Posts Tagged ‘Billions’
In every part of the country there are probably people like us who are scanning the headlines in near disbelief tinged with not a little fear. Now that the tinderbox has been ignited where will the conflagration reach, how will a nation so utterly unprotected cope? Hopefully the violent criminality will either fizzle out or be brought under control. But every angry deprived area has seen the spectacle of unchallenged looting and there are many who will be eager to grasp the opportunity to enrich themselves and to settle what they see as grievancies. If the rioting escalates and spreads there will be only one option; to call out the troops, always assuming that we have any to spare given our obsession with playing the role of world policeman.
I remember how close we came to that at the time of the riots triggered by Toxteth. I was then involved in negotiations with the Ministry of Defence over the supply of vehicles. At a working lunch one of the Generals said that he was awaiting the call with dread. If troops are employed, he said, we are then just a hairs breath away from their using arms, we are on the verge of revolution.
Who knows what the next few days will bring. What we do know is that right now many areas in London are beyond the control of the police. As one injured officer put it they are outnumbered, outmanoeuvered and exhausted. Units from across the country are being rushed to the capital from areas that may well need them, and all leave has been cancelled. But there are simply not enough officers to cover what is happening. The determination of this government to reduce police strength by 25 per cent stands exposed as the ultimate folly alongside its willingness to spent billions on Libya and Afghanistan, not to mention millions on aid for rich countries such as India.
But even if there were sufficient numbers there is still the question of leadership. Someone yesterday referred to what is happening as the second Battle of Britain. But it is a good deal worse in many respects. Then the enemy was an external one, our leadership was experienced and inspiring and there was unity of purpose. Today we have out-of-touch leaders in Downing Street, police chiefs who are more concerned with management speak and whole communities that are alienated, see the police as enemies and who have suffered from cuts to the few services of hope available to them.
Around the world there has been constant reporting of London’s slide into chaos. The New York Times front page today features a picture of a burned out store in Tottenham. A long piece included this summary; “Frustration in this impoverished neighbourhood, as in many other parts of Britain, has mounted as the government’s austerity budget has forced deep cuts in social services. At the same time , a widely held disdain for law enforcement here, where a large Afro-Caribbean population has felt singled out by the police for abuse, has only intensified through the drumbeat of scandal that has racked Scotland Yard in recent weeks”.
It is often said that the onlooker sees most of the game and, if we are honest, the piece sums up pretty accurately the situation that has developed. What we are seeing now has little to do with the protest that triggered it, woefully though that was handled by the authorities, it is a combination of pent up rage combined with criminality of the most violent kind.
Clearly the first task for the Prime Minister, who has at last abandoned his holiday, is the restoration of order and the prosecution of those arrested. But a wise government would recognise that actions based on what has happened are needed urgently. What should these be?
Firstly the plan to reduce police numbers further must be abandoned, in fact numbers must be increased significantly, meantime coverage of sporting events should be suspended. Cameron has announced that 16,000 officers will be on the streets tonight. That is totally inadequate especially since many of them have been bussed in from areas as far away as South Wales and will now be quite rightly entitled to rest days. Secondly, an imaginative leader for the Metropolitan Police must be found. Thirdly, the whole method of policing must be changed. Not one of the hundreds of officers rushed into Tottenham actually lives there. The concept of local policemen of a community living within it must be restored. Dialogue and mutual respect requires local presence and local knowledge.
And an immediate programme of local employment training initiatives must be introduced. Young alienated people must be engaged and involved in meaningful employment even if, initially, it only comprises work on improving the local environment. The funding? Discontinue our ruinous military operations abroad and confine aid to countries of real poverty. And the final action should surely be to open up youth detention centres, there have to be clear messages about real punishment.
Meantime a wise government would ensure that police and magistrates combine to produce early sentences for those already arrested. Our local paper reports that last week a man was jailed after threatening a shopkeeper and stealing goods. Each and every one of the low life now rioting is guilty of just that!
Even as I type it is becoming clear that what started as a protest in Tottenham is triggering looting and mayhem across the land. Gangs of louts are meeting up to attack and loot shops and to attack anyone who dares to obstruct them. They have received a loud and clear message; the police will not intervene and even should you be caught sentences are derisory.
Oh for the old and wise Churchill. He would have ordered ‘action this day’. But he is long gone and we should all pray that, just for once, the muppets in charge get it right. In 2009 David Cameron as opposition leader claimed that Britain was “broken”. It wasn’t right then, it isnt entirely right now but we are getting there for trust in politicians and the police has all but vanished.
