The truth about Youth unemployment

Lots of people say the UK coalition has failed due to the youth unemployment rate. Just checked with the OECD live stats page. Here’s the actual results:-

Series: Unemployment, Sex: all, Age: 15-24. Top 25 by descending youth unemployment rate:-

  1. Spain 46.4%
  2. Greece 44.4%
  3. Slovak Republic 33.2%
  4. Ireland 30.3%
  5. Portugal 30.1%
  6. Italy 29.1%
  7. Hungary 26.1%
  8. Poland 25.8%
  9. Sweden 22.9%
  10. France 22.1%
  11. Estonia 21.6%
  12. EU 21 (All EU States) 20.8%
  13. EU 15 (Original EU States) 20.3%
  14. Europe 20.0%
  15. UK 20.0%
  16. Finland 18.9%
  17. Belgium 18.7%
  18. Turkey 18.4%
  19. Czech Republic 18.0%
  20. Chile 17.5%
  21. US 17.3%
  22. New Zealand 17.3%
  23. Luxembourg 16.8%
  24. OECD countries 16.2%
  25. G7 countries 16.1%

Lo, the UK rate is below the EU average. It’s not stellar don’t get me wrong, but we’re hardly failing in comparison are we?

Oh and the change since the coalition took control? An increase of 0.7%. This was an economic crisis created in Downing Street alright… BY THE LABOUR PARTY! How dare Red Ed attempt to taunt the PM with that line. You had 13 years and you ruined the economy. Where’s YOUR apology??? Especially from Ed Balls who truly helped Gordon Brown balls things up. I notice he seems rather well fed still.


Pope donates throne to the poor

Today the pope has announced he has ordered the Vatican to start melting down unneeded gold items with the proceeds from the sale of the gold going to help the poor in Africa. The Pope is setting an example to all world leaders by starting this push by melting down his own throne. Many other artifacts will also be recycled in this first fundraising push. The Pope has set a longer term goal of removing from all Catholic churches worldwide superfluous gold inlays, coatings, and additions to furniture to this initiative. He has appointed a senior Cardinal, Monsigneur Alfresco de Bullion to oversee this world wide programme.

NGOs worldwide have welcomed the move, with Poor Relief International chief Justin Owen-Interest saying “The Pope has yet again shown bold leadership in Africa. This will only serve to further prove the Pope’s position as being the most in touch world leader when it comes to the plight of Africans everywhere.” He went on to point out the Pope’s long positive record in Africa “Through programmes such as denouncing Condoms as spreading HIV rather than causing it, and lobbying to prevent American government funds from educating women about contraception and abortions, the Vatican has demonstrated time and time again a willingness to put the welfare of the African people above posturing and politics.”

The new Vatican led programme on relief for the poor will be advertised using a thought provoking and high impact banner. The Vatican will pay out of its own coffers and business jet expense fund to plaster the below advert on billboards all over the Western world in order to encourage other leaders to follow his bold example.

… Unfortunately the above is a parody of the Pope’s actual position and the Catholic Church’s history on the African continent. If only he practiced what he preached.

Republic vs. Monarchy

Just read about the group called “Republic”. Apparently they believe the Monarchy is so bad, and the Prime Minister so corruptable, that they wish us to elect a President. This will somehow resolve all the ills of the United Kingdom.

Sounds great in principle – fully elected officials, head of state to ensure our rights, parliament being restricted as to its law making powers… My question is how or why would having a President help? One more politician. What makes a person so noble through the virtue of them being elected? In short, nothing. Being born in to a profession, on the other hand, and inheriting responsibilities without a choice – having power thrust upon you – now there is some nobility in that at least.

I don’t understand where the issue is around Parliament being able to enact any law. Parliament’s power derives from the people. Although theoretically they could pass a law outlawing all critical comment of politicians, in practice this will never happen. Not everyone in Parliament will agree. You will not get a popular majority in Parliament to enact such a law. In the unlikely event that the next national socialist party is elected, do the people of the Republic really think Britons will sit idly by and just let it happen? Of course they won’t.

To argue for limits on Parliament’s law making powers is to argue for a codified Constitution. I would argue that the United Kingdom’s Constitution, which is the collective body of acts of Parliament and Common Law decisions, is a much better system. In the UK we do not have arguments about whether the right to bear arms allows a single flint lock rifle or a grenade launcher. We do not suffer from evangelical Christians who believe in unlimited religious privilige because a we’re “One nation under God”. Our lack of a codified document, and the ability for Parliament to enact new laws and amend any of the existing body of legislation gives us flexibility. It allows us to make our nation reflect the times we are living in. It removes the instinct of blindly sticking to dogma because “that’s what the founders intended”.

