Readers, I am aware that referendums have been the principal tool of dictators over the ages. They can be manipulated in place and timing to produce a desired result. Nevertheless, they have their place in the scheme of things – my scheme of things! I have had an impressive reply to my article announcing proposals for a new National Volunteer Rubbish Clearance Scheme with many helpful comments on variations to our proposals (particularly, I admit, from Lib Dem strongholds along the south coast but from a number from other locations as well). We are able to divide the suggestions into three types of scheme which I shall describe and the thought is that they could be tested in the National Referendum we propose to hold on 5 May 2011. As you know, this date was set aside for local elections in many areas but we have added a number of other subjects, covering such urgent matters as the gerrymandering of the voting system, CCTV cameras, legal rights for gay couples to be married in church, the future of the fishing industry off the coasts of Cornwall, Wales and Scotland and no doubt some other subjects. So why not the future of rubbish? These referenda will be great fun. The ballot papers are in different colours (we propose Green for rubbish), and a number of areas are planning the presence of brass bands at the polling stations. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but you cannot please everyone all of the time – of course, we can but that’s another story. Now here are the main choices:
1. A National Scheme. This might be dubbed the expert approach. There are people who think it important to retain professionalism. Some people are very busy with their lives and say they do not have the time to collect rubbish. You might think this a selfish approach but it has some appeal. Their suggestion is that their should be a National Rubbish Officer with a small central staff and a Rubbish Officer at every local area level. Former Council staff should be urged to volunteer their services to the community to make it all happen properly.
2. A Grass Roots Scheme. This suggestion might be summarised as a people friendly scheme. The task of coordination and the actual collection would be given to the new Free Schools and Academies who would be permitted to retain some of the profit. Free schools need a lot of money. (Michael Gove is keen on this). If need be spare land at these schools could be used for burying some of the rubbish. A number of Associations such as the Boy Scouts, the Girl Guides and the Territorial Army would join in to give muscle to collection.
3. A Special Needs Scheme. Some people have pointed out that there are practical difficulties with rubbish; collecting it from Tower blocks, frail elderly people, and the disabled (there will still be some who cannot be forced out to work). You cannot expect children to cope with everything. These vulnerable people will need special consideration and in the Special Needs Scheme they will get it.
Well, isn’t it exciting! Who would have thought that we could get this far in organising the Big Society?
Filed under Big society, Cameron, Coalition Government, Disabled, Education, Green, Labour Blogs, Liberal News, Liberal Vision, Michael Gove, National Service, Nick Clegg, Re-cycling, Rubbish, Schools, Voting reform
I am really surprised. I’m a straight speaking forthright sort of chap. I always speak out and give people my opinion and I am not going to stop now. Some Jonnies from the Foreign Office tipped me the wink that in foreign affairs it is not always a good thing to tell other countries in public what you think about their policies and funny ways. At Eton we were taught not to worry about that kind of thing. Work out what you want to say and get it out there. It’s always been my way. I put it to you that there is a limit to the number of countries who need to hear your views. Let’s say not more that a hundred or so. If you arranged a short number of overseas trips you could p..s them all off in no time. Take a meeting of the European Heads of State, you could p..s of twenty eight countries in less than two hours! How about NATO? You can include North America in your mission.
