Tag Archive | "alistair darling"

Punch and Judy Politics

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Punch and Judy Politics


Prime Ministers Questions was yet another example of the Punch and Judy style of politics that is so prevalent today. It is reminiscent of two schoolboys arguing over who’s dad is bigger or stronger, yet, these grown-up children in Parliament are the very people we are supposed to rely on to represent our interests. We are slowly becoming a laughing stock as our politicians consistently fail to represent our interests, whilst many are guilty of taking the public for a ride in terms of their expense claims. Even the Ayatollah Khamenei believes that he is entitled to sit in judgement of the people of this country based on his views of our political leaders.

Yesterday, Brown and Cameron swapped blows regarding the level of capital spending in the UK over the coming years. Brown is quite clearly guilty of a deliberate attempt to mislead the public. It is self-evident that capital spending is being reduced, even if this is as a consequence of this government bringing forward capital projects from future years, which inflates the current spend, but has the effect of reducing the amount available in future years. Some would argue that this is quite a reckless policy, especially given Brown will almost certainly not be in power when someone else has to deal with the fact that there is nothing in the kitty. Mind you, that has become a fairly common trait with Labour government, their spend, spend, spend policy invariably leaves a Conservative government to clean up the mess.

Meanwhile, whilst Cameron has Brown on the ropes, he lacks the courage to state the bloody obvious and that is, we have no choice but to reduce public spending. Tax receipts are down, public sector spending is out of control, the economy is contracting and more and more people are becoming an economic liability, rather than an asset as a consequence of increasing unemployment. I would have more respect for David Cameron if he was to demonstrate that he has the courage and moral rectitude to come clean with the public. Instead of highlighting Brown’s lies ( after all we all know that he is a stranger to the truth), Cameron ought to be outlining why there is a need to reduce public spending and how they intend to do it if elected. Instead, he is allowing Brown to dictate what the “10% Tory cuts” amount to, using the classic New Labour trick of emotional blackmail, less for pensioners, less for the NHS, less for the Police etc.

Apart from the fact that most people already understand that we are in for a tough few years, Cameron also has the OECD stating that the Treasury figures for the UK economy are at best optimistic, but more likely completely wrong. He has the rating agency Standard & Poor making veiled threats to reduce the UK Plc credit rating unless the government gets it’s house in order and puts in place a concrete plan to reduce public debt. And, now, he even had the governor of the Bank of England stating that “scale of the deficit is truly extraordinary” and usggesting that the government should be more ambitious with their debt reduction plans. In other words, Cameron has some very powerful people or organisations supporting the notion that our economic situation is dire and we need to reign in public spending, yet he still lacks the courage to take the bull by the horns. It is this lack of backbone, even when the odds are in his favour, that leads me to doubt Cameron’s ability to offer the strong leadership this country needs to get itself out of the mess created my New Labour’s social engineering project.

Apart from public spending cuts, there is also a need to look at whether we are getting value for money from our public services. For example, in spite of the fact that we have record numbers of police officers, the number of front line bobbies (I have excluded PCSO’s) is but a tiny fraction of the 156,000 officers that are employed. Crime is rising not falling and police openly admit that they consider their job to be the investigation of crime, rather than the prevention.

The NHS has received a massive increase in spending. To fund this all UK workers were surcharged an extra 1% on their entire earnings and employers were charged an extra 1% of their wage bills. This added £billions every year. This burden on employers and employees will increase by a further 0.5% shortly. Yet, in spite of the enormous amounts raised to invest in the NHS, new build was financed using PFI, a hugely expensive way of funding new hospitals, and much of the money went into higher wages, not improved services. Now that the NHS have identified that there may be a real term reduction in the NHS budget, we are threatened with ward closures and increased waiting lists. In other words, the NHS are holding us to ransom, instead of investing the money wisely, they simply spent it. There is a subtle difference in my terminology, but a huge difference in practice.

Take the money being wasted on spy databases. £billions have been committed to IT infrastructure projects, most of which have not been thought through, many have contracts that amount to a blank cheque in terms of costly overruns and to be frank, most are simply not needed. This is not a wise investment of our taxes at a time when the country can least afford a spendthrift policy. It is also worth noting that many of these contracts do not benefit UK companies.

The list goes on and on. That notwithstanding, it is so bloody obvious to most people what we need to do, that to tell us different is patently insulting. Unfortunately, our politician’s still believe that we are not grown up enough to be able to handle the truth, so instead they either lie to us, or avoid being candid. My message to politicians of all parties is to stop treating us like idiots. They must tell us how they see the situation in unambiguous terms, what they believe needs to be done and how long they expect the pain to last. They must tell us how they will ensure that we get value for money and what they will do to ensure that tax increases are only be considered after all other areas have been exploited. If the people of this country and its politicians are not to be looked on by other countries as a bit of a basket case, then we need a man (and a party) with a plan.

Posted in Conservatives, General, Lib Dems | Comments (3)

Is Gordon Brown about to make another Balls up?

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Is Gordon Brown about to make another Balls up?


Rumours are abound that Gordon Brown intends to complete a cabinet reshuffle either, at the end of this week, or during the course of next week, especially if, as expected, Labour get a drubbing at the local and EU elections.

What has shocked me however, is that Gordon Brown is said to be considering promoting Ed Balls to Chancellor of the Exchequer. If he does that, then there really is a strong case for someone to send the men in white coats to Downing Street. So, from The Undertaker to The Clown, little wonder this country is in such a mess! Now I accept that Ed Balls is Brown’s best buddy, god know he needs them, but Balls is completely inept. His idea of selling something to the public is to keep repeating himself in the hope that we will get worn in submission. Ed Balls can barely string a sentence together, he is a poor commons debater, a useless TV performer and, lets face it, his first ministerial post as Schools Secretary has hardly been a success. In fact, the only ‘success’ he can claim is his innate ability to shift the blame onto others.

