Sunday, 19 December 2010

Are the Young, Free and Ugly the new oppressed?

Listening to Stasi Radio is a useful way of gaining an insight into how the other lot think and hey I pay the compulsory licence fee so why not while it's there? A fascinating conversation broke out 2 weeks ago on the airwaves between a man who wanted to force marriage upon everybody (presumably by drawing lots amongst us singletons) and a cohabitee with kids who seemed nice enough and saw tying the knot as a lifestyle choice she had chosen not to make.

"Marriage is best" apparently - people whose parents stay married regardless of whether they can still stand each other do better in education and thus have better employment prospects. What the Tory/religious/busybody tendency invariably neglect to mention is that teenage pregnancies, addiction problems and their social side effects (i.e. single parenthood and broken homes) tend to spike in areas with failing comprehensive schools and subsequently low aspiration.

These houses of broken dreams have made a niche of unleashing illiterate and innumerate young men into a society where work is scarce in a failing economy but welfare is everywhere you look. The reality is it is the social ills and the lack of opportunity that are feeding single parenthood and broken marriages, not, as the Tories would have you believe, the other way round.

But Iain Duncan Smith, a good man who is right every now and then, has decided that the real issue is that not enough of us are getting hitched, or into a civil partnership if you're that way out, and I thought, "it didn't take the Tories long did it?."

In the past, their pet hate was gay people, most clearly illustrated by the introduction of the repulsive Section 28 in 1986. So last year, in his attempt to convince us all he was some sort of 'liberal', Dave turned up at Mardi Gras and Pride, apologising for the law and promising any new tax break or benefit for marriage would apply to civil partnerships too.

However, nobody becomes and stays a Conservative for no good reason. As a breed, they are a judgemental lot (I'd know from being in CF for two years) and I always got the impression that they had a league table of 'ways of life' that they kept in their pocket or at least mentally. "Married, two kids, churchgoer, captain of local cricket team" was at the top, while "gay, single, no ties" was rock bottom. Now in a marriage of convenience between Cameron and the 'pink and proud' community, it is the unmarried hetrosexual who finds himself as the scum of the Tory earth.

When people talk about giving a handout to someone, I never hear it asked, "ah yes but who is paying for it?. Who is putting the money in the pot and walking away so someone else can take it?" Personally, I find it obscene that a single person on a modest income should subsidse the lifestyle choice of a couple who may be on thrice the takehome pay of the individual funding the largesse. It has already been accepted that the money is highly unlikely to steer a couple one way or the other, so it can only be a highly expensive gesture that does marginal damage to some and no good to anybody.

Once we get to work on the real issues, these questions tend to take care of themselves - personally the idea of getting married doesn't interest me at this point in time, and when IDS and his friends act like the street pushers of the tied knot, its appeal becomes even less.

Sorry Students - the Statists let you down

When discussing LPUK policy with a distinctly statist friend of mine a couple of weeks ago, we got onto the subject of welfare reform, and explored our basic aim of incrementally rolling back a great deal of the welfare state. He said to me in a rather animated fashion "look Daz, I've been paying into the system, so if I lose my job tomorrow why should I not get the dole?". This brought to me that what we are really looking to do is renegotiate the terms and conditions between state and citizen in a way that we believe will benefit the individual in the long run, and was at the front of my thoughts while watching the first genuine riots seen in this country for many years.

The state currently guzzles almost half of GDP in Britain, a frightening statistic, and one which we all want to see gradually brought down to a figure that leaves a skeletal safety net while causing minimal infringement on people's ability to live prosperous, free and fulfilling lives. However, if one works from the assumption that big brother takes 45-50% of the cake, then I don't think it's unreasonable to say "yes I want an education and a state pension to come out of that - after all if you hadn't taken the money from me/my parents that is what I/they would have spent it on". Not everybody has even a basic grasp of economics, and the importance of risk vs reward equations in driving growth in the private sector. Nor is it fair to expect everyone to read Milton Friedman...the Welfarists of Labour and the Corporatist Tories have lied through their teeth to people and tried to run an unsustainable system for decades.

Now we are where we are, and the students of today wonder why the education that had been 'free' to their parents (who had the same 'tax-welfare contract') is no longer free to them. They were misled, and happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when the system finally imploded. Yes I feel sorry for them.

The conversation people always seem to have is "do we want a health system run on NHS principles?", "do we want comprehensive education directed from the centre?" and "do you want taxation to fund a state pension?". Scared of change or that their taxes will not be cut in line with reduced state provision, many answer "yes". What is very rarely if ever asked, certainly not in the statist media, is "is that model sustainable given the country we have now, and the changing demographics from the birth of welfarism 60 years ago?". I'm no economist but even a layman can see that what we need more than anything is real growth, a rapid reduction in the relative size of the state in terms of spend, and a fundamental shift in what government takes from you and gives back in return.

In the short-term, perhaps we should go back to the old arrangement of free degrees, but with only the best and brightest doing them (this is purely a personal view and not LPUK policy), Further downstream, allowing parents to keep more of their hard-earned will mean that many will be able to look at these choices themselves more proactively, whereas the challenge for us will be seeing the best of the American model adopted over here. Nobody who gets a place at Harvard ends up declining it because of their background and encouraging a climate of social mobility out of the rubble of the present will not be easy. Neither will re-visiting the state-citizen contract that has been in place since 1945, but when something is not nice, that normally means it is necessary.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Press Release Relating to the Electoral Commission

This afternoon the following email was received from the Electoral Commission and is their considered opinion on Vince Cable's attempt to remove Andrew Withers as Leader of the Libertarian Party through the Courts.

The current proceedings taken against you is a matter for the Courts to decide. If the party makes an application to appoint you as Leader, then we shall consider the application in accordance with PPERA taking account of any implications of the Court decision. If approved, we shall update the party's registered entry.

So the considered opinion of the Electoral Commission is that the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills has the right to determine who shall and who shall not be the Leader or an officer of a political party.

Also that it is the Electoral Commission's considered opinion that it is up a Court to decide whether Andrew Withers will be the elected leader of a registered political party, not the members, and that the Electoral Commission will approve an 'application' from the Party, not a notification from the members that a new Leader has been elected.

Freedom of Association has been the bedrock of our Parliamentary Democracy, under the Coalition that will be decided by the Government.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

The media and pro-royal sychophancy - pass the prozac

So Prince William and Kate Middleton are getting married...good for them I suppose. The refusal of many, this writer included, to acknowledge the validity of the monarchy as an institution should not extend to out and out hatred of the individuals within it and it is clear that Wills is marrying the love of his life. This at least makes a pleasant change from some of the recent history within the palace, although the attempts by some in the media to claim that this is the monarchy 're-inventing' itself have been rather amusing. Kate Middleton may not be an absolute toff or have actual blue blood running through her veins, but she hardly qualifies as 'common as muck' either. This is another instance of the mainstream media and their curious love affair with the elite - watching the hysteria over the last few days has been at best perplexing and, more realistically, enough to drive any sane meritocrat up the wall.

Watching and listening to the BBC or Sky News, or reading any of the major news publications, one would think that there was not a soul on these isles who was not overcome by the news that an immensely posh young man and a slightly less posh young lady were finally tying the knot. You could be forgiven for believing that those deprived of work, hope and aspiration by the failed corporate state would forget their failed search for purpose and income and rejoice in the 'wonderful news' that would 'cheer up the nation'. So David Cameron slept on the mall the day before Charles and Di wed...he really should have kept this to himself. Who are these people who take such delight in toadying to the establishment? Do they not have lives, interests and hobbies of their own? (then again, this is a man whose idea of rebellion was trashing a restaurant with his Bullingdon club mates then getting daddy to pay for the damage). Having heard that 'Britons have never had it so good' in the same week, can a kind contributor confirm that we have not all been taken on some obscene 1950s time warp?

Hearing Chris Evans refer those not taken in by it all as 'a few sad republicans' this week was infuriating but perhaps not surprising. Evans is a lot more intelligent than he looks or sounds, but his journey from hip pioneer of avante-garde television and radio 15 years ago to safe-as-houses replacement for Wogan on Stasi radio is clear evidence that 'growing up' is not always a good thing and that 'normality' turns young people into tired old ones at an alarming pace. This writer has written an e-mail to Evans reminding him of his duty to report on the news with fairness and impartiality and will of course blog his reply on here should one arrive. Moreover, if the day of the wedding is declared a public holiday as has been mooted, this writer will be making a point of turning up at his place of work, even if it is only to twiddle his thumbs and browse the internet.

Us subjects/peasants are, one presumes, supposed to be eternally grateful for the extra day off - sounds like a pretty pathetic bribe for monarchist support if you ask me. If enough of us refuse to take the bait and turn up for work at the usual time, our managers will be forced to get out of bed even if it is only to send us all home. Should it become a nationwide thing then the pro-royal media would have to report it. And that would really stick in the craw, believe me.



Just as a point of clarification, I'd like to make it clear that the Libertarian Party is not a republican organisation - but we're also not a royalist organisation either. Some libertarians are royalist and some are republicans, and when the Libertarian Party was formed we made a deliberate decision not to have a party line on this particular issue. Let's face it, there are more urgent things to take care of, like crime, unemployment, taxation, debt and the police state. I personall would like Britain to become a republic, but that's an issue that goes beyond party politics - if it happens in my lifetime, it will have to happen as a result of a national referendum. I see no other legitimate way to bring about such a basic constitutional change.

