Progressive, post-conflict, trans-scarcity society

Here I will attempt to explain my theses on a progressive, post-conflict, trans-scarcity society. I will try to do this within the framework of the existing 12 departments and I’ll try to do this as things come to me. I’m happy to be engaged in debate on any point; I’d rather be corrected than not.

This would be close to my personal manifesto. It is also a living document as you can see from the comments. There may be areas which cannot be implemented without a complete change of government. There are areas which it just needs a change of mind. Also: avoid the assumption that we cannot afford this.

Many political parties keep their cards close to their chest. Sinn Fein don’t give out their grand plan for the unification because they don’t want their political enemies picking holes in it. I hear the same about others. In my opinion, memes don’t spread if you keep them in your head. So, seed the world with progressive thoughts that can be stolen by all and sundry. What if our plans were leaked and someone else made a better world for everyone?

What indeed…

AGRICULTURE AND RURAL DEVELOPMENT

  1. Farm payments to have an additional condition on the provision of space for community allotments.
  2. Investment in consolidation of renewables generation to reduce long-term energy costs.

CULTURE, ARTS AND LEISURE

  1. Recognition that sport is not the only constructive recreational activity. Leisure centres for the mind as well as the body.
  2. Arts venues, museums to become non-free to means-tested working-age individuals, in order to support further arts development
  3. Arts to become free-to-enter for under 18s, the unemployed and the elderly.
  4. A re-examination of the function of a library. They have a function but it has changed. Everyone should have access to the Internet as it represents the most massive storehouse of instant knowledge but this does not signify the demise of the book.

EDUCATION

  1. Integrated Schooling becomes the Norm. Segregated schools will have reduced funding in staged decreases until their intake becomes normalised.
  2. An end to talk of “shared” futures and campuses as a cross-community effort. A vision of a common education environment must be enforced.

EMPLOYMENT AND LEARNING

  1. All colleges to implement Dojos based on their specialities: programming, electronics, 3d, music, post-production, etc
  2. A new programme of skills development and apprenticeship support specifically designed for indigenous SMEs. Current programmes target large companies and FDI.
  3. Further and Higher Education is to be, like primary and secondary education, free at the point of delivery. This is to stimulate the development of a highly educated populace. Base education on quality not cost.
  4. An end to programmes that are uniquely targeted at 18-24 year olds. Discrimination on age is especially painful to those individuals who have, though no fault of their own, been forced to switch careers and fall way outside that age bracket

ENTERPRISE, TRADE AND INVESTMENT

  1. Re-alignment of the NISPO Fund to be an accelerator, not a brake
  2. Development of the “big hub” concept of networks ensuring every region is close to a high-speed Internet hub.
  3. All financial assistance packages to be accompanied with a proportional Social Clause.

ENVIRONMENT

  1. Fracking needs to be researched. I have seen enough evidence to suggest that it is a very bad idea. And I’d like that backed up by scientists I trust.

FINANCE AND PERSONNEL

  1. Open Data to become the norm across departments.
  2. Establish a cross-department Innovation Fund for SBRI.
  3. Anyone earning less than the living wage will pay no taxes on their earnings. Dividends, if received, add to the wage total. They will continue to pay National Insurance.
  4. A 75% tax rate will apply to individuals who earn in excess of £200K per annum.
  5. Procurement of services will be required to undergo a economic benefit test – SMEs will benefit from procurement and multinationals will be penalised.

FIRST MINISTER (AND DEPUTY FIRST MINISTER)

  1. There will be an Office of the First Minister. There will be no need to have “one for the cath-licks and one for the pradistans”. This will be about representing civic society.
  2. The duty of the First Minister is to represent the citizen, from the lowest to the highest
  3. The FM will be tasked with ensuring that everyone of voting age actively partake in civic society. They may choose to spoil a vote, but they must actively do this.
  4. The FM will be tasked with providing a model for liberty, compassion and equality
  5. The FM will be tasked with ensuring that all political donations over £1000 are made public and further than this: cleaning out nepotism and bias in procurement
  6. The Constitutional Issue will be dealt with via referendum on the same cycle as the Assembly elections. There must be equal service given to all of the options however.
  7. I’d be in favour of the FM role being a public lottery for a year of service with it being open to everyone over the age of 16.

