Saturday, 29 March 2014

Letter to Guardian:Executive pay and Co-determination

So Vince Cable has warned Britain`s biggest companies that employees might be given a "say over executive pay and perks" if they dont stop ignoring the law intended to improve transparency and to "link pay to performance", whilst at the same time, taking into account the "pay and conditions of the average employee". (Cable warns 30 biggest firms over executive payouts,26/03/14) Well, it`s not before time, especially as bosses are now earning "133 times more than the pay of their workforce", and that figure presumably has not figured in the minimum wages, or less, earned by cleaners and such-like who have been outsourced. As co-determination has worked well in Germany since the early 1950s in limiting levels of inequality, union representatives on companies` boards are long overdue in this country.
      Following the launch of the Fair Tax Mark, an award for businesses paying the correct amount of tax, a similar one could be initiated by a government targetting inequality. Provided a company paid at least a living wage to its lowest earners, including those outsourced, and did not pay oscenely high amounts or bonuses to those at the top, it could qualify, and include it in its advertising and publicity. Shareholders will undoubtedly object, as they already have to Cable`s threats; Sarah Wilson of Manifest might well complain that such issues are "more appropriately looked at by government", but if everyone washes their hands of the affair and denies having any responsibility for the appalling inequality in our society, things can only get worse! How disingenuous of her to justify the current situation of excessive pay by saying any change will threaten pension funds; there is no empirical evidence to suggest that obscene pay leads to improved performance, and plenty to say it adds to a country`s inequality, whilst doing next to nothing to drive the economy forward.

Letter to Observer:Labour`s need to be bold.

Your editorial rightly advises Miliband to "articulate a much-needed different direction for society", and "take his chance" in the election. (Osbornism holds sway. It needs a bold response,23/03/14) By offering weak challenges to the coalition`s shrinking of the state to 1948 levels, to its  unnecessary education reforms, and to its gradual destruction of the welfare state and privatisation of the NHS, Labour has left itself open to criticism from those who claim there is little to choose between the mainstream parties.
    Is it really a "bold response" when all the changes needed to transform society would meet with almost universal approval? There cannot be many who think obscene pay and bonuses, soaring house prices, tax avoidance and increasing inequality benefit the way we live. Fear of being accused of being "too chummy with the brothers" should not deter the proposal to give unions a greater say, especially as co-determination has worked so well in Germany since the early 1950s. Western leaders intent on change in modern times have all faced right-wing opposition, from political opponents and the media, and anyway what is the alternative? Having to arrange a coalition with the Lib Dems, and spend the next five years repealing laws which were only passed because of support from the duplicitous Clegg and his cronies?
     Policies can be radical without threatening revolution, and have the benefit of attracting support from the young and disenchanted. The TUC`s Fair Pay Fortnight could be followed by proposals relating to a Fair Pay Commission, a Fair Pay Mark and corporate tax concessions to eligible companies. Accepting the "austerity framework" should not mean reform is impossible; passing legislation often necessitates a thick skin more than bulging coffers. Just because the other parties drop principles willy-nilly, does not mean Miliband`s Labour should follow suit!

Friday, 28 March 2014

Springtime for the Tories

Last week`s budget begs the question, have the Tories reached their "Springtime for Hitler " moment? In the film, "The Producers", a musical was deliberately produced to be so appallingly bad, it would be a box-office flop, unpopular with almost everyone, but of course its awfulness proved  a huge hit with theatre-goers. The Tories seem to have realised that the more biased their proposals are, the more they ignore the poverty and inequality in our society, the more they reduce further the life chances of our young people, and instead pass legislation which benefits their supporters in the City, and probable voters in the election, the more the electorate appears to like it.The ComRes poll showing Labour`s lead declining, even after Osborne`s budget, and Cameron`s pledge to shrink the state back to 1948 levels, beggars belief. Not content with patronising ordinary people with the penny off a pint and bingo tax reduction, Osborne and co. then sent out the deeply insulting poster about giving the plebs what "they" want. Talk about a Marie Antoinette moment! Truth is they`re taking the mick, they have to be. Making tax avoiders smell the coffee? Oh please,  with more cuts at HMRC, 17% jobs going in its specialist personal tax division, I don`t think so.
     The more ridiculous Tory proposals get, the more support for them grows. Billions worth of more cuts to come, local government to collapse probably for lack of funding, more zero-hour contracts, more NHS sell-offs, more academies closed, the number of  food banks to double.The election`s as good as over, it really is "springtime" for the Tories!

