Thursday, 31 May 2012

Nick Clegg's wrong

Now, it probably comes to no surprise to many of my regular readers than I have been known to disagree with Nick Clegg on occasion (*cough* tuition fees *cough* *cough*).

However, on this occasion, I think Clegg's wrong about something that I'm actually fairly supportive of.

Let me explain.

On Tuesday Nick Clegg talked to a group of organisations campaigning for reform of our democracy - groups like the Electoral Reform Society and Unlock Democracy about the need to "reform" our broken establishment.

Clegg said:
"I have looked at the institutions of our establishment close up," he will say. "And I can tell you, I am more determined than ever to see them change. Britain's broken establishment is now well past its 'sell by date'."
 Now I agree with Clegg that the establishment (parliament, the media, the police) have all come out of the past few years heavily damaged and, as a Liberal Democrat, one of the reasons I joined the party was my belief in the need for this to be fixed in order to bring real democracy to this country.

Unfortunately, where I think Clegg is wrong is when he talks about "reforming" the establishment. Well to me that's not good enough. The establishment, and not just parliament and the media but also the shadowy figures in the corridors of power, the old boys networks and favour for favour friendships, the quiet whispers in an ear, the lunches at the club, are all in need of much more than reform, they are in need of destruction and elimination from the politics of this country.

Parliament and the media remain dominated by people of a particular background and of a particular worldview. Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg all have more in common with each other than with a child brought up on a run-down south London housing estate. And it's this dominance of the same type of people, with the same lack of understanding, of real understanding of what life is like for other people, just as much as the undemocratic influence over decision making wielded by unelected, unaccountable figures, that makes our democracy so flawed at its very heart.

Put bluntly, the establishment has no place in 21st century Britain. It's the people and their elected representatives that should run the country, not newspaper editors or men (for they are almost always men) with 'friends in the right places'.

So, the aim for Liberal Democrats should not just be to reform the establishment but to destroy it. To overturn it and bring the purifying light of day into all the dark corners of influence and nepotism that have governed our country since the middle ages.

Of course, many of our institutions, such as parliament, the media and the civil service, can be reformed. Other elements of the establishment, such as lobbying, can be brought under greater public scrutiny. But the core truth is that any attempt to reform the establishment, rather than replacing it with democracy, will meet ferocious resistance. The British establishment has, through obfuscation and making tiny superficial changes, survived for the past thousand years in the face of much greater challenges than idealistic politicians. The Chartists campaigned for democracy and one man one vote - and they were seen off. Lloyd-George and his People's Budget, containing radical new social welfare measures, democratic reform and the wholescale fair taxation of wealth without exemptions for the wealthy, were seen off as well.

So anyone who goes in trying to make a few reforms here or there will inevitably see those reforms whittled away to nothing. The only way radical lasting change can ever be achieved is if people go in set on disestablishing the establishment. They might not succeed but at least the compromises eventually reached (that's the history of our country don't you know - compromise at the last minute instead of revolutions) would be real reforms rather than lukewarm, weakened tinkering.

Of course, Clegg has to be careful what he says - declaring war on the establishment is not a battle he needs right now - but as Liberal Democrats we have to remember that we must never allow ourselves to believe that any part of the establishment is necessary or somehow better leaving untouched. Our ultimate aim must only ever be complete revolutionary change through root and branch rebuilding of our democracy - nothing more and nothing less.

Because to let yourself be taken in and disarmed by the establishment (to paraphrase a book I once read, "pulling the teeth of radicals is a favourite sport of the establishment") is the fatal mistake - it can only lead to the weakening of principle and the ultimate soullessnes and ideological wasteland that characterises Labour - another once great reforming party.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Secret courts scrapped

Last night I was pleased to hear, from a reliable sources, a rumour that the Home Office proposals for secret courts and secret trials were to be scrapped.

And, lo and behold, today the story appears that they will indeed be scrapped - thanks to pressure from the Liberal Democrats.

So, as I go into work on Tuesday morning (the day of the week that science says is the most depressing) I'm very glad I've got something like this to put a smile on my face.

