Monday, 29 July 2013

Nannying nonsense

I feel like I've stepped into an alternate universe. In this universe, through a series of remarkable occurrences, Mary Whitehouse became Prime Minister after deposing Ted Heath in a bloodless 1973 Parliamentary coup. Too many mumblings about Mr Heath's behaviour in public conveniences for Parliament to tolerate, or something like that.

During her brief yet terrifying reign, her peculiar views on censorship and morality became de rigueur for policy makers. They wouldn't want to go the same way as that terrible Mr Heath, after all.

That's surely the only explanation for the almost perpetual stream of nannying, censoring nonsense we see today. It must be. It's 2013, and we live in apparently one of the most forward thinking countries in the world, yet the following is taking place:
  • The Co-Operative supermarket is demanding that magazines displaying legal and non-pornographic images of women be covered in 'modesty bags', lest that publication be banished from their stores forever (nothing about magazines that depict less than fully clothed chaps, however?).

  • MPs are deliberately conflating viewing child abuse images with watching perfectly legal adult videos, using revulsion at the former to build an argument about forcing internet service providers to censor the latter.

  • The Government has recently openly discussed imposing a 'minimum price' on alcohol, and banning cigarette manufacturers from making their packaging in any way appealing. This is hot on the heals of forcing all reasonable size shops to cover up their cigarette displays. We wouldn't want adults to be making their own decisions on what they consume, after all. And the poor certainly should be discouraged from buying so much alcohol.
I'm sure there are many more examples, but these are the few that come to mind. What the hell is going on here? Is our national morality regressing?

Whatever it is, stop the ride, I want to get off. Stop trying to nanny me, stop trying to make my alcohol more expensive, stop banning me from reading Nuts (I don't actually read it, but the point stands). Just leave me alone. I don't want you to impose your morality on me. Arrgh!


Monday, 10 June 2013

Why I decided to join the Tories

I've only ever been an active member of one political party, Ukip. I joined them because I believed in lower and flatter taxation, more personal freedoms and rolling back the state.

Unfortunately, Ukip has decided to go in a different direction. A socially conservative direction.

As such, I've taken my partisan blinkers off and started to really look at the Conservative Party. The Tories have their issues, don't get me wrong (Ken Clarke!).

However, they're a party that is broadly committed to shrinking the state, and one which backs an EU referendum. In the past I've attacked previous Tory behaviour over the EU. I stand by my comments, but there's a clear direction of travel now, even if we're not quite at a position supporting withdrawing yet.

When it comes to domestic policy like education, health and unemployment they're streets ahead of the competition (swoon, Michael Gove). And their position on gay marriage and immigration is spot on.

So, I've joined the Conservative Party. Gulp.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Are the Tories the best bet on the EU?

I don't like the EU. At all. It's an undemocratic joke, and in the 21st century we need to be moving power closer to people, rather than away from them, towards Brussels. I think we should leave.

As such, I now face a bit of a quandary. Previously, I'd been very hard on the Tories when it came to the EU. In my mind, until 2010 they'd probably been a more europhile party than Labour (after all, Labour gave us the 1975 referendum, the Tories took us in, signed us up to SEA & Maastricht and denied us a referendum on any of it). If you disregard the rhetoric, they'd been pretty disastrous.

But the game has changed. I presume Mr Cameron has started imagining Nigel Farage lurking around every corner, complete with pint of bitter and cigarette, ready to evict him from Number 10 at a moment's notice. And Cameron has tried to deal with Nigel by promising an EU referendum*.

When he first announced this, I was incredibly sceptical. He wasn't known as Cast Iron Dave for nothing. The excuse that we couldn't hold a referendum on Lisbon as it'd been passed was just bullshit (the only other referendum we ever had on joining the EU was two years after the act!).

But Nigel is creeping ever closer, and Dave is really panicking. Now we actually have a bill, promoted by the British Prime Minister, calling for a referendum on leaving the EU. That's quite a major thing.

I think it'd be politically impossible to dump that if he won a majority in 2015. So what do we do?

Hmmm.

*This is a silly idea, as it fails the grasp the fundamental that Ukip's growing support is only tangentially linked to opposition of the EU.


Sunday, 3 March 2013

Healthcare

You know what I'm really annoyed about today? Healthcare. More specifically, the appalling standard of debate around the NHS in this country.

I was prompted to get annoyed about this after having one of those 'blah, blah, blah, I'm not listening, I'm just going to repeat my moronic point over and over again' conversations you have with young left wingers every so often.

It went something like this:

Me: I don't think the NHS is very good. Perhaps we should look at alternative ways of delivering healthcare.
Idiot: SO YOU WANT PEOPLE WHO CAN'T PAY THOUSANDS TO DIE THEN?!?! AMERICA!!!!
Me: When did I say anything about copying the American system? I just think that we could do better than the current NHS.
Idiot: YOU'LL NEVER WIN THIS DEBATE, PEOPLE WILL NEVER VOTE FOR AMERICAN HEALTHCARE.

I was quite annoyed by this exchange. But it's something I see quite often. People are unable to coherently defend a healthcare system that allowed thousands to die, so they raise the spectre of American healthcare.

