Friday, 27 February 2004
Employer: Haringey Council
Title: Deputy Democratic Services Manager
Salary: £31,347 - £35,928
Description: As well as being second in command (of what - ed) , this key position will be responsible for supporting several high level bodies, assisting with full Council meetings and supervising a number of support staff.
Nice salary, but just what are the duties and responsibilities? What skill set is required? Totally vague and ill defined job posting.
But then this job caught my eye. A Benefit Realisation Consultant for the NHS earning between £35,000 and £60,000 + extensive benefits.
Try reading the job description and work out just what - if any - added value that role brings to the NHS. If you plough through the b*llsh*t and doublespeak in the description, it seems to be a high level bean counting job. Nice work if you've the stomach for it, but will it really improve the standards of health care in this country? Especially when compared to a 'G' Grade Mental Health nurse with 2 years experience who's upper salary level doesn't even reach the lower level of our Benefit Realisation Consultant.
Thursday, 26 February 2004
Can't say I'll be too sad to see Winterton's departure as the woman, while not stupid, obviously lacks even a modicum of common sense. And there are already too many fools in Westminster. As for Rifkind, well he's a nice enough chap, though a bit of a lost sheep since he lost his Edinburgh seat in 1997. I do wonder if he has had his day, and would have better spent his time persuing other avenues within politics. One thing's for sure, he is unlikely to have quite the impact on the nation's psyche as his predecessors in the seat; namely messrs Portillo and Clarke.
Wednesday, 25 February 2004
- Schindler's List
- The Shawshank Redemption
- American Beauty
- Brassed Off
The bottom line is that the church has to appeal to potential new members in a non-dogmatic way, allowing people to become as involved as they wish, rather than an all-or-nothing approach. And all credit to the various members of the clergy throughout the country who are making the effort. And for the tub-thumpers I can only say "Wake up and start living in the real world."
So all the operating companies lease their rolling stock from three banks basically who operate as an oligopoly. The punter pays his fare to the operating company, who also take a cut of the tax payers money as a subsidy. The operating company then pays the leasing company. And this is where the problem lies. For starters the leasing companies operate outside the control of the Department of Transport, so there is reduced accountability there. Throw into the mix the differential between the price paid by the leasing company to purchase the rolling stock, and the annual leasing charges they levy on the train operating company. Part of this is due to the fact that the rolling stock has a service life of 30 years, but the TOCs are given lease period of 6 to 8 years. Add in the high specificity of the rolling stock, and the lack of market competition, and it is no wonder that the system is a mess.
A national rail network is simply too large and critical to be privatised, especially in the manner implemented by John Major's government.
Thomas Jefferson hit it on the head when he said The price of freedom is eternal vigilance. Anti-terrorism is being used too freely today as justification for the introduction of laws that could in future restrict your individual rights and civil liberties; freedoms you cannot afford to take for granted.
Tuesday, 24 February 2004
But when viewed from the pespective of the failings of previous years and policies, I would reserve judgement on the overall success until we have at least 2 or 3 years of figures on which to get a truer picture. And at the same time, the UK will be the first country to begin enforced repatriation of failed Iraqi asylum seekers. Which, given the current state of Iraq, strikes me as an exceedingly bad idea, and the UNHCR isn't too happy about it either.
Monday, 23 February 2004
Now we have the backlash, with The Lancet regretting its publication of Dr Wakefield's study, and various people and bodies falling over themselves to apportion blame.
But who ran all those scare stories over the last 6 years? That's right, the tabloid press. The same press now baying for blood. Maybe if they'd been a bit more in favour of reasoned debate from the beginning, we wouldn't be in the state we are, but what are a few children suffering from brain damage, deafness and other measles-related complications when compared to a few thousand more on your daily circulation figures.
And the government hasn't done itself many favours either.
And Blunkett harps on about the labour shortage over here. Well, that will be peanuts compared to the shortages back in the acceding countries once they realise that 12 months work in the UK entitles them to full benefits. As far as I can see, this will do nothing for the 10 new EU members who would better benefit from more focussed development aid and support from the existing members. But that would require some joined up thinking from a government that barely seems capable of formulating its way out of a wet paper bag.
Friday, 20 February 2004
All a bit of a mess, not to mention a no-win situation for the government.
