Westminster Council pass by on the other side

Every so often a story comes along which blows my mind. This is a case in point.

Giving out soup to the homeless in front of a cathedral. One would think that this is the very epitome of the sort of tolerance on which the UK prides itself. And in front of a place of God, too. That seems appropriate doesn’t it? After all, I recall a few words such as “Blessed are the poor in spirit” and “When you give a feast, invite the poor”.

But oh no. Along comes Westminster Council to sweep them all under the carpet:

Soup runs around Westminster Cathedral could be banned in an effort to discourage rough sleeping in the area….A by-law could be in force by October if the Conservative-run council’s plans are backed in a public consultation.

But there’s more. Labour Uncut states:

The proposed new bye-law will make it an offence punishable by a fine to “sleep or lie down”, “deposit materials used as bedding” and to “give out, or permit another to give out, food for free”.

That last bit really gets me. The council propose that it will be an offence to give out food for free. Holy Mackerel! What have we come to? The country of Christian tolerance now getting to the stage of  outlawing giving out food for free. As always I try to restrain my language on this blog. I hesitate to say “FFS!” but that is the best expression I can think of, to sum up my horror at this.

I was particularly stunned by these weasel words of explanation from a spokesperson for the council:

About 150 people sleep rough in Westminster on any given night and 98% of those people “have no connection to the borough”, the council said.

and

…soup runs on the streets in Westminster actually encourage people to sleep rough in central London, with all the dangers that entails.

Roughly translated that means: “Not our problem, guv”.

I think I want to be sick.

Rather pulling the rug from under the feet of Westminster Council, David Coombe of Street Souls, which distributes soup in the area, said  

The need is there. We are not seeing the same people all the time, which is a good sign, but there are a few. We set up tables and an orderly line is formed. We take brooms with us, we take bins with us and water to wash down if necessary. We leave the place better than we find it. The plans are incredibly draconian measures they are trying to enforce here. There’s nothing on God’s earth that will stop me doing this.

Stunning turnout in Ireland's election

Irish Fest in KC
Creative Commons License photo credit: BlackburnPhoto

It’s been thrilling to watch the results coming in from the Irish election over this weekened. Veteran Irish broadcaster Dr. John Bowman called this election the most siginificant in Ireland since 1918. But what really is stunning is the turnout: 70.1%.

The Irish have been hell and high water recently, and still have dark times to live through. But at least there is now a government coming into place with a strong mandate for confident action.

Let the see, see the saw – TV's one man catchphrase machine gun

Paddy McGuinness. Don’t you just love him? If he didn’t exist, he’d have to be invented.

There is a Facebook page devoted to all his “Take me out” catchphrases. Other gems include:

Let the plum see the jam

Let the treasure, see the chest

Let the wibble see the wobble

Let the sun see the tan

Let the higgle see the piggle

Let the Baker see the buns

Let the plumber see the pipes

Let the Tomato see the sauce

Let the Pork see the Scratchings

and, of course:

No likey, no lighty

Fine Gael-Fianna Fáil. An English numpty's guide @rosieniven

Well, I always get confused. (And for the avoidance of doubt, I am the English Numpty in the title)

Fine Gael seem to be the slightly more right-wing party of the two, but usually form coalitions with Labour. Garret Fitzgerald, one of the most eloquent and reasonable former Irish Taoiseachs was leader of Fine Gael – as was John Bruton and Liam Cosgrave. Michael Collins was one of their founders and they identify as Christian Democrats, caucussing with the European People’s Party in the European Parliament.

Fianna Fáil are somewhat to the left of Fine Gael and caucus with the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe. They have been somewhat difficult to pin down in government, as far as their main political direction, forming governments with all and sundry. But they have certainly clung onto power – being in government for 61 of the last 79 years. Their past leader list is like a Who’s Who of prominent Irish politicians: Éamon de Valera (1926–1959), Jack Lynch (1966–1979), Charles Haughey (1979–1992), Albert Reynolds (1992–1994)  and Bertie Ahern (1994–2008).

"Arguments" against AV – Dumb and dumber

This remarkable quote is from an article in the Newbury Weekly News entitled Voting system dvivides opinion:

The victorious candidate in the last election, Conservative MP for Newbury Richard Benyon, said he would not be voting for change.
“AV is a shockingly bad system. In closely fought seats you could often have the third placed candidate coming first. Fringe parties such as the BNP or UKIP could end up deciding the candidate. I’m definitely in favour of first past the post,” he said.

I have replied as follows in a letter to the NWN:

Voters decide who is elected under the Alternative Vote. They state their preferences against the candidates. They write “1”, “2”, “3” against as many or as few candidates as they wish.

 
The candidate with the most support from over half of the voters is elected. So our MP will need to explain why on earth he thinks parties “could end up deciding the candidate” (NWN 24/2/11) who wins. It is obviously not true.
 
He also says that the “third placed candidate” could come first. No. The candidate with the most support from over 50% of the voters wins.
 
A polarising candidate with comparatively narrow appeal who gets first preferences from, say, 40% of the voters but is so unpopular outside those supporters that they get no support from anyone else, could be beaten by a broadly popular candidate who gets, say, 38% of the first preferences but a large number of second preference votes.
 
So, a consensual, broadly popular candidate could end up beating a candidate who has very narrowly-based appeal among a restricted portion of the electorate.
 
Again, our MP will need to explain why he thinks that is a bad thing.