Sunday, 31 January 2010

Paid for News Can Work

Rupert Murdock plans for all his newspaper sites to have paid for content. A plan many think won't work as a pay wall will stop people linking to the site and stop the casual reader, reading anything other than the headlines.

Of course in America there is a perceived news bias. There is now an emergence of paid for news which is paid for by the users.

One example of video news is The Real News which is an independent daily video and documentary news service. The Real News does not accept any government or corporate funding only user funding and do not carry any adverts. The idea behind it is to allow themselves to act fully independently and follows facts to rational conclusions rather than a biased conclusion or comment.

The Real News service is geared toward the US. But it is proof that people will pay for news if it offers what they are looking for and there doesn't appear to be any other alternatives.

The Real News Network can be found here

Another good idea is also developing, this time in the UK. UK Indymedia is a UK based independent collection of grassroots network. It uses a number of individuals, independent groups and alternative media activists who use the site for social and economic news. They again are not funded by the corporate media and is not owned by any individual or corporation.

It is a response really to the corporate infulenced news and often aims to tell the other side of the story. It also gives a voice to the many activist's out there who are fighting the 'system' in many different ways. An important check on the mainstream news I feel.

The Indemedia Network can be found here.

It appears that if you do it right and you offer what the customer wants (like say the FT does) then paid for news can work.

I am also amazed at what news doesn't get widely reported, perhaps these web sites can address the balance

Is this the real freedom of the press? I expect to see more of these sites as time passes, whatever happens, the news is going to change and will not be the same, for good or for bad.

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Thursday, 28 January 2010

Civil Servants say The Way Britain is Governed Needs Reform‏

This story on the BBC headline 'Ministers passing too many 'bad' laws, say ex mandarins'. Former civil servants ask for the way Britain is governed to be reformed simply reinstates a believe that I think many people have on the workings of our current Labour government.

This is why we need a change of government;

1. Too much unnecessary legislation

2. Badly thought out and prepared legislation

3. Media driven policy, making for bad un-thought out rushed through policy.

4. Lack of training

5. Incomplete, poorly explained bills

6. Tick-box culture leading to a loss of initiative and this replaces responsible judgment and individual discretion

I could not agree more with the detail in the civil servants report. .

The full report can be read here on the Better Government Initiative website.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Mesmerizing Winner of Ukraine’s Got Talent

This video shows the winner of "Ukraine’s Got Talent", she is 24 year old Kseniya Simonova.

Kseniya draws a series of pictures on an illuminated sand table.

Her pictures show ordinary people being affected by the German invasion during the Great Patriotic War (Eastern Front of World War II) resulted in 1 in 4 of Ukrainians population being killed with almost 11 million people died from a population of 42 million.

This really is quite an absolutely astonishing video to watch, Take some time out and be mesmerized.

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Tuesday, 26 January 2010

David Nutt Visits Reading for a Talk on Drugs

Yesterday (Monday 25th January 2010) David Nutt visited Reading University for a talk organised by the Reading University Liberal Democrats.

For those that don't know is a psychiatrist and neuropsychopharmacologist specialising in the research of drugs which affect the brain. He served on the Committee on Safety of Medicines and was sacked as Chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) after he disagreed with the reclassification of cannabis from Class C to Class B. He also received a lot of stick in the press for saying that "Ecstasy was statistically no more dangerous than an addiction to horse-riding". A statement which is infact true. Jacki smith and Alan Johnson have often misplaced the word Ecstasy or Cannabis with the word Drugs thereby misrepresenting what David Nutt actually said.

There was a number of bloggers there (Duncan Stott from Split Horizons and Mark Reckons and myself). Mark was chairing the meeting. It appears that if you want to be covered on a blog then Reading is the place to come.

The lecture room was packed, after an introduction from Mark Thompson (Mark Reckons) David Nutt kicked off his interesting and for me surprisingly funny talk (David Nutt has a great sense of Humour).

David Nutt broke his talk down into a number of stages;

The Law on Drugs and its History
The ranking system
Media reporting and Bias
Drugs and Politics and Science
Then Questions and Answers

The Law on Drugs and Its History and the Ranking System

David stated that in the UK there is no evidence based drugs policy and no independent drugs committee (something that David Nutt has now addressed).

David said that the Misuse of drugs Act 1971 introduced the ranking system based on harm under 3 categories which he thought was a good idea. He does not agree with the penalties however (more later).

Some drugs are not covered by this grid as they have not been accessed

Drugs in each class are;

Class A

Heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, methamphetamine, LSD and psilocybin mushrooms

Class B

Cannabis, amphetamine, codeine and methylphenidate ('Ritalin')

Class C

GHB, ketamine, diazepam, flunitrazepam and most other tranquillisers, sleeping tablets and benzodiazepines as well as anabolic steroids.

Of which Cannabis is the only drug to of ever been down graded as this is politically very difficult.

The penalties for these drugs are;

There is also an number of international obligations but this generally mean that drugs must be illegal but this could involve any kind of penalties such as fines rather than prison for example.

Media Reporting and Bias

See the graph below.

As you may of expected the media reporting does not reflect the fact as with so many things.

