The Which? Consumer Agenda and what it means for you

Consumer Agenda

We are working tirelessly in the run up to the general election to ensure consumer rights are at the heart of the debate. That’s why, today, we have published the Which? Consumer Agenda for Government.

On 8 June, voters across the country go to the polls to elect their local MP and ultimately the next government. Very soon the political parties will begin to set out their agenda for voters and the issues that they will seek a mandate on for the next five years.

Today we have published our “Consumer Agenda for Government” urging all political parties to use the forthcoming election to address critical consumer issues, which are the source of many of the problems facing people across the country.

The consumer’s voice

Consumer spending accounts for more than 60% of the economy, equal to £100bn a month. Maintaining consumer confidence is critical to the success of the UK economy. To ensure that we have a thriving economy, all parties must make sure that the voice of consumers is heard. The election presents a big opportunity for all parties to address these issues directly and to maintain consumer confidence in the years ahead.

Consumers are increasingly concerned about how the energy, banking, telecoms and rail markets are working for them. These are issues I know we debate at length here on Which? Conversation. As the election was called we asked which consumer issues the next Government should prioritise, people said that they want action on social care, energy prices and financial fraud and scams.

In an online poll between 19 and 20 April 2017 2,130 were asked to provide up to three consumer issues they believe the government should prioritise next, out of a prompted list of ten issues. Here are the results.

Consumer issues survey 2017

Your priorities are our priorities

On social care, finding a care home often comes at a distressing time and big questions have been raised about whether care homes are treating their residents fairly. We want all the political parties to commit to action so that older people receive the high quality of care they deserve.

Julius told us:

‘Choosing a care home can be fraught with difficulties – especially for lay people. There are so many different things that have to be taken into account. It is very easy to forget to ask questions about some aspects of a care home’s services.’

On energy, it is clear that the sector is still not working with millions of customers paying significantly over the odds. The next government should set out its position on competition in the energy market and any intervention must not result in prices overall going up or undermining improvements in customer service.

Finally, with fraud now the most common crime in the country, all parties should commit to an ambitious agenda for tackling scams. This should include action to improve how customer data is kept safe as well as making sure that financial institutions do more to protect ​consumers from ​bank ​transfer scams.

Read the full consumer agenda for government and find out more about the issues we’re highlighting:

Which? is pressing all parties to set out an agenda to reform markets so they work better for consumers, ensure consumers’ concerns are heard in company boardrooms, and enhance our consumer rights as we leave the EU.

Comments
Profile photo of duncan lucas
Member

A countries economy is the result of the outgoings and incomings of the population as thats where money is generated . Now if the population has a large percentage of unemployed and poor they are obviously in the governments eyes a burden on the State , being unable to add significantly to the economy by buying produce that gains a profit for a company. Now if that company exports its profits to another country , it means this country is subsidizing a foreign country. While tax dodging exists in this country and our wealth is sent “off-shore ” then the rich get richer and the poor poorer while the National Debt builds up to massive amounts , even in interest payments just causing more of a downward spiral . This country is now run as a service industry economy dictated by the City who dont want that to change , along with the Bankers , UK citizens are on low wages / dead end jobs serving the rich and still the cry is -sell off what is left of British owned industry to foreigners , so its obvious most people in this country care only for the $$$$$ . The government doesn’t want industry to develop as that would mean the working class actually had some power-naughty-naughty , so this is how this country will stay , a bankers and foreign money dealing country and not an industrialised and profit making country that profits its citizens not just the City . I think its a total injustice that our young people are being disgracefully let down for the sake of the Big Buck. Its funny , I am old and shouldn’t bother about things like this but even in old age I cant stop the burning desire inside of me to see this country have high employment, houses for all, food on the table and a happy people but what we have in reality is the highest young male suicides rates in generations due to no vision-no future for young people. Also a “I am all right Jack attitude.

Member
Patrick Taylor says:
29 April 2017

” Consumer spending accounts for more than 60% of the economy, equal to £100bn a month”

A more fatuous use of statistics is hard to imagine. The entire nation are consumers and the statement leavings hanging in the air the obvious point that where do us consumers get the money from and the answer must be from wages or investments.

Having read the screed, and having wondered at the relevance and benefit of publishing amidst an election, all I can say is it is a list of what worries people and Which? asking for the Government to do something.

Unfortunately there are no ideas and this is where I think Which? and its leading lights reveal a weakness in what it does. It is all very well and good to talk of these big problems to be solved but this charity is meant to be about product and naming and shaming. It is also about educating.

Which? could be and should be awarding Shoddy Awards to some of the countries largest builders. But it does not. It sells mortgages instead. There is not a whisper in its pages about the problems thousands of people have with shoddily built new properties or about the gagging clauses that NHBC utilise.

So why has this scandal gone unreported for the last decade in Europe’s largest consumer group?

Why has there been no articles of those white label services were a famous name sells it’s image /reputation to people who believe, wrongly, that the trusted name actually has anything to do with the product they are signing up to.

And when your claim for, say legal services is rejected, yet barristers agree the claim has merit where do you turn to when the famous name say it is not their product , not their problem?

I think Which? has plenty of areas where it could be active, stating the obvious to the politicians in the midst of an election, seems rather inadequate.

Profile photo of Ian
Member

Although the full version is fair enough the big omission is no mention of applying the Consumer Rights Act 2015 to Politicians and their manifestos. This is a missed opportunity, I feel.

If we treat MPs as service providers and examine the CRA’s critical aspects we find

* The MP must perform the service with reasonable care and skill.
* Information that is spoken or written is binding where the voter relies on it.
* Where the price is not agreed beforehand, the service must be provided for a reasonable price.
* Unless a particular timescale for performing the service is set out or agreed, the service must be carried out in a reasonable time.

The big question is what happens if they default on their promises. Well, the CRA says

In circumstances where the repeat performance is impossible, or can’t be done within a reasonable time or without causing significant inconvenience, you can claim a price reduction. Depending on how severe the failings are, this could be up to 100% of the cost, and the MP should refund you within 14 days of agreeing that you’re entitled to a refund.

Following this logic if the MPs fail to do their jobs then we demand their salaries back.

