An Accident?

The European Commission has issued a diary to schools right across the EU that lists Muslim and Jewish festivals, and those of just about every other religion: except Christianity. No Christian festival gets a mention. The French have protested, and a Commission spokesman calls it a ‘blunder’. Is it credible to claim this was an accident?

No Greater Love

If ever you catch me ranting about the kids of today, their uselessness, stupidity, lack of character, you name it, just mention to me the name ‘Jordan Rice.’ I promise that will suffice to shut me up, and to replace my arrogance with true humility. Jordan Rice was thirteen when he found himself trapped with his family on the roof of their car in the Queensland floods. When someone reached them with a rope tied round his waist, this boy told his would-be rescuer to save his ten year old brother first. The younger boy survived. Jordan died, along with his mother.

European Court of Human Rights

It is fairly common to to see the ECHR blamed for some decision or other taken in a British court. So, my interest was roused when I saw an item in ‘French Week’, an English language weekly newspaper published in France. I quote “…the Justice Ministry has reminded magistrates that decisions by the European Court of Human Rights do not change French laws. Only parliament can do that. Certain courts had started to follow the ECHR ruling that an avocat should be present right from the beginning of an interrogation of a suspect, even though French law has not been changed.”

So, what is the problem in Britain?

Unintended Outcomes

Generally speaking, the government’s proposals for changing employment law are sensible and measured. I have always believed it wrong to apply the law with equal rigour to small companies and large corporations, and I would include in the changes removing the rights to have one’s job retained over a period of maternity leave. This hurts the small employer disproportionately. I would argue that the law should be much lighter on firms employing no more than 15 people.

It also makes sense to return to the two year qualifying period required to take an employer to an Employment Tribunal. Reducing it to one year has been a major factor in clogging the system. However, I am much less sanguine about the suggestion advanced by some Human Resource executives that employees should have to deposit £250 in order to sue their employer. Such a measure could well lead to the unintended outcome of driving more workers into trade unions. A significant attraction for some workers, most notably in transport, is the union offer to meet legal costs.

Political Slogans

Without slogans some politicians would be speechless. The catchphrase presently doing the rounds in the UK and America is ‘small government’. Like all such rallying cries its precise meaning is unclear, so allowing a range of interpretations. When I suggested to one of its users that the mess Britain is in resulted from ‘small government’ in financial services and other fields, he replied ‘I take it that you mean regulation.’

Well, yes, I regard regulation as an important function of government. It is surely the government’s job to legislate, either to regulate activity, or to enable it. Certainly, one can imagine regulation operating in some areas without government involvement, but there are many activities that need to be regulated by disinterested parties, and that often means by government. Absence of the government from these activities leaves a vacuum that is invariably filled by those with a vested interest in what is and is not regulated. We find government regulation replaced by direction from self-serving cartels, or industry associations working to diminish competition. I recall that price rings were common in the fifties, Continue reading “Political Slogans”

MPs’ Expenses

“The Prime Minister has set a timetable for Ipsa to get its house in order and Sir Ian Kennedy, the chairman of the body that replaced the old discredited regime, knows he faces a race against time to satisfy Number 10 and ranks of seething MPs.” (Daily Telegraph)

How naïve of me. I thought that Ipsa’s principal task was to satisfy the general public, not the MPs or Number 10.

TV for the Blind

I used to be a fan of BBC documentaries, but not any more. My enthusiasm waned some time ago when they began to focus on the presenter, rather than the nominal topic. I became fed-up with needless shots of the presenter(s) walking towards camera, or away from it when female, as cameramen targetted the woman’s swaying rear end. However, I continued to tune in when the topic interested me, but of late I find them unwatchable, and last night I switched off in irritation. Not only is the focus on the presenter these days, but we are treated to a voice-over describing what is visually evident. Such banal statements as ‘John is now walking slowly up some ancient steps’ or ‘Ruth stoops and picks up a strangely shaped stone’ add nothing to one’s understanding. Are these documentaries now intended for the blind ‘viewer’, or has the BBC decided that only idiots are watching?

Keeping Tabs

In the light of the Government’s apparent enthusiasm for greater democracy, allow me to recommend a couple of websites that will enable you to keep close tabs on what your MP is up to on your behalf. Checking MP’s voting records can be interesting, and could perhaps provide you with some questions to fire at him/her during the next election campaign.

Bookmark them for 2011, and keep tabs on your ‘representatives’.

Rat of the Year

Bhupendra Patel, aged 42, was sentenced by magistrates in Manchester earlier in 2010 to do 120 hours of unpaid work. The probation service found him work at the Sue Ryder Care store, a charity shop that supports a nearby hospice for the terminally ill. Upon arriving for work, Patel asked the manager about CCTV coverage. He later stole goods worth £539, which he took away in a taxi. The goods have not been found.

The case was brought before magistrates in Manchester where he was sentenced to four months imprisonment, suspended for 18 months. He walked out of the court a free man. Terrific!