31 July 2006

The 2009 Project

As regular readers* probably know, I'm a big fan of participation in politics by all, which is why I'm supporting The 2009 Project.
Its aim is to sign up 13 million people under the age of 35 to a pledge to take part in the next general election. This will then make politicians listen to the needs and concerns of young people - which at the moment, they rarely do (especially the 18-25 year olds, as we are the age group that votes the least). As The 2009 Project puts it:
"You can look at it one of two ways. Either accept that young people aren't interested in politics and therefore forget about them. Or take the view that we need young people to be engaged in politics for a healthy democracy."
The 2009 Project

There's also an Early Day Motion**, which so far has been signed by ninety seven MPs, which calls on Members of Parliament to support The 2009 Project's objective and to encourage their younger constituents to pledge to vote. If your MP hasn't signed it, you can write to him via WriteToThem.com and let them know.

(Via Adam Teladia)

* Both of you
** A kind of petition for MPs only.

30 July 2006

Majority Oppose ID Cards

On UK Polling Report:
"A new ICM poll commissioned by the No2ID campaign is the first to show a majority of people opposed to the introduction of ID cards... The latest poll shows that 47% of people think the introduction of ID cards would be a good idea, 51% think they would be a bad idea - a straight 5% swing compared to the last ICM/No2ID poll in February and the first time... that a poll has shown a majority opposed."

(click to enlarge)

The Home Office wanted ICM polling questions to focus "on the benefits of ID cards", but that is called push-polling and is against legitimate practice.

(Via Lynne Featherstone)

28 July 2006

Tell the Demon Headmaster What You Really Think

The Jack Straw Pledge needs just 29 more signatures before we can all write to him and call him a cretin.
The deadline is today, so sign up now!


Pledge complete with enough signatures!

26 July 2006

Rubber Thinking

No idea where this originally came from, but via the LDYS Forums:
"The Government today adopted the condom as an official symbol of their administration because they feel it simply and accurately reflects their political stance.

The new official hats of the Government,
to be worn to all Cabinet meetings

Condoms stand up to inflation, halt production, destroy the next generation, protect pricks, and give a sense of security while actually screwing you!"

24 July 2006

Bill Clinton's Life

I had a month to spare, the university year had just finished and the third year seemed so far away I thought I could hold off the summer reading list until August. So I picked up Bill Clinton's mammoth 957 page biography, My Life*, from the library and set to reading it... and reading it... and reading it.

It's a big book, but not a hard slog, partly because of the facinating subject matter - the rise of a a middle class boy to President of the world's only superpower - and partly thanks to Clinton's down-to-earth writing style, that doesn't resort to patronising simplicity but at the same doesn't discuss matters in an isolatingly complex manner.
I only have one quibble with it, the affairs. According to the book, he had two, I don't know whether this is true or not, in a way I don't care, but I do object to the way he writes about them. In both cases, he deals with them "in retrospect" - that is he writes about them not in the chapters dealing with that time period, but later, when they are discovered - and I feel that if he hadn't written about them in during the relevant chapters it would have revealed much more about why he had them and how he felt about them at the time.
Saying that, he does discuss them in full once they've been discovered (in the timeline of the book) and I came away from this book with respect for his openness in discussing them and his other flaws and regrets. It's well worth a read if you have a month to spare.

* Shameful plug, but it is bloody cheap on that Amazon link, and it has one more chapter than the hardback version.

23 July 2006

Avenue Q

One word for this show - awesome

Avenue Q is the story of Princeton, a recent college graduate (and puppet), out in the big, wide world fro the first time, trying to find his purpose. Along the way he learns some valuable life lessons - including everyone's a little bit racist and the internet is for porn.
Featuring a cast of puppets and humans, the show is a kind of Sesame Street meets South Park, with a bit of Broadway cheese thrown in (and ripped up) for good measure. It also isn't afraid to talk about "risque" subjects - such as masturbation, racism and strippers - and I was laughing all the way thorough to the very end.
I thoroughly recommend you go see it, if only for the live, on-stage sex.

