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The ravings of an individual, UK voter frustrated with our politicians

Archive for February 2009

RBS Pension scandal or attempt to divert attention

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Perhaps it is the cynical side of me, but, I can’t help wondering whether the release of Sir Fred Goodwin’s pension entitlement is a bit too convenient. Bear with me if you will.

Sir Fred has complained that his pension arrangements have been made public. Now lets face it, given the scale of the losses at RBS, it is not inconceivable that this particular obligation could have been ‘lost’ in the malaise, but it wasn’t. Why is that? At time of public anger over bankers, a nice juicy pension to a former banker was bound to get the blood pressure rising, with the masses venting their anger at the recipient. Yes, yes, the government must have known about it, but they have got away with other issues in relation to due diligence, so why not this. Added to which, the government will have known that the public, for the most part, would target the recipient not them. Then there is media commentators, the vast majority of whom have fallen for it, stating that the if the government did know and released the details then, it must have been an own goal. But was it?

Take a look at the headlines and you can get a feel for what has captured the public imagination. Not the fact that RBS is about to receive another £13bn of taxpayers money (on top of £20bn last year);  not the fact that a bank that is 70% owned by the tax payer has just announced losses of £24bn, 70% of which is ours; not the fact that we, the taxpayer, are about to underwrite £325bn of ‘toxic assets’ in return for a premium of just £6.5bn; and not the fact that our ownership of this company is now likely to rise to 84% in economic terms, if not voting shares (75%).

You would expect something of this magnitude to lead the news stories, but is has not, instead, in a classic New Labour ‘smoke & mirrors’ game designed to dupe the public, our attention is turned to Sir Fred Goodwin and his obscene pension. The bailout of the banks, the underwriting of inter-bank loans and the public guarantees on toxic assets have all but bankrupted this country and here we are kicking up a big fuss about Sir Fred’s pension arrangements. Instead of Gordon Brown having to defend the fact that he has just spent way in excess of our expected tax receipts for this year, he could go on television and say that the government were considering legal action to challenge Sir Fred’s pension entitlement, in other words, he (Gordon Brown) could appear to be in tune with the public mood.

Please people, stop falling for these classic New Labour, cynical moves to wrongfoot the public, they are laughing at us and in a way, we deserve it. As for the political commentators that have fallen for this trick, they should hang there heads in shame. Before anyone accuses me of supporting Sir Fred’s pension arrangements, I will state for the record that I firmly do not, I just believe that this government has used the pension to divert our attention and boy, has it worked!

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Written by British Politics

27 February, 2009 at 3:59 pm

Is government the servant or master?

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Gordon Brown says that banks should be the “servants of the economy and society and never its master“. What a pity he does not apply that same logic to government, because lets face it, that was supposed to be how things were. Instead, we have had nearly 12 years of a government that has lectured, cajoled, bullied and mislead its people.

This government has made promises to the people that is has not delivered on, then, quietly shelved the initiative without telling us. This government in general and Gordon Brown in particular has consistently failed to deliver on its financial targets. Whether we are referring to the economy, or something like child poverty. Rather than admit that they have failed, they simply re-write the rule book, no apology, no explanation, just carry on as if nothing has happened.  Just take a look at UK Plc’s debt mountain to see how government has manipulated the figures, with countless examples of ‘off-balance sheet’ accounting. PFI, public sector pensions etc.

When it comes to our civil liberties and right to privacy, this government has driven a coach and horses through everything that our forefathers fought for and we valued, all in the name of protecting us against the threat of terrorists. This, in spite of the fact that this country faced 30 years of terrorism from the IRA, without the need for draconian legislation. Now, as a result of this government believing that it knows best, or to put it another way, government is the master, not the servant, we can do little without being tracked by faceless government officials.

We have 4.2m CCTV cameras watching our every move, ANPR cameras tracking individual movements of cars and if you have an Oyster card, your movements will be recorded and retained. The details of every call, text message and email will be recorded and retained for use by government officials. As will your internet browsing habits. If you go on holiday, the government will now record where you went, for how long, how you paid and where you were seated. If you have young children, our government will record every detail of their educational needs, welfare, carers, psychological well-being and education results. This government wants to record the DNA of of every individual in the country that is questioned by the police, irrespective of whether they are subsequently charged, they then want to retain that information, even if the individual is acquitted.

