If I were Prime Minister

5 MAY 2010

It’s the British General Election tomorrow. I’ve never blogged about a general election before but this one feels different.

“Will you be voting?”

When I’ve met other people from the UK on Second Life the last few months, I’ve been asking them “will you be voting at the general election? If so, do you know who for?”

Replies have varied between “good question, I don’t know” and “I feel I should vote but I don’t know who for”.

When I raised the idea of a “None of the Above Party” all were interested and said they’d cast their vote for that party if it was available.

From the reading I did last year, there’s such a party in the States but any writing on a UK voting slip other than a cross in one of the boxes is seen as a spoiled vote. There’s no way of sending the message “I think you’re all crap.”

Plan B would be to get Jamie Oliver to head a new None of the Above Party.

Until I read the manifesto summaries on Ceefax recently, I didn’t know who I was going to vote for and considered not voting at all.

I didn’t watch the three election debates

I have tried to avoid the news about the election since the date was announced. If any of the party leaders have appeared on TV, I’ve raised my hands to hide the screen from my view and groaned.

In the last few years, television appearances of politicians have been micro-managed out of reality; unnatural hand gestures, jacket on/jacket off, holding babies, talking points and power phrases have made it all intensely annoying to me.

I don’t like to know that I am being managed. I want them to be real and natural – I want to be able to trust what they’re saying rather than know they’re trying to manipulate me – but I know that the circus is going to get worse as time goes by.

And so I didn’t watch the three television debates with the three main party leaders but I couldn’t help notice the reaction to Nick Clegg on Twitter.

The Liberal Democrats

Of the three, Nick Clegg was the most obscure to me. Up until a month ago, I couldn’t have named the leader of the Lib Dems and certainly wouldn’t have been able to point him out in a crowd.

He, like Menzies Campbell, doesn’t seem to realise that we’re in a culture of celebrity now, and that they need to be seen and heard if we’re to remember that they exist.

The Conservatives

As a former Labour voter, I wouldn’t vote for the Tories on principle, although I confess that I don’t really know what the Tories stand for unless I take the idea of “conserving things” literally.

Soon after David Cameron took over as leader of the party, the Tories made no effort to hide their attempt to win people over when they used phrases in press releases such as “we need to be seen to support…”. Not “we support [x]” but “we need to be seen to support [x]”. That choice of words reveals their intent to manipulate, and not about what they really believe in.

The Tories started asking people wanted from their government, what issues mattered to them. I wondered if that meant that the Tories didn’t actually have any core principles but that they would create a new manifesto from scratch based on what people said they wanted.

At the time, I thought it was a bit naff that they weren’t offering any ideas of their own. But now I think it’s not a wholly bad thing if their manifesto is actually based on what people say they want.

Labour

My experience with “New Labour” started in 1997 when my company was part of a consortium to design, build and maintain the official web site for the Millennium Experience, the exhibition in the bespoke Millennium Dome run by New Millennium Experience Company (NMEC) to celebrate the new millennium.

For the year that we worked for the NMEC, they were arbitrary, rushed, and there were regular changes of personnel. I was so stressed that year that I had chest pains, I had a twitch in one eye and I was vomiting at night. It’s an understatement to say I was relieved when our contracts ended.

Since then, Labour has become the party of micro-management; they have created what is now called the Target Culture. Numeric targets were set for student and school performance, for doctors and hospitals. There were penalties if the targets weren’t met.

Very soon, people realised that they could game the system to meet the government targets. My impression was that people with minor ailments were given priority to meet the waiting lists target. Teaching became about training kids to pass exams – marking supposedly got less rigorous – rather than educating them. And now more people achieve higher grades at school than there are places in universities to accommodate them.

If I were Prime Minister

Two things leapt out of the Lib Dem’s manifesto which is why I will vote for them:

  • not renewing the Trident nuclear deterrent
  • phasing out university tuition fees within six years

I’m with Richard Burt on The Daily Show, who said that countries are waging war differently, not as it was during the Cold War.

It made me think about what I’d change if I were Prime Minister.

Unilateral disarmament

I don’t believe that our having nuclear weapons is what has stopped any country starting a war with the UK. (Aren’t bombs by terrorists a form of war?)

I think that Iran and the rest of the mad countries will get nuclear weapons but I think also think that they would use them even at the risk of annihilation in return, because they’re ultimately behaving like petulant children.