They could arrest and question the five, then set them free, thus making the US look like a bunch of incompetents for holding them without trial for more than two years. Or they could decide to send them for trial, this time making the US look like a bunch of pricks for denying the rights of the remaining inmates of Camp Delta. Either way it isn't going to do much for the special relationship. But the alternatives are to lock 'em up and throw away the key or - and this is possibly worse still - follow Ancram's suggestion to charge them with treason. Either way it makes HMG look just as bad as the US, and does nothing for Tone's street cred.
And just why the heck do the Conservatives think they might face treason charges? Simply because they took up arms in Afghanistan and thus may have taken pot-shots at the British forces deployed over there. Hmmm. Don't recall any active members of the various terrorist groups in Ulster ever being charged with treason, and they were not only taking pot shots at British soldiers, but doing it on British territory. So British citizens shooting British soldiers in Britain is not as heinous as the same happening overseas...
And as ever, the Murdoch tabloid rag goes for trial by brainless Sun reader, whereas the Mail takes an more balanced approach for a change. Meanwhile Murdoch's broadsheet toilet paper decides to place its olfactory apparatus up Tone's anus and give him the credit. The Guardian and Independant are probably closer to the mark on this one.
The detention without trial at Guantanamo has been a complete mess from day one, and will remain so until the US gets its act together and restores some semblance of rights to the inmates. That the British government has got itself entangled in the morass is an inevitable consequence of playing fast and loose with international law.
Thursday, 19 February 2004
Firstly I am amazed at the temerity of a man who, by his own admission, destroyed local NUM records during the miners strike to avoid any incrimination with regard to the death of taxi driver David Wilkie, to criticise a fellow minister's professionalism. Can he spell hypocrite I wonder? Two and a half months to respond to a letter vs ten years to admit to destroying evidence.....
Secondly, if these are the calibre of the people sitting in the Welsh Assembly, then what hope would there be of seeing any quality representation with Prescott's proposed regional assemblies?
18% is excessive by anyone's reckoning, but it makes you wonder where it is going. Councils can't have just become drastically more inefficient of the last 12 months, so there must be some other reasons as well.
How about local government pensions? At a time when many have seen their occupational schemes wound up, or seen the value of their personal pensions decimated by stock market losses and mis-selling over recent years, it must be galling to see their local council employees still able to take early retirement with substantial pension benefits. Why should the typical council tax payer be bailing out local government pensions at a time when they've seen their own future security vanish? Local government schemes should be run to the same standards as schemes in other sectors.
Meanwhile The UK Today would suggest than anyone faced with an unreasonable rise in council tax follows Mrs Winkfield's sterling example, and refuse to pay more than a cost of living increase of 2.8%.
And the return of flares (those of us around in the 70s already knew they were a bad idea) resulted in trouser related mishaps doubling to nearly 9,000.
For anyone not of a nervous disposition, the latest report covering 2000 to 2002 can be found here.
Now I was brought up to believe that it was a good thing to admit your mistakes and to learn from them. Obviously not the sort of upbringing experienced by either the local Labour Party spokesman or the LibDem peer Lord Greaves.
And in the next breath everyone is criticising Howard for arguing that the UK should at least implement transitional measures to address immigration from the 10 countries acceding to the EU in May. People even argue that the mere act of suggesting such measures is racist.
So firstly he is condemned for not having attacked the bigoted and racist BNP earlier, then he is criticised for opposing them now, and in almost the same breath he is being accused of racist policies. Poor sod.
I'll close with a brief and hopefully unnecessary reminder: A willingness to discuss immigration issues and alternatives to a complete open-door policy does NOT equate to being racist.
Wednesday, 18 February 2004
Wondered what the RMT Union was up to after its expulsion from the Labour Party?
Well, the answer is that they're all looking for a little Respect.
Along with a rather diverse selection of members, Respect is attempting to recapture the Left. And when I say diverse, I mean really diverse. The Respect Executive includes Ken Loach (Film Director), Mark Serwotka from the PCS, Lindsey German from the Stop the War Coalition, Nick Wrack from the Socialist Alliance, John Reese from the SWP and leader of the Muslim Parliament Dr Siddiqui to name but a few.