See Also:

21 July 2006

They Work For You

Jack Straw has attacked the excellent website TheyWorkForYou.com, which enables citizens to check up on their MPs, including trawling through their voting records, their speeches and their freebies.

Jack Straw takes time
out of his busy schedule
to pose for a book cover

If you're against this attack on such a valuable public service tool*, sign up to this pledge:
"I will write to Jack Straw to tell him he's a cretin but only if 100 other people will too."
See Also:
* Jack Straw is a public service tool too, but in a different way

20 July 2006

It's About Time

Apparently, this clip will form part of Armando Iannucci's new TV series Time Trumpet and it's literally left me open-mouthed - I can't believe he will be able to get away with showing "Osama Bin Laden's latest attack on London" and the "Death of Tony Blair", to which Phillipa Forrester says jokingly, "Now how many of you are saying I remember that".
Funny clip, but razor edge comedy: you've been warned.

That Frenzy in Full

Two weeks ago, I posted a brief entry on John Prescott, suggesting he would never leave. It is believed that today the Parliamentary Commissioner, Sir Philip Mawer, will "mildly rebuke" Mr Prescott for not declaring his stay at Philip Anschutz's Colorado ranch.

I love this cartoon

I can't help but feel sorry for Mr Prescott and feel that he has been caught up in an over-hyped media frenzy. Let's look at this objectively and ask overselves what did he do:
  • He stayed at the ranch of someone he knew
  • At the time, this person was trying to obtain a licence from the UK Government to run a casino at a property he owned
  • Under section 7 of the Gambling Act 2005 the Secretary of State shall designate casinos.
  • John Prescott is Deputy Prime Minister, not the relevant Secretary of State.
  • He failed to declare the stay at the ranch.
So, he hasn't actually done anything illegal, but he has been slightly forgetful (or wrong on what he should declare). There is no evidence he has influenced the Dome situation, yet still the press are going after him: probably because they are upset they couldn't force his resignation over the Tracy Temple affair*. Please, people, a little perspective here... go after Lord Levy and Tony Blair, they are much more corrupt.

* Because heaven forbid a politician should have basic human carnal desires.

18 July 2006

Oh No

I didn't realise until I saw this:

John Prescott is running the country! Look up your daughters, civil servants and any cattle ranches you happen to have lying around.

Via Theo Spark

No Justice

In a statement yesterday the Crown Prosecution Service said it will not prosecute any individuals for the shooting of Jean Charles De Menezes due to "insufficient evidence".

Right, 'cause the officers involved only loaded seven bullets into his head and one into his shoulder. They've all confessed they did it and thus there is no evidence.

See Also:
PS. Definitions of "whitewash" on a postcard, c/o Sir Ian Blair.

17 July 2006

Is This Real?

Via Will Howells*, comes this snippet of conversation, captured by Sky's Adam Boulton:
Bush: Yeah, yeah, he is sweet
Blair: He is honey. And that’s what the whole thing is about. It’s the same with Iraq
Aw, young love. You can read the full transcript here.

* Always reliable for good material

Labour's Dirty Tricks

From time to time, the Lib Dems are accused (sometimes rightly) of dirty tricks, but now we have an insight to the tricks of the Labour Party, particularly their obsession with defeating the LibDems as, via Resident Alien, comes these posters (click to enlarge):

From a government presently being investigated for corruption, it's a tad hypocritical.

Because Sometimes A Title is Just Too Good

When I went to see the new Pirates of the Caribbean last week* the trailer for a certain film came up... a film about snakes... on a plane. It was called Snakes on a Plane (original I know) and everyone in the cinema pissed themselves laughing.

God, I love that title.

* Or was it Superman Returns?... I can't remember.

13 July 2006

Taking Power

Via Adam Teladia*, comes this:

"The Liberal Democrats are allowing you to have your say about the analysis and recommendations of the POWER inquiry.

The results of the Power Inquiry were welcomed by politicians of all the major political parties when the commission published them in February 2006 however the Liberal Democrats would now like to know what others think of them.

