Posts Tagged ‘38 Degrees’
Albert was singing, as only the tone-deaf can sing, as we cleaned out the hens this morning. It may have been down to two mornings on the trot witout a downpour, but given the words of his croak it was probably related to his latest attempt to bankrupt the bookies. The song goes back a long way but its words seem very relevant to Britian 2012. ‘Money is the root of all evil’ stormed the charts a few decades ago, today it could be our national anthem.
Like the rest of the country we are keyed up about today’s Wimbledon Final. Tom remarked that it is nice to focus on something that isn’t money-driven. Really? If Andy Murray wins today he will pocket £1.5 million in prize money plus an estimated £50 million in sponsorships. Sounds somewhat money-related to me. But at least it will be money honestly earned.
On Tuesday the European Parliament will debate proposals to curb banker’s bonuses. In the eyes of most people the EU achieves little via its endless interference in Britain’s affairs, but this is one issue that merits attention on an international level. But guess who is planning to torpedo any such move. Yes, its our very own Gorgeous George Osborne. Last year bankers pay rose by 12 per cent after a 36 per cent leap in the previous year. And bonuses went off the graph. But our chancellor is determined to use his veto to protect his friends.
No surprise really that he and our dear leader went to great lengths to rule out an independent inquiry into the Barclays Libor fiddling, an internal whitewash with the chance to smear the two Eds is a much safer and attractive option. No surprise either that the Treasury Select Committee now realises that Bob Diamond spun them a tale and wishes to recall him. Of course he spun them a tale, the only surprise is that they didn’t grasp the fact when he was before them.
The reality is that the whole banking culture must be changed and the casino-like investment arm seperated. Osborne can wriggle all he may but nothing short of a total reform will do, for where the banks lead the rest of the financial structure follows. And that embraces a lot of organisations, not least the Inland Revenue. It has been involved in a series of cosy settlements with large companies and now we learn that two of its directors are involved with companies operating tax avoidance schemes.
Do you remember Gordon Gekko, the corporate raider played by Michael Douglas in Wall Street? His motto was “greed is good” and we were glad that people like him only existed in Hollywood make-believe. We were wrong. When Rover closed suddenly in 2005 and 5000 workers were put out on to the streets, four directors shared £4 million. Outrageous, we cried then, but that was small beer, now almost every top executive has a nose in the trough and every major company practices tax avoidance. We all know about Amazon, Vodaphone and the like but even a hero such as Richard Branson has an empire consisting of companies registered in the Channel Isles and British Virgin Islands.
Meantime Sean Connery demands an independent Scotland. Perhaps he will actually come home to pay taxes should it come to pass, but don’t hold your breath. Under Blair and Cameron it has become the established practice of the British establishment not to pay British taxes. According to the protest group 38 Degrees even the chancellor himself has earned the title of the ‘Artful Dodger’.
Small wonder then that we have to reduce our armed forces to their lowest ever levels, to refuse to act on elderly care, to bleed the NHS to its death. Unless everyone pays tax the outgoings will always exceed the incomings.
But there is hope. It is clear that politicians will never willingly tackle the issue of financial privilege and malpractice. But public opinion is on the march. There is a growing national demand for a new morality, a recognition that the new infatuation with wealth will bring us all down.
That old song was right. Almost everything that is failing and wrong in our society has money at its roots!
THE ENEMY WITHIN!
A British jihadist who fought with Al Qaeda was arrested yesterday after going through the Olympic Park five times. He was under a control order not to enter any Olympic zone, but still travelled through the main games area in Stratford, East London five times in a single day before being spotted. According to a Home office lawyer the man known only as CF wishes to “re-engage in terorism-related activities, either in the UK or Somalia”, and is “determined to continue to adhere to his Islamist extremist agenda”.
Because he is a Britsh citizen he has been free to leave the country to fight alongside Al Qaeda and free to return at his pleasure. His human rights dictate that he is not unduly harrassed.
And he is far from the only one causing MI5 nightmares as the games draw near. A Home Secretary with guts would lock the whole lot up and throw away the key. Better still put them on a plane to the places they profess to love and make it a one-way ticket.
The response to that will be that we are a tolerant society. Should an atrocity occur ministers may find that we are not quite as tolerant as they fondly imagine!
As we toiled in the mud this morning we found ourselves wondering if Stephen Hester, the chief executive of RBS, has a chicken farm on one of his three estates. Certainly the 350-acre one in Oxfordshire is big enough, and this bunch of aged chicken-keepers would be delighted to help run it on the basis that a change is as good as a treat and the wages are likely to be good, if Mr Hester’s are any indication.
