Tag Archive | "tories"

Does Cameron understand his “patriotic duty”?

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Does Cameron understand his “patriotic duty”?

With the results of the latest polls ringing in his ears, has David Cameron finally realised that he cannot rely on Labour losing the next election, instead, he and his party must win it? The electorate are not going to give the Conservatives an easy ride simply because they are fed up with the failures, broken promises and incompetence of the current Government.

It is no use Cameron telling us that New Labour has failed…we can see that. Instead he must tell us what his party is going to do to resolve the problems we face and he must do it in such a way as to convince the electorate that he is sincere, and above all that his party has the knowledge, skills and experience to deliver on his promises. The polls would suggest that so far, he has failed to communicate that message. I have previously written on this subject, when I suggested nearly a year ago, that Cameron wasn’t trying to win an election, instead he was waiting for the Labour Party to lose it. That is a very high risk strategy and I believe he is only now starting to realise the affects of that miscalculation. This does call his judgement into question.

David Cameron likes to tell us that his party has diversity at its core with more women and ethnic minorities standing for election. Perhaps so, but what the electorate wants and what this country needs is experience, not window dressing. Granted, some of these candidates may have the knowledge and skills to make a real contribution, but that has nothing to do with their race or gender, so why does Cameron feel the need to concentrate on these factors? Is he hiding something from us?

When New Labour came to power, the public were ready for a change, New Labour offered fresh faces with new ideas…it was a slick marketing campaign. However, we have all paid the price for buying the polish and not the goods…yet Cameron appears to be trying to do the same thing all over again. I believe that is a mistake…and it may lead to another term in office for Labour or a hung parliament and few of us really want another 5 years of Gordon Brown.

David Cameron thinks it is his patriotic duty to win the next election. No…it is his patriotic duty to offer an alternative to what we have endured for the past 13 years….it is his patriotic duty to outline in detail what he will do to reverse or address the mistakes of our present Government…it is his patriotic duty to ensure that he has the skills within his party and frontline to be able to deliver on the promises he is making…it is his patriotic duty to ensure that our money is being spent wisely before he introduces higher taxes on a struggling taxpayer…it is his patriotic duty highlight the strengths of his party, rather than focusing just on the weaknesses of the incumbent…it is his patriotic duty to return power back to the people…it is his patriotic duty to listen to the electorate and act for the majority, not just focus in on minorities…it is his patriotic duty to fall on his sword if he or his party fails to deliver! I could go on and on. We need concrete proposals and policies against which he and his party can be measured…not 100’s of qualifications of “get out of jail free” cards.

At this time…the Conservative party looks like New Labour, with younger faces and blue overcoats. Why should we risk electing the Conservatives…with all their inexperience when they are simply serving the same old dish with a little garnish?

Get off the fence Cameron and tell us what you are going to do, how you are going to do it, who will be responsible for delivery and how long it will take. We need stakes in the ground!!! Do not tell us that you haven’t got “all the detail” to come up with such policies and plans, because we just don’t believe it…you can make (and publish) “assumptions” in the same way as any businessman would do. Perhaps this statement highlights the weakness of our electoral system…which allows people with little or no experience to run one of the largest ‘corporations’ in the world. One of the reasons that New Labour failed was because they had ideologies, but lacked the ability to effectively implement them and the experience to consider the consequences of their policies. Why should Cameron be different…convince the electorate of that question, and Cameron may have a chance to win the next election.

Posted in Conservatives, General, Labour, World | Comments (2)

David Cameron needs to up his game

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David Cameron needs to up his game

It is clear that David Cameron need to up his game. In an interview with Jeff Randall, he was unable to explain a £72 billion spending commitment contained in last year’s pre-Budget report. For a man who seeks to become the CEO of UK Plc, this is an appalling situation. £72 billion accounts for more than 10% of the budget and this implies either a lack of understanding by Cameron or an inability or even an unwillingness to get involved in the detail. To put this £72 billion into perspective, it is 20 times the losses reported by RBS, the bank that is 84% owned by the UK taxpayer.

For those that believe that Cameron need not have a grasp on this detail, it is worth noting this £72 billion of taxpayers money was listed simply as “other”. I suspect that most, if not all us would have investigated or queried such a massive sum of money described as “other”…which is the equivalent of miscellaneous!

I have to say that I was embarrassed for Cameron and the people of this country that the ‘heir apparent’, did not seem to have a grasp of the financial for this country. Little wonder that the people of this country are starting to have doubts about whether the Conservative Party has the depth and the skills to take this country forward. I virtually guarantee, that is Cameron had been the CEO of a large company and was unable to answer such a fundamental question, that he would have been quickly ousted.

Granted, Gordon Brown has completely screwed this country with his so called fiscal and monetary policies, but what hope do we have if Cameron cannot demonstrate a clear understanding of this country’s finances. A good leader, CEO of Prime Minister, would have a clear and detail knowledge of the finances of the organisation that he heads.