Of course, defining terms like ‘Reasonable’, ‘Price’ and, particularly in the case of politicians, ‘skill and care’ will keep the courts busy for a while, but the simple fact is that the politicians whom we elect can affect our lives far more than the odd pyrographic tumble dryer or occasional daylight robbery bank charges.

Member
S Kay says:
9 May 2017

Agree with you totally, but I would add that an MP should 1) have only one full time job ie as MP for their constituents. They should not cherry pick additional small hour/highly paid ‘consulting’ positions. As this could surely be seen as a conflict of interests. 2) If there are hints of criminal or underhand activities, pay should be stopped immediately pending enquiry – this should expedite bringing such matters to court, so that names can be cleared or the MP removed & replaced swiftly without ado

Profile photo of DerekP
Member

I agree that social care should be a priority. In addition to the elderly, I think we should make adequate provisions for everyone who is not in the fortunate position of being able to have a well paid job.

If the government can work to deliver fairer energy prices, that will be a good thing, even though it is likely to mean that those of us who bother to shop around will end up paying a bit more, because those who either can’t or won’t end up paying a bit less.

Whilst financial institutions could do a lot more to investigate and prevent fraud, as consumers, us getting hoodwinked is a common cause failure in many scams. We probably all need to learn to be more “streetwise” on the internet and when (if?) we get cold called. Ultimately, we could leave our banks and insurers to bail us out from our mistakes, but they’ll only do that if, one way or another, we pay them for that service. In this case, prevention is better than the cure. As an educational charity, Which? should be in a good position to train consumers to make fewer mistakes and thus become less vulnerable to fraud.

Member
Claire says:
29 April 2017

I agree

Profile photo of alfa
Member

Air Purifiers

I want to buy a new air purifier. My old one has gone noisy, I have dismantled and cleaned the fan, but it made little difference. It also needs a new roll of expensive filters so I would rather put the money towards a new one.

So I looked at Which? reviews. ☹

8 air purifiers have been reviewed, 4 of the machines launched over 2 years before.

The first thing I want to know is if the machine will handle the size of my largish room it is intended for but this information is missing so is most of the other information I would like to know. There is very little useful information provided in your reviews.

Partly based on my experience with my existing air purifier, here are a few features that could be mentioned:
Mode settings: anti-pollen, relax, ioniser, odours, turbo, night
Machine indicators: dust/odour levels, filter needs changing/cleaning, dust sensor needs cleaning,
Noise level on auto mode that the machine would normally be left on.
Filters: how often do they need changing or cleaning, how many are included in purchase, cost of replacement filters, any dust leakage into machine internals. Pictures of filter changing would be a bonus.
What allergens does the machine clean: Cat, Cockroach, Dog, Fungi, House Dust Mite, House Dust Mite Debris, Latex, Mould, Pet Dander, Pollen, Silkworm,
What irritants does the machine clean: Bacteria, Cigarette Smoke, Formaldehyde, TVOC, VOC’S, Virus

From Which? website on the Philips best buy machine:
This machine doesn’t come with a remote control, and you can’t set it using an app on your phone, which is unusual for such a top-spec purifier. / smartphone controls would be a nice touch for a machine at this price. Are you serious? My current air purifier is over 12 years old and came with a remote control that still works. How long would an app work, 2 years maybe? I want a dedicated remote control that will hopefully work for as long as the machine not an app that will be out of date within a couple of years.

Who decides what machines will be tested? AllergyUK list machines that have been reviewed or tested and approved by Allergy Research but no testing information is available. Many of these machines are from specialist companies and as they tend to be more expensive, I would like to see proper test results for them. Which? would do well to work with the likes of Allergy UK and Allergy Research to provide comprehensive and useful reviews.

Someone recently mentioned The Healthy House who have specialised in relieving allergies since 1991 and perhaps Which? should compare their guides to air purifiers with that of The Healthy House. Interestingly, only 2 of their 47 air purifiers have been reviewed by Which? of which one is their ‘Don’t Buy’ that claims to capture up to 99.9% of particles in the air but Which? describe as a very poor air purifier.

So come on Which?, let’s have some proper investigative, informative reviews that enable us to make real purchasing decisions.

Profile photo of alfa
Member

@patrick
Can I have a response to my post above from Which? please?

From Which> website on air purifiers
We surveyed 1,337 Which? members in January 2017 and asked them about their experiences of using an air purifier.

Who were these 1337 members? I did not get asked through Which? Connect, so where did they come from?

Profile photo of Lauren Deitz
Member

Hi Alfa,

I’ll speak to Joanna Pearl about your question – she’s the expert and wrote the convo on this: https://conversation.which.co.uk/health/indoor-pollution-vocs-health/

Just to note that Patrick will still appear on Convo from time to time, but we’ve had some team changes so you may not see him as often.

Profile photo of alfa
Member

Thanks @ldeitz.

Thought we hadn’t heard much from Patrick lately. The ‘Meet The Team’ section probably needs updating as there are a few new faces around.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

We can certainly thank Patrick for his efforts in getting Which? Convo going and also for letting us have a great deal of input over the new website, which is a huge improvement over what we had before. I think you need to do more to keep us on topic, Lauren. 🙂

Profile photo of Patrick Steen
Member

Sorry @alfa, slap on the wrist for me. Hopefully Joanna will reply soon on your question.

Good shout on the Meet the Team page – we’ll get that updated.

Member
Abe J Curmi says:
9 May 2017

I voted for several priorities as I consider the need for the quality of life to be more important above all else.!
We need to call a REFEBRENDUM perhaps and ask the public what we expect from the quality of life as against the expectation of the the constant econmic growth.!!

