It is said that our prisons are full of people who maintain their innocence: their jury was fixed, their counsel incompetent, not all the evidence was presented,the law is an ass. I daresay for some it is true. However, one is left with the thought that some of these protestors fon’t’t get it. Society as a whole has determined that it will not accept certain behaviour: we, the people (hear it before?) think it wrong. In our lunatic asylums there are people who think that theyare Napoleon or more likely a hatstand. Try me they say put your hat on my raised arm. There you are I told you so. Who is to say they are not? Well, we might respond, almost everyone.
I am reminded of these truisms when I listen to respondents give their evidence in the numerous Parliamentary investigations on phone hacking. It is OK, apparently for a Police Superintendant to take £12,000 of benefit in the form of an extended stay at a health farm from a former employee of News Coporation if he is something of a friend; it is alright to ignore evidence of phone hacking affecting thousands of people because one is busy with other matters; there is nothing wrong with the Prime Minister having talks with senior Murdoch executives about News Corporation’s bid for 100 percent control of B Sky B if the decision is to be taken by a close colleague; and, of course, there is nothing wrong about employing a former editor of the News of the World as your Press Advisor despite repeated warnings that he might be involved in phone hacking; and what is wrong with a little false claiming of expenses, when surely everyone is at it. Goodness, do these characters live in the same world as me or you? Apparently, they do.
Every day people get done for over-claiming on benefits, claiming disability allowance when they can stand upright, speeding at thirty five miles an hour, and parking five minutes over the due time. Naughty, naughty, these are criminals and they get what they deserve.
What is wrong here is that the ruling elites in Parliament, the Press, the Broadcasting Corporations and the top levels of Police Forces have become seriously out of kilter with the rest of us. We don’t understand. If you are one of these elites you can do anything you like – within reasons. Of course, now and again people are caught out with their noses in the trough. Well, why not, really: they are them and we are, apparently, something else. One set of rules for them and another for us.
The kind answer to a gentleman who thinks he is a hatstand is that you think not and you can demonstrate it by reference to a real hatstand. The answer to a policeman taking benefits and rewards not permitted in the appropriate police manual is, ‘Get on your bike’ Speak up you at the back. I can’t hear you.
Filed under Andy Coulson, BBC, Cameron, Coalition Government, Commons, Disability Allownce, Labour leadership, Liberal Voice, Metropolital Police, Murdoch, Nrws Coporation, Politics, Sir Paul Stephenson
Some weeks ago I advocated the development and use of a happiness pill. Priority was to be given to our children and then progressively to all citizens in constant contact with them: parents, other relatives and teachers and so on. I do not think David Cameron was among my readers because if he had he would not have committed himself to a happiness index.
Philosphically, an index is a difficult and complex concept which seeks to codify incompatibles. It advances a simple proposition, first given us by Aristotle, that ‘happiness is the sole aim of life which consumes all others’. Well, yes BUT no. Consider the sadist. His joy and contentment is gained by acts of painful cruelty against others. And the masochist, who is entirely miserable unless the subject of pain and ignominy. Is public policy to embrace both their needs? The miser wishes to hide and store his valuable resources while the adventurous entreneur is stifled by lack of capital. The bully needs victims, the abuser the vulnerable, and the paedophile hunts the innocent. Are they all to be led onto the purple pathway to joy?
Consider the Puritan. What is the purpose of life? To do my duty, love God and my neighbour? Well, yes, but does that cover the arduous tasks of caring for those suffering from dementia or mental illness? Can performing the tasks involved for a 7 day, 24 hour, service to the afflicted bring human happiness to you?
My proposal for the national adoption of a happiness pill solves these problems. Everyone who takes a pink tablet will be happy. The sadist will not need his victims; the pressure of homework will be eased by jokes and pleasantries; while the male abuser does not need the alchohol his batteries are fueled on and takes joy in sharing the housework and doing the washing up. It is a universal remedy to a universal problem: unhappiness. No one on a pill a day will ever be unhappy.
Those housewives suffering from memory loss as a result of daily dosages of valium need have no fear. The happiness pill will not be toxic or addictive, and there will be no side effects. There will be many important benefits: days lost from work caused by depressive illnesses and boredom will be minimised. Even the most demanding and tedious of work tasks will be performed by happy and grateful workers. Output will rise and taxes fall. We shall have more leisure time and children will skip happily to school with completed homework in their satchells. Are you feeling happier now?
