Who knew that politics could be so much fun!!

I am having so much fun ‘debating’ on Twitter in the run up to our General Election next Thursday! Who could have guessed that I felt so strongly about things political! I think I’m holding my own, discussing the electoral presence of the Scottish and Welsh nationalist parties with people who have quite opposite ideas to my own.

I may even be quite disappointed once the election is over – arguing politics is a great diversion for my brain from thinking depressed thoughts, I’ve found!

For a giggle…

I’ve just found this website with a little help from my mother, Granny Anne. It’s a tribute website to all the fabulous altered Conservative campaign posters which have been created since the Tories unveiled their airbrushed David Cameron poster a few weeks ago.

I was crying with laughter at it – there are some very witty anti-Conservatives out there!

And just for fun, a couple of my favourites from the site;

MyDavidCameron.com | They forgot to lock the cell.

MyDavidCameron.com | Some of my best friends are poor.

MyDavidCameron.com | My chums from school….

And if you want to create your own, there’s a really easy way to do one over at Andybarefoot.com.

And THIS is what Britain wants to see in government? Really??

So, apparently the Tories are all set for a landslide victory in the next general election. Both Mori and Yougov, as well as many of the newspapers are predicting a huge turnaround in the political identities of bums on seats at Westminster. I feel very unsettled at the thought of¬†a Conservative government. I have absolutely no faith in any of the potential Conservative ministers, and certainly no confidence in Mr Cameron’s abilities¬†as a leader who could see us through turbulent economic times, not to mention the various conflicts around the world in which we are entangled. Andrew Rawnsley in¬†The Observer today¬†reports that one of Mr Cameron’s fellow shadow cabinet ministers even describes him “as a leader obsessed with “the getting there rather than the being there”.”

I don’t generally write political opinions here. I usually keep my posts about family anecdotes or other more ‘local’ matters. But an article on the BBC news website today has inflamed me to such an extent that I felt the need to write my thoughts down here. Perhaps it will purge some of my ill-feeling towards the ‘centre right’.

Because, according to the BBC, a centre-right think tank posits that we should pay ¬£20 each time we visit our doctor, in an effort to reduce the number of timewasters who clog up surgery appointment schedules. But this WON’T reduce the amount of timewasters to any large degree, it will only¬†discourage the people who can’t afford to¬†pay ¬£20. I believe that it could be dangerous, as it would inevitably increase the amount of self-diagnosis and self-treatment. And also, think of the number of people who could have major illnesses missed as a result of failing to take more minor niggles (which could be danger signs) to their GP. I know I would certainly have hesitated more before going to my GP if I’d been asked to pay for her opinion, and I’ve been referred to hospital for further investigation into illnesses twice in the last eighteen months (luckily both times the problems turned out to be relatively minor and are now all better, in case you were worried!) as well as another issue which involved me being asked by my GP to return for several further consultations with her.

Now, I feel guilty enough about taking up my GP’s time, without the added guilt of spending this money which would be (in my mind) more usefully spent elsewhere within my family.

And the political spectrum from which this think tank originates is precisely the same part of the field from whence will come a Conservative government. Do you see where I’m coming from, now? How many more stupid and dengerous ideas like this would we be subjected to under Tory control? How many more would actually be made into policy? At the moment, the current (Labour) government rejects this idea as against the fundamental principles of the National Health Service. And it is. It was set up to provide healthcare to ALL, regardless of whether one could afford it or not.

And yes, I did notice that the fee wouldn’t apply to children or those on tax credits, but what about those who just miss out on tax credits (as we do) but still would have to take pause before paying out ¬£20?

You shouldn’t have to think twice before visiting your doctor if you have a concern about your health. And yes, maybe a free healthcare system does encourage a small minority of people who waste time and resources, but that is the price you pay for universal healthcare. We have managed to abolish prescription charges in Wales, with Northern Ireland and Scotland following suit soon, so why introduce a penalty in another place? We have been the envy of the world in the past for our all-encompassing and available to all health service. Why would we want to take steps away from that by reversing the trend of progress?

David Cameron’s son passes away

Now, as much as I disagree with the man’s politics, the sadness that every parent will share with him swept over me when I read of the death of Mr Cameron’s eldest son, Ivan, this morning. He had been ill since birth, suffering with cerebral palsy and severe epilepsy.

I have nothing but great sympathy for the family at this, the hardest of times, and offer my condolences.

I hope that the media will respect their request for time alone to grieve and come to terms with their loss. We, the public, do not need to see them in the midst of their grief, and would have more respect for the press if they left the Camerons alone.

Gordon Brown is in his element

Isn’t Gordon Brown looking more comfortable recently? With the current¬†financial (I don’t want to use the word ‘crisis’) situation, I think he is more in his comfort zone, as he was for such a long time Chancellor of the Exchequer to such good effect.