If you believe this morning’s papers, the nation is in shock at the decision to award him almost a million pounds in bonuses to add on to his basic salary of £1.2 million. We doubt that since, as forecast in a previous blog, we anticipated no reluctance on his part to pocket another pile of taxpayer’s money and great reluctance on the part of the government to stand up to him. The hilarious aspect of the decision is that Vince Cable is touting a plan to curb executive pay by granting shareholders the power of veto. Few believe that pension funds and the rest will bother and here we have a perfect example of the reluctance of a shareholder (holding 84% of the equity) to do anything. And the shareholder is the government.
When the news broke David Cameron was at Davos telling the Germans how to run their economy, but other politicians were quick to cry foul. Foreign Office minister Jeremy Browne appeared on Bumblebee’s Question Time and said that Hester should decline the bonus as “a question of honour”. He went on to draw an analogy similar to one we used yesterday. Hester’s total package means that he is paid for three day’s work what a soldier in Afghanistan, risking his life on a daily basis, gets in a whole year. Browne suggested that Hester “should reflect on that”. Some chance.
Another of the leading Lib Dems, Lord Oakeshott, said the bank should realise that any bonus for Hester this year was “totally unacceptable”. He went on to draw attention to the fact that RBS has failed to honour the Project Merlin agreement, and has continued to deny small businesses the loan facilities they need. And all this on the day that a ComRes poll revealed that one in four of Conservative MPs believe that economic growth will not improve over the next twelve months.
Inevitably Hester will attract a good deal of vitriol over this, but some of that should go to the government which sanctioned the bonus. In a way it sums up the extent to which people like David Cameron and George Osborne are out of touch with what they like to call “ordinary” families. They genuinely seem to believe that, given his task, it would be ungracious to oblige Stephen Hesler to manage on a basic salary. But that alone is over one million pounds!
Some claim that he had put a gun to Cameron’s head. If so the prime minister should have, to quote Robert Peston, called his bluff. Where would he have gone? Certainly not to any other UK bank and it is hard to imagine a queue in Europe for his signature. Anyway he has those lavish estates to oversee.
What do we actually know about this man who now takes from the taxpayer a zillion times what any benefit claimant aspires to. He started work in a sweet factory where, he claims, he was taught the value of money. His first job was packing Polos and he therefore doesn’t need anyone “to tell me what it’s like being a normal person on normal amounts of money”. He tells us that even his parents think he is overpaid.
A curious aspect of this decision is that David Cameron was recently vitriolic about the £700,000 salary paid by the BBC to its Director General. At the time we agreed on the grounds that it is our cash that the Beeb is tossing around. Suddenly it is okay to hand nearly three times that to a banker who, so far, has done little beyond firing 33,000 staff.
At least there should be one outcome that will be a blessed relief. We will no longer have to listen to ministers banging on about our all being in this together. If ever there was proof that there is one rule for the rich and another for the rest of society this is it.
Of course should Mr – the knighthood is in the post – Hester respond to the public outcry by refusing the obscene handout we will be the first to praise him. ’38 Degrees’ has this afternoon launched a petition so you never know, perhaps he does have a conscience. But we are not holding our breath!
WHAT THE STARS SAY ABOUT COMPUTERS; ” Computers are like humans – they do everything except think”….John Von Neumann “I know nothing about computers. I don’t even know how often to change the oil”….Buzz Nutley “Bill Gates declared to the world ‘I am Microsoft’. Mrs Gates had no comment”…..Whoopy Goldberg “Computers don’t poop, fart, shag or laugh, and cannot detect irony. These, then, are the distinguishing characteristics of humanity”…..Eric Idle “The trouble with the Internet is that it is replacing masturbation as a leisure activity”…..Patrick Murray “How do I set my laser printer to stun?”….Chris Moyles “A computer once beat me at chess, but it was no match for me at kickboxing”…..Emo Philips
A sunny, cold, crisp morning. Very welcome after endless days of rain and gloom. Apart from having to put up with the now, what really concerns the gardeners amongst our hen-keepers is the sight of slugs slithering into the chicken-feed. Unless nature stages a deep-freeze cull the summer will be a difficult one. When we retired for our brew that was the first subject on the agenda. Then we turned to the slugs in last night’s ‘Question Time’.
