Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Those were the harrowing words I read in today's Evening Standard in an article about the French police clearing the "Jungle" camp near Calais. Those words hammered home just how desperate migrants are to get into the UK. This immediately got me thinking why don't they want to stay in France instead of the UK? Or any of the other countries on their way to the UK?

Having watched UK Borderforce a show on Sky 1 that follows immigration offices catching illegal immigrants or stopping them before they come into the UK at Calais. The reasons they give for coming to the UK are quite interesting, some of them are

  • Coming to the UK for free education
  • Some believe they will get free housing
  • Free health care
  • To marry someone in the UK and raise a family
  • To join family (sometimes distant) already in the UK

But why don't they do these thing in France? Well some of the reasons range from France not being as soft a touch as the UK, the immigrants speak English and therefore naturally want to settle in the UK. Another interesting fact is that the French do have a problem with immigration but these are from ex French colonies where people generally speak French as a second language, they know how the systems work in France and take advantage of it as people who know the system in the UK.

Deporting illegal immigrants is difficult many of them know that as long as they don't carry a passport its practically impossible for them to be deported, however they are not allowed to work. Its a catch situation which the government sought to solve with biometric id cards. The idea is to receive the benefits of "Club Britain" you need a membership card that entitles you to all the club has to offer. Because of wide spread outrage at the id card scheme the government decided to reverse the trend giving immigrants biometric id cards. Even if they did lose the cards their biometric information makes them identifiable to the system once again, hence making them deportable once they had over stayed their welcome.

It seems a vast majority of illegal immigrant based on the above appear to be economic migrants, they are after the ideal life, a better standard of living and a shield against poverty. Reducing this trend can only be done by not making services in the UK as accessible but most importantly helping to improve conditions in countries most illegal immigrants come from. You now start entering a fight against world poverty and we know just how successful that has been in the developing world. What if the old colonial powers started colonising parts of Africa again taking over war torn countries without governments and started making safe haven countries for immigrants, with economic havens, well conditioned and more free from corruption, building these countries up again and then calling elections for them to be handed to a locally formed government. Could it work?

posted on Tuesday, 22 September 2009 22:20:02 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Thursday, 28 May 2009
Are MP’s out of touch?

No doubt there are probably hundreds of articles on the Internet regarding this very subject. However I thought I would look at it from the start, trying to understand how some of this came about.

Do a few searches in Google yielded some interesting results especially on Google Timeline.

Go back to February 1996 and you find an interesting article about John Majors government wanting to move MP's into a new pay league. At the time there was a feeling that MP's were poorly paid  having a large sum of their salary docked.

In June1996 another article stating that MP's are set for a 30% pay increase. Even back then the idea was sneered at by members of the public and the work that MP's did was not considered as important some comments such as "part-timers" and "fly-by-night lobbyists" seemed to depict the mood at the time. The idea behind the pay rise was to sway MP's away from "moonlighting"  

In July 1996 when Tony Blair's Shadow cabinet was split over the issue. They feared that an increase in MP's salaries would anger unions and voters. An interesting quote from the article:

Chris Mullin MP said: "You can live quite comfortably on pounds 33,000 a year [the existing salary for MPs]. Having one rule for MPs and another for everybody else is going to be very damaging." - source The Independent July 1996

March 2001 An independent review board of cabinet members salaries stated that "Tony Blair must allow cabinet members to accept their salaries in full because Labour's freeze on ministerial pay is distorting the parliamentary pay system."

According to the article cabinet ministers were furious by the pay freeze allowing them to only take home £96,887 instead of the £114, 543 they were entitled to a year. It seemed as though Tony Blair at the time was trying to set an example in his own cabinet.

October 2001 An interesting article in the Guardian stating how Councillors' pay has rocketed by 60% over the past 5 months. Top local politicians salaries being almost on par with most MP's

December 2002 Moonlighting MPs double their Common's salaries with lucrative directorships of companies.  

At the time MP's were accusing striking firemen for having second jobs.

December 2004  Details of MP's expenses and allowances were published for the first time. The basic MP's salary at the time was £57,000 their total expenses claims totalled £80m in addition to perks and pensions. The public was invited to comment on this short article some of the comments were quite interesting. Some people defended it saying that we had to pay for good MP's while others could not understand why there was one law for MP's and one for the general public. Several commented on how MP's thought their jobs were more important than doctors and nurses who were on much lower pay. 

