30 May 2010

Thick Skin Bias

It's tough at the top. In national politics, you get all sorts flung at you. Whether it's Evan Harris smeared as Dr Death (a cheap nickname previously reserved for the likes of the serial killer Harold Shipman or Nazi concentration camp doctor Aribert Heim), Elwyn Watkins smeared as being in cahoots with Muslim extremists by the odious Phil Woolas (and he's rightly taking Woolas to court over it), or David Laws who was forced into revealing his sexuality because of an unfair expenses rule (and has felt forced to resign), you have to be prepared for this kind of personal rough and tumble if you want to participate at the top level of the UK's (pseudo-)democratic process.

I'm sure the perpetrators of these attacks feel fully justified in making these attacks. But all these kinds of incidents mean that the only people who will ever succeed in politics are those with thick skins. I'm not sure this is positive. I'm sure there are many potential politicians out there who would be dedicated, persuasive and highly intelligent contributors, but will never get seriously involved because of what they would personally have to put themselves through. Perhaps this will always be an inevitable consequence of having a competitive democracy, but I fear we are unnecessarily shrinking the political gene-pool by insisting our MPs have thick skins.

21 May 2010

My Top 3 Acts for Repeal

Nick Clegg wants our suggestions of liberty infringing laws we'd like to see reviewed. Here are my top 3, with bonus accompanying Facebook groups to show your support:

1. Misuse of Drugs Act, 1971. The Daddy of the UK's drug laws, which criminalises millions of people for engaging in activity that is only harmful to themselves. This criminalisation leads to a whole host of knock-on problems: profits for criminal gangs, dangerously inconsistent purity, addicts treated as criminals rather than patients, addicts turning to crime to fund their habit, billions spent on futile attempts to stop the trade, confused messages about the dangers of drugs. Our part in the global War on Drugs makes us complicit in civil war in central America, the funding of the Taliban in Afghanistan, and capital punishment for drug offenders across much of Asia. Facebook: Nick Clegg: Order an Impact Assessment of the Misuse of Drugs Act!

2. Digital Economy Act, 2010. With the Internet playing an increasingly central role in everyday life, the government has introduced powers that will allow entire households to be cut off based on allegations of copyright infringement. The Act has not yet come into force, so we don't yet have any idea what the practical consequences will be, but it will may well lead to increased Wi-Fi theft, the end of public Wi-Fi in caf├ęs and libraries, and increased use of encryption that ends up encouraging illegal filesharing. Remember, from June 12th, if anyone in your home is accused of sharing music online, you could end up without Internet. Facebook: Against the Digital Economy Bill

3. Health Act 2006. The smoking ban in public places was introduced in this Act. I have to admit I was initially in favour of this ban. I find smoking disgusting. I used to hate having to sit around in smoky pubs in order to be sociable, and I hated the way my clothes smelled when leaving the pub. But on reflection the smoking ban has gone too far. Since the ban came in the number of pub closures has exploded, with all the resultant bankruptcies, job losses and damage to communities. A more sensible approach would allow smoking in separate, well ventilated rooms away from the main bar would allow smokers and non-smokers alike to have a social life without government interference. Facebook: Nick Clegg: Include an Amendment to the Smoking Ban in the Repeal Bill

5 May 2010

Alan Johnson: Pathetic Hypocrite

Alan Johnson, 4th May 2010:
"They would have an amnesty for illegal immigrants, they would allow asylum seekers to work, which is utter, utter madness."

Alan Johnson, 24th May 2007:
Mr Johnson was asked by the Mirror if he supported an amnesty and replied: "Yes. We need secure borders but also to be pragmatic about people already living here."