Daily Archives: February 19, 2011

#oneaday 30: People write and have a right to do so

We have had 2 examples of courts, one in the UK (The Supreme Court)  and one from Europe (The European Court of Human Rights) , who have allegedly  ‘pushed’ the UK around and made ‘us’ do things that ‘we’ don’t want to do. The first was given convicted and serving prisoners the right to vote and the second was demanding that all those on the sex offenders register, which has been portrayed in some of the media as  the ‘paedophile regsiter’, be allowed to appeal against their inclusion on it.

There are a couple of obvious things here.

First and foremost, the European Court of Human Rights stands up for human rights, very much as a last resort for the indivdual. It has been established since 1959, 14 years after the end of the Second World War, and hopefully the last world war. It is nothing at all to do with the European Court of Justice, the highest court of the European Union and therefore nothing to do with ‘Europe’ as has been suggested by some of the media and some of the politicians who are naturally Euro sceptic. If we decide to defy the rulings, and on the issue of giving prisoners voting rights I have to say I disagree with the ruling, but that is not the point. The point is, that this court has made a decision and we may be bound to follow it. Surely, rather than simply defy this rule/law, we should do what everyone who follows the law does, namely appeal? Just to defy the ruling, smacks of selective law breaking. A democracy surely needs to work within the law to change it?

Secondly, let’s not confuse the rights of individuals to appeal against legal  rulings, least of all from courts based in our own land. Thus if a sex offender (an not just a paedophile) is put on a register, for life, without the right to appeal, it does rather seem somewhat unfair. But so much is in the reporting. We have seen howls of derision from the ‘anti European’ brigade that our rights are being infringed upon, specifically the rights of Parliament to create laws. There have also been many claims from many parties (not political) who have said that sex offenders should not be allowed to come off the register and ‘who are a court to tell us otherwise’, this court often being  quoted as European! Why are these people given rights anyway? All the Supreme Court have said is that these offenders have the right to appeal. That is all. The right to appeal. Take a look at how Sky News report the whole episode. Note the narrative, starting off the feature with a victim. Eventually the report gets around to the actual issue, but the contextual framing  is at best disingenuous and at worst completely irrelevant. 

I didn’t bother seeing what the the likes of the Daily Mail, The Sun, The Star and The Daily Express had to say about this. I think I could guess. Sticking to the issue and the facts seems difficult to some of these publication. Indeed, it is always about emphasis and spin.  Just have a look at what The Daily Mail online said about the issue on the 17th of February.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1357472/Sex-offenders-register-Paedophiles-rapists-apply-remove-name.html

It takes all sorts to make a world, and ultimately people write and should have the right to say what they feel, provided it is within the law. Indeed long may we have a Media that if all of their views are put on the scales at once, in a sort of coalition, we would probably see an overall balanced and thus neutral approach. There may well be a lesson in there somewhere.

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#oneaday 29: Hugging trees as well as Hoodies in a Big Society

Things are looking up. The Coalition Government are showing that they are prepared to listen to the citizens, after all we do live in a democracy, don’t we? This new approach of listening is more than Labour ever seemed to do,  indeed Mr Blair and Mr Brown seemed pretty incapable of listening, or even looking before they acted. Maybe our leaders have taken their cue to this new approach from the activity and turbulence currently taking place in North Africa and the Middle East, fearing that the peaceful protest of ordinary people in the UK  could escalate. Or may be they have decided to stop wasting time on policies that are not absolutely ‘in the national interest’ ?

Thus, despite the protestations of my local MP and his personal letter to me which assured me that the consultation would be ‘comprehensive’ and that he had voted ‘against the Labour motion’, as if I care if it is a Labour motion or not, the proposed Act has been kicked well and truly into touch. I think we are in week 3 of a 12 week process, so one can tell that this proposed policy has not reallly had any poplar support amongst Coalition MPs, let alone opposition MPs. Take a look at The Politics Show from 8th Feb, you will see despite some pretty hard questions, the Minister who made these proposals  Ms Caroline Spelman, Secretary of State for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs,  did her best to tell us that ‘the lady’s not for turning, yet.’ But we all knew it was not terribly convincing at all.

So it really was  rather nice to see and hear a poltician actually say sorry this week. Sorry for wasting time and thus money. That is new. Politicians saying sorry is pretty rare not just nowadays but any days! Indeed, it was refreshing to see Mr Cameron telling the House of Commons that he really was not that impressed with the policy at all. He even said it with a sense of humour. Hats off to him. It is worth seeing how both politicians dealt with this climb down, may be a sign of a little more humility on the part of all politicians and a sign that debating the issues ahead of us is not just the domain of Parliamentarians, but in this day and age where access to the old media via new media, means that citizens can make their opinions heard, seen and read. Indeed, peaceful and intelligent protest must be the way forward for a democracy.  Have a quick look here courtesy of ITN News.

Mr Cameron has proved that he is prepared to hug more than just Hoodies. He has hugged the Trees, a vital mainstay of any environment, and long overdue for some love from our leaders. Labour sold off  parts of our forests, but we did not notice! Let’s hope Mr Cameron gives Ms Spelman a big hug, she has had a rough few weeks and seems like a decent enough lady and no one likes to be made to look stupid, especially in public.

One final thought. Every cloud has a silver lining. Mr Cameron has struggled to get his concept of the ‘Big Society’ through to all of us. Actually it is us that have struggled to understand the principle, if the truth be told. For my part, I think the ‘Big Society’ is something positive that comes from a number of citizens working together, without pay, collaborating, sharing and helping others. It is cross cultural and cross class. It sees positive action and costs the state ie the tax payer absolutely nothing at all and above all fosters a sense of belonging, purpose and identity.

 The campaign against the sell off of our forests has been organised by a the action group 38 Degrees. 38 Degrees is a not for profit organisation who say that they campaign for fairness, defend rights, promote peace preserve the planet and deepen democracy in the UK.  I must say they seem to do exactly that. They explained the issue, broadcast it to anyone who was interested via the internet, engaged with social media, asked for donations and allowed ordinary citizens to write to their MPs. And they ran a petition. It was completely free to take part, and over 500,000 UK voters signed the petition.  For me, this is an example of the ‘Big Society’ in action. Let’s hope we can all take part in campaigns to deliver fairer taxes, democratic voting reforms, key climate change issues and protection of our NHS, from privatisation and the pursuit of corporate profit over national health. That will help us all live in a bigger society.

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