Posts Tagged ‘Belts’
We will remember yesterday for some time to come. We constantly hear ministers banging on about all being in it together, about this country or that being in an even more parlous state than us. And of course we know that there is no ‘us’, ours has become a deeply divided society, split into segments by enormous differences in wealth – or lack of it -and by race. Yesterday we suddenly experienced a total ‘usness’. It appeared at Lords.
The scenes at the home of cricket were almost unique. I say almost, having in mind similar scenes some years ago at Old Trafford when the last day of a Test match against the Aussies drew a similar response. At Lords the authorities for once deserve a pat on the back for setting low prices (plus free entry for kids), and opening those hallowed gates to all prepared to turn up. In the event 25,227 did, some queuing through the night.
There were no elitist corporate groups, no mob of obscene singers, no activities other than watching an enthralling day’s play. Here was living proof of two things. Those who say that Test cricket is dying are totally wrong, those who say that ‘ordinary’ folk have fallen out of love with the great game even more so. The packed house represented a total cross-section of society and, although loyalties were divided (but despite that everyone wanted to see Tendulkar), it responded to all that happened as one. Just for a day the old days in which sport brought together people from all walks of life and race returned. And by way of a bonus England performed magnificently. At the end the crowd as one saluted both teams.
Sadly it was a mere oasis in a desert of division which grows by the day. Today we learn that the Osborne plan for growth isn’t working, today we hear more exhortations to pull in our belts. Benchmark GDP statistics which compare us with other economies say nothing useful about ‘us’ because ‘we’ are not all in this together. In fact some are swelling like pumpkins, others shrivel, especially the ever growing number of young unemployed. Last week’s 2010 ONS figures show that the City paid £14 billion in bonuses. Bob Diamond of Barclays received £6.5 million, Stuart Gulliver of HSBC took £9 million. In fact, wherever you look, the richest became even richer last year.
A well timed report from the Resolution Foundation yesterday laid bare the raw figures. Of every £100 rise in national income since 1977, the half of the population on average or below average income received just £12. For much of the past 30 years the bottom half did see their income rise slightly, so they didn’t notice they were falling badly behind the rest. Now the cuts are leading to near-crisis financial conditions for many families, and the signs are that the now apparent inequality is creating a politically unsustainable situation. Our social elastic is heading for breaking point.
More and more ‘ordinary’ people are becoming aware of the huge differences in reward, in fact many are already in punishment mode. Jonathan Portes, head of the National Institute for Economic and Social Research has underlined where we are; “The top 1% has taken a hugely disproportionate share of growth while the middle and below have stagnated or fallen”.
Osborne’s purloining of “We’re all in this together”seems to recognise the political embarrassment of a future where half the population falls further behind while the top tenth vanishes into a realm unrecognisable to the 90% of basic-rate taxpayers. Yet he simply doesn’t seem to grasp where he is leading us. In fact he is now talking of the abolition of the 50% tax rate, only paid by the already very rich.
If he makes that move at a time when food, gas, electricity and petrol prices are rising, pay frozen, cuts in benefits, high inflation, he may well find that for the first time in decades half of the population will cry enough is enough. At the very least that one act will make people more aware than they have ever been of the fact that ‘us’ has become ‘them and us’. And even in a pragmatic society like ours it may prove the final straw. Ever the opportunist, Ed Milband is talking of the ‘squeezed middle’. He is right although why he fails to mention those at the bottom is hard to fathom.
To an extent we have always been a divided society but it is only now, as the cuts begin to bite hard, that people bother about it. Lying awake worrying about mortgages, jobs , bills greater than income and a sharp fall in living standards whilst knowing that the rich are getting richer by the day does funny things to people!
But it was good to recapture the feeling of oneness, if only for a day!
TODAY’S SPECIAL QUIZ ON THE SUBJECT OF FESTIVALS; 1. What type of festival has become associated with Reading? 2. In which country is an Eisteddfod celebrated? 3. What is the season leading up to Christmas known as? 4. Which Scottish city hosts what is claimed to be the world’s largest arts festival? 5. Yom Kippur is the Day of what? 6. Which Hall is the centre for the BBC Proms? 7. Which religion celebrates the festival of Passover? 8. Since the 1940s, Cannes has hosted what type of Festival? 9. The Buddhist festival of Parinirvana is also kmown as which Day? 10. The celebrated Spalding Flower Festival takes place in which county?
Bob, who claims to have learned to smoke several centuries ago behind the Boy Scout’s hut, has taken charge of our arrangements for coping with arctic conditions. Given his much vaunted motto of ‘Be Prepared’ it was no surprise when a large vehicle arrived bearing enough salt to stock a million chip shops. We were then ordered to store it under cover lest it froze which struck me as decidedly odd. But given our crazy gang-like performance of last week I decided to keep my thoughts to myself. Bob is a parish councillor (elected unopposed) and is extremely keen on people power so right now he is very chirpy indeed having learned of the Pickles plan to delegate powers to local and parish councils.
Bob has swept aside my doubts about the ability of him and his fellow elected unopposed councillors to set up things such as banks. You can, he tells me, get do-it-yourself books to cover everything from the local library. Incidentally that is another venture that he expects to become involved in ( hopefully he will not choose the books). But his confidence did seem to waver a little when I pointed out that the new powers will arrive together with a 27 per cent cut in grant funding over the next four years. That could, I suggested, lead to a situation where the people knocking at his door are not necessarily potential volunteers!
