Saturday, 19 May 2007

Another Embarrassing Report for the Government

Tony Blair, John Reid and Lord Falconer have claimed that too many criminals are being jailed.

Lord Falconer, the newly-created Justice Secretary, announced this month that tens of thousands of burglars and other thieves would receive community punishments instead of jail sentences. The Prime Minister signalled that there should be greater emphasis on rehabilitating offenders, tougher community sentences and crime prevention in March, and Home Secretary Mr Reid caused outrage in January by urging the courts to use jail sentences only as a last resort. Due to this paedophiles, muggers, burglars and heroin dealers walked free from court.

However, a Home Office report has concluded that stiffer prison sentences deter crime. This contradicts Labour plans to hand out softer punishments

Key Points in the Report

"Custodial sentences of at least a year are most effective in reducing re offending."

Figures showed that 70 per cent of convicts jailed for under 12 months re-offended within two years, compared with 49 per cent of those sentenced to between one and four years and 36 per cent of those serving at least four years

Men and women released from prison within a year had on average 13 previous convictions – suggesting shorter jail sentences were failing as a deterrent.

Prisoners released from longer sentences were less likely to re- offend because they were older, had time to be rehabilitated and had been convicted of more serious "one-off" offences.

Last night, the Conservatives blamed the "abysmal" situation on Labour’s failure to build enough prison places. Philip Davies, the Tory MP who uncovered the report, said: "The Government are at sixes and sevens. Because the Chancellor has consistently refused to invest in building more prisons, that has resulted in their being full. The Government now have to pretend that prison does not work after all, and that it is tougher not to send people to prison and to give them so-called tough community sentences."

A Home Office spokesman said the relationship between prison sentences and re-offending rates was "quite complex".

He said the report did not contradict the Government’s view. Is the Home Office spokesman reading the same report?

This comment is clearly the work of Gordon Brown and his "political spin" team. Rather than accept responsibility for the lack of investment in building prisons, Labour is attempting to claim that tough community sentences are best and prison should be a last resort despite the fact that their own Home Office Report contradicts them.

Labour Desperately Seeking Partner

Welsh Labour leader Rhodri Morgan is desperately seeking a deal.

Labour, the largest party after May's election, may be forced out of power if a coalition between Plaid Cymru, Conservatives and Lib Dems is formed. Following the 3 May election, Labour remained the largest party in the assembly with 26 seats but was left without a majority in the 60-seat chamber. Plaid Cymru has 15 seats in the new assembly, the Conservatives 12 and Liberal Democrats 6.

On Thursday, Lib Dem AMs and the Welsh party's national executive met in Llandrindod Wells where they decided to suspend talks with Labour in favour of seeking a deal with Plaid Cymru and the Conservatives.

Mr Morgan, who has been first minister since 2000, said he believed Labour could still form a government,"We are ready to govern but with a partner."

Morgan continues to say,"I still think there are many twists and turns in this tale before it's all over." This particular statement I agree with. It shall be interesting and all we can do now is watch the saga unfold.

A new first minister must be chosen by 30 May to avoid another election.

Thursday, 17 May 2007

Brown Will Be New Leader of Labour and Prime Minister

Mr Brown's campaign said they would await the formal voting figures announced by the party on Thursday before making any statement however, shortly after 6pm yesterday, Gordon Brown reached the crucial total of 308 nominations needed to avoid a contest. The chancellor's only rival, John McDonnell, conceded after Mr Brown secured enough nominations from Labour MPs to stop him getting the 45 needed. Gordon Brown will be confirmed as Tony Blair's successor when nominations for the Labour leadership and deputy leadership close at 1230 BST.

Brown has achieved his long standing goal of becoming Labour Leader and Prime Minister. He will now have to wait a further 42 days before Tony Blair formally hands over the reins of power. Meanwhile, in Whitehall the transition to a Brown premiership has begun. Officials are currently working on Mr Brown's blueprint for power and preparing for a radical Cabinet reshuffle.

Liberal Democrat leader Menzies Campbell said the fact Mr Brown would be unopposed meant it was even more important that there was a General Election. "The country is surely entitled to pass judgement on whether he should become the most powerful politician in the country," he said.

