Sunday, 31 October 2010

No mean no!

I oppose forcing people to vote. As much as we politicos believe everyone is a s fascinated and obsessed by politics as we are they are not. If people have no view of whom they want as a candidate then they have the right not to be forced to choose, people have the right to hold no particular view and thus not vote. Indeed the right to hold no particular view is essentially the British position on most things and often terribly sensible one.

So we have those who hold a view about candidates and are willing to expresses those views at the ballot are empowered to do so and those who hold not views are respected. Unfortunately those left out in the cold are those who seek no representation, those whose views have no candidate or who have no truck with the dominate politics . In short those who seek to vote but seek to return no candidate at all.

You can debate differing electoral systems all day but there is something they all lack and that is the ability to reject all candidates and enjoy a representative free world. Now those who agree as I do that people should be able to register a none of the above view argue that if there is majority in favour of no candidate there must be a new election (with the same candidate or a wholly new set of ones I assume).
I do not accept this view, it is my view that if a majority of people choose to vote for none of the above they should not be forced to vote and vote until some candidate is chosen. No they should have exactly what they have voted for, no candidate. So instead of having a MP with their resulting surgery and voting on their behalf they would have nothing and the monies spent on the MPs wage redistributed among the representless population.

This is not to punish them, indeed this entire proposal is to treat voting adult like adults. If they seek no representative then that is exactly what they should receive, enjoying both the ups and the downs of their democratically chosen choice. If we are serious about empowering and democratising people and systems then the right to opt out must be part of the new approach.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Yorkshire as a federal state

Before I start I wish to apologise, I once was very much, anti-federalist in my ill-advised youth. I misunderstood what the call for independence meant. I could see my beloved union (UK) being dissolved into separate nations. I could see the UK being neutered first by the defection of Scotland, wales and Northern Ireland, followed by Yorkshire and England ending up just as the rump of the south east (with London enjoying the status of a city state).

So I think it would assist your movement to clarify what independence means and what being a federal state means. Federal states are largely apart of modern European nation forming, they are a result of German / Italian and even USA unification. They are a result of small nations tied by tradition and language forming into larger nations they are not a result of larger nations slowly dissolving.

Here is my first issue with current federal state structure; they have level upon level upon level of representation and bureaucracy. They start with the medieval parish governance aka parish councils and then there are towns with their majors and often town based administration and above them the larger councils and above them the federal fiefdoms and above them the nation and now above them, like a great yoke, the EU and sitting as deity to all that is bureaucracy sits the UN.

My second issue is the form of the federal state, which areas should be unified together to form these new federal state? Unlike Germany or Italy, Britain though formed of some nations; lacks areas which would naturally form into an easy system of federal areas. This is less true of the northern region and even lesser true of Yorkshire a notable exception. The south east on the other hand holds no such strong identities and would care little for a new federal area.

I mention this second issue as one the failings of the new labour constitutional / devolution reforms was its attempts to impose federal areas for which a senses of history and cultural identity did not exist and they were of course opposed and eventually removed completely. So an important step towards any regional independence must be a national conversation regarding the total complete federalisation of Great Britain. Either all of Britain must be a federal state or none should be.

As long as the federal states do not have national voting rights (as they do in the US) they do not even have to even be evenly sized, they just need reflect the wishes and cultural uniqueness of the populace. Indeed this ideal would greatly assist Yorkshire independence as the sole purpose of federal areas would be to interpret legislation within a particular cultural setting and of course drive economic funding and bring democracy to their people. Also this would prevent the farce that was the south east region used by the EU which was designed solely for population’s considerations.

The idea of culturally determined federal areas (I would prefer not to use the word state) is not the only unique idea an independent Yorkshire nation could forged ahead with. Another is the removal rather than the addition of bureaucracy. It seems to me that Yorkshire is perfect for a little experiment in the true devolution of power.

Firstly the end of the town hall politics as we know it, in this model the newly federated Yorkshire would abolish all local councils and replace the elected councillors with one town specific mayor and smaller villages could elect a single parish councillor, empowered to take charge of local policing a local budget and even limit control of other areas of polices. Above these would still be the newly formed Yorkshire federal legislature and the UK government but no more duplication with town mayors and councils as town mayors again represent a particular cultural identity and need instead of councils based on random population distribution.