In fairness big Eric Pickles did talk about the newly empowered councils learning to “do more for less”. But that strikes me as somewhat deluded given the scale of retrenchment involved. Yes, Borough Councils and the like do pay their chief executives ridiculously high salaries and, yes, they are wasteful. But having dealt with such things they will only scratch the surface of the amount of savings required. They will have to do far more than tighten their belts, they will have to stop doing many of the things that they currently do.
Nick Clegg – who else – has said that a sledgehammer is the only way to de-centralise. That just might be right if there were no cuts. Given that there are, and massive ones at that, it seems incredible that central government is going to wash its hands of decisions that could literally kill people. Services such as those for the elderly and mentally ill in the community are already collapsing. Further cuts will tip them over an appalling edge. Some councils will grasp this, others won’t, so the prospect of post-code live-or-die looms large.
If you add to all this the new requirement for councils at all levels to hold referendums before raising tax rates you arrive at only one conclusion. Streamlined councils will not be able to cope even if they happen to have the relevant expertise but they, not Whitehall, will get the blame. A year or so from now Cameron – if he has survived being in bed with the cold-footed Lib Dems – will be able to answer attacks about services by simply saying that such things are not within his remit. That of course assumes that the government has not realised that the cuts need to be slowed down!
One cannot escape the conclusion that the new freedom is a poisoned chalice indeed. No wonder big Eric had a twinkle in his crafty eyes!
THE POWER OF ADVERTISING WRIT LARGE!
During the run up to the X Factor final I noticed that Mary Byrne said that she was only able to cope because she was still getting her wages from Tesco. The Sun reported that ” X Factor hopeful Mary praised the supermarket giant – slogan every little helps – for sticking by her”. Pure altruism then?
Maybe but the retail giant did enjoy a good deal of airtime-mention during the popular contest. And it may or may not have been a coincidence that the very edition that bore the tribute had no fewer than seven seperate ads from Tesco!
The decision by the coalition to sell-off the Forensic service is a disgrace. It is also extremely dangerous.
In recent times the state-owned service has, through sheer persistence and painstaking research, solved many crimes. A private company motivated by profit will not devote the time required. And use of the private sector for this type of hard-to-measure research has already been tried and found wanting.
This is another example of political dogma being placed ahead of public safety!
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. A comet 2. SonyTODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. ESRO was renamed ESA. What do the initials ESA stand for ? 2. Which Cambridge physicist became well known for his work on black holes?
Sadly I have to report that the Ferret Breeders are muttering of one rule for them and t’other for us. Beware the politics of envy for not even an Order of the British Ferreters has come to the allotment shed. But it has to be admitted that the early signs are that the coalition’s zeal for tightening of belts does not seem to extend to their own circle. To be fair it could be that it is heeding the advice of Czech novelist Milan Kundera who warned young lovers not to be overly generous in their early days lest they establish precedents hard to break. So maybe the cuts at the top come later but for now Ferretters are up in arms.
The moaning started when the promised reform of the House of Lords appeared in a somewhat surprising form. There are already 736 peers sitting in the Lords and the plan now appears to be to create over one hudred additions. Apparently the new government needs to ensure a majority lest the Lords does what is supposed to do, apply a moderating influence. To mirror the result of the election 77 Tory and 95 Lib Dems will be needed.
One industry that did flouirish under the last government was the manufacture of new Peers. Many such as Lord Carter of Barnes, Lord Sugar and Lord Jones of Birmingham had but a brief time in government but, as things stand, will continue to wear ermine until their dying day. In fact none of the 736 Lords can be made redundant so the number will continue to climb. Perhaps rocket is the better word for should the coalition fall someone else will feel the ned to appoint even more.
If the prospectve lists being lobbed around are accurate the signs are that the net is having to be cast ever wider and many of the new names are likely to be ones previously unknown to the electorate who will foot the bill. This makes the possibility of nepotism even greater.
Polls have shown that the majority of people want to see an axe taken to an archaic and expensive system of privilege. And this is broadly what both Lib Dems and Conservatives seemed to have in mind when they talked of a democratically elected and streamlined chamber. Perhaps the explanation for what they are actually doing will be along the lines of David Laws who, when asked why he was now supporting the cuts he had opposed during the campaign, said that he had changed his mind. So that’s OK then!
It is not an impressive start to the new frugality that we all realise is essential if our economy is to survive. But perhaps the Fat Cats are already feeling the pinch in other ways? Perhaps not. The new Prime Minister is busy allocating what are known as grace-and-favour residences. As per custom he has awarded himself Chequers , a 16th century mansion set in a ten acre estate. George Osborne will have Dorneywood, built in 1920 with 21 rooms and in a 200 acre estate. Gordon Brown refused the offer, John Prescott famously played croquet there.
Should we feel sympathy for Nick Clegg who will have to share Chevening House with William Hague? Not really, because the 115 rooms should enable them to mingle only when they want to. The rest of the list is as yet unknown but we can perhaps presume that no one will be living on Wapping High Street.
The point I made to my fellow Ferret racers was that we cannot go through life begrudging everyone else their treats. The point they made to me is that severe restraint and hardship will only be acceptable if the right example is set!