Friday, 24 February 2012

It’s Chicken Counting Time
One mention of the Family Tsar in this blog and her wheels fly off. Emma Harrison, Cameron’s favourite businesswoman has a few urgent problems to deal with. She has just announced that she has also resigned as chair of her company A4e. Several of her director chums are entertaining the boys in blue too. Not a bad 48 hours for the role model - or her mentor. He don’t half pick ‘em. Remember Coulson?
It is a pity to leave the blog at such a time of ferment. Tories digging in to tough it out with the NHS - quite an ask. Lots of Tory voters not happy at the mess they are making. Watch this space for a sacrifice or two. 
Libdems meeting in early March to discuss the NHS. Activists may cause some problems for the gutless wonders/magnificent leaders. All they have to say to their partners in the ConDem Coalition is, “It wasn’t in the Manifesto --or Coalition Agreement - so stick it where the sun don’t shine.” 
Wankers still taking vast bonuses even though they make a loss. And still nothing is done. Meanwhile the poor get clobbered by slobberychops Osborne and his greedy chums. 
And as for Gove...and Maude......and *!*?*!! Lansley....
Time for a break. 

Thursday, 23 February 2012

IDS and Workfare
Ian Duncan Smith attacked John Harris for pouring scorn on his Work Programme and describing it as ‘slave labour.’ He dismissed Harris as a ‘job snob.’
Sadly, so much of this criticism, I fear, is intellectual snobbery. The implicit message behind these ill-considered attacks is that jobs in retail, such as those with supermarkets or on the High Street, are not real jobs that worthwhile people do … We all have to start somewhere: Tesco Chief Executive Sir Terry Leahy began his career scrubbing supermarket floors. I doubt I'm the only person who thinks supermarket shelf-stackers add more value to our society than many of those 'job snobs' who are busy pontificating about the Government's employment policies."
It is now barely a month since Zoe Williams wrote an article in the Guardian revealing how taxpayers were subsidising giant retailers by providing benefits for poorly paid workers.  This subsidised labour was instrumental in making vast profits for Tesco, Sainsbury et al. Since then, there has been a further commotion about the pressuring of job seekers to work for these and similar companies as ‘work experience’ with the threat of having their benefit withdrawn if they do not co-operate. Accusations of slave labour have made these companies very nervous. Demonstrations and campaigns have ratcheted up the potential harm to their sales and reputation. Several have already withdrawn from the Work Programme with many others voicing grave reservations. 
Cue a seething froth of right wing motormouths sounding off about feckless scroungers biting the hand that feeds them. 
Simultaneously there are stories about an employment company, A4e,  paying themselves vast sums at our expense. So much so that the plod are showing an interest. A Guardian article by John Harris yesterday, claimed that the boss of A4e, Emma Harrison, paid herself £8.6m last year. Her company received £180m from the public purse to get jobless people into work. She is also close to Cameron as his ‘Family Friend.’ 
A4e are part of the gravy train of ‘work consultants’ who parasatise the jobless and award themselves large amounts of public money training desperate people to jump through assorted hoops for non-existent jobs. Nice!
This situation is not going to get better for a considerable time. The abandonment of a generation of young people is a national disgrace. Many will be blighted for the rest of their lives. Our society will pay the bills in increased crime, anti-social behaviour and physical and mental health problems. To push ahead with encouraging the over 65’s to stay on at work at such a time beggars belief. 
So many of the commentariat have not got a clue when they sound off about menial work. It is several lifetimes away from their experience. It does not stop them sounding off though. Suzanne Moore, writing in the Guardian detailed the menial and worse jobs she did in a time of plenty. Easy to walk away in those days and find another one. She is less than impressed at the government.
“.right now we have an elite telling lazy scroungers to buck up. Yes, clean toilets, pick cabbages, move towns, sit in call-centre barns, smile enough to make Mary Portas types think you care. In short, deliver the service, that those who have never served, demand. Know your place.
I guess IDS knew his place at Sandhurst just as I once knew mine. Until I realised that most menial work leads to more menial work. The idea that this is the stepping stone is as much of a fantasy as The X Factor. The stepping stone is education. That's what makes you free, not work. Now the young are to pay for that and work for nothing? And all while most of our political and media class spout lousy morality tales about lousy jobs while undermining even the basic minimum wage. Please.

As the graffiti I saw the other day said: "Sorry, the lifestyle you ordered is currently out of stock." I tell you who really needs "work experience". Much of this government.” Guardian 23/2/12

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

An open letter to the LibDems

  Why vote Liberal?
You have been in the Coalition for nearly two years. Are you happy with progress? As a LibDem politician do you share the feeling that you are being shafted by the Tories?
There is a passage in the Coalition Agreement, which seems to have been forgotten.

