Sunday, 6 November 2016

The Champagne Socialists

If there is one category of people I dislike it is those who rage at society while having done very well out of it thank you very much much. These shallow people have never stopped to consider what it is they so love to be seen to be agitating for. They just want to be seen to 'fight the system'.

Take for example one Russell Brand. If we happened to be living under communist rule in Socialist Russia for instance, he and I would probably be on the same side. We would both be fighting against an unfair oppressive system, working towards a better way of doing things.

But here we are living is a system governed by the rule of law, where everyone is represented in the law making process, where information, speech and attitudes are free and poor means little more than having to go without a widescreen television and opportunities exist to do well for those prepared to work hard. That's not to say it's all perfect but it's a darn site better than almost every other possibility, including and particularly the 'socialist dream' being screamed for by some sections of society.

Yet these people can't accept that actually we've done rather well to have implemented this system - they have to try to turn it on it's head and bring back the universal misery and suffering that every other system every tried has always caused.

It's not only the irresponsible attitude, it's also the hypocrisy. With millions of pounds stashed away, some of them, they scream out calls to 'Bash the Rich'. They spit bile at successful people and discourage anyone from living the sort of responsible life that pays for everything that exists in society, including the taxes that would be needed to fund everything they are calling for, while taking steps to pay as little tax as possible themselves.

Either they are not intelligent enough to realise what it is they are pushing for, or worse, and probably more to the point they don't care because it suits their 'image'.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

The real reason to Vote Leave on the 23rd June

Throughout human history mankind has been ruled by cruel despotic rulers with no hope of ever holding them to account. Indeed much of the world is still controlled this way. In historically recent times there have been a few examples of a new system emerging whereby everyone is accountable to someone with the ultimate rulers legally accountable to the overall population without the need for violence or revolution - a system called democracy.

I cannot believe that there are people in Great Britain who are today thinking of doing away with our democracy for the promise that an unelected body in a foreign country can and will make our lives better in the long term.

No dictator has ever been a benevolent one, especially the ones who have promised every abundance to start with. Please people think what Britain has given the world. Don't give it up for the promise of lower mobile phone call rates on holiday. ‪#‎VoteLeave‬ before it's too late.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

The Common Ground

You would think that there would be almost no overlap between the views of Conservative grass roots members and those living on deprived estates in London but the EU referendum seems to be uniting these two groups.

As a political activist I speak to a lot of people in many areas and many situations. As a member of the Conservatives you'd probably expect me to feel more welcomed in well-to-do areas than in the more struggling areas but that is not always the case.

Having been born in Australia, my first experiences of this country were in Higher Drive, Banstead, where my Grandparents lived. This is possibly the most well-to-do road in the London Borough of Sutton. During my long childhood visits every few years, I got used to the sort of people who lived here, the golf clubs they attended, the family and friends that went with that. I felt entirely at home here and the house where my Mother grew up became my favourite place on Earth. So much so that much of the long periods when I was back growing up in Australia were spent waiting for the next trip-to-England so I and my family could once again be with my Grandparent in the warmest most loving environment I had ever known.

If there was only one reason why I became a Conservative it may have been that all these kind people were Conservative by nature. They were self made, hard working, responsible people who lived life fully and encouraged others to do the same. Most had worked their way up to success over many years, often starting from difficult beginnings. My Grandfather was a Doctor who has put himself through medical school after his father, a church minister, died suddenly leaving the family with very little. The younger people were still working towards success, the older one now enjoying a well earned retirement. If everyone could be like this then surely the world would be a far better and nicer place.

I live, however, at the other end of the London Borough of Sutton on the St Helier Estate in what has been identified as the most deprived part of Sutton. My neighbours are also decent people (I chaired a local residents group here for several years - so I do know) but tend to the left side of politics rather than to my Conservative view point.

As a 'Leave' campaigner in the EU referendum, I have been leafleting different areas around the borough. Wandering down Glastonbury Road (part of the St Helier Estate), every person I spoke to was in full agreement with me. Without exception, every leaflet was taken with enthusiasm after I'd grinned and pro-offered the folded piece with the simple statement, "Take control of our Country back". It seems that my Tory mates and the 'working class' people in so-called deprived areas share a common bond of unshakable pride in our country that would never want to see us bow down to non-British rulers.

In contrast the remain campaign seems to be the 'we know what's best for you' brigade or conversely the 'we accept what we're told is best for us' groups. The administrative middle class, middle management, middle of the road, middle thinking, progressive wannabes. The people who don't really feel the need to worry about the ideas of society because others always seem to take care of it for them. The 'anything for a quiet life' people.

It is no wonder the political centre is dominated by 'Stayers'. David Cameron, arguable on the left of the Conservative party, the Liberal Democrats, the Parliamentary Labour Party dominated by Blairites on the right of their party.