It would be nice to be able to come up with a clear and concise summary of their position, but one glance at their founding declaration is enough to make one realise that such summation is next to impossible. In some cases they make sweeping statements such as tax the rich to fund welfare and to close the growing gap between the poor and the wealthy few, and in others they get very specific with Raising the minimum wage to the European Union Decency threshold of £7.40 an hour.
However easy it would be to ridicule them for being an amorphous lump of old Lefties, there is a desperate need for some form of structured and coherent Socialist option in this country. Everyone is fed up with the same old Left vs Left battles, and if Respect could somehow put a stop to the incessant infighting that has characterised relations between the SWP, SA, SP, CPGB, etc then I for one would not decry their efforts.
But it won't work if they attempt to create a separate party to try and counter the Labour Party's current lack of socialist credibility. It would be very easy to argue that in the current situation we are facing a return to the days before Kier Hardy, but that is in many ways a defeatist position. It is saying that the Labour Party has not only failed, but is incapable of salvation. While is indeed true that many of the Labour MPs are so glad to be government that they appear to have ripped the page with Socialism on it out of their dictionaries, the recent back bench revolt over tuition fees shows that the patient has not yet expired.
It would appear that the Greens have seen the dangers inherent in Respect as an external entity; witness their refusal to enter into an electoral pact for the European and London elections. And this is where the real danger lies. There is a real risk that all Respect will manage to achieve is to split the minority socialist, anti-Blairite, alternative vote, and potentially allow in hard-Right parties such as the BNP.
History has show that Respect is pretty much doomed to failure, as were all previous attempts to create a more Left-ist (of any shade) alternative to the Labour Party. In their revolutionary desire to create a mass movement to oppose Blairism they have completely overlooked the cyclical nature of Labour's direction over the last hundred years. Blairism is just the current fashion, and will be no more enduring that any other -ism based on the cult of the individual rather than collective thought. The (at the time) apparently inexorable drift to the Right is almost invariably followed by a swift, sharp swerve to the Left.
If they truly want to break the mould, then they should do so by being the first group to try and organise reasoned, coherent and effective opposition from within. But they're too opportunistic for that because, at the end of the day, Respect is fundamentally the SWP trying to wrap itself in Joseph's Technicolour Dreamcoat. Anyone involved who can still spell Marxism or Socialism will hopefully wake up shortly with a stinking hangover, and deservedly so. This is no way to take things forward.
Tuesday, 17 February 2004
create your own visited european countries map or write about it on the open travel guide
On 1st May 2004, 10 countries become new members of the EU. Of all the existing members, only Ireland and the UK are going to grant full access to employment and benefits for migratory workers from the new countries.
Except Tony Blair decided that maybe tighter controls were needed. That was on 4th Feb.
Then less than a week later on 9th Feb, David Blunkett said there would be no restrictions.
And now, on 17th Feb, it appears that a deal has been done during talks at No. 10, the details of which will be presented to Parliament on 23rd Feb.
Meanwhile the Common's Home Affairs Committee will be hearing evidence on the subject from Beverley Hughes (Immigration Minister) next month.
Yet by the end of 2002 it was known when the accession of these countries would be taking place. So why all the to-ing and fro-ing so close to the wire, with Parliament being informed a bare 68 days before accession?
This is exactly the sort of issue which Governments can deal with in a proactive manner. They've had 12 months to get the policy pinned down, and yet it is left to the last minute. Or was it? Perhaps the real problem was Tony deciding, at the last minute, that he ought to add his personal touch; show the country that he is in tune with their fears.
Genuine confusion or plain old control-freakery? We'll probably never know, but it is exactly this sort of faffing around that diminishes the credibility of the Government to make reasoned decisions and abide by them.
But surely that is simply papering over the cracks. We need to look at why people are committing crimes in the first place, and put in place preventive measures to dissuade people from turning to crime. It might involved community youth schemes, increased visibility of PCs and WPCs walking the beat, or any number of other options.
Once people have committed crimes, society has failed. And the prison population is but one symptom of that failure.
The worst part is the idea of a federalisation of the BBC, with separate entities for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Talk about emasculation. Anyone who desires to see the BBC retain its independence would be well advised to follow the I Believe in the BBC link, and make your support known. This is the biggest threat to non-commercialised access to information you are likely to see, and a staunch defence is essential.
