Information Landmine

"The Americans keep telling us how successful their system is. Then they remind us not to stray too far from our hotel at night." - An un-named EU trade representative quoted during international trade talks in Denver, Colorado, 1997.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Going sensible

Right, I've had it. I mean, what is this?

The coalition government is going sensible on crime.

First they start going on about reducing prison sentences, which is sensible, seeing as:

(a) Prison is extremely expensive;

(b) Prisons are hugely overcrowded, yet building more prisons would be massively expensive;

(c) Overcrowded prisons are even more expensive, because inmates serving indeterminate sentences cannot get places on risk-reducing courses and so their risk cannot be reduced, meaning they do not get released on parole and are kept in prison for longer; and

(d) Prison generally does not, contrary to what Mr Howard suggested, work. Unless by "work", you mean "serve to squander public money at the expense of any real benefit to society".

Next, the coalition government announced plans to use restorative justice more widely. Which is sensible because:

(a) it is popular with victims of crime, as they feel more involved in the process;

(b) it aims to reintegrate offenders into the community, meaning they are less likely to reoffend in the future;

(c) when used as an alternative to the traditional criminal justice process, it can avoid criminalising people, which is especially important for young offenders.

And today, Theresa May has been talking about abolishing the affront to logic which is the ASBO. Bloody well sensible again!

If things carry on like this, I'm going to be left with nothing to rant about.

I never thought I'd miss Alan Johnson.

Saturday, July 10, 2010


One of the most interesting developments in administration of government in the last few years (if, indeed any public administration can be considered 'interesting') has been the move towards doing more and more things online.

First local authorities started doing clever things like letting you pay your council tax online (wow). Now it's all about participatory democracy - internet style-e.

You have two choices at the moment. The rather corporately branded 'Spending Challenge' and 'Your Freedom' offer the public the opportunity to submit their own suggestions and rate others for their ability to save public money and enhance public freedom respectively.

A quick search for the idea on 'Your Freedom' with the most votes, reveals that it's to do with scrapping the Digital Economy Act and has attracted the amazing high tally of 24 votes (25 now, I thought I might as well stick my oar in). Not exactly a lot?

Whether either of these projects will elicit anything like enough traffic to mean that any of the suggestions are taken in any way seriously, I'm not sure. I wouldn't take much notice of 24 votes myself, and the absolutely dreadful slowness of the site (which evidently has more traffic than it can handle?) will no doubt put most people off.

What it's worth mentioning though, from a quick look, is that there are some pretty bad ideas I've ever heard of on there (although perhaps it is the reasoning behind the ideas that is bad)... abolishing human rights, leaving the EU, banning the national speed limit, scrapping foreign aid.
Interestingly, the lowest vote I can give anything is 1 of 5 - which is still positive in my view - there's very little way of expressing what a dreadful idea it is - or just voting zero.

Is it worth engaging with? Probably only if it reaches a certain tipping point and that will only happen if we engage with it... hmmm.... perhaps a facebook campaign would have been a better idea...

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Re: Big Society

Dear Mr Cameron,

I have been thinking a lot about your big society idea. It keeps me awake at night, whilst I consider how I am going to get me and the several thousand residents of Tyne and Wear for whom I have some (small, unelected and fairly anonymous) responsibility, through the next four or five years of your government (also unelected, but slightly less anonymous).

So, I had an idea.

Why don't you give me the same amount of money as you get paid. And we'll have a competition. We'll take the population of Tyne and Wear and we'll see who can do the most for the most number of people. You can have your emergency budget, and I'll have the £140K or so that you get paid. I'm sure if you do a whip round you can afford it.

We can each have a team. You can have that Osborne guy and Mr Clegg and I'll have Uncle Petie, Maisie and Rob. I'll let you have Danny Alexander too, as it's only fair we're even on the ginger stakes.

If you win, then I'll give you the benefit of the doubt, and give you and your progressive politics a go. If we win, then no problem. It is big society after all.

We'll get someone fairly independent to judge it... someone who doesn't like either of us. A former Labour immigration minister might be a good one on that score. But I'm sure there would be a few good candidates.

What do you reckon?

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