He also explained the cycle of media reporting fuelling the political reaction and legalisation on drugs and how criminalisation leads to worse and worse outcomes in a feedback loop. I.E. harder and harder drugs and more and more crime.

He also explained that the effect of reducing cannabis imports had lead to the cannabis home grown industry and in turn has led to stronger forms of cannabis such as skunk. This is because the precautionary principle is not always the right one as this can lead to other side effects. An example of this was the MMR vaccine and how this has led to an increase in measles cases see here.

He also suggested that the name of Ecstasy has an effect on its class A classification as it was once called Empathy.

Cannabis is a drug and does have side effects for example mental health problems effect 1 in 5000 for men and 1 in 8000 women, but this is not as bad as the effects of other drugs such as Alcohol.

He said that the ACMD had commissioned a Mori poll in the 2008 report on cannabis showed that 2/3rd of people surveyed wanted to keep the penalties as they are or have no penalty at all (this is when cannabis was class C)

Drugs and Politics and Science

The government asked for advice on Mushrooms categorisation for which the ACMD was only given a few days to decide. After the ACMD advice was taken they place it in class A even thought this was not the advice.

David now believes that politicians act on what they believe the public think rather than evidence.

The audience was shown how companies that sell alcohol have an investment in other safe drugs not being legally controlled as this would reduce the use of alcohol. I think this billboard below explains the link.

There are not many examples around the world of drugs legalisation but where the law has been relaxed such as Portugal, results have been favourable when it comes to crime and harm to others see here in Scientic American. In 2001 it decriminalized the use and possession of heroin, cocaine, marijuana, LSD and other street drugs. Focusing on treatment and prevention instead of jailing users to decrease the number of deaths and HIV infections.

He also said that Margaret Thatcher did make some sensible moves on drugs such as providing needles to combat the spread of HIV. David Nutt thanked Evan Harris Lib Dem MP for defending his position on evidence based drug policy and said that the Lib Dems were much more progressive on drug reform then the other two parties.

During the questions I asked if he thought this new Independent Drugs Advisory Committee could influence drug legalisation. He believed that there studies will be taken on board given time. He said they will have to be considered as they will be fully independent of Government and business and based on evidence based science.

I myself do not know a lot about illegal drugs myself as I don't take them but I do know a fair bit about the local problems of drug use within my community, as there is a fair amount of drugs raids and users where I live and I also talk to users.

I also know that the illegal drug industry is the 2nd biggest after the oil industry (The UN report said the global drug trade generated an estimated $321.6 billion in 2003). It is controlled by many very bad criminals and drugs are cut using a number of substances (which normally causes the actual self harm) as they are not controlled. Many people are dying around the world from armed battles with crime organisations, gangs or armed forces and police. Fighting drugs cost the world a lot of money see the New Scientist here.

All this means that the current policy is not working, We need to control it and take it out of the hands of criminals, we need to stop teenager being criminalised for the rest of their lives for experimenting and control this too. Plus we can use the tax money from this control (say if used and brought in controlled environments) to pay for rehabilitation and to reduce future crime to feed a habit. We need to try something new.

Currently there are no record of recorded deaths of cannabis use.


More details are on estimated drug harms are reported at Crime and Justice here

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime here

I have also blogged about David Nutts Sacking here Looking Behind The Professor David Nutt Headlines.

Im expecting a few other bloggers to write there blogs on this event and when they do I will list them here.

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Update: Mark Reckons has his blog on Professor Nutt event in Reading here

He also has an interesting interview with him here

Monday, 25 January 2010

Lord Huttons Hiding Dr Kelly's Secrets?

As reported here in the Guardian the medical records including the post-mortem relating to the 'suicide' of Dr David Kelly (MOD expert in biological warfare who was asked to proof read the WMD dossier) will be a secret for 70 years as ruled by Lord Hutton.

Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker made a Freedom of Information request to examine if there was any finger prints on the knife allegedly used to slit Dr Kelly's wrist. This request revealed that there were no fingerprints and Dr Kelly was not wearing gloves. Lord Hutton also admits that he didn't look very deeply into Dr Kelly's death. These are surely key issues for any inquiry into a death?

This story has hardly been reported on the TV news and yet it could have some big implications for the current Sir John Chilcot Iraq inquiry. I hope that Nick Clegg will question the Prime Minstier on this secret during PMQ's this Wednesday. As he has already had a result in getting Brown to the Iraq inquiry on during PMQ on 13th January when he asked the PM "What have you got to hide?”, perhaps he could have another result.

Revealing the details of the medical records surely only needs to be kept a secret if there is something else to hide?

The Iraq inquiry official web site can be found here.

The Hutton Inquiry Offical web site can be found here.

Norman Baker MP's Article for the Mail on sunday can be found on Lib Dem Voice here.

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Sunday, 24 January 2010

Mark Thomas Reading Show Review

On Friday 22nd January I watched the Mark Thomas Manifesto (Remember the Mark Thomas Product on Channel 4) at 21 South Street Arts Centre in Reading after reading about it on the Green Reading Blog (Mark Thomas endorses the Green Party).

The Manifesto show is about asking the audience what they would want in a People’s Manifesto. A number of ideas are offered on the night and these are voted on. For the life of me I cannot remember which policy won the Reading show, total fail. Once 50 policies are chosen (tour has now finished) then these will be published in a book and Mark Thomas will campaign on these policies.

