All entries for February 2008
February 20, 2008
The Liberal Democrats’ Shadow Home Secretary, Chris Huhne, has condemned the government’s record on Civil Liberties in an interview with RaW News, accusing Labour of ‘riding roughshod’ over our basic rights, and saying that by panicking, the government were playing into the hands of terrorists who seek to destroy our ‘distinctive’ way of life. Mr Huhne was clearly relishing his new role on the Liberal Democrat Front Bench, following his defeat by the narrowest of margins to Nick Clegg in the party leadership election in December.
On the issue of detention without trial, he said Tony Blair and now Gordon Brown had gone ‘massively overboard.’ He quoted the example of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, saying that no matter what the level of threat from the IRA, detention without trial was not extended beyond two days. He said that he was ‘entirely against extending the twenty eight day limit’, adding that the case had not been made for extending the limit at all. He also stated that the Liberal Democrats would review the system, and did not rule out the possibility of calling for the limit to actually be reduced.
Mr Huhne said the government had gone ‘far too far’ in removing traditional checks and balances and moving away from habeas corpus, often seen as a cornerstone of the British legal system. He said one of the most infamous examples of this was the case of the elderly Walter Wolfgang who was arrested under anti-terrorism measures merely for heckling the platform during the then-Foreign Secretary Jack Straw’s speech to the Labour Party Conference, saying this highlighted the huge potential for abuse of these powers.
On ID Cards, Mr Huhne is perhaps even less convinced by the government’s argument. Asked if they would not be a small price to pay for defending national security, he replied ‘well, Spain has ID cards. It didn’t stop the Madrid bombing.’ He went on to argue that it is ‘not the role of a legislator merely to give in to a professional without seriously testing the argument.’
He also raised serious practical issues about the proposals, asking how we could be expected to trust the government to keep this confidential data safe, especially in the light of the recent missing data scandals. Mr Huhne said while you may be able to change your bank account number, ‘you can’t change your fingerprint.’
The Lib Dem Home Affairs Spokesman called on the government to ‘stop panicking’ and said they had got the balance between defending liberty and defending security ‘quite wrong’, but did welcome news that the government was taking some constructive steps, particularly the announcement that they would begin using intercept evidence. However that didn’t stop there being ‘alarming prospects’ for civil liberties, and Mr Huhne said he himself had used the phrase ‘sleepwalking into a surveillance society.’ Here he raised the particularly worrying issue of the abuse of the ‘Wilson Doctrine’ established in the 1960s to protect the privacy of constituents when talking to their MP. He said this showed that safeguards were simply not there to prevent the abuse of new technologies.
The Conservatives did not escape Mr Huhne’s wroth either, however, telling RaW that the Tories were ‘fair-weather friends’ of the government on issues of freedom, and adding that they were ‘all over the shop on ID cards.’ He paid tribute to liberal-minded Conservatives such as David Davis, but feared they were coming under fire from within their own party.
Chief Political Correspondent
The Union’s Communications Officer, James Gadsby-Peet, has launched a new campaign which he has styled ‘Sat_your_day’ in response to ever-growing criticism of Flirt, the current Saturday night event in the Students Union. Flirt is a brand that has been developed nationally by the NUS, but it has proved very unpopular with some sections of the Warwick student body. With the ‘Get Flirt Out of Warwick’ Facebook group now boasting over 900 members, Gadsby-Peet is offering students the chance to attend a meeting and offer ideas for the union event on Saturday of Week 8. If the event is a success, he sees no reason why this can not be rolled out to other events, meaning that perhaps Flirt may be on its way out of Warwick. Listen to what James Gadsby-Peet had to say when Political Correspondent Andrew O’Brien spoke to him earlier.
Chief Political Correspondent
February 18, 2008
Brian Deer, the Channel 4 journalist who produced a documentary criticising the reports which link between MMR vaccines to autism, has said he would release even more information this year against the reports.
Speaking to RaW News, Deer said that there was “a big bunch of stuff” he would “release to the world” against the report published by a medical team led by Dr. Andrew Wakefield more than 10 years ago.
Deer’s previous documentaries have led to Wakefield launching libel action against him, which was subsequently dropped later.
Deer called Wakefield’s action “the biggest mistake in his life.”
