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Jun 172017
 

The election result is in, and the Tories have failed; specifically they failed to increase their majority and indeed no longer constitute a majority. Yet the alternatives have failed too.

The likelihood is that the Tories will form the next government propped up by the reactionary Unionists from Northern Ireland. We can crow over May not getting her increased majority, but she is still in number 10. Which means more years of Tory misrule.

So what went wrong?

Well we could argue that factors such as different attitudes to Brexit, doubt over the Labour leader’s leadership, etc. But there are two big factors.

Firstly the media lies by the Tory press (which seems to be pretty much most of them). Whilst the press is owned by a clique of super-rich Tory supporters, the good news is that the newsprint industry is slowly fading into irrelevance – no doubt helped by their ridiculous bias. And tasteless journalism – the sort of which led to the Sun being boycotted in Liverpool.

Secondly, and perhaps the biggest aspect is that a large segment of the working class has bought into the big Tory lie – that they support the ordinary working family and small businesses. In reality Tories support the super rich with their tax cuts, and don’t give a damn about the working class. The real working class.

Which is not what most people think of when they hear that phrase; it is not just the horned handed agricultural labourer and the worn out factory worker, but it also includes office workers, lawyers, “knowledge workers”, etc. It is everyone who works for a living, Somehow workers in the Tory heartlands are fooled into thinking that the Tories are on their side.

What the Tory alternatives need to do is to persuade these deluded workers that voting Tory helps only the super-rich, and not by painting themselves a fetching shade of blue (as New Labour did).

Apr 302017
 

Short answer: NO!

One of the infuriating things I come across is the notion that final salary pension schemes are generous; it seems that a generation of Tory propaganda has persuaded people that such schemes were wildly over-generous and completely affordable. Of course many of those doing the persuading are taking advantage of those “generous” pension schemes.

What it is easy to forget is that many of those final salary pension schemes collapsed because successive governments turned a blind eye to the private sector looting pension scheme surpluses and panicking when the surpluses turned into deficits. In other words when pensions were profitable they were affordable, but whenever a company suddenly had to contribute more than it expected they were suddenly too expensive.

Now don’t get me wrong – with increasing life expectancy there are problems with funding pension schemes, and we can decide that they are too expensive, or not. But if a pension scheme was perfectly reasonable in the 1970s, it doesn’t suddenly become overly generous in the 21st century.

As it is, we have “decided” that rather than share wealth out amongst the working-class, it should be kept in the hands of the already wealthy.

Of course we could always decide to revisit that decision and spend more time thinking about it.

Apr 222017
 

May continue to cut public sector salaries year on year.

May continue to pillage the public services we all use to pay for the bankers mistakes.

May continue to make tax cuts for the rich.

May continue to cut welfare payments to the poorest families in our society causing a huge increase in child poverty.

May continue to stumble and fumble around during the Brexit negotiations in all likelihood resulting in a poor deal for Britain.

May continue to antagonise the non-English countries of the union increasing the likelihood of a break-up.

May continue to add powers to the secret policemen until we’re living in a police state (hint: it’s not that far off).

Time to look past May to June and choosing anyone other than May.

May 242015
 

Apparently there is some senile old fart who has decided to try and turn the clocks back to the 18th century and wants to bring back hunting with packs of ferrocious animals desperate to rip apart cute fluffy animals (with the assistence of a few hounds). It would seem that wannabee toffs have been nagging their Tory glove-puppets and David Cameron has caved in to their whispers.

For those who were too young back in the day, or for those who have forgotten, we used to let inbred morons ride around the countryside on horses (often crashing through land they didn't have a right of way over) with a gang of yapping hounds chasing around something they could kill – foxes, deer, peasants (well perhaps the later wasn't too common). During the Great Debate on hunting (which wasn't that great really as their excuses for hunting were really quite pathetic), the hunting lobby tried to convince everyone that they were only hunting for the good of agriculture. 

Which had us all rolling aboutt the floor laughing of course.

Perhaps the most ridiculous comment about the prospect of removing the ban on hunting comes from the Countryside Alliance who clain that removing the ban will eliminate the risk of their supporters from being prosecuted for "accidental" fox killings whilst they are playing at hunting. A bit like claiming that murder should be made legal because if I fire off a shotgun repeatedly in a crowded supermarket, I might "accidentally" kill someone.

It's strange how easy it was to ban certain cruel "sports" (such as cock-fighting and bear baiting) which were more popular with the working class whereas the "sport" of the wannabee toffs is trying to make a comeback. Anyone would suspect that class differences are still important today.

