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A survey has revealed that if witness to anti-social behaviour, two thirds of people would walk by rather than intervene. But in the UK’s permissive society, is it really any wonder?

The Home Office describes anti-social behaviour (ASB) as ‘any aggressive, intimidating or destructive activity that damages or destroys another person’s quality of life.’ The moniker of ‘ASB’ deflects attention away from what it often actually is: criminal activity. The police offer an extensive list of examples of anti-social behaviour, some of which are flagrantly criminal, if not immediately connected to criminal activity. [1]

Anti-social behaviour is nothing new, it has just become more prominent since successive governments are progressively worse at curtailing it. Their efforts to foster a socially democratic ‘tolerant’ and permissive society have been enacted simply because they have not only lost control of the systems used to regulate it (such as the police), but also because they do not want to pay for such systems to be repaired, let alone maintained. Social democracy is the cheap product of cheap thinking.

It is little wonder then that Mr Cameron – among the country’s leading un-intellectuals – allows others to think for him. His favoured think-tank, ‘Policy Exchange’ has revealed that two-thirds of the public would walk on by if they saw a group of teenagers drinking and issuing verbal abuse [2]. Their suggested solution to this problem is to create ‘Citizen Police Academies’ to empower the public, to make them confident in approaching and performing a citizen’s arrest on such groups if necessary.

Their suggestion is made on the basis that  36% of adults would be interested in attending free classes with police officers and volunteers to learn about combating anti-social behaviour and how to avoid danger when walking home alone. This is not an impressive statistic. The word ‘free’ probably accounts for half of this number – the thrill of getting something for nothing always evokes disproportionate enthusiasm, but such thrills often exhaust themselves in equal measure. So, too, the adoption of a ‘Citizen Police Academy’ would be the governmental equivalent of that same ‘something-for-nothing’ excitement, with the same disappointing returns.

Policy Exchange are quoted as remarking that “Citizen police academies are one way of helping the public feel more confident about their role in preventing criminal activity.” [3] But this wishful thinking ignores the real consequences of people exhausted by inaction on ASB, especially when cases like those of Gary Newlove are etched in the public conscience. Mr Newlove was attacked outside his house in Warrington, Cheshire, on 10 August 2007, having gone outside to confront a gang of youths who were vandalising his car. Having had his head kicked like a football, he died in hospital two days later. Indeed, there are a litany of cases where those who have intervened to prevent ASB have themselves been prosecuted. Such an imbalance in justice is as much a deterrent as the threat of violence.

And all this forgets the simple point: the electorate pays the police to do this job. Unfortunately, because of under-funding, cuts and mismanagement, seeing police on patrol in a preventative capacity is a rare occurrence. More often they are often assigned to come and clear up after a crime has been committed or even in progress. No wonder the scum that intimidate and threaten are emboldened by the lack of visible authority.

Who knows if Mr Cameron will adopt the thinking formulated by his sub-contracted brain, but whether he does or not, he is just as guilty of propagating the problem of ASB as Labour were before him. A citizen’s arrest on characters such as Mr Cameron and his left-wing tribe would be of inestimable and long term value.

© thepanopticonblog, 2012

Notes

  • 1. Nuisance neighbours; Vandalism; Graffiti; Intimidation; Drinking on the street; Litter and fly-tipping; Off road motorbike nuisance; Abandoned vehicles; Substance misuse such as glue sniffing; Begging; Prostitution related activity; Noise coming from alarms, pubs, clubs, business or industry; Inappropriate use of fireworks; rowdy or inconsiderate behaviour; Hoax calls to the emergency services; Pubs or clubs serving alcohol after hours; Malicious communication; Hate incidents where abuse involves race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age or disability; Firearms incidents such as use of an imitation weapon.
  • 2. ‘Anti-social behaviour: Two-thirds would ‘walk on by”. BBC News. 12 December 2012.
  • 3. Ibid.
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The real victories of last night’s by-elections belonged to UKIP. But what might this signal and how will  Mr Cameron, Mr Miliband and Mr Clegg translate the messages?

