Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Worse Than The Wire

Well, now the Tories have really put their foot in it this time. How dare they say that parts of Britain were like the US television series “The Wire”. The actual quote is…

The Wire has become a byword for urban deprivation and societal breakdown in modern America."
"When The Wire comes to Britain's streets, it is the poor who suffer most. It is the poor who are the ones who have borne the brunt of the surge in violence under this government. It is they who struggle to live their lives against a constant fear of crime. Far too many of those features of what we have always seen as a US phenomenon are now to be found on the streets of Britain as well."

Well, I have one thing to say to Chris Grayling, the Tories Home Affairs spokesman, parts of Britain are so much worse than the Wire (in a different way), and has been since… well John Majors tenor as Prime Minister at least.

The problem is that politicians as a whole do not treat the poor seriously and are only too happy to paint every poor person as a dole scrounger. Does anyone remember the statistic, which came out during the Holyrood Elections 2 years ago, which claimed that Scotland was poorer than it has been since the 1960’s. Probably not, the big political arguments were about who supported Independence and who didn’t.

If the Tories really cared about the working poor, they would have made more of a song and dance about the scrapping of the 10p Tax Band, if New Labour really cared, they would have cut income taxes for the lowest paid, rather than take 2.5% off of VAT. However, the real stain on our housing estates are the lazy poor, as it is this group where lawlessness is most prevalent.

Benefit dependency is rife with many young adults on the scrap-heap by 16, alcoholism is at epidemic levels, while gang culture is a huge part of the landscape in Scotland. There was a report a couple of weeks ago which suggested that this was a factor in employment statistics, with young adults unable to take up jobs in rival gangs area’s.

I remember 10 years ago working for Community Education Scotland when they polled young adults in Renfrewshire. One of the things that came out quite strongly was that there was nothing for them to do in Renfrewshire. The situation has improved a bit, but in terms of facilities, I’m not sure that it has improved to the extent that it needs to.

Grayling’s speech is typical of most politicians contribution regarding the less well off, talking down to people rather than engaging with the problem(s). Living in a sink estate, I can see exactly the problems affecting housing estates. In fact, living in a sink estate has been the inspiration behind this blog’s title. However, until all sides get their act together, then the common 5/8th’s will continue to be let down by all sides.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

The Day Holyrood Grew Up.

The Lockerbie bomber has left Scotland on board a plane bound for Libya after being freed from prison on compassionate grounds. Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, 57, was jailed in 2001 for the atrocity which claimed 270 lives in 1988. The decision to release Megrahi, who has terminal prostate cancer, was made by the Scottish Government.
The White House said it "deeply regretted" the decision and some of the US victims' families reacted angrily

At about 25 to 2 this afternoon, the Justice Minister Kenny McAskill announced the release of the only person convicted of the bombing of Pan-Am Flight 103 – The Clipper of The Seas. Megrahi has terminal prostate cancer, and is said to have months, if not weeks to live. The decision to release Megrahi, especially after the leeks a couple of weeks ago, has attracted criticism and unwarranted ignorance in equal measure. The other day on Radio 5 Live, the American commentator Charlie Wolf wondered why this decision was taken by a "regional assembly", in complete ignorance of 300 years of Scottish history and many more of Scot’s Law. Brian Taylor’s response was restrained and measured.

It is in this atmosphere that McAskill has made the brave and grown up decision to release the convicted killer, on compassionate grounds. There are people who are angry at this decision, their response from the other side of the pond has been particularly vociferous. President Obama has described the release as “a mistake”, while Kara Weipz, who lost her 20-year-old brother Richard Monetti, said: "I don't understand how the Scots can show compassion. It is an utter insult and utterly disgusting. It is horrible. I don't show compassion for someone who showed no remorse." On top of this, Iain Dale speculates the possibilities of some sort of boycott of Scottish goods.

In the face of this hostility McAskill’s decision was brave. To have that amount of pressure put on you to go one way, only to make the opposite decision is brave, whether it's the right decision or not. However the reaction above all rather assumes that Adbelbaset Ali al-Megrahi was the sole person who placed a bomb on a flight to Frankfurt at Luqa Airport in Malta, which connected on to the ill fated Flight 103 from London Heathrow, in short it assumes that the conviction of Megrahi was not the biggest miscarriage of justice in Scottish legal history.

