Freethinkeruk’s Weblog

UK Political weblog

Archive for the month “April, 2009”

Gurkhas Vote

Yesterday Parliament voted down the Government’s proposals on granting certain ex members of the Gurkha Regiment the right to residency in the UK. Needless to say the opposition parties leaped at this opportunity to bash the government and Gordon Brown in particular.

The vote was an emotional vote and not one based on commonsense and a grasp of reality. Just take a step back and see the situation for what it really is. The Gurkhas sign up to a contract to fight if necessary for the perceived needs of the UK and in return they are paid an agreed sum. At the end of their term of service they receive an agreed pension. That is the end of our obligation to what are in effect mercenaries. Post 1997 a part of the agreement is indeed a right to UK residency which will be honoured.

The likely result of this emotional vote is a further influx of immigrants into this already overcrowded island at a probable cost of £2bn. We have a right to expect our politicians to think things through clearly, dispassionately and leave emotions outside the debating chamber.

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Help The Home Office

Jackie Smith and the Home Office want ISP’s to keep records of all emails sent and received for at least six months and the government is willing to waste more of our money on paying them to do so. It is said that the contents of the emails wont be logged but surely it’s only a matter of time before that requirement is brought in going by this government’s progressive surveillance measures.

Now, this is not my idea but someone apparently suggested it on Radio 2. Why don’t we all help the Home Office and cut out the middle men i.e. the ISP’s, by simply inserting c.c. public.enquiries@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk on each of our, probably boring, emails.

This will surely help matters or maybe the Home Office will be unable to cope with this electronic traffic and realise they should keep their noses out of our affairs and drop this proposed intrusion.

What a great example to us all!

Off he goes again this time with Camilla to Italy, speaking on climate change and about the “slow food” movement of local sourcing and organic production. Charlie, who knows far more more than scientists and climatologists, informed the Italian parliament that the world has ‘just 99 months’ to halt global warming or it will be too late.

Ack. The Sun

Ack. The Sun

He is a fine example to us all, we should all do what we can to reduce emissions and buy local food where possible.

Except that he hired a private jet to get there rather than at least take a scheduled flight, or travel by rail. The private jet was presumably at our expence.

Freedom of Information Act

Information regarding the emission of radioactive cooling water from nuclear powered submarines at Faslane in Scotland has just been released.

From this three points spring immediately to mind.

1. If someone or some organisation hadn’t requested the information under the FIA would these leaks have been brought to the public’s notice? I very much doubt it particularly as the first acknowledged leak was in 2004.

2. Rumour has it that the MoD is about to issue a contract for the dismantling of nuclear submarines along with the reactors in Plymouth, against the expressed wishes of the population. Assurances as to safety have of course been made but if radiation can’t be controlled in ‘normal’ servicing what hope is there in breaking down a reactor safely, right in the middle of a large city like Plymouth?

3. The Government seems hell bent on building more nuclear powered electricity power stations, adding more risk to the citizens and if even the comparatively small units on submarines cannot be guarranteed safe eventually there is likely to be a catastrophy. We’ve already had the Windscale disaster which blew radiation over northern England including Manchester. News of which incidentally didn’t creep out until years later.

The Freedom of Information Act could be a two edged sword in that governments may not release information unless specifically asked for it and of course if we don’t suspect something we are not going ask.

Prison & Punishment

The Government is scrapping the idea of building 3 new ‘Titan’ prisons with an inmate population of 2500 each and instead building five new prisons of 1500 each with cost running into billions. So far since 1997 prisoner numbers have increased by 24,000 and are expected to reach a total of 96,000 by 2014.

Apart from the USA no other country imprisons a higher percentage of it’s population than the UK.  What a shameful record and what a disgraceful waste of money given that 80% of ex prisoners re-offend. Quite obviously prison does not work, so why spend even more on a failed system? Why not spend the money on crime prevention and rehabilitation of offenders? It’s easy to say we’re going to lock up more people than the opposition party but it takes courage and leadership to say that our aim is to reduce imprisonment.