Saturday, 22 March 2014

10 ways for Labour to reduce tax avoidance

10 simple things Labour could do about tax avoidance when in power
They will upset people, but if they are serious about ending the "industry" that is tax avoidance, they have to make an example of people.Within a year fuss will have died down, but they must be prepared to make a fuss. What could they do with the extra £35bn every year?
  1. Award no government contracts to any tax avoiding company
  2. Award no honours to anyone guilty of tax avoidance, or in charge of company avoiding correct amount of tax eg Banks` CEOs
  3. Insist on all honours returned from tax avoiders, including peerages, knighthoods,MBEs etc
  4. No tax avoiders to work for government eg MP, judge, or government owned companies eg BBC
  5. Sportspeople who avoid correct tax no longer eligible to play for Eng, Scot,Wales.N Ire, GB ie No Representation without Taxation!
  6. Have no representatives from financial institutions which advise on tax "efficiency" on Treasury committees, unlike government practice now
  7. Give full government backing to the recently launched Fair Tax Mark, awarded to companies which pay correct tax- can use it on logos, advertising etc. Introduce a Fair Pay Mark, to be awarded to companies which pay living  wage at bottom of scale, and sensible salaries, without bonuses, at top. Companies with this Mark can use it for their publicity, and pay 1% less corporation tax.
  8. Tax avoiding government employees to lose job, and have pension rights cancelled eg MPs,Judges etc
  9.  Make it illegal for financial institutions to advertise or advise on tax "efficiency"; tax avoidance to be made a criminal offence.
 10. Triple VAT on advertising. Companies found to have paid correct amount of corporation tax at end of financial year have the additional VAT refunded.
It is no use passing laws every year to fill up the loopholes, the tax crooks will find more. There has to be a culture change. By announcing these proposals now, no-one can complain they weren`t warned, and of course it gives everyone the chance to end their tax avoiding scams before Labour takes over.

Are Labour`s policies to blame, or is it just Balls?

Another week, another opportunity for Labour to increase its lead in the polls, without it actually having to do very much; a budget aimed at savers and elderly, and a Tory poster not merely patronising, but ridiculing, the working class, hand the Opposition another open goal. Yet the polls show little change, so shouldn`t the Labour hierarchy be worried?
      Proposed policies clearly are not sufficiently attractive to woo the disillusioned Labour voter, moving in ever increasing numbers, as recent research has shown, to Ukip, but as their election strategist, Douglas Alexander, said recently, the "best way to defeat Ukip is to be a better Labour party". Strange, then, that he also admitted he had set up a team "dedicated to exposing the gap between the rhetoric of Ukip and its record", in other words, "Farage limitation"! No, Douglas, you were right first time, a "better party", with policies aimed at reducing inequality, restoring equality of opportunity and  the welfare state, will win the election.
      The fact that Labour`s lead is not as large as expected hasn`t got anything to do with the politicians, has it? Miliband is, at last, beginning to show some passion in his speeches, Burnham does too,and some, and was excellent on a recent Question Time. There`s a reasonable female representation on the frontbenches, and all are extremely competent and astute, definitely vote-winners. deserving of senior positions in a Labour government. On the other hand, the shadow education secretary, sadly, is a mistake, a proverbial fish out of water, privately educated, with no knowledge of why state schools are better, no empathy with the teachers, and no inkling of the qualities of their pupils, their skills, humour and abilities, not to mention "character and resilience"! But whilst he won`t win the confidence of many teachers, Tristram is probably not holding Labour back in the polls, even though he is guilty of giving probably the worst politicians` answer to a question for a long while. When asked about the school destination of his children, his reply, "Never rule out what takes place", was obfuscation at its worst!
      So that leaves Mr Balls, rumoured to be far too close for comfort to the financial institutions of the City, which would explain why Labour has been so reticent over the Tobin tax and other measures to rein in City excess. He was, and has been before, physically too close to Osborne; being seen on television, cosying up to and joking with the man who has imposed poverty on, and caused stress to, millions of people in this country, is not the method most of us would employ as the best way of showing Labour as the party "different" from the others. He has also failed to convince the electorate that Labour`s spending in the last government did not cause the crash, and that, in fact, Brown`s policies probably prevented a bigger disaster. Does he have wide electoral appeal? Unfortunately, I fear not, as he does not come across well as a modern working father, not exactly sexist, but not strongly pro-feminist either; interviews have revealed very time consuming hobbies, piano playing and marathon running, which cannot allow any time for household chores and parental duties, and therefore, very little opportunity for his partner to enjoy her pastimes. Could such a thing have a bearing on the way people vote? Of course it does! 
     Does Ed Balls deserve to take the blame? His commitment to the cause cannot be doubted, but he could well be in the wrong job. Labour should not be pledging to continue the policies of austerity, especially with so much wealth in the country, and before they have seen the books; how can the Labour leadership expect to retain and win voters with a Tory agenda? The fundamental economic policy of Labour is wrong, and the wrong person is at its helm. With Reeves in post, and policy in a different direction, away from London, Labour`s lead in the polls can be substantially increased. J`accuse Monsieur Balls.!


Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Advice for the shadow chancellor

Some advice, as we approach the 2015 election, for the shadow chancellor.

         Stop paying £50000  to fund your policy researcher! That`s not far off twice the national average earnings, and hardly good value. As policies have amounted to restoring the 50% income tax rate for very high earners (rocket science?), restoring old ideas like 10p rates (scrapped by Brown in 2008) and a mansion tax (Lib Dem idea) it seems some "researchers" must be taking someone for a ride. Not even one or two progressive ideas? No increased rates for high earners of the £80-149k variety, nothing radical like a sliding scale of taxes going up to 60%, a level even tolerated by Thatcher?
         Stop cosying up to the duplicitous Osborne; we do not want to see you on television on the same sofa joking with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the man who has  enforced poverty on millions of people, mostly the least advantaged, and used the excuse that it was necessary because of the economic crisis caused by the spending of the last Labour government. Any association with Osborne makes a lie of Miliband`s claim that his party is different from the Tories. Do you want to lose even more votes to Ukip?
         On that subject, isn`t it time for some serious "Farage limitation" before the Euro elections? You`ll be forced into some pledges to win back lost voters if Ukip gains a landslide victory, so why not make some now, before voting for Farage becomes a habit too hard to break. Disillusioned Labour voters need to know you`re on their side, so some new ideas on how the wealthy should pay their share would be welcome, like the £80-149,000 brigade having an increase in their income tax.
        Don`t you and Miliband be so afraid of being branded as "socialists" by the Tories and their media friends; sadly, we know you`re not, but lots of Labour voters would like some support for things like the retention of nationalisation of the East Coast line, and even RBS, if the country`s ever going to have one decent bank to use.
       Housing is not a strong point either. Yes you`ve committed the next Labour government to building thousands of homes, but why is it you never mention social housing, and capping the private rents many have to pay to profiteering landlords. A tax on their unearned income would not go amiss; neither would an inspection authority to check on the suitability of overcrowded and damp homes currently being rented out at extortionate rates. 
        Be more specific on what you will do about tax avoidance. Why haven`t we heard you singing the praises of the Fair Tax Mark? Remember how FDR used the Blue Eagle to encourage responsible capitalism? He was always being accused by the right-wing press of being too radical, but at least he gave them some reasons to do so.Thought of increasing VAT hugely to advertise online if Google and the rest don`t pay taxes? Should financial companies be legally allowed to advise companies on tax "efficiency", and be paid with a percentage of the amount of tax avoided? Such advice should be deemed illegal, as it is clearly against the spirit of the law.
        Why haven`t you taken the New Deal example further and suggested a Fair Pay Mark too, for companies paying a living wage and restricting bosses` pay to levels which cannot be described as obscene. Even Cable thinks £1million is enough for anybody, so why not you? Do you think perhaps you`ve got a little too close to the financial institutions of the City for comfort? Why not offer a reduced rate of corporation tax for companies qualifying for a Fair Pay Mark?
       A bankers` bonus tax is a great idea, the higher the better, but please don`t use it to explain every expenditure proposal. Too easy for you to be ridiculed by the Tories, so other taxes needed as well. Go for a bank levy as well, and think how popular a Tobin (Robin Hood) Tax would be; they owe us trillions!
       Don`t believe businessmen and CEOs who claim they have to pay salaries and bonuses of lottery-win stature because of fear of "death spirals", and of losing the "best people" to rival companies and other countries; there is no evidence that this happens, call their bluff and let them leave their homes, family and social lives in London! As if they would!
