Tag Archives: government

Dentistry is Hurt. Turn and Fight Back.

I’ve been to the dentist for my regular health-check. My wife sees a dentist at the same surgery. They’ve been bothering her for a while about moving to a private health plan, but not me. I hoped they were getting her silent message. She has thoroughly cold-shouldered all offers of VIP service, extra appointments with a hygienist and a ‘regular payment plan’, because she remembers when that was a pretty good description of NHS dentistry.

This morning, on arrival, I was handed my notice to quit the NHS. My dentist explained that a recent series of changes to NHS funding has made it impossible for her to offer a service she considers adequate and fair, or allows her to spend enough time with each patient. I asked if it was hitting her income. She said it wasn’t and perhaps the large Mercedes parked outside confirms that dentists aren’t starving yet. She is simply giving in to pressure from the government to scrap free health care at the point of delivery – the pressure the Conservative Party continually deny they are applying. They are lying, incompetent or both.

I explained that I couldn’t support a move to a two-tier health system. I thanked her for looking after my teeth for the last few years. She said that she couldn’t fight the changes but that some of the dentists were staying with the NHS, so I could transfer. I don’t think that information would have been volunteered. I have a new dentist.

When I got home, I told Grandad my sad story. He said he expected the changes were to pay for all the foreigners coming over here. For obvious reasons, we don’t usually talk about politics much but I was already quite cross. I explained that I was fairly sure the money was going to the shareholders of private health firms that fund and influence our morally corrupt government. He accepted my alternate explanation without question. Perhaps we need to speak truth unto the powerless more often, so they know where to direct their anger.

The Simple Concepts of Democracy and Fairness

WikiP says: Democracy is “a system of government in which all the people of a state or polity … are involved in making decisions about its affairs, typically by voting to elect representatives to a parliament or similar assembly,” as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary.[1] Democracy is further defined as (a:) “government by the people; especially : rule of the majority (b:) ” a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections.”[2] According to political scientist Larry Diamond, it consists of four key elements: “1. A political system for choosing and replacing the government through free and fair elections. 2. The active participation of the people, as citizens, in politics and civic life. 3. Protection of the human rights of all citizens. 4. A rule of law, in which the laws and procedures apply equally to all citizens”.[3]

Our recent election looks a bit shaky at a number of the hurdles in that description. Government by the people? Majority? Active participation? Human rights and equality under the law. A way to get rid of the government if it turns out they misled the electorate?

Simple then, let’s start with voting reform to something “fairer”. Clearly we can’t trust politicians to do that because they will evaluate the effect of any proposed system on them, relative to the current system. That’s why the Greens, their idealism still unsaddled by any realistic chance of winning a significant number of seats, suggested an electoral commission. All the commission would need to do is to do is decide what is “fair”.
Members of all political parties fight for “fairness”, based on their own values. Political allegiance is almost entirely dependent on an individual’s concept of fairness. To have a definition of fairness is to take a political stance.

We may be caught in a loop. Democratic voting systems can only be changed by a decisive  minority winning the right to govern. I think that is called “a revolution”. Does anyone have any other ideas? Not that our elected ‘representatives’ seem to care much about what we think, now they have power, or that we believe anything they say. Democracy is broken and most of Them aren’t planning to fix it. Our only friends are the other losers.

“Losers Unite!”?

A Democracy Fix – “None of the above”

There appears to be general agreement across the UK that parliamentary democracy isn’t working properly. During my time as a voter, we’ve only had two parties with any chance of being elected. First they formed governments alternately at every election, spending most of their time reversing the previous parliament’s achievements. More recently we had such ineffective oppositions that governments have stayed in place until they were ejected on charges of croneyism and corruption. Despite the easy ride, they appeared to run out of ideas during their second term.

The proposal to move from the first-part-the-post voting system to a poor form of proportional representation was rejected by the electorate. Many said this was because they didn’t want a system that might lead to a coalition government. At the very next election we got a coalition government.

Politicians blame voter’s disinterest. Voters blame politicians who don’t represent what they think. Many feel strongly that they want ‘none of the above’ but the only way to signal that is to spoil their vote, which is indistinguishable from apathy. I have intelligent friends who argue that it doesn’t make sense to vote for the party you want – you should vote tactically, against the party you don’t want most. We have turned our democracy into a game, attempting to influence the outcome by betting on our prediction of the  behaviour of others, while they try to guess at ours. It is no wonder that election night looks like a bookie’s advertisement.

Worst of all, is that when a party is elected, they claim to have support for every one of the policies that was in their manifesto. There is no mechanism that a voter with a casual interest in politics can use to advertise lack of support for any policy or to put forward new ideas for consideration. Young people of voting age refuse to participate in such a corrupt system, so low voting numbers allow in extreme ideas.

  • The Right want to put a fence around our island and return to 1930.
  • The Left want to smash the systembut don’t offer any new ideas about what should replace it. @RustyRockets appears as a new messiah, leading the anarchists to an unknown destination.

Most voters don’t care because they can’t see any difference between the parties.
They believe politicians lie, misuse statistics and tell us what to think without telling us why. The media conspires to keep the general population politically ignorant.

For a while now, I’ve been looking for a solution. “If not me then who?”.
I think capitalism is a problem too but one thing at a time. Let’s shelve that for a while and concentrate on saving democracy.

