Robert Hampton

Another visitor! Stay a while… stay forever!

18th July 2013

La Reyne le veult
Posted by at 11.27pm | Gay, In the News | No responses

Rainbow flag fluttering in sunlight50 years ago, homosexuality was illegal. In an amazing turnaround, by the middle of next year, gay relationships will be on an (almost) equal footing to heterosexual ones, as the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill 2013 is now the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, after Royal Assent was received on Wednesday afternoon.

I’ll be honest – there were times when I didn’t think it would happen. From the minute the plans were announced back in 2011, a formidable campaign against same-sex marriage was launched, unleashing old-school attitudes and opinions that I naively thought had disappeared from public discourse. Certain sections of society are not nearly as tolerant and accepting as we thought they were.

The leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland (or, as he is now known, the disgraced former leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland), Cardinal Keith O’Brien, launched an astonishing diatribe, describing same-sex marriage as a “grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right”. The Telegraph and the Daily Mail were vociferous in their opposition.

The Coalition for Marriage – which described itself as a “grass roots” campaign despite being launched by luminaries such as the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, and reality TV star Anne Widdecombe – set up a petition which, at the time of writing, has a rather pleasing 666,493 signatures. The Government’s own consultation ignored the organised petitions and form letter campaigns, but still revealed widespread opposition.

The cynical view was that this bill was David Cameron’s attempt to “modernise” the Tory party image. If that was his goal, it failed – more Conservative MPs voted against the bill than for it, and Tory MPs have been the most vociferous in their criticism of the bill. Political commentators talked of divisions in the Tory party and rumours swirled of leadership challenges to the Prime Minister. The very real lives and loves of LGBT people were rather lost amongst all the punditry.

Read the rest of this post »

6th April 2013

Are the Philpotts a “Vile Product of Welfare UK”, as reported by the Mail?
Posted by at 7.19pm | In the News | No responses


If you need a more detailed explanation, Owen Jones’s article on the subject (written before the headline was printed), is worth a read.

Zoe Williams of the Guardian, meanwhile, has a simple request to all those outraged by the Mail’s front page: “Don’t get mad, get even”.

The right wants to divide and conquer, using the politics of envy and hate so it can get away with its outrageous campaign against the poor. Don’t let it happen.

(hat tip to zone_styx on Twitter who created the Vile Product image)

1st April 2013

Day of shame
Posted by at 10.40am | In the News | No responses

Today the real April fools are those who voted Tory or Lib-Dem at the last general election (and that includes myself :()

Under the pretext of reducing the government deficit, the coalition government has been systematically reforming significant portions of the welfare system. Shamefully, those hardest hit will be the poor and vulnerable, who will see protections and support they have relied on for decades reduced or stripped away entirely.

The Guardian has an excellent summary of the changes, but the short version is: if you’re poor, disabled or otherwise need help from the Government to live a dignified life, you are screwed.

The changes include the introduction of the bedroom tax, which will see many people in social housing penalised for the crime of having a spare room. They will have to either pay , or leave homes that they have had for years to downsize to smaller accomodation (even though, in some cases, they are unable to move as housing is not available). Local victims of this policy include A woman who lost her teenage son at Hillsborough and a disabled woman whose spare room is now a lift shaft, but still counts as a spare room for bedroom tax purposes.

Major changes have been made to the Legal Aid system. Many categories of legal work are no longer eligible for legal aid and the means testing criteria have been changed, meaning that access to justice will now only be possible in many cases if people are prepared to pay solicitors privately – costs that, in many cases, they will be unable to afford.

The benefits system is being altered, with various benefits including Jobseeker’s Allowance and Disability Living Allowance being gradually phased out from today and replaced by the new “Universal Credit”. This will, we are told, “simplify” the system. However, there are concerns that the new online system, which new claimants will use, is not ready. Still, anyone who has trouble will be dismissed as a lazy, skiving benefit fraud in the eyes of this government, so don’t expect any sympathy from Iain Duncan Smith.

Perhaps worst of all are the big changes that are coming to the NHS. As Owen Jones points out in his column for the Independent, this has not received the coverage that it should have:

The Health and Social Care Act is more than three times longer than the legislation that established the NHS in the first place. When I asked journalists adamantly opposed to the Tory plans why they had failed to adequately cover this travesty, they sheepishly responded it was too complicated: it went over their heads.

It is very complicated, but the biggest change is that large parts of the NHS will become open to competition, with private companies bidding to provide healthcare services. It’s a bit like how the railways were privatised. Remember old inefficient British Rail and how the private companies improved services and drove costs down? Oh…

The NHS’s own web page confidently states: “Healthcare will remain free at the point of use, funded from taxation, and based on need and not the ability to pay.” We shall see.

The Daily Mirror, alone amongst the tabloids in that it occasionally does stand up for the poor and oppressed, has an even more succinct summary:

Mirror April 1st

SHAMEFUL is absolutely right. We will not be able to toss this uncaring Government out of office until May 2015. I just hope that it won’t be too late by then.

13th March 2013

Let’s have a heated debate

Sign above a polling station: "Do not sit on the fence"I’m a procrastinator by nature. Back in 2003, I dragged my heels about setting up the blog, and even after the software was installed and ready to go, I didn’t post anything for quite a while. I was eventually persuaded to get my proverbial arse in gear when I realised that I wanted to have my say on the hot topic of the day.

There was a war looming in Iraq, and controversy over the morality and wisdom of invading Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship was raging. What better subject for my second ever blog post, on the second day of the blog?

