On British Values.

bayeux-tap

I am having a big problem to define exactly what British values really are, so it would be impossible for me to teach them to others until I have found some answers. For instance, I would at one time have said that a ‘sense of fair play’ would be a typical British value, but I am no longer certain that this is the case, to some extent because I no longer understand what “British” means.

You might find that a strange thing to say, but for me it is clear enough. Britain today is not the same country as I grew up in as a child. It has changed from a purposeful cooperative rebuilding the country after the ravages of the Second World War, to a seething mass of multicultural individuals with no cohesion, and apparently little common purpose.

When Cameron holds up Magna Carta as a shining example, he demonstrates quite clearly that he doesn’t understand what values are either. Magna Carta is a symbol of the oppressed rising up to throw off their oppression, and I am quite certain that this is not the value that Cameron wants to instill in his electorate! Nor does Boris Johnson by the look of it; see
“Boris Johnson to buy three water cannon for Metropolitan police”

Furthermore, it seems to me that the government operates on a different set of values to the rest of us. Austerity measures are driving so many people to desperation that fair play cannot factor in the government’s equations at all. Not content with the havoc and hardship caused by the ‘Bedroom Tax’, their latest measure is to terminate support for the disabled, see “Westminster Abbey occupied in protest against cuts to disability care funding”

“Labour MP John McDonnell has supported the demonstration, saying that government actions have left people ‘desperate'”

I am not the only one to see the confusion behind British values. Moeen Raoof, a UK-based defense consultant, asks “What are British values?”

“This is a question everyone is grappling with now that British PM David Cameron has thrown his lot in by stating that he wants a more muscular promotion of British values to include freedom, tolerance of others and respect for the rule of law.”

And from Owen Jones at the Guardian:-
Sorry, David Cameron, but your British history is not mine

“The government’s crusade to embed “British values” in our education system is meaningless at best, dangerous at worst, and a perversion of British history in any case. It’s meaningless because our history is the struggle of many different Britains, each with their own conflicting sets of values.”

And from my old friend George Monbiot, we have what I consider to be one of his best articles:-
“How Britain Denies its Holocausts”

It seems obvious enough that the British government uses a different set of values where the rest of the world is concerned. What is less obvious, is that the government uses the external values for its own electorate between elections.

Yes, that’s right. We are part of the “Us” at election time, but we swiftly revert to being “Them” when the election is over!

But then, its our own fault!

We consistently elect people with the wrong values to Parliament!

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The proposed 38Degrees Recall Bill.

38degrees“Hot off the press: our draft recall law is back from the lawyers. It’s the law that would make it possible for voters to sack MPs who have behaved badly. Thousands of 38 Degrees members chipped in to make possible.”

In keeping with normal 38Degrees practice, members are given the chance to voice their opinion on what is being proposed. The main thing is that this draft bill would put the Recall function in the hands of the voters, where it belongs.

“The big difference between their draft law and ours is that theirs puts a committee of MPs in charge – while ours put voters in the driving seat. Our draft law has a lot of detail. Several MPs and other organisations, like Unlock Democracy and Taxpayers Alliance, have also been involved. This is to make sure that the government can’t ignore it by saying it wouldn’t work in practice.”

“The more people who fill in the poll, the more likely MPs will listen to us, as we’ll be representing the wishes of the people they need to listen to, their voters.”

“The sooner we’ve approved our draft law – the better position we’ll be in to stop the government pushing through their sorry excuse for a recall law.”

If you need more detail, there are two sources of information:-
1. A description from their blog at RECALL DRAFT BILL

2. a PDF file of the full draft text at Recall of MPs Bill (Draft)

Do take the trouble to fully inform yourselves, then fill in the quick poll at:-
DRAFT RECALL BILL: YOUR THOUGHTS

We don’t want half-measures here – we need to get this right!

New Alerts from Avaaz and 38Degrees!

AvaazThe Global People’s Climate March – September 21st, 2014

What is wrong with the following picture?
March

There is one thing that is very conspicuous by its absence – there is no sign of activity in England!