Recently, I signed a single issue petition, organised by http://www.38Degrees,org.uk. It saved me bothering to write my own letter. Like most people, the time I am willing to give to participation in politics is strictly limited. I discovered I’d accidentally joined a Left-leaning campaign movement. I was mildly irritated by some of the assumptions made about what other campaigns I would be willing to support. I don’t self-identify as a political campaigner or activist, though I may be deluded.

Mostly, I am annoyed by the stupid and dishonest things I hear politicians say.
This morning, I had an idea:
Imagine if:

  • All political parties published their ideas together, perhaps grouped by ‘subject area’ for comparison, colour-coded by parties (Problem: it might be hard to do this fairly.)
    Parties could propose shared policies, if they wished. This would help the electorate to see where parties agreed and disagreed and who they wanted to trust with their vote.
  • In an election, you would vote for a party to make decisions for you, as now. This would choose the elected government.
  • Or, if you didn’t like your chosen party’s view in any policy areas, you could pick different parties for selected areas.
  • Or, you could vote differently down to individual policy level, if you wanted your opinion registered.
  • The anonymised results would be published.

In summary: An individual’s vote on any issue could be specified at individually policy level, or be handed over to a party, at either policy area level or at the top level.

  • In addition, any citizen could put forward new policies for consideration and vote support for ideas. It would then be up to each party to decide whether to support popular ideas or not.
    This is simply an extension of the petition idea that has been tried out by .gov.uk recently.

The advantages I see in this proposal are:

  • a simple, equivalent system for those who are happy with the current system
  • better communication of the similarities and differences between the parties
  • better feedback about which policies have democratic support
  • better evidence when policies do not have support
  • a new mechanism for disaffected voters to fine-tune what they want and don’t want, rather than claiming that no party supports them.
  • it is a small first step towards greater voter representatiion in democracy

I also propose addition of the long overdue  ‘None of the above’ option at election, policy area and individual policy level, to give a legitimate outlet for expressions of disgust at the ideas on offer.

Please give me feedback. I’d love to know how people feel about these ideas.

Freedom from The Press

Sorry, I need to take a slight diversion here to pick up some POLITICS.

I’ve come to the conclusion that ‘The P Word’ is about finding a balance between people’s sense of fairness for all and their sense of self-interest. In the West, we also seem to expect a fair-sized dollop of what we call “freedom” with that, and perhaps a government willing to insist that other countries try it too. “It’s humus. Try it. No, it smells of garlic but it doesn’t taste of it. Bloody try it, will you? No, not that one, we only eat the organic”

I don’t know much about politics but I know what I like. OK, not true but: I know what I DON’T LIKE!
“What?”
This, all of it, it’s rubbish. I hate it. Smash the SYSTEM!
“Some of it’s all right, can’t we keep those bits and vote to decide what to make better?”
Vote? Pah! No, it’s all got to go, so we can move forward to a bright new future, together, following me.
“What’s that going to be like?”
There are still a few niggling details like that to be worked out but, “SMASH THE SYSTEM!”

I paraphrase slightly but this seems to be the gist of Mr. Brand’s argument… What? Yes, Russel Brand – the rock star. I don’t know what band. Yes, the one with the trousers, and the hair and the Guy Fawkes beard. “I am Spartacus.”

The thing is, he seems to have captured the spirit of the moment. He feels our frustration. He was poor once. He knows the well deserved disrespect for our leaders who don’t seem to think we have the brains to see through all the spin; the anger at there not being enough difference between the lot of them to make it worth a walk down to the scout-hut. But ‘revolution’? Really, Russell?

I like Freedom. I like Free software and free Internet and free downloads and free speach and freedom of the press and free energy. What? No that would be silly. Stop being ridiculous, if you want people to take you seriously about politics. Freedom to protest though; that used to be a good one. As long as it was nice. A nice walk, some witty placards, a bit of a sing-song and none of that French malarkey – barricades and burning and being rude to policemen.

So when the Twitters lit up in a bonfire of energy bills, late last night and the tight-trousered-one appeared, surrounded by French mime artists, I didn’t know what to think. The Lefties were soon there to tell me, complaining there was a media black-out, claiming there were thousands of people but putting up photos of 50 of their mates. “Yes, here’s where they beat us senseless”. I exaggerate (slightly.)
“Yeah, sure”, I thought.
“You won’t see this on the BBC”, they said.
I searched the BBC for “million mask”. Up it came. “Hundreds of people” in “peaceful protest”. I went to bed. I’d had enough Revolution for one night.

Morning. The radio alarm wakes before me, tuned to BBC Radio 4. Nothing. An hour passes. Nothing. Pick up phone and search BBC for “million mask”. Same article. Wait, no! 11 arrests. fires. unrest, scuffles… What? Did the pubs shut? I widen the search… Guardian, yes then nothing. Back to Twitter “#MillionMaskMarch”. A few activists in the US. It was as if London hadn’t ever happened, according to the right-wing press and the BBC. Nothing on the Wireless or the front page of the news website.

This morning, I signed up to follow @RustyRockets on Twitter. I threw in @MillionMaskMarch for good measure and asked @BBCNickRobinson what the hell was going on at the BBC. He hasn’t told me. I don’t think he’s allowed to. That’s rather worrying in a democracy, or something that looks very like one.

By the way, it turns out my mate was there. He says there were thousands of others. When you hide the truth or lie to us now, we find out about it. You seem to have made me join the 99% who don’t trust you. No, I won’t wear a stupid mask. Politicians, you shouldn’t either and please take that gag off the BBC. They work for us, not you.