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UKIP: Will they change, pick up and run with the gauntlet that the Public has thrown them, or will they continue to become intoxicated by media interest and end up as a wasted opportunity, just like the other 3?

September 22, 2013 Leave a comment
Thanks to Channel 4 News/www.radiotimes.com

Thanks to Channel 4 News/www.radiotimes.com

‘You should never underestimate the predictability of stupidity’ is a classic line from the Guy Ritchie Film ‘Snatch’. Immortalised by tough guy Vinnie Jones as he effortlessly pursues and catches a couple of would-be crooks as they pause for breath, it is quickly apparent that the prospect of a big pay day can almost instantaneously lead people to find themselves dangerously out of their depth when they don’t think things through or have the benefit of experience to guide them.

Whilst some would easily equate a few more metaphors to this scene when we think about our politicians and their behaviour today, it is the concept that some clearly believe that if the prize in any competition is big enough for them, no matter what their experience and ability, not only can they compete, but they can win and walk away unscathed – just as simply as that.

It stuck in my mind as I watched the 10 O’Clock News on Friday night and probably shared with many more that feeling of utter disbelief as we heard of the latest exploits of UKIP’s Godfrey Bloom, unabashedly calling a roomful of the Party’s female Members ‘sluts’ because they don’t clean behind their cookers.

Nigel Farage looked understandably incandescent when he returned to UKIP’s Conference Platform to declare that MEP Bloom had wrecked the Event, and with the Party having to all appearances been riding the crest of a growing wave as it headed for the paradise beach of political power for most of this year, it was perhaps easy – if not sadly predictable that the rip curl was at some point going to take a giant grab and put the whole Party back at clear risk of being driven back out to sea.

Whilst Mr Bloom had already gained significant success at generating unhelpful headlines with his ‘bongo bongo land’ comments, the danger to UKIP and the potential loss of this window of opportunity that they now possess to do something good for us all has been at risk for a lot longer.

UKIP’s problems are perhaps best marked out by the departure of CEO Will Gilpin in August, when comments suggesting that attempting to bring some structure to the back room of UKIP was not only impossible but akin to herding cats were bounced around by the media, and even a Party apparatchik went on record saying that the Party is full of individuals and will remain so.

The contradictions evidently at work within UKIP are not helped by the lack of clarity which often accompanies messages which the Party puts out. When Farage himself refers to UKIP’s ability to offer radical free speech, you can easily see why new and aspiring UKIP politicians believe that their quickly expanding media platform offers them the opportunity to say exactly what they like. It doesn’t.

Voters can of course be far more forgiving when it comes to obvious contradictions than the media usually are. Otherwise, the point that they are being asked to vote for anti-European mandated politicians not only to represent them in a European Parliament where we wouldn’t have seats if they were successful in their aims, but also in local Elections where the diktats from Europe affect us all the same whatever UKIP Councillors can do, would be much more of a consideration.

The reason that Europe is not the key consideration for the Public so far is the same reason that UKIP politicians and Members will ignore at their peril; that UKIP and just the presence of its rhetoric currently represents something different in a world of detached, out-of-touch and self-serving British politics.

With the need for something different never having been so great, people so far haven’t worried too much about what the detail of that something different might actually be. But they soon will.

Whilst UKIP’s apparent state of internal chaos has to date been less of an issue for the voting public than the idea that they could deliver change just on the basis of how they sound, rather than what they are actually saying; it is conversely the rules and regulation of Labour, the Lib Dems and Conservatives that are contributing to the steady demise of these three political monoliths, whilst none of us – whatever our political beliefs – ever get the feeling that we are really ever being well served by the people we have to date elected.

The ‘traditional’ Parties have become obsessed with rules and internal directives which stifle debate; restrict honesty and certainly do massive harm to the voting public, simply because they are fixed on preserving the future of the Parties themselves and in many cases furthering the very specific self interest of those who lead them.