The concept of diplomas seems to be following the American model, and could be a step forward as well, as long as lessons are learned from the problems facing that system.
Monday, 16 February 2004
As with all major policy announcements, the devil is in the detail. And the Tories' £35bn saving without cuts to Health and Education does mean that some people are going to feel the pain as budgets are cut elsewhere. One prime area that I forsee being hit is transport, with the axe being taken to many new road schemes (much to the delight of the enviromentalists), and rail subsidies being slashed (much to the consternation of rail travellers).
For now, I'll give cautious acknowledgement that the proposals have some merit, but let's wait until the details are released before getting excited.
(For the ironically challenged, this is a post critiquing sound-bite approaches to important issues, rather than condoning the war on terror. Something you'd think could be grasped from the link to www.iraqbodycount.org. However, let it never be said that I can't be helpful. This post now reworded for easier comprehension, and for those with an irony bypass.)
One of the main reasons why Bryan Gould lost the leadership contest was his proposed alternative to the Poll Tax, a proposal deemed "electoral poison" by John Smith, and a dead cert election loser.
So what was this horrid policy?
At its simplest, Bryan Gould proposed funding local councils via a combination of property based taxation and a local income tax.
Electoral poison eh.
How things change.
I bet John Smith is spinning in his grave. And Bryan Gould is probably laughing his socks of at Nick Raynsford, whilst quaffing a fine New Zealand white.
To be honest, when you look at the typical level of pay, it's hard not to feel sympathy with them. The average salary among nearly 11,000 administrative assistants is less than £11,000 and starting pay in the DWP is as low as £9,000, so they're not exactly earning megabucks for starters. And now they've been asked to accept cost of living salary increases of 2.6% for DWP and 2% for driving standards. Which probably wouldn't have been too bad were it not for the fact that senior civil servants are getting 9%.
So they have my sympathy, even though their strike action is going to hit pensioners and other benefits recipients to worst.
Friday, 13 February 2004
Those funky French may go on about what great lovers they are, but us Brits are close behind in the bedroom, more responsible with our contraception, and have far more kinky fun between the sheets. So go on, buy him or her that novelty toy. And if they complain, just point out that nearly half the population are into it.
You know it makes sense.
She starts - not atypically - with a melodramatic outburst, comparing the cost saving against various department budgets, but rather out of context. She then mounts a robust defence, identifying the marvellous public spirited works these people do.
Unfortunately, she completely misses the point.
The Inland Revenue has more staff to deal with tax credits, which go to many more families than before.
Well, most of the additional IR staff are being employed to oversee an increasingly complicated system. Given that tax credits replaced allowances, then it is hardly surprising that more people are getting them than before. However the system is so complicated that many people eligible for them are put off from applying, and more staff are required to understand the continually changing legislation. Various accountancy organisations have repeatedly criticised Gordon Brown for his machine gun approach to introducing legislation which - in many cases - costs more to police than it raises. IR35 anyone?
The Crown Prosecution Service has more lawyers to take over the police work of deciding who should be charged - wasting less court time and releasing more police officers.
One shouldn't forget to mention the bureaucratic overhead of preparing the documentation for the CPS. Or the fact that the police staff released are in many cases not front-line crime fighters. And if more police are being released to crime-stopping duties, where the heck are they? Not around here as far as anyone can tell. And the CPS is hardly a paragon of virtue when it comes to selecting cases.
The Passport Office and the immigration service have grown: how else can passports and asylum cases be processed faster?
In the case of the former, getting the new computerised system working would have been a good thing, as anyone who queued during at a passport office during the fiasco a while back could tell you. And let's not even go down the asylum and immigration route shall we. Implementing a sensible and manageable policy would be a good first step. Rather than just throwing human resources at an unworkable system as at present.
The Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence have more staff to deal with terror threats around the world and with war and reconstruction in Iraq
Now Polly, you're just being silly.
Among those on the Howard hit-list are Job Centre personal advisers who make the New Deals such a success that yesterday unemployment hit the lowest ever recorded.
You're joking now Polly, aren't you? I mean, raising the New Deals as beacons of light in the morass that is unemployment.
If you look closely, there's a thread running through the above, that can be summarised in one simple word - efficiency.