There was also a feeling back then according to the comments in the article that MP's were out of touch. Some people were already objecting to the second home and employment of family members as secretaries or general staff members to MPs. Some people also felt we had too many MP's

July 2008 MPs vote to keep pay rise below inflation despite the anger of back benchers who insist they should be paid more. MP's at the time were on £61, 820 a year.

Interesting quotes from the article:

Harriet Harman, leader of the Commons, told MPs at the start of debate: "We should show the same discipline in our pay increases as we expect from the public sector." - source Guardian July 2008

David Maclean, the Conservative former minister, said that, on their current salary of £61,820, MPs were paid the same as a "second-tier officer in a district council".

He said that he felt MPs should be paid about £75,000 a year. And he said that he was willing to speak out "so that I can collect most of the hate mail". -source Guardian July 2008

Sir Patrick Cormack, the Conservative MP for South Staffordshire, said he was "appalled" by the attitude of the government and the Conservative frontbench. He said there were people in the Commons catering department who earned more than MPs.- source Guardian July 2008

April 2009 David Cameron suggests increasing MPs salaries in exchange for cuts in allowances

What I find interesting is how this all begun. It appears it started with some pretty good intentions, pay MP's more so they are less inclined to "moonlight". Pay a good wage to MP's and you should get some pretty good people in government if you apply the same principle used in private business..right? It seemed early on that party leaders were already worried about the impact MPs salaries would have on voters. It would appear to keep MPs happy, they were given expenses to make up for the shortfall and MPs treated these allowances as part of their salaries. Almost as bankers treated bonuses as part of their salaries we discovered when looking at the credit crunch, some were pretty angry when they did not get their "guaranteed bonus". To many it felt MP's were hugely out of touch with voters, they are basically public servants right? And to many they act as though they are members of the aristocracy.

I suppose if you have people in government who suffer the same day to day hardships you do and the same burdens of tax, you are more inclined to trust them and believe they will do their best to improve things for the ordinary person. When elected officials loose touch with the voting public it can lead to some pretty severe consequences, I am sure party leaders are only to aware of. People who are disillusioned can sometimes steer to far right parties and before long you can end up with a revolution as history has taught us only too well. Let us hope lessons have been learnt and parliament takes a more humble approach when it comes to the public purse strings.  

posted on Thursday, 28 May 2009 16:23:18 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Sunday, 01 March 2009
Mandelson to part privatise Royal Mail, why?

Mandelsons plans to privatise Royal Mail have been in the press a lot this week. What I have found so interesting about it, is that even though the plan is so unpopular and has the potential for Labour to loose a lot of votes (maybe even an election), they have not backed down on the idea. Gordon Brown has openly backed it, even after the large out cry from the unions and their threat to hold back funding for Labour.

So, why go ahead with the idea? Well we all know the Royal Mail pension pot is in a lot of trouble and the group is haemorrhaging cash. Talk to postal workers and they will tell you that the communications watch dog will not allow Royal Mail to increase the cost of a basic postage stamp. Royal Mail mainly makes a loss on the mail service to the general public which needs to be shored up by the money it makes from businesses, for example the delivery of your BT phone bill, Gas bill,bank statements etc. Currently Royal Mail is finding it very hard to be competitive in this market because companies such as TNT (you've seen their postage stamps on your mail) are offering more competitive rates to win these business contracts.

You may be asking,how does TNT deliver my mail to me? The answer to that question is they don't! All TNT do is collect the mail from large companies sending out their bills and statements, and sort the mail. They then get their lorries to deliver this sorted mail to the various Royal Mail sorting offices, ready for Royal Mail postman to deliver it to your door. In this market Royal Mail as I am told, is not allowed to undercut these private companies. They rely on Royal Mail which has the delivery network to deliver this post. Without Royal Mail it would not be very cost effective for companies such as TNT or Business Post to try and employ their own postmen, its just far to expensive. The money Royal Mail would have made by trying to be competitive and cutting their rates for sorted mail to companies is not allowed by the competition watch dogs. The money Royal Mail needs to cover the cost of the public service is then reduced. So the government is left having to pump more money into the postal service. But wait a minute, the government as been pumping a lot of money into the banking industry lately so there can't be that much left to spend on much else could there?

