View from inside the cage

Sunday, November 19, 2006

We're British politicians.. no criticism please!

Thanks to Life at the Edge, for pointing me in the direction of this astounding piece of arrogance and self-righteousness from Tony Blair's chief policy advisor, Mathew Taylor.

He points the finger at internet users for fuelling a crisis in the relationship between politicians and voters. In a recent interview with the BBC he stressed he was speaking as a private citizen and not a government spokesman. Well, it might be convenient for him to cover his backside with that caveat but what chance do other "private citizens" have of having their thoughts broadcast to the world in an article on the BBC website? Having said that, I am glad that he did use his position as part of the government machine to confirm the breathtaking disdain with which the Labour Party treats those who dare to criticise it and their policies.

Mathew Taylor stated:

"We have a citizenry which can be caricatured as being increasingly unwilling to be governed but not yet capable of self-government," Mr Taylor told the audience.

Like "teenagers", people were demanding, but "conflicted" about what they actually wanted, he argued.

They wanted "sustainability", for example, but not higher fuel prices, affordable homes for their children but not new housing developments in their town or village."


Yes we want sustainability, we are a responsible electorate. However, we already pay just about the highest tax and duty on our fuel in the entire world. Car travel is a necessity for large numbers of us, not a luxury. What makes the government think that, by increasing those duties and taxes even further, we will use appreciably less fuel? Surely if price is a major factor then we would already be using less fuel per head than most other countries. If raising fuel prices yet again is such a good idea, then why not get Tony to try and persuade his pal, George Bush, that he should triple fuel prices in the USA? After all, their carbon emissions per person are more than twice than emissions per person in the UK.

Yes, we want affordable housing for our children, but we wouldn't need many new housing developments if our existing housing stock wasn't being filled by the hundreds of thousands of people that this government allow into our country each year.

Mr Mathews then went on to say:

"What is the big breakthrough, in terms of politics, on the web in the last few years? It's basically blogs which are, generally speaking, hostile and, generally speaking, basically see their job as every day exposing how venal, stupid, mendacious politicians are."

So there you have it! It's not the fault that our politicians are being venal, stupid and mendacious, it's the fault of you and I on the internet for actually exposing them for what they really are!! It is interesting to note that he doesn't seek to defend them against these charges, it is good to see that, at least he doesn't insult our collective intelligence by trying to defend the indefensible.

If politicians did not give the impression that they were open to bribery and corruption, then we, on the internet, would not be left with that impression. If they didn't confirm that they are open to bribery and corruption, as witnessed in the peerages for loans scandal and the Blunkett passport debacle, then we, internet users, would not have proof that they are open to bribery and corruption.

He suggested that: "Government also needed to "develop new forms of consultation and engagement that are deliberative in their form and trust citizens to get to the heart of the difficult trade-offs involved."

Well Mr Taylor, how about Government using the existing forms of consultation, that they have already set up, in a way which is seen to be fair and open?

I am referring, in particular, to the sham of the consultation process concerning the Government proposals to criminalise possession of some pornographic pictures. The Consultation document itself was biased and misleading in the extreme. The Government, which has previously put an emphasis on evidence based policy making, admits that there is no evidence to support their proposals. They ask the public to respond to their biased consultation and the public do so, in good faith. Is it any wonder, therefore, when the vast majority of those who responded put detailed and solid arguments forward as to why this new law should not be introduced, that the public feel disillusioned and betrayed by their politicians when they decide to press ahead with the new law anyway?

The Government appears only to want the public to be involved in the consultation process when the public agrees with what the Government propose. Despite the Consultation document being misleading and downright dishonest in places, more than 71% of individuals who responded were against the Government proposals. To ignore the opinion of the public, after you have asked the public for their input is not only undemocratic, it is a betrayal of the trust that those responding, gave to the Government. Is it any surprise, therefore, that people see politicians as mendacious and feel that their voices are not being listened to?

When people have spent time and energy responding and engaging in a Government consultation, to have those views ignored is obviously going to lead to resentment. It is obviously going to lead to a lack of faith and a breakdown of trust in the Government.

Once people have explored the avenue of getting involved with the consultation process and still find that their views, along with those of the vast majority, are ignored, perhaps Mathew Taylor can suggest what we do next. I have written to the Home Office to complain about the consultation process and not received a reply. I have written to my MP, who will no doubt tow the Party line and vote for the new law. I have written to five Lords and received just one short acknowledgment in response.

What else is there left for me to do Mr Taylor? Please tell me how else the majority of people in this country can show their disapproval of a proposed new law and get their Government to listen to their views? And don't feed me the line that, as a Democracy, we get our chance to voice our opinions at the ballot box every four or five years. The current Government made no mention whatsoever about these proposals in their election manifesto, yet within a few weeks of being elected, proposals for this new law were put forward in the House of Commons.

