We’re ruled by a cosy elite who all go to the same dinner parties, says former No10 policy guru chief Steve Hilton

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Courtesy of Daniel Martin @ The Daily Mail:

David Cameron’s former chief strategist has launched a stinging attack on the ‘insular ruling class’ threatening Britain’s democracy.

Steve Hilton said too many of those at the heart of government go to the same dinner parties and send their children to the same schools.

He said the UK’s political system is now in ‘crisis’ because the same type of people stay in charge whatever the outcome of the elections.

In what will be seen as a criticism of the ‘chumocracy’ of his former boss, Mr Hilton warned: ‘Our democracies are increasingly captured by a ruling class that seeks to perpetuate its privileges.

‘Regardless of who’s in office, the same people are in power.

‘It is a democracy in name only, operating on behalf of a tiny elite no matter the electoral outcome.’

This situation adds to disenchantment and has led to the rise of the SNP in Scotland and Ukip in England, he said. Mr Hilton also attacked the influence of political donors, saying: ‘It seems today that political legitimacy stems not from votes, but money. The more of it you have, the more that government pays attention to your concerns.’

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Sajid Javid: Significant Changes to Strike Law

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It helps to keep the legal from the lawful and courtesy of BBC:

Newly appointed Business Secretary Sajid Javid has said there will be “significant changes” to strike laws under the new Conservative government.

A strike affecting essential public services will need the backing of 40% of eligible union members under government plans, he said.

Currently, a strike is valid if backed by a majority of those balloted.

Unions said the plans “will make legal strikes close to impossible”.

Mr Javid told the BBC’s Today programme: “We’ve already made clear, in terms of strike laws, that there will be some significant changes… it will be a priority of ours.

“We need to update our strike laws. We’ve never hidden away the changes we want to make. I think it’s essential to make these changes,” he added.

A strike affecting health, transport, fire services or schools will need to be backed by 40% of eligible union members.

There will also need to be a minimum 50% turnout in strike ballots.

The government will also lift restrictions on the use of agency staff to replace striking workers, he said.

The changes to the law are to be announced in the Queen’s Speech, he added, which will take place later this month. Continue reading

Election 2015: What difference would proportional representation have made?

Courtesy of the BBC:

UKIP, the Lib Dems and Greens would have benefited from proportional representation
“The time has come for real, genuine, radical political reform,” Nigel Farage said after losing his bid to take Thanet South from the Conservatives.

The UKIP leader had increased his party’s share of the vote in the seat by 27%, and nationally UKIP’s vote share was up by 10 percentage points to a total of 3.9 million.

Still, the party won just one constituency under the UK’s first-past-the-post voting system.

The Greens’ ambitions were similarly thwarted: they won more than a million votes but just one seat.

The Electoral Reform Society, a campaign group, has modelled what would have happened under a proportional voting system that makes use of the D’Hondt method of converting votes to seats.

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The Conservatives would have won 75 fewer seats but would still have been the largest party in the Commons. Labour too would have taken fewer seats. Continue reading

UK PM David Cameron Proclaims: It’s Not Enough To Follow The Law, You Must Love Big Brother

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Courtesy of Mike Krieger @ Liberty Blitzkrieg:

It’s not just those domestic extremists and crazy “conspiracy theory” kooks who took serious issue with UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s recent overtly fascist language when it comes to freedom of expression in Great Britain. For example, in a post published today, the UK Independent describes the quote below as “the creepiest thing David Cameron has ever said.”

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This statement, and others like it, are a huge deal. This isn’t how the leader of a major civilized Western so-called “democracy” speaks to the citizenry. It is how a master talks to his slaves. How a ruler addresses his subjects. I think the following tweet by Glenn Greenwald earlier today sums up David Cameron’s attitude perfectly well: Continue reading

David Cameron to Unveil New Limits on Extremists’ Activities in Queen’s Speech

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Just the actions of a government moving to crack down on it’s citizenry as their own incompetence and gratuitous malevolence becomes too obvious to ignore. Tip towing towards totalitarianism, slowly but surely. Cameron and May’s words are duplicitous but it is their actions that will breed extremism by labelling it as such, creating the thing they wish to stop, further exacerbating ‘extremism’ and further crack down on personal and social liberty. Courtesy of Patrick Wintour @ The Guardian:

A counter-terrorism bill including plans for extremism disruption orders designed to restrict those trying to radicalise young people is to be included in the Queen’s speech, David Cameron will tell the national security council on Wednesday.