In the meantime, we live in the system as it exists now - and when the Libertarian Party meets for its AGM on Saturday, I'm sure I won't be the only libertarian republican who will raise a glass to the future happiness of Mr Windsor and his bride.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

The Libertarian Party and State Oppression

The following was copied from Gregg Beaman's blog, "A Brief Encounter":

Below is an open letter to John Bercow written by a friend and colleague of mine, Andrew Withers. Andrew is a founder member of the Libertarian Party and is standing, unopposed, for the party leadership later this month. I have been happy to support Andrew and continue to do so despite Vince 'Big Brother' Cable's actions. The actions of the Coalition in this instance just prove why we need a libertarian party, and why the Liberal Democrats are anything but liberal:

Mr John Bercow
Speaker to the House of Commons

Dear Mr Bercow

On the 12th November 2010 the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation & Skills Dr Vince Cable MP instructed a firm of solicitors, Osborne Clarke of Bristol to write to District Judge Watson of the Bristol Registry requiring that I have leave of the Court to act as elected Leader of the Libertarian Party, further more and I quote:

‘Our client does not consider that Mr Withers has currently demonstrated sufficient need for leave in respect of the entity’

The Libertarian Party is a registered party within the meaning of the Political Parties,Elections and Referendums Act 2000, and I have a mandate from the members of the party to act as the party leader as from the 27th November, what further sufficient need do I require ?

It is extraordinary that a Minister of the Crown has made such a legal move against the leader of a minor party and creates a dangerous precedent constitutionally. Can you please advise when government ministers and the executive think that they can act in such a manner, and interfere with the internal workings of another party through the Courts.

Can you please urgently advise as Chairman of the Speakers Committee under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act, when such powers were transfered from the Electoral Commission and to the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation & Skills.

I have no intention of seeking the leave of the Court to act as the leader of the Libertarian Party and I suspect this act is both illegal and ultra vires on the part of the Secretary of State. I am urgently seeking Counsels opinion on this letter.

I would be grateful for your urgent observations by return.

Yours sincerely

Andrew P Withers

Leader Designate
Libertarian Party

In the latest turn of events in Andrew's four year legal tussles with The Department of Business, Innovation & Skills, a District Judge in the Bristol Registry has ordered that he should list all of the companies and organisations that he is an executive member of so that it can be decided by the Court whether he should be given permission to continue. Amongst the organisations specifically named is the Libertarian Party.

On the 22nd September 2010, the Information Commissioner ruled that when the Department was being run by Mandelson it withheld evidence that Andrew Withers wished to rely on in Court, and that they should release it ‘without further delay’. That ruling has so far been ignored by The Secretary of State’s officials. If the order is further ignored by this Friday, Andrew Withers will be seeking a Court Order to compel the Secretary Of State to comply with the ICO order under sec7 (9) Data Protection Act 1998.

Andrew's local MP is Dr Liam Fox and has been extremely supportive in a case that he has called in a personal telephone call a ‘scandal’, and found time in the midst of the strategic defence review to have personal meeting with Ed Davey MP the responsible Minister in the coalition Government on the 27th September 2010 to discuss the case. After which Ed Davey has ordered a review into the case by senior officials and a meeting has been suggested with senior officials to try to resolve the situation.

Andrew is currently writing a book about his experiences, and admits that new chapters are being added as one man’s fight against a politicised bureaucracy continues into a fifth year.

The story started in 2006 when a French company that Andrew was a gerant (director) of was illegally placed into liquidation by its French Director in contravention of the company statuts and on a perjured statement of affairs. The Court appointed Receiver was paid 8000€ to bury the company, and the French Director made off with the assets and finished goods . An investigating French barrister appointed by Andrew Withers visited the Receiver in Coutances and noted that there were no accounts, invoices or supporting documentation. The Barrister described the situation as the worst case of corporate fraud he had seen in over forty years of practice.

The unfortunate direct consequence of this fraud was that it brought down the British company down as well and it ceased trading in 2006 unfortunately four customers and a number of corporate creditors lost money.

The company was wound up in 2007, and Andrew presented himself to the Official Receiver with supporting documentation and statements from the French Investigating Barrister as to the veracity of the illegal winding up of the company by the French Director causing the failure of the company. He was complemented on the professionalism of the presentation of the narrative and whilst he could not promise that nothing more would be heard from the Insolvency Service, he was satisfied with the narrative.

In October 2007 , Andrew became one of the five founding members of the Libertarian Party sickened by the growth of the security state established by Blair and continued by Brown and the fact that the State was out of control and the State was absorbing more and more taxpayers funds. Three days later the run on Northern Rock began.

From this point the story started to take a bizarre and disturbing twist.

■Despite the French fraud being reported to Avon and Somerset Police and the Insolvency Service which is part of the then Business,Enterprise and Regulatory Reform. A furious French Colleague contacted Andrew to report that the French Director had just been given an award presented by the British Ambassador to Paris and Lord Digby-Jones (GOAT)

■From redacted documents secured under the Freedom of Information Act, the French Director started lobbying to have Andrew investigated in April 2008.

■In June 2008 he received a letter from the Insolvency Service in Plymouth to say he was under investigation under the terms of the Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986, this despite them having no accounts because they could not access the electronic copies of the SAGE accounts.

■In November 2008 the Assistant Official Receiver confirmed in an email that in their view the French subsidiary was not part of their investigations as their advice was that it was not possible for French companies to have foreign shareholders !

■The conduct of the investigation was the source of endless abuse, the interviewer was balefully ignorant of commercial law, gave off the appearance of being a former policeman, told a number of direct lies and allowed Andrew to look at a former employee’s personal bank statements and files in contravention of the Data Protection Act, then could offer no explanation what those statements and files were doing with the company documentation.

■The Company’s former accountants were threatened with investigation, to the extent that they took legal advice.

■Mandelson was appointed Secretary of State 3rd October 2008, it is his decision to seek disqualification orders against company directors. Liam Fox MP met Andrew and was shown all of the documentation relating to the criminal fraud. Fox lobbied Mandelson and was rebuffed.

■Further evidence was supplied to the Secretary of State in July 2009, including witness statements and French Court documents to show the extent of the French Fraud and the effect it had had on the British Company. All of this evidence was rejected and returned to Andrew unread.

■From redacted documents received by Andrew under FOI , the Official Receiver’s recommendation to move forward to Proceedings was rejected for lack of evidence in May 2009, saying it ‘required more work done on it’

■In August 2009 with days to spare before being statute barred, proceedings were authorised by Secretary of State Mandelson against Andrew to be disbarred as a director for eight years. If Andrew was so minded to sign a confession and to say a false set of accounts prepared by the Secretary of State were true (that omitted the French subsidiary) , the ban would be reduced to seven years.

■Andrew and his lawyers refused to sign, and tried to negotiate with the appointed lawyers to no avail to drop the case.

■When the evidence in the case was finally released to Andrew it soon became apparent that-

■The winding up order made against the company was made by somebody who was not a creditor. The Official Receiver knew this and sought to hide the supporting documentation and invoices that had been altered

■The French Director had supplied the Official Receiver with forged Delivery Notes, the Official Receiver made no attempt to verify them.

■The Official Receiver had made no attempt to contact the Court appointed Receiver in Coutances, but entered into very friendly correspondence with the French Director. The Official Receiver allowed the transfer of assets , goods and cash to the French Director’s company at nil value.

It costs not less than £50 000 to mount a defence in actions such as this, Andrew’s legal insurers refused to consider this was an action they would cover, it does not take long to burn through legal fees, and with money running short Andrew compromised and settled on a voluntary undertaking with the Secretary of State for five and a half years not to act as a company Director with an undertaking that a s17 hearing would be heard by the District Judge before the undertaking took affect on July 13th 2010. The Court Order of 22nd June confirms that hearing never took place because the Secretary of State two days before the hearing in July had issued no instructions to counsel to attend and had broken the settlement by rushing into print and online trumpeting their success on the 1st July. The District Judge then signed an order to allow Andrew to continue to act as a Director in two designated companies, an order that was renewed on the 11th of October 2010 pending the outcome of the next full hearing.

Andrew released the following personal statement in October:

“I first wish to repudiate the voluntary undertaking I signed on 22nd June 2010, the accounts so presented were false, the Official Receiver knew they were false, I knew they were false, they were based on perjury in both French and English Courts, based on forged documents supplied by the French Director who colluded with the Official Receiver to transfer assets at nil value. I simply signed to end the attrition of costs by an overbearing State and because of the effect this war of attrition has had on my family. That is the end of one battle, but I have not given up the fight in this war.

I am grateful for the support of my legal teams in both France and England, to Liam Fox MP and to the members of the NCC of the Libertarian Party who refused to accept my offered resignation last June as Treasurer and Deputy Leader of the Party, and that despite the Court Order of the 11th October 2010 examining whether the poorly written, oppressive anti business CDDA 1986 can extend its authority over companies that are not registered in this country and to political parties and to charitable organisations, I will continue to seek the leadership of the Libertarian Party. Therefore it is only fair that all members are aware of this cloud that hangs over me before casting their vote.