Taking Power is open to all, whatever your political views. Every individual, as well as school or college group, is welcome to contribute and to exchange ideas on ways in which citizens in this country can regain power.

The Taking Power conference is being organised by a volunteer team led by Paul Tyler, a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords who while MP for North Cornwall from 1992-2005 served as Liberal Democrat Chief Whip, Shadow Leader of the House and was a member of the Joint Committee on House of Lords Reform and the Select Committee on House of Commons Modernisation.

The “Virtual Conference” will take place between Friday 8th September and Friday 6th October. The conference will take place on the internet. It is timed so that there can also be real world events during the party conference season to tie into the online discussion.

For more information visit http://www.takingpower.org/"
Well, I've signed up.

* Top guy.

11 July 2006

Terror Threat Level

Via Recess Monkey, today's terror threat level:

10 July 2006

Our Constitution

The Citizenship Foundation has produced a young person's guide to the UK Constitution and it runs to 144 glorious pages at A5 size.
I don't wish to undermine the Foundation*, but if students wish to pick up a proper, documentary constitution they can try the following:
The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution of the United States of America (with Amendments), and Other Important American Documents: Coming in at 108 pages you also get: "The Albany Plan (1754), The Declaration of Rights (1765 In Response to the Stamp Act), Declaration of Rights and Grievances (1774), Virginia Declaration of Rights (1776), The Articles of Confederation (1778), Report of the Annapolis Conference (1786), Speech of Benjamin Franklin (1787 At the Constitutional Congress), The Letter of Transmittal (1787 Of the Constitution), Washington's Letter to Congress (1787 Regarding the Constitution), Madison Introduces the Bill of Rights (1789), Jefferson's Wall of Separation Letter (1802), The National Anthem The Star Spangled Banner (1814), Declaration of Sentiments (1848), Fugitive Slave Act (1850), Confederate Constitution (1861), Gettysburg Address (1863), Emancipation Proclamation (1863), and The Pledge of Allegiance (1892)". Now that's a lot of bang for your buck.
Still, mustn't forget our constitution, glorious history, wonderful prestige, envy of the world, blah, blah, blah. Lord Falconer, the Lord Chancellor/ Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs/ P Diddy/ J Lo/ Whatever else he has decided to call himself, explains why we don't need a documentary constitution:
"We are far better off without a written* constitution. It means that when gaps emerge they can be plugged without there being a great fuss or palaver."
By this, he is presumably referring to central government's ability to re-write the constitution in its favour whenever it feels like it.

* Seriously, its impressive they've managed to compile such a book, given the complex, piecemeal nature of our non-documentary constitution.
* For the last time, "documentary" - the UK constitution is written (in part), it's just not all in one document.

My Second Day in Court

Check out my other blog if you want to find out how my second day in court went, and if you want a laugh about how incompetent I am.

08 July 2006

It's Not Fair

My entry a week ago on local government* sparked two interesting comments which makes me want to clarify what I originally wrote.
It wasn't meant to be an attack on councils and councillors per se, but rather an attack on the centralised system of government we have today and the structure of governance that has caused this.
I believe that solving the Local Government problem would also solve the West Lothian problem, and the problems we currently have with 3 key public service areas - health, education and public transportation.
Ask yourself, what do you, as an ordinary citizen**, feel you can do if you don't like (for example) the current state of our education system:
  • Write a few letters to national newspapers?
  • Try, and probably fail, to organise a national campaign to argue for reform?
  • Or join such a national campaign?
  • Vote for the MP that supports your position?

Does his trip still matter?

My point is this - your voice is one in 60 million wanting to be heard, and you will probably be drowned out by the crowd. It's not fair is it?
Now ask yourself, what if local government had responsibility for education - and there was one clear person who had the most influence - the Mayor of the town or city you live in? He doesn't need to worry about 60 million voters, he needs to worry about the 1 million or so in his city and so your voice has become much louder.
If you felt his policy on education was wrong, you could:
  • Campaign to have him removed
  • Set up (or join) a regional association arguing for education reform
  • Write letters to regional newspapers.
Whilst you might have as much luck as if the issue was decided on a national level, if there was sufficient support for your position, you would at least have a genuine chance to change things. You would be an empowered citizen.
I'm not proposing a uniform system (and I appreciate my original entry made it seem like I am), but a devolved system of regional government, with clear lines of authority and which is thus simplier, more transparent and which ordinary people can understand and participate in much more easily.
The political system would become more responsive to the wishes of the people, and in a democracy, that is what counts - the people.