Member
sandra smith says:
10 May 2017

I have voted for everything you have on the list. Elderly care should one of be our top priority Now that we are coming out of Europe and got Brexit. the government that wins on the 8th June will be accountable for their mistakes. We will be able to as a country to hold local councillors/MP’s and the the government to account. Hopefully the new government will get a good deal for our country and start doing the right things for the people of our country. Getting their priorities right would be a good start.A lot of things have been going wrong in the UK for some time and people are getting fed up including myself. The world has changed a lot and has become more dangerous with a lot of uncertainty. Hopefully once we out of Brexit. Things should start to hopefully not to slowly get put right. for all our sakes and our children/grandchildren of the future. I could go on and comment on all the other priorities on the list. but I think other people have already said what a lot of us are thinking.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
Member

You have summed up the political+social situation very equitably Sandra it would be very hard to argue against your down to earth logic and social concern and wish for a better future for this country —I hope you are right.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

It would be very encouraging if we could see some evidence that contributors to Which? Conversation have helped shaped the policy of Which? and how it advises government, regulators and other organisations. I know that there have been numerous comments that indicate that our views are important but sometimes it seems like the recorded message “Your call is important to us” when trying to speak to someone in customer services.

Which? – our Consumers’ Association – should in my view make the failings of Trading Standards a high priority for government attention. Some of us have been banging on about that for a very long time, apparently to no avail. I know that we cannot expect all guest authors to engage with us but it would be good if Which? staff would make an input, even in their spare time.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
Member

Wavechange all posts /comments on the web are seen by many , its the ones with higher “value ” like Which that are taken note of by those “controlling us ” Which is recognized worldwide it has great prestige and that includes the one country that counts in the western world the USA . Any post I post on Which , if I give any personal details is picked up quickly and I get emails selling me things relevant to my age or concern for humanity asking me to join certain organisations ) not just from the UK but the US too. That is just one side of it , I have many emails from UK political parties on what they think I would agree with in their policies , some might surprise you. This is something I spent years checking out on many websites Which does reach “higher places ” . No man is an island and the more you put your point of view over the more people read it , our own +US security services know all about influencing the public in many ways as well as other countries.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I don’t get any of that, Duncan, and I don’t even delete my cookies very often. The biggest problem I have is the large number of emails I receive from companies marketing goods and services targeted at charities. I received a phone call from one of the companies and he told me that it was because we had received Lottery funding. We did not, although our society is effectively a partner in the grant and is mentioned in the grant application. I’m now on an MPs mailing list after contacting him over tumble dryer fires but I don’t recall anything else that is vaguely political. I don’t have your expertise in computer security but somehow I seem to have fewer problems.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
Member

Its not down to cookies Wavechange just good old publicity that any “up to speed ” advertising agency is capable of. At the moment on the browser I use for Which I have 12 cookies from Which but as I post on Which I feel I dont have the moral authority to delete them. The reason I have to take care and use browsers that are far from standard, bereft of many normal features is that I go to places that interest “other people ” because you must pick up the latest information from sources in the far left to the far right and some of the ones I visit arent very “western friendly ” but it gives me a wide range of viewpoints from which I make my own personal deductions thats how a detective works or a spy or an “operative ” infiltrating an organisation on behalf of a government department or a “paid poster ” . The CIA , for example has over 100,000 of them worldwide , I like delving into what is really going on internationally , not accepting the “fake news ” but what can be proved by real actions and not false flags/colour revolutions . The truth shall set you free ( but imprison you in some countries )

Profile photo of John Ward
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Your appraisal of Which?’s influence might be fair comment Duncan but I remain to be convinced. I think Which? has rested on its historical laurels for far too long and, outside the UK, I think most of its work is irrelevant except as an example of a worthy organisation funded independently by people who subscribe to it. No two markets or economies are the same so I don’t think Which? cuts much ice in the G8 countries and, beyond that, what else matters much?

I suppose I must have posted quite a few comments on Which? Conversation from time to time but I am pleased to say that I have never had an e-mail or other communication that is attributable to any such activity. I think Which? protects its community very well – either that or nobody important takes any notice of what most of us write. I have long noted that there is very little public attention from the political, academic, or institutional sectors but that is probably because Which? is itself a reactive organisation. The media shows some interest but only because it is lazy and laps up soundbite press releases and has space or time to fill.

I support Which? very strongly but I don’t inhale everything it puts out.

I must admit I am biased in favour of mainstream news. From long experience I have formed the judgment that it usually comes to pass. With alternative sources I would probably have to suspend my critical faculties and i would find that very difficult, if not impossible.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
Member

While I dont hold the same view of Which as you John , in relation to Which,s influence it certainly attracts American attention and nowadays thats the only country (bar one ) that counts in world politics /commerce as all obey it . I think Which has got a very good advertising +publicity machine and is pretty professional in that direction . To me the mainstream media is just a mouthpiece for the policies of HMG and US government . It is heavily censored/controlled and a very biased and an inaccurate view is put forward in many matters . The real truth is hidden from the public but I get the impression many people just dont want to know and are turning into your typical US voter which even Americans realise and admit are “lazy ” when it comes to politics and accept anything -Fox/CNN/etc throw at them . I thought the standard of intelligence in the UK was a bit higher than that but its not the case it seems and or people would rather stick their heads in the sand and believe everything they are told . All this “think at a child ” level originates in the US and has been exported successfully here , I know many people know better but are not prepared to open their mouths due to financial/social conditions but what gets me is those at the top know the truth but just obey commands “from above ” and I dont mean God.

Profile photo of alfa
Member

John, it may be a total coincidence of course, but a few years ago I wrote there was a lack of long-slot toasters on the market. There was only 1 at the time that didn’t appeal.

Over six months later, there were quite a few to choose from. Did my post trigger manufacturers to make them?

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

Highly likely, Alfa. Since we can never discern the truth of anything until it has actually happened, we never know where commercial inspiration originates.

I must admit that unless one cuts the bread lengthwise I am struggling to see the advantage of long slot toasters over the side-by-side type. Did you buy one?

This has made me crave some toast so I must do a few slices on our little Bosch which is the best we have ever had.

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

Duncan – How can you tell what people’s motives are if they don’t open their mouths? It’s all guesswork and speculation. Without objective evidence the truth is not a certain thing, but I find, through experience, that statements from some sources have a high reliability rate so new ones can be cautiously trusted. Statements from unknown sources lack that confidence notwithstanding their intuitive appeal.

