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Archive for the ‘Recession’ Category

Cameron: Overseas aid is taxpayers money not yours!

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David Cameron is wrong to insist that the £9 billion ‘overseas aid budget’ should be “ring fenced”. At a time when the people of this country are facing great hardship, it is foolhardy to believe that he will have widespread support for delivering UK taxpayers money to countries such as Pakistan and China.

Notwithstanding the huge amount of taxpayers’ money that is being committed in our name, we all know that a good deal of this money is squandered, you only have to look at some of the brand new 4×4 vehicles that are driven my Government officials in some African countries, while their people starve. More often than not, these vehicles are paid with using foreign aid; this is hardly a success story. Furthermore, whilst some of these countries can rely on foreign aid, they are not being encouraged to stand on their own two feet.

Everyone has to tighten their belts at times such as these and our Government should be no different. I full accept that investment in health and education must be maintained, although I would qualify that statement by insisting that there should be a root and branch review to ensure that we are receiving value for money. However, overseas aid is an area that can and should be cut, at least until this country is back on its feet…because like it or not, our finances are in a precarious position.

Cameron keeps telling us how we will all have to accept a period of “austerity”, which will include increased direct and indirect taxes. Okay, I accept that this is inevitable, but how dare he foist new taxes on the British people before he has taken a scalpel to expenditure on items such as overseas aid? Cameron needs to remember that there are many people in this country that live in squalor, often council owned high rise flats that are not maintained or are well past their sell by date. These people are forgotten, whilst huge sums are given away overseas.

How many times have we heard the ‘youths’ of today tell us that the reason there is so much petty crime and a gang culture is because they are “bored” and they have “nowhere to go”? Yet, youth and community centres are routinely closed down due to lack of funds…the result is that youngsters are left roaming the streets. As a consequence, people within the community are scared, they have to suffer petty crime and their quality of life is dramatically reduced. The priorities of this Government and for all intents and purposes, the next Government’s, are completely at odds with what is needed and wanted by the people of this country.

It is high time all politicians started to listen to the people of this country and not simply pay lip service. We are all tired of people at the top telling us what we want and what need, rather than listening to us!

David Cameron’s Amnesty for wrongdoers

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Am I the only one that believes that Cameron is actually weak, not strong on wayward MP’s? Yes, he has told us how he is taking a strong line, but does the evidence back that up? I think not. If you are in the shadow cabinet, according to Cameron, it is sufficient to pay back anything that may not be considered “reasonable” and all will be forgiven. If you are a backbencher, then you may be referred to Cameron’s “kangaroo court”, if you have been a good boy or girl, but a little greedy, then you may be asked to pay some money back, but you will be exonerated. On the other hand, if you are a bit of a maverick, then Cameron will use this as an opportunity to get rid of you. At least that is my take on it.

So, are we to believe that tough man Cameron is going to tell all burglars and car thieves that so long as they return their ill-gotten gains, then they will be forgiven and can get on with their lives? Is it possible that Cameron’s so called tough approach is a bit of a misnomer, designed to deflect attention. A cynic might suggest that by telling everyone that he is a bit of a tough guy, he has successfully diverted attention and at the same time, ensured that it is not the court of public opinion that decides on whether an MP has misbehaved, but the court of David Cameron.

Sorry to all those that like Cameron, but I just don’t trust him, the more I see him in action, the more he gives off the air of an opportunist. I have noticed that whilst he says a lot, if you dissect what he has said, it is rarely tangible of even measurable. I really want to believe that Cameron and the Conservatives are a worthy alternative to the discredited Brown, but if I am honest, there is little that he had done or said that impresses. I think it will just be more of the same. I recognise that because I so want Brown gone, I am almost prepared to accept that the devil himself could do a better job…..but, I said almost! No matter how much we may want to have this country put back on track, we cannot just will someone to succeed, they first of all have to have the wherewithal to make it happen, and I do not see that in Cameron.

Also, where has all the talk of reform gone? Cameron is pushing Brown into an early general election, great, but not before we have had some electoral refirm. What is the point of being able to put in a new government if we are obliged to accept the people put before us by the party machine? That is not democracy. It means that our choice is limited to our preferred party, not candidate. If Cameron wants the people to support an early election, then he must allow the people to select their preferred candidate at the next election, not afterwards. We all know that when party’s win power they seem to forget about everything that said to get them there.

David Cameron, we are listening!

