Tag Archives: Society

IS THIS OUR CIVIL SOCIETY?


The ramblings of a disconcerted citizen

In uncertain times the ideas of a civilised society are tested almost to breaking point, but the point of a real civilised society is that it is able to protect the most vulnerable in society at the times they are most in need.

Over the past few years it appears to me that our civil society structure is being tested possibly beyond breaking point.

We are told by our politicians that we are “all in this together”, while at the same time advocating damaging policies that seem to be aimed at the most vulnerable in our society.  This is not party political, but a general observation.

It has been revealed in a recent study that with care for the elderly, 20% of our hospitals do not even provide care that would be adequate in law, and over half of the hospitals failed to meet basic standards.  Can this be justified in any society?

Councils up and down the country are closing libraries as they are seen as a “soft” target to cut costs.  The argument is that everyone can use the internet, conveniently forgetting that 20% of households do not have access to the internet, and that certain sections of our society can only access reading material and the internet via libraries.

Of course these sections of our communities tend to be the old; young; unemployed; disabled; single parents and those in poverty.  In other words, those at the margins of our society and the most vulnerable.

Assessment’s for Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and the general stigmatisation of anyone with a disability who claims benefits in the national press is yet another cause for concern.  The many stories that are told by those with physical and mental disabilities about how they have been treated in their assessments for benefits are quite horrific.  Indeed so horrific, that the process itself quite often exacerbates any illness the applicant has.

Mental illness has been at the forefront of this injustice.  It appears to be the case, that it is acceptable to refuse people ESA on the most flimsy of grounds and to provide an assessment in a short period of time with a tick sheet mentality.

We all know that the diagnosis of a mental illness can take a long time, even years, and many mental illnesses can change on a day by day or even hour by hour basis.  So how can an assessment be made so quickly that will affect the living standards and quality of life of an individual and their family?

I could give many examples, whether from those suffering from Bipolar; depression; social anxiety; personality disorders and so on.  One day that person could be fit for work, the next they may be completely incapacitated.  Yet the criteria for those making decisions that will affect the wellbeing and health of a human being is being stripped down to a tick sheet and the need to cut costs.  It appears that no consideration is being given to the consequences of these decisions, even if it means in a minority of cases, death.

Mental health services are also being stretched to breaking point with the need to make space for the next patient in a crisis being paramount.

It strikes me that those with mental illnesses are the easy targets for the powers that be.  Our society is becoming a case of “WHO SHOUTS LOUDEST”. Whether it is the young; the elderly; those in social need or the ill, they have become the easy targets. The question is, why should people have to fight to be treated with respect?  It is clear that many in mental distress will find it most difficult to fight against an unjust decision by benefit agencies, which must be known by those implementing the policies.

It now appears from the evidence of real people at the sharp end that the safety net is no longer catching all those it was set up to help.

I have to ask, IS THIS REALLY OUR CIVIL SOCIETY?

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What are the causes of the riots? : An impossible question but one we have to ask

Later today the great and the good in the House of Commons will discuss the riots the country has been subject to for the past 5 days.  In some ways my heart sinks at the thought.  The temptation to sink into the comfort of party politics and ideological prejudices I fear will be too difficult to resist.

That is not to say I have not heard some level headed comments by MP’s, but it does not take long before the ugliness creeps in as it could be seen with Baroness Warsi and Diane Abbott on Newsnight yesterday.  The temptations to blame the Labour Government or to point out that riots seem to happen under the watch of the Conservative Party could not be resisted.

Then we have the likes of David Davies who was blaming the lack of control on the streets of Britain on the criticisms of the Police in the past.  We apparently are not allowed to criticise the Police when they use Kettling, or when police officers accept money for information, or contribute to the deaths of innocent people like Mr Tomlinson.  he obviously perceives this on the agenda of “its the fault of the left”.

What will undoubtedly come out of the commons debate will be the universal condemnation of the violence which I am sure we would all agree with.  The feeling in the country that the people causing the mayhem, violence and looting need to be caught and severely punished.  Law and Order and confidence in the Police needs to be restored.

