Labour’s response to the BBC license debate

March 10, 2014

The Tories have gotton so excited about the idea of decriminalising the BBC license fee, that it’s difficult to avoid the suspicion that they see this as an opportunity to do down the national broadcaster. Labour needs to have a response, or else the debate will be guided by those who wish to see television controlled by press barons and oligarchs.

Apparently 10% of cases before the magistrates’ courts are for evasion of the license fee. On the face of it this sounds extraordinary, but before we accept this figure on face value, we should first recognise that it came from the Magistrates Association, a body with a history empire building.

In recent years they have campaigned for fewer cases to be sent up to the crown court for sentencing, for themselves and not the police to give cautions to offenders, and for the abolition of fixed penalty notices, in order that they can have a monopoly over fines.
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The Dutch and French state railways are buying our rail franchises

February 26, 2014

The railway that passes our constituency office in Bethnal Green and Bow is owned by Abellio, the Dutch state railway company. Am I alone in thinking this is somewhat surreal?

We put these franchises out to tender because we wanted the private sector to provide their management know-how. It turns out that this company is not private sector but is the state sector of Holland. So rather than having the British state running British railways, we have the Dutch state running British railways, because they outbid the private rail companies, presumably because they have better management know-how. Read the rest of this entry »


What Ronnie Biggs tells us about the electorate

December 19, 2013

The life of Ronnie Biggs was notable for a story that people across the whole world were drawn to. The train robbery itself is well known to the reader, but the story of celebrity and rebellion is what makes him deserve an obituary today.

The story was not the one that policy makers would like; a man who fought the law and apparently won. But it was largely a lie, sold by Biggs to an awaiting media in order to escape his life of poverty in his third-world home, yet the need of people to own this story was truthful, and for us, it would be wise to consider its relevance.

In the film Goodfellows we were told an American mafia story in two halves. The first half concerned with the sheer joy of the gang being a law unto themselves. “Ever since I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster”. The individuals who made up their own rules, while the state, with their corrupt police officers, was impotent. Yet, the 2nd half completely turns the story into the sheer horror that this apparent freedom from state control necessitates, opening with an horrific murder where the victim is stabbed repeatedly in the boot of a car until his life finally drains for him. The audience is shocked and sobered. The joy of being lawless is no longer apparent. The horror of the removal of the rule of state is apparent.

The media story of the Great Train Robbery with its huge haul was similarly turned by the horrific beating of the train driver, Jack Mills, mercilessly smashed across the head with an iron bar in an pointless and homicidal attack. The story progressed till the robbers were caught and the state was victorious. The matter would have ended there, if Biggs hadn’t escaped.
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PISA is a half measure of education

December 4, 2013

In this country parents don’t choose to live in poverty in order that every penny of the family finances can provide one child with the best possible education. We do not sacrifice all leisure and play in order to spend every waking hour and minute on extra homework. Nor do we threaten our children with our own suicide, when the child looks likely to fail an exam. Asian parents, on the other hand, apparently do.

In the UK, we want our children to grow up as rounded, happy individuals. The purpose of school is not simply about passing exams, but also for building character. It may be easier to get a child through an exam if we teach by rote, but we also want our children to have curiosity, creativity, and a sense of adventure. These qualities are not easy to measure, but are essential for a successful life.
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Milibandism and the TV football market

November 24, 2013

Sky‘s dominance over televised football was recently shattered by the entry of British Telecom into the market. On the face of it, this competition should be exactly what our country needs, to bring down the outrageous expense of TV, as a small but significant strike against our cost of living crisis. However, the market for football rights is dysfunctional, and Sky may already be trying to undermine competitive pressures [link]. That’s why Milibandism needs to be applied.

If BT and Sky were competing for customers on equal terms and with equal products, then prices would naturally fall. The problem is that they can’t have an equal product. One or other will have the football rights and the customers will go straight to that provider. Therefore, the two companies will compete ferociously to buy this content, pushing the price up to astonishing levels, and wiping out the advantage the consumer would have gained through their competition.
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Binging paedophiles out of the shadows

November 23, 2013

The happiest client I ever represented was a paedophile who had walked into Limehouse police station and handed over his hard disc which contained thousands of images of child pornography. He was laughing and joking and brightening up the whole of the custody suite with his good humour, even though he could be facing a jail sentence.

The disc contained images right across the spectrum of seriousness. At the soft end was an image of a six year old in stockings and suspenders, lying spread eagled on her back, with a caption over her crotch saying “Click here to Enter”, so there was no mistake about the nature of the material.

Because he’d handed himself in he was given a caution, meaning he’d have no criminal record but would be put on the sex offenders register. You’d expect him to be delighted, but the moment we got outside, he suddenly burst into tears and was inconsolable.
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£23bn scandal of London’s housing bubble

October 1, 2013

According to the Bank of England, each year since 2010, £23 billion of foreign money has poured into the London property market. One would think that this is a good thing for the economy, but most of these foreign buyers have never been to London, or at least have no intention of spending any time here.

It’s all about the preservation of wealth. The residents of unstable oil-rich countries fear the Arab Spring. The residents of China and Russia fear their governments. All are looking for stability. It has become the fashion to “park” money in London. It’s what wealthy people do when they don’t trust the banks, they “park” their money through the purchase of an asset, as a store of value. In this regard, the London property market has become a gynormous piggy bank.

In 2011, Regent Street was valued by The Crown Estate at £2bn. Each year a multiple of over 11.5 times this in ordinary homes is being snapped up. That’s the equivalent, each single year, of Oxford Street, The Strand, Fleet Street, High Holborn, Trafalgar Square, High St Kensington, Old Bond Street, Berkeley Square, Park Lane and Knightsbridge, and more. That’s just one year.
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