“The parties agree that tackling tax avoidance is essential for the new government, and that all efforts will be made to do so, including detailed development of Liberal Democrat proposals.” Coalition Agreement, May 2010
No mention of tackling tax avoidance or evasion in the Autumn Statement, indeed Osborne is cutting the number of tax inspectors by 12,000. In nearly two years  there has been no progress on one of the most divisive issues of our time. An issue that undermines any sense of fairness and justice.
Can you justify why it is the poorest who are being hit the hardest? Are you happy that the number of children in poverty has risen to 400,000? Do you think it is fair that the people who caused this mess keep paying themselves huge bonuses?
Do you also see the link between the lack of action on the financial sector and the fact that the Tory party is largely funded by the self-same bankers and financiers?
And then there is the dogs breakfast aka the National Health Service Reform Bill. Not in the Tories manifesto and not in yours either. Backbench Tory MPs are having their doubts because they are savvy enough to recognise the damage that will be done to their electoral prospects - either way. If they drop the Bill then they look weak and incompetent. Anathema to Cameron. Taking the other course of ploughing on regardless is fraught with huge risks. Something going horribly wrong in a ‘reformed’ hospital and they are going to pay through the ballot box. And so will you, if you do not show some bottle and independence of thought. This farrago is the Tories problem - why are you supporting them? 
Walk away and the Bill dies. 
Finally, information has emerged of the way Expenses Cheat Gove has plans to privatise education. He has a simple strategy. Create/force schools to become Academies outside local authority control. Encourage groups of Academies to collaborate within a private ‘for profit’ partnership. He has invited a Swedish company to begin the process. Several US companies are waiting in the wings. Was it in their manifesto? No. Was it in the Coalition Agreement? No. 
Do you still think ‘we are all in this together?’ As a former Liberal voter I am extremely concerned that the Tories will do their worst and the Liberals will take the blame. The party is going to be decimated at the next election. There is a chance that if you make a stand and stick up for the poor and vulnerable you may hang on to a few seats. But it is a slim chance. 
I did not vote Liberal at the last election to privatise medicine and education nor did I vote to reward the rich at the expense of the poor.
Yours Sincerely

Monday, 20 February 2012

Eton Mess NHS!