The vast majority of the powers the Monarchy have are not used “by Convention”. In other words if they were used there would be such a backlash as to threaten the very existence of the institution of the Monarchy itself. Such a self preservation argument does not apply to the heads of state of republics. They are voted in for terms, and short of a convoluted impeachment process are very unlikely to be overthrown through a lack of support from the public. Indeed many sitting US Presidents have had approval ratings well below 50% and still go on governing.

It is true that the Prime Minister can declare war without a vote of Parliament – but do republicans really believe that if a Prime Minister went on a fancy flier of modern day empire building that anyone in their own party, or in the Ministry of Defence, would go along with it? Of course they wouldn’t. When has a Prime Minister ever sent the country to war against a majority of its elected representatives? What does a vote matter if you are only ever to call it if you know you will win? Conversely, why need a vote if no one would ever follow a Prime Minister who did not command a majority of supporters for military action in Parliament? The answer is it’s purely a technicality, and only been an issue since the second Iraq war, not that it would have helped there either as at the time Parliament did support military action – despite the new history people have tried to write since.

The Privy Council having the ability to introduce legislation without Parliamentary approval is a non issue too. The Monarch will never sign off on such legislation because to do so would threaten their own existence for the same reasons as mentioned above.

Why do people believe that the solution to a Parliament riddled with self interest and nepotism will be solved by more politicians as either head of state or in the house of lords? Of course it won’t, it’ll just introduce more people that need watching by a mindful electorate. The House of Lords is purely for reviewing legislation. It is and remains the most effective legislative review body in the world. It consists of experts and people with experience in their fields whose job it is to review – not write or amend without a commons vote – new legislation. If it were full of career politicians only rather than experts in business and science it will never be as effective. Personally I’d limit the amount of political appointees each parliamentary session and remove all the Bishops who lets face it are not experts in anything other than pure self serving interest. Why can’t we start by reforming that instead.

The cost argument is wholly fallacious too. The Royal Family pull in a lot more money than they cost. No one will buy mugs and towels for elected politicians, or go and take tours of their constituency homes! Also most of the money for the Monarchy is used as upkeep Royal Palaces which the nation would pay for without the Royal Family anyway. The Queen uses the allowance assigned to just her to pay for the rest f the royal family anyway, and pays the rest back to the Treasury.

I remember John Major the former Prime Minister telling a story about being pre-occupied one week whilst visiting the Queen. He told her he was worried about a call he had to make to convince an African leader to help with something. She suggested he mention fishing as a means to get a congenial conversation going. He did this and with friendly relations established went on to convince the leader to help him out. An elected head of state with a limit on their experience would not be able to offer such advice. Likely there is more good done by the Royal Family that goes unnoticed. After all the press only relates their flaws, never their successes.

I will never vote for a republic, or an elected House of Lords. It’s just another excuse to give more people the chance to vaunt their power over others. Its just another cult of personality, of political patronage and self interest. At least with a system whereby the monarchy’s survival depends upon their actions we have the ultimate level of accountability. What other jobs would they be able to get in civvie street?

16 year old fights for Religious Freedom in school

Just read about this amazing story. A young lady aged 16 took her school to court after failing to convince the local school board to remove a banner entitled ‘School Prayer’ from their gym.

Really worth a read.

Secular Conservatism

This is a term I’ve coined to try and place a stake in the ground within Conservative party ranks. When people think Conservative several images are conjured in the mind… some none too flattering! Preservation of a national identity, keeping our Union together, opposition to outside forces and influences on domestic policy, maintenance of tradition. Over the years there has also been a strong undercurrent of religion too. Tony Blair famously didn’t do God when it came to politics. No such squeamishness exists on the Conservative benches in Parliament.

Thankfully this being the UK we are still a long way from the neo-con obsession with pushing religious ideals within most main stream policies. Weirdly this understatedness seems to have led to a complacency within the Press and the popular psyche. Even though we regularly hear criticism of the Church of England we in the UK seem to refrain from criticising religious influence within policy when it does arise. Whether this is because many people wish to maintain the status quo of the British Establishment, of which the Church of England is undoubtedly a part, or they just don’t care is up for debate. Undoubtedly though political parties of all stripes do seem vulnerable to being influenced by religious groups and their concerns. Perhaps this is because they just shout loudest?