Loyalty, obedience and arse licking may be fine attributes for a dog, but not a Chancellor. Moving from Alistair Darling to Ed Balls can only be described as going from The Undertaker, to The Clown. At a time when this country is an economic basketcase, we need the very best available in the role of Chancellor, not another puppet. Some may claim that Ed Balls has experience because of his time at the Treasury, but he was just a messenger boy there, so he can more claim to be a Chancellor than an orator can claim to be a writer. If Gordon Brown decided to appoint Ed Balls to Chancellor then it is quite clear Brown has no interest in this country or the people of this country, his primary interest is himself and his buddies. One or two commentators have suggested that Ed Balls is highly respected in the City, so, my first question is, WHY? The second is how come so many people within the City are going on record to say the opposite?

Apart from the fact that Ed Balls does not possess the skills, gravitas or experience to take on the role of Chancellor, there is also the question of his moral rectitude. Ed Balls is married to Yvette Cooper and they both claim the Additional Cost Allowances for their London property, which they have designated as their second home, albeit not at the maximum rate, but they only need one home, don’t they? Similarly, between them, it is reported that they claim £600 per month in food allowances. Whilst what they have done is “within the rules”, the fact remains that they have nominated three different properties in two years to be their main residence. With both in ministerial posts, they have a combined salary of nearly £300,000 per year, they are hardly destitute nor are they in desperate need of the Additional Cost Allowances. Can this be described as prudence? Can we really trust a man that is quite willing to work the rules to maximise his allowances to seek value for the taxpayer? I don’t think so.

Gordon Brown is finished, but if he wants to demonstrate that he is also a complete idiot, then all he needs to do is appoint Ed Balls as Chancellor.

On a side note, I am please that char lady to the Police, Jacqui Smith is to quit at the next Cabinet reshuffle, but given she was expected to go anyway, all this is designed to do is allow her to leave with dignity. But we know the truth, she is, and always was, a useless Home Secretary who, instead of controlling and directing her departments, just became their gofer, char lady, bag holder. Good riddance. We now need a Home Secretary that does not believe in destroying individual liberty in a vain and discredited hope of reducing the risk of crime and terrorism.

Posted in General, Labour, World | Comments (7)

Budget 2009: New Labour have lost the plot

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Budget 2009: New Labour have lost the plot


New Labour has brought this country to the brink of bankruptcy and yet, even now, when everyone else can see it, they remain in denial. How on earth can any pollster find people that are daft enough to believe that Darling and Brown are best placed to get us out of this mess? Never have I felt such utter despair. Up and down the country, people are having to tighten their belts and reign in their spending, only then can they hope to get themselves out of debt or survive a period of reduced income. Ask anyone and they will tell you this is simply commonsense, anyone that is, other than a ‘New Labour’ MP or the recipients of New Labours redistribution of taxpayers money. New Labour believe that they have discovered the secret to dealing with reduced income and spiralling debt, just borrow more! If that were not enough, they elect to lie to themselves and their masters, by suggesting that things will get better by the end of this year and by 2011, we will be in the money again as a consequence of a boom, the like not seen since the ‘dotcom era’.

Our government tells us that the economy will shrink by 3.5% this year, whereas the International Monetary Fund suggests that it will be 4.1% and the the Centre for Economic and Business Research, 4.5%. Even taking account of the Governments hugely optimistic and unlikely forecast, they will have to borrow £175bn this year. In my view, the governments forecast is a lie and I believe they know it is, but rather than give it to us straight, they would sooner treat us like idiots. If the governments figures are wrong and most economists believe they are, then borrowing will be even higher, something our government, your government, doesn’t want you to know until it is too late to do anything about it. Even when it was announced that the economy shrank by 1.9% in the first three months of this year, the government still insisted that their figures were accurate, in other words, we (the government) are right and everyone else is wrong. Early estimates suggest that if the IMF figures are more accurate that those of the Government, then borrowing will increase by around £30bn per year, no wonder this Government doesn’t want us to know the truth.

Next year, the government is forecasting growth of 1.25%, yet in spite of this, they still need to borrow another £173bn. Once again, others, such as the IMF, suggest that the growth figures are vastly optimistic, suggesting instead a contraction of 0.3%. In spite of this, the government then tell us to expect a dotcom like boom in 2011, with a forecast growth figure of 3.5%. Utter fantasy, but even with this spectacular figure, the government will still need to borrow £140bn. Followed by £118bn in 2012 and £97bn in 2013. In other words, even taking this governments completely unrealistic contraction and growth figures, we still need to borrow more than £700bn over the next 5 years. Even to a Cabinet simpleton, this has to indicate that we, as a country, are living well beyond our means. It is also worth noting, that even before the property slump and the recession, we were still borrowing well in excess of our income, with further fancy footwork taking place to move other government debt, such as the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) off the government balance sheet. So, no matter what Gordon Brown will have us believe, we were heading for a fall even without the recession. If he denies this then he is either a fool or a liar..perhaps both! We must not be surprised that this government is lead by liars either, after all, it was they who made a manifesto commitment not to raise the higher rate of income tax and they who promised a referendum on the European Constitution and then denied us the right by falsely claiming that the renamed treaty was not the same. Two manifesto promises, two out and out lies, why should the electorate ever trust any party again over manifesto promises?

The government has decided that anyone earning over £113,000 per year must lose all of their personal allowances, which will cost them around £50 per week and anyone earning over £150,000 per annum, will face a tax rate of 50% on all earnings above the threshold. This governments justification is that these people have gained most during the boom years and should, therefore, pay more now. The truth is somewhat different. Over the past 11 years, the people that have benefited most from the boom, in relative terms, is the lower paid, funded in no small part by those on middle and higher incomes. This was as a direct consequence of the governments programme to redistribute wealth. The government has also said that those that earn more must pay more. But they already do. Someone on £113,000 per year pays, in cash terms, seven times the tax that an individual earning £25,000 per year does.

