Thursday, December 23, 2010

Dreaming Of A Tough Life In California While Facing The Reality That Is The UK!

Spare a thought for those living in the US state of California who are complaining that a gallon of fuel for their vehicles has risen to the ridiculous price of three dollars (£1.79 in our currency).

While I was shelling out my £1.22 per litre (£5.44 per gallon) in my local Asda this morning, I was wondering how they get to suffer such hardship, while enduring such a great climate too.

I guess the main difference is they do not have a greedy government, who not only place a high percentage of tax on the fuel but also impose a tax on top of the tax!

As for the sunshine.....well I guess we don’t have enough to impose a tax on that quite yet!

If you are reading this Mr Osborne.......forget it!!

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Is Vince Cable A Fool Or A Mischief Maker?

Is this the face of a fool or the face of a mischief maker?

Business Secretary, Vince Cable, who has long been respected for his forthright views on the economy and his personal reservations about his party’s power sharing coalition with the Conservatives, has been caught in a ‘sting’ by two journalists from the Daily Telegraph posing as single women from his constituency.

During their recorded meeting, Mr Cable is said to have described dealing with his coalition partners as like “fighting a war” and while talking of his options said: ”They know I have nuclear weapons, but I don’t have any conventional weapons. If they push me too far then I can walk out and bring the government down and they know that.”

Mr Cable is widely known to be disillusioned with recent political events, after being embarrassed by his party’s change of policy regarding the rise in university tuition fees and the resistance of the Conservatives to force action against the banks.

His biggest ‘sin’ however, was to boast he was personally at war with the Murdoch publishing empire and he would do everything in his power to make sure it was blocked from taking control of the BskyB satellite network.

The Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister have now announced that Mr Cable is to be stripped of his responsibilities for any decisions regarding media and broadcasting, although he will still keep his (much reduced) business portfolio. He is said to be feeling ‘foolish’.

A statement from Downing Street stated:

“The Prime Minister is clear that Mr Cable’s comments were totally unacceptable and inappropriate.”

But then he would say that. The PM has a lot to thank Rupert Murdoch for; after all, the publishing magnate’s newspapers backed the Conservatives in the lead up to last May’s elections.

So is Mr Cable a fool?

I find it hard to believe that someone of his intelligence and experience in politics would be tricked so easily by an audience of two women he did not know and to whom he was to make such unguarded and unwise statements.

Is he a mischief maker?
Well, if he had been sacked from his role in government, he would be free to form a splinter group of Lib Dem MPs; they are known to be tired of the way the Conservatives have been using their party to absorb the public’s displeasure following the coalition’s recent policy announcements. Had he been sacked, Cable could have forced an early end to the Coalition.

Whatever he is, he has now demonstrated all is not well amongst those public smiles portrayed by the Cameron Cabinet in the media.

Leader of the Opposition, Ed Miliband has today commented that these revelations prove the coalition is just “a sham”.

Give the man a cigar! That’s something many of us have known since May!

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Friday, December 17, 2010

Wikileaks Three Weeks On!

With the release of Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange, on conditional bail, the saga continues.

It is as confusing a situation now, as it was three weeks ago, when the news first broke of Sweden’s desire to have him returned to that country, to answer questions about his alleged sexual misdemeanors from last August.

Of course, we do not know exactly what those misdemeanours are, as no evidence has been produced, and no charges have been brought. There has not even been an attempt by the Swedes to travel over here and question him in this country. That alone seems a very strange thing. The extradition proceedings do, however, keep him inconvenienced and contained for the next few months at least.

This should please the US administration who are said to be investigating ways to have him extradited to America (he is presumably too ‘visible’ for rendition) for breaking laws they have yet to discover in their vast back catalogue of ‘catch all’ offences.

In reality, it seems he has done nothing illegal and certainly nothing different to any media organisation that would have been offered the same material for publication. Why then, is the US government so desperate to demonise him? Is it purely about saving face?

Personally, I don’t know if Assange is guilty of breaking Swedish law; no-one does except Assange and the women who have made the claims against him. Even the UK court that has been deliberating on his bail application has been kept in the dark about the details of the allegations against him. His bail request was opposed not by the Swedish authorities, as was first reported, but by our own prosecution service.