Few of my pals on the allotment agree with what I have written. But they tend to be influenced by Albert, who bears a remarkable resemblance to Cpl Jones of Dad’s Army. His solution is to reform the Home Guard and issue bayonets. Somehow I prefer my own possible reactions.
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S QUIZ; 1. Kennedy 2. France 3. UK & Ireland 4. The Romanovs 5. Eton 6. Crimean War 7. Edmund Hilary 8. Hitler 9. 17 10. Ronald Reagan
Some of our allotment folk support a local charity which is striving desperately to raise funds to prevent closure of a day centre as a result of cuts. They have worked and lobbied hard and have so far raised almost £10,000. Unfortunately this is on deposit with Barclays in their ‘More for More’ savings scheme which is now paying an interest of 0.50 per cent. They carry on with their fund-raising and dismiss complaints about the derisory interest by saying that we are all in this together and no one can afford to pay out handsome interest. In my view they are being too kind by half for Barclays have just announced the pay deals for their bigwigs, and I can think of no better description than that used yesterday by the Lib Dem spokesman on finance, Stephen Williams, MP. He said that the deals are simply ‘obscene’.
The announcement shows that five of the top Barclays managers shared a payout of £110 million which is only marginally less than the bank paid in corporation tax for 2009. Despite profits in the billions the Bank manages to avoid paying tax to the exchequer despite feeling able to pay out a total of £3.5 billion in bonuses. Which raises the question of why, since they consider the payments as obscene, the Lib Dems continue to play along with the Osborne refusal to force the issue of tax.
The problem with numbers is that too many of them numb the senses, and most of us tend to sigh and agree that a tough approach could lead to the expensive whizz-kids heading for other lands. Cynics like me say let them go, they caused this mess and no one could possibly be worth the amounts they are pocketing. Yesterday the stars in question had to be escorted from Barclays’ Canary Wharf headquarters when protestors chanted in the lobby. they were mainly concerned with the failure of the this and other banks to pay full tax but were also quick to point the finger at greedy people who take home far more in a year than the vast majority earn in a lifetime.
We all knew that chief executive Bob Diamond pocketed £27 million for 2010 and we all knew that he has called for an end to ‘bank bashing’. We didn’t know that he is far from alone. His two highest paid managers, Jerry del Missier and Rich Ricci, were handed more than £40 million each after share deals came to fruition. Along with three others, they have also been awarded long-term bonus plans worth a combined £10 million – which could be worth three times that amount in three years time.
I won’t go on with the list, suffice to say the earnings by senior bankers are now in the realms of fantasy. What do these people actually do? They move money around, they speculate. But they are the only winners, by the end of last year £100 invested in Barclays shares four years earlier would have generated a loss of £47, while the FTSE index of major shares gained £26 during the same period. To quote another leading Lib Dem , Lord Oakeshott, “the capitalist model has broken down when shareholders get so little whilst managers grab so much”. Lord Oakeshott resigned as the party’s spokesman over Project Merlin, the final proof for him that Conservative ministers are in league with the Bankers.
Of course writing this will achieve nothing other than to release my rage. Even those on high who protest are dismissed by Diamond who told the select committee that the “era of remorse and regret with banking is over”. There has always been a tendency on the part of the have-nots to envy those who have. But suddenly the situation has gone far beyond that.
The very least that Barclays and the like should feel morally bound to do is to pay full corporation tax. Th every least the incredibly rich managers should do is to make donations to charities like those supported by my pals.
But neither will happen and it is no surprise that bankers are now top of many a hate list!
THOUGHTS FOR TODAY; ” She got her looks from her father. He’s a plastic surgeon”….Groucho Marx “ The only parts left of my original body are my elbows”…..Phyllis Diller “When they tell me to get my nose fixed I say no. I can smell perfectly well with the one I’ve got”….Robert Mitchum “My boob job is the gift that keeps on giving. My ex bought them and my new guy enjoys them”…..Elaine Pelino “Gran used to take mum to the circus to see the fat lady and the tattooed man. Now they’re everywhere”….Joan Collins “Men who have a pierced ear are better pre[pared for marriage. The’ve experienced pain and bought jewellery”…..Rita Rudner
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S QUIZ; 1 Reginald Perrin 2. A corner shop
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Which disease killed many typically British trees in the early 70s? 2. The lost city of Oplontis was discovered in 1973, where?