It is also worth noting that anyone lucky enough to earn over £100k per year has not been gifted it, they have earnt it through promotion, success, hardwork and/or entrepreneurial risk taking. No employer would pay someone over £100k per year if they weren’t worth it. It is also worth remembering that these people are resident here, which means that they spend the majority of their money in the UK, therefore, they will be contributing substantially to the economy in the form of other indirect taxes as well as helping to create employment through the purchase of goods and services. The money that the government takes from these people won’t be handed straight over to the poor as they imply, instead, it will be used to plug a huge gap in government finances…which has become something of a bottomless pit. I would sooner have the taxpayer keep more of their money which, if they spend on goods and services, will be the best natural stimulus this country could possible have. If the government could not fleece the taxpayer so easily, they would be forced, as the rest of us are, to ensure that available funds are spent wisely and are only used on what is necessary, rather than desirable.

The bottom line is, that the only way we are going to get ourselves out of this mess is if we reduce our spending, this is basic economics and most 8 years olds could tell you that. Increasing taxes reduces the amount of money in the economy and it is this that will prolong the recession. The government is asking us all to believe that it can spend our money better and more wisely than we can, is there anyone out there, other than those that do not contribute, that would agree with this statement? For those that believe this government has its priorities in the right place, then they should consider the following; According to the government, the increase in tax announced for higher earners is worth up to £7bn per annum, although other experts believe the actual figure is much, much lower, but taken at face value, this tax increase pales into insignificance when set against government spending on databases. The government intends to spend, in spite of the recession, some £105bn of our money over the next 5 years on databases and other largescale IT projects, that is equivalent to over £20bn per year, or half the defence budget. These databases are designed to allow the government to drive a coach and horses through our civil liberties, monitor our every move and spy on our every deed. How can that be a priority at anytime, let alone during a recession, the databases are far from an essential spend?

The government has failed to grasp the nettle of public sector pension schemes which now costs us £2.7bn every year and rising. Even though the government has hammered private sector pension schemes with a tax take amounting to more that £100bn over the past 10 years, they have done nothing to deal with the public sector pensions, where the gross liability has been estimated to top £800bn. This abdication of their duty is simply breathtaking. For those that are not aware and, in the interest of putting things into perspective, 20p in every £ of our council tax goes directly towards funding local government pensions (source: Taxpayers’ Alliance). With public sector pay now above the levels of those in equivalent jobs in the private sector and better job security, little wonder that questions are being asked. Some MP’s have been whining in recent days that they should not be expected to vote for less money in relation to their lavish expense allowances. Why not, the rest of us have not been given a choice?

Alistair Darling noted in his budget speech that there will be £15bn of “efficiency savings”. Note, these are not cuts, but efficiency savings. What I don’t understand is why they have only noted them now, any well run business would have an ongoing programme of efficiency measures designed to save money. If they are genuinely efficiency savings, then the government must hold its head in shame, because that is the equivalent of admitting that this government has presided over a massive programme of excess and/or waste. But lets call a spade a spade, it is not just efficiency savings that are needed, but cuts, real cuts. The Conservatives lack the courage to outline what they would cut, which leaves them open to any charge the Labour government wants to send their way, such as cuts in health and education. They (the Conservatives) should have the courage of their convictions and tell us what they will be, we know they are necessary, but scrapping the ID Cards system, whilst wholly sensible, does not cut the mustard. By contrast, the LibDems have highlighted some 8 or 9 areas they would cut. We all know that the LibDems won’t get enough support to form a government, but based on the fact that they are willing to put their stake in the ground and then fight their corner, they are demonstrating considerably more moral courage and conviction than their Conservative counterparts.

Because I don’t want to be accused of highlighting the problems, but not putting forward any solutions, the following would be my first port of call in terms of saving money. And, for the record, I would not be looking to increase direct taxation, since as I have already argued, the best stimulus this country could get, is the natural one provided by people spending their own money in the way they so choose.

  1. Scrap all database/unnecessary IT projects, including, but not necessarily limited to; the Communication Database, ContactPoint, the Travel Database, the NHS Database and the ID Card Scheme. Saving £105bn over the next 5 years. It is worth noting that over-runs on this Governments 8 largest projects total a staggering £18.6bn (source: Times & Computer Weekly). That’s right, this is just the over-runs, not the total cost!
  2. Scrap the ‘Tax Credit’ system and return to a simplified tax and benefits system that does not see people pay a higher rate of tax simply so they can fill a form in a claim it back as a tax credit. The same objective can be achieved by using personal allowances and a simple tax system. Minimum savings of £4bn per annum as a result of less fraudulent claims and errors (currently £2bn per annum), plus savings in process and administration.
  3. Can local council’s publicity machines, saving £430m per annum.
  4. Cancel the Child Trust Fund (Baby Bonds) programme, saving £470m per annum.
  5. Reduce International Development Aid budget by half. At this time, we can ill-afford to offer £billions in aid to other countries. Saving of £2.5bn per annum.
  6. Close down the Regional Development Agencies that have delivered little, if anything, for businesses in the UK. Annual saving of £2.1bn
  7. Reduce funding to the Scottish Assembly, the current ‘Barnett Formula’ is outdated and the amount paid allows people in Scotland to benefit from services that those in England cannot, such as free prescriptions and free care for the elderly. This is neither fair, nor equitable. The budget should be trimmed by at least 10% saving £2.6bn per annum.
  8. Withdraw automatic right to ‘sick pay’ for public sector workers. Savings £1.7bn
  9. Reduce the number of consultants used by various government departments by half. Saving £1.5bn per annum. Use the balance to recruit the skills that are necessary rather than pay inflated costs to outside companies.
  10. Reverse the increased cost of Quangos in the UK, which has risen by £41bn to £123bn. Saving £40bn per annum.
  11. Close tax loopholes which cost the UK Exchequer £8.5bn from High New Worth Individuals, £3bn from large companies and a further £7bn as a result of tax evasion and other activities. Total: £18.5bn

There are, of course, many other areas where our money is squandered, my particular suggestions would save approximately £70bn. Any halfway competent government, or government in waiting, could come up with a set of plans that could easily trim 5%-10% off government expenditure without necessary affecting front-line services. This could lead to savings of up to £60bn per annum. In fact, the European Central Bank found that if the UK’s public spending was as efficient as say, the USA or Japan, we could realise a saving of 16% without any cuts in front-line services, that is a whopping saving of £93bn per year. Throughout government there is duplication, waste, excess and abuse, this area should be tackled well before cuts in essential services are considered and this is what the opposition parties should be focusing on.