That fact alone sounds a warning bell. Is this case nothing more than an exploitation of our world respected legal process based on fairness and openness, for purely political ends?

The conditions of his bail state Assange has to stay at the same address, wear an electronic tag and report to the police once a day, until at least February next year. He is effectively under house arrest, while never having been charged.

I ask myself: if this situation had occurred in China, would we have been so accepting of the process?

The word ‘hypocrisy’ springs to mind.


A comment on the Wikileaks story from a reader of the Los Angeles Times makes a good point:
Accusations of sexual misconduct have always been the favorite tool of a person or group seeking to discredit another. People are always willing to believe the very worst when it comes to sexual matters
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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Green Energy Could Make Us All Sick!

A story in today’s Daily Telegraph reports that household electricity bills are likely to rise by around £500 per year to pay for the additional investment needed in green energy.

Britain is obligated to increase its share of energy from renewable sources from 3 per cent to 15 per cent to meet EU targets but of course, these targets have not just suddenly appeared, they have been ignored until the last possible moment.

Q. Why have the utility companies not been re-investing in green technology over the past years?

A. They have been too busy sharing out their large profits through the payment of bonuses and dividends to their shareholders (many of whom are from overseas)

Once again, it is us, the consumers, who will be picking up the bill.

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Can We Really Afford The Cost Of Stealing From The Courts?

The Justice Ministry has announced the cuts it will be making to the courts system following the Coalition’s spending review. Justice Minister, Jonathan Djanogly used the customary LibCon ‘get out of jail’ excuse for the cuts saying the present system is “unsustainable”.

93 Magistrates’ courts will be closed along with 49 County Courts but according to the Minister, at least 85 percent of people would be no more than an hour’s travel away from a court if they made use of public transport. That’s good then!

The only flaw to that argument, is many of those who would be likely to appear in front of a magistrate or a judge, do not have the available cash to be able to afford the fare for an hour’s journey using public transport - they will just fail to turn up! The police would then have to waste their own reduced resources in following up and executing any warrant issued.

Those courts still in operation, will be under growing pressure from their increased workload, causing longer delays before cases can be scheduled for a hearing. Both the accused and the accusers are likely to have to wait much longer before justice can be seen to be carried out. Eventually, the system is in danger of becoming gridlocked and cases of being diluted.

The government has argued it will make a saving of at least £15m a year in the day-to-day running costs of courts and around £22m in maintaining the premises. Of course, they will also be able to claw back a considerable sum by selling off the buildings which housed those courts facing the axe.

Overall, though, the saving seems a pittance compared to the total deficit faced by us all. With jobs being lost daily and repossessions on the increase, crime is likely to be one of the only growth industries over the next few years.

Such ‘spreadsheet politics’ could eventually prove to have a greater cost than that we are already paying!

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Friday, December 10, 2010

Raising The Cost Of Education Is Just A Riot!

Yesterday, was the day the wheels could have come off the Coalition bus but it just managed to wobble home carrying a small majority of 21 votes.

Well, we think it was 21 votes, but after the damning report this week revealing we are behind countries like Poland, Iceland and Estonia in the international league tables of academic achievement, maybe we should ask for a recount.

Yes, the government managed to win the vote on increasing the costs of attending University and predictably, the ‘student’ demonstrations in Parliament Square against the rises in fees turned into violence once again.

Even the car of Prince Charles and his wife Camilla was attacked as they were being driven to the theatre for the Royal Variety Performance.

The Liberal Democrats have demonstrated they are not a party of unity - at least on the subject of student fees - as those of them who have accepted positions around the cabinet table voted against their own election promise to abandon fees altogether.

A spokesperson for London Mayor, Boris Johnson, reported that he is “appalled by the scenes of violence this evening… It is an insult to our democracy,”

Surely, though, while no-one really can leave yesterday's events behind without accepting a share of the blame for the violence, the real insult to democracy is a political party that either misrepresented itself to gain votes at the election or was naive enough to think its promises would be so easily forgotten just because its leaders decide to ‘see things differently’ now they have sold their principles for a seat at the top table.

