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Friday, 30 March 2012

Even Toynbee rejects Kelly's Sleaze Fund

It must be an extraordinary Spring for one to read some sense in one of Polly's diatribes, this one on Party funding, but here it is;
State funds could be allocated per vote cast in elections, though Helena Kennedy's Power Inquiry came up with something better: voters could tick a box on their ballot paper to allocate their share of state funding to a party of their choice.
Actually, she doesn't grasp the importance of the difference between the two - which is fundamental. She also neglects to mention that voters should be able to choose to 'give' absolutely nothing at all. 

The first option, giving Parties with sitting MPs tax funds on the basis of votes cast in the previous general election,  is the corrupt and sleazy stitch-up recommended both by Hayden Phillips and Christopher Kelly, skewed so strongly in favour of the Big Three so as to be blatantly anti-democratic. Such a move would be a 'soft' coup d'├ętat, establishing Labour, Conservative and LibDem parties as the official State Parties for evermore - or at least until violent revolution unseats them. 

Yesterday's result in Bradford West shows just what voters think of the Big Three. Still mired in the filth of the Rotten Parliament, an isolated and privileged metropolitan elite remote from the electorate, stained with the grief and blood of pointless war, the popular reputation of the Big Three is lower than a snake's arse. 

In a healthy democracy, as parties and party groupings change, grow and evolve, constitutional arrangements must mean no 'barriers to entry', no insurmountable obstacles, and a level playing field for new arrangements to challenge the old. First past the post works, as Bradford proves. If we're to have tax funding at all, it must be fair and equitable, de-coupled from the vote cast at general elections - and up to each individual voter. For this reason, voters must also have the chance to veto any funding at all in their name. 

We cannot let them get away with this.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

The Big C

Remember the four Cs - Clients, Customers, Consumers and Citizens. In each case the power relationship between providers and providees varies, and of course this changes over time. When I first opened a bank account I was a Client, but now I'm just a Customer, verging on Consumer. To a shop that knows me I'm a Customer but to Tesco I'm a Consumer, my preferences merged with ten million others to determine with what the shelves are stocked. Now only old fashioned solicitors and stockbrokers have Clients. But what of the Big C - my status as a Citizen?

Sadly, it's nowhere to be found in Cameron's article for the Telegraph today. In a lengthy piece he catalogues further extensions of consumer 'rights' to rationed public services; you can choose which health authority refuses to prescribe you a banned cancer drug, choose which school rejects your child. Cameron will work with  consumer organisations, he says, 'to enable them to champion and enforce choice and competition in public services' - Which? Heart Surgeon, perhaps, or Which? Copper ('We rate them on handcuff care, fluency in cautioning and interrogation skills'). It is perhaps wholly appropriate that when the major political parties have morphed from mass membership organisations to consumer brands themselves - Cameron's Coke vs Miliband's Pepsi, with Clegg's Virgin Cola on the outside - that Cameron sees the world as a consumerist construct. Cameron isn't 'tearing down the big State' as he so boldly claims, he's turning it into Tesco. 

Cameron reserves the right of the State, of course, to steal my taxes to pay for his own brand marketing campaigns. He also denies us the right to form our own democratic groupings as Citizens, to raise our own taxes and to determine the design and delivery of our own public services. My right as a Citizen to partake in a decision on EU membership is denied, of course, and my High Street's sales tax is regulated in Brussels, not Lewisham. The Big Central State has nothing to fear from David Cameron, a man who can't tell the difference between freedom and choosing which prison in which to be confined.   

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Now the 'Mail' calls government corrupt

Georgie's Pie Tax foundered yesterday in the Commons on the admission that a pie at 20deg when the air temperature is 22deg, as it was yesterday, would be free of VAT but the same pie would cost 20% more if the air temperature dropped to 19deg. It was clear at that point that Osborne has never visited a Greggs in his life; skilled though the staff are at serving a queue after sausage rolls and steak bakes, taking temperature readings every time they make a sale will surely be a task too far. Labour MP John Mann said "He has put taxes on cheap lager, caravans and pasties – all the things George Osborne doesn’t use himself. It’s almost as if the Budget was a personal tax plan for him and his friends."

A Mail editorial continued the theme;
Two points can be made with certainty about the Government’s plans to simplify and relax planning laws. One is that those who stand to gain most are get-rich-quick developers, who include some of the Conservative Party’s most generous donors. The other is that the biggest losers will be lovers of England’s countryside, among whom are numbered many of the Tories’ most loyal traditional supporters. Inevitably, therefore, many will detect a noxious whiff of corruption and betrayal ...
The Mail, it seems, is out of love with Cameron's government - in contrast to the Telegraph, which has swiftly removed all yesterdays stories on Suppergate from its online edition. After ditching Heff for Hello! the poor old Torygraph really has lost its soul to the devil.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Cameron's nemesis