Speaking about the current state of journalism, he feels that competition has restricted the scope of stories which journalists could cover.
He thinks that journalists can no longer cover more general social issues such as poverty and homelessness.
“We are more caring about ourselves, and less caring about others,” says Deer, who thinks that people are no longer looking out for each other as they had in the past.
The journalist also looks fondly back at his days when he was an undergraduate philosophy student, from the time when he was the only student in the whole of what is now the Rootes Residences, to the time when he planned an attack with the student union president against the pro vice chancellor and had his degree award delayed.
He encourages students to get engaged with journalism, saying it is one of the most open industries in the market.Listen to the interview here:
Or, click here:
Please leave your comments below
The weekend from 15th to 18th February saw Warwick play host to the entirely student run 2008 Warwick Economics Summit – the largest academic conference of its kind in Europe. The Summit has been going strong for seven years since its inception in 2002. Attracting high profile speakers from the world of business and economics, such as John Kay (returning to the Summit after his first appearance in 2004) and Tim Harford, author of the ‘The Undercover Economist,’ and delegations of students across different universities and countries, the Summit aimed to provide a platform for the exchange and debate of economic ideas and the establishment of links across universities.
With the motto of “inspiring students to shape tomorrow’s world by engaging with today’s,” the Summit, opting for breadth rather than any single, overarching theme, addressed a myriad of issues, ranging from debates over the postulate of the rational utility-maximising agent, to immigration and globalisation. In addition to organising high-quality talks, the Summit also sought to enhance the social dimension through the Summit Dinner and Dance event.
The success of the event is attributable to the dedication and tremendous efforts of the 40-strong Summit team which has been working hard since May of last year. Attention will no doubt soon be turning towards the work for next year’s Summit.
Philippe Legrain, economist and author of Immigrants: Your Country Needs Them, has criticised the government’s points-based system for migrants seeking to enter Britain, accusing it of being “shameless populism.”
Speaking at the Warwick Economic Summit, he says that it was against New Labour’s core principle of equality of opportunity.
“They are denied the opportunity to better themselves,” said Legrain, “It is global apartheid.”
“It is easier to bring your foreign pet then your foreign girlfriend or boyfriend.”
He also criticised US immigrations policies to tighten up its Mexican border, saying that it is “driving people to die,” citing the high death rate of Mexican illegal immigrants trying to enter the US.
He called on governments around the world to remove immigration restrictions.
“Diversity is not something to be tolerated, but cherished.”
He says that migrants are not competing with natives for jobs because migrants tend to go for jobs in low value-added industries which could not be outsourced and unpopular with natives, such as elder care and transportation.
Legrain says that migrants bring big economic gains as they are more likely to be innovative because they have a different perspective.
Britain, he insists, was losing out by imposing immigration restrictions.
21 of Britain’s Nobel laureates were refugees, while half of America’s capitalists and co-founders are migrants, says Legrain.
He criticised migration sceptics of being hypocritical and “economically illiterate.”
He accused them of making “it for issues to be discussed rationally” by laying out “seemingly rational arguments.”
Perhaps one of the most anticipated of the talks was that given by Tim Harford, famous for his book, ‘The Undercover Economist’ (2006) in which he examines the economic ideas behind everyday situations in the world. At this year’s Warwick Economics Summit, Tim Harford launched his new book, ‘The Logic of Life’ in which he argues that, in spite of the seemingly irrational behaviour we often see, we are in fact considerably rational.
By drawing on basic rational choice theory and ideas from his book, Harford constructed engaging, compelling and oftentimes humorous narratives and anecdotes to elucidate the rationality and logic behind common but puzzling phenomena. From speed-dating, smokers and drug-addicts to the decision to engage in crime and almost everything in between, Harford delivered a lively and fascinating presentation. His audience was well engaged and, to the delight of enthusiasts, he was also present after the talk to sign copies of his new book, ‘The Logic of Life.’
Stephen King, the chief economist of the HSBC Group, has said central banks of rapidly emerging economies have a part to play in the recent sub-prime crisis around the world.
In his talk, King said that globalisation has a crucial role in the crisis.
He says that those central banks were keen on buying government bonds from developed countries as they were eager to attach their economies with the economic framework of those developed economies.
