The country is in recession, the unions are getting away with murder and the people in charge desperately need to get a grip… so what does the MP for Hereford do? He tries to divert attention away from his abject failure as an MP by claiming Google Maps is going to put the SAS at risk from a terrorist attack.
It doesn’t help that Paul Keetch is one of the fattest and sleekest of MPs, a real local firebrand who promised change when he was elected in 1997, but who quickly went native and realised that the home of parliament wasn’t called a Palace for nothing, and who has been an outstanding non-entity since.
He’s also a member of the UK’s official luddite party, the Liberal Democrats, who recently intervened in the impasse over the Digital Economy bill and actually managed to make it worse just as it was about to become law!! God help the UK if these ignorant morons hold the balance of power in a hung parliament after the elections in May.
It’s quite clear that it’s election year when a sitting MP has to resort to such tub-thumping, jingoistic stunts like this, claiming that the cameras of American company Google will give potential terrorists assistance and encouragement to attack the base of the UK’s elite military unit.
Sadly Mr Keetch, like most MPs, hasn’t got a clue what he’s talking about, and is so out-of-touch, I’d be surprised if he even knew what Google Maps was.
He’s certainly never used it, if he had he would know that Google Maps only shows the user what can be seen from the public road which runs outside the base; nothing that can’t seen for the cost of a coach ticket to Hereford.
It’s also a sign of Paul Keetch’s blinkered self-obsession (another trait he shares with all his parliamentary colleagues) that he thinks Britain’s foremost military unit, one of the most feared regiments in the world, needs the protection of a fat, spineless buffoon like him.
Tiresome repetition of the bleeding obvious award today goes to the Strategic Advisory Board for Intellectual Property (SABIP) who are wasting hundreds of column inches in the newspapers with their claims about digital piracy in a new study.
The 85-page coffee-table leveller, with the snappy title Copycats? Digital Consumers in the Online Age, estimates that seven million people in the UK are involved in illegal downloading of music, movies, software and games, although they fail to provide much in the way of explanation about how they arrive at their conclusions regarding numbers.
Certainly when it comes to working out what the annual worth of downloaded material, they introduce the same specious statistical methods used by opponents of Jerry Spinger: The Opera that I commented on some years ago.* (I would link but those kind people at Google have responded to my attempt to reclaim my old Blogger blog by taking it down completely)
The authors say that UCL researchers found 1.3 million users sharing content on a single P2P network at noon on a specific day.
They then use some very unsubtle mathematics to arrive at a remarkable conclusion”
If each “peer” from this network (not the largest) downloaded one file per day the resulting number of downloads (music, film, television, e-books, software and games were all available) would be 4.73 billion items per year. This amounts to around £12 billion in content being consumed annually – for free.
Ooooooo look at that BIG number – something that’s sure to be seized upon by ignorant journalists and even more ignorant politicians everywhere, giving the politicos a nice little bandwagon to jump on to try and divert attention away from the expenses scandal which continues to claim careers at Westminster.
The fact that they have arrived at this number by a statistical sleight of hand, and that the real figure is probably only a fraction of that, has nothing to do with it – as the hacks say: “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story”.
Now in the interests of fairness, the UCL team did also look at other research and spoke to people in the entertainment industry and regulators, though they don’t look as if they’ve spoken to anyone who lives in the real world.
The problem is that the ignorant politicians will simply tell the ISPs to crackdown on file-sharing, even though the ISPs are, quite understandably, reluctant to become the policemen of the web.
The other issue that these dimwits choose to ignore is the cause of piracy – the backward and intransigent way in which the content creators fail to engage with their audience, preferring to treat everyone like criminals rather than providing them with good service.
That’s on top of the way in which content producers in the UK have been over-charging for their products for many years.
The newspaper industry is already reaping the whirwind of its digital denial, while the music industry only survived thanks to the intervention of Apple’s i-Tunes.
Television companies, Hollywood movie producers and book publishers are all desperately trying to avoid the on-coming train crash with the interwebs – one which they will surely lose unless they ignore specious reports from vested interest groups like SABIP and get their collective heads out of the sand.
[* The original post pointed out that opponents of Jerry Springer: The Opera being shown on the BBC claimed there were thousands of expletives used in the production, but that in reality there were much fewer; the protestors had arrived at their claim by taking the actual number of expletives used, and multiplied them by the number of people on-stage using that expletive, again producing a BIG number that the useless saps at The Daily Mail jumped on with avengeance as part of it’s ridiculous vendetta against the BBC]
The collective sound of jaws dropping across the breakfast tables of Britain was almost audible this morning as people read the details of how the leader of the UK Indpendence Party, Nigel Farage, has claimed £2 MILLION in expenses as a member of the European Parliament.
Compared to the expenses claims of our national MPs, Mr Forage’s efforts make their’s look like fiddling small change, and only go to prove that if someone is doing something wrong, someone, somewhere is doing it bigger and better.
