All 15 entries tagged Politics

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May 24, 2006

Justifying violent crime?

With the current murmerings about the rights of criminals being overplayed and victims being put at extra risk a story in this morning's Metro seemed particularly apt.

Jonathan Wright was assaulted by Michael Donohoe and hit over the dead with a nail–studded post, leaving him with a three–inch gash over his ear. However, when he applied to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority for compensation he was turned down because he swore at his assailant. Quoting from the letter of refusal…

Your conduct, in being verbally abusive towards the assailant, was an important factor in the incident.

April 21, 2006

The job of the monarch

Of course today is the Queen's 80th birthday, and I wish her a very happy one. On the Today programme this morning a debate was had about the accession of Prince Charles to the throne. It was pointed out that whilst we knew very little about the Queen's personal opinions when she was crowned, in contrast we know much about Charles's, sometimes controversial, views. Indeed, we still know very little about the Queen's affiliations and opinions: she has successfully maintained a very neutral stance.

Should a monarch, bearing in mind that they have very little political sway, actively air political or other important views? Is it in their interest not to? Has our current Queen's neutrality contributed significantly to her popularity? And the much-reiterated question… what role does the monarchy really serve bearing in mind their limited power to do anything?


March 13, 2006

The penal system

I read in this morning's paper that jail terms for rape could be shortened and that in some cases those guilty of domestic violence may walk free if they promise to reform, as recommended by the independent Sentencing Guidelines Council.

The reason given for this action is that prison is apparently 'more demanding' now than it has been in the past.

This prompted me to think about another article I read, maybe last week, about the facilities in which prisoners live. This article stated that the exercise facilities provided by many prisons are better than public facilities in local towns. It was also asserted that, in many cases, more money is spent food for prisoners than on food for school children.

Now, I have to admit that I am torn on this issue. The argument in favour of good facilities and educational services in prisons is, of course, that if prisoners improve their education and fitness whilst in the inside and learn to occupy their time productively, they are more likely to have changed lives when they leave and thus less likely to reoffend. This may be true for some, but how large a proportion fall through this net? One of the prisons mentioned in the earlier article had full sports facilities, but they were only used by 10% of the inmates. In some cases the conditions inside may well be far better to those a prisoner is used to when free. Has the change in prison environment taken the punishment out of the penal system?


March 07, 2006

Banking as a human right

There was a discussion on Radio 4, I think yesterday morning, which concerned banking and the 'essential' commodity of a current bank account.

One of the guests was arguing that the possession of a bank account was a human right, as life without one in this day and age is incredibly difficult. He said that he thought banks should not be allowed to refuse potential customers.

Now, I can understand the sentiment, but banks are ultimately profit-making organisations, and any other business would not be forced to do something they felt would be financially dubious, even if it were disadvantageous to a potential customer.

Also worth considering is that, for most of our other 'essential services', public organisations exist to cater for our needs: the NHS to provide healthcare, the police to enforce the law, state schools for education. Why not for banking?

So…

  • Should banks retain the ability to reject a person's custom if they want?

  • Is banking a human right?

  • If it is, but if we unhold the rights of the banks to reject customers, how do we resolve the problem?

February 14, 2006

The widening roles of teachers

I recently read that, under new laws, teachers will be permitted to punish pupils for behaving badly outside school and on public transport: another fantastic idea from Blair's 'respect' reforms. At the same time, the Government are proposing to introduce new £50 fines for parents if they fail to take responsibility for the bad behaviour of their children.

Now, let me explain why I think this is all a bit silly:

  • Blair is trying to compensate for a lack of parental responsibility by using teachers, who already have enough on their plates these days, to control children outside school. My Mum frequently bumps in to her school kids on a Saturday afternoon in the town centre. Is she supposed to discipline them on her day off when they should be under the control of their parents?

  • On the one hand the government are giving teachers the responsibilities of parents, and on the other they are fining parents for not taking responsibility: surely this is a complete contradiction, because you are both reinforcing their role and undermining it. Already too many parents refuse to accept that their children's behaviour might be a result of their upbringing, and I feel that this will just compound the situation.

  • This is a perfect example of the Blairite attitude towards education: let's treat the symptoms and not the root cause. Many of the problems that arise in schools these days are a direct result of lack of parental discipline. If a child is not taught to respect their family, there is no way a teacher is going to be able to instil it into them. If a child is not taught the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic in their early years, it is so much more difficult to get them to catch up. The National Curriculum does a disservice to so many children, and many don't have enough positive parental guidance to support them in learning to be able to learn. I'm not saying that there's an easy way to change this, but I don't think getting teachers to replace parents is the way forward.

January 18, 2006

Prostitution…

I read in the Metro today that the government is planning to change the sex laws so that up-to-three-person 'mini brothels' become legal, where currently it is only legal for individual prostitutes to practice in a single property.

