Archive for January, 2010

An Englishman’s Home: His Castle? Or His Prison?

January 23, 2010

Unless you have been living under a rock somewhere in recent weeks you would have heard about the extraordinary case of Munir Hussein. 

He came home, his family were tied up with knives tho their throats… He got away, and bashed one of their heads in with a cricket bat…. Whilst chasing them down the street…. 

Now, Munir Hussein and his brother were put in prison as a result of this attack. But should they have been? 

There are clear arguments for yes and no, and many people are calling for the law to be reviewed. 

Yes, the men clearly no longer posed an immediate threat to the Husseins, they had just run out of his house… However, who is not to say that next week they would have come back? Or that they would have done it to another family and heaven forbid this time actually used the knife? 

If this is the view you take you would no doubt feel that Hussein deserves a medal and the status of local hero. 

He did however break the cricket bat in 3 places, over a mans head, savagely beating him so that he was seriously disabled. 

Personally, I feel that if anyone came into my home, I would do the same, and I would want to make sure that I hurt him so bad that he would not be making a return in the near future. People that hold knives to the throats of people deserve everything they get.
Personally, I would have probably ended up with the cricket bat being broken in six places.
So hoorah, when we saw Sir Paul Stevenson, Chief of the Met, the most senior police officer in the land saying that we should, rather than threatening with prosecution, promote the idea of people fighting off these intruders. 

That’s where things get a bit tricky. 

A fair few people have died in the past few years trying to stop intruders, and these vigilantism, is something which could be abused.

People should do what they want, if they want to. If someone decides that they want to take the risk of fighting a knife wielding scumbag then let him, and good luck to him. One thing is for sure, if people are having a knife held to the throat of their loved one, they shouldn’t be told that because they hit the guy to a pulp that they are now being prosecuted more severely than the knife holder. 

Personally, I would like to thank Mr Hussein, I can now sleep, slightly safer, knowing that there is one less person running around holding knives to the throats of hard working members of society…

Advertisements

This recession: The death of the market system? Or the consequences of deception?

January 21, 2010

Capitalism, many people criticize it.

Nothing sums up these arguments better to me than a sign I saw being held by someone at an anti capitalist march. The sign read “Get rid of capitalism…. Replace it with something nicer.”

 What else is there?

Nowadays, there is no way to go, other than capitalism. Any country which does “well” without capitalism is the exception rather than the rule. Sure, you can point to China, an economic powerhouse, but I would not consider a country where human rights activists have their email accounts hacked a country which is doing “well.”

Capitalism is taking a lot of the flak for this recession… But I would suggest it, like many markets that fail, is the fault of the people inside it, rather than the concept itself.

My belief is that this entire mess that we are in is largely, although not solely down to something called Collateralized Debt Obligations (CDOs). Now, you will have a credit rating, you may or may not be aware of what this is. Your bank will lend to you at varying rates depending on your credit rating.

Now, a CDO is thousands of your mortgages put together. Basically, a CDO made out of AAA (safest) credit ratings would give you the lowest rate of return because it had a low risk, but at the same time was very reliable. One filled with CCC credit ratings would give you a much higher reward, if it didn’t collapse. This would be the reward for the risk that you took on.

 Now, let’s say I get 10,000 mortgages that I want to sell. I have a few AAA mortgages, but also a load of CCC ones that I want to get rid of. I pile them together in one big CDO. Next, I need to take it to the credit raters. A good example of this would be Standard and Poors. They take a look at my CDO and then brand it with a rating of its own.

HERE is where the problem lies.

Standard and Poors would be working on a commission, a AAA CDO is worth more than a CCC one, so they would have a clear incentive to give it that AAA rating. This means that a CDO might be given an AAA rating, when in fact; it should actually have a C rating for example

. This means that investors (banks) are paying a high price…. For a high risk, an unreliable one. AAA CDOs were seen as a sure bet. The thing is, a lot of the time, banks would combine CDOs and then pass them on, again and again. It was pass the bomb on a billion dollar scale…. This though, is why deception played a huge part, but so did greed.

 The people who are referred to as NINJAS (No Income No Job no Assets) were now having money lent to them… Why? Because, and this is where the CDOs kick in again…. If I was to lend you a load of money, I wouldn’t need to worry about if you could pay it, for all I care you could default on your mortgage in a month, by the time you stopped being able to pay, I would have sold your mortgage on and made my profit.

