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Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Last week I didn’t shop at our local Morrisons as usual. I was making a point to one of The Sun’s biggest advertisers because I support the No More Page 3 campaign. It was a pain to change the routine, but I wanted to continue to add my voice to that of nearly 52,000 people who have now signed the petition. No More Page 3 are asking The Sun to discontinue their degrading and ridiculous habit of placing a large photo of a girl wearing only her pants on Page 3. The campaign has been gathering strength over the last couple of months and I urge you to sign the petition and check out their Facebook page and Tumblr blog. Lucy Anne Holmes, who heads up the campaign, compiled this great video of some interesting conversations with male Sun readers:

On a related issue, Mike Beecham has recently relaunched a campaign for Modesty Wraps – covers for the Lads Mags magazines which are stocked in supermarkets and newsagents. Although some shops have these publications on higher shelves and behind screens, many do not and they can easily attract the attention of children (as well as making adults feel grumpy). I have had success complaining about the positioning of Lads Mags in supermarkets, so let’s see if this campaign can also gain some traction.

You can follow No More Page 3 and Modesty Wraps on Twitter.

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If you follow my Twitter feed, you’ll have spotted that last Friday, I inadvertently parked our car in a reserved spot in a cheap carpark near to Birmingham city centre. For this minor lapse in judgement, the Vicar and I were then forced to hand over £390 in cash to retrieve our vehicle. We’d been the victims of a just-about-legal (but not for much longer) scam perpetrated by Mid-Way Parks, a car clamping outfit, who can be found all over the internet (and not in a good way). You can read the Vicar’s version of events over on his blog.

The whole episode left us not only poorer but also angry. Although I’d parked in the wrong place, we felt that the charge was totally disproportionate to the infraction. The cheery men who took our money told us that ‘someone pays a lot of money to reserve that spot’. But in all the times we’ve parked in that carpark (maybe a dozen over the last couple of years) we’ve never seen the space occupied. It certainly wasn’t when we returned to find our car missing.

In fact, Mid-Way Parks seem to have designed their carparks to entice motorists into misparking so that they can then charge them enormous amounts of money following clamping and towing. That appears to have been the experience of the many people on the forums I linked above and the THREE Facebook groups dedicated to those who feel they’ve been unfairly treated by Mr Walton Wilkins and his team.

After our adventure with the carnappers, we took the Queen (who’d just been taking a school entrance exam) to eat in a city centre restaurant. As we walked in, we were very pleased to bump into our local MP, the renowned Murdoch mauler, Tom Watson. When he asked how we were, we told him! And he informed us that there is a bill about to be brought into force that will put Mid-Way Parks out of business.

I am glad about that, but am still wondering how justice can be done. I’ve written to Tom Watson in more detail, and also Gisela Stuart, a Birmingham MP who responded to a tweet I sent to all the local MPs I could find. I was especially annoyed to have found out that despite many court judgements against Mid-Way Parks, Mr Wilkins and his staff were issued with renewed licences by the Home Office Agency the Security Industry Authority (SIA) only last August.

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If one of your New Year’s Resolutions is to be a bit more socially active, I’d like to suggest a couple of campaigns that I’ve recently started following and have signed up for:

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And I’m not talking about the King James bible, also known as the Authorised Version. I have to say that I’m struggling at the moment to decide whether to vote for or against the new voting system called Alternative Vote. And most people I speak to locally are completely indifferent.

I asked the Twitterverse which way a Christian should vote on the matter and the main response I got was that the bible’s only recommended system of election (apart from the Lord’s election of his people, obvs) is by lot (cf Acts 1v26 – for the selection of Matthias as an apostle to replace Judas). Selection by lottery is a system which leaves the choice to God and teaches his people to pray, although I’m not aware of any churches which use that system for selecting their church council these days.

The Christian Institute has a paper on AV which is fairly non-committal – it highlights the issues  and also links to Christians and others for and against.  Christian bloggers who have posted include John Richardson and Peter Kirk – both in the Yes camp.