You say that people should not use the internet to voice their criticism of the Government. You say that blogs should not be used to expose lies and deceit of politicians. You say that, instead, they should become involved in the consultation process with Government. Well, maybe you are preaching to the wrong people. Maybe you should be telling the Government that they should be listening to those who do take them at their word and have the faith to become involved in the consultation process. Trust is a two-way street, Mr Taylor, and when our trust and faith is betrayed so blatantly and so dismissively, is it any great surprise that people resort to venting their frustration and spreading their disallusionment across the internet?

It is the only way we have left to make our views known.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Comical Tony's view on the war in Iraq

In a recent interview with David Frost, in which he agreed the war in Iraq was a disaster, our Tony came out with a priceless quote which was worthy of Comical Ali himself.




"What I say to people is why is it difficult in Iraq?

"It's not difficult because of some accident in planning.

"It's difficult because there's a deliberate strategy - al-Qaeda with Sunni insurgents on one hand, Iranian-backed elements with Shia militias on the other - to create a situation in which the will of the majority for peace is displaced by the will of the minority for war."



Is he naive in the extreme or just plain stupid? We are in a war. When you are in a war, it cannot come as a complete surprise that those you are at war with, have a deliberate strategy.

Oh well, at least one side has a deliberate strategy, I guess!



The former Iraqi Defence Minister, who has been dubbed with the nickname, Comical Ali, gave a similar recent interview in which he mirrored Mr Blair's reasoning.

"What I say to people is why is it difficult in Iraq?"

"It's not difficult because of some accident in planning."

"It's difficult because there's a deliberate strategy - American infidels on one hand, the British poodles of George Bush on the other - to create a situation in which the will of the majority for peace is displaced by the will of the minority for war."

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Democracy inaction

When I first heard about the proposals to criminalise possession of images described as Extreme Pornography, I was heartened to see that there was to be a Public Consultation on the matter. Having never been involved in this part of our democratic system, I rather naively believed that it was a genuine attempt by the Government to get the views of the people it represented and that it would adjust it's views accordingly.

I am now a year older, wiser and more cynical.

The Consultation document itself was heavily geared towards producing the answers that the Governement appeared to want to receive. I have previously posted details about the biased and misleading wording in the Consultation document. Although, I fully expected some spin in the wording, to suit the Government position, I wasn't prepared for how blatant this spin was.

Nevertheless, despite the spin, I had enough faith in our democracy to believe that if enough people sent enough detailed and well thought out objections to the proposals, their views would be taken on board by the Government and the proposals would be dropped. After all, that is the way democracy is supposed to work, isn't it? Well, actually no; at least it isn't how the Tony Blair and New Labour version of democracy appears to work!

More than 71% of individuals, who had enough faith in our democratic system to respond, said that they were against the introduction of a new law targetting Extreme Pornography. Even allowing for the responses of organisations such as the various Police Forces throughout the country, Churches, Women's Groups and Children's Charities, the overall response against the proposals was more than 61%.

So how then, if the majority of responses were against the new proposals, does the Government justify their decision to proceed with a new law? A very pertitnent question and one which was put to the Home Office. Their response; "we did not simply take account of the number of respondents who were in favour of, or opposed, the proposal but also considered the weight of the arguments advanced. " After having looked through the wast majority of the responses, the only conclusion I can reach is that what they actually meant was the 'weight of the organisations' responding, because any fair minded person looking at the arguments presented from both sides would have to conclude that the more compelling arguments come from those who are opposed to these proposals. In fact a large number of those responding in favour of the proposals added very little to the debate at all. Whereas the vast majority of those opposing, supported their case with well thought out arguments and research.

Given that the Government appears to have taken into account the views of the organisations who responded above individuals, this leads to some worrying conclusions. The largest group of organisations that were invited to respond were police organisations and the judiciary. One might well think that these are organisations that should be concerned with enforcing laws, not making them.

There have been numerous concerns and accusations made over the past few years, that we are heading towards a Police State. Up until now, I would have said that these fears were exaggerated. However, if it has come to the stage where the views of the Police carry more weight than the views of the vast majority of individuals responding to a Consultation about a new law, then the inescapable conclusion is that the Police already have more power and influence than they should have and that we are indeed well on the way to a Police State.


It is a worrying situation in a Democracy, that when making new laws, the views of the Police carry more weight than the views of the people they serve.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Police resources

I have spent the past few days going through the original Extreme Pornography Consultation Document with a view to putting together a complaint to the Home Office with regard to the biased and misleading manner it was written. I have, in the process, been looking very closely at the details included in it and one part of it jumped out at me that I had overlooked before.


