After months of revelations and strikes, court cases and privatisation rows, there seems to be a new trend from the UK’s Government of criticising different institutions left, right and centre. Denouncing the bad behaviour that has been uncovered is obviously the right thing to do, showing the public it will not tolerated but all this criticising has created a distance – an us and them sort of thing – to the point where some of these institutions are now in quite vulnerable positions.
Starting with the media. We need a free press; the press charter suggested by the Government would harm press freedom. Although slightly, it would stop the over 100 year tradition of a free press with no interference from Parliament and that is a dangerous road to start down. Look at the media in places like Russia and North Korea controlled by Governments and powerful people, obviously this charter doesn’t go that far but once it has started when will it stop? Freedom exposes truths we all need and have the right to know about like the Expenses Scandal, Wikileaks and Edward Snowden revelations; we would never have found out that information if we didn’t have a free press. A free press is something a country should be proud of not bashing at any given opportunity. I do agree that phone hacking is wrong, it is against the journalist’s code of conduct and is also illegal. We don’t need to regulate the press to the measures the Government is suggesting, what needs to be changed is employing a board of regulators for print media that runs like Ofcom – independent and can act in severe measures. Unlike the current regulator, the PCC, which is made up of editors and it’s most severe punishment is to publish a tiny apology on page 56. Pretty useless I’m sure you will agree. The Government can step in to help sort out the system of court proceedings over libel and slander though which ends up damaging the media in costs even if they win. Over the past few months it has come to light that people in other institutions have done worse things than the media and they have gotten away with small/no punishments so why are we making a scapegoat out of the media? Mainly because it is an easier institution to attack. We need a free press, it is the corner stone of any democracy and I, for one, would not like to live in a country where we don’t have the freedom to express ourselves and find out information we should know about.
Then there are the spies. After recent revelations of spying by Americans on their allies and some British spies listening to Belgium citizens phone conversations it has sparked a debate on the morals and ethics of spies and just what exactly they are allowed to get up to that we don’t know about. Spies spy, there is no shock in that revelation but spying on normal members of the public that are law-abiding and therefore have a common universal right to privacy is wrong in my eyes and the eyes of many others. We shouldn’t be spying on our allies unless there is a good reason too. We need spies to do their jobs – protect our country and the people in it but as I said before listening in on conversations of law-abiding citizens I have a problem with. If that person has been suspected of something such as terrorism, then I’m sure we’d all agree we would prefer it if their phonecalls were monitored by GCHQ in order to stop/prevent an attack which could kill thousands than letting them have their privacy and potentially having another huge terrorist disaster on our hands. Spies do brilliant work which they should be praised for, they stop many bad things happening to this country, around 34 attacks have been stopped since 7/7 in 2005 and for that I completely respect them and the tough job they do but their morality needs to come into question regarding some of their practices recently revealed. There needs to be change by stopping spying on innocent people who deserve privacy whether they are a member of Government in a foreign country or the guy who serves you in Tesco. The Government should be defending the spies hard work, they are very quick to slate their bad morality or mistakes which makes politicians look good to voters but they should commend spies of the UK because without them we would have had many more tragedies and deaths and those quick to change their opinions politicians would have had a much more difficult job.
Fire-fighters are being forced into strikes, the most recent ones on the busiest weekend of the year, in order to get their voices heard in a battle of pay and pensions that has been rumbling on for years. After spending so long trying to discuss the terms of the contracts and retirement age with the Government in a calm and civilised way gaining nothing, the Fire Service and its members have had to take drastic action in order to get their voices heard. Fire-fighters never want to have to strike and potentially put people’s lives at risk as they know how dangerous strikes can be and how much damage could occur during the few hours of a strike. But when your voice is not being heard after going through the correct channels and it is something that affects your life, career, family and money situation then what else can you do other than protest or go on strike. The Government seems to think the package for pensions is decent for a fire-fighter but in comparison to bankers who are getting bonuses for losing money or politicians who are set to get an 11% pay increase then it is nothing. Why should bankers who caused a massive financial crisis and helped to plunge this country into debt get million pound salaries and people who spend all day every day putting their lives on the line to save others get a ‘decent wage’? How is that fair? How is it fair for a politician to earn more money than a life saver? I personally don’t understand how this hierarchy has come about with emergency services and people on the front lines of tough jobs, in roles we all rely on, have come near the bottom while people who swan around London in suits claiming expenses on second homes can earn a hell of a lot more for doing not nearly half as much as those brave men and women. The fire-fighters need to be listened to, they should be paid more for what they do and they should get a very good pension and retirement package, not just a decent one. At the end of the day we all need them and we would not do very well without them there to risk their lives to save our own.
And on the subject of pay and giving respect/praise to people who deserve it, the Government should pay tribute to the NHS, teachers and the Police force more than they have been doing recently. With many scandals in the Police forces of the UK, NHS failings in certain hospitals and a handful of schools failing, it is easy to criticise but the majority are good people doing brilliant work day in day out on pay nowhere near enough while constantly facing backlash after backlash from the Government and the media. Now the probation service are too facing cuts due to being falsely accused of failing criminals on their way out of prison into the real world again. In any group there is always going to be a small minority that is bad/immoral – a couple of dodgy police officers, a few bad teachers, a failing hospital department, but the majority’s admirable work should not be punished on behalf of the few. They deserve more from their Government and country and they should be shown the respect and gratitude they fully deserve for all their hard work.
I know this Government in particular wants to be seen to be taking a hard line with failing institutions and bad behaviour and I have no issues with that, with them one week bashing bankers, the next having a go at people on benefits and the next teachers etc. It is a case of keeping the public happy but is that really working for them? Initially it is but when you really look into the way the Government is treating these groups of mainly hard working, committed people then it is actually quite criminal and these actions in the long run could actually be quite damaging for relationships between the Government and institutions of the UK.