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Thursday, 31 January 2019

How Much has Brent Council Paid Out for Volunteer Libraries?

One of the expectations that Brent Council's budget panel has is that volunteer libraries save money.  This may well be untrue, partly because of hidden ongoing costs.  Although Brent Libraries services seem to have so far avoiding most involvement.  There is a real danger of being sucked in, and facing constant demands for Danegeld

In terms of the money paid to these groups, as far as I can see:

  • "Barham Library" has been gifted a soft renting arrangement.
  • "Preston Library" has been promised the a peppercorn lease on a building valued by officers at circa £1 million for several years, not paying the market rate of about £50k per year.
  • Cricklewood, FKRL and Preston all appear to have been gifted £73k each for capital improvements.

These grants appear to be the vast majority of the group income in each case.  Although they could be defended as relatively small amounts (compared to a Northamptonshire football club for example), both the principle and the opportunity cost are significant.  If the principle is conceded, the numbers can snowball, and of course Brent Libraries Service could probably have done a lot more with the capital grant than I imagine will happen it any of these privatised libraries.

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Potential Threat to Brent Council Tax Revenues

Stories about the widespread failure of high street shops have become commonplace with a services of prominent chains getting into trouble.  BHS, HMV and Patisserie Valerie are all recent examples.  There is an important consequence for local government taxation if this becomes commonplace. 

In Brent, business rates should bring in £122.5 million  this year (2018-19), which is more than the Council Tax (£115 million).  If the number of businesses paying in goes down, there is a danger of a further reduction in Brent Council's income on top of all the other problems local government faces.  Fortunately, Brent Council has limited its exposure to this by joining the London wide pool arrangements, which effectively spreads the risk

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

Miscommunication and Politics

There have been recent reports that some people think "no deal" on Brexit means staying in the European Union instead of crashing out with no transition whatsoever.  If so that makes the difficulties of having this debate even harder, although I can hardly blame the public when government ministers appear not to know basic facts.

Anyway, this scenario apparently know includes the possibility of imposing martial law.  This might involve curfews, travel bans, confiscation of property and deploying the armed forces.  Makes Caroline Flint's fears over disorder if we have a second referendum seem quite quaint. 

Incidentally, to help get everyone in the right mood for Brexit without a deal, the British Museum is shortly to begin an exhibition on Edvard Munch, who famously drew "The Scream".

There seem to be a number of terms that get distanced from any meaning.  "Neo liberal" often seems to mean "anyone I don't like".  "Blairite" is often used in a similar way.  The misuse of the term "Zionist" is widespread now.  I have noticed an increased use of "racist" to refer to things other than race.

This appears to be the result of an increased reliance on sloganizing rather than thinking, and seems to me to make effective communication just impossible.

Monday, 28 January 2019

A Curiously Misdirected Petition

I see that Martin Francis is claiming that "the community" in the St Raphaels Estate is mounting a petition against regeneration.  I suspect that, given it is apparently going to Sian Barry, this is really a Green Party initiative.  To send a petition to one particular Assembly Member (not even the Brent & Harrow member) to go to the London Mayor seems very strange.  If you want to raise such an issue at the London level, why not raise it with the Mayor yourself?

There again, why raise it at a a London level when most of the St Raphaels estate is owned by Brent Council, and Brent Council would have to be the main driver of any change as both property owner and planning authority?  Any local residents would be far better advised to raise their concerns with the councillors representing the Stonebridge ward

Sunday, 27 January 2019

Loss of Social Housing and the Right to Buy

Tom Copley, the Greater London Assembly Member, has started a petition against the Right to Buy, which has devastated social housing in London.  Right to Buy has led to a situation where 42% of council homes sold under the Right to Buy are now in the hands of private landlords, and local authorities in London are forced to spend at least £22 million renting back housing that used to belong to them.  The waste of such a policy is remarkable. 

Saturday, 26 January 2019

The State of the European Debate

Today will be a People's Vote campaign day.  After a sadly ineffective negotiation, the UK is being offered a deal that is much worse then EU membership.  This is, of course exactly what everyone was told by the European Commission would be on offer after the referendum result back in 2016.  What people were told by the Brexit campaign beforehand was substantially different.  Some Brexit supporters, ignoring their own part in the negotiation apparently want total isolation as an alternative and are prepared to do almost anything to attain this end. 