Like many, when I first read of this, I was tempted to launch into one of my usual rants about MPs, polticians, tax-payers money and especially the gold-plated gravy train that is the European Parliament.
But how could I? By boasting publically, Mr Farage has made a bigger statement about the inherant, and accepted, corruption at the heart of the the EU than any rant by a mere blogger.
Indeed there is something deliciously ironic about the expenses system of the European Parliament being exploited, perfectly legally it would appear, to help fund the UK Independence Party’s message that the UK should get out of the EU.
The expenses, of course, are on top of Mr Farage’s salary of over £64,000 a year, and his party is jumping on the domestic expenses row to call on voters to punish “greedy” MPs at the European elections on June 4.
Cue the predictable braying from MPs in the UK, who lifted their noses from the trough long enough to heap scorn on Mr Farage, claiming he is a hypocrite and no better than they.
Sadly this only further demonstrates their stupidity and the genius of Mr Farage’s revelation and his timing – what they forget is that they themselves pledged that they would be honest, and they will now reap the whirlwind at the ballot box.
However, when it comes to anything to do with Europe, the electorate is so used to stories about the endemic corruption at the heart of Brussels, that we would probably have been more shocked if Mr Farage hadn’t been cashing in!
The other thing to note is that by using the money to promote UKIP’s message, Mr Farage has, at least, remained true to his principles, which is a damn sight more than most of his political peers have done.
Conservative MP and so-called “Tory grandee” Anthony Steen is to become the second MP to announce that he is stepping down over his expenses claim.
The Totnes MP claimed tens of thousands of pounds worth of OUR money to pay for the upkeep of his “country mansion” in Devon, including work on 500 trees, leaking pipes, a wrought iron fireplace and lighting.
Yesterday another Tory MP, Douglas Hogg, resigned over expenses he claimed for having a moat cleared at his stately pile. He is otherwise known as the 3rd Viscount Hailsham.
Three points here – the first is that both of these men are long-standing MPs – Steen has been an MP since 1974, while Hogg was first elected in 1979.
These are people who know the rules of Parliament intimately, they know how the system works and how best to make it work for them – one wonders how many other expenses they have claimed over the last 30+ years that we are still unaware of?
Secondly, while it may sound like these people have done “the honourable thing” by announcing they are stepping down, one should remember that by “stepping down” this does not mean that they will be resigning immediately.
“Stepping down” means they will not seek re-election, so they will continue as MPs until the next elections, whenever that may be, and continue to benefit from all the trappings of grandeur and the perks that the post of MP brings with it.
Finally, they will also benefit from the pensions and other benefits that come to former MPs, including lucrative seats on gravy trains including NGOs, non-executive directorships in business or on government quangos, or even seats in the House of Lords.
Some punishment eh?
So don’t be fooled by the faux show of remorse by these people – what really grates is that had I, or any ordinary member of the public tried to get away with claiming for the upkeep of their homes against the public purse, say through our income tax or VAT returns, we would fully expect to be languishing in a jail cell now.
The first Prime Minister’s Questions after the full extent of the MPs’ expenses row was an instructive affair, and proof, if any were needed, that the whole British political system is languishing in a mire of institutional sewage and needs some brave, innovative thinking to drag itself into the 21st Century.
What was desperately needed was something which would begin the process to try and re-build the public trust in politicians and the poltical process.
What we got was the same ignominous braying from a bunch of arrogant parasites who have time and again thumbed their noses at the public who pay their wages; the whole thing descended into the same old party posturing, a pointless diatribe which characterises what passes for real debate by our so-called leaders.
Gordon Brown, the still un-elected PM refuses to call a general election, but the best reason he can muster is of the “chaos” that would be caused by a Conservative government.
Hang on a minute – this is Gordon Brown, admitting to his party, and the country, that he doesn’t think Labour will an election if one was held now.
And that’s why he won’t call one. Have you ever heard anything so craven and pathetic?
There is, at last, a growing, palpable anger among the British people about what has happened, and the way that they have been taken for a ride by their own elected representatives; Gordon Brown’s answer is to run away and hide, is there any wonder this country is in the state it’s in?
The other reason Brown musters is that, being in the middle of a recession, it is the wrong time to go to the country – again, this is utter hogwash. The current administration were responsible for getting us into this mess, how on earth can anyone have any confidence that they are the right people to get us out of it?
In 1979, when the UK economy was being flushed down the pan, the only thing that pulled the country round was the fact that James Callaghan, another un-elected prime minister, was forced to call an election because his government’s five years were up.
There were calls for him to go to the country in 1978, but he didn’t, and the economic consequences made the ensuing recession last far longer than it needed to.
The problem was that after successfully turning the country round, Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative party went too far the other way and destroyed much of the industry that made Britain what it was with an ill-conceived programme of deregulation and privatisation which laid the foundations for the economic crash we are now living through.