The prime mover behind rising number employed in the civil service - an employment sector that is primarily a revenue sink for the nation, and thus funded exclusively by those who do work in generating national income - is that they are trying to support a terribly complicated and inefficient edifice. The Inland Revenue is so inefficient that when recently challenged to produce evidence of the cost against benefit for legislation introduced explicitly to reduce tax avoidance, it was unable to do so. So how do they know whether or not such legislation is having an effect.
Likewise the Police, the CPS, the Immigration Service, etc, etc, etc.
The point that should have been made was that the cuts the Tories are proposing should only be made in conjunction with quantifiable improvements in efficiency. The improvements would undoubtedly be dependent on the passing of suitable legislation in order to introduce simplicity and clarity to the system.
The bottom line is that Polly believes in government as an expression of the people, is a supporter of the Left's belief in big government as a power for good, for reform and for justice. That no government has ever really achieved such a pinnacle is not an excuse to give up. It is however, a cautionary note on why the balance between big government and individual freedom of choice is a narrow and precarious place.
And today, I'm sorry to say, the government is too big, too interfering and too unaccountable.
To get your MP to sign up, please us the "Fax your MP" link in the sidebar.
It's not all Labour's fault. The origins of the crisis go back to legislation rushed in by the Tories in the aftermath of the Maxwell affair. They forced funds to buy annuities for existing pensioners first. As a result anyone not yet retired but who's fund was in trouble would end up with two thirds of bugger all.
However, Labour must accept responsibility for the majority of the pensions crisis. The stealth tax on dividend payments to pension funds netted £5 billion in its first year, but compounded this works out at about £100 billion. Sure there would still be problems, but nothing like the ones now faced.
Thursday, 12 February 2004
In fact, apart from some unquantifiable feel-good element, it is hard to know just what level of additional security it will bring.
The real problem is that, as a nation, we don't save enough, be it in pension contributions or personal savings. And it is hardly surprising when the incentives to save become fewer and fewer. PEPs and TESSAs were replaced by the more confusing and miserly ISAs, and don't get me started on the £5billion per annum raid on pension plan dividend payments.
If the government is serious about addressing the issue of financial provision in old age, then they need to put in place significant incentives to save for tomorrow rather than live for today and hope. And for starters, that means scrapping any thoughts of apply capital gains tax to first homes. If they think the pensions crisis is bad now, just wait 'til they've handed out a beating to people who are relying on downsizing their property in old age to raise an income.
And another benefit of savings incentives is that they might just discourage people from running up even greater personal debt.
Now I may be being a bit dense here, but how about making the exams as tough as they used to be, and maybe a little tweaking of the grade boundaries? Actually the latter is being considered, though carefully given the 2002 fiasco where a couple of thousand grades had to be adjusted upwards.
Oh, I see, that's discriminatory against weaker students. How stupid of me not to realise. Can't have poor little Tommy feeling a failure because he only got a grade B now can we. Poor little chap might have to sue the exam board for emotional trauma of not getting straight A's.
Anyway, once again the whole system is being reviewed and while we may hope for some clarity, the most likely result is yet another set of standards and targets, leading to confusion. Then just as everyone begins to get used the new system, off goes the music at the DfES again.
Wednesday, 11 February 2004
Only now the police are involved. Trying to decide whether or not she is guilty of soliciting.
Well let me save the CPS some time and money.
She is not selling her body. She is not selling sex. She is selling some of her intellectual property because - let's face it - for the majority of women post menarche that's all it really is. It's no different to you or I selling our knowledge to clients.
So to Avon and Somerset Police I have only this to say - Leave the girl alone and do something more constructive like addressing the reasons why you missed 6 out of 8 targets for tackling volume crime last year.
And I wonder if the R.M.T. would still be eligible given its radical modernisation step of expulsion from the Labour Party.
Can't these people be bothered to read the documents placed in front of them? So while the Defence Secretary, the Chairman of the JIC and the former Foriegn Secretary knew that the claim refered only to battlefield weapons, the Prime Minister and the Foriegn Secretary didn't.
Meanwhile Donald Rumsfeld doesn't remember and isn't bothered. At least that's a marginally more honest position I guess.
Hip hip horay.