The NHS Bill is in a mess. It did not have electoral legitimacy. Anyone remember “No top down restructuring,” from David ‘Pants on Fire’ Cameron? Anyone read anything of these so-called reforms in the Coalition Agreement? Was anyone at one of the meetings that Lansley claims is where he told us what he was planning? 
The LibDems could have scuppered this abomination at birth. Unfortunately, as Shirley Williams revealed, Nick Clegg and his senior colleagues did not read it. Sad but true. They were ‘very busy’ governing and getting their feet under the table to actually think about something so important for so many people. Since that moment the LibDems, through their activists, have been playing catch-up. 
The Tories on the other hand had their eyes firmly fixed on the gravy train. They saw wads of cash winging their way from their chums in private healthcare. The game was given away early on when an advisor forgot that there is a telegraph cable in place across the Atlantic. Mark Britnell, who was appointed to a "kitchen cabinet" advising the prime minister on reforming the NHS, told a conference of executives (in the US) from the private sector that future reforms would show "no mercy" to the NHS and offer a "big opportunity" to the for-profit sector.” And so it has come to pass. 
“In essence, what we are left with are the ambitious plans for the expansion of privately run provision, masterminded it seems by the management consultancy McKinsey, many of whose corporate clients will now bid for work inside the NHS. McKinsey is said to have earned nearly £14m from the government since the election, but this is a drop in the ocean compared with the business that private health organisations working with McKinsey now expect to gain.” Jackie Ashley, Guardian 20/2/12
But there is a BUT and it is a big one. The Bill is in such a mess with over 130 amendments about to be discussed in the Lords; support from grassroots tories hemorrhaging and the LibDems having screaming abdabs; that Cameron is stuck between a very hard rock and and a very tough place. 
Option one: to plough on regardless and bash the reforms though. Everything that goes wrong in the NHS (and there will be lots) will be blamed on the Tories and their wealthy sleazy chums. Chances of success slight. Chance of electoral disaster massive. 
Option two: to abandon the Bill. Sack Lansley and bring in a much watered down affair. Massive problems with this. Huge loss of face for Cameron (which matters to him) and looking incompetent. Cue Labour MPs, “You don’t know what you’re doing....” Another problem is that much preparation is already in place or underway. [How can this be? It has not been passed by Parliament yet people are behaving as though it has. Surely this is illegal?] Abandoning the Bill will incur costs at a time when the NHS is supposed to be saving £20bn.
The Tories are having an awayday on Friday when this issue will be high on the agenda. Backbench Tory MPs are getting many messages from the public, half urging them to drop the Bill, the other half urging them to dig in.
Sod the Tories! They will do what they always do and follow the money.
Attack the Liberals! They are in the box seat. They walk away from supporting this fiasco - and it dies.
Contact your Liberal MP/Councillor/Parish Councillor/Activist - and bend their ears.
Labour want the bill to go through but seriously damaged so they can clobber the Tories with it at the election in three years. In the meantime there will be much damage done and what is put in place will not be readily removed - after all, it was the government of Blair who let private health slide under the door.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Up with this we will not put.
“It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people’s minds.” Samuel Adams, 1775
The latest Ofsted inspection regime is underway. It is operating as a government tool to create more Academies which can then be bought up by private companies. Expenses cheat Gove has not bothered running this development through Parliament. Those of you who feel it is of no consequence should read the effect this new approach can have on a school. 
Below is a reaction online to a the article from Seumas Milne in The Guardian about the creeping privatisation of education.
“Gove is a four letter word as far as I am concerned. I don't mind working hard, I don’t mind giving up my time after work to help students, run revision classes, give up lunchtimes to get my marking done, be expected to be on duty when kids are going out of the white doors, accept kids for after school detention and meet with a student teacher all at the same time, or even having to set work for someone else who is off with spurious back injuries and then forget to sort out the lesson swop I have organised with a colleague that has meant a cover supervisor has had to walk an extra hundred yards and give me grief for it. I don't mind all that. What I do mind though is when one of the best most dedicated teachers in our department, a man who is built like a barn side, plays rugby and can hold his own and behave always in a professional and dignified manner, when he is reduced to tears and beside himself with despair that he has been judged inadequate under the new ofsted criteria that rule out any excuses, any allowances for poor behaviour, that we don’t even know what is expected of us any more, when our head teacher new in the job is a bully who victimises his staff who is probably way out of his depth and actually shit scared that the school is going to lose all its assets when they judge our school under these new criteria as 'needs improvement' or whatever the new buzzword is today and we have to become an academy. The sands are ever shifting and none of us know what the next big thing is that is going to catch us out, because everyday it is something new. I always knew my job was stressful, always knew it was going to be hard work, but that’s ok, I am a grafter, and I am committed to the students under my care. I don't teach for a doss, for the holidays, whatever the teacher haters think, I love my job, I love being with young people and trying to do my best for them to build their future. But I don't teach anymore, I train, I train these kids so I can get through the inspection, so we can stay out of being taken over. And thats not what I came into teaching for. There are few people I despise, but Gove is top of my hate list for what he is doing to education; to the kids under my care, to my colleagues and to the man I respect who was crying in the store room.” (My emphasis)
It is time for the ‘irate, tireless minority’ to start ‘lighting fires in people’s minds.’

Friday, 17 February 2012

Privatising education
“However tough the territory, the Tory party never wavers in its commitment to corporate and private interests. Conservatives may be in turmoil over their plans to turn the NHS into a commercialised free-for-all. But most can't conceal their delight at the rapid progress of their scheme to break up and privatise English education.
Michael Gove, the Tory ideologue's ideologue, promised a supply-side revolution for English schools – and that is exactly what he is delivering, with barely a squeak of national political protest. Most attention has focused on the few dozen "free schools" set up by parents or sponsors with public money and private-sector management.
But on a far larger scale, schools are being bribed or bullied into becoming freestanding academies outside local democratic control, many sponsored or run by private companies or "social enterprises". By breaking up local authority supervision and services, the ground is being laid for a dramatic expansion in private provision.
Until now, the education secretary has held back from giving for-profit companies the right to take over schools – the key, for market ideologues, to the transformation of English education. Last September Nick Clegg even drew a line in the sand: yes to "greater diversity", he declared, but "no to running schools for profit".
Gove has now given the go-ahead for a free school, IES Breckland, to be run for profit by Swedish firm IES under a 10-year contract. The "educational services industry" believes this loophole of outsourcing school management (rather than directly owning schools) should open the corporate floodgates.
Spectator editor Fraser Nelson called it a potentially "historic event", while a senior Lib Dem bleated: "We didn't foresee this." Plenty of other people did, however. Sir David Bell, top civil servant at the education department until a couple of months ago, says he expects profit-making companies to be introduced to running state schools "very gently".
A string of firms now wowing investors with a "substantial return" from the breakup of local authority control of schools see it happening pretty abruptly. Of course, New Labour gave private companies the run of everything from school inspections to careers advice, along with a few school management contracts.

