Fairness for England – Thoughts on constitutional resettlement


britain england scotland

I am, I should start by saying, very pleased that Scotland chose to stay as part of the United Kingdom. I said very little during the referendum itself — though that was still too much for some of the Yes supporters — but I was sincerely and desperately hoping for a No vote. Less out of sentimentality reasons — though I don’t deny they were a factor — than of a very real fear of the consequences for the Scottish people.

But now, after the no vote, the flavour of the moment is devolution for England. Constitutionalism has never been so sexy!

I studied public law as part of my degree, so I’m not unfamiliar with the topics involved. And there is a democratic deficit in that England lacks the same level of devolution which Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland enjoy. This has come sharply to the attention of many people, but most notably Conservative backbencher and right-wing figurehead John Redwood.

Mr Redwood thinks that England needs its own parliament. He thinks that this parliament should be the present Westminster parliament, without the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish MPs. Unfortunately, there he is wrong.

Read on…

Southend Labour candidate won’t claim accommodation expenses


ian gilbert southend

Earlier this week the news broke, that Rochford & Southend East’s MP James Duddridge claimed £11,000 in the last year on accomodation costs. This was, apparently, split between renting a flat and hotel bills. Except, James Duddridge not only lives within an hour’s train journey of London, but he owns two flats in the capital, which he rents out.

Since then I’ve been trying in vain to get a response out of Mr Duddridge. He is happy to tweet insipid lines-to-take straight from CCHQ. But answering constituents’ questions? Not so much.

Fortunately Ian Gilbert, the Labour candidate for Rochford & Southend East, has had the fortitude to actually say something on this matter: Ian has promised that, if elected as the constituency’s new MP, he won’t claim accommodation expenses.

Read on…

Lucy – A Review


lucy

I freely admit that I wasn’t blown away by the trailer for Luc Besson’s Scarlet Johansson-centric SF blockbuster Lucy. It seemed like a blur of an action film, with Johansson relegated to a stripped down, dumbed down version of her side-character in the Marvel films.

It struck me as lowest common denominator action with an SF background pasted on. I very nearly passed it by. But a film is a film, and an evening out to the cinema is an evening out to the cinema.

So what can Besson, the director of Leon and The Fifth Element, offer this time around?

Read on…

Interview with John Joseph Adams


john joseph adams

This review was originally published in issue #253 of science-fiction magazine Interzone. You can buy back issues and subscribe to future issues at their shop.

John Joseph Adams (johnjosephadams.com) is the series editor of Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. He is also the bestselling editor of many other anthologies, such as The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination, Armored, Brave New Worlds, Wastelands, and The Living Dead. Recent books include The Apocalypse Triptych (consisting of The End is Nigh, The End is Now, and The End Has Come), Robot Uprisings, and Dead Man’s Hand. He has been nominated for eight Hugo Awards and five World Fantasy Awards, and he has been called “the reigning king of the anthology world” by Barnes & Noble. John is also the editor and publisher of the digital magazines Lightspeed and Nightmare, and is a producer for WIRED’s The Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. Find him on Twitter @johnjosephadams.

Read the interview…

The Southend Tory MP, the expenses claims, and £11k of taking the p*ss


james duddridge

Yesterday’s Echo carried a story about Conservative MP for Rochford & Southend East claiming over £11,000 in accommodation expenses for 2013/14. I don’t usually quote wholesale large chunks of news stories, but here it feels appropriate:

A TORY MP has come under fire after for claiming £11,348 of taxpayers’ money, mostly on London hotels – despite having two homes in the capital.

In the latest round of MPs expenses for 2013/14, Rochford and Southend East MP James Duddridge claimed the bulk of the cash on overnight accommodation in the city, from April to December.

The rest of his claims were made up from renting a property in the city until March 2014.

According to his financial declarations, the MP owns two properties in London, which he rents out.

Interesting, no? He owns two homes in London, rents out another, and still manages to stay in hotels. Meanwhile he lives and represents a constituency which is less than an hour from London away by train. I know this because I make that same journey. Every day. To work. As James Duddridge apparently doesn’t.

Bear in mind that this all dates from before he was made a junior minister at the Foreign Office. I fully expect that the amount of expenses he claims will have, similarly to his salary, risen since his promotion.

In light of this, I’m not going to add a whole lot of ranting, because I do think it’s unnecessary. What I am going to do is leave these facts here, without comment, for you to contemplate.

