our eyes are open

Whatever happens today I am optimistic for the future, I’ve been called naive and an idealist in the past few months more times than I care to remember, I’m certainly the latter, but definitely not the former. I see the mountain there is to climb to get to a fairer and more equal society. I see a huge media controlled by a few people, not giving the British public a fair and balanced view of what’s going on in this country, pushing their own agendas of division and bile and vitriol against those least able to defend themselves, while protecting the security of those who have already secured their fortunes, failing to report on the failings of government and the effects they have on ordinary people.

I see corporations trying to undermine the laws set out to protect the people of this country in order to increase their profits, I see them putting the interests of their shareholders above all else, I see them driving small businesses under by opening mega-stores and mini-stores where no one asked for or wanted them.

I see government stripping away the NHS, the one thing that the British are universally proud of, stripping it bare and selling it to private companies to make profit out of, I see government lie that this is to make the NHS more efficient and better for the public, but I know that it’s not true.

I see government wage wars in our name that are neither just nor for the purpose they claim to be. I see powerful interests and shadowy figures guide our fate at black-tie dinners and Bilderberg meetings, but there is hope, and things will change because we know about these things, and in time, everyone will know.

Despite their best efforts to neuter it, the internet is a powerful, organic force across which we can share and spread information like never before. Wikileaks, The Trews, The Young Turks, Joe Rogan, journalists like Owen Jones and George Monbiot; all sources of news and new ways of thinking that will change the world.

Just in the last year I have found out so much that I was blind to, when I was a child I actually thought that newspapers were there to give us news, now I know they are not. Newspapers are run to make a profit and to spread their owner’s ideology, they are not there for yours or my benefit.

Now I know that, I can see them for what they are and find alternative sources of news. The sheer volume of alternative sources of news means that it is working, we don’t have to rely on a few angry newspapers. We all have a responsibility to seek the truth and share it. Question everything you are told. It’s going to take time, the system we live under at the moment has penetrated so deeply into our national psyche that it can do whatever it wants. It’s managed to convince people that taking away a disabled persons benefits is a good thing, that austerity is necessary when all evidence points to the contrary, it’s managed to persuade us that we shouldn’t care that hundreds of people died trying to escape a country that our government bombed, that we should ridicule a man for his inability to eat a bacon sandwich.

It’s going to take time to unwind this web of lies and deceit, but we can do it, we are already doing it our collective consciousness is changing and we must keep pushing it, tell people the truth, open their eyes to what’s really happening, keep your eyes wide open the world will be a better place.

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ideas for voting change, not very good ones

politicians, voting change

Now, I had this idea to solve the problem of being fed bad information by politicians and the media and what that means when it comes to voting, it turns out it’s actually not a very good idea at all, but hear me out and let me know what you think…

Zac Goldsmith said recently [1]http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b052n6bh

“Lying is a staple here in parliament, you can lie to get elected, you can then behave in any manner you want in parliament, you can do whatever you want, you can break every single promise you made and there is nothing your constituents can do about it”

A striking statement from a sitting member of parliament; in his opinion you can lie to get elected, it’s commonplace. If you look at the Daily Mail or the Sun their coverage of Ed Miliband is hostile, bordering on the vindictive. In the case of the Daily Mail article about Ralph Miliband[2]http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2435751/Red-Eds-pledge-bring-socialism-homage-Marxist-father-Ralph-Miliband-says-GEOFFREY-LEVY.html it was undoubtedly vindictive. Look at the referendum on AV, the No campaign ran a blatantly unprovable and emotive ad about how a vote yes would deprive babies of maternity care.[3]http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/feb/25/no-to-alternative-vote-baby-ad A look through any newspaper in the country shows a litany of stories using dubious facts to make dubious points. This leads to an ill-informed public, it’s almost impossible to separate fact from fiction if you choose mainstream media as your news source or listen to what politicians tell you. This isn’t a new phenomenon, the Sun claimed that fans were urinating on dead bodies at Hillsborough, [4]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hillsborough_disaster#The_Sun a claim defended and defended by Kelvin McKenzie then apologised for by James Murdoch at the House of Commons Select Committee dealing with the News International phone hacking scandal in 2012[5]

