Monday, December 13, 2010

Minority X-Factor Winner

Interesting voting results from the finals of the X-Factor:

Matt - 45%
Rebecca - 39%
One Direction - 13%
Cher - 4%

Shock! Horror! Matt wins with less than 50% of the vote and the country accepts it? Does this mean that the UK is happy that the person with the most votes wins..?

I suppose it's just another reason to say No2AV

Friday, December 10, 2010

Protesting for Dummies

Keep to the planned route

DO NOT follow other people like sheep - you are an intelligent student. If you start walking over broken-down barriers, it should give you an inkling that you're going in the wrong direction. Turn around and ask a policeman where you're supposed to be.

Parliament Square was not the planned route of #dayx3 and after continuous violence against the police and property, the Square became a crime scene.

Whenever this happens, you cease being a protester and become either a witness or perpetrator and are part of an official crime investigation. Think of it as CSI London.

From here on in, you will find you're not in Kansas anymore. Don't bother complaining as you should have been somewhere else.

Don't get involved

If you see a gang of people wearing hoodies and balaclavas starting to rush towards a police line or smashing their way into a building, DO NOT follow them to see what's up and then complain when you get hit by a police baton.

Getting cool photos to upload to your Facebook page is a really silly reason to be anywhere near trouble - even if you have got a new mobile you want to show off.

The police will have restricted vision because they're covered in paint; have had continuous verbal abuse thrown at them; along with sharpened posts (which are better known as spears), steel cages, concrete blocks and snooker balls. They will not be happy-chappies. Keep away from them.

Similarly, if you see a line of police horses, they are not out on a hack - they are there to scare the bejesus out of you. If a thin line of police are being attacked by thugs, they will charge only as a last resort to protect the line.

You may not see the reason for the charge, but there will be one - and they don't tend to give out warnings. So if you find yourself nose to nosebag with a police horse, you are in the wrong place - move to the edge of the crowd and find somewhere else to sit it out.

Bring your Common Sense

If someone is injured, accompany or carry them towards a police line (that isn't being attacked at the time) and ask for medical help. DO NOT ring 999 because you're missing your last train home (or someone nicked your snowman).

Follow @CO11MetPolice on Twitter so you don't miss any instructions. They will tell you where they will set up toilet and water facilities if the containment will be in force for some time.

There is no excuse for urinating against statues of figures that fought to protect your right to protest. Your face - or builder's bum - will be in all the next day's papers and you will be arrested because your ex-girlfriend/boyfriend will shop you in (if you've ever had a partner that is).

Be prepared for the long haul

Boredom, being chilly or becoming peckish are not excuses for leaving a containment. You're the one that didn't follow the planned route, so you're not going anywhere now. It was your choice. Stop whingeing.

The police are not information desks and are only doing what they're ordered to do. You'll probably know more about what's happening than them because they tend not to check their email while they're avoiding a barrage of missiles.

They won't think about letting you go until the children have stopped their tantrums, so keep warm but don't start burning national monuments or other people's property to do so - burn your own banners. Hopefully, you were sensible enough to bring warm clothing and gloves. I would advise against bringing a balaclava unless you want to be targeted by a police baton.

Containment is a way for the police to get all of you into a single, secure area. It is likely that if you are contained, it means that there is either trouble elsewhere that requires more immediate attention, or that a slow release is being planned. This is for your own benefit, to weed out the thugs, so they don't end up on your next protest. Be patient - it will takes hours and hours and hours... and you will miss your last train. Sorry about that.

While you're waiting, keep in mind that everyone who kept to the planned route is now watching you freeze your proverbials off from the comfort of their sofa with a steaming Pot Noodle, so it's probably best not to be there in the first place, eh?

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Do students know what they're protesting about?

I admire the student protesters. It's great to see young people having an interest in politics. This will hopefully spark an increase in voter turnout of 18-24 year olds, which has been pretty dismal to say the least.

The only problem I have (apart from the violence) is that many of the demonstrators seemed to be so misinformed. Even this morning - one day before the vote - I was contacted by someone calling himself a "students' union professional" who had no idea that £9,000 was only going to be charged in exceptional circumstances.

If I were a student, I would make sure I knew all the facts and was protesting for the right reasons. So here's a few fallacies the student union keep bleating about and the truth behind them:

Everyone's tuition fees are going up to £9,000 per year

No. Universities wanting to charge more than £6,000 will have to undertake measures, such as offering bursaries, summer schools and outreach programmes, to encourage students from poorer backgrounds to apply.