HEALTH, SOCIAL SERVICES AND PUBLIC SAFETY

  1. Re-open A&E departments to ensure maximum distance of 20 miles to emergency medicine. If we can put a electric car charging point within 10 miles of everyone in NI, why not a paramedic?
  2. We have to build the NHS not dismantle it in light of an aging population and increased demands. We will be using this service more – it is folly to dismantle it before the demand rises.
  3. Benefits should enable a healthy way of life. Working should enable a comfortable way of life.

JUSTICE

  1. Establish the office of historical enquiries separate to the police forces and focused on the discovery of new evidence. This is “drawing a line” – but it serves to identify the difference between the crimes of the past and the crimes of the present.
  2. Collaboration with National Crime Agency
  3. Establish the Truth Commission. Justice may be beyond some but truth may be possible.

REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT

  1. Public transport across the province will now be provided gratis. The resultant reduction in traffic and personal car use will prolong the life of existing roads, reduce road deaths and improve leisure and economic mobility.
  2. Road widening schemes will be stopped though a motorway to Derry will be completed
  3. Every train to have a ‘bike’ carriage. Every bus to be retrofitted with a bike rack.*see Comment
  4. Urban centres to have segregated cycle paths, separated by a kerb from main road traffic.
  5. Electric Car charging points to be subsidised in cafe and restaurant car parks and doubled in supermarket car parks. Town centre charging to remain free and subsidies increased for personal EVs.
  6. A Loop-The-Lough railway will be constructed

SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT

  1. Peace walls will be coming down in stages, to be completely removed by 2020. Each year, 20% of the peace walls will be reduced or removed. There can be no peace while there are walls.
  2. Equality to be the fundament of society: for everyone to question prejudice, for there to be an end to “freedom of conscience” when there is discrimination.
  3. Establish the bill of rights of the individual. This has repercussions for abortion, for assisted suicide, for abortion and for travel for medical assistance. Legislating someone to do something they do not choose within their own bodies and mind is not the mark of a civil society.
  4. Legislate the freedom of every individual to practice the religion of their choice. Legislate also the freedom of every individual to not be subjugated by the religious choices of others. The right of Freedom of Religion must be coupled with the right of Freedom From Religion.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT

  • Tackling the disintegration of our town centres and the proliferation of office block ghost towns. Empty commercial premises will be subject to 150% rates in town centres. Empty office buildings allegedly unfinished will be subject to full rates if there is no movement on the build within 6 months. Establish a cap on rent on any building that has been empty for more than 1 year; this cap will remain and can only be increased by the landlord by a 10% increment annually.
  • More digital services, including voting, but this requires much more widespread access and increased literacy

EUROPE


  • Currently drawdown from Europe is less than a tenth in NI than it is in Ireland. This investment creates jobs, infrastructure. Half the projects in Northern Ireland seem to have the European Regional Development Fund clause but yet we could be drawing down over ten times more.
  • NI does do well out of the few projects it participates in. It’s the number of programmes that are applied for and, sadly, the number of programmes that we fail to deliver. For example, Maze Long Kesh and Narrowwater Bridge
  • Much EU investment in NI is represented by the Farm Subsidy. This investment is poorly used and could be used to create new sustainable products and prosperity in rural areas using the abundant labour in these regions.
  • The role of the MEP is to be the voice of a small region. The role of the Parliament and groupings is to create the meta-framework of legislation that sits above local laws. Above and beyond this, the MEP is a connection to the structure of Brussels, the clusters and calls which dominate the directorates. How many of our MEPs have been useful in my work in Brussels over the past five years? Precisely zero. Yet I’ve been introduced to the MEPs of other regions. Their MEPs help them make the connections to form consortia for EU projects. I have no idea what ours do all day.
  • We are a small and poor region, dominated by SMEs and microbusinesses. We have poor infrastructure, we have poor governance and we have poor aspiration. Our MEPs must be a voice for us and other regions like us. The EU directorates are willing to listen (i wrote a paper for SME support that turned into an EU funded DETI project.) And they are willing to act.

0 thoughts on “Progressive, post-conflict, trans-scarcity society”

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  2. On the whole, and outside the Greens and radical fringe parties, this looks like the most progressive manifesto I’ve seen. Its implementation would depend upon the progressive tax policies that you indicate and a commitment to the redistribution of wealth. So, you’re probably going to need to have a thick political skin to stand up to the barrage of abuse you’ll receive from the mouthpieces of privilege in the media.