Because, put bluntly, the arguments for having secret courts were complete codswallop.

The idea was that some of the evidence used in trials relating to national security might be so sensitive that it couldn't be disclosed in a public courtroom. That's why there's already legislation in place for such evidence to be heard in a closed session with just the judge, and the lawyers for the defence and the prosecution, present.

But the Home Office, led as it is by the wonderfully authoritarian and inept Theresa May, decided that this wasn't enough. What they wanted was for trials where not even the lawyers defending the accused could hear the evidence against them - instead they would rely on a government appointed advocate to argue about the evidence without the accused ever knowing anything about what the evidence against them was.

And the problem with something like that is that  is that it would have created a system open to abuse. A system where trials are held in secret and where the accused have no idea what the charges or evidence agains them are, and no chance to argue against it, is one worthy of the Soviet Union or of Nazi Germany and not one that should have any place in a supposedly modern democracy.

But now, thanks to Lib Dems vetoing the proposals, the plans for secret trials will be scrapped and the only big change the legislation looks set to make is making sure that judges, instead of politicians, are the one's who decide whether or not evidence should be heard in closed sessions in civil cases.

Of course, these changes really don't go far enough. A liberal government should be rolling back the police state legislation of the last government rather than simply stopping it from being extended. Which is why, other than ID cards and issues like child detention, this government has been something of a disappointment to people who care about civil liberties - mind you, given some of the proposals the tories have come up with, I'm still very glad that the coalition has meant that they haven't been able to implement them.

So, all in all, a fairly good bit of news - and reassuring to see that on civil liberties at least the party remains as resolute as ever (apart from accreditation for our own conference - something which I'll blog about later).

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

My confession

Fine. I admit it.

I'm a member of the liberal elite and the only thing I care about is taking your hard earned money and giving it to an unemployed family of 90 illegal immigrants who live in Buckingham Palace on the dole and get a multiplex cinema in their garden at the taxpayer's expense.

Yes, we liberal elite are waging a war against christmas in order to replace it with mandatory marxist Al Quaeda terrorist training camps. We also want all the gays in the world be be married and then hold an orgy on top of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

And yeah, we made up global warming. It's a complete lie which was cooked up at a late night drug taking session between Al Gore and Peter Tatchell in order to sell you extortionately priced fairtrade yoghurt.

We then changed the name to climate change so that scientists could make millions by rewriting all the textbooks to reflect the updated terminology.

In reality, fossil fuels are limitless and the only reason we're pretending otherwise is because we're sadistic bastards who hate birds and want to build a wall of wind turbines around the world to cut them up into mince meat.

We also started the bird and swine flu panics so that we could trick you into eating GM crops which will turn your children into communist gays who marry immigrants.

Speaking of immigrants, we're also working hard to persuade all of Africa to move to Britain so that we can finally turn honest white folk into slaves to pay for the multicultural sharia law paradise which we intend to establish.

Oh, video games. Yeah, we're behind them as well. And the internets. We invented them to lull your children into becoming perverted psychopaths who'll murder their grandparents in their beds and then go out and defecate on your doorstep to lower house prices.

So this is my confession. I admit all of it. But there's nothing you can do to stop it because we're all secret jewish-communist-muslims who control all the world's money and all the media and we've brainwashed all the sheeple into believing every word we say!

Nothing can stop us! Nothing except perhaps you 'Disgusted of (formerly) Great Britain, now ZaNu Liebore EUSSR', commenting on the Daily Express and revealing to everyone our evil scheme and telling people how immigrants have turned this country into the third world - which is why you're glad you moved to Barcelona ten years ago. Because if you do this then our entire plan will fall apart!

What? You're doing just that? You're foaming at the mouth and furiously typing a misspelt rant about how no one speaks proper English anymore? No! No! Noooo! I'm melting! I'm meltiiiiiinnnnnng...

P.S. Yes, alright, we also killed Princess Diana.

P.P.S. This post is dedicated to the troglodytes commenting on the Daily Telegraph about how Nick Clegg is secretly a communist.