      Stop allowing private schools to pretend to be charities as it`s a complete sham, and you know it. All private school fees should be subject to VAT, and it`s a disgrace neither you or your colleagues have the bottle to say so.
       Don`t allow yourselves to be bullied by the "Blairight-wing" factions; they`ve done the party enough damage . Remember the effects of Mandelson being "intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich"? Times and attitudes have changed, and the rich have a lot to answer for. When you or Miliband propose something radical, opinion polls show an increase in your support; the same happened when you raised the "cost-of-living" crisis, so keep up the pressure with the "cost-of inequality" crisis. We are reliably informed by the Equality Trust think-tank that the gap between rich and poor now costs the country £39bn annually.How ridiculous is this, and what is your answer? A wealth tax would be most people`s preference, to reduce the gap at a stroke, with the money earmarked for the poorer sections of society. Get the message across that it is better for the economy if the poor receive more, as they spend a greater proportion of what they have, and thereby create jobs, whereas the rich hoard or squirrel away theirs in tax havens. The poor pay tax!
     Do you agree with the 1% pay rise which in effect is another pay cut for public sector workers? You probably expect them to vote for you so shouldn`t you show them some support in return? Workers in state education and the NHS, social workers, carers, classroom assistants and the rest are generally doing a wonderful job, so its your duty as shadow chancellor, and upholder of Labour values, to praise and support them.
    Think of saving money? How many billions to be spent on outdated Trident? On HS2, should London take priority, aren`t transport improvements needed more urgently north of Birmingham?
  If you put fairness first, and remember the last Labour government didn`t cause the crash, but also that they were too close to the City, and failed to regulate sufficiently, you should be able to develop policies to win over some of the "suppering classes", and more importantly, most of the people! You won`t get many opportunities to be Chancellor so don`t waste it. As LBJ nearly said,"What the hell`s the point of being Chancellor of the Exchequer if it`s not to make a difference?"

Friday, 14 March 2014

Advice for Labour shadow education secretaries.

Having witnessed Tristram Hunt`s early efforts as Labour`s shadow education secretary, it`s probably time for a simple list of do`s and don`ts:

       If privately educated, don`t presume to know much about state education, especially if your knowledge is going to be based on government propaganda and the media`s version of everyday life in state schools; neither will be accurate.
       When asked about the school destination of your children, don`t obfuscate with answers like "never rule out what takes place"; you will be rightly ridiculed, and the assumption will be that you prefer private education, even though you aspire to take charge of all state schools.
       Don`t even think of supporting such a totally inappropriate idea for schools as Performance Related Pay; it will reveal ignorance of how children learn and achieve. For example, is the teacher who taught a sixth form A-level history group, which achieved ten A*s, necessarily the person who inspired their ambition or subject interest, or the teacher who improved their literacy and evaluation skills, or taught evidence analysis, or even the same teacher who taught them for GCSE and enabled the Advanced study to take place?
       Don`t add to the burden and stress of teaching, when Ofsted, league tables, examination results, parental pressure and internal inspections make a new system of re-licensing teachers totally unnecessary.
       Don`t think that the undoing of the current government`s education legislation will be unwelcome because it will mean yet more change; pick out the most damaging and pledge to repeal them at the earliest possible opportunity.

