Politics: Response from LibDems on “Stop the war”

April 21st, 2010 by Richy B. No comments »

On the 19th of April (3 days ago), I wrote to Rachel Joyce (of the Conservative Party), Gareth Thomas (of the Labour Party) and Christopher Noyce (of the Liberal Democrats) via Stop The War Coalition as they are candidates for the Harrow West constituency for the General Election 2010. I could not email Rowan Langley (of the Green Party) nor Herbert Crossman (of the UK Independence Party) as StopWar did not have an email address for them.

So far, I have only received one response – from Christopher Noyce of the Liberal Democrats. It was short and sweet (full text in the “Read More” section) and he’s supports the withdrawal of troops from Afhanistan, doesn’t support the war in Iraq and, in my eyes, answered the remainder of the questions in a way I would like to see. However, there were three very small “picky” things that put my off from his response – his candidate email address is a Hotmail one (!), the fact he failed to state which party he represents and whether those views were his personal thoughts or those of the Liberal Democrats. I know all candidates are a bit busy, so I’m not too concerned he bullet-pointed responses.

So far: 1 to LibDems, 0 to all other parties.

The full text of the email I sent was:

I am writing to you in your capacity as a parliamentary candidate in the general election to find out your views on a number of issues concerning the “war on terror”, and in particular the occupation in Afghanistan. You will be aware that the overwhelming majority of people in the country believe the troops should come home and that the war is counterproductive.

At a time when all the main parties in the election are calling for cuts in public services, I note that this year’s budget of £3.8 billion for the Afghan war is almost exactly the amount the government plans to cut from the NHS. In considering how I will cast my vote in the election, I would be interested to receive your replies to the following questions arising from the current government’s war policies.

1. Do you support the immediate withdrawal of British and NATO troops from Afghanistan?
2. Did you support the war in Iraq?
3. Will you oppose any military attack on Iran by the United States or Israel?
4. Do you support the immediate closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison?
5. Are you opposed to the renewal of Trident nuclear weapons?
6. Do you oppose the attacks on Muslims and the growing Islamophobia in British society?
7. Do you agree that the use of anti-terrorist laws to restrict the right of protest is an attack on civil liberties?

I would be interested if these views reflect your personal thoughts/views or if they are those of your Party.

And the response I received from Christopher Noyce:

in reply
1.yes
2.no
3.yes
4yes
5.yes
6yes
7.yes

chris noyce
[then a copy of my original email]

Politics: Finding Manifestos

April 10th, 2010 by Richy B. No comments »

As you may be aware, there is a UK General Election (and most Local Elections) due to be called on the 6th of May 2010 (if you aren’t already registered to vote, have a look at About My Vote: you need to have registered to vote before the 20th of April). And although the candidates have until the 20th of April to register with the Electoral Commission, as registered voter I thought I’d see how easy it is right now to find each of the 3 major parties and 4 minor parties (which are either standing in the Harrow West constituency or have had quite a bit of publicity the last week or two) manifestos.

I started by looking on Google UK for the common party name (i.e. for the United Kingdom Independence Party I searched for “UKIP” as that is what they are commonly known as) and tried to see if their manifesto was listed on the first page. I was only looking for “official sources” (i.e. directly from the party’s website) – not commentary on mentions by third parties. I then tried to find the manifesto from their own website by searching the front page for the word “manifesto” and/or using any site search facilities. I was shocked at how difficult this actually was and disappointed that the parties make it so difficult to find out what you are meant to be voting them in for.

Anway, here’s the results from HARDEST to find to EASIEST. Note, I am only reviewing how easy it was to find the manifestos – not the contents of them(!).
» Read more: Politics: Finding Manifestos

Business: Royal Mail Postage Price Increase

April 5th, 2010 by Richy B. No comments »

Following on from my previous post about where my money goes, I thought it’ll be worth reminding people that tomorrow (Tuesday the 6th of April) Royal Mail* postage prices increase (* = Royal Mail is a “private company” wholly owned by the UK Government).

Rate New price Old price
1st Class Letter (up to 100g) 41p 39p
2nd Class Letter (up to 100g) 32p 30p
1st Class Large Letter (up to 100g) 66p 61p
2nd Class Large Letter (up to 100g) 51p 47p
1st Class Packet of 101-250g 172p 162p
2st Class Packet of 101-250g 151p 141p
1st Class Packet of 251-500g 224p 214p
2st Class Packet of 251-500g 195p 185p

If you are sending more than 1,000 letters on a single day, you can get a discount of 1.5% – if you are sending over 20,000 you get 5.5%. However, if you are sending around 100,000 letters in a batch and they are presorted then the cost is just 15.85p: but if you are sending that many letters you have an option not to use Royal Mail (you can use UKMail etc): however, the small business person and normal consumers don’t have that option and have to pay Royal Mail’s ever increasing prices.

