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Alistair Thomas
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It's not healthy to think of parents' "rights" when it comes to children - it should all be about responsibility. By the rules of nature, every child has the right to a parent of each sex. We should only break that right when all reasonable different sex parenting options have been exhausted. Of course love and support are more important probably than anything else for a child and a gay couple are just as capable of providing this as a straight couple. You can't and shouldn't even try to stop gay couples having medical procedures or donations from third parties to create children where nature would otherwise deny that chance. However, no public money should be spent on this, even if straight couples do get state help with IVF for example. Adoption agencies should judge decisions on a couple's potential to nurture and care for a child. When a gay couple and straight couple are deemed equal in all other respects the decision should favour the straight couple every time. If that makes me a bigot then so be it. I confess I have never put this principle to the test. I'm fifty now and none of my various gay friends have ever shown the slightest inclination to try to have children. I don't even have issues with gays as role models as one dear friend (who just happens to be gay) is godfather to my eldest child. If I am in a minority in the UK and the consensus is that my taxes should go to provide state support for exactly the services of which I disapprove, then that's democracy and fine with me. The EU should have absolutely no say in the matter whatsoever.
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How do 4 companies spend £40M on a bidding process? That alone says that there is something deeply suspicious about the way these things are run. In Virgin's case, they apparently spent £14M on the bid. They've been running the railway for years. What research / preparation did they have to spend that much on that they didn't know already? Finally, even accepting that Virgin might have spent £14M on preparing the original bid, is it going to cost that much to prepare a new bid? It is still the West coast mainline they are bidding for after all - surely more than 80% of the parameters will be the same even if the bidding process is rationalised? At the very most, the tax payer should pay for the cost of rebidding which should be minimal and not the ludicrous cost of the whole process. The idea that we weren't going to be paying these costs anyway is hopelessly naive. OK it would have been commuters paying rather than general tax payers and amortized over a 15-year contract rather than in one lump sum, but the public was always going to pay one way or the other.
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This is the man who as energy secretary in the last government launched the Feed-In-Tariff system for solar which applies "levies" (stealth taxes) to all electricity users (and by this, let's use a line or two out of the Labour playbook, we mean: The old, the infirm, the poor, hard working families etc - often referred to "the many" in Labourspeak) to pay for Tariffs which have been used by rich investors to put "free panels" on peoples roofs and Housing Associations to subsidise social housing. Ed Miliband is the proud architect of a scheme that steals from the hard pressed many and gives to to the privileged few or pet social projects. This is how Labour spends your taxes - on it's friends, and for the vast majority, you are not one of Labour's friends. How can this man even show his face in public let alone head a political party which should be discredited for a generation if not a lifetime? Why do Tories go so soft on this guy? He is a waste of oxygen. Every time he opens his mouth any nearby conservatives should ram the Feed-In-Tariffs down his throat.
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This is a good example of one of Labour's chief weapons: repeat something often enough and hope that people start to believe it's true. Just look at how many Labour spokespeople were rabbiting the line that Hunt broke the ministerial code. It's one area where Labour's unholy alliance with the BBC is so powerful. Labour come up with a consistent line and then the BBC repeat it ad nauseam. It even works on non stories like Cameron leaving his daughter down the pub. How many people come home from the pub in 2 or more cars with the family and responsible adults split between cars? It's really easy in a household for one parent to be with a subset of the children and to assume that the rest of the family are together, and yet one or more of the children could be doing their own thing. The Camerons live in an artificial world at the moment. It's the protection force that should be worrying about their P45s in this case. The family has to rely on the hired help to look after them. They were badly let down. I dismissed this arrant nonsense the first time I heard it last weekend, yet the BBC would not let it drop. They were still pushing the story on Question Time 5 days later. To be fair to Labour, this approach works for them. Just look at how many people still support them despite having been repeatedly and systematically lied to, and provenly so, over their thirteen years in government. One reason that they still use this tactic is that Tories have never developed a process for debunking the lies. You can rarely ever get more than a few Tories to take the same line at any given time and even when they do, it's not coordinated so they all use different language so the message doesn't stick. Far too many of the British electorate like their politics served up to them in nice digestible chunks; We shouldn't pander to this and serve up our own gossip, scandal and hopeless fantasies, but we do need to focus on the concerns of the common man, debunk the labour lies and then tell the truth, no matter how hard it is, and do it with one voice so it looks like we believe it. That's why consistent untruths are so dangerous - they smack of conviction and consensus. I'd like to believe that Cameron does understand and empathise with the common man, but he isn't focused enough, and he is too inconstant even when he does hit the right track.
