Category Archives: Politics

Philpott is not a reason to reform welfare

I had a thought that made me shudder when reading all the Philpott reaction this week (this was apart from all the obvious shuddering that was already going on due to the horrific nature of what Philpott did).

What if there is some form of an afterlife and those six children, so cruelly killed before their lives had barely begun, could see the country’s reaction to the fact that their own parents had been found guilty of killing them?

The picture in my mind of their confused little faces made me feel even more embarrassed and ashamed that as a nation we have so quickly turned their deaths political, trying to score cheap points from one another, rather than focusing on what really happened here: that their monstrous, misogynistic, vile creature of a father killed them, while their pathetic excuse for a mother stood by, not even doing nothing, but worse, helping him to do so.

But instead of maintaining the focus on how barbaric Mick and Mairaid Philpott really are, the opportunity has been seized by the likes of the Daily Mail, George Osborne and now even David Cameron, to use this horror to try to reform the welfare system.

Not only does this tarnish everyone who claims benefits, ludicrously insinuating that to do so with the present system could mean you may well end up setting your house on fire and killing your own kids one day (because that’s *exactly* the kind of behavior those types of people, with that lifestyle, are capable of, don’t you know). It also exonerates Philpott from some of the responsibility of what he did, in some way blaming the fact that because he was able to claim what he could on welfare, this at least in part resulted in him killing his kids.

Also, for all of those who have been quick to jump on this ‘cut welfare’ bandwagon, what exactly are you saying here? That the very benefits that were helping to feed and clothe these now dead children should be cut? That the little support these children did receive from a system that otherwise entirely let them down should never have been given?

This beyond awful situation has nothing to do with the welfare system. There have been and are plenty of people like Philpott who end up in the news having committed barbaric acts for selfish reasons. Some have jobs, some are millionaires, some are penniless, some are on benefits, the list of variance goes on.

It just so happens that Philpott claimed benefits. And frankly, as an aside, I dread to think what a lazy, work-shy character like his, who seemed to have children to gain some kind of status, would be capable of/ driven to if there was no welfare system in place.

Anyway, welfare or no welfare, this argument should be irrelevant right now. Six children, with endless possibility and hope stretched out before them, have been snatched from this world by their own parents. And all the parents can do is try to find ways of making money out of this tragedy, for their own personal gain. And all the rest of the country, including the Prime Minister for goodness sake, can do is argue about welfare, again trying to use the tragedy for their own personal gain. ‘Messed up’ doesn’t even begin to cover it.

By Sophie Hudson

U-turns inspire little confidence in Cameron

I don’t quite understand anyone who praises the latest U-turn by our government, saying it shows that the coalition are listening to voters.

I would much rather have a government that actually knows what it is doing, and has confidence in itself. One that is able to deliver a Budget that is thought-through enough that the things it contains can come into fruition.

Not one that is so hapless and unsure of its own ability that it is willing to drop policies all over the place at the whim of an opinion poll or a few angry journalists. David Cameron’s PR background is showing through more and more, with evidence stacking up that all he really cares about is opinion polls, not what is best for this country in the long-term.

Even those who are natural supporters of the government are beginning to realise just how serious and damaging this behaviour is.

Fraser Nelson, editor of the Spectator, says in his latest Telegraph blog that the sense of mission is draining away in Downing Street. “I gather that even Mr Cameron has started to wonder where his Government is going, and has been asking aides what his legacy will be,” he writes.

He later adds why this is particularly worrying: “Each U-turn may be trivial in itself, but there is a cumulative effect. They serve to devalue the word of the Prime Minister and, worse, the credibility of the Chancellor.”

So I for one am not happy about the latest U-turn, on this occasion delaying the rise on fuel duty. The majority of the public do not have available to them the insight to research and other key data and analysis that the government does. And if the government genuinely believed this policy was for the best for this country then it should have stuck to it, no matter how unpopular that decision may have been.

Of course, the other possibility is that there was not the meticulous planning behind this policy that there should have been before it was announced. And then subsequent research found that it wasn’t such a good idea after all.

Clearly, both of these situations are far from ideal, and I would hope for a lot better from a government – the supposed leaders of our country.

By Sophie Hudson

The tax relief cap is either confusing or stupid

For a government that is seemingly trying to push the philanthropy button hard, the chancellor George Osborne made a right mess of this year’s budget – the disapproving responses to which have only grown in size and negativity in the days since he announced his measures. 

The only real mention of charities and giving to charities was within the negative sphere of capping tax relief. In a nutshell, Osborne capped the amount of relief you can get at 25 per cent of your income or £50,000, whichever is higher.

On the face of it, this would seem more than fair in a time of extreme austerity. But when you look at the possible repercussions of this on charitable giving, it becomes a lot less fair, and incredibly confusing, given the high profile this government has been trying to give philanthropy. The measure makes is more expensive to give large donations to charities – and could therefore put a lot of wealthy donors off giving substantial gifts.