Perhaps its too early yet, and people are waiting to sign up?

Well, I will be checking from time to time, and will keep an eye on the situation. We cannot afford to ignore this matter completely, it is too important for all of us. And we know that we can get things done when enough people demonstrate their solidarity behind a project.

If you want to sign up now, go to Global March

38degreesThere is a new request from 38Degrees.

Apparently Syngenta are attempting to persuade the British government to ignore the EU ban on neonicotinoids, and allow their use in the UK. The bees would not thank us for that – they have taken a big enough bashing as it is.

Don’t forget that these pesticides are part of the “Triple Whammy” that is causing us problems with our farmland.

A cabinet decision is expected on Tuesday, so we don’t have long to act.

Please add your name to the petition:

“Bees pollinate apples, cucumbers, strawberries, tomatoes, cauliflowers, onions, cabbages, broccoli, carrots and many many more of our fruit and veg.”

Without bees, we wouldn’t last very long!

Testing Times!

It appears that testing is big business. Since 2011 all overseas student visa applicants are required to prove they can speak English at an appropriate level. The responsibility for the testing has been delegated to those colleges and universities that are permitted to act as sponsors for students.

The testing function itself is not something that colleges and universities are set up for, and consequently the job is farmed out to specialist companies, of which there are 5 main providers – one of which, ETS Global Ltd., has been cheating!

There are three web sites reporting the same problem – wholescale falsification of English Language test results for foreign students.
English language tests inquiry declares thousands of results invalid

Ministers admit ‘systemic cheating’ in immigration language tests

Government promises crackdown on immigrant abuse of student visa system

Of the above three, the Guardian supplies the most detail, and includes a reference to an earlier problem with ETS.

“The Home Office immigration minister, James Brokenshire, announcing the measures in a statement to MPs, said a criminal investigation was under way into ETS Global Ltd, the European subsidiary of a US company, which is one of the biggest providers of English language tests in Britain.”

“Brokenshire said ETS had identified more than 29,000 invalid results and more than 19,000 questionable results at some of their test centres in 2012 and 2013. Brokenshire told MPs that as they have still to analyse results from a number of test centres the final figures will be higher.”

The American firm, ETS, had its five-year contract to handle the national curriculum tests for schools in England and Wales terminated in 2008 after major delays in processing test results.

These two pages give details of the problems involved:-
Sats firm ETS Europe has contract terminated after marking crisis

US firm loses contract after Sats exam fiasco

I would have expected that ETS would have been flagged as an unreliable partner after this incident, or even blacklisted, but apparently no precautions were taken to prevent them accepting further contracts in the UK without special measures being applied.

Once again, it seems that one branch of government does not know what another branch is doing, even though both fall under Education, and evildoers are slipping through the cracks.

Its not only students that are failing the test!

UK Food Security – Triple Whammy!

EarsA recent report from the University of Cambridge states – “Britain is running out of land for food and faces a potential shortfall of two million hectares by 2030 according to new research.”
See – UK faces ‘significant’ shortage of farmland by 2030

What farmland will be available will probably be dangerously contaminated, according to a comprehensive scientific assessment, which states that “The world’s most widely used insecticides have contaminated the environment across the planet so pervasively that global food production is at risk”

See – Insecticides put world food supplies at risk, say scientists

The third item may seem unrelated to the problem at first glance, but when we consider that farmland is also part of infrastructure, the connection becomes obvious. We are in fact here talking about extreme climate events, which are increasing, and which will have an effect on crop yields.

See – UK public ‘should be primed to expect more infrastructure failures’

With multiple threats like these there willl be a multiplying factor that makes the overall result much worse, and in some scenarios catastrophic. It is essential that we connect the dots early enough to give us a chance of avoiding disaster.

The government has been criticised for a lack of a coherent vision with respect to farmland, but in my view this lack of vision applies to everything that the government touches. Our present-day actions should always be driven by long-term necessity, and not short-term expediency.

But this also applies to everybody, and not just the government!

As every chess player knows, the best chance of survival is to think further ahead than the opponent!

