We’ve had a moan, now let’s DO something

As I’m a lone rabble-rouser I’m not always able to marshal the resources necessary to take on the full might of the state, though I do my best!

I’ve teamed up with the Taxpayers Alliance, Britain’s independent campaign for lower taxes and better government to create an online petition that we can all sign and that can move this debate in the direction it needs to go.

We cannot sit back and let MPs or politicians dictate the terms of this debate. They’ve proven time and again they can’t be trusted to do what is in the best interests of Parliament as a whole. Certain people in Parliament are content to stubbornly resist change and are willing to bring the whole institution of parliament into disrepute simply to maintain the lifestyle ‘to which they’ve become accustomed’.

So please tell all your friends and spread the word. In the current political landscape the sad reality is that the public are impotent. We cannot directly choose our MPs but instead have them foisted on us by a few party apparatchiks. We cannot call for a referendum. There will be no English ‘Obama’. The system of centralised politics and patronage denies it.

The only power the people do have is to band together and shame the powerful into doing what’s right.
So let’s do that. The more names on this petition the greater the chance we can start dictating a new relationship between politicians and the people.

Sign the petition here.

21 Responses to “We’ve had a moan, now let’s DO something”

  1. PhilC says:

    I appreciate the frustration Heather; hell, you’ve been at the sharp end of trying to winkle out this info about MPs expenses for years now.
    But linking up with the Taxpayers Alliance is, frankly, a little dubious.
    “Independent”? hmmmm, well, funded by big business so independent of most people certainly. The idea that they are some kind of grassroots campaign is ridiculous. What they are is very very good at PR and using gullible/lazy reporters.
    “better government”: no, just minimal government, there’s a difference.
    You might wish to apply your investigative skills to the TPA and find out exactly who does fund them as they very coy about revealing it.
    Your own work stands up to scrutiny because you are careful about your research and how it is presented. The TPA is not as the message is more important than the content.
    “Move the campaign in the direction it needs to go”: says who?
    As for: “We cannot directly choose our MPs”. um I thought that was what happened at general elections? Sure parties put up MPs but that doesn’t mean no-one else is able to stand. Look at Martin Bell for instance.
    “In the current political landscape the sad reality is that the public are impotent”. Well, that’s not true either. You are a member of the public and you’ve used legislation and your own cunning to highlight a particular iniquity. It’s clear from the barrage of complaints registered by all types of media that the public is outraged and the present system will not stand. We’re only impotent if people believe it to be so.
    All journalists should study the FOI campaign on MPs expenses because it is instructive. I applaud your efforts. But if you get sucked into the political game which we’re about to see you could lose that “lone rabble-rouser” stance.

  2. heather says:

    HI Phil,
    I take your points, but this is just too big for one person and I need the help. I asked the Mysociety guys but they don’t have the manpower right now to set up a separate petition.
    And I have to say the TPA have been assiduous users of the FOIA – more than almost anyone.
    The issue of transparent accountable government is one that transcends party politics. It unites both left and right.

    I don’t agree that we have a real choice in elections. Our choice is superficial and pre-determined. I would like to see a system that is more responsive and gives the chance for local leaders to move up the ranks into parliament rather than having a few elites parachuted into constituencies based on having worked in the strategy unit.

  3. PhilC says:

    I’d just keep the TPA at the end of long stick. It’s not the deployment of FOI requests it’s their use and abuse of the results.
    But all power to your keyboard.
    I live (and work) in North Wiltshire so can fully appreciate your points about MPs 🙂
    http://iaindale.blogspot.com/2009/05/james-gray-mp-should-have-whip.html

  4. allan young says:

    Hi Heather

    You are doing a great job. I know how good a job because some of my “colleagues” have been fought all of the way to the High Courts to prevent this lamentable government from publishing information that the commissioner ruled should be published in my field (Financial Services)

    The apologies and offers of repayment are worthless and serve only to illustrate what a slimy bunch they really are and I hope fools none of us.

    I dont know how we do this but with the sense of public outrage I feel there is a willingness to enforce change. Perhaps the use of the internet, facebook, myspace, twitter, could provide the platform to create some changes, assuming of course that apathy does not return before outrage recedes.

    Why not set up a web site with a good, bad and downright ugly list, where the electorate can see at a glance if their MP has abused and then use teh media available to publicise this in the run up to the next general election, maybe even a few people woudl be willing to stand as Independents, who knows.

