To be honest we’ll sack you

23 05 2011

I hesitate before writing this.  I don’t wish to convey, in the least, that I imagine a utopian society where lying is acceptable, encouraged or seen as inevitable.  It isn’t.  I also think we live in a society that is distinctly not a utopia.  To improve the world, you have to work with systems that are in place.  Societal norms must be used even as they are not accepted and work is done to change them.

It aggravates me to hear people complain about politicians lying to them, or if not lying, then being less than 100% honest about their views, when the merest slip of the tongue, no matter how valid, honest or accurate the opinion, will get them fired (or much flak to that effect).

I think people need to perhaps consider that it is their attitudes that, in effect force politicians to be less than wholesome with the truth.  I challenge anyone reading this to imagine a politician being totally honest and keeping their job.  To not evade a question, to give complete answers, to share both the negative and positive sides of their policies and political positions, and retain even a hope of re-election.

Would you trust a politician who lacked the sense to conceal elements of the truth given the current state of our society, the bias of the media and the unwillingness of people to do read behind the headlines?  I wouldn’t vote for someone who was so naive.  Would you?

Is it then the politicians who can’t be trusted, or we who in effect, with our vote, are asking them “please lie to us”?

#seriously

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Wrongs & Rights

3 11 2010

I’m going to preface this article by explaining my thoughts on “rights” (as in ECHR).  I think it is unfortunate (but perhaps necessary in practice), that people refer to what are, in my mind, privileges that citizens of an ethical society grant to one another as “rights.”  Not because they aren’t right (as in right and wrong) to have, but rather because the language of “rights” is one of intrinsic, natural, “god-given” privilege.  Something that it would be wrong to deny a human being.

When I say they might need to be necessary in practice is because the defence of civil liberties is an ongoing and fundamental struggle.  To treat privileges as rights is to make them more resistant to encroachment, our “rights” are bastions of liberty, designed to keep people free.   When I say it’s unfortunate, it’s because it’s not true.  What we call “rights” are privileges we grant one another, by choice, as part of our social contract.  We have agreed (however implicitly) as a society, that members of that society deserve certain privileges; that to deny members of society these privileges  is to threaten society.  Without free speech, our society would not be safe.  Without the privilege of a fair trial, our society would not be safe.  Our society rests on the freedom of its citizens- from the power of government, and from one another.

We live in a representative democracy- people have a vote by which they influence the choice of their leaders, who act as representatives of the people when making laws for society (taking cynicism aside for the moment).  As such, people consent implicitly to be held accountable to the body of laws of that society.  We get our vote, we get our privileges and in return we follow the laws enacted by this mutually “agreed” body.

Part of the laws we have mutually agreed to be bound by include penalties for members of society who transgress those laws.  Some of those penalties include restrictions of privilege- such as freedom of movement.  We have agreed that some actions, if convicted by due process, deserve the sentence of temporary removal from society- prison.

Prisoners have had their rights (mistakes in the system aside for the moment)- they have had habeas corpus, the right to a fair trial, trial by jury, to not be tortured and so on.  They have the right of appeal, the right to privacy and security of person.  Nonetheless, the rule of law has, by due process, confined them to segregation, the intent of which is to prevent them from negatively interfering with law-abiding member of society, whose privileges they have infringed on.

Prisoners do not deserve the vote for two reasons-

1. They are separated from us to keep us safe from them- the vote gives them influence over our society, which they have been removed from by warrant of their actions.  They do not deserve influence over a society they are not currently part of- similar to how citizens of one country cannot vote in another.

2. Voting, like freedom of movement, is a privilege we grant one another as part of our social contact.  If you break that contract, why should you retain all of your privileges?  Punishment is a necessary disincentive to law breaking.

____________________________________________________

Taking the argument of prisoners to one side for the moment, and in light of the actual ruling of the Court (surprisingly not linked to in any of the news sites I’ve seen this discussed on </s>), it is pretty clear that argument (2) applies to all felons, regardless of imprisonment.  The Court took issue with the lack of proportionality of punishment (disenfranchisement), with the severity of the crime causing imprisonment (or in the original case, the reason for continuing detainment).  The amusing implication (for me), is that people are up in arms about prisoners voting, whilst I would argue that criminals should be denied the right to vote- in prison or not.





