Monday, 30 November 2009

UKIP HOW RUDE! Thats not your website

It appears that UKIP or someone has registered the as the UKIP Website.

Type this into your browser and see what result you get. If you use you will have the official Liberal Democrat web site. Take the 's' out and your be transported to UKIP. Interesting?

How rude!

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Why Are So Many MP's Not Replying To Letters

I have been in contract with a number of IT workers in pursuit of a developing story which I will report on later (needless to say it’s related to the Lloyds story here). There has been a concerted effort by a large number of IT contractors who have been sending letters and information off to MP's of all parties, I have also send a few emails to MP’s on their behalf myself.

I know that MP's can be famous for not replying and I can understand if it’s an issue that is already being dealt with or if you’re a constant pest. But I have been surprised by how many MP's do not reply at all.

No MEP's replied apart from a UKIP MEP who simply replied with a standard email from Nigel Farage which told the reader that his party does not have the money and is not as big as the other main parties and therefore could not examine the email and then went on to list the beliefs of the UKIP party. Do MEP’s not have any staff I wonder they get an allowance of €185k for staff.

Andrew Mackay (MP for one of the IT workers as well as my MP) did reply at first but it all went very quite after he decided to stand down after the second home scandal. So far Steve Webb MP of the Libdems has replied but only to pass the information on to John Thurso's MP on 20th October and I have not heard anything else. Even a reply to say the email was received would have been something. Perhaps they do not have enough staff again. However this sort of thing does make people believe that our politicians are simply un-contactable and I’m starting to agree. Luckily I can speak to MP's myself at conferences but this is not the case for the general public and I will have a long wait till the next conference.

So what’s wrong with the system? Is going to the surgery the only way to get hold of your MP? Perhaps. But I do wish others and myself could get some sort of reply, otherwise MP’s will continue to appear distant from their voters.

MEP allowances fact file from the times here

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Health Meetings and Climate Change Protest

There are two local meetings that I urge our local readers to attend.

Heatherwood and Wexham Park Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

The public meeting by the Heatherwood and Wexham Park Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. Which is holding its annual members meeting on Thursday, November 26th at 6pm at Post Graduate Medical Centre at Wexham Park Hospital in Slough. Presentations will start at 7pm.

This is a great opportunity to make your views known to the trust's Chief Executive Julie Burgess as well as the Chairman & Governors.The bigger the turnout of the public the more it will demonstrate to Julie Burgess and the trust the feeling about keeping Heatherwood and its services.

I unfortunately can not attend however Bracknell Lib Dem PPC, Ray Earwicker who is attending will report back any important developments.

Russ Bryant Number 10 Petition can be signed here

*Housing, Health and Community Care Scrutiny Panel re More Problems for South Central Ambulance Service and Bracknell Healthcare Cover

Daisy Benson Redlands Liberal Democrat Councillor has asked if members of the public can attend a meeting of the Housing, Health and Community Care Scrutiny Panel. Daisy Benson chairs this meeting and she is concerned that there is ‘Too little accountability in local health services’

This meeting will be held on 8th December at 6.30pm at the Civic Offices in Reading. You will need to contact the Reading Borough Council Committee Services team in advance if you wish to put a question to the Panel. The first items on the agenda is related to the South Central Ambulance Service, there is no need to stay for they whole meeting.

I will be attending this meeting and will report back any important details on this blog.

*Date and details updated

Stop Climate Chaos: 5th December 2010

Meanwhile Bracknell’s Green Party PPC David Young has asked for people from Bracknell to join him in Grosvensor Square at noon for speeches and the march at 1pm to around 3pm/4pm.

David will be wearing a dark green polo necked jumper and a blue jacket, also a Green rosette but only until the train gets to Ascot as he stress that this is not a green party event. He will be in the third carriage from the front of the train.

Details can be found at the stop Climate Chaos Website here

I can also confirm that the Lib Dem leadership will also be joining this march here.

I unfortunately will be away in North Wales and I would have joined David Young at this event. Again as always the more people at go to this event the more impact it will have.

East Berkshire Green Party site can be viewed here

Green Reading Blog on this subject here

Twitter Details here using hash tag #TheWave and #COP15

Monday, 23 November 2009

Is the Electorate Anti EU as a Whole?

Is a high proportion of the electorate within the UK anti EU?

David Cameron was very clear this a.m. in The AM Show - he wants to stay in Europe. He was adamant that the UK must not leave the EU. He specifically said he does not want an in/out referendum, he did not even indicate that he would work to get back some powers (his previous stance), only that he would bring in a bill to bind any UK government to hold a referendum before ratifying any future treaty. That is in line with France, Ireland, Denmark, etc.

The statement: It is a fact that a high proportion of the electorate within the UK are anti- EU is not necessarily true. It is true of Sun & Mail readers but not necessarily of business people. Financially it would be a disaster to come out. The trouble is these people have not made the case for staying in whereas Rupert Murdoch and some sections of the Northcliffe group have been allowed to brainwash the non-thinking electorate.

I don't personally feel the recent choosing of officials was a farce. It was possibly undemocratic BUT this is another case where the British media take words that are similar to one in English and translate them wrongly. They did it previously by translating federation as 'federation' rather than its true meaning 'confederation' (and most of them don't even know the English meaning of that word!). This time they have translated président as 'president' rather than 'chairman' which is the more usual French use of the word.

If this had been a pan-europe democratic ballot-box vote those incumbents would have been imbued with much more power. A real mandate, meaning an EU Federation brought much nearer which would certainly not be acceptable to the majority of UK citizens or other EU citizens for that matter. As it is they have limited power. It can be argued that it would have been more democratic if the elected MEPs had voted directly for these positions openly in the EU chamber rather than a ministerial deal at a closed door banquet but the ministers were from every member state.

This post was written by Old Biddy and is been posted here on their behalf by Dazmando

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Afghanistan IN or Out Debate

Nick Clegg has recently published his plan for Afghanistan in the time see the link here.

I was having an email discussion with my brother (not a Lib Dem supporter) on this point.

He I think came up with some points that I think deserve a public airing. E-mail trail below;

Brothers Post

Nice article, but we've already had 8 years in which Mr Clegg's suggestions could have been implemented. If NATO hasn't got their Afghan strategy together by this point, you have to assume that they never will.

As long as Karzai is in power this war is a sham. Billions in aid will go into the wrong pockets.

My Reply

Yes but you have to give a strategy time to work and after the recent vote, it became more clear that we need a change of tack.

But your right, we all know the effort was on Iraq, which at the end of the day has given the Taliban more time etc,

Brothers Post

How long do you give it? Wars are expensive. In the past people have gone to war for profit, resources or to protect their homeland from invaders; There would be an ultimate benefit from going to war.

All those wars with dubious winning criteria (i.e. ideological wars) always fail. Prime examples are the crusades, Korean War, Russian Afghan campaign and Vietnam. All hugely expensive in money and casualties and provided no benefit to anyone.

The only viable argument for maintaining the Afghan war is to safeguard the UK from terrorist attacks. Though this argument is highly dubious it could be achieved but will take decades and far more money than we have available to change the culture and infrastructure of the place. You cannot remove corruption from the country - it is a cultural norm and haggling, bribery and gifts is a standard way of doing business.

So the government (whoever it is) should be honest and say:

1. It will cost a fortune.
2. It will take ages.
3. Lots of troops will die.
4. It may not be successful.

Unless the govt make an extraordinarily strong argument to justify the above points, public support will continue to slip away.

I would imagine it would be much cheaper to prevent terrorism using methods in the UK. Linked to the immigration policy perhaps? Lets remember there was no Islamic terror attacks on UK soil before the Iraq war.