Jacob Rees Mogg has often been mocked as wanting to go back to the Hanoverians.  His most recent comments sound more like going back to the Stuarts.

I cannot help but think it would be much better for the UK to change its mind and stay in the European Union as a member.  The only legitimate way to do this would be via a new vote.  Although some on the Labour Party side continue to oppose this, there are signs that it is gaining more credibility among Tory MPs.  Significantly, I suspect the promise of a referendum is the only way for the UK to extend Article 50, which would be crucial to making any changes to the withdrawal agreement which pretty much everyone condemns.  The reason is that the procedure Theresa May would be likely to follow, in order to avoid openly confessing that her entire policy has been a mistake, would be to ask for an extension.  The other EU27 would only agree an extension for a reason, such as a referendum.  They won't just extend for no purpose.  In particular they have ruled out changing the offer made to Theresa May. 

Friday, 25 January 2019

Carillion Costs

The collapse of Carillion is apparently leading to a situation where the taxpayer is going to be forced pay an extra £400 million to complete a hospital which is currently only 10% complete.  Carillion got paid £205 million of an original £350 million budget.  Oh, and the hospital will be four years late.

So much for transferring risk to the contractor.

Yet, there are still advocates for private companies like this to continue to be used.

Thursday, 24 January 2019

The Curious Case of the Green Party's View of Community Assets

I have been once again examining the strange doublethink that some people seem to have over "community assets".  As far as I can see, they want them to be given away for nothing to groups they like, but withheld from groups they don't.  In other words not so much a policy as simple favouritism.

One recent case is Roundwood Youth Centre, where this post is highly critical.

Some of the critique is probably justified.  I wonder whether the building would be offered as a PRU if it did not have a condition attached forcing payback if it did not follow some youth orientated purpose, and one might question whether the proposed contractor is the right body to run a PRU.  If the unit would count as a new school, central government would effectively be forcing the Council to give the property away for nothing. 

Scandalous one might think.

Yet the same author also apparently likes the idea of a Council owned building being given away to a group he does like for nothing. 

The failure to make maximum use of taxpayers assets naturally leads to boosting the revenues by other means such as taxing or charging, or cutting spending.

Incidentally, the Green Party's own comments on this issue appear to regard the Roundwood Youth Centre as "a group of white elephants".  Actually, my experience of talking to people in the area was that they regarded youth services as extremely valuable, although many people seemed to have very little awareness of the Roundwood Youth Club. 

The original was a Second World War communications centre.  By 2010, it was in serious disrepair and had been subject to arson.  The grant to replace it was actually obtained by Cllr Ann John lobbying Michael Gove after he initially planned to cut it.  It was one of the youth centres considered for closure in the 2011 budget, before being saved, and was the only one to survive the 2015/16 round of cuts (thanks no doubt to the repayment condition). 

Statements made by Cllr Butt on the future of the Centre appear to contradict each other.  He has seemed to suggest that it is happening, and that it is not, despite the proposal having been in the public domain for some time.

Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Do Volunteer Libraries Save Money? (Again)

The recent Budget Panel appeared to be under the impression that volunteer libraries save money.  I really don't think that is the case.  Certainly back in 2011, the various proposals did not save money and that was with some extremely "optimistic" assumptions about their costs. 

I have been unable to find any hard evidence of either money saving or service improvement through the use of volunteer libraries.  Any assertion that a library is doing better as privatised library rather than a public library seems to be based on the assertions of the groups themselves rather than measured fact.

The reason is of course that these groups often expect Councils to pick up the building costs (which means direct costs like utilities and opportunity costs such as foregone rent.  They also tend to expect help with other things such as equality training, advice on how to get libraries to function, IT support and so on.  Indeed so many costs are added on that I am not sure that any savings are made at all in some cases.  The same may well be true of the business rate "smoke and mirrors" savings

In terms of performance, Brent currently has a position (which is generally true across the sector) that whatever happens in volunteer libraries is not part of the public library duty, which means that they do not contribute to the impressive visit and loans figures that Brent libraries can show. 

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Brent Budget Panel Generally Disappointing

Yesterday's post on the Brent Budget Panel was highly critical of its intellectual thinness with regard to libraries, but is worth remarking that it appeared quite thin in other regards, including basic knowledge.

For instance it appears to recommend a "Considerate Contractor Scheme" as "used in Westminster".  This is actually a national scheme and widely used in Brent.  It can be set as a planning condition and frequently is.  Did no one point this out to the councillors?  Similarly the Council can charge (and I believe does) for the use of highways and damage caused to them.  Did no point this out to the councillors?