This government wants to introduce ID cards, even though most people don’t want them. They want to use biometrics and even include a chip that could potentially record the movement of every citizen with a card. This government has allowed 780 individual government agencies and/or private companies access to our most private information, with little or no oversight. There are now 250 agencies that can legally break into our homes. This is a government that believes that it is the master and not the servant of the people.

Like it or not, this Labour government, with the tacit approval of any MP who failed to speak for the people, has run roughshod over the people of this country. Even now, no major party will speak up for the people, yes, they may make the odd comment, but they do nothing about it. None of the major parties have included in their policy an agreement to review and if necessary, repeal legislation that has wrecked our liberty and right to privacy. It is high time the people of this country said that enough was enough, members of parliament are supposed to serve the public, government is the servant, not the master and we demand the return of our liberty and our right to be free from an overbearing, know it all state.

Gordon Brown on Civil Liberties

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Whilst browsing the No.10 website, I came across a transcript of a speech given by Gordon Brown on the 25th October 2007 at the University of Westminster. I make no apologies for being selective in what I have reproduced because they are his words, not mine. Readers are then free to decide which, if any, of these commitments he has delivered on, or reneged on in light of recent announcements and laws on the subject of liberty, freedom and privacy. Over to Gordon Brown, the unelected prime minister of Great Britain…

I believe that together we can chart a better way forward. In particular, I believe that by applying our enduring ideals to new challenges we can start immediately to make changes in our constitution and laws to safeguard and extend the liberties of our citizens

To include:

respecting and extending freedom of assembly, new rights for the public expression of dissent

respecting privacy in the home, new rights against arbitrary intrusion

in a world of new technology, new rights to protect your private information

“…crucible of great events, have, in my view, forged over time a distinctly British interpretation of liberty —— one that asserts the importance of freedom from prejudice, of rights to privacy, and of limits to the scope of arbitrary state power, but one that also rejects the selfishness of extreme libertarianism and demands that the realm of individual freedom encompasses not just some but all of us

So instead of invoking the unique nature of the threats we face today as a reason for relinquishing our historical attachment to British liberty, we meet these tests not by abandoning principles of liberty but by giving them new life

To claim that we should ignore the claims of liberty when faced with the needs of security would be to embark down an authoritarian path that I believe would be unacceptable to the British people.”

In my view, the key to making these hard choices in a way that is compatible with our traditions of liberty is to, at all times, apply the liberty test, respecting fundamental rights and freedoms, and wherever action is needed by government, it never subjects the citizen to arbitrary treatment, is transparent and proportionate in its measures and at all times also requires proper scrutiny by, and accountability to, Parliament and the people.”

First, it is the British way to stand up for freedom of assembly, speech and press.”

Wherever and whenever there are question marks over the ability to express dissent I believe that the balance should be with those taking action to defend and extend the liberty of individuals and their freedoms to express their views within the law.”

“…there is a case for applying our enduring ideas of liberty to ensure that the laws governing the press in this country fully respect freedom of speech.”

When anything is provided without cost, it does risk being open to abuse. However the Government does not believe that more restrictive rules on cost limits of FoI requests are the way forward.”

The advancement of individual liberty depends upon the protection from arbitrary interference of the person and private property and, above all, the home. ”

I share the concerns about the need for additional protections for the liberties and rights of the citizen.”

And this is how he ended his address;

The challenge for each generation is to conduct an open debate without ever losing sight of the value of our liberties.  Indeed the character of our country will be defined by how we write the next chapter of British liberty – by whether we do so responsibly and in a way that respects and builds on our traditions, and progressively adds to and enlarges rather then reduces the sphere of freedom.

And as we make these decisions, we must never forget that the state and the people are not equivalent. The state is always the servant of the people. We must remember that liberty belongs to the people and not governments.

It is the challenge and the opportunity for our generation to write the next chapter of British liberty in a way that honours the progress of the past – and promises a wider and more secure freedom to our children.”