Monday, 21 May 2012

The corruption at the heart of our political system

Last week saw the (welcome) news that the government had decided to terminate the "welfare-to-work" contract of A4e due to the on-going investigation into possible (read: almost certain) fraud at A4e whereby (allegedly) staff claimed and received money from the taxpayer from putting people into jobs which didn't exist.

Of course, A4e still has other contracts worth millions of pounds a year with the government. Labour has demanded that the government publish the details of these contracts, though, given that Labour signed those contracts in the first place, they should already know the details.

Now, the former boss of A4e, Emma Harrison, who resigned ahead of the fraud probe, was, until February, the government's 'family champion' - a position to which she was appointed by one David Cameron.

In her position as family champion she advised the government about how to get unemployed people into work and how to deal with "troubled families".

As an aside, it's worth considering what the government considers a "troubled family". According to David Cameron it's a family which matches five of the following seven criteria:
a) no parent in work
b) poor quality housing,
c) no parent with qualifications,
d) mother with mental health problems
e) one parent with longstanding disability/illness
f) family has low income,
g) Family cannot afford some food/clothing items
Except Mr Cameron prefers to refer to families like that as "neighbours from hell" and part of "a culture of disruption and irresponsibility".

Anyway, Emma Harrison and A4e highlight the rampant corruption which exists within our political system.  Not the corruption which most people think of - however immoral, an MP fiddling expenses for a £2,000 gardening bill is rather small in the grand scheme of things - but real corruption which destroys lives and robs the taxpayer of millions of pounds a year.

See, here's how it goes. Emma Harrison starts a company to take advantage of government contracts to get unemployed Sheffield steel workers into new jobs. Her company does well and gets more and more contracts and she ends up advising the government on how to deal with unemployed people. And, I'll be careful with what I say here so as to avoid libel, someone in a position like Emma Harrison, someone who influences government policy and who owns or has connections with a company which profits from government policy, ever so coincidentally recommends that the government adopt policy which would mean more contracts which their company would be well placed to win.

Now, there's nothing illegal in this. After all, these people aren't politicians, there's no requirement for them not to have a conflict of interest.

However, what it is is utterly immoral and corrupt. Legal? Yes. But that doesn't make it right.

And the problem is that this corruption extends throughout our political system. And, in addition to robbing the taxpayer (legally I must stress) it also has a horrific impact on the lives of innocent people. A4e and the welfare-to-work scheme, for example, bullied sick and disabled people into taking mandatory unpaid placements - one after another, after another, without ever getting an actual job out of it, and regardless of how stressful or meaningless the work experience is.

But the biggest and most shocking example is that of Atos and Unum. Two companies whose directors have sat on the committees which drew up government policy on the sick and disabled ever since the early 1990s. They helped draw up the draconian welfare policies that have so utterly failed our sick and disabled people today - a system where a terminally ill cancer patient is declared "fit for work".

And their companies have profited handsomely from those policies. Atos conducts "work capability assessments" for the government - and is paid tens of millions of pounds a year to do so. And, thanks to already having government contracts such as the capability assessments (which actually make the company a loss), it was able to win other contracts - such as the incredibly profitable contract to provide IT for the 2012 Olympics. Unum, of course, being what has been described by US officials as an "outlaw company" which specialises in flogging disability insurance to people who face being let down by a broken welfare system, also quite happily profits from the government's welfare policies.

And, in fact, it was Unum which persuaded the government to buy into the idea that the only thing preventing all sick and disabled people from being able to work is them having the "wrong" mental attitude.

And that's just the welfare system. This legal corruption extends throughout the rest of our political system.

One example of these vested interests driving policy can be found in local government. In any issue of Private Eye the front few pages are dedicated to the abundant examples of, mostly legal, misspending of public money - and usually to the benefit of one company or another which happens to have "friends" in the right places. Another famed example is the Ministry of Defence where various companies have managed to extort billions of pounds out of the public purse over the decades - usually for rubbish equipment delivered horrendously late over-budget.

