Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Democracy in China



I read somewhere during the Scottish referendum campaign that government officials in China were talking great delight in the level of support for independence in the opinion polls, not because of their great love for democracy, but as payback for the long years of colonial rule by the British Empire.

Now the good thing about Scotland's independence referendum whether people voted Yes or No is that it was a magnificent exercise in people power, in self-determination, and everyone who took part deserves huge credit, even David Cameron and the Coalition Government at Westminster which agreed to put the issue to the test in the first place.   

Compare events in Scotland with the scenes in Hong Kong over the weekend where the Chinese Government is trying to gerrymander the election of Hong Kong's next chief executive.

Seems like democracy is coming to Hong Kong whether the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) likes it or not, which would be a good thing if you ask me, since the CCP represents only 6% or so of China's 1.3 billion voters.

Hong Kong: Protesters defiant amid stand-off

China editor Carrie Gracie asks workers in Hong Kong's financial industry if they believe the protests will harm the economy

Tens of thousands of pro-democracy protesters are blocking Hong Kong's streets, shutting down its business hub and ignoring appeals to leave.

The demonstrations have spread to other areas including a shopping district and a residential area.

Riot police withdrew on Monday after overnight clashes in which they used batons and fired volleys of tear gas to try to disperse the crowds.

China has warned other countries not to support the "illegal rallies".

Its foreign ministry said it opposed any interference in China's internal affairs.

Meanwhile the British government called for the right to protest to be protected.

"It is important for Hong Kong to preserve these rights and for Hong Kong people to exercise them within the law," the UK foreign office said in a statement.

Protesters - a mix of students and supporters of the Occupy Central pro-democracy movement - are angry at Beijing's plans to vet candidates for Hong Kong's 2017 leadership elections.

They want a free choice of candidates when they cast their ballots for the chief executive - something Beijing says is out of the question.
Sunday saw angry scenes and dozens of arrests on Hong Kong's streets as tens of thousands of protesters faced riot police in the heart of the city.

In a news conference on Monday, Cheung Tak-keung, assistant commissioner of police for operations, said police had used the "bare minimum force".

He said 41 people had been injured in the past three days, including police officers.

Some of the protesters remained camped out around the government complex overnight on Sunday, sleeping on the ground and some erecting barricades.

About 3,000 people have also blocked a major road across the bay in Mongkok, on the Kowloon peninsula, while a crowd of about 1,000 faced police in the busy shopping district of Causeway Bay, east of central Hong Kong.


Protesters remained on the streets as darkness fell on Monday, with many still camped outside government buildings
About 3,000 protesters blocked a major road across the bay in Mongkok, on the Kowloon peninsula
Some protesters covered their faces with plastic wrap and goggles as an anti-tear-gas measure
Earlier, police clashed with protesters attempting to block roads in central Hong Kong

The Hong Kong government has urged protesters to stay calm and leave peacefully.

But schools in three districts have been closed and the city remains heavily disrupted, with several major thoroughfares blocked.

One man said protesters were growing more confident. "Police don't have enough officers to close down the districts where there are protests," Ivan Yeung, 27, told AFP news agency.

Overnight, Hong Kong's chief executive reassured the public that rumours the Chinese army might intervene were untrue.

"I hope the public will keep calm. Don't be misled by the rumours," CY Leung said.

In other developments: 

  • Police said they used tear gas 87 times in clashes with protesters on Sunday
  • More than 200 bus routes have been cancelled or diverted; some subway exits in protest areas have been blocked
  • Several banks have suspended operations in affected areas
  • Police said they arrested 78 people on Sunday, after 70 arrests on Saturday.
  • In the Taiwanese capital, Taipei, a group of protesters gathered outside the Hong Kong cultural office in a show of support
  • President Ma Ying-jeou said Taiwan was closely watching the situation in Hong Kong
  • In mainland China, reports say Instagram has been blocked, it is thought due to the protests

Chief Executive CY Leung said the government was "resolute in opposing the unlawful occupation" by protesters'Sorrow over chaos'

Tensions escalated on Sunday when the broader Occupy Central protest movement threw its weight behind student-led protests, bringing forward a mass civil disobedience campaign due to start on Wednesday.

In a statement on Monday, the movement called on Mr Leung to step down, saying "only this will make it possible to re-launch the political reform process and create a space in which the crisis can be defused".

China, which stations a garrison of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) in Hong Kong, said it was confident the city's administration could handle the protests.

Celia Hatton: The view from Beijing

China's leaders must be sitting uncomfortably in Beijing.

As long as the protests continue, there is a chance they will spread to the mainland, where many are unhappy with one-party rule. The Chinese government is taking clear steps to limit information about events in Hong Kong by censoring internet search terms and forums discussions.

But if the protesters hold their ground, how far will Beijing allow events to spiral before getting directly involved?

The sight of Chinese troops confronting Hong Kong protesters, particularly students, would be a disaster for Beijing, leading to an international outcry. Beijing could revisit the dark days following its violent response to 1989's Tiananmen protests.

So, for now, Chinese leaders face an unusual set of political constraints. The Communist Party is unwilling to cede political control to the people of Hong Kong by refusing to allow direct elections in 2017. As a result, the party is putting its faith in the abilities of the Hong Kong police to deal with the fall-out from that decision.