The electorate desperately awaits the arrival of representation which is truly reflective of its needs and not of any particular ideology, philosophy or what are mere acts of political expedience which are designed to assure electoral victory for one self-serving set of politicians at the cost of the others. Doing what’s best for everyone is after all about being practical; not just getting lost in personal fantasy and quixotic theory simply because you have the position and opportunity to do it.

The upper hand that UKIP possesses right now is that it lacks the rules and machinations which Labour, the Lib Dems and the Conservatives all have at play within their structures – both written and clearly assumed. UKIP is therefore placed at the advantage not only because the public are increasingly prepared to give them a go, but because they don’t have the organisational baggage which has paralysed and is preventing the three main parties from delivering meaningful change.

Its not rules which voters want from the parties they vote for. It’s not party rules that give good Government the ability to change as running a democratic Country effectively does dictate. It’s not the rules which come with a Party philosophy that will deliver what’s best for the people of Britain.

But it’s also not rules that will stop every bigoted outburst or the extreme behaviour of Councillors, MEP’s or aspiring politicians who have misinterpreted the voting public’s request for change as open season for personal viewpoints to be aired. Make no mistake that those speaking such restricted, fear-based and unworldly views are no better or morally right in their actions than the politically correct censors who they then inadvertently help in their work in aiming to prevent honest and considered debate from taking place.

What UKIP, their Members and all of the Parties need in order to serve all of us best are genuine political principles. Principles which guide – not govern all that the parties, their politicians and their members do; and principles that do allow individuals to have a voice in politics. Principles that mean every voter gets what is genuinely in their best interests and not what some political philosophy says will put them first when ultimately somewhere, somebody always loses.

It is the lack of principles, morality and willingness to put doing what is right first which has created many of the problems that the Government faces – whether those problems are acknowledged or not – which are having such a negative and far reaching impact upon the lives of normal everyday people across the UK. We all deserve better and the options for delivery seem somewhat limited.

So the question now is whether UKIP can move forward from this latest faux pas and look the opportunity that voters want to give them in the eye, rather than continue to indulge those who have suddenly found themselves with a UKIP platform, in treating the opportunity to speak out as if they were kids in a sweet shop with a free ticket – not unlike the Blair and Brown Governments who treated our public money in pretty much the same way.

Like all in British Politics today, UKIP has the ability to think different; do different and be different by making everything about what is right and what is good for all British people without bowing to prejudice or any requirement to indulge discrimination that in any guise will surely result in people losing out somewhere.

The battle that UKIP now needs to fight is for the rights, individuality and therefore genuine independence from a Nanny State for British Citizens as well as that of the Nation in which they live from its European neighbours.

Will UKIP rise to that challenge or simply become another Party which seeks to put the future of its own voice before that of all others?

Press Regulation: Another exercise in smoke and mirrors as the underlying issue of the growing ethical drought in this Country goes untackled by thirsty Government yet again

Rupert Murdoch at LevesonI will not be alone in wondering just how wasteful the whole Leveson Inquiry and the blustering about press regulation will turn out to be when the dust has finally settled.

With news coverage alerting us to the invitation for Rupert Murdoch to return to face MP’s over the phone hacking scandal and Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson still months from their Trial, it’s a fair bet that this will all roll on for some time yet.

But with the cost at great risk of extending itself well beyond money and into the realms of press freedom and the free flow of information itself, it seems rather strange that nobody is talking about anything other than placing restrictions upon the media, when the issues at the heart of all this are far more universal and basically touch us all.

Phone hacking, listening to private messages or conversation, bribery and any other form of intrusive behaviour are not essential journalistic skills in either a professional or academic sense and it’s fairly certain that such behaviour is not restricted to the activities of a few over-eager hacks wishing to make their mark in the National press.

Like most industries today, newspaper companies exist with one purpose in mind and that is ultimately to make money. Whether that is through increased circulation of existing titles or through expansion, the purchase or launch of others, or the diversification into other income streams, it basically doesn’t matter.

