bit of a busy week - 4 gigs, a black tie awards ceremony and the clocks robbing me of an hours sleep.grr. havent been to the gym in too long either, must go for a run tomorrow.
- The Horrors - Sea With a Sea
- Bob Dylan - Girl form the North Country
- Kasabian - Fast Fuse
- Noel Gallagher (Teenage Cancer Trust gig) There is a light that will never go out
- The Rakes - Thats the reason
- LCD soundsystem - All My Friends
- Crystal Stilts - Departure
Posted: March 29th, 2009
Tags: nick pickles
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So, it emerges that the home secretary claimed for about £20 quid of pay-per-view movies on her expenses - and that two of them are what polite gentlemen may refer to as “specialist.” Porn to the rest of us.
The media went nuts over the former. Various news bulletins were leading on the story, with photographers and TV crews camped outside Jaqcui Smith’s home.
Now don’t get me wrong - I think the media has a huge role to play in holding politicians to account. I think Tony McNulty was let off with some pretty light coverage when it emerged he was claiming a second home allowance for a property 8 or so miles from his home - let alone the fact that his constituency is in London.
I accept that the sum involved her is trivial and it was probably a genuine mistake. What bothers me is that the media was like a rat up a drainpipe for the story. And what got bumped - here are just a few of the stories relegated to the ‘in brief’ sections of todays news broadcasts.
- Chinese hackers may be able to control NATO computers - link
- A leaked G20 document showing British plans for a £1.4tn spending plan - link
- Of 113 complaints against MPs the £108,000-a-year Parliamentary Commissioner for standards has resolved ONE - link
Now I’m sorry but any one of these stories is infinately more relevant, and covering them would certainly be in the public interest.
Equally, nobody seems to be questioning whether it’s a worry that the person in charge of the nation’s anti-terror operations, and who so passionately advocated locking people up for 90 days without trial, isnt able to fill in a form. Moreso, I havent heard anyone question how the error could be made, given that surely receipts have to be submitted? If so, does Ms Smith not use the receipts to fill in her expenses claim? That’s about the only angle I think vaguely valid - but even then within a wider debate about expenses.
The saddest thing of all is that I can’t help but wonder if it was just £15 of box office movies and no porn, it would have made a p15 footnote.
Earlier in the week I finally caught up with Alistair Campbell’s appearance on the Culture show, and his thoughts on ‘In the Loop.’ The conversation moved onto the media’s view of politicians, and how they have a duty to promote a high standard of debate - and if they fail to do so, they are complicit in the deteriation of political discourse.
It’s rare I say it, but Campbell was absolutely right - and today has been a very vivid demonstration of his point.
it’s not very often I agree with the daily mail - but today is one of those days.
this morning, a colleage pointed me towards this story - simply, a very overweight family of 4 that collectively clock in at more than 80 stone.
to make it worse, the parents havent worked for 11 years and still recieve benefits.
to me, this sums up a serious problem with both the benefits system and our response to obesity.
one option is higher tax on unhealthy food, which punishes the responsible majority. it’s exactly the same argument against higher alcohol taxes. responsibility is at the heart of the argument.
We tax alcohol and cigarettes already because we accept they are bad for our health. However (in the case of alcohol) it’s the excess consumption that causes the problem, not responsible levels. which is also why i think alcohol duty is a wholly inappropriate tax which is causing untold damage to our community pubs, but that’s another blog.
We dont tax food in this way - and rightly so. but what we dont do is recognise that food is a progressive contributory factor - you dont get obese overnight. As I see it, someone who weighs 15 stone did, at some point, weigh less than that. The problem is when individuals dont recognise that they are allowing their weight to become a problem. And it isnt just a problem for the individual - it’s a problem for society. From NHS money spent on diabetes patients to the cost (time and money) or fire fighters having to act as a rescue/taxi service it isnt just a matter of someone liking cake. (and trust me, i really do like cake.)
So how do we deal with it? for me, it starts with the managing the problem. Anyone who wants to sign on as obese can do - but there is a strict programme of weight loss that’s incorporated into their benefits. after a period of time, if they have failed to lose the weight, they lose the benefit. It’s worth saying that i believe in investing in a proper rehabilitation program - as with drug and alcohol addicts. The main thing is that the responsibility to take action lies with the individual, and if there is one thing that the current Government hates, it’s empowering individuals to take action for themselves - and society suffers as a result.