What now opens the way for more sweeping privatisation is the mushrooming of academies. When the coalition came to power, there were a couple of hundred. Cash sweeteners and forced conversions have now driven that to 1,529, including 45% of all state secondary schools. Divorced from local service support, both profit-making and non-profit companies are already running publicly funded chains of academies.

The coalition says it's all about freedom, empowerment and driving up standards. Parents who resist are branded by Gove as "Trots" and "enemies of promise". Polling shows the public is opposed to private companies running schools for profit, though the distinction – when non-profit providers pay executives lavishly and often run schools abroad for profit – is in any case blurred.

If academies and private takeover really delivered the empowerment and results the government claims, however, they would doubtless be popular. But they don't. Academies are less accountable, less transparent, less locally integrated and less open to parental involvement (governors are appointed, not elected) than local authority schools, while the sponsors or companies that run them can bend the curriculum to their whim.

And despite their best efforts at gaming exam results, the latest GCSE data shows academies performing worse in most cases than their community school counterparts. The same goes for the much-vaunted corporate-run Swedish and US schools the coalition is so keen to emulate.
A forthcoming IPPR survey of the international research underlines both that non-commercial schools outperform for-profit providers and that the competitive private education markets favoured by the Tories are not a route to better results.

So why are Gove and his friends so keen on them? Dogma is part of it. But privatisation has created interests which have driven policy in the teeth of the evidence for years. The revolving doors between public and private sectors have, for instance, propelled Zenna Atkins from chair of the schools' inspectorate Ofsted to become chief executive of the private Wey Education, now setting up free schools, while Sir Bruce Liddington, former schools commissioner, is today director general of the private academy chain E-ACT.
Companies managing privatised services have in turn become powerful lobbies for a bigger slice of the public cake. Revelations that the management consultants McKinsey has been intimately involved in drawing up the health bill – from which the company and its clients stand to profit lavishly – is only the latest reflection of the crony capitalism corroding public services.

A £2bn education services market stands to grow more than tenfold as a result of schools privatisation. But the multiple failings of English schools won't be overcome by creating an unaccountable, corporate-branded patchwork siphoning off public funds. As voters see what's happening, Tory ministers may yet come to regret Gove's "revolution" – until they go through the revolving doors themselves."
Seumas Milne, Guardian 14th Feb. 2012

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Ofsted head is a stooge
The new head of Ofsted is a chap called Sir Michael Wilshaw. The knighthood is a worry. The man has an ego and is not afraid to flaunt it. He ‘ran a highly successful school in a deprived area of London,’ according to expenses cheat Gove; or, ‘pupils were handpicked to the detriment of neighbouring schools’ according to teachers in the area. Wilshaw has the support of New Labour too, which says all you need to know about the shallowness of politicians where education is concerned.