I welcome the intervention of Ed Davey MP and look forward to the results of his review and for the opportunity of a meeting with senior officials to present the evidence that Dr Liam Fox has seen and quite rightly has called a scandal.

This will not however stop me seeking a Court order on the 25th October against the Secretary of State following the ruling of the Information Commissioner of the 22nd September. I will also be launching a civil action against the Secretary of State, Official Receiver and French Director, as both a creditor and shareholder of my former company for the wrongful transfer of assets , equipment and cash to the French Director at nil value.

I can however only express my displeasure at the lack of action by the Avon & Somerset Chief Constable in this case in relation to the Fraud and Theft that has occurred. The constant pleading of lack of resources has further undermined my confidence in Law enforcement.

I was a Classical Liberal before I help found the Party, my experiences of politicised public servants under the last administration have only confirmed that I must continue with that fight. I am confident the Parliament never intended the CDDA Act to be applied to foreign companies over which they have no jurisdiction , nor to political parties which is a breach of basic political Liberty, and I am confident that the Judge will come to the same conclusion "


I will be at the Party AGM on November 27th, look forward to greeting Andrew as our new Party Leader and will support him in any way I can in the face of state oppression. It seems that Cable is continuing the practice of Mandelsonian dark arts.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Woolas Found Guilty

The former immigration minister's General Election win, by 103 votes, has been declared void.

Candidate Elwyn Watkins launched the legal challenge, using a rarely-used election law, in response to a pamphlets produced by the Labour team.

Mr Woolas won the seat by just 103 votes.

The specially convened election court, chaired by two High Court judges, heard he sought to "make the white folk angry" by suggesting there was a Muslim campaign to kick him out.

Mr Woolas denied the claim and argued he was right to say Mr Watkins was in a "pact with the devil" because he failed to condemn the alleged campaign.

Former Lord Chancellor Charlie Falconer told Sky News Mr Woolas had not been convicted of a criminal offence as it was an election court.

"Inevitably the consequences of there being a successful challenge in an electoral court for the first time in 100 years on the basis of fraud is bound to have ramifications right through the system," he said.

During the hearings, Mr Watkins' QC Helen Mountfield, said: "Mr Woolas' team had made an overt and, some may say, shocking decision to set out to 'make the white folk angry' by depicting an alleged campaign by those who they described generically as Asians to 'take Phil out' and then present Mr Watkins as in league with them.

She accused Mr Woolas of making "false statements as part of a series of reckless and irresponsible steps in this campaign - using doctored photographs, misrepresenting facts, stooping even to fomenting racial divisions and tensions".

Sky News

The election has to be re run, Woolas is patently not fit to hold public office. The rotting stench of the last Labour administration still hangs in the air.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Labour's war on charities

Here's a nasty story from the Manchester Evening News. It seems that the Labour-dominated city council intend to crack down on charity workers, specifically the type who hang around places like Market Street and Piccadilly, asking people for permission to set up direct debits for regular donations. The MEN unflatteringly describes these guys as “charity muggers” or “chuggers”. Apparently shoppers have complained about feeling “harassed” and “intimidated” by them.

Sorry, but if you feel intimidated by a charity worker, you really need to grow a backbone. Unlike real muggers, they're not going to stick a knife in your ribs and demand money with menaces. And unlike Manchester City Council, they have no legal power to take your money from you without your permission. If you're approached by a charity worker in the street, and you either don't want to donate money or you can't afford to, a polite “no” will normally do – and if some misguided charity worker tries to give you the hard sell, all you need to do is calmly walk away.

So what's the problem?

Saturday, 4 September 2010

North West Meet Up, 5th September

It's that time of the month again. It hardly seems any time at all since the last regional meet up, but it's been a very active month (certainly for me personally, hence the light blogging).

This month's meet up is at our usual Manchester watering hole, the Kro2 Bar on Oxford Road (near the BBC). There should be a lot to talk about as we now have several prospective candidates for next year's local elections and we're aiming to establish a more formal organisation for the North West branch.

As usual, this meet up isn't just open to Libertarian Party members, everyone's welcome, just turn up and introduce yourself if you'd like to find out a bit more about what the Libertarian Party's about and what we aim to achieve. We're a friendly group, especially once we've got past the first couple of beers.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Still fighting "them" on the beaches

The War goes on ! The war against Fascism (The marriage of the big State with big Corporations) we were told ended in 1945. Another skirmish has broken out, that the Libertarian Party is pleased to be part of-

All the links in the following article reproduced in full are to be found here on the Anna Raccoon site

70 years ago this week, Winston Churchill made his famous speech immortalising the words ‘Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.’ He did so to rally every man and woman in these Isles to support the war effort:

“because we have been nurtured in freedom and individual responsibility and are the products, not of totalitarian uniformity, but of tolerance and variety.”

Sheila Martin was a fragile babe in arms when her Mother heard those words. Too young to understand the menace behind the Messerschmitts and Heinkels screaming overhead and disturbing her slumber. She was the intended beneficiary of Churchill’s words, one of the generation of children that depended on the bravery of British men such as her Father, away in France fighting for the freedom, tolerance and variety that was Britain’s hallmark.

Today, Sheila is once more fragile; she is 70 years old and was widowed 30 years ago. She tells me she has survived five heart attacks; she suffers from asthma, angina and high blood pressure. She only smokes the occasional cigarette these days, partly for health reasons, partly because her minimal state pension doesn’t stretch to any more.

70 years after Churchill’s speech was made, she has retired from a lifetime of hard work.

She was part of that unsung army of hard working, clean living, decent individuals, who cheerfully got up every morning and trudged off to put in a decent days work for a paltry wage as a ‘Mrs Mop’, raised her family, nurtured her marriage, made ends meet, saved little, but asked little in return, save the freedom, and tolerance that her older relatives had fought to provide. She is not a politically aware lady, nor insolent, nor ambitious for financial rewards.

In common with other ‘Smokers’ who may not like the new laws prohibiting them from smoking where others may be offended by the practice, she respected the law of the land, and complied. She is no campaigner against such laws.

Thus it was that she found herself standing at a bus stop, waiting for the bus which would take her home, and taking the opportunity to smoke a cigarette in the open air – there was no bus shelter. She could no longer smoke a cigarette on the top deck of the bus. She had not been able to smoke a cigarette with the cup of tea she shared with her daughter in town. Now she must stand in the road to enjoy the ‘freedom, tolerance and variety’ of the British Isles.

She only smoked half the cigarette; as the time drew close for the bus to arrive, she ‘nibbed’ the cigarette, letting the lit end fall to the ground, and thriftily stowing the other half of the cigarette in her handbag for a later occasion. It was her last cigarette until pension day.

Two of Sandwell’s famed ‘enforcement wardens’ approached her – a man and a woman. They told her that they were issuing a ‘Fixed Penalty Fine’ of £75 under Section 87 (1) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 as amended by Section 18 of the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005. This mouthful of gobblygook was lost on Sheila; she had no idea what she had done wrong and put the piece of paper in her pocket.

Once home, friends and neighbours clustered round to read this piece of officialdom. Sheila still had the ‘end’ of the cigarette, with its precious inch or so of un-smoked tobacco in her handbag, so how could she be accused of littering the street – it had to be the cigarette ash they were talking about?

I have spoken to Sandwell Council, they tell me that they do not issue fixed penalty notices for cigarette ‘ash’ – I am sure they don’t. I am equally sure that Mrs Martin is telling the truth when she tells me that the half cigarette with its ‘butt’ was still safely in her handbag when she returned home. So we are left with the quandary of whether the ‘lit’ end of a cigarette, which will become cigarette ‘ash’ within seconds, constitutes parliament’s intention when they defined litter as including:

In section 98 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (definitions), after subsection (5) insert—

“(5A)“Litter” includes—

(a) the discarded ends of cigarettes, cigars and like products, and

(b) discarded chewing-gum and the discarded remains of other products designed for chewing.”

If a court holds that it does, then every smoker is liable for a £75 fine every time they smoke a cigarette in the street. I do not believe that to be parliament’s intention.

On Friday, the threatening ‘Final Demand’ from Sandwell Council, warning her that she now faces a £2,500 fine plus costs (and possible imprisonment if she does not pay that) expired. The next opportunity for Mrs Martin to contest this matter will come in ‘some months time’ – the council cannot tell me when her case will arrive at the top of their back log of cases to appear in the Magistrates court.

Sheila Martin is frightened, intimidated, and feels helpless in the face of this prosecution. She is in delicate health, aggravated by stress, and I have asked the council to reconsider their decision to press ahead with what may well be an interesting test case defining a cigarette end, but which will be at the expense of a frail and elderly person. They have referred me to their ‘revised Enforcement Policy’ – which makes for terrifying reading, a fine example of the totalitarian government Sheila’s Father fought so bravely to prevent. (available HERE)

Nick Hogan, who I was instrumental in rescuing from prison after similar council action, has joined with me, the Libertarian Party and the Sunday Mercury, to ensure that Sheila suffers as little as possible from the council’s intransigence.

We have already arranged for some very high powered legal representation for her, to put her mind at rest, and I have promised her that she will go to prison ‘over my dead body’ – she is obviously unable to pay this fine, or incremental increases of it, and I have personally guaranteed her that somehow I will make sure that she doesn’t have to pay it herself, nor go to prison.