Some months ago I wrote of the visit that a couple of us made to the office of Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England. Together with pupils from a local school we spent an hour with him and came away quite clear as to the cause of the horrendous financial position. Since then we have shaken our heads in disbelief at the constant statements by coalition ministers that the near ruination of the country is entirely down to the outgoing Labour administration. Many a time whilst coping with the squabbling chickens we have remembered Mervyn King’s explanation which was quite different.
We were therefore rather pleased to read today’s headlines relating to yesterday’s meeting of the Treasury Select Committee at which the governor was the main witness. He was absolutely clear that the crisis was entirely due to the City, in other words the banks. He went on to say that he has been surprised “that there has not been more public anger”.
He went on to say that “people made unemployed and businesses bankrupted during the crisis had every reason to be resentful and voice their protest”. He told the committee that the billions spent bailing out the banks were “the fault of the financial services sector”. He refused to be drawn into the argument about the speed at which cuts are being made but made clear that this is no ordinary recession, it is one that will last “for many years”.
The governor has repeatedly pointed the finger at the City since the crisis erupted in 2007, but this was the first time he has formally blamed bankers for the coalition’s spending cuts. He expressed great sympathy for the victims of the spending cuts, all of them people “who absolutely did not cause it”. He again expressed surprised that public anger toward the banks has not been greater.
He is perhaps underestimating the anger that many feel, particularly when they read of the banks continuing to pay themselves massive salaries and bonuses, not to mention evading the payment of corporate taxes. In a way the anger has switched to George Osborne who has shown a tendency to cosy up to the financial sector and who, many believe, is almost a player within it. Indeed the close links between the City and coalition can be seen from the appointment yesterday of the new City of London Corporation’s public relations chief. It is Old Etonian George Bridges, who was personally picked by David Cameron to help run the Conservative election campaign and was chairman of the Conservative Research Department. We can presumably expect to hear little pof the fact that Barclays paid only £113 million in corporation tax last year. This represented 2.4 per cent of its worldwide profits.
Yesterday’s meeting, held at Portcullis House, produced no real surprises for we all instinctively know that the banks greed and incompetence landed us where we are both here and on a worldwide basis. But it did at least serve to silence the endless attempts by ministers to turn the cuts into a means of discrediting the opposition. In reality many of the cuts are born of ideology, the right wing has yearned for the chance to privatise services and slash benefits and this is a perfect smoke-screen.
Of course we will all have a different take on whether the cuts are too sudden, whether they are fair. That is one debate and no one can be sure of the answer. But hopefully we can now all stop blaming political parties for what happened. They deserve little applause on many things but the cut, be they quick or slow, were not of their making.
Perhaps the most challenging statement by Mervyn King concerned the future. He believes that from now on any bank that gets back into trouble should be denied state aid. Few will disagree with that!
THOUGHTS FOR TODAY; ” I approach reading reviews the way some people anticipate anal warts”…..Roseanne ” I am sitting in the smallest room in the house. Your review is before me. In a moment it will be behind me”….Noel Coward “A poor review is even less important than whether it is raining in Patagonia”…..Iris Murdoch “You don’t need to hire a dog therapist. You just need t o get up at 6.00am and open the blasted door”…..Ozzy Osborne “Cats are smarter than dogs. You can’t persuade eight cats to pull a sled through snow”…..Jeff Valdez “I am fond of pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals”….Winston Churchill “My worst Christmas? I ran into Mum’s bedroom and she said ‘I just forgot’ “……Rob Burton “My mother-in-law has come round to our house at Christmas seven years running. This year we’re going to have a change. We’re going to let her in”…..Les Dawson “George Bush said he was being stalked. He says wherever he goes , people are following him. Finally someone told him ‘Psst. That’s the Secret Service”….Jay Leno “I’m offended by political jokes. Too often they get elected”….Will Rogers
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S QUIZ; 1. Opera 2. Nigel Kennedy
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Who admitted to faking a biography of Howard Hughes? 2. Where was Chou En-lai prime minister?
We had a sharp reminder this morning that winter isn’t over yet. Everything was frozen solid and the long-discarded blow-torch was back in action. There are several supporters for the save the world from climate change lobby but Albert is not one of them. On mornings such as this he delights in reminding us of the predictions that Blackpool beach will become too hot to venture on. I have to admit that it is sometimes easier to believe in global cooling! Of course none of us was sufficiently savvy to climb aboard the biggest racket this country has ever known – and that’s saying something- which is Private Finance Initiatives (PFI). Had we done so, we would be lounging on some distant beach, and I don’t mean Blackpool.