It is also the case that we should support the Police in the way they have dealt with a situation that was unforeseen and difficult.  I have no criticism in the way the riots were dealt with with the resources they have in a society where they police on the basis of consent and not coercion.

There are clearly 2 issues we need to address. One is to restore Law and Order and severely punish those who have acted in such a disgraceful manner bringing our communities to the brink of anarchy – The Second Issue however is far more complex and that is, what is the cause of the rioting and the fostering of values in a section of society that is abhorent to most people.  However this is actually the wrong question. The real question is

What are the causes

I have already heard people come up with the simplistic “cause” approach – its poverty, or its the family, or its inequality, or most ridiculously its the cuts.  These explanations are as simple as they are stupid.

Lets also be clear – looking for the deep rooted long term causes does NOT excuse the acts of violence and looting, but as Tony Blair eloquently put it, we need to deal with “crime and the causes of crime”. Unfortunately, as with so much Tony Blair said, he was great on rhetoric, and very poor on substance, he never did deal with the causes.

In my view the only way to come to a conclusion in what is happening to our society and why these values pervade a section of our society is for us all to step back and analyse deep seated traits of our society, to speak to people who actually engage with the people engaging in this behaviour and to throw off the shackles of our political prejudices and ideologies.

A full public enquiry needs to be undertaken and nothing should be off the table for discussion, this is the only way to come to a conclusion and to begin to address the causal issues in order to make our society as a whole a better place to live and to prevent this descent into sickening acts of depravity.

I have been racking my brain over the last few days to come up with reasons why people can act in the way they have in the rioting.  Sometimes I can only come up with the questions and not the answers – other times I feel I have an understanding of how we have got to where we are – at others I am simply at a loss.

For what it is worth – these are my thoughts:

1) Looking at society and the way it has developed over the past 35 years, there is no doubt in my mind that we have become a more selfish and materialistic society.  Money and materialism is the mantra of our society, it is our new religion.  As a pithy remark – perhaps we could engage people to vote in the political process if we told them they would get a new pair of Adidas trainers at the polling station!

The instant gratification society we now live in is likely to cause problems in a time of austerity due to the way we encourage the idea that we can all have what we want when we want it.

When I was a child in the 1970’s, I was taught that you saved your money and bought items when you could afford them.  Buying items “on the knock” or what we now refer to as “buying on credit” was frowned upon.  You live within your means.

Our financial system however is built on credit, creating money that does not exist until it is paid back.  We previously trusted financial institutions when they leant us money, but those very same institutions changed the rules and told people they could borrow far more than they could afford; that it was ok to have whatever we want NOW, and to worry about it later.  This aided economic growth for 30 years, but has now thrown us into a stagnating state of austerity that we will probably endure for a decade or more.

This is what happens when you “live for today” and don’t care about tomorrow. Is it any wonder that those who are on the fringes of our society think they are entitled to whatever they want when they want it?

2) Are some of the rioters doing just what other so called “responsible” members of our society have been doing for years.  Do we have any so called role models left?

We see MP’s who rip off the country’s tax payers on mass effectively steeling millions of pounds in expenses while telling the country they are subjecting themselves to wage restraint and building property empires while a housing crisis ensues in our communities.

Bankers who have brought the country’s finances to its knees, who are bailed out and effectively nationalised, where the risk is taken away – and yet they award themselves enormous bonuses for taking risks that do not exist.

Journalists and newspapers break the law at will and are not held to account for years even though it is openly admitted – all to obtain more money for their publications.

A celebrity culture that says you can earn money for notoriety and not for achieving something constructive.

Time and again those at the upper echelons of our society do not get what they deserve proving we do not live in a meritocracy but a nepotistic one, awarding failure and cutting off opportunities for others.

3) Family life – It is clear that the behaviour of a section of our society do not know the difference between right and wrong.  Boundaries have been taken away and some families are completely dysfunctional. We need to be brave and ask why? Frank Field investigated this and wrote a paper handed to the government 8 months ago.  It was kicked into the long grass by the government, but we need to investigate this further and not simply give a tax break to married couples which is as useless as handing them a chocolate tea pot.