  • James Duddridge has voted “moderately for” the bedroom tax, according the The Public Whip — including voting against an exemption for disabled persons or in cases where there is no alternative smaller accommodation available.
  • James Duddridge has voted “strongly for” reducing spending on welfare — including voting for the benefit cap to limit the amount that those on lower incomes can claim for, er, accomodation.
  • An annual season ticket from Thorpe Bay (James Duddridge’s local train station) to London Fenchurch Street, including travel card, costs £4,640.00. The journey from Thorpe Bay station to Westminster takes around 1 hour and 20 minutes.
  • The salary of a Member of Parliament is £66,060. The salary of a junior minister (such as, for example, a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) is £68,710.
  • The average salary in the UK is £26,000. A full-time job on the minumum wage amounts to £13,124.
  • James Duddridge is up for re-election on 7th May 2015. His majority in 2010 was 11,050

N.B I make a great effort not to swear very often on this blog, and during the writing of this particular post that has been f**king difficult . I have plainly not succeeded, and for that I can only apologise.

Comment is (not) free?


mark flewitt

Anyone who reads the blog of Southend Tory councillor Mark Flewitt (just me then?) may have noticed that he has started adding the following legend to his blogs:

NO COMMENTS WILL BE ANSWERED AS TO THIS ITEM*

Now, there are many things that can (and will) be said of it, but suffice it to say that I think this is a bizarre statement to make, belying Mark’s commitment to a fully democractic politics and speaking to an over-sensitive nature on the part of someone who aspires to be one of the major political actors of a British town.

Read on…

04 “Listen” (Doctor Who series 8) [SPOILERS]


doctor who peter capaldi

I blogged only last week on the kind of Doctor Who episode I prefer. Arising from the admission that I don’t much care for the “romp through a primary school history textbook” type of episode, I laid on the table that:

“[The] next episode looks dark, haunting Doctor Who-style horror. Which is my favourite flavour of Who. I’m hoping for something weighty, some blend of psychological and philosophical. I’m hoping for “Blink”. I’m hoping for “Midnight”.

This week’s episode is called Listen, and the teasers which have been running for the last week certainly suggest it is cast in that sort of mould. It has been six years since “Midnight”, though, and seven since “Blink”. Can “Listen” be a return to that sort of magic?

Read on… (and mind the spoilers!)

Heresy of the Week – Forget “Blink”, “Midnight” is the best of Doctor Who


doctor who midnight

Heresy of the Week is a (mostly) weekly spot in which I entertain some of the unthinkable notions of geek-culture. The arguments I put forward are not always things I personally agree with, but often rhetorical devices designed to force myself (and maybe readers) out of the boxes which fan discussions can get caught in. But that aside, feel free to get yourselves worked up and your knickers in a twist if you really want to.

This week’s heresy:

“Since Doctor Who was brought back to our screens (note: not rebooted) ‘Blink’ has been considered one of the best episodes made. It is indeed a very well made , there is no doubting that, but it is not the best of the new series; that accolade belongs to the underrated ‘Midnight’.”

Read on…

03 “Robot of Sherwood” (Doctor Who series 8)


doctor who peter capaldi

I have a feeling I’m going to be pretty alone in this opinion, but I don’t tend to get on brilliantly well with the “historical” episodes of Doctor Who. It seems a bit of an odd thing to say, of a show about a time-travelling alien, but there we go.

For every “The Empty Child”/”The Doctor Dances”, we have to endure something as lazy as “The Shakespeare Code”. I’m not against exploring the rich tapestry of history, but simply popping up outdated dress and saying “Here we are! Ye olden days!” is a bit weak as story goes. It’s a touch “Downton Abbey”, which is not where I want my Doctor Who to be going.

So on that note, this week’s episode is the snigger-worthily named “Robot of Sherwood”; and out we pop at in medieval Sherwood Forest looking for Robin Hood.

Read on…(and mind the spoilers!)

12 “All Things Must Pass”/13 “I Almost Prayed” (Defiance season 2) [SPOILERS]


defiance

With the second season of Defiance now having finished, with the simultaneous broadcast of the final two episodes, I pretty much have to review them both together.

And before I get into the spoilery stuff, having seen the whole thing, I can say that Defiance is well and truly past its growing pains. This season has been stronger, more certain of what it is doing. It has been braver too, taking storytelling risks which at the time made me scratch my head, but in the end were vindicated.

It also worked hard to extricate itself from the chaos the last season finished on.

Read on…(and mind the spoilers!)