Instead it is those with bold ideas and strong gut instincts, those who believe in a vision of a better way, who by their nature might gravitate to less tried-and-tested ideas who support the leave campaign. Sometime these people might head towards the further extremes of politics (I don't count myself in this group by the way) and might be the sort later remembered as being 'ahead of their time'. These are the sort who can see a Britain free of EU shackles and embrace the possibilities. They are not worried by the fear of freedom and the responsibility that goes with it. They will not kowtow to bullies warning them of 'consequences' but will stand together, for Britain, against any threat to our sovereignty, and afterwards forge ahead, beating paths in an uncertain jungle, knowing that the if anyone can do it, we in Great Britain can.

It is no wonder that Jeremy Corbyn made his speech supporting the remain side through gritted teeth. He has always been against the EU and everything it stood for. As a visionary of the left (I disagree with almost all his visions mind you) he has of course believed that Britain should choose it's own way. What that 'own way' should be will be vehemently disagreed with by the right and the left but at least we all agree that it should be ours to choose.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Forgotten Song

A few nights ago I had Vintage TV on in the background while I was busying myself with something or other. That's the music video channel which shows music videos from the last 50 or so years. I only recently discovered that Sky would allow me to watch the music video channels but that's a story for another time.

On came a piece of music which I thought I recognised. It was White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane. I had no idea why I recognised it and assumed I had heard it many years ago. Then as the girl began singing, the oddest thing happened - I found I knew the lyrics. It was as if there was a conveyor belt in my brain presenting me with each lyric just before it was sung so that I could sing along. I sang the song in my head along with the video, knowing every part and change that was coming up. It was a truly weird experience and the oddest feeling was knowing that I knew the song so well but couldn't remember knowing it, or how, why or where I knew it from.

I don't normally remember lyrics at all. I can remember music, a chord progression or a melody quite easily but lyrics were always a challenge for me to the point that it made being a lead singer in bands rather difficult sometimes. Having musical friends for whom it comes naturally it sometimes made much more sense for the job of singer to go to the one who can remember the words (not me!) This made it even more odd that I knew these words.

I considered how it might have been that I knew this song and suspected that I must have sung it in a band many years ago. But which one? Two possibilities came to mind: a three piece called Sontex where I sang and played bass (I was around 22 I think) and another one a few years later with a few younger friends in which I played drums and shared singing duties with Scott, one of the two guitarists. Daniel played the other guitar and a girl called Eliza played bass.

I realised after a long think that it was indeed this second band. I can't even remember what we were called and we only ever played one gig (quite successfully if I remember). The memory became clearer as I thought about it - yes I had sung this one; I remember that keeping the vocal microphone properly positioned while playing drums was a challenge. I think I sang two other songs as well - another might have been Led Zeppelin's Dazed and Confused.

The song itself was a very psychedelic Alice in Wonderland themed piece with drug references and quite a curious choice but I seem to remember we were looking for eclectic pieces that would pleasantly surprise our audience. I guess this fitted the bill.

Having played in many bands and learned many songs I guess it's conceivable that I might have forgotten about some of them but I've never had this happen before. I suspect that I was rather focused on running my business at the time (Sandringham Audio - a small recording studio) and didn't dwell on other things a great deal other than to get them done. Playing in a band would have been an interesting pastime but not as serious a proposition as it had been at other times in my life.

  *  *  *  *  *

The one gig we played was a school 'Battle of the Bands' but we weren't included in the competition as I was also one of the judges. As the proprietor of Sandringham Audio I was donating the main prize of some recording time to the winning band which gave me a seat on the judging panel. Scott and some other people I knew had gone to this school and we had got ourselves a spot on the running list.

During the performance, Daniel cut his finger while playing guitar and his blood sprayed all over the guitar while he continued playing. He was playing my Stratocaster copy (black with a white scratch plate) and it looked absolutely fantastic under the spotlights being sprayed with blood! Daniel turned around to show me - he was obviously in pain but we could both see how great it looked. It was a rock 'n' roll theatrical dream! Daniel kept going to his eternal credit but he was in real pain at the end. I knew everyone would be talking about it and hoped he would look back with pride that this legendary rock'n'roll moment he had created would be worth the pain. I didn't clean the blood off the guitar but left it there on display at the studio until it went brown and started to flake off by itself. It really did look that good!

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Stand Up For Britain

With the prospect of the European referendum getting closer, it's time to say get out while we can.

To point at the EU and say the answer to the question of stay or leave is clear cut is simply wrong. Any realistic discussion of the issue must acknowledge that there are both advantages and disadvantages to the UK being in the EU. Whenever parties come together to form a unified grouping, it must almost by definition come with compromise, and the decision to be part of any such group is based on the advantages of membership outweighing the disadvantages. This applies to a multitude of situations across the board from local interest groups through to political parties and up to trading blocks and countries joining political union.

It is fast becoming time for each of us to individually weigh up these advantages and disadvantages and decided whether this test holds true for our EU membership, and crucially, whether it will do so into the future.

