May 232014
 

In my opinion, there is one clear thing from the local election results: Lazy journalism. UKIP merrily announced before the election that they were expecting to cause a political earthquake, but the results have been nothing like that at all. Lazy journalists picked up on the earthquake phrase and misused it to talk about the results.

UKIP has done quite well; they’ve even exceeded their internal prediction of getting 100 councilors. But they have not done nearly well enough to cause a political earthquake. That would be more along the lines of getting enough councilors to push one of the big two into third place (or lower).

The numbers aren’t all in yet, but UKIP looks to have won 155 council seats which is still less than half of the next biggest party (the Liberal Democrats on 399 seats), despite the fact that the Liberals were slaughtered – they’ve lost more councilors that UKIP has yet are still in third place. In fact both the Tories and the Liberal Democrats lost more councilors than UKIP gained, and Labour gained a lot more than UKIP.

And UKIP controls not a single council. It’s still an “also ran” party.

Ignoring the fact that UKIP is the kind of party that nobody with more than two brain cells wants to see in power, UKIP is in the position of being a minor party. A single-issue party that has yet to break into the mainstream. If they continue to progress at the rate they are doing (unlikely in the extreme), they may start winning councils in another decade.

No earthquake in sight.

May 192013
 

Probably not … this is hardly the first time that the Tories have had a spat over membership of Europe.

But when one of them grandly announces that they are all united over Europe, you know there’s trouble. You hardly need to announce that you’re united when there’s no trouble.

When you’ve got Lord Howe announcing that David Cameron is running scared over Europe, and rumours of someone close to the top using the phrase “swivel-eyed loons” in connection to grass-roots party activists, then you have a party with definite issues. In addition to the normal doubts over Europe, Tories have a streak of unrealistic traditionalists within their party – who could quite well qualify as “swivel-eyed loons”.

The loons want to hark back to a time when Britain had an empire, hung serious criminals, flogged less serious criminals, and a few other policies from the 19th century. And the thought of co-operating to any extent with the old enemies of France or Germany raises the hackles.

Well they are entitled to their views, and I’m entitled to borrow a phrase and call them “swivel-eyed loons”. And good luck to them; they will be the cause of the Tories becoming unelectable for another decade or so.

And of course there is the other half of the party – those with more than one brain cell – who realise that such archaic world views are really not helpful. Could the division cause the Tory party to splinter? Well there’s always wishful thinking.

But realistically there is already a place for disgruntled Tories to head off to: the UKIP party. You could almost say that the split has already occurred and that we’re watching the painfully slow death throws of the old Tories.

 

Feb 082013
 

The news is swamped at the moment with the story about horse meat being found in various cheap meat products that were labelled as containing beef. Interestingly this has crowded out the news that pork has also been found in Halal meat products – which could be more of a concern to a certain segment of the British population than unexpected horses turning up.

To summarise :-

  1. If you’ve been tucking into cheap meat-based meals then you have probably had a bit of horse. That’s not good, but don’t get too excited – a horse isn’t too much cuter than a cow. Besides, did you really believe that the ultra-cheap products you were buying only contained premium quality beef? It’s a surprise that the contaminant wasn’t found to be rat!
  2. It isn’t just horse meat. Those who don’t eat it may be surprised, but horse meat is eaten quite widely in Europe. European regulation very carefully distinguishes between horse meat intended for human consumption, and horses carcases originating from pets or race horses who have received certain drugs as pain killers.
  3. Horses can be given bute (a pain killer), but only if they are not intended for human consumption. Bute was previously approved for use by people as a pain killer, but approval was withdrawn after it was shown after prolonged use to have certain adverse health effects. Europe goes a long way to avoid allowing human consumption of horse meat contaminated with bute, so it is unlikely in the extreme that any food in the UK contained any. Even if it did contain bute, it is still unlikely to have a significant adverse effect.
  4. If you’ve been eating meat products contaminated with pork, it is worth remembering that god (if he or she exists) is likely to point the blame for that squarely where it belongs – with those who labelled the product incorrectly.

There is a serious issue here. Food products should only contain what is listed on the ingredients list, and companies who cheat should be punished in some form. It’s a curious coincidence that we happen to have a government packed full of Tories who insist that government regulation is a bad thing, when government regulation is the only thing that protects us :-

  1. It’s government regulation enforcers who found this stuff out.
  2. It’s only government regulation that makes the sellers feel guilty rather than shrugging and asking “What did you expect for a pound?”.
  3. It’s only European regulation that means that the horse meat you’ve mistakenly eaten is almost certainly safe to eat.