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Okay, okay Mr Cameron, has got our attention, but precisely what is it he wants to say? The majority of the public know that, whatever Gordon Brown says, at some stage we will have to ‘cut our cloth’ in the form of a meaningful reduction in public spending. Moreover, we know that this must be sooner rather than later, otherwise we are all going to face some very hefty tax increases. However, no matter how eloquent David Cameron is on the podium, he must tell us what his plans are if we were to entrust his party with our votes.

Cameron is right to make clear that Conservarive Ministers would be judged on what they deliver, not who they know or how chummy they are with the press. Ministers will be required to deliver more for less, its not that difficult of course, the private sector has been doing it for years. Similarly, civil servants will be held to account, they too will have to deliver results. But, this is okay for a ‘vision’, but contrary to what Cameron thinks, this is NOT a plan and that is what we are all waiting for.

On Channel 4 news on Sunday, William Hague stated that the public do not want detailed policies from the Conservatibes, instead, he argued, we just want the vision. I would like to know who the hell he has been talking to, because everyone I know and talk to say that they want meat on the bones. David Cameron needs to understand that he is at serious risk of becoming yesterday’s man, because he is too frightened to tell us what his plans are. One thing is for certain, he does have some sort of plan, he just doesn’t want to share it with us….yet! However he is missing the point, as well as a golden opportunity. He has the public attention, now he must now use this fact to turn empty rhetoric into a deliverable action plan and then sell it to us. But why won’t he?

This is a missed opportunity and the biggest challenge he now faces is, we are all getting tired of being stalled, of waiting for that golden nugget that demonstrates in clear terms that his team is the one that should be trusted with our futures and votes. If he doesn’t move quickly, I suspect that he will start to lose the momentum he has gained, people will start to believe that he is unsure of himself, lacks confidence and self-belief and if that happens, no matter how far ahead in the polls he is, the Conservative party will lose. Few people want another week, much less another term of this pathetic New Labour government, however, we cannot afford to risk our futures with a party that lacks confidence, depth or ideas. Enough stalling Mr Cameron, tell us what you are going to do if, or when, we trust you enough to vote for your party.

Voters must boot out self-serving MP’s

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Based on recent press reports, it is quite clear that many of the ‘honourable members’ are not as honourable as we every right to expect. When it comes to expenses, it seems that many MP’s see this as a right (as opposed to out of pocket expenses), something they are entitled to claim and money that they must and will use to supplement their income. Of course, when you have a system that has been designed by MP’s and is subsequently sanctioned and voted on by the same people, it is not too difficult to have an expense allowance programme that can be easily milked.

Now, far be it for me to suggest that any of the MP’s that are claiming a second home allowance are corrupt, clearly they are not that stupid, but I can say with virtual certainty, that in the court of public opinion, dipping into public funds in this way is insulting to the taxpayer and far from honourable. As a fellow blogger stated in a recent post, it is not the MP’s that are corrupt, but the system that they introduced and then vote in. Some would argue that there is little or no difference of course. However, those in power seem to be in no particular hurry to do anything about this gravy train. Why would they I hear you cry? Instead, it is proposed that another committee be convened, which will take too long, will doubtless have a limited remit and will almost certainly not judge, but instead, suggest higher salaries in place of the discredited allowance programme.

There are a few and I mean a few, members of parliament that have not been tempted to milk the system, but by and large, it would appear that the majority do. Senior members of the political elite appear to be the worst offenders. As voters, we must not forget that we are being fleeced at a time when we are having to tighten our belts, little wonder that the public finances are in such a state.

I believe every voter has an obligation to establish what their sitting MP has been doing. If they have been milking the system, then we must vote them out, regardless of the party they represent. There can be no place in politics for people that treat the public with such utter and complete contempt. If 61m are to permit just 648 people to represent our interests and create new laws, then trust must be 100%. Anything less is unacceptable. If MP’s cannot be trusted with public money, how on earth can we trust them with our security, well-being, economy, laws, liberty and general well-being.

The people of this country must not limit their sights to a reform of the corrupt series of allowances available to MP’s. We must go much further. What we need is a wholesale reform of the political system that will allow the constituents to boot out MP’s if they fail to deliver, not just the party hierarchy. The people of this country must, once again, take charge.  I am not suggesting anarchy, just that we must make a stand, ensure that our voices are heard loud and clear.  Because, above all, we need a system that allows ‘real’ people to stand for office, not simply those that are selected based on their race, their gender, who they know, who they are related to, which union they worked for, who they went to school with or their public profile.