Some of the ideas in the show included;

1. Giving Sweeney Todd’s pie shop in Reading a Michelin star.

2. Starting again with law and replacing them with out of order and Bang out of order.

3. Publishing MP’s expenses every two weeks in the local press and asking the public to sign them off.

4. Asking every one to sign if they agree with hanging and then if they do commit a crime they are then in turn hanged as they agree to it.

5. All fatty foods to only be place in very slim aisles in shops making them hard to get.

6. Allowing public access to MP’s homes as we pay for them.

7. Not allowing anyone to own a second home until everyone has a first home.

One highlight was when a cheque was handed in by the Goodbye Andrew Mackay campaign asking Andrew Mackay to pay back £170,000 for his second home claim. The point was made that Andrew Mackay MP and his wife Julie Kirkbride MP have still not paid any funds back to the tax payer for this.

Green Peace was also there asking people to sign a petition to stop the building of the Project Pegasus, which is an enriched uranium facility that will be used to manufacture uranium components for nuclear weapons.

It was a very enjoyable night and worth seeing him on his next tour, I leave you with a video clip of his show below.

Mark Thomas will have a 2nd Manifesto radio 4 show later in the year see here

And his book the Peoples Manifesto is out from 28th January.

UPDATE: I have remembered the winning policy it was Nationalizing the rail ways. Boring but practical.

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Saturday, 23 January 2010

Local Blog: Bracknell Forest Council's Budget

Bracknell Forest Council annual budget public consultation exercise ends on 26 January 2010. This can be viewed at

The council's income for the leisure services it provides has reduced and of course there is a vast amount of money still tied up in the Icelandic bank (around £5million). This means that the council will have to become more prudent in 2010.

It appears that a number of cuts to services have been proposed amounting too £3,243k. These among others include (taken from the document);

Efficiency Savings

Homeless Families -Reduction in families living in bed and breakfast accommodation by providing rent deposits for accommodation in the private sector. £125k

Better Commissioning - Offer home care providers a common Bracknell Forest rate. £110k

Service Efficiencies -Speedier collection of debts, rationalisation of the printer estate, processing of benefits, increased income and efficiencies within Forestcare and the restructuring and consolidation of internal postal services. £100k

Day Care Services - The council proposes to consult on the reprovision of services delivered at the Downside Day Care Centre. This saving is subject to the outcome of that consultation process. £75k

Collaborative Procurement - Based on the delivery of additional corporate contracts and the realisation of further collaborative procurement opportunities with neighbouring authorities. £70k

CCTV - Monitoring of the CCTV cameras will be undertaken locally rather than contracted to a neighbouring authority. £61k

Reduction in Back Office Costs

Finance - Reduction in insurance premiums and claims, together with a reorganisation of the accountancy service. Reduction in the provision of finance support within departments. £115k

Information Technology - Savings in licence costs and the loss of one post providing desk top services. £100k

Print Unit - Improved productivity of the in house print and graphic design team. £70k

Cultural Services - Restructure resulting in reduction of one post. £50k

Policy and Performance - Reduction of one post within Environmental Health and Trading Standards. £49k

Human Resources

Reduction in learning and development support and health and safety advice. £34k

Reduced Demand/Additional Services

Looked After Children - Reduction in placements with Independent Fostering Agencies and a reduction in the number of disabled children placements. £360

Planning - The economic impact of the recession has resulted in a reduction in major planning applications. This, together with more streamlined processes means the loss of two posts. £91k

Cemetery and Crematorium Fees - An increase in charges above the inflation rate £80k

Student Finance - Reduced workload as function transfers to the Student Loans Company £20k

Reduction in Services

Highway Maintenance - Surface dressing, which involves the spraying and addition of chippings to an existing road service will no longer be undertaken. This should have a limited short term impact. £315k

Libraries - A reduction in the budget for the purchase of books and audio visual materials, together with a reduction in the opening hours of the main library in Bracknell £70.

Look In - Either close the facility or transfer to the voluntary sector to run as a community facility. £60k

Parks, Open Spaces & Countryside - Reduce maintenance and change the Ranger service from seven days a week to five days a week £55k

Coral Reef - Withdraw the 6.30am to 9.30am Monday to Friday ‘early bird’ session. £25k

Dog Control - The Council will no longer collect stray dogs or undertake patrols to minimise the level of dog fouling. £23k

I do not want to see a reduction in services myself. I personally would prefer a reduction in the use of consultants and some of the higher paid staff within the council (thoses earning over £50k say).

I also do not want to see an increase in council tax. I would prefer some of the services to be saved using the reserves of the council (say £120k) as well as an increase in the charges for say early morning swimming (after all this is better than not having the service) or collecting books at later hours from the library.

You can email any comments to the Borough Treasurer at or sent to the Borough Treasurer, Bracknell Forest Council, Easthampstead House, Town Square, Bracknell, RG12 1AQ.

I have emailed my concerns to the Treasurer, Please do the same.

Alternatively the budget is being discussed as item 9 on the agenda at the Overview and Scrutiny Commission on Thursday, 28 January 2010 7.30 pm. This meeting is open to the public.