And why am I dong this? I can envisage you saying this. In the modern Tory Party we have some interesting guys. I’m sure you will agree with this. Take Michael, for example, he can use words that you won’t find in the Short Oxford Dictionary. You’re laughing at me . Don’t believe me? I always take the Dictionary with me if I know he is going to be there. Well, Michael has introduced me to the idea of mutabilty. Now to you and I that is an unusual word but what it means is that we live and breath with the certainty of change. Or to put it bluntly, life is short – especially if you are a politician. You don’t have long. Of course there are exceptions, Mrs T? The blessed Gordon. When I think of Gordon in the morning I imagine that as I look through the window at the back garden I see a rhino. No really, a rhino can do a lot of damage in a relatively short period of time and it is difficult to persuade it to go away.You try, if you don’t believe me. Anyway, I digress, Michael makes the point that we do not have long to change Britain in our image and we had better get on with it. If it is worth doing, do it. Michael’s philosophy is my own. If you are bound to annoy all those Heads of State you had better get on with it. How long do we have? Well our Tory members think not long. When we asked them about the dangers to the Coalition and how long they thought it could survive, they were pessimistic. A lot of them thought we wouldn’t survive two years and many thought no more than one year. George thought this far too short when it comes to the economy. He points out that there are twenty chapters in his economics textbook and he has only reached chapter four. (My advice was to read faster!!) Anyway, to come back to the main point. I do not have much time to tell all of these Heads of State what I think about their policies (Sarah, bring the Diary and remind me where we will be next week). But I shall. Count on it.
Filed under BBC, Big society, Cameron, Europe, George Osborne, India, Labour Blogs, Liberal News, Michael Gove, Pakistan, Parliament, Politics, Treasury
Hello, you out there. I’m going to boast a little. I have been in this job only three months and I have not only shaken up Britain -Small Government Big Society-, he, he, he – but I am changing Britain’s tole in the world for good and I hope for ever – or at least until the next General Election. And by the way I am fixing that, the date and circumstances of an election, so if you think you can easily throw me out think again. Don’t try it! In this I am helped by William [Hague]. He is a real historian, if I ever met one, and knows all about Walpole: no foreign wars, no army to wage it, a few ships to make it difficult for nasty powers to invade us, and local militia (I have been thinking of beefing up the School Cadet Service and the Territorial Army). When I look at what has been happening abroad I am truly appalled: foreign wars in places like Iraq and Afghanistan; following the Americans into those god-awful places, Kossovo, do you remember it; slavishly following the European Union line; cowtowing to Canada in NATO. You name it, we did it! No more. William is wise in all this. He tells me that we could not have defeated the Spanish Armada but for the storms that dashed their ships on the rocks; and it took us fifteen years to defeat Napoleon and we would not have done that but for the Prussians. And the two World Wars? Well as I said to Obama, we should have left to you. It would have saved us a lot of grief. I have changed all that. You can’t engage in these wars if you do not have an army, air force or navy can you? Liam is knocking them all down to size.We need to sell goods and services around the world. We want those countries who are large and growing powerfully to buy from us. Why not? We can make things too. Countries like Turkey, India, China, Brazil, and South Korea. I have a Plan. I go there and act humble. I tell them about our needs. I support them vocally and denounce their enemies (sorry about that fraulein). I become their buddy (this is a strategy I learnt at Eton, by the way). So what if I annoy other countries. Who the hell in Britain wishes to toady up to Germany and France – otherwise known as the European Union! And how much more can we sell to Israel? Be reasonable.
Now some people question both my judgement and character. They describe me as combustible, excitable and something of a bully, and they complain that I am alienating powerful players in the world. They are entitled to their opinion. But did you not know that Britain has traditional ties with our Turkish friends, that we meet more curry than any other type of meal! We can eat more curry still, take it from me. And now for a word on immigration. The question has been asked whether Turkish membership of the European Union would result in hundreds of thousands of Turks settling in Britain. Perhaps, yes, perhaps no. With a bit of luck we might be out by the time they get in. Joke joke! But then you can’t have everything in life can you? Did I ever say you could?
