Saturday, 30 August 2014

What a week in politics - exciting, sad and even depressing

What a week in politics – at times it has been exciting, sad, depressing has made me angry and also made me want to keep fighting. And still over 8 months to the General Election!

My thoughts on a few of the topics that have popped up this week and quite often you can see a link in all of them – from the independence debate in Scotland, to Islamic extremism here in the UK and in the Middle East, the rise of UKIP, how the child exploitation scandal was handled in Rotherham, the failure of the PCC and lastly the increase in the terrorist threat – is it real?

I have taken a great interest in the Scottish independence election, not surprising with so much Scottish blood in me but also because I believe in the United Kingdom and as a Labour supporter it is important for us to stay as one. On my travels in the army in particular in the Balkans – I have seen how bloody and also pointless have been some of these fights for independence/separation, I never thought we would have that same sort of battle in Scotland but it seems the campaign has got very nasty and social media seems to have been the weapon of choice, something I can see repeating itself in the election here next May.

Jim Murphy who i like and have met has been touring Scotland on his ‘100 streets tour’ but that has to be curtailed as over the last two weeks there has been a noticeable campaign by the SNP/ ‘Yes’ group to make sure that wherever Jim turns up he is met by ‘Yes’ supporters. Nothing wrong with that even here in Ipswich we had Mr Gummer turning up at a sure start centre to tell Mrs Harman she was lying over Tory plans to close children’s centres (bet he wish he had stayed at home now!!!) but in Scotland it has been more sinister, with a journalist threatened with violence, eggs thrown and ‘no’ supporters intimidated this was made worse by a quite pathetic apology from the SNP. You can see the SNP/No campaign type activity going down quite well with a few of the ‘name calling’ Tory activists in Ipswich.

This leads on how do we deal with Islamic extremism in the UK, It is about working closer with all our different community groups but also not being afraid to comment and act if we thinks something is going wrong- this did not happen in Rotherham. But we also need to look closer at the people who are going off to fight in Syria and also the sort of men involved in the crimes in Rotherham. Young, isolated, feel picked on, pressure from their own community not to forget their own culture, widespread gang culture- drink and drugs, poor housing, fee job prospects – all these factors are causes of what can lead young men and women to head off to Syria but also to get involved in gangs in Rotherham, Rochdale or Oxford.

But the failure of the police and councils to act in places like Rotherham helps fuel the rise of far right groups like the EDL but also groups like UKIP. There is no doubt that UKIP will take votes off Labour in the north and Mr Farage will go on about this and how they are the ‘peoples party’ whilst we will try and convince the voters that they are just Tories in different suits, and that case was certainly helped by the defection of Tory and Clacton MP, Douglas Carswell to UKIP this week. It was at first a great success for Farage but the coup soon unravelled as the former UKIP candidate refused to vanish and has even said he will now fight for the Tories. We now find out that UKIP have little electoral data on Clacton as there was some sort of pact with Carswell in 2010! Farage also called Carswell ‘honourable’ for resigning his seat – so all the previous defectors to UKIP were ‘dishonourable’? last night a leading Tory in Sevenoaks followed Carswell into UKIP but he will not resign his seat as the by-election would be a waste of tax payers money – how much does he think the election in Clacton will cost? So from being a big coup the defection of Carswell has just highlighted that at the top of UKIP you still just have a bunch of euro sceptic Tories.

Going back to crimes in Rotherham, it is only right that those in authority at the time stand down –elected councillors plus Council officers and police. We have seen some Labour councillors’ resign, a few officers but some hang on and even worse have other jobs involved in child protection both here in the UK and even in places like Australia.

The South Yorkshire PCC has refused to stand down not only over the failings of his police force but also because before he was PCC he was the councillor responsible for children’s services in Rotherham. He has left the Labour Party but clings on to his (well paid) PCC job.

This yet again highlights how ill thought out the whole post of PCC was, you can even be jailed and still keep the job! This was not some rushed in act to elect PCCs, this was a policy the Tories had worked on in opposition. We do not want to go back to the almost invisible ‘Police Authorities’ but I think Labour should announce soon that as of May 2016 the PCC post will be replace with a far better system of running the police force.

South Yorkshire Police may also need to be placed into ‘special measures’ the same force that failed in Rotherham, the same force so badly implicated in the Hillsborough disaster – time for big changes in that force.

Finally we have the raising of the terrorist threat state, is this needed? I am afraid even though I am involved in politics (at a low level) i wonder if the threat has been raised by Cameron, Clegg and May for political reasons. Is the threat any higher now in the UK say compared to the height of the troubles in Ireland? We have talk of removing passports from suspects- is that so difficult- the police have been taking passports off football fans for over 20 years. I am afraid it seems more a case of political posturing rather than acting on any form of intelligence.

Let us hope next week is slightly more peaceful so we can concentrate on local issues, on building houses, developing the Northern Fringe and campaigning to keep children’s centres open in Suffolk.

1 comment:

Ben Redsell said...

Hi Alasdair.

I almost regret having a pop at you in the diary this morning having read this! Perhaps your most thoughtful post in a long while.

One thing though - I don't think the concept is removing someone's passport, it is removing their citizenship, which is something very different indeed. Basically some in the authoritarian party (May, Cooper and others) seem to think that it would be better to say that if you go to fight for ISIS you can't come home. Because even though you might be born in this country, the state is reserving the power to remove your citizenship. Personally I find that sort of slippery slope very frightening indeed. When your citizenship becomes the gift of the state, not a right based on your birth, when it is possible for the state to take away your citizenship, it becomes much easier for totalitarian regimes to progress...