Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Henry Smith caught out by police

Henry Smith is under fire, according to the Crawley News, for exaggerating the threat of crime.

He claimed that the latest statistics demonstrated a daily crime wave targetting school children.

It turns out that in the area of Sussex that Crawley is in, 28 pupils were victims of mugging. That's not even weekly, Henry. Oh, and street robberies went down by 30%. Across the whole of Sussex (that's East, West and Brighton & Hove City combined) the total was 171. Every single one is a crime, and all are to be condemned, but that's not exactly a 'daily crime wave'.

Now, is Henry hyping crime figures for a reason? Is he creating fear for political gain?

Who's Left? (or 'Whose Left?'?)

Nick Cohen has just written a book. It's a very good book with a lot of words in it. Well, I suppose that must be the case because it's being knocked out at a much higher price than his older books.

Lots of people have a view about it, and some of them have even read it (and it seems that most of them are his mates who helped him by proof-reading it), I haven't read it but that won't stop me from having a strong opinion and ramming down your interweb pipe, like a good McMabawb.

I have read the bits that the Observer published as a teaser, and it was these, and thinking about Cohen et al, that prompted the McMabawb piece. Specifically when he talks about his growing up in a family where they carefully chose their oranges, lest they come from a 'dodgy' country like South Africa, Israel or the USA. Well, most working class people, even those on the 'left' had other things on their minds regarding oranges, like that apples were a darn sight cheaper for one.

The last few days has seen endless verbiage from the 'Eustonistas' and their enemies in the 'still anti-war' brigades, and I'm feeling very frustrated.

Frustrated because as much as the 'muscular left', (or 'belligerati', 'decents' or whatever) point out that they are right, they spend about 20 times as many words explaining why the SWP/Respect etc are wrong. The same is the true in reverse of course. In between, those of us who don't live in a Manichaean white-v-black existence, are pointing out that both are wrong (and so getting attacked by everyone).

Meanwhile, some simple truths get ignored.

1) The 'Left' is not, and never has been, a homogenous group with the same views. If it was, it wouldn't be in this stupid squabble in the first place.

2) Arguments like this are an open goal to the 'Right', who will not hesitate to use one or both sides to push their own agendas

3) Just because someone opposed the Iraq invasion to the point of going to a demo, does not mean that they 'marched in support of a fascist regime'. Equally, just because someone opposes the actions of certain 'insurgent' groups in Iraq and shows some support for the UK and US servicemen placed in danger, does not make them a 'fanatical neo-con imperialist'.

What's wrong with all these people? They is mad, I tell you, mad.

And I see another comment on Cif with the words "Bliar" or "Islamofascist" I think I'll scream.

The Clan McMabawb...

Ever heard of them? They are everywhere. They infest the blogosphere* with their opinions and 'facts', they moan and whine and bitch. Some of them get to write for a national newspaper, some even write books and go on the telly. They can be Eustonistas, anti-GATSO campaigners (read: criminal vandals), conspiracy theorists, traveller haters, libertarian wackos and all sorts of odd things.

I refer of course to the 'Middle Class, Middle Aged, Balding Angry White Bloke' (MCMABAWB), that mainly British phenomenon of man who makes it his life's work to escalate minor quibbles into issues of life and death.

Of course, I am grossly generalising. After all, not all of them are balding (some are positively hirsuit, others have gone beyong the end of 'balding' into fully balded territory), I'm sure some think of themselves as Working Class or outside the class system (just 'ordinary blokes') and not as much angry asn indignant.

And, of course, I could quite easily be tarred with the same brush. However, better to know what you are, I say.

(* I hate that word, don't you?)

Monday, January 29, 2007

Political Lies

In the last edition of the Crawley News, a letter appeared from a Walter Shuttleworth which alleges that John Mortimer 'vehemently supported' the transfer of housing.

At best, Mr Shuttleworth is seriously misinformed, because John Mortimer has always taken the exact opposite stance, along with five other Labour councillors. At worst, Mr Shuttleworth is a liar. I expect that it is the former that is the case, although how anyone who has taken an interest in the housing issue over the past few years could have arrived at the conclusion that Cllr Mortimer did anything other than oppose transfer is beyond me.

I'm even more perplexed that Richard Symonds, normally a man who has an idea of what is going on, has repeated the allegations...

Thursday, January 25, 2007

More from MMVC

Now that Steve from Make My Vote Count has read my article properly (and he admits that he didn't read it properly the first time - I'd say perhaps in a half-arsed manner?), he has given a more robust response.

I do understand his points. I did put a further in, but it takes them a long time to get round to approving posted comments. It might appear tomorrow.

One part of his piece that I did think was a good idea was this:

Anyway, i'd rather have a system that flips yours on its head, where popular impact is felt at the stage of policy formulation and debate, with the public acting like an expanded legislature. This creates a better politics because politicians have better, or at least more informed, policy options to choose from. And the public can't simply complain of having legislation thrust upon them from above, as fellow - arbitrarily chosen - citizens have had a role in formulating it. Such a system still manages to retain a clear line of command, where ultimate responsibility for decisions lies with (relatively) transparent, accessible and public individuals who are ultimately (and most importantly) accountable for their actions to the electorate.

Yes! A 'citizens jury' which can go through upcoming legislation and ask questions or suggest changes. Sounds fantastic. It's supposed to be how policy is formed in the Labour Party (policy forum meetings for members discuss various options and they get passed on and debated by delegates before being presented to Conference).

Ignorant and Misinformed Part 2

I thought that one central tenet of the Conservative Party approach was that whatever they are, they should be competent. After all, they represent the managerial classes, the business-owning classes, the people who run the economy, more than any other party in the UK.

So it must gall them when they look really stupid.