A YouGov poll this week[6]http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/blog/archives/9251 found that 59% of people are opposed to state funding of political parties, given the choice between the current situation of big business funding the Tories and the unions funding Labour people prefer the current situation by 63% to 37%. Why? This makes no sense to me, the current system allows for business and trade unions to influence policy; taxpayer funding removes that. One side allows for corruption of our politics and the other removes that. More evidence that the public are not informed about serious issues.

Being ill-informed about something should not normally be any sort of barrier; my badly formed opinions on who should play left back for England have never held me back from debating it, but my opinion in this case does not matter; the only opinion that does is Roy Hodgson’s. The problem is brought into sharp focus when it comes to voting. These lies, half-truths and misleading articles influence the outcome of votes and can have a seriously detrimental effect on the society we live in.
Let’s imagine for a moment that we have a vote to bring back capital punishment, an actual life or death vote. Should you be able to cast your ballot without being in possession of all the facts?; Is there any evidence that capital punishment works as a deterrent? How many people (in other, similar countries, have been proven innocent after being executed), is the law robust enough and does it have enough safeguards to make sure that only guilty people of sound mind are sent to death? Can we trust our press and elected officials to present the facts honestly to us to make a decision?

What’s the solution? Well, politicians and the media cold stop lying, that would be best really, only ever tell the truth about things, print real stories with facts in them, but that seems unlikely (I should say here that a great many MPs and journalists do tell the truth, the phone hacking scandal highlights this perfectly, on one side you have corrupt journalists breaking into the public’s phones and the other you have journalists like Nick Davies fighting for the truth)[7]http://www.spiked-online.com/review_of_books/article/hack-attack-how-nick-davies-saved-the-world/15780 How about competency tests for voting? What if, whatever the vote was, you had to register for it and it was open for a month and you had to answer a series of questions before you were allowed to vote to make sure you understood what was going on? It’s not taking the vote away from anyone, it’s a safeguard to make sure that you know what you’re voting for and can make an informed choice. You may find out some information and totally change your mind.

I see some obvious flaws in this argument as I type. Who is going to pull the facts together? Who is going to decide what’s relevant? What about serious concepts that can’t be explained easily? Is Keynesian economics the way out of a recession or is austerity the answer? (This is what our elected representatives should be doing for us, but they’re twisting the facts to fit in with their ideology)[refhttps://fullfact.org/health/live/2015/jan/number_12_hour_wait_hospital_bed_accident_emergency-38409[/ref] Ok, it wasn’t a particularly good idea. What else can we try? How about we fund a public fact checking service (there already is an excellent website at https://fullfact.org/) that is working live during, say PMQ’s, there’s a big screen and a team of people checking everything as the politicians speak and if they’re lying a big eegh eegh sounds and a cross comes up like in Family Fortunes, or if we can’t do it in real time then check it after and they have to apologise for lying next week. The same could work for newspapers and television the first 5 minutes of each news programme will be apologies for a while until everyone just decides that it’s easier to stop lying and just tells the truth. Or, fines for lying?

When I started writing this I thought I had half an idea, but I don’t really, it’s so complicated and manifold that it’s going to require a bit more thought, but the fact that it’s complicated doesn’t mean I should stop thinking about it, or that you should. It is unlikely that anyone who benefits from this system will find a solution for it. The changes are going to come from you and me, from normal people who have a desire for change, who don’t want to keep seeing politicians and the media lying constantly.

It doesn’t matter that this or any problem is huge and seemingly impossible to solve, they can all be solved, but we all need to demand the change and demand the systems and policies we desire. We have people like Zac Goldsmith campaigning for parliamentary recall[8]http://www.zacgoldsmith.com/category/recall/ (unfortunately defeated in the commons) , but we have to do our bit, otherwise we will never get real change, just facsimiles of the same unfair corrupt bullshit we’ve got now, but with a shiny veneer on them.