Costs of democracy

29 10 2010

I’ve tried to avoid posting about this because it’s such a contentious issue, but this most recent letter in the Argus, and the comments it incited, is difficult to leave without response.

Now first off- the post itself- is about the accuracy, or lack thereof, in the original article posted by the paper, and the letter to that effect by one of the local Conservative Councillors (Dawn Barnett).  I have to say that I agree- the article isn’t particularly well balanced, nor does it seek to derive both sides of the argument.  What got to me though wasn’t the post, but the commentary- all about whether the actions of Smash EDO (both past and present) were justifiable.

For me, this completely misses the point, and aggravates me considerably.  I remember clearly seeing the news board outside my local Mulberry’s read: “Smash EDO policing bill to top £1m.”  Personally, instantly, I wanted to re-write that board to read: “Cost of right to protest £1m.”

Why not do it Mastercard?

Cost of policing: £1m, cost of free speech: priceless.

I hope people don’t misinterpret this post- for me the entire point is that the actions of Smash EDO are not the issue– what is fundamental is that a group is using its legal right to protest.  That legal right is fundamental to liberty and democracy, and as such is beyond price.

Certainly Smash EDO’s attitudes and the consequences of how they chose to protest can be criticised and debated, as can the choices and attitudes of the police.  I just think it’s unfortunate that people are portraying negatively something citizens of a democracy must have access to- even people we don’t agree with.





Licenses, Teas & Red Herrings

19 10 2010

In response to the recent Argus article “Opponents fight plan for city centre Brighton cafe“, I think it’s important to clarify the approach towards licensing in Brighton & Hove, particularly in the Cumulative Impact Area (CIA).

Let me open by saying that dealing with anti-social behaviour is one of the Council’s major roles in the City, and in my view, one that will only grow, not only because it is clearly the desire of the residents of the area, but for the culture of the City at large.  However, I think it is important to recognise with licensing issues that it is the implementation and the effects of it; the type of business and the intended customers that need to be considered, not the license or lack thereof.

As the commenters on the article quite rightly point out- this is a café, seeking to expand its offering and provide alcohol amongst its other beverages and food.  The objection raised is by a neighbouring bar owner (read: competitor).  I am writing this because I hope that what is clearly uncompetitive behaviour is not sanctioned in an attempt at political point scoring with respect to licensing restrictions.





Brighton & Hove Local Council

24 08 2010

I have just received my approval to run as a Liberal Democrat candidate in the Brighton & Hove unitary authority local elections in May 2011.  In an attempt to paint a picture of the current political landscape, I’ve pulled together some facts, figures & maps courtesy of Wikipedia.

The Council consists of 54 councillors  elected from 21 wards every four years via multi-member plurality voting.   The most recent boundary changes have left the city looking like this:

Brighton & Hove Electoral Wards

Brighton & Hove Electoral Wards

For a full view of which councillors are currently representing which wards, have a look here.

Year Conservative Green Labour Liberal Democrats Independent
2007 26 12 13 2 1
2003 20 6 24 3 1
1999 23 3 44 5 3

As you can see, Labour were in effective control of the council until 2003, whereupon I believe they ruled in a coalition.  Since 2007 there has been a Conservative minority administration.

I’m currently pulling together some statistics to do a realistic analysis and will post again soon.  Alas, one of the difficulties is consistency given the changes in wards.  A useful analysis would show voting trends, including turnout and voter preference, for each ward since year dot.  As it is, with regular boundary changes it is difficult to establish this.





Pride to be Liberal

10 08 2010

Last Saturday I joined the rest of my local party, to march in support of Brighton Pride.  We were joined by Simon Hughes, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats, who I thought was fantastic company and a welcome upbeat addition to the march.  We were also supported by Dr Evan Harris, President of DELGA, and former MP for Oxford West and Abingdon.

It was a lovely sunny day and I felt proud to be marching in support of LBGT rights.  I might not be that way inclined, but I am a strong believer in equality before the law, and before the treatment of society, irrespective of gender or sexual preference.  So yes, I felt proud and marched (and danced) with a smile on my face.  Fundamentally, the Liberal Democrats, as well as being the first party to support the LBGT agenda, are, in my clearly biased mind, the correct party to lead Brighton forward, believing as they do in civil liberties, equality & community.

Photos to be provided ASAP.

Photo 1: