Tuesday, 30 November 2010

The Panorama / FIFA debate

I have just finished watching the 'explosive' Panorama which was shown on BBC1 last night about alleged corruption in FIFA and I have a problem.

In case you missed it the program outlined how three FIFA executive committee members have accepted bribes (some time ago) from a sports media company wanting to obtain exclusive rights to marketing the World Cup.

It went on to cast what appeared to be rehashed allegations against two other officials about bribery and corruption on a rather grand scale.

The final point of the documentary concerned what appeared to be a fairly tenuous link about the guarantees which FIFA require of bidding nations which are supposed to be kept confidential but the Netherlands (another bidding country) have published.

To my mind the Panorama argument was weak and the reason for this could be for one of two reasons.

Either Panorama in order to simplify had time only to give headline facts in its half hour format OR allegations did not have substantive evidence behind them. Now I cannot believe for one moment that BBC lawyers had not gone through the allegations and supporting evidence with a fine tooth comb or litigation will surely follow and therefore I must assume that the first possibility is at least plausible.

On the other hand, the documentary did appear to take somewhat of a scatter gun approach and surely if the proof of wrongdoing was incontrovertible then there could have been time to concentrate on the major allegations?

However, assuming that there was a glimmer of truth in the program it is very worrying that FIFA may be riddled with corruption.

The key issue here is that the allegations in Panorama WERE plausible. As such it is entirely wrong of FIFA not to comment or provide a defence.

Let us not forget we are talking about an organisation which has already had to suspend two members of its executive committee as they were proved to corrupt.

Therefore if plausible allegations are levied then FIFA should provide a defence to prove that in this respect they are above suspicion. This is only a common standard of probity.

We are talking here about a body who has wide reaching powers and whom people at the highest level of our society are courting for the privilege of holding a world cup.

That same body therefore must be above reproach.

What we have here is an organisation that at best seems sordid and at worst thoroughly corrupt.

My question is, irrespective of the Panorama allegations, do we really want to be associated and subordinate to that body in holding a world cup?

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Watching the Lib-Dems

I must confess that in the past I have always been quite partial to the Lib-Dems. They have always been like a 'second team' to me.

It's just the same as being a Leicester City supporter but I always check out Macclesfield's score come Saturday tea time.

I always liked Mr Ashdown and following on from that I often thought that out of all the political leaders Charlie Kennedy would be the best one to go out for a pint with. His blend of bonhomie and principled political stand really did make you warm to him.

I think that it is for this reason I have to save a special brand of vitriol for the current Lib Dems and their shameful evaporation of principles in order to seek power.

In simple terms if at the general election you put your X in the Tory box you knew what you were getting.

However, on the other hand, if you voted Lib-Dem you were hoping that you might end up with a decent and principled MP with a fair and equitable set of views who, whilst there was little chance of them ever getting governmental power, could be depended upon.

How wrong you were...

I find it astonishing that one Lib-Dem constituency has today issued a leaflet in their community which states as its headline 'Clegg delivers on promises'.

Can this be the same Nick Clegg whose party candidates, prior to the election, signed pledges to oppose any rise to student tuition fees?

And now only months later that same party is spearheading a virtual trebling of those self same fees!

Of course, what the Lib-Dems are now saying is that such promises were only made on the basis of them becoming a government in their own right and as part of a coalition they have to take a more pragmatic approach.


If you don't believe me just listen to what Nick had to say about tuition fees prior to the election...

When it comes to the Lib-Dems I feel like a father does to a child who has let them down. 'I'm not angry, just very very disappointed.'

Saturday, 20 November 2010

For once even I am astonished!

Since I started writing this blog I have been absolutely open and above board about my views. If you take the time to look back at previous entries I am sure you will arrive at the view I am a bit of a liberally minded leftie. In short I like to think that I am pretty open-minded.

Having said that as I sat reading yesterdays Metro even I was astonished by the crass and moronic stupidity of a couple in Minneapolis, USA.

You see, the couple in question, Pete and Alisha Arnold, have set up a website called www.birthornot.com . You can perhaps get an inkling from the name of the website what its aim is but if not I shall explain.

Pete and Alisha have decided to set up a website in order that other internet users can vote on whether Alisha, who is currently pregnant, should have an abortion or not!

Whether you are pro-life or pro-choice (and I readily admit to leaning towards the pro-choice option - with caveats) this poll should outrage you, it certainly did me.

Many, many people believe that life begins at conception and abortion should never be allowed. On the other hand the statutory and majority view is that abortion should be legal and that women, with restrictions, should have a right to choose.

That right to choose was a hard won fight with strong and persuasive arguments from either viewpoint being made by some very serious people. One thing that all were agreed upon is that the decision to abort should be one of the most difficult and soul searching that any individual can make.

To reduce that decision to an 'X Factor' type vote made by a simple click of the mouse is an abomination which to my mind anyone should be disgusted by.

So, why am I maddened by this story?

The answer is straightforward. I regularly disagree with people. People with different religions, different viewpoints and different political persuasions. What I respect, however, is that those people have taken the time to think abut why they have arrived at that opposing view - just as I have thought why I have arrived at mine.

To abdicate responsibility and the need to think on such a major issue, as Pete and Alisha Arnold have done, is an aberration which they should be ashamed of and no doubt will  be in years to come.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Electioneering really has started!

You can tell that district council elections aren't that far off when political parties start putting out newsletters that only contain aspects of a full story in order to shape views with an eye-catching headline.