Posted in Conservatives, General, Labour, Lib Dems | Comments (4)

Budget 2009: Return of Old Labour

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Budget 2009: Return of Old Labour


Far be it for me to defend the so called “rich”, but I would like to make some pertinent points in relation to this governments’ decision to increase taxes on those earning over £100,000 and £150,000.

First if all, I am at a loss as to how anyone can describe someone that earns over £100,000 as ‘rich’, take a look at any of the newspapers that still have jobs advertised and you will see countless middle management jobs and sales positions which offer earnings of around £100k, including bonuses or commission. So, these are not all city bankers, many of them may be your next door neighbours, or perhaps your boss. These are people that have almost certainly earned their positions through merit, not spongers or low-lifes! Yet, when our members of parliament refer to them, it is as if they are the great unwashed. Yet many of these people are creating jobs for the rest of us, should they really be treated with such contempt and disdain?

When people stay on in further education, this is invariably because they want to maximise their chances of doing well in the workplace, because they want to aspire to be successful, in terms of position and earnings. Are those that are successful to be judged as one of the great unwashed if they succeed in earning over £100,000 per year? One of the things that I am always hearing is that those that earn more should pay more. I agree, but they already do, taxes are paid in cash terms, not percentages. Take an average person earning £25,000 per year, they will pay £5945 in tax and national insurance every year. They will also, most likely, be entitled to additional tax credits and other benefits which will further reduce their net contribution in taxes.

Now, lets take someone earning £113,000, this is the level at which the individual will lose all of his or her entitlement to a personal allowance. As a consequence, their net tax contribution will be £40,362 (rising to £43,304 from next year), which is between 6.8 and 7.3 times more tax that Mr and Mrs Average. Or to put is another way, in percentage terms, they will be paying twice as much as the average wage earner (38% instead of 17.7%). Yet, they will not be entitled to any tax credits or other benefits. It is also likely, that someone at this level will receive ‘private health insurance’. However, even though this reduces the burden on the state system, the individuals will actually be taxed on the cost of private health, as a ‘benefit in kind’. For anyone that things this is a perk, they need to be reminded that this ‘benefit’ is not provided because the employer is feeling benevolent, but because they need their employee back to work as quickly as possible.

It is all very well deriding those people that have achieved success in their careers, but it is also worth remembering that these same people provide the exchequor with the same amount of net tax as 7 people on average earnings. Yet, they do not get seven times more pension, nor do they get seen by their doctors seven times faster, instead they are actively and unfairly targeted for yet more money. They are not rich, they are successful, they are achievers and this country would be a much poorer place economically, commercially and intelectually if we did not have people like this. Take a look at what ‘brain drain’ has done to some African countries where their skilled people left in droves following a change of government, some have never recovered, do we really want that here?

I dislike envy, as much as I hate greed, both are destructive in their own way. In the USA, they have always heralded success, placed people that have achived on a pedestal, here, we invariably look on with contempt. The politics of envy assume that these people have got ‘rich’ at the expense of their employees, rather than accepting that they are more likely to have been directly or indirectly responsible for creating jobs and wealth. I remember one of my former bosses saying that he never had a problem paying out large commission cheques to sales people, because it meant they were generating business, profit and security for the company and its employees.

There is a very real risk that, by removing all personal allowances for those earning £113,000 or more and, increasing income tax to 50% for earnings in excess of £150,000, many successful people will look to take thier skills, trade, entrepreneurship and money elsewhere. There simply has to be a limit to what they will accept. If they do leave, how many jobs will be lost as a result of the skills shortage? White collar workers are no less skilled in their trade as, for example, an electrician, coach builder or car worker. Anyone who suggests otherwise is naive. If these successful people spend their money in other countries, how many jobs will be lost as a consequence of the comparitive downturn in sales?

I believe taxation must be fair and equitable. From a moral perspective, it is okay to say those that earn more, must pay more. But it is not acceptable to state that those that earn more must also be hit with a penal rate of tax as if they were not part of the human race. Remember, many are already contibuting in cash terms, more than 7 times as much as the average worker. This country is in a mess and we will all have to accept that public services will have to be cut and taxes will have to rise, but it is, in my opinion, fundamentally wrong to target one section of the workforce for special treatment in the form of penal tax rises. Especially when so many companies and genuinley rich people are still using loopholes to avoid paying income or corporation tax.

I know that my comments will annoy many who are struggling to pay their mortgages, it will also irritate some that believe people who have been successful in their careers are not deserving of higher salaries, but this country needs achievers and to keep them, we must reward them. With the exception of bankers and the public sector, I don’t know of any business that will pay more than an employee is worth, nor a company that would be prepared to keep someone on that was not delivering results. If they are paying their taxes, even if this is as much as seven times that contributed by the average worker and then spending the money in our country, why should so many people judge them so harshly. These people also have mortgages and commitments, the only difference is scale.

I do not earn over £100,000 per annum, but my sense of fairness is what motivated me to write this post, plus I suspected that those that do earn over £100k would be roundly condemned. I am unusually indifferent to those that disagree with me on this issue because I have seen first hand what happens when countries start to lose key skills in what has been dubbed a ‘brain drain’. The country, the economy and the people all suffer in equal measure.

Posted in Conservatives, General, Labour, Lib Dems | Comments (7)

Disreputable MP’s and their expenses

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Disreputable MP’s and their expenses


Much has been written about MP’s and their expenses over the past few weeks and little wonder given we expect our elected representatives to always act in the best interests of their constituents, the public at large and above all, with the utmost integrity. Yet, each time an MP has been exposed as maximising their expense allowances, we are informed that the claim has either been an error, or more often has been claimed in “accordance with the rules” and “fully declared”.

I have already stated in previous posts that I am not suggesting that any MP or Minister has acted in a corrupt manner and without evidence to the contrary, I stand by that statement. However, what is clear to me is that it is the the expense allowance programme is corrupt, given it facilitates and even encourages members of parliament to maximise their claims with little or no scrutiny as part of their ‘rewards package’. My prior statement notwithstanding, it is MP’s that are the sole arbiters on the expense system they benefit from, because only they can vote to introduce change. Therefore, it is a bit rich when they are so defensive because the public has the temerity and audacity to find these claims objectionable and excessive, even though we have never been consulted…instead we just expected to foot the bill. Bollocks!