To see the BFC document click on this link

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Tax is Taxing

Moira Stuart been on TV a lot lately telling us that tax doesn't have to be taxing. Well as someone who helps friends out with their tax I can easly come back and say to Moira. "Tax doesn't have to be taxing", but it bloodly well is!"

The web site is far from easy to use. If your filing company accounts or paying tax it's not joined up. I find the web site too be quite hard to use and to navigate.

When filing a self assessment why can't the web site tell you your previous payments and deduct these (I bet people miss this one and have it retuned to them much later in the year, why can't the website just fill in your tax payments, why can't it add it you PAYE? and why can't it simply say actual UK dividends received rather than without the tax credit, it's confusing.

You would suspect it would be fairly simple to link remittance data to returns based on the reference numbers. Billpay online payment system is not linked to the data HMRC hold about returns as its operated by Santander bank. As with many government systems, the HMRC systems appear to be developed separately and don’t seem to talk to one another or be linked in as much as they could be.

How comes when the Inland Revenue make a mistake its seems so hard to get the money back or get them to admit it?

Also answer the phone please see here. Research found that 43% of the 103 million calls went unanswered last year. HMRC's has 31 contact centres which have 10,500 full-time staff at a cost of £233m. So its not as if they dont have the resource.

I really dont mind paying tax but please make it simpler?

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Local Blog: Political Letters in the Press‏

A lot of Bracknell politics is conducted through the local press. In particular the letters column of the free paper the Bracknell Standard.

This mostly evolves the PPC's from the opposition parties (in Bracknell) to the Tories trying to get one up on each other on the letter pages of the Bracknell Standard. Personally I find this interesting as im interested in politics, but I do wonder what the people of Bracknell think about this. I think this is playing into the hands of the local Conservative party after all its they who how have most of the seats on the council and the current large majority in the constituency.

So should the opposition not be questioning the current Tory council and MP's. Phillip Lee has not evolved himself in these discussions, Perhaps his silence should be questions by the other parties before attacking one another? For example he has not needed to reply to any letters in the local press and has not updated his blog since he won the Conservative primary see here.

I do understand the need to defend yourself from attacks from other parties but there's an election coming up, and in Bracknell I would like to see it ran closer than ever before. Of course I would also like the Lib Dems increase there vote share so that they can provide the opposition. I guess we will wait and see.

To highlight this I have sent in the letter below to the Bracknell Standard.

Dear PPC's of all parties,

Please do bear in mind who the opposition in Bracknell are. I often see letters where the Greens,UKIP, Lib Dems and Labour are all questioning each other on their national policies. However please do bear in mind that here in Bracknell the party in power is the Conservative party. For the good of democracy in Bracknell we need more councillors from parties other than the Conservative party. We need effective opposition to the Conservative party to reduce the safe seat status. After all there will be an election soon.

I'm not sure Phillip Lee (who does not live within the Bracknell Standard delivery area) ever reads these letters unless he gets press cuttings. One way to find out would be to ask him why he has not updated his website since he won the Open Primary. How about asking why Andrew Mackay has still not made any payments for his wrongful second home claim?


Bracknell Blog

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

David Camerons Conservatives

Guido got hold of an email today from Conservative Central Office, see CCHQ Drops “David Cameron’s Conservatives”.

The fact that the Tory party even considered calling their party 'David Camerons Conservatives' on the ballot paper makes me wonder if he is going to be a party leader or a president. Frankly I'm really fed up of spin and I do not want another president Blair. We have a parliamentary system not a presidential one, please can we keep it that way.

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Monday, 18 January 2010

Paying When your Dead

A post on the Bracknell Liberal Democrat website by Ray Earwicker, PPC for Bracknell has raised a very interesting issue, see here.

In this post Ray talks about 'ash payments' which are made by grieving relatives to doctors. the charge is £73.50 for each cremation form they sign.

It states that 'Figures obtained by the Liberal Democrats show that almost £15million was earned nationally in 2009 by doctors signing a form to release a body for cremation'. Our local hospitals have charged a total of £39,973 for Heatherwood and Wexham Park and £62,338 for Frimley Park.

Now just think about this for a moment, this means that if someone dies the doctors get paid and that grieving families have to pay it. I really think this is wrong on principal, A charge for a death? doctors always do whatever they can to save a life and im sure don't take this fee into account, I just think this charge is unnecessary. I agree with Ray that "the government must take action". I think there is no need for these charges.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Freedom of Information Request to UK Border Agency for Intercompany Transfers Visas

Recently one of my contacts used a Freedom of Information request to UK Border Agency to find out how many non-EEA workers companies plan to bring in over the next year.

This relates to my ongoing reports on IT contractors and other professional contractors (such as Accountants) whose jobs are being unfairly taken in the UK by lower paid foreign contractors from outside of the EEA. As the Bracknell Blog articles reported here, here and here.

Britain is celebrated as having one of the most versatile and effective IT sectors in the world. But this sector, like so many others in recent times is being eroded at an alarming rate in the name of a cheaper 'that will do' approach by many large IT employers. These figures below over all professions although these visa applications mostly affect the IT sector.