Management makes the claim that the cost savings from this move will actually work to preserve jobs in the struggling company. That's a position I'll reserve judgement for now. From past experience this looks very similar to the stealth approach followed by other companies who claimed it would have no negative impact, only to make significant numbers redundant over subsequent months.
However, with the Civil Service hiring staff at a rate of 500 per week, perhaps there are some cost savings to be made by shipping the whole Government and supporting infrastructure to Bangalore or Mumbai. They certainly appear to have suitable skills, offering an improvement over many of the current incumbents of Westminster.
Tuesday, 10 February 2004
But then I thought about it a bit more, and its actually quite a damning comment on globalisation, or what should more accurately be called Corporate Colonialism. It basically says that we've successfully exported our desires and aspirations to a nation that can't as yet support them. And with the wave of outsourcing spreading east to China, is most likely giving them a brief glimpse of a false dawn.
I'm all for supporting developing nations, but outsourcing our corporate culture and attitudes is not the way.
This is a theme I'll come back to.
At first glance it might be tempting to slag off the council for being pathetic. Indeed the chairman of the Bury in Bloom committee stated:
They are guarding their own backs over health and safety, but no-one has been hurt - certainly not in Bury St Edmunds, certainly not in Suffolk.
Unfortunately he's missed the point and the council aren't the ones to blame in this case. Instead the finger of responsibility should point firmly at the blood sucking legions of ambulance chasing lawyers. Not to mention the ignorant jerks who would rather fleece a couple of grand out of the council than take responsibility for their own lives for once. Net effect is that if the council puts up hanging baskets, the insurance company will put up the premiums. And the council will pass on the cost to the local council tax payers.
So we all end up paying for the selfish bastards who are unable to accept that sometimes accidents just happen. That sometimes it isn't anyone's fault in particular. Sh*t happens and you should learn to get on with life.
The world is an unjust place and there are far more important issues to address than ensuring that Joe Bloggs gets his two grand from the council for tripping over a crack in the pavement simply because he couldn't be bothered to look where he's going.
Monday, 9 February 2004
At the same time, the CPI (Consumer Price Index - new inflation measure) sits at 1.8%, and the RPI (Retail Price Index - old measure) stands at 2.8%.
So why the inflation busting increase?
One reason is probably related to the wage bill. Public Sector wage rises were running at 3.9% last year, which directly impacts Local Government wage expenditure. Although a more significant hit probably came as a result of Gordon Brown's increase in National Insurance last year.
But locally, the main reason cited is increased spending on education.
Well, in a council with some of the worst schools and the poorest Ofsted results in the country, increased expenditure could be a good thing. If I honestly thought the charlatans at the LEA were even vaguely capable of managing the budget and delivering the results. Which I don't for a couple of reasons.
Firstly Edna Sutton, head of the LEA, has called for lower targets for Barnsley schools. Yup, that's right, lower standards. Her rationale is that the current standards are too high and thus unattainable, leading to disillusionment amongst education staff. Obviously she doesn't know much about human nature. Let's say the target was 70% of pupils achieving 4 GCSE passes. And the reality was only 50%. Is setting the target lower at say 60% going to achieve the desired result? Probably not. More likely is that the target will still be missed, though maybe not by as much. Maybe with a lowered target, they might only slip by 12%. Sounds better, until you realise that the pass rate has now dropped to 48%.
A long time ago a friend gave me some advice when I returned to Polytechnic (for those too young to remember, a Poly was a University that was in touch with reality). I said that I'd be happy with a 2:2 pass. He replied that I was a fool, and should aim for a 1st. I pointed out that my chances of gaining a 1st were damn near zilch. Doesn't matter says he. Imagine if you will, a monkey leaping from tree to tree. He can aim for the highest branch in the next tree, or settle for the lowest. If he aims high and misses, he still has other branches to catch him. If he aims for the lowest and misses, splat. So I listened to his advice, and gained a 2:1 Honours.
Anyway, back to the LEA.
The second reason for not trusting them is due entirely to their grandiose plans for completely restructuring the education system in Barnsley. The scheme is too complex to cover the details here, although information is available here. Basically the approach can be summed up as "The education system is failing in Barnsley. We've an idea what is wrong, but either haven't a clue how to address it, or are too frightened of the reaction we'll get. So instead we'll just completely change the system and hope that it works. After all, it can't be any worse than it is a present."