4) Education – How can we as a society accept that 17% of 15 year olds are affectively illiterate.  How can we not see the correlation between illiteracy and crime when 70% to 80% of those in prison cannot read and write.  How can we accept a post code lottery on whether children go to a good or bad school. Giving people poor education is the equivalent of shutting the door of aspiration in their faces.

Why is it that teachers have their hands tied behind their backs in preparing the boundaries of behaviour for our young people and why are they not backed up by some of the parents?  How can we change this culture?

5) Social mobility – Our society today has not been as unequal as it is today since the 1920’s.  After WWII our society became more integrated, more equal in terms of wealth, wealthier and social mobility increased. In the past 30 years this trend has been reversed, is this a coincidence?

6) Law and Order – Michael Howard said “Prison Works” – 20 years later we have been told by Kenneth Clarke that “prison does not work”.  In truth they are both wrong.  Prison works when it protects the public from dangerous people.  The public would like our justice system to provide sentencing that is equitable with their crimes.

When you have dangerous violent crimes being given light sentences; when you get people convicted of knife crime getting a few months in jail and serving less than a third of their sentence; when you get MP’s like Jim Devine sentenced to 16 months in prison for ripping off the tax payer and abusing the highest office in the land and yet is released after serving only a quarter of the sentence, is it any wonder people do not believe they will be either caught or punished?

I am all for more community sentencing and alternative forms of punishment and a focus on rehabilitation, BUT people need to know that people convicted of serious crimes are severely punished and that there are the prison places available for them.

7) Lack of Community – Our overwhelming pre-occupation with the individual and the lack of “belonging” seems to run throughout our society.  I do not wish to make a political point, just a fact that we need to face up to, and that is that we devastated communities in the 1980’s, most of which have never recovered.  I have lived in various areas of the country and until recently, I had not lived in a real “community” since I was a child in Birmingham.  Political leaders like to give lip service to community, but I doubt if many actually know what it really means.

8)  We accept unemployment is acceptable in our society – I am well aware of the poverty trap and welfare dependency, but we have a systemic problem that unemployment is accepted as a part of our system.  Indeed it is a necessity in order to suppress wages and to encourage people to do the jobs the rest of us do not want to do.  Should we now question this approach?

None of these possible causes on their own is a reason for an anti-culture in our society, but they all need to be investigated and considered.  It is the combination of many factors that creates the society in which we live and if we want to prevent this “underclass” from growing larger in numbers and for this complete disregard for civilised values to stop, we need to have a good look at ourselves and how we can break this cycle.

. . . . . . . . . . . .THIS TOO WILL PASS. . . . . . . . . . . .

Even This Shall Pass Away
By Theodore Tilton  

ONCE in Persia ruled a king
Who upon his signet ring
’Graved a motto true and wise,
Which, when held before his eyes,
Gave him counsel at a glance
Fit for any change or chance.
Solemn words, and these were they:
“Even this shall pass away.”

Trains of camel through the sand
Brought him gems from Samarkand;
Fleets of galleys through the seas
Brought him pearls to rival these.
Yet he counted little gain
Treasures of the mine or main.
“Wealth may come, but not to stay;
Even this shall pass away.”

’Mid the revels of his court,
In the zenith of his sport,
When the palms of all his guests,
Burned with clapping at his jests,
He, amid his figs and wine,
Cried: “Oh, precious friends of mine,
Pleasure comes, but not to stay —
Even this shall pass away.”

Lady, fairest ever seen,
Was the bride he crowned his queen.
Pillowed on his marriage bed
Softly to his soul he said:
“Though no bridegroom ever pressed
Fairer bosom to his breast,
Mortal flesh must come to clay —
Even this shall pass away.”

Fighting in a furious field,
Once a javelin pierced his shield,
Soldiers with a loud lament
Bore him bleeding to his tent.
Groaning, from his wounded side,
“Pain is hard to bear,” he cried.
“But, with patience, day by day,
Even this shall pass away.”

Towering in the public square,
Twenty cubits in the air,
Rose his status grand in stone;
And the king, disguised, unknown,
Gazing on his sculptured name,
Asked himself: “And what is fame?
Fame is but a slow decay —
Even this shall pass away.”

