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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?

Public Funding of Political Parties: Yet another nail in the coffin of British Democracy and a giant leap away from listening to the voices that must now be heard?

September 6, 2013 2 comments

Political Party funding has once again become a regular topic of discussion in the media and many will today find themselves asking why the Public may now be required to pay to promote an exclusive list of what are membership-based organisations, when many more worthy causes that bring much better value to our communities could never even dream of securing this kind of help.

Following Ed Milliband’s now seemingly disastrous attempt to re-package a few multi-million Pound Union donations into many more smaller and politically expedient ones from union members who should apparently have been just as willing to choose to ‘opt-in’ as pay through the historical non-voluntary default, it seems that we are again faced with the dubious meanderings of a few politicians who will do anything that they can to make the system work just for them and for the parties that they represent.

Talk of a £5000 cap on donations to political parties would have worked extremely well for Labour if they had managed to manipulate 2 or 3 donations to qualify as the same sum given by a sudden deluge of fee-paying Labour supporters. It is after all rather unlikely that the Conservatives could find a way to do the same.

But Ed missed one vital calculation in this plan and one that no considerate and fully cognizant politician should ever miss – that people will only voluntarily pay for things that they actually want.

The penny of impending political disaster having now dropped almost as far as the current Labour Leader’s jaw, we now find ourselves looking public funding for political parties in the eye as the Westminster set again swans around under the misguided belief that the existence and perpetuity of their ideals and their impractical application should be assured by right and statute, rather than by the will and best interests of the majority of people – which isn’t after all what politics is actually supposed to be all about?

Just this week within the Council where I am an Elected Member, a whole Borough has witnessed the down side of party politics when a bad decision which may have profound effects on many lives for years to come is compounded and enforced by the use of the Party Whip to guarantee that the aspirations and agendas of the few will overcome the needs and potential benefits from alternative and better paths for the many.

De facto funding for Political Parties that even their Members no longer want to financially support will make such outcomes even more likely than they are right now and those politicians who are already awake to these perils will be well aware of the potential cost of this approach to us all.

With the common ground between Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Labour being that the Leadership of all 3 have lost sight that doing what’s right for all, rather than what’s right for the Party or the idea’s that they specifically hold dear; all of the main Parties now fail to gain the lifeblood funding and support that they need from everyday voters, simply because they aren’t considering the realities and practicalities of what it takes to live, work and survive in our everyday world.

The message should therefore be simple. Large donors will always want to influence decisions and processes for their own benefit and adequate membership level financial support will only ever be assured when those members feel that they are likely to benefit – ultimately just the same.

If any political party is unable to secure that support, its leadership and executive should surely ask the question why it cannot do so and then be thinking about changing the way that it operates so that it can – if it can do so.

Those of us outside the Westminster ‘bubble’ should perhaps be asking ourselves whether the funding crisis that Political Parties are now facing is the best illustration yet that Politicians are out of touch and failing to connect with the critical mass of the population.

If their approach to governing our lives cannot be sustained or promoted without State intervention within a democracy, do political parties really have the right to say that they represent anyone but themselves?

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.

Meaningful change for this Country will only be achieved when Politicians accept it is their responsibility to lead us all in doing so

March 19, 2013 Leave a comment

grass-roots-headerMany of us will have grown up with children’s tales and anecdotes which refer to houses built on rock having stronger foundations than those built upon sand. We may have left the stories behind, but the truth still remains that you may be able to fill the gaps, paint over the cracks and reshape the doors and windows on the house built on sand, but its structure will keep moving; the damage will keep appearing in different places and the weight of the constant repairs will soon make the situation a whole lot worse.

If we really want change for the better, we must accept that just about everything with a Government hand upon it is now built on sand, and has been since ‘what’s in it for me’ career Politicians and party politics started selling us all the idea that an island paradise could be real life for us all and promptly moved everything onto its beach.

You get the idea.

So before anything else, there has to be at least some level of acceptance that it is not the young unemployed, single mothers with 11 children, disability claimants, immigrants, those claiming tax-credits, serial re-offenders, ruthless business owners, public-sector fat cats, unscrupulous bankers, or super-rich tax-dodgers who bear all of the responsibility for what they do.

It is the systems that we have in place which made it possible for them to be there; systems that were put there by many different Politicians; Politicians from all parties in Government at different times who were thinking primarily about themselves and their own electability.

Politicians must now put the fear of losing their position to one side and concentrate on making the best of their period of Office – however short – to deliver results on behalf of the people who elected them.