Profile photo of alfa
Member

We mainly wanted a toaster with 2 long-slots for pitta bread that is too long for regular toasters . Also regular toasters can’t toast large slices of bread or some of my home made bread efforts without turning them upside down half way through.

We bought a Sage https://www.sageappliances.co.uk/the-smart-toast-4slice-long.html that has features we didn’t know we wanted until they were used. The lift-and-look without stopping the toaster is handy, the bagel setting stops crumpets and buns overcooking on the back and the a-bit-more lets you lengthen the time a little either after the cycle that stops it getting burnt or during the cycle if you notice it might need a little longer with the lift-and-look.

Unfortunately, it has already been replaced under warranty but we still like it.

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

I must say that all sounds very useful. We can fit a pitta bread in our toaster but sometimes we have to ‘change ends’ halfway through. I might get one as a surprise but I need to measure the depth of the cupboard first to make sure it will fit inside when not in use.

Profile photo of alfa
Member

BTA830UK Toaster
L 40cm x W 18cm x H 20cm

Their other cheaper long-slot toaster is supposed to have a lift-and-look function but not sure how that works as the button is missing from the button group.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
Member

Time will tell who is right and who is wrong , by that time I am not sure there will be anybody here to read it John.

Profile photo of Beryl
Member

I have always considered this forum purely as a means of consumers expressing their own views on a particular issue as long as they adhere to its T&C’s.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

You may be right Beryl, but many (I believe – but may be alone) do not see it that way, and it would be a great waste of resource if Which? did not pay attention to the constructive comments and information that these Convos attract.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

wavechange’s comment above about the lack of engagement by Which? in these Convos repeats what has been said for years. It is tempting to give up expecting any routine responses to comments, questions, from either Which? or their guest authors. Convo’s then become a toothless chat room with space to moan and groan but no prospect of anything worthwhile emerging. I hope that won’t happen and that Which? will respect what Convos can contribute and play a proper part in formulating Which’s policy, investigations and magazine material.

Will Which? commit to providing the input we should expect, or will they simply stop promising things will change?

I could bore you with a long list of questions that I believe were very relevant, asked of Which? through Convos, that have never even been acknowledged let alone been answered. But I won’t 🙂 Yet:-( Incidentally, it is nearly as difficult, as a member, getting answers when you email Which?

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

As Members are the financial supporters of Which? through their subscriptions they should be able to have a proper dialogue with Which? in how it operates and what it does. The AGM, judging by last year, makes no real attempt to do this, as it was heavily stage managed. Emailed questions are not dealt with well. The Which? Member Community (a sort of forum) is very little used – last post 7 days ago – and does not often receive proper answers to sensible questions.

Members will include a large number of people with expertise in different areas and are well able to contribute, if only Which? had the wish to listen. Perhaps it has just become a magazine publisher, a commercial organisation attempting (badly, it seems, judging by India and Mortgage Advisers as examples) to make money………………….. I would like the balance to shift back to be an organisation that represents consumer much better. Standing up for our legal rights was given in the Consumer rights Act, pushing for a proper policing system as the now underfunded Trading Standards should be doing, pushing for a more dedicated Consumers minister, being prepared to take on companies like Whirlpool to get people drying safely (and not just telling them to unplug their existing dryers), telling us how we should calculate VW compensation, getting redress for those whose Sony screens cracked……..well, the list could go on.

The right place for this comment is in the community Forum of course but virtually no one uses it.

Profile photo of Lauren Deitz
Member

Expressing views, joining a community of like-minded consumers, working together to amplify voices around issues of consumer detriment and getting your input on these issues to steer not only the debate, but help us to form opinion too – there are many purposes of Convo. The community contributes an awful lot to the activities at Which? – policy, campaigns, magazine investigations are all areas where Convo features. I think myself and the rest of the team could be better at telling you when and how Convo plays a role. I’m also very proud of the attention that Convo gets externally too – there’s a reason why so many guests crop up on convo, but we all need to get better at answering your questions.

Obviously a key purpose for Convo is to have a platform where consumers and experts can discuss the finer details of consumer problems, and while we have plenty of expert led content we need to work on getting the experts involved in the conversation that happens on their articles. I’m also working on getting more experts participating in the community and I hope that you’ll be able to see the change come through over the coming months – I’m flagging questions for people and helping them with replies and hoping that soon they will be comfortable with diving in and answering your questions without a lengthy process behind it. I know we’re not perfect, but we are trying!

Whirlpool is a good example of how Convo has played a key role in the activity we’ve done on the issue – your interest in the issue, comments, questions and challenging us has pushed this activity along. We have a whole campaign called ‘Challenging Whirlpool’, it’s the first campaign that we’ve challenged a single manufacturer and not a wider issue – we want to see these dryers out of people’s homes, and as you point out there’s a wider piece of work that is needed for the product safety system. On the questions about this campaign it has been very difficult to answer them, which I know is frustrating. VW is an ongoing campaign and we’ve called for compensation for UK consumers that’s at least equivalent to the US – there’s still work to be done here and nothing we can say publicly at this point. We’re doing a lot of work in the faulty products space, besides the Challenging Whirlpool campaign, we also launched a tool for people to be able to easily claim back for faulty goods and so far nearly claims for nearly £31m have been processed through our tool.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

@ldeitz, thanks. I’m glad you also see it as a joint enterprise. Many people clearly put work into the contributions they make to the Convos and will, no doubt, be heartened that it is not wasted.

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

Thank you, Lauren – I now feel more reassured following your contribution and look forward to the advances you mention. Many of the contributors to Which? Conversation that I admire are experts too in their own fields and I feel they should get equal recognition to the ‘professional’ experts. They might have more of a tendency – as a result of their longstanding experience – to digress occasionally but that should not detract from any appreciation of their superior knowledge; they also display an additional attribute – a willingness to help other people.

Profile photo of Patrick Steen
Member

Big thumbs up to @ldeitz on this one – she’s right.

Do not underestimate the impact you are having. We don’t just collect comments here, we also have 5 Complete Works of Shakespeare worth of comments from our campaign supporters, shared privately. We’re using your stories on train services to challenge the rail companies, we’ve collected very serious cases of bad experiences with care homes to share with the CMA, we collected 1000 stories of bank transfer scams at £6.5m lost which was shared with the regulator.