Struck with palsy, sere and old,
Standing at the gates of gold,
Spake him this, in dying breath:
“Life is done, and what is death?”
Then, in answer to the king,
Fell a sunbeam on the ring,
Answering, with its heavenly ray:
“Even death shall pass away.”

If we are happy or sad, exhilarated or depressed, on top of the world or in the depths of despair, This Too Will Pass

YES TO AV: Our last chance to close the democratic deficit

So this is it, the day has finally arrived where the nation goes to the polls in order to decide on the future of the election system for general elections in the UK.

The opinion polls suggest that the no vote has had a massive surge in popularity over the last 2 weeks.  My own personal experience of meeting people and having watched debates in the media seem to back this up.

Several moments over the last few days have almost driven me to throw valuable items at the TV screen when hearing them repeating in verbatim the no campaign.  Watching the Young Persons Question Time on BBC3 a few nights ago was a very depressing experience.  Many people seemingly repeating adverts they had seen in the no campaign.

“some people have more than one vote”                  –         not true
“It will cost £250 million extra than FPTP”           –         not true
“It will produce hung parliaments all the time”     –         not true

If you would like to see how the system of AV works, please see here, this is not a propaganda piece for the YES or NO campaign but a straight forward explanation by Jeremy Vine on the BBC.

It has been a sad campaign where the negative campaigning has by far outweighed the effectiveness of the positive.  This referendum was more about fear than about electoral systems.  The Yes campaign became more vociferous towards the end, but appears to have been too little too late.  We can only hope that the polls are wrong, and some element of sanity prevails.

Yesterday an excellent article was written by the FactCheck team for Channel 4 investigating the claims that David Cameron and others have stated bout AV,  ” It’s a system so obscure that it is only used by three countries in the whole world – Australia, Fiji and Papua New Guinea. Our system in contrast is used by half the world.”

The results of this analysis show that of the 50 countries who use FPTP, 41 were ex-colonies or overseas territories of Britain.  So we directly gave it to them or imposed it on them.  The USA is a strictly 2 party system, and is designed to prevent pluralism and influence of smaller parties, while India accounts for 1.2 billion people in this calculation, who was a previous colony.

On the other hand, the ONLY country to use FPTP in the EU, is the UK.  In terms of the amount of democratic countries, the most popular system of voting is actually List Proportional Representation or List PR., with 71 countries.

William Hague has said that it would be “unbritish” to change from FPTP.  It seems he is correct as we exported it to the world.  However, any new democracy that has sprung up in the past 20 years, has not used FPTP.

We must also consider how our system has developed.  From the top down, based on nepotism and patronage only allowing a wider franchise when the powers that be were forced to do so, or it was in the interests of particular political parties.

Meanwhile the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index 2010, showing just how democratic and accountable countries are shows that out of the top 25 countries, the UK only comes 19th on that list, and of the top 10, 7 do not use FPTP.

By the logic of David Cameron and others, if we are to just do what other countries do traditionally, then democracies would never progress, they would remain stagnant.  Not only that, the most populous system is dictatorship with 2.5 billion people on the planet subjected to it, should we then adopt this system?

In the 2005 general election, a minority of 35.6% had a majority in the House of commons, able to enforce their will on the rest of the population.  In the last election, the Conservative party got 37% of the vote.  If the constituency boundaries were a little more equal, as they will be at the next election, they would have had a working majority again.

The share of the vote of the party that wins FPTP elections in this country is progressively obtaining less approval over time, yet still obtaining unlimited power through the party system in the House of Commons.

The democratic deficit in this country needs to change.

Debunking Myths about AV 

“some people have more than one vote”                  –         not true
This is not true.  The way AV works is that if no one candidate gets more than 50% of the vote (ie.) a majority; then the party with the lowest vote is eliminated and there vote is transferred to another candidate of there choice.  This is expressed by the 2nd preferential vote.  All the votes are then counted again and so on until someone has the approval of more than 50% of the vote.