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

 – ‘The Second Coming,’ W.B. Yeats

After last night’s by-elections, the only party that has cause to celebrate is UKIP. Coming second place in both Rotherham and Middlesbrough, and third in Croydon, is no small achievement for a party that has worked tirelessly along the tributaries of British politics into the mainstream in only a matter of years.

That Labour won in all three seats is no surprise, but as Daniel Hannan has remarked with regards to Rotherham in particuar, ‘I don’t want to hear any Rotherham Labour voters moaning about the arrogance of the political class’, since it was under the governance of that party that Denis MacShane resigned after criminally obtaining public money by deceit, and it was also the party that saw inactivity over child grooming cases and the removal of foster children from UKIP-voting parents [1]. Tribal voting is the stuff of primitive thinking, so of the 9,866 voters in Rotherham who voted Labour, it is probably fair to claim that some did so with only half their wits.

It is also no surprise that the Conservatives should made no progress in these areas. That the Liberal Democrats lost their deposits in Rotherham and Croydon proves beyond doubt that they are the party of insignificance and that they can no longer be used to amplify the voices of discontented voters. Expect them to be annihilated at the next General Election.

What of this? In a previous article, this blog suggested that UKIP’s ascent in Corby was not the result of a mid-term blues protest suggested by the Conservatives, it was the result of long-term disenchantment with useless politicians and their discredited parties. UKIP’s showing in Rotherham and elsewhere would seem to underscore this notion.

Mr Miliband need not break the habit of his leadership; he need do nothing, nor come up with credible policies – the coalition are perfectly adept at blustering incoherence and unravelling without the aid of parliament’s odious Chief Scout. Heaven help the UK when Prime Minister Miliband has to actually make the ‘tough decisions’ he bleats on about. Yet what the Rotherham vote has shown is that UKIP are not just a party of and for the right, they are increasingly a party of and for all political colours. If they can succeed in Labour ‘safe’ seats at the same level as they have in Rotherham, Corby and Middlesbrough, then Mr Miliband may actually have to call an inquiry into thinking about the direction in which he is heading.

And what of Mr Cameron? He is the best publicist of his own stupidity. He continues to alienate the sort of Conservative voters his party has haemorrhaged to UKIP under his leadership, not only because of his dogged determination to make social democrats out of the Tories, but also by refusing to  retract his typically immature remarks that UKIP members are mostly ‘closet racists’. The truth is that ‘centre ground’ politics is not only unpopular, it is inherently damaging to democracy. Yet it is clear that Mr Cameron is just a less uncomfortable looking version of the unhinged Gordon Brown: he is intractably stubborn, to the extent that an easy victory in the 2015 General Election will not be his for the taking. He will sooner listen to the likes of Matthew D’Ancona, who wrote in a wildly inaccurate and faintly bizarre recent article:

…the very worst thing Cameron could do now is to rip up his centre-ground strategy and hurtle off to the Right in search of these voters. Not many of them would come back. And many more centrist waverers would be lost in the process. [2]

Though this is precisely what Mr Cameron would want to hear – and certainly the only advice he is likely to listen to – it is at the cost of his own party and democracy. So Mr Cameron’s likeness to Mr Brown is evidenced once again: when a person (let alone a politician) cannot be seen to fight for their own survival, then it rings as defective. By heading off in the right direction, Mr Cameron could outflank UKIP’s ever growing number and bring under his wing the working class vote that UKIP appeals to: immigration, crime, withdrawal from the EU. Since the moribund Lib Dems have had their life support terminated, what consideration need Mr Cameron give to them? Yet he persists in targeting none of these matters, which appeal to all voters. The consequence is a further disenfranchised electorate and the collapse of his vote. As Yeats wrote:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

UKIP may yet have to win parliamentary seats, but it signals the direction in which any successful party or thinking person should be heading: a politics of consent, of decisiveness, of the nation state. Under their current leaders, Labour, the Lib Dems and the Conservatives are interested in ideology, not practicality. Ideology is cheap and easy, since it exists in the mind. Practicality and workable policies are much more credible victories, but intellectually beyond the reach of those on parliament’s front benches today.

