Posts Tagged ‘Greed’
British weather is often grim, but it is never boring in that no two days are the same. Yesterday we skated on thin ice during our morning hen-cleaning, today we switched to mud-wrestling. I consoled myself by remembering my time in Africa when every day was a hot blue-sky day and in due course I yearned for variation. I didn’t mention this to my pals who probably dream about a life of endless sun plus, in Albert’s case, the presence of Lady Gaga dressed only in coconut shells.
In my view a year divided up into seasons is wonderful, always provided that the weather responds appropriately. Sadly the gulf stream plays tricks and there is very indication that Christmas will be anything but white, crisp and even. Both the Met Office and Albert’s seaweed predict torrential rain and howling gales, which prompts the thought that in casting around like a netted fish for ideas to deter the whole of Bulgaria and Romania arriving here in January, our dear leader should perhaps send them videos of Slough at its darkest.
David Cameron sudden announcement of a block on EU migrants’ access to benefits from New Year’s Day certainly suggests that knee-jerking is alive and well in Westminster. Given that we have known for years that the gates open wide as 2014 dawns it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the government is at sixes and sevens over immigration. It knows that even those who have settled here believe that our island is dangerously overcrowded, yet lives in fear at the reactions of Brussels and its Lib Dem pals to any crackdown.
Yesterday’s BBC programme featuring senior officers from the Metropolitan Police touring Romania to calculate the best response to an importation of crime was less than reassuring, and if they continue to dither all three of our major political parties must expect Ukip to be breathing down their necks at the European elections. Many people have lost faith in them and are nearing a state of rebellion over the madness of open borders.
What is about to happen is unfair to all those who have already moved to Britain, and have made positive contributions to our economy and society. In their frustration the indigenous population is now beginning to talk of ‘them’. And whenever society begins to mistakenly apply generalisations injustice follows.
To find an example of this you only have to look at the Banks. Deluged by stories of obscenely high salaries, bonuses, and unethical behaviour people are increasingly turning their anger on everyone working in our once trusted institutions. In reality we need to recognise that the Bank employees we meet on a daily basis are also victims. If you doubt that take a look at the revelations about Lloyds, which was last week fined £28 million for flogging £2billion-worth of ISAs and insurance to customers who didn’t want them. That is merely the latest mis-selling scandal to follow on from others about endowments, payment protection insurance, interest rate swaps, and credit card cover.
Bank of England grandees and City bigwigs blame lax management, but none talk of the treatment of our retail-banking staff. Their lot is akin to the Hunger Games. According to Unite, salaries for the lowest grade staff at Lloyds begin at £13,000, the next grade up starts at £17,000 and the median salary is £27,000. The first two bands account for 45% of all Lloyds employees. 40% of staff in those two bands say they rely on overtime or a second income to make ends meet. Around 12% say they have had to use payday loans in the past year and some reportedly use food banks.
In 2012 the boss of Lloyds, Antonio Horta-Osorio, took home £3.4 million in cash, pension and benefits. Last month he was lined up for a further £2million bonus in shares. Meantime his staff are being laid off if they fail to turn predatory on their customers. Their only shot at getting bonuses, payrises or keeping their jobs is to flog customers financial rubbish. An example came from the watchdogs last week. They cited the Lloyds ‘adviser’ who sold himself, his wife and a colleague a product none wanted just to get his numbers up.
A former employee at the Lloyds-TSB call centre has revealed that a manager listened in to her calls and when a women rang in to report that her husband had died, proceeded to threaten her because she failed to take the opportunity to offer an extra overdraft to cover the cost of the funeral. There are many such stories including those of noticeboards listing those who succeed in exploiting customer contact and those who fail.
In the same way that it is grossly unfair to apply one label all migrants it is equally so to do that with Banks. At the top are people who pocket more in a year than junior staff can hope to receive in a lifetime. They are greedy and corrupt and force staff to act against their consciences to make a living wage.
In most flocks of sheep there are a few black ones. If a sense of justice is to survive we must learn to direct our venom at the bad guys!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “Banking staff have been coerced into turning predatory and we are their feedstock!” …..Aditya Chakrabortty
We old codgers like Mervyn King, the governor of the Bank of England. The sentiment stems from the visit some of us made to his inner sanctum when we ferried schoolchildren, who had published books on money management, to London. He talked to the pupils for half an hour or so, but I have to confess that apart from his stating that our financial mess was caused by greed, I understood little. However I do recall his mentioning Quantitative Easing (QE).
