Friday, 17 November 2017

Toryism a spent force

As Simon Heffer states, "May was in serious trouble " before the "Weinstein-on-Thames scandal" managed to rock the sinking Tory ship (From hubris to nemesis,10th November, 2017). What he doesn`t appear to grasp, however, is that, regardless of who is at the helm, the rocks are beckoning this particular vessel. Heffer pins his hopes on a cabinet reshuffle bringing in "gifted people", and obviously, a new leader filling the void created by "the utter absence of May`s authority", but significantly, no names of potential leaders are put forward. At least two of those mentioned for cabinet office would be electoral gifts to Labour.
 Heffer clearly fails to understand that ideologically, British Toryism is a spent force. He shows this most obviously when suggesting a "sensible and popular" budget would reverse Osborne`s stamp duty reforms. No doubt it would please the very rich, able to buy £1 million pound properties, but it would do nothing to help people on average earnings get on to the housing ladder, and away from the grip of Rachman-like landlords. Massive investment is needed, fairness applied to the income tax bands, tax avoidance prevented (Heffer`s silence on the Paradise Papers was deafening!), welfare and education services properly funded, landlords regulated, energy and transport provision reformed, and Brexit delayed. Crises are abundant, and the Tory party, "rudderless" or not, is disinclined to solve any of them!

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Paradise Papers: immediate action needed

John McDonnell is right to say that the Queen should "open up her full financial records" in the wake of the Paradise Papers scandal (John McDonnell calls on Queen to release financial records amid Paradise papers leak, 11/11/17). The revelation that the Duchy of Lancaster invested millions of the Queen`s money in a Cayman Islands` offshore portfolio which "are not set out in the royal household`s annual statements" begs obvious questions about the quality of advice being currently given.
 What the Papers also revealed  were details about how the British government had been influenced by offshore lobbyists in the lead up to the 2013 G8 summit, whose themes were tax evasion and transparency. Whilst neither May or Hammond will do anything about this, parliamentary committees could and should. Labour MPs should be demanding answers regarding what in the Papers was called "superb penetration of UK policymakers" by lobbyists on behalf of the International Financial Centres Forum (IFC) which represents offshore law firms. It`s little wonder the G8 measures on evasion and transparency in 2013 were so ineffective. Shouldn`t the Public Accounts Committee be demanding to question Shona Riach, the senior Treasury official, who had a "crucial meeting", according to the Papers, with IFC representatives two days before the summit? Similar questions must be asked of David Gauke, the then exchequer secretary to the Treasury, who also had meetings with IFC prior to the summit.

 It`s clearly not only the Queen who has been embarrassed by the leaks, but the sad fact is that serial tax avoiders, like Tory donor Lord Ashcroft, and racing driver tipped for knighthood, Lewis Hamilton, reveal no shame when named! The little embarrassment caused to the super-rich by the Papers show laws must be changed.

21st century Poor Law

Remember how the Tories and their allies in the media thought they were on to a winner when Labour`s nationalisation and tax policies led them to claim gleefully that Corbyn was taking the country back to the 1970s? The popularity of the policies clearly took them by surprise, but the results of their disingenuity are now coming home to roost. With disgraceful poverty figures, real wages declining, and the government`s refusal to "remedy the debt trap of Universal Credit" making matters worse, it is quite obvious where May`s administration is taking the country, and it`s certainly not forward! In fact, there are valid comparisons with Britain around 180 years ago!
  The Tories have been treating the poor as criminals since 2010, and the similarities between now and the way the less fortunate were treated as far back as the 19th century are obvious. After the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834, the workhouse test insisted those wanting help could only find it with "indoor relief", in the workhouses, where conditions were to be worse than those endured by the lowest paid workers. Now we have a disgraceful 21st century "welfare test", with  a similar principle of less eligibility; delayed and reduced payments of universal credit aiming to serve the same purpose as a workhouse, starving  people into accepting low paid work, paid by exploitative employers. 
    Pressure on the government to pause universal credit`s introduction must be maintained, despite the distractions caused by Brexit problems, tax avoidance and sexual misconduct. The country cannot wait for another 4+ years  until a general election is called. In fact, Labour must take every opportunity to force votes in parliament, and demand an election as soon as the government is defeated; there is far too much blood on this government`s hands already!