A spokesman for China's Hong Kong and Macau affairs office said that Beijing firmly opposed "all illegal activities that could undermine rule of law and jeopardise 'social tranquillity'", Xinhua news agency reports.

Mainland newspapers have blamed "radical opposition forces" for stirring up trouble.

Analysts say Communist Party leaders in Beijing are worried that calls for democracy could spread to cities on the mainland.

Britain handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997 under a "one country, two systems" formula that guarantees liberties not seen on the mainland, including freedom of speech and the right to protest.
Hong Kong democracy timeline
  • 1997: Hong Kong, a former British colony, is handed back to China under an 1984 agreement giving it "a high degree of autonomy, except in foreign and defence affairs" for 50 years
  • 2004: China rules that its approval must be sought for changes to Hong Kong's election laws
  • June-July 2014: Pro-democracy activists hold an unofficial referendum on political reform and a large rally. This is followed by protests by pro-Beijing activists
  • 31 August 2014: China says it will allow direct elections in 2017, but voters will only be able to choose from a list of pre-approved candidates. Activists stage protests
  • 22 September 2014: Student groups launch a week-long boycott of classes in protest
  • 2017: Direct elections for chief executive due to take place 
  • 2047: Expiry of current agreements

Democracy Rules (9 January 2013)

Here's an interesting artcle which appeared in The Times newspaper recently - written by Ai Weiwei - a well-known artist and campaigner for freedom of speech in China.

Now democracy is an unusual beast in China which can best be summed up as follows:

China has a population of 1.3 billion people - but democracy is reserved to members of the Chinese Communist Party which claims an impressive 80 million members.

Now these 80 million members represent just over 6% of the population - so the vast majority of its people (94%) are completely disenfranchised - unless they all join the Communist Party, of course.

But think of the number of trees that would have to be cut down - just to issue all those new membership cards. 

Every ten years the 80 million members of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) send 2,000 delegates to the CCP Party Congress - which is only held once a decade - and elects the party leadership for the next 10 years.

The Party Congress also elects a central committee comprising 25 or so leading party figures - which in turn elects a small kitchen cabinet of the most trusted and powerful  politicians.

Yet almost all of this furious activity - which claims to be representative democracy - takes place behind closed doors and without any public debate or effective scrutiny.

So, I'm with Ai Weiwei - the next stage of China's growth and development - requires a different mindset from the one that has dragged much of the country out of terrible poverty.

Because representative democracy is not such a big deal - when it's both unrepresentative and non-participative - as far as the vast bulk of the Chinese people are concerned.

No wonder that some brave people in China - including journalists at the Southern Weekly newspaper in Guangdong - are beginning to take a stand by demanding more freedom of speech and that their country begins to face up to the need for change. 

China’s growth cannot last without freedom

by Ai Weiwei 

The suppression of individual rights and civil voices is incompatible with modern times

In China those in power are more afraid of the people they wield power over than ever before. The powerful try to avoid any confrontation, or even discussion, at all costs. This was apparent during the 18th Communist Party of China National Congress. To avoid flyers being distributed in public, taxi drivers were ordered to remove crank handles from car doors so that the windows would stay shut, and bus windows were sealed with screws. The irony is that by smothering individual rights and silencing opinion, China suffers. Its young people have no passion, imagination, or creativity. They show no ability to digest different perspectives or to even recognise that there are differences in viewpoint.

The new Politburo Standing Committee is a product of the system. The personalities and their faces are unfamiliar, their backgrounds barely known to the public. How can we talk about signs of change when we have no clues to understanding the thinking of China’s most senior government leaders? These leaders are detached from reality, and do not recognise what they should be doing or what the nation needs. Their promises are mere slogans.

The Communist Party possesses full control of the media, and the press is only a tool for propaganda and censorship. No meaningful discussions can take place over Chinese social media other than those about entertainment and gossip. During the recent congress, all discussions on the microblogging website Weibo were heavily monitored. Rigorous approval processes were introduced for posting comments, making it a time-consuming act.

On the Chinese internet any mention of my name, even negative criticism, was censored to avoid any public attention. Any image or comment made about me would be deleted immediately and anyone who posted them would risk having their internet accounts shut down. Access to blocked foreign websites was possible using technology such as virtual private networks (VPNs), but even these were severely attacked during the congress. Under such pressure, people turned away because of the potential risks of using the internet, as any show of personal opinion could easily lead to prison or enforced disappearance. They get scared and the discussions stop.

Even though China’s economic growth is bringing rapid changes to its society, it has not become any easier for individuals to participate in social matters. It is still forbidden to express social opinion, to start a non-governmental organisation or just to be a volunteer for social causes. There is no room for expressing different views, or introducing initiatives that run parallel to the Government’s policies or compensate for areas where the Government fails. Any attempt to participate in public affairs is considered a challenge to the Government’s legitimacy.

Over the past six decades or so, those who tried to exercise their rights commonly dealt with police harassment, enforced disappearances and incarcerations. These caused extreme hardships in the daily lives of those who dared to speak, as well as severe physical and mental damage. China has become a place where civil voices are silenced. Intellectuals, or any individual for that matter, cannot reflect on their feelings or ideas.

China’s growth has not benefited its citizens. On the contrary, its existing growth hinders the country’s ability to change. It is impossible to make any significant adjustments without changing the Government’s structure completely. Yet the Government lacks the creativity and independence to foster a stronger society. It is afraid that any change would interfere with growth, leading to social upheaval and disorder. This has become an excuse to crack down on private individual rights.

