UKIP candidate for a top target seat steps down to fight fraud charges

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Matthew Smith, UKIP's prospective  parliamentary candidate for Great Yarmouth.

One of UKIP’s top target seats at the General Election next year is Great Yarmouth in East Anglia. A recent poll carried out by Lord Ashroft placed them in second in the constituency on 31%. However, the BBC reported in March that Matthew Smith, the councillor who had been selected to stand for UKIP in Great Yarmouth in the General Election had been summoned to face charges of electoral malpractice.

The charges relate to the nomination papers he submitted to stand as a candidate in the Norfolk County Council elections in 2013 and involve allegations that signatures were forged. to stand for election at local government level, each candidate must find 10 people to nominate them as a candidate. It’s usually pretty easy to get 10 people to do that, you just need to knock on a few doors. From the BBC article it looks like it is alleged that 7 of those signature were forgeries. If true this is a really stupid offence to commit.

I should point out that Mr Smith denies the charges, but in order to fight them (or because if he is found guilty he would be barred from standing next year), he has now stood down as the prospective candidate for Great Yarmouth, and becomes the latest casualty in a long line of UKIP candidates who have fallen by the wayside on the way to electoral triumph ;) .

P.S. This will be my last post for a week or so as I am going on holiday. Yay!

Bailiffs try to evict cancer sufferer from his home, 200 strangers turn up to stop them

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Originally posted on Metro:

This might just restore your faith in humanity.

A cancer sufferer being evicted from his home after 25 years made a desperate YouTube appeal for help – and 200 strangers turned up at his door.

Well-wishers arrived at the Carlton, Nottinghamshire, home of Tom Crawford after he promised them ‘a lovely cup of tea’ in return for their help if they would come and join a peaceful protest against bailiffs.

In a video appeal from July 2, the 63-year-old, who has prostate cancer, explained that he had paid off his mortgage but that the now-defunct bank Bradford and Bingley claimed he owed them £43,000 in repayments – which a judge ordered he must have paid by 9am yesterday.

(Picture: SWNS)
Mr Crawford called the support ‘amazing’ (Picture: SWNS)

‘It may only be a small bungalow, but it is my bungalow, my land, my home. After 19 years of paying off the mortgage I received a letter saying I would…

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Tory MP believes astrology should be incorporated into medicine

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Just noticed this story on the BBC News website and had a bit of a wtf moment. David Tredinnick spoke of his belief in astrology after 20 years of study saying:

“I am absolutely convinced that those who look at the map of the sky for the day that they were born and receive some professional guidance will find out a lot about themselves and it will make their lives easier,”

This story would be merely amusing were it for the fact that Tredinnick is a member both the health and science and technology select committees, responsible for examining government policy and making recommendations about future changes.

So now we have both a Health Secretary who believes in the efficacy of homeopathy, and a health select committee member who believes in astrology and thinks it could have medical benefits. Scientists of the world weep! At least we’ve got rid of the Environment Secretary who doesn’t believe in global warming.

Here’s a nice video clip from Richard Dawkins’ Enemies of Reason documentary giving astrology the debunking treatment:

“This is now deemed a radical economic plan in this age of neo-liberal Groupthink”

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Pre-empting the release of today’s growth figures (which showed GDP is now above its 2008 peak*), Ed Balls penned and article for The Guardian in which he warned against complacency and made the case for Labour’s own ‘radical’ economic plans. Here’s economist Bill Mitchell’s response to Balls’ article. He’s not too impressed:

This is now deemed a radical economic plan in this age of neo-liberal Groupthink

After berating the Conservatives for failing to deliver rising living standards given that “working people are worse off with wages after inflation down by more than £1,600 a year since 2010″ and “business investment is lagging behind our competitors, apprenticeships for young people are falling, and our export growth since 2010 is sixth in the G7″, Balls rejects what he calls the ‘trickle down’ tax cuts for the rich Tory strategy.

Balls concluded that:

“While the Tories claim all we need is one more heave of the same old policies, Labour’s radical and credible economic plan is the only way to make Britain better off and fairer for the future.”

Radical and credible!

Which means in his own words:

“And we must also get the deficit down. Labour will balance the books and get the national debt falling as soon as possible in the next parliament … But we will do so in a fairer way …”

Phew!

That’s what radical means in this day and age.

The moronic recital of the neo-liberal balanced budget mantra without any sign that he understands the problems he outlined earlier in the article (stagnant economy, fall real wages, lack of jobs growth etc) are all due to the fiscal deficit being too small.

What does he think will happen if he continues to cut the deficit? With no hope that the external sector will contribute to British growth, the only option then is for the private domestic sector to go even further into debt – the ‘back on the merry-go-round to crisis’ approach.

Further, so-called progressives are always on about fairness. Sure enough the composition of a particular fiscal position can be altered to benefit different income groups, which can deliver more net benefits to low income groups. Is that fair?

Well it all depends. If the level of the deficit is, however, inadequate to fill the spending gap left by the non-government sector then unemployment will remain high and growth in incomes will lag.

Who do you think is disproportionately represented in the unemployment queue? Not high income, well-educated cohorts, that is for sure.