The biggest advantage of membership has to be the ability to freely live and work anywhere in Europe. This, in addition to a lack of trade boundaries helps smooth the path of business across European borders. This one advantage is something I don't relish losing - but I can live without if necessary.

It is also one which came more or less with the Common Market. This suggests that pretty much everything else that the EU is, over and above the Common Market, is at best of no advantage to Britain, and at worst, to our grave disadvantage.

Top of the clear disadvantages side is EU law having supremacy over British law. Had the EU kept it's nose out of things and used it's law making powers sparingly, this probably wouldn't have become the big issues it is. However when they tell us what fish we are allowed to catch in our own waters, what lightbulbs we can and can't use, what system of measurement we must use, what the limits on vacuum cleaner power must be, what flags we must use and numerous other laws (before even mentioning fruit and vegetable shapes) we have to start wondering what is happening to the British freedom we have taken for granted for so many generations. There have been so many times that I have reeled from yet another EU law taking away our rights and freedoms that I now rightly see this continuing cascade of anti-freedom-of-choice laws as a normal state of affairs. For me this crossed the line of unacceptability many years ago and for any change in the EU to entice me to vote to stay, it would have to include an ending and repealing of a great many of these laws.

There is an argument that uniform product standards contribute to that smooth cross-boundary business idea. But is that contribution more important than the uniqueness of the products and cultures, and the freedoms of the individual countries concerned? I would say not. Europe is only so special because of those differences. Again if such standards had been applied only where really necessary there might not be such a feeling of outrage. But the implementation of oppressive directives which remove individual's and country's freedom to live their own way suggests the EU's true nature with the heart of a dictator, not an institution which values individuality and freedom.

However we do end up voting we will want to continue trading with the EU and there is an argument that at least by being in the EU we have some influence over the laws that would govern our trading relationship with them. However if we couldn't even stop the laws above from being enacted how much influence do we really have? Always being the lone vote against something may look honourable but achieves precisely nothing. Laws aren't distributed on a proportional representation basis. When the rest of the EU considers these things as legitimate things to legislate on, no amount of protest voting is going to make any difference. We will continue to be dragged down a path we don't want to go.

So with the 'influence' argument coming to nothing, how about some of the others? The remain camp tells us the EU provides funding for things and allows us to do this, that and the other but most of these arguments sow the seeds of their own counter-arguments. This is for several reasons: We provide much more to the EU than we get back from them. We would be providing such things for ourselves without the EU. And most importantly, the very idea we should be asking the EU's permission to have such things is preposterous. We are Great Britain, a grown up country. We don't ask others' permission for things we can provide for ourselves.

It is also telling that for some people it seems like a good thing to pay millions to the EU and then have them make grants to various organisations and projects in the UK. They are effectively giving back a small amount of our own money, with strings attached, if we ask them nicely enough. Surely it is better to keep all the money in the first place and spent it how we want?

In debates like this you can tell when one side has run out of legitimate arguments because they start making up arguments which fall apart under little scrutiny. The remain camp has been doing this for some time now.

There is a category of 'remain' arguments that goes like this: If we leave the EU we will lose our ability to work with the EU on [issue] causing Britain to go backwards on [issue]. This list has included Police co-operation, environmental issues, fighting terrorism, and various others. Against almost all of these cases, there are two knock-out arguments: 1. There is nothing stopping co-operation from continuing on any issue by mutual consent where that co-operation is considered mutually beneficial. 2. We were doing just fine on all these things before the advent of the EU and do not require EU guidance to get things right thank you very much.

Those who fail to see this second argument really do expose their own views of Britain and frankly should be ashamed of themselves. If any country can teach the world a few things about going it alone it is Great Britain.

To put the case in point again: EU membership is not a prerequisite for co-operation or good relations. Nor is the EU better than Britain at doing things.

If this were a vote to join the current EU we would almost certainly vote no. Who in their right mind would hand power to an organisation so unaccountable it still wastes billions of pounds moving the whole circus to Strasbourg and back and hasn't had the accounts signed off for years? The unanswerable bureaucracy is an unacceptable anathema and no amount of advantage would balance out handing the keys of British power to such a colossal wasteful turgid monster. Why then would we vote to remain in such a situation like this? It's like someone who can't bring themselves to leave an abusive partner.

Cameron's Negotiations 

My position on this was always to wait and see what concessions the EU would give Britain and then decide. I have never been an 'Out under any circumstances' person but I have always maintained that the EU in is current form is completely beyond acceptable. The list of Demands that David Cameron is peddling round Europe however, is so small and insignificant that regardless of whether he gets them or not, the situation will not be improved anywhere near enough. The bar was quite high for me to vote to stay in but if Cameron had set out with a long and comprehensive list of demands that effectively gave the UK control of it's own laws and borders again, and the EU were to agreed to them, I would probably be now writing a piece about the merits of staying in the EU.

However the bar Cameron set for himself was practically on the floor and it still seems as if he might have trouble getting the rest of the EU to step over it. I am therefore firmly of the opinion that not nearly enough will have been done to make Britain staying in the EU worthwhile.

