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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

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.

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.

Flooding: A truly democratic system should allow for changes in Planning Legislation which will limit the damage which future flooding events have the power to cause

December 25, 2012 Leave a comment

Christmas will not be that merry for many who have been hit by flooding over recent days, weeks and what has now become months. Even today, news that the seemingly freak weather patterns that have haunted the UK in 2012 are staying put will be sending a shiver down the spines of all those who have closely witnessed or experienced the nightmare of being in a flood.

But is the perceived change in weather patterns the only factor we should be considering for future flood protection, or are the issues governing the severity of future flooding events far more deep seated, but with the potential for control?

In July 2007 and less than 3 months into my first Term as a Councillor, Tewkesbury Borough sat at what felt to many of us like the epicentre of a disastrous flood which demonstrated just how the impact of unforeseen water damage and a systematic failure to plan ahead can actually be and how its power can touch the lives of people who would never normally have reason to live in such fear.

Over a period of 36 hours, home after home in areas that had never been previously considered at risk of flooding became submersed by the affects of just 1 days deluge right across Gloucestershire. Whole Villages went under and for some home owners, many months of pain and torment lay ahead as driveway-based caravans suddenly became the only way to live, rather than the home from home that many choose to put on the road every Easter.

Perhaps the most significant consequence of this unpredictable event was the pollution of fresh drinking water supplies at the Mythe Water Treatment Works near Tewkesbury. Residents and businesses throughout Cheltenham, Gloucester and Tewkesbury were left without drinking water for over two weeks and stories of water thefts and fights at distribution points soon made many aware of just how quickly the civilised facade of our society can begin to break down when the basic elements of daily life that we take for granted are put at risk.

Daily deliveries of bottled water throughout the Ashchurch with Walton Cardiff Ward thereafter and dealing with many flood related issues on behalf of Residents to date has provided an invaluable insight into both the flooding events themselves and the way that the whole issue is handled by organisations as diverse as single-issue pressure groups, local Authorities, the Environment Agency and Central Government.

One of the most concerning elements of that experience has been the illumination of the way in which our centrally-derived Planning Laws and Policies simply do not allow people with local knowledge to exert meaningful levels of influence on building which many quietly agree does not consider either extreme levels of river or fluvial flooding or indeed the more concerning and unpredictable rain-based or pluvial flooding. It is such pluvial events as in 2007 that can present those extreme volumes of water in such short periods of time that  rivers and streams cease to exist leaving an out of control torrent to create its own destructive pathway to its gravity-borne destination.

Most worryingly still is the apparent lack of interest from authorities in these pluvial flood issues, with most prevention work concentrating on fluvial targets and where anything else may be ceremoniously rebuffed with the excuse that such events are so very, very rare and perhaps a only a ‘1 in a 100 year event’. When coupled with such arguable intransigence as the suggestion that built-up land on flood plain by its very nature ceases to be a flood plain – irrespective of where future floods might therefore go; you might see that even politicians like myself have good reason to be concerned for what the future may hold not only for those communities already experienced with floods, but also for those whose experiences may regrettably be still yet to come.

It is a frightening reality that Local Authorities with Planning functions are at this very moment in time formulating policies and projections on building development for the next 20 or 30 years. Development which when even only in existence upon paper is by that very existence arguably irreversible when Councils have effectively been coerced by Central Government to let the development genie out of the bottle, thereby granting the wishes of developers who now appear to be out of control. Developers who have pockets deep enough to challenge any refusal to grant planning permission by those Councils who may go against what may actually be official advice and challenge on the basis of what is right. Councils that may if not already, soon be on the verge of bankruptcy because of other centrally derived and disastrous ‘one size fits all’ policies that are serving nobody but their political architects.

In times when sustainability is a Government mantra, the unsustainable practice of what is in effect unbridled green-field development has to cease.

Housing need must not only be determined by local people at local level; that level of development must itself be based upon what any one local area can support and not upon what Westminster Officials decide as being a requirement.

As a Nation, we simply cannot concrete and tarmac over fields in order to sustain exploding population growth which itself is not contributing either the equivalent or more of what it then demands from a paymaster which continues to function well beyond its means.

Long term housing projections should cease, not only for being the gift that they have become for unscrupulous land-banking developers, but also because we simply do not know what lies in store for us as a population next year, let alone that which may be the case in 30 more.

It is local people and their representatives who should have both the power to decide upon what is and is not sustainable in building terms, along with the right to say no to developers without any fear of unseen bureaucrats undermining or reversing those very same decisions based upon an external and self-serving strategy.

Mankind may not have yet discovered the way to change the weather, but a democratic system should actually allow for changes in Legislation which will limit the amount of damage which future flooding events have the power to cause.

Local people should have the choice to protect their homes, businesses and even lives right now. Not when there is nothing left insurable.

Toll Motorways: No Government can continue to charge the Taxpayer time and again for the same things and expect to be taken seriously.

December 22, 2012 Leave a comment

Latest headlines suggest that the DFT is now open to the idea of privatising new roads, and George Osborne is also now considering charging tolls for existing Motorway use too.

Perhaps many of us are mistaken, but don’t we already pay for this in ways such as Road Fund License, Fuel Tax, Vat on vehicle purchases, Vat on Fuel, Vat on vehicle repairs, Vat on Tyres, Corporation Tax on Companies providing the same etc, etc??? To be fair, the list probably goes on a great deal further; and that is about the only great deal that the Taxpayer and businesses seem to get when it comes to road use and transport.

One of the most significant tragedies and missed opportunities of this Coalition Government was the given acceptance on the part of so many of us that the Country’s finances are in a hell of a mess and that we had been fully accepting of the need to implement changes and policies which would have absolutely smashed the age of political correctness that is wrapped around and protects so many of the root causes of our problems. Changes and policies that if implemented, would easily have began to address the real problems which a post 2015 Government may well try to cover up with yet another return to profligate spending.

Few people or businesses can exist or move forward in the UK today without transport and therefore road use entering in to the mix at some point. The financial burden which accompanies road use is already arguably higher than is sustainable. So simply loading further charges on users who cannot earn more or charge more, when every other cost continues around them continues to rise, is simply outrageous.

Before anything else, existing Motorways require better management. Today’s technology may well allow for every vehicle to be ‘chipped’ and for road space to be allocated to keep overcrowded roads moving, whilst purpose-specific taxation is generated on a per mile basis. But such moves simply cannot be adopted as a method of raising additional fees and would have to replace or consolidate existing systems which do not fairly reflect levels of use and do not intelligently support the growth and competitivenness of British business.

Privately built and operated toll roads may themselves bring a timely solution to the hole in funds for new infrastructure, but will again ultimately allow profit to be made from essential services and functions for public use, where focus on the bottom line will only ever lead to even greater problems for the end user.

Top to bottom reform of all areas of Government, Benefits and Taxation are the only way that the true depth of this Country’s problems can ever be addressed and finding politically expedient ways of reducing the thin layer of jam between the bread in the Taxpayer’s sandwich may solve a problem today, but will leave the whole thing tasting rather sour tomorrow.

Politicians must now accept that you cannot charge the Taxpayer time and again for the same things and expect to be taken seriously.

Effect-focussed Government has failed us all. Can we really move forward with a plan of something better for all if we never address the causes of our problems?

December 20, 2012 Leave a comment

Leaps in utility prices touch just about everyone’s lives either directly or indirectly. No less so because of the growing paradox which appears to be a guaranteed bottom line for shareholders, whilst customers continually carry the can for everything that any non-essential business would have no option but to absorb within what are today’s unalterable margins.

Public services such as Trains run under much the same guise, and the question really should be asked if the time has come when any provider of a key or essential service should remain able to have a free reign over charges and their levels of profit when the end user simply has no choice but to buy?

Similarly, margins drawn from the production and retail of essential basic items such as milk, bread, meats and vegetables must surely now be protected from City speculation and the stranglehold of the big retailers who are together endangering various food producing industries in what is little more than an obligation to sustain and build upon profits, laid down by the purely financial motives of their masters.

So what exactly is stopping the long needed change in direction which would embrace a true form of moral or rather responsible capitalism, which in its boldest form would serve to protect a basic and affordable living for all, whilst delivering an arguably much reduced cost for Government?

One of the key failings of many of today’s politicians is a fundamental lack of understanding, will and fortitude to deal with the deep rooted causes of the problems that we as a nation face; instead choosing to do little more than dalliance in dealing with the effects of bad or flawed decisions, then going on to repeat the very same mistakes when that latest remedy itself begins to demonstrate its flaws.

Be under no illusion, this process is not unique to any political genre or ideology. It is a deep seated and inherently progressive condition, made all the worse by a political party system which now serves only to propagate itself and those within it who effectively function to do the very same, placing electability before delivery.

Successive Governments, whether they have been Conservative, Labour or even Coalitions have done the very same things, albeit with a different wrapper. But with little more than a ‘fire and forget’ mentality, the consequences are plain to see and there for us all to share and experience in our everyday lives.

The commonalities within privatisation, right-to-buy, the evolution of the free market and even political parties themselves are that they were arguably all political creations with a great and beneficial purpose in mind for those who were the driving forces behind them.

However, like most great ideas in Government that come to be manifest, they have progressively moved beyond their point of balance or what some might choose to call good, and have gone in another direction entirely. One which has benefited the unscrupulous and cost those of us dearly who have the right to expect the protection of our everyday interests by those who we put in place to take that responsibility on our behalf to do so.

Acceptance that the evolution of policies can and will continue beyond their point of good is no enviable task. This is particularly so when many organisations, NGO’s and even Government Departments have been created simply to deliver upon questionable policies and their lucrative spin-offs. In many cases they arguably continue to exist for the sole purpose of existing.

Trades Unions, Health & Safety Legislation and European red-tape are all examples of well-intentioned principles which have gone way beyond their point of good. Even UK Taxation and Benefits no longer represent the equitable and fair approach that we should all be able to reasonably expect from a 21st Century Western Government and the implementation of truly fair systems such as Flat Tax are long since overdue.

Fear of driving the watershed of change needed in an age where we have laws for the sake of having laws; where blame is a national industry and where everyday people feel that Government of all levels has no understanding of the lives that they lead, is no longer excuse enough in itself to avoid it.

Painful as it will be, somebody will soon have to be big enough to take on big business, the City and the insidious money men who are continuously elevating the breadline, all in the name of profit.

Selfless politicians must set about the change of policy after policy which may well serve their political masters today, but remain lifetimes away from serving those for whose benefit they were apparently intended.

Effect-focussed Government has failed us all and not least the most vulnerable in society and shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted does little to help after the event.

Can we really move forward with a plan of something better for all if we never address the causes of our problems?

Giving the responsibility of getting the Housing Market on its feet to Supermarkets will ultimately give money men a level of power which could make future Governments even less relevant to the bankers than they are now…

August 13, 2012 Leave a comment

You quickly learn in management that many of the things you do are down to process – even fire fighting – and this will inevitably take a certain amount of time to do properly unless you are happy to accept little more than a quick fix. So when you see Government Consultations dropping into the mix from nowhere that have all the distinct hallmarks of a ravenous siege engine working at speed, you would probably find yourself asking questions about its drivers, just like I am.

Over recent days, the Estate Agency Industry and The BIS Consultation on Encouraging new business models – the ‘Proposal to amend Estate Agents Act 1979’ has started to come into sharp focus, not least of all within the Industry itself, where the rat knocking at the door appears to be the Supermarkets.

As I recently wrote on this Blog, like many people, I am no great fan of Estate Agents and believe that as an industry, they already carry much of the burden of responsibility for the ridiculously high values which accompany property these days and which in turn has effectively priced many new entrants out of the market.

However, opening the door to the Supermarket Industry is far from the answer to getting the Property Market moving and could itself be one of the most deadly time-bombs that any visionless politician could unleash on an unsuspecting public that just wants money in its pockets once again.

It has been proven time and again that the big Retailers play a very long game as they move further and further towards a level of monopoly in goods retail. And as a monopoly, property sales is one that would have very far reaching consequences indeed, should the day ever come when Supermarkets control the prices we pay for the houses we buy.

Make no mistake, as proven with their dealings over Milk prices only recently in a process which actually took many years, dictating values within such a market would be of untold commercial value to them. So playing the loss-leading game whilst they remove the balance of standing competition from the market – as they have done with many small retailers – would be a process willingly embraced by homeowners, but at what real cost to us all in the long term?

We already have the model in place to show how little more than commission led sales within the Estate Agency Industry has contributed to the very position where a Government Department is attempting to address the effects of the problem rather than the causes. But once again, political idealists may be about to open a whole new can of worms as they blunder into doing so, which could so easily turn what is the disastrous position of the Housing Market today into a full scale catastrophe for us all tomorrow.

Gutsy decision making that will have an impact on the cause of the problem is what is required, rather than assuming that the answer to one problem will be just as suitable for another. After all, you wouldn’t use a sticking plaster to dress a broken leg and send the patient on their way with nothing more than a sweet, unless of course you had no grasp of the impact from doing so.

To get the Housing Market moving, there has to be an appreciation of the gravity of the situation. It is one which will not be solved by inviting in a new set of players onto the board who will play by the very same set of rules, but on scale which means the whole game cannot so easily be controlled.

The Estate Agency Industry needs to change its way of operating and adopt a position of responsibility to both its customers AND to the economy, particularly as the impact of having so far failed to do so has had an arguably unique impact on the economic position that we all experience today.

To play their part, Estate Agents have to move away from commission-based selling and focus upon the process of doing a good job at a fixed price, which relates to house sizes, demographics, location and all the tangible factors which should dictate the price of such a service to domestic and business customers alike. Perhaps they will then sell houses for what they are worth, rather than what they aim to get.

However, today’s Estate Agents are unlikely to make the required difference to the whole Property Market alone and devaluation of the UK’s property portfolio may be a step which no Westminster Politician will ever be prepared to openly consider, even though it may turn out to be the only solution which genuinely works . But giving the responsibility of getting the Housing Market on its feet to Supermarkets will ultimately give money men a level of power which could make future Governments even less relevant to the bankers than they are now.

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