It seems we are all still learning!

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Saturday, December 04, 2010

Students Get Police 'Punchy' And 'Over Steamed' From Kettling

I was led to the video below from the Liberal Conspiracy website because I was interested in witnessing the footage of a policeman punching a student at the recent demonstrations in London; I was not disappointed.

I found it horrifying to witness the pure aggression of the officers who were forming the line blocking the students’ exit route from the containment area, used as part of the controversial police tactic of ‘kettling’.

Keep watching, after the punch, to see the attitude of the officer with the moustache and baton.

The police should remember that accountability from video surveillance can work both ways.

Welcome to the future!

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Wikileaks One Week On!

It is almost a week since the release, by Wikileaks, of around 251,000 ‘top secret’ US cables and I am feeling distinctly underwhelmed.

No wars have started, no foreign diplomats have been spotted fighting in the streets of foreign capitals and more importantly, nothing we did not already suspect goes on, has been going on.

Interestingly, the only violent reaction to the ‘revelations’, has originated from Canada and the US. The former seemingly advocating the assassination of anyone who has ever heard of the Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and the latter calling for the death penalty, once the person who handed over the files in the first place is finally caught.

Of course, there has been pressure to close the Wikileaks site down using a denial of service attack from hackers, removal of hosting facilities from Amazon (it is now being hosted from Switzerland) and a termination of the Paypal account used to process donations from the site’s supporters around the world.

Oh yes and with rather fortuitous timing, Julian Assange has been accused of a serious sexual misdemeanor in Sweden. A formal request for his immediate arrest has been issued using the EU’s legal protocols. Interestingly enough, he has not been officially charged with anything and attempts by his lawyers to discuss the matter with the Swedish prosecutor have been refused. Hmmm…could this be attempted character assassination? So far, the UK police have not proceeded in carrying out the warrant.

Taken together, all of the above has done more to keep me interested than the actual files themselves. I have tried to read them from the many new Wikileaks locations this week, but have found they have a similar effect to Valium.

Perhaps the US would have been better advised to bite its tongue rather than appearing to declare open warfare against freedom of information.

God only knows how they would react over something serious - although we are never likely to find out with their communications being so protected - Not!!

Update: More details can be found on the backgound to the Swedish accusations against Assange here.

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Wednesday, December 01, 2010

The Debt Just Won't Die!

According to a survey by of almost two thousand 18 to 35 year olds, 98pc said they think they'll still be in debt on their death bed.

Eight out of ten of those asked said they thought it was far too easy to borrow money through their bank, or on credit cards.

Other points revealed in the survey were:

  • 54pc thought they would always need to borrow money in order to fund the lifestyle they wanted.

  • Just over half who owed money did not feel in control of their debt.

  • 8pc admitted they had needed to ask for help with repayments from a friend or family member.

  • One in five also claimed they were not worried about the possibility of their debts being passed on to their next of kin.

Isn’t it good to know we'll be leaving this world in such safe and positive hands.

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Monday, November 29, 2010

Calls To Dry Up The Wikileaks!

If you put water into a leaky bucket, you get wet.

Similarly, if you do not secure confidential transmissions between diplomats around the world you get leaks.

That one basic fact is what the USA is finding out today as a staggering 251,000 of its confidential memos have been published on the whistleblower website Wikileaks

Of course, the publication of the documents on the web and their subsequent revelations being reported in the media is being met with outrage by the US authorities, with one Senator demanding that Wiklileaks should be proscribed as a terrorist organisation.

We have heard the usual cries of an attack on the Freedom of Speech and a blow for democracy etc. etc.

Surely, though, it is more an embarrassment over their lack of security that has the American politicians riled.

In reality, it is the ultimate demonstration of freedom of information.

Personally, I have not been bowled over by the quality of the revelations so far and I am not the slightest bit surprised by the underhand, devious shenanigans of the American authorities which have been revealed within their private communications. I am certain they are no different from those of any other country around the globe.

If there is one thing I have learnt in my life, it is to be wary of the 'friend' who appears to smile too much!

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Friday, November 26, 2010

MI6 Blamed For Taliban Hoaxer

You couldn’t make it up if you tried.