This approach renders the system incompatible with modern times. Our times are very different from the Cold War period. All nations are facing economic challenges and global competition. China cannot win without the free flow of information and civil participation. It will never become a modern society without taking up this challenge.

We are now living in difficult times and at a critical moment. Although there are no indications of improvement, we can only hope that the conditions will not continue to deteriorate. I am, however, always optimistic about the future. For the younger generation to meet the challenges in their lives, they have to be free individuals, able to take on the burden of responsibility, and involve themselves passionately in social matters.

SEED OF DISSENT

Ai Weiwei, aged 57, is an artist and outspoken critic of the Chinese Government and its suppression of free speech. He is best known in Britain for his installation Sunflower Seeds at Tate Modern in 2010. Last year he was detained by the Chinese authorities for 81 days that he called a living hell of interrogation and isolation. On release, he was told that he owed £1.5 million in taxes and fines

Criminal Justice



I came across this post from the blog site archive which I wrote over 18 months ago on the key issue confronting the trial of Oscar Pistorius.

Looking back I would not change a single word although as the Steenkamp family awaits the celebrity athlete returning to court to be sentenced for culpable homicide it much feel to them that Pistorius has got away with murder.


Culpable Homicide (27 February 2013)


I'm no expert on South African law - but I suspect the term 'culpable homicide' has the same broad meaning the world over.

To me it means that someone accused of culpable homicide has caused another person's death - but has done so without malice or intent.

Now this a sensible aspect of the law although it is subject to abuse - since it is quite common for criminals to argue to argue that their actions were unintentional - that the deceased person  'ran on to the knife', for example.

Or that they fought back against their and died in the struggle - so their death was 'accidental'.

If the dead person was on their own - which is not unusual - then the accused person is often the only witness which can make it more difficult to secure a conviction - without other  evidence capable of undermining the 'accidental' version of events.

Yet in the case of Oscar Pistorious - I fail to see how his defence lawyers managed to keep a straight face when they argued that their client should face only a charge of culpable homicide - and not murder for killing Reeva Steenkamp.

Because even taking Oscar's story at face value - he shot four times through a toilet door a point blank range with a powerful handgun.

Which was clearly a deliberate act and he must have understood the likely consequences - for anyone on the other side.

So even if you swallow Oscar's version of events - his intent was surely to kill the person on the other side of the toilet door - albeit his 'mistake' lay in not realising that the person he was shooting at - was his girlfriend, Reeva.

And that's before anyone starts to look critically at the rest of his incredible story - about shuffling around on his backside allegedly in mortal fear for his life - without noticing that Reeva Steenkamp was not in bed but had got up and gone to use the bathroom.

I'm sure that much more evidence will come out when Oscar finally stands trial - but to my mind Oscar's behaviour and that of his family - has treated Reeva Steenkamp and her family with huge disrespect.   


Celebrity Justice (16 September 2014)



The story's not quite over yet, but Oscar Pistorius seems likely to try and cash in on his notoriety by writing a book about his trial and conviction for killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, with a high powered hand gun.

I don't know enough about South African law to know what the prospects are, but I hope Reeva Steenkamp's family go after Pistorius in the civil courts because, so far at least, they haven't found any justice in the criminal courts.

And as things stand there's every possibility that Pistorius will not even receive a prison sentence for causing the death of Reeva Steenkamp, as one of the options open to the trial judge is a non-custodial suspended sentence.

Which would make a mockery of South Africa and its criminal justice system, if you ask me.

Pistorius plans money-spinning book as girlfriend's family head home


After being convicted of culpable homicide, the Paralympian's story of a tragic night could be a global bestseller

By David Smith - The Observer

Oscar Pistorius leaves the High Court in Pretoria on 12 September 2014 after the verdict in his murder trial where he was found guilty of culpable homicide. Photograph: Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/Getty Images

Oscar Pistorius plans to write a book giving his account of what happened when he shot dead his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, and his ordeal in standing trial for her murder, his manager said on Saturday.

The memoir could prove hugely lucrative for the Paralympian but also prompt accusations that he is cashing in on the killing of the 29-year-old model and law graduate.

Pistorius was acquitted of murder at the high court in Pretoria, South Africa, last week but convicted of culpable homicide after shooting Steenkamp through a locked toilet door at his home. He was released on bail and will be sentenced at a hearing that starts on 13 October.

As Steenkamp's parents expressed dismay at the verdict and headed home to Port Elizabeth, Pistorius's manager and agent, Peet van Zyl, revealed that the double amputee athlete intends to put his side of the story on paper.

"He will write his own book," he told the Observer. "We've discussed it. We've talked about ideas and concepts. I'm not going to go into details now." If Pistorius receives a suspended sentence, as some experts predict, he could also return to competition, possibly even in time for the 2016 Olympics and Paralympics in Rio. He is known to be regularly working out to stay in good physical condition. The International Paralympic Committee has said it will allow its most famous athlete to return to the sport.

Van Zyl said: "I will sit down with him once everything is done and decide what we are going to do. We have to wait until 13 October before we can think about anything. After that we will tell the world what we are going to do."

Pistorius published an autobiography, Blade Runner – a reference to his nickname due to his prosthetic limbs – five years ago. But after that he reached the pinnacle of the London Olympics only to be author of his own downfall when he killed Steenkamp at his home in Pretoria on St Valentine's day last year.