There is no need for money at present, all the legal beagles so far involved are kindly donating their time and expertise free of charge – although if there are any other lawyers out there who would like to join the team, this is one broth that will not be spoiled by too many cooks. My e-mail address is on the contact section of this blog.

70 years ago we were prepared to ‘fight them on the beaches’ – how appropriate that today we prepare to fight them on the Sandwell……’

This article was originally posted by Guthrum on the Libertarian Party's national blog.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Why the palace shouldn't play politics

Monarchists have always argued that one of the biggest assets of the status quo is that we have a head of state who is apolitical and has no interest in the tribal battle at Westminster. If Prince Charles' forays into the discussion about GM crops, architecture and suchlike were not already clear and irrefutable evidence that this argument is null and void, then the farce this week with the BNP and its leader Nick Griffin should surely be enough to convince many that the palace and politics are like oil and water.

As an MEP, Griffin was invited to a garden party at the palace on Thursday and promptly turned up on television declaring that this was evidence of his party's 'legitimacy'. Now we all know this to be something of a spurious argument. Yes, they are legitimate in the sense that they exist (just about) legally and managed to acquire 1 million votes at the last Euro elections, seeing Griffin and Andrew Brons elected to the European parliament. However, they were invited just as members of every other represented party was as a matter of procedure. The invitation did not represent a ringing endorsement of the BNP from Her Maj, and Griffin was setting them a trap by insinuating that it did.

Unfortunately, the palace appears to have walked straight into this and given the BNP a far greater publicity coup than turning up and munching a few sausage rolls would ever have done. People like Griffin build their myth on the concept that they are 'the enemy of the political class' and with this elite group held in contempt by so many, some voters have been liable to conclude that 'my enemy's enemy is therefore my friend'. Look, nobody contributing to this board has any truck with the man's wacky and sometimes hilarious politics. But not only do I think it was bad form to refuse a democratically elected MEP entry to the event because of such politics, it was also giving the oxygen of publicity to a man who knows how to use it.

Remember at school, there was always a kid who said and did ridiculous things at the back of the class, becoming more and more extreme as others indulged him with the attention he craved? Of course, as you get older, you realise that ignoring them or just smiling and saying "yeah, whatever" tends to make them disappear. The political class have indulged Griffin for too long, and now the palace have assisted their self-sabotage. Maybe we should give ignoring him a go - after all it couldn't work out any worse?

The Leaflet War – Labour 2, LibDem 1

The next local election in Manchester isn't till next May, but as far as the big parties are concerned, the election campaign is already on. I've had three publications through the door in the last few weeks that can be considered election leaflets.

The first one was from Labour – an expensive looking glossy full colour leaflet with a picture of the local Labour mob on the front and a big “Thank You” headline. No need to thank me, I certainly didn't vote Labour – much more fun to run against them, even though the Labour candidate did manage to squeeze back in with a measly 2,247 more votes than me.

The next leaflet I got was one of those LibDem Focus things – simpler colour scheme but broadly similar layout. Another “Thank You” headline. A few more pictures of the local LibDems and also a bit more text. Also one of those standard bar chart diagrams that they like to stick on the front of their Focus leaflets, showing LibDems and Labour as “neck and neck” and discounting the other four parties with the words “The other parties Vote has Collapsed” - this is untrue by the way, as you can easily check by having a look at the 2008 election results. The Tory and Green paper candidates got about the same result as last time. The BNP loser got more votes than last time, despite doing no campaigning – I put this down to a combination of having the benefit of also having a General Election candidate, plus the incredible amount of free publicity those clowns get from the other party. And of course, me being the first Libertarian Party candidate to stand in Manchester, we don't know yet what a typical Libertarian election result is going to be.

I've got nothing against the opposition sending me this stuff. It's their right and the money to pay for it has been raised voluntarily. But the third publication that I've received is different.

This publication is not technically a party political leaflet, but it might as well be. It's the latest edition of the “Manchester People” – a newspaper-style publication printed and distributed by Manchester City Council and funded by the taxpayer. Sixteen pages of propaganda saying what a great job the council is doing. The front page is dominated by a story praising the Manchester Day Parade - £200,000 down the drain, but not one word of criticism. Another story is about the council's plans to blow £1,000,000,000 redeveloping St Peter's Square. There's nothing much wrong with it at the moment, that I can see – maybe the councillors are just bored with the view. Again, it's a completely one-sided story, not admitting any criticism, typical of this publication. Although it doesn't actually tell you to vote Labour at the next election, since it consistently praises everything the council does, and as the council is dominated by Labour, the message is clear. Local councils shouldn't be allowed to get away with this kind of thing, and hopefully when the Libertarian Party gets some councillors elected we'll be able to put a stop to it. But for the time being the working people of this city are being forced to pay for this publication to the tune of over £140,000 per year.

Friday, 16 July 2010

The EU-More Bull than Pamplona!

The European Union is at it again, indeed when does it ever stop? Its authoritarian march towards supreme power and total control of our lives carries on relentlessly. I am only really concerened about UK withdrawal from the monster, it's up to other countries what they do, but I sense an ever growing scepticism throughout Europe to the EU. So what has caused my anger today?

For starters it's their lack of acceptance that the private sector is just that, private, and should be interfered with by the state as little as possible, ideally not at all. But no, where the EU see human interaction they want to control, regulate and legislate against it.

The leviathan is now concerened that there are not enough wimmin in the boardrooms of private companies. So what? Most of my working experience has been in the charity world where, I would guess, women are at least as well represented in senior management positions as men, maybe even disroportionately better represented. Do I care? Not a jot as long as they can do the job. By the way, I wonder what the EU think about the proportion of male/female primary school teachers throughout Europe, not just here?

Of course the EU is only 'flagging up the issue' at this stage, confident that the private sector will change the perceived imbalance. But as with every dictatorship behind that 'flagging up' is the threat that under the Lisbon Treaty, they have the power to enforce 'equality' if it doesn't happen voluntarily, or naturally.

Then there is the prospect of EU police forces having access to all your records: DNA, bank accounts, telephone and email records, everything that the British state has access to. This proposal is being floated under the European Investigation Order. Then it's only a hop, skip and a jump to Inspector Cutabollockoff kicking your door down at 4-00am to drag you off to Bucharest Central for interrogation. The British police and the British state scare me, this really brought me out in a cold sweat when I read about it.

The hat-trick today was the EU announcing, in true Mussolini style, that they will get the trains running on time! How? By forcing member states (or vassel states if you prefer) to adopt their new railway timetabling software. Bollocks! The last time I had a train cancelled was because the driver was in bed with a hangover, or at least he hadn't turned up for work. We all know about the wrong type of leaves on the line, the old signal failure excuse and the engineering works that have been screwing up the West Coast Mainline since about 1880. Typical EU delusional bollocks.

So what's the answer? Well pressure groups are all very well but too often preach to the converted. We all know that a majority of people in the country today would be happy to see us withdraw from the EU, but they are unaware of a credible political party advocating that. Also, while 50%+ would probably like to see us out of the EU, only about 8%, if that, will vote in a general election on that single issue, they vote on a whole range of issues from health and education to tax, law and order and all the others.

Furthermore, and I know from experience, that politicians who, rightly or wrongly, bang on, and on, and on about nothing but the EU turn the electorate off. Withdrawal has to be part of a cohesive manifesto including the whole range of government activities, preferably hacking away at the activity of government, and freeing people from the current invasive, authoritarian state that is crippling freedom and liberty. That is the only way to get into Westminster where real change can become possible.

If you think that no such party exists then I suggest you visit the Libertarian Party website. You will be pleasantly surprised.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

North West Meetup, 7 August

Following some discussion about the location and timing of the next regional meet-up, it's been decided that we should carry on meeting every month at the Kro2 on Oxford Road, Manchester for the time being. It's the most convenient venue for most of our North West members, as our greatest concentration of numbers is in Greater Manchester, it's easy to find and public transport links are good.

The next meet-up will be on Saturday 7 August, starting about 12.30pm. For those who haven't been to one of these meet-ups before, we normally take a table close to the door and near the bar, or if the weather's hot we'll sit outside. For ease of identification, I'll have a document wallet with a Libertarian Party poster on the front.

These meetings tend to be very informal, but likely topics of conversation are likely to include increasing our membership and sharpening up our regional organisation in preperation for next year's local elections.

As usual, the meet-up will be open to interested non-Libertarian Party members.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

The Target For This Month

We need to start raising funds for the local Elections in 2011, I would like to appeal to all members and supporters to donate what you can this month.
Our account number is 92635313 Sort Code 40-28-20
Our immediate target is £2000. We are looking to open a permanent office to handle donations and all the other administration and membership applications.Times are hard but every £5 and £10 is income in the right direction.

Monday, 28 June 2010

North West Regional Meetup 3 July

Following the very successful Carnforth meetup, the next regional meetup is going to be in Manchester, at the Kro2 Bar on Oxford Road (near the university buildings and next to the Mancunian Way) on Saturday 3 July, starting about 1.00pm. As usual, interested non-Party members are welcome to attend. The format will be informal, although subjects for discussion are likely to include recruiting prospective candidates for next year's local elections, finding ways to attract new members and suggestions for future activities.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Would the Cumbria massacre have happened without the Firearms Acts?

