Thursday, June 21, 2007

Weak on Crime; weak on the causes of crime

We all know that Labour gave up addressing the causes of crime some years ago. Last night on BBC Newsnight we learned that they are now giving up on recording, let alone attempting to solve, some crimes.

In April the Home Office issued guidance to police stations not to even record cheque and credit card fraud any more; people should report it direct to their bank. The bank may (or more likely may not) later report to the police.

The issue is being discussed on the site BBC-Talk about Newsnight

But with positive action We Can Cut Crime.

Monday, June 18, 2007

What has Europe ever done for us ?

Just come across the website What has Europe ever done for us? with a short film attempting to answer the question. And also this short BBC film A guide to the EU Parliament

While on the subject, it's worth noting that the EU is not responsible for all the new house building or for regional assemblies, or sharing personal data across Europe.

In fact, these are all down to the Labour Government, who have been Taking Our Liberties since 1997.

If we had a more open debate about Europe, the anti-Europeans would not be able to get away with so much rubbish. Which is the thinking behind the Speak Up Europe programme, and the Lib Dems opening their draft Europe policy to public consultation.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Sgt. Pepper day: it was 20 years ago today.....

20 years ago today Mrs Thatcher cruised to her third election victory (see BBC). It was an election very similar to 2001: an almost certain outcome with the main opposition party trying to recover from a thrashing the previous time and largely failing. But the turnout was rather higher!

It was the first General Election in which I campaigned (1983 having drawn me into politics as a mock-election candidate in the Sixth Form and then I helped in local elections). I spent the early part of the campaign delivering leaflets in between my exams, for the Liberal Alliance candidate who was up against Labour in Preston. [I remember some pretty ghastly slogans from the candidates - "Vote Wisely" - Audrey Wise; "Best 'Un for Preston" - Raj Chandran. I don't recall whether we went with "Looking for for Mr Wright?" - John Wright.]

Then, in contrast, I spent the final week helping the SDP Alliance candidate trying to defeat a Tory in Stevenage. (The candidate was one Ben Stoneham who now finds himself at Cowley Street.) I remember radical innovations (!) such as delivering different types of leaflets to different houses. But, that apart, it was fought in a very similar way no doubt to elections over the previous 100 years. No email, websites, blogs, podcasts or rolling news. There had only been a fourth TV channel for 2 and a half years!

I also remember how difficult it was to find your way around the houses in Stevenage, with houses opposite each other being in different roads. Today it is difficult to believe how well we used to do there.

The day itself was rather similar to today, weatherwise: though it poured with rain in the afternoon.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Corruption is a Crime

It comes to something when you can find out more about your own government from another country. But that seems to be the bizarre situation over the controversial al Yamamah arms deal. If the US Congress ends up investigating the issue, we could find out more about the issue from the other side of the Atlantic than over here.

There is a website (and petition) calling for allegations of serious corruption to be fully investigated:
Corruption is a Crime:

Friday, June 08, 2007

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Religious debate: one of many influences

Over at Lib Dem Voice, debate has been forthright about whether Scotland's Catholic leader was right to threaten to exclude politicians who disagree with that church's position on abortion. Setting aside that issue itself, I don't see a problem with a church leader being outspoken (as I have explained at Lib Dem Voice). We need more public debate not less, provided all views get a hearing.

One contributor commented: "...religious freaks who think your moral duty to do X, as a committed member of a religion, means you also have a duty to coerce other people to do X."

That sounds like what political freaks do, except we call it "party policy" not "moral duty"!

I was going to say that the main difference between religion and politics is that the consequences that are (alleged) to follow from not going along with religious beliefs are usually worse. (But then I am reminded that death for many was the ACTUAL consequence of not going with along some political ideologies in the recent past.)

In the realm of public policy, is it tenable to say that faith/belief should play no role? Is faith not just one of many prejudices that we all bring to any matter under debate? Sometimes they are prejudices written down in books over 1000 years ago; sometimes we get them from our parents or friends. Are one set more important than the other?

Take global warming. And I don't mean the debate about whether humans are making a difference or not. I mean the bigger issue: the view that global warming matters. Is it a FACT that it matters or just one of belief, albeit a belief shared by most? It only really matters if one is bothered about future generations. Is it a matter of religious faith that I believe I have a responsibility to them? Or because my parents taught me to care about others? If I had no children, would it matter less to me?

I agree with Andy's hope that one day choice of religion will be as relevant as choice of football team. They both have symbols, chants, and a belief (usually irrational!) in the supremacy of their team. But we all know that football is not a matter of life and death: it is much more important than that!

Is the only difference between religious belief and political principle the length of time since the ideas were first articulated? Or perhaps the difference is the number of people who subscribe to them? Or perhaps it is the degree to which a position is supported by evidence? Or is it about what I will do to you if you disagree with me? Is there a spectrum that goes: religion then political principle then science? Do they overlap at the edges?

I guess I end at that fundamental liberal principle: you can believe whatever you like provided you respect my right to disagree. I hold that view whether your beliefs are written in an ancient book or because your mate in the pub convinced you. The problem, of course, comes when YOUR belief leads you to action with which I disagree. Do I have a right to stop you? And that's where society / democracy / politics comes in to decide.

I could go on (e.g. Why are some public policy issues matters of conscience and some not? Are faith schools damaging to the cohesion of society?) but I would be here all night.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Make the G8 stick to their promises

Two years ago the main world leaders at the G8 summit made a number of promises on overseas aid. Oxfam is continuing its campaign to ensure they stick to their promises, as we come up to the next G8 summit. I was out in the town centre on Saturday collecting signatures (with the Chelmsford Make Trade Fair campaign). There is an online email/petition you can sign, on their website: G8 Summit 2007