Where does my money go? (or how much does the Government make from me)

April 5th, 2010 by Richy B. 2 comments »

I’ve done a breakdown on my income and expenditure and it’s scary how much of my money (39.72% or 39.72p per pound) is going directly to the Government in Taxes.

Here’s the full breakdown (in pence per pound) of where my money goes.

I’ve bolded the money which goes to one government department or another.

  • 26.01p Income Tax: yes, I’m a “higher rate” tax payer, but I am working in Central London so costs are higher: see rent!. Don’t forget, that to pay me my employer needs to collect money from their customers which they have to pay VAT on to the government along with business rates etc
  • 20.83p rent: don’t forget that the people I’m renting this house from will need to then pay income tax on this
  • 14.17p savings
  • 6.22p National Insurance
  • 4.17p food shopping
  • 3.69p takeouts/evening meals/other hot meals
  • 3.33p Personal pension contributions (as the pension I’m supposedly paying for through National Insurance will be minimal)
  • 3.15p lunches (ouch – I’ll have to reduce this!)
  • 2.54p Council Tax
  • 2.50p web hosting server rental
  • 2.40p Oyster (London Underground) Card
  • 2.06p Gas and electricity (the property we are living in is currently poorly insulated, but we are moving soon)
  • 1.77p on VAT including:
    • 0.72p (17.5%) on my mobile phone bill
    • 0.65p (17.5%) on takeouts/evening meals/other hot meals
    • 0.10p (5% VAT) on gas and electricity
    • 0.09p (17.5%) on Internet access
    • 0.06p (17.5%) on Sky television subscription
    • 0.06p (17.5%) on £20 worth of VATable shopping each month (mainly cat food)
    • 0.05p (17.5%) on clothing
    • 0.02p (5% VAT) on Insurance Premium on Car insurance
    • 0.01p (17.5%) on Car MOT
    • 0.01p (5% VAT) on Insurance Premium on Life Insurance
  • 0.60p Mobile phone bill
  • 0.50p Internet access
  • 0.43p Fuel tax and VAT on Fuel
  • 0.40p car insurance
  • 0.33p Sky TV subscription
  • 0.28p domain name registrations
  • 0.28p clothing
  • 0.27p Water bill
  • 0.24p Petrol costs (excludes fuel tax and VAT – see 0.43p above: yep, we pay nearly double the amount of the fuel in taxes here in the UK!)
  • 0.24p life insurance
  • 0.20p TV Licence
  • 0.17p Car Tax
  • 0.06p MOT
  • 0.04p Car breakdown cover

Yes, I’ve included the following as “government contributions” – but that’s because the money goes either directly to a government department (such as TfL) or goes to a subsidiary wholly owned by the government. It’s up to you if you want to include these figures in your own “breakdown”:
* 0.20p per pound TV Licence: Should go towards funding the BBC – but £1.01 of that goes towards “Digital Switchover” costs and that 5.2% of it goes towards collecting the licence fee – and the current Labour government has made mention that they want to use the money to fund other causes. I actually think the BBC does a quite good job (and an excellent job for news), but I do disagree with the way the licence fee is managed by the government (who sets amount the licence fee is charged at and then routes the money to the BBC which is wholly owned by the government…).
* 6.22p per pound National Insurance contributions: These are not, technically, a tax (you can recognise the taxes by the word “Tax”)- but you can’t get away from not paying it and the money goes into the general government pot – I’m actually ignoring the fact here that my employer, to employ me, has to pay the same again in Employers National Insurance contributions.
* 2.40p per pound Oyster Card: This money goes towards me travelling on the “good to really bad depending on the day/time” London Underground system. This money actually goes to Transport For London – which is a government department controlling transport across the London area. Yes, I know it falls under the remit of the Mayor of London – but note the .gov.uk part of TfL’s web address: .gov.uk domain names are only available for the government to register…

Assumptions made:
* Out of the 260 Monday-Friday days, we have 13 bank holidays and I take 20 days holiday – leaving 227 working days that I’ve got to travel each way on the ‘Tube and have lunch.
* I travel 4,500 miles per year (currently not possible due to a broken car – but it’s roughly what we managed last year) and petrol costs at the pump 114.9p per litre and I get 49mpg – giving me 417.87 litres of fuel used per year.

TV: Have I Got News For You Filming

March 31st, 2010 by Richy B. 1 comment »

Just a quick note as quite tired.

Today, we went to watch the filming of the first episode of the new series of Have I Got News For You (filmed at the ITV London Studios). The free tickets from Hattrick (HIGNFY’s production company) said that the doors open at 6.45pm : we were there for 4.30pm and were around 30/40th in the queue. By the time 6.30pm came round (and we had been standing in the cold wind and rain outside), the queue stretched out the “Audience Queue” area, past the side of the building, round the corner on the pavement and further still(!). Spoilers may be ahead…
» Read more: TV: Have I Got News For You Filming

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