What Will Happen After The Vote?

What is even more scary is how a vote to remain will be spun. If we do vote to remain, we will be told that Britons have shown their full support for the EU. Over time this will be spun to mean Everything the EU stands for including ever closer union. And Britain will be eventually subsumed into the EU superstate that 'ever closer union' must ultimately result in.

Unfortunately it is not a vote between the status quo and leaving, it is a vote between more integration and leaving.

So when comes the opportunity to decide whether to stick with the expensive and damaging failed EU experiment or leave to make our own way in the world again, strong and independent, just like our best days as a country, I say the answer is:

Time to go. Time to vote - Leave.

Update (5th March 2016)

It would seem that the concessions won from the EU would fit into a thimble. Not even 1% of our surrendered sovereignty back in British hands where it should be. If the EU really has so little respect for Britain, is there any other correct course of action but to walk away? Not in my view anyway.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Fixing The Treeline

Back in 2010, while I was chair of the 4 Square Committee in the St Helier area of Sutton, I organised a public tree planting in Reigate Avenue Recreation Ground - known locally as The Daisy Field. Indeed this event, which came to fruition in February 2011, turned out to be the biggest public tree planting project in Sutton's history.

As part of this event, I asked Steven Hume, the headteacher at Glenthorne High School, which backs onto this park if he would like some of his students to join in the tree planting event. Mr Hume was very keen for students to join in and sent all his year 7 students out over two days to help plant all the trees.

As a direct result of this tree planting event, I set up and chaired the Friends Of The Daisy Field. Over the following summer a number of the newly planted trees were sadly vandalised. As a group we decided to organise a further tree planting event to replace them, again inviting the year 7 students from Glenthorne to join in the planting.

The same happened the following year and this tree planting became an annual event.

I have just spent this morning teaching Glenthorne students to plant trees, for the fifth year now. Once again a number of classes of young people enjoyed a session learning how to plant trees and helping improve our local environment.

Next year I hope to lead the tree planting for the 6th time. The significance of this event is that afterwards, there will not be a single class at the school that has not been able to take part in this event. Indeed hopefully every student at that school will be able to look back and remember being part of the tree planting in the Daisy Field.

Taken a few days later, this photo shows the new replacement trees with new light coloured stakes among the older trees, some of which have been there since early 2011 and are now so established and thick that no kids are going to be able to pull them down.

Hopefully, eventually, we we end up with a full avenue of trees along the path here like that.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Just a Person

American Scott Waters recently visited the UK. Afterwards he wrote a list of his observations about the UK that appears to have taken the public by storm. They are mostly interesting and entertaining if not insightful. Having grown up in Australia and seen such contrasts for myself, perhaps some of these things are more confirmation of my own observations rather than totally new perceptions - however I digress a little...

One of the observations that made me smile with warm pride was this: "Black people are just people: they didn't quite do slavery here."

Just putting aside for a moment whether this observation is accurate or not, if I wanted to explain what a complete lack of racism would look like - this would be it. Black people are just people. The colour of a persons skin would be used to describe merely what a person looked like just as the colour of someone's hair, or eyes might. It would not be used in any way to imply they were part of one or other 'group' of people, connected solely because of the same skin colour - or hair or eye colour. We would have effectively become blind to skin colour at least as a social classification tool.

And this to me would be the signal that, at least in this form of discrimination, we have, as a people, finally come out the other side and conquered the issue. We could finally put it to bed, consign it to the history books and move on.

There is however a reasonably prominent black campaigner and journalist called Lester Holloway who also used to happen to be a councillor in the London Borough of Sutton where I live (and am a Conservative campaigner). For the record, Cllr Holloway, at the time, was a Liberal Democrat.

Lester Holloway's view seemed to differ widely from mine on this issue. For him, racism seemed something not so much to get rid of but something to be atoned for. From what I could tell he didn't want black people to just become part of society, but for the black people to be recognised separately and I assume in what he felt was a more acceptable or perhaps a somehow separately positive way. For me though, the division is the core of the problem. I don't see how racism can be defeated while people want to keep dividing themselves socially into 'races'.

When Barack Obama stood for election in the US I felt it was a positive thing. I would generally not find myself on the 'Democrat' side of American politics but I was far enough removed to see his election as a step forward, at least as far as this issue was concerned. Obama had got there not because of his colour, and hopefully not in spite of it. He got there because of who he was as a person. And this, against the racism background was a good thing.

Margaret Thatcher broke a similar barrier in the UK in 1979 when she became our first female Prime Minister. She achieved it neither because nor hopefully in spite of her gender, but again because of her ability to do the job. When asked what it was like to be a female Prime Minister she replied, "I don't know, I've never experienced the alternative." For me that is what it takes to break these barriers. To ignore the superficial classifications and just get on with the job, as 'just a person'.