© thepanopticonblog, 2012

Notes

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When it comes to the EU, one should trust Mr Cameron as they would adders fang’d…

Does any serious person think that EU reform will see them include ceding powers or the acceptance of a decrease in funding?

In spite of overwhelming historical and contemporary evidence to the contrary, Mr Cameron seems to think so, as do Messrs Miliband and Clegg. Having returned from irresolute discussions in Brussels, Mr Cameron is walking tall after not capitulating to the EU Commission’s unreasonable demands for a substantial increase to their budget. Bravo Mr Cameron – except, that is, for your track record on Europe.

His policy of ‘Practical Euroscepticism’ has time and again proven to be neither practical nor Eurosceptic. His modus operandi observes the following pattern:

  • Express exasperation and concern about EU policy
  • Adopt a ‘no nonsense approach’ to look strong
  • Capitulate and beg for mercy from his EU master

It follows, therefore, that having appeared strong on Europe at these recent talks, that at the next round of negotiations he will not hesitate to genuflect to the Commission, then claim to the British public that a satisfactory deal has been reached on their behalf. But who is he trying to fool?

At no point has Mr Cameron called for cuts to the EU budget, and his ‘real terms freeze’ will still see the UK debited for even more than the £53 million a day it currently pays. Worse still, Mr Cameron and friends are still willing to sign the UK up to a political ideology that has not had its accounts signed off by auditors for some fifteen years. The EU is a one-armed bandit against which the UK will only lose.

The only person aside from Mr Cameron who feels that the Conservatives will win the next election is Conservative Home’s Tim Montgomerie. Both characters have devised elaborate strategies to see the Tories regain power, peppered with newspeak and initiatives to ‘re-connect’ with voters – but they all choose to miss the essential point: that if Mr Cameron were to offer an EU referendum, with a positive vision of how the UK would manage (quite easily) without the EU, he would secure a second term and a majority.

This will not be done, however, because Mr Cameron is no more a Eurosceptic than the recently discredited Labour criminal Denis MacShane. In terms of difference and monetary returns, expect no change.

© thepanopticonblog, 2012

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The result of the Corby by-election has wider implications beyond the borders of this disputed constituency…

That the Conservatives lost their Corby seat in today’s by-election came as a surprise to no one, least of all the Conservatives. Their majority was always precarious, but not unmanageable. Their mistake was to ever think that the lobotomized Louise Mensch was ever a credible MP, let alone one strong enough to hold on to such a narrow margin, especially when the potent forces of her own ego would always come before public service.

Whilst the odious Edward Miliband paraded the victory of his candidate, the Liberal Democrats were not only beaten into fourth place by UKIP, they lost their deposit after receiving a woeful 1,770 votes.  The Conservatives only beat UKIP by a mere 4368 votes, a statistic that should have them very afraid, especially in a seat seen as a litmus paper for the views of middle England.

At this point one might suggest that Mr Cameron has some thinking to do – he could lurch to the right and cast off his social democrat colours in favour for radical Tory reform – but as has been implied, this would mean Mr Cameron has to not only think, but think strategically and perform acts of self-evaluation and intellect that he is woefully incapable of commanding.

Instead, what do Mr Cameron and his cronies say? They spin the result as simply the mid-term blues that all incumbent governments undergo as voters register their discontent with the direction of the ruling party.

It is a line that typifies the disconcertingly patronising tone of politicians from all the main parties. It suggests that to them it is almost a badge of honour, a virtuous failure, to be mauled by the electorate halfway through a parliament, as if governing in the interests of the electorate and securing or sustaining a popular mandate are laughable impossibilities. They chose to ignore what is in front of them – whether it is the striking election results by UKIP or by the success of independent candidates as Police Commissioners – this is not a mid-term blues protest: it is the result of long-term disenchantment with the useless politicians and the discredited parties they serve.