    When you consider some of the self serving vile specimens that inhabit the tax haven that is and has been Westminster, surely it has to be worth a go. I do accept of course that there are still a few convistion politicians left, but it seems they are in a distinct minority.

    Come on we must be able to do something

    Allan

  5. AndyO says:

    Hi Heather,

    I discovered and bought your book some time ago after I’d already tried using the FOI Act myself. Like you, I had already frequently come up against the attitude from senior people in the local council that you summed up so well in your interview with the Guardian last March:
    “I discovered this bizarre, elitist, feudal attitude from pretty much all public officials to the general public: ‘Who the **** are you to be interfering in our business?'”

    You personally have done so much to get this information about MPs into the public realm that it would be a shame, to say the least, to let some special interest group come along now and possibly hijack your work for their particular political objectives.

    Your well-informed correspondent PhilC seems to have hit the nail on the head. I have just had a quick look at the Taxpayers’ Alliance website, having previously come across comments they have made to the media. On their mission page they say the “TaxPayers’ Alliance is Britain’s independent grassroots campaign for lower taxes…”; to be fair to them, elsewhere at least they do say who their prominent supporters are (on the ‘Prominent Supporters page’) they mention and list the “just under 150 businessmen and opinion formers signed two TaxPayers’ Alliance letters” in 2004 / 5.

    The country will be paying a huge cost long into future for the lack of proper regulations of our banking and financial services industries. And it’s corporations, businessmen and ‘opinion formers’, who have had privileged access, that have successfully lobbied Government to get ‘light touch’ regulation of their industries. And its no surprise that those from under-regulated, under-taxed polluting industries like aviation are using the vehicle of the ‘Taxpayers Alliance’ to campaign against green taxes.

    Please don’t let someone take the shine off your great work.

    Andy.

  6. Thank you for your wonderful work- certainly forwarding details, great stuff, many thanks indeed, Elizabeth

  7. Tom Bowden says:

    Keep up the good work Heather – the British public owe you big time!

    What is needed now is a long list of so called Honourable gentlemen and women appearing in one of our other great institutions – the Old Bailey!

    Tom

  8. Tom says:

    I’m with PhilC on here… good work, but concerned about linking up with the TPA. Why have you done so, anyway? That petition isn’t hosted on a dedicated site or anything like that, it’s just on a public petitions site, so I don’t really see what they’re contributing.

  9. Rob says:

    Congratulations on your work! Public sector workers are already expected to work twice as hard, be twice as honest, and get half the pay of private sector workers!

    Now with your campaign against expenses it really will only be the very wealthy who can afford to be MP’s. All part of your hard right agenda with the Tax Payers allowance.

    Gordon Brown would get at least £1/2 million a year in the city but chooses to get £180,000 to do the hardest job in the country. It’s called putting principles before profits … sorry, that might mean much to a journalist.

    Wonder who earns more the Telegraph, editor to make up stories or PM to run the country?

  10. Dove says:

    The doves wish to express their admiration and thanks for the work you are doing in support of truth

  11. F.John Horn says:

    My Dear Heather, I am sure that the British public owe you a great thank you, you certainly have mine. We need someone of your caliber to fight Parliament for many of us cannot see the wood for the trees. We need some way of making Parliament more responsive to the will of the people. We need some way of ejecting from Parliament those found to be either fraudulent or grossly incompetent, this seem to be almost impossible at the moment, yet we want Parliament to be less responsive to splinter pressure groups. Mr. Brown promised us a referendum on Europe but then reneged on his promise when he was sure that we would reject his wishes. To fight these iniquities of our democratic system will require more than one person can give so how can others help? Thank you once again F.John Horn

  12. Maggie Thomas says:

    Thanks Heather for your great journalism. Just wondering why you don’t you create a petition on the Downing Street petitions site?

    Maggie

  13. Stefan Paetow says:

    I’d like to echo some of the other commenters… TPA? Am not sure why.

    And besides, why not use the Number 10 petitions site for this? Why Petitions.co.uk? At least we know the Number 10 one is taken seriously by people.

    Just my opinion.