Now he has mentioned it again, in fact he has taken more action in that regard. Our old pal – codgers do tend to suffer from delusions – has just printed another £75 billion to add to the £275 billion that has already found its way into the hands of our esteemed bankers. Again one cannot help noticing that the talk is of saving the banks, not the economy.
Yesterday I happened to hear some called Sentence – I think that was his name rather than his mission – who last month resigned from Mervyn’s monetary committee. He said that QE is a major mistake, it won’t work. Some mistake at £275 billion! This prompted me to check out the view of as many experts -why do they all appear to be younger than Adrian Mole – as I could find in our soon-to-be closed library. Now I really have to depress you.
As best I can sum it up most of this stupefying sum has allegedly vanished overseas, covering bad debts, fuelling commodity prices, depressing the pound and increasing inflation. Meanwhile our economy has ground to a shuddering halt and inflation has hit record levels. It seems that QE is like filling a car with petrol when the tank is disconnecetd from the engine. It is, according to people who should know, a dreadful policy.
So, with George Osborne insisting that he will cut till he drops, our only counter-recessionary policy is one that appeases the past recklesness and present greed of bankers, in the certain knowledge that none of the proclaimed boost to domestic credit will go anywhere near it.
Armed with this acquired ‘knowledge’ I tackled the local bank manager, who from time to time wanders on to the allotments with his dog. I asked why it would not be better to direct the money straight on to the High Street, to revive demand by helping struggling businesses and the unemployed by building credit lines from the front line in the market place, rather than from top down. He suggested that a visit by the men in white coats may be imminent. “Leave it to the experts, Dennis” he said. That worries me for it was the self same experts that created our penury in the first place.
But he managed to worry us even more. He remarked that all pensions will soon be in deep trouble, apart from those of the public sector of course. Apparently the effect of QE is to drive down the interest paid on gilts. Pension funds rely on these and, given previous reductions, are already struggling. Now our local Captain Mainwaring cheerfully predicts that many will simply go pop. Ye Gods.
All of this has inclined us codgers to look at the gathering London ’99 per cent’ protest with a friendly eye. After all, what the growing numbers are claiming is that our society is run by the rich for the one percent out there who carry the same label. And when we read that Mick Davis, one of those who funded the ever present Werrity, receives an annual salary of £21.2 million, we knew that they were right. Throw in Osborne’s reluctance to tackle tax avoidance (which accounts for £100 billion), bank bonuses and the rest and you have the picture.
America is not without its economic problems too, but it is interesting to visit as I did recently. The only grumbles about different treatment of the haves-and-have-nots I heard related to race. In other spheres they have a far less elitist and confrontational approach. Sport provides an example. If, say, a baseball club makes a huge profit the Basball Authorities tax it and redistribute to other clubs. Small wonder that the American owners of Liverpool FC remarked that they much prefer the UK where “you keep every cent despite the fact that without the lesser clubs you would have no games”.
Right now in parts of the north-east, such as Consett, unemployment has reached 35% amongst the 16-24 age group. Local services have been emasculated and some, such as the youth advisory service, local bus service and civic centre closed. There we have the perfect recipe for civil unrest the like of which we haven’t seen since the 1930s.
Over dramatic? Then turn again to our old pal Mervyn. Yesterday he said: ” We face the worst economic prospect since the 1930s, possibly ever”.
Thanks Merv, but go easy on the QE!
TRY YOUR HAND AT THE MIDWEEK QUIZ; 1. What type of animal is a Sooty Mangabey? 2. Which team lost the first FA Cup Final decided on penalties? 3. Whom did William 111 defeat in 1690 at the Battle of the Boyne? 4. Who won “X Factor 2″? 5. In Old English which word meant a field? 6. What were the eldest sons of French kings called from the 14th century? 7. Ely stands on which river? 8. Which 60s singer married designer Jeff Banks? 9. In 1945, who became prime minister? 10. In which month in 2006 was “top of the Pops” aired for the last time?
Some of my pals on the allotment have renamed their former hero, Nick Clegg, Big Chief Red Face. Given to using names from long past Westerns, they used to call him New Way but now that they realise that should an election take place his MPs could hold their meetings in a telephone kiosk the mood of the born-again Liberals has changed. For my part I see reason to believe their despair a little premature for young Nick is hitting back at his Old Etonian gaolers. Today’s wheeze has hit the headlines and sounds good to me, albeit slightly impractical.
Clegg has let it be known that were the Lib Dems in power the soft treatment of the Banks by the Conservatives would be a thing of the past. Meantime he is advocating a giveaway of government-owned shares in RBS and Lloyds, worth hundreds of pounds to British taxpayers. Such a move would create 46 million shareholders and allow a form of collective ownership of the Banks. In practice no one is likely to sell their loot in the short term since the bank’s share prices have not yet recovered.
