Off yer bike

April 4, 2010

More proof that this Government is packed full of people who have no idea at all about how we, the ruled, perceive them is provided in buckets by Mr Barry Sheerman, Labour MP for Huddersfield.

Barry, based on nothing more it seems than his own opinion of himself as something of a transport safety expert, has told us mere plebs that we must stop riding motorbikes as they are “disgraceful in a civilised society”.

Barry, transport safety mastermind, based his bilge on “around 650 people die on motorbikes each year.”  MCN lost no time in pointing out that, according to the Government’s own figures, the number of motorbike fatalities for 2008 was 493.  You or I would probably be sacked for getting our numbers so hopelessly wrong, but somehow I doubt that anyone in power, least of all Barry, will give a monkey’s.  His inability to master simple maths is not the point however.

The blindingly obvious point is why, just prior to the election, does yet another Labour MP think he has the right to micromanage our lives?  And as we know from the Quattro poster debacle, the answer is that he neither knows nor cares what we, the ruled, think.  We are simply blank canvasses on which he can paint his own tiresome sketches of megalomania.

For a man who (according to MCN) claimed £8613 in one year alone as car expenses, I would dearly love to know if Barry has ever sat on a motorbike or has any first-hand knowledge of biking at all.

To make matters worse, Barry made a comparison between the number of deaths related to motorbikes in two years and the number of British soldiers killed in combat over the last 40 years.  There are more questions to be raised about this juvenile and offensive comparison than can be possibly be dealt with here, but  I think it will suffice to quote a few sentences from one ex-Army officer who has made his letter to Mr Sheerman public:

I am disgusted as well that you compare losses on our roads to deaths in the Armed Forces. As a former Army Officer I find your comment distasteful, and typical of someone who has absolutely no understanding of what that life is like…I am sick of people like you assuming you know what is best for us. I ride a motorcycle because this is a free country, despite the efforts of your peers, and it is my choice to ride a motorcycle. It would also be my choice to bungee-jump, ride horses, ski or anything else that could kill me. No matter how hard you and your peers work to reduce the freedoms of people in this country, there will always be enough of us who believe in free choice to ensure you fail.”

So very, very well said, but despite that it’s likely to receive the standard brush-off reply from Barry which ends with the following: “I will not apologise for my work to promote road safety in the (sic) Great Britain”.  Wow, there’s a surprise, an MP who will not apologise.  Whatever next?

A tale of two posters

April 3, 2010

Dozens of dim Guardian readers commented on the paper’s April Fool’s Day story about Labour’s new poster campaign showing a granite-faced Gordon Brown.  “Step outside posh boy” didn’t appear to them to be at all unreasonable as an electoral slogan, so it’s probably of no surprise that a supporter of the same party thought it a good idea to put Cameron’s head on Gene Hunt’s body sitting on the bonnet of the Ashes-to-Ashes Quattro.  Only this time not as an April Fool’s joke.

In which parallel universe does the Labour Party think associating Cameron with Gene Hunt is likely to make the Tory leader anything other than more popular?

Smart-arsed cynics always maintain that cock up is more powerful than conspiracy as an explanation for anything slightly sinister.  Being a paranoid, constantly-looking-over-my-shoulder, permanently-apprehensive-about-what-Labour’s-regime-will-do-next type of person, I’ve always tended to disagree, but this poster has made me see the light.

They don’t sit around thinking “bloody hell, our subjects want x so we’d better find a bloody good way of forcing y down their throats”.  In reality, they obviously have not got a clue what we want and absolutely no bloody idea what we think.  That (cock up) explanation can be the only reason why they think the Quattro poster will work.  They simply haven’t got a clue.

Which blinding realisation now also explains why in the run up to an election, at a time in which I had assumed they realised they were damned left right and centre for their stasiist tendencies, they thought it fit to announce that HMRC will have the power to open our mail whenever they feel like it.  Not subtle political thinking, not nudging or normalisation, just plain, old-fashioned, don’t-know-arse-from-elbow stupidity.