This would remove one level of bureaucracy instead of merely adding level upon level and of course strengthens local accountability and local values and identity. As for the shape and form of the federal body, that should be an issue for the locality rather than enforced nationally. Again beyond external policy (military and foreign policy) the exact power distribution between the differing federal areas should be decided by the people of the differing federal areas and even be allowed to differ between towns and villages.
So what I hope that any new structure of British politics can achieve uniqueness, less central dominance and a new focus on the cultural and economic difference behind the calls for federalisation and above all if not a decrease in bureaucracy certainly not an increase in bureaucracy.

Hureai Kippu

Many eons ago I read a book on anarchist theory and anarchist economic theory. Without boring my beloved readers the entire model was the exchanging of time between people, all time being equal. I mention this because the government recent big idea reminded me of this economics of time.

Now if you are a regular reader of my blog (bless you, and get a job!) you will know I am a cynical man. I have always believed that if we wish more people to volunteer or indeed is we wish to staff the big society we needed to create some incentive for volunteering (and oddly enough a non-monetary solution).

Now I know nothing about Japanese politics and I could find no English article discussing Hureai Kippu so I cannot base my comments upon the original policies successes or failure so I will have to base it upon theory. Firstly there is a uniquely British aspect to this idea. Britain has post-education tuitions fees; in short Britain has and will have a sizable per-portion of its population that owes the government vast sums for these fees.

It seems relevantly simple to me to arrange a big society exchange in which often unemployed or ill experienced ex-students can participate in community voluntary schemes in return for deductions in there student loans. Added to ex-students we can add people seeking to pay off their parking / driving fines or even minor criminals fines.

Now this is not the whole solution there are of course others who have no loans or fines and so would choose some other incentive or at least non-monetary reward. Maybe those who volunteer with no loans could earn the time of those re-paying their and apply it to their own voluntary community schemes
In addition to the speeders and ex-students there is another group of a person whom rewarded voluntary work could reach and that is the unemployed. I am sure there some reading this blog who will simply say they should be forced to undertake voluntary work (a punishment we reserve for criminals).

Not only do I believe forcing innocent people to work is deeply questionable but it also places a very heavy burden of enforcement and monitoring onto the voluntary organisations that they are supposed to be assisting.

No dear reader even the unemployed should be incentivised to volunteer, of course the training and value of voluntary work must be communicated to the unemployed, indeed one of the calls that the big society needs to answer is making it easier and more rewarding for the unemployed to get involved. Added to these minor benefits for the unemployed maybe subsidies for a course of their choice or the right to go on holiday or vouchers for school clothing and toys.

My point is that the best way to staff the big society is via existing volunteers and new semi-volunteers. We must enable people to choose from a range of reward, yes time for time is one of are tools but time or student fees or time for school uniform vouchers or gym membership is perfectly acceptable and in the end the salvation of the big society.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Housing policy:

I live in Reading and I often take the train into London, I have never in my four years of commuting ever had a seat regardless of the time I chose to embark, these trains are every half an hour in peek time and comprise very large trains.

I mention this to make a point people travel to London from Reading, people who are permanently employed in London and some who wage permitting would choose to live in London. They are forced instead of dwelling in London to wake up pay to stand on a crowded train and then on a packed underground train just to get to work.

Meanwhile some fictional family is living in 400+ a week accommodation not having to face the daily trek to work or suffer any crowded transportation and who pays for whom? It is the hard working, down at heal commuter that pays for the extreme rents charged, the very same rents that force the commute to undergo the drudgery of the daily commute, and this is supposedly fair and right?

Add into this a very important consideration, since when was it the job/duty of the state to ensure economic multiplicity in boroughs in the capital? Since when did economics multiplicity matter? Indeed until the birth of the modern state any concept of economic multiplicity would have been alien and people would have been forced at best to move if they lost their jobs.

In the end a cap on housing benefit is the only way to control the rent we pay to private landlords and thus accidentally subsidise the buy to let boom that has prevented so many hard working families form funding a permanent house and also to reduces the burden of housing people in expensive areas.
Yes people will have to move and yes moving is unpleasant and commuting is unpleasant but people who work have to do both of these things in order for the circumstances to meet there income and while I would never support a policy that made people homeless and I mean actually homeless but I do support a policy which makes housing more realistic

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Get on your bus

Blaenau Gwent in Wales at 14.8 per cent
City of Kingston upon Hull at 14.5 per cent
Sandwell in the West Midlands, at 14.2 per cent

These towns have the undignified distinction of being the three areas of highest unemployment in the UK. Almost a fifth of people are not employed and yet the unemployed remain imprisoned in these dead end towns. We can think of many reason, to be honest, the long term unemployed are not the most mobile of people, they often fear finding housing and even free, parental, childcare elsewhere and so they stay here, enabled by a permissive state and ensnared by the same permissive state.