Clegg is aiming at good psychology here. Such a move would demonstrate that the British public, which funded the saving of the Banks, has not been overlooked or ignored. Their money has been used to the tune of billions and billions yet at present they have absolutely no say at all in what happens when normality is achieved. Under the Clegg plan everyone on the electoral register would recieve an estimated 1450 shares in RBS and 450 in Lloyds. Such parcels would be worth £770 on the basis of the current share prices and holders would be free to sell when, and if, the level of the government’s rescue purchase price was reached.
Meantime the theory is that, at last, the public would be in a position to stop the appalling extravagence and greed demonstrated by those who led the Banks to destruction. How a collective voice could appear from 46 million shareholders is less clear, but it is not beyond the realms of possibility that some bright spark would come up with a mass transfer of proxies for annual meetings. If they did the disgraceful sight of executives paying themselves millions at the public expense would come to a glorious end.
I may be in a minority of one here on the muddy plot, but I believe Nick Clegg deserves credit for at least trying something new and for recognising that most people are sick to the back teeth of suffering hardship, whilst the incompetent fat-cats that caused the disaster continue to line their already deep pockets.
If he has any breath left after this sudden and unexpected kicking-over of the traces, Clegg might well cast a glance in the direction of Network Rail. It also relies on the taxpayer for its funding and received £3.7 billion last year from the Department of Transport. Its chief executive, Iain Coucher, stepped dwon last year after a controversial 3-year reign. The period was peppered with complaints regarding performance, and even allegations of the misuse of public funds. A review concluded that “Network Rail has insulated itself from real-time economics and political concerns leading to criticisms that it is arrogant or out-of-touch with the reality for the industry, passengers, government and taxpayers”. Anyone using our unpunctual, dirty and overcrowded trains will say amen to that, although given the botched up privatisation of the railways it is almost impossible for the long-suffering passengers to know who to blame.
But one thing is for sure. They will not be impressed by today’s announcement of a £1 million payoff for Coucher. Even the Transport secretary, Philip Hammond, was moved to say that this will “stick in the gullet” of taxpayers and fare payers who have just suffered further huge increases in fares. Perhaps the only surprise is that Coucher was not included in the honours list in the way that Stagecoach boss Brian Souter was. In the week he was knighted thousands of commuters were stranded for hours on South West Trains routes out of Waterloo and communication was so poor that many broke out of stranded trains. Oh yes, he also took the Department of Transport to court, winning tens of millions in extra subsidy payments.
The truth is that under the coalition the rich and privileged, and often contributors to the Conservative Party, have flourished whilst the rest of the nation has been hammered. I at least draw some comfort from the sight of Nick Clegg at last speaking out for the man in the street.
Who knows, my pals may one day dig their ‘I agree with Nick’ sweaters out of the attic!
TODAY’S NEW EGGHEADS QUIZ; GENERAL KNOWLEDGE; 1. Mike Atherton played for which county cricket club? 2. Which were the initials of US President Jonnson? 3. In which county is Ashford International station? 4. Does a Pina Colada contain rum or gin? 5. Which word for a duty doctor is a Latin name for place holder? 6. Which country’s Rugby Union side are the Pumas? 7. Is a Dandy Dimmont a dog, a cat or a horse? 8. In which county is the stately home of Althorp? 9. Which controversial author used the initials for his first names David Herbert? 10. What sort of fruit flavour does Calvados have?
End of Easter break and end of sunshine! We sometimes underestimate the effect of that bright light in the sky on our moods, morale seemed to have dropped a notch this morning and Gaddafi, the bullying hen, received a less tolerant reaction when she staged her daily escape. The mood wasn’t helped by the news that the Banks have offset the reduction in their bonuses by an equivalent rise in salaries, but you have to admire them for their relentless pursuit of greed. Or hate them!
The story that really caught our eye when we retired to the allotment shed for a brew, was the one covering the Great Escape. Over a period of five months a team of insurgents dug a tunnel hundreds of metres underground through the brown soil west of Kandahar city and into Sarpoza prison in Afghanistan. And this was no ordinary tunnel, it was supported by Nato funded metal girders and concrete beams, and boasted lighting and air conditioning. It was large enough to enable the imprisoned Taliban notables to escape without even bending down, and 480 of them did just that.