15. The number of prosecutions under
the OPA has fallen from 309 in 1994 to
39 in 2003. However, the number of
prosecutions under the Protection of
Children Act 1978 (as amended) or section
160 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988,
which make it illegal to make, distribute,
possess, etc. indecent photographs of
children, has risen markedly from 93 in
1994 to 1,890 in 2003. It may be that the
reduction in prosecutions under the OPA
in part reflects a higher priority being
given to combating the increasing
availability of indecent photographs of
children through the Internet.

So basically, what the figures above are saying is that prosecutions under the OPA (Obscene Publications Act) have fallen by 90% in a ten year period and that during the same period, prosecutions for Child Pornography have increased twenty-fold.

The Government puts the fall in prosecutions under the OPA down to the fact that police resources have been switched from the more general forms of pornography to catching child pornographers. In these days where decisions have to be made about where money and manpower resources can be best put to use, switching our policing resources from general pornography involving consenting adults to child pornography seems to be a decision that will be supported and applauded by all.

However, what happens if the Extreme Pornography law is passed? It will catch many thousands, if not hundreds of thousands in it's net. If a decision has to be made whether to prosecute those possessing extreme adult pornography or those possessing child pornography, surely the priority has to be to go after those with child pornography. Given the fact that the Government has not announced that it will be recruiting extra police to deal with those possessing consensual adult extreme pornography, does this mean that resources that are, at the moment, targetting child pornography and alleviating the distress caused to it's innocent victims, will be diverted to searching out individuals whose only crime is having pictures of consensual adult pornography? It would seem, according to the Government figures, above, that they do not have the resources to do both.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Blogging for Backlash.. what next?

The blogging for Backlash day of action earlier this week was hugely encouraging. I must have read around 200 blogs over the past few days, all registering their discontent with the current proposals. Many were moving, a lot were passionate, large numbers were eloquent and some were passionately eloquent. It was heartening to see so many who have been relatively quiet about this issue, suddenly finding their voices.

So.. now that so many have finally felt motivated to air their views, what is the next step that they can take to try to ensure that this proposed new law does not make it on to the statute books?

Well, these people have proved that they care. They have proved that they can write eloquently and passionately. I would ask all that haven't already done so, if they would spare some time to put their views across to their MP's. It can be done online, all you need to do is to type in your postcode at www.writetothem.com . Your MP's name will then pop up, click on this. This will then open a box in which you can type your message to your MP. The MP's and the Lords are ultimately the ones who will decide whether these proposals make it to law, they are supposed to represent your views and they can't be expected to represent them, if you don't make them aware of them.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Release Barabbas!!

Following on from my blog yesterday, regarding the UK Government plans to create hundreds of thousands of potential new criminals for the heinous crime of looking at pictures of consenting adults indulging in their chosen sexual activities, it seems that the population in our prisons have now reached full capacity.

Quite where the Government intend to put all these new 'criminals', if and when the law gets passed to jail them for up to three years for looking at extreme pornography, is anybody's guess. There was talk over the weekend of less serious offenders being rehoused in less secure open prisons, but there was an assurance from a Home Office spokesman that violent criminals and sex offenders would remain in the high security prisons. For sex offfenders, read people who look at kinky pictures in the privacy of their own home.

Less than a year ago, the Government announced that they were considering releasing prisoners early in order to relieve the overcrowding in our prisons.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4336928.stm

A few days ago, they suggested that less violent criminals would be moved to open prisons. Tellingly, the spokesman did not rule out the possibility that violent muggers would not be released early to these less secure prisons.

Unless they are going to build more prisons, it would seem that for every person they lock up for looking at smutty pictures, they are going to have to release a criminal who has committed "real" crimes against society, either to a less secure prison, or maybe release them altogether as part of an early release scheme.

They say history repeats itself. I am reminded of a previous occasion when a Government official had to make a decision as to which prisoner to release. Should he release someone who was a robber and a murderer or should he release an innocent man whose actions had harmed nobody? Even though he washed his hands, he could not absolve himself from blame, as the bigots in society at that time shouted, as one voice............

RELEASE BARABBAS!!!!!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

UK Government Extreme Pornography proposals

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In August 2005, the UK Government launched a public Consultation regarding their plans to make possession of some forms of pornography illegal. The wording of the Consultation document itself was heavily biased. It contained numerous references to child pornography and children, even though these new proposals have absolutely nothing to do with child pornography, which is already well covered by our laws.

