Daily Archives: 15 May 2007

Bending the truth like Beckham in Islington

The Islington Tribune haven’t yet blamed the Liberal Democrat council for the weather, but I’m sure it’s only a matter on time.

This week, the paper is laying into them because they have ‘snubbed‘ Arsenal’s women’s football team after winning an historic quadruple of the FA cup, the UEFA cup, League title and league cup. Guardianista Michelle Hanson has laid into them, as has the Labour Opposition leader Catherine West.

Except that, as usual, it is total bollocks.

If, unlike most people, you can be arsed to read the second page, you will find a number of inconvenient truths to undermine Labour’s crusade:

  • Arsenal themselves aren’t interested in letting the women have their celebration. They don’t even let the team use the Emirates stadium.
  • The ladies’ team manager himself states “I don’t think it would (attract) enough people to attend it.”
  • Rhona Cameron who, as an amateur footballer herself is possibly the only woman in this whole article who knows what she’s talking about*, says “I think it is expecting a bit too much to expect street parades and mass jubilation.”
  • And finally, the coup de grace. It turns out that the council has actually contacted the club for advice on how to celebrate.

Talking of manufactured outrage, the other thing the council are being pillioried for this week is the fact that charities who have been renting property from the council at subsidised rents are outraged that they are now being forced to pay market rates as part of the mass council property sell off. For once, Cllr West has opted to remain silent; fortunate since she was in the paper a fortnight ago claiming that the council should be forcing rents up even more. Some of us might want to know why charities, which already receive subsidies from the taxpayer, should expect to be further subsidised by the local authority as of right, but clearly this is not a view shared by the Green Party.

What I most like about this article is the transparent grasping attitude of the charities and the Greens:

“We’re a charity and obviously couldn’t afford to pay a market rent.”

Well, obviously.

“We are often a thorn in the side of the council and if they wanted to get rid of us this [rent increase] would be the way.”

It’s all a sinister conspiracy, see. Green PPC Emma Dixon goes on to explain in the letters page:

…even the council realises voluntary groups will not be able to afford market rents, so it proposes to give grants to some lucky groups on the basis of stringent criteria.
These include whether the council thinks the group makes an “appropriate contribution” to Islington; whether the group has a “business plan” to reduce “dependency” on the council (a dependency only created by the rent rises); and whether the group is located (in the council’s view) in “the most suitable property for their needs”. If not, they may be asked to move out into a “managed office” hub – or, presumably, fail to qualify for a grant for their rent.

Er, where do I start? How is a charity which needs rent subsidies not dependent on the council? What is wrong with encouraging them to become more independent? What is wrong with a council examining how best to spend taxpayer’s money instead of just doling it out willy-nilly to whichever organisation is lucky enough to already be a council tenant? This woman is apparently a barrister. I hope she’s never mine.

The real problem here is not anything the council have done but the over-heated nature of the London property market. Subsidising rents here, there and everywhere doesn’t just cost us more council tax, but ensures the market remains over-heated and makes it harder for people like you and I to get onto the housing ladder. When politicians and the press over-indulge such misguided nonsense they do us all a great disservice.

* Before the hate mail starts to pour in, I’m not saying women don’t know anything about football. I AM saying that women (and men for that matter) who up until last week were probably unaware that Arsenal even had women’s football team and have decided to jump on a political bandwagon, don’t know what they’re talking about.

The Janus faces of the commentariat

You wonder what planet these people are from sometimes. Iain Macwhirter writes:

The whole point of proportional representation is that it is supposed to prevent one-party rule.

No, the whole ‘point’ of proportional representation is that seats in the chamber should reflect votes. As it turns out, in Scotland, it has prevented one-party rule. A minority executive is neither unprecedented, nor necessarily unworkable.

Despite agreeing with 90% of the SNP manifesto – everything from local income tax to nuclear power – they refused even to sit down and talk about a coalition with the SNP, unless Alex Salmond abandoned his policy of a referendum on independence first.

This was something they knew he could not do, and was transparently an excuse for refusing to negotiate the coalition that Scotland expected.

The SNP hinted at a constitutional convention to look at the whole constitutional question – something the Liberal Democrats had campaigned for in the election.

Simply not true. The price the SNP were insisting on was Lib Dem support in Parliament for a referendum on independence, and that was the price Nicol Stephen was not prepared to pay. Sure, they were prepared to ‘compromise’ by making it a multi-option referendum, something which Salmond was confident he would be able to trash with the help of his pet millionaires like Souter. The Lib Dems would have been propping up an executive that was spending all its energies on making the case for independence. Something tells me that in a parallel universe where the Lib Dems did make this mistake, another Iain Macwhirter is currently ripping them to shreds.

The irony is that, across Scotland, Liberal Democrats and SNP councillors have been forming coalitions to run local authorities like Edinburgh.

That’s because the price isn’t a referendum on the independence of Edinburgh.

Moreover, it was the week Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness agreed a coalition in Northern Ireland assembly – but somehow the Liberal Democrat leader, Nicol Stephen, couldn’t even sit down with Alex Salmond.

That’s because even a former armed insurgent like Martin McGuinness isn’t insisting that Ian Paisley has to support a referendum on independence. Just what part of this aren’t you getting Macwhirter?

Now, Alex Salmond, first minister of Scotland, is in with a real chance of propelling Scotland out of the United Kingdom. It’s a funny old world.

Really? He’s going to get a referendum? How? Planet Macwhirter is a funny place to live.