Scrap prisons

Replace all prisons with institutions which confine people but which offer therapy, rehabilitation, education, skills training and paid work during the week and then time for hobbies or creative skills at weekend.

Drug addicts and the mentally ill should receive proper medical treatment.

Prisons currently exist only to sweep problem people under the carpet. People don’t get rehabilitated. Most end up re-offending.

Also reduce sentences. More than five years being locked up seems insane to me. Or else just bring back the death penalty and be done with it.

Legalise all drugs

Legalise all classes of drugs and regulate the industry. There’s much drug-related crime and a lot of theft to support drug habits. And people are dying from bad batches.

Otherwise, criminalise alcohol and cigarettes.

Legalise brothels

Legalise brothels and the advertising thereof and regulate the industry. Get women off the streets, make sure they’re looked after. Make them pay tax. Prostitution isn’t ever going away. Deal with it.

Allow any consenting adults to marry

Let any couple get married if they want to – of any combination of gender or sexual orientation.

People with self-inflicted illnesses can’t use the NHS

It seems to me that people who deliberately abuse their bodies and end up with chronic illnesses shouldn’t then get free health care on the NHS.

I’m thinking of obesity-related chronic illnesses such as diabetes, smoking-related lung cancer, alcohol-related diseases and drug abuse problems. Maybe also include obese children – make their parents accountable.

Instead, provide free support services and treatment for early intervention so that these problems don’t become chronic.

Tabloids with naked women go to the top shelf

If a ‘newspaper’ contains images of naked or semi-naked women, it’s (soft) porn. As such, the same rules should apply with regard to access by minors.

On one side of the world women are covered from head-to-toe in black cloth. Over here, people consider it normal for women to be seen mostly nude in advertisements and magazine covers. It’s not normal.

The proliferation of naked imagery of women is an indication that women are still mainly valued for their appearance; women have so little respect that no one blinks an eye when they are seen in public places without any clothes.

We are fooled into thinking that it’s about the empowerment of women and freedom of expression. But really we’ve been duped; it’s about power over women and we’ve colluded with it.

Three strikes, newspapers out

If a newspaper is found to have made up news stories three times, the newspaper is closed down.

Lies and soft porn mustn’t be allowed to masquerade as news.

News sources must be named

Any news story that quotes a source must name the source – they can’t be anonymous – naming them makes them accountable. Too often the government or institutions manipulate the media by issuing statements anonymously.

See Heather Brooke’s piece on Newswipe on this subject.

Remove sports results from the regular news

Sport isn’t news. It’s a male-dominated commercial industry that has an inappropriate place in news programmes which cover crime, war and politics. Sports results can have their own programme.

Driving tests every five years

Everyone has to retake their driving test every five years – every year once you reach 75. If you don’t pass, you lose your licence until you do.

A single income tax rate for all

I don’t think it’s fair that the ‘super-rich’ have to pay a higher percentage of their income than everyone else.

Instead I think that there should be a single rate for everyone. It’s the only fair thing to do.

I’d also raise tax (max 50%) so that everyone contributes to the well-being of everyone else.

Crack down on human trafficking and slavery

It’s totally unacceptable that people are being forced to work as slaves in This Day And Age. People are being kidnapped, trafficked to the UK where they are forced to live without freedom and work for no pay. Are we supposed to be a civilised country or what?

Raise the minimum wage

Give people an incentive to go back to work by raising the minimum wage.

Decent wages for teachers and nurses

Give people an incentive to join and stay in the profession, and to give them pride in it.

Don’t sell arms to Dictatorships

We seem to complain about some countries and yet are actually selling arms to them.

Stop subsidies to farmers

I don’t think farmers should be paid not to grow things. There shouldn’t be food mountains. GET ANOTHER JOB!

No levies for third-world imports

I think this might be a US thing but we should make it easy for third-world countries to sell their products here. There shouldn’t be any barriers by way of levies.

People must have a licence to have children

Okay, this’ll never happen, but I think that it’s crazy that one needs a licence to own a dog but any idiot can bring a new life into the world to neglect, mistreat, exploit and abuse.

Legalise assisted suicide

Anyone can create a new life but we’re not allowed to get help in ending our own when we want to.

Bring back mis-shapen fruit and veg

This is an EU thing, I think. Supermarket fruit and veg looks good but is less flavourful than it used to be.