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1 http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b052n6bh
2 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2435751/Red-Eds-pledge-bring-socialism-homage-Marxist-father-Ralph-Miliband-says-GEOFFREY-LEVY.html
3 http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/feb/25/no-to-alternative-vote-baby-ad
4 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hillsborough_disaster#The_Sun
6 http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/blog/archives/9251
7 http://www.spiked-online.com/review_of_books/article/hack-attack-how-nick-davies-saved-the-world/15780
8 http://www.zacgoldsmith.com/category/recall/

land ownership, who owns Britain, how and why

Like a  time-poor student trying to get an essay written despite spending all waking moments drinking, sleeping and watching TV,  I’ve trawled the pages of Wikipedia to find out who owns Britain and how they came to own it. It’s not comprehensive by any stretch of the imagination and it is my understanding of everything I’ve read (there is a lot of Latin to go through and even the most diligent writer would get bored having to translate archaic / technical phrases every couple of minutes).

Although this is a little dull it is important and a bit of background on some other information I need to give you.


Back in the old, old days before the Normans invaded it is most likely (I don’t know for totally definite, they weren’t very good at record keeping) that the English land law was characterised by ‘enjoyment in common and the absence of private ownership‘ – meaning that everyone had rights on the land and no one owned it, it was there for the common good. After William came over and shot Harold in the eye in 1066 he decided that all of the land belonged to him and he divided it up and gave some to his mates (Lords, or the Aristocracy you might call them) in return for their loyalty / services (this concept is known as Feudalism and the basic unit of land was the ‘Manor’ – as in ‘you come raaand my manor again I’ll cut your jacobs off’) – Le Wills also kept a load for himself . His mates then cut up the land he gave them and gave it out to tenants who had the peasants work on it.

Lords and Tenants had obligations to the crown to pay in return for the land (Feudalism) and the peasants were bound by law to work the land meaning they could not leave the land without the landlords permission. This stuff is all recorded in the Domesday Book 1: Ha ha, we’ve got loads and you haven’t. (My subtitle). There then followed a series of acts in law that further tied up the ownership of land and wrote the thievery into law; taking away any land that used to be common, making sure only sons of Lords could inherit the land (the land that until some bastard took it, belonged to everyone), landlords destroying houses to put sheep farms on and whatever else they fancied doing.

“… your sheep, which are naturally mild, and easily kept in order, may be said now to devour men and unpeople, not only villages, but towns; for wherever it is found that the sheep of any soil yield a softer and richer wool than ordinary, there the nobility and gentry, and even those holy men, the abbots not contented with the old rents which their
farms yielded, nor thinking it enough that they, living at their ease, do no good to the public, resolve to do it hurt instead of good. They stop the course of agriculture, destroying houses and towns, reserving only the churches, and enclose grounds that they may lodge their sheep in them.” – Thomas Moore, Utopia 1516

There were a few attempts by the people to change this, most notably the Levellers and my favourites, the Diggers (mostly because the thought of little yellow diggers driven by peasants all over 17th century Britain amuses me). The Diggers believed that the “common people of England” had been robbed of their birthrights and exploited by a foreign ruling-class, wanted economic equality and a return to the ‘golden age’ before Norman invasion.

“Ooooh, all this were fields before those Normans came”

“They still are Marjorie, it’s the 17th Century”

“Yes Wilfred, but they was our fields, not that stinkin’ Lord up at the Manor”

“Grave times Marjorie, turnip?”

“That’s not your turnip anymore Wilf it belongs to the Lord”

“Oh, bugger”

They tried to build communal farms, putting up notices telling everyone they’d be taking over land and that anyone who wanted to join them would be fed and clothed and have beer to drink but the lords weren’t keen and destroyed them.

After feudalism, which ended in 1660 and was replaced by taxes on the land,  land law goes through a few iterations most of which seem to be sorting out squabbles between the landed and then later on enshrining the ownership of land into law.

