Tag Archives: authoritarian

The SNP government is drifting towards authoritarianism

Stronger for Scotland: The SNP government is heading in an ever more authoritarian direction [Image: politics.co.uk].

I’m publishing quite a long extract from this politics.co.uk article, in anticipation of a knee-jerk backlash from supporters of the SNP.

Nationalist parties tend to be authoritarian, so many of these developments may be no surprise to informed commentators.

But is this really what the people of Scotland thought they were getting when the SNP promised to fight for freedom from the United Kingdom?

It may seem inappropriate to compare the SNP with right-wing nationalist governments in Poland or Hungary. Unfortunately as the Scottish government, led by Nicola Sturgeon, heads in an ever more authoritarian direction, such comparisons are increasingly justified.

Examples of this tendency range from the trivial to the far more serious. Most recently, Donald Trump’s comments about Muslim immigrants, led to calls from the SNP for him to be banned from entering the country as a “hate preacher”. While many may agree with this, the former SNP leader Alex Salmond went one step further. He not only endorsed a ban, but said Scotland should be banning ‘all Donald Trumps’. It reminds me of a nightclub bouncer compiling a list of undesirables who aren’t allowed entry on a Saturday night. It would be interesting to see Salmond’s list of who should and shouldn’t be allowed into the country.

It’s not just differing views which the SNP are uncomfortable with, but differing lifestyles. The Scottish government are currently seeking to ban the sale of cheap alcohol in an attempt to control the behaviour of Scottish drinkers. Unlike the English or Welsh who have resisted such moves, the SNP believe we Scots can’t be trusted with cheap alcohol. The only reason it’s not in force is because the EU court raised concerns about restrictions on free trade.

A more sinister development is the SNP plan for a named person or ‘state guardian’ for every child. This will grant the state unprecedented powers over families. Proponents of the law advocate that it provides a point of contact for families. But the status quo already has various routes for families needing support. The real change is the Scottish Government having arbitrary and intrusive powers into every family in Scotland. Former chairman of Scotland’s Children Panel Advisory Group Joe Knight described it as “an erosion of parental rights and responsibilities.”

The disturbing point is not just that every child will have a named person intervening in their lives, but the SNP presumption that every child needs such a person. On this issue as on many others of personal responsibility, the SNP government is convinced it knows best.

The SNP’s super ID database is even more troubling. It’s not exactly clear how our private information would be monitored under the scheme, but filling in an innocuous form at your local NHS dentist could result in the information being circulated to 120 public bodies, including Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. Privacy campaigners have called on the Scottish government to ditch the scheme, as it will allow widespread data mining and profiling. Tellingly, the proposals are not being treated as primary legislations and are being forced through without parliamentary debate. On this issue as well, the SNP are allowing little dissent.

Arguably, the most authoritarian development of all is the SNP’s passing of the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act. Under this law, fans’ behaviour must be monitored in order to see whether it merits an arrest. Yet so broad is the legislation that fans can be questioned and even arrested simply for the clothes they’re wearing, or the songs they’re singing.

The SNP’s approach to Donald Trump and football fans is remarkably similar. Rather than enlighten, persuade or educate, they opt for the lazy illiberal option of simply banning them.

Source: The SNP government is drifting towards authoritarianism

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Goodbye to Britain’s National Health Service, Hello Tory Dystopia

140113THAP!

Here’s an article from US website Global Comment on what America clearly understood to be the privatisation of the National Health Service in England. It was published in March 2012, about a month after the Health and Social Care Act was passed – and seems much more perceptive in its evaluation than – for example – the BBC!

The article states: “The level of health care privatization being implemented by the British government via the Health and Social Care Bill (and experts agree it amounts to privatization and will lead to more, even as ministers known to love the private sector deny it) is seen by many as essentially the end of the National Health Service (NHS). The editor of the respected medical journal The Lancet has described the impact of this “coming disaster” very bluntly: ‘People will die thanks to the government’s decision to focus on competition rather than quality in healthcare.'”

It continues: “A hatchet is being taken to the NHS without a mandate, which explains the lack of transparency and authoritarianism of the process. The government doesn’t want a risk assessment for their “reforms” published, and meanwhile protests that have been held with the aim of quite literally conserving a beloved British institution, a pillar of the welfare state, have been policed as if they were radical demonstrations aiming to smash the state.

“The Conservatives very explicitly lied about their intentions: a famous and frequently parodied campaign poster featured Tory leader and now Prime Minister David Cameron promising that he wouldn’t cut the NHS.”