The first question related to high-speed trains. The audience was largely antagonistic, the politicians on the panel otherwise. The first called upon by David Dimbleby was transport secretary Justine Greening, she of the attempt to sell the forests off to China. Frankly I would worry if she was the manager of our local Tesco but here she was, the brains behind the £32 billion project aimed at lopping a half-hour off the time of travel between London and Birmingham. To say that she failed to justify the project would qualify as the understatement of the year. But as she floundered, her Labour opposite number, Douglas Alexander, rushed to the rescue. According to him, the government have not only done the right thing but deserve a statue of David Cameron outside every station.
A portly chap in a green sweater showed a greater understanding than either of them. He has no wish to travel from London to Birmingham but already struggles to get to work since fewer trains now stop at his station. Won’t high-speed trains stop at even fewer stations? The Greening/Alexander partners had no idea. And so it continued. But my point on this occasion is not about the mad project, but this latest example of being unable to spot the difference between the Conservative and Labour Parties.
As a one-time political historian I have to say that the present opposition is the most inept of the past 50 years. Right now the nation is struggling with the most severe cuts to public services in our history, and the government has lurched from one crisis to the next. The NHS slaughter (38 Degrees mustered over a million votes for its petition), the Murdoch scandal, the attempted forests sale, the deeply unpopular changes to the planning laws, the treatment of our armed forces, tuition fees, the slavish obedience to Brussels.. you name it and the government has put its foot into it. And David Cameron is twice as popular as Ed Miliband and the Conservatives are miles ahead in the polls.
Of course it is not the role of Her Majesty’s opposition to oppose for the sake of doing so, but it is expected to question and to make constructive suggestions as to alternative policies. Labour does neither. Polls suggest that the vast majority is opposed to what is being done to the NHS but if Labour has expressed a view it has done so very quietly. The latest horror in many minds is the proposed axeing of disability living allowance, which provides a small shred of comfort to those suffering from cancer, MS, motor neurone and other chronic diseases. Disabled children lose £27 a week and many of their families are already below the poverty line since mothers cannot work and care full-time.
It was only the intervention of Lib Dems in the Lords that has prompted Cameron to hint at yet another U-turn. The Labour Party, once the champion of the oppressed, has made little effort to force the issue or to inform the public. It has allowed the government to hide behind stories of “disabled” people caught running marathons, or water-skiing in foreign parts. Just a little research would have shown that disability fraud actually accounts for only 0.5%!
Around half of our allotment gang voted Labour at the general election. I have yet to hear any say they will do so again. Time and again I hear talk of a windfall tax on the top tenth of earners being sufficient to pay off the nation’s debt at a stroke. But the government prefers to cut help for stroke patients. I have yet to hear a single Labour politician speak along these lines.
In his recent work ’Austerity Britain 1945-51′ historian David Kynaston demonstrates that even in the aftermath of war, and with a number of fiery revolutionaries in key government positions, there was almost total indifference on the part of the public to socialism. Even the miners showed little enthusiasm for nationalisation when it happened, the idea of being ‘owners’ left them unmoved.
And in today’s world socialism has gone the way of The Red Flag, once beloved by Labour Party conferences. Blair was instrumental in changing that, and he was also responsible for moving the party’s policy direction toward the middle-classes. He had to do that to remain a credible political force but in so doing he stripped away Labour’s traditional values. Now the Party has an identity crisis. It finds itself unable to do other than parrot what the coalition is doing.
Of course there is no mileage in demanding a return to socialism, but it had its redeeming values such as caring for those who cannot care for themselves. And that section of society is growing rapidly. Surely if ever there was a time to demand a tougher stance on the rich, and a more compassionate one on the middle and lower earners that time is now.
Many believe that Yvette Cooper could lead such a revival in Labour’s fortunes. Someone needs to for the present trend is a threat to democracy itself. The number prepared to support Labour is falling, the Lib Dem support has melted away, and by the time of the next election the number inclined to vote Conservative will have been emasculated by a thousand cuts.
An election in which those who don’t vote at all significantly outnumber those who do is a dangerous place to be!
A bright and sunny morning greeted us as we set about our usual routines. The latest flock of Caledonian Black Tails seemed in skittish mood and hopes are high that they will join the egg production numbers well before Easter. But we were in a grumpy mood, having heard the outcome of the parliamentary vote on the plan to privatise all the woodlands held by the state-owned Forestry Commission, about 20 per cent of the UK tree population. Several of us had given time to supporting the campaign by ’38 Degrees’ and had fooled ourselves into believing that a petition already heading for the half-million mark plus extensive press adverts would cause MPs to stop and think.
Yesterday our optimism was boosted by official figures released by the government. These showed that the sale will bring in £655 million but will cost £679 million. The cost benefit study says the government would lose substantial income from the sale of timber and recreation licences and would have to pay many millions in compensation and redundancies. In addition any charities bidding would have to be given substantial financial help. In other words there is no financial merit in pursuing this highly unpopular strategy. It is driven entirely by ideology.
