Liberal delusions

LIBERAL-Democrat leader Nick Clegg last Monday admitted that his party faces a serious collapse in support in future elections due to the unpopularity of the Con-Dem coalition’s cuts programme, which goes far beyond what is necessary to resolve Britain’s budget deficit problems and into unnecessary and spiteful attacks on support systems for those on very low incomes, the growing army of unemployed, pensioners, the disabled and so on. These attacks are ideologically driven by the capitalist philosophy that giving help to the poor and vulnerable only makes them lazy and encourages them to breed.

Many Lib-Dem members are appalled at this callousness, having been under the illusion that theirs was a progressive and humane party. Decades of being a minority party allowed the Liberal Party and later the merged Lib-Dems to portray themselves as all things to all people: against war, for freedom, for equality and democracy and for small businesses.

Dig deep and there are a lot of contradictions in that package. When they speak of freedom, they mean freedom for the business world, for capital to be moved around easily and freedom of opportunity to make a profit out of anything, including essential public services.

But they do not mean freedom for trade unionists, freedom for strikers, or freedom from fear of unemployment, homelessness and poverty. They regard these basic working class freedoms as a brake and hindrance on the capitalists’ freedom to make profits.

Many Lib-Dem members are shocked when they find their leader going along with the Tory anti-working class measures so easily. Deputy party leader Simon Hughes has demanded that the Lib-Dems in the coalition should have the power of veto over controversial Tory proposals. And Clegg is ignoring him; the Tories would never allow it.

Clegg claims there is no collapse of morale in his party but at the same time morale will soon be restored when they get on to more Lib-Dem policies — namely changing the voting system in this country.

The Tories agreed to put their proposals for an alternative vote scheme to a referendum. It is not exactly the proportional representation scheme the Lib-Dems wanted but a system that would ask voters to list candidates in order of preference and block any party that could not win at least 50 per cent of the vote, after lower scoring candidates had been eliminated and their supporters’ second choices transferred. It would still be a bourgeois democracy and the elected parliament would still be a minor power within the total state machine.

But the Lib-Dems are unlikely to win the changes they want — both the Tories and Labour know that if the changes are passed they will never hold government again without having to do a coalition deal with the Lib-Dems.

Meanwhile the Tories are very happy to be humiliating the Lib-Dems and seeing them crashing in the polls. The Tories and the Whigs (Liberals) have been rivals for over 300 years; now the Tories have it in their power to smash the party completely and are delighted.

The Whigs were once a mighty party of the landed gentry growing rich on the slave and sugar trades and experimenting with innovations — canal transport — steam — factory production and so on that triggered the industrial revolution.

Now their successors, the Lib-Dems, are a small party representing the interests of small businesses and some of the intelligentsia — the middle classes who are used by the ruling class to keep the workers down and run the logistics of administration.

History has turned them into a sideshow of the coming historical main act — the clash between the interests of the ruling class and the working class.

Now Lib-Dem members must choose which side they are on in that battle. Those who really are progressive and humane must throw in their lot with the organised labour movement. And those who have pretended to be somewhere in the middle while happily serving the bosses now cannot help but expose where they really stand. The middle ground has ceased to exist.


Leicester Tory councillors set to pocket £40k of iPads

We don’t often find ourselves agreeing with the TaxPayers’ Alliance, but plans by councillors at Leicester City Council to award themselves a nice, new, top of the range bundle of Apple iPads really is something else.

Cuts galore, shiny new toys for the boys

Tory group leader Ross Grant – who was one of the first to bag a trial of the £699 devices – insists that the top of the range consumer device has made him ”more productive” as a councillor, enthusing:

Whenever a constituent stops me in the street I can write down and begin researching their problem immediately on the iPad, because I’m connected to the internet right around the city.

‘Also when I’m in key meetings I’ve asked for council agendas to be e-mailed as PDF files to the iPad so I no longer need printed documents. This could save the council money in the long term.

We would have thought a netbook costing less than half of the price would do that job just as effectively – heck, just about any smartphone is capable of reading PDFs and accessing the web on the move – but I guess they won’t make the Tory boy look as stylish and hip on the street.

We also wonder how long Mr Grant will keep his iPad if he struts around the poorer areas of the town soon to be blighted by cuts making “notes” and “researching problems” in the streets.

Fury @ noses in the iTrough

Matthew Sinclair, Research Director at the TaxPayers’ Alliance was suitably unimpressed:

“It is right that the council should try to avoid wasting paper where they can. But incredible that they think that means providing councillors with flash new iPads at a cost of tens of thousands of pounds.

A small, affordable laptop would do the same job, though it certainly wouldn’t be as exciting a perk for the councillors.