Ranking the rank

March 19, 2010

A few days ago, I made a somewhat disparaging comment about my local Conservative MP.  I’d asked whether the Tories had any plans to revisit the public smoking and hunting bans.  Yes to the latter and no to the former came the answer.  Bugger the lot of them I thought.  Each as bad as the next.

A couple of days later, I was loitering on the blog of the Liberal candidate for Westminster dancing a small jig of delight at his open opposition to Westminster Council’s bird-brained tax on motorbike parking.  In the heat of the moment I left a comment dedicating myself to a glorious Liberal Democrat landslide at the election followed by a bonfire of all oppressive legislation and the issuing of self-knit muesli sandal kits to every one of Her Majesty’s loyal subjects.

What a cheap tart I am.  That’s the problem with politicians.  Even the slightest contact with them makes the clean feel unclean.  The principled, unprincipled.   The decent, well, you get it.

So huge gratitude to Liberal Democrat Voice for providing a neat little app which allows you to find out exactly how unpleasantly power crazed your local candidate is by analysing their record on 10 liberty-related legislative issues.  Being the Liberal bloody Democrats, they aren’t measured on their (lack of) opposition to the 2006 Health Act of course.  But it did, at least, allow me to get my local Tory in perspective and admire his very fine voting record against just about everything that should have been voted against.

No such thing as a free pass

March 18, 2010

A squeezed economy gives every collection of halfwitted chancers the opportunity to slip their own nasty little wheezes through the back door under the blanket of economic necessity.

So it should be no surprise that the high priests of stasiism have started lobbying the fountainhead of authoritarianism to cut costs on churning out free bus passes for pensioners. Producing passes costs money, and that’s money that could be saved if the old dears used those nice new ID cards instead.  And Meg Hillier, Minister in charge of knowing where you live, is, of course, more than happy to have her arm twisted up her back on the issue.

Standing out amidst all the other shit dripped on us by this toxic collection of faceless megalomaniacs over the last 13 years is their sheer gracelessness in defeat.  Nobody wants their bloody cards, nobody supports their grubby meddling in our lives:  even from a position of power they can’t make their own flaccid arguments stand up, but will they just quietly move on to something else?   Will they bugger.  With all the shameless determination of the truly second rate to prove somehow, anyhow, that they are right they keep on trying to stuff their poxy cards down our throats.

I, along with large numbers of other people it seems, had a bit of a wobble a couple of weeks ago and couldn’t see a photo of Cameron without thinking of all the people whose lives are going to be buggered up just a little bit more by the return of the Conservatives and their less than caring approach to those at the bottom of the heap.  Thanks for putting me right again Meg.  Cameron might want to drown the minimum wage in formaldehyde, but Labour wants to steal our soul.

Hogan’s heroes?

March 8, 2010

Late last month, Nick Hogan was sentenced to six months in prison.

He was jailed for being either unwilling or unable to pay the combined fines and court costs resulting from his decision, as a pub landlord, to allow people the choice of whether or not to smoke on his premises.

To be absolutely clear, Hogan was not jailed because he allowed people to smoke in his pub; he was jailed because he refused, for whatever reason, to pay the fines and costs imposed on him as a result.

Despite there being no direct link between his decision and the sentence, can the incarceration of an apparently otherwise law-abiding small businessman for six months really have been the intended outcome of our rulers when they passed the 2006 Health Act?  I suspect that the possibility did in fact occur to some and was happily accepted as a small price to pay for taking such a massive step forward in normalising their social engineering project.  After all, if they could get away with such an enormous, unfair and unreasonable act, what on earth would they not be able to impose on us in the future?

Despite my admiration for Mr Hogan’s stand, refusing to pay fines imposed by a court (however unpleasant the legislation involved) isn’t something a democracy can encourage.  In a democracy we have other means of getting things changed when we don’t like them don’t we?  By, for example, voting for the opposition at the next general election.