Our ‘Consumer Agenda’ also includes some of these comments and cases too.

You guys, the regulars, are consistently commenting every day and we need to be more on top of them and telling them when we’re feeding them into our work. We regularly do, but we don’t often say ‘Thanks, we’re inputting this into our work’. Convo polls are often featured in the magazine too.

Lauren is right that we’re working on encouraging more experts to take part in the community – in fact, Lauren and Dean are going to be running a ‘Lunch and Learn’ session within Which? soon to get more people involved (and all the newbies who have started since I joined Which? in 2010 when Convo also launched).

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

What time is lunch? I don’t mind helping with the washing up. Dare you one day organise a get together with regular contributors?

Profile photo of Patrick Steen
Member

We are thinking more about meeting in the real world. We carried out an ‘open space’ with some London campaign supporters where they set the agenda to discuss consumer issues – it was insightful and enjoyable. I hope for more of that in the near future.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
Member

I can see both Beryl,s and malcolm,s point of view on this subject , I can also accept what Lauren says but to me it seems by posting convo,s that relate directly ,not just consumerism /commercialism but ask the government questions Which isnt just a -washing machine +car website . It puts issues that are in the public interest including government legislation past/present/future in relation to social issues as well as commercial domestic products . In doing so it is acting in a way as very large Gallup Poll for HMG to know public reaction to issues that can be political to elicit British Public Reaction which can be economic /domestic/ and policies of Big Business UK or USA which can provoke very strong reactions in the emotive sense from the public . This is standard practice in many other websites all round the world and it works. It provides a buffer between government and business actions and public reaction in the place of very much weakened NGOs relating to public help+ protection in the UK -ie-let off steam . It can be judged directly by its success or failure in communication with both bodies relative to the sway it holds over public reliance on the Which logo being a positive help to the public and this is how it advertises itself , in which (IMHO ) it is doing well . As regards the T+C,s brought up by Beryl the one that I have come up against (as well as others ) is the big -OFF-TOPIC , if we take the convo,s headings as they stand now some are including posts that bear no relation to the heading subject but are included in those convo,s, I am just waiting for the Baby+Child topic to be included in Technology and maybe philosophy in Motoring and the Weather in shopping and Gardening in Parenting . I am not really criticising as Which can implement any policy it wishes its just its a bit hypocritical to condemn some for being off-topic while introducing it as a Which policy elsewhere .

Profile photo of Beryl
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Which?Convo operates 24/7 – 7 days a week, its role, as I see it, is to present non-stop non-partisan accounts of every day problems affecting consumers from all walks of life on a broad range of issues and topics. It is possible however, to experience sensory overload if too much attention is spent glued to a computer screen that constantly emits material of a sensitive and problem solving nature. Sensory overload can affect your mood and the way you respond to constant negative stimuli, unless you take a break from involvement in it from time to time. I find it very necessary to do this occasionally as it helps me to refresh my mind, enabling me to see a situation more clearly.

I would guess that not too much consumer input gets passed the Which? moderators and that the number and content of comments submitted plays a large part in whether a topic is taken to a higher level. That I assume would be a matter for the hierarchy to decide, following much deliberation relating to the predictable measure of success or failure to succeed, based upon the size of the problem, the global influence of the company concerned, the number of votes received as well as the cost and the amount of pressure coming from Convo contributors.

Whatever the outcome, communication in the form of regular updates is always a constructive and positive way of keeping all interested parties informed of the situation on hand, so that they can rest assured their interest and efforts are fully appreciated and are not all in vain.

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Beryl I understand what you say but every person in this world is different ,I never get sensory overload encontre the more detail , the more angles, the more moves, motives I enjoy investigating , yes I actually “get my kicks ” from deduction investigation etc. I spent a good deal of my life building electronic equipment and repairing it , that to me is Valhalla, never tired of it. My brain is “wired ” for it.

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I agree Duncan and I respectable everyone’s individualityand that some people are more suceptible than others and that problems need to be solved and I would guess you excelled in the job that you did, judging by your interest and enthusiasm for all things electronic and high tech, as my son does, but even he has his moments and likes to get away from it occasionally. I assume you had much more variety during your working days which involved a lot of external travel and visible close contact and exchange with other people.

Everyone is entitled to a holiday and a break to recharge their batteries from time to time.

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Your right Beryl , I dont know why but it never occurred to me that I met and entered more homes+businesses in one day than anybody would in a week . Yes, I must have talked to 10,000 of people each year and got their opinions/attitudes/morals /etc from hard-nosed criminals to Lords+Ladies , you saw what life was really like for the rich+poor in society although I knew about poverty it was enlightening to see how people coped with it. What it did show me is never take somebody at face value , the most beautiful person can be the most evil and the most intelligent the most devious you have to know somebody for a very long time to really find out what is underneath their outward personality. My last holiday was the mid-70,s . I have always been under intense pressure of one sort or another it takes an iron will and absolute determination to carry on I can understand why many people cant and end it.

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icsa.org.uk/assets/files/policy/research/2017-04-Cultural-markers-in-charities-20pp.pdf

I post this link to this work which is recently released and pertinent to this discussion as it talks to the culture of charities and how various desires as increasing income, performance salaries, and even going against the charitable aims. Organised by the Institue of Company Secretaries and a discussion by some leading charity lights. We of course are losing ours after one year this month.

This check list is worth considering :
” Assessing your charity’s culture
The following is a list of questions to help trustees and senior managers establish and
identify those areas of the charity’s culture that might not be as healthy as imagined
or desired. The responses to the questions do not necessarily equate to a good or
poor culture, but could be useful as an indicator of areas that require greater attention.

• How frequently is organisational culture (values) discussed as part of the formal
board agenda? Never, every three years (alongside the strategic plan), once a year,
more than once a year?
• Do staff/customer satisfaction survey results mirror the agreed culture of the
charity?
• Have members challenged the authority of the board in the last 12–18 months?
What was the issue under challenge?
• Does the board/senior management team behave in accordance with the agreed
values of the organisation?
• Is there an agreed code of conduct in place that helps to build the desired culture
of the organisation?
• Are constitutional changes made against material opposition from members, staff,
service users or funders?
• Are ethical dilemmas discussed at board meetings? Are such ethical decisions
reviewed?
• Have key performance indicators led to any inappropriate behaviours in the
charity?
• How are incidents of inappropriate behaviours or unwanted culture recorded,
monitored and dealt with?