Seeking Office for what you can do for others and seeing it through on the basis of people-centric policies, rather than political ideologies and personal agendas will reap results surprisingly fast if everyone does the same. When they don’t, you experience problems like Coalition Government and times when everyone else begins to wonder if things will ever stop getting worse.

The current way that politics and Government works is not sustainable for Politicians, or for the very people who put them there. A Career is the story of one person, and Politicians have responsibility for a whole lot more.

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.

Government is not the same thing as a business, and should never be run like it is one

AU491810_942longThe word ‘business’ conjures up different meanings for different people, depending on their background and of course what exposure they may have had to its use or application.

Most will agree that its use as a term suggests enterprise and methods of working which would sit snugly within a commercial environment. But should this word actually be applied to the modus operandi of any form of Government when the two terms are completely incongruous?

Much is made of the idea that the best people to run Government at any level are those who have a business background. One of the current arguments against the demographic makeup of our MP’s today is the substantial lack of solid business experience possessed by those who lead the Country from Westminster, with the accompanying notion that MP’s who have run or owned businesses of their own would somehow automatically have an almost esoteric level of understanding and midas touch which would solve just about any problem. They wouldn’t; they don’t and they never have.

With years of Local Government experience as both an Elected Member, an Officer and from working within 3rd Sector Organisations alongside, I have also often heard the term ‘business case’, ‘business plan’ and the idea often suggested that Councils are now run ‘like a business’ in meetings.

The problem with this is of course that the political leadership and members of Councils rarely have ‘hands on’ experience of running any kind of business you could draw reasonable parallels with themselves, and when they do, it is often the case that it has been so long since they did so, that any lack of an appreciation that time moves on or that things continually change will soon erode any tangible benefit.

Perhaps worse is the ability that Officers and Civil Servants have been gifted by political demographics and the opportunity to use such terms in plans, which are then taken as read by those who simply don’t know any better as being a true ‘business case’, when such ‘business’ cases could never be any such thing.

Recognising the differences between running a business in its purest sense, and running Government under the delusion that it can be run as business has never been more essential for today’s politicians, because neither Central or Local Government are businesses, and the people running them have to stop believing and behaving like they are.

A business is of course run for the profit of an individual or shareholders. All decisions will normally be made with the form of pay-off that they will receive firmly in mind. It can be expanded or changed to meet the demands of customers as it sees fit, and a business can choose which customers it may wish to target and how much profit it will seek from delivering any particular product or service. Its revenues are never guaranteed.

On the other hand, Government does not run to make profit, but to provide services and support for all those which it has been elected to serve.

Run properly, Government would not actively target any particular group of customers to provide a different quality of service depending on the feedback or profit that it gets from that group, and would work to meet demand for services as best and prudently as it can, well knowing that it has a duty to do so without seeking payment from one customer to pay for the benefits of another, or to irresponsibly borrow money from lenders that it knows it doesn’t have the appropriate levels of revenue to comfortably repay.

However, Government revenues – as long as they remain sensible – will always be guaranteed, and it is with this significant difference that come the even greater levels of responsibility than no one business should ever realistically be able to have.

One of the greatest dangers facing us as a society comes from the fact that politicians at all levels of Government have either failed to recognise these basic differences and therefore maintain them, or have willingly abused their ability to raise revenues to cover badly managed services or implement policies without any due regard to striking the balance for every member of this society or in applying fairness to all, while they have given every thought to political expedience and electability.

The British political system is broken, because it has adopted those very same values of a profit-making business, which are to further the interests of that business. For politicians, this comes in the form of power, whilst they have ignored the basic rule of business as they have done so; the rule which states they must deliver profit to every single one of the shareholders rather than to themselves. Profit in this sense should always be seen as the delivery of the same results for all.

So if our politicians really feel that they have to treat Government like a business, they then must also realise that if they continue to keep raising the fees on the same old products time and again without offering new products and value for money, they will soon price their offerings way beyond the purse of the people who normally pay, and the cash will soon start ceasing to flow.

Government is not run for a financial profit, any more than it should ever be so for the bottom-line benefit of just the ‘staff’.

Whatever their backgrounds, experience and level, politicians must remember that they are the managers; the facilitators; the decision makers; not the beneficiaries themselves – and especially so where the end profit is not even perceptively the same as what it would be for a business.

The time has long since passed when the electorate could continue to live decent lives, whilst those within Government continue to focus on the end result for themselves. Government is not the same thing as a business, and should never be run like it is one.

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