Filed under BBC, Big society, Cameron, Coalition Government, Conservative Home, Guardian, India, Iraq, Liam Fox, Liberal News, Liberal Vision, NATO, Nick Clegg, Obama, Pakistan, Politics, Turkey
I am delighted to announce a conclusion from the public consultation on local authority services that can be delegated to volunteers. Not surprisingly, given all the ingenious consideration to the subject by Lib Dem members throughout the country by far the most votes were in favour of RUBBISH collection. From the many suggestions made by the public we can outline a new RUBBISH service that will save money, lead to the sacking of hundreds of local authority workers, and be green and environmentally friendly. This new RUBBISH scheme distinguishes between creating less RUBBISH, recycling and dumping. Collection is to be organised bottom up from street level. All streets of any length will need to appoint a RUBBISH Leader who will be responsible for making the scheme work. Once every two weeks RUBBISH can be collected. Into blue sacks will be placed paper, in green sacks bottles, red sacks will be provided for cans, and black one’s for general RUBBISH. Now a word about general household RUBBISH. There is too much of it and with a little consideration you could create less. You will be rationed and any excess you must get rid of your self, Some of it will be useful in the garden with a little thought. Each street must designate at least two large garages or some other suitable space for paper and cans. It is the responsiblity of the RUBBISH leader to dispose of the RUBBISH to central collection centres. And here an imaginative and environmentally friendly change. No more trucks. Did you know that these specialist vehicles can cost up to £100,000? They can be disposed of to other countries with less developed RUBBISH disposal systems and so raise money. In their place we propose that bicycles be hitched to wooden trailors. You can use your own bicycle if you wish. We suggest that the cycles and trailor be painted a distinctive colour so that other vehicles can make room for you. So you see the enormous advantages of our new scheme. Money will be saved, less rubbish will be created, and disposal of paper, tins and glass will raise much needed cash. This money will go back to your street and you can use it not only on RUBBISH collection points but on community projects such as playgrounds and parks. less pollution will be created. A word aboiut pracical difficulties. Many people, the old and the infirm will have difficulties. Please help them cope. Remember too that many Council RUBBISH operatives will have lost their jobs and be unable to get another. They will wish to join in. Please involve them and for FREE. Well done everyone. Splendid. You see what can be done in the BIG Society. We can do more. Keep it up. (And God help us, from the back of the audience!)
Filed under Big society, Cameron, Coalition Government, Conservative Home, Environment, Green, Labour Blogs, Liberal Vision, Michael Gove, Nick Clegg, Politics, Pollution, Re-cycling, Rubbish
It always comes as a surprise when other people disagree with you, don’t you think? After all, can you be that serious? I say this now because some people have told me that I am contradictory and make cases for and against with equal clarity and enthusiasm. It is no good saying to them that truth is a matter of perception. They know right from wrong. Smart arse! What I need to write at the beginning of this blog is that you must, please, accept any comments of mine as a contribution to general merriment. I am committed to fun. In this I am very modern for having fun has become the chief preoccupation of millions of people around the world. Why should I swim against the tide, so to speak? In this piece I wish to talk about liberty of expression. I think you will agree that this is a serious subject. My friend – and I have some – are concerned that you will take my thoughts amiss. Remember this is fun. I do not know where you are reading this but I suggest that you lock the door, refuse entrance, and don’t laugh aloud or persuade others to read what I have to say. Sitting comfortably? Then we can begin. There is a campaign a -foot for fair speech which affects us all. Did you know that millions of viewers pay a licence fee for BBC services and hardly access them? Many people get their entertainment and news from the internet. Is that fair? Should they be paying large sums for services they hardly use? The BBC is a bloated organisation. Do you realise that they large salaries to executives and popular entertainers? Some of these salaries are greater than my own – or you I daresay. Is this right? We are acting against the bankers so why not the BBC. There is the issue of news. Is it right to pay for some of these services. How many of you are watching at 2 am in the morning. Some fly people will say a lot of us at the moment because we are unemployed and can’t sleep for the worry of it. But you know this is not an adequate answer. You could just as well watch Sky News. If so why pay the BBC for a superfluous service. You get my point, don’t you. Well what we are going to do is to cut the liecence fee and require the BBC to but out of some services and to encourage them we are going to reduce the licence fee. Yes you fun lovers out there, we agree with you. Pay less for what you want. Are we speaking your language? Now some of you may mutter that it is payment time for Mr Murdoch. It is unworthy of you. Politics is an expensive activity if someone offers you their support for nothing, wouldn’t you wish to repay them? You know that’s fair.