Ofsted have moved the goalposts yet again. Inspections will be undertaken with very little notice. This is no bad thing and will make it harder for unscrupulous senior staff to send unruly or difficult pupils away for a few days. It will also lessen the heightened stress of knowing an inspection is a week or two away. There is a case for making inspections without any warning at all. 
There is a ‘but’ - and it is a big one. Ofsted has become an arm of government. There is a political agenda. Recent information shows the government want to privatise education. Step 1 is to create many more Academies - another bright wheeze from New Labour. Step 2 is for groups of Academies to join together so they can then be run by private companies. Who then make profits for their shareholders by educating our children. Step 3 would be to have most of England’s schools run by private companies. Sweden and the US are well down this path. Squit cites evidence from both to justify this policy.  None of this has so far been through Parliament. It is fair to say there are some success stories. These make good headlines. There are also many more horror stories which have been conveniently ignored. This stinks. It is also deeply ironic that just as the move to Academise the schools gains momentum, the exalted exam record of some of these places is exposed for being largely based on vocational courses, most - but not all -  being nowhere near a GCSE equivalent. Inflated grades serving the inflated ambitions of the pompous Gove. 
And what of this Wilshaw? How much is he a Gove stooge? Here is a sample of his approach.
 “Wilshaw has previously said he wants the rating of satisfactory to be replaced by "requires improvement". If schools given this rating do not improve after two inspections, they will go into the emergency category of special measures. This means their headteacher could be forced out and the school could be strongly encouraged to become an academy.
Underperforming schools existed in both the most prosperous and the poorest parts of the country, Wilshaw said. Some 300 schools in well-off neighbourhoods had been judged satisfactory for several years, including faith schools in Oxfordshire and Surrey, he said.
Up to 6,000 schools were labelled satisfactory in their last inspection and half of those had failed to be upgraded over six or more years, Wilshaw said.” Guardian Education. Feb 2012
Talking to an exceptional teacher friend who has just been through this new experience was dispiriting and enraging. A school which had improved year by year, and has been transformed from a place where it was dangerous to walk across the playground, has become a safe haven of learning. 64% of the lessons inspected were rated as ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding,’ with 36% scoring ‘Satisfactory.’ There were no lessons scoring ‘cause for concern.’ So what did the inspectors score the teaching in this school? It has been rewarded with the label ‘Satisfactory.’ The same satisfactory that is under attack from the ego and which fits Gove’s agenda. It has had a devastating effect on staff morale. 
A further insight into the mighty Wilshaw. “A good head would never be loved by his or her staff, he added: "If anyone says to you that 'staff morale is at an all-time low' you know you are doing something right."  ibid
There speaks a bastard. Come back Miss Trunchbowl, all is forgiven.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Where the Sun don’t shine
Trevor Kavanagh’s squeal of outrage about the intrusion into Sun journalists privacy was a delicious moment. Many ordinary citizens, not 15 minute celebs, just basic folk doing their everyday thing, who happen to become involved in something perceived as ‘sale-able’ have found their lives ruined by doorstepping journos. Their phones have been hacked, their relatives followed and their friends targeted for quotes. In some extreme cases it has brought the victims to suicide. Your moans will not find much currency with them or in fact anybody with a semblance of intelligence and a value system. 
So Mr ‘Precious’ Kavanagh, take a good long look at what your company has been up to and consider your hens, cocks and chickens are coming home to roost. The fact that it was your master, to whom you sold your soul, who has ordered ‘the draining of the swamp’ adds an extra frisson of joy to the whole affair.
The Met police were crap to begin with in this affair. If they are being a trifle too enthusiastic for your tastes so be it. 
It is to be hoped that they will scrutinise the dealings of our egregious leaders with News International with similar vigour. 

For those among you who believe that 'lessons have been learned' and that Murdoch's rags are now beacons of virtue are innocent fools. A study of the way Ed Milibean has been treated by them since he made it clear he was against the grovelling done by his former colleagues shows that they are still immensely nasty, biased and bullying. To hear one of their prime subjects whingeing across the airwaves has been a lesson in hypocrisy and chutzpah. These journos covered up evidence, destroyed evidence, lied to the Police and Parliament and bribed coppers and officials to obtain their headlines. A Scum Scoop begins in the gutter and swiftly heads into the sewer. They have been a blight on our democracy for far too long. If it takes extra coppers to put right what they singularly failed to do earlier - so be it.

Meanwhile Trevor - please stick your article where the Sun don’t shine.
Thank you.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