  14. Peter Sheen says:

    Hi Heather, just found your site after seeing David Chaytor’s expenses claim revelation and the response in which is said to have admitted he made an “unforgivable error”. I decided to set away my Blog just this week on the basis of having had enough of politician’s and the like treating us ordinary folk who apparently have no influence, as stupid. I’m on a mission now! If nothing else I can put my views out in public where someone may read them and add to the noise! Well done.

  15. Bob Lynch says:

    It’s clear that the vast majority of us are, and have been for years, frustrated by the total contempt that politicians have for the people they ‘rule’ but we are unable to elect anyone from the group ‘ordinary people’. Instead we are allowed to choose only from the group ‘party politicians’. We have only to look at the vast sums these parties spend to ensure that the candidates they impose on us are elected. The overt and covert consensus between the major parties then ensures that they don’t have to take notice the electorate at all – observe their reaction to our almost total rejection of their claims that Sadam had weapons of mass destruction and our opposition to the Iraq war. There are some independent MP’s but the ‘system’ ensures that they are very rarely able to influence anything. IF WE DON’T ACHIEVE A COMPLETE CHANGE NOW THESE PEOPLE WILL RULE US FOREVER. (Bob – Surrey)

  16. name says:

    There will be no English Obama?

    I may be wrong but I think you mean BRITISH Obama.

    There is no English Parliament. Parliament belongs to the whole nation, not just one part of it.

    And why would we want an Obama anyway?

    Pffffft

  17. FedUpReader says:

    I’m with PhilC and some of the others. An excellent campaign about to be shot in the foot by bringing in the hard right politics of the TPA. I’m sorry, Heather, but NO WAY is the TPA ‘independent’. Long.Spoon.Required. Your reputation is built on your hard work and you risk destroying it almost overnight by this mis-judged alliance. You’ll certainly lose my support.

  18. Peter Hack says:

    I had not heard of the TPA until I came across your piece describing some of your activities and actions since 2004 on a football club forum I visit. I would only add that in this cumbersome and difficult scenario where some knowledgeable people who know their system are able to line up against you and bring into play some solicitors, lawyers and the like to bat their corner and pull all kinds of official-ese over our eyes, it is well to remember that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. If people who may have another agenda are partially agin stunts being pulled in Parliament then they may still be a benficial help to expose this basic lack of trust/communication which they (Martin, Walker et al)are doing their darndest to maintain and kid us that its all for our good!

  19. Fred says:

    Taxpayer’s alliance.Indepedent.Teamed up.
    Why don’t you investigate their funding instead

  20. mark taha says:

    Gordon Brown would get 500k in the City – from who? Public sector workers work harder and earn less – in your dreams,Rob!

  21. Jed Keenan says:

    As a friend of mine says: ‘Governance of schools is the one variable effecting the results of pupils’. Now I am a ‘local leader’ and I know this because of my volume of canvassing, the total number of meetings attended of organisations I am not a member or director of or for that matter paid to be present at, and the scale of effort and sacrifice in organising of people and resources to improve my community which in my case is to end worklessness.

    I spend any time I can encouraging others to themselves become ‘local leaders’ and also communicating my benchmark for commitment to both elected representatives and officers of any seniority; I even go as far as to bug a bus driver over his ignorance of key worker status, her access to affordable housing, and why her union rep is re-elected unopposed despite being so ineffective as to leave his members disempowered.

    What I want to ask you is, taking as a given that in my absence nobody would inform bus drivers of the benefits of to themselves, their families, and community of any local leadership, attend meetings of the local authority Overview and Scrutiny Board, or, as I plan on doing, ending worklessness, are you slightly romanticising the reality of local leadership? Also if I may be slightly personal, do you take up the roll of local leader? Active member of anything, Governor of anything, know what the SCS, the RDF, or LDF are? All of them totally boring and never going to increase any media product’s circulation but then again these are the only documents that will have any effect on your outcomes.

    http://mginternet.hackney.gov.uk/Published/C00000112/M00000405/AI00002126/20081028SCScomplete.pdf
    http://www.hackney.gov.uk/rdf-main.pdf
    http://mginternet.hackney.gov.uk/Published/C00000112/M00000714/AI00003922/DraftCoreStrategy080609PMversion.pdf

    Anyway more entertainingly here are some pictures of the G20 counter-demo and I’m sure you’ll recognise the person with ‘The Un-free market Failed’ isn’t Ricky Gervais.

    http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=un-free%20market%20failed&w=all&s=int

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