27 May 2010

72,000 People, No Desk


Our new MP Andrew Bingham has started his weekly column in the local papers and already there is a noticeable difference from his predecessor Tom Levitt's efforts.

Mr Bingham represents about 72,000 people.  That is the number of voters, including many people who pay tax, in the High Peak constituency.

Mr Bingham has tried to start work efficiently and effectively.  There is no desk.  Regarding the mother of parliaments, he says 'The sight of MPs working on their knees or in the cafeteria is not unusual.'

What kind of inept organisation has Mr Bingham walked into?

Mr Bingham has reported the situation honestly.  Tom Levitt's newspaper column would probably have said that Labour was the party of no desks, the message of no desks must be carried far and wide, hard-working families were on the side of a no-desk policy, and that he for one was proud of the government's innovative no desks scheme.

Letter From A Well-Dressed Clown


The letter from outgoing Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liam Byrne to his successor, written after 13 years of Labour rule, has become notorious:

"I am afraid to tell you that there's no money left." 

This clown has form.  When he made it to a new cabinet post in 2008, Liam Byrne's 11 page list of do's and don'ts for civil servants was called 'Working with Liam Byrne'.  In it, Mr Liam Byrne declared:

"Coffee/Lunch. I'm addicted to coffee. I like a cappuccino when I come in, an espresso at 3pm and soup at 12.30-1pm.

"The room should be cleared before I arrive in the morning. I like the papers set out in the office before I get in. The white boards should be cleared.

"If I see things that are not of acceptable quality, I will blame you."

Mr Liam Byrne, 40, even dictates what font size briefing notes should be in, and insists that they should take up no more than one sheet of paper.

Mr Liam Byrne also warns the staff: "Never put anything to me unless you understand it and can explain it to me in 60 seconds," and he goes on: "I am often not very clear or my writing is illegible. If I'm in the middle of thinking about something, I might ask you to come back – don't be put off by this."

Mr Liam Byrne also displays a near obsession with manipulating the media:

"We need to produce a grid . . . outlining [the] story of the week. Once something has been slotted into a grid, my expectation is it will be delivered. Moving something from a grid slot is a very, very big deal."

Mr Liam Byrne says he has an "open door" policy – but it is hard to know when civil servants could see him. "It's your job to keep me to time. It's rude for me to draw meetings to a close. I like 10 minute then 5 minute warnings. You need to know what I'm doing next."

Contacting Mr Liam Byrne out of hours is not easy. "BlackBerry best. Fax to constituency office/home if not urgent. Never rely on me looking at text/email."

18 May 2010

Trespass Man


'Harnessing an event of the past to boost yourself in the present.'  That is a chapter in the Politician's Book of Tricks.

When the world war was over, the new government of 1945-1951 created National Parks on the American and Swedish models.  The modernising of British society, following defeat of fascism in Europe and militarism in the far east, was inevitable.  A National Health Service and bringing the Bank of England under public ownership were main policies towards this objective.

On a recent visit to this area Labour leadership candidate David Miliband (above right) unwisely joined in with a couple of local Labour politicians who were harnessing an event in the past to boost themselves in the present.  This was a so-called 'mass trespass' which had happened one day long ago.

The politicians were trying to claim that this day out on the local hills in 1932 is the reason we have national parks.  It would be just as realistic to say that Hitler is the reason we have a motorway system.

Anyway, there is now a picture in the public domain of current Labour Party leadership contender David Miliband holding a poster that appears to encourage trespassers and trespassing.

10 May 2010

The Door



"Knock knock"

"Who's there?"

"Gordon"

"Gordon who?"

"A week's a long time in politics"


My Vote Is Worth Considerably More Than Yours


It's not just here in England that electors and taxpayers are short-changed at the polling booth by a mad electoral system.  Californian Steve Chessin's elevator pitch in support of Fair Votes goes along the following lines:

The principle of Proportional Representation is this:

majority rule, with representation for the electoral minority.

Power is allocated in proportion to the way people vote:

60% of the vote gets you 60% of the seats, not all of them;

and 20% of the vote gets you 20% of the seats, not none of them.

There are two key ingredients to PR:

you have to elect more than one person from a district, and;

you have to allocate the winners in proportion to the vote.

09 May 2010

Round-up


As the three Leaders continue fluttering their eyelashes at each other, a few of the points that have emerged from last Thursday's general election:

Fair Votes.  This is the new name for proportional representation.  No reform of our rotten, utterly discredited politics will get far if a person's vote in one constituency continues to be worth substantially less than a person's vote in a different constituency.  That is the ridiculous situation under 'First past the post'.

Doors slamming shut on queues of people who want to cast their vote but aren't able to.  The UK needs an Electoral Commission that runs elections, not one that issues unclear guidance to harassed local government officers. It should employ election staff directly, and its chief executive must be answerable for future foul-ups.

Private financier Lord Ashcroft, nicknamed 'Blofeld' in Conservative Central Office, is reportedly furious with David Cameron.  As in "Big Society?  What the **** are you talking about?"

Speaking of the good Lord, we can't have a national political system where a party with wealthy backers only needs to target the few hundred votes that matter: the ones in the marginal constituencies.  This is a clear sign that the English political system is rotten and that reform is necessary.

Women represent about 65% of the workforce (not always waged) and about 20% of the members of the new Parliament.

The Liberal Democrat campaign took gracefully to the air early on, due to the power of television.  Until scrutiny was given to a policy of rewarding illegal immigrants with an amnesty and various rights and entitlements.  Good luck with selling that policy to law-abiding citizens.

07 May 2010

Go Back To Your Constituencies - And Prepare For Transparency!

The election results are known and Andrew Russell Bingham (Conservative) and Janet Maria Carter (Liberal Democrat) are the winners in this area.  One of the Independent candidates can go back to watching Loose Women in his underpants while eating Rice Krispies out of the packet.

This site is a part of the phenomenon of 'citizen journalism with the goal of improving standards and honesty in public life'.

Two things have come together to create this major recent improvement to the democratic process in England: the dramatic, shocking exposure of the systematic long-term abuse of parliamentary expenses; and the continuing spread and reach of the internet.

It is the public - through tax - that pays for the things that political parties do.

It is the public that would pay the price for everything that political parties promise, if the promises are kept.

The open exchange of information has a positive impact on the world.  Transparency in public life leads to honesty.

Transparency is not a party political thing.  That is, unless the party in question supports the concealment or suppression of information that the public is entitled to.  If a politician or public employee does so, then a political party that supports the concealment - or covers up on their behalf - justifiably has to take the consequences.