To pick another example, the Panel suggest that the West London Alliance runs the Abbey Road site.  The West London Alliance is a shared service arrangement between Boroughs and includes Brent.  The Abbey Road site is actually run by the West London Waste Authority (WLWA).  WLWA is a statutory authority and therefore cannot be altered or abolished without Parliamentary legislation.  Do they just not know or what?  They also just don't seem to know about the whole industry that lies behind back end recycling, including WLWA's obligation's to its power plant

I would have expected them to be at least aware of current practice.

Monday, 21 January 2019

Brent Budget Panel Disappointing on Libraries

I have had a chance to look at the Brent Council Budget Panel's views on libraries in detail, and my goodness it is a thin document.  It appears to be ignorant not only of the success of Brent Libraries, but even to suggest that they are unpopular on the word of a number of individuals who have told them this.  They might have a more accurate view if they paid attention to what people who use libraries rather than just shout about them think.  For this I reproduce Brent's Public Library User figures below:

You can see that the Libraries Transformation Project actually saw improved satisfaction levels immediately after the strategy started to be implemented.  The actual figures are here

They also appear to be under the impression that volunteers running stand alone buildings are saving the Council money, which they are not.  They are simply demanding that the Council give them a series of grants.  Some time I would like to see the Preston group's £18,000 "reception desk".  At that price, I assume it is an impressive item of furniture. 

It is also interesting that the task group want to "sweat the assets" by renting out space.  They appear not to know the Council does this already at, for example, Willesden Library.  However, this view would be compatible with a more realistic renting policy at the former Preston Library building.  Officers have suggested renting it commercially at the rate of £50,000 a year, which would be a substantial contribution if it was diverted to the Council's own library service.  So far, I see little sign of that happening.

Rather than suggesting non-solutions, the Panel would have been better employed finding out whether the Merton model of volunteers in a Council run building has anything to offer.  Meanwhile Cllr McLennan has apparently announced that the library cuts are "off the table".  Personally, given Cllr Butt's tendency to say one thing and then do another, I would wait to see it actually voted off the budget before being sure.  However, I did think that the fiercer end of the cuts was likely to be blunted by the inability of the man to actually deal with difficult decisions.

Sunday, 20 January 2019

New Parking Charges?

Yesterday's Times contained a front page article suggesting that a number of authorities, including Brent, want to introduce a £1,000 levy on employers with more than ten parking spaces.  Whatever the environmental advantages, I suspect that there be a distinct lack of political courage for actually doing that.

Comply with Planning Enforcement

A quick reminder here of the very high cost of ignoring planning enforcement orders, in this case confiscation of more than £300k.  This follows an even bigger case further back

It is a lot easier to simply comply.

Saturday, 19 January 2019

The Favourite

Some days ago I went to see The Favourite which has been justly widely praised.  As usual with these things I was impressed by the period detail and the sheer level of time and effort involved in making sure that everything was historically correct.  As far as I can tail this extends to the historical accuracy of the details of political manoeuvrings in the 1700s, although I imagine very few viewers will have the slightest knowledge of them. 

The key three roles are each given to female actors, with the men playing peripheral and sometimes rather pathetic parts.  The female players are also depicted as scheming, violent and manipulative in their use of sex which I would have thought was problematic for some people signed up to the #MeToo campaign.

One detail surprised me too _ the duck racing.  Sidney Godolphin and the Court are portrayed as racing ducks which as far as I know was not really a thing in 1700s England.  He was enthusiastic about cockfighting which, repellent as it seems to most people now, was definitely a thing in the 1700s.  Was this just seen as too repellent for modern audiences?  It jars to invent this non-historic detail into a film that generally gets its history right to an extraordinary degree, as well as paying tribute to cinematic classics set in the eighteenth century such as Tom Jones.  It also makes Godolphin seem a bit of a weirdo when his real interest in cockfighting was a standard pastime at the time. 

Friday, 18 January 2019

When Did Free Speech Start to Decline?

Some days ago, Anna Soubry MP was subjected to harassment and intimidation for expressing her views on Brexit.  As this was a MP immediately outside Parliament it got more attention than Luciana Berger or Laura Kuenssburg;  let alone people without media links.

Some people on both the hard right and the hard left seem to see this kind of intimidation as their right, when it appeared to me to be them interfering with other people's freedom of speech.

