Monday, 31 January 2011
If the financier George Soros is right with his latest predictions the severe cuts being made by the Coalition will plunge Britain back into recession. Soros is not often wrong and it was his betting against the pound that led to Britain's exit from the European exchange rate mechanism during the time David Cameron was advising Norman Lamont.
This is not the kind of news that we want to hear, but it suggests how the financial situation might be continuing to spiral out of control. With Ed Balls as Shadow Chancellor you expect him to vehemently oppose George Osborne's economic policies. Labour has described the cuts as 'hurting not working' but Balls' own track record was counter-productive during the time he was advising Gordon Brown's during the period that virtually bankrupted the country. But Balls does not agree that Labour's spending policies and promise to end 'boom and bust' created the mess we are in and prefers to blame Britain's deficit problems on the global banking crisis. This may be partly true, but Brown is responsible for failing to control the banks.
But with the Alliance saying one thing and Labour saying the opposite, it is no wonder the economy is in dire straits. It is strange how opposing parties always disagree on economic policies which leads one to doubt whether any of them has a clue about controlling the economy. Political debates mean little more than point scoring and since the MP's expenses scandal and Labour's spending spree the public has every justification for not trusting them.
After the general election I was possibly misguided and believed the idea of a coalition could work by combining the best brains of both parties; now I'm less sure. Initially Vince Cable was extremely credible. After all, for a time he appeared to talk sense and many thought he had sound ideas that would steer the country back towards stability. That ended when he shot himself in the foot by making ridiculous remarks to undercover journalists about how he was going to declare war on Rupert Murdoch. Since his major faux pas Vince lost much of his popularity and now we hear little from him.
Osborne remains tunnel-visioned over his policies while the Consumer Price Index (CPI) continues to rise, moving from 3.3% in November to 3.7% in December, and the VAT increase to 20% will make high street trading tougher causing retail sales to fall. Fuel prices have increased by their fastest yearly rate and food costs soared by their highest annual increase since May 2009. The Bank of England got it wrong too and has confirmed it expects the CPI to be higher than they had estimated throughout 2011. While this is grim enough, the Retail Price Index (RPI) that accounts for housing expenses including mortgage repayments, council tax and insurance also increased by 1% to 4.8% - the highest rate in 8 months. None of this inspires confidence.
Saturday, 22 January 2011
This is the worst story I have seen this year. A helpless 92-year old was beaten on her own doorstep and the thug that did it stole £30. What has this country become? This is completely beyond contempt.
To the disabled people of Great Britain. Our individual voices are too quiet to be heard, but collectively we can shout loud enough to drown out this tide of abuse against us. Disability Hate Crime, lack of full legal protection, people in care homes costing too much to be let out and not one political party willing to fight for us. We must emulate other successful civil rights movements and with polite determination take our place as equal members of society.
Thousands of people over the age of forty feel their lives have already come to an end as they collapse into deep poverty and build up massive debts caused by dramatic changes that are threatening their existence. Most face losing their homes and everything they have spent their lives working for. The rigid laws of the Welfare State completely fail to take into account the individual needs of those who may have lost a business they have slaved to build over many years or lost well-paid jobs; suffered from long term illness or become disabled. These life changing circumstances in the majority of cases have arisen through no fault of their own, yet a system they have contributed towards throughout their entire working lives are denied them when they unexpectedly need help and are at their most vulnerable. None of these people are spongers; indeed most are extremely embarrassed by their situation and will have delayed going cap-in-hand to the faceless Jobcentre Plus until their own money has run because they view seeking help to pay their household bills to be a totally alien and hostile experience.
While we are all familiar with the cases of fraudsters, benefits cheats and foreign nationals who have got away with millions of pounds in taxpayers' money, those that are genuinely poor and would give their right hand to find a job, are being left to sink deeper into the mire. Those who find themselves out of work for the first time in 30-45 years are forced to sell their cherished possessions and cash in their pensions in order to pay what still remains on their mortgages. But any money they may have managed to save rapidly disappears once their period of unemployment extends from weeks; to months; to years. The terrifying risk of losing the family home then kicks in as stress levels increase and couples start to get at each other's throats, often causing them to split up. For some the burden is simply too overwhelming and they contemplate the ultimate sacrifice; by committing suicide. Many see an early death as their only escape from their all-engulfing problems. Many honest, upright citizens who have worked and contributed towards the welfare system throughout their careers have considered suicide when they reach rock bottom and feel they have nothing left to live for, having been rejected for countless jobs and fearing what will arrive in the next post. The feeling of total hopelessness is very real more especially as the State has left them to rot.