Whether this makes comfortable reading or not, few businesses actually exist today to be the best at doing what they do. They don’t look at the long term benefit of best service, or consider the smiles on the faces of customers who feel they have been well looked after; they look at the bottom line and how to make it that much bigger.

Making money for any business relies on motivating staff and in a world which worships money as its master, financial incentives can very quickly push employees to blur the edges between what most would consider to be wrong and right if the end result is worth it. So the hacking scandal is unlikely to be anything other than consequence or the result of cause and effect in basic terms.

Love him or hate him, its extremely unlikely that Rupert Murdock would have ever consciously encouraged or even condoned the questionable behaviour of his staff and what they have allegedly done, however much some would like to imagine so.

However, a company culture that might be considered to indirectly, unintentionally or inadvertently encourage illegal behaviour on the part of individuals in the pursuit of bigger headlines or pay would however be a different thing. But even then, that would not in itself be a matter for Legal intervention or regulation, as it has nothing to do with journalism itself. It might however have everything to do with people and the decisions that they make when they have no respect for barriers.

The bigger picture here is that British society today is on a slippery slope when it comes to basic politeness, manners, doing the right thing or what some of us would agree as having ethics.

People of all kinds are now regularly failing to consider the simple consequences for others as a result of their actions, or in extreme cases ceasing to even register that consequences other than a big pay day might even exist. This is a problem which is beginning to affect us all.

Sadly, we are in the position where leadership at National level is woefully lacking when it comes to dealing with the question of ethics for us as members of the wider community which makes up our Nation. Whereas Rupert Murdoch has already demonstrated his propensity to be ruthlessly efficient in the application of change where it is needed in closing the News of the World, the people with the real ability to influence change in the way that we all think and look at the world we live in appear to have no such gumption.

Those guilty of phone hacking should receive their just deserts, much as we are right to expect with any breach of Criminal Law. But press regulation is little more than another exercise of smoke and mirrors covering the incompetence and inaction of Government in addressing the underlying issue of ethics which runs through so many of our problems and gagging the media will never be an answer.

image thanks to http://www.bbc.co.uk

Spending Review & Local Authorities: We need change and a resurgence of ethics, not coercive micromanagement by stealth and an even greater distance between people and Government

images (51)With £11.5 Billion in further cuts set to be outlined in the Coalition’s Spending Review later today, I will probably not be alone in asking myself if this is really going to make the difference that the UK really needs.

Of course, many of us have got far too used to asking such questions only of ourselves as we wonder if there is simply any point in asking the same of anyone else and particularly those Politicians who would actually be in the position to give an honest answer if they so desired.

Many of the Politicians we see on TV are spending increasing amounts of airtime telling us that they are listening. But are they really hearing?

Listening to the news in recent days, you may have heard the suggestion that cutting budgets has not been a failure of the Coalition and that it is in fact the continuing problems with the economy and its inability to deliver the income expected at the time of the 2010 Spending Review that is the real issue. An issue which now of course sees George Osborne scratching away at what he appears to see as the tried and tested…

Of course, those like me who currently inhabit the local government political pool will be looking on in horror at the prospect of a further 10% Central Government funding cut from 2015/16.

Cuts in just in this area alone since 2010 have placed a massive strain on service delivery and are quietly playing out in the loss of arguably vital community resources which were once taken for granted and even affecting the speed and quality of pothole repairs on roads which most of us probably feel should be resurfaced when a hole appears rather than undergo repetitive re-patching for the umpteenth time, bearing in mind the amount we seem to keep paying for them.

Played out across all tiers of Government, the Quangos and Non-Government Organisations, the open secret in all this is that efficiencies have to be found. But the elephant in the room sadly remains missed and the rise of shared services, business services outsourcing and privatisation of services forced on us by budget cuts and imposed ceilings on Council Tax rises will never resolve the biggest issue of all which is the need for comprehensive reform across Government at a fundamental and cultural level.