The Consultation document was crammed full of emotive language, designed to influence the reader into agreeing with the proposals. The material under question was described by the author as "abhorrent" on no less than five seperate occasions. The questions were framed in a way so as to invite the reader to agree with the Government proposals. There were "how often do you beat your wife" type questions, such as the question which invited the respondent to choose a sentence for possession of this type of material. It only gave two options for response. Either to impose a sentence of three years or impose a sentence of less than three years. It gave no option for those who thought that there should be no penalty at all for possession of this type of material or those who thought that a prison sentence of any length was not appropriate.

Having no hard evidence to support the need for this new law, they resort, in the Consultation, to asking if there is any justification for possessing this type of material. Excuse me?? Since when did I have to justify my possession of something that cause nobody any harm? In a free Society, if a freedom is to be removed by a Government, the onus is on them to justify it's removal. People collect all sorts of things, thimbles, teapots, badges etc etc. What justification do they have to possess them? It is not up to the individual to justify having any possession which does not cause harm to others. If harm cannot be proved -and the Government admit there is no hard evidence of harm caused by violent pornography, then that freedom should remain.

In the interests of getting the result they wanted, the authors of the Consultation document sent out invitations to a wide range of organisations in whom they were confident of support. The vast majority of these invitations were sent to organisations which protect children and children's rights, feminist and women's groups, religious organisations and police forces and police organisations.

The material under question bears no relation whatsoever to child pornography and, as access to the websites referred to in the Consultation document requires the use of a credit card, there appears to be little danger of children obtaining access to the more "abhorrent" material which the author would like to make it illegal to possess. Feminist and women's groups are typically against pornography of any sort and those enlightened feminist groups who are against censorship of this type, such as Feminists Against Censorship, were not invited to respond. Contacting religious organisations was another sure-fire way to guarantee support for their proposals, their opposition to pornography in all forms is as predictable as it is ill-informed. One cannot escape the irony of the fact that the book that has spawned more violence and been responsible for more deaths than any other, is the Bible. While it may have been a sensible idea to get the views of the police on the problems in enforcing laws of this nature, the main job of the police is enforcing laws, not helping to create them. Even so, was there any good reason, apart from the numbers game, to seperately invite all 43 individual police forces to respond when they had already asked umbrella organisations representing those police forces to respond?

Despite loading the dice so heavily in favour of getting the support for these proposals that the Government was looking for, over 71% of private individuals who responded were against any change in the law.

Most of the Consultation responses have now been made public. Having looked through these responses, the greatest area of concern for most, surrounds the proposals to make possession of images containing sexual violence a crime. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people in this country enjoy some form of BDSM (Bondage, Discipline, Domination, Submission, Sadism and Masochism) in their sexual activities. BDSM is consensual play between partners, it is peformed with safety as a prime concern to ensure that no long lasting damage occurs, the physical and mental well-being of their partners is paramount. However, to someone unfamiliar with BDSM, images of this type of sexual play can appear to be unconsensual and dangerous. A picture cannot show that there was full consent, a picture cannot show the safety precautions that have been taken, a picture cannot show the years of experience that the performers have had in safely indulging in this type of activity, a picture cannot show the love and concern that the participants have for each other. However, such a picture, presented to a jury who have no knowledge of BDSM can land the person who possesses it, in jail for up to three years.

The Government admit, in their own Consultation paper and in their proposals, that there is no hard evidence that looking at these type of pictures can cause people to commit crime. This despite numerous studies over many years which have sought to make that link.

The Government are happy to allow us to watch extreme violence in mainstream movies and on television, they are happy to allow children to have access to violent and realistic video games. They are happy to allow us to watch newsreel footage of people being maimed and killed in war. Presumably they are happy to do so because they do not believe that watching such material causes people to go and commit violent crime. Why then are they intent on criminalising the possession of violent pictures which are in a sexual context? Their reasoning stinks of double standards and hypocrisy. Surely if a violent scene in a movie is deemed to cause no harm, a picture of consensual and safe role-play between adults is also likely to cause no harm.

Why then, is the Government still intent on pushing through these new laws? Why is it prepared to ignore the lack of evidence, that they themselves admit? Why is the Government prepared to go against the views of more than 71% of the individual members of Society who took the time and trouble to respond to their Consultation. Why, when our prisons are full to capacity, do they insist on wanting to create new laws to remove more freedoms from us and, in the process, create hundreds of thousands of potential new criminals? Why, if the evidence for harm is non-existent, do they feel the need to proceed with this new law at all?

Backlash is an umbrella group of organisations that has been set up to fight against these proposals. I would urge everyone, whether they feel that they would personally be affected by this proposed new law or not, to visit their website at http://www.backlash-uk.org.uk/

See what hundreds of others are saying at:

http://bloggingforbacklash.blogspot.com/