Friday, 24 September 2010

Hi Ho Silver!

Do you remember Boon? If so, go out and buy the DVDs now. If not, buy the DVDs anyway, it was a brilliant series with a brilliant theme song:

Sunday, 19 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?

Monday, 9 August 2010

Three months late...

... but this is the first time I've seen this particular Party Election broadcast from the Conservative Party:

How right they were. If only we'd heeded their warnings, we could have avoided the terrible fate that has befallen us. What a disaster this coalition government has been.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Good old Irish common sense

Here's a bit of welcome news from the Republic of Ireland. The government there has published the “Criminal Law Defence and the Dwelling) Bill 2010”, which – if passed – will recognise the right of a home owner, tenant or visitor to stand their ground if attacked in a home and specifically states that there is no obligation to retreat. The bill will allow people to use reasonable force to defend themselves and also specifically states that reasonable force can – depending on the circumstances – result in the death of an intruder.

Statists will scream that this is licensing vigilantism, which it obviously isn't – it's just common sense that you have the right to defend yourself and your home from attack. Here's a statement of support from Dan Hanley, vice-president of the AGSI (an organisation which represents police superintendents and inspectors, our equivalent would probably be ACPO): “The bill aims to shift the balance of rights back to the homeowner where it should always have been. It is intolerable a homeowner should be compelled to retreat in front of an intruder who has entered the home and who may have malign intentions towards the homeowner, the family or the home owner’s property."

Hanley added: "It is ridiculous to suggest the bill, which attempts to redress a serious legal imbalance, would provide a license to kill or a ‘have-a-go’ charter for homeowners, the vast majority of whom will continue to act with good sense and in a peaceful way."

This is exactly the sort of common sense we need more of in Britain.

Friday, 23 July 2010

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, and I've mentioned this in a previous blog entry – it's 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, 9 July 2010

All Out Superpower Confrontation

Do you remember "Not the Nine O'Clock News"? I've always liked this song:

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Next year's election campaign has already begun.

At least as far as the Labour Party is concerned it has. I got this leaflet through the letter box a few days ago:

Note the self-satisfied grins on the faces of this unholy trio of Laburite career politicians. On the face of it, it might look a bit triumphalist, as the Labour got comfortable majorities in both the national and local elections round here. But they don't normally send out this kind of literature right after an election – that's more of a Lib Dem tactic, in fact I'd be surprised if the Lib Dems don't retaliate with one of their Focus leaflets shortly.

My guess is that the Labourites have realised that their two council seats in Miles Platting and Newton Heath aren't quite as rock-solid secure as they have been in previous years. They've already lost one of the three seats in this ward a couple of years ago. I was certainly surprised when Flanagan was re-elected, and it's very possible that he wouldn't have been if it hadn't been for the unusually high turnout brought about by having both elections on the same day – Labour always benefit from high voter turnouts. When June Hitchen comes up for re-election next year, they won't have that advantage, so who can say what will happen?

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.

Monday, 31 May 2010

Thought for today

I got the following text message from my henchman Daz:

"If prostitution was legal, would those three women in Bradford be alive?"

We'll never know for sure, of course, but one argument for legalised brothels is that they provide a safer working environment. Food for thought.

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.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Focusing on the Lib Dems

I got one of those Lib Dem Focus leaflets though my letterbox while I was out today. I'm really envious of their propaganda organisation, they put out some nice looking literature. This particular Focus leaflet was very well put together, a glossy A3 edition in full colour on both sides. Very nice looking, and very deceptive in places.

Take the following statement from the front page: “Gerry (the Lib Dem candidate) lives locally, unlike Labour's anonymous councillor, who only turned up at election time.” It's certainly true that the Labour guy lives over in South Gorton, but one thing the Lib Dems don't bother to mention is that their candidate (another ex-Labour councillor, incidentally, just like the sitting Lib Dem councillor) lives in Piccadilly Village, within walking distance of the Town Hall and nowhere near Miles Platting and Newton Heath. As a matter of fact, out of six candidates I'm the only one who lives in this ward.

The back page also has an interesting little piece about the Lib Dems' proposed Council Tax cut. They say they're after a cut of £51, but don't mention that the £51 figure only applies to the properties in the most expensive Council Tax band – a cut of less than 1%. Council Tax payers in the lower rated properties would get peanuts back. The Lib Dems are too timid to make the radical changes necessary to do what really needs to be done to regenerate this city – cut Council Tax by at least 10%.