The orders, the product of an extremism task force set up by the prime minister, were proposed during the last parliament in March, but were largely vetoed by the Liberal Democrats on the grounds of free speech. They were subsequently revived in the Conservative manifesto.

The measures would give the police powers to apply to the high court for an order to limit the “harmful activities” of an extremist individual. The definition of harmful is to include a risk of public disorder, a risk of harassment, alarm or distress or creating a “threat to the functioning of democracy”.

The aim is to catch not just those who spread or incite hatred on the grounds of gender, race or religion but also those who undertake harmful activities for the “purpose of overthrowing democracy”.

They would include a ban on broadcasting and a requirement to submit to the police in advance any proposed publication on the web and social media or in print. The bill will also contain plans for banning orders for extremist organisations which seek to undermine democracy or use hate speech in public places, but it will fall short of banning on the grounds of provoking hatred. Continue reading

Crippling PFI Deals Leave Britain £222bn in Debt

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Courtesy of

Every man, woman and child in Britain is more than £3,400 in debt – without knowing it and without borrowing a single penny – thanks to the proliferation of controversial deals used to pay for infrastructure such as schools and hospitals.

The UK owes more than £222bn to banks and businesses as a result of Private Finance Initiatives (PFIs) – “buy now, pay later” agreements between the government and private companies on major projects. The startling figure – described by experts as a “financial disaster” – has been calculated as part of an Independent on Sunday analysis of Treasury data on more than 720 PFIs. The analysis has been verified by the National Audit Office (NAO).

The headline debt is based on “unitary charges” which start this month and will continue for 35 years. They include fees for services rendered, such as maintenance and cleaning, as well as the repayment of loans underwritten by banks and investment companies.

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The situation is expected to worsen as PFI projects spread across the world (Getty)

Basically, a PFI is like a mortgage that the government takes out on behalf of the public. The average annual cost of meeting the terms of the UK’s PFI contracts will be more than £10bn over the next decade.

And the cost of servicing PFIs is growing. Last year, it rose by £5bn. It could rise further, with inflation. The upward creep is the price taxpayers’ pay for a financing system which allows private firms to profit from investing in infrastructure.

An NAO briefing, released last month, says: “In the short term using private finance will reduce reported public spending and government debt figures.” But, longer term, “additional public spending will be required to repay the debt and interest of the original investment”.

A case in point is Britain’s biggest health trust, Barts Health NHS Trust in London, which was placed in special measures last month. It is £93m in debt – struggling under the weight of a 43-year PFI contract under which it will pay back more than £7bn on contracts valued at a fraction of that sum (£1.1bn) Continue reading

Democracy v Psychology: Why People Keep Electing Idiots

The 2015 election campaigns are under way, and it’s clear that doing or saying unintelligent things is no barrier to political success. Unfortunately, there are several psychological mechanisms that lead to apparent idiots being elected into powerful positions.

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Clegg being interviewed by Joey Essex has been seen as blatant “dumbing down” of politics, but it’s been going on for quite some time now. Photograph: @nick_clegg/PA

Courtesy of Dean Burnett @ The Guardian:

Politicians. Their reputation is very poor. In fairness, this is largely their own fault, but it would be foolish to assume every politician is like this. If they were, the whole infrastructure would collapse before you could say “can I claim this on expenses?” Still, everyone assumes they’re despicable, so always assume the worst.

Politician enacts a bad policy? They’re a terrible person. They change their mind and reverse it? They’re weak and not fit to lead. Politicians promise improvements (cut taxes, increase spending)? They’re obviously lying. Politicians promise to do something unpopular (raise taxes, cut spending)? A cast-iron guarantee it will happen. It’s a lose-lose situation, so why do they bother? Many politicians are clearly in it for themselves, but there surely are plenty who really do want the best and just put up with the negative opinions they get.

So, for the record, not all politicians are idiots (although your definition of idiot may vary). But plenty are. The US seem particularly afflicted with them; Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz, these people were/are contenders for the presidency. And the archetype George W Bush WAS the president. For 8 YEARS. The man whose idiotic musings managed to sustain businesses had a nuclear arsenal at his command.

Not that the UK can feel smug, with the amount of demonstrable idiocy in our own system. Michael Gove, Chris Grayling, Grant Shapps, Jeremy Hunt, David Tredinnick, a ridiculous Labour party (complete with mugs), the rise of UKIP, and the beloved bumbling mayor Boris Johnson. Continue reading