Moving on to other policies, it states: “In place of free healthcare for UK citizens, the government is providing free labor for corporations: “Jobseekers have been made to do compulsory unpaid work for up to four weeks after refusing to take part in the voluntary work experience scheme,” reports The Guardian.

“And there are all kinds of other nasty Tory plans in motion to make Britain a more grim, awful place. They plan to kick out immigrants from outside the European Union who earn less than £35,000, which is to say almost half the country’s nurses. Cameron’s cuts to disability benefits are so severe as to have even prompted the departure of long-term members of his party – appalled by the “endless attacks on disabled people and their right to independence and full equality” – and fierce opposition from columnists for The Daily Mail, usually a bastion of right-wing meanness.

“How did things get so bad, so fast?”

Well worth reading.

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Who will (unofficially) sponsor David Cameron’s next Prime Ministerial statements?

130819lobbying

Tobacco, fracking or private health companies seem the most likely choices.

The Conservative-led Coalition has become an excellent practitioner of bait-and-switch fraud, it seems. First it ‘baits’ the general public by promising a new law, reforming part of society that is seen to have fallen below the standards expected here in the UK. Then it ‘switches’ the legislation into something else entirely.

So it is with plans for a new law to end lobbying scandals. It won’t do anything of the sort. In fact, it is likely to lessen the legal burdens on lobbyists.

However, it will impose onerous new burdens on trade unions and charities, in what the Trade Union Congress has described as “an outrageous attack on freedom of speech worthy of an authoritarian dictatorship”.

(This is not to say that the TUC believes the UK government is similar to an authoritarian dictatorship. View it instead as the TUC saying this is what the UK government has become under the Coalition)

The Transparency of Lobbying, non-Party Campaigning, and Trade Union Administration Bill apparently features a new, looser definition of ‘campaigning’ that risks including all activities that could be seen as critical of the government of the day – and if any government was likely to crack down on such activities, on any day, it’s this one!

Mr Cameron’s spokesman said this was not the aim, and that the plan was to ensure lobbyists’ allegiances are known, ascertain how much money is spent on third-party political campaigning and ensure trade unions know who their members are. His words may have been sponsored by CTF Partners (look them up).

The proposals are likely to introduce a statutory register of consultant lobbyists, but only firms which say it is their main business need register, only firms which meet ministers and senior civil servants need declare whom they represent, and in-house lobbyists are also exempt – so, from 988 meetings between the Department for Business and lobbyists in 2012, only two were with consultant lobbyists who would have had to declare the meetings under the new law.

An Independent article stated that the plans lack credibility and are regarded as “a bad joke” inside the UK’s £2 billion lobbying industry – so much so that the chairman of Parliament’s Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee recalled its members before the end of the summer recess, to hold evidence sessions on what he has described as a “dog’s breakfast”.

Graham Allen MP (Labour) told the paper, “This flawed legislation will mean we’ll all be back in a year facing another scandal.”

And lobbyists themselves said the industry could gain nothing from flawed legislation. Iain Anderson, chairman of the Association of Professional Political Consultants (APPC) and director of the lobbying company Cicero, said: “This law will only undermine public confidence.”

The planned legislation would also set a cap on the amount any organisation other than political parties could spend during elections, and would end self-certification of union membership numbers for all but the smallest unions, with records checked by an independent officer.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said in the BBC article that “this rushed Bill has nothing to do with cleaning up lobbying or getting big money out of politics. Instead it is a crude and politically partisan attack on trade unions, particularly those who affiliate to the Labour Party”. Bait-and-switch, see?

But she said the plan was much worse than that: “Its chilling effect will be to shut down dissent for the year before an election. No organisation that criticises a government policy will be able to overdraw their limited ration of dissent without fearing a visit from the police.”

Mr Cameron, now revealed as a corporate mouthpiece after his U-turn on plans for plain packaging on cigarettes (his election strategist Lynton Crosby also works for a major tobacco corporation), his support for fracking (several leading Tories stand to benefit if the process becomes widespread) and his government’s privatisation of the National Health Service, amazingly promised to crack down on lobbying in the Coalition agreement with the Liberal Democrats after he, himself, described it as the “next big political scandal”.

If fears are borne out, the new law would have a direct effect on Vox Political and blogs like it. Rest assured that VP will continue criticising government policy and demanding better from the opposition.

They can’t say we overspend – we don’t have any budget at all.

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