The long awaited vote brought a defeat for the opposition motion opposing the sale. The coalition won by 310 votes to 260, a mjority of 50 secured by the block support of the Lib Dems. Why they would want to sell off our heritage is unclear.
Earlier, at prime minister’s questions, David Cameron said there would be no u-turn on this although he would “listen to all the arguments”. Immediately afterwards his parliamentray private secretary, Desmond Swayne, issued a blog in which he revealed that the plan had unleashed a “torrent of hostile emails”. Rather patronisingly, he went on to complain that it was almost as if the government was proposing to “adulterate the people’s strawberry jam with wooden pips”. Clearly what the people say is regarded with disdain, perhaps the fact that at least eight multi-millionaire ministers have their own private woodland has made opposition seem petty?
This of course is far from the end of the matter. A Bill has to come before the House and ’38 Degrees’ has pledged to fight on. It hopes to produce a petition involving millions, and it will continue to present the case against private ownership as it did on Sunday in the BBC’s ‘Countryfile’ programme. It is pushing against an open door for wherever one goes one finds . people are opposed to the destruction of trees, and episodes like yesterday’s massive storms in Australia strengthen the belief of many that we cannot go on ignoring what scientists tell us about climate change. But the overall reaction is that with the poulation becoming ever more urbanised we need to protect our forests, our chance to escape and our heritage.
Yesterday was the perfect example of just how facile are the claims that we live in a true democracy. MPs are besieged with complaints and pleas that they stop this destruction now. But they are perfectly happy to toe the party line, however mistaken that may be. Only three Conservative MPs rebelled; Zac Goldsmith, Julian Lewis and Caroline Nokes and they deserve credit for being prepared to face the music from Cameron, Clegg et al. We can only hope that more will decide to do likewise when the final vote is taken.
But the omens are not good. Forests which have enchanted so many for so many centuries, and have provided sanctuary for so much wildlife, will be destroyed. And for what? Once we imagined that this was all part of the need to pay off our deficit. Now we know it is, like the NHS ‘reforms’, simply part of the obsession with privatisation.
Mr Cameron can be thankful for two things. Firstly that he has fifty odd Lib Dem lapdogs, prepared to jump when he tells them. Secondly, that the British people are of a more passive temperament than Egyptians!
LAWYERS STOOP EVER LOWER!
Fancy making a quick pile at the taxpayers expense? Then why not become a lawyer, a profession that stoops ever lower in its attempts to wipe out a century-long reputation for honesty and probity.
The no-win-no-fee circus is now moving in to Her Majesties prisons in expectation of a windfall resulting from the European Court’s ruling that prisoners should get the vote as part of their human rights. David Cameron is rightly refusing to grant any such concession but Europe now rules the roost. The result could be that prisoners can sue us the taxpayers.
And the vultures are gathering. Lawyers have already ‘signed up’ 2500 prisoners and persuaded them to seek payouts. The estimated compensation and massive legal costs could exceed £100 million.
Of course if we refuse to bow the knee to Strasbourg the cost would be zero . But the chance of that is akin to the legal profession winning back the proud place it once had in public affection.
THOUGHTS FOR TODAY; ” Save a little money each month, and at the end of the year, you’ll be surprised at how little you have”…Ernest Haskins ” When a man tells you he got rich by hard work, ask him whose”….George Bernard Shaw ”Why does a slight tax increase cost you 200 pounds and a substantial tax cut save you 30?”…..Peg Bracken ” Everyone should pay their tax bill with a smile. I tried it but they demanded cash”….Jackie Mason “My family was so poor that the lady next door gave birth to me”….Lee Trevino ” We were so poor that if we woke up on Christmas morning without an erection we had nothing to play with”….Frank McCourt “The lack of money is the root of all evil”….Mark Twain “Now that he was rich he was not thought ignorant any more, but simply eccentric”….Mavis Gallant “Victoria Beckham gave away all her old clothes to starving children. Well, who else are they going to fit?”…..Pauline Calf “Homelessness is homelessness wherever you live”….Glenda Jackson “His wallet is as capacious as an elephant’s scrotum and just as difficult to get your hands on”….Blackadder 11 “An Englishman, even if he is alone, forms an orderly queue of one”….George Mikes
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S QUIZ; 1. Haiti 2. Ben Lyon
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. What was Gypsy Rose Lee (died 1970) famous for? 2. This leader once took off his shoe to bang the rostrum at the UN . He died in 1971. Who was he?