If Cameron wants the people of this country to entrust him with our futures, then he must demonstrate that he has the capacity, ability, the knowledge and the skills to take us forward. He cannot, as he has done so many times in the past, simply rely on the failures of the existing Government. We all know that New Labour have failed us…what we want to know is that he and his team have the answers. If Cameron cannot grasp the fundamentals of finance, then he does not deserve to lead this country.

Posted in Conservatives, General, Labour, World | Comments (5)

Discounted bank shares is cheap electioneering

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Discounted bank shares is cheap electioneering

I am not known for agreeing with the Labour Party very often. However, George Osborne’s suggestion that the people should be offered shares in a bank we already own, at a discounted price, is nothing other than a cynical gimmick. I would have hoped that the Conservative Party would rise above such silly electioneering.

The reality is, we already own these banks and therefore, the dividends or proceeds of a sale will already go back to the public purse, allowing us to reduce debt or invest. Why would we want to buy these shares at a “discount”, when as taxpayers we are already assured of receiving the full benefit when these shares are drip fed back into the market? Furthermore, why should any specific sections of the community receive special or additional discounts?

There are suggestions that young people, low-income families and parents saving for their children should receive extra discounts. Why? The banks were saved using taxpayer funds and debt. This proposal is not an equal or proportionate division of the proceeds of a sale of a publicly owned asset; it is just a cynical way of buying votes from one section of the community. In fact, this is a typical ‘Labour Party’ trick of attempting to redistribute wealth, in spite of the fact that the Labour experiment has proven to be an utter failure.

It could be argued that those on the lowest incomes and, for that matter, younger people, contributed the least towards the propping of the banks, so why should they receive shares at a more favourable rate? It simply does not stand up to scrutiny. I suggest that the Conservative Party get on with the real job of telling us what they will do if they get into power, rather than trying cheap tricks designed to garner support from a minority at the expense of the majority. We have had to put up with this type of positive discrimination for the past 13 years…enough now!

Posted in Conservatives, General, World | Comments (3)

George Osborne outlines spending priorities

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George Osborne outlines spending priorities

Not before time George Osborne has outlined what the spending priorities will be if the Conservatives win at the next election. Although in traditional Tory style, his comments lacked any detail, but there there was at least a clear statement of intent, one which I could subscribe to. He said that The Conservative party will prioritise spending cuts rather than tax rises to address the atrocious state of the public finances. George Osborne said “You don’t want to kill off the recovery with heavy tax rises that bring you back to square one.”

Osborne stated that health, schools, defence and international development would be protected from cuts in 2009/10, but beyond that, would only commit to real term increases in health and to match Labour’s commitment on overseas aid of 0.7% of GDP. These cuts are likely to amount to £5bn, not nearly enough, but it is a start. For me there are a number of positive aspect to this statement which I find encouraging.

A politician has finally understood that you cannot simply take the easy way out every time their is a funding gap and fleece the already hard-pressed taxpayer. The Conservatives have made a great play of all the stealth taxes we have had to endure over the past 11 years as well as the increased tax burden. To then add to it, whatever the economic circumstances, would be hypocritical, at least until they have exhausted all other options. There is a huge amount of waste and excess in the public sector and it needs to be brought under control. Personally I believe a saving of £5bn is small beer and this could be much higher, without necessarily impacting on front line services.

I am also encouraged that the Conservative’s are finally willing to open themselves up for Labour party attacks along the lines of “a vote for the Conservative Party will lead to public sector cuts”. Anyone with an ounce of commonsense will know that our current public sector investment is unsustainable, it would have been if there had been no economic downturn, so it sure as hell is now. Increasing taxes will mean there is less money in the economy and therefore it will take much longer to come out of this recession. The best fiscal stimulus in a natural one and that is by allowing people to keep more of the money they earn, not less.

Labour jibes that a vote for the Conservatives will lead to cuts in schools and health are designed to be emotive, but it is clear that the current spending is not sustainable in the short or medium term and, deep down, the electorate knows that. No matter what party is in government, real term cuts are inevitable.

The voters of this country are also shoppers and they know that when times are hard, they have to make their money stretch further, this means cuts in non-essentials, reducing debt and making every penny count. They know that if they are prepared to shop around, money can be saved without necessarily compromising quality, for example buying supermarkets own label products, frequenting discount stores, utlising the intenet to research prices etc. This is because most people do not have the luxury of boosting their income by simply helping themselves to someone else’s money, as is common with governments when they get their sums wrong. The taxpayer always has and I suspect always will be the easiest target for spendthrift governments such as New Labour.