There's not really any moral to this blogpost - or any call to action in it. Or even any expletives to mark how disgusting and repugnant I find the situation. Because, at the end of the day, this is something that has been going on since long before I was born and which will probably be going on long after I am dead. Wonderful, isn't it?

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Hot Coalition Politics: how it went

Last Friday evening I made a trip to Guildford to be on the panel of Hot Coalition Politics - a Question Time type event organised by the Guildford Liberal Democrats.

Well, it was absolutely wonderful :)

The venue was a church hall which the Guildford party often uses and there was something very nice about being in there surrounded by fellow Lib Dems and being able to chat and catch up on all the gossip prior to the event. It just shows how right people are when they describe being a member of a political party like being part of a family.

The debate itself was fairly interesting - we got a lot of good questions from the audience and an impressive range of topics were covered (the debate was limited to only covering national topics as the plan is to hold further debates on other topics - such as local issues - in the future).

I particularly liked the way in which there was such a variety of views on the panel - I'm not sure whether my views changed as a result of the debate but I really enjoyed the fact that we weren't all toeing the same, identical party line and that, compared to most formal debates, the panel was actually fairly diverse.

Another highlight was the chair, Antony Hook, who actually did a far better job than Mr Dimbleby - in that he never tried to influence the debate, his jokes were funny, and he actually made sure that a wide range of questions got selected.

The actual questions asked varied from whether our record in government was something to be proud of, to whether local government was fit for purpose, to the issue of House of Lords reform. My one regret is that I wasn't really able to say as much about the Welfare Reform Act, and its perniciousness, as I would have liked - in hindsight I was probably overly wary about going on too much about the same issue.

I was quite pleased after the event to discover that a recording had been made of the debate as at least one of my friends had asked me to let me know if there was any way they could watch the debate despite being unable to attend. I should be getting a dvd of the video in the post at some point in the near future but unfortunately it's probably going to be too big to practically upload.

So instead, here's a photograph from the middle of the debate - in which I demonstrate my trademark habbit of always managing to blink at the exact moment a photograph is taken.

Monday, 14 May 2012

It's not illiberal to say someone's opinion is wrong

Gah. This is why I shouldn't read the Daily Fail. There's an article about how Sarah Teather Lynne Featherstone, Lib Dem MP and government minister, has publicly disagreed with Tim Loughton, Conservative MP and another government minister, on the issue of equal marriage.

Loughton had responded to a constituent's letter and said:
"For me, marriage as a religious institution cannot be anything other than between a man and a woman, and particularly when all the rights and responsibilities of marriage are available  to non-heterosexual couples through civil partnerships.

I do not see why we need to change the law, especially at this time when there are so many other important matters for the Government to be addressing. Until now I have not received a  single letter from a constituent pressing me to support gay marriage."
Now, I'm not going to get into the whole debate about the fact that church used to perform same sex marriages for most of its existence, or that many, many same sex couples want to get married, as that's a debate for another time. So instead, here's what Sarah Teather Lynne Featherstone said in response to Tim Loughton's letter:
"Our consultation on equal marriage is about how to do this, not whether. Both Coalition parties have made clear we are committed to legislate by 2015." 
Predictably, this has brought forth such gems of wisdom from Daily Mail commentors on the article like:
"So you are not allowed to voice your own opinion where the loonie Libs are concerned, hardly democratic is it Featherstone."
- daveyh, Ho UKlt,
"Wow, the liberals are now telling people that they can'ht have an opinion!"
- Philip, Cameron - you promised us a referendum on the EU. Why did you lie?,
Now, those comments are the real point of tis blogpost because I'd like to clarify something for the ignorant, blinkered people who left those comments:

Being a liberal means believing that you have the right to air your opinion - and we will fight to defend your right to have and to voice your opinion. It also means that we have the right to vocally disagree with you and say that you're speaking a load of old tosh and that you deserve a metaphorical smack around the head for being such a prejudiced bigot.

It's not hard really. Everyone has the right of freedom of speech and of thought. And, if you're an angry illiberal - I'm sorry to break it to you - that includes the right for other people to disagree with you.