Now the troublesome bit. Current affairs. We welcome free debate but is it fair at the moment? Our Coalition is barely created and we are subject to unfair criticism. It hurts after all these years of isolation, for quite naturally we wish to make our mark. We are committed to a fairer society. Is this amount of vituperation really fair, Often the BBC ignores our advice as to which Opposition Spokesmen is acceptable to the Government and sometimes they are very rude to us. Can we be expected to suffer this behaviour? We would rather they chose a Green Party spokesman / woman rather than some of the riff raff they bring along. All this type of unthinking opposition has to be dealt with if we are to make our mark. If we paid less for our licence and BBC salaries were reduced we would save money for the taxpayer and eliminate some programmes at a stroke. Do you get our drift? Fair comment, yes, ubnbridled licence, now. (aside, remind me of Mr Murdoch’s telephone number, please).
Filed under BBC, Cameron, Civil liberties, Coalition Government, Conservative Home, Guardian, Labour Blogs, Labour Home, Liberal News, Liberal Vision, Nick Clegg, Parliament, Politics
We Lib Dems have always placed a great importance on civil liberties and it is impossible to deny that they have been eroded under the previous Labour administration. We are happy that our Conservative partners share our concerns. This is what we are in the process of doing: getting rid of speed cameras, removing CCTV cameras, reducing the DNA database, getting prisoners released early from prison and limiting the numbers sent there, reducing the number of Magistrates Courts so slowing the judicial process, reviewing the ant-terrorist measures to make it more difficult to retain suspected terrorists while reducing the size of the police force to limit their presence on English streets, and cutting our defence forces and their capacity to oppose terrorism abroad. I think you will agree that this is a major expansion of civil liberties. Of course I understand that liberty is not an absolute. Naturally we accept that there are other imperatives: in particular the over-riding need to secure and protect citizens and Britain’s overseas interest. I admit that crime will rise, accidents on our roads will increase and thousands of our people will die and suffer serious accidents. I accept also that there is evidence that DNA evidence enables the police to solve many serious crimes and that CCTV cameras are useful in bringing people to justice and act as a deterrent to crime We may have to suffer more terrorist attacks and this will be a pity for innocent people will suffer as a consequence. I know these things for I am not a fool. But is this not a small price to pay for restoring the balance away from the surveillance society to the ‘ no business of the Government’ model?’ Or in other words building the BIG Society ( I thought I should squeeze it in somewhere). When it is asked how our participation in the Coalition has benefitted the British people we shall be able to to reply that we suceeded in enlarging the civil liberties. of all Englismen. The price we pay for it may be derided as blood on the street and ruined lives. We can admit it. Why not? But we can hold our heads high. We, almost on our own, with a little help from our friend Dave, in building a freer society. Go out and proclaim it to the world. Lets have a dangerous society if it is the price of holding our heads high. After all even criminals have votes when they are free and if we gave them votes when imprisoned they might vote for our free society. We can but hope. We need all the votes we can garner out there. Is there any one still listening?.