Coupled with a very insightful piece I recently read on Liberal Conspiracy – a post by Damian McBride which outlines how budgets are put together and why he therefore knew Osborne was in trouble –  all of this gives me very little confidence that the government has  any idea what it is doing, or that there is a huge amount of communication going on across departments.

Making it harder to give to charity, and thereby decreasing the amount given to charity, seems like a mean, unpopular move at the best of times. But doing so in a time of austerity when charities have enough cuts to deal with as it as, and for the move to be made by a government that has harped on relentlessly about making giving a “social norm” seems mind-boggling at best and utterly stupid and/or deceitful at worst.

I can only really think of three possibilities that could explain what happened here, none of them good:

1. Osborne didn’t really think this through, and nobody pointed out to him the massive difference this cap could make to charitable giving.

2. The whole philanthropy agenda is just a bit of a soundbite and it really isn’t that important to the government to push this forward properly at all.

3. Given the high level of national debt and the other wealth-friendly measures contained in the budget, Osborne knew he needed to set out a measure that looked as though it would hit the rich a bit, and he couldn’t think of anything more creative than this.

Whatever has really happened, I think now may be one of those times to listen carefully to huge levels of outcry and consider exempting charitable donations from this tax relief – a campaign calling for which has already been launched by a number of voluntary sector organisations, perhaps showing the seriousness with which they are taking this.

By Sophie Hudson

Minimum alcohol pricing will not be enough

So, after a disasterous budget, in which the chancellor George Osborne managed to upset just about everyone other than his stock broker and Tarquin and Hugo down on the Kings Road, the government is now proposing a minimum alcohol price for England and Wales. 

(Side note to the Sun about its budget coverage: it’s no good feigning utter outrage on behalf of all your valued readers now. You were largely responsible for putting Osborne and Cameron in charge of the nation’s finances. What on earth did you expect from a Tory government?)

The alcohol news is conveniently timed to say the least – given the general reaction to the budget. But to be fair it is probably a sensible strategy – although I’m not sure how much difference it will really make.

If people want to get wasted on some kind of a substance – be that alcohol or drugs – they will, often regardless of price. There is a binge drinking culture in this country that businesses, young people, middle aged people and some old people often take full advantage of, and it is heavily engrained.

It’s acceptable, no more than that, it is actually normally seen as funny and entertaining in this country, when someone stumbles around drunk, yelling stupid things or falling over their own feet.

Elsewhere this isn’t so much the case. I was recently in Italy, and on nights out the atmosphere in clubs was very different to in London. Yes, young people were drinking and having a good time and dancing until the early hours, but there was a nuanced difference to the way they were doing this.

It, generally, wasn’t a case of people downing as much as possible to get trashed as quickly as possible, but instead most were enjoying a more sensible level of drinking, while they chatted to friends and danced for hours on end.

If you exit one of these clubs and find a local shop that sells wine, you can find bottles of the stuff for just as little, if not a lot less (and they taste a lot better) than you can in shops in the UK.

So I don’t think the government’s minimum pricing will necessarily harm the situation, but by themselves these types of measures are not going to make much difference. It’s a slow cultural change that is needed, and for that to occur all of society, from parents, to schools, to businesses need to play their part.

I can’t help but worry that the government’s new agenda by itself will do little other than further line the pockets of big supermarkets.

By Sophie Hudson

We must do everything we can to find an oil alternative

Over the weekend I was reading about all of the ongoing destruction to wildlife that the BP oil spill is causing.

According to an article in the Times, one million turtle hatchlings could be heading for the slick. And they could be slowly poisoned by the oil, as it is drawn to the seaweed they cling to in their early years.

This all follows reports that a sperm whale, an endangered animal, may have been killed as a result of the spill. The 25-foot-long creature was found dead with multiple shark bites 77 miles away from the oil.

And this is just two species out of so very many which have been disastrously affected. I haven’t yet mentioned the hundreds of birds and fish and other beautiful creatures which have been mercilessly killed.

I can’t say I’ve agreed with all of Obama’s speeches regarding this ecological disaster. His loaded-sounding ‘British Petroleum’ comments were reactionary and in my opinion showed him in one of the worst lights since he was elected as President.

He seemed to be saying purely what he felt the American public wanted to hear rather than thinking things through and speaking fairly with balanced thought for the ramification of his words.

But one thing I do agree with is his strong stance that we need to break our dependency on oil.

This spill has shown in a fast-forward, quick-result way the unfixable damage we are doing to our planet every day through the way we live. Becuase of our selfish dependency on things like cars and planes, innocent animals are now losing their lives.

In a similar way, but much more slowly, many species will slowly start to die out all together through global warming because of the way we treat the planet every day.

I am not innocent myself here. I have as much dependency on oil as the next person. I drive a car. I go on holiday by plane.

Bu these are such trivial actions. They are not about survival, they are purely about enjoyment. And yet so often we are seeing the price for such actions paid for with lives.

We must do everything we can to try and find a clean, viable alternative to oil. It is probably unlikely that we will manage this any time soon, but it is at least worth a shot. It is unrealistic however that we are all going to completely stop all activities which depend on using some form of generated energy.