So, what do we need? Well, better regulation would surely pave the way. People at the Financial Services Authority are paid peanuts to work there compared to the CDO traders. Both would need to be of similar intelligence to do the job, so why would you want to take the FSA route when you could earn ten times as much?

 Furthermore, very few people understood how these CDOs worked, all people knew was that they made you very rich. They were actually devised by rocket scientists… Surely better regulation of financial products would have been helpful.

Capitalism isn’t dead, but the morals of the train of capitalism should be watched more closely, or the train could end up crashing…. Again…

The Poverty Trap… An escape in sight?

January 15, 2010

For years in Britain we have seen the issue of the Poverty Trap.

Basically, if you get (I’m not sure of the figures as I have never claimed) £100 a week for being unemployed.

You get a job, this means that you earn £120 a week.

You also get about £60 a week in various benefits (such as constantly having children). Once you get a job, these benefits are taken away. As a result, you now have £120 a week instead of £160.

Amazingly, despite the government’s tax credits, we have not yet seen an end to this poverty trap.

What is the answer? Is there one at all?

Surely, any answer has to start as a culture change. People are not able to appreciate the fact that just because they are earning less than they would on benefits now, that they won’t, through promotions and the like, earn more than those benefits in the near future.

People are even less able to appreciate the fact that just having a job means that, rather than being a net taker from society, you can actually begin to give a lot more, and with that comes a lot more self-respect. Lets not forget that unemployment often leads to depression and feelings of worthlessness.

The solution to this has to start at home. There are 2 schools of thought as to why the spiral of benefits continues. One is that the children see 3 generations of parents on benefits and as a result they decide that is what they are going to do themselves. The other is that children see their parents on benefit and decide that is no life they want for themselves.

I myself, would be massively inclined to the latter. If however, my parents had never told me the importance of education, and were barely educated themselves, I’m not so sure that I would have this viewpoint.

The poverty trap can only be solved through encouraging people to actually gain a work ethic in the first place. So many people in the UK, are, to put it bluntly, workshy layabouts who want to sponge off of the state until their dying day. And I can tell you one thing for sure, the majority of those people are not immigrants from Eastern Europe.

Firstly, parents need to take a lot more responsibility. Sure, you might have ruined your life by not going to school, that should mean that you never let your child make the same mistake. If your child does not end up properly completing their education, you messed up. If your child comes straight out of school at 16 and onto benefits. You messed up.

End the self perpetuating poverty cycle, which can only be done from within. The education system is there, even if you are not in a very good comprehensive, if you have a decent work ethic, you can get good grades, even if it is an uphill struggle.

But once you reach the top, you will have a much better view than from half way up.

Everyone is Equal… But some are more equal than others..

January 15, 2010

No surprise this week to see Harriet Harman get away with a measly fine of £350 for her crash and drive incident a few months ago.

I’m not sure what infuriated me more about this case. The fact that Harman got away with such a lenient punishment or the fact that she thinks so much of herself in the first place that she can just crash into someone and say “I’m Harriet Harman, you can find me at the Home Office”

This seems to encompass my (and presumably a few others) rage at the MPs over the past few months.

I know comparissons to 1984 have been done to death, but it’s as if there is an inner party, which is Parliament (and the rich and famous), who can get away with anything they want, look down on us like we need saving, whilst controlling us. Then there is your outer party, medium sized businesses who can get away with a fair bit but are still worth a lot more to the party than what the rest of us are. Common proles.

We can kick up a fuss every now and then but we are always talked over, never answered directly and only rarely able to properly hold the government to account. What is the point in voting out one bunch of crooks if only to be replaced by another?

If they want us to be governed by them, they must first be governed by the same rules as the proles.

The “Blood” of Politics.

January 15, 2010

Constantly, when you read an article about politics they always act it out like it is a gladiatorial contest and that blood will be spilt and heads will roll, a Brutus waiting around every corner to take down Gordonus Ceasar.

Let us not forget that in a land far away from our own, there really is blood being spilt. British blood, in a war which this government (with the Conservatives also voting in favour) has started.

The closest thing we get to a politician’s blood being spilt is the possible sting from the odd thrown egg, cup of custard, or even a condom full of flour.

It might be worth remembering that when the bullets fly, our politicians will be far away from the real bloodshed.

The BNP, fascist bigots or Socialist bigots?

