Pity poor David Laws, the latest victim of British stone throwing.
He sacrificed a lucrative career as a city banker for public service. In doing so has become the latest victim of the Thatcher government’s MPs Expenses scheme. The rules were open to interpretation and many MPs have already paid the price. In a statement Laws said "At no point did I consider myself to be in breach of the rules which in 2009 defined partner as "one of a couple ... who although not married to each-other or civil partners are living together and treat each-other as spouses".
Those with the great British gift of hindsight are already screaming for his scalp but here is a man with a Cambridge double first in economics and top level experience in the financial sector who was admired on both sides of the House for the mastery of his brief in the Queen’s Speech debate. In a time of severe national crisis should we sacrifice a highly competent Chief Secretary in response to another journalistic scoop by The Telegraph over a technicality? If the same attitude had prevailed during the war no doubt Churchill would have been ousted.
Any doubt over the interpretation of the rules could have been sorted out by having a quiet word to resolve the matter without its sensationalist accompaniment. In their exposure The Daily Telegraph claimed that there was no intention to disclose Mr Laws' sexuality, but in a statement issued in response to questions from this newspaper, the minister chose to disclose this fact”. How very noble of them.
The wolves are now in full cry. From Times Online: “David Laws ‘should step aside as minister’ after claiming for rent paid to lover”. The innuendo is clear when in fact David Laws is paying the price for being the model of discretion in his private life. Contrast that with the overt lifestyles of US Bps Gene Robinson and Mary Glasspool who have rocked the Anglican Communion by the open celebration of their sexuality. What people do in the bedroom is a private matter. Leviticus and feminism are no substitute for the Gospel. If the church and the media grasped that message many would be spared unnecessary heartache.
Do you find this funny?
“THIS WAS NOMINATED FOR BEST JOKE OF THE YEAR - WORTH SHARING
A Somalian arrives in London as a new immigrant to the UK .
He stops the first person he sees walking down the street and says ........ 'Thank you Mr. British for letting me in this country, giving me housing, money for food, free medical care, free education and no taxes!'
The passer by says, 'You are mistaken, I am Mexican!'
The man goes on and encounters another passer by. 'Thank you for having such a beautiful country here in the UK !'
The person says, 'I not British, I Polish!'
The new arrival walks further, and the next person he sees he stops, shakes his hand and says, 'Thank you for the wonderful Britain !'
That person puts up his hand and says, 'I am from Russia , I am not from Britain !'
He finally sees a nice lady and asks, 'Are you a British?'
She says, 'No, I am from Africa !'
Puzzled, he asks her, 'Where are all the British?'
The African lady checks her watch and says ...'Probably at work'
IF YOU DON'T PASS THIS ON TO ALL YOUR FRIENDS YOU WILL RECEIVE THREE ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS ABSOLUTELY FREE” [Copied as seen]
[Copied as seen]
In the old days we may have heard a joke like this in the Music Halls or on television. Nowadays they are circulated on the internet or by mobile phone texts.
Intrigued to discover the origin of its nomination for best joke of the year a quick ‘Google’ showed that it had been circulated widely on the internet, especially on alternative humour sites. Then I discovered a report in the Guardian that two Tory councillors had been suspended over “racist email” for sending the joke to Tory MPs. Here are some paragraphs from the report:
“Two Tory councillors have been suspended from the party after sending a racist joke to an email list including Ribble Valley Tory MP Nigel Evans, the mayor of South Ribble, and fellow Conservative councillors. Simon Farnsworth, a Ribble Valley councillor, sent the joke on to Ken Hind, his fellow councillor and a former Tory parliamentary candidate in Selby and Lancashire West at the 1997 and 1992 elections. Hind then sent it on to a long list of Tories, including Evans; DW Parkinson, the mayor of South Ribble; and other South Ribble and Ribble Valley councillors.
A Tory spokesman said: "Simon Farnsworth and Ken Hind have been suspended from the Party. The contents of this email have no place in the Conservative party." Hind said he apologised to "all those people from the nations mentioned in the joke. It was not my intention to insult their racial origins, and I deeply regret passing on this item as I recognise now that it could cause offence." He added: "In my daily life I deal with many people of different racial origins in our diverse community and in our relationships get on well with them. I deprecate those who are racist. On many occasions I have been outspoken in my condemnation of those who incite racial hatred and am committed to developing an integrated tolerant community in which all races creeds and religions live side by side in peace.
"I am privileged to name amongst my friends and associates many who are of Asian or African origin. I wish to emphasise that any apparent insult or criticism contained in the joke does not reflect my views or those of the Conservative party." Farnsworth has also been contacted for comment but had not responded at the time of publication. David Eccleston, who received the email by mistake and passed it to the Guardian, said that many people thought David Cameron "seems like a nice guy and he seems to care", but "these jokes bring you back to Earth with a bang because you realise that behind Cameron's call for 'change' are the same old nasty Conservative party – and that's not change." ”
The Guardian was not shy about printing the joke.