The man who claimed to be a senior Taliban leader in Afghanistan and who has been engaged in talks with coalition forces and the Afghan government about reaching a peaceful settlement, has turned out to be a fake and has disappeared without trace.

As if that were not bad enough, he had already been paid thousands of dollars to take part in the talks and unsurprisingly, the money has disappeared too!

Of course, a game of Pass The Blame has started, with the Afghans blaming our MI6 and our government blaming the Afghan security forces, but whoever ends up with the reddest face, it is just one more reminder of how stupid we were to get involved in such a vain war in the first place!

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Are Our Students Becoming Our Teachers?

There must be something about the quality of the lectures on a Wednesday afternoon, for only two weeks after the Millbank riots in London, our students are once again …well…revolting.

All over the UK, thousands of young - and presumably intelligent - folk have decided to demonstrate their immense displeasure and opposition to our Coalition Government’s intent to make further education a luxury, rather than a right, through introducing a massive increase in fees and the removal of the Education Maintenance Allowance.

Sadly, though, many are just focusing on the man whom the Tories have set-up to be ‘cannon fodder’ to the students’ ire, Deputy PM Nick Clegg. While this may be understandable, given that he appears to have been economical with the truth while canvassing for them to vote for the Lib Dems back in May, they need to pause for breath and see the bigger picture.
Admittedly, Clegg appears to be a self righteous, pompous, oaf. He is a man who has no hope of defending the indefensible, how ever many times he appears in the media telling us that he now sees things differently from six months ago. He knew then, as did all his colleagues, the state of the nation’s finances. There was, after all, rarely a day when his party’s Vince Cable was not ‘mugging’ the media spotlight telling us all we are on the verge of bankruptcy. Clegg is, therefore, either a fool, or he deliberately misrepresented the truth to gain the maximun student vote.

Sadly, it is not just the students who were hoodwinked by the false promises of the Lib Dem leader. Many of the extremely hard working and loyal members of his party (including those who stood for election) feel betrayed and will now have to face the anger of the people who so willingly gave them their votes. Clegg, meanwhile, will be protected from such front line hostility, by the blanket of security which surrounds a deputy prime minister.

However, Clegg is in reality, just the ‘fall guy’ for the real villains who are the Conservative Party. They aim to destroy the hopes and aspirations of anyone who did not go to a school where 'having a fag' had a totally different meaning to the same expression used to describe smoking by those in a state school.

I sympathise with the students - although not with the violence shown by many - and I hope by their actions they are inspiring other groups, who are similarly under attack from this government’s unfairly targeted cuts, to join the fight against the Tories’ ‘single class’ society.

We are supposed to be a Democracy where opportunity is available to all. Let’s see just how deafening the collective voices of fairness can be!

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Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Help I'm A Prisoner - I'll Vote Me Out Of Here!

I have always been of the view (somewhat naively it now seems) that if someone commits an unlawful act against the society in which we live, they forfeit the right to be a part of our society for a specified period of time set by a Court of Law - they are ‘banged up’

While I can accept - to a point - there might be an argument in favour of having certain ‘distractions’ within a prison  (like flushing toilets, exercise areas and the odd communal television) I am not in agreement that a custodial sentence should entitle you to the same individual rights you enjoyed before being sentenced; I believe prisons should be seen as a deterrent and a punishment - not as Premier Inns with added security.

However, it seems I am now politically incorrect.

The Ministry of Silly Interfering Decisions, (otherwise known as the European Court For Human Rights) has decreed that we, as a nation, must obey a stupid EU court ruling allowing all prisoners within  the UK prison system the right to vote.

No, I am not referring to those expensive phone votes during programmes like X Factor or Strictly Come Dancing, but to a proper vote that elects the very government that maintains the laws that put them all away in the first place.

Of course, our government is saying it is unable to oppose such European madness, so it looks like the next logical move could be to allow conmen, thieves and sexual deviants to stand for Parliament!

Merde!!.... that’s one idea that’s already too late!

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Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Think Yourself Fit - Avoid The Cold


It’s almost that time of year again when everyone around seems to be staring at you through watery eyes or coughing and sneezing in your face.