Being right is difficult and not much admired. Our hearts go out to those who are wrong and who had good intentions and we do not need to heed those who have none. But tolerating those who did well but lost strains all sense of humanity. Alistair Darling was right about the actions needed to sustain the British economy and to drag it out of the recession and there he was on television telling us so and explaining that the British economy was growing again thanks to the barely remembered Labour government. Alas, he is Mr Yesterday. Soon there was Boy George on the box smiling through his teeth and telling us of misery to come. God, how I long for the unregenerated Gordon thumping on about things the rest of us barely comprehend. He was right too but most people hate him for it. And what do these Labour leadership candidates have to say about it all? I fear they are on beaches somewhere making notes about what they might say if anyone asked them about something – anything really. Only Ed Balls knows what he is talking about and who is going to vote for him! There is a candidate, and I shall not name her for fear she may became better known, who seems to be telling us that Marx was right and that we are experiencing the difficulties of capitalism that he forecast. She could be right, it is just possible that she is, but no one is warming to her because of it. I used to argue, that of course Marx was right but then a load of capitalist inclined people insisted on changes that made his predictions less likely. I am sure that I am right but no one I addressed on this matter liked it. Smart arse, was the response. It is not appreciated by these Labour candidates that although the Great British Public dislike people who are right, they hate more all those people who recant and say that they got it all wrong. I put it to you. Did Uriah Heap get many votes? There you are then! I’m right, aren’t I? Smart arse. In these situations of considerable personal difficulty what is the best advice we can give to our comrades? I draw upon military training and the experience of waging war in difficult circumstances. There is the apocryphal advice of the Austrian commander reporting back to his headquarters andI paraphase. The situation is difficult. My right flank is under considerable pressure and on the left we are retreating. The centre has come under unbearable and frequent assault. All is well. We are counter attacking. That is what the left, and hence the country, needs: an hurrah, the sound of a bugle and a counter attack. Hey ho, the boys. You know the sort of thing I mean. Soon we shall hear it on the terraces. That’s what we all need, hey hoh, the boys. Are you listening to us?
Filed under Cameron, Coalition Government, Darling, George Osborne, Guardian, Labour Blogs, Labour Home, Labour leadership, Liberal News, Liberal Vision, Parliament, Treasury
Politicians are not noted for veracity and answering a straight question with a straight answer. But we understand: a straight lie to a straight question is politically dangerous and likely to cause trouble. However, what about an unconstructed and univited whopper? How do we recognise it? Here are some recent examples. The Governor of the Bank of England (or his officials for there are several versions) told me that immediate cuts in the budget deficit would be helpful (needed /essential) in maintaining market confidence in the value of sterling and borrowing rates. There is no way that this evidence can be checked for no one in the Bank would be likely to comment on the statement. In general it is probably true. It would help the Bank in its central task But the Bank has no responsibility for fiscal policy and should shut up in public. There is no way of checking the statement. Similarly with this one: Obama expressed his confidence in the British Governments tackling of the Budget deficit. What else would he say? And he certainly wouldn’t deny it in public. Another version: the G20 group of nations expressed its full confidence in the Government’s emergency budget. Hold on, did he? The G20 endorsed Obama’s view that its members should aim to half their public deficit over the next three years. Is that not Labour’s policy. Would we expect Angela Merkel to come out publicly with a condemnation of British policy? Here is another: Alistair Darling gave consideration to an increase in VAT but Gordon Brown vetoed it (good for you Gordon?) Of course Alistair would have asked his officials to give him a full list of possible changes to tax and spending, with their pros and cons; and of course Gordon would have looked at it. Not on your Nelly said Gordon and -probably we might suppose- Alistair agreed. So what is the commonality of these whoppers? We cannot check or question the source of the information. If we cannot check it the statement it is worthless, a breech of confidence, or a mis-quote. And there is another characteristic: all good propaganda contains a germ of the truth (don’t ask me ask Dr Goebbels, if he still listens). All the statements I list above contain one. Of course, we know from our personal lives that one lie leads to another. We reach a point when our nearest and dearest do not believe us and then by some process of time no one does. The Coalition must live in hope that electors have short memories and will be willing to sell their souls for thirty pieces – or a job and the promise of a pay day!