One plus point for the coalition is that it has quickly identified the biggest waste of public money this country has ever known. PFIs were introduced by the last Conservative government and were used throughout the whole of the Blair and Brown years. With the honourable exception of Private Eye they received little publicity and were clearly seen by both Tory and Labour ministers as an easy way to build hospitals and schools without incurring a debit on the national balance sheet.
And private companies have made billions of pounds at the taxpayer’s expense. Under the schemes private enterprises meet the upfront costs of building and then operate them, recouping the money from the taxpayer over many years. Sounds good in theory but the implementation was scandalous. For example, Treasury figures show that taxpayers will spend £229 billion on projects that cost the contractor only £56 billion. The biggest single PFI contractor was ‘Innisfree’, which employs just 14 people but now owns, or co-owns, 28 NHS hospitals and 269 schools.
Its chief executive has built a personal fortune of more than £50 million since founding the company in 1995. Yesterday Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office Minister, said that many of the deals done were “ghastly”. He added that “many of the contracts we have discovered were unacceptable and the people on the other side must have been laughing all the way to the bank”.
Many hospitals and schools now have a millstone around their necks. In some cases the buildings will be obsolete long before the debt has been paid off. And to make things even worse the contractors control all maintenance and charge astronomic fees for rectifying even the smallest fault. Many of the original contracts have been sub-contracted and it is now extremely difficult to identify the many snouts gathered around the publicly funded trough.
A campaign being led by Jesse Norman, a Tory bankbencher, is calling for PFI firms to pay a £500 million rebate to the exchequer. He is entirely justified but the chances of it happening are remote. The tuck shop has been closed and the profiteers are heading for sunlit tax havens.
There is probably reason to suspect that even the process of awarding such enormously generous deals was itself corrupt. Either way, successive governments literally gave away more billions than the current national deficit. And yet no one complained, no one questionned what was going on, except for Ian Hislop’s magazine which constantly attempted to blow the whistle on the scandal of our age.
Suddenly everyone can read of a massive contribution to the financial mess that now engulfs us. Suddenly we realise, if we didn’t already know, that politicians of all parties are not to be trusted. Yes the Banks were the prime contributors to our fate but the successive chancellors who went along with this massive racket also played a major part!
So if you are redundant, or in any way a victim of the Osborne cuts, you may be forgiven for thinking that the very people who now assure you that we are all in this together were part of the structure that allowed this daylight robbery to occur!
THOUGHTS FOR TODAY; “Women might start a rumour, but not a war”….Marga Gomez “Smart girls know how to play tennis, piano and dumb”….Lynn Redgrave “Wild horses wouldn’t drag a secret out of most women; however, women seldom have lunch with wild horses”….Ivern Boyett “No woman ever shot her husband while he was doing the dishes”……George Coote “I am all for women’s rights – and for their lefts too”….Groucho Marx “It is noticeable that in all the discussion about the femininity of God, the masculainity of the Devil goes unchallenged”….Christopher Russell “If you think women are the weaker sex just try pulling the blankets over to your side”……Stuart Turner “When they told me that in 2100 women will rule the world my reply was ‘Still?’….Winston Churchill “I look like the girl next door, if you happen to live next to an amusement park”…..Dolly Parton “To attract men I use a perfume called ‘New Car Interior’ “…..Rita Rudner “Men aren’t attracted to me by my mind. They’re attracted by what I don’t mind”…..Gypsy Rose Lee “My wife and I have Olympic sex. Once every four years!”…..Rodney Dangerfield
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. Maurice Chevalier 2. Chess
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Who was the first to run a mile in under 3min 50sec? 2 In whose name was a cricket pitch dug up and daubed with graffiti?
Wonderful! It was my turn to release everyones’ chickens this morning and I arrived at first light clad in the fashion of Captain Scott. Having heard the weather forecast of temperatures low enough to freeze an eskimo, I was armed with a blow-torch fully expecting an hour of thawing. In fact not one of the many containers was frozen and everything was shipshape by the time that Vernon came in. I said that he should be impressed by the sheer efficiency of the duty melter. But my Jamaican mate is not easily fooled and replied that if I continued to tell lies I would find myself transferred to the FIFA world.
Yes, he too had watched last night’s Panorama. We both found it staggering that people such as David Cameron should have attempted to persuade The Beeb to postpone the programme lest it influenced the panel due to select the venues for the 2018 and 2022 soccer World Cups. He, and the others who agreed with him, must have lost their moral compass for what the programme revealed was several very serious charges of massive corruption. Already two FIFA members have been suspended and now we learn that three or four others, who will be adjudicating, are claimed to be implicated in fraud of the most venal variety.
