Monday, March 27, 2006

When the law gets out of control.

One of the worst things a Government can do to it's population is inflict bad laws on them. Bad laws are those that are constructed in a hurry, usually to cope with an immediate furore in ther newspapers, that are badly drafted so that they suffer unintended consequences.

Good recent examples abound, mainly because since the mid 1990's we have had Governments operating solely on what the Daily Mail gets in a tizzy about.

Laws get completely out of control because over-zealous officials in councils, the Crown Prosecution Service and Police authorities up and down the land 'over interpret' them, just to be on the safe side; with bizarre and often quite laughable consequences.

So we have had people getting given Asbo's for growing trees too high, for example. Or an eighty year old heckler at the Labour Conference being arrested under the Anti-terrorism Act; or even -as happened in Torbay last week- a drug dealer being paid £1750 'compensation' by the council.

This was brought home to me on Saturday.

I took my daughter and some friends ice-skating in Plymouth at the weekend for her eleventh birthday treat. In the restaurant afterwards I took a photo with Karens mobile phone of the group as they cut her birthday cake.

"You can't do that, it's illegal" - the young lady in charge rushed over to tell me.

Do what? I thought. Could she might mean that we couldn't have a birthday party? Cut the cake (maybe the knife breached health and safety rules)?

Nope. It's 'illegal' to take photographs of children in public places' like Schools and the Skating Rink restaurant, she told me, "due to the new Childrens Act".

Now I know that she is wrong about the law; although because the management are perfectly at liberty to ban photography if they want to I obediently put the phone away.

The supposed ban on photographing kids in school plays and the like was nothing to do with the Childrens act but came about by most education authorities fretting about the Data Protection act of 1998 and also the Human Rights Act. New Government guidelines eventually had to be issued in 2005 making clear that such bans were wholly unneccessary; basically to no avail - most schools still ban parents filming or photographing school events.

There is a new Childrens Act, passed last year, but this deals mainly with care services and requirements and is, according to the DfES "to cover the universal services which every child accesses, and more targeted services for those with additional needs." It doesn't bar parents photographing their family and friends.

But the point is the management have 'erred on the side of caution' and banned a perfectly harmless activity in spite of the fact that they don't have to.

Under such a climate of fear, what school, village hall or museum is going to feature lectures or exhibitions about Lawrence of Arabia or the French Resistance (to give two examples) if we have a law that bans the 'glorification of terrorism'?

MP's have a duty to properly anticipate the potential side-effects of every law they pass which sadly they are failing to do effectively.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Is Tony Blair about to spend more time with his guitar?

It has been a tumultuous week for the Prime Minister at Westminster and the speculation about his future continues to increase.

The education vote, where nearly a quarter of Labour MP’s rebelled, was passed because the Conservatives backed him.

This is very damaging to the morale of Labour MP’s – many who are now openly complaining about Tony Blairs autocratic style; his lack of ‘True Labour’ instincts and his tendancy to bypass parliament.

Then there is the increasingly damaging row about ‘peerages for cash’ which has inflamed sentiment amongst many at Westminster, including the labour party’s own treasurer.

The weekend press will be interesting, because the Murdoch papers (News of the World, Sunday Times) have been pretty pro-Blair so far, but observers have noticed a distinct editorial shift to being much more Brown-centric recently.

Personally I think Blair will have to be dragged from No10 – his fingernails leaving scratch marks down the hall- just as Mrs Thatcher was. I don’t believe that Gordon Brown has the killer instinct in him to wield the dagger and I don’t think the Labour Party has anyone else with the guts to try.

He will therefore remain in 10 Downing Street until the moment he chooses to leave or until the electorate vote him out.

I still think he will stay there right up to the next election and I am one of the very few people I know who genuinely believe that he may yet try and fight another election as PM.

Would we Conservatives do better with him there or with Gordon Brown instead? - The polls say that Blair staying on would make the Conservatives task more difficult and for once I agree with them.

Friday, March 03, 2006

"The route to success is to do what you do best, and keep improving"

I was very surprised to read in his column this Friday that that Adrian Sanders is still advocating diversifying Torbay's economy away from tourism.

It would seem that Mr Sanders has learned little from the experiences of his party in power since 1990. When the Lib Dems took over Torbay they turned their back on the hotel industry opting instead for Government-grant dependent manufacturing jobs.

Now that the grants have dried up and the jobs have gone Mr Sanders talks about Torbay as if we were an economic basket-case whose only salvation will come from yet more Government hand-outs.

But Mr Sanders' frequent doom laden predictions for British tourism in general and Torbay in particular are twenty years out of date.

Nearby resorts like Padstow have flourished by appealing to new kinds of visitors - young, professional people, for instance, with lots of money and little time who choose 'cool' locations in the South West for a fast-fix of intense relaxation.

The fastest growing consumer sector in Europe is now the over 60's; who are fitter and richer than ever. They flock in their millions to places like the Eden Project and they need high quality accommodation and entertainment while they are here. Tourism to Britain from abroad is flourishing, with visitor numbers up sharply since 2002. Britain is now the 5th most popular global destination with 25 million foreign holidaymakers coming to Britain every year.

The route to success in business is to do what you do best, and keep improving.

Conservatives believe that the time has come to restore the English Riviera to it's rightful place as the No 1 destination for visitors and residents in the South West and in the process bring much more money into the local economy.

We think that Torbay residents want a council run by people who understand business, who recognise the importance of visitors to our economy and who can manage our civic finances so that we can afford to provide the high quality facilities that visitors expect.

Unlike Mr Sanders, we believe in Torbay's future as a world-class coastal resort.

PS. I am away this week, posts to this thread may not appear for a few days.