Keep this in mind at the next election!

Democracy Deficit? – Look No Further!

david-cameron

I could be wrong, of course.

There is a very remote possibility that Cameron does not understand that his job as an elected representative is to put his personal views to one side, and act on the perceived wishes of his electorate.

But I think he has no intention of doing so at all!

Furthermore, he gets angry when others in similar positions of power do what is expected of them.
See:- Cameron to threaten EU with ‘consequences’ if Juncker appointed

His intensive campaign to prevent Juncker being elected as President of the European Commission has not only resulted in dismal failure, but also unmasked Cameron as a blackmailer of the worst ilk.

Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, and Matteo Renzi, the Italian prime minister, are having none of it. Although they may privately wish to appoint a different President, they will bow to the wishes of their respective peoples, and publicly support Juncker.

They are, in fact, doing the job they are supposed to do!

Why should Cameron take issue with that?

You will note that this is an ongoing issue in British politics. The Prime Minister has the power to make or break democracy – alone.

Sadly, most of the time they break it!

Democracy Deficit? – Look No Further!

FGM is un-Islamic, states the Muslim Council of Britain!

Finally we have a pronouncement, which states that “FGM is not an Islamic requirement. There is no reference to it in the holy Qur’an that states girls must be circumcised. Nor is there any authentic reference to this in the Sunnah, the sayings or traditions of our prophet. FGM is bringing the religion of Islam into disrepute.”

The above text was taken from –
Muslim Council of Britain says female genital mutilation is ‘un-Islamic’

However, just because we have a pronouncement, we cannot expect the matter to be immediately resolved. We are dealing with traditions here, and those that are supported by women – the very people that have to undergo the suffering.

There is another disquieting factor here – “Group issues explicit guidance for the first time, condemning practice which it says is no longer linked to religious teaching”. This implies that it has been linked up till now, although there is apparently no religious basis for it.

At variance with the pronouncment above, Wikipedia reports that “There is no mention of FGM in the Bible or Quran. Although its origins are pre-Islamic, it became associated with Islam because of that religion’s focus on female modesty and chastity, and is found only within or near Muslim communities. It is praised in several hadith (sayings attributed to Muhammad) as noble but not required, along with advice that the milder forms are kinder to women.”

Be that as it may, the practice has roots in traditions dating back to Egypt’s Middle Kingdom, c. 1991–1786 BCE. , and traditions die very hard.

We cannot afford to relax our vigil against this terrible practice. The pronouncement is a useful tool in the fight against it, but nothing more.

Sweden, the first country to outlaw the practice, still has a battle on its hands, with estimates of some 42,000 women and girls in Sweden having been subjected to the controversial procedure, of whom some 7,000 are less than 10 years old. They are now planning an on-line campaign against the problem, which is increasing due to increased immigration.

See:- Sweden to battle female genital mutilation with online course

It occurs to me that a much more radical approach could be effective – refuse entry to any person who has had FGM performed, and deport those who allow their children to suffer the same fate.

Lets hope it doesn’t come to that!

Can the NHS Withstand this Onslaught?

NHS ImpactHardly a day goes past without a mention of the woes that the NHS is undergoing at the moment. The links below indicate how serious the problem is.

NHS will face £30bn funding gap by 2020, official warns
NHS in Wales faces £2.5bn funding gap
Hospitals to be paid by NHS to claw back costs of treating foreigners
Nurses vote against fee for GP services
GP surgeries are not fit for purpose: BMA
NHS Direct ‘failed dying three year-old’

And more recently:-
Lib Dems to demand emergency £2bn bailout for the NHS – reports
Poll: NHS decisions should be left to doctors, say majority of Britons
Jeremy Bowen’s father left without food and water in hospital
Wounded soldiers failing to receive the care they are entitled to
NHS cash problems will get worse next year, finance chiefs believe
Jeremy Hunt plans disclosure drive to reduce medical errors

I’m sure if you dig a little deeper, you will uncover more such horror stories.