This has increased foreign reserves in these emerging economies, which are used to invest in government bonds in the US and Euro area, which lowers the returns for such bonds.
Other funds, such as pension funds, are driven to invest in riskier funds with higher returns, such as sub-prime mortgages.
He warns that there could be “a complete collapse of trust within the financial market” as there is not enough liquidity to substitute all such funds.
“Up until December, it is possible to feel relaxed about the UK,” said King.
“There was one redeeming feature: The UK did not have a large balance of payment current account deficit.”
However, recent revisions by the Bank of England have shown that UK is facing its largest current account deficits since the “Lawson Boom” in the late 1980s.
King warned that the UK did not have the safety nets established in the US, and there was limited rule on the fiscal side due to the government’s Golden Rule, saying that the only ways to solve the problem was to quickly reduce interest rates and engineer a fall of the sterling.
He also highlighted that globalisation was not guaranteed, pointing out to the many examples where globalisation has reversed after the First World War.
“Regardless of the economics of globalisation, politics is crucial as well.”
He emphasised the role on how China accelerated globalisation, saying that China’s economic reforms and the fall of the Berlin Wall “rocked the competitive equilibrium that used to exist in the political equilibrium.”
He also warned that even though globalisation did bring greater equality between nations, inequality might arise within nations, as shown in China and the US, which might offset the benefits of globalisation.
What do you make of the Economics Summit? Is it a good idea? Did you attend it? Leave your comments below:
February 16, 2008
Go Green Week begins next week, so RaW News decided to find out what is going to happen and what the University and Union are doing with regard to environment policy.
RaW News has been speaking with the University’s Environment Officer – Nick Hillard, Go Green Week’s Coordinator- Hannah Smith, and Tom Callow who is Finance Officer at the Union.
Nick Hillard promised that there was going to be some ‘exciting news’ with regard to recycling in the coming months. Whilst being slightly evasive over the issue of recycling in halls, it seems that it might well be introduced in the near future, and he said it was part of the University’s sustainability matrix. When we asked him, he said ‘Yes, indeed’ to whether there would in-hall recycling, but he wouldn’t be drawn on a date. However, he added that Warwick Accommodation had to incorporate sustainability into their aims and told people to ‘watch this space’. It wasn’t a question of cost but a question of behavioural change, he said.
Mr Hillard said that the University had saved 763 tonnes of Carbon Dioxide this year against the target of 800 tonnes as part of the carbon management scheme. The Environmental policy of the University apparently contains targets that exceed the commitments of national legislation. As for the University’s expansion, he didn’t believe that the aiming for carbon neutral buildings was right and that it was instead ‘greenwash’. Instead all buildings will be ‘BREEAM excellent’.
Nick Hillard also said that the University was providing funds for Go Green Week’s Publicity, and was ‘delighted’ that they were able to assist. He hoped that the University would meet its environmental targets and said that he was there to ensure that it happens.
To see the University’s Environment targets, click here.
To see the Environment policy, click here.
The Union said that they had managed to secure some furniture for Go Green Week.
The University’s policy and achievements seems to be quite clear, however for the Union the water is much muggier. As the Union is a part of the University (though separate politically speaking in the words of Tom Callow), the Union finds it hard to separate the achievements that it has made. The Union’s Environment Policy (674) has only just come into force last term after been changed by the Finance, Democracy and Governance Officer, Tom Callow and Environment Officer Asen Geshakov. The Policy outlines hard lobbying on the University and NUSSL to help find more environmental friendly methods as well as mandating the Union itself to make its actions as green as possible.
However in the discussion hosted by RaW News, the Finance Officer was unable to come forward with any hard figures on the actual achievements of the Union in terms of its green objectives. The Union’s Executive will soon be presented with a report from the Finance and Communications Officer which shall give an update on the progress (or lack there of) that has been made towards the targets set out by Policy 674.
There is the hint of tension as well with the Environment Officer allegedly stating that he was ‘unhappy’ with the funds that had been given to him to do his job. Mr. Callow did not agree however and said that there was a difference between the funding allotted to campaigning for the environment and money allotted to making the Union greene
To see the Union’s policy, click here.You can listen to the feature here. We begin by previewing what’s happening in Go Green Week and then tackling Nick Hillard and Tom Callow:
Head of News
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February 12, 2008
In light of the government’s proposals to extend detention without trial for terrorist suspects to 42 days, the recent revelations of the bugging of Labour MP Sadiq Khan, and the ongoing controversy over ID cards and a biometric database, RaW News has been addressing the issue of the “surveillance society” and the ubiquitous dichotomy between liberty and security we face.
In the same vein of last week’s discussion on civil liberties with interviews with Conservative and Lib Dem Shadow Home Secretaries, David Davis and Chris Huhne, I interviewed Dominic Grieve, Conservative MP and Shadow Attorney General, on the issue.
Dominic Grieve spoke clearly and elegantly on the issues of 42 day detention and ID cards, advancing an argument based chiefly on pragmatism rather than an ideological regard for civil liberties.
Sceptical of the efficacy of such procedures as extending detention without charge, but aware of the need to restrict some liberty in exchange for security, he called upon the existing powers and civil law, like the Civil Contingencies Act, to be used more effectively; he went on to criticise proposals for 42 days as an “act of administrative discretion.”
Grieve, who has been his party’s spokesman on community cohesion, highlighted the need to use also persuasion to prevent people becoming sympathetic to terrorism, and in such a “values battle”, he stated firmly that “the last thing you should do is to bin your own values.”
On the issue of ID Cards and a national database he again offered criticism based on a pragmatic outlook, but also underlined anxieties he had over the implications that the “surveillance society” would have on the liberty and fulfilment of future generations.
February 10, 2008
“Tommo” Stuart Thomson is your next student President. With 1712 votes, he managed to beat all his other contenders in round one of the elections. Tommo managed to trounce Peter Ptashko’s “Nuts about Students” campaign with high profile publicity in places ranging from posters in buses to signs on roads. As a result, Ptashko, who’s this year’s current Union Education Officer ended up with just over half the votes Tommo received – 972. The other contenders, James Berragan – “The Right ‘Direction” and Phillip Woolley were much further behind with 290 and 267 votes respectively. Although an exit poll carried out by RaW indicated that Tommo was going to comfortably win, the size of his margin was not expected. In fact, he managed to poll more votes than the other three candidates put together, testament to a vigorous campaign. In the interview with RaW after his win, he said that that the campaign had been draining and he defended his election literature on the need to publicise himself.
However, Tommo who is this year’s President of Warwicksnow, was not joined by his two friends and fellow society members Nick Swain and James Marvin. Nick Swain had stood for Welfare Officer and had campaigned in his banana costume but this is believed to have caused a backlash amongst students, who decided to award Steph Jones the position instead, albeit after stage three of the single transferable voting procedure. As for James Marvin, his broken jaw that can’t have helped him in his quest to be Communications Officer was eventually beaten by his sole contender Mike Pidgeon, despite his entertaining silent campaign video. Pidgeon, who decided to feature a bird in his campaign managed to pull through with 26% more of the vote than Marvin.
There were other upsets in the night as well. It was widely believed that Zaw Erskine would win the post of Education Officer, but he was beaten by the Joe Kirby admirer but perhaps more substance over style driven Mohammed Surve – “Here to Surve”. RaW was told earlier in the evening that Surve was ready to concede defeat before the announcement. As it turned out, after polling 1257 votes against Zaw’s 857 in the first round, it wasn’t until stage 4 when Surve was finally declared winner with a margin of 456. Whilst Peter Thomas, who was one of the other candidates might be only mildly disappointed for taking fourth place, Ty Hayes, who stood for President last year, did not manage to improve on his performance, and must be devastated when he just about took third place in round one with 368 votes, miles behind the two frontrunners. In the financial world, Andy Glyde comfortably beat Ross Palmer to the Governance Finance Officer position. Glyde, having been this year’s Chairman of Union Council might be the needed continuity on next year’s Sabbatical team.
The post of Societies Officer was won by Lucy Reynolds, who bizarrely had come third place in the first round behind Dave Hodge and Matt Polson, but then went on to win after taking voters’ latter preferences. Finally pulling through in stage six, the girl who wants to ‘Change your socs’ has become next year’s officer who wasn’t particularly popular, but wasn’t divisive either. As for next year’s Sports Officer, Terry Marshall can content himself in a more emphatic first round win, although he wasn’t declared winner until stage five. It seems that students were willing to trust Marshall with their ‘balls’ as he requested in the Union Officer position with the most contenders.
Despite pledges by some of the candidates to get rid of Flirt, the atmosphere in the Union built up on Saturday’s election night. With the dress code for the Elections party Black tie, and RaW’s comperes Elections group on stage in the marketplace to present the results, there was a real attempt to bring some glamour to Union democracy – a real contrast to the Union AGM, when around 70 people turned up. Indeed, Tom Callow and the Elections Group can be pleased with the fact that they managed to increase turnout this year by 16%. However, this is still in contrast to the days of Union democracy when the Shadow Home Secretary David Davis was here. He said that 1,000 out of the small population of 1,800 students would vote compared to 3,000 out of 20,000.
There has been some controversy during the campaigns, with the University supposedly displeased by Tommo’s road signs telling people to vote for him (amongst his other slogans where he indicated he wanted to ‘crush some nuts’ and wanted ‘to make a good thing great’). What’s more, it has been rumoured that some of the candidates were close to being disqualified for breaking Union election rules – some were close to the £20 fine limit.
As for coverage of the election, student media was at hand to report the results live. RaW was played in the Union with live video feed until 10.30pm when the Flirt DJ took over. People were able to text in with their comments and watch the coverage on the Sports screen in Cholo. WTV also had a setup in Rococcos with a television screen both organisations had web streaming on their websites.
All eyes will now move to next year’s Sabbatical team, but with Joe Kirby and his crew still only half way through their tenure, they won’t be in control for a long time yet. Whilst there were some unexpected outcomes on the night, all the candidates can console themselves with the fact that nobody was beaten by their good friend R.O.N.
Head of News
Click HERE for the RESULTS Please note that they are provisional.
Please leave your comments below. What were you doing on the night? Were you a candidate – should you have won? What do you think of union democracy?
February 07, 2008
After the recent revelations regarding the forbidden bugging of Labour MP Sadiq Khan, and the government’s push to raise the terrorist detention limit to 42 days, RaW news has been speaking to the Conservative and Lib Dem Shadow Home Secretaries to tell us why they believe that raising the limit above 28 days is wrong, and why they opposed ID cards. We have also been looking at the reasons behind the government’s attempt to infringe on civil liberties for needs of security.
The government has been under pressure from the police to raise the time in which terrorist suspects can be detained without charge, which has slowly risen from 3 days, to 14 days, and now to 28 days. At the end of the Tony Blair’s premiership, the government tried to push through 90 days, but this led to Labour’s first Commons defeat. As a result, they have now reduced their demands and in the new Counter Terrorism bill, they low want 42 days after they bargained down from an earlier position of 56 – this has led to accusations of indecisiveness,… and confusion. However, the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said to her defence, “We have listened to the concerns of community groups and others and the proposals brought forward today aim to strike the right balance between the need to protect human rights and ensuring police have the powers they need, when they need them, to tackle terrorism.” Yet, this still has little impact on the views of the suspected 38 Labour rebels, who will be able to bring about another government defeat if they combine forces with the opposition.
The police have argued that they need these extra powers so that they can collect more evidence in order to prosecute terrorist suspects. It will then supposedly enable them to prevent more terrorist attacks. However, the opposition and a some parliamentary committees have argued that they
can already use the Civil Contingencies Act to detain suspects in exceptional circumstances.
As for ID cards, the main legislation to make them compulsory has been passed, but it will need further government action for introduce them for all citizens in 2012. From 2010, if you need to renew your passport, you will have to get an ID card at the same time which will contain biometric data. With the recent disk fiasco when details of 25 million people were lost by a government department, support for ID cards has dropped from 80% of the population to about 48%. The government has said that they still want to introduce them, but according to a Home Office Minister, it will be unlikely that we will need to carry one for another several years – perhaps another move away from Blair’s legacy which Gordon Brown may be hoping to dismantle, or an attempt to remove the largest dividing line between Labour and the Opposition parties.