I am also heartened that the Conservatives are prepared to take a position and then defend it. So far they have promised to fix our ‘broken society” and as we all know that is an intangible that they couldn’t be accurately measured on. But a commitment to cut wasteful and excessive public spending is tangible, we will be able to judge them on their deeds, not their words. In fact, the Conservative party, if true to their word, is at risk of becoming a party of conviction and in my view at least, that makes them more electable. I would like to see George Osborne and his team put more work into this commitment and identify some of the areas where they will make cuts….yes, I say cuts, because we will inevitably have to make cuts in real terms. They could make a start with the £20bn a year that the Labour party have committed to spend on new databases that achieve nothing other than infringe the civil liberties of the people of this country, then move on to complete a wholesale review of the unfunded public sector pension schemes which are crippling the public sector finances. For example, it was reported last week that 20p in every £ collected in Council Tax, goes directly towards paying local government pensions.

It is worth reminding ourselves that the vast majority of our taxes go to support or subsidise those less fortunate, therefore, £1 in tax does not mean £1 in benefit to the taxpayer, as all government’s past and present would us believe. And, to help those less fortunate than the majority (soon to become the minority), we need an army of civil servants, many of whom are now better paid than the private sector and have much better pension schemes.

My best guess is that for every £ paid in tax, the average taxpayer will receive no more than 20p in benefits, now that IS a number the Tax Payers Alliance should try and calculate. The bottom line is we, as taxpayers, must insist that we get value for money. If my estimate is right, then for every pound that is taken from us, we get only 20p of value, is there any justice in that. I think not, it is taking social responsibility too far and I suspect that if the true number was ever published, there would be a massive backlash from the taxpayer. 

This is only one solid policy statement offered by the Conservative party that I fully concur with, I hope that in the coming months, we will have more sensible, tangible and worthwhile policy commitments. You never know, they may actually become a party that is worthy of our vote, rather than one which wins the election as a consequence of the electorate voting against New Labour, rather than for the Conservatives.

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

David Cameron, man with a plan?

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David Cameron, man with a plan?

Yesterday, David Cameron, in his address at the conservative party conference told us that he was a man with a plan. The generally accepted definition of a ‘plan’ is ‘A scheme, program, or method worked out beforehand for the accomplishment of an objective’. Now, whilst I accept that he may have a plan, his speech was short on detail and therefore, he must either expect the electorate to take him at face value, or he intends to publish more detail in the future. If it is the former, then it is a very big ask, given few, if any politicians have earned the trust of the electorate. If the latter, then I would suggest that it be sooner, rather than later if he wants to be considered a heavyweight, rather than a lightweight.

It was clear that David Cameron wanted to come across as sincere, a man of depth, with honesty and sincerity at his core. Excellent values, but if I may be so bold? David Cameron adds little, when he simply repeats what we already know, that the economy is sliding towards a recession, the government has incurred significant debts and that the overall tax take is on a decline in line with the economic downturn. He tells us that we must fact a period of austerity and that he must make, indeed will make the tough decisions for the long term benefit of the country, “no matter how unpopular” that makes him. Really? Well I have got news for you mate, we have just had 11 years of tax rises and there is no point in the electorate voting in a Conservative government that is promising more of the same, No way sunshine, not in a million years.  

David Cameron may, albeit based on yesterday’s speech this is hardly guaranteed, win the next election simply because so many people are fed up with New Labour. But, if Cameron thinks he will be whisked into Downing Street on the back of tax rises, I think he is wrong. Okay, so he hasn’t said it in so many words, but isn’t that the point, we are all fed up with politicians talking in code, saying one thing and meaning another. However, if he tells us he is going to put up taxes, he would probably need to explain which one’s, by how much, when, and of course, why. So instead, we get coded threats about David Cameron being willing and ready to make the “tough decisions”. Sorry mate, that doesn’t make you clever, because we could all do that, even Labour. David Cameron doesn’t deserve to be elected on a principle of using higher taxes to prop up government finances, after all, surely a principled man like David Cameron wouldn’t approve if we all went and helped ourselves to more money from our employers pockets and lets face it, there is no difference.

With a bloated public sector employing one in five of the workforce, massive government waste on projects and initiatives that have gone nowhere, or are going nowhere, there is plenty of ‘fat’ that be cut before dipping into our pockets. Much as many of us want to get rid of New Labour, I would urge floating voters not to vote for David Cameron on a mandate, coded or otherwise, of higher taxes. This is because it really doesn’t take a very clever man to increase taxes, in fact, that is the easiest thing to do. Increasing taxes is what we would expect from a novice, a man of little experience and man short on ideas, ability, depth or lets face it, credibility. It takes a real man, or woman, to tackle the reason why so much of our money is needed in tax and that, is what we have come to expect from a conservative leader. There must be a war on government waste and excesses.

I believe Cameron is sincere, but I also believe his personal life is shielded from the real problems of the people in this country. He doesn’t have to struggle paying his mortgage, car payments or utility bills. Yet he meets a couple of people and think he knows what it all means. If I spend 10 minutes observing my car being serviced, does that mean I am a mechanic?