By voting Labour, Conservative or Lib Dem, the electorate are merely changing the guard, all of whom protect the same thing: their interests, which are dependent upon their mutual survival as political parties. Today’s results are a victory for independent candidates away from Westminster, and it is a story of success for UKIP, whose ascent is damaging the three party system, and above all, Mr Cameron, who had better watch his back from his own party members before anyone else.

Mid-term blues? Hardly! Things have rarely looked better…

© thepanopticonblog, 2012

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Retiring in the UK is a bleak prospect for many. Whilst fuel poverty blights and sometimes takes the lives of among the most vulnerable in society, a protected budget of £11 billion is committed to aiding poverty abroad. In the UK, the government’s charity does not begin at home.

It is no secret that the UK’s population is taking longer to shuffle off its mortal coil. A recent report by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) has indicated that Britain’s ageing population is growing at its fastest rate since the 19th century and is projected to hit 70 million by 2027, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).  The current 62 million UK population is rising at 0.8% a year and may increase by 4.9 million to 67.2 million by 2020 and to 73 million by 2035. The ONS also suggests that the oldest age groups are the fastest growing and the number of people over the age of 85 is expected to more than double from 1.4 million now to 3.5 million within 25 years. Centenarians are set to rise more from 13,000 in 2010 to 110,000 in 2035, with the median age rising from 39.7 years in 2010 to 39.9 in 2020 and to 42.2 by 2035 [1]. Of course, this does not include mass uncontrolled immigration into the UK’s porous – rather – non-existent border.

Yet, in the present day, there is good reason to fear old age. Hardly a week seems to pass without reports of the appalling physical and psychological abuses dispensed by manipulative  sadistic and criminal employees at ‘care’ homes. Such abuses include:

  • Not being given adequate support to eat or drink, in particular those with dementia
  • Home helps not carrying out vital tasks such as washing and dressing because of lack of time;
  • Financial abuse, such as money being systematically stolen;
  • Talking over older people (sometimes on mobile phones) or patronising them;
  • Physical abuse, such as rough handling or unnecessary force. [2]

Even those not occupying care homes face difficult times, especially during the winter months. In 2007-09, around 35% of single pensioners were living in fuel poverty (defined as when someone needs to spend 10 per cent or more on heating their home) with many cutting back on food to meet their energy bills; around 2 million elderly people are so desperately cold that they go to bed when they are not tired or else move into a single room, in an attempt to keep their energy bills down.

The UK government has every reason to feel embarrassed at this shameful state of affairs, especially since the ‘Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act 2000’ is meant to eliminate fuel poverty by 2016 [3]. Worse still, a number of the UK’s main energy suppliers have decided Christmas will arrive early for them this year:

  • EDF announced they will raise prices for domestic gas and electricity by 10.8%, meaning its typical dual-fuel bill for a direct debit customer will rise by £122 to £1,251 a year.
  • SSE, which trades as Southern Electric, Swalec and Scottish Hydro, increased its tariffs by 9% on October 15, the same day as Scottish Power announced plans to hike bills by an average 7% from December 3.
  • British Gas will impose an average increase of 6% affecting 8.5 million customers from November 16, with Npower planning an average rise of 8.8% for gas and 9.1% for electricity from November 26.

The government previously estimated that the total number of deaths relating to fuel poverty in the UK at 2,700 a year, but according to Prof. Christine Liddell (University of Ulster), some 7,800 people die during winter because they cannot afford to heat their homes properly. This figure suggests that there are 65 such deaths a day [4].

In the mean time, the government has responded by suggesting consumers ‘Switch utility providers and use price comparison sites’ – hardly a possibility for the computer illiterate pensioners who make up those most in need.