    Some of the stand out proposals for me are the commitment to the NHS. For me this has to provide health care, to everyone, free at the point of deliver. This is the measure of a genuinely civilised society. The idea that anyone or organisation is at liberty to profit from the illness or infirmity of others is simply repugnant.

    Free education, including HE. Ticks one of my boxes! Universities are repositories of accumulated human knowledge. Again, like health, no one individual or corporation should profit from the dissemination of that knowledge. We hold it in common.

    An end to segregated education: does that extend beyond an end to religious segregation to challenge the segregation and propagation of class inequality through so called ‘academic selection’? I’m always suspicious of the liberal middle class who express their disgust at religious segregation but seem blind to the social segregation that the transfer test helps to copper-fasten.

    Finally, have you ever seen the old TV drama A Very British Coup. If you can find a copy have a look at it to see the fate of an elected PM determined to implement a radical programme…

    1. Hi Stephen,
      Obviously this is just thoughts but there’s very little here that I would consider to be outrageously expensive. There are some things that are going to require considerable investment but some things, like the NHS, we simply cannot afford to cut. The provision of healthcare is the primary mark of a civilised society in my opinion, followed closely by education.

      But removing the cost to education, we deliver on the couplet:

      “What if we educate people and they leave?”
      “What if we don’t and they stay?”

      On segregated education, I am most passionate about religious segregation but I am also not FOR academic selection via transfer test. I believe that education permits self-selection.

  3. Excellent Matt. What needs doing expressed in concrete action points. How to overcome entrenchment… economic compounded by the old divide, that’s a challenge. Would have liked to have read your thoughts on relationships across the border and across the Irish Sea.

    1. Action points – that’s kinda difficult because I haven’t been sworn in as the benevolent dictator. 🙂

      The constitutional issue I haven’t really covered because if it changes, all of this becomes irrelevant. Belfast will go from being the first city in a puddle to *maybe* the second city in a small sea; a bit like Cork. Derry will vanish off the leaderboard to being the fourth or fifth city in the country.

      An independent Scotland raises interesting questions considering that most routes out of NI for freight would mean leaving the UK, entering another jurisdiction (Ireland or Scotland) and then re-entering the UK. I predict things would get even more expensive over here.

      My concerns about the status of Northern Ireland are purely mercenary. There are things that would be great but there are some serious negatives. At the moment, we’re beholden to Westminster for cash and Dublin wouldn’t be that interested in supplying that teat. To be honest, I’d be keener that Northern Ireland works on independence rather than anything else. At least if we are at least able to stand on our own two feet, we would have better bargaining powers with both the UK and Ireland.

      1. I hadn’t quite meant constitutional change, more under existing governance, whether you saw room for improvement.

        Greater regional autonomy, yes, all for that, but given the connected nature of our world, and interdependencies in play, how could those connections be improved?

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  5. While I see a great deal of effort has gone in to your thesis here, I am concerned at some of the inexpedient measures you go to to achieve aims with questionable moral value.

    While the ends of this piece are largely laudable, freedom is an inalienable right and it is one which is sorely trampled upon by some of the provisions of this piece. Indeed, I defer to your better knowledge in a number of places, especially enterprise, however I intend to highlight some of the issues I feel are perhaps overlooked here. Firstly, people should be free to school their children however they like, religious or secular, at home or publicly. Recent statistics have shown the superiority of the Catholic schooling sector’s exam results and frankly if parents and children alike laud the educational ethos of these institutions I see no right of yours to tell them they may no longer do so with parity to your envisioned integrated sector.

    Your arts provisions which rely on means testing is not credible, mostly considering that the process of means testing is far and away more expensive than simply allowing free access to the arts for all, putting aside the strong case we have for the arts being open and free in the first place as a vehicle for further innovation and creativity.

    A rolling basis referendum idea is once more politically and economically unworkable and would ensure that the constitutional issue is never fundamentally put to bed. What is to happen in the event of a yes vote for reunification? 5 years down the line and Unionism rallies troops and wins a No vote? As a Republican the thought of a referendum is tantalising, but you cannot possibly hold regular plebiscites and convince businesses which rely on forecasting and security to set up in a country which has neither.