I would describe myself as a Secular liberal Conservative, and Atheist. I believe in an open liberal (note the lowercase) democratic society. After years of too-ing and fro-ing I see my own outlook as being broadly in line with that of the Conservative Party too. Smaller Government, local solutions, lower taxes where possible, strong defence and a strong economy with free and fair trade at its heart. I also believe in a separation of Church and State, and preventing religious indoctination, and not giving any one religion’s adherents any special favours or privilige over another ones, so I am a Secularist. I also happen to be an Atheist too.

I say ‘also happen to be’ because there seems to be a common misconception that to be a Secularist you are also an Atheist, and believe everyone else should be an Atheist, and all religion should be removed from the world. I couldn’t disagree more with this characterisation. When I was a school council rep aged 15 I campaigned to prevent our school from foisting religious services at morning assemblies on to its students. This was successful with several months passing before one RE teacher – who just happened to be an ordained vicar – left prayer books out on chairs for our arrival and started a religious assembly. The teachers who brought everyone to assembly and would normally site on their forms’ rows were all at the back, as far away from the service as possible. The students didn’t know they didn’t have to be there. I stood up and walked out mid assembly, causing a smirk from the RE teacher who considered herself somehow victorious, and visible concern from the teachers who thought I was about to blow a gasket.

Prior to this though as I say we in the school council succeeded in getting the headteacher from holding off on religious assemblies. You cannot accomplish something like this on your own. Thankfully one of my friends happened to agree with my position that no one should be forced or coerced in to taking part in religious assemblies. He agreed with this secular principle – we each have the right to choose our religion, and to choose to take part in collective worship or not. It just so happened he was not an Atheist. He was a member of the New Life Church. We talked this through together and through debate at a school council meeting, with the headteacher taking part, we managed to convince an overwhelming majority of the school council reps to vote for a ban on enforced religious assemblies. It was a clear victory and opened my eyes to others’ ability to understand and agree with a secular argument – even if they were not an Atheist suffering from such discrimination themselves.

My friend also happened to be a staunch Conservative. Amusingly at the time I was quite the pro-Blairite (I was 15 remember, young and foolish!). He’d probably get quite the kick out of me having ‘turned’ or grown up in to a Conservative. My personal Secular Conservatism leads me to conclude that informing students of their rights, and enshrining them in law is a good idea. Currently schools in the UK are required by law to have an assembly incorporating collective worship of a Christian character. Quite how Jewish and Muslim schools get on I don’t know. Although many schools and teachers ignore these rules, many do not. I think this is wrong. The push for religious academies is wrong. Parents faking religion to get their children in to good religious schools is wrong. It leads to segregation, privilige for the few over the many, mistrust, and as we’ve seen in Ulster and Scotland, religious violence.

To be clear as a Secularist I do not advocate the destruction of religion, or pushing it underground and out of public display. I want to live in a society where we are free to talk about our own beliefs without being shouted down as proselytising. I want all young Atheists, Christians, Jews, Sikhs, Muslims and everyone to have an understanding of each others’ faith. I want to allow Catholic children to go to Catholic school and take part in Catholic mass. What I don’t want is for children to continue to be brought up thinking they must take part in enforced group worship, or intelligent design taught in science classes rather than RE where it belongs.  I don’t want public policy written so that money flows to religious groups with loud voices rather than where it is needed, just so some politician can have an easier life.

A Secular Conservative believes there is a place for a strong Church of England, a place for religious schools, a part for religion to play in the community. What a Secular Conservative does not believe is forcing any religious agenda, including that of no religion, on to people.

Bob Crow, head of the Judean People’s Front (official) … oh wait, I mean RMT union…

Is it just me, or does Bob Crow sound like a stuck record? He whinge’s about things but never, ever, suggests a workable solution. He sounds like these guys:-

This quote just says everything: “Industrial action, civil disobedience and millions on the streets are all elements that we need to weld into the anti-cuts campaign and the government should be left in no doubt as to the angry and determined mood brewing up across the country.”

Or in other words “Spend more! More more more! What could POSSIBLY go wrong???” Errr how about a crippling Greek style national debt?

If Bob Crow wants to help rail workers he should find ways to make the rail ways more efficient.

If you think I’m on to something, then please vote below!