One of the escapees said yesterday that the guards were ‘just sleeping’. They were, he said, “always drunk and regularly smoke heroin or marijuana”. The mass exodus occurred without any alarm, it was several hours before the authorities noticed that they were guarding fresh air. Now the large group of senior Taliban fighters have rejoined those doing battle with British and American troops who had sacrificed lives and much effort to their capture.
The episode really sums up the utter futility of our engagement in Afghanistan. It illustrates perfectly the fact that any notion of handing control back to the new Afghan government is nonsense. The moment we pull out the Taliban will take back control. And it will enjoy far more support than we are led to believe, does anyone seriously believe that a five month building programme, which involved tunneling under the main road, was not known to local people?
Another piece of news tells us that many of the Taliban killers facing our troops on a daily basis come from, er, London. WikiLeaks files obtained by the Daily Telegraph reveal that many of the terrorists were indoctrinated by extremist preachers in Britain. Abu Qatada and Abu Hamza, two preachers who lived here off state benefits after claiming asylum, are identified by the American authorities as the key recruiters responsible for sending dozens of extremists from throughout the world to Pakistan and Afhanistan via London mosques. The Finsbury Park mosque is described as a “haven” for extremists and served as “an attack planning and propaganda production base”. And by way of encouragement, fifteen of the released Guantanamo detainees described by the US authorities as “high risk” have been paid a reported £ 1 million each of our money in compensation. If it was portrayed in a novel one would dismiss it as too far-fetched, we are in the unique position of supplying both combatants in Afghanistan.
Some months ago I mentioned a new book written by Sergeant Pen Farthing, a Royal Marine who served there and endured horrendous problems, not least with the treatment of dogs by locals, hence the book’s title of ‘One Dog at a Time’. But for me the most telling aspect of this down-to-earth account is the author’s reflections on the conflict of cultures. The Taliban are not a uniformed easily identified army. They are the people, often the very people that our troops sacrifice everything to ‘defend’.
This war cannot be won, if the Russians ever proved anything by example it is that. The Great Escape shows that the supposed Afghhan government is incompetent beyond belief. It is time to bring every British serviceman or woman home and to concentrate instead on the enemies within our island.
Staying on will achieve only one thing – more coffins draped in the Union Jack!
THOUGHTS FOR TODAY; MONEY; “If someone says, ‘It’s not the money, it’s the principle,’ it’s the money”……Kin Hubbard ”A builder’s estimate is a sum of money equal to half the final cost”…….Neil Collins “I was feeling irritable and moody. It was that difficult time of the month when the credit card statement arrives”….Julie Walters ”I had my credit card stolen but I didn’t report it because whoever stole it is spending less than my wife”….Henny Youngman “Why is there so much month left at the end of the money?”…..John Barrymore “If there is anyone to whom I owe money, I am prepared to forget it if they are”….Errol Flynn ”Money can’t buy everything. That’s what credit cards are for”……Ruby Wax “I once gave a waiter a tip. I told him never to step off a moving bus”…..Groucho Marx
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S QUIZ; 1. The Battle of Salamis took place on a Greek island of the same name in the Saronic Gulf, about 16km west of Athens 2. The name Druid is derived from the word roots ‘oak’ and ‘knowledge’. The earliest references to Druids date from the 2nd century BCE.
TODAY’S QUESTIONS ; 1. Which newspaper introduced Rupert Bear in the thirties? 2 Which newspaper attacked Churchill with a front page banner headline “Whose Finger on the Trigger?”
Throw some tomatoes into a chicken-run and see greed in its most naked form. One will grab one and race off to the most distant parts where it will do a Bunter and race back to steal someone else’s titbit. But are they really that different to humans? I was pondering over the question whilst watching the hoo-hah and thinking about the apparent mystery of the group of GP’s that the government has wheeled on stage as a counter to the block condemnation of the Lansley privatisation plan for the NHS. Why would any doctor be in favour of a development that Dr Clare Gerada, the chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, yesterday warned will destroy the long-standing trust that people have in their ‘family doctors’. The answer is, I suspect, greed.
In January 50 GPs were invited to 10 Downing Street for a champagne reception. They are the leading lights of a body called the National Association of Primary Care which is officially non-political. Treading the corridors of power that evening was one Dr Charles Alessi, who two weeks earlier had penned a tabloid comment piece backing the radical pro-market plans of the Conservative part of the coalition.
And Dr Alessi makes no secret of his feelings. He has alreaday been accused of standing by whilst 500 jobs were axed at his local hospital in Kingston, Surrey. He is unrepentant and says that the changes at Kingston are a forerunner of things to come. He argues that hospital physicians are “over-treating” patients, too many people are being given drugs like those that stop elderly people going blind, a condition known as macular degeneration. But won’t patients revolt if they are not given the medicines they need? “Yes” is Dr Alessi’ view, ” it is pretty uncomfortable”. It seems reasonable to assume that Dr Lessi’s fellow champagne drinkers share his views, and although they are a small minority amongst the nations 38,00 GPs they are powerful allies of the beleagured Lansley.