GMB union chief Richard Taylor was also equally outraged by the council’s decision:

I think it is utterly disgusting that when the council itself admits it may have to axe 1,000 jobs, it is planning to equip all the councillors with an iPad.

The council knows it must save millions over the next few years, so what it is thinking about with this ridiculous plan is beyond me.

We are talking about frontline services being cut, which could mean getting rid of people who tidy streets, empty bins and care for the elderly and vulnerable in care homes. And yet they think it’s OK to spend £700 a time on iPads for councillors.

Unjustifiable expense

If the council come to their senses, they are welcome to browse our selection of top netbooks, all offering the ability to read PDFs, make notes and research issues for substantially less than an iPad – and they’re all light enough not to upset poor old Sarah, and come with an excellent battery life too.

Drop the councillors a personal note

If you’re living in Leicester, why not drop your local councillor and perhaps offer some cheaper alternatives to the iPad? Or maybe suggest how their money may be spend more effectively?

You can find the councillor’s personal webpages here. Drop us a line if you get a response.

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“Sarah’s Law” – The Politics of Fear

Alex Roberts is our guest writer for Nobody Likes a Tory today. Take a moment and enjoy Alex’s thoughts on Twitter. You can also find Alex on facebook here.

Around a decade ago on July 1st 2000, 8-year-old Sarah Payne was tragically murdered by a convicted sex offender, Roy Whiting. As Whiting was already on the Sex Offenders Register before he murdered young Sarah, a campaign was launched in the months after her death by her distraught parents, aiming to allow details of the Sex Offenders Register to be made available so parents will know if there is a convicted offender around the area in which their kids will be. This is a particularly difficult topic to write on; not least because I myself am in fact a year younger than what Sarah would be now.

At first you may be overwhelmed by sympathy for the Payne family, and that is totally understandable. However, I’m not sure this one horrific case can be used as a staple of how to secure communities. I have the utmost sympathy for Sarah’s parents but think that we should be wary of making any sweeping generalisations. What we have to remember is that tragic cases like this one are few and far between, the sheer amount of media coverage and public outcry proving that it is clearly something out of the ordinary. Paedophilia, child-assault and child-murder are not common occurrences. I fear, though, that a knee-jerk law such as this one will create an unhealthy climate of fear that, if anything will only increase the frequency of acts of such a nature (which the very law riles against).

When the authorities and mass media bombard the public with propaganda to suppose that an enemy exists on every street corner, the public seem to retreat into a state of mass panic. What I mean by this, for example, is that in the United States, it remains a constitutional right to be armed. They say this is for protection from the “enemy” yet that is quite a vague justification, don’t you think? I mean, we here in the United Kingdom are not a vastly armed populace, and being armed isn’t a constitutional right. Yet we have less crime and more secure neighbourhoods than the United States in proportion to both populations. Fear makes us live in panic and we all know that when people panic, they don’t tend to think and act coherently. It makes us go crazy sometimes, to be living in fear. It ends up churning out more enemies than what existed before. The idea of people “snapping” is always made worse, for example, when guns are in abundance as they won’t think twice before firing into anyone. In context, I am worried that instilling such an abstract fear of paedophiles will not make us any stronger as communities because we will start to speculate about any male who even smiles at a child. If the fear instilled is to a sizeable amount, then we could very well see an increase in paedophilia because of the culture of alienating unmarried, single men without any substance to go on.

Without trying to stray too far from the point, a law was introduced in the United States in 1994, known as “Megan’s Law”. On July 29, 1994 seven-year-old Megan Kanka was murdered by her neighbour and previously convicted sex offender, Jesse Timmendequas. “Megan’s Law” is similar to the proposed “Sarah’s Law” in that it requires convicted sex offenders to notify the local police department when they move into a neighbourhood. Whilst created under entirely understandable circumstances, official US records show that it has had no effect on community tenure (i.e., time living in community to first re-arrest), showed no clear effect in reducing sexual re-offences, had no effect on the type of sexual re-offence or first time sexual offence, and had no effect on reducing the number of victims of sexual offences. What’s more, official UK statistics show that 83% of attackers are known to their victims and 54% are partners or former partners. This shows that the “danger of strangers” is particularly weaker than we may have thought.

Lastly, and whilst I fully understand and sympathise with the bereaved for their horrific losses, in this case the parents of Sarah Payne, I cannot help but think this law will not help our communities but will only ostracise people even more than in the past. We must remember that the majority of our communities are safe places. We shouldn’t let paranoid parenting obstruct future generations from naturally enjoying the outdoors and other people’s company, and lest we forget the lyric uttered by rap artist Scroobius Pip:

“Thou shalt not think that any male over the age of 30 that plays with a child that is not their own is a paedophile. Some people are just nice.”