I believe that the only reason Gordon Brown and his cronies are recommending a review of the expense allowances is because they want and expect the committee to suggest that salaries are increased to compensate for the loss of some or all of the current allowances. This is not and never will be acceptable to the public. It is right that MP’s should be reimbursed for out of pocket expenses, that have been incurred wholly and exclusively in the course of their parliamentary duties, but that is it. Anything else would be an abuse. MP’s know what the salary and benefits are before they stand, if they don’t like the package, then they must step aside, there will be no shortage of people clamouring for their seats.

In the past, the basis or motivation for new laws was invariably where the majority of people found something objectionable, offensive or wrong. It is clear to me that the overwhelming majority of people in this country consider the MP expense allowances to be far too generous, self-serving and open to abuse. Therefore, all MP’s have a duty to the public to outlaw such acts, even if it is detrimental to their own interests. A failure to do this is a failure of their duty and obligation to the public. It does not need a committee to determine what is wrong with the expense allowance scheme, public opinion has already made that clear, MP’s must act decisively and NOW, for if they don’t the trust in our Parliamentary system of representation will be irreparably damaged. Trust has already been damaged.

The people of this country have had to put up with interfering Ministers and MP’s introducing a raft of new legislation designed exclusive and comprehensively to erode our liberty, right to privacy and long held freedoms, whilst they (the MP’s) are, for the most part exempted from the same laws. They have lost all sense of reality and completely removed themselves from society.

Over the past 11 years we have seen legislation brought in to protect foxes, whilst having to accept the broken Manifesto promise of a vote on the Lisbon Treaty. We have seen public sector final salary pension schemes protected and enhanced whilst those in the private sector were raided to the tune of £10bn per year. We have seen Ministers living in grace and favour homes, whilst renting out their taxpayer funded London home, meanwhile other hardworking people have had their homes repossessed. We have seen countless examples of MP’s going on free taxpayer junkets with their entourage, whilst many people will be lucky to afford a weekend in Blackpool. The hypocrisy of our current batch of MP’s knows no bounds, but it has got to stop. Our system of parliamentary democracy goes back hundreds of years, but more damage has been done to it by this current group of MP’s than at any time since it started. Members of Parliament must hang their heads in shame, hand back our money, can the expense allowance scheme and agree not to stand for elected office again. Then there may be a small chance that the damage to our democratic process and, the necessary trust in accountable members of parliament, may be rectified in our lifetimes. It is the least we would expect from decent individuals, but then again, few of our current batch of MP’s could be described as decent!

SPREAD THE WORD:

A Conservative MP is seeking a second reading for a new Bill, titled ‘Exercise of Reasonable Discretion’. If passed into law, this will allow every public servant, including MP, civil servants, local government officers, the police etc., a legal defence of ‘reasonable discretion’ in any civil or criminal case brought about as a consequence of their actions. All they would have to prove, is that they acted in good faith, this as anyone in the know will understand, is a catch-all defence.

In essence, it could allow MP’s to argue that they made certain decisions, such as going to war, based on advice where they were required to use reasonable discretion, officials entering into multi-million pound contracts which are subsequently cancelled or overrun, will also be able to claim that they exercised reasonable discretion. It is effectively a get out of jail free card for any public servant. Effectively removing accountability and increasing risk, because of course, if there is no effective punishment, there is no need to be careful. We should all shout as loud as we can to ensure that this type of legislation never sees the light of day.

Posted in Civil Liberties, Conservatives, General, Labour, Lib Dems | Comments (2)

Darling Expense Claim: They are all at it!

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Darling Expense Claim: They are all at it!


Just 24 hours after it emerged that Geoff Hoon was claiming a ‘second home allowance’ for his Derbyshire constituency home, whilst renting out his London pad and living in a taxpayer funded ‘grace and favour home’ it transpires that Alistair Darling is doing something similar. Yet another example of Ministers who are expected to set an example hiding behind the rules of a corrupt expense allowance programme that they get to craft and then vote on!

As I alluded to in my posting yesterday, it appears impossible to find any MP that does not have his or her snout in the trough, they all seem to be at it. At a time of higher taxes for mere mortals, MP’s seem to be protecting their own positions with unjustifiable and very generous tax free expense allowances, that bear no relation to ‘out of pocket’ expenses.

MP’s expense allowances bear absolutely no relation to those in the private sector. For example, most people working in London will travel, at their own expense, to and from work, often leaving in the very early hours and getting home late. I for example, used to leave at 5.00am in the morning and get home at between 8.00 and 9.00pm….everyday for 9 years! My petrol was paid, but I then had to declare this as a benefit in kind. Most people in the private sector will receive an overnight allowance if they are staying in London, a relocation allowance, or a small one-off grant to cover the rental of a small flat etc. Not so for MP’s, they get annual allowances for virtually everything.

How ironic that the very people that bear a good deal of the responsibility for the economic mess we are in should seek to make the taxpayers pay for their mistakes (increased taxes, stealth taxes, bailots etc), whilst feathering their own nests with unjustifiable expense allowance benefits. Why do we all sit here and take it,  whilst these self-serving, pompous hypocrites are sneering at us in that contemptuous way that serving MP’s have got off to an art? Meanwhile, Gordon Brown says he has far more important things to deal with than MP’s expenses, well he has a point, but, if his ministers are milking a corrupt expense allowance programme, how are the public to have, or maintain, any trust in their honesty, integrity and judgement?

MP’s must not be allowed to hide behind the fact that they operated within the rules or that their claims had been “openly declared“. One of their own MP’s referred to the fact there is a “court of public opinion” and indeed there is. Members of Parliament have quite rightly declared open warfare on those that seek to minimise their personal and business tax obligations through complicated offshore tax schemes, many of whom are operating “within the rules”, but failing to contribute in a fair and equitable manner. Yet MP’s are doing exactly the same thing, hiding behind the rules that they set up and voted on, yet expecting everyone else to do their part. It is hypocrisy of the highest order, yet we have not witnessed one apology (other than for mistakes), nor have we seen immediate action to curtail this abuse and worst still, no resignations or signs of embarrassment.