       As Labour spokesperson for education, show your commitment to social mobility by promoting all ideas which will enhance the life chances of all pupils and students, regardless of their gender, race or wealth. Consider re-instating both the EMA to help students from poor backgrounds afford staying on for A-levels, and the modular A-levels with AS exams, coursework, and resit opportunities. Remember your party`s belief in equality of opportunity.
      Insist that all state schools only employ qualified teachers, but you need to brush up on the reasons; teaching is not just about the transfer of knowledge, as many who support schools having unqualified experts or experienced people as teachers seem to think. The PGCE programme is excellent for giving would-be teachers insights into the ways children learn, the psychology and sociology of education, as well as classroom experience.
      Show support for teachers and their unions as they try to resist cuts in pay, increased pension contributions, and worsening conditions of service, even when they are forced to resort to industrial action. Have regular meetings with the leaders of the teaching unions.
        Appearances on media outlets, articles in newspapers and such-like are fine as long as on each occasion you take the opportunity to acknowledge the improvements in state school education that has taken place over the last twenty years, largely because of improved teaching and the hard work of enthusiastic teachers.
     Be firm in your support for Ofsted to inspect all free schools and academies, and consider whether it is appropriate, these days, for Ofsted to inspect only half of schools in the private sector. Bear in mind that some brilliant schools, with very challenging pupils, should not necessarily be placed in special measures if progress is not up to national averages; think of the damage caused when that happens, both to the self-esteem of hard-working teachers and of the pupils, proud of their school and their achievements. In order for there to be an average, someone has to achieve less than others, and that`s not necessarily anyone`s fault!
      Call a halt to the expansion of the free school programme and academisation of state schools, and reconsider the role of the local education authority.
    Stop implying that only students educated in private schools develop "character and resilience"; state schools produce fully-rounded characters, full of wit, compassion, kindness, determination, and ambition, fully able to analyse and evaluate, and to spot the duplicity of politicians. A Labour front-bencher going through picket-lines of strikers desperate for a living wage, will not go unnoticed. As for resilience, many state school pupils "bounce back" every day, whether the setbacks be family orientated, or to do with their school aspirations being affected by changes to examinations, excellent results being criticised by politicians, essential grants being removed, courses dropped through lack of funding, or universities preferring rich, privately educated applicants to them.
   Be prepared to take strong action; when for instance, schools in an academy chain are deemed failing, they should be returned to local authority control; when universities mis-use funding by over-paying vice-chancellors, they need regulation! When an academy, as one in Nottingham recently, states it does not recognise trade unions, return it to its local authority. Ensure the financial accounts of all academies are made public, to attempt to assure the taxpayers that no school under your watch is being run for profit!
   It`s all pretty obvious stuff, really, if your commitment is to support state schools and all who work in them.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Paxman wrong on war-weary youth

How typical of Paxman to make comments about "British generals struggling to fill a trench" because young people are "bubble-wrapped by a feckless culture", especially when he has a new book on, guess what, the history of World War One, to publicise. However,whilst it`s certainly not obsession with technology, it`s not the changing nature of warfare either that is the reason for the war-weariness of the country, and the youth in particular, as some commentators have suggested, but the lack of trust for politicians.      
     The undertaking to send our soldiers into unwinnable and unecessary wars, often for reasons which politicians have deliberately created to generate both jingoistic support and exaggerated fear of the so-called "enemy", allied to Britain`s position in world affairs as America`s poodle, at her beck and call to appease her rightwing bias and warmongering defence industry, go a long way to explain why the young are "war-shy". Politicians have been "economical with the truth" on so many occasions in recent years, young people cannot be blamed for disbelieving them when told war is necessary.
     Education at the start of the 20th century brainwashed gullible pupils into "being more ready to die" for their king and country, something Paxman chooses to ignore, possibly because most to blame were the history books, written to glorify Britain`s imperial and war-mongering past, by people who were not expert historians! The state education sector, today, produces young people more willing to challenge accepted and out-dated ideas, especially perhaps ones which hold that wars must be "just", because politicians say so. In his interviews Paxman often, if not usually, shows his utter incredulity with the explanations and excuses of duplicitous politicians; is he so arrogant as to believe young people are not capable of doing the same.

