Posts Tagged ‘Commentators’
Other than destroy our saving’s income, a feat he has already achieved, the clammy touch of Chancellor George Osborne can do little harm to a bunch of old codgers given to breeding hens. So the response to yesterday’s mini-budget was somewhat muted this morning. In fact the rare treat of a wind and rain free morning had us in a reasonably positive mood. The weather men say that there is stormy weather ahead but we live for the moment. In any case we realise that the economic storms gathering will surpass anything that the elements choose to throw at us.
None of us watched the Osborne performance which, if most of the commentators are to be believed, was something of a ‘dog’s breakfast’. He clearly had a problem, namely that all he and his boss perdicted just a year ago has failed to come to pass, and the effect of the Euro fiasco has yet to kick in. We have always tended to favour the Keynes approach which has it that if you take away everyone’s spending power you inevitably end up in a recession. No spare cash, no spending, no trade, no growth.
Now we apparently face many years of unremitting hardship for those at the bottom of the income league, and unemployment is likely to rise to levels where social unrest will cause problems for the police whose resources have been cut. Yesterday was the day the gvernment was forced to admit that its austerity plan has backfired. It has been, er, too austere.
But one group will be raising a glass to the Chancellor today. Despite endless changes which will impoverish even more those near the bread-line, offset only by a strange reference to a new by-pass for Tunbridge Wells, not one penny more was taken from the top 10% of earners. Fat plums for the plucking stayed on the tree as the poorest bore 16% of the brunt of the new cuts whilst the richest bore only 3%.
According to the Resolution Foundation over £7 billion could be harvested with 40% tax relief on higher pensions whilst most earners will only get 20%. No additional bank levy was mentioned, there was no ‘mansion tax’, so beloved by the Lib Dems, on high-value properties even though owners don’t even pay their fair share of council tax. Worse still, two-thirds of properties worth over £1 million now change hands whilst avoiding all their 5% stamp duty, by using offshore company accounts.
An even bigger omission was mention of tax avoidance and evasion. Another 12,000 tax collectors are losing their jobs while some £25 billion is evaded and £70 billion avoided. In a time of national emergency the Chancellor had no breath of rebuke about the reponsibility of the rich not to dodge taxes, no threat to curb the culture of avoidance. Despite the High Pay Commission report on out-of-control boardroom pay – which even the Institute of Directors has called unsustainable – the Chancellor said nothing.
Instead came the great attack on public sector employees and war on the pay of women. After a three-year freeze, public pay rises are to be pegged at 1% for two years whatever the inflation rate. That might be painful but acceptable if the same criteria was to be applied to the bankers and super-rich. But the direct assault on the poor is almost beyond belief. When charities such as the Children’s Society and Save the Children launch a fierce attack you can be sure that things have simply gone too far.
I suppose the only consolation is that young George did not wheel out his original claim about our all being in this together!
TRY YOUR HAND AT THE MIDWEEK QUIZ ON LEISURE; 1. What imaginative type of game is known by the initials RPG? 2. Which French game’s name is the French word for balls? 3. In which month is Spring Bank Holiday? 4. Which London Museum is the most visited? 5. How many balls are needed to play a game of snooker? 6. What is the national sport of Japan? 7. What is lawn tennis known as when played on shale or clay? 8. In volleyball what do players hit the ball with? 9. What is the Chinese for “dark” and “light” believed to maintain equilibrium? 10. Where is the Jorvik Viking Stadium?
The usual ribaldry was notable for its absence on the allotments this morning. There are many soccer fans amongst us and everyone seemed reluctant to chat, everyone seemed lost in a world of their own. Most of us have seen Gary Speed play, not surprising since he became one of the Premier League’s most enduring stars with stints at Everton, Newcastle United and Bolton Wanderers before ending his dazzling career at Sheffield United last year. In all he played 535 matches in the Premier League, still the third highest of any player. But none of us had ever actually met Gary, as happens with all popular spectator sports we had watched him so often that we felt as though we knew him. His sudden death has shocked us beyond imagination.
Gary had gone on to become manager of the Welsh national side and had, in a short time, transformed the prospects of a team so often cast in the role of also-rans. On Saturday several of us tuned in to ‘Football Focus’ and listened to Gary and other commentators discussing the reversal of his team’s fortunes. He subsequently went to Old Trafford to watch the Man Utd game against Newcastle. We now know that just hours later he took his own life in the garage of his house at Huntingdon Hall, near Chester.
In any circumstances the sudden death of such a talenetd and popular star of the constantly publicised world of football would have caused shock waves. It was hard to take in when the news of his death broke and our first assumption was that he had suffered a heart attack, something that can happen to the fittest. When we learned of the reality it was, and is, simply impossible to believe.