In each ballot round all votes are counted again.  No one has more than one vote in each ballot.  This is a way of ensuring that the candidate who wins has an approval of a majority rather than a minority of the constituency.

It must also be stated that if you wish to just vote for one candidate, like for FPTP, then you are free to do this, it is YOUR CHOICE.

This also ensures that small extremist parties do not get power, as they have a very narrow base of support.  This is why the BNP and the Communist party are campaigning for a NO vote.


“It will cost £250 million extra than FPTP”           –         not true
This is simply untrue.  The analysis carried out by the government has not allowed for any extra costs associated with AV.  The only extra cost of the system is that some counts will take longer.  However, ballot counters are not paid by the hour, so the actual increase in cost would be small if at all.  No counting machines are required so the reference to counting machines is a complete red herring.     

“It will produce ,hung parliaments all the time”     –         not true
Australia has had 2 Hung Parliaments in the last 90 years, the UK has had 5, in addition to governments that have not had a working majority.  Australia use AV.

The full extent of exactly how AV would affect the UK vote is not fully known because there may well be a higher turn out as people may feel that because their vote is more likely to count, then more people would vote.  In addition, people could freely vote for the candidate they WANT, without feeling they have to vote for the candidate they least dislike.  Because if the candidate they vote for is eliminated, they can transfer that vote to a candidate who is still in the ballot.

Confusion of the AV debate

The politics of fear that has taken over in this country over the past few years due to economic uncertain times and the rhetoric of political parties has substantially affected the AV debate.

Many have mixed up within their minds the idea of “coalitions like this one”, the “electoral system” and “poor government”.

If you do not like this particular Tory/LibDem government, this is NOT because it is a coalition.  There are many coalitions in the EU, the German economy has consistently out performed the UK yet has coalition governments.  Good government or bad government is not simply because of the electoral system, but of the calibre of politician.  However, the representative nature of the political system is created by the electoral system.

If you consider the Clegg factor, or the woeful policies of this government it is not because of a coalition but rather their CHOICE to lie to the public or u-turn on policies.  Their political choice.  The article here explains this more fully.  In short there is nothing in the governments actions that was brought about simply because of coalition compromise.

I have heard people say they believe in AV but that they want to “teach Nick Clegg a lesson”.  This is a nonsense view to have.  The choice we make today is about the future of democracy in this country, not about individual political parties.

An Argument For AV 


Lets be clear, the AV system is not a panacea.  It will not get rid of all ills within our political system.  All it will do is give a small improvement on FPTP.

It is likely to improve voter turn out

It will mean that politicians will HAVE to reach out to a broader section of society rather than their core vote

Fewer Safe seats

Every MP will have to get more than 50% of the vote, an actual MAJORITY, whereas at the moment 60% of seats have less than 50%

It retains the one MP to One constituency link

It is unlikely to massively change the outcome of elections, but allow smaller parties with BROAD SUPPORT to get a larger representation

It will ensure extremist parties do not get any more representation than they do now

AV use in the world 

AV is currently used by about 29 million people in the world in 3 countries –  Australia, PNG and Fiji.  However versions of AV are used in over 60 countries in the world to either elect their President, Prime Minister, or parliament with the run-off system.  

This system rather than having candidates listed in preference, if a candidate does not have 50% of the vote, the last candidate is eliminated and a new ballot is taken, that is a whole new vote, and this continues until someone has more than 50% of the vote. Many systems ensure only two rounds are required.

This is a more expensive and long winded version of the AV system we are being asked to vote on, but very similar, with a very similar outcome.

Versions of AV are also used to elect ALL the leaders of the main political parties; the London Mayoral election; the election of the speaker of the House of Commons; Trade Unions; businesses use it and charities.

Lets be clear, the people who are most vociferous in their opposition to AV are people who do not believe in a wide democratic franchise.  The Conservative party has always seen itself as having a “right to govern”, and with FPTP they have an unfair advantage and can cling on to a disproportionate amount of power with an ever dwindling share of the vote.

The old guard of the Labour party also want to keep FPTP for a similar reason. People in the House of Lords like Dr Robert Winston also takes this view and represents an unelected chamber, that is against all principles of democracy.  He has also repeated many of the myths listed above.  A discussion of this can be seen here.