The public are getting angry…it is time for a change to our political system and politicians of all parties would be well advised to remember that they rule by consent, not as a right. The trust and confidence in politicians is an an all time low, instead of being shame-faced when they are caught out or fail to deliver, politicians are brazen, almost arrogant. Jacqui Smith’s 10,000 Tasers will not have much affect if 61m people start to get restless. This Government and most of our MP’s shepherded us into an economic mess, they were paid to PROTECT our interests and they failed (yes, I know we must also shoulder some of the responsibility), they now risk making another mistake, that is to ignore the will of the people. It will not be so easy to shrug off the effects of a disaffected and angry majority.

G20 Summit, Sarkozy needs to grow up

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Over the past few days, there have been a number of press reports that French President, Sarkozy is unhappy with the projects on the table for discussion at the G20 meeting in London. Yesterday, there was even a suggestion that he may walk out. Sarkozy is acting up like a spoilt child that must be humoured by his hosts, he is demonstrating an immense lack of maturity and in my view at least, he is embarrassing the people he is supposed to represent. Of course we are all used to political posturing, but this is normally couched in a form of words which does no reflect badly on the country or its representatives. Not for Sarkozy, he appears to be incapable of seeing how his actions reflect negatively on him and France.

I would suggest that he stops sulking like a spoilt child and does his job. The place for the negotiations is at the Summit, not in the press prior to the meeting. Has he learnt nothing from his time in business? Personally I would tell Sarkozy that if he doesn’t grow up, he will be relegated to a creche and given a dummy to suck….assuming that is, Gordon Brown is not too busy!

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1 April, 2009 at 9:08 am

Jacqui Smith, it time to resign

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I am not normally one for calling for an MP’s resignation, albeit I am sure I, like many others would consider that there are a good number that should do so voluntarily. That said, I am of the opinion that Jacqui Smith needs to go and soon, not because of a single misdemeanour, but a series.

The bottom line is Jacqui Smith is not very good at their job. She is the first to try and manipulate the press and public opinion with elements of “good” news from reports, whilst blatantly ignoring those aspects which are critical or not self-serving, either for her or the government. Fair play some might say, but ministers must be judged on what they add, not what they claim.  Further, Jacqui Smith is something of a puppet, if the police want something, she believes that by giving it to them, she is helping the public, because the police only want to fight crime etc., this is utter rubbish. The police want more powers to intrude, monitor and spy of ordinary citizens and Jacqui Smith is seen as a soft touch. As a consequence the people of this country have seen a massive erosion of their civil liberties, right to privacy and freedoms.

My issue with Jacqui Smith is the utter and barely concealed contempt she has for the public at large, not just in terms of her actions is respect of her ministerial responsibilities at the Home Office, but also, her actions in respect of maximising her personal finances via the public purse. Whilst Jacqui Smith may be able to claim that she has operated “within the rules“, to quote one of her colleagues, “in the court of public opinion“, her expense claims are not acceptable in the least.

First she claims up to £24,000 per year because she says that her main residence is the room at her sisters house in London, not Redditch where her husband lives and her children reside and go to school. There is little or no credibility in this explanation. Then she claims for electrical goods, which includes two washing machines, why does she need two washing machines? Why should she feel the need to claim for two flat screen TV’s, what is wrong with one, why do they have to be flat screen? £550 for a kitchen sink….£1,000 for an antique fireplace, are these truly essentials, I think not. In the old days, expenses were referred to as “out of pocket expenses“, for an MP, they are nothing of the sort, instead they are used as a method of supplementing salaries.

What I find difficult to believe is that Jacqui Smith seriously expects the public to believe that she did not know that her claim of £69 per month was only for the internet and nothing else. It would suggest that she is both out of touch with the real costs we face everyday and implies that her attention to detail is very badly and sadly lacking. For a Minister in charge of the Home Office and therefore our security this is a very real worry. Moreover, someone that claims to operate within the rules whilst ignoring the spirit of the arrangement is, at least in my opinion, lacking judgement and credibility. If Smith was doing a good job, perhaps the public would be more forgiving, but she is utterly useless. The only consolation is that most of her fellow ministers are as inept, therefore she fits in well, but that doesn’t make it any better. She will survive, but only because Gordon Brown know that the by supporting her he can benefit from undying loyalty and that having a cabinet full of incompetents makes him look better.

I am further angered at the way that Gordon Brown has insisted that there should be a review of MP’s expenses, yet it cannot start until the end of the summer recess and has no need to report until after the next election. Once again, we are all being taken for fools, it simply does not take that long to review MP’s expenses. The bottom line is expenses can and must only cover ‘out of pocket’ expenses, they can and should be based on those in the private sector and second home allowances must stop. MP’s can be provided with an overnight allowance for when they are in London on parliamentary business, but his should be weighted based on private sector allowances for accommodation and food.

