My body has just returned from the UK; not quite sure where my brain is – seems it was delayed in transit. As a result I’m not completely up to speed with New Zealand issues, and so I thought I’d cover a range of observations that have occurred to me over the last month, influenced by my experiences in Britain. Excuse any vagueness of thinking and expression ….
In no particular order:
David Cameron’s Britain.
Recently the Daily Mail showed two sides, extra to the fact that as a newspaper it is best suited for wrapping rubbish. One side was the article on Key’s stay with the Queen at Balmoral. Colonial clot indeed:
“Look at him! He is totally chuffed to bits, glowing nuclear pink with pleasure, at being snapped with the Queen in her private sitting room.”
Very cringeworthy for a kiwi in England at the time!
On the other side, the Daily Mail provided an example of the depths the media will go to in order to destroy the chances of the centre left, with its completely unprincipled attack on English Labour Party leader Ed Miliband, accusing his father of hating Britain.
‘The man who hated Britain: Red Ed’s pledge to bring back socialism is a homage to his Marxist father. So what did Miliband Snr really believe in? The answer should disturb everyone who loves this country.’
Not altogether coincidentally, this attack followed Miliband’s proposal to take Britain back to a more social democratic state. Miliband has written an eloquent response.
‘Saturday’s article referred to a single diary entry by my father, written as a 17-year-old, describing the suspicion he found of the Continent and the French when he arrived here. To ignore his service and work in Britain and build an entire case about him hating our country on an adolescent diary entry is, of course, absurd.’
Since then the furore has forced the Daily Mail to backtrack, as even Prime Minister David Cameron (clearly produced from the same mould as John Key) expressed his disquiet.
However the warning shot has been fired and the English Labour Party can anticipate more and worse in the months ahead.
We can expect New Zealand media to also follow this line, albeit in a hopefully more restrained and principled fashion, as the chances of a change of government increase.
Britain’s focus on austerity to resolve the financial crisis has resulted in the closure of libraries, community police stations, and other public services. How does privatising Royal Mail sound?
Yet Cameron is still talking about more tax cuts, thus further reducing the money available for community services. I fail to see the logic here. These decisions, as with cut back decisions made in New Zealand, merely serve to punt social problems into the future for our children to deal with. Where’s the vision for enhancing the future for our children?
Observing several youngish men, wrapped in sleeping bags, begging near York Minster on a very cold and showery day, led me to reflect on Britain being a major economic player on the world scene. Surely the funds are available to ensure that all its people receive a fair standard of living?
Having people dependent on begging should be an anathema in any just society. The numbers of beggars in New Zealand should be a national disgrace. Isn’t the first task of the state to ensure all its citizens live in comfort and dignity, regardless of their circumstances?
Our 100% pure branding:
Most of my time in England was spent in rural Norfolk, apart from a trip to the north of England to see Hadrian’s Wall. I was struck by the attractiveness of the countryside, with hedgerows, many woodlands and very well keep pasture. It seemed to me that there was far higher level of awareness of, and care for, the needs of wildlife, the land and farm animals. Free range pig farms, some very large, were common.
Keeping to a porcine theme, I felt that New Zealand is trying to make a silk purse of a sow’s ear and, unless things change fast, this 100% pure branding is going to make bigger fools of us than has already happened under Key’s watch. The next government needs to have the environment front and centre of all its policies.
English teachers went on strike over performance pay proposals, based around children’s results in national testing. The evidence against performance pay in any workplace is extremely comprehensive, but Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove shares Hekia Parata’s predilection for ideology over evidence. He did say that there were many good teachers in England who needed support…. until he qualified this by complementing those who chose not to strike. Performance pay has been an issue close to National’s heart for over two decades and a reelection in 2014 would almost certainly see moves in this area.
Academy (charter) schools are rapidly spreading. The English process is very similar to threats made recently by Parata – poor performing schools are taken over and transformed into charter schools. The assessing of poor performance is made against test results in England. National Standards in New Zealand will play a similar role.
Given all the research that shows that socio-economic factors are the biggest determinant in children’s learning, inevitably this means that poorer communities lose input into their schools and children’s education. Equality for all?
As PPTA executive member Austen Pageau says, the introduction of charter schools is the ultimate asset sale.
New Zealand justice system:
Following the recent decision to retry Mark Lundy, we need to remember that there is another dubious case that is not receiving due attention – that of Scott Watson.
Keith Hunter’s book ‘Trial by Trickery’ and associated documentary ‘Murder on the Blade,’ make a very plausible case for Watson’s innocence, and that the case against him was manipulated in a way not seen since Arthur Thomas, if not more so.
Hunter’s website is a recommended read, for all interested in true justice, as opposed to the apparent police attitude that nailing anyone for a crime is better than ensuring a fair trial and just outcomes.
I’d like the next government, as well as contemplating the English Criminal Cases Review Commission (read No Right Turn on this), to carry out a major investigation into police investigative and prosecutorial procedures. Enough is enough – how many dubious convictions does it take to suggest something is not right?