Posts Tagged ‘Austerity’
Another lovely morning. But several of us are somewhat frazzled. Given the sudden evidence that the sun still exists, we plan to head off to the land of our fathers for what our dear leader would doubtless call a chill-out. The problem is that before we go we have to do in one day what we would normally spread over several. Those left behind will feed our unruly hens, but can hardly be expected to disinfect, dig trenches or get in supplies. One of the countless psychologists that earn their crusts via magazine articles should add PHT to their repertoire. Pre Holiday Tension would be a perfect subject. The solution? Don’t go!
But at least we not as near tipping point as our dear leader. Yesterday he was obliged by the Speaker to retract his accusation that Ed Balls is an idiot. It did seem slightly unjust given that the coalition is about to switch from austerity to growth as its economic strategy, something Brother Balls has been advocating from the start. Even Baldrick would by now have realised that simply screwing everyone, and everything, into the ground will only lead to ruin. But the Posh Boys have taken quite a while to cotton on.
Now of course they will claim that two-year’s austerity followed by two years of growth was Plan A. Such is the world of politics in which few things are ever decided, and no one accepts that he or she may just have got it wrong. Yesterday the Leveson Inquiry lifted the curtain a little.
Lord Leveson is beginning to sound somewhat concerned at the task facing him. “Why do I see this all coming back to hit me?”, he asked yesterday of no one in particular. Jeremy Paxman was there, and probably depressed the learned Judge further by remarking that “your challenge is to stop yourself becoming a total relevance”. Andrew Marr didn’t offer cheer either. Asked what he saw as the answer to press regulation, he said his role would merely be “to criticise the inquiry for whatever it comes up with”. But one visitor did shed some light, albeit not on the press.
Stephen Dorrell rolled up. Remember him? He was national heritage minister under John Major, and in that role was asked to draft the government response to the report on press regulation by Sir David Calcutt. Dorrell recalled that he used the “traditional method for responding to politically difficult issues. He presented a do-nothing option. This apparently involves three choices.
The first is to simply ignore it, a strategy, Mr Dorrell said “which has worked surprisingly well on many occasions”. The second is to “announce that the government will do absolutely nothing”, but this has its “pitfalls”. The third is to promise “to look at legislation when parliamentary time permits”. Meaning never?, asked his Lordship. Dorrell smiled patiently. “We always had to present our conclusion that we were going to do nothing in the least bad way”, he said.
So now we know! It is rather like discovering the De Vinci code, we can now interpret the various seemingly odd assurances that pour forth from our dear leader. Yesterday he was obliged to tell the House that he has no intention of conceding the right of prisoners to the vote. He had to say this given that masses of his backbenchers demand war with the European Court, which has set a 6-month deadline for at least some action. But the dear leader has no intention of offending his Lib Dem lapdogs by actually refusing to act.
The word is that in about five months time he will announce that some concessions will be considered as and when parliamentary time permits. Some call it the long grass, the overly frank Mr Dorrell has interpreted that!
In an attempt to avoid the danger of foot-rot Albert has insisted on implementing his brainwave of laying turf paths down the centre of the largest hen-runs. But the risk of rot to his feet has clearly extended to higher regions of my old pal’s anatomy, for he swept aside any suggestion that the experiment was doomed to failure. Within an hour of his unloading, and laying, countless rolls of top-quality turf, the hens were devouring the grass in the manner of Eric Pickles faced with a tray of pies. New ideas are fine, but you need to think them through!
And so it is with austerity. Cameron and Clegg, the Laurel and Hardy of politics, will this week renew their marriage vows and promise ever increasing austerity. The fact that it simply isn’t working has clearly escaped them, as has the distinct possibility that the new French president may prove them somewhat foolish. But the truth of the matter is that what is being practiced in the UK is selective austerity, the very worst kind. If anything is likely to cause widespread alienation this is it.
Let us take just a couple of examples. First the plight of Britain’s ever-growing army of carers. A YouGov survey published over the weekend reveals that nearly 60 per cent of carers are suffering from mental health problems due to the strain of caring and juggling other responsibilities. A huge number are experiencing exhaustion and physical strains, and insomnia is par for the course. The majority of the current six million carers are aged over 60 and they are often relied upon to move or lift immobile people or are obliged to bathe, clothe and medicate sick relatives. Their situation is rapidly worsening as cuts and postcode lotteries on local authority help, or lack of it, kick in. Emily Holzhausen, director of Carers UK, says that “we are seeing very worrying signs about the impact of local authority cuts and the tightening of eligibility criteria”.
Austerity for the volunteer army of carers is hitting them hard. The reduction in support, be it home-helps, respite care, or cash is turning their lives into a dangerously punishing treadmill. Yet were there no carers committed by a bond of love and sense of obligation, the state would inherit a massive bill.
For our second example let us visit the fiefdom of George Osborne, Cheshire East. There the Tory-led council has decided to spend £600,000 over budget to tart up the town hall. The chief executive trousers over £200,000 per year and has a deputy who is paid in excess of £170,000. The chief excecutive is on sick leave and, to avoid too much sorting of paper-clips falling on the deputy, the council has voted to appoint yet another top dog to be paid £80,000 for a short-term stint.
