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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!

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Gordon Brown’s Temper Tantrums

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Much has been written about Gordon Brown’s management style and specifically about his legendary temper tantrums. He and some of his loyal colleagues may dismiss this as a man that is committed, passionate and someone who gets angry with himself, but that it complete rubbish, he knows it and so do his colleagues. The fact remains, reports of Gordon Brown’s behavior in the private sector would almost certainly lead to the dismissal of the protagonist.

This is a prime example of what happens when you place people with little or no real management experience in charge of a huge organization…such as Government. Yes, he was Chancellor, but the fact is, unlike many people in the private and even the public sector, Gordon Brown (and many of the ministers who now come to his defence), have never worked through the ranks. Therefore, they have little or no conception of the need to lead by example and communicate their message clearly and concisely. The bottom line is, bullies make very poor managers, instead they breed a culture of fear, contempt and hidden truths.

Brown has admitted that he throws things; well what sort of message does he think this type of behaviour sends? That he is in control, measured, responsible? I don’t think so! Anyone who defends such actions are as bad as the perpetrator, because they are seen as complicit, or perhaps even endorsing the behaviour, so victims have nowhere to go. It is an appalling situation.

I have seen senior managers that adopt a similar style to Gordon Brown and based on my experience of how people react to such people, I am not surprised that Brown fails to achieve anything! Bullying managers will normally experience the following;

  1. Their line managers adopt a similar management style and this behaviour is eventually considered ‘normal
  2. As information moves up the chain it is ‘sanitized’ to avoid facing the wrath of their line managers. Management is told what they want to hear rather than the facts.
  3. As the information and management is disseminated to each line manager, it is further sanitized to suit the recipient, therefore, by the time it reaches the top of the chain, it bears no reality to what is happening at grass roots level. This is fact, not supposition.
  4. Some of the brightest people within the group are crushed, because their views differ from what senior managers want to hear, this prevents new ideas and fresh initiatives being presented. This results in ‘same old, same old, rather than fresh ideas…anyone watching this Governments lack lustre performance for the past few years will recognize this trait.
  5. Meetings end up with everyone agreeing with the ‘chair’ rather than challenging or presenting new ideas.
  6. Because everyone agrees with the boss, the boss thinks that he can ‘walk on water’ that he can do no wrong. This then becomes self-perpetuating! Any boss worth his salt would ensure that he had people around him that were prepared to challenge the status quo.

There is another undeniable fact that people like Gordon Brown needs to know…the lower down the ranks the people on the receiving end of his tantrums are, the harder they are hit. Fellow ministers may shrug off his attempt to show how macho he is by throwing a telephone at the wall, but junior employees will almost certainly shit themselves! What a big man you are Mr Brown!

It is well know that Gordon Brown likes to micro manage (this is often sold as a virtue!)…but it is in fact another futile act. The reality is, where senior mangers micro manage; they create resentment in the ranks, therefore as soon as their attention is directed elsewhere, everything returns to normal. This is how managers get their own back on interfering bosses who think they are the only people that know the answers or solution.

What Gordon Brown has not learned, is that the larger the machine, the more important it is to sell your ideas, before attempting to enforce them. He has made the classic mistake that many senior managers do, that is to assume that because they are the ‘big boss’ they can issue orders and it will just happen…because they decree it so. Utter bollocks! It just doesn’t happen that way. New ideas and initiatives have to be sold up and down the line…otherwise they will get bogged down in the process…there is another important lesson for Gordon Brown and people like him, that is being the boss does not always mean that you are right! So a good boss will have someone around him to keep his feet on the ground and a person who is not frightened of challenging him.

The bottom line is Gordon Brown doesn’t have what it takes…and I suspect neither does David Cameron…the only difference is Gordon Brown has had his chance and screwed it up, if Cameron gets his, I earnestly hope for the sake of the people of this country he learns a lot faster. In this election, I suspect we will be voting not for the people or the party we want, but the people or the party that we dislike the least. If this is democracy, they can shove it!

Can Libertas pull it off?

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Personally I think Libertas may have left it a little too late to publicise the fact that they intend to field candidates in 27 countries in advance of this years European elections, but, I cannot fault their logic. The current system is so fragmented, with so many parties adopting nationalistic and ideological agendas, that consensus is a rare commodity. Little wonder then, that all new European laws continue to be proposed and drafted by unelected commissioners, with MEP’s expected to rubber stamp proposals. A party that spans all member countries makes sense, but I suspect Libertas will fail, not least because they lack high profile support and are seriously under-funded.