A book about the shocking episode could be a bestseller, enabling Pistorius to restore personal finances that have been exhausted by legal fees, but also risk charges of exploiting the situation. OJ Simpson, the American actor and sportsman cleared of murder after another blockbuster trial in 1995, was criticised for publishing a book entitled If I Did It, in which he hypothetically described how he would have killed his ex-wife and her friend.

Pistorius has always maintained that he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder when he shot her four times. But speaking to ITV News after the verdict, her parents, June and Barry Steenkamp, said they did not "fully" believe his account of that night. June said of the judge's ruling: "We were shocked. Shocked. Disappointed. You know your heart drops because you just want the truth. It's going in the wrong direction, that's how you feel."

Ben Williams, books editor of South Africa's Sunday Times, said a book by Pistorius "could go either way. If you do it right, you could have the sports biography of the century. On the other hand, he's not the most popular person in some circles so you could have a tremendous backlash that sinks the book. Look what happened to Julian Assange's autobiography."

As Pistorius contemplates the project, other authors are racing to put out books about a case that has captivated millions of people in South Africa and around the world. Williams said he is aware of half a dozen titles from mainstream publishers plus "innumerable" self-published ebooks. Few would be surprised if the nascent Pistorius publishing industry leads to a film or TV dramatisation.

"It's because Oscar was the person who defined South Africa," Williams added. "I thought he was going to be the next iconic figure after Nelson Mandela. It's all gone horribly wrong and the amount of interest is spectacular. I've no doubt there will be a made-for-TV movie – that's definitely going to happen."

Last week saw the publication of Oscar: An Accident Waiting to Happen, co-written by Patricia Taylor whose daughter, Samantha, was a girlfriend of the sprinter and testified during his trial. It is billed as "the all-exclusive inside story of ex-girlfriend Samantha Taylor's tumultuous romantic relationship with the gold-medal athlete which turned into every mother's nightmare".

South African journalist Barry Bateman's coverage of the trial gained him 139,000 new Twitter followers in a week; he now stands at 227,000. He is the co-writer, with Mandy Wiener, of Behind the Door: The Oscar and Reeva Steenkamp Story, due out next month in countries including the UK.

Bateman said there has already been interest in the book from producers looking for a screenplay. He described the making of a movie about the case as "inevitable".

Another contender is Chase Your Shadow: the Trials of Oscar Pistorius, published internationally in December. Its writer, British journalist John Carlin, said: "I've had contracts since a year ago, which tells you there's a universality about this story. It fits into a recognisable narrative pattern going back to Homer. It is a classic tragic hero's fall."

Carlin, author of a biography of tennis player Rafael Nadal, and of the book Playing the Enemy about Nelson Mandela and the 1995 rugby world cup, which became the film Invictus, said he would be very surprised if Pistorius returns to the track.

"I don't think it's in his thoughts in a serious way at all," he said. "I find it extremely unlikely that he's going to go back to what he was. Whatever the outcome of the trial, the controversy will linger on, as it did with OJ Simpson. There are loads of people who will think he killed Reeva deliberately. If he turns up on athletics track in Manchester or Dusseldorf or wherever, there will be protesters with placards."
      

Mister Ed


Ed Miliband's speech to the Labour Party conference is going to be lampooned from here to the general election, and rightly so I think because it was truly terrible from a man who has been a professional politician for years.

In case you missed it the Telegraph's sketch writer, Michael Deacon, captures the essence of the speech here and as I said in a recent post to the blog site, Ed came across more like Forrest Gump than a potential prime minister.   

All of which reminded me of a hit American TV show from the 1950s and 60s 'Mister Ed' - the star of which was a talking horse (Mister Ed) and if I remember correctly, featured a special appearance by Clint Eastwood in one episode.

Sketch: A young man called Ed

Celebrating Ed Miliband's unforgettable speech at the Labour Party conference 2014 – in the style of Ed Miliband's unforgettable speech at the Labour Party conference 2014.


By Michael Deacon - The Telegraph

Friends, today I want to tell you a story. Because I think my story has a lot to say about the way things are going for many everyday working people up and down the country in our United Kingdom.

Earlier today I met a man called Ed. Ed is a young politician from Primrose Hill in London. Hardworking dad, couple of kids, big fan of A-Ha and polo mints. But he was deeply worried about his future.

And friends, I'll never forget what Ed said to me.

He said: "Oh God oh God oh God oh God oh God oh God."

I asked Ed why he was sobbing and retching into a park bin.

And to me Ed said this.

He said: "I've just given this completely bonkers speech which everyone is panning because I spent half of it telling these insanely banal anecdotes about meeting random people called Gareth in parks. You remember the leaders' TV debates before the last general election, when David Cameron kept saying things like 'Only the other week I met the most marvellous black man in Plymouth'? It was like that to the power of 40. Oh God oh God oh God oh God oh God oh God."

And friends, here's the thing. I know that a lot of everyday working people up and down the country in our United Kingdom feel exactly like Ed.

Only this morning, I met Harriet, a slightly older politician from Camberwell and Peckham. Local mum, working every hour God sends to get her three children through Parliament.

And friends, I'll never forget what Harriet said to me.

She said: "Leave me alone. One more word about that bloody speech and I'll deck you."

Friends, we've got to understand what everyday working people up and down the country in our United Kingdom are saying to us.