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Why would anybody (English) trust anything any Labour politician says on this subject? The whole devolution project was a "clever plan" by the socialist elite to split off socialist fiefdoms where they could rule unchallenged but leave England controlled by the UK where their non-English votes could give them a majority to deny the English home rule. Worse still, they plan to break England up into separate regions to further divide and rule, probably subjugating us to the rule by the even grander socialist folly, the EUSSR. It's deeply ironic that the SNP grabbed Labour's favourite play thing, and it would be some sort of justice if some of Labour's loose talk about an English identity might actually wake up the English to demand an English parliament. A fair, devolved evolution settlement is the only hope now to save the Union. There are stories out today that Cameron would give a Scotland that chooses to stay in the Union up to 70% control of its own destiny. Regardless of the level chosen, whatever Scotland gets, the other three nations should get the same level of control. If it makes sense for an issue to be devolved, it makes sense for all for constituent nations. One argument against an English parliament is that we can't afford yet another swathe of politicians. This is only true is we accept Labour's mad view of the world. Before devolution, we had one set of MPs that represented both local-national interests and United Kingdom (federal) interests - and we were the better for it. It was sheer folly to allow Scotland the luxury of electing one set of politicians who could represent narrow interests at home without any regard for the UK, and another set of MPs to represent federal matters but also with a vote to spoil English matters that were devolved "at home". A fair, devolved settlement should not look to establish more English MPs, but remove the largely redundant 127 non English MPs, and find a way to bring all national representatives together for federal matters once more. That way we might get true statesmen that our country deserves. Conservatives have no answers here either. At a time of austerity, they devise a plan to reduce all MPs by 5%, leaving the larger group of 127 non-English MPs untouched, and English demands for fairness unaddressed. Economic and democratic madness, fiddling while England burns. What are Conservatives afraid of? Sure they don't despise the English as much as Labour does, but they are hardly our friends either.
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For Conservatives, Darling is still dangerous because, unlike Balls and Miliband, he still talks a lot of sense and seems to avoid opportunist sniping. I guess he values his integrity and his reputation too much - clearly not a restriction that Balls and Miliband are limited by.
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Oh come on, ministers simply aren't that powerful - most couldn't sell ice cream in a heat wave. The only reason that the public are panic buying is that they know from past, painful experience, even from this exact same group of workers, that no amount of national pain is too much to inflict in pursuit of their personal ends. Strike action should be the last resort and yet it is the first tactic of militant unions like Unite to load the negotiations in their favour. If ACAS discussions with management had failed then I could understand and maybe even sympathise with ballots for industrial action; gradual, proportionate action that leaves the public out of it until the very last resort. Whatever happened to work to rule and overtime bans etc as first steps of discontent? Union leaders would cancel Christmas if they thought it would serve their purpose. The public know this so when THE UNIONS threaten fuel supplies as they clearly have done then the public will take them seriously no matter what any minister says. I heard the minister say: "don't queue, just keep topped up when convenient, maybe fill a jerrycan for back up". Clearly the public are ignoring the minister and answering to a higher fear.
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The title is incredibly arrogant. Doctors and nurses probably know the NHS better than most and there are far too few of these in favour of the bill. If Lansley believes he knows the NHS better than anybody else, then maybe that explains why so few health workers apparently support the bill. How can a know-it-all listen properly/consult with others?