* Get the bed out now, half my readership (2 people) have fallen asleep.
** Not a political activist as you may be.

07 July 2006

The Chimp Turns 60

Something I overlooked yesterday was that the Commander-in-Chief of the entire world has turned 60, so let me ask you to join me today in celebrating the fact that George W. Bush has taken another step towards death.

06 July 2006

Lessons in Good Governance

The Department of Work & Pensions (DWP) is fighting the decision of the Information Commissioner Richard Thomas that they should publish its findings about how ID Cards could fight ID fraud.
It's quite simple really, they want more information from you, but they're not willing to tell you what they're going to do with it.

A spokesperson for the DWP said:
"What do you mean that's hypocritical? Shut up... or we'll make you."

05 July 2006

Not Jumping

After all the scandal John Prescott has been through, and this latest revelation, why has he not jumped before he is pushed?

Probably because he realises that he is a lot to push.

Guess Who's Back

On the LDYS Policy Committee.
Yes, yours truly, since this weekend. I missed out on VC Campaigns though, to Adrian Smith, who, let's be fair, deserved it as he has been doing the job for the past few months anyway.

03 July 2006

Six Million Dollars

Reports today that scientists have pioneered a way of attaching artificial limbs directly to patients bones. This could lead the way to fully functioning prosthetic limbs controlled by our own central nervous system (and a computer within the limb).
I don't know about you, but I've always found the idea of limbs partly-controlled by computers slightly worrying - I don't want to be jerking off and then have my willy fly half way across the room just because my artificial arm has crashed, do you?

01 July 2006

In The News This Week...

I found out today, much to my embarrassment, that my home town has three councils:
Now, I consider myself fairly up on politics and governance, etc, but I didn't know about the Town Council, nor what it does. My girlfriend, who works part-time for Hertsmere Borough Council, could not tell me what each layer of local government does, yet she, like me, voted at the last election. We both could not recall who our councillor is - we've never even been canvassed, three years after getting the right to vote*.

The coat of arms of
Hertsmere BC

Surely, in a democracy, our local government structure should be understandable, and at least the outline details of it be known by everybody, but it isn't. A civics lesson in schools on local government would be impossible, as different layers of local government have different responsibilities and there is little uniformity across the country. The whole system seems to have been designed by, and run exclusively for, politicians.
A couple of months ago I read the Report of Power, which sought to increase participation in politics and one of the issues it didn't completely address was the complexity of local government (although it did make some good recommendations for shifting power closer to the citizen). By making local government simplier and in some way uniform cross-country, there is a real chance that the general public will want to engage with it, and become more involved, so that councillors are not just members of political parties climbing their way up the greasy pole**, but genuinely interested members of the local community who are open and transparent about what they do. More should be done for councillors to talk to the local community, through local events, inviting the public along to council meetings (not just making meetings open, but active invitations).
Frustrating this aim, however, is the view of those that work for councils. They believe that new councillors are inexperienced and know nothing when they take office and I think there is a solution - create more specific elected posts. As well as having a general body of councillors***, the "executive" would be elected - the Mayor, the head of the Police, the head of schools in the borough, etc. Elections would be more frequent (say every two years) and recall elections would be possible - so that those that are incompetent would not stick around for too long.
We need strong and vibrant local government that can effectively carry out work for local people in an open, understandable way - not a largely centralised system with some jobs farmed out to mysterious councillors, some of whom who never bother to speak to their electorate.

* Although strangely, I have been canvassing
** I'm not saying that councillors are exclusively this!
*** Who would now act as a legislating body