Other promises they make are as follows:

“Scaling back the growth of council bureaucracy.” So they assume it will continue to grow. Why? They should be looking for ways to cut it back. I certainly will if elected.

“Reclaiming the £421,000 overpayment to Marketing Manchester.” OK as far as it goes, that's also my policy, but I would also want to delete the budget for Marketing Manchester altogether. It's expensive and we don't need it.

“Cancelling the contract for the second chauffeur driven car.” I would also cancel the first car.

If we're going to turn Manchester round, and get this town moving in an upwards direction, we need to make massive savings and let our overtaxed citizens keep more of their money. Lib Dems think too much like Labourites, we'll never get any real reforms with them. If you want fresh ideas and a bit of common sense being argued in the Town Hall, vote Libertarian on Thursday.

Friday, 30 April 2010

Friday Night is Music Night: Bad Guys

This one's in honour of whoever's going to end up running the country in a week's time:

Frankly I don't have a clue who I'm voting for in the General Election at the moment - at least in the local election I'll be voting for someone I trust!

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

The Axeman Cometh

One of my manifesto pledges being 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?

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Busy couple of days

No-one told me politics would be this physically demanding. Having spent several days walking the streets delivering leaflets, I seem to be waking up tired every morning now. Never mind, it'll soon be over.

I actually overslept by several hours yesterday, so didn't get anything like as much done as I wanted to. I still managed to cover a reasonable chunk of Newton Heath, though.

In the evening I went to a public meeting concerning the Collyhurst demolitions. I didn't make any contribution myself, I was there to try to learn more about what's supposed to be going on, and I'm not inclined to shoot my mouth off unless I'm sure of my facts. The meeting was supposed to be about giving the residents a chance to find out what the current plan is, but there were no council officers there. Graham Stringer was there - he's the Labour MP for Blackley (or was, technically he's unemployed while he seeks re-election) and some of this development is in his constituency. Although I'm not a fan of the guy (I disliked him when I lived in Blackley and still do) I felt sorry for him on this occasion. All he could do was take notes of people's questions and promise to pass them onto the council, not very satisfying for anyone, but that's genuinely all he could do.

The redevelopment is supposed to be being financed by way of a PFI (Private Finance Initiative). Unfortunately for everyone, the private sector's not very flush at the moment and the whole scheme seems to depend on central government infecting a large amount of money into the scheme. Now everyone's waiting for the General Election result to see if this is still going ahead. Even if it does go ahead, the plans don't seem to have been finalised and it could still be two or three years before the demolitions start, then another two or three years before the residents are moved back - this will kill the community for sure. In the meantime, the council has been neglecting repairs to the properties in question, with the result that some of those maisonettes apparently no longer meet minimum standards. What a way to run a housing policy. The meeting broke up amid accusations of deliberate neglect and land banking. The council should really make a plan (or plans) based on what resources it's sure it can secure and then have an honest consulation with the residents and then actually carry out whatever plan is agreed without undue delay. Almost anything's better than keeping people in suspense.

I had a better day today. I woke up at a reasonable time feeling reasonably rested. I did a bit of leafleting in the area near the Methodist Church Hall then linked up with a libertarian sympathiser to do some leafletting over on the other side of Newton Heath, not far from where the old munitions factory used to be. We managed to cover a lot of ground, and hopefully we'll do at least as well tomorrow. One thing that's struck me is how badly maintained the roads seem to be once you get off the main roads. Definitely a case for more investment in maintenance.

Having spent several hours leafleting, I dropped my mate off in town , drove back to Newton Heath, did a bit more leafleting on my own, had a bit of tea then out again to the Methodist Church Hall on Droylsden Road for a yoga class (these are held free of charge every Tuesday between 6.30 and 7.30, just turn up and introduce yourself). Good stuff yoga, it's the only exercise system I've ever tried which genuinely leaves me feeling refreshed. So I'll be all ready for a bit more groundpounding tomorrow morning.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Thinking about housing

Sensible people sleep in late on weekends, or go out and enjoy themselves. Me and my loyal band of helpers, we spent yesterday and today walking the streets of Newton Heath, Miles Platting and Collyhurst, delivering my election leaflets. Yesterday it was roasting hot, today started off pleasantly cool but it soon started raining. A natural result of holding elections at this time of year, I suppose. At least it wasn't snowing.