Brexit is our history`s legacy

For Simon Jenkins to state that "we should not be remembering but forgetting", and that "memory sustains ongoing disputes", is absurd (Too much remembering causes wars. It`s time to forget the 20th century, 09/11/17). Admittedly, Remembrance Day has become something of a "synthetic festival", and many schools`history syllabuses are skewed towards Hitler, but that simply means, as ever, our history is being manipulated by governments and their agents. An accurate and balanced view of the past, in all nations, would encourage co-operation, whilst discouraging nationalism, and promote fairness rather than bigotry.
   Take British history: the manipulated version of our history exaggerates differences with our neighbours, and suggests the existence, as Martin Kettle recently wrote, of a "tradition of exceptionalism", but there was nothing "exceptional" about our trading in slaves, seizing and looting colonies whilst committing the most awful of atrocities, entering wars unnecessarily, and exploiting workers (Protestantism is on the wane, yet the Reformation sowed the seeds of Brexit, 27/10/17). Britain behaved as barbarically as all the other imperial powers. That same history not only painted an inaccurate picture of World War II, with "Britain alone" defeating the nazis, and enjoying a "glorious" post-war aftermath when European ties and immigrants were not needed, it simultaneously bred arrogance.
      Whilst a country like Germany is prepared to face up to its past, acknowledging that people need to be told the truth about their history, and learn lessons from it, Britain continues to hide millions of historical files away from the prying eyes of historians, unable to deal with unpleasant truths about our nation. Luther didn`t "nail delusions of greatness into the English soul", our distorted history did, and Brexit is its true legacy!
  There is no need to "find closure on the 20th century", but the "remembering" must be of the truth!

Friday, 10 November 2017

New Statesman`s article on Johnson too lenient

Writing an article criticising the career of Boris Johnson must be like what Americans call a "turkey shoot", and Martin Fletcher`s article certainly made a decent fist of it (The way of the chancer, 3rd November, 2017). Asking the question "Who seriously believes that Johnson gets up each morning and asks himself, How can I improve the lot of the ordinary people?" was however, given the Tories` recent record of callous austerity, and May`s abject failure to put her "just about managing rhetoric" into practice, a little unnecessary; could Fletcher name anyone from the current Tory crop who does?
          On the other hand, the knife could have been plunged a little deeper. "Adding £250,000 to his official salary of £140,000" as mayor for a weekly Telegraph column was surprisingly not accompanied by mention of how Johnson described it - as "chickenfeed"- at a time when Conservatives were trying to show themselves in touch with the people, and oust Labour.
      Fletcher mentioned Johnson`s book about Churchill, but not how it was reviewed: the Telegraph described it as a "mixture of Monty Python and the Horrible Histories", whilst another said it bore as much resemblance "to a history book as a Doctor Who episode". No mention, either, of his efforts at fiction, as if his "history" books didn`t include enough; 2004 saw the publication of Johnson`s "Seventy Two Virgins", "not quite a novel" according to the Observer ( Drats. MP falls foul of facts, 03/10/04), with the author a "heroic failure as a novelist". An unsurprising verdict, with prose like  "a suicide bomber`s head would fly off as though drop-kicked by Jonny Wilkinson"!
 Despite the omissions, an enjoyable read about a "thoroughly untrustworthy charlatan". Speaking of which, can we have more please? Next, how George Osborne tricked the nation into believing austerity was imperative, followed by one on Gove`s totally unnecessary education reforms.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

One solution to BBC`s gender pay gap problem

As no-one in their right mind can possibly think co-presenting a radio programme on the publicly-owned BBC for three mornings a week to be worth anything like £600,000 a year, there is an obvious, if still over-generous, solution (Montague in talks with BBC over job swap at Radio 4, 02/11/17). A start to solving the "gender pay gap row at the corporation" can be achieved by offering all of the Today programme`s presenters a new £200,000 a year contract. Those who refuse to tear up their old ones need to be asked to justify their action, live on air, and preferably by Ms Montague!
 With one of the key roles of the programme`s presenters being to challenge policies, it is absurd in the current climate, and with the present government imposing a pay freeze on all other public sector workers, to have the work done by people earning well over twenty-four times the national average.

Monday, 6 November 2017

Since when has experience been necessary?

Mary Dejevsky`s support for the appointment of Gavin Williamson as Fallon`s replacement as Defence Secretary is valid in many ways, certainly in view of the unlikelihood that he will have "the sort of skeletons in his closet that cost Sir Michael his job" (The real reason Theresa May had to appoint Gavin Williamson, 02/11/17). Even if he has, few MPs will run the risk of exposing them. Strangely, Dejevsky omitted to question whether Fallon`s sexual misbehaviour should disqualify him from holding a knighthood as well as a post in the Cabinet.
   She does, however, suggest that May is unlikely to be worried by Williamson`s inexperience making him unsuitable "to fill one of the great offices of state". When have inexperience and unsuitability ever precluded Tory MPs from holding office? Doesn`t the fact that most of the recent Cabinet members have been millionaires, totally out of touch with the people of this country, privately educated with a skewed view of history, and with little concern for the wellbeing of the least fortunate, make them all unsuitable and lacking the necessary experience to govern us? Even Chancellors of the exchequer don`t need to have economics degrees as Osborne showed us!
    Even where Dejevsky sees some suitability, as with Davis taking over Defence because of his time with the SAS, or Rory Stewart`s job at the Dept for International Development making him a likely Foreign Secretary, there is massive cause for concern. Ex-army people in charge of Defence? Really? Stewart recently maintained that all returning jihadists should be killed, a view which is so contrary to the rule of law it should ensure his political future is over. 
  For once, May has made a sensible decision. Her next should be to ban all Tory MPs from drinking in the vast number of subsidised Westminster bars, and threaten to hand over to the media all MPs` monthly bar accounts.