    Furthermore while I am intrigued at your proposals for First Minister, I am unclear as to the mechanics and indeed am concerned at the return to tribal hegemony in the highest office. You can prescribe an office with lofty moral standards but you cannot reasonably expect too many politicians to hold those values up.

    Finally your suggestion that tendering for government business can look favourably on local SMEs while multinationals would face penalties is downright illegal. European legislation for the most part will make this impossible as it runs contrary to the free movement of goods and services within the internal market.

    The economic implications of many of your larger infrastructure and public services proposals are enormous and considering that this region is subsidised to the tune of roughly £6 billion every year (and that just about covers our existing costs) one cannot reasonably expect the kind of capital or credit being available to fund those schemes realistically. I would suggest that some of the smaller proposals be advanced first as a way of picking up speed.

    Sorry that these weren’t in any particular order, but I hope they make for constructive criticism.

  6. Hi Ciaran, thanks for commenting. I’ll reply below – note I’m not being adversarial. This is a document designed to provoke debate. I have put a lot of thought into it – but I obviously haven’t written everything down. Comments aid the development of the ideas by providing context for instruction. In other words – challenges are good because it makes me think of the answers.

    Freedom is an inalienable right but there is nothing in the description of freedom that decrees religion to be part of state-funded education. If a faith school wishes to indoctrinate or if parents choose to home-school, they are still free to. But the state shall not support indoctrination in state-funded premises. I would also not make changes to the activities of religious organisations. Except that they pay tax.

    The “ethos” argument is not well made. Additional funding through the CCMS mechanism has meant that catholic schools are better funded than state schools. There is nothing in the ethos of Catholic Schools that is special – if you recall, I went to the same school as you. There is nothing magical about the ethos; there is everything magical about additional funding.

    Means testing in the arts is simple when you consider that other mechanisms already exist such as ID cards. This just piggybacks on those. You say it’s more expensive but really that’s not true. People in work should be able to afford to patron the arts. The fact many refuse is more indicative of the current society we have fostered.

    A rolling referendum is not economically unworkable. We’re in the 21st Century and you think that asking adults across Northern Ireland is a difficult thing? Get the idea that referenda are the democratic right of citizens across the world to decide on events which are beyond the context of normal political representation. Some nations handle it well. The closest we have had was the GFA. It turned out 200,000 voters more than normal. That’s democracy. The use of a referendum for a constitutional vote is predicated by a previous referendum held in the Republic of Ireland. It’s one thing for Romantic Republicans to want a United Ireland, it’s entirely another to foist our problems onto a state that does not wish us (or our problems). So let’s check if Ireland wants us. If they refuse their people a referendum then it’s dead in the water anyway.

    My proposals for First Minister are less lofty than the unpublished new world order proposed by Sinn Fein in the event they manage to bring us to a United Ireland. This document was created upon conversing with a SF activist who refused to share any details of the new world order strategy other than “Sure it’ll be grand”, as a response I decided to publicly put my thoughts online and out there. SF have refused to do so in case their political opponents take the opportunity to pick them apart. I would counter that if they are good policies, they would be exceedingly difficult to pick apart. I can reasonably demand that politicians live up to the moral standards that citizens expect, especially when it is the sole satrapy they hold.

    Tendering for SMEs already exists and is not illegal. Please check out the existing (and adopted wholesale by the EU), Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI). This is used Europe-wide to help SMEs develop and multinationals are prevented from participation.

    Finally, you make the assumption that the changes to infrastructure and public services would be more expensive. I would actually make the counterclaim that these changes will not only make Northern Ireland more affordable than the 10 billion we get subsidised but will also pave the way towards sustainability and, potentially, independence. Westminster is also on record saying that if there were more “shovel ready” projects, they would fund them. It is a damning exposé of the current administration that the various large scale projects have been an unmitigated failure.

    Every change I make is designed to help make Northern Ireland not only affordable but potentially sustainable. We’re not the biggest region, we’re not the smallest. The problem is that our youth have been led down the garden path into low wage jobs and organised crime. If there is to be a change in the constitutional status of Northern Ireland then it must happen from a position of strength. Our current government is not leading us into a position of strength.

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