My Reply;

Oh dear if even you are thinking about the war like this then the government (which ever one it is) has already lost the publics support. (I have always considered my brother to be pro the war)

It's a hard choice but at the end of the day your almost right, problem is Pakistan. What if the West pulled out then the Taliban could use more effort on Pakistan, that's the real danger.

Both sides are fighting an ideological war, but I for one can’t reconcile the British losses myself with the mission.

Brothers Reply;

Pakistan is not a problem. The Americans want you to think it is a problem. It suits them very nicely that Pakistan has nuclear weapons.

Do you really think the Taliban could get control of a nuclear missile?

If so, would they launch a nuclear missile against the west? They are not that stupid. They would know to do so would mean every last one would be hunted down by every country, sparing no expense or mercy.

They just want to manage their own affairs. Unfortunately that means repression for the people they rule...but that is not our problem, according to the war mission.

My Reply;

Well not so much that more they would have more people to fight Pakistan in the boarders making a prolonged war there. I cant see them getting hold of nuclear missiles myself, but it could turn into a civil war if the Taliban can throw more men and arms at the war.

Brothers Reply

The only reason the Taliban are so strong is because they can use foreign invaders as justification for drawing new young recruits to their cause. If there is no religious imperative for joining the Taliban, their oppressive methods of rule will soon make them obsolete as people rebel against them.

My Reply;

Hmmm you could be right.

Brothers Reply;

I would really like to know what the true reason for this conflict is.
It can't be to stop Islamic terrorism, because there was not any before the US invaded Iraq following the Kuwait incursion. So it is clear the 'war on terror' is the usual propaganda aimed at voting populations back home. The Americans learnt their PR lesson in Vietnam and have been extremely careful not to allow any blood or bodies to be seen on US television sets. Which suggests the media is also on a government leash, because there are plenty of videos and pictures on the web.

That leaves Oil I suppose. If it's not oil it would be very interesting what the reason is.

One thing is for sure; the 'war' is proving to be a lot harder than expected. Which, looking at history, should not be a surprise.

What do you think about the Afghanistan war; should we pull out?

Also to add more fuel to the fire as it were have a look at his article called How the US [Still] Funds the Taliban here on the Nation website.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Can we Learn From UKIP Activists

I have a lot of UKIP readers who bombard me whenever I do any posts on their favourite subject the EU. I again expect them to bombard me with their comments in reply to this post too, we will wait and see.

UKIP have around 16,000 members. By way of contrast the Conservative Party had around 290,000 members the Labour party had 176,891, the Liberal Democrats 73,000 and the BNP had 10,000 members, I could not find any info on the Greens.

I just wanted to highlight just how active the UKIP members are. The main parties have allot of members but a fair percentage of them are not active. I don't have a problem with this as all parties need as many members that they can get be them active or not because hey provide a support thought funding and discussion. But I have met quite a few UKIP members now. In maidenhead for example I can confirm that all UKIP members of that party are active (spoke to them in maidenhead town centre while they were campaigning).

I think the other parties can learn something from UKIP here. UKIP are a one-issue party (they do of course have other policies) But that one issue for its member’s spurs them onto feel so strong on the EU question that they cant help but be active. The other parties are not inspiring their members into action.

Other issues that of course cause people to not want to be so active is the expense scandal, no one want to get told that they are a crook or you’re all the same and as bad as one another etc etc.

I’m not expecting UKIP to wins seats in the next election (well apart from Nigel Farage) but we should also not underestimate their activist because they are driven on by a very strong belief. A belief that the other parties need to get back in their members as say Blair did in 1997 or as Paddy Ashdown did in the 1990's.

UKIP are currently running a leadership contest the contestants can be viewed here

These figures are taken from around 2007 for the big two parties 2004 for the Liberal Democrats and 2009 for UKIP. However I think it’s well known that the membership of all the main parties has been declining (in 1997 Labour had 405,000 members).

UPDATE: Green Party had 7441 members as of 2008, thanks to 'This is Bracknell' for the info.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Public invited to attend Heatherwood and Wexham Park Presentations

The public are invited to attend the Heatherwood and Wexham Park Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is holding its annual members meeting on Thursday, November 26th at 6pm.