They're saying to us: we're not sure there's a future for guys like Ed. Not under this government. Or even under his own government.

Ed's a decent guy, working hard, making the best of a bad situation. But he thinks that unless you're one of the privileged few in Britain, this country isn't going to work for you. Ed isn't privileged. He couldn't afford to go to Eton or the Bullingdon Club. He had to make do with a teenage internship in Tony Benn's office, a degree in PPE from Oxford, a 12-month lectureship at Harvard and a job working for Gordon Brown.

Friends, we need a route map. We need a route map for guys like Ed. Ed said to me, "My school told me apprenticeships were rubbish, so I've ended up in this dead-end job as Leader of the Opposition. I'd probably have been quite happy as a plumber or an electrician. Well, all right, maybe not a plumber or an electrician, I'd have accidentally set fire to a bath or wired a toilet to the mains. But, you know. Something. Oh God oh God oh God oh God oh God oh God."

But friends, here's the thing. After I'd led Ed away from the park bin, and sat him down on a bench to recover, he turned to me. And I'll never forget what he said.

He said: "Only the other day I met a man in a branch of Ryman's. And he said to me: 'Here, aren't you that David Miliband?'"

And friends: I think that's what a lot of everyday working people up and down the country in our United Kingdom are telling us.

Ed Miliband and Forrest Gump (26 September 2104)



The Mail's political sketch writer, Quentin Letts, does an effective hatchet job here on Ed Miliband's big speech to the Labour party conference which went down like a lead balloon to all but the party faithful, apparently, and even they had to be roused out of their apathy by some official 'helpers' working the hall.  

Now I don't normally go for this 'playing the man' style of criticism, but having listened to Ed's last speech before the 2015 general election, I have to agree it was dreadful, full of strange anecdotes about whom he had met in his local park, which meant that Ed came across more like Forrest Gump than a future UK prime minister. 

The other things that struck me is that Ed, Labour and the No campaign were not averse to this kind of media coverage during the Scottish independence referendum when the press pack made countless personal attacks on First Minister Alex Salmond and a huge fuss about some asshole throwing an egg at Labour's Jim Murphy.

While studiously ignoring or playing down a road rage incident involving the First Minister's official car and violent scenes in Glasgow's George Square when a Unionist gang launched a premeditated attack on a perfectly peaceful Yes campaign event.   

The point being that if you are going to change the nature of political reporting, then you've got to lead by example, but as history shows the Labour party is quite happy to court The Sun and The Mail newspapers when it suits their own narrow interests. 

A clunker of a speech... and even a kiss that missed: QUENTIN LETTS sees the lacklustre Labour leader struggle to impress even the faithful

By QUENTIN LETTS - The Mail

Last time we had spin doctors desperately igniting applause for a flailing leader was at the Tory conference days before Iain Duncan Smith was dumped.

Oh dear. It is a measure of how pea-soupy, how humdrum and adolescent Ed Miliband’s speech was yesterday, that three of his claque stood at the side of the hall and tried to get the crowd clapping.

Tom Baldwin, Greg Beales and John McTernan – Mr Miliband’s grimmest henchmen – were to the left of the auditorium. Within five minutes it was apparent the speech was fast going phutt. Mr Miliband, having again opted for a memorised performance, was uncertain of his words.

The leader talked blithely about ‘day one of me as Prime Minister’ and referred to ‘this Labour Government’

Gaps appeared between sentences. The rhetorical energy was so faint, it could have done with a snort of smelling salts.

Leader Miliband – who could well be our Prime Minister in just over seven months’ time – was speaking so slowly, the audible, delayed feed in the exhibition hall outside caught up with him. The sign-language man downed fingers because he was in danger of lapping Mr Miliband.

I saw one of the red T-shirted stewards eat such an almighty yawn, he could have been a Manchester hedgehog preparing for hibernation.

And still Mr Miliband stood there, hands churched, gazing at the audience in silence as he admired his last sentence.

‘Ain’t I just the most dandy winner?’ that look said. He talked blithely about ‘day one of me as Prime Minister’. He referred to ‘this Labour Government’. Even Tony Blair, with his vast lead in the opinion polls in 1996, was not so conceited.

Did Mr Miliband think his slow-motion, whispery delivery would sound intimate, homespun? ‘Now here’s a fing,’ he said, in the way Max Bygraves used to say ‘I’ll tell you a story’.

He used this mock-matey idiom seven or eight times: ‘now here’s a question for you’; ‘but here is the question for Britain’; ‘here’s the funny thing, friends’ and so forth.

Summing up his main policy package, he said ‘six national goals, folks’. Folks? Was this really the pre-election oration of a statesman? Where was the despatch, the gravitas, the urgent sense of mission one normally finds in Opposition leaders before they win power?

The pair joked about the mishap before later having a quick peck in front of the clapping crowd and cameras

I suppose we should admire his wonkish cleverness in learning more than an hour’s worth of meandering nonsense, but when the country is about to go to the polls, might he not have been wiser to stand full-square behind a lectern and deliver grown-up proposals for our taxes and public services?

Mrs Thatcher in 1978, Tony Blair in 1996, David Cameron in 2009: they seized their audiences, shook the country by the scruff.

This goofy clunker, with his cliches and opaque policies, his refusal to state in detail where the money is going to come from – his inability even to mention welfare reforms! – just radiated a lazy sense of entitlement. He wanted ten years in power. He could not explain vividly what he would do in ten months, or even ten days.

