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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?

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

Tax avoidance, foreign companies and the real influence of Utility providers on our cost of living

Utility companies are in the news again and this time for exploiting the foreign ownership loopholes that are allowing an increasing number of monopolistic companies to avoid paying sizeable sums in tax.

Were it not for the near exponential rises that we seem to experience from energy and water companies alike on regular basis, you might be forgiven for having a little sympathy with a company which is struggling to make money.

But these are companies which are not only achieving great success in securing stratospheric profit margins from the services they provide using what appears to be increasing levels of media-friendly scaremongering; they are arguably doing so without making any real contribution to the wider society that pays them whilst customers also seem to pay for all their upgrade work as well.

This situation has of course been in the making for a considerable time and whilst it would serve the political interests of some groups to blame the problem on the process of privatisation in its basic sense, it is pretty certain that the sale of shares to everyday taxpayers was never intended as a direction of travel which would result in foreign ownership, or to the cartel like behaviour which has contributed to the creation of rip-off Britain.

Coalition Government or hung Parliaments don’t lend themselves well to dealing with issues of any real importance when they are in power as we all continue to witness each and every day. But that of course is when they face issues that we as a public are openly aware of because Politicians have chosen to acknowledge them for whatever politically expedient purpose that it might serve.

The real travesty with the issues regarding utility companies and the influence that they are having on the true cost of inflation to us all – which has this week been suggested to be as high as 25% – is that there is not even the will to talk about the true impact of their actions upon us all in Westminster.

With the economic fall-out of credit-card government and the continuation of spending with money that the UK simply doesn’t have, reality suggests that negligible or zero percent rises in wages for the workforces operating within the commercial and public sectors alike are here to stay. That benefit and service cuts will remain the uninventive and ill-considered weapon of choice used by a political elite which seems bereft of any consideration for the mechanics of life outside their own societal bubble.

However, there are choices for our leaders and within the constraints of Coalition Government or not, Politicians taking their responsibility to the Electorate seriously would and should all be using them.

Before anything else, acknowledgement that companies providing what are in fact essential services are profiteering and are misusing the opportunities that they have would be a significant step in itself. People would at least begin to feel that leaders are identifying with what real life is really like.

This would by its very nature have to been done with clarity and purpose and with much more than a mere suggestion of what action lies ahead. Another mealy-mouthed effort like that on the part of Politicians when it has come to addressing the previous actions and future behaviour of bankers simply will not do.

It has become clear that self-regulation in such key industries isn’t working for anybody but the companies themselves, and this is where those with Government responsibility should really be taking a lead.

The next step would be to regulate pricing to allow the true cost of service provision to be reflected in the prices that we pay and dictate the formula under which such Companies can raise funds for new and improved infrastructure which in most other industries would rightly come from the bottom line.

Because the services that these Companies provide are essential to everyone, profit should be capped and systems put in place through vigorous auditing processes  to ensure that clever accounting methods cannot provide a conduit through which different cost centres or budgetary areas can be manipulated to provide an enhanced dividend.

Company owners wouldn’t like this approach, but the fact remains that with services that customers have no alternative to use, profiteering before doing what is right has created a cash-cow for the few, whilst inflicting financial misery on the many in circumstances where people cannot even earn more just to compensate. That’s why foreign owners have been so happy to throw cash in the direction of companies in the UK that governments most other Countries would at least keep very close to State control and why our Politicians must now recognise the power and influence that these industries actually have in our everyday lives.

Finally, the time has long since passed when simplification of the Tax system was required on a comprehensive basis to stem the flow of revenue from leaving the Country that we desperately need and to which we are entitled.

Tax should be applied at the point of sale; not at the location where the account managers and owners  are based. This one simple and realistic change could find tax raised from the tills where coffees are physically bought; from the sale on the actual computer and screen where products are purchased; and from the meters where our power, gas and water are measured and supplied inside the houses in which we live.