I first noticed it as a deliberate tactic during the Scottish independence referendum.  Nick Robinson, Jim Murphy and others complained back then of "protests" being used to bully and silence people.  It is effectively a kind of Twitter pile on in real life.  There was also a widespread suspicion that all this was being organised by the Yes campaign at that time. 

However on a small scale it has been routinely and sometimes quite smugly practiced before then.  Indeed it has been sometimes practiced at Brent Council meetings, new least by the library litigants at the height of their campaigning.  I generally ignored this trait at the time, although some of the activities of people were quite odd.  One was that they tried to hijack every single meeting for their own cause, another was the sheer peculiarity of some the behaviour, such as the insistence by one campaigner on literally kissing the shows of the chair of the first consultation meeting.  Still another was some of political positions taken.  One particular "hard left" character attacked me for at one point criticising the government for cutting Council funding.  However, generally the tactic was not any form of engagement but simply an intent to try to blot out any explanation of the opposing arguments being put forward.

I suppose it is a consequence of the growing narcissism of our society

Thursday, 17 January 2019

The Concept of Cultural Appropriation

In an idea pioneered by Edward Said, it now appears that many people regard "cultural appropriation" as being inherently sinful, offensive and so on.  This seems to extend to flavoured rice.  The idea, which has merit, is that mapping out someone else's culture and seeking to define it can itself be an act of domination and part of a colonialist project.  This was Said's main argument in Orientalism, his seminal if rather turgid work on the subject. 

I can't help but feel that it isn't appropriate in all circumstances.  Firstly, aren't all cultural traditions always being defined by somebody if not foreigners such as those imperial officials who went out defining India and so on, than often specific groups within a particular culture who have an axe to grind.  For example it can be a tool for those who want to prevent feminist reform or reforms aimed at helping poorer people since many cultures have traditionally been dominated by male attitudes/aristocratic groups. 

Secondly, doesn't it tend to ignore the important role of cultural mixing.  Many changes and developments in cultures come from the interactions of different cultures. a few random examples might include the work of: Katsushika Hokusai, Claude Debussy, Picasso and numerous Mughal artworks.  These often involve incorporating elements from culture that might be seen as completely misunderstanding them/misrepresenting them.  The whole insistence on "silo" cultures also seem to deny some of the most fruitful cultural enterprises which are dependent on melding different traditions.

A similar position applies to modern interpretations of the past, where a genuine appreciation of the past in its own terms is in conflict with what a current audience finds tasteful, appropriate or commercially marketable.

Where I think there is a real danger her is that the whole language becomes subject to preconceptions that see cultural interactions as wrong, so that (for instance) the loans of Leonardos from Italy to France gets blocked because there is a misplaced sense of ownership

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

A Return to Library Privatisation?

I gather that Brent Council is once again contemplating hiving libraries off into some sort of trust.  Hopefully, there will be less confusion that when this was last mooted.  Since I last considered the possibilities, we have seen the collapse of Carillion, which I thought greatly reduced the appetite for this kind of thing.

One approach that is said to work in Merton is the greater use of volunteers to supplement library staff in Council run buildings.  I don't know whether this would work, but so far no one seems to have studied the idea. 

Unfortunately, the taskforce that came up with this proposal also swallowed a number of other library myths.  One is that the Council had not considered the idea of volunteer groups in its 2011 strategy, which is to quote from the judge at the time "simply wrong".  Almost a dozen groups put in proposals which were rejected for various reasons, including cost.  The best known of these was the FKRL group proposal.  The subsequent reliance of this group on the Council for funding suggests to me that the decision was in fact prescient.  It is disappointing that the councillors seem to be unaware of the success of Brent libraries, even though they passed a motion on the subject not so long ago. 

However, the task force is certainly right in identifying this as a bad area to cut, especially as demands on the library service go up. 

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Grayling Violence

I wonder whether it occurs to those like Chris Grayling who warn of extremism whenever a new referendum is suggested that their warnings might create just such a movement?  Certaijnly I doubt it given that they fail to connect their "enemies of the people" rhetoric with subsequent violence and threats.