There is a delicious irony in the fact that the Boy, who has done everything he can to position himself in the political centre, abandoning a raft of traditional Conservative beliefs in the process, should be so undone by his transformation in the public mind into a sleazy Nob, a Top Hat Tory of Dickensian traditionality, by the 50p tax and Cruddas events. Hugging the huskies fades rapidly from the public mind and instead Cameron stands exposed as the little rich boy taking care of his chums and lining his pockets. Meanwhile, traditional Tories are looking to a UKIP manifesto that includes 
  • Economy - Low tax; flat rate 31% with NI abolished
  • Education - School vouchers, abolish OFSTED, support Grammars
  • Defence - Spend an extra 1% of GDP, increase army and naval strength, cut Whitehall
  • Nationality - Promote uniculturalism, oppose the apartheid system of 'multiculturalism'
  • Immigration - Strict immigration controls, safer borders
  • Direct democracy - Support triggers for local and national referenda
  • Energy - Expand nuclear, end subsidies for wind
  • GM foods - compulsory labelling
  • Liberty - Defend personal liberty from the State
  • Localism - Greater powers locally, less Whitehall control
Nothing there about Health or Welfare, but I daresay UKIP will distance themselves from State nannying and the alcohol price debacle, a move that the IFS estimate will benefit the drinks industry by £850m a year and the consumer not at all. And as Sam Leith pointed out in yesterday's Standard;
If drinks in a club are a fiver a pop, as Lansley pointed out before his conversion, you don’t stop people “pre-loading” at home by sticking a quid or two on a bottle of off-licence vodka. And statistically it is neither the young nor the poor — demonised though they are and targeted by this measure though they will be — whose drinking is the real problem.

We drink not because it’s cheap but because we like it. We drink because we got started and — look! a wrap of speed! —and what the hell, in for a penny. We drink because the agony and tedium of living in this crappy little island is alleviated, and always has been, by our deep rooted traditions of getting plastered and putting a bar stool through a bus shelter. I’d advise Andrew Lansley, if he hasn’t already, to take it up.

Monday, 26 March 2012

The iconography of Western art

As a young man I explored as many of my County's mediaeval churches as I possibly could, and soon became fluent in the iconography of the surviving painting and sculpture. A man walking across a stream with someone on his back was St Christopher, of course, and a chap tied to a tree with arrows sticking out of him St Sebastian, except when he was headless or depicted with a wolf at his feet in which case he was St Edmund. St Bartholomew was usually holding his own flayed skin, St Catherine tied to a wheel, St Michael with a dragon and so on. As it was designed to be deciphered by simple peasants I had little problem with it.

Later, a basic classical education helped understand post-Renaissance painting, which to the uninformed seems mainly to be acres of naked pink women with wispy bits of gauze and enigmatic smiles. Lots of naked pink women usually meant it was The Rape of the Sabine Women, and a single naked pink woman standing in water The Birth of Venus. The art of the counter Reformation brought naked pink rent boys, dressed up by Caravaggio as, well, anything he could think of, really. But his saints got more complex. St Jerome had the skull and book, but only a hint of the nimbus or halo that shouted 'Saint!'  and in The Calling of St Matthew he had to include three pointing fingers including Christ's to indicate it was the hungover rent boy and not the bearded elder who was St Matthew. 

Still, with a bit of knowledge you could work your way through it. Sister Wendy, now 82, makes the point in the Telegraph that the young are losing out in understanding the art that fills our great galleries and churches because they know neither their bibles nor the classics. This is undoubtedly true, but not a matter to despair. 

Whereas my generation had to learn all that stuff and carry it in our heads, there being no alternative, the young nowadays can call it up on their mobile devices - they need to learn information management, not the classics. Faced with a painting of a chap with a halo being grilled, they just google 'saint burned on gridiron' and up comes St Lawrence. It's that the young are still visiting galleries that's important. 

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Vote NO on 3rd May to the Tax Thieves

Predictably, the Cruddas cash for access sleaze has already led leading Lib Dems to call for tax funding of their private little club. Kelly's corrupt and distorted 'review' of the matter just repeated Hayden Phillips' deeply undemocratic and fraudulent recommendations to establish the current big three as State Parties and crush out all potential future change in Parliament. Kelly has also wasted no time in pushing his bent 'fix'. 

Well, the time has come for the NO campaign to start. We've got elections on 3rd May here. Let's get the issue onto the agenda.

2012 visitors *will* be infected with MDR TB in London

There are not a few Public Health specialists - mainly level headed Port Health Officers and the like - who shake their heads in despair at the decision to locate the 2012 Olympics smack in the middle of Europe's highest concentration of multi drug resistant TB infection, in East London. It's like siting a cup-final game in the middle of a Cholera epidemic. Newham has a TB infection rate twice that of India, and ahead of Russia, where public health systems have all but collapsed; TB is currently killing 500 people a year in the UK, and new infections in London are reaching epidemic proportions.

Newham, Tower Hamlets and Hackney between them account for nearly 40% of the UK's MDR TB cases, concentrated in the immigrant populations from sub-Saharan Africa, Pakistan, Bangladesh and India. Many have developed drug resistance, and many are beyond the reach of conventional medical services. The UK government's refusal to implement entry port x-ray screening of new immigrants from high risk areas has meant that thousands of disease-bombs are alive and ticking in East London in the middle of the 2012 area. Add cultural behaviour among the risk groups such as frequent public spitting - guaranteed to spread the bacillus widely to Olympic visitors - and you reach a risk level that makes even me avoid public transport in East London.

World TB experts are meeting in London next week specifically to discuss the risk of the Olympics in East London spreading MDR TB to parts of the world where it is currently absent; the risk is not from Olympic visitors carrying the disease - foreign visitors to the games will generally be affluent and healthy, at least when they arrive - but the risk of these visitors becoming infected whilst here.

London Transport are unable even to eradicate endemic bed-bug infestation from tube trains that run in East London, so there's no way that thousands of TB carriers can be identified and isolated in time. It's one thing to give Hans and Lotte a nasty beg-bug rash, another to leave them requiring hospitalisation for TB. But be in no doubt, statistically the infection rates mean that it's inevitable that some 2012 visitors will leave with a MDR TB infection. Welcome to London!