I have said, in the past, that anything is better than New Labour. But if I am honest, a new government, that still believes that they are entitled to increase their tax take from the British public, in spite of the hardship, before knowing how much they could save by cutting government excess and waste, doesn’t deserve our vote.

Think again Cameron….the LibDems have failed miserably for the past 3 or 4 elections because they thought the British public would agree to higher taxes. They were wrong and you are wrong. It is possible that the conservatives will get in because of the significant backlash against New Labour, however, if we know that the conservatives are going to put up taxes, we may just decide that it is better the devil we know and stick with experience.

I have always been a conservative, but I could not and will not bring myself to vote for any party that includes tax increases as part of its commitment, not least because this current administration has left enough fat within government to keep a butcher employed for 5 years without losing any of the meat. Think about it Mr Cameron, get rid of some of your Eton boys and get some real people in to advise you….before you cock it up!

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President David Cameron addresses conference

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President David Cameron addresses conference

Today, David Cameron provided what, for all intents and purposes, could be described as a ‘presidential’ address to conference, albeit the intention was to address the nation. Although this may described as political opportunism, he did, actually pull it off, at least insofar as to make it look as if the conservatives want to be an ally of the Labour government in this time of crisis, rather than an adversary.

What was interesting was, that Cameron came across as mature, thinking and determined, even though the content lacked real meat. However, he has promised to elaborate on this tomorrow. In his speach, he announced that he was going to drop his party’s minor objection to the current Banking Bill, in terms of who has the final say on the event that the Bank of England needs to intervene to save a bank, the BoE of the FSA, the conservatives originally favoured the former, whilst the Labour party the latter. He has also vowed to support the rapid introduction of further guarantees for savers money.

Finally, he suggested that he would support the government in its endeavours to address the complex issue of “marking to market”, a process whereby banks price daily their assets which, it is argued, is causing bank stocks to fall even further. The proposal is that this practice should be suspended. Quite how this would work, Cameron did not explain, therefore, we can assume that it will be challenging or perhaps, not even possible.

What is perhaps more important, is that the conservatives in general and David Cameron in particular, have, throughout this crisis, remained in the shadows, so to come out and make this type of statement is significant, if, perhaps underwhelming. Nonetheless, what was important was that Cameron emphasised that the conservative party was not a subsidiary of the CBI or the city, two areas where they are seen as possible lapdogs. One other very significant point, was that he made clear, that there must be a day of judgement for the bankers, not now, whilst all this turmoil is going on, but once the dust has settled.

Yesterday, I argued strongly, that the bankers and executives that have presided over this chaos and brought many very powerful, established and well-known companies to their knees, or worse and should be investigated. Further, this should be done quickly, in order that their assets can be frozen, less a small allowance, pending a criminal investigation, which could lead to the permanent sequestration of their assets. [Banking Crisis, a time for reflection and payback]

What I would like to see now, is David Cameron come out further on this issue, by providing a direct challenge to the Labour government to make a commitment, here and now on the issue of their ‘day of judgement’. If the government and other parties want the ongoing support of the public, they must agree to mount criminal investigations, into the actions of the bankers and city executives and they must not allow those same people the opportunity to salt away their assets through uneccessary or avoidable delays.

Well done David, timing was good, the tone was excellent, now you need to keep the pressure on and come up with tangible solutions, because of course, the offer of rapid passage of two acts through parliament is not going to fix things, more, much more needs to be done. Time to turn words into action and if necessary, show the government wanting if they fail to act quickly and decisively.

Posted in Conservatives, General, Labour | Comments (0)

Tory leadership crisis, David Cameron lost at sea

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Tory leadership crisis, David Cameron lost at sea

Okay, okay, so this statement would be typical of New Labour, an attention grabbing headline and little of real substance below the line. But I will try and make up for it!

For the past 6 or 8 weeks and more specifically in the last two weeks, this country has faced one of its greatest challenges in a generation or perhaps more. The present Government has been further weakened by internal feuds and the leader looks as if he is on another planet, in fact, when he speaks, it serves only to confirm this notion. In this turbulent period, the government has shown no leadership and provided and there has been little or no suggestion that they event know what is going on, least of all how to steer this country through the maze.

There is increasing evidence that the people of this country are far more politically savvy than a decade or so ago and they are being far more vocal and expressive about there feelings. With the ban on smoking in the pubs and clubs around this country and the reduction in the cost of broadband, more and more people are expressing their views online. The people are saying, get it together man, you have failed, us, redeem yourself, show us leadership, confidence, depth and honesty. The leader, Gordon Brown, and his cabinet have scurried around at a great rate of knots but achieved nothing.  