We are only in November and the elections aren't until next May but already the BNP are publishing selective information to denigrate the sitting councillors in their target wards.

From the outset of this blog it is only right that I nail my colours to the mast. I am a proud member of the Labour party and wholeheartedly support their principles and views. Nevertheless I will try to be objective.

The local BNP team have produced a newsletter for the Thringstone ward. In that newsletter an article is written and in the interests of fairness I will set out the text in full below:

' Do you know just how much your local Labour Party Councillors are costing, us the taxpayer each year? Do you even know who they are?

See the shocking table below, to see how British National Party councillors perform against the greed of the of the Labour party. BNP Councillors also attend more meetings.

Labour Party - Value for money? Or taking advantage? You decide.

Average amount of money claimed per Political Party this year

Labour           £8,041.48 per councillor
Conservative   £7,395.16 per councillor
BNP              £3,765.16 per councillor

Lib Dem and IND Cllr's also take more on average than the BNP.'

Now there is no doubt if you carry out the simple task of taking the total allowances for all members of a party and dividing this by the number of councillors they have then you will get an average Labour allowance greater than any other party. But this is a simple and highly emotive method of calculating worth which hides the true facts.

ALL Councillors receive a basic allowance of £3,765.16 (inclusive of £150 telephone rental) and this is the amount that BNP Councillors are rightfully entitled and which they receive.

At the same time Councillors are also entitled to 'Special Responsibility Allowances' for carrying out certain roles. Now for the most part the special responsibility allowances go to the party in control of the council and this is the situation with NWLDC.

Historically the Leader and members of the Cabinet receive the highest allowances and when you look at the figures for 2009/10 this is indeed the case. Councillor Richard Blunt, who is leader of the Council received special allowances of £14,687.82. Similarly Councillor Matthew Blain received an allowance of £9,180.26.

So  I hear you ask, if I have not lost you by now, why in the basic BNP calculation do the Tories only receive £7,395.16 per councillor? Once again the answer is simple. There are a number of Tory councillors, Councillor Richichi for instance, who only receive the basic allowance so when you divide the total allowances paid by the number of councillors you get to an average figure set out in the BNP leaflet.

Turning to Labour it is important to note that my party is the official opposition. As a result of this fact Labour Councillors are asked to take on the chairmanship of various committees and otherwise provide input to the decision-making process in order to provide democratic representation. For these duties once again special allowances are paid.

When you are looking at a simple average cost per councillor however it becomes apparent that all 5 Labour councillors have some kind a 'special responsability'. As a result dividing those total allowances by 5 means that the average per councillor is higher, in short Labour doesn't have backbenchers to dilute the allowances.

Now the Lib Dems, BNP and Independents do not have any form of special responsibility and as a result they are never going to have total allowances as high as either the controlling party or official opposition.

A quick word on attendance at meetings. The BNP Councillors have excellent attendance records and they are to be applauded for this. However, let's not beat about the bush our Labour Councillors have attendance records which stand up to scrutiny as well.

For example BNP Councillor Ian Meller has a 95% attendance record at meetings. Thringstone Labour Councillor Ray Woodward has a 98% attendance record. It's simple headline figures can always be used to support a story!

Now from a personal point of view I abhor everything the BNP stand for and I certainly hope that come next May there are no BNP councillors on our District Council, at the same time however I accept that in 2007 those same councillors were elected by residents of their respective wards and if you look in pure terms of attendance it could be argued they have done a good job.

Being a councillor is more however than just an attendance record and I would fervently argue that those wards lucky enough to have been represented by Labour councillors have had some of the most hard working and dedicated councillors that they could have wished to hope for.

And yes, in answer to the BNP leaflet, I would suggest that just as many know who their Labour councillor is as know their BNP elected member.

There is, of course, a time and place for electioneering but why can't we be honest and present the electorate with the full picture rather than give snippets and half facts?

The people of North West Leicestershire aren't stupid. If the BNP give whole truths and win then I would say congratulations but this kind of cherry picking isn't insulting to Labour, it's insulting to the voters.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Blimey, teaching really is difficult...

I was talking to my two oldest children this morning and it finally struck home to me what a difficult job teaching really is and, more pertinently, just how much teachers must feel like they are banging their collective heads against brick walls.

Let me explain a little...

Every morning before I start work it is my job to take the children to their respective nurseries and schools. All in all from leaving home to dropping Regan and Roisin at school it takes me around thirty five minutes.

Invariably, each morning one of them will ask me a question about some issue or other which I will seek to expand on a little to give them some 'education'.

A couple of days ago, and after they had been watching the DVD of Hairspray, one of them asked me what 'Negro Day' was?

I explained, in what I thought was a very primary friendly style, that we don't use the word 'Negro' and then went on to discuss for an enlightening twenty minutes the words connotations with slavery and the general oppression of the African American in society.

I was so proud of myself in my liberal lefty way!

This morning, only two days later, I asked Regan to explain to Mummy why we don't use the word 'Negro' to which his response was 'I can't remember'.

So much for my teaching ability! When you try and disseminate anything to your children and later question them on it it makes you realise just how little they are taking in and how tough (and at times soul destroying) it must be to be a teacher.

This morning on the way to school we had a lesson on poppies and their symbolism in the context of the First World War (once again done as a result of a one sentence question).

I fear, however, the children might have been preoccupied with their game of 'Yellow Car' and punching each other. As a result I think that there is a real chance they may fail their test on Monday morning.

My lesson planning really must get better...