For some, it is a time of sharing while for those bathed in sneeze particles, it is complete annoyance.

However, a new study of over 1,000 people, claims that those who partake in regular exercise are less likely to suffer from the common cold than those who do not.

My first reaction to such claims is always that it is a concerted campaign, deliberately started, to convince us all we should buy ill fitting lycra, join expensive health clubs and suffer the humiliation of being entertainment to the bored fitness ‘gods’ and ‘goddesses’ who can then justify their own massive club fees, by the amount of laughs they are able to generate at our expense.

Personally I am not going to fall for it. I don’t want to look like a caricature of an oversized penis squeezed into an undersized condom.

Any surplus ‘unfit’ bits I might be carrying are going to continue being hidden under my normal everyday clothing and remain as far as I can keep them, away from the torture chamber that is a gymnasium.

Fortunately, though, the study revealed a useful finding that could be my saving grace: it is not just the reality of how fit you are but the perception of how fit you are. If you think you are fit, the severity of any symptoms of a cold can fall by up to 41 percent.

Just by taking a small amount of exercise and thinking you are fitter than you are, can boost your immune system and ward off the worst of the effects of a cold.

With that thought in mind, I am convincing myself I am a world class marathon runner and am going to saunter back into the kitchen and get myself another bacon sarnie.

Aaaaaaarrrchooooo!!……..Bless me!!

It really does seem to work!

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Monday, November 01, 2010

Political Message Or Just An Excuse For A Snigger?

I viewed the above pic as part of an article in today’s Guardian newspaper about a political rally in the USA.

When I got over my first reaction (having a guilty schoolboy snigger) I started trying to work out what the message from the poster is really supposed to be.

Is it a comment on those who vote? Or is it a comment on those who we elect into public office? It seems it could be either, or both!

All theories would be welcome. But in the meantime, I really just wanted an excuse to share a guilty snigger!

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Friday, October 29, 2010

Cameron's 'Extravagant' Arrogance Needs Cuts

In politics, there is a very fine line between arrogance and leadership and today, the Prime Minister, David Cameron, came close to proving my point.

He has told opponents of his coalition’s housing benefits caps to “think again” describing the benefits as “extravagant”

He also said:

"Paying over £20,000 a year for the housing benefit of some families is too high. I do not think taxpayers who pay their taxes will understand why we are being so extravagant,"

(I note, however, he failed to mention those in his cabinet who take measures to avoid paying their taxes)


"There are many people who earn less than £20,000 - their whole income is less than £20,000 - who are paying taxes to house people who are getting rents of £25,000, £30,000, £35,000, £40,000. They don't see that as fair and neither do I."

However, it seems he has completely missed a very large point.

Many families, particularly in parts of London, have been living in the same accommodation for many years. They originally moved into areas that, at the time, were seen as being deprived and populated by low income communities.

As the economy has grown over the years, many of those areas have been developed becoming ‘trendy’ with the wealthier bonus culture ‘city types’ splashing their cash and changing the locality into a fashionable and desirable address to have. They have invested their money wisely and as a consequence have raised the rents.

That is not the fault of the tenants who now find themselves living in such desirable abodes. They do not negotiate the rents with the landlords. They should not be demonised as being “extravagant” or “scroungers”

It is, also, worth remembering that Margaret Thatcher sold off much of the available social housing to buy votes and raise capital but then failed to invest into providing more modern, affordable properties, to replace it - she was the Tory leader that Cameron aspires to be.

I guess the real question, though, is will our national conscience (is there still one?) remain dormant, if thousands of long term tenants are moved out of their ‘high price’ rented accommodation and shipped many miles to areas where the rents are more ‘affordable’.

For that matter, do we really want to see a capital city, that is known for its diverse and colourful population, turned into an overpriced and arrogant ‘ghetto’ of monied bankers and lawyers.

I am guessing this will not be an easy ride for Cameron or his coalition partners.

I am also thinking he is arrogant and not yet, at least, a great leader

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Boris Johnson's Ethnically Cleansed TV On The Radio!

London Mayor, Boris Johnson's widely reported remarks, criticising the coalition government for their proposed draconian housing benefit reforms, appeared at first sight to be spontaneous.