And this should be the same with all those people we might otherwise treat differently: black people, gay people, famous people, disabled people, anyone in fact we see as different to us for some artificial reason; the perceived difference getting in the way of us seeing the human being behind.

Dare I say that both Barack Obama and Margaret Thatcher realised that they would only make it by focusing on their ability to do the job and rising above the differences perceived to be important by some others. They also realised that this meant that they couldn't act as a bridge for others in the same situation. Those others would need to make it by themselves too - just like everyone else has to.

The question that most annoyed me when asked by some commentators after Barack Obama's election in the US was, "Would the UK ever be ready for a black Prime Minister?". I find it equally annoying when they ask "Could the UK ever elect an openly gay Prime Minister?". It is almost as if the commentator is asking that a person might be elected with their colour or sexual orientation being the only thing we know about them. I want to yell back at them, "Yes - if it is the right person, which would have nothing to do with their colour or sexual orientation!"

The reason for this long preamble is the rise of Scotland's Conservative leader, Ruth Davidson. Ms Davidson has been impressing a lot of people for a while. But now the wider public are starting to take a bit more notice. From what I have seen, she might go a very long way. Ruth Davidson happens also to be lesbian. This is quite public knowledge, she having appeared on television with her partner.

So far so good. I hope that as a society we have now matured enough to leave her sexual orientation as one interesting but ultimately unimportant fact about her. To date this has been the case and I must say I am impressed with the press establishment's sense of priorities. But I find myself ready to cringe at what I am sure will come if she does go on to greater things and does perhaps one day even find herself on the ballot paper to lead the Conservatives.

This will take the form of questions from those outwardly showing they want to help the LGBT community but are subconsciously really wanting to preserve the divisions in society. They won't really want Ruth to get on and do well as just the person she is. They will want her to hold the LGBT torch high, perhaps to ride on her coat tails, setting in stone the us versus them message that will put people off and ultimately work against her. They will be innocent sounding questions like "How should the LGBT community celebrate if you win?", "How will your sexuality influence your decision making", and the worst of all "Could Britain ever elect an openly gay Prime Minister?".

All these questions, possibly coming from somewhere that genuinely cares about LGBT issues but ultimately wanting LGBT to be the issue, will just be reinforcing the very barriers that keep discrimination alive and making it harder for people in Ms Davidson's position to reach their full potential as individuals.

People can't have it both ways. They can't be both on the fringe of society and playing a central role in it. If people want their specialist group to become the mainstream they have to drop the whole specialist group business and join in. Or else forever complain about how unfair society is to people like them. That's not to say discrimination doesn't exist any more. Of course it does but defeating it means defeating the very notions of us and them, not trying to mealy swap their positions in society. 

Sometime down the track, perhaps Ruth Davidson will be the right person for the job of Prime Minister. She is certainly showing a lot of potential and ability currently. If I wanted to make a particularly bold prediction I would say that Ruth Davidson will be UK Prime Minister within the next 25 years (by 2040). And if that does happen it will be neither because nor in spite of her sexuality, and I will smile and remember those awful commentators and say to myself "I told you so."

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Belt Up

Before I delve into this rant, I wish to make one thing clear. I am a seat belt wearer. Where I grew up: the state of Victoria, Australia, I recently found out, was the very first place in the world to make wearing seat belts compulsory. This came into force in December 1970, mere months after I was born, and so I have no recollection of ever not having to ware a seatbelt. I accepted wearing them, sometimes grudgingly as a child, and accept them as an adult.

However in recent times there has been one thing that has reversed my acceptance of seatbelts. Something that has got me hot under the collar about wearing them. And that is that infernal beep beep beeping reminding you that you haven't fastened your belt.

I don't need reminding. Of course. However there are certain situations when a seatbelt (in my view) is more hassle that it's worth. When, for instance you have to stop and get out of the car every 100 metres or so, while driving fairly slowly along a quiet residential street. For many people this doesn't happen much but when you are delivering addressed leaflets, for instance, it does. The process of putting on a taking off a seatbelt feels like it almost doubles the time it takes to drive each short distance. When you do it once - fine. When you have to deliver hundreds of these in an afternoon, it really starts to grate. (Doing the odd leaflet delivery for the local Conservatives makes this an occasional necessity.)

You buckle up the first few times only to stop and unbuckle again less than 8 seconds later. Then as you do more you try to ignore the beeping. Again for a short while you can cope but after many stops and starts it begins to drive you insane. That continuous beep beep beep beep... And of course on some cars it gets louder after a bit longer.

I had a fairly old car at the time and at one point I got so angry with the noise that I grabbed the wire that went to the seatbelt and just ripped it out with my bare hands. Finally, I had peace at last. Provided I didn't let the two bare wires inside this 3mm black insulated covering touch each other, there would never be any beeping again.