I have three points to make:
  • I have never met anyone, ever, who has advocated replacing the NHS with the American system.
  • There are 193 members of the UN, yet people who defend the NHS always talk as if there are only two countries in the world. Why is this? (We all know why, really)
  • When Communism fell in the early 90s, and eastern European states were looking to secure universal healthcare, how come not a single one copied the NHS? More broadly, how come NO COUNTRY IN THE WORLD HAS COPIED THE NHS?
We need to tear this strawman down. Allowing the NHS v America (the rest of the world doesn't exist) debate to continue is literally killing people. Don't allow the debate to be framed like this any more. Call people out. What about German healthcare? French healthcare? Canadian healthcare?  The list is endless.

Thursday, 28 February 2013

On bus drivers

Imagine the scene:

You go into Greggs, really fancying a Sausage, Bean & Cheese melt (they're about 95p, from memory). You've only got a tenner. You present your money, and instead of enthusiastically accepting your offer to pay, the Greggs employee gives you a look of pure disgust. Your crime? Paying for something with a note.

Would this ever happen? No, of course it wouldn't. Our economy is based on the exchange of money for goods and services. Being given change is a key part of this. After all, we don't always have the right amount of currency for the good or service that we want to buy.

There is one business though, where it's acceptable to treat your customers like an inconvenience if they have the affront to pay with a £10 or £20 note. And which business is this? The business of providing bus travel.

I've always found this really confusing. But it came to a head a couple of weeks ago. I boarded a bus with the intention of buying a £2 ticket with a tenner. When I made the generous offer to purchase travel on this bus, I was looked at as if I'd shat on the bus driver's mother.

What the chuff is this all about? Why is it acceptable for bus drivers to treat you like shit when you have the nerve to pay with a higher value note?

Think back to my example above. Thankfully, Greggs have always enthusiastically taken my money in exchange for their pasties, no matter what denomination note I offer to pay with. And you know what, if they don't have the right change, they tell me & we work something out.

But not a bus driver, oh no. I remember another occasion where I tried to buy a £4 ticket with a £20. The bus driver replied:

"What do you think I am, a bank?"

Now I wanted to say "If you were a bank, I'd want you to give me all my money back plus interest, you cretin". I didn't, though, because I didn't fancy being thrown off the bus and standing in Castleford bus station for an hour.

This has to stop. We all suffer from it, and it's time to stand up and say 'no more'. I can completely understand that bus drivers don't always have a massive amount of change, but this is absolutely no excuse for treating customers like irritants, rather than people who are keeping you in a job.

How about a 'Pay for your bus with a £50 note' day...?

Friday, 22 February 2013

#statementtofollow

This is a short one, really. Those of you who I've discussed this with will appreciate my thinking in a bit more detail, but for the rest of you:

  • In recent months I've become more and more concerned about the increasing levels of social conservatism in Ukip official policy.
  • I joined a party in 2011 that had no policy on gay marriage, but had a leader who appeared to tweet in support of it.
  • I also joined a party that looked to be ditching silly things like the Burka ban & moving towards real libertarian politics. 
  • Unfortunately it appears that, nationally, a decision has been made to swing Ukip towards a brand of right-wing populism that I'm not entirely comfortable with. 
  • Particularly, in the last couple of months it feels like 80%+ of what we've seen has related to either a) gay marriage or b) Eastern European immigration. I support gay marriage, and, whilst I do believe immigration should be restricted so only the best people allowed to settle in Britain, I'm not happy about a tone that is so repeatedly negative about immigration.
I can completely see the electoral benefits in embracing a right-populist approach. But I'm not a right-wing populist. I'm a liberal at heart, who believes in limited government and that people are generally good. I want a state that gets off people's backs, not one that tells them who they can & can't marry.

The disgusting dismissal of my friend Olly as YI Chairman, because he dared to support gay marriage on live radio, just confirms the direction Ukip is moving in. It's not a direction that I can go.

I've resigned as Deputy Chairman of Ukip Wakefield District, and intend to take a break from active politics.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

On an 'interim Chairman'

I'm furious. As per the blog title, really.

Most of you will know that my friend Olly Neville was removed by the Ukip NEC as Chairman of Young Independence (YI), because he had been in the media disagreeing with some Ukip policies. Just imagine if the leader of Ukip had been in the Guardian mere days before disagreeing with party policy on drugs. But I digress.

What has really annoyed me is that some Ukip bigwigs have tried to frame the scenario as the NEC removing an 'interim Chairman' who had no democratic mandate anyway. This is bollocks.

The actual situation is as follows:

Former Chairman Harry Aldridge decided to step down six months early, so a younger and more university focused figure could take over. Elections were scheduled by the Council for November.

Two candidates put themselves forward, Olly Neville and Matt Smith (I actually proposed Matt for the job, so it's hardly like I'm an Olly loyalist).

A well publicised election took place, which saw the highest turnout in YI history. This election was all electronic, and was run by an impartial third party, as nominated by the outgoing Council.

*AFTER* the polls were closed, an undisclosed complaint was made to the NEC, probably about the overly aggressive nature of the campaign (it was tame compared to most internal elections).

The NEC, in their wisdom, decided that internal democracy wasn't really that important for us kids, and decided to invalidate the election and postpone it until March.

As the polls had closed, the YI Council knew the result. 

As a consequence of this, and due to Harry Aldridge's continuing desire to step down, the outgoing Council took a decision to co-opt the winners of the invalidated election into the positions that rightfully belonged to them. This decision was overwhelmingly backed by the Council.

So no, bugger off with this 'interim Chairman' rubbish. Olly was rightfully Chairman, elected on the highest turnout in YI history, and you bumped him, because he dared to speak his mind. SHAME.