McAskill throughout his speech went to great pains to praise the Scottish legal system, yet in his heart of hearts he must have known that Megrahi was convicted on some seriously shoddy evidence and unsound circumstantial evidence. It is unlikely that the bomb made it through Frankfurt without being detected, as the security services in Germany were on the lookout for bombs hidden in Toshiba electronics devices. This theory was also further undermined by the settlement out of court by Granada when Air Malta sued regarding the link. Commercial Solicitors Norton Rose proved that none of the 55 bags checked on to the flight from Malta to Frankfurt were ascribed to passengers travelling on to London.

Indeed it came out around the trial that there was a break in on the morning of December 21st at Heathrow, an incident which was covered up for 12 years. One of the loaders reported that one of the containers had two extra pieces of luggage than there was when the loader went off on his tea break. One of those additional pieces of luggage was a “maroony brown Samsonite”. It was agreed by all the experts that the bomb was contained within a Samsonite. The discrepancies here are only the tip of the iceberg, but should have been enough to cast reasonable doubt on the prosecution case.

I personally feel very sorry for Megrahi. The guy is going to die convicted of a crime that I certainly think he did not commit and it is in the best interests of higher powers than you or me that he stay convicted. I think Kenny MacAskill today made a sensable grown up decision, and completely ignored the noise from the other side of the pond, the special interest groups or the noise from down south. He sought out the information he needed and made his decision based on that. MacAskill made the kind of decision we expect all our polititians to make. In this respect, Holyrood finaly came of age today.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

"Who's That Tit Of An MEP Then?

Hmmm, a pretty good assessment of Daniel Hannan by Absolute Radio’s Christian O’Connell. I dunno, just because he got Comedy Dave to swear on live radio a few weeks ago.

All kiddin aside though, the mask has now slipped from Dave’s nice nice Tories. Hannan is something of a hero of the right for his video attacking Brown in the European Parliament, when Brown visited. He does make valid points, and these are points made here on this blog. However, being a Tory his remedies are not the remedies I would prescribe, they would be best described as cuts cuts and more cuts. He should have put “Land of Hope and Glory” on the video. I mean, wow Tory attacks New Labour politician shocker. Whatever next, Tory grandee calls for tax cuts for the rich shocker.

His appearance on American broadcasting’s equivalent to our own Daily Mail is unwise to say the least, particularly for someone representing the government in waiting (if the polls are to be believed). One of the reasons for America being an uncivilised country is that healthcare is still very much tied to wealth. Obama recognises this and is trying to get further than Clinton did (his failure effectively sunk his first administration). However American politics is much more of a cesspit of corruption than anything here (with the exception of the parliament Hannan is a member of), and this has been shown with the arguments put forward by the healthcare companies, and their spokesmen in the Republican Party. As far as I can tell, the main argument is essentially the cost in terms of taxation and about how socialist it all is. The argument Obama should be using is how barbaric the current system is that you are turned away from a hospital if you cannot pay, no matter how serious your condition is. 16% of GDP is spent on health in the US (compared to 8.4% in the UK, that’s the UK not England, the UK. Got that Yanks, good), yet 45.7 million people in the US do not have healthcare. That is not the sign of a civilised society.

Hannan’s argument was that the NHS has been a “60 year mistake” and he wouldn’t inflilict the NHS on anyone. Well gee thanks for that. We all have things to thank the NHS for, for me personally the reconstructive plastic surgery (still in its infancy at Caniesburn Hospital) done on my left hand nearly 30 years ago being the most obvious reason for my gratitude. Yes, the NHS has its faults, most of which have been caused by politicians (of both sides) over the last 30 years worshiping at the altair of private enterprise, and believing that the public sector was bloated and needed trimmed, regardless of whether it was working or not. Politicians like… well Hannan really are to blame. For Andy Burnham to attack Hannan for being “unpatriotic” is something of a pot/kettle interface.

To my mind, Hannan’s biggest crime is to go along with the big fat Republican lie about the NHS. The claim by Roger Helmer, a fellow Tory MEP, that “80% of Americans are getting better health care than we are in the UK” is also to my mind an unsubstantiated claim. The Investors Business Daily also claimed “people such as scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn't have a chance in the UK, where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless.". That’ll be British born Stephen Hawking then, who is on record as saying that he “wouldn't be here today if it were not for the NHS".

So to finish, here’s BBC4’s new enfant terrible Charlie Brooker on the nice, friendly, more right wing than Hitler American news networks.