Two simple examples of the hit or miss of what our dear leader likes to call austerity by all for the sake of all. Is it any wonder that people are angry and that trades unions are beginning to flex their long-wasted muscles?
THE HONOURS SYSTEM IS DISCREDITED IN MORE WAYS THAN ONE!
The practice of successive governments of, in effect, selling honours to the highest bidders has brought our uniquely British honours system into total disrepute. And now even those who decide on gongs are in revolt.
Lords Lieutenants are a throw back to medieval times but you can still see them at local events, wearing military uniforms and carrying swords. The latter are a symbol of their willingness to defend Her Majesty, but given that most of them are both old (all fail the Cameron ‘Skinner’ judgement test) and rather tubby that seems very unlikely. And even some amongst their pompous numbers are now demanding change in the matter of nomenclature.
George Reid, sword-carrier for Clackmannanshire, told a Commons committee that he is uneasy about the use of the term Empire. David Briggs, of Cheshire, feels likewise and Sir James Cropper, Cumbria, suggests titles more meaningful for the present times. All three gave examples of possible recipients who refused honours on the basis that our once glorious empire slaughtered and enslaved their ancestors.
Of course that can be debated by those with pink-coloured specs, but one fact is undeniable. There is no longer a British Empire! It is surely time to delete reference to it.
Better still, since we are supposedly counting every penny, why not scrap the whole outdated system?
Hope you had a belting Christmas. Now all we have to bother us are dodgy digestive systems and credit-card repayments. The build-up to the great day started back in October and it was impossible for any one day to live up to so much hype, but we allotment codgers had a go. One thing that has to change in our nest next time is the placing of Christmas cards. Each year we stand them on every conceivable ledge or shelf, each year people keep opening the front door at which point every card in the place takes off for Manchester Airport. Suggestions on a postcard please, but no prizes for suggestions involving sellotape which is guaranteed to create a unwelcome demand from she-who-must-be-obeyed for redecorating.
Today’s papers return us to the real world, although how real the polls are is hard to fathom. The ones I have read suggest that David Cameron is now regarded by 99 per cent of the population as a posh version of Mother Theresa. Perhaps the polls were taken in Surbiton, I really cannot imagine that reading in Wigan where they use the Old Etonian for darts matches. But the story that really attracted attention on the allotments concerned Sarah Teather, the Lib Dem children’s minister.
As a member of the coalition’s top team Ms Teather gave vehement support to the austerity programme. She stood shoulder to shoulder with Theresa Cameron and the dashing Osborne in refusing to contemplate action against tax dodgers, bank bonuses, high-speed rail and Olympics overspend. Like her hero Nick she made clear that the people must tighten their belts and stop whingeing about such luxuries as libraries and meals-on-wheels.
And that is her right. But being a hypocrite isn’t. Having supported cuts in local public services she is now campaigning against the ghastly plan to close public libraries in Brent. Why Brent? Because that is her constituency.
And she is not alone in her incredible hypocracy. Jeremy Browne (foreign office), Steve Webb (pensions) and James Brokenshire (crime) have all followed suit. All have lobbied their fellow ministers to save their own patches!
With behaviour like this is it any wonder that ministers and MPs at large are now to be found at the foot of the table of trustworthiness. Even estate agents and journalists now leave them standing. With one exception!
David Cameron stands next to God, David Beckham and Lady Gaga in the ratings, a politician far removed from the riffraff that seek our votes. Funny old world isn’t it!
The monsoons have retreated and morale on the allotments has headed in the opposite direction. Not that such an uplift has eliminated moaning, most of us would easily win a degree in the art should Oxford University introduce such a thing. Every brew-break brings forward some victim for our character-assassination, today ministers moved into the verbal shooting-range.
Ministers are inevitably inexperienced, a product of every prime minister having to select his cabinet from around 300 MPs. Of those around 100 may be loopy, and 100 too old. So he or she has the unenviable task of appointing around 70 of the remaining 100 to run UK plc. The result always is that revenue is poured down the drain as the vast lobbying crowd hoodwinks them left right and centre. I use that phrase to illustrate that none of this is unique to the present government.
The problem right now is that the people are suffering whilst seeing a lucky few rowing to safety in gold-plated lifeboats. To make things worse Her Majesty’s Opposition seems utterly inept, the result is that protest groups are taking its place. Yesterday ’38 Degrees’ launched a ferocious attack on the Inland Revenue who for some time have filled the pages of ‘Private Eye’, given its practice of doing cosy deals with the wealthy. On day one tens of thousands pressed th ebutton on protest letters. The latest estimate has it that £25 billion of taxes due have been waived, enough to fund a lot of libraries and all the other services axed by Osborne’s austerity campaign.