I can’t help wondering if the man that is running our country, is the same one that spouted these words, because to me at least, they seem incompatible with each other. You can make up your own mind!

Ed Balls recession comments, a slip or planned?

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It is difficult to believe that the comments attributed to Ed Balls, “I think that this is a financial crisis more extreme and more serious than that of the 1930s and we all remember how the politics of that era were shaped by the economy”, was a mistake. Ed Balls is one of Gordon Brown’s closest confidantes and credited with some of the secret briefings to journalists during Tony Blair’s tenure as PM.

As a former key Treasury adviser to Gordon Brown when he was Chancellor, he would have known that his comments would be widely publicised and as an experienced politician, I cannot believe that this was anything other than deliberate. The Governor of the Bank of England has indicated that the economy could shrink by up to 6% this year, unemployment is at 2m, forecasters suggest that this will rise to 3m this year, Sterling is under pressure against all currencies, the expected rise in exports has not materialised…the list goes on.

Now Gordon Brown, having pounded David Cameron for talking down the UK economy and not being one to admit that he is wrong, would hardly have made the announcement himself. So, is it conceivable that Ed Balls was just Gordon Brown’s mouthpiece? After all, it is not like this would be the first time is it?

New Labour has always leaked bad news, they don’t make announcements and what better way than to have a cabinet minister and former Treasury adviser to let this ‘slip’ whilst addressing the party faithful in Yorkshire. Call me a cynic if you will, but this does seem typical of New Labour, drip feed bad news, announce good news with fanfare. Now it is in the public domain, ministers and eventually Gordon Brown, can add a little meat to the bones, temper the news by saying, whilst it will be worse than they forecast, it won’t be like the great depression. That said, a 6% contraction (year on year) of the UK economy would be more than we experienced during the Depression. Convenient that this ‘announcement’ should come a few weeks before Alistair Darling’s update on our economic future.

Did anyone else note that Gordon Brown, I believe for the first time, used the word “Nationalisation” in a response to David Cameron at PMQ’s? What happened to “public ownership”, is Mr Brown slowly inching towards Old Labour?

Cameron sets up Economic Recovery Group

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The latest announcement from the Tory Party machine is that David Cameron is to invite “leading businessmen” to join his ‘Economic Recovery Group’. now, don’t get me wrong, this is a laudable initiative, but it lacks a certain something, specifically its failure to appoint people from the SME sector, even though they are undoubtedly the backbone of our economy.

The UK’s 4.4m small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) are the engine room of our economy, accounting for 47% UK employment (13.5m), 99.7 per cent of all enterprises and 48.7% of UK Plc turnover. Within the SME sector, some 4.2m actually employ less than 10 employees and a further 167,000 less than 50. In fact, SME’s actually employ 60% of the ‘private sector’ workforce. It is, therefore, self-evident that small business is the primary vehicle for innovation which leads to new jobs, new industries and new wealth for this country and its people.

The people Cameron has invited include Next’s Simon Wolfson, Lloyds TSB chairman Sir Brian Pitman, Google chief executive Eric Schmidt and ex-Vodafone boss Sir Chrisopher Gent.  Quality people, but what do these guys know about small and medium sized enterprises. Granted, they may have once worked within one or two, but you can be certain that it was a very long time ago. If Cameron wants to come up with sensible initiatives that have a positive impact on the vast majority of businesses in this country, then he needs to stop trying to hit the headlines with industry ‘names’ and start talking to real business people within the SME sector. It may not give him the same headlines, but it will provide him with a better insight into the real issues and there is a chance that the people of this country will start to think he is a man of substance rather than glitz. We have all, I am sure, had enough of glitz, polish and rhetoric to last a lifetime.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t doubt the credentials and standing of these men, but I do question the logic of inviting these ‘wise men’ to offer advice on how to deliver real solutions to the SME sector. Unless, of course, Cameron doesn’t realise what contribution the SME sector makes towards UK Plc turnover and how many the sector employs. Don’t go for an industry spokesman Mr Cameron, invite a couple of SME businessmen. If Mr Cameron doesn’t know where to look, as a SME businessman myself, I will gladly give my two-penneth and my time, at no charge.