Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Every Child Matters As Long As It's Not An Asylum Seeker

The United Kingdom is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. All fair and nice cuddly politics. Now the UK has a general reservation against the UN Convention on Rights of the Child. That means the UK can ignore the Convention in pursuit of its border control and immigration targets. That strikes me as being wrong, unjust, unethical, immoral and just an all round bad thing.

The Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture argues
The general reservation states that: "The United Kingdom reserves the right to apply such legislation, in so far as it relates to the entry into, stay in and departure from the UK of those who do not have the right under the law of the UK to enter and remain in the UK, and to the acquisition and possession of citizenship, as it may deem necessary from time to time."

The question is timely, 2008 being the year that the Committee on the Rights of the Child will scrutinise the UK's record of compliance with its Children's Convention obligations.

So how does the reservation affect child survivors of torture? According to the Border and Immigration Agency (BIA), it "allows the UK to apply its immigration laws without having them interpreted in light of the UN Convention". In other words, it allows blanket discrimination against foreign national children in the interests of so called "effective immigration control".
So the UK government discriminates, in contravention of the Convention, against children who may be survivors, or witnesses, of torture just so that it can meet its immigration targets That is managerial target-setting entering the door and throwing ethics and morality out of the window. Such is the reign of managerialism in the UK in 2008.

As the Medical Foundation says
It is paramount to send a clear message that the UK finally recognises its full responsibilities by formally and publicly removing the reservation. An act which at least for children would be every bit as important as the coming in to force of the Human Rights Act 1998.

For Medical Foundation clients and all other children who have suffered serious harm, Article 39 of the Convention can then be demonstrably implemented to the fullest effect: "States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to promote physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration of a child victim of: any form of neglect, exploitation, or abuse; torture or any other form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; or armed conflicts. Such recovery and reintegration shall take place in an environment which fosters the health, self-respect and dignity of the child."
And, as the government keeps telling us, Every Child Matters. So, make it so.


The BBC is reporting that the UK government intends to sign the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in full. About bloody time.

Liberty, Equality and Fraternity But Don't Invite The French

With all the coverage and reminiscences of 1968 and the discussion of the revolutionary moment and the glories of spontaneity, I was surprised to find someone berating the pace and the lack of preparation of the participants.

A correspondent to Peace News, 2497, May 2008 writes
The French are known for their failed revolutions. This time in 1968, having done nothing to educate the people or communicate with the trade unions, they went through a revolutionary charade producing excellent poetry but resulting in the complete defeat of anarchist nonviolent aspiration throughtout the world.

The French activists had no right to spoil years and years of work towards a universal understanding of the tasks in front of us, to create a worldwide peaceful society without rulers."

Publisher, 77, London
As my old five-a-side captain used to say Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance and Preempts Post Revolutionary Pangs of Passion for a Glorious Failure. And the P's ran away with it.

Tax The Rich Until The Pips Squeak

I've just discovered that Denis Healey never said he would "tax the rich until the pips squeak". There's one illusion shattered. But back in the heady days of glam rock in 1973, at the Labour Party conference he did say "I warn you that there are going to be howls of anguish from those rich enough to pay over 75% on their last slice of earnings".

In Tribune, 11th July 2008, Paul Anderson wrote the government should increase personal allowances and pay for it by introducing a 60% tax rate on incomes over £200,000 and abolishing the upper earnings limit national insurance. The income figure of £200,000 was chosen so as not to frighten the middle classes, but is in danger of being useless as so few people earn that figure and pay tax.

According to HMRC, in tax year 2005-6 99% of tax payers earned less than £132,00. So there are probably less than 2 in a thousand people earning more than £200,000. Is it worth having a 60% tax rate on such a small number of tax payers? How much tax do those on such high incomes actually pay and how much do the avoid and how much do they evade?

It's either sending out a signal or it's a tax to generate income for the treasury but it's not really doing both.

After writing this post based on his Tribune piece I find this Swiftian polemic on his blog, Gauche.
1. An increase in personal allowances to take everyone on £10,000 a year or less out of income tax altogether.

2. Introduction of new top-rate income tax of 60 per cent for everyone earning more than £60,000, 80 per cent on £80,000-plus and 100 per cent on £100,000 or more.

3. Standardisation of national insurance rates so everyone pays the same percentage on every penny of income above £5,000.

4. An end to all non-dom privileges.

5. A council tax revaluation with abolition of bands and a straightforward proportional relationship between value and payment, so households in £10m homes pay 100 times what a household in a £100,000 home pays.

6. Abolition of inheritance tax up to £500,000 and introduction of 100 per cent inheritance tax over £1m.
That's more like it but I'd still debate the amounts.

Happiness of the People

Over the summer I have been working, relaxing at festivals and generally not writing as much as I should. It's now time to catch up.

Last weekend I was going through some old copies of Tribune and various other journals and spotted this piece by Bryan Rostron in Tribune 27 June 2008, p13,(available online at Mail and Guardian), on Stalinism and the ANC.

In his epic novel, Life and Fate, Russian author Vasily Grossman tried to explain the slavishness of "party-mindedness" and the acquiescence of once brave revolutionaries who kept quiet as Stalinism took hold. "Fear alone cannot achieve all this," he wrote. "It was the revolutionary cause itself that freed people from morality in the name of morality, that justified today's pharisees, hypocrites and writers of denunciations in the name of the future, that explained why it was right to elbow the innocent into the ditch in the name of the happiness of the people."

How else to explain that not one of Mbeki's ministers took issue with his Aids denialism? Minister of Health Manto Tshabalala-Msimang even trained at a Soviet institute influenced by Stalin's lauded agronomist, Trofim Lysenko, who applied Marxist dogma to biology with disastrous results. "Perhaps," observed James Wilmot, "this is why she does not appear to understand how the genetics of retroviral co-evolution works."

Grossman, famous for his war reporting from Stalingrad, witnessed the corruption of Stalinism from within. His great, breathtaking novel was published only in 1980, after his death, yet Grossman also captured something of what is going on in South Africa today: "The hide was being flayed off the still living body of the Revolution so that a new age could slip into it; as for the red, bloody meat, the steaming innards -- they were being thrown on to the scrap-heap. The new age needed only the hide of the Revolution -- and this was being flayed off people who were still alive. Those who then slipped into it spoke the language of the revolution and mimicked its gestures, but their brains, lungs, livers and eyes were utterly different."
So goes the revolution as the baton passes to those who only hear tales of how the revolution was won from those who lived its adventures.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

England Lions v South Africa

Today I went to Grace Road, Leicester, to see England Lions play South Africa at cricket.

On the train over I happened to sit in the quiet carriage on the train. I was quiet until a passenger phoned a friend and recounted all about his holiday and his windsurfing fun and games. He was on a train to London. But he wasn't stopping in London. He was off to Richmond to speak to Jamie Redknapp and Scott Parker (whoever they are).

I took a taxi from the train station and got dropped off by the Cricketers pub. But where was the entrance to the ground? Behind an unmarked black garden gate was an alley that lead to the entrance. If some other people weren't heading in that direction I would never have found the ground.

Inside the ground I met my friends and we watched England bat. Robert Key scored a creditable 51 but that apart there was a reckless abandon of wickets. England were all out for 184 inside the 50 overs.

Herschelle Gibbs played a good innings for 81 to lead South Africa to a convincing victory despite some disappointing batting by his team mates.

On Saturday I'm off to Derby to see both teams battle it out again.

For a full match report of England Lions v South Africa at Leicester, see Cricinfo.