In the General Election, Immigration was identified as one of the main issues that bothered the electorate with varied perceptions of the benefits and problems. Humour has traditionally been used as a legitimate tool for dealing with problems but in this politically correct society we appear to have lost the ability to laugh at ourselves. When was the last time you had a really good laugh? Have you heard the one about the Scotsman, Welshman and the Irish man…..? Not anymore. Such traditional humour has been killed for political correctness and not just by having to say ‘person’. The basis of ‘humour’ these days has shifted to the use of four letter words such as ****, ****, and even ****.
What a joke.
That was not thought a fair description of two 16-year-old boys who "wrote sexual and racist graffiti on prayer books and bent an ancient St John the Baptist cross causing £3,000 worth of damage" after being invited to have a look around the cathedral in Blackburn. On sentencing them the chairman of the bench said: "This court is disgusted by the mindless destruction you have caused. Normal people would consider you absolute scum."
But that was too much for the Clerk of the Court who stood up and said she objected to the description of them. Consequently Austin Malloy has been removed from his post as chairman of the bench while he is investigated by the Judicial Office of Communications even though the bench was in agreement suggesting that they at least are normal people.
However one looks at it this is not acceptable behaviour, the more so given the desecration involved. If similar acts of vandalism had taken place in a mosque rather than in a Christian place of worship the consequences would have been grave. Do we care so little for our Christian heritage that such behaviour is regarded by some as trivial?
It is time for the old Thatcherite mantra ‘There is no alternative’ to be resurrected given its relevance to the new Lib Con coalition Government, what the new Prime Minister likes to call a new form of politics.
The coalition is not what one would have expected given the divide between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats but what was the alternative? The other permutations had little if any chance of success and with the benefit of hindsight (now the most widespread of British attributes) the Labour party appears to be comfortable in opposition taking a rest from the burden of government.
Many Lib Dems have been angered, some even joining or re-joining the Labour party putting principle above pragmatism but politics is about power and making the right judgement at the right time. In doing so concessions have been made by the Conservatives allowing them to ditch some of the promises they probably wish they had not made and the Lib Dems have been given the opportunity put some of their policies into practice. Added to which, the cherished dream of a change in the voting system is much closer with Nick Clegg in charge of making arrangements for the promised referendum. It would be absurd if their party were to fragment now with the possibility of change on the horizon.
More important though is the urgent need to sort out the country’s economic difficulties without causing public anger. The best options for achieving this were explored and a deal done with apparent good will on both sides. In checking reactions to the deal I noticed that Dick Littlejohn of the Mail Online with his usual lack of grace accuses Gordon Brown of dragging British Politics into the sewer. Since he spends most of his time swimming in it he must be best placed though with something large in his eye obscuring natural vision. God forbid that I should have anything in common with the odious little man or his newspaper but even he agrees that everyone has a vested interest in making the coalition work.
There is no alternative.
Oliver Letwin’s face was a picture when William Hague announced that the Tories had ‘gone the extra mile’ to promise an Alternative Vote referendum. Written all over it was the sense that government was slipping from their grasp and Lord Ashcroft might ask for his money back. No surprise that the Tories made their concession only after Gordon Brown fell on his sword in the public interest to pave the way for the so-called ‘rainbow’ progressive alliance if the Tory/Lib Dem talks fail.
It has been reported that in order to make this concession David Cameron had to agree that the Tory Right would be represented in any cabinet probably with three seats. One of the names mentioned was that of their former primo uomo, Michael Howard, famously described by the great Tory diva, Ann Widdecombe, as having ‘something of the night about him’. An odd choice given the Tories frequently expressed views in this campaign about rejected politicians.
Throughout the campaign I have thought that David Milliband had a knowing look about him, like the King in waiting. He may yet be but for how long with such an assortment of minor parties needed to maintain a majority. Concessions required by them may be unrealistic leaving us in a worse mess. If the Tory party can satisfy Lib Dem anxieties and the threat of gerrymandering has been completely removed it seems reasonable that they should have their chance to form a government. What a disaster for their leader if that does not happen. So close to the ultimate prize of Prime Minister yet he could, as Ann Robinson might put it before she winks off to the news, “Mr Cameron, you go away with nothing. Goodbye!”
With a decision expected it is interesting to see on the BBC News another change of face by Oliver Letwin resuming his previous broad grin. Deal done?