Just to explain the tier 2 category is the points based system for employer sponsored work visas. Within tier 2 there are the following sub-categories:

a) General – either for shortage skills or after a resident labour market test (RMLT) i.e. advertise the job to UK workers first

b) ICT – for intra company transfers (no job advertising required)

c) Sports Person

d) Minister of Religion

The sponsoring organisations use the computer based “Sponsorship Management System” (SMS).

They request a certain number of Certificates of Sponsorship for use during the following year. They can request more during the year. Once the anniversary is up then the current allocation vanishes and they need to request more for the next year. The renewals process can be read here.

When they need to get someone a tier 2 visa, then they assign a CoS to them on the SMS system. The visa applicant must then apply for the visa using the CoS (which is just a unique number)

Total number of sponsors who have requested CoS for Tier 2 GEN category (Points system) is 3,702 and they have asked to bring in 71,665 workers. Of this 2,597 companies were granted 52,649 so far, which is a percentage of 73% of total requests. Most of the remaining 27% are just pending approval and will probably be approved,

Total number of sponsors who have requested CoS for Tier 2 ICT category (Intercompany Transfers) is 1,704 and they have asked to bring in 62,589 workers. Of this 1,196 companies were granted 45,924 so far, which is a percentage of 73% of total requests. Most of the remaining 27% are just pending approval and will probably be approved.

The points based system started at the end of November 2008 and companies could start requesting certificates of sponsorship for their second year on 5th October 2009. The stats were generated on 26th November (so less than half of sponsors have requested visa's at that point). Sponsors can request more if they run out. However it is a rough indication of how many people employers think they will bring in between December 2009 and November 2010.

For the 2nd year of the points system, companies had asked for 134,254 CoS for tier 2 general and ICT visas, and so far been granted 98,573 CoS between 5-oct-09 and 26-nov-09 (with 25,740 pending approval).

As you can see companies have been approved to bring in almost 100,000 people to work in the UK and many will be for jobs normally conducted by UK staff. Some of these staff will of course be needed but is this system really working for the good of our economy. Many do not pay tax in the UK, and others are also unfairly treated and have little protection under UK employment law.

The UKBA require that the migrant workers be paid the “going rate” for the job. The going rate is usually the national lower quartile salary for the job. This means it is often more than a third less than a similar UK worker would be paid.

This area does need more control so that UK employees and non-EEA migrant workers are treated fairly.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Rory Stewart On TV

Rory Stewart OBE who was a candidate at the Bracknell Conservative Primary (See how he preformed my review here) and is now the Conservative PPC for Penrith and the border is on television tonight.

Rory Stewart if he wins (he should do Penrith is a very safe conservative seat) will be a useful addition to any government. you only need to read his CV on Wikipedia to know that. I’m not sure how good he would be as a constituency MP given his history but if he gets in I will be watching with interest to see how he gets on in Government. He certainly has an interesting way of campaigning which does bold well for his possible future constituency, see Iain Dales blog A Walk With Rory the Tory.

He is on BBC 2 Tonight (Saturday 16th January) in a two part program called the Legacy of Lawrence of Arabia. To quote David Butcher a reviewer on the Radio Times;

“As a former soldier, diplomat, travel writer and governor of an Iraqi province, Rory Stewart is just the kind of dashing character to offer a personal take on the life of TE Lawrence, something he does superbly in this two-parter. Stewart's angle is that the lessons Lawrence learnt about the Arab world, desert warfare and insurgency are painfully relevant today. In fact, as he points out, today's US Army officers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan are encouraged to read Lawrence's writings as well as counter-insurgency manuals influenced by his ideas. Whether they bother is another matter. Stewart walks us through Lawrence's early years as a historian and archaeologist and traces how a shy, romantic young student became first a spy and then, in World War One, a guerrilla general, leading an army of Bedouin rebels against the Turkish Ottomans who at the time ruled Arabia. It's a stirring story, and blessedly free of reconstructions, though the odd clip from David Lean's classic film doesn't hurt.“

Now I think you can see just what an insightful program this will be into the problems in this part of the world and perhaps into the interesting mind of Rory Stewart.

Friday, 15 January 2010

David Cameron Direct in Reading

Last night I attended Cameron Direct with Mark Reckons who has done a blog on the event here.

I agree with Mark that it was good to see the possible future Prime Minister up close. David Cameron is an excellent performer live, this is his 157th Cameron Direct. Although there is a Blair feeling about him when you see him live. I can also see him doing very well in the leader debate.

What bothered me about this event was that it did have enough swing voters there. Infact most of the audience were those in politics (there were two Lib Dems sitting behind me and many members of the Reading Conservatives) or those from the volunteer sector who wanted to know that their sector would still be funded under the Conservatives. This was not a big room and the event was much smaller than I expected. I would guess that there was just over 100 people.

This was reflected in the questions, which were quite frankly too easy and not questions ordinary members of the public would of asked. Many questions were on the third sector and one was even on his video shoot with Carol Vorderman about improving numeracy. There was no questions on expenses, immigration, benefits, the EU, Gay Marriage. Some very hot topics just not covered. If the public don't ask then the politicians are not going to concern themselves as much with these subjects.