Monday, 14 January 2019

The Growing Incoherence of Populist Movements

I have argued before that too many people see politics as just theatre, with no effect on real life.  This seems to be especially so on demonstrations, where some people seem to drag in all kinds of causes that have nothing to do with the supposed theme of the event.  Sometimes the location of the demonstration also appears to be totally irrelevant.  I was reflecting on this following the suggestion that the Peoples Assembly staging a rally for a new General Election should include elements of gilats jaunes movement.  The Gilats jaunes started as a fuel price protest and has since generalised into a unhappiness with the state of France movement.  Last I saw, it appeared to have protest against gay marriage as a major theme.  They are also said to have some very ugly beliefs

It is hard to see how that relates to a UK General Election. 

I find this observation of sheer incoherence more convincing, than the other possibility that a hitherto leftist fringe is starting to merge with the Hard Right (although I do agree that appears to be happening over anti-Semitism).

Sunday, 13 January 2019

Business Rate Relief

I notice that once again various organisations are lining up for special treatment from the Council, in this case regarding relief from business rates.  No justifications are listed for these reliefs and no reasoning as to why they apply to these bodies and not to others.  One organisation is FKRL who, I suspect, will fail to even acknowledge any support they receive

There appear to be no explanations as to what social benefits the said organisations are delivering.

The whole business rates system is suffering a crisis of legitimacy, with many businesses frustrated by the high rates they pay in comparison to mainly online businesses, and some suggesting that special rates for charities lead to some high streets being swamped by charities at the expense of other kinds of outlet.

Saturday, 12 January 2019

CIL Distribution

Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) distribution is due to be recommended for a slight change in governance with a small addition to the decision makers.  This is very timid. Some councils require the CIL allocation to be made by all councillors in that area, which helps to give a much broader basis to decision making and a more public debate. 

Such an approach might avid the more controversial aspects of the policy.

It would also, by giving councillors across the Council a more substantive role, help to blunt criticism that Brent Councillors have chosen to pay themselves a much too generous allowance.

Friday, 11 January 2019

Borough of Culture Company

Monday's Cabinet meeting of Brent Council is considering setting up a company to raise funds (and spend them) for the London Borough of Culture.  The aim is to raise an additional £1.5 million on top of what is there.  Let us hope that it is successful.

The Council say they have also set up a scheme for making small grants available to organisations and individuals in the same period.

Thursday, 10 January 2019

Brent's Estate Cleaning Contract

Interesting that Martin Francis has picked up on a plan to either take Wettons' contract to clean Brent Housing in-house or retender the contract.  The intention at the time that the Public Realm contract was tendered was to put the contract in with Veolia's wider cleaning contract once it expired. I am not sure why this has not happened, and why it appears not to be being considered now, although it might be a technical issue.  Rolling the estate cleaning in with the general cleaning strikes me as the most effective way to avoid the demarcation issues that can bedevil such things.

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Universal Credit Admittedly a Disaster

Amid the ongoing Brexit disaster, Amber Rudd's effective postponement of the Universal Credit roll out has gone largely unnoticed.  She is only extending it to 10,000 claimants rather than three million.  That will be some relief to the people being punished, but it leaves the whole system in a kind of limbo.  It is hard not to see it as another example of Brexit sucking the life out of politics in a way that leaves major problems unanswered.

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Brexit Conundrums

Not far off from finally making some decisions on Brexit and it appears that large chunks of the Tory Party really believe leaving with no deal is a good idea.  This presumably is that they just can't bring themselves to believe all the warnings about food and medical shortages, the break down of institutions and so on.  they prefer to believe Peter Lilley

I however, think that the warnings are fundamentally sound, and that any government/political party stupid enough to go for no deal would be committing political suicide.  Once there were food shortages, those who had been insisting on no deal would quickly accuse the government of betrayal. 

That is why I think that the whole thing will lead to an extension of the Article 50 notice and a new referendum.

Here is a recent House of Commons Library take on the no deal scenario.

Monday, 7 January 2019

Shaun Bailey As a Reactionary

I was interested to read the comments by Shaun Bailey in the Guardian this morning.  It does demonstrate why he is a Conservative, and some of his appeal lo like minded people in the Tory Party, but I doubt whether he is going to find most Londoners agreeing with him.  These latest quotes where he seems to find fault with schools employing female teachers and to believe that female teachers can't maintain classroom discipline.  Seema Malhotra is surely correct to call him out on that, and his defence sounds feeble.