I thought the story would end there. But no. I had been mentally scared. The beeping had become synonymous with the seatbelt but what was worse - the seatbelt had become synonymous with the beeping. For the first time in my life it took a great mental effort to bring myself to ware the seatbelt. Freedom from the beeping only seemed to be complete when I was free of the seatbelt. To ware the seatbelt only created a feeling that the beeping had won, and the frustrated resentment that accompanied that feeling. If I wanted to feel truly free from that incessant noise - I had to do something I had never wanted to do before. Drive without a seatbelt.

And so whom I do I blame for this sorry state of affairs? The entire problem here is the lack of choice. And so the blame lays fairly at the door of those who would deny one's right to make the choice. The Nanny State. In this case, the worst nanny state being imposed upon us here in Britain, one we have next to no sway over - the EU. In November 2012 it became mandatory for all new cars to include "seat belt reminders" in all new cars.

I have claimed before that 90% of the laws are made for 10% of the people and I believe this law falls squarely into this category. "Lets annoy the 90% of people who ware seatbelts anyway just to change the behaviour of that last 10% in the direction that we favour."

This isn't supposed to be a rant about the EU though. It is supposed to be a generic anti-nanny-state rant. It's just that the EU is probably the worst example of a nanny state. It probably needs to be (in order to be what it wants to be). You can't reason with half a billion people like you can with a single country because they all have completely different ideas of what 'normal' is. So instead you have to make overreaching draconian laws to make everyone behave in the same way regardless of what the individuals might think.

I drive a different vehicle now. That old car very much reached its sell by date - don't get me started on Renault cars... And so far I have managed to keep my cool and ware the seatbelt properly.

But when I hear stories about people found having their seatbelt done up on the seat behind them (an even more dangerous situation because you can't easily put it on if and when you feel it is really necessary), I don't scoff, I might scowl a bit but underneath I know exactly how they feel and what has probably driven them to it.

Beep beep beep beep beep beep beep...

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Asylum and Illegal Immigration Crisis - The Solution

The Problem

Huge numbers of refugees are trying to get into Britain and Europe from the Middle East (for reasons we all know about). This problem will only get worse as the Middle East becomes less stable.

The Requirement

We need to create a safe place where we can put all these migrants, where they will able to live in safety but not create a asylum and immigration problem for us in Britain and Europe. It must be a place that will attract the migrants to it instead of here in the UK. It should be well secured and run by Britain, giving the migrants the opportunity to build up their lives, subject to British decree and to the British Crown.

The Solution

With a nod towards Hong Kong and Israel, Britain obtains* around about 3,000 square kilometres of land in North Africa. Over a period of about two years the land is heavily secured and a large amount of basic cost effective temporary infrastructure is built - Housing, administration, security, hospitals, schools and some business and retail premises.**

Around 5,000 army personnel are moved in together with an administrative team to oversee the founding of what will effectively be a new country. Illegal immigrants and asylum seekers in the UK will be strongly encouraged to take the opportunity to start a new life in this place.

Due to the fact that many of these people will have come from places where the rule of law is very weak, democracy just a fa├žade if it exists at all and where extremist ideas sometimes exist openly, this place will need to be run with very high security and very strict rules to ensure the new citizens fall into line behind a firm but fair set of rules. These rules will help them to understand over time that the rule of law is absolute and that there is no room for extremist or old tribal ideas within a civilised society.

The country will differ from the UK and Europe greatly to begin with. It will be highly secure and safe. The borders will be controlled with maximum security. Nothing and nobody will go in or out without being inspected and checked. The administration will be answerable to the British Government, not to the inhabitants. Inhabitants will be able to leave if they are not happy to live this way but will not necessarily be able to return.

At the beginning all property and industry will be owned by the administration and it will be run as a planned economy with people allocated food, accommodation and work. Incoming families will be allocated a 1, 2, 3 or 4 bedroom residence depending on their needs. All able bodied adults (other than those looking after dependents) will be allocated work taking into account their education, skills, abilities and preferences. The work will be to build up the country, as a stable British Overseas Territory. This will include building more permanent housing, infrastructure and transport links, keeping the territory secure as well as providing the usual goods and services necessary within a society.

Anyone applying to move to this place will be thoroughly checked. A condition of 'citizenship' will be to disclose country of origin. Strict laws will be in place to ensure there is no chance of a rise of the behaviour that is blighting the UK or other parts of the world at the moment. All internet activity and communications will be monitored. There will not be the freedom of speech as we know it in the UK. Any promotion of subversive or antisocial behaviour will not be accepted. People will have the right to question and influence the administration but not the right to incite any sort of illegal activity or movement against the administration. Everyone will carry identity documents. Would-be terrorists will be rooted out and removed.

People will want to come to this place as it will be the only safe place they can go. Instead of arriving in Europe, it is hoped that asylum seekers will arrive here instead, saving them a very dangerous journey across the sea and saving Britain from having to find places for them in the UK. However if they want to live there they will abide by the strict rules. Those rules, although necessarily very much stricter than in the UK will be fair. Probably less strict in some ways than where they have fled from and more strict in others, and certainly a great deal fairer. There is little doubt that their lives here will be better than whatever they were risking their lives to to run away from. Those who do not abide by these rules will have their right to live there revoked and be sent back to their country of origin.