This appalling abuse has got to stop right now, the public are very, very angry and there will be a backlash as soon as that public opinion has been mobilised into action. Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, John Lyon must act, by ordering MP’s and Ministers to repay these unjustifiable allowances, whether or not they were within the rules. Meanwhile MP’s must start to demonstrate that they are ‘in one’ with the people of this country and not the self-serving hypocrites that their action suggest. Little wonder that the electorate is so disengaged from politics and the politicians.

Posted in Conservatives, General, Labour, Lib Dems | Comments (4)

How many Members of Parliament are fit for purpose?

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How many Members of Parliament are fit for purpose?


Much has been said about the dressing down Daniel Hannan have Gordon Brown. But, whilst it was an excellent speech and echoes what most of us are saying, there is a risk that we fail to take account of the paradigm shift that has taken place in British politics, hence the massive support for Hannan’s words. YouTube have registered well over 1 million views of the Daniel Hannan video.

I cannot recall ever having witnessed such a disconnect between politicians and the public. I am not just referring to Gordon Brown and his discredited government, but ALL members of parliament. Yes, Gordon Brown, first as Chancellor and then as Prime Minister, has shepherded us into the financial mess we are in by borrowing too much during the boom times and spending way too much on pet income redistribution projects, a cumbersome tax credit system and massive, as well as unnecessary, public sector capital projects. Were this not enough, he hammered private sector pension schemes, whilst failing to do anything about public sector pension schemes. Further, on his watch, we have witnessed an estimated £100bn of wasted taxpayers money through government incompetence and we have all had to accept a dramatic and unsustainable increase in the public sector payroll. Of course, he then goes on to deny any personal responsibility, so there can be little surprise that he is one of the most hated and despised men in this country.

However, this disconnect, at least in my personal view, goes much deeper than Gordon Brown. People no longer trust MP’s. Every few weeks we hear of another instance of MP’s using their expenses to supplement their income, because the rules allow them to do so, not because the expense is necessarily justified or warranted. Worst still, some of the worst offenders seem to be government ministers, those right at the top of the tree, meanwhile, the honourable members are reluctant to deal with this issue that is the cause of a great deal of public consternation and resentment. Opposition parties don’t make too much of a fuss, because it is a case of ‘there but for the grace of god…..’! Alistair Darling says that bankers must regain the trust of the public, but hold on just a minute, so do MP’s, but who is telling them? Clearly no-one is listening to public opinion.

Whilst I accept that the Labour Party has had a healthy majority for their 3 terms in office. How many times have we heard MP’s from the ‘other’ parties condemning this governments actions or challenging new, often draconian and repressive legislation? Not nearly often enough. Members of Parliament, particularly those in the opposition parties, have been reactive, not proactive. They have stood by whilst this government has all but destroyed everything we hold dear in terms of liberty, freedom and the fundamental right to privacy and be free from an overburdensome state. £16bn has been spent on databases this year and a further £105bn committed over the next 5 years. Everything our children do at school is monitored and recorded on ContactPoint a government database, then our children are profiled using ONSET, to determine whether or not they may be future offenders. All this information is held on their personal files. Our mobile phone calls, text messages, emails and internet browsing habits are monitored and recorded, our travel arrangements, who we travel with, when, how much we paid, where we went, with whom and so on is to be recorded and retained by the State. Our passports are to include biometrics, a way of getting around the discredited ID card system, our health records are to be recorded and retained on a database. Our every move is monitored by 4.2m cameras, in addition, many thousands of ANPR cameras record our number plates and can track us from one end of the country to another, new facial recognition software even allows them to name the driver. It is estimated that the Government has some 1100 databases holding some type of personal information on us. This cannot be justified, it is as if we are all in an open prison and fitted with an electronic tag, this is not a free democratic country, but an authoritarian, police state. Why were our MP’s not more vocal at the time, were they even aware that this legislation was being proposed, did they read or even debate the proposals. A cynic might suggest that MP’s actually like the idea of being able to monitor and control the electorate. 

Members of Parliament have, for the most part, lost the respect of the people and as I have said, this is not just Labour MP’s, although they would probably be in the upper tier. Our members of parliament are seen as out of touch with the people, they have quite clearly spent too much time at Westminster and not enough talking to real people. As a consequence, there appears to be a real and demonstrable disconnect between what MP’s say and how people feel. Labour MP’s rally around the party in fear of losing their seats, rather than acting as constituency MP’s and speaking for the people that have elected them. The number of times I have heard MP’s from all parties say “What people say….”, followed by the biggest load of crap I have ever listened to and, of course, I have never heard anyone say what they are claiming. Is it just me, or do other people feel the same I wonder?

By way of an example of how removed from reality MP’s are, lets take Ed Balls. He was long known as Gordon Brown’s right hand man at the Treasury, always on hand to defend Treasury policies and spout endless figures. Today he is the Minister for Children. But this week, he was quoted as saying that he would love to be the Chancellor and to lead the party someday. Is he for real? He was an integral part of the discredited financial regime that was micro-managed by Gordon Brown, does he truly believe that he will ever be allowed to get his hand on the UK Plc credit card? Out of touch, deluded, there are simply dozens of adjectives that could describe such a disconnect.

But lets ask ourselves honestly, before Daniel Hannan made his speech, how many of us could honestly say that we ‘connected’ or agreed with an MP, not many I suspect? Take David Cameron, his favourite expression is, “what we have been saying all along is….”, oh yes, when Mr Cameron, in the last few weeks maybe, but what have you been doing for the past 12 years? Nick Clegg, when was the last time he said anything interesting, in fact Vince Cable is, perhaps understandably, gaining much, much more airtime. I think part of the problem is we no longer have any, of what I would call, ‘conviction politicians’, instead they either follow the party line or respond to public opinion in a knee-jerk manner, rather than argue their case. The only time we hear an MP argue a case, is when they are having to defend their position, actions, expense claim or must offer up a pathetic excuse for their political party’s actions (or lack thereof). Our members of parliament do not and have not for some time, sounded like us, talked like us, acted like us or looked like us. We, the electorate, are simply seen as a means of getting them into parliament once every 5 years, once we have performed our task, we are thrown away in much the same way as a used condom would be discarded in the trash.