The Baldwin-Beales-McTernan trio realised the speech was tanking. Lines which had been written to win instant applause passed without so much as a murmur of agreement from the audience. Ennui, langour, drift.

Messrs Beales and McTernan started to slap their hands hard to try to inject urgency and get the crowd excited. Multi-millionaire-by-marriage Mr Baldwin even started whooping. Odd, really, because Mr Miliband was attacking the rich at that point.

The audience, while it found its places before the main event, was entertained by a choir of children who sang ‘You’re My Hero’ and the theme from the Lion King. Then we had a brief montage of film clips which showed their Ed nodding as he met factory workers, troops, police officers. We saw him in a train. In a plane. Ed Mil, man on a mission!

Enter Hamlet. He slipped in the back, then took his place on the platform. After a quite properly serious opening about the Syrian emergency, which lasted all of two minutes, he thanked Gordon Brown for helping to persuade Scotland to stay in the Union.

Delegates, aware that there have been tensions between Mr Brown and the current Labour leadership, gave a warm, prolonged cheer that seemed to say ‘we like Gordon better than you, mate’.

The pair eventually managed to get the kiss right and had a peck on the lips in front of the waiting crowd

Mr Miliband (pictured with wife Justine) is currently languishing with an approval rating of minus 23 per cent

Now came the first of several descriptions, not all of them convincing, of meetings Mr Miliband had had with members of the electorate.

He dripped these encounters throughout his speech. There had been Josephine and Gareth and two women in a London park. There had been Rosie and Colin, though Colin had since died, poor fellow. And there had been Elizabeth.

Guess what? Elizabeth, a mechanic, was in our very midst. Stand up, Elizabeth. She rose. Everyone clapped. Mr Miliband left her standing there for a while. I think he perhaps forgot what he was going to say. So he told her to sit down.

We had an ode (or so it felt) to the word ‘together’. He said it six times in one sentence. ‘Together, a different idea for Britain – the inspiration is all around us. We want to reach the talents of every single person. The great entrepreneurs. The brilliant National Health Service. Our brilliant Armed Forces.’

It was the sort of gibberish a teenage poet spouts after first falling in love. But, snap, now he was making a savage denunciation of millionaires and bankers and oligarchs and wicked David Cameron.

‘We know what kinda election campaign they’re gonna play,’ he then said, flicking to Mr Innocent.

This was not a good speech. It was not even a mediocre speech. It was ripe nonsense. It was deluded. Dotty.

Other adjectives that spring to mind: windy, sluggish, evasive, hypocritical. He attacked the Coalition for its handling of the economy – an area in which even Labour supporters think the Tories and Lib Dems have done well. He complained about unemployment – yet jobs are increasing fast.

Where was the coup de theatre? He reheated themes from his conference speech last year on seizing land from property firms and going after electricity companies.


Aides said Mr Miliband's speech, which was given without notes, had ‘changed’ as it was being delivered

He got on to gay rights – another area where the Cameroons have, excellently, stolen the centre ground - and I wondered if some great new policy initiative might be imminent.

The best he could announce was that ex-EastEnders actor Lord (Michael) Cashman is to be Labour’s international ambassador on gay and lesbian rights.

Mr Miliband spoke of his coming ‘interview’ with the British people, as though he was applying for a job at a think-tank or advertising agency.

Yet we are talking here of the premiership. To be Prime Minister is to have control over the lives of servicemen, to be custodian of our nuclear weaponry, to manage our nation’s treasures – not just of gold, or what is left of it after the last time Labour was in power – but also of culture and attitudes.

A Prime Minister must be able almost subconsciously to give voice to a people’s sentiments, as Mr Blair did at the death of Diana, as Mrs Thatcher did in her response to the Falklands, and as Mr Cameron did after the Bloody Sunday inquiry.

Do we look at Ed Miliband, so jejune in his mannerisms, so palpably terrified on the streets of Scotland this month, and see a human vessel capable of meeting the demands of this position?

The premiership very nearly broke big, growling Gordon Brown. Are we really now going to entrust it to this peculiarly insubstantial figure? For that, quite aside from the disastrous economic implications of a return to Labour financial management, is the crux of the coming election.

The character of the man who would be PM: it is an unavoidable part of electoral calculations, and it is one on which even Labour MPs and activists concede they have a problem – called Ed.

As he took the applause of the hall at the end, he jabbed forward to peck his wife Justine on the lips. Then, like a nervous adolescent, he leant in again – only for Mrs M to sway away. Might he have the same effect on the British electorate a few months hence?

Lorry Drivers



I hadn't really thought about lorry drivers as a group of workers who would have a holiday back pay claim, but there's been an enquiry from a big distribution centre just off the M8 and it seems, indeed, as if these workers do have a case.

Because they regularly work overtime hours and are often on the road the weekend as well, which is obvious when you think about it, and apparently these additional pay elements are not included when the drivers take their annual leave.

So it looks as if they are another significant group and as word begins to spread and no doubt others will follow.  


Simple HBPC Test 



Here's a simple test to help discover if you have a holiday backpay claim.
  1. Take your entire wages for 3 months without holiday pay and divide by 3 to give you your average pay for those 3 months.
  2. Then compare this average pay with your pay in the month you were on paid leave. 
  3. If your holiday pay is less than your average pay, then it is less then it is highly likely you have a claim. 
If in doubt make a claim. 
If you don’t make a claim you won’t get paid anything - as many people found out to their cost over equal pay. 
If you the sums don't work out for you, then pass the word on to your friends, family members and colleagues as they may have a claim, especially if they work shifts or regular overtime. 
If you would like a claim form please visit http://www.holidaybackpayclaims.co.uk and fill in the ‘New Claim Pack’ request form.

Or contact HOLIDAY BACK PAY CLAIMS LIMITED on the following numbers: 0800 024 6888or 0141 343 8066 

Call Centre Staff



The holiday pay campaign keeps growing every day with different groups and categories of workers getting in touch to ask if they have a valid claim.

For example, a call came into the HBPC office the other day from a group of call centre staff in North  Lanarkshire and information was sent out to them the same day. 

Apparently more than 1,000 staff work in the call centre, so there is huge potential out there as the word spreads among existing Action 4 Equality Scotland (A4ES) clients and completely new clients in other areas in the private sector.

So keep spreading the word - the greatest recommendation anyone can make is a personal one and on that basis the track record of A4ES speaks for itself.

Simple HBPC Test 



Here's a simple test to help discover if you have a holiday backpay claim.
  1. Take your entire wages for 3 months without holiday pay and divide by 3 to give you your average pay for those 3 months.
  2. Then compare this average pay with your pay in the month you were on paid leave. 
  3. If your holiday pay is less than your average pay, then it is less then it is highly likely you have a claim. 
If in doubt make a claim. 
If you don’t make a claim you won’t get paid anything - as many people found out to their cost over equal pay. 
If you the sums don't work out for you, then pass the word on to your friends, family members and colleagues as they may have a claim, especially if they work shifts or regular overtime. 
If you would like a claim form please visit http://www.holidaybackpayclaims.co.uk and fill in the ‘New Claim Pack’ request form.

Or contact HOLIDAY BACK PAY CLAIMS LIMITED on the following numbers: 0800 024 6888or 0141 343 8066 

Calling Glasgow



Letters are going out to A4ES clients in Glasgow this week regarding holiday pay claims and I've had lots of enquiries already from people in Glasgow asking whether they might have a claim.

Just like any other part of Scotland, the issue comes down to whether you regularly earn 'additions' to your basic pay.

So lots of Home Carers employed by Cordia these days work overtime and do shifts - so if these payments have not been included when people take holidays and annual leave, then it's very likely you have a valid claim.

What kind of jobs are involved? 

All kinds of public sector jobs potentially, both male and female dominated jobs, as well as workers in the private sector - people who receive various additions and 'top ups' to their pay via overtime, shift allowances etc. 

Here's a simple test from the blog site that can help you to work things out.  

Simple HBPC Test (12 September 2014)



Here's a simple test to help discover if you have a holiday backpay claim.
  1. Take your entire wages for 3 months without holiday pay and divide by 3 to give you your average pay for those 3 months.
  2. Then compare this average pay with your pay in the month you were on paid leave. 
  3. If your holiday pay is less than your average pay, then it is less then it is highly likely you have a claim. 
If in doubt make a claim. 
If you don’t make a claim you won’t get paid anything - as many people found out to their cost over equal pay. 
If you the sums don't work out for you, then pass the word on to your friends, family members and colleagues as they may have a claim, especially if they work shifts or regular overtime. 
If you would like a claim form please visit http://www.holidaybackpayclaims.co.uk and fill in the ‘New Claim Pack’ request form.

Or contact HOLIDAY BACK PAY CLAIMS LIMITED on the following numbers: 0800 024 6888or 0141 343 8066

North Lanarkshire News



Enquiries about Holiday BackPay Claims keep rolling in from North Lanarkshire after a recent mail shot to existing A4ES clients.

A lot of people have the same question - "Is this an entirely new claim or is it connected with my existing A4ES equal pay claim?" 

And the answer is that it's an entirely separate claim.

So even if you are an existing A4ES client, you still need to submit a new claim because the issues involved are quite different to equal pay.

Here's a simple test which explains what's involved, but if you're in any doubt contact the HBPC office by email or the telephone numbers below.

Simple HBPC Test



Here's a simple test to help discover if you have a holiday backpay claim.
  1. Take your entire wages for 3 months without holiday pay and divide by 3 to give you your average pay for those 3 months.
  2. Then compare this average pay with your pay in the month you were on paid leave. 
  3. If your holiday pay is less than your average pay, then it is less then it is highly likely you have a claim. 
If in doubt make a claim. 
If you don’t make a claim you won’t get paid anything - as many people found out to their cost over equal pay. 
If you the sums don't work out for you, then pass the word on to your friends, family members and colleagues as they may have a claim, especially if they work shifts or regular overtime. 
If you would like a claim form please visit http://www.holidaybackpayclaims.co.uk and fill in the ‘New Claim Pack’ request form.

Or contact HOLIDAY BACK PAY CLAIMS LIMITED on the following numbers: 0800 024 6888or 0141 343 8066  

Frequently Asked Questions



I still get email enquiries every day asking if there is a connection is between equal pay and Holiday BackPay Claims.

The straight answer is No, not a direct connection at least, because equal pay is all about gender differences - the difference in pay between male and female jobs.

Whereas Holiday BackPay Claims is solely about whether workers, male and female, received their normal pay during periods of annual leave, going back several years potentially.