One allotmenteer was fined for submitting his tax return after the due date and now comments that he should have claimed to work for Goldman Sachs. He would then have been let off and taken to Claridges for a slap-up lunch. He could of course have claimed employment by Vodaphone who ‘shook hands’ on just £1.25 billion out of a total liability of £6 billion!
But the corruption of the taxmen has escaped the eye of ministers more versed in the running of golf clubs. As has the tax evasion practiced by many of our top companies and Times rich list geezers. Osborne is the scourge of public sector unions and condemns tax avoidance, yet he refuses to end the scandal of crown tax havens , from Jersey to the Caymans, that enjoy the benefits of British citizenship while enabling individulas and corporations to evade British tax.
In their naivety ministers swallow whole the thesis that the rich should be allowed to escape tax for their ” wealth creating potential”. Even the now state-owned banks continue to pay enormous bonuses, a practice tolerated because ministers have fallen for the argument that there is a danger of such wizards heading off to the Congo.
We can of course throw in such bizaare decisions as giving away planning permissions in the hope of saving £3 billion. Or deciding to build aircraft carriers on the basis that it would cost more to cancel them. Or presenting the renewables industry with £8 billion in the belief that it will the rescue the planet. Lobbyist after lobbyist presents a case for huge savings which actually is licence for the affluent to print money. Ministers find it impossible to be tough on their cultural allies, and they lack the knowledge to second guess them.
Last week the Olympics boss, Lord Coe, popped in to ask for an extra £41 million to tart-up the opening ceremony and, soon afterwards, security experts asked for another £271 million for security. They told ministers that such investments will bring in billions on advertising revenue!. One wonders what the response would have been had someone gone in to ask for an extra ten bob to fund meals-on-wheels!
Naivety and favouratism for the rich rules OK. Which is unfortunate given that nothing is more crucial today than a sense of equality of treatment. What is happening so overtly is recruiting fair-minded people to the protest movement. Our government derides Greece and Italy as countriers where taxpaying and austerity is voluntary. They are not alone!
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S MIDWEEK QUIZ; 1. Deep sea diving 2. Stamps 3. Green 4. Circular 5. Yoga 6. Cribbage 7. Admiral’s Cup 8. Lacrosse 9. Gare Du Nord 10. RSPB
I was back amongst the mud and hens this morning. We did eventually reach Cambridge but by the time we did so it was time to turn around and head back. We were only away for a day, but the number of irritating national topics still multiplied like rabbits on heat.
First amongst them was the news that we are now being pressed to contribute more than £25 billion to a new eurozone payout. Despite Britain being outside the eurozone, European officials are demanding Britain hands over what would be the second largest donation. The matter will come to a head today when George Osborne attends a meeting of finance ministers.
The demand is over and above the £12 billion for which we are already liable in respect of loans made to Greece, Portugal and Ireland. Last night Peter Bone, the Tory MP for Wellingborough, urged the Chancellor to stand up for the “British interest”, even if he is as isolated as David Cameron was just days ago. Douglas Carswell, the Tory MP for Clacton, said; “George Osborne has spent 20 months going along with the bail-out and it has cost this country billions which dwarf the austerity measures. He needs to call a halt now”. RIght across the Tory ranks the same sentiments were echoing and, predictably, only the Lib Dem members of the coalition were urging that yet another fortune be handed over.
The view of the people became clear with the results of the latest opinion poll. Suddenly the Conservatives have a huge lead over Labour with the Lib Dems having all but vanished. Whatever Cameron’s motives may have been, his refusal to bow the knee to the bullying tactics of Merkel and Sarkosy won widepsread acclaim. It may well be that the insults subsequently poured out by the French helped more than a little.
Surely Osborne will not now agree to a payment toward a club we have spurned. Should he concede this he can wave goodbye to any hope of a co-operative approach from those now suffering the effects of cuts. Just for once he should glance back to the stance of the sainted Margaret. She gave a whole new meaning to the words No,No,No!
CLEGG AND THE HOUSE OF LORDS
Nick Clegg will today signal that Lords reform will be the key parliamentary battleground of next year by promising that the Queen’s speech will include plans for an elected upper house that will be forced past peers if necessary. Predictably, the Labour Party has said nothing.
Surely it is high time to put an end to undemocratic privilege. Many believe that the honours system itself is a relic of a bygone age of an empire that no longer exists, but tackling the Lords would be a good first step.
There is only one question. Clegg will reveal that 20% of the Lords will still be “by appointment”. So all those prepared to fund the Tory party will still be able to earn ermine!
WELL DONE MILITARY WIVES!
Gareth Malone worked a near miracle when he persuaded a large group of military wives, most of whom had never sung other than in their baths, to form a choir. Now they are on the brink of topping the Christmas charts with ‘Wherever you are’.
Wonderful! For too long our troops in Afghanistan have been locked into a war that only politicians see as worthwhile. They have been betrayed and their families left in permanent anguish. They have felt lonely and isolated. They have lacked a voice.
Now they have one. The proceeds of the single will go to charity, it is our chance to show support for the forgotten half of our troops who face mortal danger for a lost cause.