Freethinkeruk’s Weblog

UK Political weblog

Archive for the month “January, 2009”

Tesco Pension Chicken Shit

The following from the Guardian/Observer

“Tesco has lobbied the government to push through reforms to the UK’s retirement rules that would allow the supermarket to cut its final salary pension payouts if employees live longer than expected. Documents obtained under freedom of information rules reveal that the company told ministers that employers should be allowed more flexibility in administering their schemes in the light of rising retirement costs. The documents show for the first time that one of Britain’s major employers is concerned that the rising costs of defined-benefit pensions will become an increasing burden under current rules. The revelation is expected to dismay unions at the supermarket, which is one of a dwindling band of employers offering guaranteed retirement benefits. Tesco emphasised that it remained committed to its scheme, and was asking government for more flexibility to help keep costs under control.”

It seems then that Tesco care as much for their loyal employees as they do for their chickens. £2.85 billion profit for April 2008!

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Sponging Royals at it Again

buck-house This building on the left is of course Buckingham Palace, one of the official residences of the Queen. There is something of an ownership blur here as the Queen does not actually own it but holds it in trust for the nation. The Royal Household is paid an allowance for it’s upkeep from the Government who are frequently asked for yet more millions.

Alan Reid, ‘keeper of the privy purse’, appeared before the public accounts committee yesterday to explain what steps were being taken to find the £32m that needs to be spent on repairing royal palaces. It has been suggested, by MPs amongst others, that there is enormous scope for income generation simply by opening the Palace more often to tourists. Not surprisingly the Royals are resisting this idea and even came up with the lame excuse that they wouldn’t be able to find the staff to keep it open all year. I doubt they would have any trouble finding staff even without the recession and rising unemployment.

Alan Reid also suggested that it would be inappropriate for the public to be allowed access during state visits to the palace by foreign heads of state. Well how come The White House is open all year round, surely their guests are just as important as those visiting Buck House?

The Government should take over complete control of the Palaces and use them to generate income for their upkeep and probably some left over for the Exchequer, instead of continually paying out for them. The Royal Household obviously thinks that the people don’t mind them being inefficient and are  happy to keep handing over millions on demand.

Let’s face it, The Tower of London needs maintenance but still manages to make a handsome profit.

Heartening

I’m not going to bang on about the BBC’s disgraceful decision to refuse the DEC’s request to broadcast an appeal for donations to help the injured and homeless victims of war in Gaza. Nor will I comment on the Mark Thomson, Director General of the BBC, blog with his pathetic reasoning.

I will though sound the trumpets and bang the drums for the vast majority of licence fee payers who posted comments condemning the BBC stance, as well as government ministers, the Charity Commissioners and many others. Not forgetting of course Tony Benn’s brilliant interview on Radio 4’s Today Programme.

Most people do care so let’s take heart from this and who knows, maybe the appeal will generate even more cash as a result of this lamentable stance.

As an after thought I think there is a strong case for the licence fee payers to elect the BBC directors.

Opportunity to be Lost?

The Government is doing all that it can to re-finance the banks in order to get them lending more and to help this along the Bank of England is steadily lowering interest rates which are heading towards zero. Other governments around the world are taking similar actions and Obama expected to announce a massive cash injection into the US economy.

In order for the banks to lend, someone must borrow which is pretty self evident. People and business borrow in order buy something, again pretty self evident. The more people buy and the more that they borrow in order to buy more then the faster industry works and the economy, national and global, expands . Again, it is self evident that this cannot go on indefinitely. Economic growth must hit the buffers sometime. OK I know this is Marxist theory but it is also commonsense. The global economy has hit the buffers and the political engineers are now doing all that they can to move the buffers further down the track, build up a credit based head of steam once more in order to hurtle down the same track heading for the same result at an indeterminate date in the future.

The housing market is used by many as a yardstick for the health of the economy but it’s the same story here. House prices cannot increase above inflation ad infinitum but while they do rise to dizzying heights their buyers are saddling themselves with huge debt, meaning that they have to work longer and harder and often put off having children just so they can pay the mortgage. Is this the life that we want for ourselves and for our children, if we manage to have some? Some mortgages are already crossing over to the next generation.

We have an opportunity with the current crisis to pause and take stock of what is best for our health, mental, physical and spiritual. Houses are losing their value and easing to a more sane level but have a way to go yet. Good! If government could but grasp the nettle and decree a return to mortgages being granted on the basis of 2.5 times the annual earnings of the highest earner in a partnership, life would be far more pleasant for those making the purchase. State investment in social housing would keep the building industry active and aid recovery too.

The fat cats would squeal in anguish of course but I don’t think I would lose any sleep.

Wouldn’t It Be Nice

Barack Obama has been inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States of America, quite an historical moment for a mixed race politician to be elected by the people to this high office. Immense coverage by the media was given all over the world and rightly so as the US has huge military and economic influence and power that has some effect on all of us. The hand over of power from Bush to Obama was dignified and yet somewhat low key and as such was an example of democracy at it’s best.