Filed under Alan Budd, Cameron, Coalition Government, Conservative Home, Deficit, George Osborne, Labour Blogs, Labour Home, Liberal News, Liberal Vision, Nick Clegg, Obama, Parliament, Politics
I have a scoop. It has been brought to my attention by a reliable source (this is what he tells me) that the Speaker John Bercow is make a surprise statement to Parliament today. I do not know the exact words but it goes something like this. I hope you don’t mind but I have dramatised the occasion. Here goes, The Speaker says, ‘I have decided that it is in the interests of this house to further clean up our act. Numerous communications have been addressed to me from the public complaining about the appearence, demeanour, and behaviour of Members. It is said that Hon.Members look bad, they are over-weight, unkept and unfashionable. Their posture is awful: they slump and lounge and are louche. Behaviour is atrocious: Hon Members shout, interrupt and hurl abuse to the other side. Some correspondents make the point, not to mince words, that Members have been poorly brought up and should be ashamed of themselves. I confess to Hon Members that from where I sit I agree, absolutely, I agree. At one time I do most sincerely believe that most Members cast a diffferent glow upon the world. I believe that they wished to please and some to serve. When they courted the attention of others they washed behind their ears and had regular haircuts. Some Members will have engaged in popular sports that require a degree of fitness. Their mothers were proud of them. A summer recess gives an opportunity to make amends to the public. However, it is an unfortunate aspect of the recent difficulties on expenses that the foreign fact-finding tours to exotic places are no more. Members cannot rely on adventures abroad at public expense to sharpen themselves by relaxation and excercise. I am taking an intiative. I have set up a series of four-week Summer Courses for Members designed to get them fit by regular outdoor exercise along the lines of Military Training Camps. It will be hard for many Members but the medical facilities are first class and we have made appropriate arrangements with the Emergency Services. These Camps are not voluntary. I have the powers (Order, Order) to insist that Hon Members attend (Order, don’t wag your finger at me Sir). I intend to Suspend any Member who declines my invitation. (Order, Order). The Member clearly believes I don’t have the bottle for it. I am not interested in his so-called ‘family holiday’ in the Seychelles. Try me, Sir, Try me, if you dare. I know the Honourable Gentleman used to be much respected in this House for his outstanding record of service to others. But a long time ago, sir, a long time.’ (Loud noises off stage). Words of abuse will be shouted. ‘If it good enough for Old Etonians and louts from sink Council estates, why not for us?’ can be heard. There is a rush for the entrance, ‘It has come to this. Nothing quite like it since Neville Chamberlain’. ‘That’s done it.’ ‘This is what you get when you buy Lib Dem votes.’ And some such.’ The Speaker can be heard shouting, ‘This is inevitable. We have been given no choice. It is a legacy we inherited for the Honourable Gordon, of Blessed Memory.’ The vision is lost and confusion reigns.’ Can you believe it, it has come to this?
Filed under Bercow, Big society, Cameron, Coalition Government, Commons, Conservative Home, Guardian, National Service, Nick Clegg, Parliament, Politics, Speaker, Summer Camps, Take Back Parliament
It’s that time of the year: the new season. I have been an Arsenal fanatic for as long as I can remember and the condition has grown worse with the years. And in case you thought Nick Hornby had the last word with his away trips to see the reserves play Doncaster in the rain, I have confessions of my own. Don’t press me. There used to be a time when the pressure of it was bearable: years and years when Arsenal finished 5-13th in the League. They won some and lost some. No grief and no expectation. In this relative calm along came Arsene Wenger and everything changed: horror of horrors, Arsenal began to win things and expectations rose and anxieties with them. Injury time and Arsenal still behind. Match after match. Sometimes they pulled the iron from the fire – but alas not every time. Last season there came a time when Arsenal lost and mathematically it looked impossible to win the Premier League. To my surprise a sense of relief swept over me. Nothing more to grieve about, No last minute tuning into the radio, no windswept terraces, nothing, nothing, nothing. And now it is starting up again. We Gooners still don’t know the starting squad. Wenger specialises in last minute transfers. He loves a bargain. Arsenal will be stonger this season but so will Man City and Spurs. You can take nothing for granted. They might but then they might not. What will I do for this team this year? Will I do anything. What about my blood pressure? You can take tablets now for high blood pressure. Would I do it, take the tablets. What is wrong with you Charlie, why this worsening condition? I don’t know Doctor, the reply. How can I say, give me the certainty of finishing 5-13 and all will be well. Remove my hope and give me indifference and the tablets. Smash my tv set and tear up my season ticket. Do it now Doctor, please me. There, there, have a tissue, old chap. It won’t come to that. Trust me, I support Wigan.