Now let us be a little cynical for cynicism vies with greed amongst the human vices. If the scheme becomes reality, GPs will become the new rich. Kieran Walshe is professor of health at Manchester Business School and he has studied the likely financial outcome of GPs taking over the £80 billion NHS budget. He believes that GPs in a consortium could set up a private company which they own, and then get the consortium to contract out the comissioning of health care to that company. If that company can make savings by spending less on its patient’s care the surplus could then be distributed to the shareholders – the GPs.
Under this, or a similar arrangement, if a GP-owned company saves 5% of the budget each GP will receive £140,000. That apart each will receive £55,000 as a management allowance plus other payments yet to be determined. Professor Walshe believes that GPs will be in line to pocket £300,000, double the amount of a hospital surgeon.
We can safely assume that the carrot being dangled by Downing Street is a big one and we can safely assume that some will be tempted. But there will be a price to pay and I don’t mean simply hospital closures as private healthcare providers are brought in to ‘cherry-pick’ by commissioning consortiums. Far more horrendous will be the destruction of the doctor patient relationship. How will we feel if we suspect that our own doctor is denying us treatment to line his or her pocket?
This whole scene is building up to a huge confrontation unless the Lib Dems find their backbones. Whatever happens I would feel incredibly sad if someone I trust with my life can no longer be trusted at all. But at least that won’t happen, for my doctor, like thousands of others, has made clear that he will have nothing to do with such a brazenly unethical proposal.
Perhaps I should buy him some champagne by way of compensation for not becoming a Cameron crony!
QUOTES FOR TODAY; “Honesty is the best policy, but insanity is a better defence”….Steve Landesberg “A lie can be halfway round the world before the truth has got its boots on”….Winstin Churchill “A little inaccuracy sometimes saves a world of explanation”……Saki “There is nothing about which men lie more than their sexual powers. In this at least every man is, what in his heart he would like to be, Casanova”….Somerset Maughan “People never lie so much as after a hunt, during a war, or before an election”….Otto von Bismarck ”I have too much respect for the truth to drag it out on every trifling occasion”……Mark Twain “There’s a perfectly good explanation for this, which I’ll make up later”……Mel Brooks “If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember what you said”……Mark Twain ” A lie is an abomination unto the Lord and a very present help in times of trouble”……Adlai Stevenson “I told you a million times, don’t exaggerate”….Rik Mayall “It is hard to believe that a man is telling the truth when you know that you would lie in his place”……H L Mencken
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S QUIZ; 1. Pittodrie, Aberdeen 2. John Peel’s
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Where was the liner ‘Queen Elizabeth’ destroyed by fire in the 1970s? 2. In which crime show did Martin Shaw and Lewis Collins co-star?
A mild morning for chicken-men but there was a palpable air of disappointment in the air this morning. A lot of the folk are cricket buffs and just weeks ago there was great rejoicing as England proved once and for all that the Australians can be beaten, hammered in fact. But yesterday they thrashed England for the third time in a week at the form of the game that many now favour. With the World Cup just around the corner England suddenly look like the gang of losers that we had come to know for so long. One reason may well be the incredibly long and taxing schedule. Who agreed to this, who really runs cricket these days? It is easier to say what runs it. Greed, that’s what.
But who runs Britain? Until recent times that was an easy one. The establishment comprised the government and its circle of contacts, the BBC heirarchy, the Church, the Bank of England, Royalty, big business, trade unions et al. But all that has changed and now there is a new power in the land, the press. One only has to note the muted reaction of every top politician to the Coulson affair to realise that something is not quite right. Up to now the pattern has been the usual Westminster one when it comes to scandals. The scandal itself, the uncovering, the refusal to resign, the resignation, the closure. At least that seems to be the hope.
But this time there should be no closure. Because the practice of often illegal surveillance by hacking into phones, using eavesdropping technologies and stealing documents continues. This isn’t just about Coulson, or the News of the World, or even Murdoch. Many other newspapers have been doing the same. Shrewd editors pass off the really dirty stuff to self-employed dirt diggers but they are happy to buy and publish the results. And politicians are running scared, the power of the press to influence the electorate has reached a peak.