So many people seem to either to be too dense to grasp this basic point or to deliberately misunderstand it in order to whine pathetically about being victimised by the "PC brigade". And you know, my heart bleeds for them - what's the centuries old vicitimisation of LGBT people, ethnic minorities and women compared to the suffering of semi-illiterate white, male, middle-class Daily Mail commenters?

Friday, 11 May 2012

Hot Coalition Politics!

I really detest it when I go several days without posting anything worthwhile and then posting a filler post like this to make up for it. My current excuses are: the local elections, the bank holiday, my brother's 19th birthday, flooding, and the drought.

But anyway, the reason behind this blogpost is because this evening I will be attending an event entitled Hot Coalition Politics, organised by the Guildford Liberal Democrats, where I will be a member of a panel for a Question Time style event about politics under the coalition. The reason I've been selected to be on the panel is because of my campaigning on the Welfare Reform Bill.

As if the chance to be on a panel and to pay an overdue visit to Guildford wasn't enough, my fellow panel members will be Baroness Sharp, Baroness Parminster and Kelly-Marie Blundell - author of Political Parry.

Additionally, the event will be chaired by Antony Hook - a stalwart Liberal Democrat who I spoke to recently about the EU. It's quite a small world really.

So hopefully it will all go well and I'll be able to do a write up of it which should finally fill in the gap in my blogging schedule :)

Friday, 4 May 2012

Peter Bone MP is a liar

I just had the misfortune to see Conservative MP Peter Bone on Newsnight and what he said made me so angry that I felt like throwing things at the telly. Unfortunately Simon Hughes, who was also on Newsnight, was far too polite and well-behaved to interrupt Mr Bone when he started saying that Lords reform is unnecessary and that the majority of people are against it, but, if I could have got him to do so, here's what I'd have liked Simon Hughes to have said:

"You're a liar. Mr Bone, you’re a liar. You’re right that Lords Reform should not be a priority - though the good thing about the government is that it can do more than one thing at once - but the fact is that all three of the parties put lords reform in their manifestoes, including your own, and over 80% of the British people support it. So if you don’t like it then why didn’t you have the courage to say so when you stood in the general election and why did you lie to the voters by standing on a manifesto promise which you now reveal yourself not to believe in?"

Maybe he could have then added a few choice words about the thoroughly undemocratic, pro-cronyism and archaic attitudes that Tory backbenchers like Mr Bone reveal themselves as having.

But that's just me. To blunt for my own bloody good.

Lib Dems are traitors to the people

This is something I've just seen someone post on facebook:
"Seems the 'traitors to the people', aka Lib Dems, are loosing. Well that's what you get when you betray your word, your promises and your electorate!"
If it's betraying your word to take over a million of the lowest paid out of paying income tax then I guess we've betrayed our word.
If it's betraying your promises to invest billions in giving the poorest pupils better chances in life then we've broken our promises.

If it's betraying your electorate to bring back the triple lock for state pensions to make sure that they never fall behind the cost of living then we've betrayed our electorate.

And if it's being a traitor to the people to roll back the surveillance state, restore civil liberties, invest billions in clean, green energy and create half a million apprenticeships then I guess we're traitors to the people.

And you know what? I'm damn proud of it.

P.S. There's plenty this government has done that I deeply disagree with. But anyone posting such an idiotic and inaccurate statement as the one I've quoted can f*** right off as far as I'm concerned.

Well, we lost

In Hastings, near where my father lives, we've just had the district council elections. We Liberal Democrats were hoping to take Castle ward off of Labour. But we didn't. Nor did we win Maze Hill, our other target ward.

This is a real shame as it means that we no longer have a presence on the council - which is bad for Hastings as well given that the Labour and Conservative council groups tend to spend much more time bickering with each other than looking out for the interests of Hastings.

Looking at the positive side, however, this was the first proper campaign Hastings and St Leonards Lib Dems have run in a while due to a prolonged period of infighting and decline following the failure to win the seat in 1997 where we came within a hair's breadth of victory. This sort of decline is often referred to as "target seat syndrom" but, thankfully, it came to its final end in Hastings in the past two years and the party is now becoming reorganised and developing a proper campaign machine.

As I said, we were hoping to take Castle ward from Labour, but this would have required a 20% swing and this, under the current political climate, was never very likely - even if we liked to think it was. On top of that, the last reliable canvass data we had was from 2008 (and the Coalition had made all of that inaccurate), and we didn't start campaigning properly until January. So, all in all, the results aren't too bad.

We managed to increase our share of the vote by 10 points - which translates to about 100 extra votes on a turnout that was 5 points lower than last time. Labour increased their share of the vote by about 1 point, while getting about 70 fewer votes - which isn't that surprising given the lower turnout of 30%.

What is interesting is how accurate our data is and how it breaks down. We canvassed about a quarter of the ward (which contains about 4,500 voters) and, looking at the result, I think we got our estimation of our share of the vote on election day about 100% accurate. The problem seems to be that a lot of people who we hadn't canvassed voted Labour. My guess would be that Labour ran a very effective postal vote campaign (about a third to half of the votes cast were by post) and managed to win it on that. This isn't too surprising given that I've seen Labour run very effective telephone canvassing campaigns before when it comes to postal voters - which means it will be interesting to see from their election expenses exactly how much they spent on IT.

But, assuming we got our canvass data pretty accurate, then we've got a lot to build off of for next time. Despite having new, unfamiliar election software, quite a few inexperienced activists, limited resources and starting the campaign late, we managed to get about half a dozen rounds of leaflets delivered to the entire ward and to manage a 4.5% swing to us from Labour while they were in the ascendant across the rest of the country. Which is a fairly promising indicator of what we might be able to do next time now that we've got good data to work off of and a well run campaign under our belt.

So the next thing for us will be knocking up all of those who definitely voted for us and trying to convince them to join the party - with a bit of luck we'll get enough new activists that we'll no longer need to rely on the candidates to help deliver leaflets.

And, in case you're interested, the full results are as follows:

Castle - Election Result

Borough Council Election, 01 May 2008
Turnout: 36.7%
Barlow   (Lab)   718   (46.5%)
Smith   (Lib Dem)   286   (18.5%)
Allane   (Con)   246   (15.9%)
Dumas   (Ind)   168   (10.9%)
Turner   (BNP)   83   (5.4%)
Stewart   (Ind)   43   (2.8%)

Lab Gain
Swing (from 2004): 19.1% from Lib Dem to Lab

Castle - Election Result

Borough Council Election, 03 May 2012
Turnout: 31.9%
Rogers   (Lab)   644   (47.5%)
Perry   (Lib Dem)   388   (28.6%)
Rowe   (Con)   170   (12.5%)
Bossano   (Green)   153   (11.3%)

Lab Hold

Swing (from 2008): 4.5% from Lab to Lib Dem

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Who's to blame for internet piracy?

The High Court has ruled that the file-sharing website the Pirate Bay must be blocked by five major internet service providers (ISPs) - effectively censoring it from the internet for all of their customers.

The motive behind the ruling is to crack down on the illegal file sharing that Pirate Bay makes possible. To put it in layman's terms, someone uploads a file (it can be anything, legal or illegal) and then they create a "torrent" which is a tiny file which, once downloaded, lets people download the original file. And anyone who's downloaded the file also uploads little bits of the file at the same time. So then someone downloading it won't have to download it from the original uploader but can download little bits of it from several different people and then have their computer assemble it into one complete file. What this does is distribute the load on people's internet connections and makes downloading the files much faster. A website like Pirate Bay basically just acts like Google when it comes to finding torrents for a particular file.

But, since, like Google, Pirate Bay doesn't monitor or discriminate about what torrents its search engine can find, this means that, say, a Hollywood blockbuster that someone's illegally uploaded, can be found and downloaded, without charge by anyone and everyone just as easily as a student film which was uploaded with no desire by the authors to ever charge for it.