I didn't get to ask my question as we ran out of time and most people did have a question for David Cameron. I wanted to ask if Andrew Mackay will ever have to pay any funds back for the second home scandle and refer to the fact that I'm in a safe seat in Bracknell (unlike Reading East or West). Therefore what is the point in voting for the Tories or any other party if it's the Tories who will get in anyway. How can I express my vote for my dissatisfaction with the Andrew Mackay second home scandal. I wanted to know what he would of suggested.

Anyway in sum up I think he does mean well and is standing for the right reasons and I hope he does do a good job with or without a Hung Parliament.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Question Time Live Chat is Back

Question Time is being covered as ever by Mark Reckons here in a live chat. I will be there as Dazmando.

Today we both went to the Reading David Cameron Direct event in Reading and I expect we will also be ‘Chatting’ about this as well.

I plan to blog on this later in response to Mark Reckons forth coming blog on the David Cameron Direct event.

Do please click on the link above and join in or just read our posts while watching.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Local Blog: Heatherwood Hospital Petition Great Response‏

The petition by Russ Bryant asking the Prime Minister to Intervene in the Underhanded Closure of Heatherwood Hospital has now closed.

It was a very big response with 2,631 Signatures. Russ is now waiting on a response from numbers 10. He expects the health minister to ask the Health Trust about any potential closure of the hospital and then they will reply to the petition (the department for health details are here).

I would like to give a personal thanks to Russ for setting up this petition and facebook campaign. Bracknell Standard and Green Gabbles who also covered this petition.

And well done to everyone who signed this petition, every signature really counts.

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Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Is Banning Islam4UK Right?

Michael White has done an excellent blog here on the banning of Islam4UK where he hopes Alan Johnson has called this one correctly.

Michael writes

‘My own prejudice is against bans unless absolutely necessary. Society is stronger for taking on the nasties in open debate and proving the merits of mutual tolerance. That goes for the BNP and their ilk just as it does for tabloid demagogues.

Repression only feeds extremism and other unpleasant side-effects as the current woes of both Sinn Fein’s Gerry Adams and the DUP’s “Swish Family Robinson” Underline.’

These paragraphs above really sum up my thoughts on this ban for me.

I find Islam4UK highly offensive and disagreeable but banning them does not sit well with me. I think these groups need to be in the public eye so we can engage with them. Simply banning groups because we don’t like them and its popular to do so, is not always the right thing too do.

It would have been awful of course if Islam4UK did protest in Wootton Bassett and could of ended in violence, however the media attention they have gained from this has already got them the voice they are always seeking.

Anjem Choudary who heads up this group and led other groups before hand before they were banned will simply think up a new name and again get press for whatever action he tries next. Banning this group will simply not work.

We should not pick and choose freedom of speech, Where does it end?

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Monday, 11 January 2010

Lib Dems Become More Realistic

Nick Clegg today outlined the Liberal Democrat four priorities called 'Four steps to a Fairer Britain' which are ;

1.Fair taxes.

2. A new, fair start for all children at school.

3. A rebalanced, green economy.

4. And clean, open politics.

Nick Cleggs speech can be read here

My blog is not about this speech however its about the fact that he has delayed some of the key policies as they are too expensive and that no party is telly the truth when it comes to the required spending cuts to reduce the countries deficit.

The policies being removed from the manifesto are; extending free childcare, free personal care for the elderly, "citizen's pension" and delaying introducing free tuition fees too six years (It will now be rolled out over these 6 years - starting with final year students).

I actually agree with this as the Lib Dems do need to be more realistic on how much we can afford to spend. I also think that the Lib Dem activists should be more realistic about what is possible and therefore I agree with Nick Clegg and not with the probable back lash from Lib Dems. After all these policies have not been forgotten and will be added later when they can be afforded. But for the moment are removed so as not to cause any of the usual confusion.

I also think that the whole tax credit systems costs way too much in administration for both the government and the people requesting tax credits. Having a higher tax starting rate of £10,000 (as the Lib Dems propose) would be more simple and would infact cut administration costs.

I would also point out that no party, (Even the Conservatives) are being realistic on what we need to do to pay back Britains debt, which is why I was pleased to see that the Lib Dems are now moving in this direction.

Labour and the Tories have been going at great guns at each other recently over each partys funding gap in their policies. The holes the media and the parties have found in each others policies is all the proof you need that both parties plans do not go far enough. The parites are making promises they can't keep. This is why I'm please too see the Lib Dems getting real on their policies. Now all Parties and us (the public) need to get realistic on spending cuts.

Whats scary about this is, one of these parites will be in power this year and their plans don't appear to be ready to handle this counties money problems.

Of course we are not the only country which a deficit problem see Bracknell Blog World Debt Crisis.

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Sunday, 10 January 2010

The Hurt Locker Review

It can be forgotten that political decisions result in life changing events for many. Such as the decision to go to war in Iraq. The film The Hurt Locker demonstrate how hard it can be to carry out the wishes of general and politicians. This film comes across as non-political but is infact has political overtones its just not overtly political.

Director Kathryn Bigelow's (who directed Point Break) has done a brilliant job of converting the wartime experiences of journalist Mark Boal into a engaging and absorbing account of an American Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal team. I was gripped from the beginning as you can feel the constant threat of death and the fear flowing over the film.