Universities Minister David Willetts says universities will only be allowed to charge fees of £9,000 in "exceptional circumstances", which he said might mean if they had high teaching costs, or if a university was offering an intensive two-year course.

Students will have a lifetime of debt

No. If the loan hasn't been paid off within 30 years, it's automatically written off.

If students are being charged more, they will pay back more each month

No. The total amount paid off will of course be higher, but the repayment per month will drop considerably.

The threshold at which graduates have to start paying their loans back would be raised from £15,000 to £21,000.

Graduates would pay back 9% of their income each month above that threshold. So at £21,000 this would equate to around £7 per month.

Students from poorer families will be priced out from going to university

No. Maintenance grants will rise from £2,906 to £3,250 for students from households earning less than £25,000 and pupils who have been eligible for school meals could get up to two years' worth of fees paid by the government under plans being considered.

In most cases, this means they would only have to take out tuition fee loans for their third and final year of study.

UPDATE: CCHQ have just released this website

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Students v Suffragettes

The 18th November 2010 was the centenary of Black Friday.

In the summer of 1910, an all-party group of MPs devised the Conciliation Bill, which would extend the right to vote to around one million wealthy, property-owning women, and it passed its second reading by 299 votes to 189 but on Friday 18th November 1910 the PM, Herbert Henry Asquith, refused it further parliamentary time.

In response, Mrs Pankhurst led a deputation of 300 to the Houses of Parliament. The police obstructed them and a violent skirmish ensued. Over 100 were arrested and many were injured. The event has ever since been referred to as Black Friday.

During the 3 days of violence, 285 arrests were made, 75 women imprisoned, many were injured and 3 later died from their injuries. As the Government continued to break promises, so women's fury and impatience increased, and the WSPU [Women's Social and Political Union] resorted to damaging property including window-smashing raids and arson. Altogether, over a thousand women went to prison.

Read more about the suffragettes on the CWO website

The events of Black Friday were a public relations disaster for the government, including the Home Secretary, Winston Churchill. The press took the side of the suffragettes, printing pictures of police assaulting unarmed female protesters and the actions of the police were greatly criticised.

Women were taking a stand against a male-dominated world, protesting the Victorian belief that men were more intelligent than women and that a woman couldn't possibly be trusted to sensibly choose a candidate in an election (or, even worse, stand for election herself).

Step forward 100 years.

School children and students rampage through the streets of London. Most are on a jolly so they can say that they were there; some are out to cause as much trouble and damage as possible; and the rest believe that they are being hard-done by and want to protect further education for the future.

The latter, I have no problem with. The first I encourage to stay at home and study instead. But it's the minority that are misunderstood.

They are not anarchists; they are not communists; nor are they revolutionaries. They are angry because they're teenagers and their hormones are overwhelming them. Bless.

As every parent of two different sexed children will tell you, girls go through the "I hate you!" phase a lot earlier than boys do. Boys tend to wait until they get a sniff of independence, then go overboard, getting wrapped up in anything that sparks an interest. Give these "anarchists" a couple of years and their first sexual experience and they'll wonder what all the fuss was about.

So, other than hormones, what's the difference between the violence on the streets 100 years ago and the violence on the streets today? The answer is support. The suffragettes had it - the students don't.

Had they sent a deputation to parliament, had Aaron Porter schmoozed the media (rather than just want to be interviewed), had Nelson's Column remained untouched, then more people would listen to them. But instead their support dropped faster than a fire extinguisher off 30 Millbank.

I'm also not entirely sure that they know what they're protesting about. All they hear is £9000 and it's off for a sit-in at the local council chambers.

Children, it's cold outside and burning a bus shelter isn't going to keep the fight warm. If you want to learn how to campaign and lobby properly then do some research and read a book or two...

Oops. Sorry. My mistake.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

LibDem's Amnesty Under Scrutiny

Daniel Finkelstein has echoed my Reason #4 that the LibDems are plain wrong.

In yesterday's Times Online, he writes:
How does the amnesty work?

A question.

How exactly does Nick Clegg's amnesty work?

The central argument he advances for it is that we can't deport these illegals because we don't know who they are or where they are.

He gets pretty impatient if pressed on this.

But if we don't know who they are and where they are, then how do we know that applicants have been here for 10 years and therefore qualify for amnesty?