I have felt quite sorry for him since he took office as Prime Minister as it has seemed as if he has been the target of malicious actions such as¬†personal information being lost all of a sudden by government organisations, this and other government misdemeanours apparently showing him to be inadequate as Prime Minister. He has faced considerable criticism from his own party, let alone the opposition and yet he was unopposed in the Labour leader contest (not that you could, as such, call it a contest). Whatever happened to loyalty, and standing by your leader and your party? Don’t these people realise that they are damaging the Labour party far more by all this division than Gordon Brown could ever hope to manage on his own?

But in recent days, Mr Brown has really come into his own. He has led the way in Europe and America with the rescue package that he and his Chancellor, Alistair Darling, have set out, and seems to grow in confidence every time he is seen. I hope for his sake that this is not just a temporary thing, and that the country will stand behind him in the trying months to come.

In America the New York Times says “he is being celebrated worldwide” while the Washington Post describes him as having “emerged from the global financial crisis as a leader whose ideas are influencing policy from Europe to Washington…Brown’s standing with his European peers was in evidence Sunday in Paris, where he was invited to attend an emergency summit of leaders of the 15 countries that use the Euro as their currency. European officials said Brown’s presence added to the sense of unity and authority at the meeting”. In Australia, the Sydney Morning Herald¬†states that “Gordon Brown has won praise at home and abroad for taking a lead in tackling the global financial crisis, reversing his image from doomed ditherer to would-be saviour in weeks”.

Now, I’m not claiming that he’s perfect, and neither am I claiming to be a political expert. But from where I am sitting, I cannot for the life of me see who our alternatives to Mr Brown as Prime Minister could be. I can’t think of any Labour heavyweights who would be up to the job right now. And as for a resurgence of the Conservative party; can no-one remember the 1980s? Even if the Tory party is different now than it was then, I have absolutely no confidence in David Cameron as the leader of our country. And I’m afraid that the Lib Dems are too small a party, even if Vince Cable has had some good ideas recently, to be able to turn it around and govern any time soon. As far as I can see, they missed their chance when the Conservatives were at their lowest ebb a couple of years back. It was then that they could have conceivably leapfrogged their way into becoming the second largest political party.

In my constituency it is a clear fight between Labour and the Tories, so I intend to keep voting Labour for the foreseeable future. A vote for anyone other than them would in effect be a vote for the Tories, which is the last thing I want (other than the BNP, anyway!). I am both anticipating and dreading the next general election, which has to happen sometime in the next twenty months. I am interested to see whether the Tories really have managed to garner as much voter support as is claimed, or whether it is just an interim dissatisfaction with recent Labour policy which will not be strong enough to sway the voters. Either way I think that turnout will be low, as the distinguishing lines between the main parties seem to become ever more blurred.

Councils investing in foreign banks

I am obviously totally naive. I assumed that our council tax was going towards improving the areas in which we live, not being invested in offshore accounts. The news today about the number of councils who have invested in Icelandic banks is especially annoying given the repeated increases in council tax which we have had no choice but to pay each year.

Put it this way; in Ceredigion (where I used to live) the council has invested ¬£5.5 million in Icelandic banks. There are approximately 77,800 residents in Ceredigion with over 30,000 households eligible to pay council tax (according to the Ceredigion County Council Website). Lets say for a moment that there are 32,000 households paying council tax in Ceredigion at the moment. That means that for each household in Ceredigion eligible to pay council tax, the council have invested just short of ¬£171.88 each in an Icelandic bank. And on their website they say that “The County Council has, however, spread its investments in accord with best practice and that sum merely represents the exposure within Icelandic banks“. Well excuse me, but how much do they have invested elsewhere? I am aware that the councils must needs have reserves and can’t be running the fund down to zero every month, but in this investment alone they have two months worth of council tax payments squirrelled away, and by implication this is only one in a series of investments.

Cardiff Council have not, apparently, got any money in Icelandic banks, but who is to say where our council tax is being hoarded while we are facing increases in their fiscal demands year on year? I have found an article on the Cardiff County Council website desccribing why our council tax is rising (a lot of our business rates are taken to pay for the rest of Wales; we are the third lowest government funded authority in the country etc etc) but I can’t seem to find anything describing where the ‘surplus’ or ‘excess’ is hoarded, and to what purpose.

Answers on a postcard please, to the usual address.

A sense of dej√° vu in the US election?

I thought something was familiar about this year’s race for the White House. I thought that fiction was supposed to mimic real life, not the other way round!¬†Fiction has in fact become real life, as the final season of the West Wing is being replayed for real in the USA this autumn! I just hope that the season finale is replayed next January at the inauguration of the new US president.

Husband pointed out an article on the BBC News Magazine website which highlights the similarities between the Obama-McCain race and the Santos-Vinick election in season 7 of the West Wing. It’s amazing how many similarities there are, even given that the Matthew Santos character appears to have been based on Barack Obama.

Have a read, especially if you are a West Wing fan.