My current concerns are fairness – is AV fairer than the existing First Past the Post system? And also cost – will a new system involve the country in extra expense for advertising, teaching and counting? And is anyone bothered enough about it to implement a new system? I’ve not met anyone locally yet who is passionately convinced that AV should be brought in for the good of the country.

Tonight I read a helpful article in the New Scientist which mentions a system that is claimed to be ‘an alternative, “perfect” system’, which actually sounds more like the biblical method I mentioned above:

Maclver’s system is identical to FPTP in all but one respect. Voters in each constituency choose a single candidate, but then one voter is picked at random from each constituency and their choice determines which candidate gets elected. The random element means the system isn’t covered by Arrow’s theorem.

It sounds horribly unfair but it would actually produce results that are more proportional to the views of the country as a whole, argues MacIver, as it is simply a random sampling of the population. So if a party has 20% of the national vote, it should end up with roughly 20% of the seats in parliament.

It turns out Maclver’s idea isn’t a new one – the system is known as a random ballot. But it isn’t one of the choices being offered to the UK public.

I liked the way the New Scientist summarises the dilemma for all of us who want to cast a vote in this referendum next week:

Do you want a system that picks a winner with strong support from a minority of voters (FPTP) or one where the leading candidate is vaguely liked by a majority of people (AV)? No amount of equations can help you reach an answer.

And as a Christian the response to the final dilemma has got to be prayer. So that’s what I’m planning to do. How about you?

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Today in the Vicarage we had two reminders of how our  tax money gets wasted by the government itself and by individuals in our society on behalf of everyone else.

Firstly the Vicar had his PAYE Coding Notice come through from HM Revenue and Customs. This was corrected from the erroneous one we received two weeks ago, which gave palpitations to approximately 7000 Church of England clergy around the country as it almost halved their tax-free allowancee.

I wonder how much money sending out a replacement letter cost? The guesses on the grapevine cite the closure of the specialist clergy tax team as a reason for the error. Whatever the cause, it caused unnecessary stress and extra government-funded work. Not really good enough HMRC.

The other instance was that of a friend, who had spent the morning with a lady from the Benefits office. The friend had been reported for not declaring income from work. Actually, this was voluntary work she’d been doing, for which she received no remuneration. Once she’d explained to the Benefits Agency lady what remuneration meant, the lady was happy with her explanation (which was accompanied by a letter from the folk she was volunteering for) and left.

It seems that someone with a grudge had reported our friend and wanted to cause her inconvenience, rather than just speak to her and ask or even ask the place where she was volunteering. We’re only talking a couple of hours of volunteering a week here, not something that took all her time.  Or perhaps the person didn’t bear a grudge, but was concerned. It’s still a great pity that they didn’t feel able to ask directly. The cost to the taxpayer of letters, staff time and form-filling  must be sizable. Especially when you multiply this situation around the country. And now our friend thinks that someone is intent on causing her trouble. We have a broken society of broken people taking out their grudges by using government agencies. I don’t know how that can be fixed except by the power of change that is brought by belief and trust in Christ.

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I did a quiz last night on my political views. It had 50 questions, and I found some of them a little hard to get my head around. Anyway, I thought I’d share my results. And also ask for reading suggestions so I can get a bit more up to speed on issues about how much the state should intervene in our lives. Nothing too long or too hard, please. I find my brain a little fried these days. I found it particularly difficult to answer political questions in an abstract way, as the fallenness of our world and the politicians available to us colour my views. An interesting exercise, though. I also suspect some of the questions to be tailored to US politics.

Anyway, according to the quiz I am a centrist moderate social authoritarian. I don’t think that sounds too inaccurate…

Left: 0.73, Authoritarian: 3.13

You can find where you fit in the grid at Political Spectrum Quiz

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Whilst searching for the YouTube link to the Daily Mail song for a friend I came across a new clip by Dan & Dan, entitled Dan/Dan Coalition. Cheer up your Monday morning by watching.

I think I’m Home Secretary in the Vicarage (definitely i/c loo rolls), but thankfully not Chancellor (although responsible for the tax returns…).

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