Fast forward 300 odd years to 1873 and Domesday 2: Stop moaning, peasants is published (It’s actual title is The Return of the Owners of Land – dull) this all came about because the landowners were fed up with the poor moaning about how much land they had.

After two years of research the returns found that 1 million people owned freeholds, about 5% of the population. The ten leading Dukes in the Kingdom owned over 100,000 acres each with the Duke of Sutherland owning 1,350,000 acres. The Duke of Northumberland owned 186,000 acres then (and still owns 132,000 acres). The publication of the report wasn’t exactly what the landed had hoped for as it rather proved the point that they owned all of the land.

That is as far as we can go on the complete picture of land ownership in the UK, there has not been an audit of land in the UK since then, there have been attempts but they have been thwarted by people who do not want the poor (that’s us) to know how much the rich (that’s them) have got.

What we do know, according to Kevin Cahill’s 2002 book: Who Owns Britain and Ireland

Britain is made up of approximately 60 million acres

160,000 families (0.3% of the population) own 37 million acres

Top individual landowners

  • Forestry Commission – 2.8m acres
  • MOD – 750k acres
  • Royal Family – 670 acres
  • National Trust – 550k
  • Insurance companies – 500k acres
  • Utility Companies – 500k acres
  • Duke of Buccleuch 270k acres
  • Dukedom of Atholl 148k acres
  • Duke of Westminster 140k acres
  • Church of England 135k acres

70% of the rest of us, that’s 44.8m people own rougly 3 million acres between us.

Doesn’t seem right, does it?

If you’re still awake after all of that, well done, next time I’ll try and explain exactly why this inequality is bad and why we need to do something about it.











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a resolution for 2015

If you only do one thing in 2015, please make a resolution to question more. Question everything.

When you read something in the paper or see something in the news, ask what the motives are behind it. Who owns the paper? What is their agenda?

When Russell Brand says something, ask what his motivations are, why he says the things he does

When someone criticises Russell Brand ask what their motivations are.

When a politician makes a statement, what are their motivations? Whose interests are they representing? Is it yours? Do they have any conflicts of interest?

When someone says ‘that’s just the way it is’ or ‘that’s the way it’s always been’ ask why? Does it have to be like that?

When you are told that mass immigration is causing massive problems in this country ask why? What is the motivation of the person telling you? Find out for yourself if it is actually true.

The same for benefits scroungers.

Why are 900,000 families using food banks in 2013 / 14? Is it because they’ve lost the knowledge on how to cook? Is it because it’s free?

The general election is in May. It’s one of, if not the most crucial vote in my lifetime, probably yours too. The result of this election could make your life drastically better or worse. Pay attention to what the politicians are saying. If they say the NHS shouldn’t be privatised, ask why. If they say it should ask why. There will be a lot of nonsense spoken, figures quoted, statistics exclaimed, a lot of them will be skewed or biased or misrepresented. The politicians are able to do that because hardly anyone checks.

The continuation of the status-quo (Latin phrase, not Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt, they can stay) benefits only those who are in power and comfortable at the moment, if you are truly comfortable at the moment then there’s not a lot I can say to you, but if you want a better life for you and your family then you have to start asking questions, things will never change if we just accept that things are the way they are and there’s nothing we can do about them.

We can have change, but we have to start thinking about things, questioning and demanding answers from the people who represent us.

Start questioning yourselves, ask the same questions you do of others about yourself. What do you want? Why do you want it?

I don’t care what the conclusions are that you come to, you may decide that Mark Reckless is right and we should start deporting foreigners, you may decide that the NHS would be better off run by private firms, you could come to the conclusion that it’s not fair that 66% of all land in this country is owned by 36,000 aristocrats who were given it by people who stole it from other people (your ancestors probably), whatever, it doesn’t matter, just think, ask questions and demand answers.

Right, now could someone help me out, my high horse has got its hoof stuck in my soap box.

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