January 15, 2010

Lord Tebbit has said that in his opinion the BNP are just “Old Labour with added racism”

This is something I have been screaming about for months. If you actually look beyond the racism (not that you need to because thats enough to never be interested in them again) they do in fact have many socialist policies.

If you were to walk back into the 1950s and see the BNP manifesto, you would be forgiven for mistaking it for being the Labour government of the day. If, as I have  stated in a previous post you would of course be forgiven for having no idea who the Labour or Conservative manifesto of today would belong to back then.

This constant assumption that fascism and racism are mutually exclusive is simply not the case. Stalin was another racist totalitarian who would murder people because of what race they belonged to.

Why am I even bothering to point this out?

Because it is important for people to understand what we need to do to appease these BNP voters. The problems for them quite often is not immigration. BNP are taking votes from traditional old Labour mining towns who are more and more disillusioned by British politics and what they have to offer the working classes. Many of these people live in towns where they would never have even seen an immigrant let alone have their “job taken” by one.

If you want to appease parties like the BNP, then concessions do have to be made. They do not however have to be concessions which are tantamount to racism. By giving a little, you can suffocate the extremists. This is something the two main parties could, if careful do properly.

Policies that genuinely would benefit the unemployed rather than putting them in a poverty trap, for example; would help. Having a genuine discussion on immigration, with proper outcomes instead of people screaming racist as soon as you bring up the topic. Instead, we are getting to a position where the BNP have councillors, as well as a London Assembly member as well as MEPs. Thanks to FPTP it looks like we won’t be seeing a BNP MP, but, unless we start addressing why people vote that way, who knows what the future holds for these… Fascist?… Communist….? Socialist…?… Bigots.

Hung Parliament, Where will it get us, or not get us?

January 13, 2010

A hung Parliament, is looking like a real possibility for the first time in a long long time.

This is where no party has an overall majority.

Why should you care? Because it means that a lot of the snap decisions that have been made recently would not have been able to be put through so easily.

The rather average Nick Clegg of the Lib Dems has claimed that he will side with whichever party has the most seats, in order to form a majority government if the need for a coalition arises. I am however sure that this will require some political sacrifice on the part of the ruling party, and if that does not work, a 3 way split is a real possibility.

There is already minority governments in the UK, for example. Scotland has a minority government. Scotland has 129 Members of Scottish Parliament (MSPs). 73 of these are constituency members and the remaining 56 members are top up members as discussed in my previous post.

The SNP however have formed a minority Government, led by Alex Salmond. Has this led to massive problems in legislation making? Not really, they don’t do much anyway…. With exceptionally limited powers.

My point is, there is no other place where we can see exactly what a minority/coalition government would mean for the UK.

Italy has a coaltion government, but that is, for want of a better term, pretty corrupt country with a different political ethic to that of the UK.

It is however undoubted that it would lead to large amounts of horse trading, such as what is seen in the EU (something I will undoubtedly touch on in a later post). Basically, currently, a party gets in and implements it’s manifesto, under a minority government this could not be guaranteed. But here comes the saving grace of the British constitution, Conventions.

There is a convention in the UK which states that the ruling party should not have their manifesto blocked in any way.

So yes, we know manifesto pledges will be stuck to, but what about emergencies?

This is surely when a government needs to act fastest.

This is a much hazier area, where we don’t really know what would happen, but if a party is dragging their heels, who knows.

One thing is for sure though. Under a hung Parliament, everything which is controversial in the slightest (Terrorism Act for example) would be discussed at back breaking length until there is a parliament wide compromise.

In some cases though there is an issue where there could be a minority party which has a ridiculous amount of say in politics.

If for example, the party needs just 1 more MP to have a majority, they might end up making substantial concessions to get that 1 extra MP on side (a green party member for example). That sounds slightly undemocratic doesn’t it?

At the same time though it removes the current element of rubber stamping that our Parliament seems to become when there is a huge majority.

It could easily be claimed that Tony Blair (1997-2005) and Thatcher 1979-1987) could more or less rule by themselves, as in these terms they had huge majorities and could easily survive a fairly large rebellion in Parliament with their huge majorities.

The problem came for them when they had to adjust in their final terms to not having such a large majority, and having to begin to give in to cabinet etc.

It is worthy of note that in1974 there was a hung Parliament in the February election which was quickly followed by another election in October which led to a Labour majority government.