People who deeply love their families and communities and houses and work often move vast distances in search of a better job or job opportunities, they often take their children out of school several times in order, in the end, to give them better life chances and a better things. They do all of this not for state funded rewards but the reward in the knowledge that their children will not have to struggle as they had done or that a better life lies ahead.

Now those whose homes are guaranteed by the state and who bread is provided similarly and who care nothing for their shameless consumption of limited state resources or the life chance of their own children have no reason to move from the above death traps, nor should be parents and will never be made to move but there are those, deserving poor, willing to seek brighter tomorrows if the state will just assist them.

If the state will guarantee them housing in their new location and easy to accesses subsidy for transportation for a short transitionary (and even interview) period and assist them in finding jobs in these new and oft alien location. Then those who were ensnared by the state shall be freed; they will happily move away from the dead towns into living towns, into new productive live and better life chances of their children.

This may lead to the above great towns above dying out but it will liberate the ensnared inheritance from there pointless, worthless and functionless grips. If we want people to look nationally for jobs and I see no reason why not then we must support them. We must house them, support them and always be there for them, for in return for a new life they have forsaken the familiar for us. In short we must guarantee this new world is better than the old.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Dear Mr. Cameron

In April this year I lost my jobs and despite living as long as I could off my savings I was eventually forced to request job seekers allowance. I want you to know I singed on in good faith, willing to be helped back into work. In fact I was willing to go back into any office based job.

I also want you to know I find your employees at the job centre to be useless, they refuse to accept dyslexia as a disability, they failed to sort out my national insurance numbers (an issue I solved on my own) they failed to even look at my CV. They gave no advice or guidance without being pushed and barely looked at the detailed record I kept of my job hunt, often asking question which a second glance to this list would have easily answered.

What, however, annoyed me most out of all this carelessness is that, though I had set myself a target of looking for five jobs, a day claimants only have to look for 3 a week! They treated me with no greater kindness or offered no greater assistance due to my clear commitment to finding work. In short no matter how hard you looked, you were treated the same, which is hardly fair.

I have now found myself a job, a 15,000 a year job. That is a wage decrease of £6,000 but I am still proud to have a job. I would still rather work for lower wages then stay of tax subsidised benefits for a second longer and there are many like me.
I understand the times ahead are going to be hard and I am thankful that my new employment has granted me a shield from the vacillations of state support and I am thankful my parent are kind enough to let me live with them and contribute to the net income of the house. Most of all, however, I am proud to be able to stand on my own two feet.

My message to you Mr. Cameron is simple. Unless unemployment explodes to stay the course, to remain faithful in our parties belief in private sector led recovery and in not indebting are future generations for our own gratification and I want you to know there are jobs out there for people willing to make concessions and even loose income. To remain steadfast in are belief that the British people will survive, survive though are families and are own hard work and survive to assist the state.

So when Mr. Cameron the opposition lampoon you and are party for serving vested interest or ideological cuts please remember me and the millions of hard working people who will carry on regardless, who will find new jobs and whose meagre incomes should not be taken by those unwilling to do as we would do. Whose wages should not go to support the idle or interest repayments to hostile governments forever in a day.

Mosque and Chapel

For those of you who are not Methodist, the Methodist church encourages its followers to use their skills and power to help the; community, church and Jesus. I have always felt a little like the little drummer boy in the hymn I had nothing to bring so I bring the only gift I have and that is honestly.

I live in Reading which is a multi-cultural town and recently a mosque has been completed, ironically near the local giant Tesco. There is a wonderful vista: the giant Tesco sign and the shining gold dome of the mosque and I am sadden and intimidated by this alien building so alien to me and so alien to my faith.
It is not as if this Mosque is the only non-Christian religious building there has been a Buddhist temple for many year and even a Hindu temple (based in an old Methodist church oddly enough) and I am sure there are more but these have adopted are architectural norms, these other faith one can ignore but the Mosque is not in tradition of British architecture religious or otherwise.

I am shocked by my shock. I lived in Leicester for three years a city with more than one traditional designed mosque. Indeed Leicester had a variety of non-western designed buildings including a Jan (Hindu) temple which was clad in Jan deity’s in white marble and none of this bothered me even a little.