The review of expenses ought to be carried out by a firm of accountants and the brief include a requirement that they revise them to fall in line with the private sector. I reckon it will take about 2 weeks, but of course, we know that these self-serving MP’s are going to insist that they receive a salary increase in place of any ‘sacrifice’ they make on expenses. They also know that they will then get a doubly whammy, because a higher salary means a better pension, all funded by us. For a government so focused on targets, why don’t they pay themselves performance and results based rewards? Simple, not one of them would earn the bonus, they know it and we know it!

If MP’s don’t like the terms or rewards of a parliamentary career, then they must resign and make way for others that do. One thing is for certain, based on the rank incompetence demonstrated by the majority of our MP’s we shall be no worse off and in all likelihood, we will end up with real people that represent the interests of the public at large, not just themselves. It is time for change.

Anyone that is angered by the information contained in this post may also like to be aware that there is a new Bill going through parliament which seeks to provide MP’s and all other public servants with what amounts to an immunity from prosecution (civil and criminal) with a legal definition of the term ‘reasonable discretion’. You can find out more here: Bill to Exercise Reasonable Discretion

Tony McNulty and an expense claim too far

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I am angry with Tony McNulty, because, although I disagree with most of his party’s policies, I always considered him to be sincere and committed to the policies adopted by New Labour. He was believable and one of the few ministers who could hold his own when challenged by the likes of Jon Snow’s  on the Channel 4 News programme, without sulking. Therefore, to find out that he was one of the members of parliament exploiting the rules related to second home allowances (which was designed to cover rent, mortgage interest payments or hotel expenses) was a great personal disappointment. I do not suggest that McNulty has done anything in contravention of the rules or regulations, but to claim as much as £60k in expenses for a home his parents live in, when it is just a few miles from his home, is truly stretching what could be termed, at least in my judgement, reasonable.

Members of Parliament are supposed to set an example to the rest of us, they are in a privileged position and as such, we are entitled to expect the very highest standards from those who are elected to serve the people. By and large, MP’s tend to vote and decide on their own salaries, perks, pensions and expenses, therefore is it essential that they are seen not to put self-interest first. It is quite clear, to anyone with half a brain cell, that second home allowances were intended to assist those MP’s who lived in their constituency and needed to cover their additional costs in terms of travelling or overnight accommodation in London. It was never intended to be a tax free perk, but that is precisely what it has turned out to be for many. They know that and we know that. Can Tony McNulty really justify his claim, when his permanent home is so close to Westminster, not in terms of the ‘rules’, but in terms of the spirit of the allowance? He may be an excellent debater, but even he will not be able to come up with a set of words that would convince me, let alone the public at large. To his credit, however, he has suggested that the home allowance rules ought to be reviewed.

This discredited expense system, that has become a method for MP’s to boost their earnings, needs to be overhauled NOW! Not by members of parliament, because most of them have demonstrated that they cannot be trusted to demonstrate objectivity, much less intelligence and independent thought, but by a committee of lay people. No longer is it acceptable that MP’s should receive benefits that those in the private sector could only dream of. MP’s need a reality check, they are so insulated from the people they govern, that they seem to have no idea how to act responsibly or appropriately. There is a recession going on out here, people are losing their jobs, companies are closing, families are becoming homeless, personal wealth is falling at an alarming rate and no-one in power seems to give a toss, so long as they are okay.

Ask the average MP why he decided to go into politics and you will get dozens of different answers, but I guarantee that they will not say they did it for the money, yet on closer analysis, it appears that greed (if lawful greed) is the order of the day. If MP’s earnings are so low that they feel they must maximise expense claims whatever the morality, then I suggest they step aside and let ordinary people take their place at the next election. God knows, this country needs people that are in touch with reality, rather than on a different planet.

Gordon Brown needs to get his house in order and Cameron needs to come off the fence and make some recommendations regarding a review of expense allowances, not simply insist that MP’s publish an account of their past expenses. Sometimes I think Cameron is even more removed from reality than Gordon Brown, now that is scary, especially given he may be our next prime minister. The bottom line is, however, that there are few people in this government that deserve their positions, starting at the very top, but I am becoming more and more concerned that there are an increasing number MP’s, from all side of the house, that do not deserve to be described a honourable nor are they fit to represent the good and predominantly honest people of this country.