The government even resorted to their old tricks of ‘smoke and mirror’ soundbites with the promise of help for all, on energy saving measures. But when the announcement was unravelled, it turned out that the nearly every penny was being put up by the energy companies and even then, they clearly had not agreed, because the government was threatening legislation if the energy companies did not comply. Worse still, the government sought no assurance that we would not pay for these programmes through higher future bills and they put less into the overall initiative than they deducted off the Warm Front budget. Evidently this is a government in turmoil, a rudderless ship, but with no other captain on board.

So what better time for the leader of the opposition, David Cameron to ride to the rescue, to show himself and offer up creative, tangible solutions and ideas? But the amazing ‘invisible man’ is nowhere to be seen. Here was a prime opportunity to set politics aside and come up with proposals, new ideas and the people to drive these initiatives forward. Programmes that could offered all party support, a united front at a time of crisis, after all, this country is at war, albeit of a different type to the conventional description. A self-deprecating speech, accepting that whilst New Labour was the primary entity responsible for our current predicament, he felt that all members of parliament should share in that responsibility.

So, here was a perfect opportunity for David Cameron to demonstrate true leadership and maturity, by offering to assist the government in any way he could, by coming up with alternative ideas, initiatives, programmes and interventions. Rather than using the opportunity to kick a man whilst he was down, the British public just don’t like that, he could have offered a helping hand. Allowed, the British public to see that he wasn’t simply a silver spooned, old Etonian, but a person with substance, initiative, depth and commonsense. A person ready to help when needed, to unite under the flag and tackle the issues head on for the sake of the British public. The so called ‘leader’ of the opposition has shown no such skills, he has become the amazing invisible man and in doing so has demonstrated political cowardice, something that is unforgivable in the current climate.

He is so worried about dropping in the polls, that he has said virtually nothing, he is so scared of getting it wrong, he hides in the corner and he is so petrified of New Labour stealing his ideas, that he prefers to see this country suffer, rather than affect his poll results. This suggests a shallow man, one that lacks the maturity and gravitas to lead this country and above all, one that is driven by polls, rather than actions. Well, the latest polls indicate that his strategy is failing, he has fallen in the polls and the LibDems have picked up the slack and quite right to. Those guilty of political cowardice should not be rewarded. Perhaps we should all be grateful that we found out early enough to do something about it.

Cameron might argue that he is keeping his powder dry for the Conservative party conference, perhaps, but this is akin to a life saver watching a drowning man struggle, whilst he puts his swimming cap on, to ensure that his carefully crafted hairstyle does not get wet! History tells us, that in a crisis, it is often the most unlikely people that end up being our saviours, with those that talk to the talk, rarely proving that they can walk the walk. Because a guy is relatively young and talks posh, does not mean he will be a good leader or for that matter prime minister. In fact, most of our better leaders have not been oil painting, so pretty boy needs to think on!

David Cameron, you need to come out of hiding, show yourself, stand up and be counted. Whatever the polls say at the moment, when the time comes, we will either remember your political cowardice, or the other parties will remind us, so when you need the British public the most, they may just desert the coward. I have always considered the Conservative party to be something of a powerhouse, but now, all I see is a quivering wreck.

Posted in Conservatives, General | Comments (6)

Gordon Brown’s energy saving measures do not stack up

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Gordon Brown’s energy saving measures do not stack up

Yet again, Gordon Brown fails to grasp the nettle, coming up with a weak package of measures, that once again, lacks real detail and as always, with any money pledged by this government, it is more ‘jam tomorrow’. If Brown was running a business he would have been fired long ago.

This government claims that they have been “negotiating” with the big six energy companies, if that is the case, why are they having to threaten to legislate to ensure that the energy companies and energy producers cough up the £910m? That notwithstanding, Gordon Brown says “I do not expect the £910m that we raise to be passed on to the consumer by the energy companies“. Really? That sounds like a typical politician’s answer, the statement should have read, “The energy companies will not be permitted to pass on the £910m in the form of higher bills”.

So, let’s sum up, the government says that following negotiations, the energy companies will put up £910m over the next 3 years. But, this is not guaranteed, because the government, by their own admission, may have to legislate to force them and, there is no guarantee that we will not be faced with higher bills as a consequence of this investment. It is estimated that we are already paying an extra £35 per annum for existing energy saving measures employed by the big six. So there is a precedent for passing on the cost. Well done Gordon, great job.

The government have announced that the package is worth £1bn. Okay, lets get this straight shall we? The Warm Front programme has had £250m sliced off its grant, but the government now offer an extra £30m per year over the next 3 years as part of its measures to reduce those suffering from fuel poverty. On this basis, Gordon Brown has announced £910m that he hasn’t got agreement on and put back £90m of the £250m he removed from Warm Front. Where, exactly, is the big news here? Also, does the extra £90m the government are putting in, include the extra winter fuel payments referred to in the same announcement. As they invariably say, whenever Gordon makes an announcement, the devil is in the detail.