This will be held at the Post Graduate Medical Centre at Wexham Park Hospital in Slough this can be found at entrance 4. Presentations will start at 7pm.

This will be a great opportunity to speak to the trust's Chief Eexecutive Julie Burgess as well as the Chairman & Governors.

The bigger the turnout of the public the better as this will demostrate the to Julie Burgess the public feeling about keeping Heatherwood and its services.

I unfortunately can not attend however if anyone would like to report back the detials of the meeting I will report this on the blog.

Russ Bryant Number 10 Petition now h 2085 signatures. Please help them keep up the pressure so that and pass this link on to those interested.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

More Problems for South Central Ambulance Service and Bracknell Healthcare Cover

Get Bracknell here (The Standard, Bracknell) have reported on the staffing problems at the Bracknell branch of the South Central Ambulance Service, which added to the Bracknell Blog report here where the independent Care Quality Commission had reported South Central Ambulance Service as "weak".

I think these two issues are related as Staff shortages could be effecting cover. In that mix you can also add the Heatherwood funding issues and the current lack of a Bracknell Hospital/Healthspace. The Ambulance Service is extremely key in Bracknell because the major hospitals (Frimley, Slough and Reading) are that much further away, therefore the journey times are longer.

We really need to see improvements in the local healthcare service because the people of Bracknell are not being well served well enough by the current developing situations at Heatherwood and South Central Ambulance Service. The pay scales for ambulance staff are an issue. The Pay Rates should be increased as we are simply paying for extra staff cover through private crews who cost the tax payer more money anyway. These issues need to be joined up and viewed as a whole.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Can the Climate Change Debate Wait?

Iain Dale has done a small blog on the Times report that a climate change poll that shows that 'Britain’s Are Unconvinced'.

See this extract from Iain Dales blog
‘A poll for The Times shows that only 41% of people accept that global warming is taking place and is largely man-made. Thirty two per cent believe the link is not yet proved. Eight per cent say it is environmentalist propaganda and 15% say that the world is not warming’

This has highlight a concern I have, which is, will the left hijack the green debate and in doing so change public opinion.

I don’t have any problem with the British these statistics. The British people are a cynical bunch as am I, We can’t help it and it’s too our credit I believe. Problem is that Climate change is real. It’s about scientific consensus. You never get a 100% scientific following on all but the most certain of subjects, like say gravity.

I agree with Iain Dale that the debate is not over. But can we wait until the debate is won by the obvious (the actual events caused by climate change); what if we wait too long and bang it’s too late. Do we wait until London is flooded or until there is no ice cap in summer? Sorry to sound dramatic but how long do we wait if it really is happening as I believe it is?

The most important job of government and infact the UN is surely to protect its people. Sometimes the government must take action that the people don’t agree with for the good of the people. We elect a government to do the right thing based on the principles and policy.

Some people believe that the green agenda is about increasing taxes against the rich. Imagine how much climate change will cost when it’s really in full swing. Imagine the affect it will have on the economy and future taxation. Let along the effect on our lives and migration.

Some people believe there is climate change but it’s not affected by the human intervention. They think its naïve to think that humans have or are affecting the world’s climate. Its naïve to think that we are not! There are now over 6.5 billion humans using resources to varying degrees. Huge amounts of industrial waste and pollution. With acres of rainforest being cut down every day and plenty of carbon gases produced etc etc. How can this not be having an effect?

I don’t believe we should use only taxation we need a carrot and stick approach not unfair taxation. Some more imagination in green policies can’t hurt.

Unfortunately I do need a stick to get myself to change my ways. I mean I did cycle to the shop today and have those rubbish light bulbs but I still drive to work and use plenty of electricity.