The findings were shown to Swiss MP Roland Buechel, an expert in the field of football administration. Having heard the facts his reaction was immediate. He said that ” after years of corruption we now need an external, an international and an independent investigation into the FIFA books”.
I confess to knowing litte about FIFA other than the constant appearance on the news of President Sebb Blatter who seems to be a sort of self-appointed head of world football. The impression given yesterday was of a clique of people with absolute power to make decisions that involve many billions of pounds. The suspicion is that the countries competing for their votes offer inducements and some provide vast amounts of cash that are not subsequently accounted for.
Those who were anxious to stall the BBC revelations present as their case the fact that many of the allegations go back a number of years. But that makes the situation even worse for it suggests that the alleged crimes – and that is what they are – have either gone undetected in which case there is clearly no proper audit, or have been condoned by others. Even Trinidad ExCo member Jack Warner stands accused of trying to buy tickets for the next world cup to the value of £50,000 and he is due to join David Cameron for lunch!
So severe are the accusations that one cannot avoid the conclusion that even the inept English Football Association must surely question its continuing to be a member state until there has been a full and independent inquiry. Panorama produced documentary evidence and it is intolerable that such a discredited organisation should continue to make decisions involving money on a gigantic scale.
Clearly it is now too late to have the decision-making meetings postponed but if British football is to retain any semblance of decency and propriety it must surely take a stand. The tragedy is that whatever is decided now will attract suspicion and the thought of our prime minister and future King toadying to people accused of fraud is very hard to take. The reality is that those on the catwalk are going along with the world governing body’s refusal to reform!
Some newspapers today have suggested inducements such as aircraft carriers or palaces but the situation is too serious to be laughed off. They should also note that apart from the claims of serious fraud, the programme provided details of the conditions that our government has accepted. A Dutch parliamentarian attacked these with vigour, she said the laws of a country should not be changed to make exceptions for individual organisations least of all those that have a dubious record. As David Mellor put it, this time corruption must be rooted out and there should be no amnesties or exceptions.
Like most soccer fans I and my pals were keen to see a successful England bid. But now we are less sure. Will we be supping with the Devil and providing it with a cloak of respectability that when it eventually ignites will burn us too?
Blatter’s seemingly dysfunctional “football family” should be left with the choice of becoming a transparent international parliament or admit its intention to continue to provide a means for opportunists to sell power to would-be hosts and private companies!
VIOLENT OFFENDERS ARE GETTING OFF WITH CAUTIONS!
We all know about the views of Kenneth Clarke, the Justice Secretary, on crime and punishment but only now do we learn the extent of his proposed leniency. Yesterday John Thornhill, chairman of the Magistrtaes Association, revealed in a speech to the associations annual meeting that no fewer than 37,000 offenders guilty of violent assault are being let off each year with a caution. He demanded that such cases be brought before the courts and added that in almost every case a prison sentence would have resulted.
This outburst folows that of the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, who said that he felt very strongly that all violent offenders who cause injury to others should be dealt with by a court.
As Lord Judge remarked it must be extremely difficult for injured victims to come to terms with the fact that their assailant has received nothing more than a rebuke.
Justice must be seen to be done. Right now that is not the situation and Clarke’s new world of forgiveness will make things even worse. It is time for him to move into the real world!
H & S BRIGADE STRIKE AGAIN!
Todays health and safety lunacy comes from Essex. Ron Warrick is a lollipop man and has been helping pupils from St Marys Primary School in Shenfield across the road for some time. But after the council installed a pedestrian crossing he was told that he must not leave the pavement because of the danger of motorists jumping the lights.
Adrian Tidbury from the highways department says that Ron could still be out there when the lights change and that is dangerous. Parents are astonished and wonder why it is not equally dangerous for six year olds!
ASHES; ADELAIDE HERE WE COME!
The scene is set for a tight match at Adelaide. Will Australia persevere with Johnson whose bowling in the first Test was just about as bad as things can get. But when he hits the right line and length his speed makes him dangerous.
England has a similar problem in that Swann at Brisbane looked a shadow of his recent all-conquering past. The Adelaide pitch is notoriously slow and spin could be the deciding factor.
But I tend to line up with Shane Warne who is quoted as saying that neither team is capable of bowling the other out twice!
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. Guyana 2. Lockheed
TODAYS QUESTIONS; 1. In what year was the European Monetary system formed? 2. Which city became the capital of the unified state of Vietnam?