Archive for: June 2013

With friends like these, who needs enemies?

Recently, in a land better known for cricket, beaches and beer, rather than Washington DC-esque politics, political manoeuvrings resulted in the resignation of their leader. In Australia, Kevin Rudd recently toppled Julia Gilliard in a successful parliamentary leadership coup- three years after she had done that to him. Politics is not totally devoid of irony, as Mr. Rudd returns to the PM’s residence, this time with his work cut out for him, but still riding on his former popularity.

 

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Given that the Labor Party he now leads is facing an election soon, the timing is not great. However, it is the result of endemic power struggles which often appear in democracies where there is opportunity and struggles for the top jobs, as they are chosen by either party or people. As Ms. Gilliard, Australia’s first female Prime Minister and a divisive figure, steps out of the limelight (but for how long?), she can be comforted in the knowledge she is not the first democratic leader to fall in such a way.

 

As the Berlin Wall fell, and the USSR collapsed rapidly, Mikhail Gorbachev was pursuing policies of perestroika, glastnost and greater openness with the West.  Amidst the power vacuum as the old USSR collapsed, a Siberian gained in popularity and power. Whilst standing up for the government during the 1991 coup, and supporting Gorbachev vocally from a tank turret, Boris Yeltsin had other plans; the presidency. After the rapid events in Russia in 1991, Yeltsin became the first President of the Russian Federation before Christmas, having effectively toppled Gorbachev.

 

For Russia, though, outside forces and international issues played a part in Gorbachev’s fall; if Russia had not been in chaos, and if the economy had been better, it is likely that Gorbachev could have seen off Yeltsin. Ms. Gilliard can draw comfort from the fact that even a great elder statesman like Gorbachev is not immune from the same plotting that was her downfall.

 

More recently, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has successfully seen of threats to his power since elected in 2006. There have been not leadership challenges per se but moves to undermine his power base, to challenge him in motions of no confidence, and other political moves to force him out of 24 West Sussex Drive (the Canadian Prime Minister’s residence) . Indeed, since 2006, there have been several elections, mostly triggered by political events rather than a government seeking re-election after their term of office. Although quite unpopular in Canada, Harper has been returned to power each time.

 

A calculating political machine, seemingly more concerned with his own power base and Ottawa politics rather than Canadian interests domestically or internationally, he is still in power despite numerous political episodes.  Most notably, in 2008, debates over the Budget deteriorated so much that the subsequent chain of events made Mr. Harper, put then Governor General Michaelle Jean in a very tricky constitutional situation concerning proroguing Parliament, over December 2008 and January 2009. Luckily, the situation was resolved- but in avoiding a motion of no confidence over his party’s budget, Mr. Harper nearly triggered a constitutional crisis.

 

Given Mr. Harper’s impressive track record in nimbly avoiding such challenges, Ms. Gilliard could learn from him.

 

More domestically, the Conservative Party here in the UK are no stranger to leadership challenges. Margaret Thatcher was removed aver 11 years not by people but by a successful leadership challenge using rarely- used party rules and procedures that placed a (relative) newcomer in No.10.

 

Subsequent party leaders have had to watch their backbenchers as keenly as the opposition benches, as leaders have come and gone quite frequently due to dissent, opposition and political manoeuvrings from their own party.  At least Ms. Gilliard only had one main and expected opponent, instead of potential challengers appearing out of nowhere in her party. However, it only takes one main challenger or opponent to cause your political downfall – as Tony Blair found to his cost with Gordon Brown.

 

Although out of Australian politics for now, it would not be surprising if Ms. Gilliard made a comeback to the political arena at some stage, and ended up in a subsequent Cabinet or as Prime Minister again. It is not unlikely; but if she pulls it off, many Western democratically elected leaders will be watching and learning intently from her.

 

In the meantime, Kevin Rudd returns as Prime Minister in time to face an election. It just goes to show, that sometimes in a democracy the greatest threat to your power base is not the will, vote or voice of the people, nor a free press or an independent judiciary, not the opposition parties – but rather the people sitting on the same parliamentary benches just behind you, supporting you with their voice, but plotting against you with their minds.

 

Democratic leaders should bear in mind the old wisdom to ‘keep your friends close- but your enemies closer’- for unintentionally, that is what they actually do.

 

Guest Post contribution from: The Law Ninja.

Job centres in need of an overhaul

Job Centre Plus has become outdated and it is no longer in line with the new economical and social trends. It is said that Job Centre Plus focuses on getting people off the welfare but a new approach is required if Britain is set to lower its unemployment rate and keep it more stable on the long run. A think-tank composed of Foreign Secretary William Hague and former Labour home Secretary David Blunkett, among many others, have claimed that the private sector should play a more significant role in finding UK citizens’ jobs. Of course they would get remunerated for their effort and this is a double win because on one hand it will generate business for the private sector and secondly because it will offer better guidance for those who seek employment.

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The current status

According to the latest statistics 40% of the people who get a job through Job Centre Plus get back on the welfare program within a 6 months’ timeframe. This information says a lot about the efficiency of the Centre. It is more than obvious that certain modifications or updates need to be applied in order to avoid such high figures.

What should the new job centres focus on?

In order to offer a more stable unemployment rate those who advise future employees should seek to advise them into long term, stable positions and not short-term, opportunistic jobs. The current Job Centre Plus is not doing this and as a result it is great let down for many. Job advisers from the private sector should have (at least theoretically) more know-how related to what companies need and are looking for, and as a result could inform job seekers how to prepare or if they are suitable or not for the respective jobs. Multinational companies have long argued that if a person does not fit in with their corporate environment that person will most likely quit or get fired within a relative short time frame even if the person is very qualified for the job. This is why the psychological profile of the candidates plays a very important role in the selection process.

Perhaps in the future, with the new education curriculum which is set to help youngsters match the skill sets which are sought by multinationals, Job Centre Plus will be only a distant memory but until then we have to do most with what we have.

Using parking fines to biff up the budget?

We are all aware that the economical climate is not at its best point and things might look pessimistic and the government is trying to get a hold of their spending and to draw funds to the budget from all directions. It would all be ok if there wouldn’t be for certain exaggerations such as the parking fines in the UK. Many claim they have received parking fines due to vague or ambiguous parking signs or due to honest mistakes.

parking ticket

The current status

Even though many complain about the parking fines, officials claim that less than 1% of parking tickets are being questioned which indicates a different story. As mentioned before many claim to make honest mistakes but officials claim that some individual make these “mistakes” on a regular basis. It goes to show that some people are taking advantage of how the fines system makes decisions, which is in “a sensible and rational way”. On the other hand the system at a certain point begins to see every potential claim as an opportunity to evade the system and therefore the whole dilemma surfaces. We have on one hand the righteous individuals who make claims and then we have the opportunists who make claims regularly and it become somewhat difficult to differentiate the two categories.

Public outrage

Some have even go so far as to claim that the system is abusive and that in these turbulent economical climate, parking fines have become a major source of income. However this could not be any further from the truth according to officials. They claim that since they register such a low level of appeals this cannot be true. Even if this would be true, the money is well spent as the figures indicate, in the 2011-2012 interval, parking fines have generated £411m while £8bn were spent on public transport. All this money is spent in order to increase the efficiency on public transports and make it more fluent.

The bottom line is that this cannot be considered abusive and government has the figures to support this affirmation. Even more it is more than obvious that the British government is doing its best in order to provide its citizens the best traffic conditions possible.