Would privatising Royal Mail make the government some money to help them fill the depleted coffers caused by bailing out the banks? I know its a drop in the ocean but I can't help but feel this wont be the last attempt by the government to raise some cash by selling off the family silver. Maybe they will attempt to privatise Network Rail again?

posted on Sunday, 01 March 2009 12:55:44 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Thursday, 11 October 2007
Bus stop driven government

A while ago I watched an interesting documentary on TV which spoke about how our current Labour government used a system called "target driven government" basically just about everything could be measured from National Health indicators and that in turn could be used to set targets for government institutions. Unfortunately as had been demonstrated in order to meet targets certain hospitals "fudge" figures in order to meet targets and in turn get more funding.

I think the best indicators on how certain government institutions are doing can actually be found at bus stops waiting for (constantly late) buses. Wait a while and sure enough you'll encounter pensioners who have no alternative but to wait for late buses, before long they will start talking about how unreliable the buses are and they keep very good mental records on how badly the bus service is doing.  Wait a little longer and you may hear a story similar to the one I heard about the health service it was a tale I started to hear several times as pensioners started to talk to each other. One story I heard was about a pensioner who suffered a leg injury when one bus collided into the back of another as he was about to get off. They called an ambulance for him even though he insisted he could dress the wound on his leg by himself. He then goes on to tell the pensioner he is sat next to how he had to wait 2 hours. He understood that people who had more pressing issues needed to be seen first and after another half an hour he decided to leave and dress the wound himself at home as he had said he would in the beginning. The other pensioner informs him that each time she has a fall or any other of her friends do that they do not bother being taken to hospital or refuse ambulances because of how bad the services are at the local hospital. When they do need to go to hospital there is a bus service that can take them. However the bus service takes almost 45 minutes to get there and the main reason for this is that is goes around every single stop to pick up people and these people are left waiting for the service for hours when it does not turn up, seldom complaining except to each other when the weather is poor.

Its not only the health service you pickup on but also issues ranging from who are the people on benefits and how some (not all) take the system for granted and laugh about it, how people who are on a minimum wage who do not believe on going onto benefits and struggle to make ends meet especially when it comes to heating in winter. How some people are on benefits and complain that its not enough but have no intention of finding employed work because they are a lot better off, but complain that they do not have enough money for "fags" and milk.

Its funny if you know where to listen you can easily pinpoint where problems are. You can find out what statistics tell you and what actually happens in reality just by listening. I have heard so many tales and it kind of tells you what is really happening. I believe that politicians are out of touch I think they have become as the ruling nobility were before we had a system of elected government. Gone is the politician who made it from the lowest depths of society the self built person who knows the plights of ordinary citizens. Instead we have politicians who have never known hardship they have been born into a privileged upbringing  a new class that fails to understand the common problems plaguing people. Maybe some of them should dress up in ordinary clothes, catch a few buses and while waiting just listen to people talking about every day things. Who knows...they might learn something?

posted on Thursday, 11 October 2007 22:48:16 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Friday, 21 September 2007
A national motto

Was just watching a news feature about the government wanting to come up with a national motto for Great Britain to make us feel "closer" as a nation such as the American motto "In God we trust".

What I want to know is what's wrong with our existing one "Dieu Et Mon Droit" which translates to "God and my right". While its traditionally referred to the monarchs right to govern it could also be be seen as a statement of our own rights?

posted on Friday, 21 September 2007 18:07:03 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Wednesday, 29 August 2007
Prison officers on strike in England and Wales

Thousands of prison officers in England and Wales have gone on strike, over pay being lower than inflation. Apparently prison officers are not allowed to go on strike because of an agreement their union has with the government. It has also been stated on the news that prison officers had been sent letters informing them that they could face jail if they go on strike. I found that utterly hilarious, if you throw all of the prison officers into prison, who is going to keep them in there? The word of the law? You really can't fall back on the army this time because they are all abroad at the moment.

posted on Wednesday, 29 August 2007 18:39:28 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]