Category: "Politics"

Stepping down as parliamentary candidate

Today I informed the General Committee of the Yeovil Labour Party that I would likely be moving outside of the Yeovil constituency to Guildford once Catherine finishes university later this year.

As I do not think it would be practical for me to fight an election with a two and a half hour train journey in the way I decided to step down so the constituency could select somebody else to carry on. With a bit of luck we'll get another socialist.

I'd like to thank my supporters, both in the Labour Party and in the Yeovil TUC for their support over the last year or so.

On the plus side, Guildford looks to be an even bigger challenge.

Words of wisdom from Mr Branson

It's not every day we encounter such brilliance, I think everyone should take the time to read these words of wisdom from Richard Branson.

Hospitals are there to cure people - they are not to kill people.

Incredible. How on Earth did we manage to get along before this guy came along and shared his intellect with us?

He accuses politicians of tinkering with infection controls in hospitals, largely in relation to strains of staphylococcus aureus that have become resistant to a large group of antibiotics, while he himself is doing the same tinkering suggesting all hospital staff be screened for MRSA.

What he, and a great deal of other people don't seem to be able to grasp these efforts can only be temporary. The only solution to permanently deal with this is increase the number of people going into science, and to increase research spending, be it public or private. It is also necessary to tackle religion through solid science education, especially in the United States where it no doubt acts like a colossal break on scientific development - especially in evolution, genetics and going forward bio-engineering, all areas that will become critical in dealing with this going forward.

Probably the most worrying though is that the government accepts advice from non-experts like Richard Branson.

VAT reduced, rich taxed more

So Darling in his pre-budget report announced that VAT (sales tax for those non-UK readers) will be cut from 17.5% to 15% from the 1st of December.

Good. We'll see if in a few weeks time I'll have people asking if all our £39.99 products are now £39.14 or there abouts. I'm sure a lot of retailers will be keen to soak up the decrease, especially as it so small and easy to hide. However in more competitive areas like on the high street I'd expect it to be used to fund more aggressive offers to get people in the door.

He also announced that income tax will rise to 45% for those earning over £150,000 a year from 2011.

Good. But why not 50% or more and starting next month? Honestly, £150,000 thats more than I earn in 10 years! These people can easily afford it and in many cases have been making money at our expense for years.

The government is definitely moving in the right direction to tackle this crisis.

As for the Tories, well you only needed to see their childish behavior during the Chancellor's report yesterday to see that not only don't they take things seriously but that they're living in cloud cuckoo land when they try and blame a global economic downturn on Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling personally.

Ending the right to a tenancy for life?

The Times reported yesterday that Margaret Beckett is considering proposals similar to what the Chartered Institute of Housing came up with last month. I hope her considerations involved quickly moving the proposals from her desk to the bin.

Booting people out of their homes because their "circumstances have improved", be they a slightly better paying job or their kids moving out is unacceptable, and so is offering them friendly advice on cheap home ownership or private renting with a wink and nudge, and then threatening them with higher rents or booting them out which is what these proposals basically call for.

If there's a shortage of family sized homes you don't tackle it by threatening to kick people out, you offer them financial incentives to move to a smaller house and give them 5 or 10 years to take advantage of it so they're not pressured straight away and can think it over in their own time.

If Beckett has just realised there's a shortage perhaps she and her predecessor should of been making plans to build more houses, something the left have been saying for years. With the construction industry facing shortages of work due to the private sector grinding to a halt there is no better time to organise a large scale building project.

Update: Margaret Beckett on Question Time denied these reports completely.

Religious fundamentalists score victory banning gay marriage

Not everything is going well on the political scene in the United States, three states, Florida, Arizona and California banned gay marriage, this brings the total number of states to 40, although some still allow civil partnerships.

From the NYT:

"It was a great victory," said the Rev. James Garlow, senior pastor of Skyline Church in San Diego County and a leader of the campaign to pass the California measure, Proposition 8. “We saw the people just rise up."

Unfortunately issues like this just don't seem to want to die in the United States, both this and abortion (although I'd like to believe the worst of that is past us) seems to be caught in an endless cycle, the fundies just never giving up and then striking while everyone else is distracted. This move also leaves in doubt the legal status of thousands who took advantage of the ruling by the Californian state court which declared same sex marriages to be legal earlier in the year. In Arizona a similar ban was defeated a couple of years back.

Hopefully with all the people who voted for the first time this week the power of the Christian fundamentalists can start to be worn down over the coming years, not only in the United States, but also here where they represent an increasingly dangerous threat to modern progressive values and education.

Culture change at the BBC

The recent issue over the BBC and Jonathan Ross and that other guy, Russell Brand or whatever his name is, the one who says "like" too much, has continued to be in the news. So I thought I'd just comment on it (makes a break from the endless tech stuff - sorry PDC and WinHEC conferences back to back means there's a lot of tech going on).

Old time readers of my blog will no doubt remember multiple instances that I've said the BBC needs to raise its game. This is largely in relation of the quality of its science programmes which have been steadily dumbed-down.

I think we all agree that the BBC needs to stop the dumbing down and trying to appeal to the lowest common denominator, that means not giving people like Jonathan Ross a job, and all the other overpaid presenters who aren't any good. The private media companies can manage that fine by themselves and we shouldn't be blowing money on trying to compete with them on their terms (however tempting that may be).

It also needs to develop more high-quality programmes in-house and stop buying elsewhere, if done right this can help fund the organisation by selling them abroad, I think there is an appetite for high quality programmes especially in the United States where I do believe there is a growing section of the population who are getting fed up with the dire state US television is in, especially from an educational, scientific and news perspective.

The real question is how do we go about this? In the past I've half-jokingly suggested we need to bring together Richard Dawkins, Patrick Moore and David Attenborough and put the BBC's science under their control. The key is we need the people running the BBC to truly believe in raising the quality of the organisation, not to dumb down but to educate and inspire, and of course we need a plan. The BBC has so much potential, and we must find a way to unlock it.

I've also long maintained that the BBC should be funded from central government, I'm pleased that Kevin Davis mentioned how the license fee should be paid in a blog post he did today on the subject.

When it comes down to it, at the moment 10 million or so people need to remember to pay their TV license, let's say they spend 10 minutes per year thinking about it, that's about one and a half million hours per year wasted. When instead we could just get Darling to write a cheque once a year taking 20 seconds.

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