Now I’m not part of some leftist agenda. How could there be an agenda on something which would say if it didn’t happen would destroy the left forever. If there is a left agenda I say to them. Don’t highjack the green agenda for some unfair tax rises directed at your non voters, we all need to fight climate change and high jacking the agenda will not help to fight climate change. We must get people on our side not hit them over the hard head. Oh and don’t make it a religion of choice

To the right I say ignore the left agenda and don’t deny climate change because of the left. It will cause you some pain but this will stop you from having a much greater pain in the future, please work with us. Don’t deny it just because its easier too ignore the problem in the short term. Even if climate change was not man made, should we not be doing what we can to ensure it doesn’t get out of hand? We can also ensure more energy security through using alternative forms of energy.

If you want too see for yourself the change in the north pole sea ice please examine this link here from the Earth Observatory NASA.

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Friday, 13 November 2009

Goodbye Andrew Mackay confront Andrew MacKay MP

Campaign Group Goodbye Andrew Mackay confronted Andrew MacKay MP and demanded the signing of a giant cheque made out to “the taxpayer”. This happened as Andrew Mackay left a dinner held by the Bullbrook branch of the Bracknell Conservative Association on Saturday night.

The cheque demanding the payment of £170,000 which is the estimated amount owed for claiming a second home allowance on a property his wife Julie Kirkbride MP nominated as her first home.

After Sir Thomas Legg report Andrew Mackays leaving parashoot has already been reduced to £10,000 from £65,000The video taken by the Campaign Group Goodbye Andrew Mackay is shown below.

Julie Kirkbride MP looks set to restand in a Bromsgrove Open Primary see the Quaequam Blog here

Goodbye AndrewMackay also tried to attend the open primary see here

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Lloyds are Being Investigated by the UK Border Agency

Lloyds Banking Group who are supported by the tax payer are being investigated by the UK Border Agency for flying Indian staff to the UK to do the work of UK-based IT staff.

From a letter obtained from the Lloyds TSB Group Union to its members it states that "The Group has known for some time that 1,300 Indian contractors have been flown to the UK to do the work of IT staff and many of those have been moving from project to project and have worked for the Group for many months, if not years. Whilst some of those contractors will go back to India over the next few months there will still be at least 400 who will be permanently based in the UK doing work which could be done by displaced IT staff. The Group has admitted that displaced LBG staff will be redeployed into 300 of the roles that are currently filled by staff flown over from India. Whilst this is a welcome move the fact that this work was being done by Onshore staff in the first place makes a mockery of the Group's Offshoring policy. Some IT staff who could have done that work will have already been made redundant".

Last years system of work permits has now been replaced by a points based system. Indian staff working in the UK have been employed by Offshore contractors who are based out in India. Therefore these staff are employed in Indian and then flown to the UK.

This alleged act of employing non EU workers in a UK government supported bank is even made worse when you considers that Lloyds recently announced the 5,000 job cuts bring the total to 10,000 so far this year. See

I will be publishing over the next few weeks some more related storeys on this subject including how hard it has been for UK IT workers to get a clear response from MP's and MEP's on IT onshoring and Offshoring and More details as to the extend of this practice in other UK business.

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Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Leave us to Play our Games (MP's debate Modern Warfare Game)‏

As a player of console games I am really surprised at the complaints a computer game such as Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 and Grand Theft Auto 4 receive. No other media is subject to so much scrutiny, Films comics, Books etc have many example of violence. Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 was released today and many shops across the country including Bracknell opened at Midnight for the release.

These games are already 18 rated. Labour MP Keith Vaz raised the issue in Parliament and criticised the game. Is this not a total waste of time parliamentary time I believe? Fellow Labour MP Tom Watson has setup a facebook group here to give a voice to gamers and defend there right to buy and play the game

This game has been given a rating of 18 which means parents should not be buying the game for their 12 year old kids. The appeal of the game (for me) is not the violence it’s the playing on line as a team against another team like say paint ball. In Grand Theft Auto its the characters and the story that I personally enjoy. It is a game and should been seen as such.