The issue of ID cards and detention without trial is on of Liberty vs. Security. There is in fact a group run by Shami Chakrabati called Liberty, which campaigns to protect basic rights and freedoms through the courts, in Parliament and in the wider community. It does this through a combination of public campaigning, test case litigation, parliamentary lobbying, and policy analysis. They are the lobby group which has been most vocal on the side of the opposition. The government, on the other hand have been supported by the police, most prominently the Met. Commissioner Sir Ian Blair.
This week,we went to London to speak exclusively with David Davis MP, the Conservative Shadow Home Secretary, and former Warwick student, to hear his views on the recent events. We interviewed him in his office adorned with pictures of the Liberal Prime Minister William Gladstone, something which was a bit of a shock considering that he is always painted as a great right winger. He said that students should be more worried about their civil liberties in the future, rather than the terrorist threat.
Listen to the edited down interview here:
You can listen to the full interview here (includes a question about whether he believed he was a liberal and his view on MP – Constituent confidentiality):
Before interviewing David Davis, we spoke to Chris Huhne, the Lib Dem Shadow Home Secretary to hear his views on the matter. Like David Davis, he came second in his party’s leadership battle and has ended up shadowing Jacqui Smith. Interestingly, Chris Huhne said that he adrmired David Davis’ liberal traits, whilst David Davis said at the end of the interview that he quite liked Chris Huhne too. He was concerned that Britain was sleepwalking into a surveillance society.
We tried to speak with the government but they did not have anyone available.
You can also listen to our exclusive interviews with Dominic Grieve MP, the Education Officer at the National Theatre, and Ed Vaizey MP next Friday on RaW News Insight at 5pm. Please leave your comments below.
Head of News
February 05, 2008
With polls about to open for this year’s Sabbatical Officer elections, RaW News’ Scott Dobson and Andrew O’Brien hosted a discussion with the six candidates for the position of Societies Officer. Warwick RAG Exec members Lucy Reynolds and Dave Hodge, One World Week and Go Green Co-ordiantor Alex Fowles, the Warwick Conservatives’ Thomas Wales, Hisotry Society President Matt Polson and Warwick Tap President Ian McDonnell answered questions on various topics including finance, boosting membership and the environment. Listen to the discussion and have your say on the people who want to run your union next year.
Monday saw the Presidential Hustings take place in the Marketplace in the Student’s Union. Stuart Thomson, Peter Ptashko, James Berragan and Philip Woolley all got the chance to speak to students about the issues that were facing them. In a wide ranging set of speeches, the break down of the candidates seemed to be steady as it goes with Peter Ptashko, a listening president with ‘Tommo’, direct policy and lobbying from James Berragan and slaying mythical postgraduates with Phillip Woolley.
Peter’s campaign at the hustings made much of his experience; being a sabbatical officer for a year he believes means that he has a better understanding of how to achieve a better student’s union for all. He is focusing heavily on the idea of student debt but has been forced to distance himself from previous student presidents who also ran on lobbying student loans companies.
Stuart Thomson campaigned seems to recall the campaign made by Joe Kirby, the current Student President. Using phrases such as ‘listening to students’ and ‘getting people involved’, Stuart draws on both his experience through Warwick Snow as well as his freshness in terms of a lack of a union politics background, his candidacy seems to be very much entrenched upon popularist anti-establishment credentials.
James Berragan has been focusing on the practicality of the policies that he has put forward such as the corporate recycling scheme while also distancing himself from the current establishment at the Student’s Union. The use of ‘full blooded conservative ideas’ in his manifesto seems to be the ideological aim of his campaign and based upon the idea of getting business involved in helping students rather then seemingly opposing them.
Philip Woolley’s imaginative campaign was further backed up by a rather popular performance at the hustings which due many laughs. By being clear and frank on most of the questions that were asked of him he contrasted the rather seemingly long winded replies of the other Presidential Candidates whether or not this will secure him any votes we have yet to see.
With campaign reaching the final few days and the candidates desperately rushing around to try and attract the interest of first years in their halls by touring kitchens, this was a vital chance for Presidential Candidates to get out to a wider audience of students. Though it would be impossible to pick out a star performer each made sure to play on the individual ‘strengths’ of their campaigns. However one can only speculate the amount of votes that have been one or lost at this event and by who…