I think those of us who are Ordinary Members [shareholders] will have a different view to that of the 99% of subscribers who never see the Accounts or the Minutes of AGM There is no doubt that several items on the above checklist are very relevant to this charity.

The 20 pages are not too arduous and may provoke some thought.

My chief concern is that the number of members is dwindling rapidly, down around 24% in the last three years as the rapidly aging members from the last century die or resign. Keeping a charity true to its’ aims requires Ordinary members to be alert to aberrant actions and I am not sure with only 6,000 of us Ordinary Members out of 760,000 Associates, who are just subscribers, can do the job.

I see our CEO in the recent Half-Yearly review, having by the Accounts received over £1m in two years, feels he does think he should partake in anymore bonus schemes. I feel quite privileged to have supported him and his fellow Directors when they shared the £2.24m additional to their normal salaries [ which are more than the PM’s] in 2015.

Admittedly I did wonder why Council and the Board of Which? Ltd felt it necessary to add additional rewards to people already amongst the best paid in the charity world. It is hardly likely they would go elsewhere. And given the CEO has been in situ for 13 years perhaps some new blood would be a good idea.

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Sarah Stafford says:
12 May 2017

Home buying and selling are my top concerns. Thousands of homes have got to be built, even if it means prices dropping. People need homes to call their own and no longer renting 12 or6 monthly contacts. Children need stability and their own home.

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If they build enough homes, prices will certainly drop [as supply starts to meet demand]. This will reduce the deposits required and help people on lower incomes to afford one. This will then start a snowball effect that propels the market. Although selling prices might drop, buying prices will too and in any case the actual selling price is not so meaningful as the increase in the equity over the period of ownership. With mortgage interest rates having been relatively low over the last decade most sellers should easily make a substantial capital gain and put themselves in a strong position to move up the ladder, and if they move to a lower-priced area should be able to buy a much better property than the one they sell.

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Annette Moore says:
12 May 2017

I feel it is totally unfair for people who have, in many cases, struggled to buy their own homes , then are forced to sell them to pay for their care in later life. It does appear to be the case that those who save to help themselves in retirement are penalised so are no better off, indeed are worse off than those who spend as they go and then rely on state handouts to live.

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A home is better than most other investments because you can actually occupy it and derive benefits and enjoyment of it while it is in your possession. At the necessary time, without having to forfeit anything or wait for a set date in the future, you can liquidate your investment and buy time in a care home or other establishment. I am astonished if you think living on state hand-outs would be anything like as good.

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Carol Aylward says:
12 May 2017

We will all get old. So social care should be a priority. Because it’s been neglected for to long.

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Cast your vote and tell us what you you think should be top of the next government’s agenda: https://whichcouk.bsd.net/page/content/capoll110517/

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liquidphantom says:
12 May 2017

I wish the social care was done properly – instead of it always being a mere political football without improvement happening.

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Angela Holmes says:
12 May 2017

care in old age concerns me as do most of the other issues. There is a care home near me and every morning out walking my dog I see a lovely elderly gentleman who has his wife in this home; she was moved there from hospital as they needed the bed. He told me that he couldn’t claim any assistance towards her care till she ha been in there for a certain amount of time, he received a bill for over three thousand pounds for her first few weeks; he lives in the town (we have very steep hills) so he catches a bus most of the way, he is given diner with her at a cost of £1.50 and if he is late for his bus to get home the matron takes him. It made me think what if this was me or my Husband, we don’t have that amount of money. We also have some retirement flats at the bottom of the road, I am told they are lovely but at £278 per week they are beyond our reach, they do have cleaners, medical staff a cafe etc. I just hope we keep going but my Husband is diabetic and not so good, slowing down at 86 years old, I am in reasonable health but have brittle bones which I suppose will get worse with time. Life would be easier if bungalows were available, I do know the problems with building costs as they are a larger footprint. I have helped look after many older people in years gone by but you don’t see yourself there when you are young and life happens and you end up having to sell your home and are loathe to take advantage of your children even when they are willing. I don’t know an easy answer but I do know of a very active lady who thought she should sell up and go into a home; the family picked her the best they could find and in she went. A few weeks later they noticed she was going downhill fast, didn’t want to hold a conversation, sleeping, and she said the tablets made her tired, she wasn’t on any tablets and on inquiring they found out that the doctor was proscribing sedatives. Much fuss but it was sorted and they moved her but I know already that as you get older your brain isn’t so quick and people take advantage of you. There should be a policy for all homes and enforced..

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Steve Bolter says:
13 May 2017

You did not have the “none of these” option. Of the choices given, social care was the most important one.
However if we have climate change driven famine , and the consequent mass migrations and wars to contend with, there will not be any resources available for (what would then be) such luxuries.
Brexit is likely to be financed by selling off the NHS and other services, making them more expensive.
Hence Government Priorities should be:_
1) Fighting Climate Change and pollution
2) Remaining in the EU.

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James Blackwell says:
13 May 2017

Affordable Social Care for the elderly should be provided by a civilized society for those who are least able to care for themselves.
Financial fraud and scams are the scourge of our age, and they are often being perpetrated by large organisations, such as Viagogo, that seem able to act in a disgraceful way with impunity. Google is complicit as it allows Viagogo to buy a place at the head of its web page.

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Its a case now James that from the day you are born your worth to the government+big business is calculated till the day you die , you are only a NI number/identity number, controlled and put into boxes which in many cases you find hard to get out of , forced to conform , comply for the “greater good ” of a society that now has no sympathy or thought for those who are never able to “make it ” so for even more profit out comes illegal drugs , poppy fields are now protected by armies and secret services for a percentage , while legal drugs keep others in a state of non-reality, a state which many never wake up from . Human life is cheap and you have to fight to exist , your right its conglomerates that decide our fate now , the “Benign Society ” is now dead and buried – its”Buddy can you spare a Dime ” just waiting for a stamp to be placed on your brow with the letters -666 before you can exist.