Grand Theft Auto was a British made game, the British game industry contributes nearly £1 billion each year to the UK economy. So perhaps games should be getting more support. However our games industry is falling behind other countries like Canada because they have governments who support the industry through tax credits for digital media, much like the film industry in the UK does from the UK film Council.

Research published by the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA) shows that investment in privately operated UK developers has dropped by 60% since 2008. Employment is down by 4% and 15% of studios have gone out of business. There is a brain drain of UK-based talent to Canada and Germany and Poland. NESTA has predicted that the UK games industry could slip to the 6th by the end of 2010.

So please just let us play our games and be sensible when buying them.

Facebook Group

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Sunday, 8 November 2009

Labour Double Standards on BNP Leaflets and Website

Labour List has this comparison of the shameless rip off of the Barack Obama website. See below.

But let’s not forget that Labour has been ripping of BNP leaflets in some local elections see here

Double standards I think?

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Julie Kirkbride MP Open Primary?

Conservative Home has a frankly amazing story on Julie Kirkbride (MP for Bromsgrove) who is Andrew Mackay Bracknell MP’s wife here.

Julie Kirkbride has told the Bromsgrove Conservatives she wishes to be their candidate at the general election after already stating that she would stand down. The rumour is that ‘David Cameron promised to try and save Julie Kirkbride's career at the time he forced her husband Andrew MacKay to step down’.

I had wondered why there had been no Open Primary/Caucus like here in Bracknell where Phillip Lee won the right to be the Conservative PPC.

Conservative Home states ‘CCHQ expects Bromsgrove Conservatives to hold an all-postal Open Primary to select their candidate for the general election and that Ms Kirkbride told her Executive that "if cleared by the Legg Inquiry" (whatever that means precisely), she would like to be considered as a candidate in such a process.’

I believe I am right in stating that if this happened it would be unprecedented turn of events. We will wait and see what Tory HQ decide to do.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

An EU Referendum Would Split the Tory Party‏

Conservative MEP's Daniel Hannan and Roger Helmer quit their frontbench posts to concentrate on campaigning for a referendum on Europe after David Cameron said it was pointless to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty now it has been signed.

The comments by a French government minister who branded the Tories' new European policy "pathetic" may even help them in the short term polls given how some people feel about the French.

I think the Tories are really making a mess of Europe given their new grouping in the EU parliament and the effect of this on there relations with the bigger European governments etc.
The Conservatives now have no strength in Europe to get any of their wishes through, like a having the power for a Sovereignty Act or to repatriate powers from the EU. I very much doubt the EU would consider another treaty within the first conservative term in office after the Lisbon Treaty and therefore won’t have any form of referendum.

I think Daniel Hannan and Roger Helmer are right to resign and campaign for a referendum to give the people a say as the Liberal Democrats would do. I also imagine that UKIP Leader Nigel Farage is trying his best to get Daniel to join his party as this really would be a great move for UKIP, if they could carry it off. I’m sure they would love too grab Daniel. Daniel Hannan also has a massive ground swell of support within the conservative party.

But the real problem for the Conservative party is that they could almost never hold a referendum on an in/out question on Europe. If they ever did, the leadership I guess would campaign to be in Europe but many of the grass roots would campaign to be out of Europe. In fact if this happened I could imagine UKIP gaining more activists from the Tory party during such a campaign then ever before. The same may also be true to a lesser extent of the Labour Party.

I actually think there are only two options if you really have given up on the European project and that's vote Lib Dem for a referendum or go the whole hog and vote UKIP.

Daniel Hannan Blog can be read here

Charlotte Gore makes a point that the Tories should stay quite on Europe here

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Reading East MP, Rob Wilson Criticised for Claiming Credit

As a keen real ale drinker I have been following the story to save the Reading canal side pub ‘The Jolly Angler’ closely. A deal has been struck with the new owners and West Berkshire brewery.

However it appears Reading East Conservative MP, Rob Wilson is facing criticism after he issued a press release prematurely to claim credit for saving the pub.