I do, however, like the fact that they want to recruit candidates from grassroots. I would also support a less bureaucratic European Union, with laws drafted by MEP’s rather than unelected, unaccountable commissioners. I also support their aim to have greater transparency on MEP’s expenses and for the scrapping or complete re-write of the Lisbon Treaty.  The reality is, whether we like it or not, we are in the European Union and that is unlikely to change, therefore we must make it work for us. However, Libertas needs a voice, high-profile backers and supporters as well as funding. Without that, a great idea is likely to come to nothing, but I guess, they can try again in 5 years.

Written by British Politics

6 April, 2009 at 4:07 pm

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!

Written by British Politics

1 April, 2009 at 9:08 am

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.

1929 stock market is history repeating itself

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I read an interesting article over at the political blog Power to the People, about the similarities between the 1929 stock market crash and our current economic situation and I am finding it difficult to fault the parallels. Clearly many of the problems we are experiencing today are similar to those during the 1929 crash, except, as the author points out, back then it was shares and today it is property.

As the author makes clear there were some people in power in 1929 that were rightly concerned about the possibility of the whole pack of cards falling down, but elected to do nothing.

The people of America felt rich, lifestyles improved after the austerity of the first world war and few people raised any doubts, those that did, such as President Hoover, tended to keep it to themselves, rather than be see as the Cassandra.

Surely Gordon Brown knew there were real risks that the property bubble could burst, particularly given the property crash of the 1990’s, he must have been aware that the economy was being fueled by cheap and easy credit and above all, that the massive profits being reported by the banks were not from their high street activities alone. Yet, he chose to do nothing, now he is puffing his chest out and telling us how he is going to save the world. Personally I think that there is something morbid about allowing the same person who threw us in at the deep end to then jump in, ignoring his own culpability and receive backslaps for his vain attempt to save us.

During the 1929 crash, millions of people were destitute, having lost all their saving. Today, with millions of people investing in pensions, the fall in key stocks means that their pensions are worth considerably less than they were 18 months ago. Perhaps by as much as 50%! Those that have saved for their retirement, will be punished with low or non-existent interest rates, resulting in a reduction in their standard of living, even though they may not have been benificiaries of the largesse that caused these problems. Of course, most civil servants do not have to worry about such anomolies, because their final salary schemes are paid out of future income and as such, are guaranteed.

But the lessons of history havent been learnt, as the article goes on to state;

After the 1929 stock market crash, Hoover introduced the Securities & Exchange commision to regulate US markets, this had the desired affect. However, over the past 20 years or so, the rules and regulations have been relaxed, seen as no longer necessary and much of what we witness in the United States today can be attributed to the easing of those regulations. Similarly, the much vaunted deregulation of the City was also a pre-cursor to the problems we all face today. Light regulation and a hand-off approach by government and the regulators has allowed the banks to enter very high risk transactions which many people struggle to understand.

This government has a lot to answer for. Mr Brown promised an end to boom and bust yet, in spite of his promise, we are actually in one of the most dire economic positions ever experienced by this country, even though the warning signs were there all along. They were just conveniently ignored for political expediency and no doubt, because Gordon Brown, whilst basking in the glory of being described as the ‘iron chancellor’ didn’t want to be a party pooper. Shame on him, he was in the best position to know the risks and to do something about them, but he did nothing. In my view he is either incompetent, inept or reckless.

And…I couldn’t agree more with the statement made on this posting…

In my view, government ministers and bankers must be called to account because they have demonstrated what appears to be a reckless disregard for the interests, respectively of the people of this country and the interests of their shareholders.

We must all demand that all those in position of power or responsibility that have played an active part in this economic mess be made to accept responsibility. Further, anyone that has been reckless, irrespective of whether they are in government or commerce, must be brought to book. We, the people will automatically have to pay for any mistakes we have made (as well as those we haven’t), why should politicians and senior business executives get away scott free?

Israel, Gaza conflict affects us all

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I rarely allow myself to comment on world politics principally because I am no expert on local issues and conflicts. However, in the case of the war in the Gaza Strip, I am prepared to make an exception. From the outset, I would make clear that whilst I have read about the principals, I am no expert, but then, neither are the vast majority of other people and therefore, it is likely that they will hold similar, equally uninformed views, whatever their political divide. Therefore, the opinions of the uninitiated must be considered alongside those that can or do claim to fully understand the history.