No need for hand-warmers this morning, despite forecasts of frost it was relatively warm as we release the hens. As they scuttle out I often wonder what it is they are so eager to get on with. Albert suggests that they need a copy of the Sun to uplift their spirits but having seen the lethargy of the local council workers, for whom a rolled-up copy seems mandatory, I rather doubt it. Maybe they spend their time being thankful for not living as their battery-sisters do, they after all don’t have four visits per day from old geezers bearing a constant supply of lettuces, boiled spuds and spinach leaves. And they have freedom to wander amongst the trees and, if the mood takes them, to fly up into them.
Come to think about it trees play an important part in all our lives. Of course they play a key role in offsetting the effect of carbon emissions, but they also provide us with places of beauty and solace for the soul. Perhaps we should make the best of them for their massacre at the hands of money-grabbing developers is about to accelerate thanks to the bizaare plan of the coalition to sell off the Forestry Commission which owns 20 per cent of all the woods and forests in Britain.
On January 6th I revealed the campaign being run by ’38 Degrees’. Since then thousands have signed up on-line to register their opposition to this wanton destruction. Today one hundred top celebrities have added their names to the fight. The names include Judi Dench, Dr Rowan Williams, Annie Lennox, Joanna Trollope, Bill Bryson, Richard Briers and a host of others. All their signatures appear at the foot of a letter published in this morning’s papers.
It states “We, who love and use the English forests, believe that such a sale would be misjudged and shortsighted. It is our national heritage. We are an island nation yet more people escape to the forests than to the seaside. Our forests nurture countless species of native plants and wildlife. We have relied upon them since time immemorial yet we are only a heartbeat in their history.”
Last week saw the publication of a poll on the proposal. Over 75 per cent are totally opposed to the government’s plan. People from all walks of life are angry and bemused. Some visit the forests regularly and there have been mass protests in such as The Forest of Dean. Some remember with affection the visits they once made as a child and many others still take their children to enjoy the wonder of nature at its best. If Cameron rides roughshod over the view of the vast majority of Brits he will be making a lot of enemies, for once the sale is made there is no going back, the bulldozers will be revving their engines.
The most amazing aspect of all this is that even the most favourable sale is only expected to raise £100 million. Compare that to the £15 billion we are happy to plough into the Olympics or the £130 billion that is lost to the exchequer each year via tax avoidance. The truth is that money is not the motivation, it is ideology, the obsessive right-wing belief that everything must be privately owned even if that leads to its destruction.
If you too feel that the forests that belong to us all, and are part of what Britain is, should be left alone for future generations to treasure why not go on to the ’38 Degrees’ website and sign the petition. Politicians will only listen if they feel that their votes are at risk so numbers count!
OSBORNE ACCUSED OF TAX DODGING!
Channel 4 has claimed to have evidence that George Osborne is avoiding the payment of tax. It says that he employs accountants to find loopholes which help him avoid payments of up to £1.6 million. The pressure group ’38 Degrees’ is running an online petition demanding that he end this practice and, so great has been the response, it is running an advertisng campaign portraying the Chancellor as ‘the artful Dodger’.
Like you I have no idea as to the truth of these accusations but it seems unlikely that broadcasts and public campaigns would have been launched without firm evidence. And I have heard no refutals by Mr Osborne.
The government has been reluctant to tackle tax avoidance which is believed to account for losses far in excess of the total value of the cuts now hitting many poorer families. Why? Perhaps this story gives us a clue! Can it possibly be that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is using tax avoidance?
If so it might be prudent for the millionaires running this country to stop banging on about us all being in this together!
THOUGHTS FOR TODAY; “If we tread on a mine, Sir, what is the procedure? Normal procedure Lieutenant, is to jump 200 feet in the air and scatter oneself over a wide area”…..Captain Blackadder “The best defence against the atom bomb is not to be there when it goes off”…Winston Churchill “War doesn’t determine who’s right – only who’s left”….Bertrand Russell “We are not retreating; we are advancing in another direction”….General Douglas MacArthur “They still haven’t found Osama Bin Laden. Why don’t they give his name to the Child Support Agency, they’ll find him”….Roy Chubby Brown ” Peace is when nobody’s shooting. A ‘just peace’ is when your side gets what it wants”……Bill Mauldin “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last”……Winston Churchill.
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S QUIZ; 1. Andrei Sakharov 2. Richard Nixon
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Who refused to play South Africa in a Davis Cup Final? 2. Which orchestra did Sir George Solti once conduct in London?