It is estimated that the energy companies received their own windfall of some £9bn in the form of free pollution permits under the European Emissions Trading Scheme. Was there no quid pro quo when this was gifted to the energy companies, who agreed this figure?

The government has indicated that they have no wish to legislate regarding energy prices because they believe that competition will result in lower prices. Really, where is the evidence that this is so? The energy companies may raise their prices at different times, but, for the most part, they have all increased their prices more or less in line with the other energy suppliers. This does not look like competition. But regulation is not just about price increases, it is about preventing companies that are in a dominant position, with a product that the consumer needs to buy, abusing their position.

If Ofgem were given the powers through legislation they could prevent the big six energy companies imposing a penal charge on consumers who do not or cannot pay by direct debit. It is estimated that there is a difference of £144 per year between those that pay by direct debit and those using a prepayment meter, of which there are estimated to be 5m. Ofgem claim that it costs £85 per year to run a prepayment meter with 5m in use, this sound extremely unlikely and who’s side are they on anyway? At best, this charge is excessive and undoubtedly, Ofgem demonstrate how gullible they are by accepting this claim at face value. Given some 50% of the people with prepayment meters are likely to be on fixed or low incomes, it is appalling that they should be further penalised by the energy companies, who claim to be helping many of the same people with social tariffs, it really smacks of duplicity.

It is also worth remembering that the European Trading Emissions Scheme is a tax, therefore the government are also profiting from people’s misery. They can tell us until they are blue in the face that they “care”, but whilst they are effectively taxing essential commodities such as heating and lighting they are acting like hypocrite’s. Furthermore, our caring energy companies spend a tiny fraction of their revenues on social tariffs, just £50m per annum.

The bottom line is the initiative put forward by Gordon Brown & co in a very sensible one, certainly preferable to subsidising the fuel bills of those in fuel poverty, year in and year out. However, it is, seriously underfunded and as in commonplace with this government, spread over a long period, which means that some people will have to wait two or three years before they can take advantage of the savings.

As is usual, the opposition parties are, for the most part, silent on this issue. Critical, but offering no tangible solutions. Predictably, Cameron’s conservative party says little of any value, instead of seeing it as an opportunity to demonstrate what they would have done. As I have said before, Cameron doesn’t want to win the election, he just wants Labour to lose it, as they surely will. But it does clearly indicate that Cameron lacks backbone, new ideas, or more likely, both. At least Vince Cable comes up with some suggestions.

The government needs to be far more bold in their approach. They already collect more in green taxes than they invest back in ‘green initiatives’, they should substantially increase the amount of money invested in these energy saving measures, offering to match the energy companies pound for pound. They must also go back to the energy companies and renegotiate the current “agreement”, which needs to be doubled to have any serious impact.

Ofgem should have their powers increased to allow them to cap prices and restrict the energy companies from imposing unreasonable charges such as direct debit penalty payments and high premiums on pre-payment meters. The government should provide an undertaking that a fixed percentage of the income generated in green taxes imposed on the energy companies should be set aside and used for energy efficiency measures. By all means priorotise the most needy, but the government should not exclude everyone else.

The government must introduce legislation which requires the energy companies (producers and suppliers) to invest a minimum amount in infrastructure (based on their turnover), in the same way that the water companies are required to invest in infrastructure. This will avoid a situation where the energy companies can blackmail the government into submission by threatening not to invest in new power stations and so on. The government should investigate the generous £9bn windfall the energy companies received in carbon credits and if it was incorrectly assessed, then the difference should be clawed back. The Competitions Commission must launch an enquiry into competition in the UK market and publish their findings, based on which, the government must legislate if necessary.

The government should not be persuaded to introduce a windfall tax, this is far too crude and serves only to punish. There are other, more subtle ways of dealing with these types of challenges, such as suspending the carbon credits, whilst the initial £9bn is investigated and introducing emergency measures to increase the powers of the regulator. If the energy companies were to face a suspension of the credits they have priced into their share prices, a risk of price caps through the offices’ of the regulator and a Competition Commission enquiry, they will see a fall in their share prices and nothing is guaranteed to make them sit up and listen, than a fall in shareholder value.

This government is happy to fleece, bully and bellow at the people in this country, exercising ever more draconian powers over the individual, yet when it comes to big business, they seem at best impotent and more likely, incompetent and complacent. Come on Gordon, get you act together and fast.

Posted in Conservatives, General, Labour, Lib Dems | Comments (1)

Fuel Poverty and the proposed government rebates

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Fuel Poverty and the proposed government rebates

Gordon Brown is right, the rumoured proposal that the government provide rebates or vouchers to those in ‘fuel poverty’ is simply not sustainable. With an estimated 4.5m homes in fuel poverty by the end of the year, this problem is of a scale that no government can realistically resolve without placing a massive burden on the public purse. Worst still, the problem will still be there in a year’s time, possibly even worse and those recipients will expect the government to step in again.