Columnist Jackie Ashley tells of meeting someone recently who talked of good police contacts and offered to get hold of bank records of someone she was curious about. When she refused she gained the impression that her contact thought her unnecessarily fastidious.
But although others are also guilty, the chance of exposure of the new rotten world of press methods and resulting influence has arisen around the Murdoch empire. But who, if anyone, is sufficiently independent to really force through a total investigation? Certainly not the political establishment. Take a look at the guest list for any of Murdoch’s summer parties and who do you find? At the Orangery in Kensington or the Oxo tower you will have no difficulty in spotting Cameron of course but it is the other names that cause an intake of beath. Lord Mandelson, Alastair Campbell, both Miliband brothers, Ken Livingstone, Nick Clegg, George Osborne..not too much chance of any of them being over eager to bite the hand that feeds them.
These are merely examples of the close ties woven between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, when they were prime ministers, and Cameron now, and the Murdoch camp. There have been, and still are, private meetings and dinners, calls and much talk of mutual interests. The government of this country is in hock to the press, in terror almost.
Of course given indications of massive power, influence and dubious methods we would normally turn to the police. But as John Prescott is currently complaining they were remarkably reluctant to do anything when the news of phone hacking broke, in fact they didn’t so much as inform those whose phones were known to be hacked. Either the police themselves are now drawn into the web or they fear the leading politicians that are. Either way it is bad news for democracy.
We have moved into a digital age of exposure, most of it driven by the press. The time has come to shine a light on the one profession that has for so long been able to work quietly in the shadows. At one time press scrutiny was the only safeguard we had against corruption, now the press itself appears to be the major influence and yet escapes the full disclosure and scrutiny that it demands of those it decides to investigate according to its political leanings and ambitions.
Who is brave enough to stand up for democracy?
THOUGHTS FOR TODAY; “There are two types of people; those who walk into a room and say ‘Well, here I am’ and those who walk into a room and say ‘Ah, there you are”….Frederick Collins. “Is your husband religious? Oh yes, he thinks he’s God almighty”….Mrs David Frost. “He was a cock who thought the sun had come up to hear him crow”…..George Eliot. “But enough of me, let’s talk about you. What do you think of me?”…Bette Midler. “Do you think you’ve learned from your mistakes? What mistakes”…..Leslie Caron “My greatest regret in the theatre was that I could never sit in the audience and watch me”…..John Barrymore. “He’s a self made man who worships his creator”….William Cowper…”Don’t be so humble. You’re not that great”….Golda Meir. “The nice thing about egoists is that they don’t talk about other people”…Lucille C Harper.
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. India 2. Orchestra of the Royal Opera House
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. In which US city was the Watergate building? 2. In which TV serial did Annie Sugden feature as a character?
A bright, dry morning with no more than a hint of frost had everyone in good humour this morning. Presumably the hens felt the same way for egg production is up and our flock of Columbian Black Tails seemed perky. Perhaps they had heard about the £20 million being handed over for Darren Bent and, being creatures of self understanding, decided that since they can head a lettuce further than he can manage with a ball justice is heading their way at last. Anyway, whatever the reasons, everyone and everything seemed happy. And it certainly wasn’t the result of watching last night’s Beeb documentary on the Banks!
I switched on with some trepidation since the piece of one’s brain that interprets finance is missing from mine. But I needn’t have worried for the presenter was Robert Peston who is adept at reducing a complicated story into one that even the simplest citiuzen can follow. And he is consistent. I say that because some weeks ago I visited him in his London office and, during the hour-long chat, asked him to sum up in a word what the Banks were guilty of. His answer was greed and that was the conclusion to be drawn last night.
It bothered me to learn that the system of money management practiced by my Gran was superior to that used in all those gleaming towers. She kept a tin on the mantlepiece and regularly put aside cash to cover all known eventualities such as the coalman. She slept easy in the knowledge that no demand could tip her into debt. It may astonish you but I have to confess that before yesterday I hadn’t realised that the Banks only retain around 8 per cent of the deposits they receive. The rest they invest, often to high risk ventures. In other words if every depositor arrived on one day to claim their money the Banks would be insolvent! Yes, just like Northern Rock to mention but one.
Amongst others Robert spoke to Mervyn King, the Governor of the Bank of England. He commented that of all the ways of organising Banks the present one is the worst! Various experts in the world of bean-counting followed but what they said amounted to one thing, the Banks must increase their capital. Some added that even today they are still engaged in a remorseless pusuit of high salaries and bonuses and that leads them to take major risks for the best returns are always the least assured.
