Saturday, 28 August 2010

Thoughts of the Week…

Just an opportunity to brain-dump my thoughts on a few of the week’s events:

The Persecution of Mary Bale: the woman who was filmed stroking a cat and then putting it in a wheelie-bin in a Coventry street rapidly become Britain’s most-hated person thanks to the wonders of CCTV and the media.

Now, don’t get me wrong – what she did was inexcusable and only she can explain why she did it. The cat survived – fortunately. None of that is terribly edifying but far worse was the “mob justice” of the written and broadcast media who tracked Mary down, besieged her in her home and hounded her and her innocent mother as they tried to go out and get on with their lives.

I don’t think anyone, especially the media, comes out of this with any credit. What gives the media the right to be judge and jury ? Trial by CCTV or YouTube reveals only what little power the individual has in modern society when a video can be seen by thousands in minutes and a website can accuse and condemn in the same way.

Free speech is used by both Right and Left as a totem around which they can hang their views, however distasteful but in a mature society free speech has to be responsible as well as responsive.

The Coalition and Cuts: a report by an independent think-tank claiming George Osborne’s Budget plans would hit the poorest hardest was seized on especially by Labour and other left-minded activists as a stick with which to beat the Coalition and especially the Liberal Democrats.

As a liberal, I’m loath to see any Government policy victimise those least able to cope. There is at times a mood akin to throwing the baby out with the bathwater on the Right when it comes to welfare and benefits.

That said, abuse of benefits has to be stamped out but the deserving and justifiably entitled also need protecting and getting the balance right is vital. The Lib Dem policy of raising personal allowances to take people out of tax is a huge positive but would be undermined by indiscriminate benefit cuts. The VAT rise doesn’t help either and it’s to be hoped that the Coalition will be able one day to reduce VAT levels.

Tube Strikes: Along with most Londoners, Mrs Stodge and I use the Tube regularly and when it works, it’s tolerable but along with signal failures and weekend engineering works, we also face the regular problem of Bob Crow and the RMT threatening strike action.

The current dispute over ticket office staff has escalated to a likely strike on September 6th. Now, I support the right to strike and making sure stations are adequately staffed especially at night is important but I despair of the constant resort to strike action from the RMT.

It does take two to tango, however, and the intransigence and public posturing of London Underground does no one any favours. Both sides claim they want to provide a better Underground service but we need a little less heat and a little more light.

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