Now, I really am torn on this issue. I do not condone prostitution at all. In a perfect scenario it would be great to get rid of it completely. Anything that leads to the increase of prostitution, which this change in the law may do, is not desirable.

However, we have to be realistic: eradicating prostitution completely will never happen. In this case the converse argument is extremely valid: in these small brothels prostitutes may well be protected by safety in numbers and thus live in better conditions.

Any thoughts?


December 16, 2005

Political question

Apologies for the return of the recurring subject, but I rediscovered something I wrote down several weeks ago which is too interesting to ignore.

In a Radio 2 interview:

"The greatest political power in the world is religion"

Discuss…


November 24, 2005

The scientific approach to politics

As I'm sure everyone is aware, the new licensing laws came in to action at midnight last night. This has enabled many establishments to serve alcohol for longer, and some around the clock. Many people are extremely concerned about the effect this will have on binge-drinking, crime and general antisocial behaviour.

However, at the same time the government have decided to get the police to target alcohol-fuelled offences. Why have they done this, I hear you ask? So they can cover their backs and palm off any increase in drink-related crime on the increased policing, instead of admitting that it might have something to do with the new, extended, licensing. Genius!

So if I had any influence I would call for a truly scientific approach to the introduction of new laws. In the lab we introduce changes one at a time and repeat the experiment under the same conditions, observing the changes that occur. This is the only way you can truly identify the source of a problem. The only way we could tell if these new licensing laws were improving matters would be to, as far as possible, keep all the other variables the same. But governments can't be seen to be wrong about these things, so they must manipulate each situation so that it seems that they're right.

Grrr!


November 21, 2005

The death penalty

Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4453848.stm

Hmmm, a lot of things in the news have been annoying me in the past few days…

Why is taking the life of a police officer worse than that of any other human being? Saying this implies that a police officer's life is more important than that of any other. Could it not be viewed as more terrible to take the life of a child? By choosing to work in the emergency services police officers must be accepting that they will put themselves in more danger than your average person during a day at the office. Not to say that taking a bullet is part of the job, but risk is, presumably, expected.

Surely the death penalty is either right or wrong and should be applied to all murderers or none at all? Why is there one rule for one murderer and another for another? Who's to say that this murderer was any more evil than, say, a serial killer whose attacks were all premeditated and meticulously planned?

The ex-Met Police chief quoted in the above article describes the murderer as a 'monster who executed this young woman in cold blood' and his act as 'pure evil'. Would it not also be reasonable to think that the murderer was acting partly through panic? I'm sure killing a police officer was probably not part of the plan and it was not premeditated. Does that make his crime worse or better? Can you even define a murder as being worse or better than any other?

Something that confused me highly was the extreme reaction of the ex-chief-of-police. He said that all his life he has been against the death penalty, but that this murder has changed his mind. In another article I read that 36 police officers have been murdered in the line of duty in the past two decades. Why, then, has he changed his mind this time? Perhaps because she was the first woman to be murdered in a criminal case?

The same guy also says that if the death penalty is not imposed as a result of this murder then 'wrong really has finally totally triumphed over right and all civilised society, all we hold dear, is the loser'. I am unsure of exactly where I stand on the death penalty issue, but have a gut feeling that 'an eye for an eye' is not the basis for a civilised society.

On the radio show I was listening to this morning someone called for a life sentence to mean life instead of introducing the death penalty. This is, however, an unrealistic goal as prisons are already overcrowded. There is also an argument that the taxpayer shouldn't have to keep criminals fed an housed for the length of their lives. But to introduce the death penalty, even in part, to solve the problem of overcrowding in prisons is deeply wrong. So what do we do?


Rape: do we deserve it?!

I hope I'm not the only person who's been shocked by the figures released this morning from a survey by Amnesty International.

This survey, of over 1000 British men and women, showed that a third thought that women who flirt with men have only themselves to blame if they are raped. A similar number thought that being drunk or wearing revealing clothing laid blame solely at the woman's door. I know that some women are not responsible: they get overly drunk and consequently make themselves vulnerable and act in a way that is inappropriate and may lead men on. But to say that mere flirting gives a man a right to force sexual intercourse on a woman is crazy! I, and all women I know, dress in clothes they think suit them so that they look attractive. But I object to being classifed as up for a shag just because I want to look good. Would the same people say that well-endowed women should expect to be a target for rapists just because they are stereotypically attractive?!

Scarily, the 12,000 cases of rape reported in the UK each year are speculated to only represent a fifth of the actual number of cases, and only six per cent of reported rapes actually led to a conviction. With statistics like that and potentially painful and lengthy trials leading up to the small number of convictions it's hardly surprising that the problem is not being dealt with. But if the general public opinion is such that women are automatically disbelieved when they report a rape, they are going to tend to keep quiet. Why, for apparently a third of people in this country, is it their instinct to blame the victim?


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