Scary as the prospect of taking on the industrial and financial monoliths might seem, it is for reasons just like these that Politicians are Elected and why Governments are given power. It might not be easy, but if those who seek our votes at Elections take the trust we have given them seriously, it necessarily follows that they will use it for our benefit too.

Isn’t it time that they started living the mantra ‘action speaks louder than words’, rather than simply just paying lip service to it?

image thanks to source unknown

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

Without Legalising Assisted Suicide & the Right to Die, it is an uncomfortable truth that in terms of our approach to ease of suffering, we are selfishly kinder to our animals than we are to other human beings

April 18, 2013 Leave a comment

The debate on Assisted Suicide

Without realising that we even do so, it is quite normal for us to look upon any situation or perhaps even the content of a conversation in terms of how its content could or does affect us personally at some level.

Fear permeates the decisions that people make at a very deep level indeed and whilst this can unwittingly prove to be a very self-destructive trait, it can also lead to what are arguably selfish acts in the extreme when considering the distant impact that these decisions have upon others.

Because most of us grow up conditioned to think this way, it is possible to become quite blasé about the way we talk about issues which may not seem to affect us directly, but nonetheless have the effect of pushing a deeply buried emotional ‘button’ which twangs our personalities just the same.

Death is of course one such issue and one that provokes all kinds of responses from people, probably because of the unknown issues which surround it and the very definite nature of its existence for us all as part of our human experience.

When I myself suffered the acute stages of a serious illness which nearly killed me and I was forced to look my own mortality in the face, I quickly became aware of just how self-focussed and personal the issues surrounding death can be for those who are close by who are not actually in the process of going through it themselves.

This experience perhaps gave me an invaluable insight on the whole issue when dealing with the terminal illness and decline of my own father, whom I like to think may have been at some advantage by having such nearby support.

Sadly, others do not receive that same level of understanding and selflessness that they need from us all in times that we may ourselves never personally have to experience, or at a time of their life when their perspective on mortality may be dramatically different from what it may be right now.

The deeply ingrained fear of death and our lack of control over it does mean that for many the issue of Assisted Suicide or Right to Die is actually a personal one, rather than a matter of ethics as many in the world would prefer that we were to actually believe.

Very few people are likely to covet death at any time; even those who commit suicide without any form of premeditated suggestion that they are readying themselves to do so. It is a matter of escape and release at a very personal level and it is unlikely that any other person will ever understand the complexity of issues, emotions and pain that such a person is experiencing at that time.

It is the same for those contemplating the need for Assisted Suicide or their Right to Die and we as a society now not only need to recognise this; we must put personal feelings and perceptions aside and provide help to those who need it, without any threat of recourse or stigma being attached to those who have provided or would willingly facilitate that help.

Our fear of Legalising Assisted Suicide and the taboo of the subject are borne from the concern that through illness or debilitation, we could find ourselves or loved-ones unable to communicate with or have influence with the outside world as we now know it, and that subsequently, the decision will be made to end our own or their life in that situation whether we like it or not.

Such perceptions have been helped very little by Health Authority Policies such as The Liverpool Pathway. But this should not prevent us from dealing with the subject as we now should and if anything is evidence enough that everything must now be done to get this difficult subject dealt with right.

Government and the Medical Profession could and should with Legislation put the necessary stop-guards in place which will provide assurance against abuses of a Right to Die, such as consultation with 3 independent Doctors and/or Psychologists who will quickly know if such a solution is best if they are genuinely allowed and are able to selflessly put the interests of the patient in question first without any other influences coming in to play.

There is no doubt that those suffering with horrific and terrifying conditions such as Locked-in Syndrome or those who have such low quality of life because of their physical conditions should have the right to end their lives with help if they so choose. We must all now be big enough to put our own fears aside and make it as easy as it can be for them to do so.

Without Legalising the Right to Die, it is an uncomfortable truth that in terms of our approach to ease of suffering, we are selfishly kinder to our animals than we are to other human beings.

image thanks to http://www.sunnewsnetwork.ca

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