Conclusion

The AV system is NOT the best system available, BUT it is the BEST system on offer.  It will not radically change our voting system and will not radically change the outcome of elections.  There will be a slight increase in the fairness of the system as a whole and make MP’s work a bit harder at election time to reach out beyond their core vote.

Some say that it is Nick Clegg who has put this to the country – this is about as far from the truth as you could get.  It is those WITH the power that has put this to the country which is why they have put a system as close to the FPTP system as possible.

Nick Clegg would have wanted to put a Proportional System of voting to the country, which would be the best and fairest  system.  But Gordon Brown and David Cameron would not allow the public to decide on this for fear of losing their grip on power.

If anything, this proposal has been put to the country by David Cameron and not Nick Clegg.

We must think of the future, and not party political posturing when deciding on this referendum.  This is likely to be the only time in my lifetime that we are asked what political system we want.  If we vote no, it is likely that the democratic deficit in this country will continue unabated.

Our constitution moves very slowly, the UK tradition is based on very small evolutionary steps.  This is one of them, and if we do not take it, we will not have another opportunity for at least a generation.

PROUD TO BE BRITISH: The Aftermath of the Royal Wedding

Guest Author: Jonathan Pims

So it is the morning after the day before.  I really feel wonderful today, the sun is shining, the streets are gleaming and the birds are singing like never before.  Just as the Prime Minister, David Cameron said many months ago, this was just what the country needed to lift it’s spirits in these uncertain times.

As the Royal couple look to the Gods thanking them for the wonderful weather, they contemplate their rightful position at the head of our countries hopes and dream, while the people look up admiringly.

What a wonderful scene.

The World looked on yesterday in awe at the way our society is organised, and how well we celebrate a wonderful day for the great and the good.

In true British tradition, all was forgotten for a day, as we opened the bubbly before 11 am draped in the Union Flag.

But this was not about a day, but about the country as a whole.  We can now look forward and not back, no more thoughts of austerity or recession; job losses or cuts.  No more worries about the NHS or our meritocracy, why should we worry when the context has finally been put into it’s rightful place.

There were jokes on twitter about the crowds being the start of the queue for the AV referendum!  Of course now, after yesterday, no referendum is needed.  Why would anyone want to vote to change the system we have.  If an event could sum up our true beliefs as British people, it was the Royal Wedding.  Lets celebrate the hereditary principle.

The House of Lords has worked fantastically well for the last 100 years so why change it?  The Blairite attacks on our representative democracy by getting rid of the majority of our hereditary peers was simply an act of vandalism, an attack on the people, an attack on our constitution.  It was no wonder he stopped reform when he did.

We need a system for stability, not change. A system that can bring strong government that we can be proud of, where a minority can rule over the majority, imposing their will on people that never voted for them.  Only First Past the Post can do this.  It is so important we keep this system, where the constitution ensures that our political system goes from the top down and not from the bottom up.

Socialism and its ideals nearly destroyed this country over the last 60 years.  The so called “democratic movement” and those calling for “constitutional change” are simply socialists by any other name.

People don’t want more power, more accountability, or more say in their affairs.  By all means let them sort out their own communities social problems in the Big Society as we withdraw support from the councils, after all they have also been infiltrated by these socialists.  But when it comes to democracy, people know where they stand.  As the picture above shows, the people look up to their betters and they look down knowingly.  This is how it was always meant to be, its the best way, the only way.

Those campaigning for the yes to AV vote in the referendum just don’t get what is great about the British and the British constitution.  Up until a few years ago, and disgracefully changed without even a debate, we were subjects and not citizens.  In my view it should have stayed this way.

A society can move forward and be at peace with itself when we know where we stand.  The monarchy, House of Lords, Disproportionate amount of power for a few politicians  in the House of Commons, a Police force that will uphold the rule of law and take out newspaper sellers who defy the authorities, this is how it is meant to be.

We were born to be ruled by the elite, a small group of people who were born to rule, and educated to carry out their order, without interference by the ill educated masses or ethnic minorities.