We managed to get a lot done, though. We've managed to cover most of Collyhurst South, part of Miles Platting and a big chunk of Newton Heath. Hopefully we'll be able to do the rest by the end of the week.

Mostly we've been doing council estates so far, and talking to local residents, I've been struck yet again by what an awful landlord the council is. They're completely unresponsive to input from their own residents, and it can take years to get even simple repair jobs done. I've moved house several times as an adult and certainly that was my experience as a council tennant. It seems to me that the central problem is that the council is too distant and has too many other responsibilities to do the job properly. There needs to be more local control. Eventually, I would advocate local councils getting out of the housing market altogether, and turning council estates over to whatever local forms of control are preferred by the local residents (housing associations, cooperatives, outright ownership of each individual property by the occupants, whatever). Local solutions to local problems are usually more effective than central planning. One size doesn't fit all. Radical reform isn't going to happen overnight of course, and one thing that might be worth doing in the short term is to give more power to existing tennants' associations - they're already embedded in the local communities, so maybe give them a bit of a budget and let them get on with any small repairs that are needed in their area without having to lobby the council first. Obviously there would have to be safeguards, democratic accountability etc, but it's maybe an idea worth pursuing. I don't claim to be an expert on housing, but the current system's clearly not working the way it should. We need to elect some politicians who are at least open to trying out new ideas.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Mad dogs and politicians go out in this kind of weather

I had a bit of a hard day leafleting today. We were working the Collyhurst South area, delivering leaflets and talking to some of the local residents. Not many were around to talk to, sensible people stay indoors in this kind of weather instead of tramping the streets. It seems that the council's plans for "redevelopment" may be on hold for the moment - the latest word is that they're waiting to see who wins the general election, because the funds for this scheme are supposed to be coming from central government. Crazy, it's not like we didn't all know that a general election was coming. Councils should work out what money they've actually got available before announcing grand plans, instead of gambling on screwing a bit more money out of the government. The whole scheme's pretty controversial, with different people either strongly for or against it, but it does seem to keep changing, which isn't good for anyone.

Anyway, we managed to get most of the area covered, and then retired to the Marble Arch for a well-deserved bitter. I could really do with a bit of cool, overcast weather for this kind of work, the sun was definitely starting to get to me when we finished! Labour and the "Lib" Dems have also been working the area, so it's just as bad for their activists, I suppose.

After I got home and had a well-deserved nap, I decided to have a look at the internet for a bit of light relief. And I found some - enjoy:

For the record, I agree with Gordon Brown that the general election is depressing, and I also sympathise with Nick Clegg's reasons for wanting to be Prime Minister.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Tired of Getting Pushed Around

Do you remember Two Men, a Drum Machine and a Trumpet?

The Campaign Begins!

I took delivery of my leaflets 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 Labour

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.

A Welcome Visitor

There I was, partway through typing up my latest blog entry and listening to Ted Nugent, when there was a knock on the door. This was slightly disconcerting, as I wasn't expecting visitors (I never do, due to being a loner with few friends).

My first thought was that it was the bailiffscum, but it's too early for them - I haven't fallen into arrears with my council tax payments yet.

Then I thought, maybe it's someone canvassing for the "Lib" Dems - a serious possibility, since they're targetting this area heavily.

It turned out to be a pleasant young guy who was working as a volunteer for Cancer Research UK. He asked me if I wanted to set up a weekly standing order to help finance gene therapy for cancer victims. It's not a treatment that I know much about, but apparently it has a good success rate without the serious side effects you get with chemotherapy. Cancer research and treatment is also a cause that I'm very strongly attached to, so I was happy to fill in the form to set up the SO. If you want to make a contribution yourself, why not visit their website?

I like meeting charity workers, it makes a refreshing change to talk to people who actually get out and do stuff to make the world a better place, as opposed to sitting around complaining that it's someone else's job (usually Nanny State) to get things done.

Some visitors are more welcome than others.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

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.

Friday, 16 April 2010

A Manifesto for Manchester

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.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

I've had a letter from the council!