Change is essential to move inefficient and unproductive ways of working which have developed over many decades of protectionist management; Change which will lead into the delivery of services which once again have their focus upon the benefit to the end user and when selflessly applied, targeted and managed as they should be, are likely to deliver savings all the same.

Ethical working based on doing what is right for all, rather than what works best for those making the decision, has to once again become the norm rather than the exception. For it is this institutionalised and subsequently conditioned practice which has created many of the problems not only in finance, but also in the quality and efficiency within all parts of Government which the Coalition now faces, manifested in services ranging from traffic management to the NHS.

Making savings of the level that have faced George Osborne was never going to be an easy task. But simply addressing the problem by imposing cuts that are ultimately doing nothing less than changing the systems which support everyday people to live real lives and takes Government further away from the public who pay for it is never going to be right. Worse still; it won’t solve the problem.

image thanks to http://www.telegraph.co.uk

A General Strike will be little more than terrorism in a sanitised form

The saying ‘everything is relative’ is perhaps the most polite way to tell someone that they are being insular; focused only upon the impacts of a wider issue on themselves, or simply failing to grasp that each and every one of us has a different viewpoint and that they could perhaps do well to look at things a different way.

Whilst the possibility has been grumbling in the background for some time, this week has seen the first clear indication that the Unite Union is seeking to take a lead in initiating a General Strike, of the like this Country has not witnessed since 1926. But is this throw-back to an age when Unions may have still possessed some form of genuine purpose actually going to help anybody?

The excuse given for a level of action which is more likely to destroy support for Union Members rather than be of any benefit to it, is of course the measures of ‘austerity’ that the Coalition Government has apparently been taking. It is indeed no secret that these measures are resulting in the loss of jobs and Benefits; but it has also brought an end to the seemingly ceaseless momentum behind enhancement of conditions for professions which are most likely to yield Union Membership.

Even as a former business owner and politician elected on a Conservative ‘ticket’, I myself can see that there was a time when the rights and welfare of workers needed much greater consideration so that exploitation became the exception, rather than a rule in any sense at all.

But we live in very different times and the rights, conditions and systems of support which now exist at every level of business and Government for staff are already far beyond that which the Strikers of the Twenties would have ever dared to have imagined – even in their wildest dreams.

Few businesses would survive today for very long without paying wages that the market can sensibly sustain, or by providing conditions which do not genuinely reflect the value of any role within a business. Therefore, the question that we should now be asking is not whether business and Government should be forcefully coerced into paying more money in wages because of the threat of strike action from Unions, but rather if we as a Nation are already overburdened with Legislation affecting employers and their ability to create new jobs?

I consider myself as being fortunate to know and socialise with people from all walks of life and count many of them as friends. However, it has become increasingly clear that nobody has been insulated against the affects of our age of ‘austerity’, which itself has far more to do with the spiralling rises in the true cost of living for us all, rather than it does the efforts of a lacklustre Government tinkering around the edges of policy, covering cuts with band-aids when the breaks in our whole Society are so very much more profound.

Ironically, it is the very same failure on the part of Politicians to consider the full impact and self-serving nature of their actions (or lack of them) upon others and ultimately themselves that the Unions are now displaying – even by just talking-up the potential of a General Strike. Sadly, the similarities do not end there.

The horrible truth in all this is that neither the Government nor the Unions hold any genuine level of moral currency either in the way that our times of economic hardship have come into being, or by how either would act in their contributions to ultimately attempt to resolve it.

No group that is politically motivated, other than one which is truly and comprehensively people-centric will ever be ethically and morally sound. Until that time, the Unions would do well to remember that even the poorest of our Governments have been elected democratically and by majority votes.

However frustrated any of us feel, there are many more people suffering financial hardship beyond the realms of just those with Union Membership and there are far more appropriate and reasoned pathways to bring about the change that we all now need.