Labour and opinion polls

Why is it that Labour appears to be paying too much attention to results of some opinion polls, and not enough to others? Whenever Miliband makes a radical proposal, such as the intention to impose an energy price freeze, Labour`s poll ratings improve, but this doesn`t generate a glut of similar policies; yet other polls often dictate decisions.
  The rather misleading headline to a Guardian article today (12/03/14) on the latest opinion poll should not be of too much concern for Labour, as its message is based on a very badly worded question, and in fact, the Tories may not be "winning  the economy blame game",as the heading suggests,at all. ICM asked this question in their poll: 
Who or what was "most to blame for Britain`s recent economic difficulties and the ongoing cutbacks in government spending"? 
  The answer revealed twice as many blaming the last Labour government as the present coalition. 
  The problem is that question makes two enquiries, not one, and many, if not most, voters would want to reply with two different answers, with bankers` profligacy inevitably being prominent amongst them. If all recent polls have included such loaded questions, is it any wonder that Labour has consistently lagged behind in the "blame game"? But the problem is that Labour pays far too much attention to these negative ratings, when, perhaps, ignoring them would be the more sensible, and more electorally lucrative, thing to do. 
   Rather than devising economic policies which mirror those of the Tories in efforts to regain the supposedly lost trust of the electorate, Labour would do better to look closely at the questions being asked in opinion polls, and formulate policies instead which concentrate on fairness, and making the rich pay their appropriate share, something that is long overdue. Labour should not be worried by fears that the Tories would respond to higher taxes on the rich with taunts of "Red Ed" and such like, but look forward to boosts in poll ratings because of policies which most people regard as fair. A Labour government should have plenty of its own principles to put into practice, without having to resort to pandering to Tory propaganda, and to formulate policies based on answers to ambiguous questions in opinion polls.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Ofsted and Goves: Good news for state education?

Whilst delighted to see Ofsted intends to "use shorter, more efficient monitoring visits" rather than the longer, more stressful inspections currently practised, and pleased that the Goves are sending their child to a state school, I have to admit an element of scepticism surrounds this "good news".Ofsted claims that the reason for the change is the "greatly improved quality of state schools", so why haven`t they been trumpeting this from the rooftops, and challenging the negative perceptions held about state education by employers, many universities and government ministers? The real reason is clearly more to do with the forthcoming reports from "two right-leaning thinktanks", and Ofsted is getting its "retaliation in first"! Its national director of schools even professes that it is Ofsted rather than the hard work and dedication of teachers which "has made the difference to the quality of education in England", a claim which, I suspect, will receive little or no support in schools` staffrooms.
      Sadly, the explanation for the Goves` decision, in the Guardian, is not quite the endorsement for state education one would hope for from the wife of the Secretary of State, especially as her article appears to suggest that no school can be deemed worthy unless it teaches the location of Cumbria, and the chronological order of British monarchs; even the assertion that private schools have the "best teachers" cannot be resisted. However, Sarah Vine does, as John Harris says, "pay tribute to the comprehensive ideal", and let`s face it, state education needs all the good publicity it can get!  The choice may well be partly motivated by political ambition, as some more cynically disposed observers might think, but it sets a precedent for others to follow, and for that reason alone, it`s news worth celebrating.