But yes let's bring back hunting with a couple of small changes :-

  1. Hunts have to turn in their hounds in favour of Chihuahuas.
  2. They have to release and hunt Grizzlies.

That should either make hunting less popular, or at least reduce the number of hunters to an appropriate level (zero).

Just to pierce a few pre-conceptions about those opposed to hunting :-

  1. I don't like animals much.
  2. Whilst I live in a city, I grew up in a semi-rural area
May 092015
 

Well if you are a Tory supporter nothing went wrong; indeed you must be cock-a-hoop given that you have a Tory government when 64% of the voters wanted something else! But if you are against the Tories, you have to be wondering what went wrong.

The most obvious problem is the broken medieval electoral system we have. For practical reasons it made sense in the days of horse-drawn carts to ask each area to appoint a representative in parliament. But today we should be able to design an electoral system where MPs represent people not places, and where everybody can say their vote helped appoint someone to parliament.

As an example if all the votes for the Green party were distributed amongst the smallest UK consituencies (you did realise they are different sizes didn't you?), they would have ended up with 23 MPs instead of just 1! The Tories would end up with 240 seats rather than 331, which basically means that the Tories are very good at distributing their supporters.

In my case, my vote went towards a loser which means I'm "represented" by a politician whose policies and attitudes I find totally repulsive. There is nobody in parliament that I voted for. And the same applies to a huge swathe of the population who are now feeling alienated by the whole process.

And that is something that can and should be changed.

The alienation caused by the first past the post system is probably one of the causes of the low turnout; what is the point in voting if you live in a "safe" seat?

The most obvious difference in this election is the wholesale take-over of Scotland by the SNP, which surprised everyone. Which leads the new Tory government to a bit of a problem – with just one MP in Scotland, they essentially have no mandate to govern Scotland. 

And even in England, the Tory majority is nothing to crow about – a majority of 5 is what would have been called a "fragile majority" in the past. A Tory leader with such a slim majorty is likely to run into problems if they try and ram through a radical programme.

The Tories managed to persuade many of us that a bit more self-flagellation is necessary, and punishing the poor and unfortunate is good for the country.

The effect on the Liberal Democrats is both surprising and entirely predictable. Joining a coalition with the Tories was always a mistake in terms of future elections – it was always seen as helping to put the Tories into power, and many Liberals were far less accepting of this than they would have been to see the party join a coalition with Labour. What the Liberal Democrats failed to sell was the idea that their presence in government helped to amerliorate the Tory extremes.

Labour's failure was probably down to several things :-

  1. The failure to demolish the myth of Labour's economic incompetance that "caused" the recession. It was the global failure of the banking system that caused that failure. Labour's spending was actually reasonably restrained until the need to rescue the banks arose.
  2. The failure to come up with a true alternative to the austerity plan of the Tories. Given the level of government debt that would be a hard job, but it could be started by pointing out (quite rightly) that simplistic austerity makes the debt problem worse.
  3. The inability to persuade that most voters are actually "working class". There is a historic problem with the class system by which people think of the working class as cloth-capped horned handed manual workers of one kind or another. In reality, everybody who works for a living is working class.

Of course whinging about it is not going to change things. We have five years of Tory mismanagement and punishing austerity to accept now.

Apr 162013
 

In recently announced plans, it appears that the government is going to change the primary school curriculum to include (amongst other things) teaching the times tables up to 12. Now I’m not sure about the other plans, but the insistence on the 12 times table sounds a little to me like an old-school Tory frothing at the mouth declaring that if they had to learn the 12 times table then everyone else should do as well.

Why did we learn the 12 times table? Yes, me too! Who knows, but it may have something to do with 12 inches to the foot. Which of course is totally irrelevant these days given we have sensible decimal based units.

There are those who say that the bigger the times table you learn, the more useful it is. True enough, but once you get past the 10 times table, the incremental value diminishes. And there’s one thing that people forget: Learning the times table is just about the most tedious learning it is possible to do and each extra increment to the size of the times table we teach children should have a damn big incremental value.

Or to put in other words, the larger you make the times table, the more children get turned off maths. Is it worth turning children off maths for those extra 2 numbers 11 and 12? Far better to avoid putting off those children and just teach the 10 times table. If you know that, and a few tricks, then any multiplication is possible.

And frankly a lot of simple arithmetic tricks can be sold as “cheats” which is undoubtedly a nifty way of getting children to have fun whilst learning maths.