I have long sympathised with Israel, positioned as it is, in the middle of a hostile area, surrounded by countries that believe they should not be there and one or two, who believe that they have no right to exist at all. Moreover, I have always held that they are right to remain strong within the region and defend themselves against those who would do them, rather than wish them harm. From a personal perspective, I also tend to take a hard-line on any people or organisations that act in an aggressive manner.

That notwithstanding, I firmly believe that any defensive actions should be proportionate. Israel is right to want to defend itself against indiscriminate rockets being fired at their citizens. However, I cannot see the use of rockets, tanks and phosphorousbombs as a measured or proportionate response, particularly when fired into a built up area such as Gaza. Two wrongs do not make a right. It would not have taken a genius to work out that such bombardments in a built up area would inevitably lead to a very large number of civilian casualties, which would include, non-combatants, women and children. Israel is experienced at war and therefore they, more than anyone, would have known that the civilian population of the Gaza Strip would have to pay a very high price as a consequence of Israel’s decision to use bombs and rockets. Yet they embarked on this course of action regardless. To me this is akin to the schoolyard bully that, having been hit with a stone, responds with an AK47 and keeps shooting until the entire schoolyard is cleared and the threat neutralised.

Israel had, at the very least, a moral obligation to consider how their actions would be considered on the world stage. Every day for nearly 3 weeks, people from around the world have witnessed the suffering of the Palestinian people, not soldiers on the battlefield, but women and children in, or close to their own homes. Few people, however removed from the politics, could fail to be touched by their plight, but imagine if you will, how this plays into the hands of those that sympathise with the Palestinians, even if they don’t agree with Hamas tactics. Truth be told, the families of the victims could end up being the “martyrs” or suicide bombers of tomorrow, surely Israel would have known that a high civilian casualty rate could lead to more extremism, not less. And, how does Israel believe this is being played out on the world stage, extremists and sympathisers are going to be very angry at the sight of women and children suffering at the hands of the Israelis. I am not an extremist and no-one would describe me as a pacifist or apologist, but I am angry, very angry. Surely, no-one watching this on their television screens could or would argue that the end justifies the means?

On top of this, the world has been impotent in their attempts to stop the Israelis bombardment of Gaza. As a consequence, weak words, rather than strong condemnation may imply that ‘we’ don’t care. How long before the people of this country or Europe pay the price for the actions of Israel? A constant wringing of hands, a few weak words and a furrowed brow does not deliver the right message to Israel, in fact, we almost look complicit. Had Israel targeted terrorists with ground troops, instead of indiscriminate bombing, I would have understood their aim, but to bomb built up areas which are full of women and children is quite frankly despicable. In doing so, Israel is stirring up a hornets nest and, there is every likelihood that we in the UK will end up, one way or another, paying a price for Israel’s actions.

Invariably, when countries use bombs instead of ground troops, it is to minimise casualties on their own side. In its way, this is completely understandable. However, when it ignores the fact that a disproportionate number of the victims will be non-combatants, women and children, it is to suggest that one innocent life is less valuable than another. How can that sit with anyone? I for one do not believe a Palestinian life is worth more or less than an Israeli one. I recognise Israel’s right to defend itself with, if necessary, pre-emptive action, but I believe it must always be proportionate. However, I would condemn the government of Israel and for that matter, any other country, that would consider such a high percentage of non-combatants, women and children as an acceptable price to pay to eliminate the threat. Particularly when ground troops or special forces could have been used with considerably fewer innocent casualties and arguably, more effect. Governments around the world have, at the very least, a moral obligation to protect innocent people from dying as a direct consequence of their actions.

Only United Nations officials on the ground have had the courage to loudly and universally condemn Israel, not for their motives, but for the consequences of their actions. Our government must do likewise and now, for whilst many people may sympathise with Israel’s plight, Israel has lost a great deal of credibility and support as a direct consequence of their readiness to slaughter innocent women and children in this indiscriminate way. I for one, will never view Israel the same way, for me, they have lost much of the moral high ground. By using this level of force, Israel has condemned the world to a be a less safe place than it was 3 weeks ago and who gave them the right to act, albeit by proxy, in our name?

Written by British Politics

16 January, 2009 at 4:40 pm