Sunday, December 24, 2006
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
You may remember that the police turned the coaches around and sent them back to London. The protestors were not allowed to disembark even to relieve themselves.
The Chief Constable gave a non-apology apology, saying that his officers acted in good faith, on intelligence received - perhaps they expected the protestors to become violent in 45 minutes !
He also pointed out that other courts (i.e. High Court, Court of Appeal) had reached the opposite conclusion to the Lords. I suppose next time a Gloucestershire bobby is in trouble with the Chief Constable, he can argue that he acted in good faith and his sergeant and his inspector agreed with him.
An open letter to the Liberal Democrat spokesman on Work and Pensions
on the government's white paper on child support
I still believe that the fundamental flaw in the current system, which the proposed reforms do little or nothing to address, is the complete absence of any idea of shared parenting.
The usual pattern for a newly divorced father is that he loses his property and his daily contact with his children. He is then told that he will be allowed to see them once a fortnight, unless his ex-wife blocks contact in which case he faces a long, expensive and usually futile chase through the courts. Then comes the coup de grace. Nothing that he spends on his children in future will count as child support. All that will count is the money which he pays directly to his ex-wife or via the CSA (or its successor). There will of course be no check on how the ex-wife spends the money. If when he gets to see his children they turn up inadequately clothed or underfed, any money he spends to clothe or feed them will not count, unless they spend at least 100 nights a year with him (unlikely given standard contact arrangements). If he pays himself for a school trip or books or anything, it will not count. Please excuse the gender-specific language but it describes the vast majority of cases.
The frequently quoted figures of fathers owing child support do not only refer to the feckless and irresponsible but also to all those fathers whose support for their children does not count. In my own case, my limited income forces me to choose between actual support for my children and the payment of notional and disputed arrears of assessed child support. The CSA acknowledges my choice but pursues me for money which I believe I should not have to pay. At present I can challenge their assessments, their mysterious and opaque calculations and their undisclosed errors. The measures proposed in the White Paper would allow the new agency to determine the level of assessment and to enforce it without any recourse to the courts. The new agency may be able to remove passports and driving licences or impose curfews (enforceable by tagging ?) . Will these powers also not require a court hearing ? These sanctions exceed those applied to minor criminals, who at least have the luxury of a trial. All these sanctions can be easily applied to fathers who remain in contact with their children. It will be much harder to apply them to fathers who have abandoned all such contact, of whom we can expect there will therefore be many more.
I appreciate that you and most MPs will be primarily concerned with enforcement. I maintain than effective compliance depends upon fair and reasonable assessment. The party, under the guidance of Annette Brookes, has already rejected the principle of shared parenting in residence and contact arrangements (both in parliament and at conference). If we only focus on enforcement of child support paid to the mother, we will confirm that Liberal Democrats see the role of fathers only as providing money, without any guarantee that it is spent on the children. Please give consideration to a model which gives fathers a full share in the care of their children, including spending money directly on them.
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Ah yes ! Mingismo
If this is New Liberalism, give me the old kind any day.
On Monday, Tony Blair announces that he wants to spend £20m (Do I hear 30 ? Do I hear 35 ?) and Ming Campbell comes up with the Liberal Democrat Housemaid's Baby (more later). On Tuesday England throws away a test match.
The arguments about Trident are not as complex as they appear. For once I agree with Tony Blair - in the end it comes down to political judgement - in his speech on Monday. Killing millions of innocent civilians is wrong. Poisoning the environment for generations is wrong. Using nuclear weapons is wrong. Saying that you will keep but never use them but the enemy must believe you might is either a lie or not a deterrent; it's a balmy contradiction. Saying Trident is independent when it depends upon American technology and goodwill and cannot be maintained for more than 18 months without their co-operation is a lie. Saying we need it to protect ourselves from the unknown and the unlikely whilst keeping our armed forces overstretched and under-equipped is like insuring your house for very high premiums against a tsunami in Chard, whilst not locking the door or repairing the fence (which I need to do).
Ming's response was rightly jeered in the Commons as sitting on the fence. I prefer the old Punch cartoon of the housemaid who is going to be sacked for having a baby and says, "But it's a very small baby !" It's right that there's no need to make a decision yet but postponing it until 2014 won't change the arguments. The future will still be uncertain and the use of nuclear weapons will still be wrong.
And England will still have lost the Ashes.
Friday, November 24, 2006
Liberalism has its roots in freedom of religious belief and worship. Like many Liberals I would prefer a separation of church and state, but the French who don't understand liberalism, have taken separation to mean that children cannot wear religious symbols at school. This idea has surprisingly only occurred to them since large numbers of Muslim children started attending French state schools. Before that, the Ministere de l'Education hadn't notice dthat crosses were religious symbols.
Jack Straw's offence is worse, far worse. He objects to Muslim women wearing the Hijab when they come to his surgery. He said it made him uncomfortable. Liberal MP Jo Swinson's response was spot on. She said it was her job to make her constituents comfortable when they bring their problems to her.
Meanwhile I defy any dirigist, Blairite or Gaullist, attempt to prevent me wearing my holey dressing-gown during my devotions between 10.00 and 11.15 am on Sunday morning.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Imagine then my disappointment on looking up disgruntled in my Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (The photographically reduced one which needs a magnifying glass).
v trans To put into sulky dissatisfaction or ill-humour: to chagrin, disgust. (from DIS + GRUNTLE)
sb 1. The snout of a pig, or other animal 2. A little grunt
v 1. To utter a little or a low grunt 2. To grumble, murmur, complain
Of course disgruntled may mean having had your snout or your little grunt removed, but I suspect it's a false negative meaning induced to grunt, grumble, murmur or complain.
All in all, I prefer my imagined derivation.
Two quotations from the book:
You may already have noticed that girls are quite different from you... as a general rule, girls do not get quite as excited by the use of urine as a secret ink as boys do.
The British Empire:
[The idea of liberty] ... remains the most distinctive feature of the Empire... I do not mean to claim that all British Imperialists were liberals: some were very far from it. But what is striking about the history of the Empire is that whenever the British were behaving despotically , there was almost always a liberal critique of that behaviour from within British society". Macaulay and Mill, you are not forgotten.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Monday, November 13, 2006
The latest candidate for a snuggery award is headmaster John Saunders of Warneford School, Highworth, Wiltshire who told his pupils they were not allowed to kiss, hold hands or hug. Does this come under health and safety or moral education ? Does it cover purely sexual behaviour or does it include comfort and compassion, congratulation and condolence ? At my son's college there are rules for pupils up to 18 and others for 18 plus. My son is 17 and was annoyed (but not at all inhibited) by the rule that no sexual activity is permitted anywhere on the premises for under-18s. We checked the rules for 18 plus and found no such restriction.
Friday, November 10, 2006
It occurred to me that there should be an appropriate ancient Greek stem to attach to phobia. Modern Greeks, not having the benefit of the advice of Nancy Mitford, use a form of the French toilette. Online ancient Greek dictionaries are no help, usually being based on the New Testament. Neither there nor in Homer is there mention of anything which translates as toilet or lavatory. If there is, the lexicographers are shy and do not mention it. I would be grateful if any chance blog reader can supply the ancient Greek for lavatory or better still public lavatory if the Attic world ever saw such a thing.