The government is right, investment needs to be placed into a long term solution, that both encourages and helps people use less energy. This is part education and part investment. It is estimated that home insulation and other energy saving measures can reduce energy bills by as much as a third. However, the government recently reduced the money available to Warm Front by a third, this does not provide much evidence that the government is practicising what it preaches. No doubt Gordon Brown will reverse this decision and then suggest that it is “new money”.

Whilst there are an estimated 4.5m people in fuel poverty, it is worth noting that everyone is suffering, irrespective of whether they have been labeled as such. Those that are not currently in fuel poverty are also having to contend with higher fuel bills, higher food bills and in some cases, higher mortgage costs. Many who are actually working have had to seek part-time jobs. If the government provides subsidies to those in fuel poverty, the truth is, everyone else will have to foot the bill, either through higher taxes or higher fuel bills. The government need to be creative rather than simply shifting the burden, not least because those that are in work have consistently, under this government, been expected to take up the slack and pay for those that are not prepared to look for part-time work.

The government should increase the amount of money available for energy saving measures such as insulation and low energy bulbs. They should persuade, rather than attempt to threaten, the existing energy companies to meet this additional investment on a pound for pound basis. It must be remembered that these energy companies will have to invest billions of pounds over the next 10 years to secure our energy resources for the next generation. They must stop talking about a windfall tax, but instead, use the carbon trading scheme to maximum affect to encourage the investment in UK based energy saving measures rather than those of third world countries.

There is no doubt that the energy companies have taken advantage of the current turmoil to increase their profits and therefore the dividend payments received by their shareholders. The government must provide the regulator with teeth, in order that the regulator can control and approve energy increases. If the regulator is not in place to keep a handle on such matters, then what is it there for? [Can Parliament control Energy Prices]

Another, perhaps more controversial solution, is to allow those in fuel poverty to seek part-time jobs. Yes, I am talking about lone parents, pensioners, the unemployed and the 2.5m in receipt of long term disability payments. There will be some that are genuinely not capable of work, even light work, but the vast majority could do something, stacking shelves, cleaning, washing cars etc. If those in work have to help themselves to keep their heads above water, then why not the unemployed, lone parents, pensioners and long term disabled? Many won’t because they have to declare the money they earn and so, for every pound they earn, they lose it in benefit. So in a way, their view is understandable, given it is a disincentive to help themselves.

Instead of just giving them another handout, which only encourages them to expect a bailout everytime they are in trouble, the government should give them a tax free allowance, that would allow them to earn, for example, up to £150 per month without having to pay tax or national insurance. Yes, we wouldn’t get any tax revenues from these earnings, but neither would the rest of us have to pay out a cash subsidy in full. Better still, it encourages them to stand on their own two feet, to stop looking at the state, or more accurately their working neighbours, friends and relations to subsidise their living expenses. There may be a special case for pensioners, but they, of course, do receive additional fuel allowances and many would work part-time if it were not for the complicated process of paperwork and tax they must endure at the hands of this bureaucracy obsessed government. Those in receipt of ‘tax credits’ could be provided with a special ‘work credit’ that would allow them, or their partner to earn a specified amount of money which would not be subject to tax or national insurance. This could be removed, if necessary, at a leter date as the economy improves.

Any allowances should be very carefully targeted at those that simply cannot help themselves, genuine cases, not the workshy. Those in receipt of benefits would have no excuse not to do what everyone else must do when things are tight, to go and get a part-time job, to help themselves. You reap what you sow.

A creative approache to government always has its critics, because there will always be those that believe it is wrong to expect people to help themselves, or it is just not the way things are done in the UK. Who cares, our greatest leaders have had original thought and a desire to deliver. But, desperate times require desperate measures. A government bereft of original thought, needs to be more radical, a government that believes throwing money rather than opportunity in the direction of the so called poor, needs to look at alternatives.

This government needs to look at its income much the same as the average family. In difficult times, the family will look at ways to economise, ways in which they can generate additional income and ways in which they can reduce or minimise the cost of their borrowings. Government needs to adopt a similar approach. There are countless examples of this government’s waste, excess and abuse of taxpayers money. They need to reign this in now. Government needs to look, not at borrowing their way out of this mess, or just dipping into the pockets of the hardworking taxpayers once again. They must be creative in their thinking, radical in their approach and understand that if it was not for the taxpayers of this country, the poor would be desolate, starving and homeless. But there is a limit to just how much you can redistribute wealth and most taxpayers have had enough.

The pound is low, which makes exports much cheaper, this government should have their best ‘salespeople’ lobbying leaders of other countries to buy our products, to improve our exports. It doesn’t matter whether it is the trade department or the ambassador, everyone should be put to work to help this country. Taxpayers funds, as the government has finally discovered, are not the bottomless pit they once believed. Be creative, be bold and stop worrying about your seats at the next election. This government must start to demonstrate respect, not contempt for the ‘have’s’ that have subsidised and supported the ‘have not’s’ and allowed you to spread our money around as if it were your own or an automatic entitlement. Above all, remember, there are 650 of you that have been entrusted with the future of this country, earn that trust by doing your jobs!