But it isn’t necessarily Findus or Tesco at fault here. And when you come down to it, that horse meat in the freezer was pretty tasty yesterday before you knew, so shouldn’t it be just as tasty today?

And if you object to eating horses, please remember that whilst being ground up and sold as a beef burger is hardly the end we would want, being ground up, sold as a beef burger and then being thrown away is even worse!

Dec 012012
 

So Leveson has finally released his report on press regulation, and as quick as a flash the Tories and the chief Tory (David Cameron – the Prime Minister) have announced that they will have nothing to do with it. They prefer some form of self-regulation; in other words a toothless organisation which the press routinely ignores or sticks a middle finger up to (i.e. a modified version of the old Press Complaints Commission).

Nothing could demonstrate more clearly that the Tories will bend over backwards to support any kind of business (including the demonstrably corrupt), and ignore the needs of the public. Without reading the report, it is still possible to determine that the recommendations are sensible merely by looking at who opposes it – the Tories, and the press themselves. Just about every other politician is right behind Leveson.

The big trouble with self-regulation (at least of the press) is that it has been tried again, and again, and still fails. As Leveson himself reports, we have had 7 inquiries into press standards over the last 70 years. The press regularly acts “as if its own code, which it wrote, simply did not exist”.

Or in other words, when the press barons say that they will behave now, we know they are lying seeing as they have promised that before and have yet to live up to their fine words.

Interestingly the Tories seem most concerned about Leveson because they believe that the government and parliament should have no say  in the regulation of the press. Thus demonstrating that their reading comprehension is perhaps at the level of a 10 year old.

As Leveson himself says :-

Not a single witness has proposed that the Government or Parliament should themselves be involved in the regulation of the press. I have not contemplated and do not make any such proposal.

Personally I am not opposed to self-regulation in general; at least until that self-regulation has been demonstrated to be useless. But in practically every case where an industry or professional group has regulated itself, it has failed to do so properly. We have trusted the press to regulate itself and ultimately it has failed to do so.

Statutory regulation of the press is very definitely something to be wary of – let the politicians have a say in how the press is run and we would never have heard of the MPs expenses scandal! But this is not what Leveson is suggesting; he is suggesting that an independent body regulates the press with statutory authority.

Frankly if a regulatory authority wants to punish a rogue editor – perhaps with a thousand lashes of the cat – it needs statutory authority or the rogue editor is likely to raise the finger and walk out.

Finally, and the main reason for this post; time to give the Tories a bloody nose by telling them that we want the Leveson recommendations implemented. Visit the petition site and tell them so!

 

Mar 222012
 

You know anyone would think the media isn’t capable of adding up to more than 10 without taking their socks off given all the fuss about the so-called “granny tax”. By which they mean the gradual elimination of the increased tax allowance that older people get once the increased personal allowance reaches that level.

Either the complaint is that pensioners are paying the same level of tax as working people, or that the tax allowance for pensioners is not going to go up by the level of inflation for a couple of years. Neither are exactly catastrophic for pensioners – the poorest pensioners are not going to reach that level of income anyway, and those that will be effected will hardly notice the difference.

After all there is no guarantee that the tax personal allowance will increase by the level of inflation every year … neither the normal personal allowance nor the “bonus” allowances that older people get on top of their personal allowance. And why should older people get a special taxation allowance merely for being older ?

Eliminating that special case will make the taxation system just a little bit simpler – something to be encouraged.

I’m more likely than most to throw rocks at the Tories and their policies, but I don’t see this as being worth picking up a rock for. There’s quite a few other things about the recent budget to get excited about.

Like reducing the income tax rate for the wealthy from 50% to 45%; whilst the Tories are quite possibly right about it not being a great revenue raiser, it sends out the message that the Tories are on the side of the wealthy. Whilst they have also done a bit of tinkering with tax avoidance, and added a top rate of stamp duty (on residential property purchases), reducing the income tax rate for the top earners feels wrong.

So why is the media making more fuss about the non-issue that is the “granny tax” ? Someone more suspicious than me might suspect that the media is deliberately drawing attention away from the income tax issue – just how much do these journalists earn anyway ?

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