At the present time the government has budgeted £7.3bn for elderly social care in 2012, whilst the budget for overseas aid in 2013 is projected to be £11bn, ring-fenced by the philanthropic Mr Cameron. Both sums are large, but why should Mr Cameron be prepared to spend more on foreign aid than combating poverty within the UK’s borders? It is not a question of one life being more important than another, it is about dutifully serving his fellow countrymen, or (if one wishes to put it clinically) assisting British taxpayers who have paid money to the state all their lives, trusting that when they need assistance in turn, their taxes may well help them.

It is not even remotely cynical to suggest that committing £11bn in foreign aid is much more glamorous to career politicians like Mr Cameron than it is committing the same amount to help the vulnerable at home.

Domestically, Mr Cameron and his cross-party kin preside over a flat-lining economy, a crumbling society, a decrepit rule of law, an increasingly undemocratic politics and a talent for populist policy (which never comes to fruition either).

On the international stage, however, Mr Cameron has a chance to radiate statesmanship and policy. Whether it is preaching democracy in other countries, demanding the cessation of conflict, insisting that important things are attended to, or patronising third world countries with the British taxpayer’s money, there is a chance to cast himself in the role of a world leader.

It is all sound and fury, signifying nothing, but what else might one expect from the likes of Mr Cameron, Mr Miliband and Mr Clegg, who have only ever seen their parliamentary careers as an apprenticeship to their entrance on the world stage. Whilst their future (like their past) will be comfortable and they will never know what it is to endure, elderly men and women will have to suffer  all manner of indignities and hardships because they are less efficient political capital.

© thepanopticonblog, 2012

Notes

Every five years the UK’s political parties affect listening attentively and talking with the electorate in order to secure their vote. But if you want your say during the intervening period, forget about it. 

Examine this list of referendums held in the UK since 1973 [1]. What do you notice?

  • Northern Ireland sovereignty referendum, 1973, on whether Northern Ireland should remain part of the United Kingdom or join the Republic of Ireland (UK)
  • United Kingdom European Communities membership referendum, 1975, on whether the UK should remain part of the European Economic Community (yes)
  • Scottish devolution referendum, 1979, on whether there should be a Scottish Assembly (small majority voted yes, but fell short of the 40% threshold required to enact devolution)
  • Welsh devolution referendum, 1979, on whether there should be a Welsh Assembly (no)
  • Scottish devolution referendum, 1997, Two questions: On whether there should be a Scottish Parliament (yes); On whether a Scottish Parliament should have tax varying powers (yes)
  • Welsh devolution referendum, 1997, on whether there should be a National Assembly for Wales (yes)
  • Greater London Authority referendum, 1998, on whether there should be a Mayor of London and Greater London Authority (yes)
  • Northern Ireland Belfast Agreement referendum, 1998, on the Good Friday Agreement (yes)
  • North East England devolution referendum, 2004, on an elected regional assembly (no)
  • Welsh devolution referendum, 2011 (yes)
  • United Kingdom Alternative Vote referendum, 2011, 5 May 2011. (no)

In reading this list you may noticed that nearly every region of the country seems to have been given the chance to better determine its own governance, whilst there has not been a referendum concerning how the country as a whole wishes to determine how it is organized and by whom. The 1975 European Communities membership referendum comes close, but only because this was sold to the public on the false premise that it was a trade agreement, not a means of facilitating political union.

This is a situation unlikely to change given the mendacious David Cameron’s latest remarks on the chances of an EU referendum:

I think it would be bad for Britain […] When I look at what is in our national interest, we are not some country that looks in on ourself or retreats from the world. Britain’s interest – trading a vast share of our GDP – is to be in those markets. Not just buying, selling, investing, receiving investment but also helping to write the rules. If we were outside, we wouldn’t be able to do that. It comes back to this, who are going to be the winning nations for the 21st century? If your vision of Britain was that we should just withdraw and become a sort of greater Switzerland, I think that would be a complete denial of our national interests. [2]

Leaving aside Mr Cameron’s nakedly patronising assertions – and omitting the point that given a string of u-turns, serious errors, impotence and incompetence, he evidently has no idea about anything, let alone what is best for Britain – he brings to one’s attention Switzerland, derisively suggesting that Britain would be foolish to follow its record of political, economic and social competence. Indeed, given the antipathy shown towards referenda by all three main political parties, one can see why they may fear the democratic model of Switzerland.