Add to this that he keeps on going on about how most/some/all illegal immigrants are being kept as slave labour by gangs (his spin on why this daft policy is a good idea) - but again it's impossible for him to say how many.

We know that some are slave labour because of the deaths of the cockle-pickers of Morecambe Bay in 2004.

More frightening by far, though, is the horrendous sex-trafficking industry in the UK - worse in numbers than any slavery in our embarrassing past. The CWO has researched this and neither the police nor the many NGOs involved know where the victims are or how long they've been here.

What we do know is that those forced into prostitution and the slave labour are kept locked up and far away from the police & immigration. The locks aren't necessary though as the victims stay there from fear that their families back home would be tortured and killed if they told anyone.

Of course we need to find the gangs and release their victims. We need to give the victims both mental and physical help, possibly for years.

This isn't something new and a misinformed amnesty is not going to help - it will only send a signal to the desperate that if you get to the UK, you'll get citizenship: I doubt many will read the small print first.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

10 Reasons why the LibDems are Plain Wrong

Ignoring the fact that Vince Cable flip-flops more than casual beach footwear, it is now time to put the LibDems under scrutiny because they cannot and should not be allowed to hoodwink the British electorate. (I apologise for the length in advance - this could have gone on for pages.)

Getting Labour back for another 5 years would be disastrous for this country, however, having Nick Clegg as kingmaker, or God-forbid as PM, would be simply frightening. So here's 10 reasons why they think they should hold power - and why they absolutely shouldn't:
  1. The LibDems think that they're a credible opposition party

    LibDem 2010 Budget Response: "The increase in National Insurance Contributions is a damaging tax on jobs and unfair to employees; however with a structural deficit of almost £70bn no party can credibly say they are going to reverse it."

    LibDem 2010 manifesto (p97): "We would seek to reverse it."

  2. Nick Clegg believes in British jobs for foreign workers

    Nick Clegg's interview with Jeremy Paxman (25m40s):
    Paxman: Anywhere in England need more immigrants?

    Clegg: Well, I think if you speak to some farmers, for instance, in parts of Lincolnshire - we know there's already a shortage of immigrant labour in fruit-picking and vegetable-picking.
    Things that Nick Clegg apparently doesn't know #1: There is 20% youth unemployment in the UK. Might Nick not want to encourage people already in the UK to do these jobs?

  3. The LibDems think that the UK is just like Australia

    It's not just immigrants that Nick Clegg wants to corral into regions of the UK "like Australia", it's a "rural fuel discount scheme" (Manifesto p80). In rural areas they want to keep fuel duty lower than in urban areas, er... a bit like Australia.

    Things that Nick Clegg doesn't know #2: Australia is a tad bigger than the UK. You could fit Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland into Australia 31 times and still have a bit left over. It takes 2 hours alone to drive from the Western Sydney city limits to the Harbour Bridge. In the UK, is there any city that you can't reach in under 2 hours (Highlands, islands & traffic jams excepting)?

    To give certain places in the UK a fuel discount scheme would mean limiting the programme to petrol stations in extreme rural areas, and there aren't that many. Wouldn't it be better to plan for something like, I don't know, how about a Fair Fuel Stabiliser? (Conservative manifesto p24)

  4. Nick Clegg has a secret database (allegedly)

    Nick Clegg apparently has a secret database of illegal immigrants as he wants to give an amnesty to all those who have been here for over 10 years (keep watching Paxman interview above).

    Things that Nick Clegg doesn't know #3: Because they're illegal immigrants, we actually don't have a record of when they entered the country. So what's to stop people who have been here 6 months saying they've lived here for 10 years?

  5. LibDems are cancelling Eurofighter - they're just not sure which bit

    LibDem Manifesto (p16) cost savings - "Cancelling Eurofighter Tranche 3b".

    In the Ask the Chancellors debate (9m10s), Vince Cable said that he wanted to scrap "Eurofighters in the short run". I didn't know what he meant by this but apparently he meant tranche 2. This was picked up by the Shadow Treasury Minister, Philip Hammond the next day in the budget debate - and Vince Cable didn't disagree (Hansard 30 Mar 2010: Column 682):
    Mr. Philip Hammond (Conservative): The hon. Gentleman talks about the credibility of plans to cut spending and he has announced his £15 billion plan. Will he confirm something that he said last night during the television debate-that the £15 billion includes scrapping tranche 2 of the Eurofighter project? Perhaps he has seen a different contract from the one I have seen, but my understanding is that the cancellation charge for tranche 2 exceeds the cost of taking delivery of tranche 2. Can he explain to the House how he would make a saving there?

