Wednesday, 20 May 2009

8 Things I Hate


Cheers for the tag, Mark, but this is where it stops: a self-imposed contamination control order has been ordered

1) I hate other people's meme's
2) I hate talking about any pet hates of the moment, as this is far too restrictive
3) I hate spreading hate
4) I hate talking about myself
5) I hate myself for doing this
6) I hate the word hate, as it is usually insufficient and inadequate at describing the all-consuming, mind-numbing apoplexy I get when I feel it
7) I hate my own weaknesses, failings and inabilities (of which there are not a few)

Um, that's only seven... bugger it, I'll have to go for something simple which winds me up rotten and can be taken as symbolic of something more...

8) I hate people who ride bicycles on their heels.

Yeah, they're trying, but they're killing themselves in order to look like right-on, good eggs; they'll never get up that hill, they'll sprain something doing it and then they'll complain that cycling is too difficult while looking at you as though you are an idiot for encouraging them in the first place.

I knew this one girl who started to cycle in a blaze of health-consciousness and environmentally-fuelled do-goodery, but deliberately chose to wear block heels for this because she was afraid of slipping if she used the balls of her toes... even with hindsight (or probably because of it) this just makes me want to scream until I make you so sick you'll go out and find her to give a pointed three-point lesson in the hows and whys of body mechanics...

Now, tiny adjustments to essentially excellent things which spoil their purpose are two a penny in the world, but they all destroy any tenuous sense of sanity I have. If I concentrate too hard on them I'm sure I'll explode and need restraining. I'm losing focus and hyperventilating as I type this, so I better stop now...


Tuesday, 19 May 2009

MP Expenses are a benefit system, so let's treat them like one

Now I'm glad that Michael Martin has announced his resignation as Speaker from 21st June, but this is only a 'first step' to reform the system of expenses in Parliament.

It was obvious he had to go when it was exposed that he was using the system for his own benefit in the 'Taxes for Taxis' affair and had then used his position to block reform at every turn. He had lost any credibility to undertake the job at hand and public confidence was ebbing away for every second he remained in position (although as presiding officer it was much more than a one-man band, as the Telegraph's revelations and voting records show).

Now the focus will turn to exactly what reforms should be made.

Local celebrity chef Anthony Worrall-Thompson recently made the unpopular call for MPs to be paid properly, which would remove the need for them to make dodgy expense claims as a standard means to supplement their income and do the job properly. However it's worth pointing out that expenses were originally introduced under the Thatcher regime precisely because it was was seen at the time as politically unacceptable for MPs to vote themselves a pay rise in line with similarly ranking professionals (GPs, headmasters etc).

My feeling is that these arguments still hold and other ways round the problem should be considered.

So let's consider the principles of the matter.

Firstly, MPs pay should be sufficient to enable them to do the job properly.

Secondly, MPs are our country's representatives. Pay and conditions should be adequate to attract the best talent from all walks of national life and enable the electorate to choose on the basis of merit.

Thirdly, it is fair that any additional expenses they fairly incur in the line of duty should be reimbursed. This does not include, for example, helicopter rides where public transport is available.

The anger felt over this scandal comprises reactions to each of these points, but the phrase 'snouts in the trough' has been repeated so many times that it is easily overlooked that there is also an underlying hypocrisy to their behaviour.

Expenses and allowances have come to be considered by many MPs to be a right to which they are entitled whether or not they need them.

And this is the rub - ordinary members of the public are forced to disclose personal financial details when claiming benefits. Just so that the government can assess whether we could pay for such essentials ourselves.

Why shouldn't MPs be subjected to the means test too?

It's not just the sight of millionaire MPs claiming for packets of biscuits and bath-plugs that gets our goat, it's that they make a massive hue and cry about cracking down on fraudulent benefit claimants. MPs should also be subjected to the standards which they promote.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Got Radical Leadership? Yes Thanks,

I consider this to be fantastic news.

Clegg has not only called for the current speaker to resign, but he has added the rider that greater reform is needed.

A written constitution and potential electoral reform could follow!

Oh joy!

He may have been a little slow out of the starting gate, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt, as he is the first leader to pipe up and I guess it was only fair that he give every opportunity to the speaker to make amends for his appalling failure.

There are certain standards which do amount to a line in the sand and we should be more forceful in standing up for them. There have been claims made for 'leadership' and 'lack of leadership' over the subject, but this is a leader being forthright - I want more.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Observations on Andrew Rawnsley

Strong stuff from uber-commentator Andrew Rawnsley.

That such a balanced, thoughful and diplomatic guy who used his skills to get right inside the Blairite movement and be taken as one of their own should so forcefully denounce the culture which pervaded around him (his obvious good feedings clearly weren't at the expenses trough) is damning indeed for Labour.

He scorns them. He is riled by them. He despairs of them.

It's at times like this that I see hope: Rawnsley's article identifies who has lost his respect, but more importantly he details with precision and efficiency why they have lost his respect.

Ensnared in the heart of Westminster's chattering classes he's been a bit slow sniffing the change of wind direction, but it's welcome and I might have to give the Observer another go if this is a sign that it is coming in from the cold (The Guardian is still far too chippy for me).