It is a country in which binding referenda can be called by citizens at federal, cantonal and municipal level. The government is obliged to meet this demand and has no power to determine if it should be held, nor when. The procedure is enshrined in Switzerland’s constitution and is at the heart of its political life. Two types of referendum exist:

  • Facultative referendum: Any federal law, certain other federal resolutions, and international treaties that are ongoing in nature, or any change to Swiss law may be subject to referendum if at least 50,000 people or eight cantons have petitioned to do so within 100 days. Within cantons and municipalities, the required number of people is smaller, and there may be additional causes for a facultative referendum, e.g., expenditures that exceed a certain amount of money. The facultative referendum is the most common type of referendum, and it is mostly carried out by political parties or by interest groups.
  • Obligatory referendum: There must be a referendum on any amendments to the constitution and on any joining of a multinational community or organization for collective security. In many municipalities, expenditures that exceed a certain amount of money also are subject to the obligatory referendum. Constitutional amendments are proposed by the parliament or by the cantons or by citizens’ initiatives. Citizen’s initiatives at the federal level need to collect 100,000 valid signatures within 18 months, and must not contradict international laws or treaties. Often, parliament elaborates a counter-proposal to an initiative, leading to a multiple-choice referendum. Very few such initiatives pass the vote, but more often, the parliamentary counter proposal is approved. [3]

Facultative referendums force parliament to search for a compromise between major interest groups and, in many cases, the threat of a facultative referendum is sufficient to make the parliament adjust a law.

It is a modus operandi that puts British democracy to shame. It would ensure that government follows the essential mandate immortally phrased by Abraham Lincoln in his Gettysburg address, that government should be ‘of the people, by the people [and] for the people’ [4]. It would mean that the electoral carnival held every five years would oblige politicians to mean what they say and do what they claim during their term in office. There are those such as Will Hutton who claim they are ‘very suspicious of referenda’, adding ‘I don’t like them and I’m not certain they are a democratic instrument […] I believe in representative democracy, that we vote for our MPs and they take decisions in the House of Commons on our behalf.’ [5] Mr Hutton fails to acknowledge that one reason why faith in the democratic process is so lacklustre, is precisely because of the unaccountability of politicians once their seat is secured and the bald truth that many MPs are prepared to serve their party before they serve their constituents.

Referendums in the UK have also been discredited precisely because they are used as democratic tokenism, consulting the public on issues that are relatively unimportant to anyone other than those in Westminster (see the list at the top of this post). If the Mother of Parliaments is to nurture democracy, it must allow freedom to grow by letting the people it claims to represent take responsibility for their affairs at a local and a national level.

Consider present elector-a-phobia against UKIP who aim to:

  • introduce ‘Direct Democracy’ whereby 5% of the national or local electorate can demand a binding referendum on any issue. At national level, people will have to sign up for the referendum within six months, at local level, within three months
  • offer an in/out referendum on the UK’s relationship with the EU
  • allow binding national referenda on controversial public law and order issues that are outside party politics. The public must have the final say
  • allow county-based referenda on fox hunting within county boundaries on the basis of a simple majority. Where hunts cross county boundaries, co-terminus referenda could be promoted.
  • Introduce binding local referenda for major local schemes such as the building of new supermarkets. Remote planning appeals will not be able to override the local vote
  • allow parents to trigger a government inspection of a school if 10% of the parents at that school initiate this in a referendum [6]

The three main parties are content to treat the electorate like children who know no better. They have deliberately fostered widespread deference to politics and to democracy so that they can take decisions that are in the interests of party politics before the electorate. Lies are the language of the Conservatives, the Labour party and the Lib Dems; they have spread the disease of indifference in politics, they are the wet rot crumbling the wall of democracy.

© thepanopticonblog, 2012

Notes

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