    Dr. Cable: That is not the information that we have received. We have repeatedly checked our understanding of the charges involved in such a decision. There are two different components to the end of the Eurofighter contract, as the hon. Gentleman knows. We believe on the basis of what we have been told - of course, we are not told everything, because some of this is supposedly commercially confidential - and on the basis of our information that some savings could be made.
    ("Some savings" is apparently £1.5bn - manifesto p103.) Actually, the rest of the Hansard page is well worth a read as Vince Cable was clearing up a whole load that evening. But then Vince Cable seems to "mispronounce" and give the "wrong impression" quite a lot for someone who is supposed to be an economic guru.

    So 2 weeks before the LibDem manifesto is launched, the LibDems were still planning on cancelling tranche 2. After this was shown to be economic drivel, they suddenly swap over to tranche 3b in their manifesto.

    What they haven't mentioned is how many thousands of jobs in the UK will be lost because of cancellation; whether cancelling 3b has any associated compensation fees; and how many 3b Eurofighters might be sold to the Middle East, just like Oman is buying up a load of our tranche 3a fighters.

  6. They're also cancelling Trident to make their sums look better

    On page 17 of the LibDem manifesto, it states that Trident "could" cost £100 billion, however, on p65 it suddenly changes to a definitive "at a cost of £100 billion". Assumption to fact in 48 pages. Worrying.

    The LibDems want to cancel Trident then have a "full defence review". What happens if the review concludes that our best defence is to have Trident - and we've cancelled it and spent the money? Frightening.

    No-one knows what the state of the world will be in a year, 10 years or 30 years from now. There are LibDems that argue that having nuclear weapons didn't stop the Falklands War or 7/7, which is possibly the most ridiculous argument ever.

    I'd prefer to have nuclear weapon free world but I'm also a realist. I do think the amount of warheads we have is ridiculous though (how many times can you blow up the world?) but dismissing Trident out of hand is even more dangerous.

  7. Vince Cable believes that crossing your fingers is a good way to raise money

    When the manifesto talks about job creation, he says that the UK Infrastructure Bank seed funding "could" be raised from the sell-off of the student loan book or the Tote (p25), and that further seed funding "could" be secured against or raised from government-owned assets such as the Dartford Crossing (p25).

    Vince Cable might also see whether the sale of the Post Office "could" raise even more money - assuming of course someone actually wants to buy all of this right now. Yes, they all "could" get sold - but be realistic.

    I'll keep my fingers crossed for you though.

  8. Vice Cable knows more than HMRC

    Revenue from "Anti-avoidance measures" in the manifesto (p101) include £2.4bn saved from Income Tax and NIC contributions, £1.46bn from Corporation Tax and £750m from Stamp Duty, totalling £4.63bn.

    This is a major part of the LibDems cost savings.

    Small problem is that those lovely people at Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs estimate that NI, income tax and capital gains tax avoidance is only between £0.8n and £1.6bn.

  9. Vince Cable thinks his budget is costed

    Without the delayed spending review, it's impossible for any "credible" party to specifically say where cuts will be made or exactly where money will be saved.

    Credible means getting the real data first - not pulling figures out of thin air and passing it off as costed.

  10. The LibDems love Europe.. (well some of them do)

    Both this year and in 2008, there has been revolt on the LibDem benches over European referendums. In 2008, Nick Clegg was humiliated when 13 LidDem MPs voted with the Conservatives for a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, when Nick had ordered them to sit on the fence abstain.

    In January of this year, they were split again with LibDems going against Nick Clegg to vote with the Conservatives on an amendment to block any further powers going to Europe without a referendum.

    Only problem is that Nick Clegg proposed a motion at their 2005 conference to block any further powers going to Europe without a referendum.

    (h/t Jon Craig)

    And the Euro? "We believe that it is in Britain's long-term interest to be part of the Euro" (LibDem Manifesto p67). 'Nuff said.

The Liberal Democrats really don't stand up to any scrutiny and I've only scratched the surface here. So maybe the last word should go to the Channel 4 Fact Check website on the Liberal Democrat manifesto, which has dug out a few more:
"Their oft-repeated mantra on the poorest fifth paying proportionally more tax fails to offset it against benefits; and their statistics on a reoffending pilot scheme are very impressive until you realise that these “petty criminals” are not worthy of a police caution."