Many attempts have been made to encroach  on our freedoms.  Health and Safety Fascists; Environmental socialists; and a Human Rights act that actually takes away our freedoms telling us how we should treat our own people.  What right do they have to put limits on our rulers?

The church has shown itself exactly why it is at the heart of our constitution. Rightly attached and embedded into our constitution with our head of state.  In a secular society this is just what we need.

Thank God, AV has been buried by this show of Britishness.  The Royal Wedding has taken away the recession blues and the threat to our constitution.  There is no need to be depressed at economic meltdown or the rise in homelessness.  This is the way it should be.  No need to reduce the amount of safe seats in parliament or increasing accountability, it is the way it is supposed to be.

Those that still, after all we have seen over the last few days, vote for AV should be ashamed of themselves.  The fact that the BNP are campaigning against AV is just a double bluff of extremism.  AV is an attack on the very nature of our Britishness, trying to assert the extremism of meritocracy on an unsuspecting nation.

I am so proud to be British, to be where I am in society.  I doff my cloth cap with the rest of the nation to the Royals, Lords and MP’s, and to the way things are and have always been.

I love my country for the way it is. I am proud to be British.

cc

ROYAL WEDDING SONGS

We wish the happy couple well . . .

Kate never forget your roots

This is for the masses outside the wee church

This one was a favourite of Princess Diana

To keep their feet on the ground

The Royals biggest Fan, defending benefit scroungers to the end

One for when their children need entertaining

One to show their Royal credentials

To show the Queen just how much she is loved

A special one for Kate

One for Kate’s mother in law

bb

ANDREW MARR BAILS OUT OF THE SUPER-INJUNCTION ELITE

Andrew Marr, the BBC senior journalist has admitted that he felt “uneasy” over seeking a super-injunction to prevent the reporting of his extra-marital affair 8 years ago. He has now relented and allowed the cat out of the bag.

Other high profile BBC presenters and journalists have been identified on the grapevine of twitter and blog sites of obtaining these super-injunctions allowing the rich and famous to gag the press and any discussion whatsoever over their affairs.  One injunction has even stated that the injunction is against the “whole world” making it the most widespread and indiscriminate injunction yet.

David Cameron unwisely waded in earlier in the week when he stated that Parliament should be the body that decides on privacy rather than the judiciary. Of course this concept is completely inaccurate.  In one sense Parliament has already ruled on this by incorporating the European Convention on Human Rights and allowing the courts to make judgements on whether information has a right to be private or is in the public interest for people to know.  Balancing these 2 articles of the convention, between a right to family life and press freedom is difficult (articles 8 and 10). Parliament by sanctioning this convention HAS given it’s consent.

The problems with privacy laws goes to the heart of democracy and open society.  On the one hand deciding what is “of interest to the public” and what is “in the public interest” are 2 different things.  People do have a right to privacy for their families.  However, we do not want to stifle investigative journalism and freedom of speech which is important to the way our democracy works. Yet the title tattle and dishonesty of journalists that we have seen over the phone hacking scandal calls into question what really is in the public interest.

Andrew Marr has created a new problem in that he is someone who is meant to seek out the hypocrisy and untruths politicians tell us yet has nullified the press in reporting on his own private life.  It puts him in a difficult position which he now acknowledges.

The libel laws in this country are also a sham, as the libel tourism shows by the rich and famous.  The super-injunction culture has now got out of control when Fred Goodwin can get an injunction to prevent people calling him a Banker! 

One of the problems as pointed out by Ian Hislop is that Judges are often happy to impose the injunctions siding with the establishment and privacy.  While it is generally only the rich who can afford representation to either sue publications or seek the injunction allowing ordinary mortals to be out in the cold and open to the bad treatment that the rich seek to avoid.

Maybe this whole issue is becoming null and void anyway, as the internet is the real guardian of freedom of speech.  It only takes about 20 minutes to find the names of the most talked about footballers, TV presenters and actors that are rumoured to have sought injunctions.

Whatever happens, what we MUST ensure is that those with money and power can be held to account for their wrong doing.  On that basis I would have to come down on the side of public interest and press freedom pretty much every time.