But, I wonder, if they were that spontaneous, why did he have a television crew filming what was supposed to be a regular radio interview with broadcaster Vanessa Feltz.

It seems his comments might not have been so 'off the cuff' after all!

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He's A Liar Liar

Whether you agree or not, a lot of work must have gone into this!

Try singing along....

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Friday, October 22, 2010

How To Demonstrate EU Style!

With a high probability we will be seeing mass demonstrations against the cuts announced in our coalition government's spending review, I thought it would be interesting to compare our technique with our European neighbours:

How we demonstrate here in the UK
How they demonstrate in France
How they show their displeasure in Germany

All things considered, I think it advisable to wait on the weather forecast before we follow their lead!

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Poorer And Not Really The Wiser!

One day on from Chancellor George Osborne's spending review, aiming to save the nation from the consequences of our profligacy, we are, apparently, still all in this together (although, depending which newspaper you read, some of us seem to be more 'in it' than others).

Overall, I was not as depressed last night as I thought I would be, but I was disappointed that some opportunities were missed and others were clearly misguided.

Whether I am right or wrong about the big things, there is one thing of which I am certain: I am going to feel worse off, I will probably have to work another year and I probably won't have the pension to enjoy the time I do have left!

Oh Happy Days!

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

World Statistics Day

Today is United Nations World Statistics Day and to enter into the spirit of things, our own Office For National Statistics has released the following information about the average Briton:

The ‘average’ British woman is 40 years and seven months old and has 42 years left to live. If she works full time, she works 34 hours a week, earns £22,151 a year, and is educated up to GCSE A*-C level. If she lives in England or Wales, she will have 1.96 children during her lifetime. If she lives in England, she is 161.6cm tall and weighs 70.2kg

The ‘average’ British man is 38 years and 4 months old and has 41 years left to live. If he works full time, he works 39 hours per week and earns £28,270 a year. He is educated up to A-Level standard. If he lives in England, he is 175.3cm tall and weighs 83.6kg

When a British family goes shopping, the five items most likely to be put in the typical weekly grocery shopping basket are a two-pint carton of semi-skimmed milk, pre-packed sliced ham, unsweetened breakfast cereal, bacon and a bar of milk chocolate

It will be interesting to see how the average Briton today, will compare to the average Briton in five years time.

Let's hope it is not out of work, out of hope and out of food!

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Ins And Outs Of The Economy - It's Simple!

OK. so here’s my theory...

Our country is in a fiscal mess because there is not enough coming in through taxes to cover the amount going out via government spending.

Cutting the number of people claiming benefits from the state and telling them to get jobs will, theoretically, save a large part of our 'overdraft'. The only problem is: there are not enough jobs available for everyone who is currently out of work, let alone those who will come off benefits to seek work.

A recent survey by the Federation of Small Businesses revealed that almost 11% of business owners expect to decrease employment over the next few months, due to weak business confidence in future prospects and revenue growth. Even more workers will, therefore, become unemployed, stop paying tax and start claiming benefits. Result: the country slips into an even worse mess.

For business owners to regain confidence in the economy, we all have to spend money buying their products which in turn allows them to take on more staff, who then pay more tax and increase the government’s revenue, thereby reducing the deficit. Simple isn't it? Errr well not really!

An alternative option is to increase the rate of tax paid by those who are in work and in indirect taxation like VAT. But then, we will all have less disposable income to buy the goods which in turn create the jobs. Companies then collapse, more people are unemployed and the taxes raised decrease yet again

Of course, the experts would tell you it is more complicated than my simple view.

Our coalition government is about to announce a blanket 'cuts all round' programme to immediately claw back some of its losses. For the reasons given above, though, it is likely to be a lose, lose situation.

Whatever the Chancellor decides to do tomorrow, it is certain to cause massive hardship for those who are already struggling.

I am becoming increasingly convinced, we are in danger of causing more problems than we are ever going to solve.

But then.....what the heck do I know?

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Monday, October 18, 2010

The Benefits Of The Chancellor's New Voice!

Chancellor George Osborne, in his latest headline grabbing attempt to demonise anyone on benefits, has quite rightly declared a war on those who cheat the system.