Obama’s speech was, as could be expected, moving in parts and looked back to America’s past struggles on the road to democracy and equality as well as looking forward to dealing with the massive problems besetting the US and the International Community. (if indeed there is such a thing)

Wouldn’t it be nice though if ‘God’ could have been kept out of? References to a supernatural power guiding and supporting any nation or President makes me squirm.

Wouldn’t it be nice also, if we in the UK had the democratic ability to elect a Head of State of our choosing? Not for us (yet) true freedom and democracy but a head of state appointed from one family purely on the basis of birth.

Human Depravity

I am regularly shocked at the evil depths to which human beings can sink and the use of new weapons by Israel against men, women and children in Gaza is but the latest horror.

Given the incredible acronym DIME, Dense Inert Metal Explosives, these weapons cause horrendous injuries slicing off not one but both legs right up to the groin. Others send tiny particles  to penetrate deep into the abdomen  where they are  barely noticeable until the victim contracts septicemia and dies. You can read surgeon’s reports here.

The evil lies not just with those who drop the bombs or release the rockets but with those who authorise their use and those who buy them. Those who sell them and perhaps worst of all those who waste their undoubted talents and design these abominations. How anyone can turn up for work in the morning to sit down at their design board, pick up a coffee maybe have a laugh with collegues and set about designing a missile to cut off peoples legs including those of children. How can they do this? How can they do this and go home in the evening, perhaps expecting their own children to run up and great them as they come in the door? As long as there are people like this and governments to back them can there be any hope for Peace in the World?

Paki Raghead?

Prince Harry our third in-line to become our unelected Head of State calls one of his collegues a ‘Paki’ and another who wears a turban a ‘Raghead’ and wears a Swastika to a fancy dress party. These are just three stupidities that hit the headlines.This is what you get when you leave democracy and accountability behind.

Of course the Royal propaganda machine swings into action, ably supported by the BBC, suggesting that oh this was three years ago, maybe his collegue even suggested himself being called ‘Paki’! Of course he did, just like the English in Australia suggest being called ‘Pommie Bastards.’

Israel – Rogue State

The Israeli bombardment of Gaza continues, with the body count now at around 850 with 265 children confirmed dead by the UN. Leaflets are dropped telling Palestinians that worse is to come so they should leave their homes and find safety. Gaza, one fifth the size of London, most of it’s borders abut Israel which has sealed them off and just a small crossing into Egypt, also closed. Just where are Palestinians supposed to hide?

This rogue State of Israel continues to ignore UN resolutions calling for a truce, with no International sanctions imposed upon it, thereby giving it a carte blanch to carry on with it’s terror. It is becoming obvious that the real aim behind this attack is to destroy much of the infrastructure of Gaza, leaving it totally devastated and even more impoverished. The expectation being that the Gazans will turn against Hamas and become compliant with every whim of Israel. I fear they will be sadly disappointed.

There is something that we can do on a practical level by supporting the Boycott Israeli Goods Campaign and not buying anything with the ‘made in Israel’ bar code commencing with 729.

barcode

Working for Nothing

A report out today by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) shows that more and more employees are working more and more hours for nothing. Some workers are giving over £5000 a year in lost overtime payments to their employers.

It is understandable that during the current financial crisis some may wish to do a little extra to perhaps help keep their company going and so secure their jobs but working long hours be it paid or unpaid is not good for health in the long run. In addition long hours inevitably reduces the productivity capability and so is counter productive.

Union members fought for over a hundred years to achieve employment rights and better conditions so it is sad to see so many employees throwing away these hard won benefits. Many workers of course don’t even join a Union having swallowed the ‘Thatcher’ line of divide and rule, got a mortgage around their necks and too scared to protest as they work longer hours for less remuneration.

More Health Privatisation

Here we go again, more privatisation of the NHS on the way. This time it’s the Ambulance service, with plans to put the non emergency sector out to tender. This means for example collecting infirm patients from their homes and taking them to hospital for treatment or to see a specialist.

British AmbulanceThe usual argument is put up of getting value for money. Yes, at least in the first instance, a private company will offer to do the job more cheaply but does this mean value for money? I think not. All drivers and co-drivers currently doing the job are trained ambulance people with experience and a huge fund of knowledge to draw upon from their colleagues in case of a problem. Let’s not forget that a lot of the people requiring this service have complicated medical problems even though they can live at home.

Ambulance drivers and paramedics are an integral part of the NHS, a service which up until recently at least, existed purely for the benefit of society as a whole and not for the benefit of the shareholders of private companies. Privatising (= selling off) this important part of the ambulance service puts at risk the comradeship and shared knowledge of the teams and destroy the sense of purpose and caring that currently exists. Some things you just can’t value in monetary terms.

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