UPDATE:

Anyone that is angered by the information contained in this post may also like to be aware that there is a new Bill going through parliament which seeks to provide MP’s and all other public servants with what amounts to an immunity from prosecution (civil and criminal) with a legal definition of the term ‘reasonable discretion’. You can find out more here: Bill to Exercise Reasonable Discretion

Have the bank directors failed in their fiduciary duties?

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Whilst doing my rounds today, I came across this article which points out that all directors have a legal duty of care or, if you prefer, a fiduciary duty. The author then asks why it is, that bank directors have been allowed to resign, rather than be sacked, given the government are suggesting that these bank directors have failed? It is a compelling argument.

Theoretically at least, if any director failed in their fiduciary duty, acted recklessly or without due care then, not only could they be sacked, but they could find themselves liable to a civil action. That notwithstanding, it is clear to me, that if ‘trust and confidence’ is an integral part of a fiduciary’s duty, then there has been a failure.

I cannot argue with the sentiment, so lets be clear, one government minister after the other has been heard to repeat the term used by Gordon Brown, that there must be “no reward for failure“.  Similarly, there must be no amnesty for anyone that has failed in their fiduciary duty or that has acted recklessly or without due care.  The author goes on to say;

These individuals have either failed or they have not, ministers must be careful in making damning statements, yet failing to back them up with appropriate action.

Surely government ministers understand that if they are going to step up the rhetoric, then they need to follow these statements with firm action? Anything less would be unacceptable to the general public who are now massive stakeholders in these banks. Moreover, if I were a former bank director, I would welcome the opportunity to clear my name, assuming of course, that I had a defence to the charge.  The article is pretty well summed up as follows;

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

I agree! So lets see some action from government ministers instead of hot air.

Is Harriet Harman is an opportunist?

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It is difficult not to conclude that Harriet Harman’s attack on Sir Fred Goodwin’s pension is anything other than opportunistic. Clearly she will be aware that public opinion is firmly against corporate greed and any form of reward “for failure”. However, if government ministers were to be judged on the same criteria, there would be mass resignations, no pay-off’s and a refusal to take their generous, gold-plated pensions. Of course we all know that isn’t going to happen.

It is fair to say that Sir Fred’s pension is obscene and that the board and Lord Myner’s should have dealt with this thorny issue at the time, but they did not. Instead, it would appear that it formed part of what is commonly described as a ‘compromise agreement’ and this is, whether government ministers like it or not, enforceable in a court of law. Compromise agreements are not the exclusive preserve of high ranking banking officials, many thousands of people every year enter into some form of compromise agreement with their employers, with each party fully appraised by their legal advisers of the consequences.

It is difficult to conceive that any credible member of parliament would possibly suggest that a compromise agreement ought to be overturned through the introduction of new legislation which is applied retrospectively. Yet, Harriet Harman has done precisely that, whether it was her own idea, or someone has ‘suggested’ that she become the sabre rattler is not clear, either way, she does not come out of this with any real credibility. Yes, the public will, at face value, agree with her and therefore, it will appear that she is in tune with the masses. However, this completely ignores the fact that a Labour minister was party to the pension discussions and that the government were aware of the compromise agreement back in October. Yet it has only come to light now, when there was a need to divert attention from the real issue, which is the massive injection of additional taxpayer cash into RBS and the taking on of massive potential liabilities through the underwriting of so called ‘toxic assets’.

There have been suggestions that Harriet Harman has been positioning herself to become the successor-in-chief to Gordon Brown, I don’t know how much truth there is in these rumours. However, if I wanted to set her up for a fall, I would have asked her to do precisely what she has done. Why? Because no minister ought to be proposing new legislation to reverse something in a contract, that they were party to (directly or otherwise), simply because they no longer like the terms. Once that happens, the government can no longer be trusted to enter into any contract, without the other party believing that there is a possibility that any terms could subsequently be overturned, on a whim, through retrospective legislation.

Whatever the rights or wrongs of Sir Fred Goodwin’s pension arrangements, ministers from the Prime Minister down appear to be milking it for all it is worth and in doing so, they are successfully diverting the country’s attention from the real issue and that is our massive long term exposure to RBS liabilities. Worst still, if they are expending so much time and effort on what, in the scale of things, is a peripheral issue, can we trust them to be steering the ship in which we have so much invested? I wonder!

Written by British Politics

1 March, 2009 at 2:06 pm

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!

Written by British Politics

27 February, 2009 at 3:59 pm