The bottom line is, that unless MP’s start to realise that there is a massive problem out here, then there will be civil unrest. They (the government and MP’s) may even appreciate that this is likely, given some 10,000 Tasers have been ordered and surveillance on the masses is being stepped up a gear. But rather than engage, it appears that most MP’s just want to control, berate, bully and force us to do as we are told. The police have been given unprecedented powers under the auspices of the “fight against terrorism” and the public must seek permission before they can demonstrate.

Looking at how badly our Government and members of parliament (of all parties) have let the people of this country down over the past decade, it is MP’s that are not fit for purpose, the Parliamentary system that is not fit for purpose and the state tool, the Police Service that is not fit for purpose. What we desperately need in this country is more independent MP’s who can and will keep any government in check. Yes I know that this may lead to a hung parliament, but then who cares? Because we can see what happens when a party gains a significant majority, they just become brazen, authoritarian and ego driven (I can, therefore I will). The only real argument for the current system, first past the post, is that is can provide a significant majority for one party, allowing them to offer a ‘reform agenda’, but look where that has got us with the New Labour reform agenda. Power went to their heads and we have seen our liberty, finances and futures destroyed in a few short years. Thank you Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, New Labour and you weak, good for nothing members of parliament that did not stand up and fight for the people of this country. The vast majority of MP’s are simply guilty of political and personal cowardice….not one of them should be allowed to stand again. Perhaps we should have a system whereby MP’s reach their sell by date after 5 years?

If the people of this country are to regain confidence in the political system, then candidates need to reflect society, the people they seek to represent, no longer should MP’s be selected almost entirely from political activists, union stewards/leaders, Oxford and Cambridge graduates and mates of existing MP’s or leaders. Nor should race, gender or religion play a part in the selection process, positive discrimination is as bad as discrimination. No longer should people, such as Mandelson, be elevated to the House of Lords, just so that they can become a ‘minister’, all ministers should be elected so that they are accountable to the people, the House of Lords is clearly answerable to no-one. Unless MP’s start to take the temperature of the public, listen and react, then I truly believe we will see massive unrest, civil disobedience and a further collapse in our democracy as the state attempts to resist the people by force.

It is, of course, quite possible to disagree with the outcomes I have suggested, but as I stated earlier in this post, when was the last time that an MP said something that you fully agreed with and appeared ‘in touch’ with the people. I suspect most of us will have to think very hard. If MP’s don’t do something about this massive distrust and disconnect, this country could become ungovernable, you only have to look back at history to understand that eventually, when the people fight back, the powers that be soon realise just how weak their positions are and their relative impotence. The masses can only be ruled by consent, not force and I believe we are all getting closer to removing that consent.

 

SPREAD THE WORD:

A Conservative MP is seeking a second reading for a new Bill, titled ‘Exercise of Reasonable Discretion’. If passed into law, this will allow every public servant, including MP, civil servants, local government officers, the police etc., a legal defence of ‘reasonable discretion’ in any civil or criminal case brought about as a consequence of their actions. All they would have to prove, is that they acted in good faith, this as anyone in the know will understand, is a catch-all defence.

In essence, it could allow MP’s to argue that they made certain decisions, such as going to war, based on advice where they were required to use reasonable discretion, officials entering into multi-million pound contracts which are subsequently cancelled or overrun, will also be able to claim that they exercised reasonable discretion. It is effectively a get out of jail free card for any public servant. Effectively removing accountability and increasing risk, because of course, if there is no effective punishment, there is no need to be careful. We should all shout as loud as we can to ensure that this type of legislation never sees the light of day.

Posted in Big Brother, Civil Liberties, Conservatives, General, Labour, Lib Dems | Comments (8)

Asset Protection Scheme IS a Blank Cheque

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Asset Protection Scheme IS a Blank Cheque


Whatever Gordon Brown may have said about the Asset Protection Scheme not being a blank cheque, he is either misguided or failing to be honest with the electorate, you decide. Whilst I was aware that  a proportion of the £325bn (RBS) of “toxic assets” insured by the UK taxpayer would be outside the UK, I had NOT expected it to be the “majority”. Furthermore, I had not considered the fact that we, the UK taxpayers, would also be liable for exchange rate risks.

Gordon Brown claimed that the banking bailout was not a “blank cheque”, that is utter rubbish, in my view the definition of a blank cheque is one where you don’t know what the final cost will be and there is no cap on your exposure. Could anyone disagree with that analogy? Yet here we are, insuring toxic assets, where our exposure is unknown, the vast majority of the “assets” are overseas and we must accept 90% of any losses as well as covering exchange rate issues at a time when Sterling is dropping like a stone against ALL major currencies.

Granted, when or if we have to stump up cash to cover these losses, no-one can accurately predict the exchange rates, but it would be a very brave man, with the state of our economy, that would envisage that Sterling will be stronger than it is now. Lets face it, this country has massive borrowings, lower tax income and it is expected to be the last of the G7 to come out of recession. That is hardly going to provide any confidence in Sterling, add to that, the fact that we are also printing money and the writing is on the wall for a weak Pound for some time to come.

Unlike the United States where the banking bailout had to be passed through both Houses of US Congress, in this country, Gordon Brown was able to commit money without such scrutiny. That is an incredible amount of power and it ought to have been used with care, but in my opinion, our Government has been reckless. Not only have they failed to complete a proper due diligence before investing our money into the banks, but they have now negotiated an appalling deal to insure toxic assets, much of which are overseas, at a rate of 90% of the loss plus cover for the exchange rate fluctuations. If this is the best our Government could do, then it is a very sad day for politics in general and this Government in particular. The opposition parties are not much better, because they have, through their relative silence, been complicit in the whole thing.