Inevitably there was much reflection on how the Banks led the world to near-disaster. The conclusion can best be summed up by looking back to Alan Greenspan, thhe great US Treasury chief. He once said that governments should leave the Banks alone to get on with what they were doing so well, making us all richer and richer. That of course was before it suddenly became apparent that the only people likely to remain rich were the bankers themselves.
They were the subject of questions Robert put to the head of RBS. He replied that, yes, rewards for most bankers are far too high, there are real stars but the majority are merely labelled thus in a culture out-of-control.
The great fear expressed was that the banks are getting bigger by the year, and should there be another crash they will be so big that no government will be capable of bailing them out. So another crash will be armageddon. But what, if anything, are the politicians doing to rein the Banks in? Vince Cable said that they have to be split down into smaller, and more manageable, units. It sounded right but will it ever happen?
The only hopeful note I pickd up on is the creation in the UK of a Banking Commission which is charged with finding a solution, a guarantee against another crash. It seems that one of the options it is consideing is an undertaking by the Banks to give a choice to everyone handing their cash to them for safe keeping. They would be obliged to ask “Do you wish us to keep your money or to invest it?” and to set interest rates accordingly. Were that to happen the cautious amongst us could sleep as soundly as my old Gran once did!
One was left with the impression that agreement of how much capital Banks must hold is way off, an impression heightened by revelations that even the oft-lauded Bank profits are mainly ‘paper ‘ ones arrived at via technical processes that I couldn’t grasp ( even the experts admitted them to be highly complex ).
There are some obvious safeguards such as never deposit all your eggs in one basket. But I’m digging a box out of the attic. Since I get vitually no interest and since I now know that, once paid into to my Bank, I may never see my pennies again I might as well slide it under the bed! Sometime the old practices are the best ones!
NHS; WE NEED AN INQUIRY NOW!
Most developed countries hold an Inquiry either before finally initiating action or immediately after it. Here we do things the other way round and the result is that we have only just competed an inquiry into things like the London security plans and the response of troops during Derry’s Bloody Sunday. And of course the Iraq Inquiry rumbles on still. We take so long about it that lessons are learned too late and those deserving praise or blame get neither since they are invariably no longer in office.
Right now the nation is in turmoil having listened to countless warnings about what appear to be half-baked plans to dismantle the NHS. Already we learn of rationing of such as eye operations to one eye onlyand we fear the worst.
In the view of many the NHS is doomed, victim of Cameron and Lansley. And even they are unsure of their facts or ability to do what they say they want to do. Of one thing we can be sure, ten years from now a public inquiry will be investigating tha loss of our most important institution back in 2011. People like Cameron, Lansley, Osborne and a parade of ageing doctors and nurses will appear before Chilcott mark 11. They will all blame others and the panel will say that it is too late to name and shame people who have long-since retired. Why should the Inquiry not take place now?
And it needn’t be one that drags on for ever. A public inquiry should be a surrogate court of law. It should be crisp, cetain in its justice, allocating praise and blame, as a punishment or a deterrent. It should not be a dilatory mechanism for postponing judgement and diffusing blame on to underlings.
An Inquiry along these proper lines into the NHS would do much good. Either people like me who passionately believe that Cameron and Lansley are destroying something special would be reassured, or the madcap planners would be stopped in their tracks before it is too late.
As things stand all is chaos and we shall soon see the police ‘kettling’ thousands of consultants and doctors just off Whitehall. There has to be a better way!
THOUGHTS FOR TODAY; ”The Bible tells us to love our neighbours, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are usually the same people”…G K Chesteron “Housework is what a woman does that nobdy notices unless she hasn’t done it”…..Evan Esar “If your children write their names in the dust on the furniture don’t let them put the year”….Phyllis Diller “It takes only four men to paper a room but you have to slice them thinly”….Jo Brand ” Husbands are like fires, they go out when unattended” ….Zsa Zsa Gabor “The man who marries his mistress creats a vacancy in that position”….James Goldsmith
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. Marlon Brando 2. Louis Armstrong
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Which party did Clement Freud represent when he was an MP? 2. Whom did five Oxford colleges agree to accept for the first time in 1972?
At last! We were able to dig trenches this morning and the mountain of chicken muck is now concealed. Even after several days of thaw the ground was still hard and we now have muscles to match those of Popeye. Or as Leonard Cohen used to sing, ‘we now ache in the places where we used to play’. After yesterday’s early clean-out I deserted the camp and, together with she-who-must-be -obeyed, drove down to Oxford to deliver belated Christmas pressies. Whilst we were with our relatives the cards that we posted well before the big day dropped through their letter-box. So we were not the only people frozen into inaction.