The Football Association of Wales wsa quick to describe the loss of “someone so young and talented” as a huge loss not only for his family and friends but a nation as a whole. Gary was, the spokesman said, a hero in Wales and everyone liked him for his gentleness and knowledge of the game. Fellow players were quick to express their own sense of loss
Robbie Savage, Gary’s former Welsh team-mate who is competing in the BBC show ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ revealed that he had spoken to him only the day before his death. He reported that he was upbeat, they were laughing together and discussing the dancing challenge. “Don’t get a two off Craig” (Revel Horwood, the Strictly judge) was Gary’s parting shot. Kenny Dalglish, the Liverpool manager, withdrew Gary’s close friend Craig Bellamy from the Anfield match against Man City, Bellamy was too upset to play.
Ryan Giggs, another of football’s legends, described Gary as “one of the nicest men in football and someone I am honoured to call a team-mate and friend. Alan Shearer described him as “a magnificent, fun person and a wonderful family man – he lit up every room he entered”. Bobby Gould and John Hartson could only cling to each other and cry. Right across the game large numbers reeled from the shock news and wiped tears from their bewildered faces. Why, why why? they cried.
Reoprts tell that neighbours are equally astonished, all talk of a friendly, happy man who always “had a chat”. In common with everyone else they had detected no sign of Gary being other than his usual humorous, cheerful self. And that impression is reinforced by colleague in the TV studio on Saturday, who have revealed that Gary was talking with excitement about the next show and the sporting prowess of his children.
Inevitably everyone who knew or admired Gary Speed is casting around for an explanation of a tragic event. The ghastly gutter press? They have quickly denied any involvement. Pressure of a manager’s role? Maybe, but Gary had brought quick success to a downtrodden team and was the fan’s favourite. Depression? Another maybe for many sportsmen, like many of the rest of us, have succumbed to the hidden but deadly destroyer.
Perhaps we will never know. But one comment above all others echoes in my mind. Kenny Dalglish said that “these things make football secondary”. How right he is.
Of course none of us is immortal and in the midst of life we are in death. Now, for whatever reason, Gary Speed has gone and our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Louise and family at what must feel like a living nightmare.
I was home in time to watch some of the Lords Test match yesterday. Something one of the commentators said made me realise that we allotmenteers, humble lot though we are, do understand wild life somewhat better than our cricketing heroes. Two ducks were waddling around the outfield when the camera focussed on them and Nick Knight expressed bewilderment at how they had managed to get in given that the gates were firmly shut. It would have been a mystery had they been chickens, but I think you would find that they flew in Nick! However, I am digressing even before I start because I was keen to have a few words about the Trade Unions.
Yesterday the business secretary, Vince Cable, attended the GMB union annual conference in Brighton. He had a mixed reception but there was applause for his promise to investigate the disastrous developments resulting from private equity games being played with the lives of eldery occupants of care homes. He said that the crisis at Southern Cross “should serve as a warning of what happens when we forget our basic approach to economic policy and the role of the state”. He is either unaware of the Cameron/ Lansley plan or is, in true Uncle Vince fashion, kicking over the coalition traces for the umpteenth time.
His reception later was less warm. He moved on to warn that tougher ant-strike laws are an option if the Unions rebel against the Osborne cuts. This was not well received and certainly sounds like the action of an authoritarian state. It is also totally unnecessary. As the GMB general secretary, Paul Kenny, put it “ No strike in our country could inflict the sort of damage which the banks and finance houses have”. He is not without support for Ipsos Mori have been asking about the nation’s pressing problems since the 1970s when the Unions were named by 73%. Now the percentage believing the Unions culpable has shrunk to less than 1%! The country expects the state’s workforce to take its share of the squeeze, but it is not in the mood to demand that dinner ladies and dustmen give up their pension rights without a fight.
The real worry about the idea of toughening anti-union legislation is that the coalition imagines a pliant workforce is all that is needed to walk Britain down the path to prosperity. Thus far the government’s most substantial proposal for growth – as against financial stabilility – involves taking a scalpel to protection, such as against unfair dismissal or in the event of company transfers. In reality the disease afflicting our economy right now is down not to workers being too costly to hire, but because families are feeling too pinched to spend sufficiently. And they observe the new super-rich tax evaders and understandably feel resentment for we are clearly not all in it together.
But the Trade Unions remain largely impotent for their membership has collapsed since their heyday in the seventies, and the vast majority of their remaining members regard them as “toothless tigers”. Frankly the workers of this country need strong Unions as they have never needed them before, but they don’t have them and have little prospect of doing so. Banning official strikes would not only be undemocratic, it would be dangerous. Once the increasingly frustrated workforce began to realise that official industrial action was not a bargaining tool, it is just possible that the well of anger would overspill. If the coalition manages to destroy the lapdog Unions it will inherit instead unofficial strikes carrying popular support. And they would take a lot of handling particularly if the police refused to act!
So my case is a simple one. This government needs strong Unions which are seen to act on behalf of their members. But this does not imply that I am a passionate supporter of Trade Unions. Yes, they have achieved much over the years but they have also destroyed much.