Maybe Brown is right, would we be any better under the Conservatives, or the Liberal Democrats, or would we just have more of the same from a party political system which is failing to respresent the needs of the electorate?
So the Speaker of the House of Commons, Michael Martin has finally resigned, but once again, he managed to screw that up, showing the now contemptible lack of leadership which has become a hallmark of his tenure.
The long-awaited statement on Monday about reforms to MPs’ expenses contained nothing about his conduct, or lack of it, and as predicted, there was no apology for the shockingly bad way in which “Gorballs Mick” has handled this whole issue.
We had to wait until Tuesday afternoon for the announcement of his resignation, and even then he didn’t express one iota of remorse for the way in which he had conducted himself, indeed he did not even acknowledge he had any responsibility at all for an episode which has seen the Mother of Parliaments dragged through the mud.
No doubt glowing tributes will follow and the professors of rotational medicine who still haunt the corridors of power will relentlessly paint Martin in a good light, eventually trying to re-write history.
I hope, for the sake of posterity that they don’t succeed – Martin’s nine years in the chair have seen him preside over a shocking decline in the public trust of politicians and Parliament as whole; he has allowed mendacious and corrupt potilicans to take us into illegal wars and pass legislation which has demeaned British society and the human rights of everyone living here.
And right to the end, at a time which the House of Commons desperately needed someone to grasp the issue and deal with it like a true leader, Martin just sat and let it happen, he completely failed to lead and made it look as though there was tacit approval of all the corrupt practices that had been going on.
Thankfully he has gone, “Gorballs Mick” will not be missed – actually “No Balls Mick” is probably now a more appropriate description.
Speaker of the House of Commons Michael Martin, the man who crushed the honour of Parliament under his clumsy Glaswegian hob-nailed boot, is making a statement today in the face of growing criticism from MPs that he didn’t do enough to tackle the issue of MPs expenses.
I’m betting it won’t contain the words “sorry” and “I resign”, but I can live in hope, and still, from the public, there is apathy; well OK, there have been some localised outbursts as reported in The Observer:
Bricks were thrown through the constituency office windows of Julie Kirkbride [she and her husband, Andrew Mackay MP, claimed for separate family homes, although it is only his expenses that are under scrutiny, not hers]; politicians’ wives face abuse in the street; and police are protecting the home of Scunthorpe MP Elliot Morley after revelations that he claimed £16,000 against a mortgage he had already paid off. Voters, says Labour veteran Diane Abbott, want “dead MPs hanging from lamp-posts”. Even one of the government’s steadiest performers, Margaret Beckett, was booed by the audience on last week’s Question Time.
Oooooooooooooo scary. I won’t bother myself with the stupidity of Diane Abbott’s remark, there’s nothing so ineffective as hanging someone who is already dead.
As an aside, in the same paper, Liberal Democrat MP Jo Swinson says of “Gorballs Mick”:
“He has sadly become part of the problem.”
No, Ms Swinson, he became part of the problem ebulliently, sarcastically and enthusiastically. Sadly, he has become part of the problem. Maybe if we had required our MPs to speak English properly, this wouldn’t have happened, as idiots like Martin wouldn’t have been eligible.
But I digress. Some people though are starting to see the depth of the problem though – one angry voter has set up a website to try and rally the disillusioned.
He’s rightly worked out, as I have said before, that MPs in a safe seats will get re-elected no matter how badly they behave, because they can count on the party faithful; in the meantime good MPs in marginal seats can be ousted, not because they have done anything wrong themselves, but because the electorate is punishing their party and its leaders – what kind of a stupid system is it that punishes the good and rewards the bad?
The problem, of course, is the party political structure, and the fact that there is very little recourse to punish MPs, because it is MPs who make the rules for their own employment.
At the moment the worst that can happen is that an MP can have the party whip withdrawn, effectively expelling them from their party; but with dozens of MPs involved, and from all parties, as one Labour aide told The Observer:
“Are we going to start removing the whip from 30 or 40 people? They could practically form their own party.”
Aye, and there’s the rub – they can’t actually be fired, but they can hang on until the next election, and what would be the manifesto of this new “Gravy Train Party”? One shudders to think.
Which raises another issue – why not have an election now? Ruth Fox, from the Hansard Society, a constitutional thinktank told The Observer:
“In the past, a general election would serve as a cleansing element to the body politic. That option is not available to voters now.”
Why not? The UK does not have fixed-term Parliaments, the maximum is five years, but at any point MPs can have a vote in no confidence in the Government, and the Prime Minister is obliged to dissolve Parliament and call a general election.
Maybe it would restore what little public confience there is in Parliament if all MPs were to vote for a general election right now, and every one of the MPs implicated either stood down, or stood as an Independent candidate; if the electorate felt that their worth outweighed the seriousness of their expenses claim, they would have no problem being re-elected.
Or better still, let’s try something new.