So workers in the public sector who regularly receive 'additions' to pay such as overtime or shift payments may well have a claim and this is true across the public and private sectors.

In Scottish councils, for example, this could apply to lots of traditional male jobs who never had a claim in respect of equal pay - refuse workers, gardeners and suchlike - jobs which have often attracted overtime and shift work.

But Holiday BackPay Claims are also likely to apply to many female dominated jobs such as Home Carers who nowadays work additional hours and weekend or split shifts.

Likewise in the private sector, where a big employer like TESCO which has thousands of employees spread across lots of different workplaces, 24 hour supermarkets and out-of-town distribution centres, is well worth investigating for example.         

Holiday BackPay Claims



I've received a number of emails asking if the holiday backpay campaign applies only to council workers.

The answer is No. 

Because employees right across the public sector are likely to have a claim, if their holiday pay was less than their 'normal' pay throughout the rest of the year. 

So workers in the private sector may well have a claim - in large and small companies - as well as public sector employees in the NHS, universities, colleges and local councils.
   
The HBPC web site is now up and running which people can visit and find out more information for themselves at:


For more information you can also call 0800 024 6888 or 0141 343 8066.

So start spreading the word to fellow workers, friends and families and if people have any queries they can also drop me a note at: markirvine@compuserve.com


















Frequently Asked Questions



I still get email enquiries every day asking if there is a connection is between equal pay and Holiday BackPay Claims.

The straight answer is No, not a direct connection at least, because equal pay is all about gender differences - the difference in pay between male and female jobs.

Whereas Holiday BackPay Claims is solely about whether workers, male and female, received their normal pay during periods of annual leave, going back several years potentially.

So workers in the public sector who regularly receive 'additions' to pay such as overtime or shift payments may well have a claim and this is true across the public and private sectors.

In Scottish councils, for example, this could apply to lots of traditional male jobs who never had a claim in respect of equal pay - refuse workers, gardeners and suchlike - jobs which have often attracted overtime and shift work.

But Holiday BackPay Claims are also likely to apply to many female dominated jobs such as Home Carers who nowadays work additional hours and weekend or split shifts.

Likewise in the private sector, where a big employer like TESCO which has thousands of employees spread across lots of different workplaces, 24 hour supermarkets and out-of-town distribution centres, is well worth investigating for example.         

North Lanarkshire News



Enquiries about Holiday BackPay Claims keep rolling in from North Lanarkshire after a recent mail shot to existing A4ES clients.

A lot of people have the same question - "Is this an entirely new claim or is it connected with my existing A4ES equal pay claim?" 

And the answer is that it's an entirely separate claim.

So even if you are an existing A4ES client, you still need to submit a new claim because the issues involved are quite different to equal pay.

Here's a simple test which explains what's involved, but if you're in any doubt contact the HBPC office by email or the telephone numbers below.

Simple HBPC Test



Here's a simple test to help discover if you have a holiday backpay claim.
  1. Take your entire wages for 3 months without holiday pay and divide by 3 to give you your average pay for those 3 months.
  2. Then compare this average pay with your pay in the month you were on paid leave. 
  3. If your holiday pay is less than your average pay, then it is less then it is highly likely you have a claim. 
If in doubt make a claim. 
If you don’t make a claim you won’t get paid anything - as many people found out to their cost over equal pay. 
If you the sums don't work out for you, then pass the word on to your friends, family members and colleagues as they may have a claim, especially if they work shifts or regular overtime. 
If you would like a claim form please visit http://www.holidaybackpayclaims.co.uk and fill in the ‘New Claim Pack’ request form.

Or contact HOLIDAY BACK PAY CLAIMS LIMITED on the following numbers: 0800 024 6888or 0141 343 8066  

Calling Glasgow



Letters are going out to A4ES clients in Glasgow this week regarding holiday pay claims and I've had lots of enquiries already from people in Glasgow asking whether they might have a claim.

Just like any other part of Scotland, the issue comes down to whether you regularly earn 'additions' to your basic pay.

So lots of Home Carers employed by Cordia these days work overtime and do shifts - so if these payments have not been included when people take holidays and annual leave, then it's very likely you have a valid claim.

What kind of jobs are involved? 

All kinds of public sector jobs potentially, both male and female dominated jobs, as well as workers in the private sector - people who receive various additions and 'top ups' to their pay via overtime, shift allowances etc. 

Here's a simple test from the blog site that can help you to work things out.  

Simple HBPC Test (12 September 2014)



Here's a simple test to help discover if you have a holiday backpay claim.
  1. Take your entire wages for 3 months without holiday pay and divide by 3 to give you your average pay for those 3 months.
  2. Then compare this average pay with your pay in the month you were on paid leave. 
  3. If your holiday pay is less than your average pay, then it is less then it is highly likely you have a claim. 
If in doubt make a claim. 
If you don’t make a claim you won’t get paid anything - as many people found out to their cost over equal pay. 
If you the sums don't work out for you, then pass the word on to your friends, family members and colleagues as they may have a claim, especially if they work shifts or regular overtime. 
If you would like a claim form please visit http://www.holidaybackpayclaims.co.uk and fill in the ‘New Claim Pack’ request form.

Or contact HOLIDAY BACK PAY CLAIMS LIMITED on the following numbers: 0800 024 6888or 0141 343 8066