I can sense that our Dave remains hesitant. Dave, isn’t it true that on some days you are not happy at all and on other days you start happy and become miserable. If happiness is so important to you forget the nonsense of the index and take one pink tablet at breakfast with a glass of water every day. We shall be with you, Dave. And as we all know, because you have told us, we are all in this together. Cheers, down the hatch!
Filed under BBC, Big society, Cameron, Coalition Government, Disability Allownce, Guardian, Happiness, Labour Blogs, Lib Dem blogs, Liberal Voice, Politics, State schools
There are maxims worth following whenever a politician makes use of statistics. In particular, in whose interest are the statistics prepared and published and are they being interpreted acurately and fairly. Let us consider the thorny issue of the effect on families in Greater London of ceilings and cuts in Housing Benefit. According to Government statistics, and let us say they are right, there are 17,500 families and some 82,000 people. The London Boroughs speaking collectively are preparing plans for what to do if all these people could not pay higher rents, could not make other provision and were therefore forced to move.
Ask some questions:
1. Would all these tenants be forced to move? No, but no one has bothered to find out. Come on Government, survey them first and give us the answer. 2. What proportion of these tenants are short stay anyway with agreements running up to 3 years.? Up to 40 percent of landlords, according to the Landlords Association but they would say this wouldn’t they. 3. Up to 30 percent of landlords according to the Landlord’s Association They don’t tell us by how much. There are other estimates ranging fr0m 30-50 percent some of which come from Tory Councils. They would say this wouldn’t they. 3. Some of these tenants might be given social housing by their Councils. Source Tory Westminster Council. What is the current waiting list? Not given. It must be lengthy, say up to ten years. No chance. 5. Not to worry anyway the Government has put aside £130 million to mitigate hardship. Sounds a lot. Let’s say every family affected was a hardship case. If this was true 17,500 familes would each get £742 pounds. Enough to pay 2 weeks rent. Whacko. Lets be fair. Reduce the number forced to move by 20 percent as a result of lower rents that they could afford, and a further 20 percent for their own ingenuity, and ten percent for short term rentals and a willingness to move on. (Statistical point. These percentages are not additive) and we might say that 50 percent of families, 8,750, will have to leave their homes and most will go into boarding accommodation on the South Coast. 5.. At what cost? Not known. Leaving this aside the Government could give the families concerned and the Councils bearing the cost £130 miillion towards the cost of this, that is £1,484. How long would this last? Are there jobs for them in places like Hastings with very high rates of unemployment? I have not seen any figures. Come on you Council’s, tell us.
You might say that the Coalition Government, in the interest of transparent administration should tell us. If Labour MPs were smart enough they could ask the Parliamentary questions that would give us all the answers. Come on you Labour MPs and Labour C0uncillors. Do your job.
Filed under BBC, Benefits, Big society, Cameron, Coalition Government, Conservative Home, Disability Allownce, Economics, George Osborne, Guardian, Housin in London, Housing Benefit, Job Seekers Allowance, Labour Blogs, Lib Dem MPs, Nick Clegg, Parliament, Politics, Poverty, Spending Review, Statistics, Treasury, Unemployment
‘Good morning. Terry isn’t it. Good morning to you. What’s the subject today? An interview on the effects of Housing Benefit on the poor of London it say’s here. Look, do you mind running this through with me before you record anything. I’m starting a bit cold with this one.’ ‘A sort of dress rehearsal,you mean. That sort of thing. OK. Let’s start. According to the London Borough’s these proposed Housing Benefit ceilings will make over 17, 000 families, some 85,000 families homeless. Do you agree?’ ‘ We don’t know do we. Some of these people will raise their game and pay the higher rent. A lot of concealment of true financial resources goes on. They might take in lodgers, share with other families. Why not for a W in your post code?’ ‘ Well assuming that is out of order for most of them what then?’ ‘ Number 1. Sorry I’m reading this stuff. We have this social fund for special cases. This might buy some of them some weeks grace. Time to move home somewhere in the sticks. No.2 They can join the Council housing lists for a place, if they qualify. There is social housing in London you know. If they qualify they will get a place as something becomes available.’ ‘ Do you know the average waiting time for social housing in London?’ ‘No I don’t but I have a feeling that you are goling to tell me.’ ‘ Fifteen years. Goodness, there’s a thing. 3. They can negotiate with their landlord to get the rent down. These landlords take advantage. They put up the rent if they know the Local Authority is going to pay it. There is little evidence of that. Some people estimate that there are ten people seeking every rental in the London area.’ ‘ Is that right. I shall make a note of that. 4. What’s so hot about London anyway. Go North where rentals are lower. I did.’ ‘ Come off it Minister, the taxpayer pays the the rent for you.’ ‘ Come to think of it, that’s true. Special cases make bad law. Don’t you think? 5. Look. We are not unfeeling people you know. Housing Benefits have to be reformed. The whole system is costing us too much. People are resourceful. No one waits for the axe. They take some decisive action to save themselves.’