So, there are clear arguments for both.

I would argue personally, but I would love to hear your opinion, that Hung parliament is right if it is democratically elected, but a hung parliament in a non PR system would be terrible. So, for example, if Labour end up getting 25% of the votes yet 30% of the seats, and Cons end up getting 35% of the votes and 30% of the seats (we already know the Tories need a roughly +7% swing) then that, I would argue would be the worst possible reason for there to be a hung Parliament….

It is however worth noting that we might see no real difference if there is a coalition or a minority government. With the consensual politics being the politics of the day, there is a chance things will go on as normal, which will surely be a serious indictment on the state of British Politics.

First Past The Post… A dying electoral system, or the best one for us.

January 13, 2010

First Past the Post is a disgustingly undemocratic electoral system that ensures that only one person need bother to vote.

First Past the Post ensures (in the majority of cases) a government is put in place that can effectively implement it’s manifesto pledges.

I would argue with you all day that both of these are completely true statements.

Here is my “informative” part, to the best of my abilities.

Currently, in the UK, we use an electoral system caled First Past The Post (FPTP).

Basically a constituency is made up of many people, there are 646 MPs, and each one represents roughly the same amount of people.

In the FPTP system, People vote for who they want to be their local MP, and the person with the most votes wins.

So, literally, if one person gets 10,000 votes and the second place person gets 9,999 votes, then the person with 10,000 votes becomes the MP and the person in second gets nothing, either for himself or for his party.

This means, and did mean in England in 2005, that the ruling party can actually have less votes than the party that came second. In England in 2005, Labour ended up with more MPs than the Conservatives, despite actually getting less votes (although across the UK, they did get more votes).

The main problems with this is that it means that if you are a party that has wide narrow support (Lib Dems) then you do nowhere near as well as parties which have deep support (Labour/Cons).

For example, in the 2005 General Election, the Lib Dems ended up with 22.1% of the vote but got only 9.6% of the seats, with Labour getting 35.3% of the vote and 55.2% of the seats. Something which is, it can easily be claimed undemocratic.

It does also (rightly or wrongly) give rise to independents.

For example, “Health Concern” Gained 0.1% of the votes yet still gained a seat in the House of Commons.

In the mean time UKIP, Britain’s 4th largest party ended up with 2.2% of the votes but did not even get one seat.

There are undoubtedly positives to this system, even if there are some undemocratic disadvantages, the two in fact are one in the same.

Best example of this would be the BNP. They get enough votes that if all BNP members moved into about 8 constituencies they would probably win all the seats. We see this as a (strangely) undemocratic positive to our political system, and rightly so. However, despite the fact that I despise the party, if people vote for it, shouldn’t they get it?

So, what is the alternative?

Something like proportional representation?

Basically, there is an argument for, get the amount of votes, and then allocate the seats accordingly. So,i f a party gets 10% of the votes, they get 10% of the seats and so on.

As democratic as it gets I would argue, but rises the problems of a hung Parliament (Which I will discuss in my next post).

Pure PR however would lead to a system where no-one has a constituency MP, a local representative who can redress your grievances in Parliament.

There are however “Hybrid Schemes” which are basically “PR with a constituency link.”

Do you want an example? Try every single election which takes place in all of the devolved assemblies in the UK eg Scotland, NI, Wales and London.

London can be my example.

basically, London in London Assembly elections is split into 14 FPTP seats. This ensures that everyone in London has an assembly member.

Then, to make things proportionate, there is a “top-up” system which seeks to rebalance things. 11 seats are allocated in this way. As a result we can say in London that we have a constituency member and a proportionately representative Assembly.

In effect it means that if your Constituency member you voted for gets 9,999 votes and the other person gets 10,000, then your vote was not a wasted vote because it can still be counted when it comes to the top up list.

This does however mean that if the Assembly was to be a form of Parliament instead of a scrutiny panel which barely scrutinises (no doubt a topic for a later post)  that there would be a “hung parliament) with the Conservatives only controlling 11 of the 25 positions.

On top of this, the BNP do have an assembly member due to the Top up lists, albeit one who is more or less seen as a clown with in the chamber and is ignored and ridiculed whenever he dares utter a word from his corner in his sickly cream suit.

But still, if the people vote for it, isn’t it what they and we ultimately deserve? And with the possibility (again) of there being a coalition government with the Lib Dems being a part of it it is looking more and more likely that electoral reform might have to be seriously considered in the near future….