Yes of course, that will be the opposition whose local candidate recently sent me an email stating that the Conservatives had no plans to revisit the 2006 Health Act were they to form the next Government.  I can hear Roger Daltry in my ear as if he were sitting next to me.

In the latest Government statistics (2004), the average sentence for assaulting a police officer was 2.9 months.  Work it out yourselves, it won’t take too much effort.

If, after digesting the imbalance, you want to make a donation to pay Mr Hogan’s fines and get him released,  you can by going here.

Libertyless in Brighton

March 2, 2010

And I’m still despairing.  Cameron’s speech went a little further than Hague’s to suggest that the Tories might have some grasp of the grave assault on individual freedom mounted by 13 years of Labour’s regime, but only a little further.  And as he spoke for twice as long, surely he could have put a little flesh on the couple of vague pointers that he put up.  I can’t remember what he actually said, and such is my disillusion already about the Conservative’s election platform that I can’t even be bothered to go and check the text, but it was the type of soothing, cooing sound designed to induce a feeling of comfort rather than anticipation of action.

Maybe, just maybe, the narrowing of the polling gap is an opportunity rather than an inducement to emigration.  If we are left with a hung Parliament, then the Liberals will hold a position of significant influence.  And the Liberals are the only party to have formally announced a plan for restoring some element of liberty from state control however uninspiring it may be.

Buggered by Labour, ignored by the Tories…it’s a strange world in which the only beacon on the horizon is held by the hand of Nick Clegg.  But I’m getting desperate.

Spring chill for liberty

February 27, 2010

2130 words to open the Conservative’s Spring conference in Brighton, and yet William Hague mentioned neither ‘liberty’ or ‘freedom’ once.  Not once.  The nearest he got to making a play for my vote was by describing his party as standing “for giving people more control over their own lives”.  As this came 12th in a list of 15 things the tories “unambiguously” stand for and wasn’t returned to once in the remainder of his speech, I suspect either Mr Hague thinks his party has the libertarian vote in its pocket or, more likely, doesn’t give a monkey’s about it.

Possibly when the Conservatives think of civil liberty they imagine that they have the issue covered by their vague proposals for decentralising power from Westminster to local authorities.  If they do, then it’s possible that they are also considering making Fred the Shred the next Governor of the Bank of England.  Am I the only one who felt a distinct chill when hearing Mr Hague state that the Tories “will strengthen communities by the biggest transfer of power this country has ever seen to councils”?  Give more power to the megalomaniacs who ‘manage’ our local authorities?  You are joking aren’t you?

If the tone for the election campaign is being set in Brighton, then we know it’s going to be all about quantity, with not the slightest nod to quality.  The Tories will claim to do more of this, or less of that but haven’t got either the courage or the imagination to propose doing anything differently.  Giving councils more power is the political equivalent of handing the keys of the brewery to the local alcoholic.

Far from boosting their remit to meddle in peoples’ lives, the Tories should be proposing to restrict councils’ authority to providing priority local services and nothing else.  In tandem, they should state that the next Conservative government would implement a liberty audit on Westminster legislation to ensure that on balance every bill reduced rather than added to our freedom deficit.

In all likelihood though, there’s probably more chance of Mr Goodwin being handed the keys to Threadneedle Street.  I despair.

One cheer for Freedom

February 23, 2010

In the last twenty years we have witnessed the steady erosion of civil liberties in Britain. One by one, our once treasured freedoms have been stripped away. A country that once prided itself on being free is now undermining the most basic rights of its citizens.

Chris Huhne’s words introducing the Lib Dems’ Freedom Bill. In fact, his words introducing it almost a year ago. I realise that the Liberals tend to get squeezed out of the media in the run up to an election, but bugger me, they’ve kept this quiet.

I can sympathise with them. The party that wraps together many of the single-issue causes and minority interests that are increasingly a substitute for politics in the UK, must know it’s standing on very thin ice when discussing the idea of freedom. Policies on the environment and public health, for example, would present (were the LDs ever get a toehold on national government) an interesting obstacle to the implementation of any meaningful desire to strengthen liberty beyond headline actions such as dumping ID cards from the agenda.