It’s just so sad that yet again there are so many innocent parties having to suffer because of our selfish actions. So that we can go on holiday or get ourselves from A to B on a day to day basis animals have to lose their lives. And this just doesn’t seem in any way right to me.

By Sophie Hudson

My thoughts on the election

I’m not even sure where to start with this mess of an election, so I’m just going to write a few bullet points about the whole sorry debacle:

  • Off the top of my head these are some of the pretty obvious reasons why Thursday should have been an easy win for the Conservatives: Iraq, Tony Blair in general, constant ramblings by the Daily Mail and others about ‘broken Britain’, a Prime Minister we never voted for and never seemed to warm to in the slightest, bigotgate a week before the election, pretty much every national paper being against Labour, the expenses scandal, the Iraq War inquiry.
  • And if a hung parliament really is the best that Cameron can do under the circumstances then I think the result on Friday says a lot more about Tory unpopularity and their idiotic decision to put Cameron in charge than it does about Labour.
  • It is only angering the country further that Brown is not taking quick, decisive action now that he has had the chance to be voted in as Prime Minister, almost three years after he actually decided to take on the job, and has clearly not got the enough of the country’s support. He needs to do the right and honourable thing now and allow himself to be replaced as leader of the Labour party so that they can at least have a fighting chance of gathering together some power.
  • I was reading Nick Davies’ ‘Flat Earth News’ yesterday and suddenly realised that if he was rewriting the book now, he could add the story about Nick Clegg’s ‘popularity’ to his list of non-stories that the press waste our time with. I.e. this could be added to the ‘Millenium bug’ story, swine flu and other non-existant drivel that today’s ‘journalists’ write about even though there is close to zero truth in any of it.
  • Can we please not all jump on the proportional representation bandwagon just because it sounds different to what we currently have. If we already had this system in place, since Friday a certain racist party would have seats in the Houses of Commons.
  • Since when did politics turn into glorified PR? I wish someone wouldn’t be scared to stand up for what they believe in and would fight for it whether they thought it would make them Mr or Mrs Popular or not. One positive thing this election has shown me is that people are generally not stupid and when it gets to crunch time they will vote for what they know to be sensible and just. If there had been someone standing in this election who the people could see was honest, was standing for things they knew to be right, even if not popular and had a team behind them who could deliver on their promises, then I have no doubt in my mind that they would have won a majority.
  • If a polling booth is open from 7am to 10pm, don’t be lazy enough to turn up at 9:30 then try to blame someone else when it’s too busy for you to vote. It’s not ‘undemocratic’ in the slightest, you had 15 hours to practice democracy but you decided to leave it till the last minute when you knew perfectly well that there was a chance it would be too busy that close to closing time. It’s a good job the whole country didn’t take this approach or barely any votes would have been cast.

By Sophie Hudson

Brown charms the nation once again

I’ve somehow just managed to watch the original conversation between Gordon Brown and Gillian Duffy, the woman our current Prime Minister now infamously called ‘bigoted’.

I make this sound like some kind of a feat, because it proved tricky to find the clip of the actual conversation.

Most of the news outlets covering the story have decided it is best to merely show a small, irrelevant snippet of the end of their conversation and then the recording as Brown grumbles his true feelings in the car, not realising he is slowly unravelling the entire Labour campaign.

Are we all not intelligent enough to watch the actual conversation, hear Brown’s comments, and then make an informed decision ourselves as to whether or not Ms Duffy deserved this label?

This aside, what strikes me most when watching the confrontation was how basic Ms Duffy’s complaints about immigration were. Any quick-witted, loquacious leader would have heard that she simply had the same old, typical, but granted rather ignorant, complaints as many other people in the country right now.

With his far superior knowledge and understanding about immigration Brown could have so easily quickly put her mind at ease by efficiently explaining to her the importance of immigration, what is going to be happening with it going forward, and why she has no reason to be concerned about it.

She would have been happier with him, he would have very quickly seen that really she was just having a moan because people almost feel they are meant to be moaning about immigration these days, and the whole incident would have been avoided as he would have understood there was probably no real reason to call her ‘bigoted’.

I’ve written before about Brown’s image problems. He may be very intelligent, and quite frankly on the intellectual or economic side of things I would far rather he was running the country than David Cameron, but what Brown doesn’t seem to realise is that this is just not enough if you want to be a leader.

You need to have the emotional intelligence not to land yourself in these situations quite so frequently. You need to be able to read other people and the environment around you to seemlessly navigate each day and each person’s grievance without continually landing yourself in hot water.

I thought the incident would leave me liking Brown more. Finally some honesty in politics, even if it was not on purpose.

But instead I’ve seen yet again that he is just dismally not Prime Ministerial material. He and his party should have realised this a long time ago, and maybe then we wouldn’t be facing the equally depressing reality that we are probably going to be under Cameron’s ‘leadership’ from May 6th.  

By Sophie Hudson