This film is not just about bomb disposal but the interaction between the replacement bomb technician and his crew. Showing the why you have to work within the rules and what can happen if you don't. Many of the events have an attempt to gain control but you can see how they soon become uncontrollable.

The Hurt Locker has so many situations within it, there's blow-by-blow account of defusing IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices), snipers and attempted hostage taking as well as a unwilling suicide bomber and bomb investigation. Infact this made me wonder how many attacks are by suicide bombers as many in the firm were infact remote detonation bombs.

The film is entirely convincing (shot not far in Jordan) The explosion feel very real and there is good use of slow scenes with faster placed scenes and story telling.

The Hurt Locker is in my opinion one of the best modern war movies made. I found this film gripping and interesting and highly recommend it to anyone who can face watching a film with some very horrific scenes of war. I Think this is one of those must see films.

The Hurt Locker stars Jeremy Renner, Guy Pearce, and Ralph Finnes and is now out on DVD and Blue Ray to both Rent and buy.

December 09 was the first month since the Iraq war begun that not a single US solider was killed in action for that month, a statistic I hope can continue (I hope that one day soon the Iraq casualties also stop). The total of the coalition forces casualties for both Iraq and Afganistan can be viewed here

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Saturday, 9 January 2010

Review of The Decade

I recently watched History of Now: The Story of the Noughties on BBC 2 which can be on BBC IPlayer. This was split into 3 programs the 2nd and 3rd of which were the most interesting for me as this tackled the social aspects of Britain’s society. These programs can be found here

The second program (which included Lib Dem blogger and co editor of Liberal Democrat Voice Mark Pack) examined how politicians used popular culture like pop music and how Jade Goody paved the way for David Cameron. The program also mentions how parties now concentrate on winnable seats, leaving safe seat alone. and how they even use the MOSAIC methodology that supermarkets use for targeting political messages.

The second program also covers the development of the Chav and how it has become harder to climb the social ladder. It suggest that the Chav has given up being aspirational because the ladders have been removed. Its now much harder to achieve without an education. We are simply conned by reading about WAG’s and the cult of celebrity into believing that we can climb this social ladder.

The third program covers globalisation and how Britain is are the heart of it. Which millions of Brits buy up property aboard and millions of immigrants came to Britain to work. I found this very interesting as many believe that us Brits perhaps feel superior to our European counterparts. We moan about Europeans working here but forget that there are many Brits living aboard. We also go on lads or lad’et holidays to eastern Europe and trash the place while drinking huge amount of cheap beer. Thanks to cheap flights to unheard of ex military airfields.

I to admit to having done this myself on a stag do in Prague. However I think its because we work so hard that we also party hard. You could say its hard wired into our culture now. Also the drink is so cheap that we just go mad for it. We love a bargain. We try too keep up with our peers, drinking the shots they buy etc and then don’t think about the consequences because for that one night, we don’t want to worry about them.

The program also shows how influential Britain still is. with its Premiership football being watched all over the world. British pop music as popular as ever and also British TV formats exported to every corner of the globe. We are still a very important Island in this world.

We have certainly had some massive highs like winning the Olympics and lows like the 7/7 London bombings the next day. Its quite amazing how the banking and credit bumble bust right at the end of the decade, the same bubble that made the decade at the beginning (the one that gave us the money in the first place).

For myself I actually enjoyed the noughties on a personal level because despite that bad things that happened I agree with Andrew Marr in the final program. That it would be easy to say that the decade could be viewed as a time of enormous delusion and folly but it was also a time when many people enjoyed life more. I for one think this is very much the case.

So what do you think about the last decade, Good or bad?

And on Another Note

I can’t help but wonder why all the documentaries appear to be on Channel for on the BBC. Why is ITV not showing more documentaries? Mark Reckons has some advice for ITV’s falling viewing figures here in The trouble with ITV.

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Thursday, 7 January 2010

MP's Should be Allowed to Make Mistakes‏

David Cameron recently admitted that he "messed up" after his blunder on Monday where he said that tax benefits for being married could not be guaranteed.

Cameron told BBC Radio 4's Today programme "The truth is I give dozens of interviews every week and on Monday I messed up, and there is no other way of putting it. I was thinking about all sorts of different things. I misdescribed our policy. I immediately corrected that".

I think this is fair enough and I for one am not going to have a go at David Cameron or any other MP who makes the odd error in their interviews. After all, we all remember Nick Clegg getting the state pension figure wrong or Gordon Brown saying that he "Saved the world".

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Local Blog: A Walk in The Snow

I had a nice quite walk in the snow this morning to clear my car in preparation of the frost to come. Everyone is very chatty, there are kids playing and very very little in the way of traffic. I only saw a milk float of all things and two snow ploughs and very very few cars.

Like I imagine most people in Bracknell, I'm working at home today. The snow we have in Berkshire is so thick I never thought I would see anything like it again.

Well I know we the Great British public will all ask, Why can't we cope with the snow. Before you do remember in many other countries at the moment, they aren't coping. Just have a look at these headlines here and here. I have a friend who is trapped in Brussel airport which is currently closed. The fact is that there is just too much snow at the moment for the councils to cope with. Unlike the pervious time (see here) when the council was caught out (detailed explanation defending the council is given by Alvin Finch in the Comments).

