Posts Tagged ‘Loyalties’
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?
Albert has often talked about capitalists exploiting the sweat of his brow but before this morning I remained unconvinced that such a thing existed. Today he was dripping as he chased his hens. He was also crotchety. Our pal was, before he retired a thousand years ago, one of the army of public sector workers now being subjected to all the inuendos and spin that the establishment can throw at it. Albert always retains his old loyalties and always resents the inference that everyone employed by the state is well able to light their cigars with rolled up tenners. It just ain’t so!
With the possibility of strike action looming over pensions the spin-doctors wheeled out every minister and ex-minister they could muster. Micheal Gove suggested that parents should take over the schools, only he could have come up with something quite this ridiculous. Ed Miliband made clear that he is opposed to Union action, presumably a lie aimed at winning support from Daily Mail readers. Tony Blair had the gall to enter the fray by urging the Unions to enter the real world, presumably he believes that lectures at £100,000 per go are available to everyone. Only dear old Uncle Vince urged more negotiations.
It so happens that we allotmenteers do know a few of the supposedly priviledged public sector employees. One friend of a friend is a teacher in a state secondary school in London. She is paid £32,000 per year and is still paying off her student loan. Her pension contributions will rise from 6.4% to 9.6%. Given the costs of living in the capital she already struggles to pay her present contributions of £200 per month and now realises that she will be required to continue teaching until her 68th birthday. She fears that the energy levels she requires to handle large classes of sometimes unruly pupils will have withered long before then.
Another friend is a case worker for the Crown Prosecution Service. He is paid £19,000 per year and will have to find another £60 per month and work six extra years to earn a pension of £6000. Meantime he is under great pressure, the departmental strength having been reduced considerably. Finally there is a 36 year old lady who works for the Revenue and Customs. She is paid £14,000 and will have to find an extra £37 per month. She already buys supermarket brands to keep costs down and is near the end of her tether.
I am sure there are many more examples which show that the Fat Cats label does not fit the mass of public sector employees. Interestingly all of those we spoke to mentioned the ‘tax gap’ of £120 billion. This covers the massive tax avoidance practices of the rich and the large corporations. Not surprisingly Osborne is not prepared to tackle his friends, more surprisingly the opposition shows little inclination to do so either. Clearly the influence of the Blairites lingers on.
We all hope that a fair setllement can be reached but we shouldn’t hold our collective breath. Many public sector people do difficult and stressful jobs, social services being an obvious example. This government has gone to great lengths to discredit them, yet without them many vulnerable people would be in a very sorry state. We need them.
If ministers go down the road of taking further legal steps to ban the only outlet that exists for their pent-up frustration they may be in for a shock. They claim that the public are behind them, I have seen little evidence of that!
A REAL TEASER FOR YOU! A reader tells me that only 5% of Stanford University graduates managed it!!
Can you answer all 7 of these questions with the same 7 letter word?????