The strict rules and planned economy will be necessary at the beginning in order to provide those for whom the chaos and lawlessness that many of these people will have come to have seen as normal with a new paradigm for how society functions. It is important for the security and stability of the new country to have a strict and strongly enforced but fair set of rules for people to start to rely on. Over time the people will see these rules as normal and at that point things can start to become more relaxed.

People will rent their properties from the Administration but as more accommodation is built, people will have the opportunity to choose their preferred residence. In the same way, as the basic infrastructure is built up and the labour market loosens, people will have the opportunity to choose different jobs.

Even though the Administration will own all the property, industry and infrastructure, markets will begin to form as people want to buy and sell things, and people will want to open shops. This will be encouraged and people will be free to run their own small businesses. However imports and exports will be heavily controlled. Over time this will set the country on the long path to becoming free market.

The official language of the country will be English and the official religion with be Christianity although people will be free to practice their own religion within reason - in that no extreme forms of any religion will be allowed. All children will learn English, about Christianity and to love and respect Great Britian, the Queen (or King as it may be then) and the rule of law.

Rent, taxes and any fines will be taken at source where the person in employed by the administration or any business. Taxation will be fair, low, simple and strict - there will be no loopholes - everyone will pay their share.

Travel from the country will be strictly controlled in order to prevent anyone a from travelling to a place where they might take on terrorist views or take part in FGM, forced marriage or other similar abhorrent practices. Those not abiding by these rules will not be readmitted to the country and lose their right to live there.

Visas to visit the country would only be given to thoroughly vetted people and require a citizen prepared to take responsibility for them. There would be strict rules placed on what visitors to the country can do.

Most of the energy will be provided from renewable sources with most buildings having solar panels and large solar panel arrays dotted around the country. There will also be wind farms and tidal power to ensure non reliance any one specific technology. There will be a water desalination plant providing clean water. Wastewater will be processed and utilised. Over time the land will be irrigated and there will be a limited amount of farming. Electric vehicles will be encouraged. The Country will aim to become self sufficient.

As the country grows and takes on its own character, it will move slowly towards becoming a democratic free market. Strong educational institutions will have been established and the country's industries will start to export to the world. After about a generation the rules and laws will have become second nature and part of peoples natural way of life. The tribalism which will have come with people originally will have started to melt into a national identity. Only at that time can democracy be introduced. Firstly in regional Government , and then when the country is ready - national Government. The country will retain the British Monarch as Head of State.

At around this time Citizens will be offered the right to buy their own homes and the country's industries. To begin with, only citizens of the country will be able to own property or business interests there.

Those who have lived there for at least 10 years and who are of good character may be granted UK right of abode.

After a further generation, rules on ownership may be relaxed a little and people will be able to sell property and business interests to British and Commonwealth citizens and businesses. After a further generation, the country should be strong and stable enough to drop the barriers to outside investment completely.

The country will hopefully end up as a stable member of the Commonwealth and an example of how well a country can succeed, even with almost nothing in the way of natural resources to begin with. It will retain as part of it's national identity an openness to those fleeing tyranny and seeking a better life but but will ready to impose strict rules on newcomers in order to ensure the high standards set there will never be lowered. Those who wish to benefit from this country will lose that right upon seeking to undermine it. Those who work for the prosperity of this country will enjoy their share of it's prosperity.

*The first difficult bit - How to obtain the land. According to Googlemaps there are a few areas along the coast of North Africa where there is little or no human inhabitation. An example of one of these includes a 120km section of coastline between running South of Misrata to West of Sirte in Libya. A triangular section encompassing 90km of coastline and extending 65km or so inland would yield around 3,000 square Kilometres. The administration running that section of Libya may be persuaded to sell the mostly uninhabited piece of land to the British Government. The small number of people directly affected would be offered fair and reasonable (if not hansom) sums to relocate. Roads running through the territory would be rerouted around the outside.

The area will be subject to attack from local warlords who resent a British presence in their land which is why it is so important to completely secure the entire area before beginning. The country will need a strong and ongoing military capability.

**The second difficult bit - This would all need to be financed by the British Government. Getting sign off for such an expenditure would require a huge benefit to the British people. Solving Europe's illegal immigrant crisis would indeed be of huge benefit and other European Governments might be persuaded to pay to have their illegal immigrant problems solved too.

The whole project would require a huge input of funding over many years but would eventually start to pay for itself. It could, in the end be a major benefit to Britain, ending up a little like the Hong Kong of North Africa, bringing great benefits to Britain over many many years. Other obvious benefits would include military, trade and influence in the area, as well as helping to reassert Britain's place of influence in the world.

A further benefit would be the experimental nature of the project - seeing whether a self sufficient country can be created in an otherwise barren land and how long it takes to do.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

View From Inside The Election

Politics is the most astonishingly brutal business. Over the course of Thursday night/Friday morning (7/8th May 2015) many people lost their political careers while many others began theirs.

