zaterdag 30 mei 2009

Julie Kirkbride's £50,000 extension for brother - MPs' expenses

The Daily Telegraph brings news on the expense claims scandal. This time the target is the conservative MP Julie Kirkbride. She has been using thousands of tax payer’s pounds in order to facilitate her brothers and sister. Her husband, Andrew Mackay, also an MP, has already resigned after a serious discussion with his constituents. They no longer support him as their representative in parliament. Mrs Kirkbride does not wish to go into debate with her voters, but wants to spend time with her son. She has stated that she wants to continue being an MP, but that this is her local party’s decision to make; not hers.

Personal reaction:

The Daily Telegraph has tasted political blood and is now greedy for more. The newspaper first started reporting on this MPs’ expenses scandal a fortnight ago, and has been coming with more and more claims: from Cabinet minister to backbenchers. Of course, this is an issue that needs to be thoroughly investigated, and I think that the members of parliament have shamelessly misused the parliamentary expenses system. Even if the rules of the system are too lenient, the politicians could have had the moral decency to stop and think if what they were doing was right. Some of them have now started to pay the cost for their misbehaviour: a growing number of MPs has decided to stand down, and a large group is trying to stay in parliament by promising to pay back the claims or unrightfully gained benefits.

woensdag 27 mei 2009

Baby P Killers May Get Heavier Sentences

The Guardian reports that the attorney general, Lady Scotland, has requested the Old Bailey to send her all the papers concerning the Baby P case. It is her intention to send the papers through to the court of appeal in order to reconsider the length of the prison sentences passed to the three people convicted for the death of the toddler.
Especially the minimum sentences are thought to be too lenient by the attorney general, as well as children’s charities and The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. The mother, for instance was given an indefinite sentence with a minimum of five years in jail. This means that she might possibly be released in three years, given the time she spent in prison before and during the trial.

Personal reaction:

During the Cool Britannia course I learned about this horrific case. It reminds me strongly of a similar Dutch drama. It is probably because I am a mother of two myself that cases like these affect me deeply. Baby P was a two year old toddler named Peter. His mother left his father, got involved with a sadistic man, and they took in a lodger who was on the run with his fifteen year old girlfriend. These three adults around the little boy turned out to be a lethal combination. When his body was found, his head was shaved, and he had several injuries all over his body. Just looking at the picture of this beautiful blue-eyed child makes feel sick at the stomach.

zondag 17 mei 2009

Susan Boyle's secret crush on an older man

The Sunday Mirror reports about Susan Boyle, the 44 year old woman from Scotland who became a star overnight after her stunning performance at the TV show Britain’s Got Talent. During this show she had declared that she had never been married and never been kissed before in her life. Now, she has admitted to The Sunday Mirror that she wants to become involved with a man who is 16 years older than her. The two regularly see each other in the Catholic Church, and Susan has had a crush on him before. Unfortunately for Susan, her feelings are not mutual. Helmut told the newspaper that he regards Susan as a good, reliable friend. He hopes she will win the show but he is too old for a love affair with a younger woman.

Personal reaction:
This Susan Boyle is really becoming a phenomenon. After the mini-debate about her case, I had become somewhat curious about her. Now, after reading this article, I decided it was time to take a look at her on YouTube. It is true: she has a beautiful voice, and her looks are not a reflection of an angle.
Watching the exaggeratedly stunned expressions on the jury’s faces, however, I could not help feeling that it was all a put-up job. All three members of the jury knew perfectly well how well can sing, and that she not a good-looking lady. It was decided beforehand that Susan would be the living example of the saying that ‘looks can be deceiving’.
Nevertheless, I wish Susan the best of luck, and I hope she will find true happiness in her life.

zaterdag 16 mei 2009

Schools switching to clip-on ties

All over the UK, schools are changing the ties that are prescribed to go with the school uniforms. Traditionally, boys are required to wear knotted ties. Recently, however, more and more schools are considering switching to so-called ‘clip-on ties’. One of the reasons for this is that knotted ties can cause dangerous situations; they might catch fire or get strapped into equipment. The Schoolwear Association, that represents the school uniforms industry, says that with clip-on ties pupils will be able to run around school safer.
Another reason is that pupils try to stand out with a knotted tie, making elaborate knots. This is not beneficial to the standardisation of the uniform that most schools aim for.

Personal reaction:

To most Dutch people this is probably a funny story and a proof that school uniforms and standardisation do not work. People, young and old, want to show their own identity, and if they cannot do that by wearing whatever they want, they will do it by making funny knots in their ties. The mere thought of having to wear a tie every day to school would make every Dutch teenager roar with laughter.
For the British, however, I believe this is a dead-serious matter. This is one of their many traditions they do not want to part from, even though probably almost everyone absolutely hated wearing these ghastly school uniforms as a scholar.
The article does not make clear if there have in fact been accidents due to the knotted ties.

zondag 10 mei 2009

West Ham 0 - Liverpool 3

In yesterday’s football match, (May 9th) Liverpool beat the Hammers – the nickname for the West Ham United Football Club – by 3 to 0.
Liverpool’s skipper Steven Gerrard played an excellent match. He already succeeded in putting the ball into the net in the second minute. Later in the first half, Liverpool was granted a penalty by referee Alan Wiley. At first Gerrard’s shot was brilliantly stopped by West Ham’s keeper Green. However, he lost control of the ball, and Gerrard scored in the rebound. Just before the final whistle, substitute Ryan Babel put the final score to 3. This result is a big boost for Liverpool that has been dreaming of becoming champion in the Premier League.

Personal reaction:

It was quite hard to make a decent summary of an account of a football match that I have not seen myself. I am not familiar with English football, although I do watch it occasionally – especially when my husband pushes the buttons of the remote control. This means that I am not acquainted with the names and nicknames of the football clubs and players stated in the article, such as “The Hammers “.
Then there is the style the Sun uses to describe a football match: it largely consists of player’s quotes, and it is clearly meant for football fans, not the outsiders such as myself. However, I do think that articles like these give a good view on what the British talk about.

Brown set for election wipe-out

Prime Minister Gordon Brown is in heavy weather in a period when there are local elections and elections for the European parliament are coming up in June. It is feared that Labour will come out of these elections behind the Tories and the Liberal Democrats and thus will lose its leading position. Such a defeat could well mean that Brown’s career as PM is nearing its end.
The cause for this gloomy prediction is the revelation about taxpayer-funded expenses by Labour ministers and backbenchers. They allegedly made profits on their homes without paying taxes. High-ranked members of the Labour party have described Brown’s political tactics as “a disaster”. Brown is expected to axe a number of ministers in an attempt to repair the damage.

Personal reaction:

I think Gordon Brown never was a popular as his predecessor, Tony Blair. This is not the first blunder he made as PM, so to me it does not come as a surprise, and even without this scandal about taxpayer-funded expenses I do not think he will win the next general elections. Great Britain has changed since Tony Blair left No 10; the economy is failing, the sky is no longer the limit. Therefore, people are longing for new political and economic ideas.
Where the expenses scandal is concerned, I was actually quite relieved to read this. Apparently it is not just Dutch politicians who do not know morally right from wrong. Like the Labours ministers in this case, politicians are eager to claim that they acted according to the rules. However, they neglect to ask themselves if they acted according to moral standards.