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There is absolutely no way that banking is worth the high pay and rewards it's sucks out of the world. If we can't control a bank that we own, we have absolutely no chance of restoring a sense of social justice with the private banks. We might as well bend over and wait for the next rogering because with the attitudes on here and on the board of RBS (who seem to think it is their fiduciary duty to defy the will of their shareholders), then it is surely coming. Hestor has taken no risk as far as I can see. Are there really banks queuing up to pay £1M to CEOs? Every year is a lottery win for these people whether they are good or totally fail. If he had taken the job at £50K against targets of securing the bank then I would happily pay him £3M in bonus. As it is, if securing the bank was what entitled him to £1M bonus, what are we entitled to for his £1M salary? Surely we paid him to secure the bank? We are living in the twilight zone. And yes, since he is apparently entitled to so much of our money, let us at least all see the deal that Labour did on our behalf. No doubt it will be the same looney logic that allowed "Sir" Fred to walk away with millions in pension when had the bank really broken, his entitlement would have been mere £1000s. Arrrggghhh!
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"Wreckless?" Freudian slip there JJH? You're right of course, the truly "Wreckfull" period was the Labour years that got us into this mess.
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An advisory referendum is a waste of time and tax payers' money when a binding referendum is available. Logically, Devo Max impacts all nations in the Union and therefore Westminster is right in my view to say that Scotland can be authorised to have an in/out referendum and no more. If the timing of the referendum has the possibility of damaging investments in Scotland then the timing should be set by those that are best placed to act in Scotland's interests. It has its own parliament, surely that is the logical place for the timing issue to be decided? It also gets us away from the "English" interference claims (although the SNP is canny enough to refer to "Westminster" interference, though their meaning is clear enough). If investment in Scotland is affected adversely by the referendum then that will be a big stick with which to beat those that took the decision. It is a big responsibility and one best left to Scots. Let's move past this ASAP and start discussing the real substance of Union as Alastair Darling was sagely advising yesterday.
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I agree that the Americans would have to sell the systems with no strings attached and full access to spares or even licence to manufacture. The whole idea is predicated on the fact that the Americans get some practical use of excess kit or freedom from some maintenance that an ally takes on to keep the capability in the field. They don't get to screw us with a dodgy finance deal. Your points raise some juicy wider issues. America really needs an ally that can tell them when they have their head where they shouldn't and one that if support were withdrawn would actually weaken them at least a little. Ironically, as an American poodle, the US should have no fears giving us stuff because we tend to do as we are told. The Americans need an ally that can act independently. Britain is not strong enough to be that ally without US help. The US probably won't want to help us be truly independent because we might use that independence to NOT toe the American line when we think they are wrong. All that said, I think the nukes are a special case. The US has so much excess capacity that our capability in a tactical sense is neither here nor there. Keeping us in the strategic/political game at the UN security council probably has more worth than any dollar value of the systems themselves.
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There is an argument with Nuclear weapons that if you ever needed to actually use them they've failed in their primary purpose and we have already lost. For deterrent we need a perception of "a very big bang", a few of them and a reliable system. There's no reason that second hand won't fit the bill. We already own the missiles. We should be investing in systems where we can still make a difference, where we have a high chance to need the systems for real, and where our endeavours can produce something special/world leading. I think we should have the best body armour, the best light/personal weapons, the best surveillance / communications kit, the best light vehicles. Having very fast frigates that don't melt when taking a non-critical hit and even faster cutters for anti pirate / fishing protection would also be good. We must specialise, we must share development with our commonwealth partners (as well as or maybe even instead of our EU partners).
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Why not unmothballed Harriers for this particular purpose? We have committed to builder some form of Euro Fighter for this purpose. We have already invested massively in this project. Unless that investment is completely ill conceived then we should progress with it. The Trident replacement is quite different. We have the missiles and they will do as they are. It's the "Boats" that are past their sell by date. I'm pretty sure we don't have a new submarine design in development nor should we. My knowledge on this point is limited but I believe we need 4 boats to be able to keep 2 in operation, 24x7, at any time. The debate seems to be that we could buy three or even two boats and compromise on operations. If we could keep it secret, nobody would know when we were fully or only partially operational and therefore the deterrant would still work. I don't think it was ever up for debate that we could buy anything other than US subs. If the Americans are downsizing, with a little cooperation, they could free up the resources we need and use the resources they get in return to save money or maintain some other part of their capability where their allies are weak. This approach could work for other systems but it needs to be for very big ticket items that we need and the US has excess capacity.
