Saturday, 31 October 2015

Dastardly Dullards (Our Government)!

Dear Reader,

Nothing has changed on the Tory front bench. At Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday, David Cameron spoke on behalf of a very beleaguered looking Chancellor who frankly looked as though he was afraid of having to claim benefits himself (by losing his job)! But David Cameron didn't answer the question put to him (six times) by the Leader of the Opposition, and gave the feeling that it was Osborne's responsibility to deal with the issue, and not his.

The following day there was a Parliamentary debate on "The Effect of the Tax Credit Cuts" at which a number of Tory MPs conceded that there was a case to look into for special help for those lower income workers. It took an SNP MP to point out that amounts wrongly paid out by the DWP and HMRC government departments exceeded the bill that would be saved by the proposed Tax Credit reforms (£4.5bn). The government, therefore, is failing to mop up expensive holes in its payments structure - as well as failing to collect taxes properly.

Mahatma Gandhi once said: "A nation's greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members." What sort of nation are we, therefore, developing into?

There is mounting disquiet about those who are struggling due to the 'Welfare' cuts: cuts that affect the sick, the disabled and the working poor. I don't intend to say more specifically about the details of this but instead invite you to read the latest status report, which can be found at this Change Org link.

I'd like instead to talk more about what Gandhi said (his quote, above). What we can impute from his statement is that while proper management of the nation's economy is a priori a necessity, the way we go about things is equally important. 

I would suggest that our government is elected first and foremost to look after its citizens in the most balanced way, considering all the nation's needs and not claiming that because it was elected, that party is carrying out a single element of what it was tasked to do. Particularly when only 24% - 1 in 4 - of the nation voted for them (actually 36% of the General Election vote). If the Prime Minister was really implementing a "One Nation" approach (as he says that he is, since 2010), he would be much concerned about the poorest and the disabled. Many of them have died waiting for the economy to improve so that the government might think about improving the lot of that group of people.

Senator (then-US Presidential candidate) Bobby Kennedy said, in 1968 (italics are mine): 
Too much and for too long, we seemed to have surrendered personal excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things....
... the gross national product [GNP] does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play.  It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials.

It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. 
I propose we have a government of dullards. And they claim we put them there!

Sunday, 25 October 2015

A Calamitous and Disorientating Oriental Odyssey

Dear Reader,

This past week - if we would look closely - has emphasised just how calamitous Calamity Cameron is!

The issues that have been greatly highlighted this week have been related to (a) the Chinese president's visit and (b) the associated UK steel industry problems. And the latter issue has - in my opinion - been dealt with appallingly badly by Cameron and his government.

Okay, Cameron was quick to make the statement that the interests of the steel workers would be safeguarded. But isn't that just rhetoric designed to keep people believing - mainly his supporters - that everything is fine and that he has One Nation interests at heart?

The fact is that with the Redcar steel plants completely closed, there is virtually nothing in that area for the workers to go into, so no matter what you re-train them for (if that's the idea) then nothing short of moving families to a totally new area will help them. Tibbett's "On your bike" rhetoric rears it's ugly head.

Instead, the industry itself should have been underwritten by the government to see them through what may well be a temporary blip in the world demand for this material. Nationalisation if you will, but if that's what's needed then why not? If you can do it for the banks (whose commercial morality is often questioned), then why not the steel industry? It strikes me that the attitude is that ordinary working people don't matter so much in the scheme of things. A classless society? It never is under the Tories, is it?

But sucking up to the Chinese seems to be the Tory game-plan. And it may well include taking our steel industry out of the competition in order to help China develop. That line of thinking is completely compatible with the plan that's been confirmed to have the Chinese building nuclear power plants in the UK, with French help. As China's own nuclear power plants are apparently not being developed at all well, one is left with the impression that they are now being given an opportunity to 'learn on the job' with French help. At our cost?

The Chinese have now been given a sizeable foothold in the UK economy. That's been a developing issue for some time, what with matters such as the private purchasing of high-cost properties by the nouveau riche Chinese, including the purchase of the famed Wentworth Golf Club in Surrey where they are now charging the members fees of £100,000 PER YEAR – instead of the £8,000 they had been paying.

And there are potentially serious issues about democracy and rights of speech - here, in the UK. A Chinese who had sought asylum in this country the other day mildly protested against his former country’s president. The guy was arrested and had his flat “searched” by the police. His experience was, he said, “just like being in China”. And it was noted how Chinese Embassy workers were allowed to literally drum out any protest against the Chinese regime. 

In China itself, a Christian Church a was built not long ago: it took 12 years to build. The Chinese authorities last year moved in and knocked it down. And I believe that Cameron has promised not to talk to the Dalai Lama any more.

But Cameron has not just stopped there, this past week. Presumably filled with a sense of self importance at being host to the Chinese, he declared that he was "Delighted" that the government won the motion to carry on with their policy of implementing Tax Credit reforms despite the known affect on three million people at the bottom end and despite MPs in his own ranks making an appeal to the government to reconsider during the debate on the motion. Some special modification was being asked for to help the 3m.

Cameron is even threatening the Lords, that they must not interfere with the progress of his bill. We are perhaps becoming more of a Chinese state than in China itself. I note that Prince Charles was not present at the banquet in honour of the Chinese president.

There is also the matter of the appalling treatment of the disabled. The latest status on this can be found at this Change Org link.

In respect of the NHS, we now know that the government's proud statement of providing £8bn extra support for the NHS over the life of this parliament is based on £22bn savings that the NHS must make. What kind of NHS will we have in 5 years' time? The answer seems clear.

And with Green technology not being backed, and Fracking being promoted, the calamity is being exponentially increased. Calamity Cameron, what do you say to these charges? And please confirm that your idea of a One Nation state is that ordinary workers must learn to unquestioningly serve their masters, even while hobbling with a crutch.


John Lerwill