As many of my friends here know, I have been working very hard with Paul Scully's team in Sutton, Cheam and Worcester Park for the last few years to help get him elected to parliament. On Thursday night I watched that dream come to fruition.

Being one of Paul's counting agents I saw this unfold in detail at the Westcroft leisure centre in Carshalton where the votes for both Carshalton & Wallington and Sutton, Cheam & Worcester Park constituencies were counted. It also meant that I didn't see the overall national picture unfolding apart from a few comments from people who had heard various bits and pieces filtering through.

Watching the votes being counted we could see early on that Paul had done well. In some cases Paul looked to be two or even three to one ahead of his Lib Dem rival (Paul Burstow). What was even more exiting is that Matthew Maxwell Scott, our candidate in Carshalton & Wallington, which wasn't a target seat seemed to be keeping up with his Lib Dem rival Tom Brake. The penny started to drop about the enormity of the national Conservative win when the news filtered through that Lib Dem Ed Davey had lost his seat in Kingston to our man James Berry, overturning a majority of nearly 8,000 and turning it into a Conservative majority of nearly 3,000.

It was amasing news but to look at it from a different perspective for a moment or two, for every winner there are several losers. I know from my own bitter experience how it feels to lose an election, having stood for a council seat twice in Worcester Park and lost both times to the Lib Dems. So when I saw Paul Burstow walk in with his wife at around 3am, long after we could all see the outcome piling up on the tables, I had a fair idea of how he must be feeling. Having been Sutton and Cheam's MP since 1997, I knew the depth of his disappointment would be immeasurable compared to my not gaining a council seat - losing a parliamentary seat has been described by some as like being 'cut off at the knees'. As much as I wanted Paul Scully to beat him, I was touched as he hugged his close friends over on the other side of the room. 'All political careers end in failure'. He knew, like all politicians know, that this day would one day come. And to his credit he kept himself professional and composed.

Paul Scully arrived about half an hour later and the TV cameras on the counting floor were already pointed up in his direction.

Numbers were starting to come through from the Carshalton & Wallington side of the room and unfortunately Matthew seemed not have managed to overturn the Lib Dem majority even though he had greatly reduced it. This was against a background of having had very little money or resources for the campaign. If someone had said a few weeks prior to this that Matthew would have achieved such a result it would have brought great happiness. Against the backdrop of Lib Dems losing to Conservative all over the country, I think it must have almost felt like letting the team down. In reality it was however an astonishing achievement by Matthew Maxwell Scott and Elliot who ran the campaign. They should be proud of having cut the Lib Dem majority there by nearly three quarters.

The result from Carshalton and Wallington was announced first. Tom Brake had officially beaten Matthew Maxwell Scott by 1510 votes. Then came the Sutton and Cheam announcement - as shown here:

Across the country there was no denying it was better than anything we could have hoped for. We were all exhausted but elated but it was a bitter sweet victory, given Matthew's failure to gain Carshalton and Wallington. Those on the team who hadn't been at the count were instead gathered around a television in a home in Belmont which is where we headed for at around 5am. The party was indeed still in full swing and fired up even more once Paul arrived. Champaign was served to all immediately!

Over the next few hours we watched in excited disbelief as more and more seats were gained. We were like exited 10 year olds finding out we're about to be given Disneyland. At one stage I became quite overwhelmed as I remembered that the constituency also included the house in Banstead where my mother grew up. It was the house of my now deceased grandparents, both staunch Conservatives - my favourite house in the whole world. I became quite overcome as I told Paul how proud they would have been of this achievement.

While enjoying all the national successes, there was another result that brought home the brutality of this business and which was one I would ordinarily be celebrating. However it's direct effect on a dear friend of mine; also the Godmother of my son made it difficult to take pleasure from. The Labour MP Alison Seabeck lost her seat to Conservative Johnny Mercer. My friend was Alison's constituency office manager and is therefore now officially out of a job.

For every lost seat there are several lost jobs just like this, just as a similar number of jobs are created for the new MPs. The net total is about the same however that doesn't make it easier for those who no longer have an MP they can work for. In Sutton and Cheam there will be several people I know and know of, some of them local Lib Dem councillors who will have lost their day jobs along with Mr Burstow.

So while I am elated about the local result and the overall result for the country, I understand the personal pain many individuals are feeling at the change in their own circumstances. And on a personal level I offer my sympathy to those who have lost out.

Politics is a brutal business. It is not for everyone. Those who enter politics do so in the knowledge that the end could come abruptly at any election. It doesn't make it easier when the time comes, however just as a soldier signs up knowing they may be called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice, it is just part of politics that someone's career can end just like that, something which every one of us who gets involved has to face at one time or another.

At the end of the day however, we have gained a Conservative majority in parliament and for me that represents best possible outcome. I will remember this victory with great pride and happiness for a very long time to come.