When I got home from work this afternoon, there was a letter from the council on my doormat. Normally this is bad news. The sort of letter I get from the council is usually on the lines of "pay your council tax or we're sending the bailiffs in". This one's different. It's a letter I've been waiting for for over a week, since I handed in my nomination papers for the local election. The letter's from the Electoral Services Unit and it confirms that my nomination papers are valid. I was starting to fret about that, thinking I might get knocked out on a technicality. But no, it's official, I'm now a candidate for election to Manchester City Council. That's one less thing to worry about.

Now all I've got to worry about is fighting an election campaign!

Monday, 5 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

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Labour's Election Leaflet – Sponsored by Manchester City Council!

The local election campaign's been going on in these parts for several months now, at least as far as the “Lib” Dems are concerned. I've been receiving one of their Focus leaflets once a month like clockwork since about the middle of last year – plus a Christmas card, plus a calendar. They're really determined to get their man onto the City Council this May. But at least they (or their rich backers) are paying for their own propaganda, which is fair enough. The incumbent Labour councillor seems to be taking a more laid-back attitude – all I've had off his lot lately has been a letter from the local MP. Nothing else until yesterday.

Yesterday, a copy of “Manchester People” landed on my doormat. This is a “newsletter” published by the Labour-dominated Manchester City Council, supposedly to keep the local population informed about what's going on, and also supposedly non-party political. The headline was “Warm welcome for council tax freeze” - unbiased or what? Especially as the “freeze” in council tax that the council is bragging about is nothing of the kind – if you look way down towards the bottom of the front page (Paragraph 7) you'll find the admission: “Although the Council's element of your council tax bill is frozen, there may be slight increases in the smaller police and fire precepts.” Expect a rise, in other words – maybe 1 or 2%. In these times of hardship, the council should be going all out to cut council tax by getting rid of unnecessary waste and focusing on core services – scrapping “Manchester People” would be a small step in the right direction.

The other major story on the front page and continued onto Page 3 is about the upcoming Manchester Day Parade – another expense that we can do without. The rest of the publication is mostly upbeat filler about how well Manchester's doing (despite the massive unemployment and unacceptable crime levels) and how we all love recycling. Page 15 is given over almost entirely to the decision by the council to allow an outfit called Goals Soccer Centres to demolish part of Heaton Park and build a sports complex there. To those readers who live outside the area, Heaton Park is a huge area (actually the grounds of a stately home) on the north edge of Manchester that was sold to Manchester City Council in 1902 to be kept for the enjoyment of the general public. It's a lovely place, very popular in the spring and summer, the place is full of people in the good weather. Now the council wants to vandalise it. Not surprisingly, there's a lot of opposition to this proposal, in fact I haven't met anyone who's had a good word to say about it – you wouldn't think so from reading “Manchester People” though – I couldn't find one word questioning any council policy in the whole rag.

Instead of “Manchester People” it might just as well have been entitled “Vote Labour” - but then the Labour Party would have had to have paid for it themselves, wouldn't they? Easier just to charge it to the taxpayer.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Help Hogan the Hero Get Out of Jail for £1!

Copied from the national Libertarian Party Members' Blog:

This is a Libertarian issue if there ever was one, for the sake of £1, you can get a man released from prison. Old Holborn is running a campaign to raise £10 000 to get his fine paid.

As of 18.00 Hrs Tuesday 2nd March the amount raised was £5693

Over Five Thousand Pounds Raised in Thirty Six Hours

There has been a fair amount of comment in the blogosphere regarding the six month jail sentence given to Nick Hogan for flouting the 'no-smoking ban'.

Outrage has been duly expressed, here, there, and everywhere. Perhaps we can do better than just express outrage?

Nick was actually jailed for non-payment of the fine originally imposed for a 'mass smoke-in' on the day the ban came into force in 2007 in his pub, the 'Swan and Barristers' in Bolton. He no longer has that pub. He was fined again when council inspectors walked into his present pub and discovered a group of customers smoking - Nick wasn't even on the premises.

His wife, Denise, is now managing their present pub in Chorley herself. Their trade is so low that they don't even bother to open the downstairs bar. Nick is bankrupt, and had gone to court intending to argue that he could not afford the £500 a month payments demanded by the council towards their £11,600 bill for prosecuting him. He has already paid off £1,600. The court gave him a six month sentence instead, and he is currently in Forest Bank prison in Pendlebury, unable to help to earn the money which would ensure his release.

