Tag Archives: policy unit

UKIP cautiously unveils new policies – the inadvisable and the unachievable

UKIP or U-F-O? If the Purple Peril wants to gain votes it needs to shed the antisocial image it has gained from the antics of people like Janice Atkinson, who had to apologise for a racist remark earlier this week.

UKIP or U-F-O? If the Purple Peril wants to gain votes it needs to shed the antisocial image it has gained from the antics of people like Janice Atkinson, who had to apologise for a racist remark earlier this week.

At long last, after months in a vacuum after its last set of policies was removed from the Internet as a risk to the party’s popularity, UKIP has unveiled the new plans that will take it to the next general election.

They are a cautious mix. Many are continuations of Coalition policies, while the rest aim to throw out the least popular moves of the last four years.

Social security

So the Tory-motivated Bedroom Tax is out, but child benefit would be confined to two children (as Conservatives desire). People who have been employed for a long time and have paid their taxes would receive higher Jobseekers’ Allowance, which is a proposal that Labour has been considering.

Losers would be new migrants into the UK (quelle surprise) who would not be eligible for any benefits at all until they had been paying tax and national insurance for five years – and “people who have made a living out of having children so that they can get more benefits and a bigger house”. This last group has attracted considerable animosity from large swathes of the public for decades but, although it is not mythical, it may be very hard to pin down those who belong to it as the definition depends on intention. What about people who had a larger family because they were in good jobs, which then fell apart?

It seems pensioners would also lose out as, despite having examined the issue of public sector pensions, UKIP’s policy unit “ran away” from it. There will be no relief from the Conservative-led attack on pensioners and the increase in the retirement age will remain, if UKIP ever formed a government.

Tax

UKIP’s tax policies have undergone a major overhaul, in recognition of the calamitously regressive decision to ask lower-earners to agree to a huge tax rise in order to subsidise a cut for the massively rich. The flat-rate 31 per cent income tax idea is in the dustbin.

Instead, UKIP has decided to copy the Coalition and follow George W Bush’s ‘Starve The Beast’ policy. That’s right – they want more tax cuts for the super-rich, while the lowest earners including those on the minimum wage would be taken out of tax altogether. The new top tax rate would be 40p in the pound (from 45p at the moment) and earners would have to be making £45,000 a year to pay it (up from £41,865 at the moment).

This means the Treasury would receive far less revenue than it does even today, necessitating spending cuts (as it did in Dubya’s USA and as it has here, although the Tories have cannily failed to admit it). In line with its historically jingoistic stance, UKIP would abolish aid to foreign countries, removing a need for less than one per cent of current UK budgets (gosh).

Environment

More seriously, UKIP would abolish the Climate Change Act, whose commitment to environmentally-friendly energy is allegedly costing the country £18 billion every year. Apparently it is more desirable to choke on the fumes from fossil fuels in UKIP’s book.

Business

Another sinister claim comes from Tim Aker, head of UKIP’s policy unit: “There are elements of BIS [Business, Innovation and Skills] that we are looking into.” How he proposes to shrink this department, and what it may mean for the economy, are anybody’s guess.

Democracy

UKIP also has a plan to introduce a “direct democracy” mechanism allowing the public to organise petitions which, if successful, could result in national referendums. Anyone who has used the current government e-petition system will be wary of this. Successful e-petitions have led to debates in Parliament – which have resulted in no action whatever. That system is a public relations exercise and a waste of time; it seems unlikely that UKIP’s proposal will be any different.

All in all, this is a good manifesto for a party considering Coalition with the Conservatives.

However, with UKIP registering only around 12 per cent in polls for the general election, it is likely that the party’s best result will be a gain of only between three and six seats.

If UKIP really wants to be the “people’s army” its campaigners suggested during the European elections, it will have to come much closer to what the people want.

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Cameron aide charged over child abuse images – at long last

A Rock in a hard place: Patrick Rock, formerly a senior civil servant and policy advisor, who now faces allegations that he possessed indecent images of child abuse.

A Rock in a hard place: Patrick Rock, formerly a senior civil servant and policy advisor, who now faces allegations that he possessed indecent images of child abuse.

Patrick Rock, a former aide of David Cameron and protege of Margaret Thatcher, has been charged with three counts of making an indecent photograph of a child, and with possession of 59 indecent images of childrenmore than four months after he was arrested on suspicion of child pornography offences.

Crown Prosecution Service lawyers assessed the images as Level C, meaning they showed sexual activity between adults and children.

This is the man who, as deputy head of 10 Downing Street’s policy unit, had been working on policies that are allegedly intended to make it harder to find images of child abuse on the Internet.

He was arrested on February 13, only hours after resigning his position with the government. Coincidence?

Nothing was mentioned in the press at the time, but days later the Daily Mail started stirring up historical allegations against Labour’s Harriet Harman, Jack Dromey and Patricia Hewitt. Coincidence?

It seems suspicions were raised in the Labour Party, because shadow minister Jon Ashworth asked, in the public interest:

  • When were 10 Downing Street and David Cameron first made aware that Mr Rock may have been involved in an offence?
  • How much time passed until Mr Rock was questioned about the matter and the police alerted?
  • What contact have officials had with Mr Rock since his resignation?
  • What was Mr Rock’s level of security clearance?

And, most importantly:

  • Why were details of Mr Rock’s resignation not made public immediately?

Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood stonewalled: “Our … actions were driven by the overriding importance of not jeopardising either [the National Crime Agency’s] investigation or the possibility of a prosecution.”

He said: “We judged it was inappropriate to make an announcement while the NCA investigations were continuing.”

David Cameron has declined to comment on the latest development, saying it is a matter for the courts.

He’s changed his tune, hasn’t he?