“People who are right wing are thicker than those who are left wing” shock
George Monbiot made the point today citing research carried out by a Canadian University  team. The Daily Wail had carried the story last week provoking some incredible responses from its readership online.
“The Canadian study published last month in the journal Psychological Science, ..revealed that people with conservative beliefs are likely to be of low intelligence. Paradoxically it was the Daily Mail that brought it to the attention of British readers last week. It feels crude, illiberal to point out that the other side is, on average, more stupid than our own. But this, the study suggests, is not unfounded generalisation but empirical fact.
It is by no means the first such paper. There is plenty of research showing that low general intelligence in childhood predicts greater prejudice towards people of different ethnicity or sexuality in adulthood. Open-mindedness, flexibility, trust in other people: all these require certain cognitive abilities. Understanding and accepting others – particularly "different" others – requires an enhanced capacity for abstract thinking.
But, drawing on a sample size of several thousand, correcting for both education and socioeconomic status, the new study looks embarrassingly robust. Importantly, it shows that prejudice tends not to arise directly from low intelligence but from the conservative ideologies to which people of low intelligence are drawn. Conservative ideology is the "critical pathway" from low intelligence to racism. Those with low cognitive abilities are attracted to "rightwing ideologies that promote coherence and order" and "emphasise the maintenance of the status quo". Even for someone not yet renowned for liberal reticence, this feels hard to write.
This is not to suggest that all conservatives are stupid. There are some very clever people in government, advising politicians, running thinktanks and writing for newspapers, who have acquired power and influence by promoting rightwing ideologies.
But what we now see among their parties – however intelligent their guiding spirits may be – is the abandonment of any pretence of high-minded conservatism. On both sides of the Atlantic, conservative strategists have discovered that there is no pool so shallow that several million people won't drown in it. Whether they are promoting the idea that Barack Obama was not born in the US, that man-made climate change is an eco-fascist-communist-anarchist conspiracy, or that the deficit results from the greed of the poor, they now appeal to the basest, stupidest impulses, and find that it does them no harm in the polls.
Don't take my word for it. Listen to what two former Republican ideologues, David Frum and Mike Lofgren, have been saying. Frum warns that "conservatives have built a whole alternative knowledge system, with its own facts, its own history, its own laws of economics". The result is a "shift to ever more extreme, ever more fantasy-based ideology" which has "ominous real-world consequences for American society".
Lofgren complains that "the crackpot outliers of two decades ago have become the vital centre today". The Republican party, with its "prevailing anti-intellectualism and hostility to science" is appealing to what he calls the "low-information voter", or the "misinformation voter". While most office holders probably don't believe the "reactionary and paranoid claptrap" they peddle, "they cynically feed the worst instincts of their fearful and angry low-information political base".
The madness hasn't gone as far in the UK, but the effects of the Conservative appeal to stupidity are making themselves felt. This week the Guardian reported that recipients of disability benefits, scapegoated by the government as scroungers, blamed for the deficit, now find themselves subject to a new level of hostility and threats from other people.
These are the perfect conditions for a billionaires' feeding frenzy. Any party elected by misinformed, suggestible voters becomes a vehicle for undisclosed interests. A tax break for the 1% is dressed up as freedom for the 99%. The regulation that prevents big banks and corporations exploiting us becomes an assault on the working man and woman. Those of us who discuss man-made climate change are cast as elitists by people who happily embrace the claims of Lord Monckton, Lord Lawson or thinktanks funded by ExxonMobil or the Koch brothers: now the authentic voices of the working class.”
Guardian 7/2/2012
The excellent Apartheid series on BBC 4 tonight provided further evidence of the premise that most right wingers are stupid. A succession of extremely nasty, thick, fascist, Afrikaners regaled us with their white supremacist views. The collusion of so many countries, including the UK, with this appalling regime was equally disturbing. 
Which brings us to today. Where is the organised political resistance to the venality, stupidity and brutality of the right wing thickies currently masquerading as a government in which, “We are all in this together" belies the actuality?

Monday, 6 February 2012

Satire dead? Hardly

Tom Lehrer famously said that satire was dead when he heard that Henry Kissinger had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Little did he know what was to come......
For instance:-
Millionaire “We are all in this together” Osborne...... 
David ‘Greenest Government Ever’ Cameron......
Frances ‘rent robber’ Maude attacking public workers for ‘lack of probity.’.....
David Megabucks Blunkett pontificating about the poor.......
A Cabinet made up of millionaires putting the boot into the poor and disabled while doing nothing about the bankers and speculators who brought about the crisis yet continuing to chant their mantra about ‘responsible capitalism’ while knowing it is up to government to rein the bankers in but doing nothing because these venal people are their friends and supporters........
And not forgetting,  Tony ‘Middle East Peace Envoy’ Blair..............!!!!!!!
Coming up on the rails in the Humbuggery Derby is this little gem from the Argyll and Shite  [this is not meant to insult the people of Bute - it reflects the quality of the council] website.
“Argyll and Bute Council’s Road’s and Amenities team, in partnership with Breedon Aggregates Scotland Limited, have been short listed in the finals of the COSLA Excellence Awards under the Achieving Better Outcomes category.” Published Date:  26 Jan 2012 
The beauty and wonder of a blog is that once the ‘publish blog’ button is pushed it disappears into the ether, to be picked up by chance or choice by whosoever happens upon it. There will be many unaware why the above claim provokes howls of derision among those who know. Consider two recent photographs (above) of a minor road in Argyll. There are many, many more examples.                                                                                                                         
Sherlock Holmes would have known through the seat of his pants his exact whereabouts in Argyll. The pattern of potholes, degraded surfaces and puddles form a unique pattern. Travellers heading across Scotland are aware the instant they enter Argyll. A previously smooth surface deteriorates in an instant to a patchwork quilt of repairs, holes and bumps. 
And they are on the shortlist for an award? 