I’m not one of these people who believe war is always wrong. Similarly I don’t think it’s the solution to every problem. I DO think it should be the last resort, when all sensible diplomatic avenues have been exhausted.

While the UK government always emphasised weapons of mass destruction, the US made no secret of its desire for regime change in Iraq, citing Saddam Hussein’s record of using chemical weapons on his own people. I don’t doubt for a moment that Saddam is evil, but we are setting a dangerous precedent: if you don’t like a government, it’s OK to launch a pre-emptive strike. And if the real reason for invading is out of concern for the Iraqi people, why are we concentrating solely on Iraq and not on the many other dictatorships which are ruled by tyranny and fear?

Looking back ten years later, and I think I was right. The Iraq war was a colossal mistake. Unfortunately no-one in Britain seemed to get punished for it, except the BBC, which got hauled over the coals for reporting the truth.

I haven’t always been so spot on. This post on “chavs” makes me cringe now. What was I thinking?!

Read the rest of this post »

23rd January 2012

Poverty stricken

If you think benefits claimants are worthless scroungers, perhaps you should take a look at this article, published in the Guardian last week. You will be introduced to Thomas Bebb, a Liverpool man who wants to work but has been unable to find a new job since being made redundant by the council in a round of spending cuts last November.

He gets Jobseeker’s Allowance, but thanks to a crisis loan repayment and card debt (his bank refused an overdraft but happily offered him a credit card), he is left with just £20 a week to live on after utility bills are paid. He has plunged into a world far away from the £2,000 plasma TVs and massive houses that the Daily Mail pretends all benefit claimants get:

He goes once a fortnight to one of two local shops that offer heavily discounted food – packets of buy-one-get-one-free frozen burgers for a pound, two-for-£1 ice-cream tubs for his younger children who stay with him at the weekend, a bag of frozen chips, which, if he rations it correctly, he can get four meals out of. When that runs out he eats rice and pasta which he gets for 25p a pack at Tesco. “Sometimes you have to eat crap.”

Bebb looks healthy, but admits he sometimes feels wobbly when he does the 45-minute walk to the job centre (a £3.80 day bus pass is usually unaffordable), because he hasn’t eaten enough. “Sometimes I’ve had to stop because I’ve had the shakes, dizzy.”

Should we expect the Old Etonian Prime Minister and his cabinet cronies to understand any of this? Mr Bebb knows the answer to that question:

“If the prime minister can go out and spend £100 a night for his dinner and I don’t get that a fortnight, where’s the justice in that?”

28th June 2010

Taking the strain
Posted by at 9.35pm | Trains | No responses

Merseytravel seem quite pleased that new transport secretary Philip Hammond is to pay Liverpool a visit to speak at the National Rail Conference in a couple of weeks time.

Mr Hammond will reportedly deliver a speech on the cuts that are about to be imposed on the railway. Hopefully some of the other speakers at the conference will take the opportunity to school him about basic railway principles, including why trains get priority at level crossings.

The government is planning to slash the amount of subsidy directed at the railways. This has resulted in a swathe of projects being cancelled: the station improvement programme announced last year has been abandoned, with Liverpool Central’s refurbishment hanging on by the skin of its teeth. The Liverpool to Manchester electrification looks doomed as well.

Of course, you can only go so far with cuts, and it looks like the railways will need to find the money somewhere else. As is often the case, the long-suffering passenger will pay: the newspapers are full of warnings of steep fare rises.

It’s fair to complain about the amount of taxpayers money being swallowed up by the railways, but I’m annoyed that no-one ever mentions reforming the insane mess that is the privatised railway system. Privatisation promised a new era of efficiency; instead we got endless red tape and bureaucracy. A lot of the taxpayer’s money is being used to fund the profits of the private companies, rather than being invested in services.

But any meaningful reform seems to have been filed under “too hard”, so instead the government will screw the passengers and allow the gravy train to roll on. Nobody will benefit in the long run, except perhaps those with shares in Stagecoach, FirstGroup and Arriva.

5th April 2010


I haven’t been blogging much recently. I wish I could say that this was due to me having more important things to do, but that would be completely untrue.

The looming general election might provide some material for me, but at the moment all I have this well-timed demonstration of old-school Tory unpleasantness, so I will leave it at that for now.

Also, you could follow me on Twitter, where I’m posting all sorts of interesting stuff:

Just argued with my sister over whether vegetarians can eat fish. I say they can't, she says they can; but that's because she is WRONG.

1st January 2010

2009? More like Two Thousand and Fine!

July saw Merseyrail’s run of bad luck continue, as a train rolled out of the depot and derailed. To atone for their sins, they introduced a new day ranger ticket, but I wasn’t convinced. This was something of a train-y month for me, as I did my bit to help out the previous generation of Merseyrail trains. Trains were also on the Government’s mind, as they announced that the Liverpool to Manchester line would be electrified.

In London, the Police proved once again what a wonderful organisation they are. In Rome, a swimmer suffered an embarrassing wardrobe malfunction.

Read the rest of this post »

14th August 2009

Cock and Bull Tory
Posted by at 11.39pm | Politics | 1 response

I would like to thank Daniel Hannan, Alan Duncan and Roger Helmer for removing any lingering doubt that the Conservative Party is still home to a lot of narrow-mindedness and general unpleasantness.

25th July 2008

Smoking Polls
Posted by at 9.06am | Politics | No responses

It’s all going terribly wrong for Gordon Brown.

I loved this quote in another article:

Senior cabinet minister Des Browne admitted the result was “a bad night” for Labour, but he insisted Gordon Brown was the right man to reverse the party’s fortunes.

Surely Brown has reversed the party’s fortunes once already?