When Andy Coulson was still facing charges in the phone hacking trial, Cameron couldn’t wait to get on television and make a statement, and never mind whether it was in contempt of court.

All in all, it seems we are facing yet another cover-up bid by this “most open government ever”.

Let us not forget that this happened in the same week that Iain Duncan Smith lost his legal appeal to keep problems with Universal Credit veiled in secrecy.

The DWP had insisted publication of the papers, warning of the dangers likely to be caused by Universal Credit, would have a “chilling effect” on the DWP’s working – a standard defence (see Andrew Lansley’s successful bid to prevent publication of the risk register, detailing problems with his calamitous Health and Social Care Act) that was thrown out by Judge Wikeley in a trice.

The DWP then argued that the order to publish was perverse – that the tribunal responsible had reached a decision which no reasonable tribunal would have reached. Judge Wikeley found that the challenge “does not get near clearing this high hurdle”.

Finally – and most desperately – the DWP tried to argue that the tribunal had not given due weight to the expertise of a DWP witness. Judge Wikeley had to point out that, by law, he cannot substitute his own view of the facts for that taken by the original tribunal.

The DWP was then sent away to consider whether to lodge another appeal.

That’s at least three attempts to hide facts from the public in a single week (it is arguable that Cameron spoke up about Coulson in order to cause a mistrial and prevent him from being convicted of two charges; he cannot say he was unaware of what he was doing, because he has already been rebuked by another judge, earlier this year, for commenting on the trial of Nigella Lawson’s former assistants. In addition, wasn’t it suspicious that Coulson’s defence team immediately leapt up to call for a mistrial ruling, based on the “maelstrom of commentary” Cameron stirred up?) from – as previously mentioned, this “most open government ever”.

There may be more that haven’t become public knowledge.

Does David Cameron really think the public will put their trust in him, with a record like that?

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Labour demands clarity over the Patrick Rock allegations

A Rock in a hard place: Patrick Rock, formerly a senior civil servant and policy advisor, who now faces allegations that he possessed indecent images of child abuse.

A Rock in a hard place: Patrick Rock, formerly a senior civil servant and policy advisor, who now faces allegations that he possessed indecent images of child abuse.

Credit where it’s due: Whatever you think of the Labour Party, its leaders deserve praise for asking the right questions about the Patrick Rock affair.

Mr Rock was arrested on February 13, suspected of possessing child abuse imagery – shortly after he resigned his position working on policies that we all thought were intended to make it harder to find such images on the Internet.

Details of his resignation and arrest were not released to the public, but the media sprang into action and in a matter of days, the Daily Mail ran a major story accusing three leading members of the Labour Party of sympathising with paedophile groups.

It was only after this story had run its course that the major news media made the public aware of Mr Rock’s arrest – and Vox Political was not the only blog that voiced suspicions about the sequence of events.

It seems somebody at Labour was paying attention. Shadow minister Jon Ashworth has asked, in the public interest:

  • When were 10 Downing Street and David Cameron first made aware that Mr Rock may have been involved in an offence?
  • How much time passed until Mr Rock was questioned about the matter and the police alerted?
  • What contact have officials had with Mr Rock since his resignation?
  • What was Mr Rock’s level of security clearance?

And, most importantly:

  • Why were details of Mr Rock’s resignation not made public immediately?

The last question should also refer to Mr Rock’s arrest – but it could be suggested that this is implicit as the details would include the reason for the resignation.

Mr Ashworth’s letter was sent to Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood. He is Britain’s top civil servant and not a Tory politician; as such he is duty-bound to provide answers that serve the interests of the nation, rather than the Conservative Party.

He’d better get it right, too – as this story unfolds and more information is revealed, we will be able to judge the validity of Mr Heywood’s response.

It would be unfortunate for his career if it became clear at a later time that he had tried to protect anybody. Closing ranks to look after your own people is a human response – but inappropriate at high levels of government.

When senior government advisors come under suspicion, it is right that everyone connected with them should be investigated as well.

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Child abuse imagery arrest raises questions about newspaper timing

Spot the difference: One of these has been harassed by a newspaper over alleged sympathy towards a child abuse group; the other has been arrested on suspicion of possessing images of such abuse. Can you tell which is which, or has the newspaper done a good job of muddling the issue?

Spot the difference: One of these has been harassed by a newspaper over alleged sympathy towards a child abuse group; the other has been arrested on suspicion of possessing images of such abuse. Can you tell which is which, or has the newspaper done a good job of muddling the issue?

Today’s (March 4) papers and Internet news sites will be full of the arrest of Patrick Rock, until recently an aide of David Cameron (and a former protege of Margaret Thatcher) on suspicion of possessing child abuse imagery.

The BBC News article is one of a deluge covering the story of the 62-year-old former deputy head of 10 Downing Street’s policy unit – who had been working on policies that are allegedly intended to make it harder to find images of child abuse on the Internet.

The arrest took place on February 13, a few hours after Mr Rock resigned his position with the government.

Nothing was mentioned in the press at the time – but isn’t it interesting that the Daily Mail started stirring up old allegations against Harriet Harman, Jack Dromey and Patricia Hewitt – about the Paedophile Information Exchange’s involvement with the National Council for Civil Liberties, while they were members – only days later?

While it is important to stress that Mr Rock has not been found guilty of any crime and must therefore be considered innocent until such time as this happens, it is appropriate to ask whether the Tory-supporting Mail used the old story about Labour’s deputy leader and her colleagues to divert attention away from the arrest – which is a far more serious issue.

Comedy genius Rowan Atkinson used to do a sketch in which he would ask a sidekick, “What is the secret of great comedy?”

As the sidekick started to respond, “I don’t know, what is the s-“, Atkinson would interrupt: “Timing.” The premature punchline used to get a big laugh.

In contrast, the Daily Mail‘s timing isn’t funny at all.

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