Campbell has a point. Even though Brown has made promises to improve education standards, an extension of GPs' hours and a house building programme when he takes over is that really enough? Promises are very easy to make and we will have to wait and see if he actually follows through with them. Personally, I wouldn't hold my breath. The greater question is, do the British people want Brown in office at all or, as Campbell said, are we "entitled to pass judgement on whether he should become the most powerful politician in the country?"

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Brown to Attack Blair Over Education

Gordon Brown will attack Tony Blair's education reforms today in an attempt to further distance himself from the Prime Minister. The Chancellor will describe numeracy rates among young children as "unacceptable" for one of the world's leading economies. "It is unacceptable that we still have 150,000 children leaving primary school who aren't numerate. Both a strong economy and an inclusive society require a fully numerate population." Brown will go on to admit that the Labour Government has failed to deliver a "world class" education system.

Blair will not look kindly on this latest strategy in Brown's campaign. When Blair came to power in 1997 he claimed "Education, education, education " was his priority. Today in contrast with Gordon Brown's recent comments, he believes he succeeded. Blair recently said "Education, education, education was how I described my priorities at the outset of this Government. A decade on, this report shows we meant it".

As I said in a previous post regarding Blair's eduaction reforms, it is progress to renovate and build new facilities for students. However, the current problem does not lie with the facilities, but rather with the education they receive inside them.

Mr Brown claims he will try to shift the emphasis of Labour's education policies away from changes to school structures to core activities in the classroom.

Government Targets Divert Police From Serious Cases to Deal With Trivial Crimes

The Police Federation of England and Wales says government targets lead to "ludicrous" decisions and warns that detectives are being diverted from serious cases to deal with trivial crimes.

The federation will debate the issue during its annual conference in Blackpool. At the conference police will discuss whether judging officers purely on numbers of arrests, cautions or on-the-spot fines is the best way to assess success. After reading examples from a dossier of "ludicrous" cases it claims are the result of Home Office targets, clearly it is not.

The following are actual cases detailed in the dossier.

A man from Cheshire who was cautioned for being "found in possession of an egg with intent to throw"

A child in Kent who was arrested after removing a slice of cucumber from a sandwich and throwing it at another youngster

A West Midlands woman arrested on her wedding day for criminal damage after her foot slipped on her accelerator pedal and her vehicle damaged a car park barrier

A 70-year-old Cheshire pensioner who was arrested for criminal damage after cutting back a neighbour's conifer trees

A federation spokesman said these cases were a direct result of officers being "so busy chasing targets and securing ticks in boxes". The list of compiled cases showed incidents where officers had been "under such pressure to deliver it has resulted in an arrest or caution when even the officer themselves thinks it is ludicrous", he said . It is not surprising even the officers themselves thought the arrests/cautions ludicrous. They seem more appropriate as part of my Absurd News of the Week than in a police federation dossier.

Shadow home secretary David Davis said Whitehall targets were "stopping the police from doing what the public want them to do". He added, "Conservatives would free the police from Labour's red tape so they can be deployed onto our streets where the public want them."

Monday, 14 May 2007

Damning Report Questions Gordon Brown's Welfare Reforms

Mr Brown claims to have slashed youth unemployment and transformed life for the poor. However, according to a damning report that questions Gordon Brown's welfare reforms, youth unemployment is sharply higher than when Labour came to power. Despite Labour spending almost £2 billion on the New Deal, the number of people aged 18-24 out of work has risen by 70,000 to 505,000 since its launch in 1998.

Last week the National Association of Head Teachers said that schools were producing an "army of the unemployable" as tens of thousands of teenagers quit education at 16 with no qualifications. This was emphasized by the Bow Group, a Conservative-affiliated think tank, which tracked secondary school pupils over three years and found thousands had gone missing from school rolls.

Frank Field, the former welfare minister, says that the New Deal has been "woeful". He continued, "The results show that even if the money was available, which it isn't, more of the same won't work and will be a betrayal of young unemployed people. As part of the Labour leadership contest it is important for the Chancellor, and the candidates for the deputy leadership, to tell the electorate how best to move the 505,000 unemployed young people into work, as the New Deal is failing to do so."

Mr Field backs up the a criticism of the Tories that many of the young people helped into employment by the New Deal would have found a job anyway "Moreover, the number and proportion of young people finding work as a result of their New Deal has collapsed from 51 per cent in 1998 to 34 per cent in 2005," he adds. "Youth unemployment is higher than when Labour was elected in 1997, and rising.