I won't tolerate that sort of attitude from IT specialists in non-critical business areas, so I sure as hell find it unacceptable from an LEA responsible for our children's education here in Barnsley.
Yet this is what we're expected to pay more for. The increase will probably help to cover the increased NI bill on Edna's rumoured £100k+ salary.
Well, based on his performance in BBC Radio 4's Feedback program, I guess the answer might be a cowardly wimp.
"The notion of exclusive here, exclusive there, exlusive everywhere is not appropriate for the BBC in the sense it is giving the flavour of competing with newspapers or whatever in bringing original exclusives."
Right. Well, I agree that the pursuit of exclusive stories should not be the sole objective of the BBC's news and current affairs staff, but that doesn't mean they should simply give up.
"[the job of the BBC was] first and foremost to report news in a reliable, accurate and impartial manner."
Sure, but we're not talking court-of-law standards here. Or at least we shouldn't be, although in the post-Hutton media world it would seem that the BBC is supposed to reach unattainable standards of accuracy. Certainly higher than those of the Goverment or Intelligence Services.
So let's hear it for John Humphreys. A man not afraid to stand up to his bosses for what is right and good about the BBC. Thank you join for having the cojones to stand up to a bullying Government. And the less said about Mark Byford the better.
Sounds good, doesn't it? Very topical, what with the Morecombe deaths last week. I'd go as far as to say that it is just the sort of integrated organisation that is need to tackle these sorts of crimes.
As with most announcements these days, the devil is in the detail. 5,000 agents sounds impressive, until you realise that these aren't new agents, but are rather the result of the organisational mergers (NCIS: 1,200 employees, NCS: 1,750 employees, HMC&E: 1,850 employees).
And the issues of excessive bureaucracy that hamstring the current law enforcement agencies also need to be resolved. Otherwise it will become just another money pit, and a massive let-down.
And the responsibility for prosecuting these crimes will still lie with the regional forces, who are already struggling. What chance is there of seeing an increase in the successful detections and conviction of burglaries, muggings and other opportunistic crimes when the local police are tied up processing the prestige cases from the glory boys at SOCA.
To be brutally honest, a more appropriate approach would be:
- an increase in number of conventional police;
- increased emphasis on detecting serious crimes rather than persecuting motorists;
- a massive reduction in the bureaucratic burdens of the existing forces;
- a toughening up of sentencing by the courts;
So let's not get too upbeat about this. In reality it is more likely to be another piece of PR from the Blunkett machine than a truly constructive step forward in crime detection and prosecution. If the SOCA does get the go-ahead, I predict that it will become ineffective and bogged down in petty squabbling with the existing organisations within 5 years.
Friday, 6 February 2004
Oh what a crazy country. As recently as 1996 the Labour Party - in opposition - voted against the government's anti-terrorism legislation, not because it was against such legislation in principle, but rather because one aspect that it would liked to have seen removed was the Diplock Court system. Once in power, the supporting legislation was instead extended. Sad enough for a party once so critical in opposition, but understandable. After all, in emergency situations powers are sometimes required which would otherwise not be necessary. And many would agree that in Ulster conditions had potentially warranted the exercise of such powers at times. After all, at the peak of the Troubles, terrorist acts of violence against the community at large were commonplace.
Since 9/11 the World has been perceived to be a less safe place. All remember the horror of the attacks on the WTC and the Pentagon. Back in the U.K. though, more people have died as a consequence of accidents on the railways than have suffered at the hands of Al Qaeda. So why in God's name does David Blunkett feel the need to introduce some form of Diplock System for terror cases in this country? Barristers involved in the process have described the proposal for "secret non-jury" trials as untenable. Nothing new there then, this government being particularly fond of not only proposing, but also attempting to implement other untenable "bright ideas". Not only does our esteemed Home Secretary desire the introduction of "trial-by-judge", but he also suggests a "lower burden of proof" be required for conviction in these courts.
Given this government's ability to go to war on the thinnest most insubstantial evidence, one can only assume that these courts would have more in common with the Salem Witch Trials than any form of recognisable justice. The law may well be an ass, but it would seem that in the UK today, justice is blind.