Please see the Reading List report here

Monday, 2 November 2009

Looking Behind The Professor David Nutt Headlines

I was listening last night to BBC’s Five live which had a heated discussion on the Stephen Nolan phone in about the sacking of Professor David Nutt (UK's chief drugs adviser) by Alan Johnson. On the show was Lib Dem MP Evan Harris trying his best to explain why this is wrong. This has been well covered on the Blog’s and news media. However I think there is confusion within the public because as with most things in politics its not always easy to follow the minor points as they get lost in the headlines and anger.

Many were calling the professor’s findings wrong however I think some of the callers really missed the point.

The point is that no matter what your personal views are on drug policy, its wrong to sack an adviser when they have given their expert advice based on a number of scientific studies. This is not about the policy of the government its about the independence of scientist advicers.
Professor David Nutt is an academic and therefore should be free to lecture on his findings and conclusions and to write about them in the scientific press. If an MP decided to follow the advice there is nothing wrong with that as policy is not just based on science but also public ethics and wiliness to carry out advice. But you don’t sack an adviser because you disagree with their findings or their advice.

Also its worth remembering that in science not all studies will show the same result. Its about a number of studies bring the findings to an overall consensus on what they mean using logic.
The five live podcast can be found here

Face book protest group for David Nutt called ‘Support and Reinstate Professor David Nutt: We want an evidence based drugs policy’ can be found here

Not Yet out of the Woods covers the science behind the debate here and looks at the policy making of the Labour government on this topic here
Tory Bear Rocks the boat as he looks at polling on this issue
Left Foot Forward has a Rebuttal of Melenie Phillips Daily Mail Column who backed Alan Johnson's decision.

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Sunday, 1 November 2009

CONTEST PVE Wrong for Muslim Community

I recently attended a Liberal Democrat fridge event at the southern Regional conference on PVE (Prevent Violent Extremism) and its impact on the Muslim community.

I learnt that local governments are being forced to take on the PVE agenda. I thought it would be a good idea to highlight this because I’m not sure that many people are aware of PVE outside of the Muslim community and government and its implications for all of us.

PVE was developed by the government as a local government system to counter terrorism. This strategy is known as CONTEST.

The aim is to


Prevent is split down into

Challenge violent extremist ideology and support mainstream view.
Disrupt those promoting violent extremist.
Support individuals who are targeted for recruitment to violent extremist.
Increase the resilience of communities to violent extremist.
Address the grievances that ideologies exploit.

This is managed by the Office for Security and Counter Terrorism at the Home Office. The government have spent a fair amount of money on this about £86million.

After the 9/11 and 7/7 attacks the perception of the 1.5 million British Muslim communities changed. The government response became a broad-brush approach to dealing with British communities and PVE became the main vehicle for this.

The Government relies on representative Muslim advisors who may not actually have a presence or an influence in the Muslim community. Relying on these people can’t really be helping, as they are too remote and not holistic enough, consequently it maybe damaging to community cohesion.

To give you some understanding of the problem I would like to add some quotes from Question time in Stoke on Trent in October 2008.

Julisa Goldsworth Liberal Democrat MP said

“What worries me about the way government handles this. The government talks about it in terms of community cohesion and the assumption is that it is, in brackets, about dealing with Muslim extremism. Can you imagine any Muslim organisation wanting to take that on and that badge that goes with it? What a lot of it boils down to is just basic good community development without labelling it to any one religion. Actually it’s about looking at the organisations that are serving their community and giving them the support they need, rather than trying to intervene.”

Julia then turned to Geoff Hoon

"Do you think funds like preventing violent terrorism and forcing some council to take them on board with that title actually achieves moderation and understanding?"

During the same question time program Dr Ajmal Hussain Said

"One of the biggest mistakes that we made locally (In Stoke) was to accept this (Pathfinder) Fund because for a long time the BNP had a problem really convincing people that part of the community (Muslims) was a problem. But when central government is saying that here is a fund because there is violent extremism throughout them. The climate (of Islamophobia) is being built in Stoke (and) Islamophodia is at fever pitch."