Following on from the horrific events in Cumbria, it was completely predictable that statist politicians such as John Pugh and Chris Williamson would come out of the woodwork to advocate yet more bans on lawful firearms ownership. Naturally they fail to provide any evidence that any further gun bans will reduce the likelihood of the next massacre, because there is no such evidence. People who want to commit murder will do so, whatever the law says. Certainly Derrick Bird's actions appear at this point to have been premeditated. If he hadn't used legally owned guns to do what he did, he'd have used firearms bought on the black market – and black market guns are easier to acquire than legal ones these days, especially if you want something that's currently prohibited.

The 1988 and 1997 Firearms Acts were sold as being intended to prevent future atrocities such as happened in Hungerford and Dunblane. They have clearly not had that effect, so what makes anyone think that further bans will improve the situation? The only obvious effect current legislation had on the outcome of the Cumbria massacre was to ensure that Bird's victims were all unarmed and therefore easy targets. If only one of the random people who crossed Bird's path on that day had been armed, they would have been in with a chance of stopping him, or at least slowing him down. A few decades ago this would have been more likely, as the gun laws were more laid back then.

But there's one more thing about this event that I've been wondering about – did Bird just suddenly snap or did he feel himself deteriorating over time, as his problems gradually started to get on top of him? There is a story that he tried to get himself admitted to a mental hospital just a day or two before the massacre, but was turned away – I don't know if that's true or not. But if it was a gradual process, did he seek help earlier? If not, why not? Could he have been deterred from seeking professional help by the 1997 Firearms (Amendment) Act? To see what I mean by this, pop along to the Merseyside Police website and download either a Form 101 (application for a Firearm Certificate) or a Form 103 (application for a Shotgun Certificate) and read Section 16. It reads “I hereby give permission for the police to approach my GP to obtain factual details of my medical history.” It's something that was added to the form as a result of the 1997 Act. That on it's own is enough to deter any licensed gun owner from seeing his doctor if he starts suffering from any emotional or psychological problems – he'd be scared that the fact that he's being treated for depression or whatever would get back to the police and that they'd use it as an excuse to revoke his FAC or SGC. Did this fact deter Bird from seeking help before it was too late? I don't know, we'll probably never know. Would a councelling or therapy have helped to prevent him going off the rails? Again, I don't know and we'll probably never know. It's not like psychology is an exact science.

But what does seem obvious to me is that clause in our draconian gun laws actually increases the risk of licensed gun owners developing problems in the future – probably not by very much but the possibility's there. Something to think about.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

North West Regional Meetup, 13 June 2010

Now that the elections are out of the way, we're having another regional Libertarian Party meetup in the Lounge Bar of the Royal Station Hotel in Carnforth, Lancashire, starting about 12.00 Noon on Sunday 13 June. This is just across the road from the famous railway station which was used as a location for the film "Brief Encounter". This is a nice bar that does decent food - the Station Burgers are both reasonably priced, tasty and very filling. There'll be a lot to discuss, since we now have experience of running an election campaign in Manchester and we're now in the process of recruiting candidates to stand in the local elections next year, not only in Manchester but in all parts of the North West.

Our meetups are pretty informal and you don't have to be a Libertarian Party member to attend. Anyone interested in libertarian ideas is welcome - so feel free to come along, talk about libertarianism and see if we're the sort of party that you'd like to support. We're a very friendly group.

EDIT 31/5/10

Please note that this meetup was originally scheduled for 6 June but has now been rescheduled for 13 June. My fault, I forgot about a prior commitment on the same day. I hope this doesn't cause any problems for anyone.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

A National Ballot

As it seems that some form of agreement between the Tories and Lib Dems may be emerging, democrats must maintain the demand that electoral reform has got to be part of the political reform.

The need is straightforward. We need legislation in the first Queen’s Speech that provides a national ballot within months in which the following alternatives are offered to the electorate:

1. A Conservative preferred option which might be expected to be the maintenance of First Past The Post, but with a smaller number of MPs and equal sized constituencies.

2. A Labour preferred option which is likely to be the Alternative Vote System.

3. A Liberal Democrat preferred option which would be the Single Transferable Vote System that they included in their election manifesto.

4. No change to the existing system.

5. An additional choice proposed by the Electoral Reform Society if they wish to present one.

As the Conservatives are the largest Party and they are adamantly opposed to fair votes, it may be that the Lib Dems will cave in and agree to allow the Tories to govern without a commitment to give the voters this choice. If that is the case, we must demand that those people who argued for fair votes before and during the election should stand by their commitments and present a Bill to Parliament for a national ballot on the above lines. There is actually a majority in Parliament for reform of the electoral system and that should allow such a bill to pass into law. In the event that a minority Conservative Government prevented this Bill from being presented to Parliament or obstructed it being passed into law, they should face a vote of no confidence and another election be forced.

Democracy in Britain must be modernised and the current opportunity presented by the lack of an overall majority by a single Party must result in genuine electoral reform being offered to the public.

Electoral Reform

Opportunities for meaningful political change do not come often, but there is one now and it must be seized.

The situation is clear although it is complicated. The Tories did not win the right to form a government, but Labour most definitely lost the election. The bizarre effects of a First Past The Post (FPTP) election means that many people who do not support Labour or the Tories either do not have any opportunity to vote for a party that they do support or they vote tactically for one of these two in order to keep the other out.

This means that although the Lib Dems (LD) had 28% or 29% popular support before the election, only 23% of voters turned that support into a real vote. In addition to this, the LD vote was more evenly spread than that of the two major parties so they had lower chances of their votes being converted into seats. The consequence is that with 23% of the vote the LDs have only 10% of the seats. That is profoundly undemocratic and it is worse when you consider that 28% of voters may have wished to vote LD.

For Libertarians, the situation is far worse. We are in the position that the Green Party were in a generation ago. Despite the Greens standing hundreds of candidates and having a massive public profile for their policies, they have only just been able to secure a single seat in Parliament for their leader. This is a democratic disgrace.

For a new party with good, clear policies that would appeal to many voters, but lacking big financial backers and the army of backers of the big institutional parties, FPTP prevents any chance of even the smallest success in either national or local elections. That is not democracy and it must change now.

The Labour Government has taken this country into such massive debt that our economy is on the brink of collapse with all the terrible consequences that are beginning to unravel in Greece. This means that we must have a new Prime Minister and the prospects of reasonably stable government in the short term established very early this week. If that is not achieved, there will be great volatility in the currency markets and it will become harder every hour for all of us to be saved from very serious damage to our quality of life and financial future.

The tasks for today for our political leaders are these:

Gordon Brown

Resign immediately. You were never elected as leader of the Labour Party, you were never a legitimate Prime Minister, your performance in office has been disastrous and in the only leadership election you have ever faced you have conclusively lost. The Labour Party cannot maintain any credibility so long as you remain Prime Minister and the interests of the country require Labour voters to be adequately represented in the negotiations to form a government.

Nick Clegg

Do not make any deal that does not include a commitment to the introduction of electoral reform with a timetable for completion before the end of this year. You stood on a platform of fair votes and your present bargaining position owes everything to that undertaking. Failure to deliver electoral reform would be a betrayal of the worst kind and would not be forgiven.

David Cameron

You did not win a mandate to form a government and the economy of this country is in such a perilous position that you have a duty to reach agreement without delay on the formation of a government that can command a clear majority in Parliament so that effective decisions can be taken without delay. There is no Parliamentary majority among parties of the political right. Differences between Tory and LD memberships mean that a coalition is unlikely and a supply and confidence arrangement will be fragile. In these circumstances you should present a simple draft Queens Speech and emergency budget to all Parties and seek agreement to them being allowed to pass. Despite the opposition of your party to PR, there is clear demand from the public for electoral reform and it must be offered within a strict timetable that does not extend beyond this year. All other Parties should allow your minority government to function until a reformed electoral system is in place and a new General Election can be held.

The chaos of queues outside polling stations as polls closed; the disgrace of stations running out of ballot papers; the nonsense of an unelected second chamber and the absurdity of not having fixed term Parliaments, all contribute to Britain being seen as a country with third world election standards and grossly outdated democracy. All our leaders have an urgent responsibility to resolve these matters with the urgency that is necessary to prevent us collapsing into a third world economy as well.

Friday, 7 May 2010

The End of the Beginning

The count for the local elections in Manchester took place at the Town Hall this afternoon. I was allowed to take two people along with me, so I took the Libertarian Party Chairman Gregg Beaman and a sympathiser who isn't yet a party member but who had contributed to the campaign. I found it to be an enjoyable experience. Fortunately the count didn't last as long as last night's General Election counts, but I had time for a cup of coffee and a chat with the Lib Dem candidate Gerry Diamond, who comes across as being a pleasant guy even though I don't agree with his politics. The local Lib Dem godfather Damien O'Connor was also there – it happens that he and Gregg knew each other a few years ago when they were both members of UKIP, so they had a chance to catch up on old times. The Labour candidate John Flanagan was there, but he seemed a bit aloof and didn't say anything to me. No sign of the Tory that I could see. The Greens were there too, and also the BNP candidate and one of his comrades. They didn't look very comfortable – a pair of twenty-somethings in ill-fitting suits who spent most of the time propping up a wall while the rest of the room avoided them. They looked like they were getting ready for a court appearance instead of an election (I was dressed much more stylishly in my combat jacket, jeans and Prisoner tee shirt – I think it's my sense of casual elegance that makes me so attractive to women). At one point, Flanagan tried to get support for a walkout in protest at the BNP even being there, which would have been a pretty childish thing to do – whatever else is wrong with them, the BNP are a legal political party with a perfect right to attend the count.