Denise has not even been able to speak to him since he was sentenced. She has merely been told to phone the prison on Monday to enquire when she might see him. She is confused, frightened, and feeling very lonely.

If all the people who disagree with the no-smoking ban contributed a few coppers, then Nick would be released. If you can't afford £1, then at least drop Nick a line and let him know he is not forgotten - not surprisingly, he is feeling very depressed.

Denise has just said to me 'all the people who disagree with the ban - where are they now? - and my Nick is in prison'. Quite.

Denise has no idea how to use the Internet, she has no idea how many of us are against the no-smoking ban. Let's show her.

£1 each - just 10,000 of you - let's see if the blogosphere can do more than merely rant in unison. Once the amount received totals the outstanding fine, they have to release Nick.

Nick's address is:

HMP & YOI Forest Bank
Agecroft Road
M27 8FB

OH UPDATE: Under the health act of 2006, it is the responsibility of the owner or the controller of "smoke free" space to uphold the law. It is not illegal to smoke in a shop or on a train. It is illegal for the owner or controller of the space to allow you to smoke.

Reprinted from the OH site


The Libertarian Party is utterly opposed to people going to jail for offences such as this.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

£420,000 - Small Change to the Labour Party!

The Manchester Evening News reports that Manchester City Council has overpaid more than £420,000 to the organisation Marketing Manchester (which describes itself as “the agency charged with promoting Manchester on a national and international stage). This was over a six year period. Manchester City Council is supposed to contribute 35 per cent of Marketing Manchester's budget, with the other nine Greater Manchester councils splitting the remaining 65 per cent of the bill between them. Instead, the ratio was reversed – and it took the council six years to notice. That doesn't say much for their accounting methods for a start. To make things worse, a decision has been made not to reclaim the money, but to write it off instead – to write off nearly half a million pounds of taxpayers' money.

It seems that the Council's Deputy Leader, Jim Battle (Labour) reckons it's not worth the effort of reclaiming the money owed. According to Battle:

“There was a misunderstanding and it has now been corrected, end of story. It would be bureaucratic nonsense to chase a few thousand pounds. It will cost more to administer and correct.”

End of story? Leaving to one side the fact that they tend to take a firmer line when the hard-pressed working poor of this city fall behind with their Council Tax payments (they send the bailiffs in), this seems a bit of a cavalier attitude to taxpayers' money – and it is the taxpayers' money, not the council's. Ordinary people work hard to support themselves and then get over-taxed by this kleptomaniac Labour council – the least they can do is spend the money raised through Council Tax wisely. How is it that the council thinks they can afford to use our money to subsidise this glorified PR agency, and yet they couldn't afford to salt the roads properly this winter?

Or maybe the real question that should be asked is this: Should Marketing Manchester even exist? Why does Manchester need promoting? We're one of the major cities in the UK, who doesn't know we're here? Giving money to Marketing Manchester is a pointless extravagance at a time when the council should be focusing on providing core services as efficiently as possible.

Friday, 29 January 2010

Fear The Boom And Bust

A rap duel between the spirits of the great economist Hayek and the idiot Keynes. Keynesian economics is what governments have tended to follow for the last few decades - characterised by frequent government interventions, bailouts, artificially low interest rates, inflation etc. Hence the current economic situation. It didn't make any sense to me when I was studying O Level Economics, and it still doesn't.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

New Year, New Blog

Hi, Citizen Stuart here. I'm a Libertarian (card-carrying, literally) living in Manchester, in the North of England. Some of you may have been readers of a previous blog of mine called "Everything I Say is Right". I abandoned that for several reasons last year. The first and most important reason was bereavement, I just didn't have the heart to carry on. Second, my old computer packed in and the employment situation was patchy, so I didn't have any regular internet access for several months. Third, it turns out not everything I say is right after all (only most things).

I'm back now, thanks to Ebay. I bought a second-hand computer for £31, including shipping - it's not as fast as I'd like but I can't argue that it's bad value, even if it brakes down in six months. I love capitalism.

I hope to be blogging fairly regularly from now on, with my thoughts on the pretty messed up political situation in this country.

By the way, you may be curious about the title of this blog. It comes from the following very wise saying:

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.

The next day he's hungry again and you're poorer by the price of a fish.

Give him a fishing rod and you feed him for life, but you're poorer by the price of a fishing rod.

Sell him a fishing rod and you've both made a profit.