 

 

 

Feb 052013
 

So we’ve seen in the last few minutes that as expected a whole bunch of Tories have voted against the proposal to legalise gay marriage. Frankly nobody expected the “hang ’em high and whip ’em” branch of the Tories to vote for gay marriage.

Of course the media and the anti-Tories are gleefully announcing that the Tories are split down the middle and that this might just be the beginning of the end. Of what I’m not sure.

Much as I would like to see the Tories self-destruct, it is very unlikely to happen. This was a free vote – where MPs were encouraged to vote with the conscience rather than according to the party whip. Whilst it is entirely possible that a party who wants to get something through that will be unpopular with their own members, will resort to a free vote, it is a move to be encouraged.

After all, it would be nice to see MPs always voting with their conscience!

Nov 062012
 

Today came the news that Nadine Dorries (a Tory MP) is being suspended as a Tory (not an MP) for appearing on the reality TV show called “I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here”.

Now I’m hardly the most ardent Tory supporter in the country – in fact I can’t stand them, and a quick look indicates that I’m even less likely to like Nadine’s favourite hobby horses. But I believe all this fuss is a little over the top, and perhaps there is a certain amount of snobbishness getting involved here. To a certain extent this is understandable, as the reality show in question is hardly in the calibre of “Question Time” or some other serious current affairs programme.

And there is the concern of who will do her job, when she’s off in Australia getting filmed doing ridiculous stuff on camera.

But we do not know that Nadine hasn’t already or plans to make suitable arrangements to ensure that any urgent demands by her constituents are met in some way or another. And what about all the other part-time MPs? Is Nadine the only MP who has ever taken time off from her duties to do something else? Let’s not have double standards here.

And similarly, there have been plenty of MPs on TV shows of one kind or another. Is it just the type of show that is of concern here? Are other politicians concerned that an MP appearing on this show will bring politicians into disrepute?

If so, I have news for those other politicians – politicians have such a poor reputation that this appearance on a reality show is likely to improve their reputation. And I’m not a fan of the show in question.

Nov 042012
 

Those sneaky Tories have announced plans to limit child related benefits so that families with large numbers of children would only get benefits for the first two. With this, they have implied that “out there” is a large population of benefit scroungers who make tons of cash by simply breeding like rabbits.

And of course when you put it that way, it sounds like a great idea. Why should those in work pay for the comfort of those too lazy to do anything other than breed like rabbits?

Except those benefits are for the children involved. It is always worth remembering that any benefit cuts in this area will have a negative effect on the children involved. Or do the Tories plan to take into care any “surplus” children by force?

And even if there were a large number of benefit scroungers benefiting from the “generous” child related benefits, they are almost certainly far outnumbered by those who are not scroungers, but need benefits for genuine reasons.

What about the carpenter who whilst he earns a reasonable wage to support himself, his wife, and a single child, suddenly finds himself the father of sextuplets ?

What about the house husband whose wife previously earned big money as a hot-shot barrister, had 6 children over a number of years and who suddenly finds himself along with those six children after his wife is killed in a road accident ?

Or the single mother who works hard at a cleaning job, but finds it hard looking after her three children that her feckless husband left her with ?

The Tories have come up with a scheme to punish the poor, and yet have sold it in such a way as to get those poor to support it. What you could call a masterpiece of Machiavellian politics.

 

Jun 022012
 

Apparently the government has announced plans to stop charging council tax for those who live in so-called “granny annexes”. The opposition has quite rightly pointed out that this is an interesting position to take as there has long been a council tax exemption for those living in granny annexes who are over 65, or who are impaired in various other ways.

For those not familiar with granny annexes – and this may come as a surprise to many Tories, but not everyone is familiar with the concept – if you have a large enough house, it is possible to set aside part of it as a separate dwelling. Usually to give some member of the family some level of independent living – traditionally used for a live-in grandparent. Thus the term “granny annex”.

It may come as a bit of a surprise to many Tories, but most ordinary hard-working families live in homes where space is at a premium. Indeed having the spare space to create an annex could be a definition of “wealthy”. Or in other words, Tories have come up with a nifty way of giving a tax cut to the wealthy whilst trying (and failing) to sound like they are helping ordinary people.

Or to put it another way, why are we giving council tax exceptions to grannies and disabled people? If someone over the age of 65 lives in their own flat they have to pay council tax, but if they live in an annex in their family’s home, they don’t. I’m not against the idea that those who are somewhat constrained in their income should get some sort of discount on their council tax, but getting a discount because you have rich relatives?

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