The count was over pretty quickly, and the result was as follows:

Lib Dem 1596
Labour 2402
Libertarian 55
Green 80
bnp 400
Conservative 265

Total votes: 4798

Flanagan gave a short speech in which he thanked the people of Newton Heath for voting for him and promised to do his best to serve the people of Newton Heath - not a word about the people of Miles Platting and Collyhurst South, which are also in this ward, don't ask me why. Possibly it's because Flanagan's not too familiar with the area, being from Gorton. You'd have to ask him.

I have to admit that the result was a surprise to me. I thought Gerry Diamond would win, his team certainly put plenty of work in, but unfortunately we've got another four years of Flanagan. The number of votes that I got as the Libertarian Party candidate was a pleasant surprise. I thought I'd get maybe 30-40. If that doesn't sound a lot, consider the fact that this is the very first election campaign that the Libertarian Party has mounted in this part of the country, that I'm an inexperienced candidate, that the ward was swamped with Lib Dem and Labour propaganda and that there would have been a lot of tactical voting going on. So I'm actually quite pleased that 55 people decided that it was worthwhile voting for me and the Libertarian Party. It comes to about 1.15% of the total vote. If you're one of those voters, thank you very much. I will do my best to ensure that you have plenty of opportunities to vote Libertarian in future elections. I don't know yet if I'll be a candidate next time, but I'm sure I'll be turning up in some capacity in future campaigns, maybe acting as an agent for another candidate or even just delivering leaflets. I've got the experience now, so I'm sure I can make myself useful. And I'm convinced that Manchester deserves a credible alternative to the current false choice between Labour and the Lib Dems. The Libertarian Party aims to be that alternative.

I'd also like to thank all those who supported me, whether in person by helping deliver leaflets or by sponsoring my campaign. It's been a real pleasure to work with such a dedicated team and I fully expect to be supporting some of them when they stand as candidates themselves.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

The Axeman Cometh

In my current campaign to be elected to Manchester City Council, one of my manifesto pledges is that I would always oppose increases in council tax and try to get it reduced significantly (significantly to me means at least 10%) then it's reasonable to ask what I would cut. Some people might think it's far-fetched being as Labour have increased council tax yet again and the Lib Dems are only promising a cut of less than 1%.

A good start would be to delete all or most of the budget for “Cultural and Related Services”. In 2006-2007, the budget for this was £66,506,000. By comparison, the budget for roads, highways and public transport services that year was less than half that, which shows a pretty strange set of priorities if you ask me.

Let's go through the itemised list of what this was for and see what we can take an axe to:

£96,000 – Archives spending. I'd have to look more closely into what this includes, but presumably the council needs to keep old records for future use, and it's a tiny part of the overall budget, so I'd leave it alone for now.

£3,825,000 – Arts development and support spending. Delete this completely. Art isn't something that should depend on handouts from the State. Art is generated by the creative impulses of the human mind, and it should be paid for by those who enjoy it.

£4,689,000 – Community centres and public halls spending. This probably won't make me popular, but I would vote to delete this part of the budget too. If there's a demand for such facilities, then they should be financed voluntarily by the people who use them.

£5,376,000 – Heritage spending. I'm assuming this includes maintaining the various monuments and historic buildings that come under council control. This should be phased out and responsibility for this should be turned over to charities and local voluntary groups.

£14,255,000 – Library spending. This is a problem. In principle it's another case where I'd say it should be paid for by those who use it. On the other hand, libraries are such useful facilities for supporting education, job hunting etc that I'd be very cautious about making any radical changes. If anyone has any practical ideas for making the library service voluntarily funded while still keeping it free at the point of use, I'd appreciate the input.

£6,560,000 – Museums and galleries spending. This part of the budget can and should be deleted. I do like visiting places like the Science Museum and the Art Gallery when I've got time, but not everyone does, and should my entertainment be funded by other people? I would advocate a rolling programme of transferring ownership and control of museums and art galleries to charities, volunteer groups and the private sector.

£14,764,000 – Open spaces spending. Parkland and suchlike, in some cases just waste ground that the council has grassed over. Local community groups should normally be responsible for this kind of thing, and in most cases they could probably do the job a lot cheaper.

£9,377,000 – Sports and recreation facilities including golf courses. Should be paid for by those who enjoy them. Privatise them.

£5,810,000 – Theatres and public entertainment. What is this, the Roman Empire, with Caesar laying on entertainment to keep the public quiet? I like going to the theatre when I can afford it (and it happens that we've got a lot of good amateur theatres around Greater Manchester) but I don't expect other people to subsidise my nights out through council tax. Delete this budget.

£1,754,000 – Tourism spending. I don't think I've ever met anyone who has visited Manchester due to promotion by Marketing Manchester. People come from the outside because they've got relatives in the area or there's some particular aspect of Manchester or it's history that interests them (football being an obvious example). Another budget that can be deleted with no problem.

Does a decent cut in council tax still sound far-fetched?

Friday, 23 April 2010

The Mancunian Candidate - The Campaign Begins!

I took delivery of my leaflets for the local election in Miles Platting and Newton Heath yesterday. The Libertarian Party's Communications Director, Councillor Gavin Webb, has done a good job of designing these. They're only A5, but they're printed in colour, with a really good layout. He's even somehow managed to make my picture on the front look not too horrible. Gavin also got a pretty good deal, £89 for 5,000 leaflets – we're not a rich party with millionaire backers, and I'm certainly not a rich candidate. Election rules allow a candidate in this ward to spend over £1,000, and I'm sure the two big parties in this ward (Lib Dem and Labour) with their deep pockets will be taking full advantage of that. My budget is in the region of £100, so I'll just have to make do with what I've got. One advantage that I do have is that I'm the only candidate in this ward who's guaranteed a vote – all the others live outside the area!

So I got the leaflets yesterday, and today I started distribution. All of a sudden, it's turned into a real election campaign. Out of the door at the crack of 9.00 am, and I got back just about dead on noon. In that time, I delivered something over 300 leaflets in the area around my house, which I don't think is a bad rate of work. One thing about walking around delivering these leaflets is, I soon developed a real appreciation for what a hilly area my part of Newton Heath is. Lucky I keep reasonably fit (quarterstaff lessons on Monday nights, yoga on Tuesday evenings and walks in the country when I've got time) or I would have been done in after the first hour, especially as the weather turned quite warm after a bit. I had to skip some houses, due to the gardens having dogs in them or being unable to find the letter box (yes, really) but not very many. I didn't do any actual canvassing (I'm no salesman, so I figured knocking on doors and trying to get people to vote for me would be counterproductive) but I did manage to chat to some people when I caught them going into or out of their homes, or just hanging out in their gardens. I can quite honestly say that I didn't have a single unpleasant experience, everyone was at least polite and some were quite friendly. I got back home at mid-day tired but in good spirits, feeling that I'd made a good start.

I rested up for a bit after I had some dinner, then went out again, this time to town. I'd had a letter from the Electoral Services Unit to attend a briefing for candidates and agents. I got into town a bit early, to get my hair cut – which really needed doing. As it happens, I didn't have to wait to get my hair cut, so I ended up with about an hour to kill before I had to get to the Town Hall. I decided to spend it in the Art Gallery, which is one of my favourite free places to kill time. It's a great place to wander around and see what catches your eye – one painting I particularly like is “Work” by Ford Madox Brown. The only thing I'd change about the Art Gallery is that it's taxpayer funded. I don't think taxpayers should be forced to pay for other people's pleasure. Things like art and sport should be paid for by the people who enjoy them. Personally, I'd probably turn the Art Gallery over to some charity and let them raise money through donations and/or charging at the door.

Anyway, 4.30pm rolls around, and I'm at the Town Hall, in the Banqueting Hall. I hadn't seen this part of the building before, it's quite impressive. Tea, coffee and biscuits were on offer free of charge (ie funded by the taxpayer) and I helped myself to a cup of coffee and several biscuits. Is this a sign of me starting to give in to corruption even before I've been elected?

The meeting wasn't as well attended as I expected. There were seats for at least a hundred people, but no more than a couple of dozen turned up – both local and parliamentary candidates. Flanagan and some members of his mob were there, along with Damien O'Connor (the local Lib Dem godfather) and members of his entourage. The briefing was pretty boring, technical stuff, mostly to do with the right of candidates and their agents to attend the count, the opening of postal ballots and suchlike, along with stern warnings not to try any ballot rigging. There were a couple of of interruptions by self-important candidates who seemed more interested in starting an argument than anything else, but I learned what I needed to learn and also picked up a pass for attending the count, so it was worth going to.