Sunday, 5 February 2012

We need Labour, not this soulless bunch
“His admirers say that David Miliband is one of the sharpest thinkers in the Labour Party.This is equivalent to being declared the brightest sunbeam in a Siberian winter. It's an accolade, but not one you would place on the first page of your CV.
The other brother was, for one, the Foreign Minister who told the Commons that Britain had played no part in torture and rendition. People seem to have forgotten. [Not everybody! ed.] Miliband was also at the heart of the government that took Labour to one of the worst defeats in its history. Few have forgotten that.
He is not, then, the person to whom you would turn automatically for advice on Labour's next move. The last time Miliband lost an election it was to his sibling. If opinion polls are anything to go by, even David Cameron won't make that mistake.
Not-Ed is undaunted. He has spent his entire career thinking up ways to change – "transform" – the Labour party while convincing voters that its values – "core values", of course – remain inviolable. So, writing in the New Statesman, Miliband has produced a plan.
That's not, of itself, unreasonable. Those polls show that, at best, his brother is running neck and neck with Cameron when the Coalition's name should be an insult to mud. By any measure any opposition party should be gaining support. Not Ed Miliband's party. Even when he says right and obvious things about productive capitalism, executive bonuses and Fred Goodwin, the Tories emerge with the credit.
Make a rough tally. Why should Labour be miles ahead? A collapse in real incomes might do it. Catastrophic unemployment, especially youth unemployment, should do it. Vindictive welfare reforms that will see cancer patients and disabled children pay for the banks' mistakes should certainly do it. An obsession with austerity that is demonstrably failing should clinch it.
I could go on. The point is not that Labour has failed to prosecute an argument, but that Labour has failed even to take advantage of facts that speak for themselves. The housing benefit cap – £26,000, irrespective of circumstances – is only the most startling example. It is wildly popular. People who are hard up have ceased to care about those worse off than themselves. And Labour has panicked.
It has had next to nothing to say about the shortage of affordable housing. It can't find the words to explain the connection between joblessness and the welfare bill. It doesn't even bother to explain that the poor are being cleared systematically from the southeast of England. Labour merely says that it, too, will have a cap. Just a nicer sort of cap.
Pathetically, it has accepted its failure to be "credible on the deficit". Now it hunts for ways to display economic virility and forgets the obvious. In England, in particular, the Tories are doing the things they always wanted to do to the NHS, schools, welfare and the rest. The deficit is their perfect, all-enveloping excuse. Ed Miliband says meekly that there should be more fairness. How true. (my emphasis)
How does Labour manage to get itself into this state time and again? Some reasons are almost sociological. There is the spectacle of a political movement whose list of viable leadership candidates consists of two brothers and a husband-and-wife team. Then there is the fact Ed Balls, Yvette Cooper and the Milibands each came to prominence with minimal exposure to life beyond the political bubble.
They are all Oxbridge, naturally, and part of the elite that led Britain to its present eminence. Balls went from a spell at the Financial Times to become an economic adviser to Gordon Brown. His wife had already done the same job for the late John Smith. Ed Miliband did research for Harriet Harman and then went to work for Brown. David Miliband worked for the Institute for Public Policy Research and then for Tony Blair.
Notice a pattern? It is not one that points to a deep pool of Labour Party talent. Nor is it a pattern that speaks of an intimate understanding of the lives of ordinary people. This isn't a crime, necessarily. It is inverted snobbery to insist that the only authentic Labour politician is one who has come up the hard way from wherever the bottom happens to be.
The real trouble with the Milibands and the Balls-Coopers, hand-reared in the Westminster fish bowl, is that they have a limited idea of what counts as radical. If the values they invoke were eradicated from the earth tomorrow, their lives would not be altered even slightly. The Milibands are less radical, in every sense, than their late and esteemed father, Professor Ralph. Their own mother reputedly regards them as too right-wing.
Why is that? There is plenty of evidence that Ed Miliband thinks of himself as a progressive sort. David Miliband, meanwhile, claims – a different matter – to be cut from that cloth. The obstacle seems to be that they do not believe there is a majority of British voters who share their attitudes. Timidity follows.
It is these days ingrained in the party colonised by Blair and Brown. It results in obnoxious attitudes. One is that voters can be conned into believing Labour is, in the usual image, "a safe pair of hands". Radicalism must be concealed at all costs. The second attitude is more brutally pragmatic: if voters are right-wing, become right-wing. The old Labour belief that people can be won over to the causes of justice and fairness is irrelevant.
David Miliband, therefore, proffers seven suggestions for Labour's electoral redemption. In essence, they amount to an argument for a return to Blairite "modernisation". Overlooked is the fact that what was once modern is now at least 18 years out of date, that it ended in Blair's moral squalor and Brown's chaotic premiership, and that – no small point – its thrust is essentially Conservative.
Miliband is attempting to rebut claims made by "Red Roy" Hattersley on behalf of an interventionist state, otherwise known as a government that gets things done. "The public won't vote for the prescription that central government is the cure for all ills," writes Miliband, "for the good reason that it isn't." Should I point out that Cameron holds precisely the same belief?
The article is all about how to win in 2015, as Miliband understands the game, not about the crisis for ordinary voters in 2012. It is, in that regard, truly self-indulgent. So the lost leader quibbles over equality, redistribution, and the defence of the last government's record. His intention is to strip the last guts from a party established to oppose most of the things he espouses. We could do with that party just at the moment. You have to wonder, though, about those who talk blithely about local government reform when hundreds of thousands of public-sector workers are losing their jobs.
Day by day, meanwhile, the other Miliband comes to resemble hapless Neil Kinnock, the socialist taken hostage by Oxbridge types whose only advice amounted to a list of things he must never say. Given the state of things in Britain today, that kind of cleverness amounts to a crime.” Ian Bell, Sunday Herald, 5/2/12
Hear Hear.