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One of our biggest expenses has to be the next generation of our Nuclear Defence. If the Americans need to scale back, rather than mothballing stuff, they could let us have some things second hand. They would get something back and lose a low-level maintenance bill, we would get a much better price than buying new. Win-win.
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The ECB apparently is not allowed to lend to member states. There is a rumour that the ECB is just using the banks as an intermediary to lend to indebted countries. They get the money at 1% interest and lend it to the likes of Italy at 6%, why wouldn't they. We'd be better off the the ECB made the loans direct at 1% rather than EU contributors having to fund the profits (and bonuses) of EU banks. This seems like a very serious story. Why do we only have the BBC's hopelessly biased and sanitised version of this?
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Actually, German industrialists will see to that, but French farmers will struggle to trade with us without their subsidies. Even the Germans will struggle a little with a strong currency that matches their economic might. In the medium term, I see little but good coming out of a return to normal trading with sovereign European states.
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At least a third won't be involved in buying or selling. They will be dreaming up, issuing, policing rules about selling and about the production of things to sell. We and the rest of the EU can only benefit when these people start looking for real jobs.
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I'd love to know if the patriot, Mr Bliar, is paying 50% on the all of his earnings above £150K. I would put good money on it that a very healthy share of his earnings are taxed somewhere else or not taxed at all. Can we find out somehow?
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This is all wisdom after the fact. Mandy wasn't there. There is no reference in the conditions that are starting to emerge to the crippling regulations that the French want applied to the City. The bile of the French Elite since shows what Cameron faced on the night. Maybe the veto has stopped these issues appearing in the treaty. What is staggering to me is that so little was achieved. The financial regulation of the City was a red herring. The British should have been allowed a veto to keep the meeting on track. The mission was to save the Euro now, not in the future. The French measures to hobble the City will do nothing to increase or decrease confidence in the Euro and therefore the chairman should have simply banned that part of the discussion. What they should have been discussing was the basis for the ECM to act as lender of last resort like any proper central bank of any proper currency. Why does the EU have a central bank? It doesn't have a currency. Surely it's only the Eurozone that needs the ECB? Those in the Eurozone should have these expensive institutions and the rest of us should not have to pay for them. Mandy says that the treaty that is "starting to emerge" clearly has no impact on the City. Surely that's the whole point. There was no treaty to sign (except one with red herrings included). What did the 26 sign up to if the treaty is only starting to emerge now? All they seem to have signed up to is to have a treaty to sign sometime next year. Have I missed something? The emperor has no clothes!
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You can't have it both ways. There are numerous instances where benefits are denied to one partner because the other partner earns too much. Either the Inland Revenue has no business knowing anything about our relationships, period, or we have have family friendly tax policies. At a time of moral decline and a generation of children that have grown up where many have no family or social values (riots anybody?) then we desperately need to get back to where the family is the core of our society. Liberal principles are fine in principle they just don't stand up to the rigours and practicalities of life in many instances. It's not about marriage, it's about family. How can liberals be against family?
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We haven't moved past the two options that you gave us yesterday: Support the Euro to survive and worse, to suck more countries in or to advocate it's destruction (suggesting a disorderly break-up). These are not our only choices. Out stated position repeatedly has been that "a disorderly break-up would not be in Britain's best interest". This doesn't mean that we have to give the Euro our full support as you suggest is the "current policy". We have never said that we want the Euro to survive, only that we don't want it to explode. I suppose we might have said that "we want a strong and prosperous Eurozone" but that still leaves the possibility of the Eurozone membership reducing. Welcome to William Hague's world of clever words where little is as it seems. Our position should be that we still want no part in the Euro. We should have a neutral position with regard to what the others do. Their position viz the Euro is their business. If a country wishes to leave the Euro then we should help that happen in as orderly a fashion as possible and work to normalise relations with them as quickly as possible thereafter to minimise ur exposure to their debt maximise mutual prosperity. I believe that an orderly break-up of the Euro is in our best interests simply because I believe it is in the best interests of the troubled nations within the Euro since it is their quickest route back to prosperity. Prosperous nations can trade with us again. In the meantime we must hedge our bets by looking for prosperous nations outside Europe to trade with. Andrew, if you want a dilemma worthy of discussion, it is not whether to support one policy that doesn't suit us over another policy that doesn't suit us. The dilemma should be whether, after 13 years of Labour spin, we carry on spinning as we have been or, isolated or not, nail our colours and our beliefs to the masthead and say in clear terms "Here we stand: Join us in partnership or leave us in friendship". I'm so tired of us pretending to be something we are not. The veto was the first green shoots of a backbone. That's why it felt so good. It was simple, unequivocal and finally, honest.