Overall, a pretty good day. If this is electioneering, I'll have some more of it.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Sloppily-produced propaganda from the Labour Party

One thing that's surprised me about this campaign so far is that the incumbent Labour councillor (John Flanagan) doesn't seem to be putting much effort into keeping his job. The Lib Dems have been campaigning hard in my area since about the middle of last year – I've had a monthly Focus leaflet off them, along with a Christmas card, calendar and a personalised letter inviting me to join up with them (no thanks). All I've had from Labour this year is a letter from Tony Lloyd, the local MP who's currently after being re-elected. The only time I've seen or heard anything from Flanagan in the last few months was when I attended a local political meeting last year, which was hosted by all three councillors. On that occasion, Flanagan stormed out of the room after one of the local taxpayers gave him a bit too much grief – I really didn't get the impression that Flanagan enjoys his job.

So little or no Labour activity in Newton Heath. Is this because they arrogantly assume that the locals will automatically turn out and vote Flanagan back into power? Or have they given up on Newton Heath on the assumption that this part of the ward now “belongs” to the Lib Dems? It's a false assumption in either case, since the voters all have free will, and anything can happen on election day – but then again, establishment politicians do tend to take the voters for granted, don't they?

It turns out that the Labour Party are doing some campaigning though, just not round my way. By way of this very useful and interesting website, I've found a copy of a “Rose” leaflet that the Labourites have been circulating around Miles Platting and Collyhurst South. It's well worth having a look, even if only to keep yourself amused by counting the typos. Edited by Flanagan himself, frankly it's a bit of a mess.

The leaflet has three pictures of Flanagan on the front, which isn't a good start – he takes an even worse picture than me. Naturally he takes credit for three new schools that are going up in the area, as well as keeping Miles Platting Pools open (for now). He also takes credit for “home improvements” in Miles Platting and Collyhurst, forgetting to mention that some of these “improvements” involve the extensive use of a demolition ball. The plan to demolish nearly 200 homes in Collyhurst South is particularly controversial, but you wouldn't believe it from reading this leaflet. Possibly because it's a relatively small area, not big enough to swing an election, the two big parties seem to be paying scant attention to the feelings of the people who actually live there.

The bottom of the front page is promoting the upcoming St George's Day Parade, which isn't really something that the council should be involved with – if local residents want to organise a parade, that's perfectly OK with me, it's just not something that the council should be financing or taking credit for.

The back page is even worse. According to the leaflet, the council has set aside £600,000 to repair all the extra potholes that have appeared due to the recent cold snap. For a town the size of Manchester, that doesn't sound anything like enough to me. Although I'm in favour of reducing the size of Manchester City Council's overall expenditure, keeping the roads in a decent state of repair is a necessary core function in my book, so it's one area where I think spending a bit of extra money is justified to get it right. And I don't think it's being done right at the moment, because a lot of the potholes near me have just been roughly filled with tarmac – I don't think they'll get through even a moderate winter without needing re-doing.

A bit further down, there's a nice prominent headline: “Manchester Council Tax – no increase”. This is a lie. The reality is that there's been an increase in the council tax bill of up to £22.70, depending on the property you live in. Maybe not as bad as it could have been, but nothing like as good as it could have been either, and definitely not a freeze. If they really cared about the working poor of this town, they could have reduced council tax significantly. Certainly if I'm elected I'll be pushing for at least a 10% reduction (the Lib Dem candidate's only promising a reduction of less than 1%, which isn't surprising as he's an ex-Labourite himself).

The rest of the leaflet is taken up with the usual form to fill in and send back to the Labour Party to get your name added to their mailing list, and some fairly random-looking photos down the side – the top one shows Flanagan standing in front of a playground pointing at the camera as if he's doing a “stick up”. The next one down shows Flanagan apparently being given directions by a Collyhurst resident – not surprisingly, as Flanagan's from Gorton and probably has trouble finding his way around this ward. One pic of Flanagan and Lloyd attending last year's parade. One pic of Flanagan standing outside a youth club, saying it had had a “£100,00 improvement boost” - does he mean £100.00 or £100,000? This leaflet hasn't been proofread at all. Weird how they can afford thousands of leaflets on glossy paper, but don't take the time to get them right.

Note to the Labour Party: I have experience of proofreading. If you want someone to go through your propaganda and check for spelling, punctuation and grammar errors next year, my hourly rate for that kind of work is £7 per hour. For the Labour Party (and Lib Dems and Tories) I offer a special rate of £14 an hour, or we'll call it £10 if cash in hand. You know where to contact me.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Vote for Kirwan in West Wirral

Libertarians are not like the big Parties. We do not want to force a party line onto anybody. We recognise that as individuals everybody is entitled to make up their own mind on all issues and that applies to MPs as much as everybody else. The Party whipping system is a big part of the cronyism and secrecy that has given us claims for duck houses and moat cleaning along with all the other abuses of this disgraceful parliament.

David Kirwan is an anti-sleaze candidate who has committed himself to the complete openness that is necessary to clean up Parliament and restore trust in politics. David is a Wirral Councillor who left the Conservatives to be free to represent his constituents without the constraints of a failing Party interested only in its own interests. From this independent perspective he has read the LPUK manifesto and found that he agrees with us enough to be able to work together. Having met David Kirwan and discussed what motivates us I can say his views meet the basic criteria that I would require to give support to anybody. These are simple:

• A recognition that Government usually creates problems rather than solving them and that there must be a return to much more individual responsibility, stronger families, stronger communities and an end to state snooping and interfering into so many aspects of private life.
• A determination to eliminate the secrecy, corruption and waste that comes with our system of patronage government and the armies of Quango’s and consultants that squander our tax money to bully, coerce and cajole us into New Labour clones. Cameron’s Blue Labour would be no different.
• An understanding that it is not possible to export democracy to other countries any more than it is acceptable for our values and culture to be crushed under a welter of stupid laws and PC multiculturalism. Decent values and respect for others comes from behaving decently and not by beating people into submission if they have different opinions from your own.
• Knowledge that prosperity and wellbeing for everybody depends on the enterprise and initiative that we have in abundance in this country. Our economy is crippled with massive debt because of the crazy spending by Brown’s government as he tries to buy his way to a fourth term of ruinous Labour Government. The companies that could provide the jobs to bring people out of poverty and hardship are being strangled by ridiculous laws and red tape from Whitehall and Brussels.
• Like Libertarians in all our varieties he wants respect for individuals who are responsible citizens; safe streets brought about by simple laws that are firmly enforced; low taxes that allow people to use the money they earn in the way that they choose; a country that is respected in the world for its defence of its own interests without interfering in the legitimate affairs of others.

For the cause of Liberty to gain from this election we need only to show the big parties that we will not allow ourselves to be dragged any further into the sovietisation of this country. A hung Parliament would be a big step in the right direction and an Independent MP for Wirral West is an important element in achieving that objective. Libertarians should vote for David Kirwan.

Go, Leese! Just go!

The major local political news story in Manchester over the last few days hasn't been the local election, but the fact that Richard Leese has had to “temporarily” step down as Leader of Manchester City Council after accepting a police caution for assaulting a 16 year old girl. It seems to have been some kind of domestic argument over medicating a cat, that blew up out of proportion somehow. Whether he will return to his £40,000 a year job as council bossman is unclear at this time.

However, it is worth pointing out that he previously spearheaded a “zero tolerance” campaign on domestic violence.

My opinion is that Richard Leese should have stepped down a long time before this incident happened.

This is the man who tried to bully the people of Manchester into voting for congestion charging, claiming there was “no Plan B” in the event of a “no” vote.

This is the man who encouraged thousands of ticketless Rangers fans to crowd into the centre of Manchester in 2008, leading to some of the worst rioting we've seen in this city in recent years.

This is the man who is happy to collaborate with this government's discredited and expensive ID cards scheme.

This is the man who has overseen annual increases in Council Tax even during times of recession, imposing an unnecessary economic burden on the working poor of this city.

This is the man who's idea of economic regeneration usually involves over-use of the wrecking ball.

This is the man, in short, who is the head of a council that has brought this city to its knees.

He should just go.

It's unfortunate that Leese's term of office as a councillor for Crumpsall doesn't expire until 2012. The honourable thing for him to do would be to resign as a councillor in order to force a by-election and let the people of Crumpsall decide whether they still want him. But I don't expect him to do that. Instead, he will attempt to live this incident down.

But there is no way he should ever be re-instated as Leader of the Council. Manchester deserves better.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

A Manifesto for Manchester

As I'm running as the Libertarian Party candidate for Manchester City Council in the Miles Platting and Newton Heath ward, here is my personal manifesto:

1. Libertarians believe that taxes should be kept as low as possible and as fair as possible. Council Tax is neither, it has no relation to the ability to pay and Manchester City Council has insisted on increasing it year after year, even in times of recession. I will never vote for an increase in Council Tax, under any circumstances and I will work to get it decreased. The annual increases in the rate of Council Tax levied by this council are a crippling burden on the working poor of this city. I believe that by cutting waste, improving efficiency and focusing on core functions, a cut of at least 10% in the Council Tax bill is achievable while still providing necessary services. This would put between £54 and £265 back into the pockets of each tax payer.