I worked for British Leyland and to this day believe absolutely that the militant leadership of the closed-shop Unions destroyed the company and most other sections of British manufacturing. In the seventies we endured strike after strike, go-slow after go-slow. The leading trade unionists openly boasted of being Trotskyites or Stalanists. they openly confessed to be working for revolution. They were bullies and idiots and slowly, much too slowly, the mass of the workers tired of their antics.
But those days are long gone and it seems to me that we have gone from one extreme to another. Today the workforce has genuine grievances on pensions and security. They need a voice and if the government refuses to recognise the one they have, the dam will burst. There no longer are mad people wandering around seeking revolution but there are millions who feel that the working-class is the one being singled out for the greatest punishments.
Yes there is an imbalance in the economy but it is an imbalance against the workforce!
ANSERS TO YESTERDAY’S EGGHEAD QUIZ: 1. Vampire bat 2. Blue Whale 3. One 4. Capybara 5. Algae which grow on it 6. Mount Everest pika 7. Exmoor ponies 8. Bat 9. Intestine 10. Behind its eyes
A mini-monsoon greeted us this morning. We splashed about whilst the hens gathered in a large crowd rather like those we so often join at the Old Trafford cricket as we wait for the heavens to relent. Why in such dire straits the hens don’t retire to their coops, or we cricket buffs to the bar, remains one of the mysteries of life. An even greater one is why TV commentators cannot learn to keep their opinions to themselves!
Andy Gray and Richard Keys have established themselves as the anchor-men of Sky football and, given the sheer volume of it, seemed to be set for life in a job that many a soccer devotee would do for nothing given the chance. They have performed well but one always suspected that Andy Gray in particular was what we used to call ‘blokish’, the sort of guy who for so many years voted to keep women out of the Old Trafford membership. It is of course utterly irrational, a referee or assistant can be brilliant, average, or useless but their quality has nothing whatsover to do with gender. I hope they do survive but doubt if they will, either way I hope that the episode will bring them to their senses. Surely their self understanding should tell them that beliefs of the kind they revealed went out with the ark and if they can’t see how daft they are they should take up residence on one.
But stupid though all that was it made little impression on my rage-meter by comparison with the news about Dementia patients. Cuts in care services are expected to force as many as 50,000 sufferers out of their homes and into residential care. That will cost the taxpayer a fortune and is inhumane.
Many thousands of carers have struggled for years to look after their aged relatives in their own homes, and have just about managed to cope given support. This has been largely cut and now many patients are left bedridden, in unchanged incontinence pads and are malnourished. The carers in turn are at risk of stress, depression and other serious illnesses.
Chief Executive of the Alzheimers Society, Jeremy Hughes, has lambasted the government. It is, he says, “an absolute travesty that so many people with dementia are being forced to struggle without the care and support they need. The consequencies of this represent an unacceptable human and financial cost”. Amen to that.
Incredibly the care services minister, Paul Burstow, agreed and commented that many carers feel let down. What he is doing here is to shift the blame on to local authorities who have been forced by massive cuts in funding to slash services. It is hypocrisy, it is disgraceful.
We all know that Osborne and Cameron are determined to cut every public service to the bone. The wisdom of that is now widely disputed even by people such as Sir Richard Lambert of the CBI who yesterday launched a savage attack. But the economic argument apart, are the multi-millionnaires proud of what they have done to thousands of vulnerable people?
Proud to be British? Not when we allow callous cruelty of this kind whilst protecting tax dodgers!
CAMERON HAS OFFENDED THE NURSES!
One of our pals has been in hospital since before Christmas and for a time we were all worried about him. However, he is now back at home and is recovering from his operation.
When we called today with his eggs he was singing the praises of the nurses on the ward that became his home for nearly five weeks. Nothing was too much trouble, the place was spotless and the clinical care “brilliant”. But Alf’s report on the nurse’s morale is a different matter.
The so called ‘efficiency savings’ imposed by the coalition have led to enormous pressures and the nursing staff are near to breaking point. And they are angry at the talk of the ‘private sector taking over’ since they know only too well that the profit makers will certainly not be willing to become involved in acute medicine. But the final straw came a few days before Alf bade them all a grateful farewell.
The nurses that he came to admire were extremely angry at Cameron’s remark about the NHS staff being ‘second rate’. Any chance of a positive relationship between the coalition and those on whom we depend totally when trouble strikes has gone for ever!
THOUGHTS FOR TODAY; “When we win an Olympic medal we’re English ; when we riot and throw petrol bombs, we’re West Indian”….Winston Price “Continental people have sex lives, the English have hot-water bottles”…George Mikes “The English aren’t really interested in talking to you unless you’ve been to school or to bed with them”…..Lady Nancy Keith “I would like to live in Manchester, England. The transaction between Manchester and death would be unnoticeable”……Mark Twain “Brighton has the perennial air of being in a position to help the police with their inquiries”…..Keith Waterhouse
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1.Washington 2. Emmerdale Farm
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1 Which film actor, who died in 1973, played the lead role in ‘The Cruel Sea’? 2. What part did Liza Minnelli play in ‘Cabaret’ ?