Despite Iain Duncan Smith claiming that he will overhaul the entire benefits system by making it fairer, we are now nine months into this Government's tenancy and there is no evidence that the most needy are getting a fairer deal. Quite the contrary. The poor need money today, not in six months time and there is no time left to wait while bureaucracy considers their needs only to shatter their confidence by refusing any help. The Government has calculated that a couple should be able to live on a total income of just £202.40 a week yet, this figure takes no consideration of the outgoings they have to meet just to pay for housing, buy food, keep warm, have fresh water and to maintain even the most basic form of life. Once a 26-week period of unemployment is reached, Job Seeker's Allowance will end if a claimant's spouse works more than 24-hours a week. This is considered to be full time and any benefits will only be paid to make up the difference between the partner's earnings and the £202.40 set by the Government. This is simply insufficient to live on by anyone's standards more especially as no consideration is given to inflation and the prices of basic essentials that continue to rocket. How anyone with a mortgage is expected to continue paying for their home beggars belief and yet the Government will claim they are committed to defeating poverty and homelessness. Is it any wonder there is a widespread belief that some people are better off by not working?
But in reality nobody cares - certainly not politicians although they will say they do. Meanwhile Britain's so called under class is being over-populated by those that were once part of the working class.
Well worth reading: Hard Work - Life in Low-Pay Britain by Polly Toynbee (published 2003).
Things have not changed; they have merely got worse as Britain declines into a 21st century version of something portrayed by Hogarth.
Sunday, 16 January 2011
It has been said by his supporters that Gordon Brown was an excellent Chancellor of the Exchequer. Although I am no economist, even I can appreciate that during his reign at 11 Downing Street he committed one of the most grotesque financial blunders of all time that cost the country around £2 billion at the time, but more than £12.5 billion when more recent gold prices are taken into consideration. By committing this single act, Brown blotted his copy book so badly that it greatly reduced his credibility in the eyes of the British public leaving many doubting his ability.
Brown’s cut price sale of 395 tonnes of gold, half the nation’s reserves, has to go down as one of the his most amazing gaffes and this happened before he went on to blow an unbelievable amount of taxpayers’ money. Britain had held 715 tons of gold since the 1970s and until Brown became Chancellor, no previous administration had ever considered parting with it. The crime of selling these precious reserves at the worst possible price might have been considered treasonable centuries ago, but an even bigger error in his judgement came when he announced his plans to the world prior to selling, thus causing a dramatic drop in the market price. Experts were stunned by Brown’s decision to sell it by auction instead of keeping his intention quiet and disposing of it gradually on the open market. When it was sold, the gold price was at a 20-year low and it fetched only an average price of $275 an ounce across seventeen auctions. In May 2007 gold prices had risen to $685 an ounce and by 11 January 2010 had reached $1152.70 and on 16 January 2011 it was at $1359.35 an ounce (according to www.goldprice.org). Did Brown merely have a mad moment by making a gross error of judgement; or was this some way of preparing us for the destruction of our economy that was to follow once he became Prime Minster? We may never know because Gordon Brown is never likely to admit to anything nor is he ever likely to apologise to British taxpayers for the mess he got this country into by overspending. In any event the debacle will forever be known as ‘Browns Bottom’ and that is putting it politely.
Thursday, 13 January 2011
The latest book that I am writing was born because of my personal experiences and dismay of a country that has disproportionately declined during my lifetime; a view that I share with the majority of ordinary British people of my generation. In every household, workplace, bar and community, the conversation of those living out their autumn years is generally much the same. We talk of how we have become disillusioned by the way the country is being run; how greed has been allowed to permeate our society to replace care and a social conscience and how so little opportunity exists for young people leaving full time education and those that have worked all their lives who are merely trying to remain in paid employment. Inevitably this won’t be a happy read full of heart-lifting optimism with tales about a wonderful country that our grandchildren will be proud to inherit. Far from it; my text speaks volumes about the concerns shared by a myriad of quiet, normal, peace loving citizens that are not usually known for voicing their opinions. But the older you get the more you become aware that we are all speaking with a singular voice, especially about the horrors we share over the way the politicians have squandered our heritage and have removed our rights to enjoy the freedoms that our forefathers had fought two world wars to preserve. My contemporaries speak vociferously about their deep concerns for the future of a Britain that has become so absorbed by personal wealth and a bureaucracy that by their very actions has demonstrated a thoroughly unhealthy desire to totally control our lives.
People are extremely angry and they are worried. They are worried for their own futures; they are worried for their children, their friends and for ordinary people who are ceasing to matter in a society that is running out of control. There is also particular concern about how we will be able to take care of ourselves and our loved ones as we grow too old, too frail or have less mental capacity and our value to the state as a taxpayer comes to an end and we become a burden. This fear grows on a daily basis with the realisation that old age and the potential decline in our physical and mental condition is getting ever closer. Added to this deep rooted fear is the all encapsulating knowledge that nobody is listening to ordinary people any more.