So I came to conclude that one’s homes town is different, one’s home is different. Here we become insensibly sensitive to the alien architectural styling of a Mosque and unfortunately equate this alien design with an alien faith. Well I have known Muslims and they are no different from us, good people, striving to be good. Yes they are not identical to us nor are there architecture but we cannot hold them at fault for having a different religious or architectural tradition.

So dear reader be not ashamed at being taken aback and even a little irritated, we are merely meek and weak people trying to make are way in a world where the new or the alien makes us uncomfortable but soon enough the alien become the common, given enough time a Mosque is no more noticeable then church.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

On higher education

The biggest issue facing higher education is not actually, directly, financial. It is how to connect student education with student outcomes via there retrospective universities and course choices. This is a very complex way of saying something very simple. The funding any university receive should reflect the income of its ex-students.

I am very unhappy with the idea that the government should use the higher education system as some proxy for economic planning. I.e. funding only those courses which it perceives will be required far into the future. I am also unhappy with the current system where the whim of the student is the sole economic force in degree choices and there is utterly no connection between employability and course take up.

Therefore I suggest a new system: Allow universities to charge whatever they wish all of which must be totally funded by post-employment paid loans but base the funding the universities then receives on the money recouped by their ex-student on these loans. Ideally the universities would hold the loans (regulated by the government) themselves and directly survive at least in part from the income garnished from these loans.

Of course the government will provide the bases funding to all universities / technical institutes keeping the loan amounts within a reasonable level and also paying the entire loaned amounts of disabled and poorer students on their successful and only upon there successful graduation. It may even wish to guarantee payment of some per cent of some favoured courses loan.

Universities can always sell or partner with business in providing research or it can partner with government for the same purpose. Indeed universities would be wise to partner with business to link directly into their recruitment schemes and provided training to their employees and thus build an additional source of income and a possible avenue for their graduates. So whilst research would remain unaffected universities can offer more training and better integration with business.

The benefit of my system is it makes the university financially responsible for the courses it offers and also the quality and applicability of the teaching they offer and of course the student is finically responsible for their course via the loan. It also offers government some leeway to focus recourses on its favoured course and of course it will lead to better educated / trained post graduate students. It would also encourage a greater synergy between business and university and also pays for the research and development which university provides.

There is one further alteration we need, we need to stop saying all course are equal to students and start telling students the employability resulting from different courses at different universities. We must explain to them the financial implications and possibilities of university and teach them of the possible outcomes of their course choice or their lack of choice.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Why are we hitting are core vote?

I am not and never will be against making people pay for their education, they received the education, they will benefit from it and they are improved by it. The important point is the word they. Not their parents or their neighbour or any other person connected via blood or via nationhood.

I say this because it is a myth that upfront tuition fees are paid for by student. I doubt any student (beyond mature) could afford tuition fees as they are paid up front and I doubt even more anymore students will be able to afford the larger ones.
So who pay the new increased tuition fees? Well of course because we now believe in social mobility as an absolute, the poor do not pay. The student, who comes from a family who dare earn above £21,00 and thus should or will have to pay his fee cannot realistically pay so that leaves the parents to pay and parents are expected to pay because it is there income which is used in the decision.

So asking okay off (you fees are only paid if you earn over £21,000) parents to pay £3,000 was bad enough but suddenly turning around and demanding £7,000 is nothing short of criminal. How many of us could suddenly find not just £7,000 but £21,000 to fund the education of our children? How fair is it to make hard working parents, who (yes) pay huge amounts of tax, pay an extra £21,00 to send their children to university?

We can all defend the imperfect alteration to child benefit, in the end, those who earn over £44,000 can suffer the loss and we can try to work out inequality in this reduction but can we defend asking hardworking and tax paying families for upfront payments in excesses of £21,000. Is this the reward for the hard work and faithful tax payment of are core vote? (The enterprising muddle classes).

Add into this another consideration, a child of a family with an income £21,000, who chooses to study manufacturing (an economic sector the government would give their first born to see resurrected) would be, or his parents would have to pay at least £21,000 in tuition fees. While a student born in poverty who undertakes a degree in media studies or foot wear design (actual cores at DMU) the state would pay the £21,000 for them. Again I ask is this fair?

If the state wants to increase tuition fees they become an increased barrier to the enterprising class, that class which actually funds and operates the state and the economy. As I stated at the start I believe university should be paid for by the educated student and this after they have finished their study and began to earn their increased income. Let them service the debt incurred in receiving there education, let everyone attend university and pay for it themselves afterwards. Let us not punish the enterprising classes.