Principles for meaningful change in British Politics

March 18, 2013 1 comment

grass-roots-headerMost people think that Politicians always lie and that they don’t have principles.

To achieve meaningful change for this Country, this perception must change. The sense of what is right and the sense of justice which inspired many Politicians into seeking Public Office, must no longer be compromised because of decisions made which are best for the individual concerned, or for the benefit of the Political Party to which they have become affiliated.

When I was first Elected on 2007, I was not alone in being horrified at how quickly it became apparent that decisions were made in Government on the pure basis of what was good for the Party, the Group Leaders, or was most likely to result in ‘good press’ or electability in the long run, before anything or anybody else was ever really considered.

Only sheer weight of numbers would ever result in any meaningful results which went against this non-democratic tsunami, primarily because many ‘junior’ Politicians do not want to risk disfavour or risk losing their Seats because they have been seen to disagree with the Party ‘line’.

This is not democracy in its correct sense and every voter is being failed at one point or another. The way that decisions are made in a proper democratic process is by majority, but the way that majorities usually get formed today is wrong, and this means that we are getting wronged the majority of the time.

People before Politics.

Every decision that Politicians make should be focused on the benefit to the majority of people; not the priorities of the few or of the Politicians themselves.

Practicality before Perfection.

We all like the idea of living in a perfect world, but perfection can only ever be an aim in an imperfect world and Politicians must make decisions based upon their practical impact; not just on what they would like to see.

Policies made in isolation lead to isolationist Policies.

Just as one policy may be used as an excuse not for enacting another, new policies should not be created without consideration of their real impact upon or collectively with others. Politicians now need to review the whole System and not use the size of this task as an excuse for not doing so.

Politics is better when it isn’t Personal.

Politics should never be about personalities and when it is, it is a sure sign that those talking are thinking primarily about themselves.

Fear is no excuse in itself.

Any policy made only with emotion and feeling in mind does not consider the wider picture and the full implications. Too many decisions have historically been made by Politicians because of a climate of fear. Over-reaction and under-reaction can be destructive in equal measure and however emotive a subject can be, emotions are personal and do not reflect consideration for what is best for the majority in its strictest and most comprehensive sense.

One size never fits all.

We are all different and policies must recognise and embrace those differences in all ways, but without recourse to any form of discrimination whether that be positive or negative.

Decisions affecting us all similarly should be made by Central Government, whilst decisions based upon Locality should rest in the Locality with Local People and their Political Representatives.

Central Government has as much responsibility to reflect, consider and act upon the decisions made by Local Representatives as it does have the right to ask others to respect the decisions which are made universally for us all.

Lifestyle choices should be for those living that life.

The preferences and actions of individuals should never be questioned or put in doubt so long as they do not compromise the physical safety, security, lifestyle and freedom of choice of others.

A crisis of conscience for one, is no excuse in itself to prevent the lifestyle choices of another and Government should never support it as such.

Job Sharing in Parliament and parachuting women into top jobs: Positive discrimination is little more than cronyism covered with a politically expedient wrapper and this is one time when recycling the packaging does no good for anyone other than the recycler

February 19, 2013 1 comment

Recent days have seen talk of job-sharing in Parliament by a Labour MP and the assisted elevation of women into ‘top table’ jobs by David Cameron, all on the basis that social groups should be equally represented at all levels of society.

One of the greatest faults of all who would change the mechanics of society by deliberate design, is their lack of ability to recognise that discrimination by any one person against another and of anything else, is based upon fear and a lack of understanding of other people, conditions, cultures or philosophies that they see as being different or unfamiliar to themselves.

Bias towards those who are perceived as different will often then amplify those feelings in others which are associated with that difference and can ultimately be even more damaging for those being helped if they cannot then demonstrate their ability to operate ‘on a level playing field ‘ in every other sense.