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All very good, James, but there is a tricky dimension to this; what is the solution for those who could have done so but have chosen not to make any provision for their later years? There have been quite a number of comments on this website from people who have worked hard, saved hard, paid full taxes, and taken care of themselves, only to find when they come to the point of needing social care that they are forced to use up their savings and sell their homes before any state aid becomes available; they are thus deprived of the opportunity to hand a nest egg down to their sons and daughters who might have been acting as unpaid carers and contributing to keeping them from a being a burden on the social services. They feel cheated while others who have led a less provident life can get access to social care at public expense. To provide the universal social care you suggest would cost the UK more than is affordable so more effort should be spent on encouraging everyone to support themselves so far as their circumstances allow and not turn up at retirement age without a penny in their pot.

As to Viagogo, I’m not sure this is of much relevance to people needing social care but it seems from the various Conversations we have had on ticket reselling that the company [and similar others] is acting within the current laws. I have in those Conversations deplored the exploitative and extortionate practices of the ticket industry but it does not seem to be a political priority. Perhaps if everybody who couldn’t get tickets without paying hundreds of pounds were instead to put the money into a retirement fund they might miss the odd concert but have a better life when they are older.

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In the real world not all sons and daughters are able or willing to act as carers for their aged and infirm parents, so why should they expect a nest egg when their elderly parents have lived through real hard times including a World War when women had to work in factorys and on the land while their menfolk went off to fight for our very survival, hundreds never returning home.

A welfare society mentality where you pay into a general fund, the amount determinable by whoever was elected to govern, can develop a kind of “live now pay later, must have ” outlook, aided and abetted by competitive large global conglomerates using constant media pressure advertising to tempt you to part with your hard earned cash, often defined as ‘retail therapy’, and low interest rates that incentivise you to continue to spend and to pay tax at 20% on everything you buy except food, in order to help a failing economy, almost bankrupted by dysfunctional banking systems, until one day you wake up and suddenly realise your children have flown the nest, and if you are fortunate enough to own your home by this time or have been wise enough to put some money away to top up your pension plan (assuming you have one) or maybe downsize your home, when you can rest assured, safe in the knowledge you are able to pay for your own care in old age if your children are not prepared or are unable to take on that responsibilty.

A welfare society should support the sick and disabled who are unable to work, but those who can, have a duty of care to look after themselves by eating and drinking sensibly and taking regular exercise to ease the burden on the NHS, which we are in danger of losing through overusage by people suffering from complaints that could well be avoided if only they stopped to think that this ‘free’ service is not something they can always depend upon to enable them to continue living a lifestyle that they know full well is bound to lead to their own ill health and in some cases the ill health of others.

There are difficult times ahead and sacrifices are predicted. An independent country needs independent caring people to prosper. Science has provided us with enough information and knowledge to live a healthy lifestyle and take on more responsibilty for ourselves. Help your children if you need to while you are still here but our children cannot live their lives in expectation that their aging parents will provide them with a comfortable lifestyle after they are gone.

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sacrifices are predicted.” Oh, goody. Can we choose whom to sacrifice? I suspect Duncan has some ideas.

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All depends on who you vote for next month and who you think is likely to pinch the public parliamentary pennies hardest!

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I agree with you, Beryl. I do not subscribe to the nest-egg entitlement theory but, if only to stimulate discussion, I was trying to represent a point of view that has been frequently pressed on this site, and you have challenged it well. Just because some people can go through their later years at public expense I don’t think that should be the normal expectation and that people with assets or wealth should be using it to improve their own welfare and relieve the pressure on the state, not hoarding it out of reach and taking public support. If they can find legitimate ways of transferring their wealth to their offspring without crafty tax avoidance schemes and ‘creative’ trusts good luck to them but I don’t think a mutually beneficent society with decent values finds that entirely acceptable. Its where ethics meets personal freedom of choice. I have no problem over people who live independently until the end and leave a fortune to their successors; taxation can deal with that.

One problem with the discussion of this question is that there is a degree of resentment on both sides – (a) against those who have made no provision whatsoever for their later years even though they could have done without much sacrifice, and (b) against those who have contrived by means of a dysfunctional system to shelter and off-shore ‘excess’ wealth so that they can hand it down the generations. I don’t think resentment in either direction is justified; if we don’t like its consequences we must first mend the system. I do feel, however, that, as you suggest, society is entitled to take a dimmer view of those who not only do nothing to provide for their future but actually and knowingly make their condition worse during their lifetimes so that they do become dependent on state-provided home and hospital care.

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I agree with your sentiments Beryl. Some seem to have lost any sense of responsibility and expect the rest of us who have, and who financially support the country, to slmply step in and help them out. Thrift is a virtue that many avoid.

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I am warming even more to your humour Ian , Surprisingly I see exactly where Beryl is coming from , maybe in old age I am becoming more “Conservative” or maybe because I have witnessed so much of life being extremely poor and only through hard work have I risen slightly in society . My motto is -for the old-sick-poor but I have witnessed people in aluminium walkers crawling along a road and when they think nobody is looking the walker is lifted and they accomplish the “4 minute mile ” . I live with my physical disadvantages daily not visiting my GP I have no wish to live in a “drugged state ” as it turns you into a non feeling zombie . I have every sympathy for the genuine cases of handicap but people are being registered “disabled ” because of nervous tension /anxiety some thing I suffered most of my young life because of a stinking childhood but I have overcome it , in the end, without perpetual drugs just strength of mind , its not easy but achievable . The legalisation of marijuana in the US is gaining strength and even big business is (secretly ) promoting it to become law in every State of the USA+Canada , this thought pattern is now being transferred here , when I visited many drug dealers homes in very tough estates after you passed the smashed windows/ stairs / vandalisation you chapped the door and entered into a luxurious home that wouldn’t be out of place in an upmarket leafy area. Beryl is also right I have spent many years studying world economics which is directly related to war economics via the World Bank/ IMF/GS and US world economists and they all agree that a great “tightening of belts ” is coming up short term for this country when TM wins with a good working majority she will carry on with increased vigour the policies being carried out now, and why not ? she will have the backing of the majority of those who actually vote and I hope its more than the minority of usual votes that get political parties elected . Sorry I dont give “New ” Labour much chance not so much for their polices but I admire a strong leader ( no I dont have German blood in me ) they will probably do better than people think but England is a naturally conservative country in its philosophy/ thought patterns /heritage and it would take a massive swing of public opinion to make a difference to this inbuilt basic instinct which makes each country different from each other .