The point is that changing the composition of government spending might be a desirable aim but the government has to initially ensure there is enough deficit spending overall.

* While GDP is now 0.2% above the previous peak of 2008, GDP per capita (or per person) remains significantly below its 2008 peak.  See this chart from the ONS:

UK GDP per capita

Failing youth jobs scheme championed by Nick Clegg scrapped

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From the FT (subscription required):

“The coalition’s flagship programme to tackle youth unemployment is to be wound up early, amid claims that it has been an abject failure.

The £1bn youth contract wage incentive scheme was championed by Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat deputy prime minister, at the height of the recession as a way to help tackle youth unemployment. But with the jobs market rapidly improving and take-up of the programme falling substantially below projected levels, it is to be cut short next month.

Under the scheme employers were offered £2,275 if they provided a six-month “job start” for someone aged under 25.

But in the first year of the scheme up to May 2013 only 4,690 recruits completed their placements, against a target of 160,000 for the entire programme.

The scheme was supposed to last for three years from April 2012. But the Department for Work and Pensions has written to companies to warn that no claims will be accepted for any placements that start after August 6 this year – a month earlier than planned.”

This scheme relied on the private sector to employ unemployed young people and then claim back a wage subsidy from the government. The subsidy could be claimed on existing vacancies (not vacancies specially created) which was a flaw from the start, but despite this offer of a bung to the private sector for taking on young unemployed people, take-up has been woeful. While unemployment has fallen steadily over the last 12 months, youth unemployment remains high. There is still a need for more job opportunities for young people, and there is massive scope for being much more proactive in this sphere. Here are some other posts I’ve written on this subject:

The Youth Contract – Giving public money to private firms in return for?

The failure of the Youth Contract should be a lesson for Labour

The Future Jobs Fund: One of the most ineffective job schemes there’s been?

Achieving full employment with a job guarantee

 

The Commonwealth Games – How Is This Still A Thing?

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The opening ceremony for the 20th Commonwealth Games took place in Glasgow yesterday. Here’s British comedian John Oliver explaining the Games to his US audience on his show “Last Week Tonight”. I’m struggling to feel any enthusiasm for the events. They do seem to belong to a different time, but this vid is a pretty good antidote.

Hamas rockets and the Israeli response

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I blogged earlier about the hot water Lib Dem MP David Ward got himself into yesterday and today by suggesting if he were a Palestinian in Gaza, he may himself resort to drastic measures. He said:

“What it is doing is understanding the state of mind of people who are absolutely desperate and are looking to the world to help them.”

“If you lived in Gaza and you saw people being blown to pieces by one of the world’s most powerful military forces and no-one was doing anything about it, save for platitudes about calling for a ceasefire, what would you do?

“Well, I don’t know what I would do but I can imagine I would be in a pretty desperate state and would then do things I wouldn’t normally do.”

I don’t know what I would do either, but if I knew that by firing rockets on Israel, it would give Israel an invitation to respond forcefully, risking the lives of my loved ones, would I still do it? I’m not sure I would. The vast majority of Palestinians don’t respond that way either. So why are Hamas doing it?

I spent a bit of time searching for answers to this question from a Palestinian perspective. While it’s very easy to find Israeli talking points from the likes of Mark Regev and Benjamin Netanyahu, finding more than quick soundbites from Palestinian voices is less easy (if anyone has any good links, please share below). I did however find this Telegraph interview with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal. Asked why Hamas were firing rockets onto the civilian population in Israel, he explained that the strategy is “not about the impact of each rocket” but the political effect they have in Israel, and that they are a symbol of the Palestinian’s will to resist “occupation”. If this is true, it’s a strategy that is failing badly, as the Israeli public comes out in support of the Israeli Government’s attack on Gaza. It could be perceived from the outside that the action of Hamas is designed purely to provoke a harsh response from Israel that will generate sympathy for the Palestinian cause around the world. This may have been partially successful, although Western Governments who have influence seem to be firmly on the side of the Israelis, and the cost of this strategy has been heavy civilian casualties. Two whole generations of Palestinians have lived their whole lives under Israeli occupation or blockade, so it should not be surprising that some try to resist the occupation, but doing so by targeting civilians in Israel is unlikely to gain sympathy for the legitimate cause of ending the occupation.

We hear that 90% of rockets fired into Israel are destroyed by their “Iron Dome” defense system, and so casualties on the Israeli side have been light, but the question from the Israeli’s will always be “what would you do if faced with these constant rocket attacks?”. It’s a good question, and I don’t know the answer to that, but I’d hope I wouldn’t do what Israel appears to be doing now which is engaging in an indiscriminate act of collective punishment against the people of Gaza, shelling small children from naval vessels, shooting up ambulances and hospitals and using snipers to fire on civilians. The Israelis say they take great care to warn civilians to leave areas they are about to attack, but where are they supposed to go?

Hollywood conditions us to believe there is always a battle of good versus evil, but reality is never like that. Both sides are doing great damage, it’s just that one side is fighting with pea shooters and human shields, while the other is fighting with bazookas and highly effective anti-pea shooter shields. Our support should be with the ordinary people on both sides who are suffering, for an end to the violence, and support for genuine negotiations towards a long-term solution.