2. As a Libertarian, I am totally opposed to this Labour-dominated council's policy of collaborating with the government's expensive and discredited ID card scheme. The main problem with the ID card scheme is not the cards themselves. The real problem is that if you have an ID card, your personal details will be recorded on the National Identity Register – a centralised database which will be accessible to thousands of civil servants and vulnerable to hacking and criminal abuse. No need for ID cards has been demonstrated and yet this council insists on airport workers and students having them. How long until they try to force the rest of us to follow suit?

3. Libertarians oppose the use of Compulsory Purchase Orders by local councils. This is a form of legalised theft which has been heavily employed against residents of Miles Platting and Collyhurst South recently. People work hard for years to buy their own homes – why should the council then be able to throw them out of their homes, knock them down and pay them below market value for their homes? And all to clear the way for yet another of the council's seemingly never-ending “regeneration” projects. This Labour-dominated council has been knocking down and rebuilding parts of this city for as long as I can remember – a policy which destroys communities while doing little or nothing to improve the quality of life in Manchester. If elected, I will always oppose the use of Compulsory Purchase Orders.

4. As a Libertarian, I believe that local councils should focus on providing the core services which people expect them to provide – policing the streets, maintaining the roads, gritting, waste collection and so on – as efficiently as possible. If elected, I will work to ensure that the council's resources are used to maintain and improve these necessary services and not wasted on grand schemes and white elephant projects. Funding for non-essentials such as art galleries, museums, parades and so on should be left to the private and voluntary sectors who can usually do a better job of running them.

5. Libertarians believe in open, accountable government, both at national and local level. The public were rightly outraged when the scandal over MP's expenses broke last year, but local politicians have continued to feather their own nests while being largely ignored by the media. In 2008-09 Manchester city councillors claimed a total of £1,875,032.79 in allowances between them! Labour councillor John Flanagan – who is defending his seat in this election – personally claimed £25,520.67 in that year. Not bad for part time work! If elected, I will claim the minimal amount in allowances which I believe to be justified, and I will publish any claims I make on the internet within a week of claiming them, so that the taxpayers of this ward can decide for themselves whether they're getting value for money from me. I will also publish details of every Council motion I vote on (and those I abstain on) giving reasons why. Politicians should be prepared to account for their actions to the public every single day, not just every four years.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Words of wisdom from Tony Blair

"Instead of wasting hundreds of millions of pounds on compulsory ID cards let that money provide thousands more police officers on the beat in our local communities."

Tony Blair as Leader of the Opposition, Labour Party conference, October 1995

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Vote Labour and get your home demolished!

A recent edition of the Manchester Evening News had an interesting local story concerning Manchester City Council's planned demolition of 189 maisonettes in Collyhurst South. The maisonettes were built in the 60s and the council now want to demolish and replace them. The cost of this “redevelopment” will be £3,300,000 – the council rejected a proposal to refurbish the maisonettes at a much lower cost of £300,000, which would obviously have involved a lot less disruption to the community. Other options, like turning over ownership of the properties involved to a housing association or a local housing cooperative, don't seem to have been considered. Pretty typical of the sledgehammer approach that this Labour-dominated council tends to adopt.

For me though, what's particularly interesting about this story is that it implies that the local people are almost all behind the council's plan. That wasn't the impression I had recently, when I was canvassing for nomination signatures in the area. I only met one guy who plans to vote Labour, everyone else seemed to hate the incumbent councillor John Flanagan, who voted for the demolition. I talked to people who have lived there for decades and who resented the council's actions. Collyhurst South is a functioning community, not some urban battlezone – I've certainly lived in worse places, so why is the council set on this course of action? One very friendly couple who live in one of the maisonettes in question kindly invited me into their home and explained how distressed they were about the prospect of being moved into temporary accommodation while their home was demolished and a replacement built – both of them already have health problems, the stress from this can only make things worse. As usual with this council, they won't let the needs of individuals get in the way of their grand schemes.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Afghanistan: David Kirwan vs Sound Money Man

My position on the occupation of Afghanistan is that War Is A Racket.

War is just a racket. There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defense of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights. War for any other reason is simply a racket.

-US Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler (1933)

My position can be summed up with the words "armed neutrality". Think "Switzerland without conscription" and you're already there.

Prospective independent parliamentary candidate David Kirwan apparently wants to have his cake and eat it too.

He seems to think that British forces must continue to occupy Afghanistan and kill those who oppose it if the US forces remain there. No unilateral withdrawal!

He even trots out the establishment talking point of "better kit for our boys".

It saddens me to report that the LPUK has officially endorsed independent candidate David Kirwan for the 2010 general election.

Clearly, I don't.

Reply by Stuart Heal

Sound Money Man has not been a member of the Libertarian Party for several months, and has today requested that his status as a guest blogger be removed, which I have done.

The official Libertarian Party position at this time is for a policy of armed neutrality - a policy which I personally disagree with, however I continue to be an active member of the Party because I agree with most of the rest of the manifesto and I want to do what I can to make Britain a better, more liberal country to live in.

David Kirwan - although not a member of the Libertarian Party - seems to have similar motivations, and has therefore been endorsed by our National Coordinating Committee.

On the particular subject of Afghanistan, I suggest that anyone interested visit David Kirwan's website, and look down the list of manifesto podcasts on the right of the page, and click on "War in Afghanistan". Listen to what Mr Kirwan has to say and make up your own mind as to whether what he's saying matches Sound Money Man's characterisation of him as some kind of war monger. Personally, I though what he was saying made a lot of sense.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

If this how heroes behave, I'd hate to see the villians.

The video I am about to link to requires a warning. Its not for those of a delicate disposition. Youtube may require you to sign in as an adult. Don't say I didn't warn you. The video depicts British troops beating the crap out of Iraqi children. That's the reality of war. Not the Daily Star bollocks about "our boys" that the tabloids feed you. If this is how heroes behave, I'd hate to see the villians.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

The Mancunian Candidate

Three years ago, if you'd told me that I'd soon be joining a political party, I wouldn't have believed you. None of the political parties that were in existence at that time came close enough to my beliefs to be worth supporting, certainly not the Big Three. Then in late 2007, the Libertarian Party was formed, and it didn't take me long to decide to join it.

At the time when I joined the Libertarian Party, if you'd told me that I'd ever be doing anything more active for it than doing a bit of leafleting, I wouldn't have believed you then, either. But when the leadership said they wanted regional coordinators, I volunteered to run the North West branch. No-one else seemed to want the job, so I thought I'd have a go. But I always saw myself as a back room type - admin and blogging, that kind of thing.

I certainly never saw myself as a potential candidate for election. But here I am, the Libertarian Party's official candidate for the Miles Platting and Newton Heath ward in the elections for Manchester City Council on 6th May. Not only the first Libertarian Party candidate in Manchester, but also in the North West. So how did that happen?

I was first persuaded to consider the idea when I was talking to a new member early last year. He's an experienced politician, and he said he'd help me through the process of getting onto the ballot, which seemed pretty daunting at the time. But I realised that the best way to grow a young party was to fight elections, so I agreed to consider it. I started looking into the logistics of running a local campaign, and it seemed feasible, at least on paper. Then Andrew Hunt fought our very first election campaign in Wisbech South last spring. I helped out with leafleting for that campaign, and I saw that it could be done, if it was properly organised. As it happens, Andrew got a pretty good result by campaigning on local issues, and yet he didn't spend big money on his campaign as far as I know. His leaflets were just knocked up on a word processor and printed off, but he got a pretty decent result. I decided to give it a go, if I could.

But it's not just about promoting the party I'm in. I genuinely do believe that we need a major change in Manchester. After decades of Labour domination, this council has brought us to the point where Manchester - once an economic powerhouse - is one of the poorest areas in the country, with the second worst-performing police force. My ward is officially listed as an unemployment blackspot (I was told this by the staff at Newton Heath JobCentre Plus last year, people in particularly bad areas get extra help job hunting). Council tax is sky high, and if you can't pay, they'll send the bailiffs after you - some people have even been driven to bankruptcy. So the self-styled party of the workers has failed us. I don't believe the "Liberal" Democrats have got what it takes to turn this city around either. They're too timid, they won't carry out the necessary reforms, and they've long since abandoned their liberal roots. As a matter of fact, the "Lib" Dems in this ward all seem to be recycled ex-Labour councillors, including Gerry Diamond who is hoping to win this seat from the incumbent Labourite John Flanagan. So don't expect any massive changes even if the "Lib" Dems do well in this election.

So it's time to look for a real change. As the sole Libertarian candidate in this election, I realise that even if elected I won't have a major voice in the council (although I'll at least be able to argue for common sense). But this isn't going to be the last election that the Libertarian Party fights in this city - not by a long shot. We're going to become a permanent feature of the local political scene in Manchester. As the party grows, with each election I hope to field more candidates in different wards, until somewhere down the line - hopefully in the reasonably near future - we're able to put up a full slate of candidates with a real chance of winning.

I'm not the ideal candidate. I'm not comfortable with public speaking, I never have any money and I've got the personal charm of a dead rat. But I'll give it my best shot, and if I can mount a decent campaign on limited resources, I'm sure other Libertarians - some of them much better qualified to be councillors than me - will follow suit.

I don't know how long the journey will take, a few years at least, but this campaign is the first step towards a Libertarian City Council for Manchester.

Stuart Heal
Libertarian Party candidate for Miles Platting and Newton Heath