Friday, 3 February 2012

The welfare reform bill will incentivise people: to turn on David Cameron
“While Tory and Lib Dem MPs were contemptuously rejecting all seven Lords amendments to the welfare reform bill on Wednesday, I was at a credit union in London's East End, listening to low earners and unemployed people struggling to save small sums to avoid loan sharks. Admirable, but little protection from a tidal wave of cuts heading their way. For people like them, this year's rolling housing benefit cuts will take £17 a week.
That same morning the Institute for Fiscal Studies delivered its verdict: double-dip recession and a miserable 0.3% growth rate. Worry about shut libraries? Then this should make your hair stand on end: only 6% of public service cuts have happened yet. Another 94% are still to come, with cascades more public servants sacked. In benefits, 88% of cuts are still to come. But Tory and Lib Dem MPs voted through an £18bn benefit cut for the "squeezed" bottom half with few qualms, taking £1400 from disabled children and £94 from the sick who don't die or recover within a year.” 
The IFS says these cuts are "almost without historical or international precedent". "How deliverable these will prove remains to be seen," it adds. The answer is blindingly obvious. Cuts of these dimensions are impossible. Austerity will not be politically tolerable in a rich country in peacetime where boardrooms pay themselves 49% rises. The Attlee government was toppled by peacetime austerity that voters no longer trusted. The government reassures itself that the country is muddling along, coping with cuts, getting by. But the frightening truth is that it's hardly begun.

The IFS chart showing the sunny uplands of 2016-17, with a 0.4% current spending surplus, is hard to credit. It's a dereliction for forecasters to ignore the political reality. A miraculous growth spurt might save the day: but how, when George Osborne's hyper-austerity smothers all oxygen in the economy? What of a 2015 election, plumb in the middle of this seven-year run of cuts? The irony is that the best hope of hitting that surplus and restoring more growth is that many of these cuts never happen. Cameron will bend or snap or both.

The NHS tops No 10's risk register, but a close second should be the benefit cuts now being railroaded through by claiming "financial privilege" to avoid another bruising Lords encounter with angry bishops and former Tory cabinet ministers. Cameron's government by opinion poll tells him he's on terra firma: the public thinks £26,000 is more than enough benefits for any family. But the public is fickle: starting last month, 670,000 households lose an average of £13 on housing benefit occupancy rules. In council tax benefit, because pensioners are exempt, the rest of low earners will pay an extra £330 a year. In April tax credit cuts take £305 from 2 million households, while the bottom half are already £427 a year worse off in spending power, says the Resolution Foundation. With long-term unemployment set to rise even higher than already predicted, this bill touches millions more voters than Cameron expects. It may not touch his leafy heartlands, best protected from council cuts, but elections are won among middling folk: wait for the great cuts tsunami to hit them."  Polly Toynbee, Guardian 3/2/12

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Quaker Census Refusers
Over 750,000 people are alleged to have not completed their census forms. The authorities have used their infinite wisdom to select 120 for punishment. The chosen ones just happen to be Quakers. They were opposed to paying Lockheed Martin £150m for administering the census. And they have a point.
As a letter in yesterdays Guardian makes clear, “On the day we had to return our forms, Gaza was being bombed by Lockheed Martin F16s. As part of a group of Quaker Census Refusers, we feel completing the census form and so contributing £150m to the profits of Lockheed Martin, which won the census contract, is in direct opposition to our peace testimony which calls on us to refuse to engage in all preparation for all wars. Lockheed is the world’s largest arms maker, making cluster bombs, Trident and F16 warplanes.” Nailsworth Friends Meeting, Stroud, Guardian letters 31/1/12 
The accused, including many pensioners, are scheduled to be tried in Bristol on the 8th February. 
They are an example to us all and deserve our utmost respect.