‘OK Minister, lets bring this to a rational conclusion. You maintain that not all these 17,000 families will lose their homes. How many will, do you think and what will become of them?’ ‘I can’t say. No one can. Perhaps a few thousand families.’ ‘ Now we’re getting somewhere. Say ten thousand, that is fourty thousand peope shipped into boarding houses and at the public’s cost. Is that it?’ ‘ Well, I’ll be honest with you. It might be the outcome.’
‘Thank you Minister.’ ‘ How do you think it went. I could argue another case you know. Come to think of it I could argue the opposite.’ ‘ Well, Nick. I think that might be wise. Your shout, of course.’
Filed under BBC, Benefits, Big society, Boris Johnson, Cabinet, Cameron, Conservative Home, Disability Allownce, George Osborne, Gulags, Job Seekers Allowance, Labour Blogs, Lib Dem blogs, Liberal Voice, London, New Stateman, Nick Clegg, Politics, Spending Review, Treasury
NB This post comes with a health warning. No one without a sense of humour should read it.
What I do from time to time is to talk to you about the real purposes of the Coalition. Of course, it is common ground among all political parties that urgent and difficult decisions need to be taken to reduce the financial deficit. That difficult burden is placed on the Coalition. However, our adminstration offers the British public something different: we really are serious about diminishing the role of Government and shifting power to you the people. When some fuddy-duddy objects it is quite clear that they are misguided: public service union officials trying to hold on to their membership and their jobs; pressure groups with odd objectives, well-meaning but misguided; and of course politicians nervous that fair representation will lose them their jobs. You know the kind of thing. They simply don’t get it.
Let’s consider policing. The Police Federation has suggested that expenditure cuts will cause a big loss in the numbers of policemen and that after 4 years there will be 60,000 fewer. I’ll be frank with you. In my judgement the loss will be greater. Would this be a disaster? No. Not if we do the right things.
As you know, I am a Revolutionary and something of an expert on Russian history. (Stop laughing, please, at the back). Our dreadful political and economic disasters are akin to those confronting first Lenin and the Stalin. They were confronted with similar circumstances. Power lay with the State. The police served a narrow bourgeois interest and were resistant to change. What did Lenin do? Well, he was a pioneer of the Big Society. He called upon volunteers and instituted the creation of Druzhinicks (Volunteer Guards). Companies were obliged to volunteer people for Guard Duties. A vast body of men and women were issued with uniforms, arm bands and a whistle and they patrolled the streets. (More laughter). It was a holiday with pay spent in the fresh air. Of course, like Community Policemen today, they had no powers of arrest and when confronted with really difficult situations had to call the police. But it worked there and then. People confronted established power and made it subject to their will.
We have a plan. (we usually do). Let us replace these policemen with volunteers. These men and women could be recruited from two sources of manpower: first the growing number of unemployed and secondly the release of short stay prisoners from prisons onto this form of Community Service. (Even more laughter). Of course, there will be objections. Those on Job Seekers Allowance and Disability Allowance might object. They must be told ‘get serious’. If you want some of our money you must earn it! It is certainly possible to patrol in a wheelchair when accompanied by an able bodied person. Some objections might be raised by the media and the general public to the use of delinquents. But who better to catch a thief than a former villain. Remember they will be in uniforms. A good uniform can help the process of rehabilitation and change personal behaviour.
Of course there are expenses here but just think of the savings: no new prisons, the release of 20,000 short stay prisoners and up to 100,000 high paid policemen made redundant. What is the cost of 120,000 whistles compared to these savings? And the benefits to 100,000 of a life in the open air and the handing back of responsibility for policing to communities will have enormous advsantages.
The Big Society worked for Lenin and several generations of Soviet citizens, so why not for you, and for us. Those who want to try out a whistle can get one as they go out. (Laughter and the blowing of whistles?)
Filed under BBC, Benefits, Big society, Cameron, Coalition Government, Conservative Home, Disability Allownce, Disabled, Job Seekers Allowance, Labour Blogs, Lenin, Lib Dem blogs, Liberal Voice, New Stateman, Police Federation, Politics, Revolution, Russia, Stalin, Uncategorized, Unemployment