Unarguably correct though the 20 measures proposed in the draft are, the Bill goes nowhere near far enough. Freedom comes in many flavours and textures, but the draft excludes anything but political and judicial mechanics. The unfair nature of the current extradition treaty with the United States, for example, vexes me every time I think about it, but blanket banning smoking in public places, curtailing the expression of sincerely-held religious opinions or worrying about being fined for putting a tin can in the wrong waste bin all have a far more toxic effect on my day-to-day existence. To push the point to an extreme, admittedly an enjoyable one to ponder, imagine the internal blood bath resulting from any LD government attempt to repeal the hunting ban. They’d be beating each other to death with organic, home knitted nunchucks before you could say tally ho.

So, eight out of 10 for recognising that we have something of a freedom deficit to address, but a paltry two for not having had the guts to go even a step beyond the bleeding obvious.

Bin down too long

February 20, 2010

If the Telegraph’s report that the Audit Commission is pressurising local authorities to implement fortnightly waste collections is true, there can be few better examples of Labour’s twin characteristics of mendacity and contempt.

Implicit, and sometimes explicit, in Labour’s mutterings on waste collection policy has been the illusion that local government can make its own decisions based on local residents’ preferences. Apparently not, as few councils will want to run the risk of the Audit Commission refusing to sign off their finances. Not that they would be likely to put up much of a fight anyway, as every pound saved on rubbish collection will be a pound that can be used in far more appropriate ways, such as boosting the remuneration packages of senior pen pushers across the country, some of whom are apparently still struggling along on less than £150,000 per year. Poor dears.

Every poll on the subject shows that the majority of people want weekly collections. From UKIP voters to SWP agitators, nobody wants rats and maggots as house guests, yet this supremely contemptuous government pushes ahead regardless. Mr Mike Colley, CEO of Jeyes, must be thinking that all his Christmases have come at once.

It’s very quiet in here…

February 14, 2010

I don’t know, I go away for a year or so and come back to find the place a mess.  Cold, damp and very, very dusty.   Judging by the dirty footprints on the doormat, a few people have been round to see if anyone’s at home and then buggered off without leaving a message.

What’s worse, had I been here I could have got through several gallons of vitriol and a couple of tonnes of concentrated smug snideness watching the hunters become the hunted as the expenses debacle sliced its way through humanity’s least-loved representatives.

Oh well, cometh the hour, not cometh the man.  Which leads us directly, of course, to David Cameron.  David Cameron, defender of our traditional liberties and protector of the individual against the state.  David Cameron, the man who’s going to take Labour’s mountain of oppressive legislation, douse it in petrol and set it ablaze.  David Cameron, the heir to Burke and an unbroken line of political thought firmly centred on personal responsibility and freedom.  David Cameron, the leader of the Conservative Party in the prelude to an election campaign who has not so much as uttered a squeak about civil liberties.

Were I a more cynical type, I might be thinking that Cameron is actually excited about getting his hands on the bright, new, shiny state machine that Professor Brown will be forced to leave running in the garage at No 10;  that he is secretly thrilled by the thought of levers to pull, horns to honk and pedals to step on.  But being the trusting, rational sort, I am happy to believe that the great strategists currently running the Tories have decided there are no votes in talking about freedom or liberty;  and that attacking Labour for running a regime rather than a government will only expose them to accusations of being ‘soft’ on something or other.

Whatever the reason, the silence is astonishing.  Almost as astonishing as Cameron’s inability to put to bed a government universally described as the worst in living memory.  I have a small suspicion that the two might be related.  It may be just possible that the silence is a large contributor to the feeling of the conservative majority that he is, somehow, artificial:  not really a conservative or even a Conservative.

I’m not entirely sure, but I do have a vague unease that in a few months’ time I will have to find out how to remove ‘Labour’ from this blog’s sub title and insert ‘Conservative’ instead.


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