Cut in Brent Council Carbon Emissions

It is good to see that Brent Council has cut its carbon emissions by almost 40% in less than a decade.  The single biggest contributor to that number was the Brent Civic Centre (bizarrely opposed by the Brent Green Party).  It is certainly much better than the days when the response to the Council's failure to meet the target was simply to lower the target

The UK also has a wider move towards lower electricity usage

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Brent Council Moving Against Diesel

Brent Council is likely to introduce a charge on diesel vehicles according to the papers of the next Council Cabinet.  This is in line with the principles introduced under the emissions based parking permit scheme introduced some years ago.  This is also in line with the general strategy of the Council to reduce car use, a strategy that I suspect many Brent councillors simply don't understand.

It is notable however, that it applies solely within existing permit zones.  At some point, Brent Council is going to have to consider increasing the extent of these zones as the current policy heaps more and more charges on only a certain proportion of people in the Borough.

Saturday, 5 January 2019

Fred Hoyle Redux

My last pre Christmas post on Fred Hoyle reminds me of an anecdote my father once told me about him.  They had both been invited to do a short interview in a documentary on Stephen Hawking. My father was filming in the morning and paid no particular attention to the set, which each case was based on what the interviewees homes looked like.  As a result he was interviewed in a simulacrum of Hoyle's apparently rather swish apartment.  Hoyle turned up at midday and was deeply annoyed to be interviewed against what he regarded as a dreary and dowdy back drop.  So much so that his interview was apparently very unhelpful.

Friday, 4 January 2019

What an Odd Time to Cut Brent Libraries

As we get further into the New Year, I can't help but return to the Year of Culture in Brent.  It is good that this application was successful.  Not least Brent has had few outstanding success and the libraries service is now acknowledged to be one of them.  That was a crucial part of winning the Borough of Culture status in the first place, so it seems an odd time to now cut the budget. 

However, the budget proposals published before Christmas suggest cutting staff and restricting the service.  Almost certainly that will lead to a significant fall in library numbers.  This is just when opening hours should be at their fullest so that as many events as possible can be staged.

It really doesn't seem very strategically aware.

Thursday, 3 January 2019

Nelson Mandela and Brent

Martin Francis harks back to the attempt to award Nelson Mandela the Freedom of the Borough back in 1990.  As I understand it, the problem came before the injunction. 

The Tories had been informally consulted and indicated that they would support the award.  At the last moment they pulled out.  This created an issue because then as now, freedom of the Borough could only be awarded with a two thirds majority of councillors voting for it (44 at that time).  The injunction was then served to stop the award going forward despite a majority vote in favour, and also used as a basis to sue the then Mayor Len Williams and then Leader Dorman Long for costs arising from the legal action.

It is hard to imagine people going to such lengths to protest against an award to Nelson Mandela today. 

More information about the history of anti-apartheid activities in the UK is available online, including an excerpt from then Labour Leader Hugh Gaitskell condemning apartheid.

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Protesting and Tony Benn's five Questions

From time to time I have been bemused by a tendency by many groups to protest in what seem to me to be irrelevant quarters.  We have seen this in Brent with some of the protest groups against academisation, Israeli policies and climate change.

In terms of academisation, we have seen protest brought to the Town Hall _ which has no power whether a school becomes an academy or not.  In terms of Israeli policy on the Gaza Strip the protest went to Theresa May rather than the Israeli Embassy, and on climate change the protests just seemed to cause maximum possible disruption rather than any particular outcome. 

Perhaps it might be useful for people to ask themselves in terms of Tony Benn's famous five questions to the powerful.

“What power have you got?”


“Where did you get it from?”


“In whose interests do you use it?”


“To whom are you accountable?”


“How do we get rid of you?”

These are by no means perfect.  In particular they seen not to address directly the "issues" that he claimed to want to focus on.  We might, for instance also ask:

"Why did you decide this?"

"What alternatives did you consider?"

"What impact do you expect your decisions to have?"

"Are you sure you have the legal power to do this?"

"How are you going to act to sort out this problem in future?"

However, the ideological leanings of the people who are routinely seen at these sort of protests seem to pay automatic obeisance to figures like Tony Benn, so thinking of it in the terms laid down for them by Benn might be helpful for them.  Since Benn was arguing against people being allowing to automatically be granted authority, that is perhaps an irony.

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Register to Vote for the New Year

Either a General Election or a referendum, or both, seem likely this year, so perhaps a good new year's resolution would be to register to vote.  It is often said that unless you vote you have no moral right to complain about the errors and disasters of the government, and I defy anyone not to be able to come up with plenty of those.