTP result!). And to be honest we've been on the back foot since then. Every move we've made has been criticised from the left (TRAITORS!) and the right (OPPORTUNISTS!). And being the nice people we are, many of us have taken these attacks to heart, tried to make excuses, and ended up attacking our leadership to prove our "progressive" credentials.

I say no more! I've decided it's time for us to stop making excuses and apologising for things we're doing, to remember exactly what sort of people are making these attacks and start defending our record. The Liberal Democrats aren't just here to defend the policies of the Coalition, we're here as a real alternative to Labour and the Tories and as a party that is now ready for Government.

Remembering who we are up against is sometimes difficult. The bleeding hearts of Labour supporters seem so genuine that sometimes you really can feel like the bad guy. The claims of Lib Dem attacks on the poor and the needy hurt, because that is not what our party is about. But Labour's holier than thou attitude is betrayed by their record. Just look at the current furore over "forced labour for those on Jobseekers Allowance" (something I have my own concerns about and will blog about separately once the full policy is released on Thursday). You'd think the Coalition was reintroducing slavery given how manic some on the left have been about it. Where were these people when Labour introduced almost exactly the same policy two years ago?? Did these people betray and attack the poor and needy by voting for Labour at the last election based on this record? I'd say so.

Our policy to raise the income tax threshold has been adopted and during every year of the Coalition Government it shall be increased. That will help increase the take home pay of the lowest paid and help make work pay. We've restored the earnings link to pensions. We've introduced the pupil premium. Of course there have been things the Coalition has done that harms the most needy in our society. But when did Labour ever think about them as they poured our money into PFI schemes (that increased the costs to us and helped give massive profits to private companies)? When did Labour care about the students they now claim to represent when they introduced the tuition fees (that helped keep people like me out of university)? When did Labour care for the asylum seeker and the migrant when they were locking up their children, denying them appeals, sending them back to homophobic regimes if they were gay and sending out nasty leaflets attacking other races and religions???

By all means express unhappiness at some of the things the Coalition is doing, but remember not to let Labour forget their own part in backing business over people and pandering to bigots over keeping to their supposed values. Some in the Labour party have recognised this and called for change, but as an outsider looking in this call seems not be heard by most.

So we must remind people that Labour cannot be trusted. We've made compromises because we didn't win the election. We've only been able to stop the worst excesses of Tory ideology because we are the smaller partner in the Coalition. What excuse did Labour have when it lorded it over us all with large majorities? We've not broken promises because we DID NOT WIN nor does our party form a Government on it's own. Has Labour apologised yet for all it's broken promises, on electoral reform, on tuition fees and all the rest? No, and it's time to remind the electorate of that. Labour cannot be trusted.

And then we have the Tories. Our Coalition partners have been rather chummy of late haven't they? That's because they hope (and thanks to Labour and the left wing media they are succeeding) to pin all the blame and pain for their cuts on us! It's a typical tactic of the larger Coalition partner in coalitions across Europe. Don't let them get away with it. Whilst we're happy to support cuts where they are necessary, the Tories have embarked upon slashing and burning the state with a terrible glee. The bad stuff in the Coalition agreement isn't Liberal Democrat policy. It's Tory! We need to remember that we aren't the ones calling for benefit cuts for the disabled or forced labour for the unemployed. It's the Tories! That illiberal cap on immigration? It's not us! Remember our policy on immigration at the election, far more liberal and fair than Labour could even dream of. Of course we didn't want to impose this cap.

We must remind people that the Tories aren't "liberals". They don't believe in a "small state". They believe in a "no state" free for all , where the religious and the rich can dictate terms to the poor and the secular. They don't like Europe, they don't like immigration, they don't like individual freedom to defy social norms. They wish to use the poor, not to help them. We have, very successfully, kept most of these tendencies under control by being part of the Coalition and we should celebrate that. Imagine what the Tories would've done without us. It's time for us to stand up and remind people that if they don't like what the Coalition is doing, there is another way: vote Liberal Democrat next time! Labour will say all the right things in Opposition but their past record shows how they will not do anything different to the Tories, they'll just package measures more nicely. And the Tories on their own will just do more of the same. Much more.

We need to stop hiding in the dark pretending the Coalition isn't happening. We need to stand up and remind people that things can be different. If you are an Orange Booker or a Social Lib, you know the Tories and Labour are both wrong. We must present our policies once more and show people we are the progressive, sensible choice for our country. And we must stop apologising and start shouting from the rooftops: Vote Liberal Democrat. Be proud of what we've achieved in the Coalition and remember that there is much more we could achieve if only people would give us the chance.

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

Thursday, 4 November 2010

No Other Place To Go

****RANT AHEAD. Always take my rants with a little pinch of salt****

There's no denying it. My personal political compass has shifted significantly since this years general election. My beliefs in individualism, a reduced Government and political reform have strengthened. My admiration (if not acceptance) of socialist ideals, my belief that Government can be a force for good and my tolerance for "the game of politics" have all been crushed.

Mostly the last few things have been destroyed by the reaction of the Labour party to the Coalition. Suddenly, as if by magic, the Labour MPs have converted to worrying about issues that they didn't care about in Government. AV isn't good enough, they scream. We'd never cut like this, they rant. Our regime of spying on and controlling British citizens wasn't all that bad, they lament (okay, so they haven't changed there then!). I have been sickened by this hypocritical attitude, when I was hoping they'd stop playing politics and start working for a better country.

From the party that introduced tuition fees:

Labour's Gareth Thomas said the fee hike represented a "tragedy for a whole generation of young people". Source

Really? Surely their introduction, by YOU, was worse?? And the progressive left, people who I had plenty of time for in the run up to the election when they were open and honest about falling out of love with the New Labour party, have lapped it up like loons. The Labour party hasn't changed! They are just saying what you want to hear, and when they get back into power they will do exactly what the Tories would do. I cannot believe the progressive left are so easily bought.

Let's be clear: The New Labour party was complicit in torture, they set us up as partners to one of the most right-wing US presidency's in history, they took us into a war that was wrong and which lead to the deaths of 100,000 to 1,000,000 INNOCENT civilians, and they made themselves subservient to the interests of the rich. The same people who did these things are still in the party and some are even in the Shadow Cabinet. How can anyone with an ounce of decency not only continue to support this band of murderers (for that is what they are, gloss over it all you like... they helped KILL civilians for no just cause) but try to guilt trip us Liberal Democrats over supporting a Government that breaks a few Lib Dem promises and is making some rather painful cuts??

The Tories are, of course, no better (they are the sort of party that likes to pretend it supports a small Government and individual freedom but really they just want low taxes for the rich and for everyone else to do exactly as they are told. Moralising interference is what the Tories dream of, hence their love of the "Big Society" and it's charitable and religious supporters). I couldn't bring myself to vote for the party of little Englanders if my life depended on it.

The Greens are an honourable party but their political beliefs are now so out of sync with my own I couldn't support them without being a total hypocrite.

So I find myself still a Liberal Democrat supporter. A believer in liberty, but who believes that doesn't mean being heartless like libertarians and Tories, where else is there for me to go? I'm not completely happy with the Coalition. But I am totally devoted to this party's values, and I'm not prepared to put up with Labour's lies any longer. My sympathy for Labour supporters (on a political level of course, I'm not going to be mean to them on a personal level) is now gone. Criticise me all you wish... if you don't support a party who has blood on it's hands. Guilt trips from Green party members accepted.

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist