Newspapers desperate to make the link

Desperation reporting is what I call it. Having failed to connect the Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik with any extremist groups in the UK, the press is now using his eBay purchases to make the connection. Particularly pathetic is the sighting of a DIY tool, that I recognise as the same as one I own – it’s a small hand vice used to hold small items on a pillar drill. The fact that this lunatic used it to hold bullets, is hardly the fault of the Sheffield tool store that sold it to him via eBay and falls a very long way short of a clear link to Britain. What next in this desperate search? Will we be told he was wearing underpants bought from a well known UK high street name?

Ed Miliband – one trick pony?

Apparently Ed Miliband is being given plaudits for kicking the open goal that is the phone hacking scandal. Surely, unless he actually came out in support of Murdoch, it would be difficult for him not to be heard saying the right things wouldn’t it? Heaven help us if picking easy targets is all it takes to become a political leader.

No meat Mondays!

Is Brighton and Hove council, Britain’s first Green Party, a good example of what will happen when councils get more powers and freedom to do their own thing? Apparently, they’ve upset their refuse collectors by declaring Mondays a meat free day in the council’s canteen – along with the rest of their borough incidentally.
We all know that councils run by minority parties and groups can come with some wacky ideas sometimes, but once all councils get their hands on the business rates cash, I’ve a suspicion some mainstream ones will be following suit.
In defence of the little guys, in the past, it’s been the extreme behaviour of councils run by mainstream parties, such as Liverpool and Lambeth, that led Maggie Thatcher to centralise the business rates in the first place.

Heaven help the taxpayers!

A credit card non-story and easy street for MPs

Two stories have caught my attention this week. The first one strikes me as something of a non-story once you scratch the surface and is about the amount government depts spend on credit cards. The very terms credit card and government seems to cause Daily Telegraph reports to break out in a hot flush and grab for the nearest keyboard.

Putting aside the claims of 5 star hotel rooms and Michelin star restaurant meals and you see that the majority of the spending is on legitimate items. Using a credit as opposed to the incredibly bureaucratic and expensive claims system I remember from my military days, can only be seen as an improvement. Despite its bureaucracy, that system was open to wide spread abuse, something that is much less likely with a credit card.

The other story that caught my attention is the ongoing storm surrounding public sector pensions. Apparently public sector workers are going to have to pay a lot more in to their pension scheme in order to maintain the levels of payout currently enjoyed. The list of those affected included, doctors, teachers, civil servants and no doubt just about every other public sector worker who gets their pay from the public purse. However, there appears to be one notable exception – Members of Parliament – what a surprise!

Time for Osborne to do his bit

I’ve been following, with growing alarm, the government’s proposals to overhaul the planning system and to effectively scrap the legislation that underpins it. My alarm comes from what could be seen as a simplistic, or even nieve, approach to the planning system by this government. Alternatively the more paranoid amongst us could see these changes as no more than a form of cronyism, designed to swell the bank accounts of landowners and developers, many of whom are more likely to be Tory supporters than not.

However, there may also be an additional reason why the government has decided to open the development flood gates. Recent newspaper headlines seem to suggest that government has given up trying to get the Treasury to ease its stranglehold on the economy and have now decided that dismantling the planning system is an easier option, using the drive for growth as the reason (excuse?).

Apparently David Cameron is having trouble persuading George Osborne that he needs to do his bit to encourage growth, through easing the tax burden on businesses. As the Chancellor of Exchequer appears to have more clout than any other minister, including the Prime Minister, it seems that the planning system is to be sacrificed instead.

Is building huge swaths of minimum quality housing and vast areas of souless industrial estates, the best way to do it? I doubt it and I doubt that our childrens’ children will think so either.

We’ve had it! It’s official

I’ve been having a lot of my chords struck recently and none more so than by this piece on today’s ConservativeHome website.

Cameron warns that Britain is facing a crisis of confidence with a “general feeling” that the “best days” of the country are now behind us.

“In the interview [with the Big Issue], Mr Cameron said: “Over the past few years, this country has had some real knocks and people’s confidence in our country has been shaken to the core. I’m talking about the expenses scandal, the financial crisis, this whole disgraceful and sorry episode of phone hacking. There’s a sense that the rich and the powerful – politicians, bankers, the press and the police – have been serving themselves, not each other.“Add to all that the way the world is changing, with the rise of new powers like China and India, and I think there’s a general feeling that maybe our best days as a country are behind us.””

I’m glad David Cameron has been honest about the current malaise our country seems to be suffering, but I’m somewhat concerned that he doesn’t go on to tell us how he’s going to fix it. Also, as you might expect from a Eurosceptic, I think he’s ducked the other major reason why many of us may feel that the country’s ‘had it’ – our membership of the EU and that organisation’s relentless hunger for more power.

If David Cameron thinks he’s dealt with the EU issue, by the passage of the recent Parliamentary bill requiring that a referendum be held on any proposals to increase the EU powers further, he’s wrong. The EU already has too much power over British citizens and far too much influence on what happens in our country. Until that situation changes, the British people will continue to feel powerless and to some degree, both helpless and hopeless.

So my simple message to David Cameron is, ‘Good analysis, but needs more work – now what are you going to do to change things?’.

Are they too slow, or are you too fast?

Having been somewhat under the weather this week, I’ve been a bit slow off the mark on making comment on a recent story about slow drivers. However, having seen an editorial piece in today’s Telegraph, that links this with another of my hobby horses – our impatient society – I couldn’t resist.

Apparently, the top gripe for those who drive, which is most of us, is slow drivers. Nobody asked me, so I suspect that claim will be based on one of those surveys where they asked a couple of dozen people and then using some clever sums, turn it in something that can be claimed as representative of all drivers – like I said, they didn’t ask me and I don’t agree.

Having come across relatively few genuinely slow drivers – 20 in a 30mph, or 40 in 60mph, I think there’s a completely different slant on this story. My question to those drivers who claim to see red when confronted with somebody driving too slowly is, what speed were YOU actually doing?

Over the years I’ve encountered many more drivers doing 40+ in a 30, or 50+ in a 40, than I have the opposite. On that basis, I have a strong suspicion that many of these unhappy drivers didn’t actually know what speed they were doing anyway. Alternatively, they felt that most speed limits, especially the lower ones, were too low for their taste and that drivers who observe them are a pain.

I find it particularly infuriating when I hear or read so called experts suggesting that ‘experienced’ drivers know best what their speed to drive at based on the road conditions and that it should be up to them to choose the right speed. This is one of the main arguments being used to resist the imposition of 20mph in residential streets – rubbish I say. It actually requires effort and concentration to drive well and it’s not just about what is happening inside the car. A genuinely good driver will consider what effect the noise of a speeding car has on those living in and around the street or road they are driving on and not just their own selfish wish to get from a to b as fast as possible.

Time for a name change

I was reading today’s newspaper and came across an item about dementia. Not for the first time it occurred to me that the term dementia has some sinister connotations, especially when you hear somebody describe as ‘demented’.

If you look up the word ‘demented’ in one dictionary, it says, “insane, mad; of unsound mind”. Another dictionary describes it as: 1. Suffering from dementia. 2. Driven to behave irrationally due to anger, distress, or excitement. This means that for some, saying that somebody is suffering from dementia, doesn’t necessarily trigger their sympathy response, which of course is grossly unfair to those suffering from this cruel disease.

There are a number of diseases and conditions that used to be called by names that we now considered unacceptable. Numerous charities for the disabled used to have the word cripple in their title. Scope used to be called The Spastic Society. Those born with Downs Syndrome used to be called Mongoloids because they looked like people born in northern Russia. These days most of us would consider these descriptions to be less than acceptable and that’s my point. Given the definitions for the word demented I’ve listed above, I think it’s high time somebody found a name for the condition that engendered sympathy rather than fear.

Even more important things are going on

Phone hacking is a nasty business, particularly when perpetrated against victims of crime. Bringing those responsible for the hacking to justice should be a priority for the authorities, especially because of the shocking involvement of police officers. However, it’s time the media moved on and put some equally important, but even more far reaching news on the front page.

Today’s Sunday Telegraph has a wealth of stories that deserve much greater coverage and I hope will resurface on the front pages of our daily press in the weeks to come.

One of these stories is about the scandalous and irresponsible proposals put forward by the government, for a wind farm tax on businesses. These proposals if pushed, or should it be blown, through, will cost the biggest employer in the county of Northumberland, £40m a year! If there’s anybody who doesn’t think that such a hit will cost jobs and a lot of them, please post a comment explaining why.

Another massive story for me, is the passing of The European Union Act 2011 last Wednesday. Providing it does what it says on the tin, this act is big news for the British people. However, lets not get carried away, because all the act does is put on the brakes – it doesn’t put anything into reverse. Please keep writing to your MP if you think reversing off of the EU toll road completely is a must.

Another story that we should all be writing to our MPs about, is the proposal by Tory MP Dominic Raab, to change the immigration laws. He proposes to limit the use of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the one that guarantees the “right to family life”. The idea is to prevent convicted foreign criminals, or more accurately, their lawyers, from using this as a way of avoiding deportation. However, this is a one man proposal and not put forward by the Government, so they could strangle it at birth if they get the urge. For that reason we, the British people, need to let the Government know, loud and clear, that this is something we, the British people, want to happen. Write to your MP and complete the Home Office survey at: http://www.ukba.home

Another day, another ‘sell off’?

I see from the latest Planning News that the government now thinks that council planning services are fair game when it comes to competition – is there no limit to what they will try to ‘sell off’, or should I say more accurately, off load?

How do you convert what is currently an impartial process, that is all about achieving the best outcome, into a profit making business, without it becoming biased and open to accusations of corruption?

The big question for me is, what damage will they do to the current system in order to attract these competitors?