I think this link here from the An-Nisa Society explains the problems very well.

It also contains this quote from Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty, has called Prevent "the biggest domestic spying programme targeting the thoughts and beliefs of the innocent in Britain in modern times," she said. "It is information-gathering directed at the innocent and the spying is directed at people because of their religion, and not because of their behaviour."

An- Nisa calls for;

1. An-Nisa Society believes that the government's Preventing Violent Extremism agenda (PVE) agenda and the Prevent Strand of its CONTEST strategy is fundamentally flawed and discriminatory and call for it to be dismantled with immediate effect.

2. We call upon the government to dismantle the machinery it has put in place to gather intelligence about Muslims and to be transparent and accountable as to what is being done.

3. We call upon Muslims - members of the community including voluntary and public sector workers and councillors, to boycott Prevent. It is only with the co-operation of Muslims that the government can take the strategy forward.

And recommendations:

1. The government should cease linking community cohesion, capacity building, community development and addressing inequalities with PVE. This approach risks de-legitimising much needed community building of the Muslim community. Security measures should be separate and distinct so that there is no doubt as to their objectives.

2. Addressing inequalities, social and economic deprivation, social exclusion and fractured families as a common goal for all communities will be more productive to building 'resilience' to social ills, including extremism of any type.

3. We believe the way forward is to engage purposefully with underprivileged communities to ensure cutting-edge services within communities to prevent grievances based on perceived inequalities based on ethnic, religious or socio economic factors.

4. A public debate needs to be held on the crisis in our most vulnerable communities and how we address this with sensible and just policies. There is general concern nationally about young people in all communities, the breakdown of families and fractured communities. Root causes must be investigated and addressed.

I would add these points about PVE

1. PVE treats the whole Muslim community as potential terrorists. It is unique as no community has been treated in this manner before. This means that a specific based approach has been diverted to a community-based policy and lacks targeting of the few actual potential terrorists.

2. This smears the whole community and is being entrenched into core local council services. This is demeaning to a minority of the British community and places most of them under potential surveillance, which could alienate the very community that the government want to win over.

3. This is gold dust too the far right as they now have a confirmation from the government actions that all Muslims are terrorist which could place Muslims in danger as it provides more justification for attacks.

4. This didn’t even happen during the height of the IRA terror campaign and this could take the authorise eye off the ball from other forms of Terrorism such as Neil Lewington's from Reading (see here on Reading List) who was planning terrorise people with explosive devices and admired the London nail bomber and neo-Nazi David Copeland.

5. PVE also discharges the government from its responsibilty to assist the Muslim community in finding the actual terrorist plotters.

6. The government also plans to extend the PVE agenda to a multiagency approach which could affect primary care trusts, mental health trusts, schools, college and other agencies. Though information gained at funding events it appears that Muslims only could be asked to provide information on others to identify a potential terrorist. This is ethically suspect and could be misleading and lead to wrongful labelling of Muslims and even false arrests.

7. This is an erosion of Civil Liberties and Human Rights.

8. Muslim groups will lose credibity and trust though any funding given by the government. These groups will be seen as watch dogs for the government and any actual Terrorist will avoid them thereby making them harder to detect.

9. The government has already issued school tool kits titled ‘Learning together to be safe’, this provides details on PVE and teachers are expected to report any child they deem having extremist views.

10. Police can use the PVE info for police mapping but any anti-terror measures and arrest in hindsight often involve innocent parties. Is this not in itself building up a backlash of anger?

11. There is no forum in PVE for Transparency and Accountablity to workthough concerns within the PVE process.

I think we need to get back to working with communities and not targeting them. This would allow the comunnity to help us find the terrorists and not become angrier with the way the government treats the Muslim Community. I think An- Nisa plans here provide the best ideas for replacing PVE with some much better and workable proposals.

Reading Council PVE Report can be found here

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