Friday, 7 March 2014

Britain still follows failed business model

News that the pay of the chief executive of International Airlines Group "increased fivefold last year" despite it coinciding with "swingeing pay cuts for pilots and crew at Iberia", is not surprising, but does beg an important question: Why is it that a business model, which led almost single-handledly to the biggest financial crisis since the Wall Street Crash, is not only being allowed to continue with little or no regulation, but also is the one which is being foisted on previously untarnished corporations and institutions? 
       Banking`s reputation is deservedly at an all time low: profit at all costs the prime motive, scams devised to trick customers and rig interest and exchange rates, highest pay to those employed in the least socially valuable aspect of the business, with obscene bonuses and payment their reward, lowest pay possible to those responsible for the daily running of the company and scant regard paid to trade unions and workers` rights, increased "efficiency" equating to thousands of job cuts, and, of course, maximum effort utilised to ensure as little of the profit goes to the government in the form of taxation. Such  "irresponsible capitalism" may lead to many declarations by CEOs intent on transforming the culture, but "ethics" remain way behind profits in the pecking order, even lower than customer satisfaction. Indeed, one such practitioner of bad practice has been forced to admit, if its recent advertising campaign is evidence to judge it by, that its role as football league sponsor is more likely to win new customers rather than its damaged reputation as custodian of savings. Despite such practices of "predator capitalism", the public is constantly, and has been since the 2010 election, inundated with propaganda about "private" being superior to "public", and that this business model is the one to follow!
        Until relatively recently, there were publicly-run institutions in this country which engendered mass support. The opening ceremony of the Olympics revealed the huge admiration felt for the NHS, yet since then, constant efforts by the government and media to undermine our confidence in a state owned health service have led to tacit acceptance of top-down reforms and privatisation of key services.
       State education, whilst imperfect in many ways, was enjoying examination success, with  results in many schools even rivalling, sometimes surpassing, those of the private sector; universities were accessible to pupils from all levels of society, because the A-level examinations were structured, with coursework, modules and resit availability, all designed to maximise potential and opportunity.Yet changes came, not only with widespread assessment "reforms", but also with the organisation of schools mirroring "big business" of all things, with pay for the headteacher four or five times the level awarded for classroom expertise, union rights and pensions reduced, and the totally inappropriate Performance Related Pay mooted for state education. At university level, more of the failed banking business model; even in times of government enforced austerity, vice-chancellors receive massive boosts to pay, whilst their institutions` student intakes are falling, lecturers` rates frozen, and student fees trebled and soon to be "uncapped", to rise above the £9000 limit. Yet the people whose work ensures university life continues as normal, the cleaners,cooks and such-like, are exploited to such an extent, industrial action is often their only option.
      Even the BBC, once the world leader in television and radio programming, lauded for its outside broadcasts and universally acclaimed for its creativity, is now subjected to similar business methods, cost-cutting whilst simultaneously over-paying at the top, over-generous golden handshakes, muddled management structures, and largely unimaginative in its output.
     Yet all this is tolerated; standards fall whilst neo-criminal activities by the financial institutions go largely unpunished, and gradually the profit-at-all-costs brigade set the standard others in all walks of life are expected to follow. The results are inevitably increases in inequality, a decline in the quality of life for the average worker, and deterioration in welfare services, as tax avoidance increases, and still the business model continues to be followed!

Monday, 3 March 2014

Need for a left-leaning Labour party

 It`s a myth perpetuated by Blair that any move to the left would make Labour unelectable, as if Labour`s policies were the main reason for Tory dominance in the 1980s. What about the other factors, not least the leadership of Thatcher, and the very strong bias against Labour by Murdoch`s right-wing press? Yet it is still suggested, often by inference, that left-leaning policies now would cost Labour dear; this is evidence of a serious misreading of the current political situation.
     The surge in the opinion polls after Miliband`s proposed freeze of energy prices, plus the popularity of policies such as the retention of state ownership of the East Coast line, and the general disgust with the banking and financial institutions, indicate that Labour would benefit electorally with more left-wing proposals. Similarly, widespread popular support for a financial transaction tax, a general belief that the well-off have escaped austerity altogether, and antagonism to Goveism and the NHS reforms all point to an urgent need for Labour to be bolder.The popularity of Farage owes much to the perception that Labour and the Tories are too similar to each other for the voters` comfort, and such disillusionment is as strong with traditional Labour supporters as it is with Tory eurosceptics. Far better for Miliband to make some radical proposals now, than be forced into doing so after a Ukip landslide in the Euros.
 Blair conned a party, desperate for power, into believing "New Labour" was the way forward, but his personal ambition and duplicity have now been rumbled, and the effects of light regulation and being "relaxed" about obscene wealth-gathering are still being felt. Britain, the seventh richest country in the world, yet relying on foodbanks to feed the poor, and being 28th out of 34 in the equality league, is in dire need of transformation, and pledges to tinker will not satisfy an impatient  electorate.