A good start would be to suspend or dramatically reduce our overseas aid budget. This could provide up to £5bn to invest in energy saving measures. Charity, as the saying goes, begins at home. This government ignores that at it’s peril.

Posted in General, Labour | Comments (9)

A UK recession and economic competence

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A UK recession and economic competence

For the past eleven years we have heard nothing else but, how Gordon Brown was going to put an end to “boom and bust”, how he was an iron chancellor, and how New Labour were beyond reproach in terms of economic competence. How does this correlate with a UK recession that, by all accounts, only those outside government could see coming?

How could so many British people be so naive as to believe that a government that increased taxes and borrowing during a period of significant growth and wealth creation could sustain this? Why did we allow a government to dupe us in terms of its true financial position, with the off-balance sheet PFI initiatives that leave us owing some £170bn, which must be paid off between now and 2032? Government pension deficits of £790bn and so on? All of this on top of the “official” debt figure of a tad under £500bn.

Gordon Brown and his government have been caught out in the lie that has become the legacy of their time in office. They have left this country vulnerable, with high taxes, high debt, long term financial commitment and, above all, lacking leadership. New Labour has become synonymous with spin and its ability to consistently dupe the public and manipulate the press. Inevitably, we will all have to pay for their incompetence. Tony Blair was a prime architect and whilst he may be basking in the fruits of his former position of PM, giving lectures and writing books, he shares responsibility with Gordon Brown. Alistair Darling is just cannot fodder, he knows it, we know it, he is just the fall guy for Gordon Brown.

True leaders show their ability it times of crisis, not the good times and as this government moves from crisis to crisis, relying on a sticking plaster to fix things, it is just going to get worse. True leaders know when their time is up and those with integrity and pride, will step aside and let someone else in. However, there are two large problems here, firstly, a new leader of the Labour Party will not make any difference, given they are clearly a spent force, who have substituted the so called Tory sleaze, with a programme of lies and inept ministers. The second problem is where do we go from here?

David Cameron’s conservative party has still not told us what it is they stand for, what their policies are and what they are about. Yes, Cameron has come up with some quaint new soundbites, such as a ‘broken society’, but so far, it is just rhetoric. This is not backed up by new ideas, proposals, policies or answers. So we still have no idea what they would do if they were in government, so why would the electorate entertain such a party? We could simply be going from the frying pan, into the fire. As for the LibDems, well do we know who they are? Clegg says some sensible things, but this is a party that a year or so ago proposed higher taxes, how many governments have been voted in with a promise of higher taxes? Vince Cable is very knowledgeable, but the party sidelined him, because they felt he was too old, so what does that say about them?

The future does not look so bright! There is no obvious choice, unless Cameron can start to convince us that his party has original ideas and, above all, people that are capable of delivering on them. The main parties have 550 or so MP’s between them, but how many of us could name more than 10 or 20? What does that say about the way the political party’s are run. Even if we can name them, how many would we trust, if any, to lead us through this mess and do we know what they stand for?

As we enter this uncertain time, perhaps it is also a period for reflection, we need to consider whether our political system is truly representative. For example, how many ordinary people have a realistic opportunity to get elected as an MP, if they are not already aligned with one of the principal parties? The Labour and the Conservative party select their candidates based on many things, which often includes, but is not limited to, race, gender and loyalty. Why shouldn’t they advertise to get the best candidate? Yes this is simplistic, but the best ideas often are, surely the electorate is entitled to the best man or woman for the job, not those that are already part of the ‘club’ that is party politics right now?

Over the past 11 years, we have witnessed an obsession with government control, from the 4.2m CCTV cameras, through to the right to detain for up to 42 days without charge. We have been told that we must have ID cards to help protect us from the threat of terrorism, yet the government are trying to include so much biometric data that it is difficult to comprehend the true justification. It is claimed that the UK government and its agencies have more access to our private details than virtually any other country including Russia and China. This obsession with state control is worrying in isolation, but when this is coupled with a dishonest government, self-obsessed ministers, weak members of parliament and a virtually non-existent alternative party, we must start to worry.

There is no sense in kidding ourselves that we have choice or that we live in a democracy, if our choice of ‘elected’ representative is limited to the whim of party leaders. This country was quick to criticise China for primarily limiting their choice to existing members of National Peoples Congress. What is the difference, surely it is only scale?

We need change in this country, we need to review our whole political system and above all, we need to look at the way much of the news media sets the agenda. British Politics expands on this argument.

Posted in Conservatives, General, Labour, Lib Dems | Comments (12)

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