I thought David Cameron’s claim to power amusing. He has constantly preached change with little attention to detail. His message was the same after the results were published suggesting that the Labour Government had no mandate to govern. An interesting observation looking at the votes in percentage terms with almost two thirds of the votes cast against the Conservatives.
His party has the greatest number of seats but calculated simply on the basis of share of the vote, the number of seats would be 234 rather than 306 while the Lib Dems shoot up from 57 to 149.
Gordon Brown was quick to offer Nick Clegg a referendum on electoral reform which must be tempting for the Lib Dems, far more so than the suggestion of yet another committee of MPs offered by David Cameron.
Back in March The Constitution Society published an article on the Tory proposals for electoral reform. It makes interesting reading:
Far more graphic view on the share of the vote:
Have a look at the John Cleese video for a good titter.
Today is decision day. Some will already have cast their votes while others, unless they have an unbending party allegiance, still look for inspiration. There is no point in looking to the press, since most of the newspapers serve their paymasters not the readers.
I have generally regarded the BBC as impartial but today the Mail Online runs the story: “For days the BBC has been banging the drum for the Lib Dems. But then we should never underestimate their hatred of the Tories”. ‘Hatred’; that’s a bit strong but we know where the The Mail is coming from. The BBC puts out a lot of information but not many people these days have the patience to listen/watch over an extended period which is one of the reasons I thought the CH 4 programme I blogged on previously so good.
If the Tory candidate for Blackburn unseats the Secretary of State for Justice in the coming election the Conservative whip is not the whip he deserves..
The Telegraph reports today that he circulated a leaflet, now withdrawn on the orders of HQ, which challenges Labour’s claim to serve the Muslim vote.
‘“We cannot be deceived by their hollow claims. We have in front of us a whole saga of atrocities committed in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Palestine and as if this was not enough, the Labour government allowed the Israeli government to create havoc in Lebanon and Gaza in Palestine, destroying their infrastructure and killing and maiming thousands of innocent civilians. The Labour government did nothing, absolutely nothing for a number of days while the Israelis carried on their inhuman killing of innocent men, women and children.”
It accuses Jack Straw, who is the MP for Blackburn, of insulting “our religion and culture and…our sisters and mothers” by refusing to hold meetings with women constituents wearing a full veil. “We should not forget that today they are criticising our women’s(sic) veil, tomorrow it will be our caps and our beards they will attack,” the pamphlet declares.
It goes on to urge a vote for Mr Law-Riding ‘if you want to see an end to unnecessary and very expensive wars, shedding of innocent blood and save Britain from bankruptcy.”’
It is not just the leaflet that should have been withdrawn. This is not the sort of person who should represent us in British politics.
Unlike the previous ‘Leaders’ debates I found this evening’s Election Uncovered: What They Won’t Tell Us programme on Channel 4 very illuminating and didn’t drop off once this time. I was initially concerned about an unexplained empty chair and the absence of Shirley Williams, one of my long time favourite politicians regardless of party (she was one of the SDP’s ‘Gang of Four’). Seeing her name as a participant was one of my reasons for watching. The other being that, as usual, there was nothing else worth viewing despite the myriad channels we appear to have on NTL plus Freesat, but that is another story. Fortunately the Baroness turned up half way through the programme having been caught up in a traffic accident.
Unlike the personality contest that the ‘Leaders’ debates had become, this programme looked at the hard choices that have to be made by the next Government. Four polls were conducted for the programme: Economic Recovery where 58% thought that we were on the road to recovery; Honesty in Politics where 60% thought politicians less honest than they used to be. On the question of believing the Party leaders telling the truth about the tough decisions about cuts, 38% trusted Gordon Brown, 36% trusted David Cameron and 53% trusted Nick Clegg.
On Pensions people were offered the choice between working for longer or having a higher standard of living. Of those polled 61 % opted to work longer and 23 % lower standard of living.
In what was perhaps the most surprising poll, 70% thought it perfectly possible to make cuts without harming Front line services. This was the most illuminating part of the programme clearly demonstrating that tough choices have to be made and how the parties have been reluctant to be honest with the electorate, hence the high vote.
Some people, including the Governor of the Bank of England, have suggested that whoever forms the next government will be so unpopular that they will not be re-electable. That would serve the best interests of no-one. A possible solution, ironically mentioned by Shirley Williams after her late arrival, was that there should be an inter-party unity team to agree a consensus for dealing with the financial crisis. The final show of hands vote was for a hung parliament which could be the best chance of achieving such a consensus.
What is clear is that the ‘Something for nothing’ mentality of many Britons, ancient and modern, is unsustainable. Services have to be paid for. Even with the planned efficiency savings tax rises are inevitable. For the sake of unity these must applied equitably to avoid a greater burden on the poor.