A start could be made by moving the mentally ill into a caring and supportive environment and drug addicts could be moved to treatment centres and given appropriate support within the community. Better still de-criminalise drugs and just watch the crime rate plummet. Many people are in prison for non payment of court fines or could not obey an order to pay for their TV licence for example, surely a better way would be a community service order and help on how to survive on meagre state benefits. Even better would be an increase in those benefits and perhaps a ‘benefit standing order to pay for the licence weekly.

Prison only serves as a university in crime and upon release it can be of no surprise that the ‘graduates’ put their new found skills to practicle use.

Budget Winner!

Most of us of course are going to suffer somewhat from the budget, most of us through increased taxes and some, sadly, with their jobs.

Isn’t it good though when you read that someone is going to be much, much, better off as a result of the Chancellor’s largess? So who is this, a pensioner, the unemployed, cancer charity, the homeless? No! None other than Prince Charles who will now have the expences of an office that he set up for chwPrinces Harry & William off set against tax. This office is little more than a PR outfit to promote their standing with the public. Although they only performed a few dozen appearances in the last year this office costs hundreds of thousands of Pounds per year which is now to be paid by us the taxpayers.

Still happy?

The Budget

There can be little doubt that the Government should have seen the crash in the banking system and the housing market along with the approaching recession long ago. That though is now history and yesterdays budget was probably about the best that could be done in the circumstances.

There does seem to be however, a failure of government to recognise fully the seriousness of the situation and therefore a failure to make savings where they could easily be made and a failure to look at the bigger picture. For example, they could have cancelled the ridiculous I.D. Card scheme which is estimated to have a price tag of £15billion. This nation does not need two gigantic aircraft carriers at a current estimate of £6billion and defence estimates usually double by their completion. Equally we do not need to replace Trident nuclear submarines at even more billions of Pounds. We do not need either, to be fighting a futile war in Afghanistan at vast cost in cash and lives.

Virtually every household in the UK will be looking at where savings can be made and Government should do nothing less.

King Charles 3rd or Democracy

It never ceases to amaze me that whenever the topic of finally becoming a democracy and electing our own head of state comes up, numbers of people say “What! Imagine Tony Blair or Gordon Brown as President.”

Try to get your head around it people; We would get who the majority voted for, nothing more, nothing less and it’s called Democracy. In addition if it turned out that we didn’t like our choice then in four or five years we can vote for someone else. With a king or queen we have no choice and are stuck with them ’til they die and then we have someone else from the same family appointed to take their place. That is NOT Democracy!

Water-boarding & More-

Former US Vice-President Dick Cheney has urged the CIA to release memos which, he says, show harsh interrogation techniques such as water-boarding work.

If these memos do indeed show that ‘harsh techniques’ which anyone else would call torture, work then it must surely follow in Dick Cheney’s mind that the US should go further. How about pulling out finger nails with pliers or maybe the rack would be a good idea?

It just goes to show how low the Bush administration had sunk, an administration that the UK government supported through thick and thin. President Obama is like a breath of fresh air so let’s hope that he has the strength never to be sucked in by those in America who still believe that ‘might is right’ and that human rights and decency are only for them.

Police Violence – nothing new

We are all, I’m sure, shocked by the police violence at the G20 demonstrations. We saw Ian Tomlinson walking home from work with his hands in his pockets and being struck from behind with a baton and then violently pushed to the ground by a balaclava wearing police officer. He subsequently died, believed at first to be from a heart attack and now from internal bleeding. The actual cause of his death is yet to be determined with accuracy but there can only be a little doubt that the police action at least contributed to his demise.

Of course there is outrage but this is nothing new; what is new is the almost universal possession of camera/phone/video recorders. In his younger days freethinkeruk witnessed many acts of police violence whilst he was engaged in non violent peace demonstrations. A close friend, one of the original Greenham Common Women, was part of a ‘sit-in’ in Parliament over the introduction of Cruise Missiles. Refusing to leave (of course) each of her legs was gripped by a policeman and she was dragged down a long flight of stone steps on her back and dropped outside. She was over 70 years of age, almost her entire body was bruised and she could barely walk for over two weeks.

Nothing new, nothing done about it but with modern technology by way of small video cameras gathering evidence, perhaps something will be done. I won’t hold my breath though and I would advise you not to hold yours.

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