5Live discussed Independent MPs

October 27, 2009

Last week on Victoria Derbyshire’s 5Live programme there was a discussion about whether there should be more independent MPs at the next election. Unfortunately I haven’t had chance to blog about it earlier.

The debate was started because Martin Bell has revealed that he has been contacted by a number of people that seem to be keen to stand as independents to oust some of the more high profile MPs that have been caught out during the expenses scandal (especially Alan Duncan and Keith Vaz). As he was interviewed by Victoria, he made some really interesting comments about what it takes to be an independent MP:

– “You’ve gotta know what you’re getting into”

– “People are entitled to know … what kind of person you are and roughly how your votes will be cast on the big issues”

– “You need enough money to compete with the incumbent and you need a lot of supporters, boots on the ground”

– “There are no automatic votes for independents, you have to win every single one of them”

Some really good comments there and a lot of things to think about for anyone looking to run. Obviously the boots on the ground is one area that I’d love this blog to able to help with.

Question Time – a review

October 23, 2009

So, last night’s Question Time on the BBC featured Nick Griffin, the leader of the BNP. I’m sure you knew that anyway, there was a huge amount of controversy over whether he should be allowed to appear.

I think he should have been on. Whether we like it or nor his party currently represents two constituencies in the European Parliament and receives significant numbers of votes at elections of every type. But beyond that, restricting the free speech of someone we don’t like is a slippery slope that leads to the sort of politics the BNP peddles.

But once he was there, how did he do?

To be honest I was disappointed with him. Given that he has over the last few years given the BNP electorial credibility I was expecting someone who was a skilled and clever politician. In the end he came across as nervous, evasive and at times scared. The rest of the panel and the bulk of the audience was clearly strongly against him, however they didn’t go for the kill in the way that I thought they might. Yet Griffin showed himself to be ill at ease in the situation while his use of language was clumsy and awkward and he seemed to possess no rhetorical skill.

Instead, he seemed to catch himself out more often than the rest of the panel did and his attempts to laugh off some of his previous quotes, or to join in with a perceived bonhomie on the panel looked very distasteful. There was one incident when he seemed to pat Bonnie Greer on the back that was particularly unnerving.

That said, I was also very unimpressed with Jack Straw on the panel. He seemed to want to attack the BNP rather than offer a real alternative to its voters. He talked a lot without saying anything and on the subject of immigration, which Baroness Warsi rightly said needed an honest debate, he was at his most evasive.

The person that actually came across best on the show was the non-politician and that was Bonnie Greer. She was rightfully dismissive of the BNP’s views without resorting to personal attacks.

But what this all shows to me is that although I find the BNP’s politics completely abhorent, the major parties are not addressing some of the major issues and grievances felt by the electorate. Those people are seeing the BNP as the only real alternative and they will continue to do so until their issues are properly addressed.

You can watch the programme here on iPlayer, or a cut down version here from the Guardian.

Let me know your thoughts.

New speed limits – tickets for all

October 22, 2009

I don’t know if you’ve heard … but the speed limits in the UK are about to change. The new limit on the motorway is being reduce to 65 mile per hour and anyone who has ever travelled at 70 mph in the past is going to get a retrospective ticket. They will be sent out in the post and it’s expected that nearly everyone will be asked to pay a fine.

Doesn’t seem fair does it.

I think we should complain about it. I mean we were following the rules when we drove at 70. How dare they change them on us afterwards and more to the point how dare they fine us for it.

Of course I just made that up. But that is what is effectively happening to MPs at the moment after Sir Thomas Legg wrote to many of them asking them to pay back money they had legitimately been allowed to claim previously.

I’m not trying to defend the most ridiculous claims and I think there should be a robust system for reviewing all claims and ensuring that they passed both the letter and the spirit of the previous rules, that people ‘flipping‘ for profit, or  have underclaimed on the tax they owe are caught and effectively punished – which in some cases could mean a criminal prosecution.

But I think changing the rules retrospectively like this is just not fair.

Instead it should be about changing the system to make it effective, fair and transparent. Let’s see what Sir Christopher Kelly has to say in his report due out in early November.

Is it time for another push?

October 15, 2009

I got a comment from Mike a couple of weeks ago urging another push for independent MPs … and I think he’s right.

So, I’m going to try and be a bit more active with this blog and a bit more active on raising awareness generally and let’s see if we can make this happen between us. Obviously, it needs help – your help. So mention the blog to friends and family, comment on it, provide feedback, ask questions etc etc. Anything you can do will help and will be appreciated.