He is reported as saying:

"Frankly, a welfare cheat is no different from someone who comes up and robs you in the street. It's your money.”


"This money is paid through our taxes which is meant to be going to the most vulnerable in our society, not into the pockets of criminals."

All very admirable words, until you remember he appeared to have lost his voice at the time of the parliamentary expenses scandal.

Pots and Kettles Mr Osborne!

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Friday, October 15, 2010

Lib Dems - What A Difference A May Makes!!

"If we have learnt one thing from the economic crisis, it is that you can’t build a future on debt."
The words of the Lib Dem leader, Nick Clegg, on 28th April 2010.

So, how come he is now agreeing to anyone who has aspirations for a better education, leading to a better future, to saddle themselves with debts of up to £40,000 before they even start trying to find a job, in a marketplace where jobs are becoming rarer than hen’s teeth?

What a difference the events of the month of May have made to the credibility of the Liberal Democrats!

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Forecast Of Failure In A Big Society

In her article for the Daily Telegraph “We should be bashing bankers not the young, poor and disabled” Mary Riddell wrote:

“Yesterday the Equality and Human Rights Commission's report How Fair Is Britain? showed a widening wealth gap, with the top 10 per cent of households worth an average £853,000 – 100 times higher than the poorest decile. Obviously, rewards cannot be equal, but nor is it fair that those on lower incomes suffer more crime, worse health and die up to seven years sooner.”

They seem refreshingly honest words in a paper that has been traditionally supportive of the Conservatives. They also demonstrate why our prime minister David Cameron’s theory of a Big Society will probably never reach fruition; in reality, some people will always be more equal than others.

The most worrying words in the article, though, are probably these:

Even the cuts announced so far may stunt the hopes of a generation and test the social compact to destruction. It is far from certain that the young – traditionally the future carers for the elders who created a better life for them – will be emotionally inclined or financially equipped to nurture the ageing population that betrayed them.
I hope for all our sakes that time does not prove Ms. Riddell to be a better prophet than she already is a journalist.

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Monday, October 04, 2010

The Benefits Of A Fairly Unfair System!

I doubt there is anyone who can dispute we are in a financial mess and something needs to be done to control the enormous interest payments we are making to foreign institutions and governments for our borrowing.

The most obvious and headline grabbing saving, is to reform the vastly complicated and financially draining benefits and welfare system. It is a system that many voters regard with contempt, mainly due to the negative stories in the press of benefit cheats and scroungers, so it is a reform that few will oppose. After all, it is rare we get to hear of the majority, who have only survived because of the help they receive from the system.

Chancellor George Osborne, has today announced a total restructure to bring fairness for all, while making the system cheaper to administer and easier to understand.

In the interim, he announced that universal child benefit, payable to all families whatever their income, is to be stopped for those who earn around £44k per year.

At the other end of the scale, no family will be able to claim a total benefit greater than the national average wage received by a family in full-time work - thought to be around £25k per year.

On the face of it, this does seem like a fairer system, as those who can afford it lose a freebie and those who can’t don’t gain financially by remaining out of work.

However, when looking at the figures supplied by the BBC, it seems that those at the top end will only lose around £1.7k for a family with 2 children while a family receiving full benefits will lose anything from £4.5k to £15k per year.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith told the BBC: “I don’t love the idea of this, you know”

Neither will those who are genuinely unable to find work and who are about to be hit the hardest!

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Friday, September 24, 2010

Leading Labour Into The 'Brotherhood'

Tomorrow, we will finally learn who is to be the new leader of the Labour Party. One things seems certain: whoever it is will have the surname Miliband.

Yes folks, Labour’s Miliband family roadshow has finally parked up, after a leadership campaign lasting longer than the average series of the X Factor. Unlike in that series, however, the contestants in this competition have not been even slightly entertaining.

Who after all will remember there were other auditionees taking part? I know there was a man called Balls and a tokenistic woman called Abbott. There was also another man whose name I can’t remember, but who spoke even bigger balls than the man who had earned that name in the first place!

The only time I saw all of them together, on an edition of BBC’s Question Time......I fell asleep!

It is seeming very likely that younger brother Ed will pip his older and arguably more politically experienced sibling to the throne. I have no doubt that brother David will quickly recover from both his disappointment and bruised ego and quickly accept a senior position in the shadow cabinet, where he will spend his time plotting to destabilise the new regime - much as he did with his previous leaders.

It seems in our new modern age of politics, the only choice for the floating voter is no choice.

No wonder the, as yet, unformed Apathetic Party is likely to become the fastest growing political party of them all!!

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Vince Cable Is Doing The Right Business!

Yesterday’s speech, (full text here) by veteran politician Vince Cable, at the Liberal Democrat Conference in Liverpool, has been derided by many as being an attack on the very heart of British business, the banks and the basic freedoms of capitalism. ‘How dare he attack the very organisations he is supposed to be promoting in his role as business secretary in the coalition government?’ they have bleated loudly.

Well of course, journalists love nothing more than to cherry pick the juiciest words from a much broader message so they can get an easy headline, on this occasion, shocking readers with hints of Marxism etc. However, if you read the full transcript of the speech, the message could not have been further from the truth.

Mr Cable has never pulled his punches when giving his personal view of the state of the nation. Whether you like him, or not, he has become a refreshing change to the groomed and polished walking ‘soundbites’ that are our younger, over produced politicians.

What he has done in his speech, though, is outline the very things that have been going wrong in our society over the last couple of decades and spell out the harsh reality we are all going to be facing.

He has not attacked capitalism as a concept but has highlighted the abuse of the system by a growing number of greedy and arrogant individuals; free markets are a good thing but not when they are manipulated and abused to such an extent the chosen few dominate the majority.

He has not attacked the banks in any other way than they deserve to be attacked. No-one can deny their responsibility for the financial mess we are all experiencing and bankers should not be able to walk away and carry on as if nothing had ever happened. The rest of us have invested our hard earned tax billions saving their swaggering skins. It is plainly wrong when small businesses (the engine room of any recovery) should be starved of funding because of ridiculously high charges while the base rate is still at an all time low - there can be no acceptable excuses for the banks’ profiteering ways.

Students should not be leaving universities with the wrong degrees combined with an overwhelming student debt when our industry is crying out for the very best but cannot find them because our education system has been so dumbed down. We need the right kind of graduates for the growth and innovation that our industries require. We should not need to import that expertise from other countries.

After the public debates preceding May’s election, I had high hopes for the Lib Dems as a credible party of opposition. Once the coalition had been formed with the Tories, I found I had disappointment and doubts.

My belief in Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg’s arguments and motives started to fade, as like many others, I began to despair at what was increasingly looking like a sell out of sensible social policies just to gain a taste of power. That view didn’t change after Mr Clegg’s speech at the weekend attacking tax avoiders and benefits cheats - headline grabbing rhetoric with very little substance.

Just as I thought all had been lost, along comes good old Vince, looking more like an eccentric school teacher than a designer made politician.

The man spoke the truth, upset just about everyone, made me laugh and above all shared totally understandable, plain clear sense.

I think Nick Clegg must be envious of what was probably Vince’s best line of all:

“I must be doing something right”

Well, you certainly restored some hope in me!

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Sunday, September 19, 2010

'Sorry' Seems To Be The Hardest Word For A Pope

"I think of the immense suffering caused by the abuse of children, especially within the church and by her ministers,
Above all I express my deep sorrow to the innocent victims of these unspeakable crimes, along with my hope that the power of Christ's grace, his sacrifice of reconciliation, will bring deep healing and peace to their lives."

These words are part of the 'apology' from Pope Benedict XVI for the sexual abuse and cover ups, committed over decades, by his church and priests on young people.

It is difficult to imagine how 'Christ's grace' will bring 'deep healing and peace to their lives' when such suffering was caused by men who were purporting to be spreading his word

One demonstrator against the Pope's visit to the UK, who had herself been abused as a child responded by saying:

"An apology is what a schoolboy does when he kicks a football through a window. What we need is for the Pope to release all the files on predator priests,"

It is hard to disagree with such reasoning but I fear the real truth will always remain hidden within the walls of the Vatican.

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