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It is often said that a disorderly break-up of the Euro would be disastrous. OK, I'd buy that for a Euro. The assumption then seems to be that therefore we must fight to keep the Euro together. But of course the best option for us is the unspoken option, namely an orderly break-up of the Euro, particularly so if that break-up were on terms to our liking (Or maybe even to our design - Shhh! don't tell, Sarkozy, Barroso, Rehn, Rumpy Pumpy etc). Next, we have to lay all our cards on the table apparently and tell the Europeans whether we are working for the Euro or conspiring to dismantle it. Why? This is so British. Andrew, you may not have noticed, but significant parts of the EU are out to get us. They are not our friends. We owe them nothing but to act in their interests in the same way that they act in ours (not a lot). Personally I will be disgusted if we are not already, behind the scenes, talking to our Irish friends and letting them know and even planning together how we will help them leave the Euro. The name of the new Irish currency is not that important. It will need to track sterling quite closely (fiscal union). Whilst political union is unlikely given the history I can little real harm in going a long towards it. For instance, if they had their own central bank then we should each have a representative on each other's monetary committee. Maybe we could help each other to never again allow a housing bubble to inflate to normal folk can't afford a home. If I was a canny Irish Nationalist, I might actually insist on being part of Sterling. The nation states of Britain are heavily devolved anyway and having the same currency as the North is one less barrier to reunification over time ( but I digress). Recently we have spoken about sharing national assets like our health data. I have issues doing this to all and sundry but we could do this with our Irish neighbours to help them create an export facility and economic growth in the same way that we need to. I expect that there will be some sort of partial default as Ireland leaves the Euro. We should construct some Sterling deal where this favours our banks over other debtors. The risk to us for example of longer-term Irish bonds would be much less if we were together to build our economies, so some clever negotiation with the future in mind should be possible. So I hope that the UK working for Ireland's orderly departure from the Euro quietly behind the scenes is a given. It can be more overt should Ireland need a referendum and millions of Euros pour in to buy the result. This time, the Irish people must be well informed. That done, the real question should be who is the next priority for such treatment? We need to engineer soft landings for those countries where we have the most exposure.
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The "Risk" to the internal market in the title. Can somebody please explain to me what this risk is? LibDems just seem to accept this at face value. If there is a risk, how does it compare to the very obvious risk that if the City is hobbled as the EU-fanatics require, that financial services will not just leave the UK, but leave the EU entirely? How does it compare to the clear and present danger that if the ECB does not start buying bonds/printing Euros to support the Euro then the currency is doomed anyway? Barroso talks of some unspecified, hypothetical risk and conveniently overlooks the obvious risks to EU financial services and of ECB inactivity. This is insanity. The emperor has no clothes! If the Libdems want to build bridges, let them provide meaningful terms of reference. Alex Salmomd was in full opportunist mode this morning too, but at least he is up front about his hatred of the English.
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We're not a million miles apart Stephan, but our country is in a world of hurt. UK plc needs to do a SWOT analysis and develop strategies for growth and competitive advantage. If we give our data to non-UK organisations, when the resulting product becomes available, the odds are that those medicines will not be "Given back" and therefore a source of something wonderful, they will be charged for and be yet another drain on the NHS. Either non-UK organisations have to trade something equally valuable or they have to pay to come to our universities or set-up their companies in our country to create the jobs we need. There are so many wonderful things about this great country of ours that we take for granted. In these hard times, it's past time that we stop taking them for granted and make them pay their way. If the NHS data is half as good as we think it is, we can start thinking of the NHS as a profit centre that gives something back rather than a black hole to suck more and more of our resources into.
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