So, Cameron will not cut the NHS…. But what will he do?

January 13, 2010

Recently, we have seen (unavoidable) portraits of Cameron along our roadsides, proclaiming that he “will cut the deficit, not the NHS.”

Well, lets put aside all these “Tories can’t be trusted because they are milk snatching scum” arguments for a few minutes and instead look at what they are willing to do.

To me, it seems that it is scary how little they have revealed. As a Conservative Party Member myself I feel very worried about this.

Cameron seems to be relying on the “Let the socialists usurp themselves till the election.” Something which it seems may give him the edge in the election, as it currently is in the polls.

So what exactly do our new hug a hoody Conservatives stand for.

I have recently been having a string of debates with various people in which I am fighting with myself as to whether I can bring myself to vote for the Conservatives at the next election.

One of the things which I have had people say to me is “But there are so many major issues like the Iraq and Afghan wars that we need to focus on.” Agreed. But neither of the two key political parties differ on this.

One of my favourite analogies of what has happened to our politics in the UK was told to me a couple of years ago.

Imagine two ice cream vans on a beach, no one will walk past one ice cream van to get to another….

In the 70s, the Ice cream vans were parked either side of the beach (Conservatives and Labour) and as a result they both represented their voters… But then it appeared that more and more people were going to the middle of the beach, so gradually, the ice cream vans, in an attempt to steal more of their competitors customers, moved into the centre of the beach. Eventually, they were parked alongside each other,  but were now a long way from their old customers, left on the far wings (pun intended) of the beach.

So. What are your and my options?

Vote Conservative, for no cuts to the NHS, but cuts in other important areas?

Vote Labour for continued problems, with disgusting levels of infighting.

Well, lets look at what we can consider the pros and cons of each side.

Conservatives:

Cameron has a big advantage, he is media savvy. He really is as he says, “The heir to Blair.” I am personally, sadly of the belief that a Prime Minister needs to be spectacularly brilliant with the media, as this wil have a huge influence on his party, whilst the cabinet do the back breaking work.

The Conservatives would also be a new government, and, they have (although to a very weak extent) stated that they will need to give us some pretty rough medicine in the next Parliament if they get in, giving them a mandate to sadly implement a lot of the necessary evils that would hellp us cut the NHS.

The idea now that the Conservatives are complete poor bashers is one which is entirely ridiculous and I would say that New Conservatives are as far away from Thatcher as New Labour are from their socialist roots. (Both being on the middle of the beach). Just look at the Conservative’s lack of commitment to abolish the 50% tax bracket as an example of this

The negatives though…

I must say, the idea that the Consevative front bench might be somewhat “out of touch” with the electorate, is one which I can definitely sympathise with. Etonians are hardly the working class heroes so many of us aspire to have as our leaders. But consider this. I hate to say this but unless there is some form of major rebellion, the cabinet really are the illuminati and decision makers in Parliament. On both sides of the chamber these are largely made up of people who one could claim are very much “out of touch” with the everyday man, although there are some very admirable back bench MPs.

I would however put forth the argument that Cameron and Osborne do seem to be quite honestly like a pair of know it all toffs. I don’t want them representing my party, at all. Nor do, in fact many of the other party members.

Labour Positives:

Brown, yes, he does come across as a bit hopeless and is definitely not as media savvy as Cameron. He is however highly experienced, and there is next to no doubt in my mind that this recession would be far deeper had we been under a Conservative government. The Conservatives, lest we forget are the party that until recently were calling for “less legislation in the city.” God knows what that would have led to….

Having said this. The rise in “stealth taxes” is ridiculous. Basically, I look at regressive taxation and progressive taxation. Income tax is progressive taxation, the more you earn the more you pay as a percentage of your income. Fact.

Duty on alcohol and cigarettes, regressive taxation. If you earn £10,000 a year then £3 on a pack of cigarettes is a much higher % of your income than if you earn £200,000.

This has gone on to such an extent in the UK that the Poorest 20% of people in Britain get taxed a higher proportion of their income than the richest 20%. Hardly a socialist ideaology.

Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.

Currently, we are in the worst recession in living memory for most of us. Surely it would be better to have the people that we know in power, who know the mistakes they have made and know a lot better how to rectify them than the Conservatives would.

Well, who do you think we should vote for. I have no idea…. Help me out.