The can be no doubt that the NHS has really serious problems, but this leads to two pertinent questions:-
1. Who is causing them?, and
2. How do we fix them?
In my view, the NHS is suffering from “Politicians Disease“. If there had been a real motivation on the part of the government over the years to do something effective to solve the problems, it would have been done. Instead, it seems that the intention is to let it run on starvation rations until it implodes, and has to be bailed out with a massive injection of Privatisation.

The answer to question 2. is much more complicated. First, we have to make the government understand that the NHS must remain “free at the point of use”, as was always the intention, and the funds to do the job have to be found at the expense of lower priority demands on money, such as wars, nukes, and increases in MP’s salary or expenses.

Then we must convince the government that politicians are not capable of running the NHS at all;- it needs to be properly managed by an independent body that is not likely to change at every election cycle.

And, as I have said before, there must be an agreed long-term plan to work to.

This won’t happen unless YOU get off your butt, and do something about it!

Don’t forget, we are all ultimately responsible for our own bodies. We can improve our personal situation by our choice of lifestyle, and maintain our good health ourselves. Think: – Thin is Beautiful!

You want to keep the NHS?

Then fight for it!

Nigel Farage – Watch This Space!

It seems that Nigel Farage is not just a beer-drinking MEP after all – he actually thinks about democracy, and the disconnect with the British public, and is proposing some measures to overcome the problems, which I find very reassuring.

Nigel Farage wants to give voters a greater voice by extending referendums

“The Ukip leader said that voters should be able to veto planning decisions, sack bad MPs and challenge council tax rises”.

“Nigel Farage has said that his party will be an advocate of direct democracy by giving voters the power in a referendum to block local housing, environmental or transport schemes. He also said he wanted voters to be given a more direct say in foreign affairs issues, arguing that Swiss-style referendums can bind countries together.”

This is definitely the start of a move in the right direction. The Swiss system must be the envy of the world, as the people are regularly consulted on matters of importance. There is no other British politician that would contemplate such a concession!

“Asked in what circumstances he envisaged a referendum being held, the Ukip leader said people should be able to call a vote “to stop something from happening” to which they objected.”

“He said “I see direct democracy working as a valuable safety net when the political class have got too far out of touch with political opinion.”

“By giving people the chance to call a major national referendum or sack a rotten MP, people might feel more empowered and more favourable to government and what they are doing.”

“He revealed that he is nervous about involvement of private companies in delivering public services, saying he regarded himself as a traditionalist in terms of the relationship between business and government.”

This has to be streets ahead of what we have now – which is absolutely nothing!

Now its early days, I know, as the next election is in 2015, but the UKIP manifesto needs to be fleshed out. If this is an indication of where it will be going, I’m all for it.

Compared to the usual stench of British politics

this is definitely a breath of fresh, clean air!

Weeding out the Sneaks!

It is part and parcel of the blogging game; the people who want to make money on the Internet look for ways of increasing the links to their site, and thus improving their traffic.

One of the ways they do this is to make comments on your blog, and hope that the link they provided will be left in the comment.

With me, that won’t wash!

I check all the links given, and if there is a hint of something commercial, out it goes!

I look at the comment itself as well. Mostly it is the usual SEO rubbish, but occasionally there is something that seems perfectly innocuous, such as the following:-

“Do you mind if I quote a few of your articles as long as I provide credit and sources back to your blog? My website is in the very same niche as yours and my users would really benefit from a lot of the information you provide here. Please let me know if this alright with you. Cheers!”

The first question was not really necessary. It has long been accepted practice to quote other sources, as long as the origin is given. It was, however, polite.

The website referred to however, has nothing to do with my ‘niche’. In fact, I don’t know of any niche that my site would fit into – the coverage is far too broad.

A quick look revealed that it was all gaming apps for mobile phones, and it had to go!

However, and I always do this final check, I do give the person a chance to justify themselves by sending an email to the address provided.

As expected, no deal! The address was fake, and the email could not be delivered.

So, scarlettshook@gmail.com, better luck next time,
but elsewhere please.

You have been rumbled!