There’s no reason to throw away good food just because it isn’t the Right Size or Right Shape. They say it’s consumer demand but I don’t think that’s true.

Let the farmers sell more of what they grow. Shops then have a choice of selling together or separately at different prices.

DON’T THROW GOOD FOOD AWAY.

Eliminate Second Class post

The Royal Mail have to have a system to delay the delivery of Second Class mail. The First and Second class prices are close enough not to be such a hoo-hah if Second Class was scrapped, and it’d save the Royal Mail some money.

Lower prices for public transport

If they want us to use our cars less, make public transport a lot cheaper.

Only job for MPs & subsidised London housing

Members of Parliament shouldn’t have other jobs.

Their main home should be in their Constituency and they receive the average wage for the area. (Idea from Dave Nellist who appeared on Bremner, Bird And Fortune: The Daily Wind Up a few days ago.)

The government should provide accommodation at subsidised rents for MPs too far from London to commute. Expenses should be capped and limited to certain categories.

Declare lobbying

Meetings between lobbyists and the government must be made public (who, when, where, why).

Regulate alternative medicine

Alternative (e.g., herbal, homoeopathic) remedies and treatments should be regulated like other medicines. They should be scientifically tested, results published in peer-reviewed journals. They should only be allowed on the market IF THEY CAN BE PROVED TO WORK.

Ditto for skin creams, etc. Saying that “of 279 women asked, 60% agreed” is not proper testing!

Exam subjects not chosen at 14

Fourteen is too young for kids to choose what subjects to take that will impact their degree subjects and careers.

Instead, how about all children take the same range of subjects whilst also being introduced to career options so that they can choose their specialist subjects at 17.

  • Sciences
  • History (modern) (+ option for one other time period)
  • Geography
  • English Language & Literatue
  • One foreign language
  • Maths
  • a craft (e.g., woodworking, cooking, art, design)
  • life skills (legal rights, how to complain, assertiveness, interviews, public speaking)
  • plus one other subject (optional)

Smaller class sizes in Secondary schools

The Finnish model – max class size of 20 – is something to look at.

Stop using IT companies with bad track records

The government should stop wasting millions of pounds on companies that don’t deliver. These include Accenture and PricewaterhouseCoopers. Projects are often late, go over budget and it seems are designed without the involvement by those who would use them.

Penalise companies for unhealthy products

This is a hard one and I don’t care if people say this is too Nannying, but the rise in obesity needs to be reversed.

There are fewer food producers than consumers – if consumers can’t be educated, the producers can be made to reduce the crap they sell instead.

For example, something isn’t healthy just because it’s sold as a breakfast cereal. Cereals are barely-concealedĀ  confectionery with lots of carbs, fat, sugar and salt. Nutrition figures are stated for for 30g-40g but many people have 100g portions. The TV adverts use children with small plates and hands so that the portions look bigger than they really are.

The recommended daily calories for women is 2,000 but it’s assumed that these women exercise daily, equivalent to 10,000 steps a day. That’s about four miles. And that only burns off 400 calories.

If we assume that women don’t walk 4 miles a day, that means their calorie allowance is 1,600 a day to not gain weight.

You might be interested to know what proportion of a woman’s day’s calories are in these items:

Pizza Express Margherita pizza 727 45%
Starbucks Skinny Iced Lemon Poppy Seed Muffin 390 24%
Starbucks Venti white chocolate mocha with whipped cream 619 39%
Starbucks Chocolate Decadence Cake 755 48%
Starbucks Classic Blueberry Muffin 591 37%
JD Wetherspoon Nachos 1,300 81%
JD Wetherspoon Baked potato filled with coleslaw & salad 947 59%
Krispy Kreme Chocolate-iced with creme-flavour filling 339 21%
M & S British Oakham chicken & pancetta Caesar sandwich 705 44%
McDonald’s Big Mac[tm] (490), large fries (460) and large coke (210) 1,160 73%
Kellogg’s 80g Crunchy Nut Clusters with Honey & Nut (394) with 150ml whole milk (96) 490 31%
Two slices of wholemeal toast (250) with butter (148) 398 25%

Okay, enough already.

I reckon the Tories will win by a clear majority. Labour and Lib dems will be close. The Lib Dems then have the next five years to get themselves sorted out so that they can win the next time.

Wordle: If I were Prime Minister

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