The figures are in sharp contrast to the claim by Jim Murphy, the employment and welfare minister, who said in an article that "youth employment has been virtually abolished". .

This does not bode well for Brown as he attempts to rebuild public trust. As I said before, a package disguised in different wrapping is still the same package. It is just a little more attractive until you open it. With these latest developments it appears Brown is still very much subscribed to Blair's philosophy of political spin, despite recent attempts to distance himself.

Question of the Week

Blair claimed that Labour's multi-billion pound programme to renovate England's classrooms illustrated how he had lived up to his now famous promise to prioritise "education, education, and education".

The measure of Mr. Blair's success is dependent on whether you place a greater value on the buildings in which students attend school or the level of education achieved within them.

Do you believe Blair has been successful in his promise to reform education?

For the article relating to this question read Blair Attempts to Promote His Success in Education Reform

Sunday, 13 May 2007

Blair Attempts to Promote His Success in Education Reform

Blair claimed that Labour's multi-billion pound programme to renovate England's classrooms illustrated how he had lived up to his now famous promise to prioritise "education, education, and education".

A survey of local authorities in England found that since 1997 there have been 1,106 new schools, 27,000 new or improved classrooms and 2,300 new or refurbished school kitchens built. In the 450 most recently built schools, new indoor toilets had been provided, so no children have to use outside loos any more, the report said. It also said that sports facilities had been improved or provided for the first time in 2,450 schools in England.

In his introduction to the report, Mr Blair said: "The programme of renewal is truly historic. It compares to the legacy of the Victorians and the post-war generation. Generations of young people will benefit. Twenty years of under-investment is being steadily reversed."
He continued: "Before 1997, schools and colleges suffered decades of under-investment. Buildings were decaying. Thousands of young people endured shabby facilities, temporary classrooms, leaking roofs or outside toilets. "New buildings were desperately needed, but the funding simply wasn't there."

"Education, education, education was how I described my priorities at the outset of this Government," Mr Blair said. "A decade on, this report shows we meant it".

It is progress to renovate and built new facilities for students however, the current problem does not lie with the facilities, but rather with the education they receive inside them.

There was no improvement in education in 2005. This is from the Telegraph 17/05/2005 "The number of failing secondary schools has gone up despite the Government's focus on improving standards through the "reform" of comprehensive education." Today there is still no improvement. This from The telegraph 09/05/07 "Last year, one in 10 pupils - 75,000 - failed to obtain five GCSEs of whatever grade. That figure has remained the same since 1999. Of these, 26,000 pupils fail to achieve a single GCSE."

The measure of Mr. Blair's success is dependent on whether you place a greater value on the buildings in which students attend school or the level of education achieved within them.

Absurd News of the Week

Balloon of Naked Man Floating in Milan's Main Park

MILAN, Italy — It would take one very large fig leaf to restore modesty to Milan's main park after the installation of a 70-foot floating sculpture of a naked man.
The balloon self-portrait by Polish artist Pawel Althamer has been hovering outside the Renaissance Palazzina Appiani in Parco Sempione since Monday, drawing second takes, amused looks and disapproving concern about exposing children to nudity.
"To be honest with you, it's nothing new," said Rosaria Mirabelli, mother of 3-year-old Tommaso who stared at the sculpture from the back of his mother's bicycle.
"He sees his father naked. In this park we see so many worse things than a naked man," she said, referring to the park's reputation as a haven for drug users.
On weekday afternoons, the park is given over to mothers, nannies and grandparents with preschool age children in tow, along with a few joggers, cyclists and dog owners.

I do not understand why a person would put, or have a desire to look at, a massive balloon of a naked man. Perhaps someone could enlighten me.

A Chocolate Treat Straight From a Horror Movie

If you are a lover of chocolate bars I do not suggest you read this. After this, I may not indulge chocolate bars for quite some time.

A man in Germany is enjoying his chocolate bar when he notices something strange bump.
It turned out to be part of a human finger.

“He found a fingertip, complete with fingernail, right in the middle of the bar,” said a police spokesman in the town of Mainz, close to Frankfurt. “I suppose it went unnoticed because there were nuts in the chocolate and it was hard to tell the difference,” the police spokesman said, adding the fingertip was being examined by forensic experts.

Despite request the police have refused to mention the brand.

Previous Absurd News of the Week