There is no question that every opportunity in business and public life should be open to all, irrespective of age, gender, impairment (mental as well as physical), race, religion and sexuality. But opportunity should be available to all without any form of discrimination whatsoever.

Discrimination is a two-edged sword and should not exist in any way. Even when positively applied to help overcome just one individual’s perceived barrier to entry, that simple act of bias may well result in the loss of opportunity for another who may in every other sense have more to offer beyond the label of disadvantage, that the individual being helped cannot actually offer.

There is no equality in the act of prioritising the apparent needs or requirements of one social group above the abilities or experience of those within another.

Positive discrimination of any type will always lead to a negative impact, which will usually be indiscriminate in nature. It is this ill-considered result that the libertarian and socialist agendas have never considered, and the one which leads to compromise of standards in every area of life for the sake of little more than political expediency for the few.

True equality is about the application of balance and fairness in all things for all people on a comprehensive and universal scale. When we have a mindset within our culture which values the contribution made by all, irrespective of the perceived differences between each of us, then we will have the foundation and basis of true equality of opportunity for all.

It doesn’t matter how many One Nation and Big Society ideas our politicians create to sell. Buying is not ‘being’, and until we all begin to live a different way and become a society which doesn’t judge by the boundaries of difference, no amount of positive help or interference will lead to the true changes that we need. Politicians not only need to recognise this; they also need to lead upon it so that we can all start ‘living’ it.

Positive discrimination is little more than cronyism covered in a politically expedient wrapper and this is one time when recycling the packaging does no good for anyone other than the recycler.

The sharp fall in number of young Police Officers: When Criminal Law once again begins to mean something through the interpretation of its results, then so will having a career in its enforcement

January 13, 2013 Leave a comment

As the son of a former Policeman who walked the beat on the streets of Gloucestershire in the 60’s and early 70’s, I count myself very fortunate to have heard those first hand stories of a time when the application of Law in the first hand had a profoundly different and positive impact within our Communities.

Whether you were an innocent member of the public, a testosterone and cheek-filled proponent of the misdemeanour, or a fully fledged member of a criminal fraternity, you would never have dared imagine how things would change within just 50 years and how little the Police and the careers behind it are respected as they once were. It is therefore hardly surprising that the number of frontline Officers under the age of 26 has dropped by 50% in the past two years.

But are budget cuts and a lack of diversity the real causes of this difference in public perception, or is there something far deeper and fundamental behind this change of understanding which leaves many wondering if the Police really want to do much more than target the law-abiding of middle England for trivial offences which often generate fines and leave the Nations bill-payers paying even more?

In a time when Police Officers were respected, the slightest fear or embarrassment generated by being stopped by a Constable would be enough to teach far-reaching lessons and probably halt the fall of many a young person, without any need of further recourse or entry to a Court system which at that time was frighteningly efficient in comparison to today.

Those who saw their role as a Police Officer as being a vocation were supported in their work by a system which worked on the basic practicalities that fear of an effective system of law create. They were confident in their actions, well knowing that when cases were taken before even a Magistrate, that very same system of Law would recognise that they had not taken up the time of the Bench or Judiciary without good reason.

But things have changed, and the actions of a few who abused that system, ultimately have made it impossible for the many who follow behind them today.

An obsessive drive by idealist reformers to eliminate even the slightest chance of conviction for anything less than 100% surety of guilt, followed swiftly by the heralding of the human rights of criminals who surrendered those very rights through their actions, have rendered the system sterile from one end to the other.

It is therefore little wonder that young people have as much interest in enforcing the Law as the rest of the Nation has in their contempt for it.

It doesn’t matter if a policeman is young, old; black, white; male, female: tall, short; fat or thin if the Law is feared which sits behind them.

It’s time that Politicians accepted that idealism in Law and Order simply doesn’t work when applied in practical form. When Criminal Law once again begins to mean something through the interpretation of its results, then so will having a career in its enforcement.

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