It felt good to make a trip unencumbered by snow or ice. Of course the English climate never tires of tormenting us and, by way of a change, we encountered thick fog through the Midlands. Some idiot had decided to drive blind and the resulting pile up meant that thousands of us spent rather a long time parked on the M6 but it still felt like freedom after weeks of frozen incarceration. And it gave me time to ponder on my vote for Person of the Year when on New Year’s Eve the chicken and ferret folk decide whose picture will adorn the allotment shed through 2011.
Of course no one gives a monkey’s elbow what we lot think but we still take our long-standing tradition seriously. Who impressed us most, cheered us up and regularly revived our sagging spirits? I will let you know tomorrow what we decided but you can be sure of one thing, it won’t be a politician!. It is usually the case that some leading names appear on the slips of paper but those days have gone. The revelations about expenses, the Clegg stance on pledges and the appointment of Lords of dubious character have created a sense of alienation from the ruling classes. I suspect we are not alone!
As if to drive the final nail in the coffin of politicians we learn today that the Telegraph was not exposing a sudden lapse from grace when it broke the news of greed and dishonour. Today’s Telegraph reveals that as long ago as 1980 the then prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, warned the Cabinet that there was a ” grave risk of serious public scandal” over the abuse of expenses by many MPs. Records of Cabinet meetings, published today by the National Archives, show that parliamentary pay and allowances were the source of great concern. The prime minister went on to warn that MPs should be seen to be accountable for the various secretarial, research assistance and travel allowances. She demanded that Ministers give the lead in tightening the system. There were many abuses and “it might be necessary to consider prosecuting MPs known to be guilty of abuse”. It was necessary to “expose publicly the full implications of MPs’ actions”.
Incredibly nothing was done and it was to be thirty years before the truth was told by a national newspaper. So for three decades many politicians have deceived the people that elected them. The whole system of government was rotten to the core. To be fair there are honourable parliamentarians, but if even a combatative character like the sainted Maggie could not hector them into honesty and openness the lack of integrity was clearly deeply embedded.
The fact that change is now under way reflects no credit on an institution that was clearly happy to embrace dishonesty. Had the Telegraph not decided to act in the public interest we would have continued to pay taxes to fund moats and duck houses. In our book the only title open to politicians is crook of the year!
Between now and tomorrow why not ponder on your own choice of someone who impresssed you, someone who seemed genuine, a role model for your youngsters. There are some such folk out there although I suspect that your list, like mine, will not be a long one!
A fantastic performance by England in Melbourne has ensured that we retain the little urn. The England team was superior to the Aussies in every respect, it is a long time since we have been able to honestly claim that when visiting down under.
We should perhaps spare a thought for Ricky Ponting. He has been a superb batsman over many years and drew the short straw in captaining a team bereft of talent. With the possible exception of Mike Hussay and, occasionally, Mitchell Johnson this Australian side is one of the poorest to wear the baggy green.
But they came up against an England team led as never before by Flower and Strauss. Fitness levels are high, morale likewise. Now all they have to do is put on a repeat performance in Sydney starting on Sunday!
CAMERON’S PAL CONDEMNS PACE OF CUTS!
It is predictable that opponents of the coalition are busy condemning the sheer pace of the financial cuts. Slightly more worrying are the concerns expressed by financial pundits. Extremely worrying is the latest news of a fierce attack by a leading charity figure and key supporter of David Cameron’s ‘big society’.
In an open letter to the prime miister, David Robimson, the co-founder of the Community Links charity, has warned that the massive public spending cuts will doom Cameron’s main social policy initiative to failure and will create a ‘Hurricane Katrina’moment for the coalition.
Robinson, whose charity was described by Cameron as “one of Britain’s most inspiring community organisations” writes ” forcing an unsustainable pace on a barrage of uncoordinated cuts that hit the poorest hardest is not an act of God. Why let it be your Katrina?”
This surprise attack came on the day of a less surprising one. Ed Miliband wrote that “many people feel powerless in the face of these decisions that will affect their lives, families and communities. The political forces in Whitehall that have made these decisions appear forbidding and unheeding”.
Perhaps Robinson’s attack will cause someone in government to pause for thought. One can only hope so for the economic readings suggest that the cuts are too rapid and, equally worrying, the trade unions have awoken from their decades of slumber, even moderates such as Mark Serwotka of the Public and Commercial Services Union are openly plannibg major strikes. Katrina moment indeed!
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. The USSR 2. Whether or not to stay in the EEC
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. What year was the Watergate burglary in Washington DC? 2. Which Olympics were hit by terrorists who attacked the Israeli athletes?