This time the roads have clearly been gritted before it snowed and the snow ploughs are out. Even when the road has been ploughed however there is still snow left on the road because the plough can damage the road. This operation is going to cost however especially when all those pot holes caused by the frost will need to be filed in. But I am grateful for all those council workers who are doing a great job and who managed to get to work today.

Anyway looking at the forecast to come see below, it looks like we are in for quite a long spell of bad weather. There's not a lot we can do about it so I'm going to enjoy it. If you do go out please be very careful on those slippery paths.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

More Lib Dem Love Bombing

First it was Cameron love bombing LibDem voters. Now Gordon Brown has made overtures on the Andrew Marr show.

This suggests that both are aware that LibDems are a real force on the political scene. They certainly are at local government level where they have shown so often how much better things can be managed than by the blue or red brigades. LibDems now run more cities than either of the other two parties. In addition they are the opposition party in huge swathes of the country. Main opposition to Tories in the South and to Labour in the North.

Both Westminster leaders obviously frightened that LibDems are the real threat to their ability to get a majority. We’ve got Gordon Brown clinging on to power and David Cameron promising phony change. If we want something really different then we’ve got to vote for something really different and the Liberal Democrats are the different party of British politics.

This was posted by Dazmando for and on behalf of

My own thoughts on the Love Bombing can be read on
New Year Love bomb by David Cameron Working?‏.

More can be found on Reading List post here

Monday, 4 January 2010

Immigration Points System is Just Spin

I have been reporting on a number of visa issues relating too Intercompany Transfer Visas and foreign workers replacing the contracts of EEA with information provided to me from IT contractors, See these articles here and here on Lloyds are Being Investigated by the UK Border Agancy and Unfair Competition for UK and EU IT Workers?

Recently one of my contacts was on BBC Radio 4 on the program 'The Report' entitled 'Immigration 31st Dec 2009'. Steve can be heard from 21 minutes to about 26 minutes into the report here, although the whole report worth a listen. the report is about 'Phil Kemp investigates whether the government's new points-based system of immigration is actually working'. I am not surprised to discover that the government spin on the new points system working is just that, spin.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Closing Guantanamo Bay

I have just watched the BBC 2 Program This world on Closing Guantanamo, this can be found on BBC IPlayer here.

The former Conservative defence secretary Michael Portillo investigates the response to President Obama announcement in his second day in office that he would close Guantanamo Bay within 12 months. A task which has ultimately proved unachievable within this time frame. Personally I’m not so sure this is achievable on any short term scale because of the politics.

The most interesting aspect of this program was examining the balance between human rights and the security of the USA. Michael Portillo concluded that he would like to think that he would release the detainees. However after examining the political implications decided that he would have done the same thing as Obama. Which is release a few detainees and keep the others locked up indefinitely because you don’t have the evidence.

Obama as a liberal minded man would naturally wish to release the detainees as there is not enough evidence to convict them. I also would being a liberal release the detainees and monitor those that appear to be a threat (wrong perhaps I know). But I can see Obama’s problem.

The fact that Guantanamo Bay is helping to fuel the fire for terrorism but on the other hand if Obama released them and just one form detainee was involved in a terrorist attack in any capacity then this would be enough probably for him to be forced to resign. Not to mention the opposition in America to closing Guantanamo Bay.

It’s all very well us Libertarians calling for a closure for the right reasons of Guantanamo. But unfortunately it’s worth remembering that we live in a realistic world, one where it’s hard to make the political decisions for the right reasons. Politics can have a way of forcing your hand into a decision that we do not like. This is because leaders can find themselves in a situation where political decisions will almost certainly come back to haunt you. The right reasons are not always politically acceptable.

Please do watch this program (see here) and let me know what conclusion you would come too.

Friday, 1 January 2010

10 Predictions for 2010

Many predictions for 2010 have already been made by bloggers and I can't resist adding my own. So here are my predictions for 2010;

1. Both the Greens and UKIP will have there first MP’s after the election in Caroline Lucas and Nigel Farage

2. Lib dems will lose a number of seats in the South West but will gain others ending up with about the same number of MP’s (63)

3. The Tories will win the next general election with a very small majority.

4. England will lose on penalties in the Simi final of the World Cup.

5. A premiership football club will go into administration.

6. A major Conservative blogger will stop blogging after the general election.

7. A singer from one of Simon Cowells shows will be number one again for Christmas.

8. The general election will be in May.

9. The new Doctor Who actor, Matt Smith will help Doctor Who become even more popular than it was with David Tennant.

10.Bracknell Town centre will still not have the new town centre it so needs.

Whatever happens I hope you all have a good new year.

Cassetteboy vs Party Leaders

Cassetteboy recently had his edits of the Party leader speeches shown on BBC2's 2009 Unwrapped with Miranda Hart. The full episode can be found here on BBC IPlayer.

Here are some of the funny outtakes from it.

Also here is the full Nick Clegg edited speech

And as an extra treat do check out Cassetteboy vs Nick Griffin vs Question Time

Other clips from Cassetteboy can be found here. Enjoy!