Fair enough, there must be no reward for failure, but conversely there must also be a price to pay for recklessness, a failure of duty and incompetence. We need to start with the bankers and then deal with the politicians, ministers and regulators that have failed in their duty to the public. We can regulate as much as we want, but unless those responsible are brought to book, lessons will not have been learnt and a clear message will go out that the only ‘price‘ that has to be paid is public humiliation. Tell that to our kids and their children who will have to pay the price for this wholesale failure.

Posted in Conservatives, General, Labour, Lib Dems | Comments (4)

The unpublished cost of the shorter working week

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The unpublished cost of the shorter working week


As the recession bites, there has been a great deal of publicity surrounding the fact that workers, in fear of losing their jobs, have accepted a shorter working week and/or a reduction in their wages. However, there appears to have been little or no coverage of the cost to the taxpayer associated with these reductions.

Gordon Brown is keen to tell us that there are 500,000 jobs in the UK, even though he will be only too aware that some 40% of these vacancies are for part-time work. My concern is, that a shorter working week or even a reduction in salaries may keep the unemployment figures lower, but there is almost certainly a cost associated with the reduction in income which is not being considered. This relates to income support and/or benefits.

As we all know, the Labour government has introduced a raft of income support benefits and various other allowances that are available to people that fall below a pre-determined threshold. It is, therefore, highly probable, that many of these workers that have had to make a financial sacrifice on their take home pay to remain in work, will now be eligible for some form of benefit payment or income support. It is not my intention to focus on whether or not they should be entitled to these benefits, but whether or not the government is being candid about the additional cost to the taxpayer. Because, whilst the workers will not be registered as unemployed and therefore in receipt of job seekers allowance and benefit payments, they will in fact, be entitled to a taxpayer funded subsidy.

I would argue that government should be completely open with the taxpayer. For example, they must distinguish between how many full-time jobs are available and the number of part-time. This would provide everyone with a number that reflects the true situation rather than introducing false hope. Similarly, when the number of unemployed is published, the government needs to be more open, for example, identifying how many are unemployed, how many are on a disability payments etc., but now, they must include how many people are on a shorter working week and therefore entitled to some form of benefits payment.

This would not change the situation, but it would, at the very least, provide the people of this country with a more accurate picture of the effects of shorter working weeks and/or salary sacrifices. That is to say, if employees opted to go to a 3 day week, rather than have the lottery of losing their job through a comparable reduction in the workforce of 40%, then this loss would not be accurately reflected in existing statistics. For example, if an employer with a 1,000 strong workforce reduced the working week from 5 to 3 days, many employees would be entitled to state benefits or support, but the published statistics would not reflect this. Whereas if they reduced the workforce by 40%, the statistics would pick up the fact that there was a further 400 people unemployed. I would hate to think that this government would be able to massage the true state of our employment situation in the same way as they do everything else!

I live in hope that an enterprising journalist or an MP will, respectively, use the freedom of information act, or a parliamentary question to find out the true state of affairs. Otherwise, we will all be lulled into a false sense of security believing that it is not as bad as it seems, whilst struggling to secure an interview. I hope, at the very least, Alistair Darling has considered this aspect before he presents his budget, otherwise he could find himself missing yet another target. Par for the course when it comes to this government, but increasingly unacceptable.

Posted in General, Labour | Comments (1)

Are bankers exempt from a fiduciary duty?

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Are bankers exempt from a fiduciary duty?


It is generally accepted that company directors have a fiduciary duty to their shareholders. The word itself comes originally from the Latin fides, meaning faith, and fiducia, trust. In other words, a fiduciary is someone who has undertaken to act for and on behalf of another in a particular matter in circumstances which give rise to a relationship of trust and confidence. As is the case of a company director.

If we assume that the directors of banks also have this fiduciary duty, why is it that they are being asked to resign, rather than being sacked? In addition to their fiduciary duty, directors must exercise a reasonable standard of care and act responsibly. Now, whilst there is some reasoned argument that the world economic situation compounded the problems our banks faced, it is ludicrous in the extreme to suggest that this is the sole reason for their demise and therefore, the need for vast amounts of taxpayers money to bail them out. With position comes responsibility, if the directors of our banks got it wrong, then they must pay the price. It is after all, they (collectively or otherwise), who made the decisions that ultimately lead to the failure of these once great institutions. Theoretically at least, if any director failed in their fiduciary duty, acted recklessly or without due care then, not only could they be sacked, but they could find themselves liable to a civil action. That notwithstanding, it is clear to me, that if ‘trust and confidence’ is an integral part of a fiduciary’s duty, then there has been a failure.

Government ministers have consistently talked about the fact that there must be “no reward for failure”, this pre-supposes that the bankers have failed,if this is the case, then by which yardstick? Is it in terms if their fiduciary duty, duty of care or that they have acted recklessly? If they have failed, then why were they allowed to leave voluntarily, with or without a compromise agreement? Why weren’t they sacked, why haven’t we heard ministers talk about suing directors that have failed? Could it be that those in public office also have a fiduciary duty and that they themselves could be subject to litigation? I don’t know the answers, I am no lawyer, but I say this, if there is no reward for failure, then there must be action against anyone that has failed in their duties. Not for revenge, but to prevent this happening again. In addition, if the government is correct in its assertion that certain bankers have failed, then surely, the right way to go is not to renege on the terms of any compromise agreement, but to sue the individual in their personal capacity. These individuals have either failed or they have not, ministers must be careful in making damning statements, yet failing to back them up with appropriate action.

I am not qualified legally or otherwise to determine whether or not any individual director has failed in their fiduciary duty. Therefore I am not suggesting anyone (bankers or otherwise) has acted improperly, I am relying only on the governments own words, that there should be no reward for failure, which implies that there has indeed been a failure. However, in the “court of public opinion” I would like to state for the record, that I believe there is merit, perhaps even a duty, for the government to seek legal advice on this matter, because they, as a majority shareholder in these banks, have their own fiduciary duty to the shareholders, you and me!

Posted in Conservatives, General, Labour, Lib Dems | Comments (4)

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