Hence why the High Court has ordered Pirate Bay to be blocked by the ISPs. But the problem is that this won't do anything at all to tackle privacy. For starters, someone like me who doesn't use one of the ISPs affected is still able to view Pirate Bay. On top of that, people can still find Pirate Bay by typing in the raw IP address instead of the user-friendly www.<website name here>.com format. And, if that doesn't work, they can also use a proxy to get around the block. And, on top of that, there are dozens if not hundreds of other torrent search engines out there - each doing exactly the same as Pirate Bay. So if you shut one down people will just move to another one.

So, as a means of stopping piracy, all the High Court ruling has done is spend hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers money in a court case to delay, by the five seconds it takes to find another torrent search engine, people who download pirated files. And any other measures they try will fail as well - there's no method you can put in place that people won't be able to get around.

The only way you're ever going to significantly reduce piracy is by tackling the cause of it. And the cause of it is the media industry who are currently waging a costly and completely ineffective crusade against piracy.

Let me give you an example of the problem. Game of Thrones is a hit US tv series which is currently half way through the second series. It is incredibly popular and I heartily recommend it for being an absolutely first rate bit of television with production qualities as high as any multi-million dollar Hollywood epic.

So, here I am, a British fan of the series, and I want to watch it. What do I do?

The show is aired on the US premium cable network HBO. In the UK it's syndicated to Sky Atlantic. So all I need to do is to pay out £20 a month, for 18 months, to get Sky Atlantic, in order to watch this season of A Game of Thrones. But I don't want to watch the other shows on Sky Atlantic and don't want to pay £360 just to watch one tv series. Or maybe I'm not able to get Sky Atlanic even if I wanted to.

So how do I watch it? Well, it's not available for download on iTunes, or available to watch online (via subscriptions to websites like NetFlix or via a one off cost per episode). I could wait and buy the DVD of the series when it comes out but HBO took six months to release the box set for the first series.

This means I'm faced with paying over the odds for a service I don't need or want, just to watch one tv show, or to wait six months in order to buy it over the odds in the shops.

On the other hand, I could go to a file sharing site, like Pirate Bay, and within 30 minutes with a passable internet connection, or 5 to 10 minutes with a good one, be watching the latest episode free of charge. And, as a bonus, have it on my computer so I can watch it again and again and again as many times as I like.

Now, obviously I'm neither going to confirm nor deny whether I've used the latter option. But what I will say is this:

I like A Game of Thrones. I think it's a brilliant series and I know it cost a lot to produce. I  know that the actors in it are putting a lot of effort and time into acting their parts so brilliantly. I also know that the author whose books the tv show is based on also put a great deal of time and creative thought into writing the books. In short, I know it costs lots of people lots of time and money to produce a show like A Game of Thrones. And I want them to get paid for their work.

But they won't let me. Or, rather, they won't make it easy. I'd love nothing better than to be able to go to HBO's website and pay per episode to watch A Game of Thrones online. So would most people who pirate the series.

People are perfectly happy to pay for something they like. But if they're forced to go through all sorts of hoops just for the privilege of paying then it's hardly surprising if lots of them choose the quicker, easier, and free, option of pirating it instead.

If HBO were to charge £5 an episode to watch A Game of Thrones, with perhaps a discount for watching the first episode so that people can decide whether they like it or not before paying to watch any more episodes, then I'm pretty sure most people would pay it. And £5 per viewer per episode is probably more than HBO normally get.

And the thing is, this model, of letting people pay on demand, online, for something they like, has been proven to work. Just look at iTunes. When people here a song on the radio they can instantly pay a small, but affordable, fee to buy that song on its own - without having to wait weeks for it to appear in the shops or having to pay a lot of money to buy it as part of an album of other songs they may not like.

But the rest of the media industry seems determined not to adopt this model. And, until they do, as long as they keep on making it difficult for customers to buy their products, piracy is going to continue and to grow - no matter how many websites they get blocked.

So, to answer the question I pose in the title of this article, the people who are to blame for internet piracy are, perversely enough, the very people who are trying to stop it.