For example, this week's Crawley News has a 'leaked email' containing the words of Brenda Burgess, Executive Member for Housing.

Michael Barrett, one of the Defend Council Housing campaigners had asked some fairly direct questions about the financial case for transfer in November. He'd been told that a response would come later. By the January 10th meeting, no answers had been forthcoming, and so he asked them again.

Brenda's response was that answers would come later, which was not particularly well received.

The email, from the same day contains:

Mr B also said something about a blackhole for either revenue or capital. Any idea what he's talking about? I was not prepared to ask him or answer any of his questions. No point. I just listen

I think (and I could be wrong) that the 'blackhole' that 'Mr B' referred to was the £12M deficit that the Tories kept telling us about (and continued to after they lost the vote). If the person in charge of the Housing Department and leading the transfer process doesn't know what he's talking about, that is massively worrying.

That she sees no point in dialogue with a member of the public speaks volumes. In May, the Tories won the council with, amongst others, a pledge to be 'inclusive' and create a new culture where 'everyone is welcome'. Sure. As long as you don't ask awkward questions though, eh?

Councillor Burgess has said she will not resign.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Another CiF piece

I had another article published on CiF today. Now that the site is up, I can link to it: The law of Average Joes

Again, the title wasn't mine (I prefer mine - "Let us all vote in parliament"), and the standfirst was added in.

As it went up while I was at work, I wasn't able to respond to the comments until I got home, but that gave me the opportunity to produce a longer answer

I have also seen one response elsewhere - 'average_joe/common 'tator where I think they call me a potato. They definitely call the piece 'half-arsed'. I spent ages on that, and they didn't even read it properly as far as I can tell.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Do we have a fascist MEP?

Not much on the local blogs I read about this one...

Ashley Mote was elected as one of the two UKIP MEPs for the South East in 2004. Within weeks, UKIP removed the whip from him (as in, expelled him from their group) because of an undisclosed bit of legal bother over benefit fraud allegations. Despite in the past having claimed that MEPs should not have immunity from prosecution, he has managed to get the case delayed because he says he has immunity (there's nothing like applying your principles to politics, and that's nothing like it).

Last week, following the entry of Bulgaria and Romania to the EU, the European Parliament was extended to include representatives from the new countries. As a result, two more far right parties arrived, the charmingly named 'National Union Attack' from Bulgaria and the 'Greater Romania Party'.

This meant that there were enough MEPs from enough countries to form a proper pan-EU group - Identity,_Tradition_and_Sovereignty. A run through of the member parties gives us the Austrian Freedom Party, the Italian Social Alternative (led by Mussolini's granddaughter Alessandra) and Tricolour Flame (who are most closely associated with the 1943-45 fascist republic in the North), the Belgian Vlaams Belang (successors to the Vlaams Blok which dissolved after being done for contravening hate and discrimination laws), and the largest of these parties, the French National Front.

Clearly, if the BNP had any MEPs, this would be their natural home. But they don't. What we do have is Ashley Mote, who UKIP can't get rid of (although if he resigns his seat or dies, they nominate his successor from their election list).

Now, in Crawley we are aware of the fact that several prominent local UKIP members moved across to the BNP. Although Mote has not actually done that, he has linked himself with polticians who have in the past denied the holocaust, sought discrimination against immigrants and gypsies, glorified the fascist regimes of the last century and have been accused of war crimes (eg Le Pen in Algeria).

Does anyone else in the South East feel sullied by our MEP?

Friday, January 12, 2007

Housing update

In the end, the Council decision went like this:

The Tories wanted to defer a ballot, but keep the process going (and this would mean starting the process of working out the costs again and hoping that they were right this time).

Labour wanted to stop the process, and not simply keep trying, as it is clear that tenants will not vote in favour. The Lib Dems supported this, and so the policy went through 18-16.

Afterwards, Labour leader Brenda Smith asked for a cross-party group which could really look at the Housing Department and look for areas where it could make savings without affecting service levels or the cost to the tenant. The Tories refused. I suspect that the Lib Dems would have agreed, especially as this mirrors comments made by Marcella Head.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Ignorant and Misinformed?

Duncan Crow (who you know I love dearly) today responded to a report in the local press that he had called tenants 'ignorant and misinformed'. Apparently that was the last thing in his mind.

The question that immediately came to mind was whether anyone else is 'ignorant and misinformed' about the Housing issue.

For example, the Audit Commission, the TPAS (tenant's panel) and now the Government Office of the South East have refused to endorse the transfer documentation. Why? Well, it seems that when they said in June that the finances were critical and we needed to get shot of council houses, they overstated the facts a little. The costs have gone up to £60M and now back down to £25M. The 'deficit' of £11M that they claimed would force lots of service cuts and increased charges/rents would then turn into a cushion of about £24M.

Back in June, the Tories chose to restart the process and try to shoe-horn it into 9 months with a new set of figures. In November they were warned that this might fail but plowed on regardless. The Lib Dems swallowed the propaganda and concentrated on the finer detail, and so the process rolled on, in the face of opposition from tenants and the Labour group.

A DVD costing £30,000 was sent out, which only 24% of tenants watched and was rendered innacurate one week before it was posted by the U-Turn on increased charges for 'Lifeline'. More time and money will have to be spent on tidying up the mess and starting yet again and the Tories can only bleat about how it's not their fault and answer direct questions with tedious waffle or 'we will get back to you' (which was the answer they gave to the same question in November).

'Ignorant and Misinformed'? Duncan is right, it isn't the tenants is it? Perhaps it's the Tory Executive, including one Cllr Crow of Furnace Green.

Oh, and on another topic, Duncan Crow has been accused of being a'roundabout robber' and the Observer helpfully depicted him as he'd look in a stripey jersey and black mask. Tsk Tsk, naughty Observer.