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Well said Duncan! I agree divorce is always painful (talking from personal experience!) but any change sometimes has to get worse before it gets better. I agree it makes perfect sense to elect a strong leader with the capacity to lead a country from stagnation to prosperity.

I am so glad that you have now been able to let go of your unfortunate childhood, freeing you to now concentrate on present day issues without having to carry the heavy burden of past negative events on your shoulders 🙂

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Thanks for that Beryl its much appreciated.

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There will be cries after the general election that it was an unfair fight with the forces of the left split three ways [or more in Scotland] leaving the right wing to push through to victory. If that is the outcome I hope there will be some humility and reconciliation worthy of a rector’s daughter and a tempered approach to Brexit that does not assume that we all want a total alienation of Europe. I fear that all the king’s horses and all the king’s men will not be enough to put one particular party together again; there could be ugly scenes ahead and I hope that the more rabid elements of a new government will not let hubris get the better of them and pile further ignominy on top of their humiliation. Fairness and democracy must prevail and be supported on all sides.

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Your asking a lot from politicians John , to rise above themselves , to be not just good or outstanding but by their personality garner support ,not just of their own party but of other political parties producing an all encompassing policy right across the board . That type of personality is a very rare breed who has thoughts of a “Higher Vision ” in other words a World Statesman , how many has this country produced in the last 100 years bringing the whole of Britain together for one purpose –and achieving it . Churchill ? even he had rumbling,s of discontent and was dropped at the end of WW2 . Maggie ? hated in Scotland and parts of the North. What politician do you think qualifies as a 24 carat -genuine STATESMAN in this day and age , certainly not our blond haired “gentleman” who has upset many and wants to declare war on Russia ( first strike policy ) -Russia- try it – UK Flattened end to end , one of their new nukes can take out nearly all of France (multi missile warhead with the latest anti-missile protection on many levels and flies at supersonic speed ).

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I realise it is a big ask, Duncan, but I think it is worth asking. I would not expect an outbreak of world-class statesmanship at this juncture but it is reasonable to expect our representatives to conduct themselves in a seemly manner while the turbulence subsides.

Watch out for some duds! If there is a big changeover in membership of the House of Commons, some of the new intake could be cranks and crackpots who think they’ve got a mandate to be arrogant and unpleasant. Some of them have only just been selected and have no track record of governance apart from in some tinpot district council.

In terms of UK statesmen, after the second World War Winston Churchill was replaced by a better man – Labour’s Clement Attlee – but Churchill came back and took the premiership again. Harold McMillan was a statesman with many similar types in his cabinet but after his era it has gone downhill. I would not rate Margaret Thatcher as having good statesmanship qualities and even her leadership qualities collapsed towards the end. Tony Blair was one of the most effective party leaders of our times but I am not sure he was really a good statesman although he acted the part. It is too early to judge more recent incumbents of No. 10. If anyone could have reached that pinnacle David Cameron, with his background, should have but ultimately he lacked determination and resolve. Let’s see how the new girl gets on if she wins. I quite like the way she gets her retaliation in first.

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I agree on Harold McMillan even demanded money back from the US on the canceled Skybolt aircraft – simply MARVELOUS !!! and correct me if I am wrong wasn’t that the era Scotland voted Tory ?? a simply breathtaking achievement never really bettered .

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Certainly most of the shires and the borders in Scotland were Tory at that time but there was also a strong Liberal presence in the islands. Labour was strong across the central belt where most of the population was concentrated and where Keir Hardie’s influence prevailed. McMillan represented Stockton-on-Tees which sounds unbelievable today.

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Got it John – the Unionist Party ( Tory Party ) in 1955 in Scotland got 50.1 % of the Scots vote -Labour 46.7 % . Your probably thinking of the 1951 vote where a Tory/Liberal Alliance won Scotland 48 % of the vote -Labour – 47 % .

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I am not sure but I think there was a significant disparity in the electorates across Scotland so that the urban areas were disadvantaged in the number of seats compared to the rural areas and highlands so there were significantly more Tories elected than Labour members.

Today Scottish constituencies in general have smaller electorates than those in England which is why the upcoming Parliamentary boundary review is another controversial event on the horizon that will further complicate fall-out from the 8 June General Election.

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I suspect your use of the limiting verb was a little too optimistic, John… (“some of the new intake could be cranks and crackpots who think they’ve got a mandate to be arrogant and unpleasant.”

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Possibly so, Ian. Landslides have a tendency to push a lot of debris along in front of them. It’s almost certain an electoral one will do that as well.

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Nicely phrased, Sir 🙂

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We had false predictions before the last election. My difficulty in considering the consequences of a Conservative “victory” is just what the alternatives have to offer – in terms of policy and people. However, the electorate will decide and, no doubt, superior minds will tell us whether we had the “right” outcome and perhaps how we should have a re-run in view of the “unacceptable” result :-). Oh for a controlled electorate that do as they should 🙂

Personally I would like to see proportional representation in some form, where for what good it might do at least you could feel that your party was adequately represented…..but what does that mean? We will generally only agree with a part of a party’s manifesto and subsequent actions – and surely the “loyalty” to a party is less important than what it actually does. So maybe we should then vote on the issues it then proposes as they come into the limelight, and get some semblance of more control of what our country does? We have the means to do this economically.

So would you vote for foreign aid at the present level, Trident, HS2, nationalising the railways, the Post Office, ………. ? It would be nice to have our say then we might take more responsibility for the outcomes.

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You’ve forgotten Cannabis. The liberals have said they’ll legalise that.

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That won’t happen then.